St. James Theatre
246 West 44th St. between Broadway & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through September 28, $52 - $152
In 2001, director-choreographer Susan Stroman struck gold collaborating with Mel Brooks on the musical adaptation of his 1968 comedy, The Producers, about a pair of schlemiels looking to finance a Broadway flop. The show itself was no flop, running for six years at the St. James Theatre and winning twelve Tonys. Unfortunately, Stroman’s current collaboration with another comedy genius, Woody Allen, also at the St. James and also about trying to get a show produced, ends up shooting mostly blanks. Allen wrote the book and Stroman serves as director and choreographer for Bullets over Broadway, the musical version of Allen’s hit 1994 film, which earned him and cowriter Douglas McGrath an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay. (The film earned seven Oscar nominations in all, with Dianne Weist winning for Best Supporting Actress.) The play is set in 1929, as serious playwright David Shayne (Zach Braff in his Broadway debut) is offered a chance to get his latest work produced on the Great White Way — but only if he casts mobster Nick Valenti’s (Vincent “Big Pussy” Pastore) girlfriend, Olive Neal (Heléne Yorke), in a major role. Shayne’s agent, Julian Marx (Lenny Wolpe), convinces him to take the deal, but when they quickly discover how talentless, annoying, and just plain dumb Olive is, they have their work cut out for them, especially after building an otherwise impressive cast that includes the dapper but always hungry Warner Purcell (Brooks Ashmanskas), the dependable Eden Brent (Karen Ziemba), and fading diva Helen Sinclair (Marin Mazzie). Valenti has assigned one of his goons, Cheech (Nick Cordero), to watch after Olive, but soon he is spending most of his time rewriting Shayne’s play — and making it much better, which excites, confuses, and terrifies Shayne as opening night approaches.
Cordero is excellent as Cheech, a role played in the film by Chazz Palminteri, but the rest of the cast never quite reaches the levels necessary to make this story of art and ethics, love and money, and the business of show rise above the mundane. Allen’s jokes, so potent in the film, continually fall flat onstage, and the songs, which primarily consist of old-time classics adapted and with additional lyrics by Glen Kelly, are often repetitive (how many brief reprises can one take?), unnecessary, and unmemorable, with a few exceptions: Cheech’s “Up a Lazy River,” is fun, and Warner and Olive have a ball with “Let’s Misbehave,” which was the theme song of Allen’s ”Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask.” In addition, the Atta-Girls, who sing and dance at Nick’s club and play various background roles, are always welcome, as are William Ivey Long’s glamorous period costumes. Ultimately, Bullets over Broadway is about how far a person will go for their art; in the case of this musical, the answer is not far enough.
Sunday is Easter and the sixth day of Passover, and New York City band the Dysorderlies will be celebrating both at a special afternoon show at 2:30 at Otto’s Shrunken Head. An indie group with an engaging sound that boasts roots in the ’60s and ’70s, the Dysorderlies perform socially conscious rock-and-roll that takes on such topics as bullying (“Don’t Mess Around with My Boy”) and homelessness (“Jerry”) without becoming didactic or overwrought. Other highlights include “One Love,” “Puppy,” and “Chance Meetings.” Founded in April 2013 by singer-guitarists Nikki Neretin, MD, and Chip Calcagni, the lineup will also include bassists Artie Greenidge and Peter Archer and guest drummer Matt Crawford, sitting in for Guillermo Garavito. The Dysorderlies will be followed at 4:00 by Yogurt Abusers, featuring a pair of fourteen-year-olds, trumpeter Sam Friedman and guitarist Henry Nelson. Neretin, who works as a director of homeless services in the city, requests that people bring pairs of socks that can be donated to her clients; in addition, she has promised that matzah and Easter eggs will be served.
TRANSCENDENCE (Wally Pfister, 2014)
Opens Friday, April 18
In 2005, futurist Ray Kurzweil wrote The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, forecasting the next stages of artificial intelligence and its effects on humanity. That idea is taken to a whole new level in Wally Pfister’s overblown and ultimately ridiculous Transcendence. Johnny Depp stars as Dr. Will Caster, an AI expert targeted by R.I.F.T. (Revolutionary Independence from Technology), a terrorist group led by Bree (Kate Mara) that is calling for “Evolution without Technology.” After a conference, Will is shot, and his wife, Evelyn (Rebecca Hall), and best friend, Max (Paul Bettany), consider uploading Will’s brain into his supercomputer, PINN (Physically Independent Neural Network), before he dies. While Evelyn wants to keep her lover alive any way possible, Max considers the potential ramifications if they succeed. And succeed they do, beyond their wildest expectations — and far beyond any kind of plausibility, leaving the audience openmouthed in amazement.
Oscar-winning cinematographer Pfister has shot most of Christopher Nolan’s visually dynamic films, including Memento, Inception, and the Batman reboot, but his first directing foray is a major disappointment after a promising beginning. Written by debut screenwriter Jack Paglen and photographed by Jess Hall (The Spectacular Now, Hot Fuzz), Transcendence, of course, looks great, although its visual splendor becomes repetitive as the film reaches new levels of stupidity. Even the cast, which also includes Morgan Freeman as a sage research scientist, Cillian Murphy as an FBI agent, and Cole Hauser as a military officer, seems more and more disoriented as Pfister and Paglen deliver a frustrating mess that, for good and, mostly, bad, evokes such genre classics and cult favorites as The Demon Seed, Colossus: The Forbin Project, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Her, Donovan’s Brain, Night of the Living Dead, and, yes, They Saved Hitler’s Brain. Transcendence is an ever-more-absurd Orwellian nightmare headed by a power-mad twenty-first-century HAL 9000, another attempt at portraying man as God for the umpteenth time since the original Frankenstein, and a stupefying failure at that.
HALF THE ROAD: THE PASSION, PITFALLS AND POWER OF WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL CYCLING (Kathryn Bertine, 2014)
22 East 12th St. between University Pl. & Fifth Ave.
In her 2010 book Good as Gold: 1 Woman, 9 Sports, 10 Countries, and a 2-Year Quest to Make the Summer Olympics, athlete and journalist Kathryn Bertine detailed her attempts to participate in the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing. A former figure skater who shared her experiences on ice in 2003’s All the Sundays Yet to Come, Bertine has now made her first documentary, Half the Road: The Passion, Pitfalls & Power of Women’s Professional Cycling. Filmed for less than $10,000 and then funded by an Indiegogo campaign to produce, distribute, and market the final product, the film is a call to action to finally put women’s cycling on equal footing with the men’s tour a full four decades after Title IX. A successful professional cyclist herself, Bertine speaks with gold medalists Kristin Armstrong and Marianne Vos, such other pro cyclers as Emma Pooley, Amber Pierce, Robin Farina, Connie Carpenter Phinney, and Nicky Wangsgard, four-time Ironman triathlon world champion Chrissie Wellington, gender-busting Boston Marathoner Kathrine Switzer, and former U.S. surgeon general Richard Cardona, who all argue for equality in women’s cycling, from base pay and winner’s shares to corporate sponsorship and media coverage. Narrated by former professional cyclist Bob “Bobke” Roll, Half the Road places a particular focus on establishing a women’s Tour de France held on the same course at the same time as the men’s competition. But one of the primary roadblocks standing in their way is the Union Cycliste Internationale, whose 2013 road commission president, Brian Cookson, explains that the women’s part of the sport lacks the necessary financial drivers to make that happen. It becomes a kind of chicken vs. egg battle that plays out more like an episode of HBO’s Real Sports than a theatrical film, a determinedly one-sided version of the situation that, though honest and heartfelt, grows repetitive over its too-long 106 minutes. Bertine sees the film as about not just cycling but equality and society in general, but she ends up taking too narrow a road.
FREE THIRD SATURDAYS
El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Ave. at 104th St.
Saturday, April 19, free, 12 noon – 5:30 pm
For the April edition of its free Super Sabado program, El Museo del Barrio celebrates the written word with “Mad About Libros.” From 12 noon to 3:00 on April 19, you can head over to the educational ArteXplorers Family Corner in the lobby or take part in a Manos a la Obra workshop where you can make your favorite book character. At noon and 2:00, in conjunction with Colorin Colorado, singer and actress Flor Bromley will be in the café, telling the stories of Librito and Juan Bobo and the Magic Book; composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón will share the participatory musical tale of Amigos at 1:00 and 3:00. From noon to 4:00, there will be a book fair outside the museum. And at 4:30, Roger Cabán of Poetas con Café will host poetry readings by Myrna Nieves, Jesus Papoleto Meléndez, and others. In addition, you can check out the special exhibition “Museum Starter Kit: Open with Care” as well as “Presencia: Works from El Museo’s Permanent Collection,” featuring pieces by Luis Mendez, Shaun El C. Leonardo, Oscar Muñoz, Benvenuto Chavajay, Christian Cravo, Roberto Juárez, Fernando Salicrup, Rafael Tufiño, and more.
THE FRATERNAL ORDER OF SOCIETY BLUES
622 DeGraw St. between Third & Fourth Aves.
Saturday, April 19, $10, 8:00
Brooklyn musician Jeremiah Lockwood has kept his feet wet with a steadily evolving cortege of musical projects over the past decade. Besides leading his acclaimed band the Sway Machinery, he’s embarked on adventures exploring musical forms from Mali and other parts of North Africa while integrating his upbringing, which was steeped in the nigunim of Jewish cantorial music. Lockwood got his start, though, playing in the New York City subways alongside his mentor, the Piedmont blues guitarist Carolina Slim. After meeting the musician as a fourteen-year-old, Lockwood took lessons from him, and what began as an apprenticeship seemingly dreamed up by a jaded screenwriter — the young white teen learning the ropes from the older African American traditionalist — evolved into a vital musical partnership. As Lockwood grew as a musician, the two accompanied each other for more than a decade, playing house parties, street fairs, and throughout the city’s transit system.
Born Elijah Staley, Slim hailed from South Carolina and made his home in New York for decades, teaching, composing, and performing in the venerable Piedmont style of blues that stretches back to the early twentieth century and counts such artists as Blind Willie McTell and the Rev. Gary Davis among its progenitors. Carolina Slim passed away this February at the age of eighty-seven, and, along with several other local musicians whom the older guitarist befriended and mentored, Lockwood has arranged a concert celebrating his career and life to be held at Brooklyn’s Littlefield venue. Under the banner of the Fraternal Order of Society Blues, the performers, including jazz percussionist Ricky Gordon, Brotherhood of the Jug’s Ernesto Gomez, and Slim friend Chris Cook, will be gathering for “A Tribute to the Late Great Carolina Slim” on April 19. Lockwood is calling the memorial a “séance of the spirits of American music”; the night should be filled with plentiful memories and great music paying respect to a true character in the long blues tradition.
Saturday, April 19
On April 19, music on vinyl will be celebrated at the eighth annual Record Store Day, when purveyors of music around the world will be selling seven-, ten-, and twelve-inch discs that have either been created exclusively for RSD, are special limited runs of previously available material, or are releasing that day. Participating stores in New York City include Rock and Soul Records, Permanent Records, Academy Records, Second Hand Rose Music, Captured Tracks, Rockit Scientist Records, Kim’s Video & Music, Disc-O-Rama, Turntable Lab, A-1, Good Records, Other Music, Record Runner, In Living Stereo, Downtown Music Gallery, Rebel Rebel, Generation Records, Rough Trade, Bleecker Street Records, and Village Music World. Not all releases are available at all locations, so you might want to call ahead to find out if a particular store has just what you’re looking for. The full list includes hundreds of singles, EPs, and LPs from multiple genres; below are some of our favorites.
Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin: Songs from Common Ground
The Animals: The Animals EP
Sam Cooke: Ain’t That Good News
Cut Copy: “In These Arms of Love” / “Like Any Other Day”
Deerhoof & Ceramic Dog: Deerhoof / Ceramic Dog split
Jerry Garcia: Garcia
Green Day: Demolicious
Gil Scott-Heron: Nothing New
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: Glorious Results of a Misspent Youth
Joy Division: An Ideal for Living
The Julie Ruin: “Brightside” / “In the Picture”
Jon Langford & Skull Orchard: “Days and Nights” / “Here’s What We Have”
The Last Internationale: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Indian Blood
Man Man: The Man in Turban with Blue Face
Nirvana: “Pennyroyal Tea” / “I Hate Myself and Want to Die”
The Pogues: Live with Joe Strummer
Public Enemy: Evil Empire of Everything
The Ramones: Meltdown with the Ramones
R.E.M.: Unplugged: The Complete 1991 and 2001 Sessions
School of Seven Bells: Put Your Sad Down
Ronnie Spector and the E Street Band: “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” / “Baby Please Don’t Go”
Bruce Springsteen: American Beauty
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction
Tame Impala: Live Versions
Xiu Xiu: Unclouded Sky
Frank Zappa: “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow” / “Down in De Dew