October 2008

All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 9

By Zack Smith

In the penultimate section of our look back at All Star Superman, we examine some of the religious underpinnings of the series.  Many have compared Superman to Christ, but how does Grant Morrison really see him – or religion in general? 

Boy, we’re really milking this, aren’t we?

All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 8

By Zack Smith

As we head into the home stretch of our look back at All Star Superman with Grant Morrison, we take a look at where Superman came from – both on and off the page. In this section, Morrison discusses how the Superman stories of the past influenced his miniseries – and how he interprets Superman’s homeworld of Krypton.

Read the full interview here!

Reprinted from the Indpendent Weekly

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Hoof ‘n’ Horns @ Duke University
Through Nov. 2

Just in time for Halloween comes Duke’s Department of Theatre Studies and Hoof ‘n’ Horn’s production of perhaps the most Goth musical ever, Stephen Sondheim’s classic Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Those who felt underserved by the Tim Burton/ Johnny Depp film adaptation last year (they cut the prologue!) will be thoroughly entertained by this version, which emphasizes the dark comedy of Sondheim’s adaptation.

Sweeney Todd is the tale of the barber exiled to prison by a lecherous judge in love with his wife, who returns home to a soot-choked London for vengeance. When he’s not after the judge or his daughter, Johanna (Claire Florian), he strikes up a relationship with Mrs. Lovett, whose meat pies he improves through a special ingredient.

It’s odd that a play involving rampant bloodletting and perverse relationships has become a cornerstone of modern musical theater, but this production has an almost classical feel, stripping down much of the fog effects and layered makeup from recent productions to put the emphasis on the performers. Jayme Mellema’s scene design combines crooked sets with rear-projection to create the sense of a London gone askew, while director John Clum, in his last directorial effort at Duke, does an excellent job of handling the complex, fast-paced production.

This show alternates the major roles; Scott Cruikshank played the role of Todd on the night I attended, and reprises the role on Nov. 1. Todd is played by Nate Jones during the other performances, while Cruikshank takes over as Judge Turpin from Michael Bergen. Itohan Aghayere played Mrs. Lovett on the night I attended; she alternates with Becky Swern. Cruikshank and Aghayere did fine the night I saw them, though Cruikshank’s deep voice makes him a good choice for the lecherous Turpin, and I’m curious to see him in that role. Among the ensemble, a standout is Kousha Navidar as the ludicrous huckster Pirelli; his exuberance in the role gives his scenes a particular comic energy.

Pun intended, you should definitely attend the tale of Sweeney Todd—especially on Halloween, when there’s a special “Come in Costume” performance. —Zack Smith

All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 7

By Zack Smith

In the seventh part of our 10-part look back at All-Star Superman with Grant Morrison, we find out what went into making the “ultimate” Superman story, some insights into the nature of Morrison’s collaboration with artist Frank Quitely, and why writing this series wasn’t like his gigs on Batman and Final Crisis.

Read the full interview here!

All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 6

By Zack Smith

Welcome to the second half of our 10-part look back at All Star Superman with Grant Morrison. In this part, we’ll find out more about the themes of the series, and how Morrison views the power of stories.

Read the full interview here!

All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 5

By Zack Smith
Our conversation with Grant Morrison about his and Frank Quitely’s recently concluded run on All-Star Superman continues with a look at Superman’s supporting cast, along with his arch-enemy Lex Luthor.

Read the full interview here!

All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 4

By Zack Smith
posted: 2008-10-24 12:06:00 ET

We also learn how he revamped an obscure Supergirl antagonist for fan-favorite nasty, and find out how Samson and Atlas were influenced by a British comic you’ll have to see to believe.

Read the full interview here!

Reprinted from the Independent Weekly

Yeston & Kopit’s Phantom
N.C. Theatre @ Memorial Auditorium, Progress Energy Center
Through Oct. 26

For the record, Phantom, N.C. Theatre’s musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux novel currently playing at Memorial Auditorium, is not the Andrew Lloyd Webber version whose tunes are constantly covered by aspiring singers and elevator-music companies. It’s a different version, developed before Webber’s, with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and a book by Arthur Kopit, author of Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad. It plays frequently around the world and was made into a 1990 NBC miniseries you can find on YouTube. While this version features forgettable music compared to Webber’s bombastic ballads, it boasts a far stronger, more dramatic story that strikes a deep emotional chord.

The story is well known by now—the deformed genius Erik (Michael Minarik of Les Miserables on Broadway) lives under the Paris Opera House, where he finds himself in the position of muse to young ingénue Christine (Rebecca Pritcher). Displeased when untalented diva Carlotta (Ellen Harvey) takes over the house and Christine falls for dashing Philippe (Jarrod Emick), Erik kidnaps Christine into his tunnel world, with tragic results.

This version of the story doesn’t let us see the Phantom’s face, but instead places the emphasis on Erik’s outsider status and his relationship with his longtime protector Carriere (Neal Benari). Much of the second act focuses on this relationship, along with the alienation Erik feels from Christine and human society. This is a terribly articulate Phantom—he quotes William Blake and has a few witty one-liners. Living under an opera house would cause you to pick up some culture, I suppose.

Phantom features excellent staging, costumes and moving sets that keep the production fast-paced, though you’re not likely to leave the theater humming any of the songs, despite good work from Pritcher, Harvey and the rest of the cast. But this is a more dramatic, complex and coherent version of the story, with a climactic duet between Benari and Minarik a touching highlight. It’s not as good a musical as Webber’s version, but it is a better play. If only there was a way to combine Kopit’s book with Webber’s songs, you’d have a masterpiece.

All Star Memories: Grant Morrison on All Star Superman, 3

By Zack
posted: 2008-10-23 10:51:00 ET

In All Star Superman, Morrison not only highlighted new angles of the Superman Universe, he also brought many new faces to the mythology. For anyone who’s ever wanted to know Grant Morrison’s process for creating new characters, here’s your chance – and a look into many, many ideas that didn’t find their way onto the printed pages. First off, we take a look at P.R.O.J.E.C.T’s colorful director Leo Quintum, and the Bizarro-Bizarro Zibarro (say that five times fast).

Click here for the full interview.

Reprinted from the Indpendent Weekly

Carl Kurlander and St. Elmos Fire
Griffth Theater, Duke Campus—While a student at Duke, Carl Kurlander had a crush on a girl who worked at the St. Elmo Hotel. “I had a professor at Duke I asked if I could write a short story so moving that a girl would fall in love with me,” he says. “Instead of discouraging me, she said ‘Write it!'”

Kurlander didn’t get the girl, but the resulting short story, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” wound up getting him a scholarship to Universal Studios. Joel Schumacher directed the 1985 hit film version that’s still remembered for its “Brat Pack” cast and theme song performed by John Parr.

Now, more than two decades later, Kurlander is back at Duke for a screening of both Fire and his directorial debut, the documentary My Tale of Two Cities. Kurlander, who works as visiting distinguished senior lecturer at the University of Pittsburgh, was inspired to do the film after moving back to his home town of Pittsburgh, which explores his relationship with the city as it fell into and started to recover from hard times.

Kurlander, who now divides his time between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, says Two Cities is a sort of “Can you go home again?” piece that explores his efforts to figure out how to help the city by talking to figures from its history, including the inspirations for characters on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. “People talk about it like it’s a Roger and Me, and it wound up becoming Mr. Rogers and Me.” Kurlander says.

Incidentally, Kurlander says the speech about “St. Elmo’s Fire” delivered by Rob Lowe in the film version is mostly inaccurate: “[Schumacher] pointed out that the studio might change the name of the film, so I had to make St. Elmo’s fire part of the plot,” Kurlander says. “If I’d been able to do Internet research back then, it might have been called something completely different!”

Kurlander will introduce tonight’s free 11:30 p.m. screening. —Zack Smith

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