This week's contestant is Chuck Romportl from Hopkins, Minnesota. I was able to get the hidden song pretty quickly. The composer style, though, is in that area of which I generally have to toss a coin, and didn't get it. And in fairness, it's pretty tough. To my shock, the contestant actually guessed the composer style right off -- but didn't get the hidden song. Only on a second go-round, where pianist Bruce Adolphe brought the song out more, did he guess correctly.
From the archives. This week's contestant Walt Warren from Wheeling, West Virginia. I had a pretty good guess for the composer style -- the same one as Mr. Warren, and Bruce Adolphe said it was very close and could almost have been the right answer. But alas, I was wrong. As for the hidden song -- I could hear it, clearly in fact, and even was pretty sure I recognized it and where it might be from...but I just couldn't get it. But I don't feel badly because not only did Walt Warren not get it, but neither did host Fred Child. In fact, Fred didn't get it even after Bruce Adolphe gave some clues and the first world of the title. And when giving the answer, himself cried out, "Who would get that?!"
Okay, I think we need a palate cleanser at this point. And I think this does the trick. Thanks to my friend Myles Berkowitz to passing it along.
At Bruce Springsteen concerts, he says that they like to throw in one song that they don't have on their playlist, but that someone from the audience has requested. So, here, from a 2013 concert in Leipzig, Germany, is Springsteen and the E Street Band improvising (or perhaps partly-improvising...) an absolutely joyous and raucous version of the Chuck Berry song, "You Never Can Tell."
By the way, the young man on saxaphone is the nephew of Springstein's longtime friend and former bandmate, the late Clarence Clemons.
From the archives. The guest this week is Roger Reynolds from Ashland, Virginia. I got the hidden song almost immediately, and it's one of the least-hidden songs that Bruce Adolphe has done, so I suspect most people will get it. I have a feeling that the reason it's so lightly hidden is because it overlaps not a composer style, but an existing piece of music. Alas, as absolutely familiar and recognizable as that music is...I just couldn't name the composer.
From the archives, the contestants on today's Piano Puzzler are Beau Smith Pacheco from Addleboro, Massachusetts. For the longest time, I had hard time picking out the hidden song, though I thought I heard a couple possibilities. But a long ways in, it finally became absolutely clear, and I knew I had it right. As for the composer style, it danced between several possibilities...all of which were wrong. But the composer is very popular -- and one of my favorites. I just didn't think he wrote anything like this. One quibble -- not about the contest, but the discussion afterwards. The contestants didn't know the hidden song at all, though it's famous with several reasons why its pedigree should have helped -- yet neither host Fred Child or pianist Bruce Adolphe explained any of them. They only gave the name of the song. Not its larger context or perhaps who else famously recorded it, or maybe where it's from. (Sorry, I don't want to say more to give it away for those playing along.) At which point, if they had, the contestants might have said, "Ooohhhhh! Okay!! NOW I know what it is."
Just because sometimes you just need a break and charm, here is a duet of the song "Being Green" with Kermit the Frog and Julie Andrews. Actually, it's mostly her, but they do get a bit of overlap in.
This says that it's from The Muppet Show, but I'm pretty sure it's from her TV special with the Muppets.
Here's another "Best of..." from The Graham Norton Show folks. This one they call "Celebrities Singing and Dancing." Though there's nothing earth-shattering about it, it's actually pretty good explanation of at least part of the reason I like the program on BBC America, since this shows it's freewheeling side that you don't see on most (or any) talk shows.
As a bonus, this is the full sequence from which you see the snippet above of Marion Cotillard recreating a moment of her Oscar-winning role, lip-syncing as Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose. The snippet above doesn't do the sequence justice, which I saw live. On the show, the segment began naturally enough, as host Norton asked her about the training to prepare for the role and particularly for the lip-syncing, which was particularly remarkable. (One of the guests, Frank Skinner, even interrupts her to say that until that moment when they were discussing it, he had no idea she had been lip-syncing and thought it had really been her.) And then the conversation slid into Norton asking a favor. Now, it's possible that it was set-up beforehand, but it seems not. I was going to say that if she's faking her angst then she's a really good actress -- but then, she did win an Oscar for the role, so, yes, she's a really good actress. But I'm going to throw my coinage down on betting that she's thrown for a loop by the request. In any event, she does an absolutely wonderful job, again, at a moment's notice.
(And fun too are watching the other actors watching her in admiration -- because, as she notes, there's a physicality to it, and she really throws her whole self into it -- that's James McAvoy to her left, but most especially Michael Fassbender to her right.)
We interrupt this website to spend the day watching Robert Mueller testify. It started at 5:30 in the morning and that's much too early to get up, even I have my limits -- and besides, anything important will be on the news.
I don't suspect there will be any Great New Revelations during the course of the day, but then no one has any idea how taciturn Mueller will get, and how he'll respond if challenged by Republicans. My guess is "taciturn" for most of the day, but the reality is that there don't need to be any "Great New Revelations." All it really needs is to get out to the public what's actually already in the Mueller Report, which nearly all of America has not read, which most people probably know next to nothing about -- including all those masses of Republicans who truly believe Trump when he says the Report completely vindicated him with no collusion, no obstruction -- yet the Report says completely otherwise.
In place of our interruption, we have a new song parody from Randy Rainbow, "Suckers," based on the song "Sucker" from the Jonas Brothers. There's a segment about 3-and-a-half minutes in that's especially wonderfully done, and I'll leave it at that.
Last week, I said to a friend how weird it was that Disney was making a cartoon adaptation of a cartoon. “What do you mean??” he asked. I said, wait, you don’t think they actually trained all those animals to sing and dance, do you??? Happily, no, he didn't, though he was still a little confused by my point. I explained that I know the new version of The Lion King may look real, but it's still animation. Just because it’s CGI animation doesn’t mean it’s not animation. “Oh, you’re right,” he said.
I was okay with the original cartoon, but didn’t love it. (And, yes, I know I was in the minority because it made a billion dollars. And then the stage version piled so much more on top of that.), As a result, my feeling was largely the same this time since it was the exact same story and same Elton John-Tim Rice songs. And I even dozed off briefly a couple of times. What makes it worthwhile, of course, is that the CGI animation is spectacular and fun. And I saw it in 3D, which made it all a bit more vibrant. But all of that is form, not content. Moreover, it’s 30 minutes longer than the original, so (for me) it dragged, stretching out the thin story even more. Further, being longer means there’s more time between the songs, which had been the part I liked the most in the original. And as amazing as the CGI animation is – and it’s absolutely, jaw-droppingly great – I actually had a problem with it in the opening, deeply-impressive scene of “The Circle of Life.” In the original cartoon, there’s something endearing about all the cartoon animals in the jungle coming to Pride Rock to pay homage to the new baby lion. But with realistic-looking animation, I oddly found it a bit creepy to see all the very real-looking animals SO excited and overjoyed and bowing down in deep reverence to the baby lion, who will grow up to be a predator of them. I could accept that much easier with cute, drawn cartoon animals, but less so with animated animals that look absolutely realistic. To be clear, I'm glad I saw it in 3D, and I was in awe of the production. But as an overall movie, for my taste, it was just fine. And ultimately, my opinion doesn’t even remotely matter. The movie will clean up at the box office, and already has started to. And understandably so, since the CGI animation is utterly brilliant. And most people already love the story and some may even love that there’s more of it here.
I look forward to Disney adapting it into yet another stage musical...
Here's some of that opening "The Circle of Life." The CGI animation is stunning. The song is excellent. And I still find it a bit creepy.
.The guest contestant -- not from the archives, but an actual new one! -- is Tim Rogers from Austin, Texas. As weird as the music is, I'd be shocked if one doesn't get the hidden song. As for the composer style, this is one of those who (for me) is always a toss-up between a few people. I took a guess on who struck me as closest -- and was wrong. Still, it's fun to hear arranger Bruce Adolphe describe his choices for what made it this composer.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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