Friday, July 6, 2018

Celebrities Over 80 Who Are Still Going Strong

One of my favorite Independence Day activities is watching the Boston Pops perform on the Esplanade. I always look forward to the interesting mix of up-and-coming performers and truly A-list performers. This year, we got the A-listiest of all the A-listers, the legendary Rita Moreno.

My first experience with Rita Moreno, being a child of the '70s, was her performance in the PBS children's television show, "The Electric Company." Moreno played many different recurring characters, including a brash movie director and a little girl with blonde sausage curls in a frilly pink dress, but what I remember her for most is her shrill catchphrase that kicked off the opening credits: "Heeeey, yooooouuuu guuuuuuuuyssssss!!!!" I later came to appreciate her vocal talents when she appeared on the Muppet Show to sing the sultry "Fever" with help - er, "help" - from Animal. And finally, when I discovered musical theatre, I also discovered her amazing triple-threat skills in her Academy Award-winning performance in the movie of "West Side Story." Moreno later became a member of the exclusive EGOT club, having won an Emmy (actually, two; one for her performance on "The Muppet Show" and another for a guest appearance on "The Rockford Files"), a Grammy (for an "Electric Company" album), the aforementioned Oscar, and a Tony (for her performance in "The Ritz"). She also has a pile of other awards and nominations, including BAFTAs, daytime Emmys, Golden Globes, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

With all these awards, you might think that at age 86 she'd be ready to sit back and relax. But not this spitfire. Not only does she still perform regularly, she's currently co-starring in the remake of the sitcom "One Day at a Time." And she looks - and sounds - great doing it.

At the July 4th concert, she had no problems keeping up with Natalie Cortez, who played the role of Anita in the 2009 Broadway revival of "West Side Story," the role that won Moreno the Oscar back in 1961.
Gorgeous then, gorgeous now

Yes, nearly 60 years ago. And Moreno still has the vocals and the dance skills to hold her own against a performer 50+ years her junior. AND she still looks fabulous doing it.

But Moreno is far from the only stage, movie, or television performer in her 80s who is still going strong and looking fabulous. Let's check out some other performers that we can all aspire to be in a few more years.

Betty White
White is commonly credited as having the longest television career of any female performer, starting out with a bit part on a local variety show in 1939, just after graduating high school, and continuing to the present day. Her most well-known roles include Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and Rose Nyland on "The Golden Girls," but she had recurring and guest roles on a number of other shows from the 1940s on. In addition, she performed on a number of radio shows, even hosting her own show, had small roles in a number of films, and was the first woman to produce a sitcom. She has won eight Emmy Awards, a Grammy Award, and multiple other awards.

Then (1965) and now (2017)

White is now 96 and is experiencing a surge in popularity. She shows no sign of slowing down!

Anthony Hopkins
Perhaps most famous for his role as Hannibal Lechter in "The Silence of the Lambs," for which he won an Academy Award, Hopkins has also won several Emmy Awards. His first television appearance was in 1960 and he has been working steadily in film, television, and stage roles ever since, with his most recent role being Pope Benedict in the Netflix movie, "The Pope". 

Just as dashing and elegant in the '70s as he is today

Hopkins has over 30 films to his credit just since 2000. At age 80, he's working just as hard as he ever was. 

Carol Burnett
Most well known for her long-running variety show in the '60s and '70s, "The Carol Burnett Show," Burnett had a varied career on stage and in films as well as on television. Her first big break was as the star of "Once Upon a Mattress" on Broadway, for which she received a Tony Award nomination, followed quickly by winning an Emmy Award for her work on "The Garry Moore Show." Her career continued with many different stage, television, and film appearances, including being the first celebrity to appear on the children's show, "Sesame Street."

Opting for goofy more often than glamour, Burnett can still work both looks

At age 85, Burnett is currently hosting a television series called "A Little Help with Carol Burnett," an unscripted show in which children offer advice to both celebrities and average people.

Dick Van Dyke
Van Dyke is known for so many iconic roles that it's difficult to pick out which one he's most famous for: Rob Petrie in "The Dick Van Dyke Show," Bert in "Mary Poppins," Albert Peterson in "Bye Bye Birdie" (both on Broadway and in the film version), or as Dr. Mark Sloan in "Diagnosis Murder". His major awards include a Tony for "Birdie," multiple Emmy Awards, and a Grammy Award for the "Mary Poppins" soundtrack. Van Dyke has also authored five books. 

Still dapper, and still singing and dancing

Now 92, Van Dyke's most recent film appearance is a cameo in the soon-to-be-released sequel to "Mary Poppins," "Mary Poppins Returns." Plus, he's still performing live, as in this February 2018 performance at the Catalina Bar & Grille in Hollywood. 

Maggie Smith
Much like Betty White, Smith has been steadily working since her youth, but experienced a recent resurgence in her career. Her most well-known roles of late are the quick-witted and sharp-tongued Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess, on "Downton Abbey," and the equally (albeit more subtly) snarky Professor McGonagall in the Harry Potter movies. No one delivers a elegantly snide barb quite like Maggie Smith. Smith has been delivering lines brilliantly on stage and screen since her Broadway debut in 1956. With two Academy Award nominations (for "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" and "California Suite"), four Emmy Awards (three for "Downton" and one for "My House in Umbria"), a Tony Award (for "Lettice and Lovage"), and five BAFTA Awards (the British equivalent of the Oscar), Smith continues to deliver brilliant performances. 

 Her ability to speak volumes without saying a word hasn't changed

Now 83, Dame Maggie's most recent work is as the voice of Lady Bluebury in the 2018 animated film, "Sherlock Gnomes," the sequel to "Gnomeo and Juliet," as well as the film "Nothing Like a Dame."

Clint Eastwood
With his rugged good looks and outdoorsy masculinity, it's no surprise that Eastwood first made his name acting in the television series "Rawhide" and as the title role in the Dirty Harry movie series. Eastwood has worked steadily as a film and television actor since the 1950s, and also as a director, starting with "Play Misty for Me" in 1971. He won Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture for both "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby," also receiving a Best Actor nomination for each. 

Still ruggedly handsome at age 88, Eastwood has no plans to slow down, commenting, "Everybody wonders why I continue working at this stage. I keep working because there's always new stories. ... And as long as people want me to tell them, I'll be there doing them."

Julie Andrews
Best known for her roles in stage and screen musicals including "The Sound of Music," "Mary Poppins," "Camelot," "My Fair Lady," "Cinderella" and countless others, Dame Julie surprisingly does not have a Tony Award to her credit (although she was nominated for both "My Fair Lady" and "Camelot", as well as for "Victor/Victoria," although she declined the latter because she felt the rest of the company had been overlooked), but she does have an Oscar (for "Mary Poppins"), several Grammys (one for "Poppins," one for a spoken-word recording of stories and poems, and a Lifetime Achievement Award), and two Emmy Awards (one for her variety show and one for a series called "Broadway: The American Musical"). Sadly, in 1997 she underwent a botched surgery for vocal cord nodules and never really recovered her singing voice. She was, however, able to recover her speaking voice, and continued to perform in movies, including "The Princess Diaries" and its sequel, and television movies based on the "Eloise" book series. She has also performed voice work in numerous movies, including the Shrek and Despicable Me series. In addition, she has written more than 20 children's books, and in 2016 created a children's television show with her daughter called "Julie's Greenroom." 

She's still loverly
Andrews is still busily working at 82. 

James Earl Jones
Probably one of the most recognizable voices in the movies (thanks in great part to voicing Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies), Jones has had a long career on stage as well as in film and television. His Broadway career is heavily weighted towards Shakespeare, but he holds two Tony Awards for his roles in "The Great White Hope" and "Fences." He was also nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for the film version of "The Great White Hope" (the second African-American actor to do so), and is the only actor ever to to win to Emmy Awards in the same year, when he won Best Actor for his role in "Gabriel's Fire" and Best Supporting Actor for his role in "Heat Wave" in 1991. He also has a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. Although he never won a competitive Oscar, he was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2011. 

I'd let either version read me the phone book - wouldn't you?

Jones is revisiting his voice role as Mufasa in the live-action remake of Disney's "The Lion King" in 2019. Jones will be 88 years old when the movie is released. 

Judi Dench
Another steadily working performer on stage, screen, and television who really came into her own in her later years, Dench's career began with extensive stage work and several long-running television series, with only infrequent (and usually supporting) film roles. In the mid-1990s, her film career took off as she took on the role of M in the James Bond films. Now a remarkable seven-time Academy Award nominee, she won the award for her role in "Shakespeare in Love." She has won ten BAFTA awards (6 for film and 4 for television), and a Tony Award for her role in "Amy's View."

She's been rocking her signature pixie cut since the 1960s

Notable films in recent years include "Philomena," "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and its sequel, "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," "Victoria and Abdul," the 2017 remake of "Murder on the Orient Express," and the recently-released "Nothing Like a Dame."

Donald Sutherland
Sutherland's film credits actually begin with a "non-credit" - an uncredited role in a 1963 film called "The World Ten Times Over" listed as simply "Tall Man in Nightclub." Sutherland's film and television career has been incredibly busy throughout his lifetime, with notable roles in "M*A*S*H" (the film), "Ordinary People," "A Dry White Season," "Six Degrees of Separation," Invasion of the Body Snatchers," "The Dirty Dozen," and "Klute," among others. More recently, he has portrayed the insidious President Snow in the Hunger Games trilogy. 

With 2004 the last year Sutherland didn't have at least one film on his resume (and often 2 or 3) and 2003 the last year he didn't have any television credits, there's no reason to expect Sutherland's career to slow down any time soon. 

Chita Rivera
Any list that starts with Rita Moreno has to include Chita Rivera, Moreno's longtime friendly rival. Rivera originated the role of Anita in "West Side Story" on Broadway, the role which won Moreno an Oscar for the film version. (Despite the change in casting and many ongoing Chita/Rita jokes, both women admit to being great fans of each other. When asked about the "rivalry," Moreno responded, "Oh God,'s all in fun. We always go to see each other perform. She's a fabulous talent and a wonderful person." Rivera spent less time on the screen than she did on stage, with minor roles in the film musicals of "Chicago" and "Sweet Charity," plus a handful of TV movies and a guest spot or two on a television series. But on Broadway, Rivera originated many now-iconic theatrical roles, including Velma Kelly in "Chicago," Rose Alvarez in "Bye Bye Birdie" (another role for which Rivera was passed over for in the film version, this time to Janet Leigh), Liliane La Fleur in "Nine," and the title role in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (which won her a Tony Award; her second, following her previous win for "The Rink"). Despite a serious car accident in 1986 which broke her leg in 12 places, requiring 18 screws, 2 braces, and months of rehab and physical therapy, Rivera continued to perform.

Rivera as Anita in 1957 and the Chita-Rita duo in 2015

At age 85, Rivera is still going strong. Her most recent Broadway role was Kander and Ebb's final musical, "The Rink," for which she received a 2015 Tony nomination. 

Kinda gives you something to aspire to, doesn't it?

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Monday, June 11, 2018

The 2018 Tony Awards: Red Carpet Review

I watch a lot of awards shows, but the one that is nearest and dearest to my heart is, of course, the Tony Awards. I'm a huge theatre geek. I adore live theatre, I love to follow the careers of Broadway performers. I always check out the shows that are running in NYC, both Broadway and off-Broadway. And being a theatre performer myself, I have a deep appreciation for the subtle craft of performing in front of a live audience - over and over, 8 shows a week - and still keeping it fresh and new. So watching the red carpet for the Tonys is like watching a parade of friends.

This year's hosts were first-timers, Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban. Those names (and faces) are probably familiar even to the less theatre-savvy watcher. Groban was well known as a singer long before his Broadway debut, and Bareilles, as well as being a popular singer and songwriter, played Mary in the recent televised production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live! With 10 Grammy nominations between them plus a Tony nom for Groban last year, these two were clearly qualified to host.

Plus, they're fabulous.

Their opening number set the tone for the whole evening, which was truly a celebration of the Broadway community more than just the nominees and winners. Here are the beginning lyrics (transcribed by yours truly, so my apologies if there are any inaccuracies):
So it begins...these are the Tonys, the theatre tournament.
Find out who wins, who gets to go home with that glorious ornament.
We are your hosts, perfectly suited to be because - did you know?
Neither one of us has ever won anyything.
So let's take a moment for all of us, before all our winners shine bright.
Lest you forget, about 90% of us leave empty-handed tonight.
So this is for the people who lose!
'Cause both of us have been in your shoes!
This one's for the loser inside of you,
And this is for the people who don't get to take the trophy home.
Work so hard and you look so pretty,
Got your butt to Radio City.

It goes on, so watch the whole thing here if you missed it.

The two had a lovely chemistry and found a really nice balance of interspersing humor and background information with getting out of the way and letting the show do its thing.

But to circle back around to fashion, Bareilles had an impressive number of costume changes and a whole collection of fantastic outfits, starting with this stunning red carpet look.
I'm not generally a fan of ruffly tulle skirts, but the layers of increasingly larger ruffles paired with the gracefully layered silhouette really worked for me. The coppery bronze was a great color on her, and the snug bodice with plunging neckline was really flattering on her slight figure. The narrow black belt really made the whole look pop. A terrific start to what was to be a great series of looks.

For the opening number, Bareilles opted for a tux that mirrored Groban's look. Her slim-fitting cropped pants and low black corset added a touch of femininity and style, and worked really well for the two starting at the piano and then moving to center stage.

I was a bit less of a fan of this gold gown. The skirt was just a hair too clingy, and although I loved the petal-like shape of the cap sleeves and the pretty inset in the bodice cutout, the lower part of the bodice was too fitted to be bloused and too bloused to be fitted. Not a bad look, but not a great one. 

Sadly, I had to leave the room for a moment and missed these hilarious costumes. I'm not sure quite what the context was, but based on the rest of the ceremony, I'm sure it was funny and appropriately brief.

I really liked this red number. The way the skirt is fitted to the hip then magically becomes full and draped is just lovely, and I'm intrigued by the way the panel at the front of the bodice is gray rather than nude, so it's clearly not meant to look like plunging cleavage. It's a very simple and elegant look. 

I did catch this hilarious tribute to each other's Broadway shows, with Bareilles dressed as Groban's character, Pierre, from Natasha and Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (complete with beard), and Groban dressed as Bareilles's character, Jenna, from Waitress (also complete with beard). Again, a mercifully brief and funny bit that really added to the levity and celebratory air of the night.

My favorite look of the night, however, was Bareilles' final dress, a black strapless cocktail dress covered with gold stars. It had a very retro 1950s prom feel to it, and like the whole evening, had an air of both elegance and fun.

But what about all the other stars? Whose look was award-worthy, and whose needed to get the hook? Let's go through the list, in alphabetical order.

Uzo Aduba can be hit or miss on the red carpet, but she really hit it out of the park in this golden yellow halter column. Not everyone could pull off this color, but it just makes her skin glow. I love the wrapped lines of the bodice, the not-too-deep slit, and the hem that perfectly brushes the carpet. Add on great shoes and fabulous chandelier earrings and this look deserves an award.

Kristen Anderson-Lopez (with husband and co-nominee Robert Lopez) was luminous in a deep purple wrapped gown with dark purple beading. The shape of the neckline and the slight gathering in the skirt made for a lovely silhouette that looked great on her, and the deep color set off her gorgeously shiny dark hair. She looked gorgeous and happy, and was just so fun to watch.

I'm not a huge fan of pantsuits on the red carpet, but Christine Baranski's actually wasn't bad. She's tall enough to pull off the severely squared-off shoulders and deep neckline, and the slight flare of the cropped pants was cute. I don't love the shoes (the line across the toe is very straight and makes her feet look like they're a weird shape) and I would have loved a small pop of color in the bag or some jewelry, but generally it's a pretty cute look.

The rose wall backdrop to the red carpet was not the best way to set off Rachel Brosnahan's pink floral dress, but I'm not sure a more neutral background could have saved it. Although the colors were pretty and the silhouette (other than the weird shoulder things) was good, the overall look was disproportionate and matronly. Giant floral prints aren't for everyone and they certainly don't work with every style of dress or with lumpy 3-dimensional added flowers. Maybe it was a good thing she faded into the backdrop.

Deborah Crowe, wife of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child star Jamie Parker, caught my eye on the red carpet with this beautifully structured silver dress. I love the narrow strips crossing the bodice and creating lovely lines down to the hips, I love the way the top is fitted, and I love the semi-sheer cascading skirt. She looks like a statue of a gorgeous Greek goddess, and the lovely rolled retro hairstyle and deep red lips are the perfect finishing touches. Who says you have to be a performer to stun on the red carpet?

Claire Danes is another celebrity whose red carpet fashions are very hit or miss, but her Tony look was a definite miss for me. The shiny animal print fabric could have had potential, but the clinging style paired with oddly-placed ruffles at the hip, a clownish-looking ruffled collar, and a skirt that was too full just didn't work at all. A few judicious snips of the scissors would have vastly improved this look. To be fair, she still looks gorgeous, she just looks like a gorgeous woman wearing an ugly dress.

Cynthia Erivo worked this black lace and fringe column. I'm not generally a fan of fringe, but the really long fringe on this gown worked almost like a sheer outer layer, giving a wonderful sense of movement without looking too flapper-ish. I loved the scalloped neckline and sheer lace sleeves, and the tiny puddle of train at the bottom was fabulous. Bonus points for her super-short and chic platinum 'do.

Although I didn't love the eyelash fabric at the hem of Tina Fey's skirt, her overall look was still a win for me. I loved the button-down front, the stand-up collar, and especially the detailing where the eyelash joined the skirt. Get rid of the foofiness and this look is perfect.

One of the most fun looks of the night came from Wayne Coyne (of the Flaming Lips) and Katy Weaver. Her adorable white dress was trimmed with bright aqua ribbon and multi-colored paint splotches, and his tux shirt had matching paint splotches. Bonus points for her sequined Spongebob bag. Best tie-in to a show of the night, as well as best couples' costume. I would love to own this dress.

Renee Fleming wore a vivid bubblegum-pink gown with long bell sleeves and a pretty flared skirt. The graceful lines and vivid color were eye-catching enough, and Fleming was wise to avoid fancy details and accessories. Simply lovely.

I did not love Tiffany Haddish's clingy silver jumpsuit. The high round neck and plain long sleeves were boring, and the pants were just a hair too long (and looked uncomfortably tight at the top). The fabric was pretty but didn't have enough visual interest to work with such a boring cut. She needed some kind of detail, like an elaborate hairstyle, or a plunging neckline, or amazing shoes to make this look pop. It's not horrible, it's just very ho-hum.

Nikki M. James used texture to make this simple gold empire-waist dress work. The simple silhouette, with its slightly curved v-neckline, wide straps and belt, and just barely flared skirt is simply stunning, but could have been boring without the sparkly, crinkly texture of the fabric. This is a really great look.

I'm not a big fan of the pink-and-orange combo that has appeared on the red carpet frequently of late, but the silhouette and structure of Taylor Louderman's gown is so perfect that it works for me. The smooth, perfect fit of the bodice, the width of the sash, the thigh-high slit, the beautiful soft trailing pink and orange sashes, all work together beautifully. I can't take my eyes off this dress. Well done!

When I first saw Tatiana Maslany's dress close up, I didn't really like it. The texture of the fabric looks amateurish and lumpy. But boy, take a step back and I adore this dress! I love the flared sleeves, the hint of red, white, and blue, even the sheerness of the skirt that's hidden by embellishments at the thigh. It's a great length for her and the overall silhouette is so flattering. Another really well-done look.

Another example of a very simple dress that absolutely works due to a single element, Katherine McPhee's black ballgown is a fairly standard design. Strapless with a bit of pleating at the bodice, very full skirt with a moderately long train, but I love the way the fabric at the waist and hips is pulled toward the front and embellished with tiny white flowers. The lines are graceful and interesting, and the dress fits her perfectly in a way that looks structured yet still comfortable. Another really nice look.

You can rarely go wrong with black and white, as Laurie Metcalf proves in this simple and elegant white column with wrapped off-the-shoulder bodice trimmed in black satin and accented with a long black satin sash trailing from the waist. She looked every inch the award winner that she is.

Carey Mulligan would look lovely in a potato sack, but I wish she'd worn something less matronly. The background color of her dress fades into nothing, and yet the yellow flowers manage to clash with it. The lines of the skirt aren't bad, but the high-necked, slightly blousy top with gathered sleeves is very aging and unflattering. Too bad she didn't bring back her pretty floral dress from the royal wedding.

Laura Osnes also rocked a bubblegum pink gown. Although I didn't love some of the individual elements, like the double puffs on the sleeves and the multiple ruffles wrapping the skirt, somehow it all worked together to create a pleasing silhouette.

Perhaps it was because this dress bears a remarkable resemblance to the dress I wore to my senior prom in 1986, but Condola Rashad's dress felt very dated to me. The off-the-shoulder neckline was low enough to appear in danger of slipping off, particularly given the weight of the ruffled sleeves, and the full skirt of the gown looked bulky and wrinkled, and didn't seem to hold its intended shape. This might have been a pretty gown on paper, but the execution fell short.

Lauren Ridloff's satin gown was quite pretty. I loved the flare of the skirt and the way the bodice was wrapped. At certain angles, the wrapping at the front appeared to not fit well and made her seem a little flat-chested, but it moved well and she looked lovely in it.

 Chita Rivera (with her daughter, Lisa Mordente), looked every bit the diva she is in a lovely red satin sleeveless gown with long lace over-jacket. I especially loved the asymmetrical neckline, chunky purse, and super-red lipstick. She's still got it.

Amy Schumer always look uncomfortable in her red carpet clothes, to me. Maybe it's her posture, but her red carpet photos never show her look to its best advantage. I did like the way the bodice fit her as she was seated and moving around in interviews, but something about the way the skirt flares isn't especially flattering on her. I'd love to see this dress in a more column style, possibly even a trumpet silhouette. But it did look better on the telecast than in this still photo.

Kerry Washington's outfit had some nice elements, but the look overall didn't work for me. Not many people can pull off pants with a train (exception: Emma Watson), and shiny, skin-tight, spangled pants are even more difficult. The waistline is a hair too high, the deep v-neck with side opening is a hair too Star Trek, and the pants are a hair too cropped. The basic concept might have worked with some minor changes, but as it is here, it doesn't work for me.

Ming-Na Wen, on the other hand, rocked the criss-cross bodice in this striking burgundy satin ballgown. Immaculately tailored, it moved beautifully and was perfectly proportioned. It's an eye-catching dress, yet somehow you still found yourself looking at the wearer and not just the dress. One of the best looks of the night.

And finally, Marissa Jaret Winokur wore a lovely bright aqua dress with huge elbow-length bell sleeves and a wide round neck that was adorable in its simplicity. It was almost too casual for the Tonys, but her great silver platform sandals and big curly hair gave it the air of fun that pervaded the entire evening.

Congratulations to the nominees, the winners, and most especially, "Here's to all the people who lose!" We were all winners last night.

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