Review of “Mary Poppins – The Musical” at the Ahmanson (Spoiler Alert!)

Rachel Wallace as Mary Poppins
in the national tour of Mary Poppins.

Last Friday the Broadway musical “Mary Poppins” opened at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles. I took a friend, a former Disney animation producer, and we both agreed that Rachel Wallace, the star of the show, completely owned the role of “Mary Poppins” and embodied her.

We both grew up with the Disney feature starring Julie Andrews so it was breathtaking to realize Wallace’s performance is stand alone. It’s like, never for a moment did we think: “Oh, it’s a talented actor playing the part…that Julie Andrews once played.”

No, Wallace’s performance transcended.

In fact, when Mary Poppins flew to the rafters at the end of the show, I forgot about theatrics, special effects and guy lines and for a brief moment my heart went along with her up to the highest heights. It was just so super…califragileisticexpialidocious!!!

Incidentally, prior to Friday’s performance, I never thought of the character Mary Poppins as a bad-ass. Until now. She kicks ass! Now I don’t want to give away more of the story than what I’ve already said, but combine a compelling story, a good — er — I mean an evil villain, an innocent romance, pyrotechnics, flying, tap-dancing, ceiling walking, and “how did they do that?” illusions and you just may find yourself as amazed as I was.

Mary Poppins is only playing at the Ahmanson for an exclusive limited engagement this summer from August 9 to September 2 so hurry and get your tickets before the fly away! Do not miss it because, well you know, it’s a jolly holiday with Mary! For a younger audience, the show is a tad long — over 2 hours and 40 minutes — but I still think the kids will love it.

Oh, and FWIW, I was told that after the show, the performers often go to Kendall’s Brasserie, located on the street level of the Civic Center and wouldn’t you know, my source was right? We saw Alfred Molina who is currently starring in “Red” at the Mark Taper!

Note: As a blogger I just want to be clear that this review is my own and not a paid endorsement.

Wesak “Super Moon” 2012

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” – Buddha

Yesterday the observance of Wesak, also known as the celebration of the Buddha Full Moon, not only coincided with Cinco de Mayo but is also notable as this year’s “super moon”, the closest and therefore the biggest and brightest full moon of the year. But instead of partying at a local tequila bar or dedicating my yoga practice to the life and death of the Buddha, a friend of mine and I set out to capture the moon with our cameras from atop the Getty Center.

Wall Street Journal: Studies prove massage therapy to have medical benefits

While it’s common to think of massage therapy as just a mere a luxury, recently the Wall Street Journal touted the medical benefits of massage in an article published earlier this week entitled Don’t Call It Pampering: Massage Wants to Be Medicine.

The article and accompanying video (above) posted on WSJ’s Market Watch stated that massage is growing in popularity among U.S. consumers despite the economy due to studies indicating it has scientifically measured medical benefits including reducing cortisol, decreasing proteins related to inflammation, increasing white blood cell count and promoting muscle recovery.

“Research over the past couple of years has found that massage therapy boosts immune function in women with breast cancer, improves symptoms in children with asthma, and increases grip strength in patients with carpal tunnel syndrome,” stated the article. “Giving massages to the littlest patients, premature babies, helped in the crucial task of gaining weight.”

It’s great to see new research supporting the benefits my humble vocation, however I feel the article completely ignores Western medical studies that has been out for well over 100 years (see my comment to the WSJ article here), and the empirical evidence of the benefits of massage that have been documented since the beginning of history from almost every culture on the planet.

Also, the article’s position that massage is a wanna-be medical modality is somewhat disappointing to me since throughout history massage therapy has always been used as an adjunct to coordinated medical care.

After all, it was the ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (460 to 377 BC), who is considered to be ‘the father of Western medicine’, that once said “anyone wishing to study medicine must master the art of massage.”

To learn more about the benefits of massage therapy, I invite you to download free informational PDFs about it from my website here.

It’s Full of Stars – The Central Rotunda at the Griffith Observatory

Vault of the rotunda at the Griffith Observatory. Click to embiggen.

The Central Rotunda at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles has the distinction of being one of the top 10 ceilings in the world. It was designed by muralist and Hollywood art director Hugo Ballin who also worked as a sketch artist on MGM’s 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz”.

Be sure to click on the image above to see all the gorgeous details that are featured in this mural including the celestial heavenly bodies of classic Greek mythological heroes such as Atlas, Mercury, Venus, the four winds, the planets as gods, and the twelve constellations of the zodiac. The line that you see coming out of the hole at the apex is the wire from which Foucault’s Pendulum is suspended.

I had an opportunity to capture this image of the rotunda on a recent hike to the observatory with the awesome Downtown Greather Los Angeles Hiking group from  This is a really great group of fun, gregarious people. Bob, the leader of the group, describes it as “We’re not a “hard core” hiking group. We believe that having fun and socializing while hiking is just as important as getting some good exercise, so don’t expect any sprints to the destination or death marches here. And dogs are always welcome (except in prohibited areas) on our hikes.”

This is a test. This is only a test!

Amphitheater in Central Park, Playa Vista.

Hey there!

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed a recent image I took on my iPhone and  posted to Twitpic last week from the Amphitheater in Central Park in Playa Del Rey. The location that the amphitheater sits is a 7.9 acre park designed by Michael Maltzan in collaboration with the Office of James Burnett.

Now honestly, there’s no real reason for me to share this photo with you now except that I’ve been having some hiccups with this blog and the ability to posts images so I’m simply testing the feed. But I thought I’d take a moment to share with you the pretty picture.

If you experience any duplicate posts or other issues of functionality with this blog or my website please let me know. I’m working on making this a s-m-o-o-t-h ride.

How Colin Firth and Guy Pearce Got Their SAG Cards

Back in 1983 I met actor Colin Firth backstage in London following a performance of “Another Country”. A year later he made his film debut in the screen adaptation of that play.

Flash forward to this past weekend where I once again had an opportunity to meet Firth backstage at a screening of the much acclaimed motion picture “The King’s Speech” in which he plays the part of King George VI. The role garnered Firth both an Academy Award nomination as well as a Golden Globe one for “Best Actor”. But it also received a nod for this year’s SAG Awards and earned an ensemble nomination for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture”.

I asked Firth and co-star Guy Pearce one question: How did they get their SAG cards?

Of course, as anybody who knows me knows, I recorded the conversation on my iPhone but in this instance the sound quality is so wretched and so unlistenable that I decided it was better to transcribe it.  I hope you enjoy their responses as much as I did in getting them.  🙂

Me: “This question is to both Mr. Firth and Mr. Pearce. Both of you: How did you get your SAG card?”

Colin Firth: “Through devious, devious means…(laughter).’

“I have to say it was one of my finest moments. Getting my SAG card was probably more meaningful to me than any nomination I’ve ever had. It made me feel more like a film actor or a movie star. I still have my first SAG card. I think it should be framed in the bathroom!’

“Um…I got it… well… you’re challenging a person whose memory is going!  Um… I got it… let’s see… I did a film in this country and I couldn’t do it unless I was a member of SAG and I went through all the right channels and the right motions. I had to apply for it and get all the approvals and everything before I could do the film. I think it was in the early nineties. But I had to become a member of SAG in order to work here on that film. So I’m afraid I can’t be more specific than that but it was all legitimate.”

Me: “Guy, do you remember your first SAG role?”

Guy Pearce: “Well, “LA Confidential” … which you may have heard of!   Uh, same process also although it was a bit difficult because Russell [Crowe] had already got his SAG card because he had done a few films before.’

“But I think it was a difficult process for Curtis Hanson to try and prove that I really was the person they needed to cast in this role. We were the first two people that were cast in that film and not only was there pressure from Warner Bros and producer Arnan Milchan to cast Americans in the film but I think there was some difficulty in proving I was the right person for the role as well (laughs). But we managed to succeed obviously.”

Actually, I was surprised to hear that Pearce did not require a SAG membership for his performance in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” even though the film won an Oscar and various other award nominations. I’m guessing that either it wasn’t a union show or Global Rule One did not apply in the case of this film as it was an Australian production.

While I thought the “The King’s Speech” to be well worth watching the only thing that was difficult for me to believe was the casting between Pearce and Firth. Pearce plays the older brother and heir apparent to Firth’s little brother and second in line to the British monarchy.  Despite the fact the they both are really quite good in their roles, when you put the two together in a scene it’s unconvincing and doesn’t play out quite right. Pearce appears much younger than Firth. The fact is Pearce is indeed seven years younger and it shows on the screen. That said, I was unable to find a still that features both of them so I had so create the image you see posted above as an indicator that the two were even in the same movie.

Perhaps Pearce wasn’t the first choice to play King Edward VIII because he made mention during the interview that he was cast much later in the production well after all the roles had been cast and principal filming was about to begin.

“The King’s Speech” is paint-by-numbers, award attracting bait but nevertheless it is a good film. The best ensemble cast nomination from SAG is rounded out by top performances from Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush.

Free Holiday Music Download For You

Holiday Chill - The Christmas RemixesMahalia Jackson

“Silent Night (46bliss Remix)” (mp3)
from “Holiday Chill – The Christmas Remixes”
(Christmas Chill)
Buy at Amazon MP3
More On This Album

My gift to you of music to download is this rendition of Mahalia Jackson’s “Silent Night” as remixed by 46bliss.

The original track of Jackson’s “Silent Night” on Columbia Records became one of the best-selling singles in the history of Norway. When she sang the song on Denmark’s national radio, more than twenty thousand requests for copies poured in.

Click on the orange arrow button above to download.

Happy Holy Daze!

Roy Barnes on Art & Design

Roy Barnes on Art & Design by TanjaB

In loving memory to Roy Lee Barnes
9 Feb 1936 – 29 October 2006
Ars Gratia Artis

This is an excerpt from a conversation I had with my late father Roy Barnes who served in the entertainment industry for close to 30 years as a member of both the Art Directors Guild (IATSE Local 800) and the Set Designers & Model Makers Guild (IATSE Local 847).

In this snippet we talk about the meaning of art. This recording took place in the ICU ward of St. Joseph’s hospital only a few days before he passed away from cancer.

Note: My father is receiving supplemental oxygen during these recordings therefore a slight hiss can be heard throughout.