Pure pop pleasure with the Puppini Sisters

Apr 17

Pure pop pleasure with the Puppini Sisters

Under ordinary circumstances, the fact of wonderful British actor Hugh Laurie sitting a table away from me would be highly distracting. But Sunday afternoon at the Fairmont's Venetian Room wasn't ordinary circumstances: it was the only scheduled US performance of the British act The Puppini Sisters in support of their new album, The High Life.

The afternoon performance, like the sold-out evening performance, was part of the Bay Area Cabaret season, a season that spans Broadway, pop, jazz and, in a grand Puppini embrace, high camp and sterling musicianship.

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The general awesomeness of Emily Skinner

Mar 06

The general awesomeness of Emily Skinner

In the last couple of years, San Francisco went from no Emily Skinner to new and improved now with 200 percent more Emily Skinner. The Tony-nominated actor (Side Show) was suddenly making regular appearances on our stages. In October of 2014, Skinner revealed her star power in 42nd Street Moon's Do I Hear a Waltz? (read about it here), in May of last year, she was a highlight of American Conservatory Theater's A Little Night Music (read about it here). The question is how did we get so lucky?

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Taylor Mac cycles through American song

Jan 22

Taylor Mac cycles through American song

Taylor Mac emerges, godlike, from the mezzanine, resplendent in a sparkling headdress and gown, and from the stage of the Curran Theatre, where the audience is seated, it looks like the lowered chandelier is actually the crowning part of his ensemble.

Once Mac makes his way to the stage, where he joins his nine-piece band, he may appear less godlike – the dress, on closer inspection, is part tawdry tease, part used car lot banners and tinsel – but remains no less impressive.

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Ever the trouper, Liza still wows

Mar 31

Ever the trouper, Liza still wows

Showbiz legend Liza Minnelli, currently in the midst of a multi-city tour with her Simply Liza concert, pulled into Davies Symphony Hall last Friday for a 90-minute show that encompassed old favorites and some nice surprises.

Though the notes aren't all there and her physical condition seems to be posing her some challenges, Minnelli still knows how to work a room. And her fans are as adoring as ever. She performed much of the show from a director's chair at center stage, and watching her get into and out of the chair was a bit she milked as if it were a slapstick routine from her Arrested Development gig.

I reviewed the concert for the San Francisco Chronicle. Here's a sample...

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Todd Murray’s voice: delicious as warm bread

Oct 18

Todd Murray’s voice: delicious as warm bread

Not many people can claim success in the fields of musical theater, bread baking and crooning. Todd Murray can.

Growing up in a small Pennsylvania farming community, Murray had two loves. One was music. The other was food. In the pre-Internet, pre-cable TV days, Murray figured it would be impossible to break into the entertainment industry and maybe not as difficult to break into the food biz. Up until his senior year of high school, he had his sites set on chef school.

But then in college, he started gravitating toward performing and started getting jobs in Opryland USA, Tokyo Disneyland and summer stock in his home state.

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Pants down, smiles up: you’ve been HughJacked

May 05

Pants down, smiles up: you’ve been HughJacked

It was hot and steamy in San Francisco Wednesday. And the weather was nice, too. Hugh Jackman, that final Australian frontier of old-school razzle-dazzle entertainment, put on a show at the Curran Theatre.

And it’s about time. In the old days, Jackman would have starred in a weekly variety show on TV, had regular gigs at the Tropicana in Vegas and toured with his celebrity golf tournament.

These days, it’s much harder for an entertainer. Once you have your street cred and your bona fides – sci-fi/action movie star, romantic lead, beloved awards show host, Tony Award-winning Broadway star – you get license to do as you please.

So Jackman has his own show, and it looks and sounds an awful lot like the shows of your – and thank the heavens for that.

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