Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Once" Upon a Time in Love

Go Early and See It With Someone You Love

By Skip Sheffield

Go to “Once” early and mingle with the cast onstage. The exuberant Irish musical continues through Oct. 18 at Broward Center for the Arts.
An Irish pub is the setting for “Rush,” so a working bar is set up onstage, where the audience is invited to belly up to the bar and perhaps sing along with the musicians.
“Once” began as a 2007 low-budget musical film set in Dublin, Ireland. Glen Hansard played an itinerant street musician whose day job was working with his dad repairing Vacuum cleaners. One day a Czech immigrant flower girl (Marketa Irglova) heard ‘The Guy” (he is not given a name) play. In order to get to know him better, she asks for him to fix her Hoover vacuum cleaner. So begins a mutual attraction that blossoms into love. The songs that were in the movie and the subsequent Broadway show that won eight 2012 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, were written by Hansard and Irglova.
The national touring production that is visiting Broward Center stars British actors Stuart Ward as “The Guy” and Dani de Waal as “The Girl.” A multi-national supporting cast sings and plays various instruments. This makes the show uniquely organic, as if it were being made up on the spot. There are two female fiddlers (Erica Spyres and Claire Wellin)  and additional musicians doubling on various instruments including piano, guitar, banjo, accordion, concertina, mandolin, ukulele, electric bass and percussion. Stuart Ward plays guitar and Dani de Waal plays piano and they harmonize beautifully on the score’s best song, “Falling Slowly.”
“Once” is a musician’s delight, and its book, by Irish playwright Enda Walsh, is a romantic parable that appeals to anyone who has ever been in love or has loved and lost. That pretty much is all of us, which explains the universal appeal of “Once.”

Tickets are $35-$125 at TicketMaster. Call 800-745-3000 or 954-462-0222.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Romantic Irish Fable "Once" Visits Broward Center


“Once” Upon a Time in Ireland

By Skip Sheffield

Dani de Waal is a young British woman born in Germany to a South African father. She co-stars with Stuart Ward in the Irish musical “Once” as a Czech girl in love with an Irish street musician. The musical fable “Once” runs Oct. 6-18 at the Broward Center for the Arts.
Dani de Waal has been playing the role of “The Girl” for more than two years and will stay with the show until it finishes its national tour leg in December.
“It’s been a long haul,” she says cheerily. “The show is about more than just the feelings between two people. It is about going for your dreams and pushing for all it’s worth.”
“Once” is based on a 2007 Irish musical film by John Carney, with a new book by Irish playwright Edna Walsh. The film stars were Glen Hansard playing a 33-year-old Irish street musician and Marketa Irglova as a 17-year-old Czech girl and aspiring pianist-singer. Irglova was the same age as her character and she collaborated with Hansard on writing, singing and performing the songs. She also fell in love with Hansard in real life, which made the movie all the more romantically convincing. Such fairy tale romances don’t always last, but the songs of once, especially the hit ballad “Falling Slowly,” are forever.
“The important thing is that these two people have changed each other’s lives,” offers de Waal. “It is less important that they stay together. It is not the end of their life’s journey.”
“Once” is performed by a large cast, each singing and playing their own instruments onstage.
“The beauty of the show is it is real,” says de Waal. “Love is complicated but the music is beautiful.”

Tickets for “Once” are $35-$125 at TicketMaster. Call 800-745-3000 or 954-462-0222.

"Sex With Other People" Not So Hot


Can’t We Just Be Friends?

By Skip Sheffield

If you think the title “Sleeping With Other People” sounds salacious and sexy, think again. This rom-com, written and directed by Leslye Headland (“About Last Night,”) is more ironic than erotic.
Lainey (Alison Brie) and Jake (Jason Sudekis) are college students when we first meet them. Lainey has a fight with her boyfriend, and she is comforted by Jake in his room. The comfort soon leads to seduction and they have the proverbial one-night stand.
The story vaults ahead 12 years. Jake has been dumped yet again by his latest girlfriend because of his chronic infidelity. Lainey guiltily confesses to her boyfriend (Adam Brody) that she has cheated on him. She gets dumped and Lainey and Jake reunite and conclude they need to go to sex addiction meetings.
The rest of the film is a cat-and-mouse game. Can Lainey and Jake “just be friends?” Can any woman and man be close friends without sex entering to complicate things?

At this point I foresaw the obvious conclusion and lost interest. If you enjoy clever banter, you might like this for awhile. For me even 95 minutes was too long.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

"The Walk" That Stunned The World


A Thrilling “Walk” of a Lifetime

By Skip Sheffield

Afraid of heights? Better steer clear of “The Walk.” On the other hand if you like dizzying thrills, this reenactment of Phillippe Petit’s amazing 1974 World Trade Center high wire walk offers some bracing good jolts.
The World Trade Center twin towers were destroyed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. This fact lends a sobering, macabre quality to this fictionalized documentary.
Phillippe Petit is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in what I think is his best performance to date. Gordon-Levitt not only spoke French and English with a French accent, he mastered a very close approximation of walking a tightrope 110 stories in the air. The average person may consider Phillippe Petit a suicidal madman. Thereby lays part of his crazy appeal. Gordon-Levitt captures that craziness in a cheerful, upbeat way. The actor received training from Petit himself.
Director Robert Zemeckis (“Back to the Future”) had a hand in writing the screenplay, starting with a brief history of Petit’s career as a street performer in Paris. Along the way he befriended a beautiful French girl, Annie Allix, played by real-life Parisian Charlotte Le Bon. Charlotte also coached Gordon-Levitt is perfecting his French accent.
Conquering the World Trade Center towers took six years of planning and crucial accomplices every step of the way. Spanning the 200 feet between the towers, 1,350 feet or a quarter of a mile above the Earth, was a three-stage process. The first stage was a bow and arrow hooked to monofilament fishing line.

Petit’s stunt, accomplished in the early hours of the morning on Aug. 7, 1974, has been hailed as “The artistic crime of the century.” Although they were required to arrest Petit, the cops of NYPD and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were clearly on the daredevil’s side. In what was a win-win for everyone, Petit’s charges were dismissed in exchange for a free public performance in Central Park. The World Trade Center, unloved by many when it was built, got much-needed positive publicity. Phillippe Petit remained in New York City and was granted a lifetime pass to the observation decks of the World Trade Center. Though it is about a French man, “The Walk” is a movie that makes you proud to be an American.

Friday, September 25, 2015

"The New Girlfriend" is Not What you Think


“The New Girlfriend” Has a Special Secret

By Skip Sheffield

“The New Girlfriend” is one curious little movie by French writer-director Francois Ozon. For one thing the girlfriend is not a girl but a man who enjoys dressing as a woman.
That would be David (Romain Duris), whose alter ego is Virginia. David is the husband of Laura (Islid Le Besco), who is best friends for life with Claire (Anais Demoustier).
Claire is killed off early in the plot, adapted from a novel by Ruth Rendell. David is left with a young daughter Lucie (Brune Kalnykow) he is not sure how to care for.
Claire steps in to help David, and she gets more than she bargained for.  David it seems has been a transvestite all through his marriage. Though David was literally in the closet, with the death of his wife he is free to pursue his predilections, and share them with Claire, who has become his closest friend.
Claire is played by Anais Demoustier, a young (age 28) distinctive-looking woman with big brown eyes and adorable freckles. Claire is originally put off by David’s confession, but in time she learns to appreciate both David and Virginia. This leaves her husband Gilles (Raphael Personnaz) baffled, and suspicious she may be falling for David.
“The New Girlfriend” is billed as a comedy, but it is not laugh-out-loud funny. Romain Duris is an extraordinarily handsome man, with heavy beard and unmistakably masculine, not matter how much makeup or frilly frocks he wears.

The French are much more sophisticated than Americans, or perhaps blasé about matters sexual and gender-based. This movie tweaks our sensibilities and challenges one to accept another person no matter what he or she professes to believe. It's hard to argue with that.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Scary Side of Mountain Climbing Examined in "Meru"


Are Mountain Climbers Crazy?

By Skip Sheffield

Are all mountain climbers crazy? You might think so after seeing “Meru” a documentary film about high-risk, big-wall climbing of the world’s riskiest, tallest mountains.
Meru is located in the Himalayas of northern India, 21,000 feet above the sacred Ganges River. The film is directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarelyi and Jimmy Chin, who was one of the climbers and is the husband of Elizabeth Chai Vasarelyi. The story is in two parts. The first begins in October, 2008. Three of the world’s best climbers: Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin, planned a seven-day expedition to the never-conquered summit of Meru. Things quickly went amiss. Seven days stretched into 20 in sub-zero temperatures with high winds as food supplies dwindled and the men felt the ill effects of exposure. They had to admit defeat and retreated within 100 meters of the summit.

The guys went back to what passes for normal for professional mountain climbers, but they couldn’t resist another shot at Meru, which is referred to as the “Anti-Everest” for its sheer difficulty and elite group of challengers. This is not a happy story. Some are severely injured. Some die. All cheat death on a daily basis. I was given a mountain climbing class the summer I was 13 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. My cousin John Huyler was an avid climber. I did not want to be seen as a coward, but I can admit now I was terrified; especially at the grand finale where we were told to belay off a sheer cliff, held only by a rope, controlled by one’s hand grip. What I did was child’s play compared to what these men went through. Why? I don’t know, but it is a vicarious thrill to watch.

A French Stolen Art Mystery

Anna Sigalevich as Esther the Amateur Sleuth

"Art Dealer" a First-Class Mystery

By Skip Sheffield

“The Art Dealer” plays like a first-class mystery, inspired by real crimes in the wake of World War II in Europe.

Anna Sigalevich (“The Piano Teacher,” “Flight of the Red Balloon”) plays a Polish Jewish woman named Esther who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her grandmother’s collection of masterpiece paintings. All she has to go on is some mysterious black-and-white 16 mm film footage of her grandmother and grandfather, who was executed by the Nazis, and some purloined old letters by her grandmother. In a script written by French director Francois Margolin, Esther learns there are villains in addition to the Nazis, and a couple may be among her own family and trusted friends. The fact of the matter is that all kinds of treasures were plundered from Jewish families, and getting restitution is no simple task, but efforts must be made..