Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Jon Cleary, Leon Russell Rock the Funky Biscuit


Funky Biscuit Celebrates Fourth Anniversary With Style

By Skip Sheffield

Two old-school professional performers; one from England via New Orleans and one of near mythical status from Tulsa, Oklahoma, rocked the Funky Biscuit for its July fourth anniversary celebration.
Jon Cleary is a transplanted Brit who fell in love with New Orleans and its musicians 2o years ago. For the Boca Raton gig, piano and organ player Cleary brought his “Absolute Monster Gentlemen” band from New Orleans. The biggest of the Monster Gentlemen is the aptly-named Derwin “Big D” Perkins. The guitarist is so large he makes his Fender Stratocaster guitar look like a ukulele.
Cleary served up a gumbo of New Orleans favorites such as Professor Longhair’s “Go to the Mardi Gras” and some from his new album, “GoGo Juice,” due out Aug. 14.
Leon Russell has been a professional musician since 1956. He started young, but the 73-year-old has never lost his chops. He played some of his greatest hits like “Tight Rope,” “Stranger in a Strange Land” and of course “A Song For You,” but he did a wide-ranging selection of covers too, such as Ray Charles’ “I’ve Got a Woman,” Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” the Rolling Stones “Wild Horses” and the evergreen Hoagy Carmichael classic, “Georgia on My Mind.”
Every Monday night is a “Biscuit Jam” hosted by Mark Telesca with special guests. Some notable coming attractions are An Evening with Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna Aug. 9; Boca’s own Chloe Dolandis with Ilana Armida Aug. 11; Old Boca Music Festival 2 with the Fabulous Fleetwoods, Queen Bee & The Drones and Buster Leggs Aug. 15; Butch Trucks and Berry Oakley, Jr. of the Allman Brothers with the Freight Train Sept. 19 and the “Queen of Boogie-Woogie Piano,” Marcia Ball on Oct. 22. Funky Biscuit is located at 303 Mizner Blvd. in Royal Palm Beach. Call 561-395-2929 or go to

A New But Not Improved "Vacation"


The Griswolds Return to Walley World

By Skip Sheffield

It’s been 35 years since the Griswold family took to the road in an ill-fated attempt to visit the Disney-like Walley World theme park. They haven’t learned a darn thing.
Rusty, who was a teenager in the original movie, is now a mid-40s family man played by Ed Helms. Helms is good at playing clueless screw-ups such as the character he played in “The Hangover” and its sequel. Rusty Griswold is a pilot for the third-rate Econo-Air company, based in Chicago. This is good for a few gags about his lowly job status. Helms is more likeable than Chevy Chase, who plays his dad, Clark Griswold. Chase does a cameo with his screen wife Beverly D’Angelo at the end of the film, but it is forgettable
Playing Rusty’s wife Debbie is Christina Applegate, who rose to fame as the dim-bulb daughter in “Married With Children.” Here she plays a variation of that character, with questionable morals. Sons James and Kevin are played by Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins. Gisondo scores points with his would-be cute girl love interest Adena, played by Catherine Missal.
The biggest surprise is Chris Hemsworth’s hilarious turn as super-stud Stone Crandall, married to Audrey (Leslie Mann) in a Texas McMansion.

“Vacation” is really just a succession of sight gags. Some of them are funnier than others, but there are enough laughs to please even the dimmest audience. The movie is written by directors John Francis Daly and Jonathan M. Goldstein, who previously collaborated on “Horrible Bosses.” The characters are based on those created by the late, lamented John Hughes, who sadly passed away in 2009. He is missed here.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Bittersweet "Last Five Years"


For Something Different, “The Last Five Years”

By Skip Sheffield

Looking for something different in live theater? Evening Star Productions is offering “The Last Five Years” through Aug. 2 at Sol Theatre, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
“Last Five Years” is a two-person musical by Jason Robert Brown, whose musical “Parade” was produced by Slow Burn Theatre last season. It has a different kind of structure from what we are used to in a play. Events unfold backward for Cathy (Sara Grant) and forward for Jamie (Ben Sandomir). At about the midpoint of the 90-minute performance, Cathy and Jamie meet in the same time frame for their marriage. Be forewarned this is not a happy musical. It is about the breakup of a marriage, from two points of view. It begins with Cathy in the depths of despair and Jamie giddy with the hope of new love. The songs are not simple but tricky. You won’t hear a “hit single,” but you will hear deeply thought, insightful lyrics about the fleeting qualities of romantic love.
Sol Theatre regular Sara Grant (she is founder Rosalie Grant’s daughter) is a good singer and very effective actress. Ben Sandomir is a good actor and an exceptional singer. The way he caresses high notes is simply beautiful. Also exceptional is violinist Lehins Aragon, who caresses notes in concert with the singers. Also in the three-piece band are musical director and pianist Jason Buelow and a very young bassist named Brad Miller.
“The Last Five Years” is not the kind of musical that will leave you singing a favorite tune. However, it will get you thinking about what you might have done wrong in your own love life. For me the answer is plenty, but “It is better to have loved and lost…”
Shows are at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through Aug. 2. Tickets are $25 ($10 students. Call 561-447-8829.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Coming of Age in Orlando


A Not Weepy But Wise “Paper Towns”

By Skip Sheffield

Sometimes it seems like we never leave high school. No matter what success failure, or mediocrecy we achieve later in life, what we were in high school remains an integral part of us.
This thought came to me after seeing “Paper Towns.” It’s a romantic comedy set in senior year of high school in Orlando. The script, by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, is based on the young adult novel by John Green, who collaborated with the screenwriters previously on the weepy drama “The Fault in Our Stars.”
“Paper Towns” is no weeper. In fact it is rather uplifting. Quentin meets Margo as a young boy in their Orlando suburb and is immediately smitten. Even as a little girl Margo is gorgeous and different, marching to the beat of her own drummer.
“She loved mysteries because she became one,” Quentin muses.
Quentin who grows into a nerdy teenager played by Nat Wolff, and Margo, who has only grown more beautiful, played by British fashion model Cara Delevigne, have drifted apart. One night, only about a week before senior prom, Margo climbs into Quentin’s bedroom window and lures him into an all-night caper of revenge against people she feels has wronged her. Quentin is apprehensive and fearful, but he goes along, and as the night progresses he becomes bolder- and more in love with Margo.
Quentin has two outsider best friends: Ben (Austin Abrams) and Radar (Justice Smith). Radar has a long-time girlfriend Angela (Jaz Sinclair) he dotes upon and plans to take to the prom. Ben has no girlfriend, but he dreams about pretty Lacey (Halston Sage), who goes with an arrogant jock.
Shortly after their all-nighter, Margo disappears. She leaves behind cryptic clues on where she might be. Quentin enlists his friends as detectives and cajoles them on a mission that ultimately takes them to a “Paper Town” (a town that exists only on maps) in upstate New York
Credibility is not the strong suit of “Paper Towns.” Quentin seems to have an endless supply of money, and parents that don’t care if he takes off with their car. Likewise his friends take off on an adventure with no regard to their parents or worry about cops or school officials.

“Paper Town” is a fantasy, but it is not sugary sweet or sappy. Everyone learns a valuable lesson save Margo, who remains an enigma. Perhaps that’s how it should be. We all need a little mystery in life.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Special Opening Night With Ali MacGraw & Ryan O'Neal


Ali MacGraw, Ryan O’Neal Deliver a Special Evening

By Skip Sheffield

Who knew two people, an older man an older woman, sitting at a table, wearing reading glasses and reading letters could be so entertaining?
When the older people in question are Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and the words they read are by A.R. Gurney, believe it. It is entertaining, funny, meaningful and moving. It’s no wonder “Love Letters” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1989.
“Love Letters” has been performed by a variety of celebrities because it requires minimal rehearsal and it is simply read rather than memorized. The impact of the words depends on the unspoken emotion of the actors. Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal have a long history, having rocketed to stardom together in a little 1970 movie called “Love Story.” They have each had their ups and downs in the years since. It is this unspoken back story that gives A.R. Gurney’s fanciful story of a man and woman over 50 years its power. Melissa Gardner (Ali MacGraw) is a rich girl. Andrew “Andy” Makepeace Ladd III (Ryan O’Neal) is not poor, but not nearly as well-off as Melissa. The story begins at a birthday party on April 19, 1937. Melissa asks Andy if he will be her Valentine. Andy says yes. So begins a relationship mostly through letters; most often Christmas cards, as both attend prep schools and colleges, have romances and breakups and begin careers. All the while there are missed opportunities. Though they are quite different (she’s an arty rebel, he’s a conservative conformist), there is the sense they are destined to be together- yet that destiny is not to be fulfilled. Performed in only about 90 minutes without intermission, the play builds in power as it approaches its finale. By then it is quite emotional and both actors are visibly moved.
July 21 was opening night for a ten-city national tour. It was a special evening, and Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal were rewarded with a much deserved standing ovation. See it if you have a chance.
“Love Letters” runs through Sunday, July 26. Tickets start at $35. Call 800-745-3000 or go to

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Leon Russell Helps Funky Biscuit Celebrate Fourth Anniversary


Funky Biscuit Is Four Years Old

By Skip Sheffield

Funky Biscuit at Royal Palm Place is celebrating its fourth anniversary in a big way, starting with a kick-off party Thursday, July 23 with Heavy Pets, Crazy Fingers and the Dirk Quinn Band.
“We are having three local bands for the kick-off party,” reports Funky Biscuit owner-manager Al Poliak. “Then on Friday we have Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen. He’s fabulous. He’s been here twice, so I know. Then we have Leon Russell for the first time Saturday and Sunday. He is truly a living legend.”
Leon Russell is indeed a living musical treasure. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native has been a professional musician since 1956. He turned 73 on April 2, but he continues to perform and tour. Russell is proficient on piano, organ and guitar and he sings in a distinctive twangy “Okie” style. As a Los Angeles session player he played with virtually all of the greats of the 1960s and 1970s. He has written many songs that have become standards. These include “This Masquerade,” “Tightrope,” “Superstar” and “A Song for You.”
Opening for Leon Russell is Richie Schmidt, a Funky Biscuit regular. With his wife, Tess Smith, the couple performs at a 5 p.m. Thursday Happy Hour as Twocan Blue. Schmidt is also lead guitarist with the popular rock group The Fabulous Fleetwoods. At 9 p.m. this Friday, July 24, New Orleans-based, British-born pianist Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen take to the stage. Tickets are $30-$45 ($35 day of show), and this is a show where fans under 21 are permitted with parent or legal guardian for just $10.
The Saturday Leon Russell show is sold-out and tickets for $45-$60 are going fast for the Sunday show. Music continues Monday, July 27 with a Biscuit Jam with Mark Telesca and the Funky Biscuit All-Stars. Al Poliak often joins in on keyboards. Tuesday, July 28 features the Fireside Prophets with Oli & Davy ($5-$7), Wednesday, July 29 is classic rock with Twocan Blue & Friends, Thursday, July 30 is The Naughty Professor and the month wraps up with Bobby Messano and Dark Horse Flyer.
The month of August begins with a Jerry Garcia Birthday Celebration Aug. 1 with Crazy Fingers and Unlimited Devotion.
“We had to start modestly,” Poliak says. “It takes time to become known to booking agents and managers. People in the business know who Funky Biscuit is now. We are at the point where I wish we could add more seating.”
The phone number is 561-395-2929 and the web site is

Friday, July 17, 2015

"Lila & Eve" No Chick Flick


“Lila & Eve” No Ordinary “Chick Flick”

By Skip Sheffield

When I saw “ChickFlicks” as a producing partner for the Samuel Goldwyn Classic film “Lila & Eve,” I thought uh-oh. However, “Lila & Eve,” which opens July 17 at Living Room Theaters, is anything but a standard chick-flick romance. No, this is a grief, revenge and women’s solidarity story written by Pat Gilfillan, directed by Charles Stone III and set in the present in the “bad part” of Atlanta.
Viola Davis plays Lila, a single mom whose older son Stephon (Ami Ameen) is shot dead by a stray bullet in a gang shooting. Lila joins a support group of grieving mothers who subscribe to a 12-step program of dealing with their anger and sorrow. Eve (Jennifer Lopez) is a member of the group who is skeptical of the advice given, and storms out of a meeting. Lila confronts Eve and asks her if she could be her sponsor.
“We aren’t real to them,” Eve says of Atlanta Police. “Hell, they don’t even see us.”
Feeling powerless, Lila and Eve decide to take the law into their own hands, with dangerous results. “Lila & Eve” is “Dirty Harry” crossed with “Thelma and Louise.” It’s a short, tense ride through the mean streets of Atlanta, with a surprising outcome.

“Palm Beach County During World War II”

Boca Raton Historical Society curator Susan Gillis is the proud co-author of “Palm Beach County During World War II,” recently published by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, South Carolina. Gillis and co-authors Debi Murray and Richard Marconi of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County will present a short talk and book-signing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at Old Town Hall, 71 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton.
“You could say I have wanted to do this since I first got here in 2002,” said Susan Gillis last Thursday at Old Town Hall. “Last summer I got together with my dear friends Debi and Richard and said why don’t we write about World War II for all of Palm Beach County, not just Boca Raton Army Airfield? The war affected people of all walks of life all over the county. There was a submarine base in Jupiter; the Breakers Hotel became a hospital and there was Morrison Field in West Palm Beach and the Lantana Airport, plus all the civilian sub-spotters and Civil defense workers.”
The $21.95 soft-cover book is copiously illustrated with vintage photographs lent by local citizens. Many of them have never been seen before. While the Boca Raton Army Airfield (BRAAF) was by far the largest base in South Florida, World War II affected all Floridians everywhere.
“If it weren’t for the Boca Raton Airbase we would not have FAU or the present airport,” said Gillis. “The town was devastated when the air base closed, but it made more than 6,000 acres of land available for development. Boca Raton would not be the same without BRAAF.”

Community Cabaret

For entertainment of a lighter sort, there is another Community Cabaret with 20 acts from teens to seniors at 7:30 p.m. July 22 at the Willow Theatre of Sugar Sand Park, 300 S. Military Trail, Boca Raton. Admission is just $5. Call 561-347-3900.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Old Friends Exchange "Love Letters"


Lovers on the Big Screen, Friends in Real Life: Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal

By Skip Sheffield

“Love Story” stars Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal are back together again. This time they are on stage, reading A.R. Gurney’s Pulitzer-Prize finalist work, “Love Letters,” at Broward Center for the Arts July 21-26.
“Love Letters” is a show designed for guest celebrities because it does not require lengthy rehearsals. It is more akin to reader’s theater, as the actors read the love letters of the title, sent between a man and a woman over a 50-year span. It helps if the actors are actually fond of each other. McGraw and O’Neal are.
“Ryan and I have travelled the world making appearances for `Love Story’ screenings,” she revealed by telephone from her home in Santa Fe, NM. “It seems everywhere we go, people know who we are. It is amazing that such a little tiny movie became such a worldwide phenomenon that continues to this day.”
“Love Story” certainly changed the life of Ali McGraw. It was only her second film after “Goodbye Columbus” in 1969. She won the Golden Globe Award as Most Promising Newcomer for her role as Richard Benjamin’s rich girlfriend in that film. In 1970 she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Ryan O’Neal’s doomed love interest in “Love Story.” In 1972 she was voted top female box office star in the world and was invited to put her foot and handprints at the walk of fame at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. In 1991 People magazine selected McGraw as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” In 2008 GQ magazine listed her in their “25 Sexiest Women in Film Ever” edition. Though she has allowed her dark hair to go silver, McGraw is still of the most beautiful women her age (76) in the world.
Elizabeth Alice “Ali” McGraw is also very smart. She is an alumna of Rosemary Hall (now Choate Rosemary Hall) on scholarship and prestigious Wellesley College in Massachusetts.
“My family was not wealthy, but I was on scholarship so I got to attend schools people associate with the rich,” she said. “I could see the differences between upper and lower classes in the 1960s. It was a time of extraordinary freedom.”
After appearing on Broadway, McGraw and O’Neal have taken their two-person act “on the road."
“I have never been to Fort Lauderdale, so I’m looking forward to that,” McGraw said. “I love working with Ryan. We have gotten together over the years for `Love Story,’ but `Love Letters’ is special. It’s a touching and funny depiction of a long-term relationship that I think people will enjoy.”
Tickets start at $35. Call 800-745-3000 or go to

Amy Schumer Goes Gonzo in "Trainwreck"


Celebrity Cameos Spark “Trainwreck”
By Skip Sheffield

Amy Schumer is not shy. She is not modest or delicate either. She is kind of like one of the guys in “Trainwreck;” a film in which she stars and wrote the script.

“Trainwreck” is like an exaggerated version of Amy Schumer the brash and blunt stand-up comedian. The story begins with a flashback to when Amy was a child (Devin Farbry as a 9-year-old Amy). Her dad (Colin Quinn) is not exactly a model father. He drinks too much and messes around. “Monogamy is not realistic,” he lectures little Amy. The grownup Amy has taken this to heart. Amy sleeps with whomever whenever she wants- as long as they don’t stay overnight. She is a writer for a snarky New York magazine called S’Nuff, as in that’s enough. Her bitchy British boss (Tilda Swinton at her bitchiest) has given her an assignment she does not want: interview celebrity sports surgeon Dr. Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). “Sports are stupid,” Amy sniffs. Nevertheless Amy interviews Dr. Conners, and immediately they click. The role of Dr. Conners allowed Amy Schumer the writer to invite every celebrity sports star she knew to play themselves. For instance basketball star LeBron James plays himself as Dr. Conners’ patient and good friend. James is surprisingly good, and he delivers some funny lines about the Miami Heat and his defection to Cleveland. “Trainwreck” is like a Mad magazine of cameos. My favorite is a movie-within-a-movie called “The Dogwalker,” starring Daniel Radcliffe, with Marisa Tomei as one of his clients. Amy also called fellow comedians to play small roles. These include Jim Florentine, Bobby Kelly and Dave Attell. The small part of an elderly gentleman named Norman is veteran stage and screen actor Norman Lloyd, who turns age 101 on Nov. 8. Wrestling star John Sena has an amusing speaking role as Amy’s muscle-bound boyfriend Steven. Playing themselves are actor Matthew Broderick, tennis legend Chris Lloyd and sports announcer Marv Alpert. Schumer even has a celebrity director: Judd Apatow directing the first film he did not write. As for the romantic story line between Schumer and Hader, it is the least effective part of “Trainwreck.” Go for the laughs and leave it at that.

Ian McKellan is "Mr. Holmes," as in Sherlock


A Wistful, Adult “Mr. Holmes”

By Skip Sheffield

“Mr. Holmes” is an adult film in the best sense of the word. The estimable Ian McKellen stars as a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in this wistful tale of regret and opportunities lost. McKellen is a mere lad of 76, but he is quite convincing as the world-weary Mr. Holmes, still haunted by an unsolved case 50 years ago.
The story, based on a 2005 novel “Slight Trick of the Mind” by Mitch Cullin, was inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant British detective character. It is set in 1947 in the English countryside of Sussex. Holmes has retired there after the marriage of his loyal sidekick, Dr. Holmes. Holmes is lame, unable to walk without a cane, and he is becoming increasingly forgetful. He shares his house with Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), his housekeeper and her bright young son Roger (Milo Parker).
Holmes has taken to bee-keeping in his old age, and Roger is fascinated by the creatures. The story begins with Holmes puzzling over the premature death of some of his bees. When they return to the house Mrs. Munro angrily asks if Roger has been bitten. “Bees don’t bite,” Holmes replies. “They have no teeth. They sting.”
Jeffrey Hatcher’s screenplay is littered with witticisms such as that. Holmes’ son Mycroft (John Sessions) is a rising sleuth himself, but rather disengaged from his father. When Roger discovers a mysterious box in Holmes’ study, it harkens Holmes back to a case involving a Japanese man (Hiroyuko) and a beautiful, troubled young woman, Ann Kelmot (Hattie Morahan), who is married to a concerned Thomas Kelmot (Patrick Kennedy).

“Mr. Holmes” will connect with people who harbor lasting regrets over missed opportunities. While regret is not a constructive emotion, sometimes it is inevitable. “Sadder but wiser” is the cliché, and the sorrow is underscored by the terrible knowledge that one’s once-brilliant powers of deduction are slipping away. “Mr. Holmes” is by no means a downer, thanks to Ian Kellen’s masterful performance, coupled with strong turns by young Milo Parker and American actress Laura Linney. This is not summer fluff, but thought-provoking adult drama.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Romantic Intrigue at Palm Beach Dramaworks


Enjoy “A Little Night Music” at Palm Beach Dramaworks

By Skip Sheffield

“Stephen Sondheim is an acquired taste,” muttered the older gentleman at intermission of “A Little Night Music” at Palm Beach Dramaworks, 201 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.
Yes, Stephen Sondheim is not an “easy” composer-lyricist. “A Little Night Music,” which runs through July 19, was inspired by the Ingmar Bergman Swedish film “Smiles of a Summer Night” and adapted for the stage by Hugh Wheeler. Bergman is not easy either. The title comes from Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik.” Are you still with me?
Palm Beach Dramaworks is performing the musical play as reader’s theater, concert-style, under the direction of Lynette Barkley. Some of the cast know their parts better than others. Kim Cozort, who has the lead role of Desiree, knows her role best of all. Desiree is a once-famous actress and daughter of Madame Armfeldt (Joy Franz), a wheelchair bound wealthy woman and owner of a country estate who looks after Desiree’s daughter Frederika (Catherine League). Characters are introduced Greek chorus-style in an overture featuring Mr. Linquist (Matthew Korinko, the strongest male voice in the cast), Mrs. Nordstrom (Georgia Mallory Guy, who also plays oboe in the band), Mrs. Anderssen (Britany Baratz), Mr. Erlanson (Alex Jorth) and Mrs. Segstrom (Angela Miller). The year is 1900 and romantic intrigue is in the air. The chief provocateur is Fredrik Egerman (William Michals), a successful lawyer who has married an 18-year-old “trophy wife” named Anne (Lillie Riccardi). Fredrik has yet to consummate his marriage to Anne after 11 months. This may be a good thing, because Anne secretly has the hots for Fredrik’s moody son Henrik (Clay Cartland), who is just a year older than Anne. Petra (Cristina Flores), the lusty maid of the house, has set her cap for Henrik, who is a seminary student and trying to keep his morals above board.
When Desiree performs in a nearby town, Fredrik and Anne take in the show. Fredrik and Desiree make eye contact, and as the saying goes, sparks fly. Fredrik was once Desiree’s lover, and it seems she wouldn’t mind rekindling that romance.
However, the amoral Desiree has been having a fling with the vain, ridiculous dragoon, Count Carl-Angus (Aloysius Gigi), who is married to Countess Charlotte (Ruthie Stephens). All these intrigues come to a head in “A Weekend in the Country,” with everyone together and at cross purposes in the same house.
The best and most popular song in the wordy, complicated score is “Send in the Clowns,” which is sung by a regretful Desiree and wonderfully realized by Kim Cozort.
While costumes are elaborate, sets are left to the imagination. It’s just as well, for it is the story and its players that enchant. Palm Beach Dramaworks is to be commended for putting on such a cerebral, complex show in the dead of summer.

Tickets are $55. Call 561-514-4042 or go to

Monday, July 13, 2015

Eagles Fly to Miami for Perhaps the Last Time

Photo by Tom Craig


The Eagles Wow South Florida, Possibly for the Last Time

By Skip Sheffield

The Eagles love Miami… at least they did on July 10, 2015 at American Airlines Arena, where they continued their “History of the Eagles” tour. The group made mention that Miami loomed large in their history, as they recorded at the famed Criteria Studios in 1975 and Bayshore Studios in 1978.
The Eagles’ history dates back to Los Angeles in 1971, when studio musicians Glenn Freyand Don Henley, who were in Linda Ronstadt’s band, and Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner got together as a kind of supergroup of singers and musicians. Founding members Frey, guitar and Henley, drums and guitar, played the Miami concert with newer members Timothy B. Schmit on bass and Joe Walsh on guitar. Much to the delight of Florida fans, founding guitar, banjo and mandolin player Bernie Leadon paid a guest appearance. Leadon left the group in 1975, when the band moved more toward rock ‘n’ roll from their original country roots, but he has always remained a friend.
The concert began with the two main guys, Glen Frey and Don Henley sitting down for an acoustic set and playing “Desperado.” The duo got the first of many standing ovations for that wistful ballad about a man who "ain't gettin' any younger." Leadon, who now lives in Gainesville, Florida, then joined in, followed by Timothy B. Schmit, who replaced founding bassist Randy Meisner in 1975. Schmidt is the singer who put the sky-high notes in the group’s harmonies. Frey mentioned Meisner, who sang lead on the group’s first gold record, “Take It To the Limit.” “I hope he’s OK” said Frey of Meisner, who has been facing some personal challenges. Finally out came guitarist Joe Walsh, who was already famous for his own hard rock trio, The James Gang, when he signed on in late 1975. Henley moved from guitar to his drum kit. The only “persona non grata” was Don Felder, whom Walsh replaced. Witty Walsh has always been the life of the party, and he added much-needed comic relief to the group’s live performances.
After the acoustic set and an intermission, the Eagles stood up and strapped on their electric instruments to rock the 20,000-seat arena, adding their five backup touring musicians. If you missed the concert you can still catch the Emmy Award-winning film documentary “History of the Eagles” on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming on Netflix. For more information about the Eagles, go to their web site

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Yankee Doodle Dandy at Wick Theatre


“George M!” Struts His Stuff at Wick Theatre

By Skip Sheffield

You’ve got to hand it to Marilynn Wick for giving work to so many performers and technicians in a slower time of year. “George M!” is a whopper of a show, with at least 20 people onstage and more behind the scenes.
“George M!,” which continues through July 19, is a 1968 musical about “The man who owned Broadway,” George M. Cohan. The lead role calls for a feisty fireplug of a guy. James Cagney played him in the movie. Joel Grey played him on Broadway. Here in Boca Raton Scott Leiendecker fills the bill in his Wick Theatre debut. The role calls for singing, dancing and playing a supremely confident little Irishman who won’t take no for an answer.
The script, by Michael Stewart and John and Fran Pascal, covers the life of George M. Cohan from his 1878 birth to 1937, when he finally hung up his tap shoes. He died just five years later, and he is often acknowledged as the “Father of Musical Comedy.”
Susan Powell, who was Miss America in 1981, is top-billed. This is a bit curious, because her main role is narrator. There is a lot of biographical stuff; probably more than we need to know. “George M!” is distinctly a period piece, and that period is long-gone. His greatest contributions are the American standards “Give My Regards to Broadway,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag” “Over There” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” The rest of the Cohan catalog is forgettable, with the exception of “Mary,” which is given a lovely rendition by Susan Powell as Fay Templeton, with music director Michael Ursua playing piano live onstage. The rest of the backup music is recorded.
The cast is notable for its pint-sized singing, tap-dancing performers. Megan Sell is only 15, but she performs like a pro. Her even smaller younger brother Ryan is a hoot as Young George Cohan and a ventriloquist’s dummy.
Older pros are James Young as Cohan patriarch Jerry; Aaron Bower as his mother Nellie and Eliza Maher as his sister Josie. All were part of a vaudeville family performing quartet, “The Four Cohans.”
“George M” is not often performed, perhaps because it is so dated. This is your chance to see and hear a notable part of American history live and onstage.
Tickets are $55 and may be reserved by calling 561-995-2333 or by going to

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Music More Than Minions


Music the Best Thing About “Minions”

By Skip Sheffield

The best thing about “Minions” is its musical soundtrack. If you dig American and British classic rock from the 1960s, this is the soundtrack of your life. As for the Minions, they are mildly amusing, but they are one-joke wonders. Minions are metaphors for sheepish followers of despots, dictators and bullies everywhere. In case we don’t get it, it is spelled and acted out for us in a mini-history preface of Minions from prehistoric times when they followed the bloodthirsty Tyrannosaurus Rex, to 1966, where Brian Lynch’s (“Puss in Boots”) script is set. The Minions have wound up in frigid Antarctica without a despicable leader to follow. Kevin, the brightest of the lot, has a plan: Let’s go out into the world and find a new despicable villain to adore.
“Minions” is actually a prequel to the 2010 original “Despicable Me.” Once again co-director Pierre Coffin provides the voices of the principal Minions Kevin, Stuart and Bob. It is this trio that journeys to New York City at the peak of Flower Power and thence to Orlando, where a Villain Convention is being held. Conveniently Orlando is also home to the Universal Studios theme park, where no doubt Minions will be a new attraction.
It is in Orlando the Minions meet the world first female super-hero, Scarlet Overkill, voiced by Sandra Bullock. Scarlet’s fondest ambition is to steal the crown of Queen Elizabeth II and crown herself the new Queen of England. This is a good excuse to switch the classic rock from American to British. More stuff happens, but no point in spoiling what little plot there is.

One piece of advice: stick around to the very end of the credits at you will be treated to an all-star version of the Beatles “Revolution.” Yes, another sequel is in the works.

A Devastating Portrait of Amy Winehouse


A Sad, Tragic, Brilliant “Amy”

By Skip Sheffield

Alas poor Amy Winehouse, we hardly knew ye. Thanks to the new documentary “Amy” we understand better the pain behind your songs.
“Amy” is a documentary film by Asif Kapadia, who grew up in the same unfashionable north London neighborhood as Amy Winehouse. He previously collaborated with James Gay-Rees (producer) and Chris King (editor) on the acclaimed 2010 sports documentary “Senna,” about F1 driver Ayrton Senna. Using archival footage, “Amy” depicts the award-winning singer-songwriter from childhood to her untimely death of acute alcohol poisoning at age 27 on July 23, 2011.
Amy Winehouse was not your typical British schoolgirl. Born into a blue-collar Jewish family, her parents split when she was just 9. From a very early age Amy showed she was special. One of the first clips shows her singing “Moon River” at age 16, accompanying herself on guitar. She was already an accomplished performer, but “Amy” is not as much about the artist as it is about an abused, tortured soul, much like Janis Joplin in America. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that both died at age 27, as did fellow tortured artists Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain.
It seems like Amy was abused and taken advantage of by everyone close to her. The worst offender was her own father Mitch, who neglected her as a child and cashed in on her when she got famous. There were other villains, particularly her boyfriend Blake, who became her husband and codependent drug addict.
“We were like twins,” Amy muses. “We were in love. Love is a real drug.”
 The hard part of making this documentary was getting people close to Amy willing to talk about her. Tenaciously Asif Kapadia stayed on the case and got people to open up. In some cases I am sure they regret being so candid. While she was a brilliant songwriter with a rare and beautiful voice, Amy was emotionally damaged before she ever was famous. She was rebellious and unruly. She also was a rare and wonderful artist

As her fame grew, alcohol became a favorite escape. It is a cruel irony that her first worldwide hit was the “Rehab Song,” with its chorus of “No, no, no.” Her 2008 album “Back to Black” won a stunning five Grammy Awards, tying the record for female artist and making her the most successful female British singer-songwriter in history. If there is anything to be learned from “Amy” it’s that certain people just can’t handle extreme fame. Sadly Amy Winehouse was such a person, and no one did enough to prevent her self-destruction. The great Tony Bennett, who recorded duets with Amy, provides a beautiful, regretful tribute to a once-in-a-lifetime talent that provides a fitting finale to the film.

Friday, July 3, 2015

An Indie Romantic Comedy From Each Coast


Screwed-Up in New York City “In Stereo”

By Skip Sheffield

“In Stereo” and “The Overnight” are two small independent films about male-female relationship set on opposite coasts of the USA.
“In Stereo” is very much a New York City film. Set in Manhattan, it is about a volatile photographer, the actress-model he loved and lost, and a new, younger woman in his life who turns out not to be the dream girl he envisioned.
The photographer is David Gallo (Micah Hauptman), who has a confrontational approach to provoke dramatic photographs. His gorgeous new babe Jennifer (Melissa Bologna) has moved into his posh apartment, but David has cause to believe Jen may be cheating on him, and not with just anyone, but David’s best friend from childhood, Greg (Gary Hilborn).
David does some comical sleuthing to confirm his worst suspicions. Meanwhile a show of his radical new work is scheduled for an opening. David invites his former flame Brenda (former Guess Jeans model Beau Garrett) to the reception. Brenda has been having a meltdown of her own which threatens her acting and modelling career.
“In Stereo” has lots of hip, clever dialogue by first-time writer-director Mel Rodriguez III. It has plenty of casual profanity and sex talk too, but overall it seems pretty accurate in its portrayal of young, screwed-up urban types.

Startling Revelations in “The Overnight”

“The Overnight” is set on the other coast in Los Angeles. Ever heard of “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice?” This is a contemporary take on that swinging 1969 Paul Mazursky comedy.
Alex (Adam Scott of “Parks and Recreation) and Emily (Taylor Schilling of “Orange is the New Black”) and their young son RJ (R.J. Hermes) are recent arrivals to Los Angeles from the relative peace and quiet of Seattle. Eager to make new friends, after they have a chance encounter with a friendly, eccentric artist named Kurt (Jason Schwartzman), they accept his invitation for a pizza party and play date at Kurt’s home with his wife Charlotte (Judith Godreche) and their son Max.  Alex and Emily are a bit naïve. You could call them clueless, as Kurt and Charlotte send distinct signals they are not your ordinary homebodies. “The Overnight” becomes cringe-worthy at times, especially when Alex, at the encouragement of Kurt, goes Full Monty in the family pool. Adam Scott is certainly one brave actor, and he must really have faith in writer-director Patrick Brice’s project, because he is executive producer. To each his own.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Magnificent "Testament of Youth"


World War I Seen Through the Eyes of  Grieving Woman

By Skip Sheffield

“Testament of Youth” is one magnificent movie. That’s not an adjective I often use, but “Testament of Youth” is something special. A movie this grand, this epic, this sweeping and emotionally engaging does not come along often. The clincher is the story is real; based on the autobiography of Vera Brittain as adapted by Juliette Towhidi (“Calendar Girls”).
Vera Brittain is played by Alicia Vikander, the gorgeous Swedish actress who was so haunting as the robot girl in “Ex Machina.”
Vikander is 27, but with her slim, slight figure she is quite believable as the headstrong teenager she plays as the story begins in 1914 at the outset of World War I.  Vera comes from a wealthy, upper-class British family. Her father (Dominic West) has bought her an expensive grand piano. When he asks her to play something on it she plays a few bars then abruptly stops and storms out. Vera doesn’t want to be “bullied” by performing for her family on command. She is more focused on getting into Oxford University. Dad is not keen on the idea, but Vera has a way of getting what she wants.
Director James Kent begins the story Nov. 11, 1918 during the tumultuous celebration of Armistice Day signaling the end of World War I. The character we come to know as Vera seems deeply troubled, but we do not know why. The scene then immediately flashes back to an idyllic summer day in the countryside four years previous, when Vera and the three boys closest to her are frolicking by a lake. The boys are her brothers Edward (Taron Egerton) and Victor (Colin Morgan) and family friend Roland Leighton (Kit Harrington). Despite vowing she would never be controlled by a man, Vera falls in love with Roland and they become engaged to be married.
Meanwhile World War I is raging in Europe, and all three boys volunteer for military service. Vera does her part by dropping out of Oxford and volunteering as a Red Cross nurse in France.
World War I was a horrific bloodbath, with an estimated 10 million killed, 20 million crippled or severely injured, 9 million children orphaned and 5 million women widowed. Despite the claim it was going to be “The War to End War,” the lesson was not learned. It still has not been learned.

Vera Brittain went on to become a leading British author, feminist and pacifist. This is her story, wonderfully conveyed.