at the theatre: pippin

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 11.11.41 AMHell isn’t other people; it’s a revival of Pippin. Does that make me sound cynical? At the risk of drawing the ire of community theatre groups and teenagers everywhere, I can sum up in two small words the particular reason why this show hasn’t been revived on Broadway until now. And no, they are not “Bob” and “Fosse” – but more on that later. It’s crap. There, I said it: the elephant in the room. Despite an infectious easy-like-Sunday-morning score and high-concept theatrics, Pippin, at its core, is an amateurish bore. It isn’t so much a musical as an EST training run amok at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire; an exercise in self-actualization wrapped up inside the comforting embrace of that familiar trope: hey kids, lets put on a show! Would it originally have been produced without Fosse at the helm? I doubt it. But Fosse being Fosse – I told you we’d come back to him – did more than slap a bit of lipstick on a pig. He twisted the unforgivably earnest story of one young man’s (one very privileged man, I might add) quest for purpose into something tailor-made for a generation dabbling in consciousness raising, creating a surreal and disturbing metaphysical entertainment that seduced its audience with the director’s trademark hot and cool razzle-dazzle and a healthy dose of social commentary. (A confrontational style that would reach its apotheosis, I might add, three years later in Kander and Ebb’s Chicago.) Director Diane Paulus doesn’t seem so interested in the meta-theatrics of her production at The Music Box, except when it’s convenient – or unavoidable. But she does take the instructions of the title song quite literally: “we’ve got magic to do.”  The show-within-a-show conceit of this Pippin is not some mysterious white-gloved performance troupe, but a big top circus, providing Paulus (and a very game company) ample opportunity to distract and amuse us with feats of strength, illusion, and derring do.  Life as a circus is a tenuous metaphor; a wholly non-threatening 180-degree turn away from the original production, but that’s the beauty of shows like Pippin and its precursor, Godspell: they are skeletons on which a director can boldly stamp any theatrical vision. Paulus takes advantage of this without ever connecting the storytelling with the style and throws everything but the kitchen sink at the audience, served by an athletic and adventurous group of acrobats and a (mostly) top-drawer cast of leading players. Only Matthew James Sweet, as our titular hero, fails to impress. Terrence Mann as Pippin’s father, King Charlemagne, Charlotte D’Amboise as his conniving stepmother, Rachel Bay Jones as his love interest, and Andrea Martin as his show stopping grandmother are a quartet of perfect foils for all the navel gazing going on. It’s hard to banish thoughts of what Ben Vereen brought to bear as The Leading Player, but a devilishly sexy Patina Miller more than holds her own. I just wish Paulus had allowed her to show some of the menace in between all those jazz hands. Yet that’s what makes this production so unusual: for all the hoary shtick, it’s irony free. Instead of finding its corner of the sky, Pippin just wants to be loved.

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while you were sleeping

You can check in, bed down, and get a great night’s sleep all in aid of a worthy cause during the first two weeks of February. Sage Hospitality, the largest privately held hotel management company in the nation, will be donating select overnight rates at each of its 53 hotels across the country, like The Nines in Portland and Chicago’s Renaissance Blackstone.

Each hotel will randomly pick four guests during the run of the promotion, February 1-14, 2011. Following a comfortable night’s sleep each lucky guest will learn the cost of their overnight stay is being donated to charity – and they’ll be offered the opportunity to select a beneficiary from a list of good causes, including FoodforthePoor.org, Volunteers of America, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Big Brothers Big Sisters, World Vision and UNICEF.

From the betterment of local communities to aiding victims of the earthquake in Haiti, Sage has long held that charity begins  at home. The While You Were Sleeping promotion is just the latest charitable outreach. Other recent funding drives have included Best in Class, a nationwide school partnership program offering volunteer and financial support to at-risk schools, and the Sage Relief Rate, which raised $70,000 in aid of earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.

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green is good

Since the first celebration of Earth Day in 1970, the travel industry has made enormous strides in greening their practices, from recycling efforts and carbon offsets to rainwater collection systems and green roofs.  With the 40th anniversary of Earth Day coming up this week – April 22nd – green travelers can get rewarded for their efforts with special perks and programs at eco-conscious hotels and resorts around the country.  Here are just a handful.

Kimpton’s new Hotel Palomar Chicago features a green roof, joining a city-wide eco-friendly initiation.  A first for the Kimpton brand, the roof is covered with grass and vegetation to improve air quality, clean and retain rainwater, and add beauty to the urban landscape.  The Hotel Palomar Chicago was built with sustainability in mind, and operates with more than 70 eco-friendly practices as part of Kimpton’s brand-wide EarthCare program.

Located in Santa Fe, a city committed to a greener way of life, Eldorado Hotel & Spa is rewarding green-minded travelers who book “Go Green, Save Your Green” with a 15 percent room discount, complimentary overnight parking for hybrid vehicles and 20 percent savings on organic products at Nidah Spa.  For anyone staying multiple nights, sheets and towels are only changed upon request – another green touch.  Within walking distance to Santa Fe Plaza, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum and Canyon Road, guests of Eldorado Hotel & Spa can easily explore the city without use of a car.  Plus, the nearby Santa Fe Farmers Market is the largest in the state, with locally grown products from vendors across New Mexico.

The New Orleans Marriott is in the process of implementing a hotel-wide recycling program, the first large hotel in the city to do so.  Partnering with the stars of TLC’s “Trashmen,” the hotel will be able to recycle all paper, plastic and cans using their new recycling center.  At the hotel’s 5 Fifty 5 restaurant, the majority of menu items feature local ingredients such as dairy products from Smith’s Creamery, a family-owned and operated dairy in Louisiana.  For those looking to give back to the environment while in the Big Easy, the property’s Big Easy Spirit to Serve package helps volun-tourists connect with organizations such as Bayou Rebirth which works to restore coastal Louisiana’s wetlands.

St. Petersburg was the first city in Florida to receive the “Green City” distinction by the Florida Green Building Coalition for its renowned environmental initiatives.  During the month of April, guests staying at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, a historic hotel celebrating its 85th anniversary, will receive free parking for hybrid vehicles and complimentary bike rentals to explore the city’s 50 miles of bicycle trails.  The Resort’s Vinoy Day Spa also offers organic treatments such as the Rejuvenating Eye Treatment using HollyBeth’s all-natural products.

Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort will be offering complimentary eco-education for kids and families April 10-24.  The Tiki Tribe kids’ club attendants will host a daily free 30-60 minute activity focused on unique aspects of Marco Island’s native eco-system, like Dolphin Mondays and Sea Turtle Tuesdays.  For instance: When sea turtles lay eggs – up to 100 at a time – the air temperature determines whether the turtles are male or female.  Within the nest, all eggs will hatch either male or female.  The majority of the Earth Day program will take place on the beach so that participants will be surrounded by the local environment as they learn.

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