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May 4, 2016

Royal New Zealand Ballet’s The Wizard of Oz: a family-friendly feast

Jack Yan/14.29



Ross Brown

I truly hope Francesco Ventriglia’s The Wizard of Oz will be performed all over the world, because this family-friendly ballet has all the ingredients for first-time and seasoned watchers alike. What we saw at the world première tonight in Wellington were skilful dancing, moments of contemplation, beautiful staging and design, and a masterful matching to the music of Francis Poulenc.
   Based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, rather than the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, audiences are helped by the familiar storyline, which is common to both. Ventriglia keeps the basic idea but takes some different parts from the book compared to the well known film, and in the adaptation to a ballet enhances certain scenes. The structure is of a classical ballet, as are many of the dance moves, including some neatly executed lifts and catches in two pas de deux in Act II, between the Prince and Princess of Porcelain (William Fitzgerald and Laura Jones on opening night), and the Wizard (Fitzgerald again) and Dorothy (Lucy Green).
   Ventriglia forgoes the cyclone in favour of a simpler Dorothy in hospital with a coma, watched over by her Uncle Henry (Sir Jon Trimmer), but once she is deposited in the land of the Munchkins, you know that the action has started. The use of this device is very personal to Ventriglia, and can be traced back to when he was five years old in Genova, when he noticed that a girl in isolation in a children’s hospital had gone from her bed one day. His mother told him that she had gone to the Emerald City in the Land of Oz.
   A blue sky backdrop links each scene with Dorothy, and on its first appearance in Act I, lights up one’s mood. Gianluca Falaschi, The Wizard of Oz’s designer, approaches the set with both creativity and sensibility. Doors open up revealing different scenes behind the sky set, depending on the context, but it works well, giving the stage additional depth. Watch out for both the Emerald City, which borders on a bright discothèque—and no, there are no shades of 1974’s film The Wiz here—and the Kingdom of Porcelain, which is revealed in the second act. There is one beautiful touch near the close of the second act where the Wizard offers to take Dorothy away, but the fear of revealing spoilers prevent me from telling you just what Falaschi has created.
   The costumes deserve extra mention. Glinda, the Witch of the North, danced by Abigail Boyle with plenty of movements en pointe, sparkled with a bright white costume that featured 1,000 sequinned butterflies, giving her an other-worldliness; this contrasted Dorothy’s simpler farm dress that Falaschi says took its cue from the film. Dorothy’s multiple costume changes—her "saucer tutu" for the Porcelain scene, for instance—hint at the chequered pattern of her original dress, so audiences are clear that Green is dancing in the same role. The Witch of the West (Mayu Tanigaito) only has the Flying Monkeys for her allies in this version, but she enters the stage looking sinister, her outfit having connections to more adult themes but considerably toned down for a family audience. The Flying Monkeys, meanwhile, are bare-chested but masked while they are under her spell, wearing large, black skirts. Elaborate, dominating movements convey their evil intent, while the chandeliers and prison cage on the set contrast with the simplicity of the blue sky of Dorothy’s world.
   Scarecrow (Loughlan Prior) deserves additional mention since he is the first character to follow Dorothy and, therefore, has a greater role on stage; Prior’s floppy, soft movements convey his character’s construction neatly. Tin Man (Massimo Margaria)’s metallic detailing on his outfit wasn’t as easily seen and almost looked as though he was wearing a body colour, but thankfully this newer interpretation allowed the ballerino much freer movement. Jacob Chown got into his Lion character from his first moment on stage, right through to when he took a bow.
   Felipe Domingos, as the Guardian of the Emerald City cut a distinctive figure with his flowing movements, and shone in his first scene; Harry Skinner’s Yellow Cat, chasing after the mice played by Linda Messina and Tonia Looker, was a particularly likeable comedic performance (though one wonders why the cat is bigger than the dog: Toto is a stuffed toy in this version). Watch out, too, for a tap-dancing scene as Green dons red shoes instead of the Silver Shoes from the book.
   Falaschi is inspired by 1930s bathing costumes, flapper dresses and cloches, and a bellhop’s uniform for the Guardian, all of which he works in to give The Wizard of Oz, a visual feel that is its own. In all, 37 new costumes were created for the production.
   Jason Morphett’s lighting was particularly clever, as Falaschi’s box set forced him to use lights in the corner. He based his concepts on Poulenc’s music, which lent itself well to visuals thanks to its lyrical nature. I tend to find lyrical scores can paint a scene better than those founded on sound effects, and the compilation of various Poulenc compositions, compiled by RNZB pianist Michael Pansters from two dozen recordings, worked well as a complete ballet. Ventriglia calls the score ‘very cinematic,’ and that seems a very apt description.
   As detailed in our preview, the ballet began life as an unperformed, single-act ballet, which Ventriglia first conceived when artistic director of Maggio Danze in Firenze. There is an additional meaning here, as Ventriglia, who hails from Italy, has had to ask himself just what ‘home’ means, as Dorothy had to discover: ‘My conclusion is that home is where you feel grounded and comfortable within yourself,’ he writes in the programme. ‘For me that place is the dance studio.’
   The work, he writes, has been adapted to the dancing style of the company and the new inspirations he has found in New Zealand since his arrival a year and a half ago.
   The Wizard of Oz achieves its aim of being a big-story ballet that appeals to everyone, and audiences will be delighted at this latest production.
   The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Wizard of Oz kicks off in Wellington on May 4, and will visit nine centres around New Zealand: Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Blenheim, Rotorua, Auckland, Palmerston North, and Napier. Further information can be found at the Royal New Zealand Ballet website, www.rnzb.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher


April 28, 2016

Morgan Freeman honoured at 43rd Annual Chaplin Award Gala by Film Society of Lincoln Center

Lucire staff/1.44


Getty Images


Jim Spellman

Morgan Freeman was honoured on Monday night by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, at its 43rd Annual Chaplin Award Gala, sponsored by Jaeger-LeCoultre.
   The Academy Award-winning actor follows other luminaries including Charlie Chaplin, for whom the award is named, and who was the first recipient in 1972, Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Laurence Olivier, Federico Fellini, Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Diane Keaton, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Sidney Poitier, Barbra Streisand, and Robert Redford.
   Chaplin’s granddaughter, actress Kiera Chaplin, was present, representing her family. Daniel Riedo, Jaeger LeCoultre’s CEO, and Laurent Vinay, its communications’ director, represented their company. Other actors present included Robert de Niro and Helen Mirren.
   Freeman told Reuters, ‘I’m from a small town in a small state and when you start thinking about where you came from and looking back the first thing that comes to mind is the word luck.’
   In an earlier statement, Ann Tenenbaum, chair of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s board, said of Freeman, ‘He is one of the most gifted actors of our time and his body of work has changed the film landscape. He is universally loved as an actor and as a humanitarian, and we are thrilled to add the Chaplin to the long list of distinguished awards he has already received.’
   ‘Morgan Freeman is one of most highly regarded and beloved actors of his generation and we are excited to honour all of his achievements with the Chaplin Award, our biggest fundraiser of the year, which recognizes those whose mastery of their craft has made an impact on the art of film,’ said the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s executive director Lesli Klainberg. ‘Whether in a leading or supporting role, he brings a quiet gravitas to each of his memorable performances in such films as Lean on Me and Driving Miss Daisy to Street Smart, The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Million Dollar Baby, and Invictus.’
   Freeman began his acting career in off-Broadway stage productions of The Niggerlovers and an all African-American production of Hello Dolly. Early TV appearances in The Electric Company followed, before he moved into film. He also has an extensive filmography in narration (The Long Way Home and March of the Penguins among it). In 2005, he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby, and received nominations for Street Smart, The Shawshank Redemption, and Invictus. He won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for Driving Miss Daisy in 1990. He received the Cecil B. de Mille Award at the 2011 Golden Globes and the 39th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.
   Freeman is executive producer of Madam Secretary and host and executive producer of Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman. He will soon be seen in The Story of God with Morgan Freeman on the National Geographic Channel.
   Upcoming films include London Has Fallen, Going in Style, Now You See Me 2 and Ben-Hur.
   Freeman co-founded the Frank Silvera Writers’ Workshop, which serves successful playwrights, is a member of the board of directors of Earth Biofuels, and a supporter of Artists for a New South Africa and the Campaign for Female Education.


Jim Spellman

April 23, 2016

Prince cremated in private ceremony

Lucire staff/18.45


Above: The artwork for Prince’s 1987 album, Sign ‘O’ the Times.

The late music idol Prince has been cremated in accordance with his Jehovah’s Witness faith. The private ceremony took place on Friday afternoon, said his publicist, Anna Meacham.
   She said, ‘A few hours ago, Prince was celebrated by a small group of his most beloved: family, friends and his musicians, in a private, beautiful ceremony to say a loving goodbye.’ Sheila E and Larry Graham were among those attending the service.
   Tributes continue coming in the wake of the death of Prince, who was found dead in a lift at his Paisley Park estate near Minneapolis on Thursday, aged 57.
   Filmmaker Spike Lee hosted a block party in Prince’s honour.
   Police say they have no reason to suspect foul play in Prince’s death. No cause of death has been released, though he had been suffering from ’flu in recent weeks.
   Born Prince Rogers Nelson, he was particularly talented, playing nearly all the instruments on his first five albums, and produced since he first signed with Warner Bros. Born into a musical family in Mineapolis, he started playing the piano at age seven. His very prolific professional output began in 1978, with his first album, For You. Upping the eroticism in his work, Prince’s work became more widely known in the 1980s, with more hits from each of his albums, and his 1999 (1982) went platinum, featuring the song ‘Little Red Corvette’ and ‘Delirious’, as well as the title track.
   His 1984 film, Purple Rain, was a hit, spawning a very successful soundtrack album, on which further hits came: ‘When Doves Cry’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’, ‘I Would Die 4 U’, ‘Take Me with U’, and the title track.
   Further hits included ‘Sign “O” the Times’ in 1987, and ‘U Got the Look’ with Sheena Easton the same year. His soundtrack album for the 1989 film Batman was another high-profile success.
   In the 1990s, Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol, and on radio was usually announced as ‘The Artist formerly known as Prince’, or even ‘The Artist’. He eventually returned to using the name Prince in 2000, and converted to the Jehovah’s Witness faith in 2001.
   In all, Prince sold 100 million albums, won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Oscar, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.


Euronews


Celebritywire

April 21, 2016

Beyoncé partners with three charities as part of the Formation World Tour

Lucire staff/2.41

As part of her Formation World Tour, Beyoncé has announced three charitable organizations that will partner with her own initiative, BeyGood.
   The singer wants to encourage fans to give to the three organizations, and demonstrates how easy it is to “pay it forward”.
   She proposes using one of three ways: online through CrowdRise, in partnership with United Way, to support the Flint, Michigan water crisis (where fans can qualify for winning VIP tickets to her tour); through their communities with United Way, with issues specific to each tour market; or on-site, after signing up with Global Citizen and Chime for Change, with opportunities to win tickets and upgrades on the tour.
   United Way will be present at very stop beginning with the North American leg. The first venue is Marlins Park, Miami, Fla. on April 27. Gucci’s Chime for Change, which Beyoncé co-founded, and Global Citizen will have their programme in select tour locations, including Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Detroit and London. There are charity events in Houston, Compton (Calif.), and Detroit.
   Fans in Houston can give and support Rudy Rasmus and his Bread of Life initiative, combatting hunger in the city, and TurnAround Houston, to help create jobs. In Compton, the event will help Urban Education Institute, which works with youth through music and the arts. In Detroit, the event will celebrate the resourcefulness of the people of Flint and Detroit.
   Since the announcement of BeyGood, the initiative has claimed to have helped millions of people with employment, shelter and more. Tour dates are available at beyonce.com.

April 20, 2016

Get in NOW for Footnote: four entertaining dances, representing our times

Jack Yan/14.06


Courtesy Footnote

Footnote New Zealand Dance’s NOW 2016 (New Original Work) programme, which hit Wellington tonight after performances in Auckland, presents four original works by New Zealand choreographers Julia Harvie, Sarah Knox, Lucy Marinkovich and Jessie McCall. It’s a particularly enjoyable programme, mixing meanings, humour and, in the case of Elephant Skin, a lot of balloons.
   Each performance begins with a voice recording that sets the stage for the dance that follows, although viewers are still invited to make their own interpretations.
   Centerfolds (sic) begins with a humorous look at gender stereotyping, with the company’s male and female dancers wearing masks with a bun and dresses, signalling that we often take these cues and make automatic assumptions about a strict male–female duality. Marinkovich looks at roles such as waitress, housewife, heroine, songstress, supermodel, and others, questioning our conditioning; and while not every role appears as costumed characters, they are represented through the varied music choices. Masks play a part throughout, along with multiple costume changes, ensuring that Centerfolds never drags for a moment.
   Your Own Personal Exister is one of our favourites, as it examines not only existentialism but its opposite, inauthenticity. McCall does this with the notion of how, at a children’s birthday party, we feel the centre of attention when we wear our paper “crown”, but what if that crown was never removed? It’s an allegory of the selfie era, the “look at me” validation some seek. Three of McCall’s dancers don crowns, but one doesn’t, although he is unaware of this till some way into the performance. Yet this need consumes him eventually, and he joins the inauthenticity of the others.
   One of the regular techniques here had dancers opening their mouths facing upwards while recorded voices played, which worked particularly well, and the voiceover was poignant at the conclusion of the performance (which we won’t spoil here). And what happens when that crown is removed, where does that leave us? Despite the smaller number of Footnote dancers involved, this was a particularly powerful work that was danced beautifully.
   Elephant Skin takes a humorous look with balloons landing on stage at random points, sound effects creating more laughs, and a particularly brave dancer blowing up a balloon till it popped. Harvie explained in a post-show forum that she wanted freshness and tension in the performance, because as humans, we are problem-solvers, and the dance, too, should solve the problem of the randomly placed balloons. There was, of course, an overall structure which the dancers worked around, and one scene where white balloons stood in for clouds as one performer floated across the stage, before the others began popping the cloud around her.
   Harvie also noted that she has a fascination with balloons and that they have a human element to them.
   Disarming Dissent is the most energetic of the four in terms of getting the dancers to generate forceful movements, and by this time one is marvelling at their stamina. Rowan Pearce’s music reached crescendos twice as the energy built up. Dance, exercise and martial arts combine here as Knox talks about the fight we have against the system, but then how we pacify ourselves, drawn back by either that very system or our own impulses.
   The Wellington première at Te Whaea had a unique forum at the end which featured the dancers, Harvie, general manager Richard Aindow as host, and artistic liaison Anita Hunziker.
   The Auckland performances have been (April 15–16), Wellington has one more night (21st, at Te Whaea), Dunedin is on April 28 at Mayfair Theatre, and those in Invercargill will see NOW 2016 on May 1 at Centrestage during the Southland Festival. For tickets and information, head to footnote.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher

Recycle, rejuvenate and rejoice with the Secret Room

Leyla Messian/3.31




Leyla Messian

The MTV Movie Awards should be thought of as the “Real People’s Choice Awards”, as it reflects the pop cultural phenomena people are actually paying money to see. By the same token, the Secret Room’s annual event for this event should be considered a solid barometer for new things people are going to want to try and buy. This spring edition of the pre-show party was a most refreshing mix of products which allowed people to recycle, rejuvenate, refresh and rejoice, not only against a pop-cultural backdrop, but also social changes in US culture taking root in California.
   The star attraction was Parfaire, a Pasadena-based medical æsthetics’ spa that also provides on-site services. In a private suite high above the revelry in the SLS’s bustling ballroom, guests enjoyed a choice of a Red Carpet Rejuvenating Facial or Botox treatments.
   Parfaire, under the direction of Dr Winnie, is one of the few Los Angeles “med-spas” that provide Kybella treatments, which permanently dissolve double-chin fat. Their patience and calming demeanour provided a welcoming respite for celebrities, press and other attendees pressured by the demands of the upcoming award show and related public appearances. The treatments were short, but remarkably relaxing and effective, providing living proof that a spa is only as good as the expertise and attitude of its doctors and staff.
   The last gasp of a southern California winter allowed guests to enjoy the pleasure of sipping wine while bundled up in cashmere in colours that matched the varietals. From JaM Cellars comes a new kind of Hollywood breakfast: Butter Chardonnay, Jam Merlot and Toast sparkling wine. Guests appreciated Repeat Cashmere’s buttery-soft scarves and ponchos crafted from snuggly but deceptively light and delicate fabrics. Among the rich neutrals and jewel tones, burgundy was the most popular colour with celebs.
   There was also plenty of bling to liven up the classic cashmere pieces. The Fleur de Lys and Me offered youthfully chic jewellery made of stainless steel (including VIP wrist bands with MTV logos). Other items included clever, customizable bracelets with snap-on, interchangable charms covered in crystals. Gris by Allison Hall tempted VIPs with fine modern jewellery designed with a nod to Ancient Rome, the Byzantine Empire and the Victorian era. Mixed metals, from rose gold to rhodium, provided the backdrop for precious and semi-precious stones swimming in ornate diamond pave settings.
   Tracey Tanner Studios offered Italian leather purses and make-up bags that allowed guests to make a statement beyond fluorescent snakeskin and dyed crocodile leather. The company’s simple bag designs were covered in psychedelic colours, tie-die patterns, and digitally printed images of the natural beauty of the cosmos. And what star would not want to walk down the red carpet carrying the universe in her hands?
   Sagjol showcased comfy yet edgy clothing for men and women of all shapes and sizes. The new line featured a denim-like fabric made from recycled ketchup bottles—here is fashion feeding the soul instead of landfills. Sagjol’s toasty jackets, soft-to-the-touch jeans and frayed biker vests are perfect for throwing over graphic T-shirts and sexy camisoles.
   Beauty and grooming aides were also geared for the young as well as the young-in-spirit. Prep’s Strands like Steel hair care line is marketed as ‘cool care for young hair’—especially for trendsetters who often put their locks through hell. The leave-in treatment protects stressed hair from sun, heat, hot spotlights and other sources of thermal damage. It also works great as a de-tangler for kinky and naturally curly hair that finds its way into annoying dreadlocks.
   ClixIt Heal and Conceal pens offered a convenient way to hide blemishes and heal in-grown hairs. These little pens conveniently fit into the tiniest of clutches. In terms of larger cover-ups, Fake Bake was back to invite celebs to step into the mobile tanning parlour for a double shot of ‘Espresso Tan’. They also premièred their anti-ageing self-tanning facial lotion, along with a daily moisturizer that also amplifies and preserves an existing natural or fake tan.
   There were also several tables devoted to the most intimate of female concerns. Disposable PantyPads are biodegradable period panties complete with padded reinforcement to protect ladies during long flights and longer business meetings. For those of us who get really cranky under these circumstances, there’s always Serenol, a non-prescription dietary supplement that has been clinically shown to put a smile on women’s faces during that time of month. Made with Swedish flower pollen extract, it reduces water retention and junk food cravings while promoting a good night’s sleep.
   Speaking of things that annoy the “lady of the house” and her overnight guest, Jack’s Furr­fighters showcased their newest fur-fighting gear: suede gloves that remove cat and dog hair from little black dresses, boyfriends’ suits, living room sofas and boudoir pillows. All the lady has to do is put on the glove, and pet the sofa or the man covered in cat hair.
   Hemp-based products, backed by their 9,000 year-old history, came out from the shadows for a star turn. Hemp oil beauty products from Kannaway.com introduced Hollywood to hemp-oil infused cleansers, serums, and moisturizers. When combined with hyaluronic acid and other botanicals, hemp oil banishes signs of premature ageing. RSHO Raw Hemp Oil (by HempMeds), is a dietary supplement known to reduce anxiety without making you high.
   For those who prefer to smoke their herbs, Hydra Vapor Tech showcased its state-of-the-art vapourizer carrying cases. Available in gold, silver, white and black, the sleek Titan II allows you to carry all of your vaping supplies in a tasteful and tidy manner. While vaping, you could chill out to your favourite music with jewel-toned Spider ear buds, engineered with a focus on bass, vital to one’s enjoyment of rap, hip-hop and rock.
   The event also came with a cherry on top, which was definitely not for kids: no pre-award show event would be complete without a platter of Jello-shots from Twisted Cherries. Guests and vendors alike could not resist gin and whiskey-infused cherries encased in tangy cherry gelatin. While Girl Meets World star Ava Kolker and Disney’s Lexie Kolker enjoyed their cookies, the rest of us indulged in those festive sips.
   Favourite stars from MTV-flavoured movies past and present in attendance included Judge Reinhold, Vincent Spano, Daphne Blunt, Kirk Morrison, Ken Davitian, Charisma Carpenter, Lauren Potter, Ryan Ochoa, Ginger Gonzoga, Ashlee Keating, Jessica Barth, as well as veteran soap opera divas Kate Linder and Diedre Hall.—Layla Messian, LA Correspondent










Leyla Messian

April 16, 2016

Actress Katrin Heß the latest to pose nude for PETA, promoting veganism

Lucire staff/12.46


Marc Rehbeck/PETA


Courtesy Katrin Heß via Instagram

In the spirit of PETA’s earlier campaigns featuring celebrities who would rather go naked than wear fur, German actress Katrin Heß has posed nude to promote a vegan diet.
   Heß has long been public about her love of animals, running a prize draw last year for a rescue dog.
   Last week, Heß teased fans on her Facebook and Instagram, saying that she would be posing for PETA Deutschland. The German arm of the worldwide anti-animal cruelty group revealed her promotional image today.
   Heß said, ‘My choice to be vegan is not a trend, but a conscious decision for me and my love of animals. Since I do not eat animal products any more, I look at my surroundings very differently. For example, I finally understand that not only dogs, but cows and pigs, are sentient individuals … Every animal has the right to a happy and full life.’
   PETA Deutschland notes that 800 million animals are slaughtered or die in Germany alone for the meat, dairy and egg industries, and thousands of millions of fish suffocate on the decks of fishing boats or are crushed in nets.
   It refers German visitors to its Veganstart website, www.veganstart.de.
   The promotional image was shot by photographer Marc Rehbeck. Make-up was by Emile van Tile, using Paul Mitchell products.
   The shoot’s release, along with a behind-the-scenes video, coincides with the return of Heß in RTL’s Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei TV show, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in March. It will reach its 300th episode in 2016, although its 291st was promoted as the 300th by the network.
   In anticipation of the anniversary, the network over-enthusiastically removed fan videos that it did not even own from a Facebook group last month, under penalty of perjury.
   Heß joins celebrities such as Christy Turlington, Pamela Anderson, Charlotte Ross, Tamara Ecclestone, Christian Serratos, and Eva Mendes in posing nude for PETA.

April 12, 2016

Rihanna begins eighth week on Billboard Hot 100; Fenty Puma collection nearing release

Lucire staff/9.36



Puma

Rihanna has started the week on a high, as she is now neck in neck with the Beatles for the number of weeks spent at number one, thanks to her song ‘Work’, featuring Drake. It is her eighth week on the Billboard Hot 100.
   At the same time, her newest Fenty Puma by Rihanna collection (hashtagged #FentyxPuma) becomes available this month, after its début at New York Fashion Week. Rihanna serves not only as a brand ambassador but as a creative director for the brand. The collection takes its inspiration from Japanese street culture and fashion.
   The singer has previewed some of the offerings from the Fenty Puma by Rihanna collection on her website, noting the availability of the fur slide on April 22.
   Her chart-topping success now puts her ahead of icons such as Michael Jackson, while she rivals the Fab Four and Mariah Carey.
   Rihanna had Tweeted on April 4 about her seventh week on the Hot 100, crediting her faith for her success, something she has never been shy about doing.

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