Category Archives: Theatre

Head over Heals — The Go-Go’s Meet the Elizabethan Age

Like most people, whenever I hear the music of the 80s band The Go-Go’s, I ask myself why nobody has used those songs as the score for an updated version of Sir Philip Sidney’s 16th-century Middle English book, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

Head over Heals, which does exactly that, has opened on Broadway.

Although he’s largely forgotten now, Sidney played a huge role in the public life of the Elizabeth Age. He was elected to Parliament at the age of 18, and later became the son-in-law of Sir Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster. A contemporary of Shakespeare, who “borrowed” part of Arcadia and used it as a subplot in King Lear,* Sidney was a writer, a diplomat, a courtier, and a soldier. His life was as varied and exciting as that of the great 19th-century adventurer, Sir Richard Burton.

Head over Heals celebrates some of the recurring dramatic/comedic devices of Elizabethan theatre. The show includes big helpings of cross-dressing and gender fluidity,  so common on 16th-century stages and so timely five centuries later. Everything old is new again.

And of course, plots that feature mistaken identities never go out of style.


Damn, They Were Good!

Here’s the original 1984 Go-Go’s video for “Head over Heals”:

The 80s might have been the Golden Age of alternative/indie/powerpop/whatever music. For haircuts, not so much. I think that hairstyles almost always go out of fashion after 10 or 15 years, and look silly and embarrassing until a few decades later, at which point, they’re appreciated as classic.

Three and a half minutes of The Go-Go’s is simply not enough. Here’s the video for my favourite Go-Go’s song:


*Shakespeare did that sort of thing much too frequently.

“It’s not plagiarism, it’s an homage”, Shakespeare never said, but he should have.

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David Bowie is Almost Over

After a phenomenally successful five-year, five-continent, 11-city  tour, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s David Bowie is exhibition is coming to an end. The show, now at the Brooklyn Museum, closes on Sunday, 15 July 2018. There are still tickets available, but the remaining weekends are heavily booked.

Unless you already have a ticket, you won’t be able to get in tomorrow, 20 June 2018, because it’s a very special day.

Here’s a little background to explain why:

According to Billboard, “…when the exhibit first premiered at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in March 2013, expectations were low. ‘No other museum had booked it for the tour,’ co-creator Victoria Broackes confessed, ‘and we’d published 10,000 copies of the catalog. There wasn’t a lot of optimism that it was going to be a rip-roaring success.'”

“Rip-roaring success” is an understatement, as David Bowie Is became the V&A’s fastest selling show. More than a year ago, it became the most visited exhibition in the V&A’s 166-year history.

And tomorrow, it will welcome its two-millionth visitor.


To celebrate, someone will be designated as Visitor #2,000,000 and will receive a signed lithograph of a Bowie self-portrait, a limited edition of the David Bowie Is book, a pair of Sennheiser headphones, and a premium subscription to Spotify.

With more than 180,000 visitors,  David Bowie is is the best-selling exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum’s history,

Look. This is a flat-out amazing exhibition. If you have a chance to see it, GO. You won’t regret it. If you skip it, on the other hand, you’ll never forgive yourself. Those 2,000,000 people are going to be talking about this show for the rest of their lives, and when they find out you didn’t see it, they’ll be relentless in their ridicule and scorn.

This is one party you shouldn’t miss.


If you’re unfamiliar with New York, it might be helpful to know that the Brooklyn Museum is a 45-minute subway ride from Times Square. It’s a straight shot, no transfers trip on the 2 and 3 lines, and the Brooklyn exit is at the Museum’s entrance.

Here’s a “Know Before You Go” video from the Museum.


All photographs in this posting came from the New York Times online.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the One Night Only Screening

The National Theatre in London captures some of its finest offerings and makes them available for very limited runs—usually just one night, with possible encore performances months or years later—at selected theatres around the world. I’ve seen perhaps a dozen of the shows.

The one that impressed me most was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the National Theatre’s adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel of the same name. The play won seven Olivier and five Tony Awards, and even by the monumentally high standards of the Theatre, it was dazzling. I saw it when it was first screened, in 2014, and called it one of the high points of the year.

The play follows Christopher, a boy on the autism spectrum, as he tries to solve the mystery of who killed his neighbour’s dog. The staging at times puts us inside Christopher’s head, as he navigates a sometimes overwhelmingly perplexing reality.

And now it’s coming back: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is returning to selected international cinemas this month. But you have to act fast. Most of the shows are scheduled to run on Tuesday, 12 June 2018.

Sorry for the short notice.

To see if it’s playing near you, check the listing on the National Theatre’s website.

The Happy Prince Official Trailer

Rupert Everett’s film about the sad end of Oscar Wilde’s life takes its name from one of Wilde’s short stories. Everett wrote, directed, and starred in The Happy Prince. Also appearing are Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Anna Chancellor, and Tom Wilkinson. Colin Morgan, TV’s Merlin, plays Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas.

The Guardian gave it five stars, but other reviews have been less positive.

The film is scheduled for a 15 June 2018 release date in the UK. The Happy Prince played at Sundance, but there’s no date yet for a wider US release.

Where to Spend the Summer — Two Very Different Summer Rentals

Looking to spend some time out of the city this summer, but tired of old standbys like Martha’s Vinyard (if you’re a Democrat) and Mordor (if you’re a Republican)?

Here are a couple of options that will give you so many stories that your “What I Did Last Summer” paper will practically write itself.


Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum

Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks;
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Maybe she did; maybe she didn’t.

The jury needed only an hour and a half to acquit Lizzie Andrew Borden of the axe murders of her father and stepmother in 1892, but no one else was ever prosecuted for the crime.

The Fall River, Massachusetts, house where the murders took place is now the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum. You can reserve Lizzie’s bedroom itself for $250 a night. It shares a bathroom with the John Morse Room—available for $275—where Abby Borden’s body was found. 

That website, btw, is a delight, and well worth a look.

Earlier this year, the owners of the B&B bought Maplecroft, the house that was Lizzie Borden’s post-trial residence. She lived there for 34 years, until her death in 1927. They plan to open it as another B&B this summer.


Marilyn Monroe’s Summer Cottage in the Hamptons

If you’re not into sleeping at famous crime scenes, and if you have a lot of spare cash lying around, how about this: The East Hampton windmill house that Marilyn Monroe shared with her third husband, Arthur Miller.

You can rent it for the full summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, for $55,000. Or you can lease it for a full year for the bargain rate of $68,000.

According to the New York Post, “Monroe — who fled California for New York in 1954 when her marriage to Joe DiMaggio ended — prepped for her role in the 1959 film Some Like it Hot at the cottage. She was regularly seen driving around town in her Thunderbird convertible.”

Monroe isn’t the house’s only famous former tenant. Other celebrities who have rented the cottage over the years include Ralph Lauren, Terence Stamp, and Kurt Vonnegut, all of whom, I’m willing to bet, rarely got through an East Hampton party without dropping the line: “I’m renting the Marilyn Monroe windmill house for the summer.” Being able to do that is surely worth $55,000.

Brussels Miscellanea

With only one big adventure to go, we’re nearing the end of my time in Belgium. I’ll be posting the last of these travel notes this weekend. Meanwhile, here are a few random images from Brussels.


The Grand Place

The Grand Place, surrounded by buildings that date from the 17th century. is Brussels’s magnificent central square.

It gleams. Many of the architectural features are gilded, and the gold paint glows in the sunshine. These pictures don’t really capture that glow, possibly because it rained every day I was in Belgium. (No problem. I wasn’t in Brussels to work on my tan, or, to be more accurate, to work on my beige.)


I Found a Record Shop!

I used to spend rainy Saturday afternoons making the rounds of the bookshops and record stores near Dupont Circle. There were more than a dozen of them Before The Internet, but only one of the bookshops is still open. Finding this place in Brussels was the first time I’ve seen a record store in years.

The musicians pictured on the storefront, clockwise from the center, are Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, and Jim Morrison. It took me a while to identify Morrison, and until I noticed the harmonica, I thought Bob Dylan was Lou Reed.


“Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”

This Big Brother-ish image dominates one of the staircases in the Old Masters Museum.


Théâtre Royal de Toone

The Théâtre Royal de Toone, an historic Brussels puppet theatre, can trace its origins to the 1830s. Depending on the performance, the dialog is in French, Dutch, or the local patois. When the show is something familiar, like Hamlet or Carmen, you can enjoy the performance without understanding every line.


The puppet theatre is in the attic above a rather shabby but extremely popular pub. It’s one of the oldest in Brussels, and it has that run-down, lived-in feel of a classic dive bar.

The Théâtre

During intermission, you can visit the small, one-room display of historic puppets.


Cheesecake

Cheese Cake Cafe

This place looked so American, so not-European that I walked right past it. I didn’t come to Belgium to eat hamburgers or pizza.

And then I turned around and walked right back.

The allure of cheesecake is impossible to resist.

“Marat We’re Poor…”

I’d known, vaguely, that Jacques-Louis David died during a self-imposed exile in Brussels, but I didn’t know that David’s “The Death of Marat” was in the Old Masters collection in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts. It was a shock to find it there.

The Death of Marat

Seeing it brought a flood of old memories from a very different time, and a certain nostalgia for the person I was so long ago.


Judy Collins Sings a Medley of Four Songs from Marat/Sade.