Friday, April 8, 2011

Happy Birthday Flossy

Flossy Kelly’s Gala Concert April 15

By Skip Sheffield

Flossy Keesly has another birthday coming up, and that means another treat for all the people of Boca Raton.
On April 18, Flossy will turn 97. At 7 p.m. Friday, April 15 she will present “Flossy Keesly’s Gala Concert- Pathway to the Stars” at Mizner Park Amphitheater. Admission is free.
“Florida’s First Lady of Musical Theater,” Jan McArt will host and the show stars Flossy’s favorite singer, Canadian baritone Doug Crosley; along with two-time Academy award-nominated singer-songwriter Carol Connors; popular Branson entertainer Michelle Sevryn, the Broadway Ziegfeld Dancers and 9-year-old violin sensation, Brianna Kahane. Also featured are several young performers who rated high at the Rotary Club’s Future Stars Competition, which kicked off Festival Boca in March.
A show business veteran herself as dancer, singer and television personality, Flossy Keesly has always had a fondness for actors, singers, dancers and all kinds of show biz types. Over the years she has presented a number of concerts.
“I think it’s the best one ever,” said Flossy recently. “Carol Connors is a highly respected songwriter, and little Brianna Kahane has been big news ever since she appeared on Oprah. Then there are the talented kids the Rotary Club is bringing in. It will be something for everyone.”
Last year there was a big birthday reception for Flossy, but she prefers this one to be low-key.
“I don’t want anything special this year,” she avers. “It would be too much excitement on top of the show. There were so many people there last year.”
Flossy Keesly is a tiny woman with a big heart. She commissioned the fountain statue created by sculptor Yaacov Heller that adorns the amphitheater entrance. The gold feminine figure holding a star aloft looks suspiciously like Flossy. The statue will be there for years to come. Flossy won’t be here forever, but at this point in her life she is amazingly limber, mentally sharp and cheerful.
“I don’t think genetics is the most important thing for a long life,” she offers. “If you are blessed with a good attitude, you can be happy. I had an eye checkup the other day, and the doctor was amazed to discover I still have 20-20 vision.”
Happy Birthday Flossy, and many more.

New Film Releases

Of the three commercial film releases this week, the one that looks the most promising is “Soul Surfer.” Unfortunately I missed the advance screenings, but everything I’ve heard about this film indicates it is well-made and very inspirational.
It’s the true story of Bethany Hamilton, a girl who became a surfing champion at age 8 in Hawaii. Tragedy struck when Bethany was 13. While she was out surfing, a 14-foot Tiger Shark attacked and bit off her left arm. Bethany was rescued by fellow surfers, but nearly died from blood loss before she could be stabilized.
AnnaSophia Robb plays Bethany, Helen Hunt is her mom and Dennis Quaid is her dad. Sean McNamara directed his own script. It doesn’t dwell on the tragedy, but Bethany’s amazing rehabilitation and subsequent return to surfing as well as other sports.
At the other end of the spectrum is “Arthur,” which by all accounts is an entirely unnecessary remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore film. This time Russell Brand steps into Dudley’s dainty shoes.
James Franco goes for broad laughs in “Your Highness,” an historical; farce co-starring Natalie Portman and Danny McBride.
I did see the French art film “Heartbeats,” which is playing FAU’s Living Room Theaters.
It’s a ménage a trois story involving Francis (Xavier Dolan), a gay-curious young man; his best girlfriend Marie (Monia Chokri), and Nicholas (Niels Schneider), the golden, curly-haired Adonis who captivates them both.
“Chacun a son gout” as they say in France (To Each his Own). Writer-director Xavier Dolan has crafted a quite lovely little film about his own conflicted passions.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Wicked Fun in Ft. Lauderdale

Good and Evil Trade Places In “Wicked"

By Skip Sheffield

“Wicked good!”
That’s what they say in New England when something is exceptional, and that aptly describes the national tour of “Wicked,” running through April 24 at Broward Center for the Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale.
Based on the 1995 novel by Gregory Maguire and written by Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Winnie Holzman (book), “Wicked” provides the back story of the characters immortalized in the 1939 MGM film classic “The Wizard of Oz,” which in turn was based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 fantasy, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
“Wicked” focuses on the two girls who would grow up to become symbols of good and evil.
Galinda (Chandra Lee Schwartz) is a peppy blond-blue-eyed beauty destined to become the most popular girl on campus and Glinda, the Good Witch.
Elphaba (Jackie Burns) is intelligent, caring and gifted in special ways, but she is shunned by other kids because she was born with green skin. Through no fault of her own she becomes known as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Glinda and Elphaba are thrown together when they are assigned as roommates by Madame Morrible (Randy Danson), their mysterious school headmistress.
As different and opposite as they are, Glinda and Elphaba become best friends and rivals for the affection of Fiyero (Colin Hanlon), the handsome, vain playboy-type who will become Captain of the Guard of the Land of Oz.
Novelist Maguire created new characters to flesh his fantasy of romance and class conflict: Nessarose (Stephanie Brown), the crippled younger sister of Elphaba, and Boq (Justin Brill), the Munchkin she fancies but who in turn has a crush on Glinda.
Who knew that animals could talk? In this revisionist Oz they even teach school. Doctor Diamond (Paul Slade Smith) is a pedagogue and a goat, but lately he has been enduring anti-animal discrimination.
Yes, there is a lot of metaphorical stuff going on that can be related directly what is going on daily in our world. As in the original, the “Wonderful Wizard of Oz” is neither wonderful not brilliant, but as portrayed by Mark Jacoby, he has a sinister side too.
All the comedy and dramatic intrigue is played out to a wonderful score by Stephen Schwartz that is better than his “Pippin” and equal to the memorable “Godspell.” When anthems like “No One Warns the Wicked,” “Defying Gravity” and “I’m Not That Girl” are delivered by vocalists as powerful as Jackie Burns and Chandra Lee Schwartz, it is powerful stuff indeed. Add to that incredible settings by Eugene Lee, eye-popping, hilarious costumes by Susan Hilferty and sublime lighting by Kenneth Posner and you have something wicked excellent, all under Joe Mantello’s sure direction.
Tickets are $29-$89. Call 954-462-0222 or go to

“Jane Eyre,” “Potiche” in Theaters

By Skip Sheffield

When Palm Beach International Film Festival is in fsession it’s easy to forget what is going on with commercial releases. Here are a couple of films worthy of mention.
The first is “Jane Eyre.” Yes, this is the umpteenth film remake of Charlotte Bronte’s beloved 1847 novel, but I think this one is special. So do publications as influential as the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.
Mia Wasikowska is a Jane Eyre for the 21st century, working with a smart, condensed 21st century script and a brooding-creepy, Gothic atmosphere imparted by young director Cary Fukunaga (the immigrants-in-peril “Sin Nombre”)..
Jane Eyre is famously described as “plain.” Mia Wasikowska is a perfectly attractive young woman (cute as a button in “Alice” and “The Kids Are All Right”), but she is made mousey up for her plain Jane, with dark hair tied back tightly in a bun (when it isn’t soaking wet), drab, frumpy clothes and sallow makeup.
The most important character of Jane is her native intelligence, and that is what shines in Wasikowska’s large, light brown eyes.
Jane is first and foremost a survivor; first of the death of her parents and then a tyrannical aunt (Sally Hawkins) who served as a stepmother, and a strict religious schooling bordering on the sadistic.
We meet Jane in flight from her terrible situation, soaked to the skin, trudging across sodden moors.
She finds a safe harbor in the cottage of St. John Rivers (Jamie Bell), who lives with his two sisters.
The aptly-named St. John is a nice enough guy, but Jane is destined for greater things; namely the brooding aristocrat Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbinder), lord of a sprawling, gloomy estate.
Anyone who has had even the most elementary education knows how the story turns out, so there is no point in dwelling on that. What we can dwell on is the wonderful chemistry between Wasikowska and Fassbender. This is a Jane Eyre with passion and seething emotion. Who would have thought such a plain Jane was such hot stuff?

Catherine Deneuve is a Trophy Wife

“Potiche” is a pleasant feminist comedy by French director Francois Ozon, starring France’s favorite movie siren, Catherine Deneuve.
A potiche literally is a decorative vase, but in French slang it means “trophy wife.”
Ozon’s adaptation of a play by Pierre Barillet and Jean-Pierre Gredy
though set in 1977, it has a distinctly modern, familiar feel.
Suzanne Pujol (Deneuve) is a trophy wife who rebels, in her own quiet, competent way.
When her husband Robert (Fabrice Luchini) is laid low by a heart attack, Suzanne takes over the reins of his umbrella factory. This is a feminist fable, and therefore Suzanne is more capable, courageous and creative than her autocratic, misogynist husband ever was. Furthermore she involves her son and daughter in the family business; a feat Robert could never pull off.
To add a soupcon of romance to the tale, there is Maurice Babin (equally famous French movie star Gerard Depardieu), a former lover who is now the town’s mayor and a champion of the workers of the world. Will Suzanne be seduced by her own new power or the powerful attraction of Maurice?
The movie still seems like a play; a kind of French farce, but if it appeals to American audiences, writer-director Ozon will be very happy.
“Catherine Deneuve has never been a stage actress, and to the French audience it was quite shocking to see her take on this role,” said Ozon during Miami International Film Festival at the W Hotel. “There is something magical with her and the camera. In America you have Meryl Streep, who has a similar quality.”
Ozon worked with Deneuve previously on “Eight,” when she was but one of eight actresses and stories.
“This time it was different; she is the star,” declares Ozon. “She is very realistic. She is more interested in power than sex. The play is more of a farce, but I see the husband as more of a tragic figure. I think you find trophy wives everywhere in the world, and certainly in America. Catherine is the ultimate trophy wife.”