Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Special Effects Overshadow "Ghost"


 Steven Grant Douglas and Katie Postotnik

Special Effects Outshine “Ghost”

By Skip Sheffield

“Ghost” is the kind of musical in which the special effects outshine the human characters.
“Ghost The Musical” runs through May 11 at Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.
“Ghost” is based on the hit 1990 movie of the same name. The movie was fired by the intense chemistry of Demi Moore as a sexy potter and Patrick Swayze as an even sexier banker who is tragically murdered early in the story, to come back as a crime-solving ghost. Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for her comic performance as the fake medium Oda Mae.
The good news about this national touring production is that Carla Stewart as Oda Mae is even better than Whoopi Goldberg. She is prettier, funnier, and she has a powerful singing voice, showcased in “Are You a Believer?” in what was a non-singing role.
Bruce Joel Rubin also won an Oscar for his screenplay of “Ghost,” and his book and lyrics form the stage show as well. The problem is that there is not a whole lot of substance to the story. Sam Wheat (Steven Grant Douglas) is murdered in the apartment of Molly Jenson (Katie Postonik) by a seemingly random burglar named Willie Lopez (Fernando Contreras).
Sam’s ghostly form is immediately transferred to a kind of waiting room purgatory, exemplified by the song “You Gotta Let Go.”
The songs, by Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard are pleasant and serviceable, but none is as good as “Unchained Melody,” which provided the dramatic and romantic backdrop to the movie as well as the play. The song was written in 1955 for an obscure prison movie and became a No. 1 hit for the Righteous Brothers, the version used in the movie, in 1965. It has since become one of the most-recorded songs of the 20th century.
Sam’s ghostly state is artfully enhanced by a blue spotlight, which follows the actor through his every move. Steven Grant Douglas has a powerful tenor voice, paired with Katie Postotnik’s beautiful soprano.
Katie Postonik is a physical opposite of brunette, brown-eyed, statuesque Demi Moore. She is tiny, doll-like, with curly blond hair and blue eyes. She is gorgeous to look at, but the heat that was generated between Moore and Swayze far surpasses what we feel here.
Robby Haltiwanger has the somewhat thankless role of Sam’s treacherous best friend and bank colleague Carl Bruner, whose villainy is what causes the tragedy.
Special effects abound in the show, with characters seeming to levitate, and in Sam’s case fade away and disappear through a door.
 “Ghost The Musical” is one of the lesser successful transitions from screen to stage, but this company gives their all, and that’s all they can do.
Tickets are $34.50-$74.50. Call 954-462-0222 or go to

Thursday, April 24, 2014

No Ordinary "Joe"


Welcome Back Nicholas Cage

Welcome back Nicolas Cage. After a spate of empty action flicks, Cage is back doing what he does best: playing a real, flawed human being in “Joe.”
Joe Ransom (Cage) is an ex-con working a bottom-of-the-barrel job near Houston, Texas. Joe is foreman of a crew of misfits hired to illegally poison pine trees so a more profitable crop could be planted.
Into his life wanders 15-year-old Gary (Tye Sheridan of “Mud”), looking for a job. Joe gives the kid a shot and he is impressed.
When Gary brings his father Wade (Gary Poulter) to work, Joe realizes not only is the old man worthless, he takes out his rage and frustration on his poor son.
Adapted by a 1991 novel by Larry Gordon by Gary Hawkins and directed by David Gordon Green (“Pineapple Express”), “Joe” is a story of redemption. It is relentlessly violent and crude like its low-life characters, but it holds out hope that goodness and decency will prevail for a boy as good as Gary.
Director Green shot on location in a forlorn part of Texas and cast many non-actors as laborers and townspeople. Principal among these is Gary Poulter as the rotten dad from Hell. Poulter was a real-life alcoholic, homeless street performer who delivered a fine, terrifying “method” performance as a latter-day Pappy from "Huckleberry Finn." Poulter died after filming wrapped.
On the other hand, as the chain-smoking, hard-drinking, anger and violence-prone Joe, Nicholas Cage was reborn as an actor.


Holocaust Haunts Hungary


Holocaust Horror in Hungary

By Skip Sheffield

April 28 is Yom Ashoah on the Jewish calendar. What better time to view “Walking With The Enemy?”
Yom Asoah commemorates the dead of the Holocaust. It also means “never again.”
Hungary in World War II was aligned with Germany through its fascist Arrow Cross Party, but it remained an independent country until the Nazis invaded near the end of the war.
The story is inspired by a true Jewish-Hungarian hero, Pinchas Rosenbaum. In the film, directed, co-written (with Kenny Golde) and produced by Mark Schmidt, the Rosenbaum character is called Elek Cohen, and he is played by handsome rising British-Irish star Jonas Armstrong.
The story begins in Budapest in the spring of 1944. Elek is a university student enjoying a flirtation with pretty Hannah (Hannah Schoen). Their carefree evening in a nightclub is marred by anti-Semitic slurs, and Elek and his friends are ordered out. Nazi swastikas are going up around town and Jews are being ordered to wear yellow stars.
We see the leader of the Jewish community meeting with the head of the Arrow Cross Party, who assures him if Jews follow certain restrictions, no harm will befall them.
Elek, the son of a rabbi, does not believe this, and actively rebels against the growing anti-Jewish threat. For this he is arrested and sent off to a prison labor camp. Elek escapes from the horrendous camp, but when he returns home he find a non-Jewish family living in his old house. Jews are being rounded up and shipped off. German pressure is being elevated by the sadistic Col. Skorzeny (Burn Gorman).
Elek hatches a desperate plot: when an SS officer is killed, he steals his uniform and impersonates a Nazi officer so he may learn more about the enemy. Elek enlists the help of Swiss diplomat Carl Lutz (William Hope) to obtain Swiss passports to save at least some of Hungary’s Jews.
There is a lot more going on in this film; plenty of cruelty, violence, rape, intrigue and heartbreak, but at the least it made me proud of my Swiss ancestry. I did not know its role in this horrific chapter of human history. I did not know of Pinchas Rosenbaum either, but now I do, and I salute his memory.


Beautiful Babes Get Even


“The Other Woman” Finds Revenge

By Skip Sheffield

“The Other Woman” is a chick flick comedy with balls. I mean that in a positive way.
The male sex takes quite a bashing in this anti-romantic comedy, written by Melissa Stack and directed by Nick Cassavetes. Cassavetes previously showed his in-touch feminine side in “The Notebook” in 2004.
“The Other Woman” is a raunchy sex comedy, but not as raunchy as “The Bridesmaids.” There are less gross bodily humor jokes and more pointed satire about male ego and vanity.
Mark King (Nikolaj Coster-Waldu) is so vain and egotistical he thinks he is God’s gift to women. He is married to the perfectly adorable Kate (Leslie Mann) but he is cheating on her with high-powered executive hottie Carly Whitten (Cameron Diaz).
Mark has lied about his marital state, but Carly is no fool. Well, maybe she is a bit foolish when she looks up Mark’s address and pays a surprise visit to his house.
Ever since she rocketed to stardom with “There’s Something About Mary” in 1998, Diaz has proved she is a beautiful actress who is not afraid of getting roughed up and dirtied in the cause of comedy. Diaz dresses up as a sexy plumber, then tries to cover, but Kate is no fool.
Leslie Mann previously proved her sex comedy chops in “Knocked Up” and “40-Year-Old Virgin.” Her fragile, delicate beauty contrasts with Diaz’s more earthy appeal. When the ladies inevitably meet and compare notes (smart Kate found Carly’s number in her husband’s phone), they commiserate. When they discover Mark has been cheating on both of them with an incredibly hot younger woman named Amber (Kate Upton), they conspire to get even.
Florida-raised Kate Upton has been called with good reason the “Hottest Super Model on Earth.” The 21-year-old, five-foot-10 beauty and her stunning body have graced the cover of Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue the past two years in a row.
The eye-candy angle will keep guys happy while the revenge fantasy is satisfying for both sexes.


Slug or Bug, Trouble With Doug


A Sad and Sweet Musical of Transformation

By Skip Sheffield

The trouble with “The Trouble with Doug” is that it is pretty hard to describe this new musical play by Will Aronson and Daniel Mate.
The plot is only vaguely inspired by Franz Kafka’s absurdist 1915 metaphor, “The Metamorphosis.”
“The Trouble With Doug” runs through May 10 at Arts Garage, 180 N.W. First St., Delray Beach. In this equally absurd metaphor, instead of a travelling salesman turned into a huge bug, we have a young, over-achieving guy turned into a huge, slimy, garden slug.
Doug (Clay Cartland) and his fiancée Vanessa (Alix Paige) are preparing to start a new life in California. Doug’s mom Lynn (Patti Gardner) and dad Jim (Barry Tarollo) request that Doug perform one last household chore: fix the sliding door downstairs that Doug’s slacker older brother Vince (Shane Tanner) has failed to repair.
The mood is set with a Prelude and the song “Goodbye to Doug,” followed by the brothers rivalry duet “Nailin’ It.”
Mom and dad lament that things are “Falling Apart,’ and Vince joins in the concern with “Something Wrong With Doug.”
That something is the early signs of slugdom: gooey slime shooting from Doug’s hand; antennae beginning to grow from his forehead.
As in Kafka’s parable, the characters are more concerned with their own selfish concerns than the poor schnook who is turning into a repulsive creature.
Clay Cartland is an inspired choice for boyish, all-American Doug, as is Alix Paige as his lovely, caring girlfriend. Guest director Margaret Ledford has cast wonderful singers who can act convincingly in all five roles. Patti Gardner and Barry Tarallo are staples of South Florida for a good reason: they are excellent at what they do. The big surprise in this show is Shane Tanner, whose transition of Vince is even more amazing than Clay Cartland’s man-into-slug.
“The Trouble With Doug” left us feeling a vague melancholia, but maybe that is what is what the authors had in mind. Life is sad and sweet in equal measure, and there are some things that are beyond our control. We just carry on.
Tickets are $30-$45 advance and $5 more at the door. Call 561-450-6357 or go to

Monday, April 21, 2014

US Open Finals at International Polo Club Palm Beach

The victorious Alegria team, photo by Mike Gora

Alegria Edges Valiente 11-10 to Win U.S. Open Polo Cup at Wellington

By Skip Sheffield

The tenth annual Maserati U.S. Open finals at International Polo Club Palm Beach wrapped Sunday, April 20 with a see-sawing, cliff-hanging, sudden-death final match between two equally able teams: Valiente, which had hoped to cinch the coveted triple crown of Polo, and Alegria of Canada. Underdog Alegria pulled an upset victory by making a penalty shot in sudden-death over time to emerge victorious over Valiente, with 11 goals to their 10. It was one of the most exciting, evenly-matched polo games I have ever seen. It helped ease the sorrow of the recent destruction of Royal Palm Polo Grounds in Boca Raton for the inevitable high-end development.
Polo commentator Tony Coppola, who was announcing his 35th U.S. Open, told us the first U.S. Open was held in Cortland Park, Bronx, New York in 1904. The 100th anniversary was played at IPC Palm Beach in 2004 and it has been played there ever since.
Coppola explained polo is more like “hockey on horseback’ than “croquet with horses.” It is a fast, often violent game played on a field 300 yards long and 160 yards wide. During the final match, two players were thrown from their horses, as well as one umpire. Fortunately there were no injuries of man or horse. Sadly, 10-goal, five-time most valuable player Carlos Gracida was killed earlier this year at Wellington.
Alegria is captained by Julian Mannix of Calgary, Alberta Canada, but the rest of the team is from Argentina, which is a world leader in high-goal polo.
There are amazing players on both teams. Sapo Caset of Valiente, who is from Lobos, Argentina, scored six goals, five of them on penalties. Nevertheless it was teammate Santi Torres of San Inez, California, also with six goals, who was awarded most valuable player.
The winning goal was a 40-yard penalty goal by Hilario Ulloa of Alegria. Ulloa was joined by teammates Julian Mannix, Mariano Aguerre and Clemente Zavaleta in the winners’ circle for the presentation of the U.S. Open Trophy, awarded to winning teams since 1910.
While the high-goal polo season is over at IPC Palm Beach, play continues through May 26 at Grand Champions Polo Club. Call 561-204-5687 or go to for more information.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Marriage is Not Easy


But Divorce is Harder

By Skip Sheffield

Marriage is not easy. I say that with some authority as a two-time “loser,” as some people cruelly call divorced people.
“Le Week-End” is a bittersweet comedy about a long-married couple trying to revitalize a 30-year marriage. It helps that the couple is played by Academy Award-winner Jim Broadbent and fellow esteemed British actress Lindsay Duncan (“Mansfield Park”). It also helps that Roger Michell (“Notting Hill”) directs a script by Hanif Kureishi (“The Mother”).
Nick (Broadbent, master of the slow burn) is a college teacher at the end of a career. Meg (Duncan) is a take-charge woman who comes up with the idea of a getaway to Paris, where the couple had honeymooned 30 years previously. Nick is, to put it lightly, highly skeptical of the whole enterprise. It gets off on the wrong foot when the hotel they had booked sight-unseen turns out to be a dump.
“It’s so beige,” Meg protests
Nick thinks they should hop back on a train home, but Meg thanks the solution is to book a suite at a posh place and put it all on the credit card.
The hotel is beautiful, but Nick can’t relax.
“It’s a brilliantly-designed machine for extracting all our money,’ Nick complains.
On a chance encounter on the street Nick and Meg are recognized by an old friend of Nick’s named Morgan (Jeff Goldblum).
Morgan is living the life with a beautiful, much younger new wife in a gorgeous apartment. Morgan became a best friend of Nick back in college. He clearly idolizes and idealizes Nick. The bitter truth will come out when Morgan invites Nick and Meg to a dinner party at his place. The conversation veers off track terribly, culminating in a withering tirade by Nick that shocks everyone.
“Le Week End” will make you squirm at times as if rips away the pleasantries to reveal the resentments and failures beneath the façade. The main pleasure, if you can call it that, is to see perfectly delivered, cleverly-constructed lines by first-class actors. If you hang on through all the unpleasantness there is an amusing twist at the end. It is not a happy ending nor tragic. It will make you think perhaps these people are made for each other.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Eva Peron Lives at Kravis

 Bravo Evita

photo: Richard Termine

By Skip Sheffield

When Caroline Bowman sang a teaser from the musical “Evita” April 8 for a season preview at Kravis Center, I thought maybe I need to see this show again.
Am I glad I did. This is a beautifully realized production of the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, running just through April 13 in West Palm Beach.
Caroline Bowman plays the lead role of Eva Peron, second wife of Argentine president Juan Peron.
Eva, known more endearingly as Evita, became an almost mythical character in her short life, and her reputation has only grown since her death from cancer at age 33 on July 26, 1952.
“Evita” began as a concept album in 1976 and was expanded to a stage musical in England in 1978 and year later on Broadway, where in won the Tony Award for Best Musical of 1979.
There have been numerous national tours and regional productions of “Evita” in the years since. It had been about ten years since I last saw the show, so the Kravis on Broadway tour gave me a chance to give it a fresh look.
Carline Bowman is an all-American girl; a product of Penn State University. She has a strong, high-ranging soprano singing voice and she is a great dancer. Moreover she has a natural magnetism befitting the role of alluring, ambitious Eva Peron, who used her seductive charms to work her way up Argentina’s social ladder all the way to the top.
The role was most famously undertaken by Madonna in the 1996 film version.
I think Caroline Bowman is a much better all-around performer, and she has a most impressive musical partner in Josh Young as Che, a revolutionary character and social critic loosely based on Che Guevara, who also serves as narrator. Young’s high tenor voice is sublime. Playing the role of right-wing General Juan Peron is Sean MacLaughlin, whose enthrallment with his second wife Eva eventually became a liability for him with the military and the upper classes.
“Evita” begins solemnly on the day of Eva’s death with a Catholic-sounding “Requiem.” The mood is sharply contrasted with Che’s following rendition of “Oh, What a Circus.”
The song Bowman sang at the preview was the theme song “Buenos Aires,” which captures all the Latin-flavored tango and pasos dobles appeal of this show.
The overall sound and balance between orchestra and singers is among the best I have ever heard at Kravis Center. Each singer is audible individually, which is a huge advantage. The staging is quite grand, especially for the most famous song, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.”
“Evita” will no doubt visit our area again, but for now this is as good as it gets.
Tickets start at $25. Call 800-572-8471 or go to


Monday, April 7, 2014

Symphonia Boca raton Climaxes Its Season


A Triumphant Season Finale for Symphonia Boca Raton

By Skip Sheffield

The Symphonia Boca Raton ended its 2013-2014 season on a triumphant note Sunday, April 6 with an all-Mozart program under the baton of guest conductor Gerard Schwarz.
Schwarz is quite a contrast to previous guest conductor James Judd. Judd has let his graying hair grow quite long, and is constantly moving about, coaxing the players, looking more like a rock star than staid conductor.
In his conservative charcoal gray suit, white shirt and trim haircut, Schwarz looks more like a CEO than musical maestro. Make no mistake though, Schwarz knows his stuff, as he ably proved on Mozart’s intricate, seven-movement Serenade No. 9 in D major, K 320.
As gorgeous as was the No. 9, the real highlight of the afternoon was Clarinet Concerto in A major, K 622. Soloist Jon Manasse doesn’t just know this piece, which he played entirely from memory, he lives, breathes and feels deeply this late composition- Mozart’s only clarinet concerto- written for his friend Anton Stadler, who was the finest clarinetist of his time.
The joy of classical music is that when everything is really working, everyone feels the emotion. Manasse, who is on the Lynn University faculty and is co-artistic director (with pianist Jon Nakamatsu) of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, was rewarded with one of the most enthusiastic and heartfelt standing ovations I have even seen at a classical music concert. Though the Symphonia audience skews older, Manasse’s performance was invigorating for even the most elderly patron.
It was hard to miss some young and beautiful members of the audience. After intermission Symphonia President Steven L. Pomeranz revealed the young people were special invited guests: dancers from HARID Conservatory, a world-class dance school adjacent to Lynn University.
It just so happened to be the birthday of Symphonia benefactor Martin B. Stein, who was duly serenaded by the orchestra and the entire audience. Bravo Mr. Stein, for all your good work.
While this year’s season is over, season subscriptions for the forthcoming tenth anniversary season are now on sale. The four concert season features guest conductor David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra Dec. 21; Gerald Schwarz returning Jan. 11; Alexander Platt returning Feb. 22, and the passionate, peripatetic James Judd returning April 12.
“I just saw the New York Philharmonic last week,” remarked my older friend, author and radio host Hal Spielman. “These musicians are every bit as good.”
Call 561-376-3848 or 866-687-4201 or go to for more information.

Laughter and Tears at Wick Theatre


Laughter and Tears in “Steel Magnolias”

By Skip Sheffield

Tears underlie the laughter of “Steel Magnolias,” the Robert Harling comedy running through April 20 at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
Playwright Robert Harling based “Steel Magnolias” on the memory of his sister, who died in 1985 of complications of diabetes after a transplanted kidney was rejected by her body.
No, it does not sound like a laugh riot, but “Steel Magnolias” is a comedy with drama and heart. Harling loves and admires the women of Truvy’s Beauty Salon, recreated meticulously by Sean McClelland for his first Wick in-house set.
The set is almost like a seventh member of the all-woman cast because it is so important to the lives of these lively northern Louisiana belles, to whom physical appearance is of utmost importance.
And what is a more important occasion than a wedding to look one’s best?
Shelby (Alison McCarton) is eagerly anticipating her impending nuptials with Jackson Latcherie, who is never seen. We imagine Jackson must be quite a guy to land such a sweet and lovely girl.
Truvy Jones (Patti Eyler) is the feisty owner of the beauty salon where the women regularly meet.
Annelle (Linda Farmer) is the new girl in town. She is a bit shy and insecure, but she will blossom over the course of the three years of the story.
Clairee (Sally Bondi) is a bridge-builder with the negative, curmudgeonly Ouiser (Robin Proett Olson).
Shelby’s mother M’Lynn (Aaron Bower) may be the steeliest of all these magnolias, as we learn by her selfless actions in Act Two.
Director Norb Joerder has cast with an eye for beauty and thespian skill. Because this play is so “talky,” it is essential the players are deadly accurate with their timing and delivery. Yes they are.
Playwright Robert Harling earned a law degree from Tulane University, but became an actor and writer instead. We are the better for it. Though Harling is screenwriter for the popular films “Soapdish,” “First Wives Club” and “Laws of Attraction,” “Steel Magnolias” remains his magnum opus. It is a touching tribute to his late sister Susan.
Tickets are $58. Call 561-995-2333 or go to