Sunday, November 6, 2016

Shaun Berk's 10 Movie Recommendations- 573rd Edition and the 11 Year Anniversary

Welcome to the 573rd Edition of my series which is also the 11 year anniversary.  Yes, you heard that right 11 years.  I know, I can't believe it myself.  It was a vision I had 11 years ago during the rise of blogging and the rise of myspace where I wanted to do a movie oriented blog but knew I could not do detailed reviews of movies.  I got the idea to just do this where I look at 10 different movies and I am still going through all the ups and downs.  I want to thank everyone who has supported me through the years in the Myspace days to my supporters on Facebook and Twitter.  Each year on the anniversary, I try to do a theme of some sort and as much theater I have done, I thought I could do an edition of shows I have been in through the years.  This is by no means all I have done and not necessarily my favorites though some might be.  I also may not necessarily use the same version that I was in which you will understand and you go along.  I might do this again in a couple of years.  Now on with my selections.

Sweeney Todd:  The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2014):  I was in this version at the Jay County Civic Theater in Portland, Indiana in October of 2011 where I got to play the part of corrupt constable Beadle Bamford, played by Jeff Blumenkrantz in this version.  This is a live performance and an episode of the PBS series LIVE FROM LINCOLN CENTER.  This is a musical from Stephen Sondheim where a barber named Benjamin Barker, played by Bryn Terfel, is wrongly exiled to a prison by the corrupt Judge Turpin, played by Philip Quast, who murders his wife and raises his infant child Johanna, played by Erin Mackey, as his own.  Many years later Barker escapes and becomes Sweeney Todd to take his revenge on the town of London, mainly of Turpin but many others fall to his revenge.  He meets Mrs. Lovett, played by Emma Thompson, who has a meat pie shop forming an unusual partnership through Sweeney's revenge.  Jay Armstrong Johnson, Christian Borle, Kyle Brenn, and Audra MacDonald co-star in this musical.  Most likely know the movie version by Tim Burton which is okay but this is more in depth most notably on the music.  Emma Thompson plays the part of Lovett to more of a comic relief like was originally intended whereas Helena Bonham Carter was about dark as Sweeney in the movie version.  There are a couple other live versions available on DVD and I admit I had to dig rather deep to obtain this version which is not an easy find unfortunately.  The orchestra in this version is the New York Philharmonic.  If you can find a way to see this it is a good one to watch with Thompson great as Lovett and everyone else doing a really good job.  I had one issue with the flashback scene but would be a spoiler if I talked about it so message me if you would like to know otherwise I just let that go when watching.  This is one of my favorite musicals and possibly my favorite musical I have done so far.

Frankenstein (1931):  I did this show in October of 2007 at the Muncie Civic Theater where the role I played was Peter Schmidt and this character is not featured in this film version.  I played one of two evil gravediggers working for Victor Frankenstein, though in this movie he is renamed Henry, so the closest I come for this is Fritz, played by the underrated horror actor Dwight Frye, who works for Frankenstein.  Colin Clive stars as Dr. Henry Frankenstein who is obsessed with bringing things to life and creates a man out out parts from corpses.  Boris Karloff in a star making performance stars as the monster though is credited as "?" to add a more creepy feel to the film.  The monster is trying to do good but messes up a lot in part to the village which fear him.  Mae Clarke and John Boles also co-star in this film from Universal Horror.  This is the most iconic film adaptation of the Mary Shelley novel.  While it is not my favorite, it is still a really good film on the fear of the unknown.  Its sequel THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN is just as good if not better.  This is by no means the version I was in which has some differences.  Clive gave this more of a mad scientist feel than most stories that portray him more as a scientist with good intentions which go awry.  This is my favorite show I have done on the Muncie Civic Theater stage and got to creep out a lot of people in the audience and my own castmates.

1776 (1972):  I was in this show in November of 2014 for the Belfry Theater group of Noblesville, Indiana as Maryland representative Samuel Chase which was portrayed by Patrick Hines who was bigger and older than myself.  This is a musical dramatization by Sherman Edwards of the events that lead up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  William Daniels stars John Adams who is determined to become free of British rule but has a hard time convincing much of the others in congress who do not feel it is the right time.  Howard Da Silva co-stars and is very amusing as Benjamin Franklin who agrees with Adams but they don't agree on many other things.  Ken Howard co-stars as the soft spoken Thomas Jefferson who is appointed to write the declaration.  The ones who have the hardest time agreeing are Edward Ruttledge, played by John Collum, of South Caroline and Franklin's Pennsylvania delegate John Dickinson, played by Donald Madden.  Blythe Danner co-stars as Martha Jefferson and Virginia Vestoff plays Abigail Adams.  This has a lot of really fun musical numbers and is very enjoyable as long as you can get past many moments that were not very historically correct.  This is a really good show to do on stage but can be difficult with the 26 men in which it requires.  I really loved being Samuel Chase where I only sang one song, a few good lines, and ate on stage a lot.  I also like the musical as everybody plays a character of some sort.

Romeo + Juliet (1996):  This is part two of a two-part Paul Sorvino series and part one of a Leonardo DiCaprio series which could be a five part series.  I was in this show late July and early August of 2013 for the Farmland Cultural Center in Farmland, IN in my first show there which was outside at a park for Shakespeare Under the Stars and I played the part of Abraham in the beginning and would later play Paris.  Vincent Laresca played the part of Abraham in this version who goes by the name Abra in this version  Paul Rudd played the part of Paris in this modernized version and is referred to as Dave Paris in this movie.  It is also the only part I will ever share with Paul Rudd.  Baz Luhrmann directed this modern day movie where they were like a couple gangs in the town of Verona Beach while keeping the Shakespeare dialogue.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes star as the star-crossed lovers from rival families but fall in love with each other leading to much tragedy.  John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau, Pete Postlewaite, Paul Sorvino, Brian Dennehy, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Miriam Margolyes, Jesse Bradford, M. Emmet Walsh, Jamie Kennedy, Dash Mihok, Diane Venora, and many others co-star in this film.  This has always been my favorite Shakespeare play and I don't think anything will beat the 1968 version for me but I really enjoyed this take to the classic.  The only thing that could have been slightly rewritten the dialogue so they are referring to their weapons as guns instead of swords.  I let that part of it go.  DiCaprio and Danes work well together and it also has a good soundtrack for people who like 90s alternative.  This was my first Shakespeare show and was a good experience.

Guys and Dolls (1955):  This is part one of of a two part Frank Sinatra series.  I was in this show in June of 2010 at the Belfry Theater in Noblesville, IN in my debut as Harry the Horse.  Sheldon Leonard played this part in the movie version.  Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed this adaptation of the Frank Loesser musical.  Frank Sinatra stars as gambler Nathan Detroit and all the other gamblers are relying on him for a crap game.  He needs $1000 to get this game going and runs into Sky Masterson, played by Marlon Brando, proposing a bet that he cannot get mission girl Sarah Brown, played by Jean Simmons, to Havana.  Detroit has a long time fiance in Adelaide, played by Vivian Blaine, who wants nothing more than for him to stop gambling and live a normal life.  There are two different love stories happening in the backdrop of people who want to have a crap game.  Robert Keith, Stubby Kaye, B.S. Pully, Johnny Silver, Danny Dayton, and many others co-star in this musical.  There are a few music numbers written for the movie and some that were taken out.  One of the biggest flaws of the film was Brando as Masterson.  He might have been okay if it was not a musical but his singing did leave a lot to be desired.  The rest of the cast did a good job and is still worth a look if you can get past the flaws of Brando.  There are a lot of stories on how Sinatra and Brando did not like each other like with Brando playing mean jokes on Sinatra.  I am grateful to have made my debut at this theater in such a good role of Harry which is really the closest you get to having a villain.

Oklahoma! (1999):  I was in this show in late July and early August of 2008 at the Muncie Civic Theater and on the outside stage at the Minnetrista Cultural Center where I played the part of Slim.  Luke Baxter plays the part in this live version.  Hugh Jackman stars as Curly McClain who is a cowboy out to win the heart of Laurey, played by Josefina Gabrielle.  At the same time, Will Parker, played by Jimmy Johnston, returns from Kansas City hoping to win over Ado Annie, played by Vicki Simon.  They both run into complications in this love story from Rodgers and Hammerstein.  Shuler Hensley does a great job as the villainous Jud Fry.  David Shelmerdine, Maureen Lipton, Peter Polycarpou, Stuart Milligan, Rebecca Thornhill, and many others co-star in this live musical dvd.  My first exposure to Jackman was as Wolverine and thought he was perfect for the role.  I did not know that before that he was a musical theater actor and this got him somewhat exposed while LES MISERABLES got him fully exposed for his musical abilities and was great in this movie.  There is also a 1955 version that is still quite enjoyable but took out some of the songs including Jud's LONELY ROOM which was very well done in this version and intense song this show needs in my opinion.  It is also likely the darkest song that Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote.

Beauty and the Beast (1946):  I was in this show in December of 2005 at the Muncie Civic Theater where I played the part of Lefou which was a very well received performance.  This is not a character featured in this film which is the French version and quite a bit different from the Disney version years later.  Jean Cocteau directed this version of the tale as old as time.  Josette Day stars as Belle whose father ends up at a castle ran by a beast, played by Jean Marais, and is taken prisoner.  She decides to take his place in his castle where the start of this tale as old as time begins.  As you see, the plot is pretty much the same as the famed Disney version but this version has darker imagery within the castle.  This does not have the talking objects but has things like arms holding the candles in the wall.  This is still a very good and compelling version of this tale with very good performances all around.  Cocteau also did a great job of making the most of what he had long before we had the technology for special effects.  This tale as old as time really deserves a watch and could be a good double feature to watch along with the Disney version.

The Nutcracker (2009)  I was in two versions of this show.  One was in December of 2006 at the Cornerstone Center for the Arts for the Children's Ballet Studio in which I was one of the very few adults.  The other one was in December of 2011 at the Minnetrista Cultural Center for the annual Luminaria Walk.  Both times I played the part of Drosselmeyer in which Gary Avis plays him in this version.  This is my third live performance selection and this is a ballet based on the children's book by E.T.A. Hoffman.  This was done by the Royal Ballet group.  I really cannot give a good explanation as to what this might be about and besides if you are not into ballet, this likely is not the one to watch.  This did have some really good scenery and choreography.  These were good experiences for me.  The first version I was in, I got the part a year before after I went off on an ego trip backstage when I was in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and was suddenly offered this part unexpectedly.  I did not do any ballet but did do some character movements and was not used to this kind of show as I would usually rely on dialogue or singing instead of strictly movements and relying on other movements to know what I was doing.  I got a really good reception from those in the show and audience members.  The second time I was in it was done in a much different way where we relied on tableau movements when in itself was a challenge and will also add it was my first paid gig in acting.

Inherit the Wind (1960):  This is part one of a two-part Gene Kelly series.  I was show in June of 2013 at the Anderson Mainstage Theater where I played the part of Elijah.  There are people who said some of my lines but no official character of Elijah in the film.  Stanley Kramer directed this film that is based on the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial.  This movie takes place in a small Tennessee town which is a very religious town.  Dick York co-stars as Bertram Cates who believes in the Darwin theory and tries to teach it to his class only to get arrested.  Fredric March stars as fundamentalist prosecutor Matthew Brady who is very strong towards his religious beliefs.  Spencer Tracy stars as attorney Henry Drummond who is far more open-minded and defends Cates with everything he has.  Gene Kelly plays E.K. Hornbeck who is a newspaper reporter and finds the way the town is very laughable and tries to help get Cates off.  This is a very intense trial film trying to defend a man for expressing his beliefs in a very judgmental town.  This movie is very realistic in the way it portrays those times.  There is a good line in this film from the character of Cates who says "religion is supposed to inspire, not put fear into anyone" and that is so well said.  I have seen people who are church goers and are very judgmental towards others not really thinking about how even the bible says not to judge.  It also fits today in these times when we consider things such as gay marriage and the rights gays are to have.  Some of the events in the film are no better than what we see of the extremist Westboro Baptist Church.  I could not have asked for a better role than the part of the crazed bible salesman Elijah.  It ranks up as one of the best things I ever did and ranks up as a favorite of mine.  I got to do some Gregorian chants and speak in tongues for this one.

Annie (1982):  I was in this show in October of 2008 at the Anderson Mainstage Theater where I played the parts of the main homeless guy and Senator Cordell Hull.  Nobody played these parts in this movie version that had some similarities to the stage version but also had some differences.  John Huston directed this musical which stars Aileen Quinn as the title orphan who must stay in a very unscrupulous orphanage which is run by the mean Miss Hannigan, cast perfectly as Carol Burnett, and is selected to stay in the home of the very wealthy Oliver Warbucks, played by Albert Finney, in a publicity stunt.  She soon wins over the household, even Warbucks making him reconsider his childless life.  Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters co-star as Hannigan's brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily who all team up in hopes of conning Warbucks.  Ann Reinking, Geoffrey Holder, Edward Herrmann, Peter Marshall all co-star and look for Ray Bolger as the sound effects man in the radio studio.  The movie some of the same songs but wrote some different ones as well.  I would like to see the character Punjab in future stage versions.  There was also a different climax and in this movie was a rather disturbing scene with Rooster and Annie.  I really enjoyed doing this musical.  I liked playing a homeless guy one minute, then a politician where I actually found speeches of the real Cordell Hull and tried an impersonation.

Well, that is it for this week but continue on for the return of my segment Fun and Useless Facts.  Tell me what you like and dislike and stay tuned for next week which so far includes Scarlett Johansson, Doris Day, Naomi Watts, Gene Kelly, and many others.


Emma Thompson (Sweeney Todd) and Pete Postlewaite (Romeo and Juliet) were in the 1993 film IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER.

Emma Thompson (Sweeney Todd), Audra McDonald (Sweeney Todd), and Jimmy Johnston (Oklahoma) are in the upcoming 2017 film BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Audra McDonald (Sweeney Todd) plays Grace in the 1999 movie ANNIE.  Ann Reinking plays Grace in this week's feature ANNIE.

Audra McDonald (Sweeney Todd) and Paul Rudd (Romeo and Juliet) were in the 1998 film THE OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION.

Christian Borle (Sweeney Todd) and Helen Anker (Oklahoma) were in the 2014 tv movie PETER PAN LIVE.  Borle was Smee and Anker was in the chorus.

Mae Clarke (Frankenstein) and Gene Kelly (Inherit the Wind) were in the 1952 musical SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.  Clarke was uncredited as the hairdresser.

Boris Karloff (Frankenstein) plays the Creature in this week's feature FRANKENSTEIN.  Shuler Hensley (Oklahoma) plays the part in the 2004 movie VAN HELSING.  Hensley also plays the Creature in the Broadway musical YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

Ken Howard (1776) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Romeo and Juliet) were in the 2011 film J. EDGAR.

Ken Howard (1776) plays Mark Twain in an 1972 episode of BONANZA.  Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) was Twain in the 1944 film THE ADVENTURES OF MARK TWAIN.

Howard Caine (1776) and Spencer Tracy (Inherit the Wind) were in the 1961 film JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG.

John Cullum (1776) plays Aaron Burr in the 1973 tv movie THE MAN WITHOUT A COUNTRY and Brian Dennehy (Romeo and Juliet) voiced Burr in the 2000 AMERICAN EXPERIENCE episode THE DUAL.

Blythe Danner (1776) and Jean Simmons (Guys and Dolls) had American voices in the 2004 Anime film HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE.

Baz Luhrmann (Romeo and Juliet director) directed Hugh Jackman (Oklahoma) in the 2008 film AUSTRALIA.

Miriam Margolyes (Romeo and Juliet) and Hugh Jackman (Oklahoma) were in the 2006 animated movie HAPPY FEET.

Claire Danes (Romeo and Juliet) and Jean Simmons (Guys and Dolls) were in the 1995 film HOW TO MAKE AN AMERICAN QUILT.

Leonardo DiCaprio (Romeo and Juliet) plays J. Edgar Hoover in the 2011 film J. EDGAR.  Sheldon Leonard (Guys and Dolls) plays the part in the 1978 film THE BRINK'S JOB.

Leonard DiCaprio (Romeo and Juliet) and Edward Herrmann (Annie) were the 2004 film THE AVIATOR and the 2013 film THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

Jean Simmons (Guys and Dolls) played Sarah Brady in the 1988 tv movie INHERIT THE WIND.  Florence Eldridge played the part in this week's 1960 feature INHERIT THE WIND.

Frank Sinatra (Guys and Dolls) and Gene Kelly (Inherit the Wind) star in the musicals ON THE TOWN, ANCHORS AWEIGH, and TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME.

Hugh Jackman (Oklahoma) plays Jean Valjean in the 2012 musical LES MISERABLES.  Fredric March (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) plays Valjean in the 1935 film LES MISERABLES.

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