The other night at……Once

Posted on: January 15th, 2012 by Marken Greenwood No Comments

I returned to the city after Christmas heartsore.  Literally, I think I have some sort of ulcer gnawing away at my insides from missing home so much.  I never thought I would grow into a female version of Woody Allen, but it looks like a distinct possibility.

*Tums break*

Upon arriving at my freezing apartment, the only thing that kept me from crying wee wee all the way home was knowing that my friend Brendan had gotten me a Christmas present: tickets to a show the weekend after I returned.  Not any show, but the impossible-to-get-tickets-to-because-it’s-totally-sold-out-and-in-an-off-Broadway-theater “Once”.

I have to admit, the first  time I saw the movie “Once”, I was not distinctly moved.  There are a few good reasons for this.  Firstly, the two people who starred in the movie and wrote the unearthly songs are not trained actors.  Many of the scenes in the movie fell flat and failed to achieve any sort of dramatic arc.  Maybe I’m too actor-y, but this is the stuff I look for!  I’m pretty sure the book wasn’t as strong in the movie either.  The musical’s a lot funnier than the movie which in turn makes the gloomy parts sadder.  Enda Walsh, the Irish playwright who’s rewritten “Once” for the stage, has crafted a smartly sweet script that the explores what it means to not only be human (which every good script should do anyway), but a human artist (so much harder).

Ultimately, this is the story of guy meets girl, girl brings guy back to life, and maybe guy does the same for her.  The only way this show will work is if the two leads, the Guy and the Girl, are dynamite talents with charisma coming out of every pore of their beings.   Not only do these two performers need to be a impressive actors and commercially soulful singers, they also have to be magnetically attractive and play an instrument.  Luckily, the people behind Once got pretty darn close.

The Girl, played by Cristin Milioti, is simply luminous.  Her eyes, big pools of curiosity, sympathy, and silent suffering are impossible to ignore whenever she is on stage.  For you actors out there, Milioti is a master class in moment-to-moment. Every move she makes, every word that comes out of her diminutive mouth is filled with such clear intention it makes you alternatively ache and rejoice.

The Guy, played by a too-beautiful-to-be-real Steve Kazee (a distinct change from the rather rough-looking movie Guy), is a little more toned down.  Honestly, I’m glad he is.  His character is not the active one in this tale.  Instead, he’s someone who’s allowing himself to be pushed along by the current of life, having long since given up on steering his vessel.  (As a certain song will tell you about 4 times…).  Kazee played this hurt, lost man with delicacy, never pushing.  The only moments when he stole the stage from the Girl were when he let out Glen Hansard’s wounded animal roar at the height of his songs, when the walls have come down between his insecurity and his painfully brilliant genius.

I think the biggest difference between this show and the movie may have been a very personal change in me.  When I saw the movie, I was somewhere between the end of high school and my first couple years in the Musical Theatre department at the University of Michigan.  I believed in my talent, which meant I believed in myself.  I had no reason to connect to this almost-broken-down man, and I couldn’t see the incredible value of this little woman walking into his life and nurturing in his genius.  A good way into my second year out of college, believe me, I can see the value.

A month ago, I presented a reading of a show I had written about my first year in New York.  It was the scariest thing I have ever done, the first notes sung in front of a group of my peers somewhat akin to jumping out of an airplane.  After that night, I thought there was nothing I couldn’t do.  It felt like I had finally stepped into my own version of New York, like it had really become what it wanted to be.  Of course, now I have to face the real production, and I’m scared all over again.  Somewhere in the last couple years, the girl who rolled her eyes at the movie “Once” learned to fear failure.  As, the Guy says to the Girl, staring out over their city

Learning what it is to fear is the worst of all lessons.

“Once” does what I want all theatre to do.  It told me a wonderful story that left me feeling changed.   I feel inspired to stop protecting the stuff inside of me and let it out for the world to hear, even if it’s just for my own catharsis.  As the song says,

Raise your hopeful voice, you have a choice. You’ve made it known.

 

To get a different vantage point of “Once” check out the previous Watch Yo Mouth!? blog Brushing the Dust Off of the Everyday by Quinn, which covers the original movie. Though our initial opinions differ, it just goes to show how differently drama and music affect those who partake in its journey.   

 

Long time no see…

Posted on: January 14th, 2012 by Patrick Fromuth No Comments

Sorry about that… No excuses. Just a sincere apology.

Hope your holidays were swell. 

A Happy belated New Year, and a heartfelt hope that you and yours

have a KICKIN 366(Sup, Leap Year!)

After a busy(and neglectful) month spent in Philly,  DelaWHERE?!,  NYC, CT, Boston, & Lincoln-NH… it’s about freakin’ time to get back to BUSINESS!  With projects in NYC and LA, Fromuth Productions is about to take 2012 by storm! New ventures, shows, and bloggers are coming your way! Keep coming back and spreading the good word. I deeply appreciate all of your support. Let me know what you like and don’t like. This blog is nothing without you. So let’s hear some chatter!

With all this ambition and energy let’s take a moment to drink in “Unaware” by Allen Stone live from “His Mother’s Living Room” – Shout out to Alexander Scher for the find. Reflect on how important this coming year is: Obama’s re-Election, The London Olympics, Blue Ivy!, and the Mayan Apocalypse… Aye Caramba! But in all seriousness, we have a lot more work to do, World. Don’t be caught Unaware…

Every day taxes increase, so is this our land or is this our lease? Papa says son, it’s the land of the free, as he broke his back trying to make ends meet…
 You say that you care, I was unaware. All you do is push, pull, tear, we can’t stretch it any farther.

Just a little food for thought. Be good and make poor choices!

-Patrick

‘Tis the Season…

Posted on: December 24th, 2011 by Quinn No Comments

It’s A Wonderful Life

Since three is a magic number, since Jimmy Stewart is one of the only men in competition with Cary Grant in my ranking of 1930s and 40s actors, and since I just had the immense privilege of watching this film at the Michigan Theatre (Read: breath-taking, vintage, perfect and all other adjectives that could possibly be used to describe a theatre standing for film preservation, culture, and just about everything this writer loves about Ann Arbor [it even serves previously-mentioned Bell's Best Brown Ale- a true Christmas Miracle,]) I’ve selected perhaps my favorite holiday movie, Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, as the third recommendation for the ‘Tis the Season series.

Say what you will about its transformation from an under-performing box-office release to its status as “America’s Christmas movie,” about the financial and legal implausibility of its resolution, about Donna Reed and Mary Bailey being absolutely gorgeous, about the silent tears that somehow find their way down my face every time I watch this film; It’s a Wonderful Life simply IS Christmas for this writer. The genius life-story-plot lulls you into a friendship with George Bailey, a sympathetic, understanding relationship that you can’t help but admire and adore. The humor, especially at the start of the film with the prom-night swim and Mary’s refuge in the convenient bush, produce some of my favorite, and most-oft quoted, lines (“Oh, why don’t you stop annoying people,” and “I could sell tickets…”). The scene when the soon-to-be plastics baron Sam Wainwright phones from New York in Mary’s parlor, and Jimmy Stewart yells, “I wanna do what I wanna do” replays in this writer’s mind ever-more-often as he makes his own decisions and values. The close-up shot later in the film of Jimmy Stewart slowly turning his deeply-shadowed face as he realizes how crazy his present situation is, is absolutely and unequivocally beautiful. And this is only the surface of a poorly and quickly conducted film criticism.

The moral impact of the film is equally incredible. I’ll let you, viewer and reader, draw your own conclusions, learn your own lessons, interpret your own symbolism, and take from it what you may; suffice to say look for the needle-point quote, “All you can take with you is what you have given away,” hanging beneath the portrait of Peter Bailey in Jimmy Stewart’s office. Perhaps, yes it is over-simplified, yes it is emotional, yes it is a classic “Capra-corny,” but in this writer’s viewpoint, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

And as this is a classic Christmas film, I suggest a classic Christmas drink: egg-nog. Serve this warming, indulgent, sweet nectar chilled in an Irish coffee glass and combine with gold rum, or, for an interesting change of taste, Gosling’s Black Seal spiced rum, and finish with a dusting of ground nutmeg. You can also try this BOMB Pennsylvania Dutch Egg Nog. No words. Trust me.

So mix some eggnog, pack your loved ones into the family room, throw another log in the wood-stove, enjoy the It’s A Wonderful Life, and bask in the warmth radiating from of all four. Cheers, and enjoy!

J. Frank Quinn

P.S. As a side and almost unrelated note, listen to Clarence. My junior year of undergrad at Michigan I was fortunate enough to take a poetry class focusing on “Fork Theory.” This is an area of study popularized by the professor that centers on the “ripples,” each and every person makes with his or her simplest actions. When I first began studying “Fork Theory” the scene where Clarence at last reveals to George Bailey why he has granted his wish of never having been born was the first thing that I thought of. I think that this is a perfect, and incredibly complex and thought-provoking, example. Again, perhaps wait until school starts again in January for analysis, but please really do take three-to-five minutes at some point and think about this scene’s implications in your own life.

‘Tis The Season…

Posted on: December 21st, 2011 by Quinn 1 Comment

For the second installment of “Tis the Season,” I most humbly suggest Henry Koster’s The Bishop’s Wife. This 1947 film features Loretta Young as Julia Brougham, the wife of newly-promoted (and unfortunately mis-guided) Bishop Brougham, played by David Niven. The star and center of the film, despite what the title would have you believe (perhaps it’s the strange hats, but Loretta Young just doesn’t do it for me) is the ever-charming, ever-sophisticated, ever-suave Cary Grant as Dudley. Dudley is an angel sent to help Bisphop Brougham remember and regain his role as builder of a community, not a cathedral. In his fifty-first credited screen appearance, Grant turns in yet another wonderful performance as Dudley, full of witty puns (always sure to make this writer chuckle), roguish smiles and angelic humor, and he is helped along perfectly by the talented Niven as the straight-laced man.

     Grant is simply that man we love to hate
                                 because everyone else loves him so.

              But just look at him.
                          Who can REALLY hate him…
                                                 He’s Cary Grant.

Although I would love to recommend a bottle of the self-refilling Sherry (yet another reason [yes this will be a longer bracketed outburst] that I can’t help but feeling this movie is not as ostentatiously Christian as the presence of angel would make it seem – you have a liquor container which refills itself and a deified figure who takes on human form only to fall in love with a mortal; that is the stuff of Greek myths. Suffice to say ‘Tis the season and we should watch and enjoy now and save the analysis until January when school starts again) the best I can recommend is a nice accompanying beverage for all of you in the Mid West is Bell’s Best Brown Ale.

For me this beer is Winter; it is crunching through snow and listening to a crackling fire and putting on the coziest pair of slippers you can find.  For those of you unfortunate souls (my favorite East Coast friends included) who are outside of the Kalamazoo-based brewery’s shipping area, the best alternative I can suggest is Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale.

And as every good black and white Christmas film should, The Bishop’s Wife reminds us not only how to laugh (not just at the comedy on screen but the comedy in ourselves), to love, and to remember what this time of year is all about. 

Below you will find the ENTIRE film on YouTube. Win. So sit back, relax, grab your brew and do your self a favor, and dont be afraid to get caught up in the mystery, the faith, and cheer of it all! If you only have a couple minutes, I’ve cued the link up to the charming skating scene that is sure to put you into the holiday spirit.

And just for fun look for the young boy who is captain of the snowball war and who gets hit in the face by young Debby’s enchanted snowball; you’ll see him again in perhaps the next edition of ‘Tis the Season as the young George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life.

Here or there, Best Brown or Nut Brown…
Cheers & Enjoy The Bishop’s Wife!
J. Franklin Quinn

Prove it! ….I Dare You: SLAM

Posted on: December 18th, 2011 by Patrick Fromuth No Comments

Photograph - Andrea Gibson

I came across this incredible artist and wanted to share her passion with you all. One of the most beautiful sentiments of companionship, love, loss, and goodwill. Drink her in…

Andrea Gibson performs “Photograph” from her album, When The Bough Breaks at The Rockwood Music Hall in NYC feat. music by Chris Pureka. Gibson has headlined prestigious performance venues coast to coast with powerful readings on war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality. Now, on her fifth full-length album FLOWER BOY and her second book THE MADNESS VASE, Gibson’s poems continue to be a rally cry for action and a welcome mat at the door of the heart’s most compassionate room. For more:

Check out her website for more http://www.andreagibson.org