music

Serious Entertainment

secret theatreOne of the things that I love about New York City is that it attracts some of the funniest, most talented people in the world. It seems like on every corner, you can stumble into a bar and watch a performance that is funnier than anything you’d see on SNL. The Magic Jukebox, presented by The Serious Theatre Collective, is no exception. This is the third Serious Theatre production I’ve seen and I’m a big fan of their low-brow meets high-brow humor, and their efforts to make high-quality, original theater affordable.

The Magic Jukebox is a zany combination of sketch comedy and musical theater. Make sure you go to the bathroom before the show starts because you’ll be peeing in your pants. The collaborative writing style has led to some hilarious sketch ideas: a gospel choir that offers support during a first date, singing tele-spam, and homicidal dolphins just to name a few.

Some of the performance highlights include Ricardo Delgado’s R. Kelly inspired cameo, any time Sam Durant Hunter’s on stage, and Abby Goldfarb’s comedic timing. It was especially fun to come early and sing along with the impromptu karaoke that sparked up from the house band’s catchy set. At $18 a ticket, you can’t afford to miss this show! Make sure to follow the collective on facebook to hear about future shows.

Playing at Cannon’s Walk at The South Street Seaport (206 Front Street, NY, NY)

All Shows: 7:30pm door, 8pm curtain
Thursday 11/6
Friday 11/7
Saturday 11/8
Thursday 11/13
Friday 11/14
Saturday 11/15
Thursday: 11/20
Friday 11/21
Saturday 11/22

Why you should get bedbugs

What the heck is this new musical, Bedbugs!!!, everyone is talking about? I got to see it a few nights ago and I was blown away.

After losing her mother in a tragic bedbug accident, Carly becomes an exterminator determined to rid the world of bedbugs and avenge her mother’s death. Despite warnings from her lab assistant, Burt, she creates a deadly concoction to kill the bugs, but it winds up mutating them instead. Meanwhile, Canadian pop-singer, Dionne Salon, tries to resuscitate her career, but these  mutated, hyper-sexualized bedbugs threaten to kill off all of her fans. At Dionne’s concert, Carly must decide between the bedbugs who have embraced her as their creator, and mankind who blames her for the apocalypse. In the end, it is the power of love that saves them all.

The show was hilarious, but even more fun was watching the audience crack up. I’ve never seen people laughing and enjoying themselves so much. Fred Sauter has written an amazing and unique show. Paul Leschen wrote music that is so catchy and fun you’ll beg to buy a cd.

Everyone on the team (on stage and off) is so talented, but the three leads will blow you away:

Grace McLean’s sultry voice adds depth to her rock ballads. The last notes of Silent Spring will send shivers down your spine. Her transformation on stage will make your jaw drop. There are few actresses that can play nerdy, sexy, angry, rocker babe, but Grace plays it all to the extreme.

If you haven’t heard of Brian Charles Rooney yet, you’ll never forget him after this performance as Dionne Salon. His comedic timing is only matched by his incredible vocal range. He owns the stage.

Chris Hall’s performance as Cimex, king of the bedbugs, belongs in the leagues of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror Picture Show and Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig. His voice doesn’t even seem possible. You won’t be able to take your eyes off of him. I don’t know what’s cuter, his over the top facial expressions, or his latex-clad tush. His performance is made even better by the incredible custom designs of Philip Heckman.

I know this show wouldn’t be where it is today without the enthusiasm and perseverance of my mom, Dale Joan Young, as the lead producer. Three years ago she saw a production of Bedbugs!!! at a bar and even though all of us loved it we didn’t see the potential she saw. She has lost her voice, broke her leg, and invested her savings all in the journey of bringing this show to you.

I hope you run out and see Bedbugs!!! You can buy tickets here and use the code HesoBitten for a huge discount. It’s playing at the Arclight Theater in NYC until October 26.

On the shoulders of giants

Johannes BrahmsAnyone who’s taken a music history class has probably heard of Brahms. He’s usually listed off with Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Bach as the greatest, most influential composers of all time. But like most great artists, he almost let his self-doubt keep him from sharing his work.

It took Brahms 20 years to write his first symphony. 20 years! Why did it take him so long? He was paralyzed by his adoration of Beethoven. He loved Beethoven’s music so much and thought there was nothing he could add to the canon. He even had a marble bust of Beethoven overlooking his work space. He destroyed much of his early work, thinking it wasn’t good enough to exist in the same world as Beethoven’s music. Beethoven’s influence is obvious in Brahms’ first symphony. Some critics jokingly called it Beethoven’s 10th symphony. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great work of art. And he was able to continue making truly inspiring and unique music for years afterward.

English: Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig v...This is a problem a lot of artists run into; either we’re undermined for being too similar to our influences, or we are too intimidated by “the greats” to make anything original.

At art school, before anyone would discuss your artwork they would ask your influences. Then when they’d look at the actual work they’d say, “This just looks like a bad Debuffet/ Klimpt/Monet.” And if you say you don’t have any influences, you’re considered naive or arrogant. Even an untrained artist is supposed to know that Grandma Moses influenced them…duh. In this case, I don’t think the artist needs to change, it’s the critics that need to get over themselves. Sometimes it seems like they’re just looking for an excuse to name drop.

This is a tip for writers, but it applies to all the arts; stop comparing yourself to the classics: you’re going to fall short. Dickens, Tolstoy and Hemingway would not have written the same way if they were working today, so it makes no sense to still try and mimic them. When I read Barbara Kingslover I think I have no right to call myself a writer, but when I read a random new release from the bookstore I think, “I can’t believe I paid for this! I could write circles around this piece of …” Painters should go to contemporary galleries rather than museums. Musicians should go to open-mics rather than concerts. Spend some time exposing yourself to attainable art, and boosting your confidence. Sometimes it’s good to say, “hey, I can do that!”

If you have a spark of talent you owe it to yourself to express it. Take your influences and put your own spin on them. As Newton said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Imagine how boring life would be if everyone stopped trying to make art after great work already existed. The radio would only play Beethoven. The libraries would be filled with Shakespeare  and the movie theaters would only be playing The Godfather. We need a little Brahms to spice things up.

Flamenco changed my life

From Photobucket

I came to Spain to learn Spanish, eat Paella, see some Gaudi, and drink Sangria. I did not plan to see Flamenco. I thought is would be really cheesy. Women in frilly, red dresses dancing around and snapping to over-enthusiastic guitar strumming. Count me out. But Mike kept saying he needed to see some authentic flamenco, so we asked around and heard about  a great underground flamenco club. There were plenty of signs all around Madrid, Barcelona, and Granada for the “authentic” flamenco experience- 40 Euros for dinner and dancing. For some reason I couldn’t imagine the original flamenco dancers performing in front of dining tourists.

The place we found was in Granada, on Carrera del Darro  called Le Chien Andalou. It was only 6 euros, and it blew me away.

We walked in and it was a brightly lit, white-washed cave, about forty feet deep, ten feet wide. The stage was only about 8 by 10 feet. We were told to get there an hour early to get a seat. When I walked in, I was skeptical. It was almost empty. We sat next to a guy from Colorado, and I thought, oh great this is a tourist trap. By 10 o’clock the place was jam packed. All of a sudden the lights went down and a chubby, balding, blond haired guy walked on to the stage with his guitar. When he began strumming, the room fell silent. If you closed your eyes it sounded like two or three people were playing. When I opened my eyes I was captivated by the faces he made. He looked evil, almost possessed by his guitar. His name is Josele de la Rosa.

Next the singer and dancer joined the stage. The singer was a young, pretty blond. From what I read about Flamenco singing, the singer is supposed to be old, haggard, and lived through a lot. I didn’t think this young girl could cut it, but the second she opened her mouth I got goosebumps. Her voice was so rich, deep and raw. Most songs were just one line sang over and over again. It became hypnotic, but the subtle changes each time were heart-wrenching. After the second song I realized I was crying. I did not expect to be overwhelmed by singing in a dive bar. The singer’s name was Fita Heredia.

While Fita was singing, the dancer, Almudena Romero, was sitting in the corner in the standard, frilly, red dress. She seemed antsy, like she couldn’t hold back her dance moves, but she wanted to let the singer have the lime light. Then, when she couldn’t take it anymore, she stood up and if people weren’t crying at that point they didn’t stand a chance. She transfromed from a smiling, laughing young woman to a powerful, intense, fiery vixen. The look she gave the audience was something I had never seen before. Something like, “if you ever hurt me I will rip each one of your fingers off and feed them to you.”

I have never seen such raw emotion before in my life. With each movement of her pinky, with a flick of her hair, with a hip pop she was able to say a thousand words. At this point I was a mess. Not only was I crying but my nose was running uncontrollably. I wasn’t even sad, just so overcome with emotion. She was able to show such vulnerability in her face, yet her movements had the strength and bravado of a bullfighter. The dance got faster, and more erratic, and almost violent, until the stopped suddenly and the lights came on. I looked around and to my relief I wasn’t the only one reduced to tears. Nearly everyone was dabbing their eyes with napkins. Even the guy from Colorado. He said it was far better than Eric Clapton, a performer he’s followed his whole life. Mike was speechless. He’s a musician, and even he was blown away by the performance.

It was something so pure, so vulnerable, and so beautiful. If I lived in Spain I would become their groupie. They made me want to take flamenco classes. A strange desire for someone who can’t clap in rhythm.

The little Piper who couldn´t

That´s Paco on the left after getting the same note wrong 4 times in a row

There are some great street musicians here. But I´m not going to write about them. I´m going to tell you about the worst street musician I´ve ever seen. I´ve nicknamed him Paco. Paco plays the recorder. He wears brown tights and  a military vest every day. He has a mullet that´s shaved on the sides (business in the front, party in the back, army on the sides).

He plays one song, and he doesn´t play it well. He usually comes to the outdoor restaurants right after a great acordian player, or violinist is done. He walks around to every table playing three or four notes off key and then asks for money. Usually people cover their ears and ask him to leave.

I´ve watched him  since the day I arrived in Salamanca. I figured that was the first day he received the recorder and that eventually he would get better. Nope. He´s still just as bad. For all I know,  he´s been playing that song for years. I watch him at lunchtime. I´ve never seen him get paid once. However,  I have seen people offer him cigarettes or beer and ask to talk to him. They probably ask him why he plays the recorder.

So what is the point of telling you this? What sort of HeSo lesson can I glean from this? He obviously loves playing his recorder, and nothing is going to stop him. It doesn´t matter if no one pays him, and if no one likes him, he´s going to play his recorder. Can you imagine being that passionate about something? Can you imagine inspiring people not with your success, but with your perserverance? Let´s all try and be like Paco today. I´m going to go shave the sides of my head now.

Paco getting into a groove