Deborah Cox may (or may not) be starring in the musical take of “The Bodyguard”

Deborah Cox is drowning in good reviews, starring as fictional musical legend Rachel Marron in the stage musical The Bodyguard. Yep, it’s the same role Whitney Houston played in the 1992 flick of the same name.

Those wishing to see where and when Cox performs the role should visit thebodyguardmusical.com, and take note of the warning on the website: Please note that Ms. Cox is not scheduled to appear at all performances. Please check the venue website and ticketing agency for each city for the schedule. The producers of The Bodyguard cannot guarantee the appearance of any particular artist, which is always subject to illness and holidays.

Yet you can listen to Cox, now that Broadway Records’s president Van Dean and Deco Recording Group have announced that Deborah Cox: I Will Always Love You will be released digitally and in stores on March 31. The album is currently available for pre-order at BroadwayRecords.com and Amazon.com.

I Will Always Love You is an 8-track EP featuring the most requested songs from the smash-hit musical, including such iconic fan favorites as “All the Man that I Need”, “I Have Nothing” and “I Will Always Love You.”

Says the 42-year-old Cox: “I’ve always been a fan of the songs in the movie so it has been a dream to perform them on stage every night. This project was born out of continuous requests from my fans and people who have seen me in the show. They wanted to have something with me singing these songs so I listened and went to work putting this EP together.”

Natalie Merchant celebrates a 30-years career, on tour and with a box set

Thirty years old, and Natalie Merchant’s career seems as young as ever. So does she.

Catch what we mean when Merchantl tours the U.S this summer in with Natalie Merchant: 3 Decades of Song.  In anticipation of a forthcoming career retrospective boxed set on Nonesuch, Merchant’s concerts will span her three-decade recording career, with songs from both 10,000 Maniacs and her solo albums. A string quartet joins Merchant and her regular band for the shows. A portion of the proceeds from Natalie Merchant: 3 Decades of Song will be donated to the organization Food & Water, which champions healthy food and clean water for all.

In high school yearbook, and in 2005

Nonesuch most recently released Merchant’s Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings in 2015. This collection of all-new recordings revisits Merchant’s multi-platinum solo debut, Tigerlily, originally released in 1995 following her departure from 10,000 Maniacs. The release was accompanied by a documentary DVD.

Her career began in 1981 when, as a college student, she joined the seminal alternative rock band 10,000 Maniacs, which signed to Elektra Records in 1984. As lead vocalist, lyricist, and sometimes pianist, Merchant released six critically acclaimed studio albums with the band, including the platinum-certified In My Tribe (1987), Blind Man’s Zoo (1989), Our Time in Eden (1992), and MTV Unplugged (1993). She left the group in 1993, and in 1995 released her multi-platinum solo debut, Tigerlily, followed by the platinum Ophelia (1998) and Motherland (2001).

In 2003 she independently released an album of traditional and contemporary folk music, The House Carpenter’s Daughter, which also coincided with the birth of her child. For the next seven years she lived quietly in New York’s Hudson Valley devoting herself to family and community, while taking opportunities to collaborate with other musicians and strengthen her commitment to activism and philanthropy.

In 2010, Merchant returned with a thematic double album, Leave Your Sleep, her debut for Nonesuch Records. For this meditation on childhood and mothering Merchant set 19th- and 20th century American and British children’s poetry to music. She also collaborated with award-winning children’s book illustrator Barbara McClintock for a picture book based on the album. In 2014, Nonesuch released Natalie Merchant, her sixth solo album and first of entirely original songs in thirteen years, which the New York Times called a “set of dark, brave, thoughtful and serenely startling songs”.

Merchant remains dedicated to a wide array of social justice and environmental causes.  Recently, she spearheaded the making of the protest concert film Dear Governor Cuomo (2013) with New Yorkers Against Fracking, actors Mark Ruffalo and Melissa Leo, and filmmakers Jon Bowermaster and Alex Gibney, and she directed and produced SHELTER: A Concert Film to Benefit Victims of Domestic Violence (2014).

Visit her tour dates here nataliemerchant.com/calendar

 

Consider Tyce another bat out of hell. That’s a compliment. Read on . . .

For the record, whenever Van Dean, President of Broadway Records, speaks, we listen.

“I first heard Tyce sing Steinman in a concert in New York and knew immediately that he was a rare talent who could pull off these extraordinarily difficult to sing songs and make them his own,” Dean says. “It’s no surprise that Steinman trusted Tyce with his material and we are excited to unveil Tyce’s debut album to the world.”

Indeed. Every so often a new artist comes along with a debut album that not only raises eyebrows, but curiosity in that the songs are so perfectly matched with the talent. In Tyce’s case, with today’s release of his debut Broadway Records album, Hero, his voice is perfectly in sync with the celebratory music and lyrics of noted Meatloaf collaborator Jim Steinman.

No ordinary talent would ever dare to record such treasured songs as “Holding Out For A Hero,” “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” “I’m Gonna’ Love Her For Both Of Us” and “Braver Than We Are,” without the imprimatur of wordsmith Steinman, who was catapulted to international fame and renown with the debut album from Meatloaf, Bat Out of Hell.

Tyce is the first male vocalist to have recorded with Steinman since Meatloaf. Says Tyce: “I also fit Jim’s original vision of a young blond, honorable, noble-boy, that he first had in mind when he wrote Bat Out Of Hell.”  (Steinman is currently prepping the musical Bat Out Of Hell which opens June 5 in the U. K.)

Bravely produced and boldly re-imagined by Zak Lloyd (with Tony Heyes as executive producer and Nicky James as producer), with Steinman’s blessing, the album features nine Steinman-tracks; plus seven bonus tracks. Don’t be fooled, these tunes perfectly balance Steinman’s original vigor with a twist of modern.

Tyce, who has long been key player in the Broadway community and recently appeared at last year’s Rockers On Broadway event (performing Boston’s “More Than a Feeling” to a rapturous reception) services Steinman’s work with a bold, fresh take and a passion that immediately demands an audience.

Tyce first met Steinman after honoring him at a special concert in New York City. A surprise performance followed, with Tyce receiving a standing ovation after singing “Bat Out of Hell” in its 9-minute 51-second entirety in the original key. This was the first time the song was ever officially performed live since the Meat Loaf rendition. From there, it was kismet and a new interpreter of Steinman was born and reborn, for Jim.

We give Jim the last words. He calls Tyce “brilliant! virtuosic!” and gushes again over Hero: “It was like you wrestled with a fire-breathing dragon and came out on top!”

Craig Shirley’s latest book takes a detailed look at the “under explored” life of Ronald Reagan

So much has been written about Ronald Reagan, some might argue too much, but what remains under explored is the short time between his failure to obtain the nomination at the 1976 Republican convention (his second run for the nomination) and his rise from the ashes just four years later when he was elected president.

What happened in those four years to prepare him in a way in which he was not for 1976? How did he gain so much momentum from failing to winning? Surely, the reason for his popularity was more than just taking on issues, taking on Jimmy Carter, and being present and accounted for. What else was there?

Enter Craig Shirley’s Reagan Rising: The Decisive Years, 1976-1980. (Broadside Books, $29.99), to be officially released on March 21. Shirley explores how Reagan, already 65 years old, emerged from defeat to become a more reflective, more thoughtful, more hopeful, and more spiritual leader. Reagan’s movement quickly spread across the country, crossing party lines, and for the first time young people flocked to American conservatism.

As Reagan himself moved forward, redefining American conservatism, shifts in world leadership—Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Pope John Paul II—signaled a rising tide for change that aligned with Reagan’s core beliefs. He championed the individual at home, rejected containment and détente abroad, and advocated for the defeat of Soviet communism.

With the emergence of other key conservatives, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Jack Kemp, and Milton Friedman, among them, seminal conservative think tanks began to redefine American policy. By 1980, Ronald Reagan was fully entrenched as the leader of American conservatism and poised to become leader of the nation.

Craig Shirley was the first Reagan Scholar at Eureka College, Reagan’s alma mater, where he taught a coursed titled “Reagan 101.” Learn more at craigshirley.com.

 

 

Join Henry Louis Gates, Jr. on a journey through the unseen Africa

Henry Louis Gates, Jr. travels the length and breadth of Africa to chronicle the continent’s history from a firmly African perspective. Viewers can join him as Professor Gates’ journey takes him from the city of Great Zimbabwe to the pyramids of the Kingdom of Kush in Sudan, from the spectacular rock-hewn churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia to the continent’s oldest university in Fez, from the Blombos Caves in South Africa to Ancient Mali, the empire of King Mansa Musa, still thought to be the wealthiest person ever to have lived.

No passport needed, just a copy of Africa’s Great Civilizations, available on DVD and Blu-ray on May 16; the program will also be available for digital download.

In the program, Gates chronicles a sweeping 200,000-year journey of discovery, showing the complexity, grandeur and diversity of many millennia of undiscussed and unknown details about Africa’s compelling and dramatic history. Gates presents—for the first time for a popular audience—a new vision not only of Africa’s pivotal place in world history, but also the world’s relation to Africa.

Africa’s contributions to the human community’s development of art and language, writing and religion, agriculture and government, the arts and sciences are commonly misunderstood, or even ignored. This landmark series presents a new and comprehensive narrative about Africa and the history of the extraordinary diverse peoples of its continent, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Cape of Good Hope, from the Red Sea and down the Nile River, and from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic. The series sizzles with exciting interviews with leading historians, creative writers, art historians, paleoanthropologists, geneticists and museum curators.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBq_zOzhTqw://

“Africa is the ancestral home to the human community and to many of the pivotal breakthroughs in the history of civilization, yet the continent continues to be stereotyped as an isolated and underdeveloped region in the mind of outsiders, devoid of any profound historical achievements,” says Gates. “This series will dispel these myths and other inaccuracies about Africa through a detailed and riveting examination of significant historical events, such as the rise of its powerful kingdoms, the growth of extensive trade networks with the Middle East, Europe and China, seminal technological and artistic discoveries, and its peoples’ resilience in the face of harrowing past traumas. We made this series to end this ignorance about the African past, to reveal how Africans not only shaped the history of their continent, but also how profoundly and how extensively Africa has shaped the contours of our modern world.”

Beginning deep in the continent’s past with the origins of Homo sapiens and the “Out of Africa” migration of all of our human ancestors from east Africa, Gates vividly paints a picture of the earliest African civilizations—from Ancient Egypt and the Kingdom of Kush to the end of the 19th century as Africans faced Europe’s infamous “Scramble for Africa”—through their artistic and cultural achievements, their religious practices and political and social structures. Viewers examine the origins of the first human beings in Africa and the art and writing they created, and are introduced to unique environmental marvels such as the Gilf Kebir plateau, Jebal Barkal, the major climatic transformation of the Sahara Desert, and the emergence of cities in Egypt, the Sudan, Ethiopia, Zanzibar, South Africa, Great Zimbabwe, Angola, Benin, Ghana, Morocco and beyond. In terms of cultural and artistic innovation, the program looks at how the sculptors of West Africa exhibited craftsmanship rivaling that of European masters, and how the early Christian church—both through its theology and Christianity’s most architecturally stunning foundations—was nurtured in African cities like Alexandria, in Nubia along the banks of the Nile River and in Ethiopia. The crucial role of Africa in the evolution of Islam, and Islam’s major shaping role throughout North and West Africa, are subjects addressed with vigor throughout the series.

Africa’s history and its rich culture did not develop in isolation—it is and was greatly influenced by complex interactions with the rest of the world, since the most ancient of times. Gates shows how Africa’s interactions with foreign civilizations and ideas transformed these trading partners, and how African societies and cultures themselves were shaped through these extended contacts, including the arrival of Islam in medieval North Africa and Western Sudan and the rise of a maritime civilization on the East African coast, which regularly traded with Persian and Chinese visitors. Trade in salt and gold across the Sahara placed Africa in contact with Europe and the Middle East for millennia. Further, Africa was an epicenter of Christian theology and philosophy, reflected in the influential thinking of early Christian theologians like St. Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century, and in travel accounts of such Islamic scholars as Leo Africans and Ibn Battuta.

The series also examines the ancient African kingdoms’ increasingly complex relationships with the political economies of Europe and the burgeoning trans-Atlantic slave trade, and how these interactions began to change the internal dynamics of the continent. Finally, the series draws to a close at the end of the 19th century, when the infamous “Scramble for Africa” witnesses the industrial nations of Europe fighting for control of the vast riches of Africa’s natural resources, and when on the Plains of Adwa, Ethiopia makes a heroic stand against an invading colonial power.

 

Learn how King Henry VIII got ahead in marriage . . . six times!

And you thought the Mormons had it tough.

The 16th--century legend of King Henry VIII is turned on its crowned head as the dramatic stories of his six tumultuous marriages are told from the wives’ perspectives in Secrets of the Six Wives (PBS Distribution). The fascinating documentary will be available on DVD March 14; the program will also be available for digital download.

With extraordinary attention to detail–including actual first-person accounts pulled from historical records and secrets and stories from the women who surrounded each Queen–the program offers an ambitious approach to the oft-told tales.

Led by UK author and historian Lucy Worsley, who moves seamlessly from the present to the past and appears throughout the series as an observer and commenter on the happenings at court, the program gives history a new point of view. Worsley is the Joint Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, and a face familiar to British audiences as a regular historical contributor to BBC, whose best-selling books bring new angles on centuries of British history.

The series’ three episodes follows the trajectory of a well-known British nursery rhyme used to teach children the order of the six wives, “Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.” Additional information about each of the episodes included on this DVD are below:

Episode 1
Young Henry is smitten with Spanish princess Katherine of Aragon, who became his first wife, until her “inability” to deliver a suitable heir destroyed their marriage. Henry’s wandering eye leads him to Mary Boleyn then to her sister, the infamous Anne Boleyn, as he begins divorcing his first wife.

Episode 2
Viewers learn that Anne Boleyn was not necessarily the “harlot” described by history, but instead a strong and intelligent woman.  After Anne’s famous beheading, King Henry marries his professed “true love” Jane Seymour, who bore the King’s only son but died soon after the child’s birth.

Episode 3
Taking place in Henry’s later years and traces the failed marriages he had with Anne of Cleves, whom he divorced, but who got a very good settlement and ended up as one of the richest women in England, and Catherine Howard, a teenager who Lucy discovers was exploited by older men from a young age. She was also beheaded. Henry remained married to his sixth wife, Katherine Parr, until his death.

Whether as witness to, participant in, or wry commentator on the marital dramas as they unfold, Worsley shines an empathetic light on the featured women and, in doing so, delivers a new take on the legend of King Henry VIII.

Murray says the cast of Secrets of the Six Wives features mostly new faces from the U.K., helping to bring the story a contemporary feel. Starring as the six wives are Paola Bontempi (Katherine of Aragon); Claire Cooper (Anne Boleyn); Elly Condron (Jane Seymour); Rebecca Dyson Smith (Anne of Cleves); Lauren McQueen (Catherine Howard); and Alice Patten (Katherine Parr). Notable veteran actor Richard Ridings (who voices the character of Daddy in the popular children’s show Peppa Pig) appears as the older King Henry VIII in episode 3. Scott Arthur plays Young King Henry VIII in episodes 1 and 2.

 

Art appreciation made easy: “Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art?” paints a winner

Can’t tell your ass from a Kandisky?

No worries. Young art professionals Kyung An and Jessica Cerasi knows contemporary art can be baffling, but they have found an answer.  And those answers, cutting straight to the questions that matter, can be found in Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? (Thames & Hudson, $16.95). The book offers concise and pointed insights into today’s art scene. It’s an easy-to-navigate A-to-Z guide examines (among other topics) how artists are propelled to stardom, explains what curators do, challenges our understanding of artistic skill and demystifies the art market.Image result

The authors’ entertaining and thought-provoking explanations draw on key artworks, artists and events from around the globe, including how the lights going on and off won the Turner Prize, what makes the likes of Marina Abramović and Ai Weiwei such great artists and why Kanye West would trade his Grammys to be one.

Packed with behind-the-scenes knowledge, written in plain language and fully cross-referenced, Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art? is the perfect gallery companion both for those totally new to the scene and seasoned exhibition-goers.

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Iris Elba works “100 Streets” in the powerful ensemble drama

You know his voice from the characters he brought to life in a trio of Disney films: Zootopia, The Jungle Book and Finding Dory.  Then there was his role as the villain Krall in Star Trek Beyond.

For three years Iris Elba tried to get 100 Streets off the ground. He’s one of the film’s producers. It’s a “small” film, a powerful ensemble drama, the story of three disparate Londoners whose lives interweave in unexpected ways as they face major life changes. Fans of layered storytelling and multi-character movies won’t want to miss this moving portrait of contemporary London, available on Blu-ray and DVD March 7  from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Samuel Goldwyn Films. 

100 Streets follows the trio as they play out in one square mile of modern day London. A former rugby player, Max (Elba), struggles to find a life off the field while fighting to save his marriage to former actress Emily (Gemma Arterton).  Kingsley (Franz Drameh) is a small time drug dealer desperately seeking a way off the street.  While completing his community service for a misdemeanor, Kinsley meets Terence (Ken Stott), a local thespian, who gives him the push he needs out of his dead end life and into a very different, creative world. George (Charlie Creed-Miles), a cab driver, and his wife Kathy (Kierston Wareing) dream of having kids, but a devastating road accident puts their hopes on hold even testing their otherwise strong marriage. Anybody can make a wrong turn, but it’s the journey that allows us to find the right path.

Elba, so different from Max, loved the character, long past his prime. Says he: “I can relate to it. People in the spotlight tend to be scrutinized, every move they make. I guess you can say my star is rising or whatever, but what comes with that is a lot more inquisitive people who want to know who you are as a person and what life decisions you’re actually making. Because you’re an actor or sportsman people want to know that and they are curious. But it’s part of the job—if I didn’t want anyone to know anything about me, I would have probably gone for a different career path.

Criterion releases a stunning restored “Mildred Pierce”; pie not included

Michael Curtiz’s 1945 Mildred Pierce—a noir-tinged melodrama in which Joan Crawford portrays Mildred, a single mother hell-bent on freeing her children from the stigma of economic hardship—is a classic whose reputation hasn’t faded over the years. Its iconic performance by Crawford solidified the actress’ career comeback, winning Crawford her only Oscar.

As Mildred pulls herself up by the bootstraps, first as an unflappable waitress and eventually as the well-heeled owner of a successful restaurant chain, the ingratitude of her materialistic firstborn (a diabolical performance by Ann Blyth) becomes a venomous serpent’s tooth, setting in motion an endless cycle of desperate overtures and heartless recriminations.

Recasting James M. Cain’s rich psychological novel as a murder mystery, this bitter cocktail of blind parental love and all-American ambition is both unremittingly hard-boiled and sumptuously emotional.

A rare photo of Crawford during a “Mildred Pierce” audition

Ahead of its recent Criterion release, the decades-old frames of the film required a painstaking rehabilitation process. After a number of archival film elements were scanned at 4K resolution at Warner Bros.’ in-house Motion Picture Imaging lab in Burbank, the original camera negative of the film came to light, providing the basis for the majority of the restoration—that is, until the negative’s inferior final reel necessitated dipping into another archive altogether. The resulting presentation of Mildred Pierce, now available on Blu-ray and DVD, beautifully reflects the silken texture of that original nitrate stock, the luminosity of the black-and-white images accentuating the film’s stark themes of social ambition and familial loyalty.

For the full story behind the restoration—as well as an opportunity to get acquainted with the technical experts and state-of-the-art equipment at both Warner Bros. and Criterion—watch the video below, made by Criterion videographer Tara Young.

And the bonus tracks are Heaven sent!
  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New conversation with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito
  • Excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show featuring actor Joan Crawford
  • Joan Craw­ford: The Ultimate Movie Star, a 2002 feature-length documentary
  • Q&A with actor Ann Blyth from 2006, presented by Marc Huestis and conducted by film historian Eddie Muller at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco
  • Segment from a 1969 episode of the Today show featuring Mildred Pierce novelist James M. Cain
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith
  • New cover by Sean Phillips

PBS goes into the bowels of Boston for a fascinating documentary on subway history

Petula Clark made it very clear: Don’t sleep in the subways, darling.

But learning about the underground travel system is a whole different trip. In the late 19th century, as America’s teeming cities grew increasingly congested, the time had come to replace the nostalgic horse-drawn trolleys with a faster, cleaner, safer, and more efficient form of transportation. Ultimately, it was Boston—a city of so many firsts—that overcame a litany of engineering challenges, the greed-driven interests of businessmen, and the great fears of its citizenry to construct America’s first subway. Based in part on Doug Most’s acclaimed non-fiction book of the same name, The Race Underground tells the dramatic story of an invention that changed the lives of millions.

PBS Distribution releases American Experience: The Race Underground on DVD on February 28. The program will also be available for digital download.

In the late 1800s, Boston reigned as America’s most crowded city, with nearly 400,000 people packed into a downtown of less than one square mile. With more than 8,000 horses pulling the trolleys, the city was filthy and noisy, reeking of manure and packed with humanity.

In 1890, Edison General Electric Company, which manufactured much of Sprague’s equipment, purchased and absorbed the Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company

But a young American inventor named Frank Sprague had a revolutionary idea. Inspired by his visits to the London Underground, Sprague envisioned a subway system that would trade London’s soot-spewing coal-powered steam engine with a motor run on the latest technology—electricity. After an early job with his idol Thomas Edison, Sprague launched his own venture, the Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Company.

Sprague

Seeking investors, he first struck out with financier Jay Gould after almost setting the mogul on fire during a demonstration.  He soon found backing with the wealthy capitalist Henry Whitney, who owned a fortune in suburban Boston real estate and quickly saw the financial upside of connecting his desirable residential neighborhoods with the city’s economic center. Whitney also proposed the consolidation of Boston’s seven existing streetcar companies—all under his control. When the Massachusetts General Court granted Whitney the monopoly, he announced an unprecedented plan: To build the nation’s first subway. Powered by Sprague’s technology and enthusiastically supported by Boston Mayor Nathan Matthews, the project threw the city into a voluble debate.

“The Boston subway was not a foregone conclusion, not by a long shot. There was a petition at one point where 12,000 businessmen opposed the subway,” says historian Stephen Puleo. “There were going to be streets torn up, sewer systems affected, water lines affected, electrical lines affected. Secondly, folks felt like traveling underground was very close to the netherworld, that you were getting closer to the devil, that you were taking this great risk in God’s eyes by traveling on a subway.”

The debate raged on, but the Mayor finally convinced the city that the new subway would provide much-needed jobs and not infringe on the city’s beloved Boston Common. After two years of construction, Boston’s new subway made its first trip on September 1, 1897. Despite lingering fears, more than 250,000 Bostonians rode the underground rails on its first day. In its first year of operation, 50 million passengers would ride the Boston system, and within ten years, New York and Philadelphia opened subways, with more American cities to follow.

 

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