Monday, January 26, 2015

Jennifer Anniston in Her Ocar-bait Role: "Cake"


A Painful, Bitter but Convincing “Cake”

By Skip Sheffield

Jennifer Anniston’s newest movie is no piece of “Cake.”
Yes, “Cake” is the title of a dramatic story by Patrick Tobin about a woman terribly damaged emotionally and physically by a horrific traffic accident that cost the life of her young son.
People bear tragedy in different ways. Claire (Jennifer Anniston) is in constant, intense pain, which is barely diminished by alcohol and prescription drugs. Claire is angry; angry at the man who caused the accident; angry at her husband Jason Bennett (Chris Messina) for deserting her, and angry at her friend Nina (Anna Kendrick) for committing suicide.
Claire is so angry she is asked to leave her support group because she is bumming everyone out. Any psychological counselor will tell you the number one factor is a person’s emotional problems is anger, or “anger management” as it is now called. Claire’s anger is out of control.
Jennifer Anniston has de-beautified herself by throwing away the makeup kit, stopped washing her hair, and allowed herself to be disfigured with fake scars all over her face and body. She is foul-mouthed, cruel and nasty.
The only person who can tolerate Claire is her loyal, patient maid/caretaker Silvana (Adriana Barraza), and even she is at the end of her tether.
The only ray of light in Claire’s seething story is the kind, British widower of Nina, Roy Collins (Sam Worthington) and his adorable six-year-old son.
Jennifer Anniston really believed in this film to the extent she is executive producer as well as star. Surely director Daniel Barnz encouraged her to go for the gusto, teetering on the brink of suicide in what could be called an “Oscar bait” role.
My problem is that I have known people like Claire in real life. When they take their own life it is a pain that never goes away. So as much as I admire Anniston’s performance, it is painful to watch. Yes, she is that convincing. But "Cake" is no fun.

"Bonnie & Clyde" a Winning Couple


"Bonnie & Clyde" Another Winner For Slow Burn Theatre

By Skip Sheffield

If Arthur Penn had not cast two of the best-looking actors in Hollywood, Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, for his 1967 movie “Bonnie & Clyde,” it is doubtful the popularity of the Depression era desperadoes would be so enduring. But he did and the image of Bonnie & Clyde as sexy outlaws was engraved in stone.
Slow Burn Theatre presents “Bonnie & Clyde” the musical through Feb. 8 at the Performing Arts Auditorium of West Boca Raton High School. If you are wary about a musical based on the exploits of a couple of desperate bank-robbers, don’t be. The book, by Ivan Menchell dispenses the excess details of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s short time together, such as the gang they had, and rather concentrates on the relationship of the two main characters.
Bonnie Parker (Jessica Brooke Sanford) and Clyde Barrow (Bruno Faria) met in 1930 and died in a hail of bullets on May 23, 1934 in Bienville Parish Louisiana. The musical begins with a brief scene and that hail of bullets, mercifully stylized, then it flashes back to the two characters and their early life together. Bonnie wanted to be a movie star, “like Clara Bow,” as she and young Clyde (Juliette Valle and Nicholas V. Ismailoff) explain in the Frank Wildhorn song “Picture Show.”
Wildhorn, whose best-known show, “Jekyll & Hyde,” ran four years on Broadway, has provided a tuneful and serviceable score (lyrics by Don Black) which advances the story.
Jessica Sanford and Bruno Farina are an attractive couple, and they generate a suitable amount of heat as the doomed couple. Kaela Antonio is good as Bonnie's disapproving sister-in-law, Blanche, as is Patrick Rodriguez as the lovelorn cop, Ted Hinton.
Juliette Valle is exceptional as the young Bonnie Parker. Only 13, this poised and professional girl is a star in the making.
Director/choreographer Patrick Fitzwater has another winner on his hands. Musical director Manny Schwartzmam does wonders with a four-piece combo. "Dyin' Ain't So Bad" goes the song. For its short life, this romantic, violent fable is fully alive.
Tickets are $40 general admission and $25 students. Call 866-811-4111.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"Women of Vision" for National Geographic


"Women of Vision" at Palm Beach Photographic

By Skip Sheffield

If you are like me and have read the National Geographic since childhood, you will love the new exhibit “Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment.” The exhibit kicks off the annual FOTOfusion celebration at Palm Beach Photographic Centre, 415 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. The exhibit is up through March 22.
Featured artists are Lynsey Addario, who has conflict coverage of the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur and the Congo; Miami-born Kitra Cahana, who explores anthropological, social and spiritual themes; Jodi Cobb, who has worked in more than 65 countries and produced 30 Geographic stories; landscape photographer Diane Cook; Carolyn Drake, winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Fulbright Fellowship, the Lange Taylor Documentary Prize and a World Press Photo Award; Knight Fellow and arts education advocate Lynn Johnson; National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Beverly Joubert; nature photographer Erika Larsen; Stephanie Sinclair, who conducted a decade-long study on child marriage and winner of three World Press Photo awards, and Amy Toensing, who began her career covering the White House and Congress for the New York Times, who for the past three years documented Aboriginal Australia for a June 2013 feature in National Geographic. In short these women are the highest-standard professionals.
"I have been kidnapped twice and in Libya my driver was killed," said Lynsey Addario matter-of-factly at a media preview of the 100-photograph show. My job is to show reality, not to be superficial."
If her globe-trotting weren't enough, Addario is also mother to a 3-year-old boy. She loves with her husband in London, U.K. when she is not travelling.
"We were very deliberate about whom we chose," reports Meg Calnan, public relations director at National Geographic. "We chose women who were the most active at the time when we began this project, over two years ago. Each had to have at least one feature in National Geographic."
Some of the women have as many as 30 credits with the esteemed publication.
For the past decade some of the most powerful stories have been produced by a new generation of photojournalists who are women," states Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions. "These women are as different as the places and the subjects they have covered, but they all share the same passion and commitment that has come to define National Geographic."
"Women of Vision" is sponsored by PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. For more information call 561-253-2600 or go to

Monday, January 19, 2015

"I & You" & Walt Whitman


“I & You” Funny and Moving, with a Debt to Walt Whitman

By Skip Sheffield

The title “I & You” is a direct lift from Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” Any play that references Whitman gets bonus points in my book.
“I & You” is a two character play by Lauren Gunderson, running through Feb. 8 at Arts Garage, 180 N.W. First Street, Delray Beach.
Caroline (Grace Winchester) and Anthony (Terry Guest) are high school seniors working together on a paper on Whitman’s Civil War masterpiece, “Leaves of Grass.” Caroline is chronically ill and has missed many days of school. Anthony is a jock; a basketball star who is somewhat disinterested in the project. Never mind that neither of the actors looks as young as a high school student; it’s the words that count, and Gunderson’s words are beautiful and concise.
There is something about facing death that makes one embrace life fearlessly. Such is the case with Caroline, who needs a liver transplant or she surely will die. So Caroline is feisty, with nothing to lose. “I am this mystery,” she says, quoting Whitman. Anthony is cheerful and eager to please, and he feels under the gun because the “Leaves of Grass” paper is due the next day.
“I & You” zips by in 80 minutes, no intermission under Louis Tyrrell’s direction. This is one of those plays that will make you laugh, though you may well cry. I brought two young 20-something women with me; my daughter Anna and her good friend Negean. Both girls were moved to tears, but in a good way.
Art Garage publicist Kay Renz tells me “I & You” is being shared with approximately 1,000 Palm Beach County students to teach about people with disabilities. I can’t think of a worthier production. Tickets are $25-$40. Call 561-4506357 or go to

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Go Get 'Em Clint


“American Sniper” Tough, Unsettling

By Skip Sheffield

It is hard to “like” “American Sniper.” It is about sharpshooter Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who was for all purposes a killing machine, ravaging Iraq and its people.
Chris Kyle is credited with at least 160 verified kills, and maybe as many as 250 or more.
Kyle wrote about his experiences of four tours of Iraq in a best-selling 2012 memoir. Jason Hall (“Paranoia”) adapted the book for the screen and Clint Eastwood directs.
It is disconcerting to see someone kill human beings so dispassionately, as if they were targets in a shooting gallery, not living people. That Chris Kyle is played by dreamy, blue-eyed Bradley Cooper makes the effect even more disconcerting.
The fact is war is Hell, and it is Hell on the soldiers who must fight. As Kyle’s legend as a SEAL sharpshooter grew, he came to be known as “Legend.” The flip side of this is it is difficult to return to normal civilian life. In Kyle’s case that was Texas (figures), where guns are as normal as apple pie.
The Iraq was scenes are relentless and devastating. You just know some innocent bystanders were taken along with Al Qaeda insurgents. As Kyle became more desensitized by his deadly target practice, he found it more difficult to unwind to his loyal wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and his adoring children. So despite Taya’s pleading, he kept returning to the hellish cauldron of Iraq.
I get it Clint. While it celebrates the most effective sniper in U.S. military history, this is really an anti-war film. It does not have a happy ending, and neither does the endless Iraq War, so recklessly and foolishly started in the first place. Perhaps Eastwood is trying to make amends for his remorseless “Man With No Name” character. Whatever the reason, this is a bitter, unsettling movie and an amazing performance by pretty boy Bradley Cooper. We will never think off him the same again.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Boca Symphonia Grows Stronger Each Year


Boca Symphonia Grows and Grows

By Skip Sheffield

Slowly, surely and quietly a world-class orchestra has been growing in Boca Raton.
The second concert of the tenth season of the Symphonia of Boca Raton Jan. 11 was simply superb. Guest director Gerard Schwartz led the Symphonia through an exquisite rendition of Richard Strauss’s Selections from Divertimento for Small Orchestra, op. 86. Accentuating the composition was the fine oboe work by Jeffrey Apanana and Erika Yamada.
The biggest treat came when Gerard Schwarz introduced the guest soloist: his son Julian Schwartz. Schwartz junior is simply one of the finest cellists in the world today. His playing on Camille Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 was heavenly, transporting the audience to a higher plane. A note on the Boca Symphonia audience; they are the most knowledgeable and well-behaved group of music lovers I have seen in South Florida. This audience knows quality. After a standing ovation they wouldn’t let Julian Schwartz leave the stage. After three curtain calls Schwartz returned with his instrument, sat down, and ripped off a cello solo that explored every possibility of that wonderful, sonorous instrument.
After intermission we were treated to a beautiful performance of Gustav Mahler’s “What the Wild Flowers Tell Me,” arranged by Benjamin Britten.
The concert’s climax was Beethoven’s mighty Symphony No. 1 in four movements, building and receding, building and receding until the crescendo of the Adagio climax.
There were a number of younger people, mostly from Lynn University’s Conservatory of Music, at the first Symphonia concert. This time the audience was overwhelmingly senior citizen. I hope some younger music lovers get hip to the fact classical musical can really be cool.
The next Boca Symphonia concert is Sunday, Feb. 22 in the Roberts Theatre of St. Andrew’s School. On the podium will be former resident conductor Alexander Platt for a program of Prokofiev, Mozart, Glass and Bizet. Call 866-MUSIC-01 (866-687-4201) or go to
Sunshine Music & Blues Festival
And now for music of a completely different sort, we have the third annual Sunshine Music & Blues Festival this Sunday, Jan. 18 at Mizner Park Amphitheater. Nine groups will play on two stages. In order of appearance they are Sean Chambers at noon; Matt Schofield at 12:35 p.m.; Los Lobos at 1:25; The Both (Aimee Mann and Ted Leo) at 2:35 p.m.; Chris Robinson Brotherhood at 3:45 p.m.; Rebirth Blues Band at 4:35 p.m.; Grace Potter at 6:05 p.m.; Robbie Krieger on The Doors at 7:15 p.m. and headliners and hosts Tedeschi Trucks Band at 8:30 p.m.
In case you are wondering what happened to Dickey Betts, I am told he pulled out due to a “family emergency.” Tickets are $49.50 at the gate. Call 800-745-3000 or go to

Monday, January 12, 2015

La Cage aux Folles at Wick Theatre


The Best of Times at Wick Theatre

By Skip Sheffield

The best of times is now.
That is the upbeat message of “La Cage aux Folles,” playing through Feb. 15 at the Wick Theatre, 7901 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
“La Cage aux Folles” is a big, beautiful show. Director Norb Joeder and his cast and crew have done it right with two strong veteran Broadway leads, a young, talented supporting cast, a lively, larger band under the direction of pianist Michael Ursua (and the band is reveal onstage for the first time at The Wick), and of course gorgeous costumes, and this is nothing if not a costume show.
“La Cage” is based on a 1973 French stage play by the same name by Jean Poiret. It also was a French and an American motion picture.
The music and lyrics are by Jerry Herman and the book is by Harvey Fierstein, an ardent gay activist and most multi-talented theater writer-performer, with Best Actor Tony Awards for “Torch Song Trilogy,” which he wrote; another Best Actor for “Hairspray;” playwright of the hit show “Kinky Boots” and member of the Theater Hall of Fame in 2007.
I had the treat of seeing Fierstein perform when “Torch Song Trilogy,” played Miami Beach. Fierstein has a froggy, gravelly voice, and he is not what you could call svelte or delicate.
That is part of the joke of “Torch Song” and “Hairspray” which he both played in drag.
It is also part of the joke of “La Cage.” The dual role of Albin, a most swishy gay man and Zaza, the temperamental star of the St. Tropez nightclub “La Cage aux Folles,” is a middle-aged, not slim or delicate man. No amount of costume or makeup could make Zaza a Brigitte Bardot, and there lies the poignancy of the role.
Lee Roy Reams has played Albin/Zaza on Broadway, and the actor knows how to milk the role both for broad laughs and vulnerability.
Georges, owner and master of ceremonies of “La Cage,” is on the other hand a model of physical masculinity, yet the longtime lover of Albin/Zaza.
Walter Charles is a different kind of Georges. The 40-year theater veteran is bald and wears glasses and doesn’t pretend otherwise. What Charles has is a magnificent baritone voice that blends beautifully with Reams’ tenor. Moreover they are most believable as a caring, long-loving couple.
The “crisis” of the play, such as it is, is the fact Georges heterosexual 24-year-old son Jean-Michel (Aaron Young) has fallen in love, quelle horreur, with a lovely girl named Anne Dindon (Christina Laschuk, who is also dance captain). Worse, Anne is the daughter of the self-appointed moral crusader and head of the “Tradition, Family and Morality Party" (Troy J. Stanley). Worse still, Mr. Dindon and his flighty wife (Angie Radosh) are coming to dinner to meet the parents of Jean-Michel. What could go wrong? Plenty, starting with the flamboyant butler/maid Jacob (Phil Young), and climaxing with Albin trying to masquerade as Jean-Michel’s birth mother Sybil.
Then there are the Cagelles, the lovely, agile song and dance performers of La Cage, played by six young men in drag and two young women.
“We Are What We Are” is the proud anthem of “La Cage.” If you can dig that, you will love this show.
Tickets are $58 and $62. Call 561-995-2333.

Hail "The Lion King" at Broward Center


"The Lion King" Rules Broward Center

By Skip Sheffield

The best seats in the house are on the aisle for “The Lion King,” playing through Feb. 1 at Broward Center for the Arts.
That’s where actors and amazing puppets make their entrance in a procession of animals and actors that goes down the aisles and up onto the stage. It's a show that starts with a peak and stays there.
I was in the second row, aisle seat for this spectacular pageant of exquisite costumes, clever giant puppets, muscular male dancers, sinewy, lithe female dancers and pounding, propulsive music.
“Lion King” is a feast for the eyes and ears. In a literal surround-sound effect there are two drummers stationed at the lower front balcony of both sides of the theater. Percussion is a large part of the score, by Elton John and Tim Rice. The real genius of the production is Julie Taymor, who became the first woman to win the Tony Award as Best Director in 1998. She also designed the show's costumes, co-designed the masks and puppets with Michael Curry, and contributed to the score's African-influenced music and lyrics.
Though it is based on a 1994 Walt Disney animated movie aimed at the younger audience, "Lion King" has moral lessons pertinent to all ages. Basically it is a coming-of-age story about Simba (Jordan A. Hall alternating with Tre Jones as a cub and Jelani Remy as a regal (and well-muscled) adult.
It is also a love story between Simba and his lioness girlfriend Nala (Ny Cymone Carver alternating with Tyah Skye as a cub; Nia Holloway as an adult).
There is plenty of humor in the story of Simba's parents Mufasa (L. Stephen Taylor) and Sarabi (Tryphena Wade) and their madcap court, which includes a wisecracking bird-like advisor Zazu (Drew Hirschfield); the meerkat Timon (Tony Freeman) and the pudgy warthog Pumbae (Ben Lipitz). There is pathos too as Simba leaves his kingdom up his father's passing.
Every Disney story needs a villain. This one has a dandy one in Mufsa's scheming younger brother Scar (Patrick R. Brown) and his ravenous hyena confederates.
This is the third or fourth "Lion King" I've seen since it first came to South Florida 12 years ago. This may be the best one yet, with four of the principals coming directly from Broadway. No wonder "The Lion King" has become the highest-grossing ($6.3 billion and counting) title in entertainment history.
Tickets are $43.37-$117.71. Call 800-745-3000 or go to or

Saturday, January 10, 2015

"Selma" Moving, Entertaining

“Selma” Moving, Heartfelt

By Skip Sheffield

“Selma” is a magnificent, heartfelt tribute to civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Interestingly, Dr. King is played by Oxford, England born, classically-trained actor, David Oyelowo, who fully embodies his character in voice and manner.
 "Selma" is directed by Ava DuVernay, who was mostly known for music videos, yet she did an impressive job handling such a large and diverse cast on location in Georgia.
Screenwriter Paul Webb based his script on the historic 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama voting rights marches. It was smart to focus on this turning point in Dr. King's varied career. Dr. King was just the figurehead for a lot of people who joined together to call attention to the denial of voting rights in Alabama and other parts of the South to African-Americans. I am old enough to remember Alabama's Governor George Wallace and his infamous, fiery declaration, "Segregation Forever!" While the Civil War had been won by Union forces 100 years previously, sentiment for the segregationist Confederacy still ran deep in the Deep South.
George Wallace is played by another British actor, Tim Roth, who looks nothing like the stout, dark George Wallace. That's how it is in fictionalized history. "Selma" is not a documentary, and some of the incidents and characters are played for dramatic effect.
Principal among these are U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson, played by yet another British actor, Tom Wilkinson. A war of wills is depicted as Dr. King tries to force LBJ to do something about the atrocities that were being committed against black people in Alabama.
Within the ranks of civil rights crusaders there was dissension, with Dr. King, Hosea Williams (Wendell Pierce) and James Bevel (Common) on the more moderate, pacifist Souhern Christian Leadership (SCLC) side and John Lewis (Stephen James) of the more activist Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). A late addition was Malcolm X (Nigel Thatch) of the radical activist Black Panthers.
The pressures and strain on Dr. King’s long-suffering wife Coretta Scott King (beautiful Carmen Ejogo) are touched upon, but more alarming are the invasions of privacy and outright slander committed under the command of FBI head J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker, in slimy mode) against Dr. King.
There are a number of dramatic highs that build to the climax of the actual march, when clergy from all over the U.S. and Canada flocked to Selma to join the cause.
“Selma” may not be completely accurate historically, but it sure is moving dramatic and inspirational. Among the producer of the film are Oprah Winfrey, who plays a small role as a maid who joins the cause, and actor Brad Pitt, who used his influence to get the job done.
In short “Selma” is an epic drama for anyone who believes in equal rights for all Americans.