leisure 12.1.06


Our monthly quiz. As usual, answers will be posted on the MUG website after 3pm.

Q: In what decade did New York have its first woman taxi driver?
A: The 1920s

Q: Colette Peters and her company has been making these for over two decades here. What does Colette make?
A: Cakes

Q: Who wrote "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (aka 'Twas the Night Before Christmas')? a) Cora Clementine Weaver b) Clem Kadiddle Hopper c) Katy Cooper Hewitt d) Clement Clarke Moore e) Clamma Cooper Dale
A: Clement Clarke Moore

Q: New York City has how many sister cities? (50 bonus points: name one of them)
A: 12: Tokyo, Beijing, Madrid, Cairo, Aleppo, Santo Domingo, Rome, Budapest, Jerusalem, London, Johannesburg, Limerick

Q: The National Biscuit Company, located in Chelsea at the turn of the century, popularized animal crackers by packaging them as Barnum's Animals, designing the box as an animal cage. But what was the string on top supposed to be used for?
A: To hang them as an ornament on Christmas trees

Q: New York magazine evolved into a standalone format after being a supplement in what newspaper?
A: The Herald Tribune

Q: In the 1930s, there was ski jumping in New York City. In which borough?
A: Staten Island

Q: Jim Leff is known to the food world as the founder of which website, recently bought by CNET?
A: Chowhound

Q: Alternate Side of the Street Parking rulez! When were they first suspended? a) 1952 b) 1962 c) 1972
A: 1952

Q: Saks Fifth Avenue opened in 1924 (descended from a company started in 1867), founded by Mr. Saks and Bernard Gimbel. What was Saks' first name?
A: Horace

By George Spelvin

GETTING INTO THE HOLIDAY SPIRIT: On Christmas in 1971, lyricist Martin Charnin read a book called Arf, The Life and Times of Little Orphan Annie. Charnin called writer Thomas Meehan and composer Charles Strouse, and the three started work on the musical Annie, in which the billionaire Oliver Warbucks invites the orphan to stay at his home for the holidays. It took five years to get to Broadway, but their show ultimately ran for 2,377 performances during its original run. Thirty years later, Annie is returning to New York for a short visit (through Dec. 30) at Madison Square Garden, as part of a tour around the U.S. It's just one of many holiday shows you can see this season, including:

Through Jan. 7: How The Grinch Stole Christmas at the Hilton Theatre.
Dear Mr. Grinch (and your corporate sponsor),
In just a few weeks, your show will be gone, sir.
So I've just time to say: Congrats on your musical!
It's a much bigger hit than that last Broadway Seussical
Still, there are some Who's in Who-Ville who think that it sucks
When an hour-long show charges one hundred bucks.

On Dec. 10 & 11: At Joe's Pub, Keith David and Lillias White headline a special concert version of Nativity: A Life Story, a seasonal favorite for the last 15 years at the United Palace church in upper Manhattan. The New York Times has praised the show's combination of "spiritual fervor, showbiz glamour, African-American pride and celebration of women."

Dec. 6 - Jan. 28: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" when you Meet Me in St. Louis at the Irish Repertory Theatre. The show hasn't started previews yet, but Irish Rep has done well with vest pocket revivals in the past, including a memorable Finian's Rainbow, and I'm hoping this will be equally fun. The cast includes stalwarts like George S. Irving and John Hickok, as well as newcomer Bonnie Fraser in the Judy Garland role and actual St. Louis native Colin Donnell (pictured) as The Boy Next Door.

And for those with a taste for more 'alternative' holiday fare…

Through Dec. 31: As cast member/co-creator Valerie Vigoda (pictured) says of Striking 12: "It is a cross between a rock concert and a holiday show for people who don't like holiday shows." This quirky piece played last year at the tiny Ars Nova and has returned this December for a limited run at the larger Daryl Roth Theatre on Union Square. Reviewing this year's edition, the Times said the strength of Striking 12's terrific score "inspires hope that musical theater, long considered to be on life support, may yet make a recovery."

Through Dec. 31: the Flea Theater and the Chelsea Art Museum join forces to present Twas the Night Before…, an evening of 10-minute riffs on the famous holiday poem by writers Christopher Durang, Len Jenkin, Roger Rosenblatt, Elizabeth Swados and Mac Wellman.

Through Jan. 7: a revival of Les Freres Corbusier's A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant, Time Out New York called the original 2003 version "wonderfully weird… the show artfully succeeds at both telling and mocking the tale of Scientology."

Lastly, for those heading out of town to visit relatives in Detroit or in Minneapolis/St. Paul, you can see one of this year's two regional productions of Irving Berlin's White Christmas — which has yet to hit New York (although I hear that may finally happen next year). Meanwhile, the rest of us can tide ourselves over with the terrific new cast recording.

LOOKING FOR HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS? These recently-published books should interest the theater lovers on your list: Avenue Q:The Book, The Color Purple: A Memory Book (with intro by Oprah Winfrey), Lessons in Becoming Myself by Ellen Burstyn, Memoirs by Tennessee Williams (in a new paperback version), One the Line — The Creation of A Chorus Line, Time Steps: My Musical Comedy Life by Donna McKechnie, and Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent by Anthony Rapp.

Or go shopping at the Broadway Cares online store, where you can order seasonal presents, including the 2007 Broadway Musicals calendar, the 2006 Broadway snow globe, dancing reindeer holiday cards (pictured), tree ornaments depicting Times Square or with Broadway show logos, and CDs including the 2006 edition of the annual Carols for a Cure 2-CD set and "Winter Tracks" — Tony nominee Susan Egan's new CD, autographed by her. And don't forget about CareTix, which allows you to buy house seats for any Broadway show with a contribution to BC/EFA.

HAPPY NEW LEAR: "Know that we have divided in three our kingdom." 2007 will bring a trio of notable King Lears to New York. Kevin Kline stars in the Public Theater's production this February, directed by James Lapine. (Tickets go on sale Dec. 17.) And next September, Sir Ian McKellen stars in Shakespeare's classic at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, in a Royal Shakespeare Company production directed by Trevor Nunn.

However, the production I am most eager to see is the one presented by the fictional New Burbage Theater Festival on the Canadian TV show "Slings & Arrows" — co-created/written by Bob Martin and co-starring Don McKellar, both of The Drowsy Chaperone. This delightfully idiosyncratic series airs here on the Sundance Channel, and as devotees know, the first season was all about putting on a production of Hamlet, the second season (just out on DVD) was about The Scottish Play, and the third and final season — already broadcast in Canada and the U.K. — tackles Lear, played by William Hutt, who reprises the part he played to acclaim at the Stratford Festival. For those inside theater, this show is video catnip. So c'mon, Sundance, announce the air dates for Season 3, or we will… "howl, howl, howl, howl!"

PODCAST THEATRE: Before the recent major layoffs at Sony/BMG — including Paul Cremo, VP for soundtracks and Broadway, who has reportedly been hired back already as a consultant — the company had launched a series of podcasts recorded by key artists involved with two current hit revivals: you can still download interviews with Chicago's Walter Bobbie, Rob Fisher, John Kander, Bebe Neuwirth, and Ann Reinking, plus A Chorus Line's Bob Avian, Michael Berresse, Charlotte D'Amboise, Baayork Lee, and Jonathan Tunick.

JUST ASKING: Investing in theater is a risky business — so why would you put your money in a show produced by a guy you know has a track record of putting on expensive flops and who was recently sued for not paying all his bills on a failed production? Amazingly, this producer is still able to raise millions of dollars, including $2.5 million for a new show coming to Broadway this spring. My question to his investors: what do you need — a bell to go off? Ding, ding, ding…


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