December Highlights

Still So Unusual

Cyndi Lauper always manages to have some sort of surprise up her sleeve. Did you ever think she’d have an album at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Blues Chart or come in sixth in a competition about business acumen? She accomplished both this year with her stint on The Celebrity Apprentice and the release of her most recent album, Memphis Blues. To hear some of her new bluesy sound, head to the Tarrytown Music Hall on December 15.

Jazz It Up

Saxophones can really swing, but nothing can get you into a jazzy mood faster than the sound of a cool trumpet. On December 4, the Westchester Jazz Orchestra has your fix. The group will present a program titled “WJO Trumpet Masters: Music of Miles, Pops, and Dizzy.” There, the orchestra will pay tribute to the best jazz trumpeters of all time: Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Kenny Dorham, and Woody Shaw. Get into the groove at the Irvington Town Hall Theater.

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New Attitude

You may have noticed some new names in charge of the White Plains Performing Arts Center recently. “We were looking for a home for our show, Wallenberg, and we saw that the White Plains Performing Arts Center was a possibility,” says Felicia Needleman, the theater’s new literary manager. “We learned that its past artistic team had stepped down, and they didn’t have a vision or direction for their new mainstage season.” After several meetings, Needleman stepped in with Laurence Holzman, the new executive director, and Annette Jolles, the new artistic director, and the mission of the theater became clear: to produce and develop new works by emerging artists.

You can find a revival anywhere. Broadway adapts only already-established hot properties (movies, TV shows, and music from popular artists). To really find something new, you have to dig. Now, you can find those cutting-edge and up-and-coming shows in White Plains. “Other theaters are not taking chances on new works, so there’s very little chance to see them,” says Needleman.

Wanna take a chance on something new and different? Check out the WPPAC’s new show, That Time of the Year, which runs December 2 to 19. It’s a musical revue that’s unique in that it covers Christmas, Hanukkah, and other holidays equally. “It’s great for interfaith families—or it doesn’t matter what you are,” she says. The rest of the season will be filled out with other stage shows, a free reading series of works-in-progress, and conversations with theater luminaries. For more information, visit wppac.com.

Felicia Needleman, WPPAC’s literary manager, with Laurence Holzman, executive director.

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Free For All

File this under “Give us an inch, we’ll take a mile.” Last year, ArtsWestchester treated us to a day of free art, concerts, and events at its annual Free Arts Day. This year, we get an entire weekend. From December 3 to 5, you can enjoy admission to county museums, visits to historical sites, kids’ movies at the Jacob Burns Film Center, cultural celebrations at the Pelham Arts Center, and other artsy outings—without slipping your credit card out of your wallet. At ArtsWestchester building itself, you can see a futuristic performance from Kurt Coble and his P.A.M. Band, which is notable for Coble’s unusual backing musicians: robotic instruments. To see a complete schedule of free events, visit artswestchester.org.

The Gold Standard

Fans of comedian Judy Gold’s Off-Broadway show, 25 Questions for a Jewish Mother, should be pleased to hear that she’s got another show in the works. Judy’s Show! My Life as a Sitcom played in the Williamstown Theatre Festival and in Washington, DC, to positive reviews. While she’s looking for a home for the show in New York, you can catch Gold doing her equally sharp stand-up material at the Emelin Theatre on December 17. Get tickets quickly—Gold sold out the Emelin when she appeared there in May.

Judy Gold

Continue reading for Home Theater and Broadway Box Office

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Home Theater

Titles to stuff in the stockings with care
Inception
DVD Release Date: December 7, Warner Bros. Pictures
Inception was one of the biggest hits of the summer, but it doesn’t matter if you’ve seen it already. You need to watch it more than once to tease out all of the dream-within-a-dream intricacies. Need help? The Blu-ray version comes with a “motion comic” called “The Cobol Job,” which gives some additional backstory to the action, and watching the film in “Extraction Mode” lets you see how they put together all of those mind-bending dream sequences.
The Other Guys
DVD Release Date: December 14, Sony Pictures
December is the season of Will Ferrell: first Elf, now The Other Guys. Sure, it’s devoid of any holiday spirit, but this bumbling cop tale is enough to make anyone full of good cheer. The movie sees Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as a couple of B-team cops who investigate a case that they believe will make them big men on the force, and the film somehow strikes that tricky balance between action and comedy. Bonus: Michael Keaton plays their captain!
Despicable Me
DVD Release Date: December 14, Universal Pictures
Pity the villains. They’re often the greatest characters in movies, but they rarely get to be the leads. Despicable Me gives one bad-guy, the hulking Gru (with the voice of Steve Carell), his due as it follows his attempts to steal the moon. (At least give him credit for lofty goals.) His plans get off-track, though, when he becomes the guardian for three adorable orphans. And, even though the bad guy is in the spotlight, the film is both sweet and charmingly animated.
Futurama: Volume 5
DVD Release Date: December 21, 20th Century Fox
Good news, everyone! Futurama, the animated sci-fi series from the creators of The Simpsons, returned from the oblivion of cancellation for a season of brand-new, half-hour episodes on Comedy Central. The DVD set is great if you’ve missed any episodes, but, even if you haven’t, Futurama DVDs are known to have weirdly cool extras. (A previous volume contained a surprisingly interesting math lecture.) These extra features are mostly music-related, and you can learn how to “Bend it Like Bender.”

Broadway Box Office

5 Qs for…  Jennifer Damiano of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark

Rumored to be the most expensive production ever to hit Broadway—$50 million and counting—the eagerly anticipated Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark opens at Foxwoods Theatre on January 11, 2011. Directed by Tony Award winner Julie Taymor (The Lion King, The Tempest), and featuring music and lyrics by Bono and The Edge of the rock band U2, the show takes the iconic arachnid from the comics page to the stage and…above it, thanks to some pretty sensational tech effects. Helping Spidey get out of some sticky situations is White Plains native Jennifer Damiano as Mary Jane Watson, the superhero’s love interest. Nominated for a Tony for her mesmerizing performance in the critically acclaimed, Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show Next to Normal, Damiano, 19, made her Broadway debut at 15 in Spring Awakening. Here she talks about being part of an epic theatrical experience and hanging out with a comic icon.

Were you a theater geek at White Plains High School? Definitely not. I had done theater outside of school but was too embarrassed to bring that world into school. I wasn’t any particular label. I hung out with the cool kids, but I was the dork among them, and I had a typical life until tenth grade when I got cast in Spring Awakening.

How would you describe the show to someone thinking about seeing it? The comic-book fans and the movie fans and the musical theater fans will all be happy. And while it’s mind-blowing aesthetically, there’s still a story there. We’re not there to just look like pages of a comic book.

Why do you think the show is so expensive to produce, and does that put extra pressure on you? Anyone who would want to tackle this show on the stage knows it’s going to be very technical. But I don’t really think about the money. I just have to go in and do my job.

Were you familiar with the Spider-Man story before auditioning? I was familiar with the story, but I didn’t have the bed sheets growing up or anything.

Where would you like to be in five years? I want to make friends with the camera and do a film or two or three, but I’ll probably migrate back to the theater world after that happens.

By Laurie Yarnell

 

 

 

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