Archive for November, 2012

Christina Aguilera Declares Usher ‘will do a great job’ on The Voice

christina-aguilera-the-voiceWe’ve been watching them turn their chairs around for three years now as coaches on The Voice and now for the fourth season, the show is saying good-bye to Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green. But only temporarily, and in the meanwhile, there are some other pretty big voices filling those chairs.

The voices, and new coaching style, will be those of Usher and Shakira, who will join current coaches Adam Levine and Blake Shelton while Christina and Cee Lo venture off into different projects.

“We’re artists first,” said Christina recently when talking about leaving the show to promote her current album Lotus. “In order to remain great coaches and stay relevant, we have to go out and we have to still tour, see our fans one-on-one. I have to feel creatively fulfilled in order for me to do my job as a coach and be on that show.”

And be on that show she will again. The leave for both Christina and Cee Lo, who will be performing at Planet Hollywood, is just for a season. In the meantime, what does Christina think of Usher stepping in?

“I have all the faith in the world that he will do a great job,” she says.

But she also has some words of advice for both of her successors. “Get ready, get ready for a wild ride!”

The Phantom of the Opera: The Play vs. the Movie

phantom-of-the-operaIf you’ve heard anything about The Phantom of the Opera on the Internet then you’ve probably been directed to the Joel Schumacher-directed film starring Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson and Gerard Butler.  The film actually helped to catapult these newcomers into movie stardom, particularly Patrick Wilson who went on to appear in dozens of non-musicals playing angsty older white men facing a midlife crises.  (If not Little Children check out Watchmen)  Gerard Butler’s best triumph post-phantom was possibly PS I Love You, costarring Hillary Swank. 

Of course, we have nothing to say about the movie.  It was arguably Schumacher’s only great film, as he delicately balanced adherence to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and also delivered a visionary experience, even going so far as to give us a final ending to the age-old story, visiting Phantom and Raoul long after Christine’s death. 

However, you have never truly experienced Phantom unless you’ve seen it in the theater–that is the “theatre” where music is sung live, and painstaking efforts are put into the choreography and the set decoration.  While much has been written about “The Music of the Night”, “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Learn to be Lonely”, which was actually written for the movie and not as part of the musical play, don’t forget to listen for the brilliant subtleties of “Think of Me” and “All I Ask of You.” 

“Think of Me”, sung twice in the play, including by the show stopping Christine character, is particularly chilling and poignant, as it speaks to any lover who has left someone dear behind.  “All I Ask of You” is also a triumph of music, as it celebrates the emotional and spiritual bliss of coupling, only to be reminded of darkness, as a vengeful Phantom laments Christine’s betrayal in the same tone. 

Of course, the main reason to see the play live and in person, instead of flipping on a DVD or Blu-Ray of the film, is to enjoy the music live–delivered in person and with amazing power by real singers and not Hollywood-embellished actor-singers.  The Phantom of the Opera was certainly Andrew Lloyd Webber’s creative peak, and for an illustrious career spanning Jesus Christ, Superstar and Evita, that certainly says a mouthful.

The Book of Mormon – Go Down and See It!

the-book-of-mormonWell, if you saw the “Broadway Bro Down” episode of South Park then you are probably very excited to see a Broadway play this season. It’s as much fun for guys as it is for girls! And that’s just the South Park brand of humor you can expect when you go to see Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s ode to Mormonism in The Book of Mormon.

A small curiosity for you: The “Broadway Bro Down” (probably the greatest anti-commercial for a musical Comedy Central has ever aired) was actually co-written by Robert Lopez, a Broadway veteran who also worked on Avenue Q (another foul-mouthed singing satire) and The Book of Mormon.

Lopez is also no stranger to mainstream success. The Book of Mormon and Avenue Q, both of which he won Tony Awards for, were scored and partly written by him. The Book of Mormon, despite its edginess, was actually a big Tony Award winner last year and took home several awards including Best Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score.

The Book of Mormon is not just a two-hour South Park episode with music. It is a satire on all organized religion following the adventures of two Mormon missionaries sent to a remote village in Uganda. Coming from US roots, they immediately have problems identifying with the locals who face issues of war, famine, poverty and AIDS.

Since the play took seven years to develop, it’s safe to assume Parker and Stone probably got musical fever as early as the big South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut movie, which featured several Broadway-worthy moments. (Including the song, “Blame Canada”, which was actually nominated and performed at the Academy Awards)

You may be surprised to learn that Stone and Parker are not as liberal-minded as it might appear. Sure, they are vulgar and purposely offensive, but they actually do find Mormons “fascinating” and both have confessed that they are not liberal, nor necessarily atheistic. How are their personalities manifested on stage and in song? The unique voice does come through, and like the South Park show, it is full of offensive humor, deep questions and a bit of silliness.

If you can only see one musical this year then go down and see The Book of Mormon, featuring the most creative minds on television and on Broadway.

Sesame Street – Still Live and Alive in Our Hearts

sesame-streetSesame Street has been through a lot of turmoil in 2012, first with Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s promise of cutting funding for PBS (which led to a massive campaign online to bash Romney for Muppet hating) as well as the recent news that the puppeteer behind Elmo, Kevin Clash, was accused of an unspeakable crime.  In fact, the latest news from the “block” (as in the street of Sesame) is that Elmo’s creator is taking a leave of absence. 

However it appears that Clash is not necessarily fired, but is merely being given time to sort out his legal problems.  Sesame Workshop also went on record to say “Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of ‘Sesame Street’ to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years.”

So while Elmo is not in trouble, it is safe to say that Sesame Street may be feeling a bit frazzled after a tumultuous year.  (This was also the year Jerry Nelson, who voiced The Count, passed away) Of course, teaching children to slow down in adversity has never been in Sesame Street’s curriculum.  So it should surprise no one that the show must go on.  And the “show”, as in the live Broadway show of Sesame Street, has never been better!

One of the most successful shows the team has done has been “Elmo Makes Music”, an episode featuring Jenny, who shows her new Sesame Street friends that ordinary household items can be used to create musical instruments.  She then invites the audience to help sing along.  The show also features appearances by Cookie Monster, and Burt and Ernie, who do a 1970s spoof of “Saturday Night Fever Bert.”  And of course, it wouldn’t be Sesame Street without Big Bird who comes along for the ride.

Why not treat the whole family to Sesame Street?  Like any American Institution, Sesame Street keeps surviving through thick and thin, as it has transcended a show and become a part of the culture.  Perhaps like George Lucas’ Star Wars (recently purchased by Disney) or Fox’s The Simpsons, Sesame Street is simply too popular and beloved to ever stop entertaining! 

Alice Cooper Rocks Us into the New Year

alice-cooperThose looking for the perfect band to rock out to this spooky autumn will be happy to know that Alice Cooper is back on tour.  Don’t miss your chance to see the shocking legend himself live and in concert in your home town. 

Blood, sizzling electric chairs, guillotines, creepy dolls, and snakes may sound like the terror you’d find at haunted houses, but those are in fact a list of things that can be seen at an Alice Cooper concert.  Think a mix of horror movie, live theater, and some great heavy rock songs and you have the first inkling of what an Alice Cooper concert is like.  There really is a mix of music and styles here, a sound for everyone from pop rock to industrial heavy metal, and back to what is known as art rock. 

The man has had quite the decade too.  The original band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the man was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he was given a degree from Grand Canyon University.  Of course the most important part to fans is the fact that he released a string of albums with some amazing songs. 

In 2011 the singer released his 19th solo album from his long, four decade, career, entitled Welcome 2 My Nightmare.  This album is one of his highest ranking ones, with several popular hits.  Hit tracks included “I Am Made of You”, “Caffeine”, “The Nightmare Returns” and many more.  The songs off his newest album will be performed at his shows, along with fan favorites from the past.  “Poison”, “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, “Only Women Bleed”, “Halo of Flies” are some of his memorable songs, but every Cooper fan has their favorites.  

The current tour is making stops in New York, Nevada, Washington, Colorado, California and a few other states as well as some stops in BC.  Fans of this shock rocker won’t want to miss this chance to see the legend on stage once again.  Hear brand new hits sung live as well as your favorite (and possibly shocking) songs in person again.  Buy your tickets today before the concert in your home town is sold out.  

B.B. King – The King of Blues

There is in everyone, a touch of the romantic, nostalgia for smoked filled dens, the clicking of wine glasses, and melancholy music filling the air.  Wherever he is at, B.B.  King gives you this feeling, bringing a definition to rhythm and blues that few have been able to rival.  For over sixty years, he has been hailed the king, occasionally playing with other blues icons, such as Gladys Knight, Randy Crawford and John Mayall. 

His style is distinctly related to his guitar, a deeply instrumental approach, finding chords where one would have thought none existed, hanging on notes that linger in an evening air saturated with the ghosts of the fabulous era of rhythm and blues.  The music is haunting yet vibrant, bringing back lonely nights and the throbbing of the heartstrings.  His technique has influenced some of the world’s greatest music performers, including Eric Clapton, George Harrison and Jeff Beck. 

B.B. King mixes traditional blues with jazz, pop, swing and jump to create his own unique and highly personal sound.  The master of electric guitar was inducted into the rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.  Rolling Stone listed him as number seven of the top one hundred greatest guitarists of all time, and Gibson’s ranked him as number seventeen. 

B.B. King has performed tirelessly throughout his career, delivering an average of 250-300 concerts a year.  At the age of 87, he’s still going strong, giving fans one of the most memorable of musical experiences. 

If you’ve never had the opportunity to hear the King live, now would be a very good opportunity to do it.  It’s not just a step into musical entertainment at its best, but music that spans the years, bringing with it the history of blues, jazz and rock and roll development.  Classical and sophisticated, yet plaintive and simple, it’s as easy to listen to with your blue jeans on as in a suit and tie ensemble.  Find out why B.B. King is considered one of the greatest blues players and guitarists that ever lived, while deepening your appreciation of music. 

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