REMARKABLE TALENTS IDINA MENZEL & ANTHONY RAPP

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THE GLORIOUS CORNER

Story By: G.H. Harding
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Idina Menzel



IF/THEN – There’s certainly no question at all that Idina Menzel and Anthony Rapp are huge, huge talents. Menzel, for her exemplary work in Wicked; on the TV show Glee and her song “Let It Go” from Disney’s biggest animated movie of all time, Frozen; Rapp, for his outstanding work in Rent; which has really got to be in my Top 2 Best Plays of all time. That said, I walked into Menzel’s headlining stint in the current Broadway-paly If/Then, really wanting it to blow me away and it did … sort of.



The play, loosely based in the 1998 movie Sliding Doors starring Gywneth Paltrow and John Hannah, is about a girl (Elizabeth) Menzel, who reflects on how her life would have gone if she had made other choices than she has. At first it’s a bit dodgy figuring out which Elizabeth is doing which thing; whether it’s meeting ex-soldier Josh (a strong James Snyder); or, whether she’ll be co-habiting with best friend Lucas (Rapp). There’s no question that the remarkable talents of Menzel and Rapp is what pushes this play over the top; but, you do sit there wondering why these two are not delivering a higher caliber of work. Interestingly enough, in my Playbill, the writers are not even listed, nor were the songs, which were good, but nothing you came out of the theater singing … or, really remembering.



Menzel, who gained instant international notoriety after John Travolta’s unfortunate butchering of her name on Oscar night comes out unscathed, as does Rapp, but you really do want more. Funnily enough, the first night after the Oscar incident, the producers of If/Then put that name on the marquee … oh, a PR-man’s dream for sure.



Every time Rapp opened his month, I immediately thought of his stellar work in Rent and actually listened to that soundtrack the very next day. Boy, talk about a great play and great songs. Jonathan Larson ... what a brilliant talent. If you loved that one, listen to it again … as brilliant as ever. If/Then wanted to be greater … you can hear it in every word and every note.



JOLENE – Last column we mentioned the terrific song “Jolene,” written by Dolly Parton and how effective its use was on a recent episode of NBC’s The Blacklist, I also said I didn't know who’s version it was? Turns out, it was the Parton original, slowed down to mimic a man’s voice. Now, that’s very clever indeed!



COLBERT/LETTERMAN --- I haven't yet weighed in on the David Letterman/Stephen Colbert affair, as I have never really been a fan of the latter. I applaud CBS for making a quick decision, and there were certainly some outstanding candidates all around, yet, when I first heard the choice I thought it to be a wild-card for sure.



Yet, the more I looked into it, it turns out that the people who loved Colbert, really loved the right-wing wingnut he was portraying on his Comedy Central chat-fest. When he visited with Letterman last week; he was almost humble; pretty subdued, and won me over in an instant. You could certainly see the camaraderie that the two men shared and I now applaud him 100%.



BTW: Letterman has been better than ever since his announcement; I guess it’s going to be a great victory lap. He certainly deserves it. They'll never be another Letterman … or, Carson for that matter.



WEIWEI --- Ai Weiwei is one of China’s most prolific and provocative contemporary artists. Featuring over thirty works spanning more than twenty years, Ai Weiwei: According to What? (now at the Brooklyn Museum) explores universal topics of culture, history, politics, and tradition, showcasing the artist’s remarkably interdisciplinary career as a photographer, sculptor, architect, and activist.



These works spotlight issues of freedom of expression, as well as individual and human rights both in China and globally. Many use minimal forms and methods, while others manipulate traditional furniture, ancient pottery, and daily objects in ways that question cultural values and challenge political authority.



Ai is best known for projects such as his collaboration with Herzog & de Meuron on the 2008 Beijing Olympic National Stadium, as well as his embrace of the Internet and social media as a platform for his activism. Despite his arrest and eighty-one-day detention in 2011, Ai has continued to create art that transcends dualities between East and West.



We went yesterday and loved it; thoroughly engaging and deadly serious. Loved it!



CLOSING NOTES --- Hats off again to David Letterman for showcasing the hot-new trio from the U. K., London Grammar … just stunning. They're going to be huge …



Liam Gallagher has fired up the ‘will they or won't they’ Oasis reunion furnace once more, with the band’s name drip-teased tweet-by-tweet on his Twitter feed – and it almost broke the Internet.



Some people are saying that a reunion would be the best thing that has ever happened in their lives (true).



Others are of the opinion that an Oasis reunion is a bit like the Ghostbusters crossing the streams – something to be avoided at all costs.



Whatever your own opinion, lots of people the world over have got very, very excited at the possibility of a Gallagher-brother re-grouping. So much so that bookies even suspended bets on the matter.



As of this morning … they are not playing the festival …




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