Big, expensive, all-star Biblical epics were all the rage back in the late 50s and early 60s, most likely due to the fact that Cinemascope was the new thing in movies to bring couch potatoes, who had become fixated on their newfangled television sets, back to the theaters. The first widescreen epic was, in fact, a Biblical movie, The Robe (1953), and the fad had reached a climax with Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956).
Any actor will tell you that playing a role is not simply memorizing lines from a script and following the play’s director. One needs to do research and delve into the character’s qualities and persona and for a couple of hours lose one’s own identity and virtually become that character.
In A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas now playing at the Olney Theatre Center’s Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, multiple Helen Hayes Award nominee and Olney stage veteran Paul Morella does exactly that. Except there is a major difference: he not only acts out a singular character, he plays over two dozen characters in this heartwarming, imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic novella A Christmas Carol.
One of Robin Williams’ last films before his untimely 2014 passing (let’s hope it’s better than The Angriest Man in Brooklyn), A Merry Friggin’ Christmas might be saved by the possibility of a shirtless Joel McHale. A Merry Friggin’ Christmas: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Lakeshore) has a few things going for it. It opens and closes with a pair of songs performed by Rufus Wainwright – “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and the original “Christmas is for Kids.” The Belle Brigade, featuring out singer Barbara Gruska, performs the original “Going Home for Christmas.” Nice Jewish boy Ben Kweller rocks the house with his rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus” and draws on his Texas roots in the original “Try to Love (Joy to the World).” Other holiday highlights include “The Weather Outside” by Spence Shapeero, “Best Time of the Year” by Alex Rhodes and “More Than I Wished For” by FM Radio.
To me the sign of a great read is the ability to be absorbed in the story while also letting your imagination soar. Gregg Shapiro’s, Lincoln Avenue: Chicago Stories (Squares and Rebels) does exactly this as he genuinely opens his life up with a seasoned, honest perspective.
Lincoln Avenue is a collection of stories that introduces you to growing up in Chicago in the 1970s and 80s. Through his witty and descriptive storytelling it is easy to connect with the lives of Shapiro and his friends as he tells of coming of age as a gay man. The combination of stories is a mix of funny life experiences combined with relatable real-life issues told with a sincere frankness. His group of friends is a cast of characters that reminded me of people I know and could hang out with. They are supportive, loyal, encouraging, and are also each other’s twisted comedic relief when needed.
National Coming Out Day is in October, but two country music artists waited until late November to share their good news. Ty Herndon was the first one out of the gate on November 20, followed shortly thereafter on the same day by Billy Gilman. Gilman, like fellow country diva LeAnn Rimes, got his big break when he was just a kid. Possessing a powerful voice and impressive vocal range, Gilman released his major-label debut album One Voice in 2000, at the age of 11. In addition to the titular hit, the album featured a shockingly spot-on reading of Tammy Wynette’s “’Til I Can Make It on My Own.” That cover, sung with amazing authority, might qualify as an early clue that Gilman would someday come out as gay. Seriously, listen to the song. Gilman, who continued to release albums through the early part of the 21st century, is in the process of mounting a comeback. I spoke with Billy about coming out and his career in late November 2014.
REACHING OUT TO THE GAY AND LESBIAN COMMUNITY?
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