Summer classic: ‘Mary Poppins’

 Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke as Bert in a scene from "Mary Poppins." © AP/Disney photo.

Julie Andrews as Mary Poppins and Dick Van Dyke as Bert in a scene from “Mary Poppins.” © AP/Disney photo.

If the Kentucky Theatre’s Summer Classics series has a classic of its own, it has to be Mary Poppins. Showings of the Disney classic always attract packed houses of the young and young at heart.

The Mary Poppins story has been told in a variety of ways since P.L. Travers penned her first stories of the wind-blown English nanny in 1934. And as the the recent movie Saving Mr. Banks showed, Travers had grave misgivings about the 1964 film version of her story, and in reality, she never completely embraced the movie.

But audiences and critics sure did.

Mary Poppins has endured like few other films, charming through Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke’s performances and unforgettable songs such as A Spoonful of Sugar, Chim Chim Cher-ee and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (yes, I did copy-paste that).  Yes, it has been made into a Broadway musical and had other film adaptations, and audiences around the globe cheered as Miss Mary defeated Lord Voldermort and other bad guys in the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics.

But all that enthusiasm is attributable to this film, which we can see again this summer, on the big screen. It plays at 11 a.m., 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, at the Kentucky Theatre.

Share
Posted in Film, Kentucky Theatre | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Michael Cleveland at Southland Jamboree, Tuesday

Michael Cleveland on stage at the Festival of the Bluegrass with his eight-string fiddle. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Michael Cleveland on stage at the Festival of the Bluegrass with his eight-string fiddle. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Count me among the folks who was not prepared for what I heard when Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper took the stage last month at the Best of Bluegrass Festival.

I’ve just started to really tune into bluegrass music in the past couple years and had yet to hear the whole thing about Cleveland being named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s fiddle player of the year NINE times. But that was no surprise after hearing him blaze through a too-short set that impressed with his technical skill and expressive performance.

I was snapping photos that night, and our Walter Tunis was taking the copious notes. He wrote:

Much of his most absorbing work came while underscoring the leaner, lighter Farewell for a Little While and the patiently paced, old-timey charmer Fiddlin’ Joe. But For pure performance dynamics, however, nothing beat Cleveland’s transformation of Shenandoah Waltz into a lovely serenade of slo-mo swing that beautifully complimented the sublime Friday afternoon weather that made the often sweltering festival seem like a springtime escape.

OK, we cannot promise quite the loveliness of weather Tuesday night, when Cleveland plays the Southland Jamboree (Chris Bailey is calling for thunderstorms Tuesday). But Cleveland has certainly proven his fiddle prowess, and you don’t want to miss him twice this summer.

Share
Posted in Bluegrass music, Music | Tagged , , , | Comments

Red, White & Boom 2015 announced

If you are wishing you were at Red, White & Boom this weekend, but were surprised it sold out in five hours, your chance to get tickets for next year is right around the corner.

Tickets will go on sale for the 2015 Boom at 10 a.m. Friday, July 11. The event will be June 26 and 27 at the home of the Lexington Legends, Whitaker Bank Ballpark.

Fans of the decade-old country music fest will note the move away from the Fourth of July weekend as Red, White & Boom started as a Fourth of July event in downtown Lexington before it moved to the Ballpark and, this year, expanded to two days.

“Red, White & Boom is part of Lexington’s 4th of July festival,” said Michael Jordan,  director of operations for Clear Channel Media and Entertainment in Central Kentucky, which presents the festival. “Next year, July 4 falls on a Saturday, so not wanting to compete against the other great events the city is hosting, we will move to the weekend before the holiday. Red, White & Boom 2015 becomes the kick-off to the week-long celebration.

“For the fans it also puts the event on a Friday and Saturday versus Saturday and Sunday, which we think the fans will appreciate.”

Two-day tickets for the 2015 Red, White & Boom will be $20, plus applicable fees. They will go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday at lexingtonlegends.com, the Whitaker Bank Ballpark box office or by phone at 1-866-698-4253. Jordan said that most of the tickets for the 2015 festival will be two-day tickets. Some one-day tickets will be sold at a date yet to be determined in 2015, and they will likely be more expensive per day than the two-day tickets that go on sale Friday.

Artists have not been announced for the 2015 event. This year’s lineup includes Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett,  Jerrod Niemann, Eric Paslay, Lucy Hale, Sundy Best and Jamie Lynn Spears.

Share
Posted in Country music, Music | Tagged , | Comments Off

Listening to … Maggie Rose, ‘Cut to Impress’

Maggie Rose arrives at the CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © Invision/AP photo by  Wade Payne.

Maggie Rose arrives at the CMT Music Awards at Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © Invision/AP photo by Wade Payne.

If you have not been listening to Maggie Rose, it isn’t because music critics haven’t been telling you to. We will tell you her chart performance in no way reflects her talent, which put her aptly titled Cut to Impress album on numerous Top 10 lists at the end of last year.

The album culminates a five-year recorded journey through the music business that had previously been highlighted by a notable, but maybe ill-advised Kings of Leon cover and music for some Disney Channel shows.

Maggie Rose-album coverThere is nothing Disney about Cut to Impress.

Rose’s debut album struts out of the speakers with a confidence that would make Loretta Lynn or Miranda Lambert proud. Her voice can soar or slice, and she is backed by a tight band that makes her sound torrential and expansive like on the rocker Fall Madly in Love With You. 

The album opens with the gritty murder song Preacher’s Daughter, includes another rough story in Looking Back Now, the self-medicating anthem Better and her signature song to date, I Ain’t Your Mama. Those and the album’s finale, Goodbye Monday, show a strength in bluesy, organic material Rose ought to consider as she preps for her next album, which at least those of us in the critical realm will regard as highly anticipated.

And Cut to Impress should also have us anticipating Rose’s 6:55 p.m. Sunday set at Red, White & Boom.

Getting ready for Red, White & Boom. Check out all the Herald-Leader’s coverage:

I will be out Saturday covering Red, White & Boom Saturday. Follow me on Twitter, and I’ll be using the #RWB2014 hashtag.

Share
Posted in album review, Country music, Listening to ..., Music | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Listening to … Chase Rice, ‘Ready Set Roll’

Chase Rice performs on stage the House of Blues on Saturday November 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif.  © AP/Invision photo by Paul A. Hebert.

Chase Rice performs on stage the House of Blues on Saturday November 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif. © AP/Invision photo by Paul A. Hebert.

Reading Chase Rice‘s biography after a few listens to his 2013 EP Ready Set Roll, it is no surprise to find Rice was a co-writer of Florida Georgia Line’s Cruise.

The six-song EP — seven if you get a physical copy — is the epitome of bro country with songs about partying, beer, trucks, pretty girls and sex (you have another interpretation of Country in Ya?), a bunch of product placement and not much else.

Chase Rice album coverIf you are into this brand of young, male escapism, you are going to love it when Rice hits the Red, White & Boom stage at 6:15 p.m. Sunday.

Rice has already had a remarkable number of vocations including University of North Carolina football player, NASCAR pit crew member and Survivor competitor.

He has been working at his country career for a while with two EP’s and the 2012 album Dirt Road Communion to his credit. His new album, Ignite the Night, comes out next month.

You have to hope there will be a little more variety than we get on Ready Set Roll, and the EP’s best track holds out some hope.

Jack Daniels and Jesus, only available on physical copies of the record, is something of a bro confessional that all the whiskey and one night stands have taken their toll, and Rice gives an outstanding performance on the song. It’s the tune that gives you a sense Rice has greater depth and could have a career ahead of him after country’s bromance is over.

Getting ready for Red, White & Boom. Check out all the Herald-Leader’s coverage:

Share
Posted in album review, Country music, Listening to ..., Music | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Listening to … Eric Paslay, ‘Eric Paslay’

Eric Paslay performs on Day 1 of the 2014 Stagecoach Music Festival at the Empire Polo Field, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Indio, Calif. © AP/Invision photo by Chris Pizzello.

Eric Paslay performs on Day 1 of the 2014 Stagecoach Music Festival at the Empire Polo Field, Friday, April 25, 2014, in Indio, Calif. © AP/Invision photo by Chris Pizzello.

How well does Eric Paslay navigate around the handful of cliches that have been dominating country music in recent years? His self-titled debut has a song called Country Side of Heaven, the title alone pleading for an eye roll.

And it does take the fetishism of rural life to an extreme, setting fishing, back porches and sweet tea in the great beyond. But it plays out so sweetly, ending with a request to find him when you get there, you forget what a cliche fest it is. And Paslay knows he’s having fun with this.

Eric-Paslay-album-cover-CountryMusicIsLovePaslay first made a name for himself writing No. 1 songs for Jake Owen, the Eli Young Band and others. And his songwriting skills elevate his own performance, which Red, White & Boom fans will see Sunday evening.

Probably the album’s highlight is Song About a Girl, which takes those well-worn country tropes and says at their essence, they’re all songs about girls: “don’t think too hard, dig too deep, or read between the lines, It’s a song about a girl.”

Paslay doesn’t so much skewer country stereotypes, like Kacey Musgraves, as he plays with them for an engaging album he should be proud to put his name on.

He sets everything in an easy groove and his pleasant voice with some clever touches like the fiddle and guitar riff that opens his big hit, Friday Night.

Like with Heaven, Paslay shows a spiritual side several times in this album, including his own version of Deep As It Is Wide, a song he first recorded with Amy Grant and Sheryl Crow. His more modest rendition of the song actually has a deeper sense of wonder than the trio, which really focused the listener on the performance.

But the best example of this is Less Than Whole, a song about forgiveness which could teach the vast majority of the contemporary Christian music community a thing or two about writing songs of faith. It coveys a strong message without beating the listener over the head with religious imagery or language.

And that is ultimately this newcomer’s gift: a deft hand at songwriting that raises his work above many of his contemporaries. While others seem to be trying to play a role, we get the sense Paslay is being himself.

Share
Posted in album review, Country music, Listening to ..., Music | Tagged , | Comments Off

Summer Classic: ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’

Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda in Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West."

Charles Bronson and Henry Fonda in Sergio Leone’s “Once Upon a Time in the West.”

America is the great melting pot, and one of cinema’s great 20th-century genres was the spaghetti Western: films about the American West, lensed by Italians, primarily Sergio Leone.

For its Summer Classics series this Fourth of July week, the Kentucky Theatre presents one of the classics of the genre.

Italian actress Claudia Cardinale is pictured at the set in a scene of Sergio Leone's epic "Once Upon a Time in the West" leisurely holding a revolver with one finger. © AP Photo.

Italian actress Claudia Cardinale is pictured at the set in a scene of Sergio Leone’s epic “Once Upon a Time in the West.” © AP Photo.

Once Upon a Time in the West, released in 1968, finds Leone at his most epic, telling a nearly three-hour tale about land grabs and scores to be settled, starring Henry Fonda as a villain; Charles Bronson in Leone’s favorite part, the man with no name; and Italian actress Claudia Cardinale as a former prostitute and widowed land owner.

Leone was drawn to Westerns as a child in Italy, watching Hollywood epics. The result was a sort of mythology re-mythologized in Leone’s films, which made TV actor Clint Eastwood into a movie star with A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For a Few Dollars More (1965) and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). (Eastwood, it should be noted, went on to make the great exploration of the Western mythology in 1992′s Unforgiven, which won him Oscars for best picture and best director.)

With the final film in the Dollars trilogy, Leone retired from the Western genre, but he was drawn back in by Paramount Pictures, Fonda, and whole bunch of money that critics noted showed up on the screen.

“There’s a wealth of detail, a lot of extras, elaborate sets,” Roger Ebert wrote in his original review. “There’s a sense of the life of the West going on all around the action (and that sense is impossible to obtain on small budgets).”

The Internet Movie Database and other sources have the movie’s budget at $5 million, which was huge then but would get you a slightly generous indie film today.

It was the first Leone Western to be shot in some American locations. His others were shot in Spain.

Like a lot of critics, Ebert initially dismissed West as an overlong mash-up of Western stereotypes at best.

“Granting the fact that it is quite bad, Once Upon the Time in the West is almost always interesting, wobbling, as it does, between being an epic lampoon and a serious homage to the men who created the dreams of Leone’s childhood,” Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times.

The years have been kinder to the movie, Ebert later calling it “an unquestioned masterpiece.”

You can judge for yourself at 1:30 and 7:15 p.m. Wednesday at the Kentucky Theatre.

Share
Posted in Film, Kentucky Theatre | Tagged , , , , , | Comments Off

Thomas Rhett and Dustin Lynch join the sold-out Red, White & Boom lineup

Thomas Rhett performs during the CMA Fest at LP Field on Sunday, June 8, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © Invision/AP photo by Wade Payne.

Thomas Rhett performs during the CMA Fest at LP Field on Sunday, June 8, 2014, in Nashville, Tenn. © Invision/AP photo by Wade Payne.

When it comes to Red, White & Boom, WBUL’s Fourth of July weekend throwdown at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, fans have known whether they are going or not for weeks. 

But it wasn’t until Monday morning they found out all the artists that will be on stage for the sold-out event.

Dustin Lynch arrives at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. © Powers Imagery/Invision/AP photo by Al Powers.

Dustin Lynch arrives at the 49th annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. © Powers Imagery/Invision/AP photo by Al Powers.

Thomas Rhett and Dustin Lynch will close out the first two-day Boom, which Clear Channel Lexington officials say they aim to establish as a full-fledged country festival.

Rhett is a second-generation country star as he’s the son of Rhett Akins. He is actually Thomas Rhett Akins Jr., and got his start playing drums onstage with his dad. It was a good start. His debut album, It Goes Like This, has produced four hit singles including Beer With Jesus, Something to do With My Hands and the Billboard country radio airplay No. 1′s It Goes Like This and Get Me Some of That.

Preceding Rhett Sunday night will be Tennessean Dustin Lynch, whose second album is due in September. His singles include She Cranks My Tractor and Cowboys and Angels, and he is most definitely a cowboy-hat wearing country star.

Rhett and Lynch join a lineup that includes Lee BriceJerrod NiemannCole Swindell, Lucy Hale and Jamie Lynn Spears.

Check out the July 4 edition of the Herald-Leader’s Weekender section and LexGo.com for our Red, White & Boom preview.

Note: I had promised to crank out some reviews of music by supporting artists on the Red, White & Boom lineup. That was interrupted by a death in my family, but will resume this week.

Share
Posted in Country music, Music, radio | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Moon Tower Music Festival debuts at Equus Run Vineyard in July

Nashville-based Moon Taxi will headline the inaugural MoonTower Music Festival at Equus Run Vineyard on July 26. Photo via http://ridethemoontaxi.com/

Nashville-based Moon Taxi will headline the inaugural MoonTower Music Festival at Equus Run Vineyard on July 26. Photo via ridethemoontaxi.com.

A diverse lineup of acts from electronic artists to folk will head out to Midway’s Equus Run Vineyard July 26 for the inaugural MoonTower Music Festival.

Nashville-based Moon Taxi will headline the show that also features regional favorites A Lion Named Roar of Louisville, Buffalo Rodeo of Bowling Green, Lexington-based country artists Sundy Best and Kentucky songsmith Tyler Childers.

It’s a pretty diverse lineup for a music festival, a format that in most cases tries to coalesce around a genre. G. Patrick Hale, of the festival’s presenter LexEffect, said the diversity of the lineup was not necessarily by design, but it is a welcome outcome.

“We originally desired a jam band laden festival, however, we agreed our biggest mistake would be to exclude the areas bluegrass and folk heritage,” Hale wrote.

A portion of proceeds from the event will benefit The Nest, a center for women, children and families in crisis.

General admission tickets are $45, with additional fees for parking or transportation from downtown Lexington.

Rounding out the lineup are synth-pop artists Machines Are People Too, Charleston, S.C. rockers Brave Baby and Lexington DJ Gary Klass, who Hale said will spin between-set music.

Share
Posted in Central Kentucky Arts News, Music, Sundy Best | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

SummerFest lets the casts out of the bag

The casts and directors for SummerFest’s first year in the MoonDance at Midnight Pass amphitheater have been announced, with a number of familiar names to Lexington theater fans among them and a new director to open the festival.

Demetrius Williams in the title role of SummerFest's 2011 production of 'Richard III.' He will play Orsino in 'Twelfth Night' July 2-13. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Demetrius Williams in the title role of SummerFest’s 2011 production of ‘Richard III.’ He will play Orsino in ‘Twelfth Night’ July 2-13. © Herald-Leader staff photo by Rich Copley.

Matthew Johnson, former associate artistic director of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company and a new instructor in the University of Kentucky’s theater department, will direct William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night to open the fest July 2 to 13. Many Lexingtonians saw Johnson in February, when he narrated the Lexington Philharmonic’s presentation of Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

His cast will include Demetrius Williams, last seen as Richard III, as Orsino; Dara Jade Tiller as Viola; Julie McCluskey as Lady Olivia; and Adam Luckey as scheming Malvolio, Also in the cast are Mike Van Zant, Bob Singleton and Cody Taylor, who is currently on Actors Guild’s stage in A Life in the Theatre.

Jenny Fitzpatrick, who directed 2012’s production of Legally Blonde: The Musical, returns to helm Howard Ashman and Alan Menken’s Little Shop of Horrors. It stars long-reliable supporting player Matt Seckman as Seymour, Meaghan Sharrard as Audrey and Whit Whitaker as Audrey II, the Venus flytrap with a voracious appetite for blood. Little Shop runs July 23 to Aug. 3.

Share
Posted in SummerFest, Theater | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off