Sunday, July 31, 2011

How Delightful, 'Death Takes a Holiday'

Mara Davi, Rebecca Luker, Jay Jaski, Jill Paice, Max von Essen, Michael Siberry and Alexandra Socha in "Death Takes a Holiday." Photos by Joan Marcus.


IN “Death Takes a Holiday,”
Death (Julian Ovenden) assumes human form so he can move among the living and figure out what makes people tick. While on this quest, he unexpectedly succumbs to a very human emotion.

The imaginations of Peter Stone, Thomas Meehan (book) and Maury Yeston (words and music) have turned the enduring film, originally made in 1934 from a play by Alberto Casella, into a musical. “Death Takes a Holiday,” staying at Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre through 4 Sept., is oddly appealing.

JO, the handsome young British tenor, gives Death a wry sex appeal, but the character is not meek or mild even when he’s in love. JO lets Death exert a quiet menace as well so that most of the mortals about him tremble. JO’s Death has a joie de vivre. A less adorable actor could not convey the mixture of gleeful innocence and discovery with the threat that underlies his portrayal. (See video at

When Death first insinuates himself into the Lamberti household, Duke Vittorio Lamberti (Michael Siberry) and his butler, Fidele (Don Stephenson), know who or what they are dealing with. To most everyone else, Death is the Russian Prince, Nikolai Sirki, who has recently committed suicide in Paris.

Julian Ovenden as Death/Prince Nikolai Sirki and Jill Paice as Grazia Lamberti in "Death Takes a Holiday."

Though Contessa Evangelina Di San Danielli (Linda Balgord) is nearly senile, the doyenne of the Lamberti family recognizes Death and only she neither fears nor desires him. On the other hand, her granddaughter, Grazia Lamberti (Jill Paice), a natural born risk-taker, and the object of Death’s affection, welcomes his advances. Not surprisingly, Grazia’s fiancé Corrado Montelli (Max von Essen) resents the seductive intruder.

Death’s excellent manners and good looks endear him to all the young women in the household. Alice (Mara Davi), the American widow of the Lambertis' son Roberto, is a flapper who gives Death, as Prince Nikolai, his first kiss. Even Grazia’s mother, Duchess Stephanie Lamberti (Rebecca Luker), is not immune to his charms. Their shock of recognition when they realize who the engaging Prince actually is overwhelms them all.

After a slow start, “Death Takes a Holiday” becomes an enjoyable and celebratory fable.

Visit to learn more about “Death Takes a Holiday.”

Friday, July 29, 2011

Cowboys & Aliens: Strange Lifeforms Plunder Wild West

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) has the power to kill aliens in the bracelet on his left arm in "Cowboys & Aliens." Photo from Universal Pictures.

COWBOYS have their place and aliens have their place. And nary the twain should meet, except they do in a film imaginably titled Cowboys & Aliens.

The film stars Daniel Craig - yes, the current James Bond - as a man with (initially) no memory. It also stars Harrison Ford - yes, Indiana Jones - as a man with no mercy. “Cowboys & Aliens” opens nationwide today.

The stars have about as much chemistry as vampires and garlic. DC’s crotchetiness and HF’s curmudgeonliness are silly and annoying. Anyone who bet that this film is about a showdown between cowboys and ... ALIENS! called it.(Seee videio at:

The aliens strike under the cover of darkness in "Cowboys & Aliens."

DC is outlaw Jake Lonergan who has an encounter with the gold-loving beings – it’s like meth to them – and is robbed of his memory. Inexplicably, he is left with a device on his left arm that appears to be the lone defense against the marauders who are a cross between ET, the extra-terrestrial and that creature from the “Alien” films.

The aliens have literally been swooping down and snatching folks. To defeat them Jake has to throw in with HF’s cattle baron and erstwhile war-hardened colonel, Woodrow Dolarhyde, and sundry other friends and enemies, including a shape-shifting woman (Olivia Wilde), Indians, a doctor (Sam Rockwell), a boy (Noah Ringer) and a dog.

They motley crew sets out in search of the “alien cave,” a pedestrian-looking edifice that would be more at home in a ’50s horror B-movie.The only explanation for the people gone missing is that they may have been packing gold.

The shape-shifter, Ella (Olivia Wilde), and Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) get the measure of each other in "Cowboys & Aliens."

Cowboys & Aliens is a mess and a muddle, though most of the acting isn’t bad. It’s just that the story is so out there that it is comical. The film also has a few cringe-worthy moments when characters are alternately making nice or mean.

"Cowboys & Aliens" is fairly predictable, too. For instance, when one of the alien flying machines – equipped with a rope to catch its prey much like cowboys rope cows and horses – grabs the shape-shifter there is not a moment of doubt that Jake, on horseback, would chase the machine down. He gets close enough to jump onboard to retrieve her. He handled his business precisely as a certain spy would have. And boy does he look good doing it. Except that’s not the point!

It is very hard to separate DC, a fine actor, from James Bond in “Cowboys & Aliens.” Just about every twitch is reminiscent of 007. It does, though, make the heart – and perhaps other body parts – go pitter-patter when the camera pans in on DC’s dreamy blue eyes and his taut and perfectly rounded derriere. Except that’s not the point!

Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) and Woodrow Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) examine each other and the carnage left by the invaders in "Cowboys & Aliens."

For his part, HF is utterly unconvincing as the colonel. He does not wear well the semi/bad-guy role. Watching him attempt to convey ruthlessness is dismaying, distressing and depressing.

What were Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and more than a dozen other "Cowboys & Aliens" producers thinking? And what of the nearly 10 writers? What were they smoking? What were they drinking? This is precisely the sort of stew that is served when too many cooks are standing about the pot.

Indeed, life does has a perfect ordering system where cowboys have their place and aliens have theirs. Alas, it is not in the same film with an unfortunate title of “Cowboys & Aliens.”

“Cowboys & Aliens.” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of western and sci-fi action and violence, some partial nudity and a brief crude reference.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Grigio & Gris: 'The Patty Duke Show' of Wines

Pinot Grigio makes for a tasty white sangria. Photo by Ines Hegedus-Garcia.


PINOT Grigio
and Pinot Gris are strongly related to their namesake, Pinot Noir. Some describe them as a genetic mutation, making them, in lay terms, Pinot Noir’s cousin.

Instead of the Noir’s lush, dark, pine-cone shaped clusters bearing red wine, imagine grapes printed in grayscale – slightly washed out with an almost ashen hue. That's Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. From such gray-reddish grapes comes a white wine. Surprising? Well, that’s just the beginning. And to make the point, let’s take a short detour through cable TV’s Nick@Nite.

A cluster of the dark, pine-coned shaped Pinot Noir grape. Photo from WikiCommons.

Pinots and The Patty Duke Show
Remember “The Patty Duke Show?” OK, truth be told, I caught only a few reruns, but I remember the terribly catch theme song:

But they’re cousins,/
Identical cousins, all the way./
One pair of matching bookends,/
Different as night and day."

How matching? This matching:

They laugh alike, they walk alike./
At times, they even talk alike./
You can lose your mind/
When cousins are two of akind.

Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris: Identical. Period. Despite their different names, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris grapes are actually more than cousins – they’re twins! Pinot Gris – literally, “gray pine” in French – is Pinot Grigio in Italian (guess what that means), Tocai d'Alsace in Alsatian France (I don’t know why), and Ruländer or Grauburgunder (literally, “gray burgundy”) in Germany. Same grape, relatively the same name, but just like Cathy and Patty on “The Patty Duke Show,” they’re “different as night and day,” like the difference between lavender and purple (and thank you, Alice Walker.)

The area shaded in red on the map of France is the Alsatian region. It produces some of country's finest white wines. Photo from WikiCommons.

Pinot Grigio: A Perfect Casual Picnic Wine
Think of inexpensive Pinot Grigios as the Budweiser of wines: light, relatively non-descript, and accordingly, an unassuming inoffensive wine. Want to quaff something without thinking, perhaps serve something that everyone will like and no one will remember? Cheap Pinot Grigio is the way to go. Barely colored and with barely a hint of a scent of flowers (light nose, sometimes floral), inexpensive Pinot Grigios have none of that sharp bite (low tannins) and tend toward mellow fruit flavors (hint of melon, sometimes citrus).

Sounds too generic or bland? Kick it up a notch by making a white sangria: Soak a peeled and diced orange, apple, and lemon in a cup of gin for an hour. Add ¼ cup of sugar. Stir in a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Chill and serve. Feeling daring? Add kiwi or cantaloupe right before pouring. Party genius in no time at all.

But please don’t let that pedantic run-of-the-mill $9 wine speak for the rest. Higher end Pinot Grigios, including those produced in Oregon and Washington, are full of flavor and usually slightly deeper in color. Imagine a wine approaching the intensity of a Sauvignon Blanc, but kinder, gentler, softer. That’s the potential of a Pinot Grigio. And that’s still the lavender side of the purple scale.

Vezzo is a very inexpensive and appealing Pinot Grigio. Photo courtesy of Astor Wines.

Pinot Gris: True Purple
If Pinot Grigio is lavender, then Pinot Gris (and Tocai d’Alsace and Graubugunder) is pure royal purple. Move over, Patty! Cathy has just entered the room, ready for her minuet, Ballet Russe and crepes Suzette.

Made not in the light Italianate style (and not with overproduced grapes), the wines from French, Alsatian and German producers tend toward more concentrated flavors. The color of the wines typically deepen, with a richer, fuller taste (well-rounded, sometimes even creamy/butter/almost oily). Wines of the best quality match well almost any food, including red meat, breaking the rule – red wines with red meats, white wines with white or pink meats. Throw those distinctions out the door. Savor hearty Pinot Gris with hearty meals.

Pinot Grigio, 2010

Veneto, Italy
$7; on sale for $5 at Astor Wines (http://, NYC
Disregard what I said about cheap Pinot Grigios being the Budweiser of wine. This one is the exception. Buy a case and have lots of friends over. Best buy of the summer.

Label of the King Estate Pinot Gris 2009. The wine pairs well with swordfish and spicy dishes. Photo courtesy of King Estate.

Pinot Grigio '07

Veneto, Italy
$8 at (
Regard what I said about inexpensive Pinot Grigios. Still, an unassuming inoffensive wine – what’s not to like? Makes great white sangria.

King Estate
Signature Collection
Pinot Gris – 2009

Eugene, Oregon
$18; on sale for $16 at (
Ahh!, the Oregonian Pinot Gris. Taste the fullness as the citrus rolls in over the tongue. Excellent with swordfish and perfect for balancing out spicy dishes.

Trimbach Reserve Pinot Gris 2004 has a reputation for being universally appealing. Photo courtesy of Trimbach.

Pinot Gris 2004

Alsace, France
$20 at Westminster Total Beverage (, Westminster, CO
A steal at $20. Producing quality wines since 1626, Trimbach’s Pinot Gris Reserve will impress the most jaded wine drinker. Perfect with any seafood, especially smoked salmon.

Tocai Pinot Gris – 2005

Alsace, France
Usually around $35; $17 at Woodland Hills Wine Co.(, Woodland Hills, CA
Elegance in a bottle. While most white wines do not store well, this one will age for a few more years beautifully. Rich in flavor as well as rich in subtleties, Schimberg is a conversation piece in and of itself. Added bonus: Biodynamic wine. Enjoy!

Next up: Biodynamic & Organic Wines

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Tale Straight Outta Brooklyn in 'Brownsville Bred'

Elaine Del Valle uses song, dance and humor to help tell her story in "Brownsville Bred." Photos by Ron Marotta.


ELAINE Del Valle,
a kind of female John Leguizamo, tells her personal history with sincerity and gusto.

The Latina from Brownsville, Brooklyn doesn’t have JL’s edge or anger, but she matches his captivating energy and exuberant charisma. In “Brownsville Bred,” at 59E59 Theaters through 31 July, EDV generously shares her life in a frank and moving narrative. As she recounts the disquieting story of her childhood in the 1980s in one of New York’s notoriously dangerous neighborhoods, EDV presents a portrait of a girl full of savvy innocence and wonder.

“Brownsville Bred” was developed by EDV with Wynn Handman, artistic director of The American Place Theatre, as part of the One Act Festival in NYC. It grew out of EDV's solo show at the Nuyorican Poets Café and expanded into a full evening program when it played in Los Angeles. It moved from L.A. to Westchester’s The Schoolhouse Theater under the direction of Pamela Moller Kareman who brings it to its off-Broadway run.

Elaine Del Valle grew up in tough circumstances but maintained an optimistic outlook about which she reminisces in "Brownsville Bred."

Her mother, EDV says, “always found ways to be happy” and it seems that that good nature passed on to her daughter. EDV relates some very distressing incidents without asking for sympathy, although her stories might elicit a few tears. Because she can see the bright side of things, “Brownsville Bred” is unexpectedly funny and entertaining.

EDV raps, sings, dances and impersonates the characters in her lifestory. There are tragedies in the telling, but also plenty of inspiration and fun. Her warmth, wit and intelligence are as fetching as her looks.

Elaine Del Valle takes a breathtaking journey down memory lane in "Brownsville Bred."

The performer emerged from poverty and family tragedy to act in films, including “Donnie Brasco,” “Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight” and “Undercover Dora” from the “Dora the Explorer” series. Brownsville may have bred her, but EDV is an impressively self-made star doing a turn in a gutsy, compelling and original must-see show.

Visit to learn more about “Brownsville Bred.”

Elaine Del Valle & Friends Post-Mortem

TALK-BACKS offers a chance to join rising star Elaine Del Valle for a discussion after the final two Sunday performances of “Brownsville Bred” at 59E59 Theaters. After tomorrow’s performance of her one-woman show, EDV and playwright Candido Tirado (“Celia: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz” will lead the conversation. On Sunday, 31 July, she and Daniel Gallant, executive director of Nuyorican Poets Café, will offer an after-performance perspective on “Brownsville Bred.”

Friday, July 22, 2011

NewFest Films: Rights, Wrongs and Other Stories

Harmony Santana, Esai Morales and Judy Reyes in "Gun Hill Road." Photo by Mykwain Gainey.

OUT and proud about his support of LGBT rights long before it was politic was Massachusetts State Representative Byron Rushing, a heterosexual.

In “Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness,” Thomas Allen Harris focuses his lens on this part of BR’s story, including his sponsorship of the Bay State’s gay rights bill.

The documentary is one of the entries getting lots of buzz today, the first full day of NewFest and just days before nonheterosexuals can legally wed in New York. The festival opened last night with David Weissman’s “We Were Here,” chronicling the stories and reminisces of five who were in Frisco in the ’70s when it was the center of the gay universe. NewFest closes on 28 July.

The 23-year-old NewFest: NY’s Premier LGBT Film Festival, one of the largest and most prestigious niche film festivals in the world, provides a platform for films that address issues and experiences that have relevance to and resonance for the LGBT communities.

It’s been more than two decades, but NewFest does not have near the name recognition or profile of, say, the Tribeca Film Festival or the New York Film Festival or any other major film festival. Is it simply because of those four letters – LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender)?

What to expect from an LGBT film festival, then? Boy-on-boy sex, girl-on-girl sex, bullying, gay hate-mongering, closeted types? Sure, why not. But there’s so much more. Naturally, the LGBT among us are only different in that they are nonheterosexual in a largely heterosexual wider world. Otherwise, they laugh, cry, love, bleed, think, eat, drink, pray and try to bury their problems.

Out, about and proud are members of Mumbai's LGBT community in "365 Without 377."

The latter is the case when a drug addict in Laura Neri’s “Kill the Habit” (premiering Monday) does so to her dealer. But what to do with the body? She enlists the aid of her best friend and even has an ally in the dead man’s wife.

Another secret wants burying in “The Seminarian” (Saturday). Joshua Lim directs an all-too familiar tale of a man struggling through Seminary school instead of bucking up and admitting his true sexual preferences.

Also screening at NewFest Saturday is “365 Without 377,” one of the very few films addressing transgender issues. Transgenders often feel like stepchildren in the LGBT movement. Their issues don’t garner near the attention as their lesbian and gay comrades. Of course, part of the reason is that the transgender community has been less organized, vocal, visible and activist. That is changing, but for the moment – it is what it is.

Mark Cirillo and Eric Parker Bingham in "The Seminarian." Photo from “The Seminarian” Facebook page.

Adele Tulli’s documentary peers into nonheterosexual Mumbai through three from the city’s transgender community. It also pays homage to that first year that the colonial-era anti-sodomy statute, Section 377 of the British Penal Code, was struck from the law books in India.

One shudders to think what a film festival would be without shorts? NewFest has four under four different rubrics, including two that premiere today: Lady Bits (female themes) and “Boys In (And Out) of Love” (male themes).

Like any other film festival, NewFest offers its share of flicks making the circuit. At least three also played at Tribeca: “Carol Channing: Larger Than Life,” (Sunday) “The Perfect Family (Saturday) and The Ballad of Genesis & Lady Jaye (Sunday).

NewFest closes with “Gun Hill Road” from writer-director Rashaad Ernesto Green. A sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, the film addresses an issue that is generally known but rarely discussed or understood in the mainstream of any medium: Latino machismo. Enrique Rodriguez (Esai Morales of “NYPD Blue”) returns home after two years in the big house to a changed family. The biggest change is in his son, Michael (Harmony Santana), who has morphed into Vanessa. Papi is having none of it and sets out to make a real Nuyorican man out of his son.

Visit to learn more about NewFest: NY’s Premier LGBT Film Festival, including screenings, venues, videos and tickets.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Moment on Your Lips Before Things Go Topsy-Turvy

Pizza is a guilty-pleasure food that should constitute a very small percentage of the diet. Photo from Dreamstime.


do you manage eating healthy every day, NYC Healthy Chick?”

My friend’s caregiver posed this question to me recently. The answer is simple. I must eat healthy 90 percent of the time or suffer the consequences. What are the manifestations?

I experience both emotional and physical imbalances like low energy, fatigue, irritability, brain-fog, sleep disruptions, ruddy skin, PMS, constipation, blood sugar highs/lows, candida, as well as aches and pains throughout my entire body.

Trust me when I say these imbalances totally drive NYC Healthy Chick up a wall! During these moments, I feel like Sybil hijacked my body, and all of my multiple secret personalities creep out of nowhere. Looking from the outside in, I hear my innervoice screaming, “What the heck is going on here sista!”

"Sybil" is the novel by Flora Rheta Schreiber based on the experiences of Shirely Ardell Mason. It tracks a woman’s journey with social anxiety and memory loss. After extended therapy using amobarbital and hypnosis interviews, Sybil manifested 16 personalities.

Bagels and cream cheese is a breakfast favorite among New Yorkers but may have unpleasant after-effects for some. Photo from Hy-Vee.

While I don’t really suffer from a multiple personality disorder, I have found that eating as I do still assists me in managing my emotional and mental states. The result is optimal wellness. In other words, I no longer suffer from the imbalances caused by food intolerances. This is not the case for everyone, including an ex-boyfriend. In his case wheat was the trigger

My ex – I’ll call him Jack – was charming, caring and energetic. About 65 percent of the time he ate relatively healthy, drank plenty of water, got adequate sleep and exercised occasionally. However, when Jack’s diet consisted mostly of processed foods, when he didn’t get proper rest, exercise or drink enough water, his polar-opposite personality reared its ugly head. His Sybil turned up one Sunday when we took his 17 month-old to visit his parents for brunch. En route, Jack picked up bagels and cream cheese, a New York City staple food. His mom whipped up eggs, fruit and New Jersey tomatoes.

Moments after eating the bagels (containing flour which is made from ground wheat), my once-charming, energetic and fun mate began wheezing, coughing and was physically impaired on the couch for an hour. Eventually Jack took a meandering walk in a nearby park but spent most of the time parked on a bench while I played with his daughter.

A poster for "Sybil," the film starring Sally Field and Joanne Woodward that was adapted from the novel of the same name. It is about a woman who suffered from multiple-personality disorder. Photo from Amazon.

Jack is one of the 15 to 20 percent of the U.S. population adversely affected by wheat intolerances. Wheat intolerance shows itself through a number of different symptoms that could also be blamed on many other allergies, diseases or other food intolerances. Some of the most common complaints include drowsiness, bloating, flatulence, fluid retention and swelling of limbs or joints.

In worst cases of wheat intolerance, sufferers may experience extreme fatigue, depression and obesity. Left untreated, it may even develop into diabetes, Celiac Disease or other ailments that may require lifelong medical treatment. When in doubt, leave wheat out!

A meal of spinach and salmon with strawberry salsa is nutrient-rich and promotes energy. Photo from Whole Foods Market.

In fact, leave wheat out if for only a short while by participating in NYC Healthy Chick’s Wheat Free Week. For the next seven days, eliminate pizza, bread, cereal, pasta, cookies, pastries – anything made with flour. Note whether eliminating wheat helps with your physical and emotional state while improving your overall feeling of well-being. Chances are it will.

Not sure if you have food intolerances? Check out TEDx Austin video with Robyn O’Brien ( The food advocate is author of The Unhealthy Truth. Backed by meticulous research, RB’s book sheds light on the heavily profit-driven initiatives of the American food industry and government policies that have led to the polluting of the U.S. food supply with harmful additives, especially foods marketed to children.

Pizza, pasta, pastry taking you to a bad place in your mind, body and soul? Stop eating them or any foods that take you there.

It's summertime and the grilling is easy with a vegetable medley. Photo from Whole Foods Market.

Clean-eating is the key to solving the mystery of mood-altering states. To that end, following are links to yummy basic recipes that pack a balance of nutrition and energy-producing properties. With Baked Salmon with Spinach and Strawberries, not only will you get your daily serving of greens, but essential fatty acids. Strawberry Salsa as a garnish for the salmon is a refreshing twist on the traditional topping. (

Whose the grillmaster in your house? Here’s an opportunity for someone to show off those grilling skills with Grilled Summer Vegetables. Grilling vegetables is an excellent way to get the most flavor and nutrients out of them. (

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In 'Billy Elliot,' Literally Leaping for Joy Amid Despair

Peter Mazurowski as the laconic boy of the title in “Billy Elliot.” Photos by Carol Rosegg.


on the 2000 film by director Stephen Daldry, who also helms the musical version, “Billy Elliot” is set in a bleak English mining town in 1984.

Its backstory involves politics, hopelessness, and the offstage but looming Maggie Thatcher, who forced a strike that closed the mines for a year and eventually the entire national coal industry. In fact, the play opens with television coverage of MT’s position on the National Coal Board and its union. Act 2 begins with a pantomime in Thatcher masks and a song wishing her a Merry Christmas. “Billy Elliot” is based on true events.

Lee Hall, who wrote the script for the film, has deftly repurposed the tale about community in hard times, a young boy’s ambition to dance and the transformative power of art for the stage. “Billy Elliot,” the 2009 Tony winner for Best Musical in an open run at the Imperial Theatre, is dramatic and enthralling. (See video at

There are four Billy’s jeté-ing in rotation through this demanding role. Peter Mazurowski’s abundant talent was in full display at a recent performance. The whole cast is remarkable, but the standouts are the young stars. Cameron Clifford as Billy’s best friend, Michael, is particularly endearing. Alex Dreier makes his Broadway debut as Small Boy, literally leaping onto the stage at the beginning of the play.

Billy’s household is bereft after the loss of his mother; his much older brother, Tony (Will Chase) is a proud and hotheaded working man; his Grandma (Carole Shelley) is perhaps a bit senile and certainly eccentric. Billy’s Dad (Gregory Jbara) is a sad sack trying to be both father and Mum to his boys since his wife’s (Laura Marie Duncan plays the Mum only Billy sees) untimely death. GJ’s performance won him a Tony and is still sweet and nuanced all these curtain calls later.

By complete happenstance, Billy encounters an alternative to the bleak life he knows when he stumbles into Mrs.Wilkinson’s (Emily Skinner) dance classes at the town hall.

Mrs. Wilkinson (Emily Skinner) and a gaggle of ballet girls in “Billy Elliot.”

Resigned to teach “crap” ballet to a gaggle of underwhelming and graceless little girls for 50p a head, Mrs. Wilkinson is astounded by Billy’s innate talent. She champions him and helps him articulate his anger and grief through dance.

At first, Billy is gruff and not especially likable. Self-expression comes hard to him, as it does to his extended family and friends. It’s when he’s pirouetting in ballet slippers or romping and stomping in tap shoes, that Billy finds his voice.

Peter Darling’s choreography is precise, varied and vigorous. He moves the company around in increasingly menacing marches as the strikers clash with the police, and the ballet girls in ungainly formations during their classes. Billy is given an arsenal of awe-inspiring dances to showcase his special skills.

The music by Elton John, set to lyrics by LH, is sometimes bombastic rock, which works really well for the strikers; sometimes ballads, as in the bittersweet “We’d Go Dancing,” and sometimes pop, like the rowdy, “Born to Boogie.”

Billy (Peter Mazurowski) and company in performance in “Billy Elliot.”

This franchise enterprise is going strong. It is currently touring the United States. There are also productions in Toronto and London through 3 Sept. and December 2012, respectively.

“Billy Elliot:” is the sort of show that could easily have become maudlin, or dreary or melodramatic. Instead, it’s a heartwarming, rousing work of theatrical art, executed with finesse and understanding.

Visit to learn more about Broadway and nonBroadway productions of “Billy Elliot.”

Billy Elliot, Paul Taylor Has a Deal for You
Do you know a male or female Billy Elliot? If so, the Paul Taylor Dance Company has an enticing proposition for him or her. Commencing in mid-September for the fall semester, the company’s Taylor School will again offer weekly classes for dancers between the ages of 4 and 19. On 31 July, an open house during which prospective students can sample a dance class, is planned at the new Lower East Side studios of the world renown troupe. An RSVP is required to sample a class. Visit to learn more about the Paul Taylor Dance Company classes for kids and teens and to also RSVP for a sample class.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Toni Francesc Spring 2012 at Home in Barcelona

The chocolate brown dress/jumper is from "Seekers," the Spring 2012 collection by Toni Francesc. Photos courtesy of Toni Francesc.

THE sleeveless, chocolate brown organza/silk/linen(?) dress/jumper is voluminous, cavernous and billowing. It looks as if it might take flight if it isn’t battened down.

A rather amorphous creation, it appears in “Seekers,” the Toni Francesc Spring 2012 collection which he debuted a few hours ago at Barcelona Fashion Week aka 080 Barcelona Fashion. ("Seekers" may make its way to New York, Paris, Milan and London starting in September). In fact, “Seekers” also marks TF’s first-ever show at Barcelona, his hometown. Has the curly-haired wonder been homesick? Is that why has chosen home as headquarters for his growing empire? Does that explain plans to open his first standalone boutique in Barcelona by September? Interesting questions to ponder.

Meanwhile, “Seekers” is inspired by the migrations of nomadic people, those who make their ways along rough and tumble terrains got up in sackcloth-like dresses, tent dresses, fairy pants, bustled jackets, etc. The types who favor asymmetrical cuts in brown, beige, red, yellow and blue.

Chocolate brown is tent-like, able to provide coverage from rain, wind and earth, while also remaining aloof from the skin for maximum comfort on a hot day. It is the most arresting sight in an ambitious and accessible collection paying homage to people forever on the go.

Learn more about Toni Francesc at

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Approaching 20, NYC Restaurant Week Is Still Enticing

The colorful paella de Pescado y Mariscos from Socarrat Paella Bar. Photo from Socarrat Paella Bar.

YOURS Truly loves paella. Alas, I stopped eating it nearly seven years ago around the time I quit eating shellfish. Out of sheer ignorance, I only associated this wonderful Spanish soul food dish with seafood. But there is vegetarian paella – one filled with eggplant, cauliflower, artichokes, tomato, garbanzo beans, sugar snow peas, for instance.

The very one (Verduras) is on the NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2011 menu at Socarrat Paella Bar. What a bounty! Paella and restaurant week. The paella will be around for a long, long while. Restaurant week, however, is scheduled to end on 24 July but an extension is expected and inevitable.

This summer marks the beginning of the 20th anniversary of the biannual meals deals offered by New York restaurants – a significant number the best and most expensive in the town. More than 320 eateries, among them a dollop of newbies such as Socarrat, are participating in this latest edition.

The magic in progress at Junoon. Photo from Junoon.

Socarrat diners are not limited to vegetarian paella. Seafood lovers can feast on Arroz Negro paella (squid ink, bass, scallops, squid, shrimp). Tapas are on the menu, too: Alcachofas (fried artichokes, lemon, sea salt), for example.

Along with a number of traditional dishes on the menu of the Indian concern, Junoon, is the unexpected appetizer Seasonal Pakoras (coconut corn fritters & fenugreek asparagus spears). Dessert is atypical, too, from another of the restaurant week newbies: Chocolate Cheesecake – with Chantilly cream.

At Delmonico’s, a player who’s been in the restaurant week game since the start back in 1992, is Filet Mignon. The 8-ounce cut is accompanied by chef’s seasonal vegetables and is available at dinner only. The Delmonico Classic Steak (20-ounce boneless rib eye served with chef’s seasonal vegetables) is a possibility at both meals. The rub, though, is that it costs $15 extra.

Tribeca Grill soups, including the seafood version, are designed to cause the mouth to water. Photo from Tribeca Grill.

Keeping things lighter is another restaurant week perennial, Tribeca Grill. Two soups stand out: Chilled Sweet Pea Soup with Mint (Peekytoe crab & orzo salad) and Spicy Chickpea, Tomato & Eggplant Soup.

The NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2011 deal? The drill: $24.07 three-course prix-fixe lunches and $35 three-course prix-fixe dinners (excluding Saturdays, beverage, tax and gratuity).

Learn more about NYC Restaurant Week Summer 2011 at

After a Long Day at the Office, the Da Mikele Aperitivo
Square pizza and other Italian appetizers are free every day at Da Mikele. Photo by Peter J. Kubilus photo.

Da Mikele is not participating in NYC Summer Restaurant Week 2011 but the new Italian eatery in Tribeca with a Neapolitan-inspired menu still has a deal: free homemade vegetables, pasta dishes, pizza and so forth daily from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Buon Appetito!

Sfizi, or Italian appetizers, are part of a ritual called Aperitivo. Here, Italians leave work and those cares behind for a little socializing and relaxation with friends over drinks and snacks before dinner.

How lovely that Da Mikele chef-owner Michele Iuliano is replicating this Old World practice in the New World. No doubt, MI would be pleased if Aperitivo led to dinner at Da Mikele where for the last few months he has been turning out new variations on traditional Italian fare.

Learn more about Da Mikele and at

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Feeling Fat, Bloated and Blue? Chew on These Morsels.

A stomach ache is a sign that something is amiss and should not be ignored. Photo courtesy of AATC of New England.

BY Janet Cook, NYC Healthy Chick

feel bloated, blah and blue lately,” a good friend disclosed recently.

We took a quick inventory of foods she’d been consuming lately. Typically, she’s great at incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables with some animal protein into her diet, but this vacation week on Fire Island she was drinking Diet Coke. And her menstrual cycle was due. Boy, was she a mess!

Ever have those days or periods, like my friend, during which you feel fat, bloated and blue? When no matter what you wear it will never do? Then you begin to wonder whether there is really anything you can do about it? Have you? Don’t fret or sweat because NYC Healthy Chick has got the skinny on what to do.

A take on the famous Waldorf salad using kale. Photo from Whole Foods Market.

Listening to your body is key to optimal health and wellness. Being aware and mindful of daily food intake is important. This is the key to unlocking the mystery to how the body works. Over consumption of processed foods on a regular basis adversely affects the body’s internal systems – including digestion. In time, the body’s internal systems get clogged and stop working properly. The longterm effects contribute to the breakdown of the body, inviting disease and illness.

One way to prevent this is to fast. My healthy lifestyle includes a regular juice-fasting protocol used by integrative medicine practitioners for cleansing and detoxification. It allows for optimal absorption of macro- and micro-nutrients while rebalancing the body. Considering this option? Be sure to do your homework to determine what works best. Whole Foods has a program worth investigating:

Food can be measured not only by nutrition but the experience it gives and the energy it creates in the body. In my friend’s case, we wanted her to feel lighter, brighter and flexible. My recommendations included leafy greens, quinoa, fruit, raw foods and chocolate. These foods help with insulin regulation, digestion, blood purification and alkalization of the body.

The Blue Print Cleanse is popular among many who decide on a detox fast. Photo from Coolhunting.

Diet Coke was also eliminated and identified as a culprit of her bloating since such beverages are loaded with chemicals and block absorption of key minerals in the body. I also recommended that she avoid sugar and caffeine and increase her water intake to 64 ounces a day. She started her new regimen immediately – during vacation.

I recommend a similar regimen for anyone who feels out of sorts. I call it NYC Healthy Chick’s Fat, Bloated & Blue Busters Formula:
*Drink 64 ounces minimum of purified water daily; on hot days up to 3 liters;
*Eat plenty of greens, vegetables, fruit, raw foods and grains;
*Eliminate all sugar, processed foods, carbonated drinks and caffeine;
*Do gentle exercises like walking, yoga, jumping on a mini-trampoline;
*Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.

Following are a couple of dishes to kick-start the eating program. We tried a new spin on an old classic. Instead of a traditional Waldorf Salad we gave it a whirl with kale ( Who knew a classic could have variety like this?

The grain-rich Southwestern couscous salad is filling but will not cause bloating. Photo from Whole Foods Market.

To keep blood sugar stable and hormones in check we gave this Southwestern Couscous Salad a shot. Everyone enjoyed this hearty and flavorful dish one evening poolside. (

The next time you are feeling fat, bloated and blue take a quick inventory of your food intake. Chances are your body is telling you to break out the greens and grains, drink plenty of water, and eliminate processed foods.

Or it might be time to take a break from food and do a little internal maintenance with a juice cleanse.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mourning and Self-Discovery in '4000 Miles'

Leo (Gabriel Ebert) travels a long distance to heal and to visit his grandmother, Vera (Mary Louise Wilson), in "4000 Miles." Photos by Erin Baiano.


IN “4000 Miles,”
Leo’s (Gabriel Ebert) cross-country bike trip lands him at his grandma Vera’s (Mary Louise Wilson) door.

“After the Revolution” whetted the appetite for more from Amy Herzog’s pen, and “4000 Miles” absolutely fulfills the promise of the earlier play. (See http:/www./

In “4000 Miles,” at The Duke on 42nd Street in a Lincoln Center Theater LCT3 production through 9 July, we meet another branch of the Josephs clan. For those who have not encountered them before this short piece is as fine an introduction as any.

When he arrives at three in the morning, Leo’s selfish behavior can be attributed to the traumatic loss of his best friend during their journey.

As he continues to be an ungracious guest, allowing the 91-year old Vera to wash his clothes and clean up after him, it is clear that Leo has some growing up to do. MLW plays Vera with a tactful simplicity and directness.

Although their worldviews collide, Vera offers Leo the shelter he needs to grieve and mature.

Leo (Gabriel Ebert) isn't always the perfect grandson of Vera (Mary Louise Wilson) in "4000 Miles."

Vera is a “progressive,” as she puts, or as Leo expresses it, a “card-carrying Communist,” who believes that people should look out for each other.

Leo, on the other hand, suggests that each person do what’s best for himself. GE ably personifies Leo as the thoughtless boy ready to become a man. As the story unfolds, Leo benefits from an opportunity to look out for someone else.

AH’s “4000 Miles” is a compact dramatic work. Zoë Winters, as Leo’s ex-girlfriend Bec, and Greta Lee as Amanda, a girl he picks up at a party, round out the admirable cast.

There will be a second chance to catch “4000 Miles” when it makes its way to Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater in the spring.

Visit to learn more about “4000 Miles.”

End of 'The Illusion' and the Signature as We Know It


Illusion” a magical play about, yes, illusion, features the talents of Lois Smith as the sorcerer, Alcandre, and David Margulies as a lawyer, the Pridamant of Avignon. It is loosely adapted from Pierre Corneille’s L’Illusion Comique by Tony Kushner.

Henry Stram as Geronte and Amanda Quaid as Isabelle in "The Illusion." Photo by Joan Marcus.

“The Illusion,” in an extended run through 17 July at the Signature Theatre Company’s Peter Norton Space, does not have the usual TK touches of politics and social commentary, though the Pridamant can be seen as one of society’s miscreants. For her part, Merrit Wever as a wily maid in the ever-changeling cast, shows a hint of evil greed to enliven the odd proceedings.

TK is the Signature’s last featured playwright at its Norton space. Established as a writer’s forum since its founding in 1991, the Signature has showcased the work of a single playwright each season, including Adrienne Kennedy, Horton Foote and Edward Albee.

In 2012, the Signature will fulfill its vision for growth by moving to MiMA on far West 42nd Street where it will gain three performance spaces. The new space is conceptualized and designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry. It is called Signature Center.

Visit to learn more about “The Illusion” and what the future holds for the Signature Theatre Company.

Hip, Hip, HooRosé for the Red, White and Blue

What lovely colors are these roses. Inside or outside of test tubes, they look ready for drinking. Photo from WikiCommons.

Head's Up: Welcome to a special edition of Grape: Wine Talk. Of course, it is not Wednesday. But with the Fourth of July coming on Monday, we at VEVLYN'S PEN surmised that winelovers would be making their major purchases starting from today. Resident sommelier Tamara F. is feeling very patriotic and wishes to recommend some libations – rosés – that are perfect for saluting such an occasion as Independence Day. Cheers!


going to a Fourth of July barbecue and needing to make a fine impression? For the daring among you, show up with a rosé, a good blush wine. But please don't make it a White Zinfandel.

White Zinfandel. The two most insulting words one could ever levy at rosé wine.

True, White Zinfandel is a rosé, but it is only one of the many different types of rosé out there. Take everything that's said of White Zinfandel, and push it aside for a moment. (Throw out all those other images that go along with White Zinfandel, too: Mullet haircuts. “Miami Vice.” Laser-blue Armani suits. Shoulder pads. Yeesh! What a decade! Some things do not improve with age.) Not sure what a White Zin is? Hang on. Details to follow. Instead, let’s give those other perky little rosés a chance.

A Rosé is a Rosé is a Rosé
Long story short: Rosé is the result of tweaking the fermentation process of red wines. No more, no less. There are no rosé grapes. Rosés are never ever formed by blending red and white wines. (But since one should never say ‘never’, there is, of course, one very rare way of making a rosé from a blend of red and white wines, but it’s so rare it doesn’t count.)

Instead, take almost any red grape (Pinot Noir, Cinsault, Syrah, etc.), remove its pulpy red flesh after a few days in the barrel, ferment, and voilà: rosé. Another way to create a rosé is as a byproduct of enhancing the flavor of a red wine. Take the top off of a red wine barrel (before full fermentation), leaving a more concentrated darker juice at the bottom. Ferment it further, and voilà: rosé. The bottom becomes a fuller, richer red wine.

One element missing from this patriotic tableau is a bottle of rose. Photo by Billy Hathorn.

Basically, a rosé is a red wine stripped down. A naked red, so to speak, with a very fresh appeal. Imagine a wine that’s lighter than a red, both in taste and color, without the tannins but often with a tart kick. Imagine a wine that's noted for a strawberry-and-mineral aftertastes. (To brush up on minerality, see (“Sauvignon Blanc: Taming a Savage White,” That’s the basic rosé flavor. Or, imagine a pink-colored white wine with backbone, often fruity but with a tang, a zest that may make the mouth pucker, but oh so sweetly.

Rosé: Too Sweet for Words?
Now since I’ve mentioned “sweetly,” please note: sweetness has nothing to do with rosé, generally speaking. But, a winemaker can go nuts and favor a high sugar content. That's what happened in the late 70’s in California. A winemaker pulled off the top of a Zinfandel production, set it aside, and learned that the yeast died out before doing what yeast usually does: converting the juice's sugar to alcohol. The resultant wine: a very sweet, low alcohol rosé made from Zinfandel grapes. And the White Zin was born. White Zin, the extra fruity, extra sweet, popsicle-like wine best drunk ice cold, if at all.
The world hasn’t been the same since. And OneRepublic’s song keeps echoing in my ear: California, “It’s too late to apologize./ I said it’s too late” ...

But then again, if the whole point of drinking White Zin is to take Jimmy Buffet's advice, get drunk and … well … whatever, then it'll do the trick. Or so I am told. Just make sure not to drive. And drink a lot of water.

If, however, you are well past your 20s, looking to enjoy a good drink and actually taste what’s going down, then consider other rosés.

Rosé: A Perfect Summertime Quaff
Long before the Californians invented White Zin, the French crafted rosés. Refreshingly tart and acidic, rosés compliment early summer fare: Soft cheeses, young (baby) lettuces, freshwater trout, and berries, berries, berries. And most have only the barest hint of sweetness, when compared with White Zin. (In fact, truth be told, higher quality White Zins currently produced in Cali now have significantly less sugar – and a touch more alcohol – than the White Zins of old.) Summon the courage. Try a blush wine. Grab the the other rosés. Prepare to be enchanted.

Behold: The cleverly cantilevered bottles of Crush Wine & Spirits. Photo from Crush Wine & Spirits.

Back to the Barbecue: No Apologies Needed.
Courage summoned, a bottle of rosé extends from your hand. The host smiles – painfully: “Oh no, the dreaded wine cooler of wines, the White Zin!” What to do?

Wink. And walk away. It's just a matter of time before all the other wine is gone, and the host must open what looks to be a mistake. But you know better. You've presented a daring fresh rosé. No apologies needed.

The wines to consider? Very easy, and very easy to get. Last month, Crush Wine & Spirtis ( presented an exclusive tasting of international rosés. Located in the middle of one of Manhattan’s busiest crosstown streets, two steps into Crush and the skyscrapers fall behind. Between barrels, a minimalist beautiful tasting room and more bottles of wine cleverly cantilevered than one could imagine, more than 20 different rosés flowed. Any one of these will impress, and many are available online:

Faillenc St. Marie Rosé des Glaciers 2010
Languedoc-Roussillon, France
Needing a rosé that's two notches up from a White Zin? Faillenc St. Marie is it. Produced from Syrah, the wine is sweet without being cloying. If cheeses, nuts, fruits and salads will be served, this rosé will compliment them perfectly.

Texier Rosé “L'Anecdot'nic” 2009
Rhone, France
“L'Anecdot'nic” is a rock star: unconventional, breaking rules and producing art. Created by a self-taught winemaker using a Japanese model of biodynamic farming, Texier's rosé is both organic and impressive. Pop the screw-top and scent screams Pinot Noir (peppery nose), but what goes down is anything but: a rich, full roundness of flavors defying classifications. Not surprising, considering there are 26 varietals in this mix. That was no typo: 26! Need to make a major impression? This is it. Buy a case. Today.

Lauverjat Sancerre Rosé 2010
Loire Valley, France
Label of Lauverjat Sancerre Rose 2010. Photo from Lauverjat Sancerre.

Made from Pinot Noir grapes, Lauverjat initially smells like candy and flowers (floral nose), but don't be fooled. Anything except sweet, the wine bears the telltale rosé signature of strawberries, but an unexpected burst of strong lime flavor anchors the tartness. Pair this with anything from Mexican food to barbecue, and the wine will be a hit.

Mayr-Nusser Kretzer Rosé 2009
Alto Adige, Italy
While most rosés tend toward the fruity, this one tends towards the savory. Made with Lagrein, a grape indigenous to southern Austria and northern Italy, Mayr-Nusserhof Kretzer reveals sage and spices together with a nice tart flavor (acidic). Perfect for a fancy barbecue or a fine dinner inside.

Rosé tips: serve chilled, and serve. Period. Rosés aren't meant to be stored, but enjoyed. Happy Fourth!

Next up: Parties with Pinot Grigio
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