Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hidee Hidee High!

Saw an extremely entertaining and fun new show over the weekend, the new Broadway musical "High Fidelity" based on Nick Hornby's classic novel (later made into the drollest film with John Cusack and Jack Black)....

I actually met Nick Hornby when we were fellow guests on Charlie Gillett's 20th anniversary radio show on the BBC a couple years ago along with the fantastic Portugese fado singer Mariza and the great new waver/pub rocker Nick Lowe, he was a super friendly guy and I have to say that I really have always enjoyed his books (and also his occasional piquant essays on pop music in The New Yorker). In "High Fidelity" he captured the essence of manic pop music fandom teetering on the cusp of adulthood in the character of his engaging cult record collector protagonist/record shop proprietor wrestling with the breakup of his one true love after a series of romantic disenchantments. No other work of art I know captures the anguish of this particular dilemma quite as well as "High Fidelity", as Hornby obviously knows this guy inside-out, and most likely has shared many of the same obsessions at one time or another in his life (his book is rife with pop music trivia and allusions that are quite on the money)...the only near analogue might be Daniel Stern's Shrevie character in Barry Levinson's wonderful film "Diner" (1982), one is reminded of Stern as Shrevie the mad music nut singing both the high and low vocal parts of Clarence 'Frogman' Henry's "Aint Got No Home" in his car after a particularly nasty fight with wife Ellen Barkin over her innocent disregard for his record collection...

In any case composer Tom Kitt together with lyricist Amanda Green (the late Adolph Green's lyricist daughter) have fashioned a peppy, melodious and rocking score rife many witty tropes that while perhaps do not add up as songs per se as indelible as the cult songs referred to throughout the show still manage to carry the evening, particularly the second act, when things really start popping in a series of hilarious set-pieces that parody gangster rap, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, and a host of other icons/genres. David Lindsay-Abaire's book transports the locale of the book (and the film) into what looks a bit like Flatbush City Limits, and Will Chase is excellent as Rob the bemused/perplexed record store guy trying to keep his teenage dream of exemption from the mean old world alive and kicking while not alienating his true inamorata...some beautiful ensemble singing and dancing kept the packed theater on a "Grease" high throughout, and I was grinning when I left the theater...see it, you won't regret it!

Caught another fine couple hours divertissement at a screening on Monday of "Notes On a Scandal", Richard Eyre's powerful new film based on the Zoe Heller novel of a few years back, and found it harrowing and absolutely compelling, particularly Cate Blanchett's phenomenal performance as Sheba, a young London pottery teacher caught in an adulterous affair with one of her underagestudents, and Judi Dench as the self-described old "battle-axe" senior educator whose morbid attraction to the sexy and vulnerable Cate proves both of their undoings...the florid, swooning score by Phillip Glass was one of his best ever although I found it mixed rather too loud on the soundtrack in relation to the dialogue, but this is a minor caveat--a first rate film that will be discussed endlessly, with flawless direction and a stellar cast including Man of the Hour Bill Nighy as the semi-alcoholic writer husband of Cate (a role he seemed to have warmed-up to with his performance of a similar character in the tres amusante "I Capture the Castle")...

Tonight was a really nice special event at the Museum of Jewish Heritage downtown in the Battery as Steven Lee Beeber discussed his must-read provocative new book "The Heebie Jeebies at CBGB's--The Secret History of Jewish Punk" on a panel with some of the greatest movers and shakers ever in the New Yawk Music Biz--including cultural cat(alyst) on a hot tin roof Danny Fields, glamorous Warhol scenemaker/actress/artist turned music publicist supremo Susan Blond, and Patti Smith Group founder/guitarist/goldminer of rock Nuggets Lenny Kaye--legends all of them, and old old friends...the 4 of them alternately enchanted and cracked-up the house (particularly Danny, who was in rare, rare form) who hung intently on their every word, oldsters and youngsters alike, including one Columbia higher-mathematics undergrad on leave from Brown who is determined to teach a course on punk rock there next year...and more power to him...moderator was NPR reporter Mary Lucia (Paul Westerberg's half sister!) who had flown in from Minneapolis for this confab... to check out this book, it is extremely well-written and definitely food for thought; I for one find its premise of Jews as instigators/fomenters of cultural change/ shifters of the evolutionary paradigm (herein through popular music) thoroughly plausible (from the inside), ala Cuddihy's "The Ordeal of Civility", which I discussed in a previous blog, to whit: "When the mode of the music changes/the walls of the city shake..." (Plato)

woops gotta go meet Caroline now at a party my friend artist/belly dancer Evelyn Undine (named after Friederich de la Motte Fouque's water-spirit) is giving down the way at the Beatrice Inn...




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