Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #32

February 9th, 2007  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report

Contents
BEAUTY & THE BEAST DAZZLES
A PERFECT WINTER’S EVENING
FEELIN’ AT HOME IN FOXWOODS WITH CEDRIC
AA THEATRE FEST BRINGS AMAZING DRAMA
A RAISIN IN THE SUN SHINES IN JP
THE SWEET SOUNDS OF SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK
POITIER SHARES PAIN AND TRIUMPH
AUGUST WILSON IN HALL OF FAME
CLASSIC EDDIE MURPHY FALLS SHORT
BOSTON FILM CRITIC SHARES OLD MOVIES WITH KIDS
UP-COMING EVENTS


BEAUTY & THE BEAST DAZZLES
by Kay Bourne
(Belle in the village – from Beauty and the Beast)

284 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32On a frigid night, much like the icy weather we’ve been having this week, a decrepit beggar woman sought refuge from the cold in a palace deep in the woods.

The arrogant, self centered, thoroughly spoiled young prince, disliking her appearance, turned her away. The fairy, for that’s what she truly was, waved a wand becoming a lovely girl whom the prince then invited in. Too late! Enraged at his nasty behavior, the fairy put a spell on him and his castle: he became an ugly beast and all the people who worked for him became furniture and cutlery. The fairy put a single rose in a vase, in a niche in the wall. If someone could love the Beast before the last petal of the rose fell, the spell would be broken.

Wheelock Family Theater’s magical production of the Disney musical “Beauty & The Beast” makes an ideal afternoon outing during school vacation week or any upcoming weekend through MARCH 4. You’re promised a perfect time under the enchanted spell of good entertainment for little ones, ‘tweens, teens, and parents too.

Angela Williams, who sang “Aida” at Foothills and “The 60′s Project” at Goodspeed Opera House with Richard Maltby, is as fine a Belle as has ever graced the role of the Village girl who loves books more than appearances. She wins the Beast’s heart instantaneously. But, how can she come to adore a crude, mangy dictator? Doug Jabara is convincing as the Beast and you will luxuriate in his singing voice. Christopher Chew is fine as the egotistical Village youth, Gaston, sure that all the girls think he’s swell.

Other standouts in this excellent production are Gamalia Pharms as the house keeper Mrs. Potts, now a teapot, and her small son Chip, turned into a cup with a bit of the lip missing, played delightfully by Jeffery Sewell (Where are these child actors appearing in resident Equity companies these days coming from?!? They’re wonderful!). Robert Saoud is a marvelous Lumiere, the butler who is now a candle stick, as is Chip Phillips, the valet wound up tight in the guise of a grandfather clock. Mansur makes a wonderful doddering but loving Dad to Belle.

Then, taking note, doubtless of the great acting teacher Stanislovsky’s edict…’that there are no small roles, only small actors’, ensemble member W. Yvonne Murphy makes hay with her bit part as a thoroughly flustered Village girl with lusty lungs.

Wheelock veteran director Jane Staab has waved her wand vigorously to keep the show moving at a bright pace. She’s ably assisted by Laurel Stachowicz‘s peppy choreography. Matthew T. Lazure has provided marvelous costumes. Anita Fuchs‘ utilitarian set works perfectly to give a sense of where we are without overwhelming the action – her woods (and here she is aided immeasurably by lighting designer Stoney “d.r.” Cook) seem deep and treacherous.

There’s an excellent 7-piece live orchestra too, adroitly led by pianist Steven Bergman. The familiar score including such favorites as “Be Our Guest” and all the incidental music is under the persuasive hands of Bergman as Musical Director.

BEAUTY & THE BEAST ticket information


A PERFECT WINTER’S EVENING
by Kay Bourne
(click this image of Paulina (Bobbie Steinbach) comforting a repentant Leontes (Ricardo Pitts-Wiley) for ticket info)

285 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32

The most famous line from Shakepeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” is not a spoken phrase but a stage direction – “Exit, pursued by a bear.”

Director Curt L. Tofteland ingeniously capitalizes on this link to the popular imagination in the Actors’ Shakepeare Project’s marvelous production of one of the Bard’s later plays.

A stuffed teddy bear tossed merrily about in the opening moments becomes, by the final scene, a heart-breaking reminder of a dead child. And in a stunning Othello-like performance from Ricardo Pitts-Wiley in the leading role of Leontes, a king nursing his injured pride lumbers about the stage like a grizzly bear with a thorn in its paw.

Second grader Oliver Stickney brings the innocence of the very young to his important role of the Prince Mamillius, the son of Hermione and Leontes and his daddy’s darling boy. One wonders if this character is perhaps Shakespeare’s tribute to his son, Hamnet, who died in childhood. In any event, Shakespeare has Mamillius speak the lines that contain the play’s title.

For all the love Leontes feels for his son, however, he begins to doubt the boy’s paternity when Leontes comes to believe that his wife Hermione is flirting with a visitor to the court. His jealousy nearly costs him everything he holds dear but in this tale from Shakespeare there is redemption rather than total despair.

The sprightly and touching romantic drama continues at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second St. in Cambridge through FEBRUARY 18. “The Winter’s Tale” is beautifully acted.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Director Robert Woodruff has magnificently staged the C.H. Sisson translation for a bold production at the American Reportory Theater (A.R.T.), 64 Brattle St. in the Harvard Square area of Cambridge.

“Britannicus” at the A.R.T. is that rare theatrical event , a spectacle that is emotionally moving as well, and that will set you to thinking about the dangers of political leaders who arrogantly take matters into their own hands based solely on their whims and agendas. Alfredo Narciso gives a monumental performance as the twisted Nero, a Caesar who history will show sets the destruction of the empire into motion through his egoistic and tyrannical behavior. The play which Racine placed in 54 A.D. has been reset in modern times for the A.R.T. production.

BRITANNICUS ticket information


FEELIN’ AT HOME IN FOXWOODS WITH CEDRIC
286 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32NIGHT HAUNTS’ 1st report:
When Ms. Rosetta Kyles’ baby boy, Cedric Antonio Kyles, stepped out on the Fox Theater stage at Foxwoods Resort & Casino, there was a momentary hush, followed by a collective smile and finally thunderous applause. Jefferson City, Missouri’s favorite son, Cedric The Entertainer had arrived. Complete in his white fedora and sleekly silver grey suit, King Cedric ruled his domain and we, Fox Theater’s sold-out audience, were his fateful subjects. His impeccable timing and delivery, insightfully topical serio-comedic material and fancy footwork have made him one of the Comedy World’s Sophisticates. With all that, he still feels like that favorite cousin that you love to see and hang out with, you know, familiar.

Now “Familiar” is not a word that I can use in describing Foxwoods Resort & Casino. You see, I don’t gamble and have never been to a casino. (Well, there was that one time twentysome years ago in the Bahamas, on a date with an East Indian man named Raj who wanted me to move to the Turks & Caicos Islands. But that’s another story.) This is no moral decision, gambling just never moved me. With that in mind, the question arises, ” Can a non-gambler have fun at a casino?”

I am happy to report that the answer is a resounding “YES” . We had a great time. Traveling with my friend and fellow vocalist, Bongi Goba who was Foxwoods savvy, we arrived and I quickly learned that Foxwoods is not to be rushed but rather savored. After checking our coats, I turned and was surprised to see a multi-generational ocean of jeans, casual attire and electrically powered wheelchairs. Feeling a little like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, I soon realized that I was in a midnight mall for adults. There are no fewer than 14 restaurants, 5 clubs & lounges and 20 boutiques for all pallets and pocketbooks.

There is plenty of free entertainment. After seeing Cedric the Entertainer at the Fox Theater, we settled down at the open air lounge, the Atrium, to see and be seen. Although full of fun loving customers, the lounge was quite comfortable. Conversations generously shifted to make newcomers feel welcome. We met couples and singles from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut and everyone agreed that you don’t have to gamble to have fun at Foxwoods. We even got a recipe for Drunken Chicken which involves stuffing a whole chicken with a can of beer. (Look it up on the internet, I did.) And then a surprise, on stage was the Rohn Lawrence Band. For those of you who are not night haunters, Connecticut-born Rohn Lawrence is an awesome funk/blues guitarist who spent a lot of time performing in the Boston area during the 90′s.

All in all, we had a great time. I suggest you try to avoid rush hour traffic by either leaving early and having dinner at the resort or leaving the Boston area after rush hour. If not, you hit rush hour in two states and increase your driving time by possibly an hour, which normally is approximately an hour and forty minutes. Also, be aware that Connecticut does not have the same smoking restrictions as Massachusetts and so it does get smokey in some areas. However, I have to say that was not a problem in the Fox Theater or the Atrium.

Well, that’s it for me. Enjoy the NightLife safely. Til next time.

(by Valerie Stephens)
NIGHT HAUNTS–After many a fleeting conversation about ” I’m sick of the same old places” and ” Boston has no Nightlife”, I have decided to set out on a nocturnal journey to find the “hot” and “not-so-hot” spots in the area and report my findings to you. As a lover of the midnight celestial spirits and armed with only pen and pad, I will forage for entertainment delights. I will be writing about the ambiance, menu, music, staff, seating, specialty and cost. My goal is simple: to provide you with a list of gathering possibilities.

Finally, if you have any ideas for Night Haunts, email me here.


AA THEATRE FEST BRINGS AMAZING DRAMA
by Beverly Creasey
288 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32Great actors are like great athletes. Their fluid motion and fierce concentration make what they do look so natural and so easy that we forget about the discipline beneath the performance. Here are a few cases in point:

Jacqui Parker, who produces the annual African American Theatre Festival, managed to find time (How does she do it?) to portray Endesha Ida Mae Holland (along with the talented Valerie Lee and Nicole Parker) in the uplifting drama, FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA.

The ensemble piece is a treat for actors because they get to portray dozens of roles in one evening. FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA tells the story of a powerful woman’s rise from rape, poverty and degradation to triumph, working in the Civil Rights movement and going on to college, right up to and including a PhD. The delight for audiences comes from witnessing Parker’s extraordinary performance. Before our eyes she morphs into a lecherous old man, a stumbling drunk or a fresh faced teenager. Parker is the real McCoy.

Another feast, this one for the ears and the soul, comes from Frank Shefton‘s sound design for the play. The Delta spawned blues legends like Mississipi John Hurt, Memphis Slim, Slim Harpo and a certain Mr. Morgenfield who borrowed his name from the muddy river. Shefton dips into the rich waters for gorgeous songs to punctuate each scene. If you aren’t moved by Pop Staples’ “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” then you haven’t got a heart. Remaining performances are at The Boston Center for the Arts, this weekend through FEBRUARY 11. For more info phone 617- 933-8600.

The other highlights of the 7th annual African American Theatre Festival include the ODE to ASKIA TOUREfor one performance only on Saturday, February 10, at 2 pm , directed by Parker and Kortney Adams featuring dance artists Just-Us.

2007 African American Theatre Festival info


A RAISIN IN THE SUN SHINES IN JP
by Larry Stark
(pictured: Dosha Beard (“Mama”- Lena Younger) and Daria Johnson (Ruth Younger) in The Footlight Club’s “A RAISIN IN THE SUN”
Photographer – Jonathon Bonner)

287 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32It’s unusual for a play to make history twice. In 1959, the first drama written by a Black woman and the first with a Black director was produced in Broadway’s Ethel Barrymore Theatre. And on the 2nd of February, 2007 – The Footlight Club in Eliot Hall at 7A Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain, MA , in their 130th Community Theatre year, produced that same play, Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in The Sun,” with their first all-Black (well, all but one!) cast. The run, through February 17, for this beautifully nuanced show is much, much too short.

Mike Nichols has been quoted as saying “Theater is about where people stand; movies are about whose scene it is” yet for some time I have been fascinated by how quick-cuts and close-ups can be achieved on the stage. Director Heather Fry has seen to it here that every single member of Hansberry’s Younger Family has not a mere Moment but a Scene in which the character gets a chance to explain itself —from the Matriarch to the eleven-year-old Hope for the Future. Scene after scene, this play seems “about” every single one of them, while each holds center-stage.

The play begins with a morning alarm-clock, with each Younger introduced as they rise, bicker, fight the neighbors for the bathroom down the hall, and depart for the menial jobs in white people’s homes that keep them alive. As Mother Ruth’s feet grope for her bedside slippers, Daria Johnson plays her as heavy with eleven years in the same walk-up, raising a son while doing other people’s floors and ironing, living past a miscarriage, and watching her husband’s deferred dreams of independence dry and fester. But the hope of owning a house of their own brings to her face and body bright flashes of the young, eager bride she once was.

Father Walter has spent his life in “a good job” as a deferential, subservient chauffeur longing to be his own man, to be Somebody, to run a business and give orders. He is often boisterously, youthfully hopeful, but frustrated enough to join other gullible men (like Joseph Lanair Burston ‘s Bobo) and seek success even at the sacrifice of self-respect.

As his younger sister Beneatha, Karimah Saida Moreland is The Flighty One — a college girl flitting from one dream to another. She can marry rich African American George ( Eric Daley) whom she cannot love or Joseph (Emmett Ernest Bell- Sykes) who wants to take her off to his native Nigeria, but both men see her more as a beautiful body than a woman. She wants to be a doctor, play the guitar, ride a horse, and save the world — some day.

When his father asks young Travis what he hopes to be, he’s appalled at the boy’s answer: “A bus-driver”! Nahshon E. Rosenfeld plays him as a kid, sleep-soddened one moment, down the stairs with his baseball-bat in hand the next, respectful yet observant, and learning to be himself.

And then there’s Mama. Dosha Ellis Beard (who played Beneatha when a little younger) plays a matriarch cautiously waiting before all decisions, asking wide-ranging questions, and bringing years of experience to bear when others try to gallop off in all directions. She knows that ten thousand dollars of insurance money, from the death of her hard- working husband, can mean the salvation and regeneration of the entire family; how and what and why, however, are always her main concerns.

The one White face in the cast is Sam Botsford. He plays a blandly, red-neck lawyer, years older than his real age — a smiling-Satan, pretending good wishes with fire-bomb subtexts.

Director Heather Fry has linked all these distinct moments into an unbroken whole. Every note in Hansberry’s symphony is clearly sounded as these warring individuals work realistically together. This is a play in which a glance, or a pause, can speak volumes — and flashes of fun and humor are stitched through it like lightning-strokes in a boiling storm-cloud. From the morning alarm-clock to the final slamming a door, a warm, engrossing slice of insightful life.

But it’s not surprising that the oldest consistently producing theatre in America would do such a play,and do it so well. In multi-cultural Jamaica Plain, this courageous Community Theatre has been sensitive to changes, in theater, as well as in society. In 1996, I reviewed a play there called “Six Degrees of Separation” — a play set in a posh Fifth Ave. New York apartment that had only one Black face in the cast. This week The Footlight Club opened one set in a poor family’s Chicago walk-up with a nine-member cast with only one White face. And both done so well, awards are in the future. That’s an unbroken Footlight Club tradition.

The Footlight Club website


THE SWEET SOUNDS OF SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK
(pictured: Sweet Honey In the Rock)
282 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32If you didn’t know, now ya know, if you were at last Thursday’s Black Music Matters performance at Berklee College of Music. Da funk, jazz, spirituals, African chants, prayers and jubilation, they all matter – and they form the soundtrack to America.

The event celebrated the formation of the new Africana Studies/Music and Society curriculum at the school created by Dr. William Banfield. Its focus is on the history, culture, and meaning of Black music, highlighting the role musicians have had in transforming society and the modern world, including their influence on culture, historical developments, and social-political movements. The whole house welcomed Berklee’s long overdue epiphany that American music owes its debt and creativity to what W.E.B. DuBois termed “The Gift of Black Folks”.

Berklee president Roger H. Brown kicked things off by announcing that the school had rewritten its mission statement to clearly address the importance of the black experience in the musical canon. He noted three pivotal and universal songs that illustrate this—“Amazing Grace,” a hymn sung by countless African Americans as well as Cherokee tribes who made it their national anthem along the Trail of Tears; “Strange Fruit,” Billie Holiday‘s classic recording; and Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues”.

The FOI-garbed, afro sporting Dr. Cornel West hit the stage unleashing a symphony of songs, history, theology and political thought in rhythmic succession. It was hard to imagine that he got his butt kicked at Harvard for “Sketches of My Culture”, his rap/R&B CD in 2002.

Cornel spoke to the hip- hop generation about the cultural intent of Black music when he said of spirituals—”It’s the first American form of music. Listen to the art! They were singing about freedom, not just looking to live large in some vanilla suburb.” He explained music’s role in Blacks overcoming death (James Brown was pronounced dead when born but his aunt kept breathing love into him), slavery, violence and hate during 400 years of Blacks being terrorized in the U.S. At her son, Emmett’s funeral, Mamie Till said, “I don’t have a minute to hate. I’ll pursue justice for the rest of my life. Somebody sing a song!”

Sweet Honey in the Rock sat with their legs squat and open like African mothers preparing to work their instruments: voices, shekeres, tambourines, and hand drums. They began in Mali with “Danko” a prayer for a child then traveled west to the birth of shout songs, blues, gospel, R&B, protest songs, and hip-hop. They had the audience on its feet, chanting and clapping by night’s end.

The remaining Black Music Programming/Africana Studies Berklee events include “Black Women in Music Celebrated” on FEBRUARY 15, “Afro-Caribbean Cross Currents in Drum and Song” FEBRUARY 22, and “Great American Songbook: THE MUSIC OF STEVIE WONDER” on FEBRUARY 25, all at 8:15pm. Call 617-747-2261 for ticket information.

(by Soul Brown)

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In regards to The Black contributions to American music, don’t miss the documentary, “ELECTRIC PURGATORY: THE FATE OF THE BLACK ROCKERS” by RAYMOND GAYLE , presented by The Color of Film on Tuesday, FEBRUARY 27, 6:30pm at The Boston Public Library-Copley Square, in the Rabb Lecture Hall, free and open to the public.

ELECTRIC PURGATORY examines the struggles of Black rock musicians and the industry’s ambivalence towards them. Director Raymond Gayle spent the better part of a year traveling around the United States interviewing many of Black Rock’s elite including Fishbone, Vernon Reid, Adam Falcon, Jimi Hazel and Cody Chestnut. Distinguished journalists such as Flip Barnes, Darrell McNeil, Charlie Braxton, and Greg Tate, share their opinions and insight on the dilemma facing these artists. The film explores the origins of the Black Rock Coalition and its relevance in the music industry and takes a look at the stigma Black Rock musicians face in the Black community and more importantly, how to bring the Black audiences back into the fold. BLACK MUSIC PROGRAMMING/Africana Studies events


POITIER SHARES PAIN AND TRIUMPH
by Josiah Crowley © 2007
289 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32In 1967, Sidney Poitier was the star of that year’s three highest grossing movies: ‘TO SIR,WITH LOVE’, ‘IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT’ and ‘GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER’ – a feat never matched by anyother star. Shortly thereafter,THE NEW YORK TIMES published an article titled ‘WHY DO THE WHITE FOLKS LOVE SIDNEY POITIER SO?’

This article addressed what Poitier calls “more than a little dissatisfaction rising up against me in the Black community” for playing roles that were perceived to be “the noble Negro who fulfills White Liberal fantasies.” Poitier disagrees with this criticism; he claims he wasn’t playing negative stereotypes; rather, his characters were flawed people with human failings.

In THE MEASURE OF A MAN, A SPIRITUAL AUTOBIOGRAPHY (Harper’s, San Francisco) – Oprah Winfrey’s first Book Club pick since the James Frey scandal a year ago – Poitier addresses these and other criticisms. Unlike his previous book, A LIFE ( a more traditional day-to-day autobiography) MEASURE is a meditation of his values. It contains snapshot-like prose of his heroes Nelson Mandella, Gandhi and of himself, over the years, to demonstrate his belief system.

And the snapshots are vivid and unforgettable.

The poverty-stricken immigrant who arrived from The Bahamas, determined to find success as an actor, though he didn’t speak English; unable to afford housing, this young man slept in a subway bathroom rather than admit defeat and return home.

The hungry young kid who took a job as a janitor in an acting school in return for free acting lessons.

The actor, having achieved some success, buying his first home, in an upscale NYC suburb, where his wife & three children were surrounded mostly by doctors and lawyers; the only other Black people in the neighborhood were Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis.

Moving to Hollywood and becoming friends with some Black screen actors from an earlier era. Though he writes of sometimes being embarrassed by the roles these new friends – Hattie McDaniels, Paul Robeson, Butterfly McQueen – had played, he respects them: they did the best with what they were offered. And, he believes, these performers opened the door to his success; that there never would’ve been a Sidney Poitier on screen if there hadn’t been a Scatman Crothers. As he believes his success lead to the ‘Denzel Washingtons and Angela Bassetts’ of present day cinema.

Poitier does not shy away from painful self-assessment. He writes in detail the pain he caused his three oldest children and first wife when he filed for divorce. Indeed, one of his daughters broke off all communication with him for several years.

And his experiences in Hollywood, even after he became a star, were not without glaring reminders of inherent racism throughout all levels of American society. Like the two dinners he had with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. They “studied” him and plied Poitier with personal questions before agreeing to work with him. Poitier doubts they would’ve indulged in this behavior if they were considering working with Paul Newman or another White actor of his generation. Poitier came to think of Tracy and Hepburn as decent people, but also people of their time who “probably never knew any Black people except for the servants who worked in their homes or at the studios”.

From a homeless immigrant to the first Black performer to win the BEST ACTOR Oscar, Poitier’s character comes across loud and clear. His belief is: The measure of a man is how he provides for his children.

Forty years later, an article about him might more appropriately be titled ‘Why Do ALL the Folks Like Sidney Poitier So?’

Poitier’s filmography


AUGUST WILSON IN HALL OF FAME
by Caldwell Titcomb
(pictured: August Wilson)

290 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32Playwright AUGUST WILSON was posthumously inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame at a New York ceremony in the Gershwin Theatre on January 29, 2007.

He was one of eight inductees elected last fall by the nationwide American Theater Critics Association and living members of the Hall of Fame. The emcee for the occasion was actress Phylicia Rashad, who won a Tony award for her performance in Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean.”

Wilson wrote a half dozen plays in the 1970′s. But his crowning achievement was a cycle of ten plays depicting the Black experience, decade by decade through the twentieth century. All but one of the dramas took place in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, where Wilson grew up. The project occupied him from the early 1980′s, and he finished the last play just before succumbing to liver cancer at the age of 60 on October 2, 2005.

The playwright shepherded and polished each play through a series of productions at regional theaters. The first five plays premiered at the Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven. And the Huntington Theatre Company in Boston mounted eight of the ten.

On reaching New York, two of the plays – “Fences” (1987) and “The Piano Lesson” (1990) – won both the best-play Tony award and the Pulitzer Prize, with six of them also garnering the New York Drama Critics Award. The final installment, “Radio Golf,” is scheduled to have a Broadway opening this May.

Presenting Wilson’s medal was Jack Viertel, a producer with the Jujamcyn theater group, who recalled having coffee chats with the playwright at the Edison Café. He said that Wilson was self-schooled, “had his own rules and tools, and did things his own way.”

Accepting was Wilson’s widow, costume designer Constanza Romero, who mentioned that her husband’s older daughter was in the audience. She spoke of Wilson’s “love and dedication to his art – we are all richer for it.” She ended by rightly calling Wilson “a heavyweight.”

Holder of two dozen honorary degrees, the playwright was informed before his death that Broadway’s former Virginia Theatre would be renamed the August Wilson Theatre to honor one of the most colossal feats in American drama.

August Wilson official website


CLASSIC EDDIE MURPHY FALLS SHORT
by Mervan OsBourne
291 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32 In Eddie Murphy‘s latest “underdog” offering NORBIT , he plays several roles, most significantly that of Norbit Rice, a nerdy man-child. Norbit was raised in Mr. Wong’s Chinese restaurant, a colorful establishment that doubles as an orphanage in an unspecified South Western town. As a young child, Norbit’s only playmate was pretty little Kate, a fellow orphan with whom he did everything, including staging a cute kiddie wedding under the old oak tree. When Kate was adopted, poor Norbit was left friendless.

Norbit was teased and bullied mightily until he met Rasputia Speight, the morbidly obese ghetto-fabulous queen of all bullies who essentially forced him to become her boyfriend and eventual husband. Rasputia’s three muscle-bound and small-minded brothers operate a construction business where Norbit works. The brothers also run an extortion ring in town and they have hatched a plot to take over Mr. Wong’s orphanage and transform it into a strip club they plan to call Nipplopolis; Mr. Wong, however has refused to sell to the Speight brothers.

Norbit’s already grim circumstances worsen when he finds his wife in flagrante delicto with her bizarre jherri-curled personal trainer, Buster, leaving Norbit hurt and humiliated. At this point, a ray of potential sunshine arrives when Kate shows up and announces that she’s sold her successful fashion business, is moving back to town, and plans to buy and run Mr. Wong’s orphanage, allowing the old man who raised her to have a peaceful retirement. Norbit’s elation at Kate’s return is interrupted by the arrival of her fiancé Deion, an oily polygamist who’s out to rob her blind. Deion quickly falls in with the Speight boys and arranges to marry Kate within the week and surreptitiously get her signature on documents that would set the Nipplopolis plans in motion, unbeknownst to her. Will Norbit save the day, save the orphanage, slay the bad guys and get the girl?

While there are moments of comedy, even brilliance as we steamroll to the resolution of these questions, they are limited to Eddie Murphy’s nuanced genius- key word: ‘limited’. Norbit, the character is a wonderful creation- I felt the most pleasant echoes of Bowfinger in the shyness and the vulnerability in this character. Murphy’s ‘Mr. Wong’, the odious and racist old Chinese crone reminds the audience of many hilarious moments from past films, particularly “Coming to America.” Unfortunately, there concludes anything redeeming about this film.

The movie appears to have been shot in a week on the same backlot used in “Back to the Future.” The town and its people have absolutely no depth nor apparent ties to one another and when they are all gathered together for a bizarre street fair, it feels like a scene taken out of a day at Disneyworld. The ancillary characters are completely incongruous and many of them are derivative and, I imagine to many, offensive. There are blinged-up pimps, racist Chinamen, moronic Italian restaurant owners, and far too many perfectly pure children running about.

Norbit’s primary problem is its ‘money’ character, Rasputia. The hilarious sight gag that is the ‘fat suit’ that was first crafted for Robin Williams in “Mrs. Doubtfire” and has been subsequently been passed on to Murphy in his clever adaptation of “The Nutty Professor”, Martin Lawrence as “Big Mama”, Gwynneth Paltrow in “Shallow Hal” and now back to Murphy, should have run its course. As technology advances, FX crews are able to construct ever more lifelike prosthetics; Mrs. Doubtfire’s rolls and ripples were outdone in their realness by Sherwood Klump’s whose were outdone by Big Mama’s and so on. There seems, however to exist an inverse relationship between the level of technical achievement and the moral and social fortitude of these characters and I hope that audiences are catching on. Retire the fat suit.

Rasputia is an evil character devoid of morals, nuance and sympathetic virtue. Seemingly a full third of the film involves slow-motion close-ups of her gigantic breasts and fat rolls as she terrorizes Norbit and the town at large- a one-note sight gag: the fat evil giant of our nightmares! Not only is she abusive, greedy and violent, she is also an adulterer, a blackmailer, a liar, and passes gas in public. While audiences need someone to root against, the millions of children who will obviously see this film don’t need any more of these increasingly hateful depictions of overweight people – I mean, Rasputia was an abusive ogre as a child in this film and the only thing that distinguished her from the other kids was her size. There is also far too much gratuitous sexuality and unnecessary vulgarity in this film for it to have escaped an ‘R’ rating.

After watching him do so well in “Dreamgirls”, I had hoped to see Murphy move towards more interesting and challenging roles and more complex scripts. Maybe this one was an outstanding debt or a favor to the director. Skip this film. More importantly, make sure the kids skip it.

Norbit Official Website


BOSTON FILM CRITIC SHARES OLD MOVIES WITH KIDS
292 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32 Boston Globe Film Critic TY BURR presents: THE BEST OLD MOVIES FOR FAMILIES Sunday, FEBRUARY 18 at 10:30am for $3 with a discussion to follow at 12:30pm for free.

Have a classic film favorite that you want to introduce to your kids? Join Ty Burr, for a screening of THE COURT JESTER and a discussion of his new book, The Best of Old Movies for Families: A Guide to Watching Together. Ty will share with you why some classic movies are great for even the youngest member of your family!

THE COURT JESTER (1956) stars Danny Kaye and Angela Lansbury. The throne of rightful king of England has been usurped by the evil King Roderick. The task to restore the throne falls to Hawkins (Kaye)–and all he needs is the king’s key to a secret tunnel. 10:30AM

Ty Burr has been the film critic for The Boston Globe, since July 2002. For ten years prior to that, he worked for Entertainment Weekly as the magazine’s chief video critic. He began his career at HBO in the 1980s, serving as an in-house “film evaluator.” Burr studied film at Dartmouth and New York University.

THE COOLIDGE CORNER THEATRE is located at 290 Harvard Street, Brookline. Coolidge Corner Theater


UP-COMING EVENTS
283 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #32 Wheelock Family theatre, presents Beauty and the Beast starring Angela Williams (pictured to the left) as Belle, until MARCH 4. Tickets are $23, $19, $15 with group rates and performances during February school vacation week. For info call The Wheelock Family Theatre Box Office at 617-879-2300. Wheelock Family Theatre is located at 200 The Riverway. Discounted parking is available at 375 Longwood Avenue.

Celebrate Black History Month at the Museum of Afro-American Artists Saturday February 10, 10am-noon You are in for a treat! Explore Boston’s only museum dedicated to contemporary and historical expressive arts from the global Black world with E. Barry Gaither, the Executive Director and internationally known art expert. Cost: $25 Meet at the Museum, 300 Walnut Ave, Roxbury at 10am or meet the shuttle at Back Bay Station at 9:30am. Optional lunch after the program at United House of Prayer–great soul food. Lunch not included in the cost. Shuttle will return participants to Back Bay after the program and after lunch. Pre-registration required. Click here to pre-register.

You are invited to: Al- Hajj Malik Al- Shabbazz: A TRIBUTE TO MALCOLM X at Roxbury Community College’s Student Activity Center, Saturday, FEBRUARY 10, noon- 6pm. Program Includes speeches by Sulayman Nyang of Howard University, Imam Saafir Rabb of Managing Opportunities, Inc., plus guest panelists and spoken word performances by Michael Bonds, VCR and Jamal Crawford. For more info, contact Jessica Masse at 617-876-8070.

The historic Twelfth Baptist Church presents The New England Spiritual Ensemble “RECLAIMING OUR HISTORY THROUGH MUSIC” Sunday, FEBRUARY 11, 2007, 4PM 160 Warren Street, Roxbury, MA., Arthur T. Gerald, Jr. Interim Pastor, Michael E. Haynes, Pastor Emeritus Tickets are $10 and $5 for children under 12. For more information call 617-442-7855.

Harvard Book Store announces its first-ever “I ♥ HARVARD BOOK STORE” essay contest as part of Harvard Book Store’s year-long 75th Anniversary celebration. Participants with tales of love lost or found in Harvard Book Store—or any bookstore—are encouraged to submit short stories of 350 words or less online at www.harvard.com. The best story wins a $50 gift certificate! Winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day – February 14. For information call Caitlin Boyle at 617-661-1424.

A lecture, “LIFE HISTORIES OF AFRICAN ART: Does an Object Have a Life? presented by Susan Vogel (documentary filmmaker, professor of African Art and Architecture at Columbia University, and founding director of the Museum for African Art) will be hosted at The Boston Museum of Art , Thursday, FEBRUARY 15 at 7 pm. Examine the ways African art objects have been interpreted, loved, hated, altered, and finally appropriated and idolized in the west. Admission is $10 for members and $13 for the general public.

The MFA Film Program is pleased to present their annual African Film Festival, February 16-24. This year features two films and a program of shorts from the African Film Festival NY Traveling Series: the tender A Child’s Love Story and Dumisani Phakathi’s South African family documentary Don’t F*** with Me I Have 51 Brothers and Sisters. Actor Danny Glover will be present for opening night film Bamako on February 16. Danny Glover produces and appears in Abderrahmane Sissako’s latest film, and indictment of globalism. Other highlights include U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a South African version of Bizet’s Carmen. Countries from across the African continent are represented including: Mali, Senegal, South Africa, and Chad. Tickets are $8 for MFA members, seniors, and students; $9 for general admission. Call the Box Office at 617-369-3306 for ticket info.

In Celebration of Black History Month, The Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts & Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society New England Chapter invite you to the FREE workshop: UNRAVELING YOUR ROOTS on FEBRUARY 20, 6-9pm at Urban League, 88 Warren Street, parking in the rear. Come learn techniques for researching your ancestors! Please RSVP at 617-442-4519.

If you missed it at the Roxbury Film Festival, be sure to see “HIP HOP: BEYOND BEATS & RHYMES” a documentary by Byron Hurt which debuts nationally February 20, on PBS – Independent Lens, and airs in Greater Boston on WGBH Channel 44 on FEBRUARY 18, 9pm; February 21, 3am and February 25, 4am. Check local listings and visit Hurt’s website here.

Actors and theater job seekers: Saturday, FEBRUARY 24, 11am-noon, StageSource presents the FREE panel discussion: GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR at The 7th Annual Regional Entertainment Production and Administrative (REPA) Job Expo, 88 Tremont Street, 7th floor. This Q&A will present freelance theater designers, producers and production managers giving advise on what producers are looking for, networking, portfolio presentation and interviewing tactics. Followed by the REPA Job Expo 11am – 3pm. For info call 617-720-6066.

Larry Roland and Adrienne Hawkins of BASS-LINE MOTION present: “THE PATH” a choreopoem in telling the African Americans’ story on Saturday, MARCH 3, 8pm at Roxbury Community College’s Media Arts Center. $20 admission. Dancers include: Ricardo Foster, Anita Havel, Jeffrey Louiza, Lisa Pari, Jeffrey Polston, Leslie Salmon-Jones and Adrienne Hawkins. Musicians: Larry Roland (bass), Akili Haynes (percussion) Kenny Peagler (piano), Waldron Ricks (trumpet) with Jon Roland and other guest vocalists. For ticket info call 617-469-8787.

An America Journey presented by “Revels Touring Ensemble” on MARCH 3 at 2pm at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, successive waves of immigrants came through Ellis Island to Boston. This moving musical theatre production imagines a voyage when Irish, Italians and Eastern European Jews meet and share their stories, songs and dances. After WWII, many of the Irish came to Roxbury which had five dance halls in Dudley Square including Hibernian Hall. Learn about an important and colorful part of Roxbury’s hisory. For adults and children ages 5 and up. For more info call 617-541-3900.

ESSENCE MAGAZINE AND BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC ANNOUNCE THEIR SECOND NATIONAL HIP-HOP SONGWRITING CONTEST for teens, 15-18 yrs. old. deadline is March 9 and three winners will attend a high school music program at Berklee this summer. For complete contest rules click here.

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About The Color of Film

The Color of Film Collaborative is a non-profit organization that supports and fosters the individuals and organizations in the creation of diverse images of people of color in film, video, theater and other media, by providing artists with opportunities to exhibit, distribute and find funding for their work, as well as provide a supportive environment where they can share and develop their ideas, their vision and their work with their peers. About Us

Roxbury International Film Festival

Join us July 29th - August 1st, 2010 for the 12th Annual Roxbury Film Festival. Incredible movies will be playing and other events will be happening and more. Find out more

Dinner & A Movie (DAAM)


In collaboration with The Haley House Bakery Café, the Color of Film Collaborative presents our ongoing film series, featuring independent cinema and delicious food. Read more...

The Roxbury International Film Festival



Now going into its 12th year, the Roxbury International Film Festival is proudly presented by The Color of Film Collaborative to promote productions of color. Find out more here...

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