*Historically, African American men haven’t had a chance to control their own narratives. A story like music legend BeBe Winans’, which has taken him from a working-class home in Detroit to the top of the world’s music charts, could have easily wound up as a subpar cable movie.
In typical fashion, the six-time Grammy-winning songwriter and artist decided to pen his life story himself, and the result is the breathtaking Born For This: The BeBe Winans Story, co-written and directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. The show is playing at the Arena Stage in Washington DC through August 28.
Any presentation of Winans’ life would be incomplete without music, as he’s one of nine siblings in a gospel music dynasty that has influenced generations of musicians. But Born For This is much more than a musical: it’s a riveting account of a man who decided early on to take the proverbial high road.
“I’ve always understood that with everything I faced — including racism and bigotry — there is a choice,” Winans reflected by phone. “I chose laughter instead of anger. I chose love instead of hate. I chose to understand instead of misunderstand.”
“People who have come to see Born For This have left with inspiration to reach for those dreams again,” Winans continued. “They’ve told me that the show reminded them that they have a purpose, that it’s not over, no matter what age or what’s happened in life.” Continue reading →
*If you are looking for a heartfelt, scintillating, well-written celebrity memoir, you can find it in Bobby Brown‘s new Every Little Step. In fact, the book is so well-written that after reading just one chapter, I initially questioned whether Brown had actually written it.
Then, it occurred to me that I had never had a conversation with Brown, and that I may have been judging him based on very little direct data. Brown deserved a chance to speak for himself, I realized, so I decided to give the book a shot. And while I was unable to connect with Brown, I did chat with his co-writer, Nick Chiles, who confirmed that, perhaps, many of us have judged Brown too harshly.
“In the African American community, we need to be careful how we conceptualize our opinions of these so called ‘controversial’ black male figures,” Chiles told me by phone. “Often, our opinions are derived by the way white mainstream media covers them and these are people who may make the white mainstream media uncomfortable. Because they’re uncomfortable, the artists are covered in a way that makes us uncomfortable.”
“Bobby Brown was presented to the world as this overtly hyper sexual figure,” Chiles continued. “In the 1980s, the white media was not going to be comfortable with this person presented as a sex symbol to young girls, many of whom were young white girls. So the way he was covered was reflective of the media’s discomfort with his image. We need to search our own souls and memories and think about where we got our negative views from, and if they were from tabloid media reports, we need to think about what the point of those reports was.” Continue reading →
*What does a woman do when she gets a last-minute call to sub for a recovering Chaka Khan at the California State Fair?
If you’re the legendary Jody Watley, you do what legends do: you take the stage and shut it down…in a black catsuit, no less!
Watley started with a declaration wrapped in one of the original Shalamar’s earliest hits: “I Can Make You Feel Good.” She and her new bandmates Nate Allen Smith and Rosero McCoy, who formed Shalamar Reloaded last year, more than kept that promise with a first set that included a few other late 70s anthems including “In The Socket,” “Take That To The Bank,” and the group’s first smash, “The Second Time Around.”
Watley paused for a moment to offer a “prayer for healing” for Khan, who had to cancel her scheduled performance at the fair as she battles substance addiction. Afterward, Watley and Shalamar Reloaded eased into a subdued, sultry version of the classic “Full Of Fire” before treating the crowd to two original tunes, “Slow Dance” and “O.R.I.G.In.A.L.,” both of which hold up to anything that Watley or any incarnation of Shalamar has ever done. Continue reading →
*I still remember being scared out of my mind when I saw Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic Jaws for the first time, at the theater. We had seen nothing like it on screen. It became the first Hollywood summer blockbuster, eventually earning over $470 million at the box office.
With the advent of today’s CGI, I’ve often wondered what an update to that masterpiece might look like. Now we know.
The Shallows is a very well acted, visually stunning movie that pits man against sea beast once more. Blake Lively stars as a buxom blonde who quickly finds herself face-to-snout with about 20 feet of fish. In some ways, her plight is more nail-biting than the one depicted in Jaws, as instead of being out on the open sea, Lively’s character is just yards away from the shore, literally between a rock and a safe place. Continue reading →
*If you’re not a sci fi super-nerd, skip this story! For the rest of us…read on!
Fans of CBS’ former Supergirl series just got their second summer gift. The first was the series being picked up by the CW. The show enjoyed a strong debut last fall, but suffered declining weekly audiences throughout its initial run. Many fans were left wondering whether the Girl of Steel would fly again next season.
(I could have wept when I first saw that image, prominent in Supergirl’s intro each week. Don’t judge.)
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome Clark Kent and his slightly-more-famous alter ego to the world of Supergirl,” said executive producer Andrew Kreisberg. “We cannot wait to see who next dons the red cape!” Continue reading →
*Well this is something that no doubt made an old man feel good. During his concert in Buenes Aires, Argentina, legendary Paul McCartney managed to invite a young girl up onstage, thinking she wanted him to sign her doll.
But baby-girl had news for the 73-year-old former Beatle. When he asked her what she wanted, amidst the crowd of screaming fans, she said, “I want to play bass with you.”
“This could be interesting,” McCartney, clearly surprised, said. But lo and behold, a white bass guitar, nearly the size of the youngster, was quickly brought out for her as the two went on to jam to the Beatles’ classic, “Get Back.”
*On Friday, May 13, Corky Hale presents I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU – The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin, at the Montalban Theatre in Hollywood. This new musical features lyrics by Al Dubin, music mostly by Harry Warren, book by Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, and musical direction by Gerald Sternbach. The production is directed and choreographed by Kay Cole.
The Golden Age of Hollywood returns to the stage in the all-singing, all-dancing story of legendary 1930s lyricist Al Dubin, who along with composer Harry Warren and visionary film director Busby Berkeley and took movie musicals to new heights during the darkest days of the Great Depression.
Elijah Rock, a great fan of what he calls, The Great American Songbook, gets to perform the music of one of his music legends, Cab Calloway, in a featured segment of the production.
He spoke with EURThisNthat editor, DeBorah B. Pryor, about the experience.
“I have an interesting relationship to Cab Calloway. I have always included him in my act. In my musical performances with my band…I’ve had different size bands and orchestras and I always incorporated ‘Minnie the Moocher’ in my set. I actually did a recording of Minnie the Moocher with one of my previous bands and it became one of my signature songs when I would do a show.”
Rock says a friend of his called him to let him know about the show. “The next day I get a call from Michael Donovan, who casts a lot of the big shows in town, and he says ‘They want to see you for Cab.’”
At the audition, Rock says he didn’t sing his signature Cab Calloway song. Instead he sang other great tunes from the legend. “And of course, they booked me right away!” he says, rather nonchalantly on our telephone interview. Continue reading →