Wednesday, December 25, 2013

STAGE REVIEW: The Sound of Music (Henegar Center / Melbourne, FL - 12.22.13)

Henegar Center / Melbourne, FL 

I enjoyed many wonderful 
live stage productions 
over the last 12 months. 
And I wrapped up the
year with a tremendous 
treat — one of my true
highlights of 2013!

Christmastime 2013: An ├╝ber-talented troupe of actors, actresses and production staff commandeer the fabulous Henegar Center for the Arts in Melbourne, Florida and prepare for a major stage production — an incredible two-week run, recreating the timeless Rodgers and Hammerstein  musical, The Sound of Music.

Under the experienced direction of Joan Taddie, the production offered an array of surprises for longtime fans of the Oscar-winning 1965 film, as this version remained true to the 1959 Broadway adaptation of the original book by Howard Lindsay and  Russel Crouse.

Mikayla Goetz and Connie Lyon Browning 
(Photos: Michelle Wilson)
Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Austrian mountains at the dawn of World War II, The Sound of Music  tells the story that we all know and love. Maria Rainer, a young aspiring nun, is sent from her Abbey to work for the straight-laced widower, Captain von Trapp, and serve as governess for his seven precocious children. Along the way, Maria introduces the family to a life of love, laughter and (iconic) music.

The production graced the Henegar stage from December 6-22 and I was fortunate to attend the final showing — a matinee performance on a sunny Sunday afternoon. And it made for a fabulous family holiday experience.

Mikayla Goetz as Maria and
Jack Maloney as Captain von Trapp
As I've written countless times over the years, I'm ever-amazed by the unlimited talent on Florida's Space Coast and The Sound of Music cast and crew only substantiates my past claims.

Stand-out performances included Mikayla Goetz and Jack Maloney in the starring roles of Maria and Captain von Trapp. Props also are due Terrence Girard as the von Trapp family friend "Uncle" Max Detweiler, Vanessa E. Jara as the Captain's would-be wife Elsa Schraeder and Connie Lyon Browning  as the Mother Abbess.

Judith Anne Reese as Liesl von Trapp 
and Daniel Grest as Rolf Gruber
While all of the show's seasoned actors certainly delivered powerful performances, the real icing on my cake was the engaging adult-caliber performances from the younger cast members. Portraying the von Trapp children, Judith Anne Reese, Chad White, Kylee Rose Brandon, Jonathan Gould, Sade' Matheny, Norah Campbell and Sydney Jensen all were sheer delights to watch.

The Sound of Music's young cast 
members were consummate pros.
I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge a few of the talented professionals whose contributions played out behind the scenes — Orchestra Director: Mark Nelson, Vocal Director: Daniel Klintworth, Set / Lighting Design: David McQuillen Robertson and Stage Manager: Judy Lee.

For me, the venue plays a key role in the theater experience. And in that regard, I'd like to extend my personal compliments to the staff at the Henegar Center. Built in 1919, the 500-seat theater is a Melbourne historical treasure and offers a first-class, intimate atmosphere with state-of-the-art sound and lighting. Upcoming Henegar live stage productions include Ain't Misbehavin' (January 14th - February 2nd), Monty Python's Spamalot (March 14th - 30th) and 9 to 5 (May 2nd - 18th). Stay up to date with Henegar Center happening by visiting their official website.

In sum, from the cast to the crew to the staging, The Sound of Music was a world-class production. And I look forward to enjoying future theatrical work from all who were involved. BRAVO!

-Christopher Long
(December 2013)

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Monday, December 23, 2013

MOVIE REVIEW "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues"

Anchorman 2:
The Legend Continues

Nearly a decade
following its 2004 
release, the sequel 
to the box office-
winning comedy
Anchorman arrived 
in theaters this week.
My expectations
were low.

Given the dubious long-running track record of disastrous comedy film sequels, including such stinkers as Caddyshack IIThe Blues Brothers 2000The Whole Ten Yards and Parts II and III of the Hangover franchise, my trepidation regarding Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues certainly was understandable. In fact, my only hope for the sequel to the wildly popular 2004 hit  Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy was that it wouldn't suck completely. But to my surprise, the film delivers — BIG. And my buddy, Jake the Snake, and I got every penny's worth of our discount-priced, $7 matinee tickets.

Anchorman 2 DOESN'T suck!
Directed by Adam McKayAnchorman 2 reunites the original team — Will Ferrell as legendary newsman Ron Burgundy, Steve Carell as weatherman Brick Tamland, Paul Rudd as reporter Brian Fantana, David Koechner as sportscaster Champ "Whammy!" Kind and Christina Applegate as Veronica Corningstone-Burgundy.

Nine years has lapsed since we met our beloved broadcasters during the early '70s, and the news business was a drastically changing industry  by 1980. After conquering the San Diego TV market in the first film, Ron, Brick, Brian and Champ return in the sequel to take on their latest challenge  — defining and dominating  the fledgling 24-hour Global News Network in New York.

The ever-yummy Christina Applegate
as Veronica Corningstone-Burgundy in
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
The well-written updated story as well as the maintained authenticity of the returning characters help  make for a sequel that's endearing and laugh-out-loud funny. And new characters, including Ron Burgundy's GNN nemesis Jack (Lame) Lime played by James Marsden and the network's amorous manager Linda Jackson played by Meagan Good both add extra zing.

And speaking of zing, featuring timeless chartbusters from the likes of Kenny LogginsThe Captain Tennille and Hot Chocolate, the soundtrack also is a  particular treat.

Meagan Good sizzles as Linda Jackson.
Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy
Anchorman 2 also offers an endless slew of support performances and cameo appearances from an iconic and eclectic crew, including Harrison Ford, Kristen Wiig, Greg Kinnear, Vince Vaughn, Will Smith, Jim Carrey, Drake, Kirsten Dunst, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Liam Neeson and Kanye West.

In sum, this sequel is every bit as fun and entertaining as the original. But, despite the laughs, it IS rated PG-13. And yes moms and dads, that does still mean Parental Guidance.

-Christopher Long
(December 2013)

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is available NOW on Amazon.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Neil Young "Live at the Cellar Door" (Guest Post)

Live at the Cellar Door

Guest writer 
Michelle Wilson
ventured out to a
store this holiday
season to actually
purchase a new 
CD. How retro?

Is there anything cooler than a guitar, a piano and Neil Young’s iconic voice? Well, that’s what you get when you press play and listen to the latest release in Young’s Archive Performance Series, Live at The Cellar Door. The self-produced solo acoustic record showcases Young’s 1970, six-show gig at The Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. Some of Young’s material at the tiny D.C. venue, which featured two shows per night from November 30 through December 2, 1970, was captured for this 13-track album and released on December 10, 2013 — digitally, on vinyl and on CD.

Young includes five cuts off his third solo effort, After the Gold Rush, which was released a few months prior to these shows. Featured songs include “Tell Me Why,” “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” — a Top 40 hit for Young, as well as chilling versions of “Don’t Let it Bring You Down,” the title track, and “Birds,” which also was recorded angelically in 1972 by Linda Ronstadt on her third self-titled solo record and definitely worth a listen.

One of the many other highlights is a piano-only rendition of “Cinnamon Girl” from the 1969 album, Everybody Knows this is Nowhere, which featured Young’s first collaboration with Crazy Horse. The piano accompaniment in place of guitar offers a fresh, unique sound. Also culled from this collection for a stellar live presentation and a personal favorite, Young absolutely slays “Down by the River” in this haunting variation.

Also thrown into this treasure-trove of stripped-down, classic material are three Buffalo Springfield  pieces, “Flying on the Ground is Wrong” from their 1966 self-titled  debut album, “Expecting to Fly” off the 1967 record, Buffalo Springfield Again, and another personal fave, “I Am a Child” from the 1968 third and final effort, Last Time Around.

Using this forum to showcase new material, Young debuts “Bad Fog of Loneliness,” which never appeared on an official studio album but later was released in 2007 on Live at Massey Hall 1971 and included on The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972 released in 2009. Two other songs, “Old Man” from 1972’s Harvest, and “See the Sky About to Rain” from 1974’s On the Beach, round out this aural delight.

If you have a Neil Young fan in your world, this is a must-have to add to the collection.

-Michelle Wilson
(December 2013)

Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email. 


Thursday, December 19, 2013

RECORD REVIEW: Holly Starr "Yeshua, Jesus"

Yeshua, Jesus
(O Come Let Us Adore Him)

FYI, it's not too late in
the season to discover
a shiny new Christmas

2013 will go down in my personal journal as the year I discovered the music of Holly Starr. Simply put, her unique brand of pop defines "pure perfection." Read my April 2013 review of her album Focus HERE.

Starr wraps up an epic year with the release of an epic holiday single — one that quickly has become my personal all-time favorite — one that also beautifully captures the true meaning of Christmas.

Yeshua, Jesus (O Come Let Us Adore Him) is traditional-sounding enough to warm the ol' cockles, yet it's so fun, you'll wanna bust open a bag of Skittles and really celebrate!.

HOLLY STARR: Brimming with holiday 
cheer on her new Christmas single.
In her typical Starr-like style, the production here is simply world-class — offering endless layers of guitars, an array of drum and percussion work, loads of orchestration and of course, her signature angelic vocals. Oh yeah, Starr's funky-fresh Fender Roads track sends this one over the moon!

What a treat. What a treasure. Perhaps next year we'll be blessed to get a full-length "All-Starr" Christmas classic!

Holly Starr's Yeshua, Jesus (O Come Let Us Adore Him) — get it NOW for just 99¢ on Amazon and iTunes!

-Christopher Long
(December 2013)

The latest from author Christopher Long
is available NOW on Amazon.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

TOPS IN ROCK 2013 (Guest Feature)

ROCK 2013
By Jesse Long

Jesse Long returns to
offer his second annual
year-end music list. And
who's better qualified
than a young rock dude
who lives in the Rockies?




Every Sick, Disgusting
Thought We've
Got in Our Brains



Dark of the Daylight

American Love

Mouth of Swords

The Afterman: Descension

Honorable Mention:
From the Bird's Cage

-Jesse Long
(December 2013)


Do you have something to say, something to get off your chest or an amazing story to share? From pop culture views and reviews to political commentary to messages of faith, my blog is a great platform for writers to showcase their work. There are very limited criteria for submitting a post. Your views don't even have to be in line with mine — just create and contribute a compelling, well-written story. Interested? Send me and email.