Monday, March 31, 2014

Sierra Boggess: The New Queen of Broadway

Sierra Boggess is an amazing talent who is taking Broadway by storm. Her Broadway credits include playing Ariel in "The Little Mermaid", Christine in "Phantom of the Opera" and Fantine in "Les Miserables". She has also appeared in "Master Class" and the Phantom sequel, "Love Never Dies". She has received high acclaim for her portrayal in Phantom, following in the footsteps of actresses who have played the role in the past such as Sarah Brightman and Emmy Rossum. Andrew Lloyd Webber himself called her the best Christine. Check out her rendition of "Think of Me" from Phantom here. She has an angelic voice with a lyrical purity that is seldom found today. Her voice has a strength behind it, yet she can sound delicate at the same time. This is how the voice should be used as an instrument. She was perfectly cast to play Ariel in "The Little Mermaid" since the tone of her voice is perfect for a Disney production. Sierra is engaged to her former co-star from "Love Never Dies".

Starting May 12, Boggess will star in "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway in the Majestic Theatre with Norm Lewis. This will be a landmark moment since Lewis will be the first African-American to play the Phantom in the Broadway production. Find out more here. Fans of musical theatre can expect a bright future ahead for the incredibly talented Sierra Boggess.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Wynton Marsalis Joins the Cast of "60 Minutes"

The CBS news magazine show "60 Minutes" has covered important news stories, dating back to its inception in 1968. TV Guide ranked it as the 6th best TV program in history. The list of correspondents reads like a who's who of broadcast journalism legends; Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner, Andy Rooney, Ed Bradley, Walter Cronkite and more. In addition to their hard news stories, the program has also profiled giants from the world of entertainment.

This Sunday, tune in for the inaugural story by their new culture correspondent, jazz trumpet virtuoso Wynton Marsalis. He profiles jazz pianist Marcus Roberts. Overcoming the obstacle of going blind at age 5, Roberts studied music at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. He now is a jazz professor at Florida State University. Roberts, like Marsalis, has become an authority on the history of jazz. The pair travel back to Roberts' former school to perform for the students. Roberts has an inspirational message to the students. Watch an excerpt here. Marsalis should be a good addition to the show. He has been a tireless cheerleader for the genre of jazz. Growing up in New Orleans, Marsalis is part of a highly musical family, and since the 1980s he has impressed audiences around the world with his performances. He has been a contributor for "CBS Sunday Morning" and PBS jazz specials.

Some information from

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top Grossing Films for US Box Office

Which director is behind the most successful film of all time in US box office numbers? George Lucas? Steven Spielberg? Martin Scorsese? Peter Jackson? Jerry Bruckheimer? None of the above. Actually, one director holds the #1 and #2 spots for the most successful films, together grossing $1.4 billion! Here is the list, from, as of 3/24/14.

1. Avatar 2009 $760.5 million
2. Titanic 1997 $658.6 million
3. The Avengers 2012 $623.2 million
4. The Dark Knight 2008 $533.3 million
5. Star Wars Episode I 1999 $474.5 million
6. Star Wars 1977 $460.9 million
7. The Dark Knight Rises 2012 $448.1 million
8. Shrek 2 2004 $436.4 million
9. E.T. 1982 $434.9 million
10. The Hunger Games 2013 $424.5 million

With the top 2 films, James Cameron has a significant amount of power in the film industry. Avatar made full use of 3D technology which was new at the time, and Titanic attracted males, females and people of all ages. Cameron found that his films attracted audiences that saw the movies multiple times.

This list looks at American box office numbers only. Adding in worldwide box office, many of these films are grossing around $1 billion. Action/adventure and fantasy films are popular overseas, so those usually have the highest worldwide gross. American humor does not usually translate well overseas, so those films that do well in America, may have low box office numbers abroad.

Steven Spielberg's films have been amazingly successful, with many finishing high on the list. E.T. is #9, Jurassic Park is #17, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is #36, Jaws is #72, Raiders of the Lost Ark is #87.

The list is dominated by many mega film franchises such as Star Wars, Batman, Iron Man, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lord of the Rings, Spiderman and many animated movies from Pixar.

View the full list here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Remembering a Game Show Classic: "Match Game"

There's a good show about the game show "Match Game" that was uploaded to You Tube. It's called "The Real Match Game Story, Behind the Blank". This popular show aired from 1973-1982. A key to its success was the host, Gene Rayburn (1917-1999). He had worked in the early days of television as an announcer for Steve Allen's Tonight Show in the 1950s. Known as a game show host, he also acted in Broadway shows and appeared on TV shows such as "Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island".

There was a version of "Match Game" hosted by Rayburn in the 1960s, but the 1970s version was more successful and well known. The version from the 1960s featured appearances by Rod Serling, Florence Henderson and Betty White. "Match Game" had a group of 6 celebrities and 2 contestants. The contestants needed to match the answer given by the celebrities. Some of the celebrities became popular recurring characters on the show, known for their wit and charisma. Between 1973 and 1982, Rayburn hosted 225 episodes. Popular celebrities on the show included Brett Somers (102 episodes), Charles Nelson Reilly (66 episodes) and Richard Dawson (93 episodes). Dawson had gained notoriety for starring in the sitcom about WWII prisoners of war, "Hogan's Heroes". As time rolled on he got tired of doing the "Match Game" and left for greener pastures. He hosted his own game show with much success, "Family Feud". The show on You Tube says that Dawson was popular with contestants, but his fellow celebrities on "Match Game" felt just the opposite. The show on You Tube is interesting since it talks about the ups and down of the show in the ratings, the fights with the network over content, and the behind-the-scenes trivia. Many attribute the success of the show to its funny questions, written largely by Mad Magazine writer Dick DeBartolo.

Later versions of the show were tried but they did not have the success of Rayburn's show. Gene Rayburn had a hard time adjusting to life after the show left the air since it was a big part of his life. For anyone who is a fan of game shows or TV history, check out the show here.

Some information from

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Roth Show

If you're a fan of David Lee Roth and/or Van Halen, check out his You Tube program, The Roth Show. Most shows are 30 -45 minutes and they feature "Diamond Dave" talking about whatever is on his mind. He discusses his formative years growing up in New York and California. He discusses his brief radio career as the replacement for Howard Stern. He talks about Japan, where he has spent a lot of time, and how it differs from the United States. He talks about the making of various Van Halen songs and videos. Dave loves to talk (about himself especially) so this show is not for everyone, but no doubt he has lived an interesting life. He is very proud of his uncle Manny who owns a New York City haven for entertainers, Cafe Wha? When Van Halen released their most recent album a couple years ago, the guys performed in the venue which was popular in the 1960's with beatnik poets, comedians and musicians. Bob Dylan and Neil Diamond performed there early in their careers. Check out the show here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Alan Thicke Returns to Television

Remember the sitcom "Growing Pains" (1985-1992)? The show featured Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold, Joanna Kerns and even some appearances by Leonardo DiCaprio. The dad was a psychiatrist who worked from home named Jason Seaver. The patriarch of the show was played by Canadian actor Alan Thicke. On April 16, he is returning to television in a reality show for TV Guide network called "Unusually Thicke". Back in 1983-1984, he had his own late night syndicated talk show called "Thicke of the Night". Find out more about that show here. Alan's son Robin will most likely turn up on the reality show. Last year Robin Thicke's hit song "Blurred Lines" took the country by storm. "Unusually Thicke" will have appearances by Alan's celebrity friends such as David Hasselhoff, John Stamos, Bill Maher and Bob Saget.

Information from and

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Movie Review: "Say Anything..." (1989)

Writer/director Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything..." was released 25 years ago. A generation later, it's romantic themes still resonate today. This was Crowe's directorial debut, having written "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "The Wild Life" previously. He would go on to write and direct "Singles", "Jerry Maguire" and the autobiographical "Almost Famous". This film is often grouped in with all the other teen comedies of the 1980's, but it is much more than just a high school film about puppy love. Actually, the movie does not contain any scenes in a high school. This is a film about love, relationships, betrayal and heartbreak.

Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) has recently graduated from a Seattle high school. His plans for the future are unknown. His passion is kickboxing, which he calls "the sport of the future". He knows that one thing he wants to do is have a date with Diane Court (Ione Skye). Diane is the valedictorian, who has been awarded a prestigious college fellowship to study in England. He has a scene with two of his female friends, Corey (Lili Taylor) and D.C. (Amy Brooks). They tell Lloyd that he is wasting his time since Diane is "a brain, trapped in the body of a game show hostess." The thing that is likeable about Lloyd Dobler is his unwavering optimism. A friend at a party asked how he got a date with Diane. His response? "I asked her out". Lloyd lives in the moment. He is not troubled by anxieties about future plans. This is endearing to many, but those qualities make him seem like a slacker in the eyes of Jim Court (John Mahoney), Diane's father, who only wants the best for his daughter.

What does Diane see in Lloyd? The answer is quite simple. He makes her laugh, he's a gentleman and she likes spending time with him. On their first date, she was impressed when he steered her around walking through some broken glass in a convenience store parking lot. They go to a party together. He does not smother her, demanding her attention at all times, but yet he checks up on her now and then. She feels safe with him.

Like any Cameron Crowe film, music plays a key part in the movie. Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" is played when Diane and Lloyd first make love in the back of a car. Later it is played on his boombox as he holds it over his head outside her window.

Diane is close with her father. Her parents are divorced and she does not see her mother very much. He father pushes her to succeed. He was over the moon when she was awarded a fellowship to study in England. They have a relationship where they can say anything to one another. He buys her nice gifts, like a car as a graduation gift. It is revealed that Jim Court is under investigation by the I.R.S. for mishandling of funds at the nursing home that he manages. Diane is shattered at the thought of her father as a criminal who stole from the elderly. He justifies it as helping him to provide a good life for her. The #1 man in Diane's life shifts from her father to Lloyd. Under pressure from her dad, she breaks up with Lloyd and later regrets it. She visits him at his kickboxing gym and tells him "If I hurt you again, I'll die. I love you."

This film was praised by critics, especially the influential Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert who gave it two thumbs up. Ebert gave it 4 stars, his highest rating, calling it one of the best films of the year. He described it as "a miracle." This movie has a simple story but the superb acting and chemistry of the cast make it special. Along with "Almost Famous" this is Cameron Crowe's best work. Those in Generation X have a special place in their hearts for this film along with the teen comedies by John Hughes.


Lloyd Dobler.....John Cusack
Diane Court.....Ione Skye
James Court.....John Mahoney
Constance Dobler.....Joan Cusack (uncredited)
Corey.....Lili Taylor
D.C......Amy Brooks
Mark.....Jeremy Piven
Mrs. Evans.....Bebe Neuwirth
Vahlere.....Eric Stoltz


Ione Skye, who played Diane, is known for other films such as "Wayne's World" and "River's Edge." She appeared in TV shows such as "Arrested Development" and "Private Practice." She has dated Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who provided a song for the soundtrack. She was married to Adam Horovitz, known as "Ad Rock" from Beastie Boys. She is currently married to musician Ben Lee. She was born in London in 1970. She is a graduate of Hollywood High School.

Lloyd's friend D.C. (Amy Brooks) is the daughter of the film's executive producer, James L. Brooks.

Jeremy Piven played one of the guys that hangs out at the Gas'N Sip convenience store. Lloyd went to talk to them about girls after Diane broke up with him.

Two actors with connections to Kelsey Grammer's character of Frasier Crane were in the film. They included John Mahoney who played Frasier's dad, and Bebe Neuwirth, who played Frasier's wife Lilith.

John Cusack's real life sister, Joan Cusack, played his sister in the film. But, her role was uncredited.

The guy fighting Lloyd Dobler in the ring was Don "The Dragon" Wilson, an acclaimed kickboxer himself.

Jim Court was so overjoyed when Diane won the fellowship to England, he sang a Steely Dan song in the car ("Rikki Don't Lose That Number").

Actor Eric Stoltz had a small role in the film, and was also a production assistant on set.

The cost for using Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" was about $250,000 in 1989.

Instead of John Cusack, the role of Lloyd Dobler could have ended up being portrayed by Christian Slater, Robert Downey Jr. or Kirk Cameron.

Instead of Ione Skye, the role of Diane Court could have gone to Jennifer Connelly or Elisabeth Shue.

The gym used in this film was the same one used in "The Karate Kid."

Some information from and the book "You Couldn't Ignore Me if You Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes and Their Impact on a Generation" by Susannah Gora, 2010 by Crown Publishers, New York.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Showbiz Trivia: Fast Times at Ridgemont High

As a 15-year-old kid in 1973, Cameron Crowe had an article he wrote about the band Poco published in Rolling Stone magazine. He later interviewed and toured with rock icons such as Led Zeppelin, Peter Frampton, Neil Young and The Eagles.

The 1982 film Fast Times at Ridgemont High was based on a book by Cameron Crowe. At age 22, Crowe spent two semesters undercover as a student at a San Diego high school to research the topic of life as a teenager. His book was adapted into a screenplay. While working on music for the film, Crowe met his wife, Nancy Wilson from the group Heart. Crowe's three passions are music, writing, and film. He knew that the movie needed to have music as a key player to set the mood for the different scenes. The soundtrack included songs by Jackson Browne, The Cars, The Go-Go's, Billy Squier, Sammy Hagar and more. The film had a young cast that included Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage (credited as Nicolas Coppola), Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates, Judge Reinhold and more. Sean Penn, as surfer dude Jeff Spicoli, followed the method acting technique of remaining in character for every minute of the shoot. He insisted on being called Spicoli at all times. The film was mostly shot at an upscale mall in Sherman Oaks, California.

Robert Romanus, who played Mike Damone in the film, talked about how Fast Times holds up over time, unlike some other 1980s movies. He said it was a slice-of-life, showing what it was like in the late 1970s/early 1980s for teens in California. He compared it to American Graffiti, since both films give the viewer a look at life as a teenager.

Information from the book "You Couldn't Ignore Me if you Tried: The Brat Pack, John Hughes, and their Impact on a Generation" by Susannah Gora, published by Crown Publishers, New York, 2010.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

ABC Hits all the Right Notes with Nashville

ABC's prime time drama Nashville is now in its second season. Fans of country music especially should check this out. Lots of great music and good story lines make it an entertaining show. It stars Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) as the veteran country superstar Rayna James. Hayden Panittiere, best known for her role in NBC's Heroes, plays Juliette Barnes, the young rival of Rayna James. Rayna finds she needs to ally with Juliette to revive her fading career. Other prominent characters are Clare Bowen as Scarlett O'Connor, Eric Close as Teddy Conrad and Charles Esten as Deacon Clayborne. The show is really shot in Nashville, Music City USA. It gives the viewer a look at what it is like to try and make it in the country music industry. There is plenty of backstabbing, drama, alcohol/drug abuse, political wheeling-and-dealing, and fine music too. ABC has followed the cue of the Fox program Glee, in that they make their original music from the show available for purchase. It only makes sense to have a second revenue stream. Social media is a part of their promotion strategy, and the #Nashville hashtag can be seen in the lower left corner of the screen throughout the episodes.

Watch full episodes and clips from the show here.

Preview and purchase music from the show here.

Information from imdb.