There’s a television star whose comic reign goes from slapstick to satire. This 52-year-old actress/comedienne/producer is not afraid of making herself look bad or foolish to get a laugh. The lady is well-known for her role in “Seinfeld” (didn’t you just love Elaine Benes?); “The New Adventures of Old Christine;” and her current series, “Veep.” You guessed it. I’m referring, of course, to Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Playing Selina Meyer in the “Veep’s” second season on HBO, she’s quoted as saying that she finds being Vice-President of the United States nothing like she expected and everything everyone warned her about. In deploying her potent comic arsenal she did her homework for the role. She supposedly talked to a couple of vice presidents (perhaps Joe Biden and Al Gore). Smart, goofy, her Selina is both authoritative and crippled with insecurity. She exercises her frustrations with elaborate profanities (not my cup of tea) which seems funny coming from a perfectly coiffed five-foot-three woman in Dior suits and staggering heels. Louis-Dreyfus says that the secret to her twenty-five-year-old marriage to writer/director/producer Brad Hall was “good luck.” They found each other as undergraduates at Northwestern University. I’m not even going to list all the awards won by this comedy icon—too many to mention here. As for her current role, my critical friend doesn’t enjoy “Veep.” I enjoy watching Julia Louis-Dreyfus, no matter her role.
When I was a graduate student at Columbia University, my specialty was “American Contemporary Literature Since 1870.” As a result, I was assigned to read many of the plays by Clifford Odets, including “The Big Knife.” The last time “The Big Knife” had been seen was more than 60 years ago. It’s a searing look at the choices one makes when the temptations of fame and money prove all too irresistible, and the consequences that one may or may not be able to live with. I welcomed seeing “The Big Knife” especially since it was being produced by The Roundabout Theatre Company. Its goal has been to bring audiences the kind of quality, variety, and vibrant storytelling that is so special about live theater. What I was not prepared for was seeing in person, Bobby Cannavale. Oh, yes, I had seen the actor on “Boardwalk Empire” where Cannavale played a psychologically violent bootlegger. In that role he was terrifying. But this time I was sitting in the front row of the American Airlines Theatre so I had a perfect close-up of the six-foot-two long and lithe man. He is incredibly attractive. My apologies to George Clooney but move over and make room for this leading man. In “The Big Knife” his high-octane performance as a movie personality with a private secret life left me in awe. I’m guessing that we haven’t seen the last of this striking actor. Bobby Cannavale is on a roll and I’m ready to applaud. Here’s a P.S.: in July we’ll be able to see him in Woody Allen’s new movie, “Blue Jasmine.”
Jack Kleinsinger—that’s a name most of you wouldn’t know unless you are of a certain age and have long memories of the jazz music you enjoyed in earlier times. For more than 35 years Kleinsinger has produced his Highlights in Jazz, New York City’s longest-running jazz concert series. For 35 years I’ve attended many of those concerts. In the past they have been mostly pleasurable. Currently Kleinsinger hosts his jazz program each year at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center in Manhattan. The concerts have included talents like Dave Brubeck, Freddie Cole (yes, that’s Nat’s brother), and Bucky Pizzarrelli (a special favorite of mine along with his famous son, John), Dick Hyman, and many others. Solely responsible for his Highlights in Jazz smooth operation, he seems to produce very fine sound and lighting—so fine that no one notices. Among his good business decisions is to keep low prices and booking artists that he himself would like to hear. He admits that the best advice he received was to keep his day job as Assistant Attorney General of the State of New York until he retired in 1991. Jack Kleinsinger is a bit of a ham which is so obvious, and he admits to it as he hosts each of his programs. The man has a lot to say and his rambling talks are usually interesting and funny as well. Here’s hoping he continues his Highlights in Jazz for another 35 years. I’ll subscribe to that!
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