The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
My friends and family are used to me chaffing at icons of my youth being declared “classic.” Even at 44, it still doesn’t feel like movies I saw in theaters when they opened or albums I bought on vinyl with my paper route money should be in the same category as black-and-white Jimmy Stewart movies or Beatles records I thought of as classic when I was a teen.
But a couple decades have passed since the 1980s, and I have to start acknowledging and maybe even appreciating that some of the things I enjoyed as new in my youth are now taking their rightful places among the icons.
I worked an editing shift Sunday night, so I was not able to take in the spectacle that is our annual Halloween-season Thriller parade in Downtown Lexington. But I did buzz by CentrePointe on a dinner run to hear the moments from the video when Michael Jackson transforms from an unlikely movie date into a monster and see a young dancer acting it out on stage.
It took me back to the night in 1983 when I went over to my best friend’s house to watch the premier of the video on MTV — we did not have cable, but Lee’s parents did. We had heard about this bizarre new video Michael Jackson was releasing — a 15-minute mini-movie for a five minute song. What? How do you do that? Play the song really slow?
Jackson did it by pulling together the kind of forces only a reigning King of Pop can including writer and director John Landis, whose 1981 hit movie An American Wearwolf in London heavily influenced the Thriller video. Jackson gave it more cinematic heft with incidental music by movie maestro Elmer Bernstein, makeup by horror master Rick Baker and, of course, that voiceover by Vincent Price. And Jackson surrounded his infectious hit with a fun little story about a girl, played by Ola Ray, dreaming she went to a horror movie with what turned out to be a monster.
Or was it a dream?
It was an instant classic, a video that redefined the then-very young genre of videos.
So yes, call this icon of my youth a classic. It isn’t one because I’m old. It earned the designation.
Eastern Kentucky University’s Giles Gallery will be opening an exhibit of portraits and Polaroids by 20th Century art icon Andy Warhol Nov. 1.
The exhibit, The Photography of Andy Warhol: Selections from the Andy Warhol Photographic Legacy Project, is on loan from the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg. While it’s not exactly the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current Warhol exhibit, gallery director Esther Randall says in a press release, “The significance of this collection of that it gives the viewer a glimpse into the mind and into the creative process of Andy Warhol.”
The pictures, including celebrities such as Lauren Hutton, often served as jumping off points for silk screens and other images created by Warhol, and some simply documented his daily life including things he did and food he ate — just imagine if Warhol had Instagram.
The exhibit runs Nov. 1 to 20, and there will be a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 15.
The Kentucky District round of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions isn’t until until Nov. 17 at Memorial Hall. But two University of Kentucky singers already have advanced to the regional round of the competition by competing in other district competitions.
Baritone Reginald Smith Jr. was one of four winners at the Ohio District Auditions on Oct. 20 in Cincinnati. That put Smith in direct competition with singers from the prestigious University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and he held his own in advancing to the Central Region Auditions on Nov. 4 in Evanston, Ill. University of Kentucky Opera Theatre director Everett McCorvey said Smith went to the Ohio audition because of scheduling conflicts with the Kentucky District.
Soprano Holly Flack, a UK graduate now living in Chicago, also won Saturday, at the Wisconsin District Auditions. She has advanced to the Feb. 2 Upper Midwest Regional in St. Paul, Minn. Flack has been working in Chicago and is cast as the Queen of the Night in Chicago Chamber Opera’s 2013 production of The Magic Flute.
Both Smith and Flack have advanced to regional rounds of the Met auditions before, but neither has gone on to the national rounds in New York.
As many as 30 singers might be in the running when the Kentucky District round is held on Nov. 17. Traditionally, a sizable contingent of UK students has participated, and at least a couple usually advance to the regionals. So there is a chance of a historic field of regional competitors from UK this year.
Audio Adrenaline has taken a page from the Newsboy’s playbook enlisting a former member of iconic Christian rockers dc talk to restart the band, which had for the most part ceased recording and performing in 2006 when vocal problems silence lead singer Mark Stuart.
Last month, Billboard magazine reported that dc talk’s Kevin Max has become the band’s new frontman, and the newly reconstituted group has released a new single, Kings and Queens, and will have a new album in early 2013. Audio A formed in the 1990s at Kentucky Christian College (now University) in Grayson and went on to record some of contemporary Christian music’s greatest hits including Big House and Hands and Feet.
But in the mid-2000′s, Owensboro-native Stuart developed spasmodic dysphonia, which creates spasms around the larynx that have left Stuart unable to sing. After an extended farewell tour, the group disbanded though Stuart and bassist Will McGinniss have continued to be heavily involved with the band’s Hands and Feet orphanage in Haiti and occasionally gave performances to raise awareness of the project, including an appearance at Broadway Christian Church earlier this year.
The reconstituted band is signed to Fair Trade Services. McGinniss is the only member of the band when it disbanded that will be actively performing with the new group. Stuart will continue as a writer and producer. According to Billboard, former members Tyler Burkum and Ben Cissell had moved on and were not interested in joining the new lineup.
That new lineup will include drummer Jared Byers, keyboardist Jason Walker and a familiar face (and hairdo) to Christian rock fans in former Superchick guitarist Dave Ghazarian. When last we saw Ghazarian in Central Kentucky, he was playing in the pickup band for former Newsboys frontman-turened-solo artist Peter Furler.
That brings us back to the Newsboys playbook, as Newsboys are now fronted by another third of dc talk, Michael Tait, who joined the group in 2009.
The other third of the group, Tobymac, has enjoyed a thriving solo career for more than a decade since dc talk went on a seemingly permanent hiatus.
But Christian rock fans have to be imaging the possible supertour of Tobymac, Newsboys and Audio Adrenaline.
Today is the day for Danville’s major media closeup as all the networks and many other media outlets present live coverage from Centre College, site of the 2012 vice-presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and challenger U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). We’ll be keeping an eye on television coverage and noting any funny, meaningful, cool or otherwise noteworthy moments from the coverage.
Big shocker, on Fox News the feeling is Paul Ryan was the adult in the room rising about Joe Bidens smirky rudeness and on MSNBC the general feeling is Biden put the Obama campaign back on track with a feisty performance that helped put the Obama-Biden ticket back on track.
It looks like Chris Matthews is going to be the one to turn out the lights with a final Hardball from in front of the Centre Library. The crowd is dying down – just a few dozen folks hanging on the rail. By 1 a.m., it might just be him and Lincoln, and I don’t think Matthews would mind.
Fox News’ Sean Hannity told U.S. Sen. Mich McConnell (R-Ky.) he noticed debate organizers were giving away Bourbon. McConnell replied that Kentucky loves Bourbon and Hannity said he wondered if Vice-president Joe Biden had some before the debate.
Martha Raddatz on stage now at the Norton Center on CNN. She offers the cell phone warning and says that having worked in war zones she is not used to having her back to the audience and she is also not used to all the fuss prepping for the debate. “Usually I just roll out,” she says.
Props to CNN. It has not had as much of an on-air Kentucky presence as its cable news brethren, but in the final hour before the debate, CNN has been the network to convey the sense of an impending event from footage inside the hall to spin room interviews to moments others have not shown.
Very cool that CNN is showing in a spilt screen the audience seated and the preliminary program before the debate. Really didn’t know there was a preliminary program.
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell is doing a standup in front of a banner that says NCAA 2012 Basketball Champions. Wonder how that slipped in to Centre College. Have to say that when we contacted MSNBC to ask who was coming to Danville, they named three: Chris Mattews, Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell. But they actually have a good compliment of people in Danville including Tamryn Hall, Krystal Ball and O’Donnell, plus a number of their regular contributors like Mark Halperin and Eugene Robinson, who both have day jobs with print publications, on site.
Still, the left-leaning network’s coverage is anchored from New York with Rachel Maddow leading a long table of talking heads.
While Fox has Bill O’Reilly on now, they will be the only network actually anchoring from Kentucky.
CNN’s correspondent says that the Norton Center for the Arts’ Newlin Hall is freezing and notes that most people in the hall are looking through the official program.
Fox News live shot of Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) shows an increasingly busy spin alley as debate time draws closer.
Coverage across the board is decidedly turning toward the main event at this point. Enough chat about bourbon and shopping runs to Walmart. The chatter is focused on R’s and D’s and last-minute prognostication about how the debate will go. Well, not all the chatter feels like it’s lasting minutes.
I have to wonder what it’s like watching this fight between Chris Matthews, Michael Steele and Joy Ann Reid on Hardball with one of three fighters (Reid) not at the table.
Lots of blue Obama signs have flooded the background of Chris Matthews’ Hardball, though he has a pretty ardent heckler in the background. It seemed to be tripping up his opening monologue.
Fox and Shepard Smith are once again inside the Norton Center with throws outside.
Kind of a quiet hour Kentucky-wise. The network news shows threw to correspondents in Danville, but with short time, they were very focused on the event at hand. Looking to see how much the rowdiness has ratcheted up when MSNBC goes back to Hardball at sunset.
Bret Baier of Fox News gives a tour of the Norton Center stage calling Newlin Hall an “intimate space.” He then takes a fast-forward walk over to the gym-turned-media center and Spin Room. A photographer in the background of Baier’s interview with Obama spokesperson Stephanie Cutter can’t seem to get out of the Fox shot.
CNN’s Jim Acosta, in Danville, reports the Ryan camp is upset Time magazine released new photos of the vice-presidential candidate today. The photos, including Ryan in workout mode, have created a bit of a buzz in the political echo chamber. Wolf Blitzer says Time editor Rick Stengel says they thought it was a good time to put the images out.
Sign over Chris Matthews shoulder during the “Let me finish” segment on Hardball: Coach Cal for President.
Rev. Al Sharpton did not make the trip to Kentucky, so MSNBC is originating from New York the next hour.
Bret Baier’s Special Report is originating from inside the Norton Center for the Arts, which Baier fully name tagged in his intro.
Kimberly Guilfoyle is on Fox News out in front of the Norton Center showing a nice display of Kentucky Beverages. “Don’t drink that!” co-host Eric Bolling shouts, but she does anyway. They and the other three hosts — it’s called The Five for a reason — then go into a quick discussion about how Ryan will win tonight and Guilfoyle signs off with, “Kisses from Kentucky.”
Wolf Blitzer! You couldn’t move the Situation Room to Kentucky?
Back from a drive-time errand. Heard NPR’s Don Gonyea talking about the beautiful drive from Lexington to Danville – y’all are here at the perfect time. He also talked about seeing a gas station with a big “Thrill in the ‘Ville sign.”
On MSNBC, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear is on Hardball with host Chris Matthews and Stephanie Cutter, spokesperson for President Barack Obama’s campaign. Matthews asked Beshear, a Democrat, how he got elected in such as red state that has sent Republican Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell to congress. Beshear said Kentucky is a “schizophrenic state” that voted for Jimmy Carter, then Ronald Reagan, then Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush in Presidential elections.
CNN has not originated a show from Danville since we have been watching, but they are doing a lot of live shots from in front of the Norton Center. Right now U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is in a spirited interview with anchor Brooke Baldwin.
MSNBC’s Krystal Ball is live from Danville, opening The Cycle noting Kentucky is the home state of Muhammad Ali and invoking fight metaphors for tonight’s fight: Joey “Deleware” Bide vs. Paul “The Kid” Ryan. BTW, yes, that is Krystal’s real name.
Also, Centre’s Dead Fred is getting its moment in the spotlight, periodically being held aloft in the background on MSNBC. The portrait is of Fred Vinson, a Centre alum from Louisa who went on to become Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The portrait goes everywhere, including to all Centre home football games. According to the Centre website, Dead Fred was the first to be seated at the 2000 VP debate.
Fun moment: On Fox, Kelly did a throw to Ed Henry, who appeared to be standing about 10 feet from Kelly judging by the backdrops in the shot of her and the shot of him. Turned out, when Kelly outed the shot, it was even less than that. Henry stepped over and complimented Kelly’s Walmart wardrobe. Wonder if Bret Baier’s stuff made it to Kentucky?
Tamryn Hall’s show is now on MSNBC live from Danville with guest Chris Matthews, host of Hardball. Sign being held behind Matthews: “Chris Matthews listens to Nickleback.” Insult? I’d take it that way. The network’s promo for the veep debate is “Wingman Showdown.”
Delta Airlines is getting no love from Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. She says they lost her luggage, including the choice outfit she had for tonight’s broadcast, and she had to go to the Danville Walmart for clothes to wear on the air today.
As we start at 1 p.m., both MSNBC and Fox News have gone live from the Centre campus. Andrea Mitchell is on the air with a sea of observers behind her hoisting “Centre Debate 2012″ signs behind her. Supporters of Republican nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan also are flooding the backdrop for the Democratic-leaning network with their signs.
Over on Fox, Megyn Kelly has the Norton Centre for the Arts, site of the debate, behind her but not as much activity as the area in front of the Norton Center has restricted access. Fox has 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on commenting on debating Biden, who she faced four years ago. The former Alaska Governor, interviewed from a location that appeared far west of here and south of Alaska, recalled the man who played Biden was “a real stinker,” who made her wonder if Biden would be that much of a “stinker” and she said she thinks Ryan needs to trip Biden up on his flip-flops.
Earlier in the day, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd hosted his Daily Rundown show from the networks Centre outpost and guests including analyst Michael Steele and U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) commented along with Todd that they could use a nip of bourbon to ward off the frosty morning chill.
Danville will be the place to be for political media junkies over the next few days for Thursday night’s vice-presidential debate between incumbent Joe Biden and his challenger, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Several network and cable news outlets have announced lineups that will put a who’s who of high-profile journalists on the ground in Kentucky, although a few talking heads will remain at anchor desks in New York and Washington.
Fox News has one of the larger contingents coming to Danville, including Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, who will anchor the network’s debate coverage Thursday night and their own shows, Kelly’s America Live at 1 p.m. and Baier’s Special Report at 6 p.m. Also originating for Danville will be Studio B with Shepard Smith at 3 p.m., Your World with Neil Cavuto at 4 p.m. and The Five at – ha! – 5 p.m. Also reporting from Danville will be Fox News chief White House correspondent Ed Henry, chief political correspondent Carl Cameron and general assignment reporter Steve Brown.
The NBC/MSNBC contingent will be led by Hardball host Chris Matthews, who will originate his Thursday broadcast from Danville, along with Andrea Mitchell and Chief White House correspondent and poll guru Chuck Todd, who has already tweeted, “Danville, KY, an hour from everywhere?”
CNN has not responded to requests for information or posted coverage information.
ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz will moderate the debate. ABC News will have David Muir covering the Republican campaign of Mitt Romney and Ryan, and senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper covering the Barack Obama and Biden campaign.
CBS News will have two correspondents in Danville: congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes covering the Obama-Biden ticket and chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford covering Romney-Ryan.
Those into the voices of NPR can listen for national desk correspondent Debbie Elliott and Washington desk correspondent Brian Naylor in Danville, and correspondent Don Gonyea, who will participate in a vice-presidential debate round table produced by WEKU-FM and broadcast at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday.
We’ll update as we hear about more news personalities in Danville.
The administrators of the rights to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera have gone to great lengths to make sure the student productions they authorize are student productions.
No faculty appearances, recent grad cameos or guest artist ringers in the top spots. The performers in these shows have to be enrolled students.
And the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s production of Phantom, which opened Friday night at the Lexington Opera House and runs for 10 more performances through Oct. 14, succeeds because of the students. The chandelier could defy gravity, the boat could not float and there could be nary a spark on the stage, and this still would be a great production because of the student singers and actors that grace the stage.
Lexington has been waiting nearly 25 years for this show, and it got a good one.
A student production was pretty much the only way the Bluegrass was going to see Phantom any time soon. It is still running on Broadway, so producers aren’t granting rights to independent theaters to produce it, pro or otherwise. And none of the national tours of the show have been physically or economically feasible to present at the Lexington Opera House. But a couple years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s group decided to authorize the show for high school and college student performances, in large part as a gesture of support for arts education.
Fortunately for Lexington-area theater fans, the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre got the show, and as is the troupe’s habit, they have done it up right with a $300,000 production that comes with all the frills Phantom fans have come to expect including ginormous set pieces, cool features and pyrotechnics.
But we need look no further than Michael Bay movies to know productions can be big and flashy but have no soul. That’s where Phantom director Richard Kagey and the triple-cast performers come in.
Friday’s opening night cast, scheduled to perform again Saturday night, Thursday night and the Oct. 14 matinee, featured Jacob Waid plumbing the depths of the Phantom’s story for a heartbreaking performance and Rebecca Farley in a stunning turn as Christine. When she sings, “And through his music my soul began to soar,” her voice takes flight. Both nail all of their signature tunes, Think of Me for Christine and Music of the Night for Phantom, along with Elliot Lane who sings a gorgeous All I Ask of You as Raoul, Christine’s true love.
They are supported by a sometimes brilliant ensemble including Arianna Afshari and Evan LeRoy Johnson as the Paris Opera’s buffoonish leading soprano and tenor and Daniel Koehn and Jermaine Brown Jr. as the exhausted company directors, all of who skillfully make the show funnier than we remember it or thought it would be.
Here’s the real striking thing: A lot of the principal cast, including all three Christines (rounded out by Elizabeth Maurey and Monica Dewey) are undergraduates. Waid is a junior. This is in a company that leans so heavily on graduate students it had to establish an annual show specifically designed to give undergraduates a chance to perform. Here, they are shining in UK Opera’s biggest production ever. Some may tut, “Well this is a musical, not a real opera,” but it is a musical with extremely serious singing from the solos to intricate ensembles such as Prima Donna.
Phantom is a big show with lots of moving parts and in this production, they don’t always move great together. Quite a bit of dialogue was lost to blasts of orchestra — which overall sounded splendid under John Nardolillo’s baton — and the microphone system let singers down numerous times, particularly Lane, who frequently sounded like he was singing over a cell phone connection. There were also a number of times performers looked lost, like the doubles for Phantom and Christine crossing the bridge for the first time.
One big thing that worked very well is the dance ensemble with impressive synchronicity under second-year dance instructor Susie Thiel.
If ever there was a critic-proof production in Lexington, this is it. Before opening, this Phantom sold most of the tickets for its 11 show run (a performance at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14 was added Friday) at the 866-seat Opera House. Those fans can turn out assured they will get their money’s worth.
Ben Sollee is five years into his career as a recording artist, having built a national following through persistent touring and earning high-profile gigs such as Jimmy Kimmel Live and features on CNN. But it still isn’t hard for Sollee to get home to Lexington.
“If anything, it gets easier because I have more resources at my disposal,” Sollee says. “Whether it’s working with West Sixth Brewery for an arts space in that place, producing another Kentucky artists’ record or something else, the resources are more plentiful. The biggest resource that’s hard is just time.”
Sollee is speaking from his Lexington home Tuesday morning, where he has just landed for a little more week. During that time, he’ll perform in Louisville Friday and Saturday and at the Centre College Debate Festival in Danville surrounding Thursday’s vice presidential debate in the Norton Center for the Arts.
Sollee’s music makes social statements about issues important to him, but he says playing the Debate Festival is simply about playing music, not taking stands.
After Thursday, he will go back on the road for a tour in support of his new album, Half Made Man.
It’s a record that finds Sollee expanding the folk-cello vibe he has created for a bigger, more electric feel.
“A huge part of the sound and the feel of this record is the musicians that were involved and how they played and their characters themselves, whether its Carl’s (Broemel) electric guitar or Alana Rocklin’s amazing bass playing, and of course Jordan Ellis, another Kentuckian, has a very signature drumming style,” Sollee says. “Everybody just pitched in with their own character, and that’s what makes the sound, rather than a specific artistic idea.
“That’s really the best shot, to just make music with good musicians.”
Sollee says the largeness of the sound developed organically, due in part to having the musicians together. On previous records, he would have to layer tracks to develop a bigger sound.
“Here, it was so much easier to just say, ‘Let’s rock,’ and from our collective energy we got this big, big sound,” Sollee says.
To make Half Made Man, Sollee went to the well that many musicians have been dipping into to finance recordings, crowd sourcing.
After a couple failed attempts at trying to be more hip and relevant in the choice of host, the Oscars might have just come up with something this time: Seth MacFarlane.
To this point, he is best known for his voice, namely the voice of Peter Griffin, his oddly British son Stewie and many of the other inhabitants of Family Guy, American Dad and The Cleveland Show. There have been times the last couple years he has been the creative force behind three-quarters of the Fox Sunday night lineup.
But lately, MacFarlane has been stepping out from behind the animators, releasing a very thoughtful album of standards, Music is Better Than Words, and hosting the season premiere of Saturday Night Live in what was a mostly successful outing. Those are strong credits for an Oscars host.
I have to admit, my initial reaction was, “ugh!” Last year, MacFarlane seemed way over-exposed on Fox for what were basically a trio of similar and derivative satire shows. Not that I didn’t find them funny, but American Dad and The Cleveland Show particularly seemed to be stretching it in the “no original ideas department,” and there have been a couple times I thought Family Guy blew over the line into bad taste with bits built on rape and abortion.
But then again, I did grow up on Mad magazine and Saturday Night Live, so who am I to slag someone for satire, even if it is primarily across three remarkably-similar animated prime time series. And like we said, MacFarlane has been stretching himself, lately, including his feature-film directing debut with Ted.
So like MacFarlane, this Oscar gig seems to have some pros and cons.
Pros: As we have seen both in his series and other efforts, the guy is an entertainer at heart, which is exactly what the Oscars need. I have not been pre-disposed to liking MacFarlane, but he has won me over in forums such as his SNL gig and his interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air. So winning over the country might not be such a tall order for him. And he absolutely knows entertainment and can riff on it until Pauly Shore is an Oscar nominee (Pauly Shore dig in honor of my old colleague Heather Svokos). So this could be an inspired choice by new Oscar producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
Cons: Have you heard some of the things Macfarlane has said about celebs through his shows? Consider Helen Hunt is a potential nominee for best actress for The Sessions and recall the Family Guy episode where Peter turned down sex with her in no uncertain terms. When David Letterman hosted the Oscars in 1995, we saw how cool the room got when movie stars thought they were being laughed at, not with. We can say that’s their problem, but watching a guy die on stage isn’t a whole lot of fun. At best MacFarlane’s material is hilarious. At worst, it’s mean and lazy. So the right MacFarlane will need to show up for this thing to fly.
So, we’ll see how it goes. There was a time we thought James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscars hosts sounded like a great idea. Well … no … we never thought that.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich