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T.A. Moreland

T.A. Moreland

THE NATIONAL JAZZ MUSEUM IN HARLEM HOSTS OPENING CELEBRATION

March 29th was a special night! At 58 West 129th Street (at Lenox Ave), The National Jazz Museum in Harlem hosted its opening celebration. A lively, diverse crowd participated in the gala event.

National Jazz Museum in Harlem Opening Reception 02292016 600x399The opening reception for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on March 29, 2016.

The celebration featured a star-studded list of performers: pianist Marc Cary and his band which included vocalist Terri Davis; tenor saxophonist, Bill Saxton; drummer, Russell Carter; and, bassist, Rahsaan Carter.

There were comments by the Loren Schoenberg, Grammy Award-winner and Founding Director; Harold Closter from the Smithsonian institute in which the museum is an affiliate, also addressed attendees, as did Attorney Tim Porter, the New Chairman of the NJMH's Board of Directors.

National Jazz Museum in Harlem Tim Porter-Esq Board Chair 03292016 600x399Tim Porter, Esq., Board Chair, National Jazz Museum in Harlem 

Board Chair Tim Porter noted that the vision for the new NJMH space would include, "providing more educational programming; taking advantage of performance and partnership opportunities afforded by the new location, enhancing our role in Harlem's cultural and civic life, presenting new and exciting exhibits, nurturing emerging talent in the many areas associated with jazz both on and off the band stand, building upon the programs we have successfully operated in other parts of the city, targeting some of our programming where to those who would otherwise miss out on the arts, and all the while continuing to expand, where appropriate, our national and international outreach activities."

Among other luminaries in attendance were: Kenneth Knuckles, president and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone; Mercedes Ellington, accomplished dancer and granddaughter of Duke Ellington; and Lloyd Williams, CEO of the Harlem Chamber of Commerce.

Mercedes Ellington grannddaughter of Duke Ellington NJazzMHarlem Opening 02292016 600x766Mercedes Ellington, dancer and granddaughter of jazz legend Duke Ellington, at the opening of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on March 29, 2016

National Jazz MH Opening Reception Tim Porter Voza Rivers Tim Wein Lloyd Williams 600x399Photo l to r: Tim Porter, Esq., Board Chair, National Jazz Museum in Harlem; Voza Rivers, Harlem Arts Alliance Board Chairman; George Wein, NEA Jazz Master/Newport Festivals; and Lloyd Williams, CEO, Harlem Chamber of Commerce

The purpose of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is to preserve, promote and present jazz by inspiring knowledge, appreciation, and celebration of jazz locally, nationally and internationally. With the goal of keeping jazz at the forefront of musical visibility and exciting in the lives of a diverse range of audiences.

Some of the upcoming events at the museum include:

Urban Design, Jazz and Creativity, Tuesday, Apr 12, 2016, 7:00 pm

Jazz, Baroque Design and Beyond, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 7:00 pm

Cannonball Adderley – The 1950s, Thursday, April 21, 2016, 7:00 pm

For a complete list of activities and events, check out the National Jazz Museum in Harlem's website: www.jazzmuseuminharlem.org

I strongly recommend that you visit the National Jazz Museum in Harlem; it's a gem.

 

Theatre Review: On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan

It's 1975 and they are the Miami Latin Boys. A modestly successful boy band. Then in 1977, they hear young Gloria Fajardo sing, sign her and become the Miami Sound Machine. After ten years, she marries the band's manager Emilio Estefan, and when her star power can no longer be denied, they change the group's name to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine.

Next, the producers want the band to stay within the Latin market. Emilio refuses to be pigeonholed; he realizes that they have something very special to offer the world.

This is just part of the story of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan now on stage at Broadway's Marquis Theatre. From the opening curtain, this production exudes energy and creates a connection that grabs you until intermission and then grabs you right back again after the break!

Intertwined with captivating dancing and singing is this marvelous story of the exceedingly talented performer, Gloria and her marketing genius, but also her musically talented husband, Emilio. Her talent combines with his vision, forever changing the music world.

But this story is just not one of fame and glory. This group had to fight to have their unique sound given the mainstream exposure it deserved. There are plenty of other hurdles as well.

As a child, Gloria has to care for her chronically ill father, deal with her mother's conflicts over her own unfulfilled entertainment dreams, and Gloria's difficult decision to leave college to pursue her career full-time.

Then there is Gloria's tragic accident at the height of her career.

Even if you have never heard of Gloria Estefan (which is highly unlikely), you will embrace this story and this production.

I am frankly not sure if there has ever been a better cast. This is a strong chain of performers, without a single weak link. It all starts with Ana Villafane in the lead role of Gloria. She rocks it! Her voice ranges from soothingly angelic to absolutely earth shaking. Josh Segarra is Emilio and has the authentic onstage persona of a man who would create a recording empire. (He and Gloria are worth a half billion dollars and are part owners of the Miami Dolphins.)

The dancers seem to have so much fun; it's as if they would gladly perform these steps even if there were no audience.

On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan is an engaging story, with phenomenal dancing, and sinfully provocative singing, all woven together in this onstage masterpiece.

I'll put it very simply - GO SEE: On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan. It's playing at the Marquis Theatre 46th St. between Broadway and 8th Ave.

  • Published in Theatre

Theatre Review: Kinky Boots

This is a story that gives real meaning the phrase: Truth is Stranger than Fiction.

Here goes: A British manufacturer of high-end men's shoes struggles to survive. In an increasingly disposable society, customers are less interested in shoes guaranteed to last them for years. In a chance encounter, the factory owner's son, Charlie Price, meets a drag queen named Lola who convinces Charlie that there is a real market for women's shoes – made for men!

Charlie and Lola create a partnership, and the shop that once made footwear for elite Englishmen switches gears. It still makes shoes for men but for men with a different style of dress – no pun intended.

This production begins as a mildly interesting story set in a factory in decline. The dialogue is routine and frankly, I am starting to not expect very much. Then on the stage arrives Wayne Brady as Lola! This play takes off. It's like a football team waiting for a few plays to bring in their star quarterback.

This is a Wayne Brady that you probably haven't seen before. He's had his own television program, The Wayne Brady Show, and he currently hosts, Let's Make a Deal. But here, he absolutely owns the role of Lola. It's not just his exceptional singing and dancing, it's the complete presentation. The dresses and wigs turn him into a stunning individual; however, his thin, unattractive, typical black man's legs do serve to undermine his overall appearance (I can say that because I too have thin, unattractive black men's legs!).

The night I saw Kinky Boots, Charlie Price was played by the understudy, Ross Lekites. Andy Kelso is usually in that role. However, Ross was excellent, his timing, singing, acting were as if he were the lead performer.

The music and lyrics are by Cyndi Lauper (Girls Just Wanna Have Fun), and its direction and choreography by Jerry Mitchell.

The set was modest but more than adequate for the storyline.

The bottom line is put on your shoes, boots, or whatever you wear and get down to The Al Hirschfeld Theatre, at 302 West 45th Street and see Kinky Boots.

  • Published in Theatre

Movie Review: London Has Fallen

The world is shocked by the unexpected death of the British Prime Minister. The leaders of the Western World including U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) immediately make plans to attend the funeral in London. The Secret Service navigates through what is security nightmare: multiple nations mapping out plans to keep their leaders safe while in England. Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett), the Director of the United States Secret Service, even tries to keep the President from attending. But due to the longstanding bond between the two nations, the chief executive feels he has no choice.

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) head of the Secret Service Presidential Protection Division whose wife is pregnant, and who plans to quit his dangerous job, drafts his resignation when he gets the call to lead the detail charged with protecting the president while attending the funeral. However, once they arrive in London their worst fears are confirmed. It's all a setup. A devastating barrage of bombs and bullets rain down on London.

London Has Fallen is a sequel to the 2013 film, Olympus Has Fallen. This version is shocking in its storyline – an organized attack on world leaders - and its execution of that story – seeing those attacks so ruthlessly carried out. The images are unimaginably destructive, historical and treasured British landmarks leveled before your eyes. The cinematography expertly captures every horrid angle of death and devastation. Frankly, this is the basis for my rating this film a "See It!"

This movie provides the excitement – and violence – that those who are most likely to go see this film will expect to see. An exceptional cast: Gerard Butler as the secret service lead, has that edge which gives his character credibility. Aaron Eckhart looks and behaves like what we would traditionally view as presidential. Morgan Freeman plays Vice President, Allan Trumbull, takes charge in a way that we would hope the VP would do in the absence of the president.

However, there are serious flaws in London Has Fallen. The almost complete success of this attack causes some credibility problems. No matter how well planned, things usually go awry. Much more than they did with this plan. At some points the story becomes completely predictable. This movie is also plagued by overly simplistic dialogue. When the attackers obviously have details that aided in their planning, President Asher opines: This had to be an inside job! Secret Service Director Jacobs also comments: They must have been planning this for a long time!

As to our diversity rankings, London Has Fallen gets a B+. It's very diverse in the sense black characters. Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman and Colin Salmon, who plays the Scotland Yard Chief, all have substantive roles. However, there is a lack of other people of color, specifically very few Asians and Hispanics.

London Has Fallen opens on March 4, 2016, is 1 hour and 39 minutes in length, and is rated R (for strong violence and language throughout). It receives our highest rating: See It!, for its action and excitement.

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