A Midsummer Night's Dream

A December Dream --- I was at the opening of Julie Taymor’s soon-to-be-massive theater game changer The Lion King on October 15, 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theatre in NYC. Minute by minute the audience gasped at each and every moment onstage and from then on I was a huge, huge Taymor-devotee. I watched her direction in the momentous movie Across The Universe and watched her exploits in Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark… which I immediately embraced. Sure, things turned sour with Spidey and she left, although from what I hear, things proceeded as if she was still there as the re-booted performance borrowed heavily from her initial work. This weekend I visited the brand new Theatre For A New Audience in Brooklyn and watched her production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and want to go immediately on the record as proclaiming this new work utterly brilliant. Her take on one of the bard’s greatest work could not have been easy, but she’s merged the work with her patented brilliance. It’s really immediately unique and totally captivating.

There are shades of Spider Man and Lion King, but this latest work is all hers and quickly raises her own bar. It is without question, one of the best productions of this I’ve ever seen and if you have not been convinced of Taymor’s singular talent, this is the work that will do it.

The cast, led by Homeland’s David Harewood and Broadway-vet Joe Grifasi, and scores of children, are all at the top of their game. Lilly Englert as Hermia and Jake Horowitz as Lysander are just exceptional as well.

Always one of the bard’s more mysterious and perplexing works; it comes together in the strong second act, is marvelously enjoyable and captivating. Kathryn Hunter as the impish Puck is the perfect anchor throughout the show and her interaction with Harewood totally intoxicating.

I can't say enough about this endeavor; this is what live theatre is all about. This new venue, which seats some 290 is marvelous and the staging in this show outstanding. Taymor’s brilliance in minimal staging is extraordinary. She can do more with a series of bamboo poles, raised and lower with simple lighting than most Broadway production designers. Astonishing.

I can guarantee you as fine time with this one. A gem for sure.

Pearl Jam's Pendulum --- After our missive last column about the fall finale of NBC’s The Balcklist; I watched it again and in the closing segment of the show, when James Spader’s character Red talks to Agent Elizabeth Keene … there was a terrific and atmospheric song playing. Turns out if was “Pendulum” from Pearl Jam off their just released album Lightning Bolt.

This show has selected just the perfect music for their episodes; most notably Jim James’ “AEIOU (State of the Art).” Many shows try to pick great musical cues to heighten everything; The Backlist has done it better than any show in recent memory.

Grammy You Noms --- I've been witness to some really lame Grammy nominations over the year (selecting Milli Vanilli and Pia Zadora as Best New Artists), but their nominations announced Friday for 2014 certainly do no more or no less justice to some artists who've been remarkably screwed over the years.

Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” which is a great song (and, video) received no nominations, and his album, the 20/2 Experience didn't get a nomination either; even though it was the best selling album of the year. How you shut an artist of his caliber out… that really baffles me.

Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is a great track, but it’s a re-worked Marvin Gaye song when you get right down to it. Bruno Mar’s “Locked Out of Heaven” too is a great song, but a knock off from a Police song. It’s to the group’s credit that they just let it pass; believe me Gordon Sumner doesn't need the money.

The contenders for Album of the Year include Daft Punk, Sara Barielles, Taylor Swift, and Kendrick Lamar.

No nominations for Elton John or Paul McCartney, who both released superior albums this year. David Bowie’s great comeback album (The Next Day) was stuck in the Best Rock Album category.

The NARAS voting board feels theirs is a superior job; but, to tell you the truth, they really have undermined what’s left of the music industry, by recognizing far less original and creative selections.

If the rather older NARAS crowd can really understand Wiz Kalifa and Little Wayne and think that’s the future of music… god bless ‘em.

When you have somebody like Timberlake and Springsteen writing great songs… and, they don't get recognized, that’s an error of epic proportions.

CLOSING NOTES --- Sightings: Micky Dolenz and pr-man David Salidor at Palm West Friday night; Salidor used to rep the place in the good old days… I had occasion to finally visit Lexington Brass on 51st and Lexington in NYC for lunch the other day and the food was exceptionally good; but, the service really, really poor. Too bad; it’s a major standout; it was the best Caesar Salad I've had in years …

Tomorrow night is the premiere for the next Hobbit movie: The Desolation of Smaug. I'm not exactly sure what that refers to, but I'll inform in the next column. All I know is that it's still a delight to see Sir Ian McKellan. What an actor! 

We've been listening to Elton John's recent over-looked album The Diving Board and have to say, it is simply sensational. More captivating on each listening. We especially like "Can't Stay Alone Tonight" and the title track. No Grammy's ... what a disgrace for Neil Portnow's NARAS committee. Spank 'em and send them to bed!

Rod Stewart and Ron Wood may have put any differences behind them and potentially have synced their calendars for a Faces reunion in 2015.

Stewart talked with WZLK in Boston on a variety of subjects including the much rumored reunion that would put the band together for the first time in twenty years. "I think we have got much more of a chance of getting the Faces back together, in fact, Ronnie's office is talking to my people, and we're ear-marking 2015."

The Faces, without Rod Stewart, have played together in recent years with former Simply Red front man Mick Hucknall on lead. Stewart has been busy with his long series of cover albums and his recent Time, his first album of original material in over a decade. A planned reunion when the Faces were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame also went south when Stewart became ill.

In the same interview, Stewart said that the album he was planning with Jeff Beck is most likely off, saying that the work that his management had done with Beck's manager was lost as Beck had moved on to a new team ...

Last night's Homeland episode "Big Man In Tehran" was exceptional; next week's season finale should be exemplary. No question; the show's totally back on track.