June 21st, 2012

Cream City Chorus: The Last Curtain Call

June 16th was the Cream City Chorus' last performance. We went to the 7:30 PM show so we could be there for the last of the last.

Since the title of the concert was chosen before the decision to close down, the programs read, "Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Celebrating the Cream City (and the Wisconsin Cream City Chorus)". Although the "Laverne and Shirley" themesong (as well as "Happy Days") did make it into the concert, the program was altered to be as much of a retrospective on the chorus as could be crammed into a reasonable time.

This was not easy. I heard that over eighty songs were on the chorus members' "must do" list, and a lot of work was involved in paring that down to a list of 45, most of which were excerpted into six long medleys. It was a herculean task stitching all that together and working transitions and accompaniment, such that, given some life events that occurred during the rehersal period, the ultimate product could have doen with a bit more polishing in some places. I think the tough decision should have been made to cover a bit less territory and concentrate on fewer but stronger songs.

I like a good medley as much as anyone, especially one that's wittily constructed, but not to have the vast majority of the concert composed that way, which got a bit wearisome.

That being said, the sheer sentiment of the occasion made up for much. Georgie and I have been attending the concerts for most of twenty years of the group's twenty-five year existence, and it was nice to have remembrances of songs from long ago, as well as a taste of those that were before our time.

Some of the particular gems were Ebbie Duggins and Shirl Greeb on "Letters," Emory Churness and Hilary Giffen on "The Song that Goes Like This," and the entire chorus and alumni members on "The Last Curtain Call," a powerful yet joyous rendition that had tears running down my face.

Over the years, the Cream City Chorus has given us an exceptional outpouring of creativity and invention, especially for a small, community group. We have had new music, new songs, and new styles of presentation. Some have been more sucessful than others, but always fresh, interesting, and making you look forward to what the next concert would hold.

The end of the Cream City Chorus is the end of a small but significant chapter in Milwaukee's artistic history. It will be missed.

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Man In Black 3

On Sunday, June 17th, we went to see "Men In Black 3".

Despite the long time passed since the second installment of the series, the actors and plotline picked up the milieu and attitude quite seamlessly.

Although Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still rubbing along uneasily after fourteen years of partnership, there have been some changes at the gleaming white MIB offices. Notably, agency head Zed has been replaced by Agent O (Emma Thompson).

The plot begins with evil alien Boris (aka "The Animal," a sobriquet he hates--) breaking out from a maximum security prison. Boris travels back in time to try to undo his defeat by Agent K in 1969, which intitally changes J's timestream such that he is the only who doesn't 'remember' that K died forty-three years ago. There are other, dire, results from changing the past, which send J on his own desperate jump into the past in order to restore the prober sequence of events and get K back.

This works out with the mixture of humor and adventure we have come to expect from the Men In Black. Josh Brolin, as "Young K," does an uncannily good job of looking, sounding, and acting like Tommy Lee Smith's character, and the energy between him and Smith is both new and familiar. The alien assassin, Boris (Jemaine Clement), an advance man for his race's planned invasion of Earth, is an outwardly Kingonesque warrior who alternates an urbane manner and posh accent with growling rages. CGI effects however, reveal an altogether more unsettling and inhuman creature behind the dark goggles.

There was also a very amusing performance by Michaal Stuhlbarg as "Griffin", an alien refugee who can see alternate futures, and seemed to be channeling Robin Williams as "Mork from Ork"--another blast from the past.

There's lots of good fun along the way, including checking out the (mostly) well done 1969 setting. (Neither Georgie nor I remembered quite that many hats on men, or bouffant hairdos on women, in 1969--.) What was a bit frustrating was that makeup master Rick Baker created a host of 1960's style aliens--bulbous headed green men, bug-eyed monsters, an updated "Robot Monster"--but all we got to see of them on screen was a partof blurry backgrounds panning through the MIB headquarters. Dang!

Disappointingly for an SF film, there are a number of obvious scientific and factual errors, but they are minor distractions.

Recommended for those who enjoy humorous science fiction.

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