Sunday, February 26, 2023

Book Review: Carrie and Me: A Mother-Daughter Love Story

Downloaded on my Kindle for about $10. A slim volume but obviously heartfelt. I finished it in a few hours. After viewing a YouTube clip from Carrie Hamilton's guest appearance with her mother on the short-lived Carol and Company, I was curious about this book. After beating a crushing drug habit in her teens, Carrie moved to a remote cabin in Colorado, toured as a musician and singer, and traveled to LA for acting gigs. She developed lung cancer and died at the tragically young age of 38. The first half of the book consists of Carol's reminiscences and email exchanges with her daughter as she takes a cross-country road trip to Memphis to visit Graceland while writing a story about a young woman making a similar journey. The second half of the book is that unfinished story, "Sunrise in Memphis." The story is sentimental and reads like a proposal for a TV-movie. The heroine Kate finds herself driving to Elvis' home in the company of a mysterious, super-polite cowboy. Along the way, they meet--briefly bump into would be more accurate--a covey of the usual colorful characters. There are flashbacks to the last night she can remember--clubbing with friends in Hollywood--and to a dream of a plane crash. After a few pages, you can guess where the plot is headed. Think "Highway to Heaven." It must have been painful for Burnett to work on this project, so I won't criticize any shortcomings. It's a sweet valentine to her departed child.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Book Review: The Critic's Daughter

Bought at Barnes and Noble: full price of $28. Priscilla Gilman's moving memoir of her relationship with her father, critic-essayist-teacher Richard Gilman, is incredibly detailed and specific in her memories of her dad's flaws and triumphs personally and professionally. The heart of the book is the bitter divorce between her parents, her dad the famously acerbic theater critic and her mom the powerful literary agent whose clients win Pulitzer Prizes and other awards like most people eat breakfast. Priscilla documents her painful role of acting as the "good, mature" daughter who holds it together while everyone else is falling apart. Richard Gilman emerges as a complicated, brilliant, but stubborn father and husband. What sticks with me are the little details--when he takes his daughters to lunches, the cash-strapped Gilman collects condiment packages. Here is a revered critic, feared by the likes of Tennessee Williams and David Merrick, hording ketchups and sugars. Gilman also recreates a world of literary New York that no longer exists. The internet has destroyed the traditional print media in which her father and mother thrived. She also gives us the harrowing final days of her dad's death by cancer as he is lovingly cared for by his third wife in Japan. A thorough, meticulous accounting of a daughter's love. We are friends with Priscilla's half-brother Nick and I feel I know him and his family better now.

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show: Part 37: Carol Channing, Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, and Others

Season Two
Sept. 30, 1968: Carol Channing
(Previously reviewed on Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part Ten: Carol and Carol Q&A, Bored Political Wife sketch, Golddigger sketch)
Carol and Carol
( I found the complete version of this episode on ShoutFactoryTV's Original Masters series. Amazon was supposed to have it but the thumbnail promising the two Carols show led to an episode with Tim Conway from the first season that was already posted in the same series. Evidently someone at Amazon screwed up. So did someone at TV Guide which listed the original episode in 1968 as starring Mission: Impossible stars Martin Landau and Barbara Bain. (The husband and wife team never appeared on Carol's show, but there was a Mission: Impossible spoof a few seasons later.) 

Previously missing material includes Carol Channing recreating "Homesick Blues" from the Broadway production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. The song about missing America while in Paris did not make the film version and neither did Carol, as she was replaced by Marilyn Monroe. Channing is delightful in her 1920s garb, warbling about Mutt and Jeff, Texas Guinan, and bathtub gin. 

There's also a Carol and Sis sketch, employing the overused plot point of a misunderstanding leading to an awkward martial situation. Husband Roger (Harvey) finds a wristwatch in the living room with the current date inscribed on it. He assumes it's an anniversary or birthday that he's forgotten and rushes to buy his wife Carol a pearl necklace. Turns out the watch was a present for another couple for whom Carol was holding onto, so she uses Harvey's forgetfulness to leverage the necklace into a matching set of earrings, because all women just care about jewelry, right?

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

B'way Update: Laurie Metcalf to Star in Grey House

Laurie Metcalf
Emmy and Tony winner Laurie Metcalf will reunite with Tony-winning director Joe Mantello for Grey House, a new play by Levi Holloway which will be the first production of the 2023-24 Broadway season. Described as a horror play, Grey House centers on a couple taking shelter during a snow storm at an isolated cabin inhabited by two teenage girls and a woman they claim is their mother. As the storm rages, the couple begins to question what's true and what those mysterious noises are coming from inside the walls. Previews begin April 29 before an opening on May 30 at the Lyceum Theater. Also starring are Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black, She-Hulk, Attorney at Law), Emmy nominee and Drama Desk nominee Paul Sparks (House of Cards, At Home at the Zoo), Sophia Anna Caruso (Beetlejuice), and Millicent Simmonds (A Quiet Place).

Metcalf was directed by Mantello in Three Tall Women and Hillary and Clinton. They also worked together on a Broadway revival of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which closed in previews in 2020 due to the COVID epidemic and never reopened. Metcalf previously appeared in another Broadway thriller, Misery

Thursday, February 16, 2023

B'way Update: The Cottage, Jerry Mitchell Is Busy, Betty Boop, La La, etc.

Eric McCormack will return to Broadway 
this summer in The Cottage.
A new comedy entitled The Cottage will play the Hayes Theater on Broadway this summer. Inspired by the light comedies of Noel Coward, the play by Sandy Rustin will be directed by Tony winner Jason Alexander (Seinfeld, Jerome Robbins' Broadway) and star Emmy winner Eric McCormack (Will and Grace, The Music Man 2000 revival, Gore Vidal's The Best Man), and Tony nominees Laura Bell Bundy (Legally Blonde) and Lili Cooper (Tootsie, Spongebob Squarepants). Previews begin July 7 prior to a July 24 opening. Set in the English countryside in 1923, the plot concerns Sylvia Van Kipness who decides to reveal her love affair to her husband and her lover's wife. The play had a developmental workshop at Manhattan Theatre Club in 2017 and regional productions including The Barter Theater in Abington, Va., and Queens Theater in the Park.

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Book Review: Olive, Again

Taken out of the Jackson Heights library. After reading Elizabeth Strout's Lucy by the Sea, where Olive is briefly mentioned as living in a retirement community, I took out Strout's sequel to her Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge and enjoyed it. The writing style is very different from the Lucy book which is almost Hemingway-esque in its spareness. The third-person narrative is from Olive's point of view, at least in the chapters where she is the main character. In several others, she appears only tangentially. The structure is a collection of interrelated short stories of the residents of the tiny coastal town of Crosby, Maine, some of them have been the protagonists of other Strout novels such as The Burgess Boys and Isabelle and Amy (perhaps I will get to those books later). Everyone in town has secrets and Strout unsparingly shares them and their keepers' humanity and vulnerability. A teenage girl has a bizarre but tender relationship with her teacher's husband. A warring elderly couple attempts to understand their daughter's work as a dominatrix. The brutally honest, undiplomatic Olive examines her life and attempts to mellow as she negotiates relationships with her second husband, her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, and finally with her fellow residents in the retirement complex. Strout expertly depicts the indignities of aging, including incontinence. All the everyday details are here, both unpleasant and endearing.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Disappearing Act

Observations of a vanishing culture:

The DVD section at the Union Square Barnes and Noble is now only a few shelves. It used to be a whole room.

When people go to the movie theaters, there are usually only a few attendees in the audience. At the last film I saw in a theater, Tar, we were among a handful in the seats. Cinema chains are shutting down including the Cinepolis on 23rd street and the Regal Union Square.

On the subway, I was the only one reading an actual book. Everyone else was staring into their phones.

No one sells photo albums anymore. No one writes checks. I can't listen to CDs in my car anymore because there is no CD player. I prefer CDs to streaming music because I have more control.

It happens to me every time. I want to sit down somewhere public to read while I kill time before an appointment, but I can never find a seat and I wind up wandering through the B&N or the Strand for hours.

When visiting my mother, I noticed that the Philadelphia Inquirer no longer runs a grid of TV listings. 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Reconstructing the Carol Burnett Show, Part 36: Carol and Company

Carol and Company: Carol surrounded by
regular cast members (l. to r.)
 Jeremy Piven, Anita Barone, 
Terry Kiser, Meagan Fay, and Richard Kind. 
Peter Krause later replaced Jeremy Piven.
After the original Carol Burnett Show (CBS) and the four-episode Carol Burnett and Company (ABC), Carol next returned to series TV with Carol and Company (it was the only combination of names that hadn't already been taken since Carol Burnett and Friends was the chopped-up rerun package running in syndication.) With this NBC series, Carol would be one of the few TV stars to headline a series on all three major networks. (She added Netflix to the roster with her kids' talk show A Little Help with Carol Burnett in 2018.) The concept for Carol and Company was different than her previous variety shows with a different 22-minute playlet each week and a recurring, rotating rep company playing different roles each time with occasional big-name guest stars. Many of these episodes are available on YouTube and to be complete about Carol's efforts, we'll include them in this series. The show began life as a midseason replacement, premiering on March 31, 1990 and running nine episodes. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

B'way Update: Leslie Odom, Jr. to Star in Purlie Victorious

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee
in Purlie Victorious
Tony winner Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton) will star in a revival of Ossie Davis' comedy Purlie Victorious, set for a Broadway run in late summer 2023. Tony winner Kenny Leon (A Raisin in the Sun, Ohio State Murders, Topdog/Underdog) will stage the play which premiered on Broadway in 1961 starring Davis and his wife and frequent collaborator Ruby Dee. Subtitled "A Non-Confederate Romp through the Cotton Patch," Purlie Victorious is a satire on stereotypical visions of a mythic Old South centering on the travelling preacher Purlie Victorious Judson who returns to his home town to save the community's church and foil the bigoted plantation owner, Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee'. A film version entitled Gone Are the Days was released in 1963 with the 1961 Broadway cast repeating their roles including Davis, Dee, Godfrey Cambridge, Beah Richards, Sorrell Booke, and Alan Alda in his film debut. A 1970 musical version, titled Purlie, ran for 668 performances and won Tonys for Cleavon Little and Melba Moore's performances.