FRIDAY, MAY 22
PLEASE PLEASE LET ME GET WHAT I WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY
Steven Patrick Morrissey turns 50 today. It’s hard to believe it was half a century ago that Elizabeth Dwyer Morrissey held her newborn son in her arms and whispered, “You just haven’t earned it yet, baby.” Or was it, “The more you ignore me, the closer I get”? Some historians claim she said, “Why do you come here, when you know it makes things hard for me?” As I do every year, I sent him a birthday card. On the inside, it says, “I get by with a little help from Depends.” Do you think he’ll like it? The big 5-0 party, Morrissey’s 50th Unhappy Birthday Celebration, takes place at House of Blues with Smiths/Morrissey tribute band Sweet & Tender Hooligans. Says lead singer Jose Maldonado, “We’ll be performing songs from Morrissey’s entire career, both with the Smiths and as a solo artist. We’ll have guest musicians, a live string section and maybe even a mariachi band performing some of Morrissey’s songs in that style. The audience will sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to our hero as we bring out an animal-friendly cake and collectively blow out the candles, as we cheer loud enough for Morrissey to hear us all the way in Manchester, England.” House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Fri., May 22, 9 p.m.; $17 & $19. (213) 480-3232.
GETTING TO KNOW ME
Some of us are still recovering from the startling human innards of the Body Worlds exhibits. Now the California Science Museum brings us a look at what’s on the outside with Identity: An Exhibition of You, opening today. Designed as “an engaging journey through the science of human identity, challenging us all to see ourselves from a different perspective” — complete with original musical score — it’ll teach you about your genetic traits. Those of you who enjoy looking in the mirror can spend hours examining your earlobes and hairlines. California Science Museum, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Exposition Park; May 22-Sept. 8, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; free, parking $8. (323) 724-3623.
SATURDAY, MAY 23
HIPPIES ON PARADE!
No one will laugh at you for twirling barefoot on the grass in your peasant skirt at Topanga Days. There’s top-notch music over three days — including Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Meters’ Leo Nocentelli, former Santana lead singer Gregg Rolie, and Grateful Dead tribute band par excellence Cubensis — plus an expansive kiddie area, belly dancers, hula hoopers, and dudes with beards and sunburns. Oh — and a parade on Monday. Topanga Community House Fair Grounds, 1440 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga; Sat.-Mon., May 23-25, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; $20, $15 children & seniors, under 5 free. www.TopangaDays.com.
A timeless tale of tragic romance, some of ballet’s loveliest music, and a serious contender for the wickedest witch of all time — no wonder La Sylphide remains one of the most popular and long-performed ballets. Selected to close Los Angeles Ballet’s third season and following consistent praise for its mixed bills and particularly high marks for its staging of George Balanchine’s ballets, L.A.’s own professional ballet company unveils its La Sylphide. This new production marks a milestone: the company’s second full-length ballet to follow its successful production of The Nutcracker. Featured in Pointe Magazine for her 2008 performances, Corina Gill dances the ethereal role of the sylph, while Eddy Tovar, after his stunning LAB performance in Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, is James, the young Scotsman who abandons his bride to follow the enchanting Sylphide and to match wits with the deliciously evil Madge the witch, portrayed by no less than LAB artistic director Colleen Neary. The production has been staged by LAB artistic director Thordal Christensen, whose credits include artistic director at the Royal Danish Ballet, where this masterpiece is a cherished part of the repertoire. Last week’s opening in Redondo Beach confirmed LAB’s continuing strides toward greatness. This not-to-be-missed ballet moves to Westwood this weekend and closes in Glendale next week. UCLA Freud Theater, Wstwd.; Sat., May 23, 7:30 p.m.; Sun., May 24, 2 p.m. Also at Alex Theater, 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale; Sat., May 30, 7:30 p.m., $30-$95. (310) 998-7782 or www.losangelesballet.org.
SUNDAY, MAY 24
IRONY CAN MAKE FOR A FULFILLING CAREER
For my money, the best part of The Flight of the Conchords (the HBO show, not the band) is Kristen Schaal as Mel, the creepy-cute No. 1 fan of the boys. She has the voice and sweet innocence of The Mary Tyler Moore Show’s Georgette, if Georgette lived in the East Village, and she’s nailed the lovable stalker to a tee. The band known as Flight of the Conchords — made of two New Zealanders, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie — is a zany mock-rock duo that’s something like Simon & Garfunkel meet KC and the Sunshine Band. They’ve gone from playing little Largo to a successful HBO series and now a bigtime show at the Greek, which is entirely too big for their small charms. Their songs are as cute as they are, like the synth-poppy “Too Many Dicks on the Dancefloor,” and the zany rap of “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros,” without the cheesy special effects of the TV show. But you go and have a swell time. Greek Theatre, 2700 N. Vermont Ave., Griffith Park; Sun., May 24, 8 p.m.; $39.50. (213) 480-3232.
MONDAY, MAY 25
GENTLEMEN, SET YOUR ALARMS!
Whoever decided that the L.A. Marathon XXIV should be moved to late May instead of February is in for a world of hate if this turns out to be a hot weekend. And the cyclists who take part in the Acura L.A. Bike Tour (part of the Marathon activities along with a 5K run) can also complain that their starting time was moved from 6 a.m. to 5 a.m. (Is this fun for you?) The rest of us, who wake up and forgot about the whole event, are in for an ugly surprise if we try to drive anywhere east of Crenshaw Boulevard. You know what? The L.A. Marathon might just be what this so-called city needs to bond over. Let the complaining begin! Downtown L.A.; Mon., May 25, Marathon field starts at 7:24 a.m. www.lamarathon.com.
TUESDAY, MAY 26
GHOSTS OF HONG KONG PAST
It’s a Hong Kong horror grindhouse double bill, this time at the New Beverly, presented by Eric Caidin and Brian Quinn. First up is a 35mm print of the rare School on Fire (1988), Ringo Lam’s cross between Blackboard Jungle and Bad Boys (either the Sean Penn one or the Will Smith one, you pick). Then there’s 1982’s Till Death Do We Scare, the HK comedy about a woman’s three dead husbands who find her a new husband, a premise from which this year’s Ghosts of Girlfriends Past stole all of its ideas. Caidin is still recovering from the brutal stabbing attack last year by an unbalanced former associate in his Hollywood Book & Poster shop on the boulevard; that he continues finding and screening these films every month for the past six years would be a Herculean feat in and of itself. It’ll be the usual retinue of loudmouthed hecklers; the trailers between the double bill; the raffle that awards ticket holders everything from vintage smut and trash memorabilia to useless orphaned lobby cards and a bottle of hooch specifically chosen for this evening. Did you know that Gallo won’t cop to the fact that it produces two of the world’s finest fortified wines, Night Train and Thunderbird? It’s precisely that kind of shame and mortification that Caidin and Quinn transform into jocular, avuncular enjoyment of these wretched vomited bits of celluloid in a way that speaks to a true lover of all film, not a chortlesome and scornful hipster for whom even the most perfect film eventually withers and turns into ash in the mouth of the mind. New Beverly Cinema, 7165 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Tues., May 26, 7:30 p.m.; $8. (323) 938-4038.
WHY NOT JUST BLAME ALL OF LIVERPOOL?
The taboo, defined as “a prohibition imposed by social custom or as a protective measure,” is an uncommon phenom in the 21st century, but with this reading of excerpts from How the Beatles Destroyed Rock & Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, author Elijah Wald will defy one of Western pop culture’s last and most dearly held myths. No mere upstart hatchet job, this: Wald, as assiduous researcher and exceedingly analytical historian, traces the rise, decline and fall of the big beat from its earliest stirrings, closely examining the blues-jazz-swing-jive evolution, placing such oft-dismissed spearheads as Paul Whiteman and Mitch Miller in their correct historical context and highlighting the double standard that enabled the Fabs to plunder the work of African-American artists and — unlike Elvis — never be held accountable for the pillage. A complex, fascinating and long-overdue response to decades of industry-driven revisionism that’s sure to outrage lemmings and invigorate lions, the book has been getting some powerful advance praise (“Wald’s book is suave, soulful, ebullient and will blow out your speakers,” Tom Waits reckons). For his part, Wald is already suffering: “I’ve been having these bad dreams where half the reviewers hate me for being anti-Beatles and the other half hate me for not being sufficiently anti-Beatles. ... I figure I’m hitting a reasonable compromise by treating the Beatles fairly, alongside Paul Whiteman and Mitch Miller.” You be the judge. Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., W. Hlywd; Tues., May 26, 7 p.m. (310) 659-3110 or www.booksoup.com.
ESCHENBACH GETS HIS BATON
In a way, Christoph Eschenbach was saved by music. Born in Germany in 1940, he was orphaned during World War II and so traumatized by the incomprehensible loss that he stopped speaking for a year. What finally made the little boy open his mouth again was a simple question: Do you want to learn music? Yes! A cousin of his mother’s adopted Eschenbach, the child’s foster mother started him on the piano, and voilà, a genius was discovered. At 11, upon seeing the great Wilhelm Furtwangler, Eschenbach decided he wanted to become a conductor. By the early ’60s, the matured prodigy was winning major piano competitions and studying conducting with legends like Georg Szell and Herbert von Karajan. Today, the 69-year-old Eschenbach is a controversial figure — his much-publicized and abrupt dismissal as director of the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2008 engendered a loud pro-and-con debate that highlighted the conflicting aspects of his nature. On the one hand, Eschenbach was considered a consummate musician, an innovative, bold interpreter, and a “lovely guy.” On the other, his musical choices and style tended to alienate the orchestra members and their listeners. “Eighty percent of the musicians leave concerts angry,” noted one critic, while another observed that “audiences walk out during performances.” The Philadelphia affair was unfortunate, because Eschenbach is a revered conductor and fabulous pianist who has never stopped being in demand around the world. This week, he holds court with the L.A. Phil in three performances of Tchaikovsky’s Francesca di Rimini and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5. In addition, he’ll perform Dvoràk’s Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81 with members of the orchestra, and Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat major, D. 960 in a Chamber Music Society concert. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; Philharmonic concerts Fri.-Sat., May 22-23, 8 p.m.; Sun., May 24, 2 p.m.; Upbeat Live lecture by Russell Steinberg, artistic director of the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra, one hour before concerts; $42-$147; Chamber Music Society concert Tues., May 26, 8 p.m.; $24-$49. (323) 850-2000 or www.laphil.com.
—Mary Beth Crain
REALLY OLD LADIES OF PASADENA
Roberta Martinez, author and head of the Pasadena nonprofit Latino Heritage, discusses and signs her latest book, Latinos in Pasadena (Arcadia Publishing). Culled from private collections and local and university libraries, these vintage photographs, drawings and historical maps chronicle the contributions of Mexican-Americans in the City of Roses beyond Millionaires Row and the Tournament of Roses Parade, dating back to the thousands of Tongva Indians living in the San Gabriel Valley. After Martinez’s lecture, check out more of Pasadena’s ethnic history in the museum’s excellent current exhibit, Family Stories: Sharing a Community’s Legacy, which zooms in on six local African-American, European, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican and Armenian families — Duncan, Gertmenian, Kawai, Lowe, Mejia and Stevenson — via more vintage photos, recordings and other artifacts. Pasadena Museum of History, 470 W. Walnut St., Pasadena; Tues., May 26, 7:30 p.m.; $5 (exhibit through Jan. 10). (626) 577-1660.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 27
CLASSIC FLICKS, CLASSIC ARCHITECTURE, JUST GO
Celebrating three of the grand cinema palaces of the downtown Los Angeles Theater District, the 23rd annual Last Remaining Seats series rescues your summer nights from the boring torpor of heat prostration, returning you to a simpler time, when movies were an escape from war and the Depression — not like now, what with our fancy flying cars, world peace and biomechanical stilt implants. It’s a little odd to consider that, when the series began in 1986, some of the theaters — including the Cameo, the United Artists and the Orpheum — were still in operation, showing everything from Disney pabulum to grindhouse triple bills. Then again, those last remaining seats were sticky and occupied by winos and other wandering shreds of human debris, so it’s not as if there was anything to celebrate there. May 27, inaugural night, unspools The Sting (1973) at the Orpheum (arguably the best-kept of the theaters along Broadway), accompanied by Bob Mitchell on the Mighty Wurlitzer. Doubtless it’ll be a much more expansive viewing experience with the realization that Paul Newman has died. June 3 at the restored Million Dollar Theatre features the always-at-the-start-of-every-movie-book duo Abbott & Costello and their 1941 slapstick classic Buck Privates; Michael York hosts the screening of Cabaret (1972) at the acoustically pristine Los Angeles Theatre. At the Million Dollar on June 17 is the Brazilian fantasia Macunaíma (1969), with its tale of the titular hero voyaging through jungles both urban and natural in a way that’s equal parts Voltaire and Jodorowsky. June 24 sees A Streetcar Named Desire off at the Los Angeles, and Hugh Hefner closes out the whole he/shebang with a screening of the ironically preachy silent film Pandora’s Box (1929) at the Orpheum, prescribing you 10cc of cinematic Mycoxadryl (that’s Viagra to you and me, son) for your viewing pleasures. Orpheum Theatre, 842 S. Broadway, dwntwn; Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway, dwntwn.; Million Dollar Theatre, 307 S. Broadway, dwntwn.; May 27-June 17, 7 p.m.; $16 per screening, $20 nonmembers, $80 series pass (members), $100 series pass (nonmembers). (213) 623-2489 or www.laconservancy.org.
IF YOU KNEW T.B. LIKE I KNEW T.B.
Despite its soapy melodramatics, nobody ever seems to get tired of La Traviata. The famed courtesan Violetta is romanced by the infatuated young nobleman Alfredo Germont, but alas, Violetta has two strikes against her: one, her dubious reputation, and two, the fact that she’s dying of consumption. Nonetheless, she succumbs to her young lover’s ardor and they set up housekeeping together in the country. But Alfredo’s dad, the elegant Count Germont, isn’t happy about this arrangement, because the gossip is hurting his family and his daughter’s chances of matrimony (“I have a daughter as pure as an angel ...,” he pleads, in a famous aria). Feeling chastened, and knowing she’s about to die anyway, the heartbroken Violetta sends Alfredo packing. Ah, but the fires of True Love cannot be so easily put out. After the Turtle Doves have a few big rows, Alfredo learns of Violetta’s sacrifice and rushes back to her. Unfortunately, his amour expires in his arms but not before she sings her big swan song, “Gran Dio! Morir si giovane!” (Oh, God! To die so young!) How somebody in the final throes of T.B. can manage to belt out an aria is something that’s never been explained, but heck, that’s opera. And if it sounds an awful lot like La Bohème — the consumptive Mimi and starving poet Rodolfo fall in love, break up because of a misunderstanding, and reunite just in time for Mimi’s melodious demise — well, Puccini couldn’t resist the suffering lover/disease-of-the-week themes. But we forgive him because the music is just so delicious. L.A. Opera reprises its sumptuous 2006 production of Traviata with a foolproof cast that includes sopranos Marina Poplavskaya and Elizabeth Futral alternating as Violetta; Massimo Giordano and Aleksei Dolgov sharing the role of Alfredo; and baritones Andrzej Dobber and Stephen Powell trading off as Count Germont. Los Angeles Master Chorale director Grant Gershon makes his company debut as conductor. Directed by Marta Domingo. Music Center; opens Thurs., May 21, 7:30 p.m.; continues May 27 & 30 & June 6 & 10, 7:30 p.m.; mats June 3, 14 & 21, 2 p.m.; $20-$250. (213) 972-8001 or www.laopera.com.
THURSDAY, MAY 28
MOLLY PRATHER: FUCK, MARRY, KILL
Molly Prather recently brought us her one-woman show That Girl, not to be confused with the Marlo Thomas series of the late ’60s (she’s probably too young to remember it, anyway). Now she’s back with Fuck, Marry, Kill, “a collection of unfortunately true stories that will make you feel better about all your crazy exes.”
L.A. WEEKLY: Prather — what kind of name is that?
MOLLY PRATHER: A last one — I’m still single and haven’t had to change it for the man of my dreams.
Who do people say you look like?
Monica Lewinsky (sad emoticon).
You were a bartender for eight years. Did you ever finish other people’s drinks? Ever kick someone out?
I’ve finished people’s drinks in a “You’re a pussy, I’m not” sort of way. But never in a sad, sneaky “I just can’t get enough” sort of way. I’ve kicked many the overhydrated jack-hole out of my bar. It’s one of the best parts of being a bartender — when someone is being a completely unreasonable, intolerable jackass, you can make them leave. You don’t get to do that if you work at Starbucks.
At the bar I work at on Hollywood Boulevard, I recently kicked Superman and Elvis out for trying to pull a hustle on one of my customers. I felt all-powerful.
You moved here from New York — are we really less intellectual?
My friend Sean Conroy says it best: “I love living in Los Angeles. I love being able to walk around and never having to worry about being outwitted.”
What do you hate most about living here? What do you love?
That it’s not New York.
Fuck, Marry, Kill is a game popular with Howard Stern and his cronies. Are you really that shallow?
Wait — am I shallow because I listen to Howard Stern, or because I put everyone of the opposite sex into one of three categories?
Okay, then: Howard Stern, Tracy Morgan and Mick Jagger?
Easy. Fuck Tracy Morgan because he’s black and most likely has an enormous penis. (Don’t gasp. You set me up for that one.) Marry Stern — I’ve always had a thing for funny, Jewy guys. Kill Mick Jagger — he’s a bit too Crypt Keeper for my delicate palate.
Tell us about the show. What can we expect?
It’s like HBO’s Cathouse meets The Notebook. Without giving too much away — there’s a crack house, the guy I almost married who used to be my boss, a CAA agent, a trip to Europe, Frankenstein, the lead in Frankenstein: The Rock Musical, a guy who likes to dress up like animals and have sex, and me.
Who is your comedy idol?
Brett Butler, hands down. Totes Brill.
What do you actually do for a living?
Bartend (why stop now?), write fitness videos for D-list celebrities, and appear on The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson as assorted loose women.
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Why is your comedy important?
I like that you said “your comedy” — that makes me feel very fancy. Listen, I’m the girl who looks back at pretty much every moment of my 20s saying to myself, “What the fuck was I thinking?” I have a responsibility to warn younger generations of women about the perils of seducing your college professors, dancing on the bar as a career move and/or going home with boys who live in crack houses (renovated or not). I guess I feel like a sort of Fairy Godmother screaming to all the young girls out there, “Marry a nice Jewish boy and skip the rest!”
P.S.: I was kidding about the Brett Butler thing. I meant Judy Tenuta, obvi.
Molly Prather in Fuck, Marry, Kill at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, 5919 Franklin Ave., Hlywd.; Thurs., May 28, 8 p.m.; $5. (323) 908-8702.