Boz Scaggs. Concert Review.

Robert Massimi.

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Robert Massimi.

Born in Canton Ohio, William Royce Scaggs became interested in music at an early age. He began learning guitar at the age of 12. At St. Marks School is where he met Steve Miller of The Steve Miller Band.

In this Texas school is where he received the nickname “Bosley”, later shortened to “Boz”.After his schooling, Boz moved to London where he got into the burgeoning rhythm and blues scene. In 1965 he toured Sweden and put out his first recording which failed.

Returning to the United States, Scaggs promptly got into the booming psychedelic music center in San Francisco in 1967. He linked back up with Steve Miller recording two albums of Millers.Scaggs secured his own contract with Atlantic Records in 1968. He went on to write Silk Degrees in 1976, which was number two on Billboards charts. He went on to be a Grammy winner and wrote many other commercial songs but he went on later to focus on his R&B roots as well as Jazzy Blues

At MPAC in Morristown New Jersey, Boz Scaggs put on one of the best concerts that I have seen in quite a while. With a very talented, tight band, Scaggs opened up with Jojo. A crowed pleaser and a great choice to open up with, the crowd responded in kind. He went on to sing R&B songs like Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl, Rock and Stick, The Feeling is Gone. Scaggs entertained the crowd with not only great music but a fantastic light show. The blues, reds and purples were well ochastrated with each song as to create the mood that he was trying to put forth in his song and the message he was giving us. After giving us a great “Georgia”, he went on to do some of his new songs like Harbor Lights and Radiator 110. Scaggs concluded with three fantastic versions of “Look What You’ve Done to Me”, “Lowdown” and “Lido Scuffle”. His oncore songs of “What Can I Say” and “Loan Me a Dime” were just simply superb. I maybe would have not ended with Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell” The whole evening was spectacular, from the band to the light show and on to the cheoriography, he was simply amazing. At 74 years old, Boz Scaggs voice was as good now as ever. His constant interaction with the audience gave the impression of his gratitude over his great and long career as a versatile, talented musician.

 

“Small Craft Warnings. Theater Review.

 

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 “Small Craft Warnings” at the 13th Street Repertory is one of Tennessee Williams least produced plays, or at least one that is not talked about much. After seeing “A lovely Sunday at Creve Coer” last month, another of Williams hidden gems, one never tires of this great writer and last night was no different. Set in California by the sea and not the South, his usual modus operandi, it has Williams usual characters, some we see as strong, some weak and some emotionally as well as mentally void.We see all the characters solo at different points of the play. Director Barnaby Edwards does an excellent job of this. He brings forth each and every character during the performance. We find out what is on each and every persons mind. In many of Tennessee Williams books, we are pretty sure about each character and where each person stands in the pecking order of life. Edwards takes that away, we know what is going through each drunken mind. We see first hand the fears, the delusions and the hope that each person has and it all works so well. Many of the performers have been with the Regeneration Theater and are both comfortable and fluid in Regenerations works.

We begin the play with a very economical but attractive set. It is Monks place, a bar by the seaside, close to an Amusement Arcade. Violet works there, or used to. She is a weak, shaky person who asks for very little. She has no friends to really speak of. Her boyfriend Steve, a short order cook is content with her sluttyness and the fact that he only needs to buy her a set amount of drinks and a hot dog on the way to his place. In typical Williams fashion, we are horrified what people will settle for. If it is not Leona(Nicole Greevy) putting up with her playboy boyfriend Bill, it is Quentin (Jason Pintar) settling for a young man who he just picked up on the road. It seems that the only one who is completely content is Monk, but even he worries. He worries about dying, the cast of characters that come into his bar nightly. Booze and dreams keep these people coming back. The booze helps settle the pain for these down- trotten individuals. Not everyone is as tough as Leona, either inwardly or outwardly, we see the Doctors softer side, his wonderment about the world and the way it revolves.

Set in both soft lighting and glam lighting, Allison Hohman does a spectacular job of setting the mood for this world wind mixed bag of emotions that is Williams writing signature. The shows costumes are well done for this small production. From Quentiens Hollywood, gay sheik, to Violets despot outfit, we get each and every actor and who they are by what they are wearing. Co Directors Edwards and Marcus Gualbero have the actors moving, and on such a small stage it is remarkable how they keep us in touch and interested throughout this performance. In seeing As/Is this winter, Regeneration just gets stronger by the show. “Small Craft” had very good performers who hold there roles well. Some of the standouts were Pintar, reminiscent of a young Raul Julia, he commanded his role at this performance. Nicole Greevy, who had the most difficult role in her schizophrenia behavior was superb. We never knew what she was going to do next, from hostile to pensive she made us believe in her role. Doc (George Morafetis) gave a softer side to this play. We felt bad for him, we wished him well in life. Morafetis had our sorrow where Violet we met with horror. Doc leveled the different personalities and mercurial beings with his soothing diatribes.

“Small Craft Warnings” is a different kind of Williams, we see at the end of his career how he incorporated homo sexuality into his writings. Aside from switching to California and away from the South, we see the same down and out people. The hopes, the dreams and delusions are still in this one, however. This play works nicely.

 

 

 

“Pound” THEATER REVIEW.

 

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Robert Massimi.

“Pound” begins in the dark with Christopher Lloyd (Ezra Pound), quoting Pounds poem”Pull Down Thy Vanity”, which sums up the play, “Pound” at the Lion Theater. The play takes place in the St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Center in Baltimore Maryland. Pound holds court with his “groupies”, he receives people as he wishes and orders the workers around like they work for him. He has been charged with treason, from his socialist rants against America, capitalism and Jews. Having lived in Italy for many years, he was deported under treason charges and ended up where the entire play takes place, the insane asylum. Pound is ornery, indignant and a tyrant in this facility. Some of the things he says to nurse Priscomb are down right cruel. He refers to her as blue hair and tells her that she could never be married and compares her to the newest Doctor, , Dr. Polley (Kate Abbruzzese). Pound is equally cruel to his so called friend Archibald Mac Leish, a poet who was trained by Pound, who is also a lawyer because as he says, “Poets need to pay there bills”. Mac Leish knows Pound, or at least he thinks he does. He is ever grateful for what Pound did for him and is doing his best to get Pound out of there and clear his name and take him on tour as well.

Here is the problem with this play, “Pound”. It was enjoyable, however, it could have been better. Sean O’Leary focuses on Pounds anti- Semitism more then the great poet. In the play we keep hearing about how Pound made Eliot and other poets. O’Leary should have developed this more; O’leary omits a fellow poet from Baltimore who without Pound maybe would have not be discovered, maybe the best poet ever, Edgar Allen Poe. It astounded me that O’Leary never mentioned this as it is open knowledge in the writing community of Pounds relationship with Poe. The other problem with the play is that Lloyd is so much more advanced then any other actor on that stage. Not only does Pound push Dr. Polley all over the place in the play but Abbruzzese cannot stand up to Lloyd in this performance as an actor. Christopher Lloyd is a big time actor, “Taxi, Back To The Future”etc. He was head and shoulders above the other three that he could not be contained and the play suffered as a result of this. Even though the play kept most peoples attention, it would have been better if the show addressed Pounds life, his writings and his thinking. We learn toward the end of the play that Pound was different then the other kids in his school, he felt different. That was the extent of his childhood. We learn when he is ready to leave the institution that he is scared. The fact that Pound is conflicted with staying and leaving is no great revelation, neither is the fact that his Anti-Semitism affected many people including the Doctor. The wow factor that O’Leary just wasn’t over whelming.

In a modest set, economical lighting, the play could have been deeper, darker and Gothic like Pound himself. If we saw his deep and dark side I think it would have been better for certain. Instead O’Leary only scratches the surface instead of taking that big step and it costs what could have been a great play about a fantastic poet, maybe the best America has ever had.

 

“The Waverly Gallery” THEATER REVIEW.

 

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Robert Massimi.

In what is a chock full of Theater, “The Waverly Gallery” is another great one. Elaine May who has not been on a Theater stage for fifty years is just magnificent. May plays Gladys Green, a women who when we first meet her has the beginning of dementia. She is at the breakfast table talking to her grandson Daniel (a brilliant Lucas Hedges), she flashes her winning smile as she tells him about her grandfather, her ex lover after he died and her life. She is hard of hearing and that hearing aid leads to a night full of comedy. Kenneth Lonergan has written an autobiographical piece as he recalls his own mother suffering this disease. Lonergan who had “Lobby Hero” on Broadway last year, has written some remarkable pieces, “Gangs Of New York” and “Manchester By The Sea” to name a few, has a winner with “Waverly”. Lila Neugebauer is flawless in her Direction of this play. The cast are all terrific and Neugebauer delivers a gentile yet a nuance of a play that deals with a horrible subject. In strattaling a very fine line of comedy and what could be offensive, the direction takes us through blissful theatrical experience.

We see the first set, a brick wall that is supposed to be Gladys past, most of what David Zinn gives us is an urban background against the main staging and it works well. He does not let us forget where we are, Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York. The video’s we see in between scenes is New York City both in the 1950’s and as the play goes on, the 1960’s. There is a relevance her, actually two scenarios, one is it measures time when Gladys was younger, the second is how the city changed over the years, how the people changed that came their and how time marches on, whether we like it or not. Zinn gives us a wonderful evening of scenery to imagine upon. Ann Roth’s costumes are also great as it the lighting all evening by Brian Mac Devitt. Ms. May’s style is one that shows us that she was a women who liked to throw parties, she got things done when she was younger, she was smart and elegant in younger years.Roth brings this out nicely. Mac Devitt keeps the actors in focus all evening, the lighting brings out the upbeatness in a very morbid subject.

Lucas Hedges like “Manchester By The Sea” is a stand out. His dry wit and comedic timing is priceless. He also gives monologues throughout the show that if they weren’t spot on, the show would not have been as great. Hedges gives us an emotional performance without effort. We feel his pain at being continually woken up at all hours of the night, the same questions asked over and over by grandma. In fact we see all the frustrations that each has, Gladys fears what is happening to her, she hates that she forgets and as such she becomes frustrated. We see her daughters frustration, Eleen(Joan Allen) as she tries to help her mom. Ellen realizes that it is fruitless, that her mom who was a beacon of strength once upon a time has now whittled to nothingness. Her husband who has parents in there 90’s is also frustrated. He has older parents himself and he has to deal with the fact that his Mother-In- Law might be moving in with them. Both Doctors, neither has time for this nightmare that is there lives. Howard (David Cromer) is abrupt, he has little patience for Gladys. He has a life and does not want to be bothered with this inconvenience, yet he is compassionate at the same time.

Even with dementia we see Gladys’s warm side. She has an art gallery in the Village and takes in every fleeting artist including Don(Michael Cera), the dim witted artist who paints from the heart. Most of his paintings are from and about his home town in Massachusetts. Cera is terrific in his role as a clueless person who comes to New York on a whim, only to have the City eat him alive.

“The Waverly Gallery” at the Golden Theatre is an evening that an audience member will not forget. Great acting, Set and Direction makes this a winner. It deals on an emotional subject. “Waverly” gives the audience raw emotion, tears, laughter, poignancy and horror all rolled up in one.

 

It’s The Economy Stupid.

Robert Massimi.

For all those who think it is going to be a blue wave, think again. The economy is roaring, most business leaders think that the economy will stay strong. With minorities of all kinds reaping the benefits, I highly doubt that people are going to vote to hurt this great movement. People can talk all they want about issues but the only issue is the strong economy. People vote their wallets, always.

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The US economy grew at a 3.5% pace in the third quarter, faster than expected

James O'Neal attaches a fender in the body shop at GM's Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 25, 2018. 

John Gress | Reuters
James O’Neal attaches a fender in the body shop at GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup truck plant in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 25, 2018.

The U.S. economy grew at a faster-than-expected rate in the third quarter as inflation was kept in check, according to data released by the Commerce Department on Friday.

Gross domestic product expanded by a 3.5 percent annual rate. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected the economy to expand by a 3.4 percent annual rate.

The department said the PCE price index, a key measure of inflation, increased by 1.6 percent last quarter, much less than the 2.2 percent increase expected by economists polled by StreetAccount.

While stronger than expected, it was a slower pace of growth than in the previous quarter. Gross domestic product grew by 4.2 percent in the second quarter, marking the fastest quarterly expansion since the third quarter of 2014. The economy increased by 2.2 percent annual pace in the first quarter of the year.

The report comes amid growing concerns about rising interest rates slowing the economy. China and the U.S. have slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of goods this year, increasing fears that tighter trading conditions will slow down the global economy and eventually hit things here in the U.S.

U.S. equities have taken a beating this month into the report, with the S&P 500 falling more than 7 percent in October through Thursday’s close.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Watch: Trump’s economy: Here’s where he gets credit, and what could go wrong

Trump's economy: Here’s where he gets credit, and what could go wrong

Trump’s economy: Here’s where he gets credit, and what could go wrong  

Trump’s economy: Here’s where he gets credit, and what could go wrong

CNBC’s Jeff Cox looks at seven measures of how the U.S. economy is doing, and how much credit President Donald Trump deserves.

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“You Can’t Take It With You”

 

“You Can’t Take It with You’

Bergen Players

Robert Massimi.

You Can’t Take It with You opened last night at The Players, the great play by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. This play was a Tony Winner in the 80s and is a very difficult play to do and put on. The Bergen County Players did an admirable job in this opening night production. The comedic timing at times was slightly off, but none the less it was a pleasant evening. It is a story about the very eccentric Vanderhof/Sycamore family and the buttoned up Kirby’s. When Alice falls in love with Tony Jr, it is a matter of time before both families have to meet. Realizing that she is completely different from her family she tells Tony that she does not think it a good idea that they get serious. Nothing could be further from Tony’s wishes, he is deeply in love with Alice will not stand for any family matters getting in the way of their marriage plans. Alice is basically the only one who works, yes Ed delivers candy but this family does not have a care in the world. Martin Vanderhof quit his job 35 years ago and has never regretted it, nor has he ever paid taxes as he never saw the reason too.

You Can’t Take It with You has a lot of movement in it, from Essie’s ballet to Penelope Sycamores latest phase which is writing stories and Ed’s xylophone and Mr. DePinna who used to deliver ice to this family and decided to stay with them for the last eight years. Boris Kolenkhov is a regular in their house, he teaches Essie ballet. Martin Vanderhof, in the meantime, watches all the action from his chair. He is not without odd habits; he collects snakes and goes to college commencement address. All the balls are in the air and Paul Sycamore and Mr. DePinna are making the fireworks that the always do around July 4th. Paul makes his money for the year it seems by selling these fireworks as they calculate how many can be made in the next week or so to maximize profit.

The family with the exception of Alice really seem to enjoy one another, they are happy in their daily lives and it is evident when Martin gives his prayer before dinner. While Alice wants a “Meat and two vegetable family” this family could care less what people think. Penelope even brings in an actress to perform for her book, Miss Wellington, done very deftly by Mara Karg. Karg along with Roy Harry were two of the best actors of the evening. The set design was also done nicely by Lynn Lupfer.

At the end of Act 1 we meet the Kirby’s as the curtain comes down, they come on the wrong night and the loons are in full force. The second act picks up where act one ended, with Mr. and Mrs. Kirby in shock. The Sycamores scramble to feed the Kirby’s but it is the Kirby’s who want to get out of there as quickly as possible. David A. Luke does a nice job as Mr.Kirby. Some of his gestures and his comedic timing were passable for this play. The two families have the unthinkable happen to them and it all looks like Alice and Tony are done for good. As wiser heads prevail the two have the approval of both families.

As I said before this is a difficult play to perform on Broadway let alone Community Theater. The cast does an admirable job in keeping the audience engaged in this two-hour performance. The play moved quickly and was never boring. Under the Direction of Lupfer the play never loses a step. The evening was a good one for “The Players”. They tackled a tough one and did a nice job.

Massimi.

 

 

Theater Review. “Pop Punk High”

Robert Massimi.

“Pop Punk High” ia a fun musical at La Poisson Rouge in the West Village. The show is based on a school where music and skate boarding is king. The shows nexus is a geek who wants to date the hot chick named Amanda Bunkface (Jess Kaliban), who barely knows his name until a dead Avril Lavigne (Kelly Krauter), grants him three wishes. Skeet (Patrick Sweeney) becomes a different person. He beats his arch rival Derek in skate boarding, music, you name it. He is changing by the second and he has no time for loyal Tib, who stood by him no matter how desperate his situation became. “Pop Punk High” is an R Rated “School of Rock”, it’s up there with “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”. What “Pop Punk” adds is a lot of music, good songs sung by a young talented cast. We see humor in this musical, especially by Skeet and his parents. His dad (Eric Wiegand) was a tremendous dancer and shed  humor on this already raucous show. Mom (Mclean Peterson) was equally wonderful in her role, her comedic timing was flawless.
 The lighting was some of the best off Broadway this year. The strobes, the purples and greens as well as the yellows kept the performance alive and kicking. When I see a show, I picture the lighting as the drummer in the band. In “Pop Punk High” the beat went on and the liveliness added by  the great singing and funny lyrics made it a delightful evening. Not just for the young sheek crowd, it was a mix of age in the crowd and young and old alike b- bopped to the music. Do not let the title fool you, it was a mixture of punk rock, pop rock and a little rock and roll.
 The costumes were brilliant, from dads bright green cut off half way down the calf to smash the icon, mom’s pink pants and exaggerated wiggly was comical. We had Derek in the cut off shirt and Avril in her famous neck tie. “Pop Punk High” was a first rate show that blended music and comedy alike. The show captured what high school was like, had some cursing but that’s quite normal for high schoolers. Adding to the fun is the schools principal Jacob Grover. Grover is a cross between the principal in “Back To The Future” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. He is goofy but not ultr nerdy. He has his class pets and people he has no time for.
  “Pop” does not play on a regular schedule so you need to contact the Theater for showtimes. “Pop Punk High” places well here, it is a nightclub at night. This performance started at 6 pm, it had a punk band playing for about 45 minutes prior to the show and played after the performance as well. The show is about one hour and a half and it goes by quickly. Most of the songs are catchy and some are down right hilarious. The battle of the bands steals the show with both talent and raucous laughter. The musicians who back stop this show are: Josh Roberts (Drummer), Matthew Riordan (Guitar 2), Dan Hemerlain (Bass), and Nick Brenock (Guitar). All were terrific rock musicians who kept the show in high gear. Put it all together, the lighting, the songs, the band, the acting and the comedy and it is a winner! I recommend this show to anyone who licks the corky movies from the 80’s and 90’s  that are full of laughter and a pension for the absurd.