Let Gypsy entertain you
by Meaghan Lamarre
The musical comedy may very well be one of America's greatest inventions.
If you don't like musicals, you should stop reading now because you won't
like my review and you won't like this production. Especially in times like
these, there's nothing like a good ole' fashioned, corny American musical
to lift the spirits. And Portland Center Stage's production of Gypsy is no
As musicals go, Gypsy is a bit unique. After all, it's main character
is not the title character, Gypsy Rose Lee, but her mother, Momma Rose. And
it's unusual as it falls somewhere between comedy and drama as it chronicles
the struggle of Momma Rose to get her two daughters, Baby June and Louise
(who grows up to be Gypsy Rose Lee) into show business. Since the show centers
on the vaudeville acts of June and Louise, it has more than its share of
quirkiness -- in the girls' acts we go from flag waving, gun-twirling tap
dancers to a dancing cow. The show mixes in this quirkiness with a dash of
the risque when the girls hit the burlesque scene and eventually Louise starts
stripping with the likes of Miss Mazeppa, who strips while playing the trumpet,
and Electra, who strips while wearing strings of lightbulbs. This show has
a little something for everyone!
The highlight of the PCS production of Gypsy is most certainly its
star, Susannah Mars. As the loudmouthed, determined, indefatigable Momma
Rose, Mars commands the stage and gives an incredible performance. Her voice
resonates with the drive and power that characterize Momma Rose; her movements
mimic her character's deliberateness. Her superior performance is the driving
force behind this production.
Former Miss America Kate Shindle gives a comparably compelling performance
as Louise. In her scenes as strip tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, Shindle has
a charisma, stage presence and voice that rival Mars'. But as the quieter,
second-best daughter Louise, Shindle reveals that she has a great talent
as a stage-actor; her singing voice swells with her character's confidence,
and her movements, at first timid and small, become more exaggerated and
deliberate as she rises to stardom. Her subtle yet effective way of working
with props and gesturing add to the humor and believability of the show.
Behind Mars and Shindle is an incredible cast of very talented actors,
singers and dancers, not to mention a skilful crew. The scenery and costumes
are effective, but not distracting. Nothing in this production is particularly
inventive; the directors have held closely to the original conception of
the show. Recalling this company's unusual production of Antigone last season,
I, for one, am pleased to see that they left Gypsy well enough alone.
Thanks to some extraordinary leading ladies and a talented cast,
this is a good production of Gypsy. But it is just a good production. Director
Bill Fennelly wanted to ìshow an honest representation of the world
of the theater, not the slick, painted glitzî of most other productions;
he claimed to use unique lighting and set design to create this more realistic
look. Furthermore, he wanted to demonstrate that what makes Gypsy one of
the most beloved of musicals is that "gypsy truly is the universal struggle
for identity and recognition." To this untrained eye, this production is
no different from the other two productions of Gypsy that I've seen. It is
a great production, but nothing new.
If you've never seen Gypsy, it truly is one of America's greatest
musicals. From the dancing cow to songs about Chinese food--and let's not
forget the hilarious strip number--this production keeps the audience laughing.
This company does justice to the original and produces a show well worth
seeing. The production runs until Oct. 21 and plays at the Newmark Theatre.
More information is available by calling the box office at 503-274-6588.
Ben Folds Five - 5 = dork
by Lizzie Miller
The best word to describe Ben Folds as he slams out his songs
on his baby grand piano, with his little-boy dimples and funky plaid shirt,
is: dork. Ben Folds played at the Roseland in Portland on October 11 on tour
for ìRockin' the Suburbs,î his first album since Ben Folds Five
dissolved last March. Folds is now out with a new band; his new band-buddies
are Snuzz, Millard, and Jim Bogios, who each play multiple instruments including
bass, drums, a baritone guitar and a triangle.
Despite the change in faces on stage, Folds has remained loyal
to the kind of music his fans enjoy. He looks like the nice boy next door,
even when he drops his palms down on the piano keys and deals the instrument
a blow to make any graying piano teacher cringe. The only difference between
him and any girl's best guy friend from high school is that he appears to
have learned how to cash in on the piano lessons that embarrassed him through
junior high. One wonders if he hasn't just learned to capitalize on the image,
playing to all those other socially challenged miscreants, but hearing the
venomous lyrics of ìKiss My Assî you could easily believe he
was that little kid who got beat up for his milk money.
This multi-talented musician plays music that doesn't fit
into the neat little box of punk or rock. His guitar-less band has a piano-playing
lead, and back-up musicians who sing in twisted, beautiful harmonies. Each
has piano skill in addition to a bass or baritone guitar, and the drummer
also plays the tambourine and triangle. This is clearly not a band that will
easily assimilate into the standards of pop music. Folds' lyrics speak with
a unique honesty and poetry. He tells the stories of familiar characters
in his songs; he talks about people with whom everyone is somehow acquainted,
and he doesn't romance away the truth that, at times, life sucks.
Prior to playing "Hiro's Song," he told the audience the song's
story: it's a piece about a middle-aged Japanese man who falls in love with,
and is then dumped by his daughter's twenty-two year old friend. He proceeded
with a song that unabashedly jests at middle class white boys who think they've
had it tough and need to sing and swear about how miserable life is. Throughout
the concert he stood at the piano more often than sitting at the stool, fingers
flashing across the keys, tripping out rapid melodies. He seemed totally
oblivious to the people dancing and girls screaming through songs like ìAnnie
Waits,î ìFired,î and ìNot the Same.î He grinned
out into the lights, brushed by the outstretched hands of fans between songs,
and returned hand signs to a few guys in the side balcony close to the stage.
Snuzz snapped a string on his baritone guitar and while waiting for it to
be restrung he and Folds performed an impromptu cover song for fun.
For the encore he returned to play a few solo songs on his
piano, including ìThe Luckiest.î His sweet love song, cut free
from the cliches that so often confine love songs to melodramatic ballads,
rang out over a blissfully enchanted crowd.
His fans are serious fans, and they know why they gather to
hear him sing and play the piano and what it means to them to hear a dose
of reality in a song. I overheard the man behind me speaking before the concert
about Ben Folds. He said, "I'd never heard his music and I bought two of
his albums just because I saw he played the piano and I knew it'd have to
be good." Folds was not a man to disappoint. His cheerful showmanship and
enthusiasm for music charmed me through the evening.
Stiller's no model of the year
by Edmund Donnelly
In ìZoolander,î Ben Stiller breaks from his usual
role as the charming, pitiable every-man to play a daft male model at the
peak of his career. After being dethroned from his ìModel of the Yearî
award and humiliated in front of a disbelieving television audience, Stiller's
character begins a mercifully short phase of soul-searching, returning home
to New Jersey to consider his next move. For reasons too ludicrous to explain
at any length here, he soon finds himself brainwashed by a fashion industry
giant (Will Ferrel) who decides to use Zoolander in his plot to assassinate
the Prime Minister of Malaysia. With the help of an arrogant yet thankfully
compassionate fellow model (Owen Wilson), and an ambitious yet thankfully
compassionate reporter (Anonymous Blonde Chick), Zoolander is able to avoid
committing murder and expose Ferrell for the evil fraud that he is, all in
an uproarious and heartwarming explosion of zaniness. One can only revel
in the full glory of our current cultural renaissance that Fred Durst and
Lil' Kim were able to lend their talents to the effort.
As is the unfortunate case with innumerable movies that attempt
to construct an entire film around a thin, one-dimensional character, ìZoolanderî
relies far too heavily on plot development, becoming horribly unfocused and
misguided as a result. Zoolander himself, much like Wayne and Garth, Mary-Katherine
Gallagher, the Ladies' Man, and Adam Sandler, is funny for about as long
as a Heineken commercial. But this small flicker of humor is quickly lost
in a sea of predictable gags and plot twists. Proving single-handedly that
no competent satire should combine cheap humor with international politics,
ìZoolanderî is a confusing and ultimately forgettable affair
that promises to redefine the timeless assertion that less is certainly more.
Punk inspires student
by Sierra Jenkins
As a freshman at LC, I have noted a--to use my handy SAT vocabulary
words--plethora of Phish, Grateful Dead, and Marley fans, and a dearth of
punk rock fans. I'm no punk rock princess, but even I felt called upon to
point out the merits of this so-often marginalized genre.
Why should you listen to punk music? Pure and simple: it's
fun. Like any other category of music, punk has its own culture and messages:
some bands want to take on (or take down) the world, some seek personal expression,
most want to have a good time and don't take themselves too seriously.
If you're not into the sound, give it another chance. A lot
of the old-school stuff sounds like the garage recording it often was, but
most of the stuff coming out these days is a little bit more in the middle
of the spectrum: not as rough around the edges as Misfits, not as mainstream
sugar as Blink-182 has become.
At the very least, punk offers a charged alternative to the
classic LC playlist. Though I don't know that this is so true today, punk
arose somewhat as a way to rage against the evils of society. Personally,
I like to get pissed off every once in a while. Contentment so often breeds
apathy; I get scared when I don't feel upset about the state of affairs in
Punk music is generally not so politically charged any more
(If you want to hear some old-school punk from the 80's, check out ìNot
So Quiet on the Western Front,î a compilation at our very own Watzek
Library), but it's still cathartic, and still a voice of those on the fringe
of a frighteningly complacent society.
That said, I got a good taste of punk last week, seeing two
shows at the Crystal Ballroom. MXPX played on Monday, and AFI on Tuesday.
MXPX is a Christian punk band; a big deal and at the same time not a big
deal. Some of it is reflected in their lyrics, but they're entertaining the
crowd not evangelizing. MXPX put on a good show and I enjoyed myself, but
alas, their appeal and rise in popularity over the years meant that there
were way too many annoying 13-year-olds. Said Marisa Neyenhuis, ìThe
show was great except for this teeny-bopper squealing around the vicinity
of my waist.î
On the flip side, there was a very good crowd at the sold-out
show on Tuesday. A.F.I. (A Fire Inside), from Berkeley, CA, plays what AFI
fan Matt Yenni describes ìhardcore punk rock with a dark gothic influence.î
They count among their influences Misfits, NY Dolls, Danzig, and David Bowie.
AFI plays for its many fans, and the show on Tuesday quivered
with the exchange of energy between band and audience. Said Erin Brown, who
saw AFI at the Warped Tour in Salt Lake, ìIt was way better than Utah.î
Lead singer Davey Havok was mesmerizing, moving non-stop from the intro to
the end of the encore and the energy never came down. All around, a great
show; AFI is well worth seeing live.
Senior Staff Writers
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One-Acts amaze, as usual
by Colleen Welch
With the performance of two one-act plays by Christopher Durang,
the Lewis & Clark theater community started this season off with a bang,
or perhaps more appropriately, a laugh. A cast of seven performed ìBusiness
Lunch at the Russian Tea Roomî and ìFor whom the Southern Bell
Tollsî to nearly sold out houses on October 4, 5, and 6.
Despite a personal bias against Christopher Durang, I thoroughly
enjoyed the show, laughing so enthusiastically that nearby audience members
were embarrassed to be sitting next to me. From the moment I walked into
the black box, intricately arranged socks on the set assured me that this
was going to be a hilarious show. The costume and set designers for this
production used the space in the theater well; I was particularly impressed
with the meticulous lacy details on the set of ìFor Whom the Southern
The chemistry between the actors in these productions was also impressive.
Austin Work acted as a sort of catalyst, it seemed, in both plays. In ìBusiness
Lunch at the Russian Tea Room,î I especially enjoyed his reactions
to Marli Riede's impersonal, pushy, Hollywood producer. He showed his flexibility
as an actor in ìFor Whom the Southern Bell Tolls with a witty performance
as Lawrence, a boy who limps around the house begging his mother, here the
ever-elegant Becky Rhamey, to admire his swizzle stick collection. In addition
to the more pedestrian comedy that I expect from Christopher Durang, such
as the vision of a kissing priest and a rabbi, here Mike Bolenbaker and Wardie
Rozen, I was pleasantly surprised by the less forceful parts of the production.
One such moment was Mike Bolenbaker's lengthy, wistful monologue as Lawrence's
Brother in "For Whom the Southern Bell Tolls." Although the audience was
thrown into some confusion when the play seemed to be coming to a close through
this monologue, Mike maintained his Holden Caufield-like character very well,
providing a more quiet sort of comedy.
The success of this production rests on the fact that every character
is unique, from Catie O'Keefe's side-splitting portrayal of a deaf, lesbian
factory worker to Wardie Rozen's inexplicably rude waiter, to Becky Rhamey
as the vivacious Southern mother who only wants to rid herself of her children.
The actors throw themselves into their parts; they never hold themselves
back, which creates a Saturday-Night-Live sort of atmosphere. Never during
the production did my mind stray to what I had to do that evening or the
next week. Durang's situation comedy paired with confident acting created
an exciting, constantly amusing atmosphere.
Although I walked into the theater wishing that the theater had
chosen a more experimental piece, like everyone else in the audience I walked
out with a sore stomach and sore cheeks from laughing so much. Perhaps the
main stage production for the fall semester, Brecht's Mother Courage, will
answer the question of whether this level of entertainment be found in more
serious, modern pieces.