This is a tough weekend. MINNEAPOLIS looms large and soul searching goes deep as we come to grips with the festering wound that is racism in this country. And so I begin my round-up of virtual diversions with a magnificent piece of theater that gets right to the point and has gone from STAGE TO SCREEN:
I first saw Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education in 2016, jaw on the floor of Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater. (Read my full review here: https://joyceschoices.com/theater-notes-from-the-field-doing-time-in-educationanna-deavere-smith-schools-us/) The brilliant actress Anna Deavere Smith singlehandedly conjures a wildly diverse array of characters, 18 in all, and schools us from the front lines of education vs.race in these not yet United States. Smith, using the fluid instrument of her voice and carriage, altering her intonation and accent, and holding steady the perspicacity of her observations through verbatim testimony, channels a multiplicity of viewpoints: parents, protesters, artists, students, preachers, psychiatrists, legislators, educators, inmates. The effect is both pulverizing and inspiring.
The production which transferred to Second Stage Theater in New York is now streaming on HBO Go and will be rebroadcast on HBO this Tuesday June 2 at 6PM. Don’t Miss It.
MOVIE: “The High Note” starring Tracee Ellis Ross (ABC’s sitcom “black-ish”) in her feature film debut as musical superstar Grace Davis and Dakota Johnson as her personal assistant and wanna-be producer Maggie, just premiered at home on demand. This light entertainment breaks no new ground about female empowerment and issues around women in show business, especially older black women–with occasional silly coincidences thrown in. Ice Cube as Grace’s manager wants his iconic diva client to accept a safe residency in Vegas, while young Maggie has her reinvention on the brain. Ellis Ross does her own singing in the film which is quite spectacular, and we can’t help but wonder how much of the character echoes Ellis Ross’s real life mother, Motown superstar Diana Ross. (Tracee says it’s not her mother.) Dakota Johnson is still dragging around that slinky, baby-voiced persona from “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which has only gotten grayer and doesn’t serve her go-getter character at all here. This mediocre entertainment won’t rock any boats. Too bad.
BOSTON BALLET/BSO have collaborated on a new interpretation of the famous Act II pas de deux from “Swan Lake.” Two male Boston Ballet Principal Dancers and real life partners Paulo Arrais and Derek Dunn perform Arrais’s original choreography while two Pops musicians Assistant Concertmaster Elita Kang and Principal Harpist Jessica Zhou play “White Swan” from the stage of Symphony Hall. I was much more engaged than that cat sitting on the windowsill, who never budged–never even turned around, while everything that was old was becoming new again right behind him. Reinvention is the order of the day–enjoy!
THEATER: “Hairspray Live! NBC’s 2016 broadcast of the rousing Tony Award-winning musical based on John waters movie about race & rock n’ roll in 60’s Baltimore, stars Ariana Grande, Jennifer Hudson, Kristin Chenoweth, and many more– and it’s streaming for 48 hours FREE this weekend! Watch it on Shows Must Go On YouTube channel!
VIRTUAL GALA: A benefit for New York’s Public Theater called “We Are One Public” has drawn a cavalcade of stars to appear and/or perform including Meryl Streep, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Alicia Keys and many more. Jesse Tyler Ferguson will host an evening of performances and stories in support of the Public Theater. The event will be streamed on the Public’s website, YouTube and Facebook on Monday June 1 at 8PM ET.