TOP 10 Musings on ‘23 US Figure Skating Nationals

A list both cheeky & sincere. It was a major joy to be able to attend the San Jose Nationals in person again, returning after a decade. Here’s some of what stood out…

  1. Polina Edmunds, the latest Skating Queen of San Jose, walking with ease up and down the steep stairs of SAP Arena in jungle red 6-inch pumps was the 5th Nationals’ Discipline of the weekend.
  2. Tanith (Belbin) White is the Coach we ALL want and need, swaying at the boards with every move of her teams, and feeling every moment of their programs. She looks rather austere and business-like in the Kiss ‘n Cry, but at the Boards she appears to be a true team member.
  3. Ivan Desyatov & Keyton Bearinger should be Mr. January & February in the USFS Tiger Beat Calendar! I mean, wow. Beauty makes itself easily evident…I could take my eyes off neither of them in their programs, thanks to their aesthetics, charisma, AND their skating skills.
  4. “Generically Lovely” has become the current Women’s program/choreo/costume/music aesthetic norm. Nothing was offensive, nor particularly memorable about much of the music, choreography nor costumes from the first few flights. SO many sequins, perhaps in just the right place, but I’d encourage them to take more stylistic risks…make a personal statement! I’m sure it’s largely the fault of the IJS, but I felt that Sonja Hilmer came closest to breaking from this template, with her own choreo and costume design, as I was told.
  5. Pairs’ Spencer Howe should get an Oscar for how much he acted the shit outta that “Ghost” FS program
  6. Nationals wouldn’t be the same without the laughing, kvetching, glowing, and WRITING of skating journalists extraordinaire Christine Brennan and Phil Hersh. We ran into them, roaming the sidewalks of downtown San Jose. She was particularly spacious and friendly, asking if we were having a good Nationals experience, as they disappeared into a nearby restaurant.
  7. Pairs Girls/Women are the truest unsung heroes of our sport! Fearless. Bruised. Phoenixes, rising time and time again. (I wouldn’t last over an hour with those expectations and challenges.)
  8. “The King and I” soundtrack can REALLY get a crowd going, or at least ME (skated by Ice Dancers Leah Krauskopf & YuanShi Jin).
  9. Skating parents are a special breed. The investment they make immense, and largely selfless. I met Michael Parsons lovely mom in the stands…still moist in the eyes from watching her son’s FD. She thanked us for being such enthusiastic audience members. She (and his sister) were ALL aglow after his first Senior Nationals’ Podium. She noted she couldn’t be in Japan for Worlds, due to the travel cost.
  10. Jason Brown is the Michelle Kwan of this generation. A skater who skates from their heart, and communicates that SO clearly. ❤️ Below is our banner, paying tribute to his art, longevity, and humanity!

The spirit of our sport is still very alive, even if TOO MANY of the seats were empty. It was a compact, but HEARTY crowd. The USFSA needs to rework their approach.


jcm’s TOP 10 Movies, Docus & Series of ‘22!

Despite some of the streaming platforms faltering financially (i.e. Netflix, etc.), it still feels like we’re in a Golden Age of streaming content. And, my lists surely exemplify that. Thankfully, I also managed to get out to the traditional, live cinema for at least 4 of these offerings (grab your 🍿🥤!). Hope you enjoy my snapshot of the year. What were your favorites? Share in the comments!


  • Bros (Alamo Drafthouse Theater, SF) • This was one of my favorite comedies since Bridesmaids (’11)! As an aside, I love this racier, alternate, German poster. It offered countless laugh-out-loud moments, but with plenty or gravitas and heart. It felt like it both appealed to me (its primary audience), as well as could to straight (family), allies, etc. The playful humor AND eros chemistry between Eichner and Luke Macfarlane was unforced and charming. It’s been considered a box office flop, at $14.8M earnings, but an artistic triumph, even making some “Best RomComs Ever”-type lists. I respect the LGBT / big movie studio milestone that it marked, and hope that it ages well, and continues to garner plenty of viewers (via ongoing streams and sales).
  • Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (Hulu)
  • The Worst Person in the World (Norwegian, Amazon)
  • I Wanna Dance With Somebody (CGV Theater, SF, Frameline Pre-Screening)
  • Everything Everywhere All At Once (Amazon)
  • Batman (Amazon)
  • Tár (AMC Kabuki 8)
  • My Policeman (Amazon)
  • Elvis (Amazon)
  • Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (Amazon)
  • Lady Chatterly’s Lover (Netflix)


A non-guilty annual pleasure of mine, and surely evolving in quality, as the genre grows. These are certainly far beyond the standard Lifetime or Hallmark Channel fare (which have their own appeal). It felt like it deserved it’s own category, especially since I took in PLENTY this winter.

  • The Noel Diary (Netflix)
  • Spirited (Apple TV)
  • Falling for Christmas (Netflix)
  • Christmas with You (Netflix)
  • Noelle (Disney)


  • Land of Gold (SFFilmFest, Castro Theatre) • I enjoyed this documentary about John Adam’s World Premiere Opera Girls of the Golden West at San Francisco Opera far more than the opera itself in ’17. It was also my first post-COVID return to The Castro Theatre, which had its own emotional component. AND, it was preceded by some apropos live music from this era, sung by two of the men of the Merola Program. Seeing the process of creating this new piece and the characters, particularly from the points of view of J’Nai Bridges (as Josef Segovia) and Julia Bullock (Dame Shirley) was very engaging.

  • The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes (Netflix)
  • Death to 2021 (Netflix Mockumentary)
  • Bob Ross: Happy Accidents (Netflix)
  • Santa Camp (HBO)
  • Lucy & Desi (Amazon) w/Amy Poehler, Dir.!
  • Our Father (Netflix)
  • Jennifer Lopez: Halftime (Netflix)
  • White Hot: The Rise and Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (Netflix)
  • Inside the Mind of a Cat (Netflix)


  • Station Eleven (S1, HBO) • For me to have placed this ahead of the excellent S2 of White Lotus, you KNOW it has to be good. Well, IT IS! It was particularly poignant to watch during COVID, which delivered its own strong components of isolation, an abrupt change in society, and themes of connection/disconnection. The bleak setting(s) were so palpable, and the ways in which these characters’ roles and personas evolved, so provoking, particularly from a group dynamics and psychology perspective.

  • White Lotus (S2, Netflix)
  • Hacks (S2, HBO)
  • Sandman (S1 Netflix)
  • Big Little Lies (S1-2, HBO)
  • The Sinner (S1, 2 & 4, Netflix)
  • Stranger Things (S4, Netflix)
  • Somebody Somewhere (S1, HBO)
  • Moon Knight (S1, Disney) w/Oscar Isaac!
  • Uncoupled (S1, Netflix)


  • Dog House UK (S1-3, HBO) • I can’t say enough about this series. It is true streaming therapy. The bucolic location, the staff, the customers and their narratives just so nourishing, and soothing. Not every story ends with a match, but the show still reveals the meaning made with each outcome. Careful, it’ll have you racing to the local pound!!!

  • Dating on the Spectrum (S2, Netflix)
  • The Last Movie Stars (HBO)
  • Meddling (Peacock)
  • Stanley Tucci, Searching for Italy (S2, CNN)
  • Harry & Meghan (Netflix)


  • The Amazing Race (S34) • The contestants in this season were nearly all “good eggs”! Warm folks who were a joy to witness, in their triumphs, foibles, communication attempts, and travels. This is some of my vicarious travel. I always joke that one day I’ll be on this show (with my friend Rich)…or, who knows?!

  • DragRace AllStars (S7, Paramount)
  • The Circle (S3, Netflix)
  • DragRace (S14, VH1)
  • Dancing with the Stars (S31, Disney)
  • The Great British Bake Off (S13, Netflix)
  • Lego Masters (S3, Fox)
  • Glow Up (S3, Netflix)
  • Metal Shop Masters (S1, Netflix)
  • Drink Masters (S1, Netflix)


  • Catherine Cohen: The Twist? She’s Gorgeous (Netflix)
  • Jerrod Carmichael: Rothaniel (HBO)
  • Yvonne Orji: A Whole Me (HBO Max)

Hope you enjoyed my snapshot of the year. What were your favorites? Did I miss any big ones? Share in the comments!

Check out last year’s list too!

jcm’s TOP 10 LIVE SF Shows of ’22!


Here’s a toast to a rousing return to LIVE show fullness once more! I’m so grateful that we can partake in all that local companies, clubs, theatres, performers, and more worked so hard to create and provide for audiences. Share your favorite shows in the comments…any notable ones I missed?

1) Marilyn MayeFeinstein’s at the Nikko, Sep 30

A year ago I discovered Marilyn Maye, thanks to the CBS Sunday Morning profile of her amazing career, recorded and onstage, and her notable longevity (link below)! When a post-COVID SF performance emerged, I SPRUNG on it!

At 94, she proved to have more energy than most of us at 30. By way of this Feinstein’s show (about which she proclaimed: “This is my favorite room.”), it was like witnessing a priestess, weaving a spell, with a deep love for her craft and very rare communication way with song. Or goin’ to church AND therapy all in one…walking out feeling uplifted and so very alive. Such generosity, open-heartedness, and a gracious smile…the entire show.

Specializing in medleys, from Porter to Waller to Mercer, and ending with one that tore me asunder and broke down the flood gates, featuring James Taylor’s “Secret ‘o Life(“The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time”) and “Here’s to Life.” ❤️ Well, Marilyn sure feels like she has a right to dispense these wisdoms, and they emanate from such a place of truth. She embodies some of the best qualities of Frances Faye, Stritch and Rosemary Clooney, yet she’s ALL her own!

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, where time seemed to stand still, and everything outside our divine cloud just floated out of sight, because she made each of us feel so held by her. ⛅️ Johnny Carson sure knew something about singers and voices, as he invited her on his show 76 times! Surely few, if any from her generation are still performing at this level, and we must support this beloved art of cabaret.

Other highlights included: It’s Today (from Mame, with lyric: “To live love and laugh at it all”); Accentuate the Positive;  Ah, the Apple Trees / When the World Was Young (by Mercer); and her own unique take on Guess Who I Saw Today (the first and last songs named here her most requested).

Local cutie, Daniel Fabricant was fantastic on bass! Her pianist, all the way from NYC was phenomenal on the keys.

2) Don QuixoteSF Ballet, Mar 5

My long-awaited ballet date with a dear friend (my 1st SFB attendance in over 5 years), shifted tone with a text from her, as I neared the opera house (just 2 blocks away): “I just got here, and people are saying it’s canceled due to water damage on the stage. There was a fire alarm and the sprinklers turned on.” As I got in eye-shot, I could see the street and gutters filled with water, and a stream of water emanating from the giant set loading door, as crews hurriedly squeejeed the ground.

The sullen face of one adolescent girl descending the front steps said it all, as her mother voiced a teachable moment about disappointment. In fact, as we later discovered, it appears it was a messy and profuse water main break. I was in disbelief and shock, as I’d never heard of this happening at the house. But indeed it was true. The good news, we were able to transfer to the same-day evening performance. We weren’t going to give up on this easily.

Our 2nd attempt was successful, impossibly joyous (particularly Act 1, in a Barcelona Square), and full of techni-color! Literally. The costume palette in Act I could not have been more vibrant, from the orange toreador-style of the male corps de ballet (see below), to the pink backsides of the black capes (HOW do I take one of these out on loan?!), to the yellow of Espada’s first LEWK (worn by the commanding Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, of Brazil). It was a true visual feast!

Sarah Van Patten in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote. (© Erik Tomasson)

Also, perhaps because so many folks from the cancelled matinée transferred, it was the most packed performance I’ve seen at the house in years (incl. opera). This lent to a more festive gala feel, along with the highly interactive ballet, which perhaps more than any other seems to lend itself to impromptu applause and gasps/woots of pleasure from the audience.

Joseph Walsh as Basilio (the Barber), and Jennifer Stahl (Queen of the Driads) were the real standouts for me. In physique, technique, facial expression…and, well, his good hair, Joseph delivered. Jennifer was the most commanding, in her classical technique, confidence and carriage. Joseph and Wona Park (as an effervescent Kitri) had wonderful chemistry, especially in their Act II Dream Pas de Deux, where she fluttered her toe pointe shoes on the floor, eliciting a gentle tapping sound, as she was moved across the stage, dropped over him, which felt like an expression of a fluttery heart, or early, young, sweet, doe-like love.

Gabriela Gonzalez (the Gitana/Gypsy Woman) in ACT II, Scene One: Spanish Countryside, grabbed our attention from her first entrance. It was as if Aida had entered to sing O Patria Mia. She was passionate, languid, and her free movements were refreshing in the midst of the more traditional controlled classical ballet. Overall, the principals didn’t seem quite at the superstar level of my ’04 memories of Loreena Feijoo and Joan Boada (retired at 40 from SFB, but artistic director of Boston Ballet II, as of ’22), or seemingly immortal Yuan Yuan Tan, or even Vanessa Zahorian. But they all more than satisfied. The production and character performers (incl. Alexander Reneff-Olson as the Don) did a very good job of storytelling.

Ricardo Bustamante brought MUCH pleasure as the fey, campy, flamboyant Lorenzo. It never felt homophobic, but always felt in character, and lovingly crafted. Some of his clumsy movements looked very ankle-twisty…it can’t be easy to dance as if you’re not a good dancer (same can be said of Davide Occhipinti, as Sancho Panza). The orchestra was fleet and pin-point accurate, as led by Ming Luke. The Leon Minkus score belied his Austrian heritage, as there were some moments of almost Straussian verve.

3) Julian Bennett RecitalBarbro Osher Hall, Apr 1

with Matthew Park, piano

The new 200-seat Barbro Osher Recital Hall, on the 11th floor of the SFCM Bowes Center features floor-to-ceiling glass walls, offering views overlooking a spectacular vista of City Hall, and nearby classical music venues. It’s a $200M “vertical campus” designed by Mark Cavagnero Assoc. (completed in ’21), and was built to withstand a 9.0 magnitude earthquake. (On the first floor, there is allegedly zero street noise, due to a 6-foot trough built below the windows, and a floating floor.)

Julian Bennett, whom I knew nothing about before I arrived at this recital was a star, in character, looks, musical talent and passion! (I now follow him on instagram…duh!) My how we lucked out, although my Spidey-Senses are often spot on.

The program included Gian Carlo Menotti’s Arioso from his Suite for Two Cellos and Piano: III (’73). I LOVED this piece…what a find. This piece immediately brought myself and my friend to tears. Certainly, the experience of this dramatic space also played into that. Some further backstory, Julian shared that this piece was written for/dedicated to Piatigorsky. Menotti partnered with Samuel Barber for 30+ years, but in Barber’s post Antony & Cleopatra failure (via harsh critics reviews), depression and alcohol dependency overtook him and Menotti ended their partnership. I could feel this melancholy and loss in this piece (Barber’s death was in ’70)

See full program here: Julian Bennett Second Year Graduate Cello Recital

Next up, was Juon’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in A Minor, Op. 54. Joan was a Moscow-trained Russian (Swiss born). Britten’s Suite No. 1 for Solo Cello, Op. 72 includes complex layering, and a hand/finger strumming which sounded quite Asian to my ears. It reminded me of moments of his Curlew River. I still haven’t fully acquired an ear for Britten more contemporary palette but I’m getting there.

The final piece, Meditation, by his mother, Korine Fujiwara, was about that moment where the self/spirit leaves the body and goes onto wherever it goes. I loved this piece. She was sitting in the first row, with his father, it appeared. It was nice to have that familial energy there, as it also imbued the experience.

4) Moulin Rouge! Broadway Tour • Orpheum, Sep 22

Even upon entering the interior of the theater, it was clear this production REALLY committed to creating a strong sense of place and time. The real star was the sets, costumes and utter genius of working in popular song. An utter feast for the eyes and senses.

Like the Book of Mormon, the first 15-20 minutes of this show kick-off at 200% energy, delivery, pacing, and are immediately OFF TO THE RACES! I joked with my friends that our pre-show dinner restaurant surely must have laced our meal with speed or LSD. But it was a very fun, and transporting ride!

Conor Ryan (as romantic lead, Christian) served shades of Ewen McGregor, but his own mark of raw sincerity and just enough moments of unhinged vocal grit. He really gave it his all. I also reveled in Austin Durant (as Harold Zidler, the Master of Ceremonies-of-sorts), and André Ward (as Latrec), who shone, especially in his very tender Nature Boy, which provide a much needed slow down and some pacing respite!

Courtney Reed (as Satine) felt too strong, and perhaps not gamine enough, as the memory of Nicole Kidman and her red shock of hair loomed large. I also wish they had made that wig choice here to differentiate her visually more. Her costume styling also felt off (i.e. her disco booties and shimmer tights in Act I felt more like Xanadu or Starlight Express?), until the end.

Tyler Eisenreich was the only Swing we got on this night, and I couldn’t imagine a better Duke of Monroth than he. He actually made Satine’s Christian-or-Duke bind all the more convincing.

Read more »

My Operatic #BucketList!

What are those remaining operas I still have not had the good fortune of seeing LIVE…my ongoing #WishList? Here they are! (You were DYING to know, right?) Thankfully, at least 8 of those from my last posted wishlist (from ’09) have been presented locally since that time! 👏👏👏 BRAVI!

AND this is an ongoing invitation to you, ALL San Francisco Bay Area opera companies! Thanks for continuing stray from the standard rep territory, and take risks (as much as your bottom lines will allow)! Your lifetimers SO value it.

My TOP 10 Wish List:

  • La Gioconda
    (I understand the libretto may be absurd, but SFO, invite Spanish soprano Saioa Hernández! Strike while the iron’s hot on her voice and acclaim. It was last mounted here in 1988.)
  • Capriccio
    (I missed my chance with this one, as it was mounted by SFO in their StraussFest of ’93, the year I arrived here!)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
    (This would be a great SFO or West Edge Opera offering, with Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen as Oberon!)
  • Cavalleria Rusticana
    (I saw Pagliacci at ROH, but they didn’t present the standard Cav Pag double bill!)
  • Les Huguenots
    (never mounted by SFO)
  • Ernani
    (SFO planned a production of this 2 seasons ago, but COVID killed it!)
  • I Puritani
    (SFO, bring Nadine Sierra back for this!)
  • Prodaná Nevěsta (The Bartered Bride)
  • Dido and Aeneas
    (never mounted by SFO, it would also be a GREAT West Edge Opera offering)
  • Lakme
    (SFO, invite Erin Morley for this!)

Bucket List Overflow – 10 More:

  • Wozzeck
  • Martha
  • Maria Stuarda
  • Die Schweigsame Frau
  • Mignon
  • Anna Nicole
  • Susannah
  • Otello (Rossini)
    (I know I missed an opportunity to see this on the East Coast earlier this season. Alas!)
  • Moby Dick
    (A lapse in judgement for missing this a decade ago at SFO)
  • Akhnaten

Local Offerings:

KUDOS to West Edge Opera (formerly Berkeley Opera) for literally specializing in non-standard fare. It’s been a joy to see some of their rare offerings, such as last season’s Ariadne et Barbe-Bleue, and previous Powder Her Face, Pelléas, As One, etc.

And, THANKS to San Francisco Opera for serving up at least 7 of the operas on my previous list: Andrea Chenier, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Les Troyens, I Capuleti e I Montecchi, Falstaff, Lucrezia Borgia, and Roberto Devereux!

And, <HIGH FIVE!> to Opera Parallèle for their recent La Belle et la Bête, an opera I didn’t even know to have on my list, and WHAT a production it was! Keep an eye out for my upcoming TOP 10 LIVE SF Shows in ’22La Belle made that list!

What operas are still on your #WishList / #BucketList?

I’m MOST excited about seeing Die Frau ohne Schatten at SFO this coming summer season. It’s my favorite opera, and it’ll be my 3rd time seeing it LIVE. It’ll always be on my list!

jcm’s TOP 10 LIVE Shows of ’21!


Even with the ongoing uncertainty around live performance during this pandemic, it was VERY nice to have been able to partake in a more robust offering this year, certainly than in ’20, due to theatrical re-openings (all but one here in the SF Bay Area). Here’s a toast to that 🥂, to MUCH more in ’22…as well as to more stability and safety to allow all companies and clubs to be able to run, and performers to work their magic, as they are meant to, and not hang so precariously in the balance, without full ticket sales, or audiences. #FingersCrossed. Well, here we go. Share your favorite shows in the comments…what did I miss?

1) “Cosmopolitan Holiday Music” • Pink Martini, SFJazz, Miner Auditorium, Dec. 4

China Forbes’ voice was as fresh and expressive as ever. It’s truly hard to believe this band has been at it over 25 years, while she still vocally sounds 27…if with the wizened intent and spirit of someone who’s lived more, of course. Her banter with Thomas Lauderdale was entertaining, disarming and sweet. He even stripped down at one point, as a hard sell for one of their merch t-shirts, as he modeled a sample.

The vibe and energy this band produces is like no other…multi-cultural, drawing from classical and other traditions, inclusive, interactive, and essentially joyous.

Their music takes me back to a past era and relationship in my life. My 40th Bday in Palm Springs was literally named ‘n branded “Pink Martini-Land!”…but it was very tender to return to some of that energy, whilst also admiring how the band has evolved, to include more guest singers and POC in their lineup (incl. alluring vocalist Edna Vazquez, from Jalisco & Portland) which felt particularly important, given their musical mission.

Highlights from this program were the fresh, jazzy arrangement of “We Three Kings”; the moody, Croation tone poem “U Plavu Zoru,” featuring an Argentinian violinist; “Exodus,” sung by Portland pianist/singer Jimmy Herrod, which was emotionally overwhelming; their old classic “Hang on Little Tomato,” which makes SO much more sense when you know the back story (it’s a long story)! The FULL setlist can be found here, where I submitted it.

I also fell completely in love with Timothy Nashimoto, one of their long-time members, backup percussionists, and singers. His hips move like no others, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him! The final two songs were Jimmy’s belted anthem “Tomorrow” (no wonder he ended up on America’s Got Talent!), and their traditional 4-EV-R finale: “BRAZIL”!

It was wonderful to stand and dance a bit at our seats on some of the climaxes, and SO good to be back simmering in this wonderful acoustic again, and with the space’s great sightlines.

2) Fidelio • San Francisco Opera, Oct. 14

As one entered the opera house, a projection of Leonore’s back was on the scrim. As the overture progressed, one suddenly realized she was slowly rotating. It was used to VERY great affect. Her feminine silhouette also juxtaposed with her “male drag” look. It felt like a choice that furthered the building drama of the overture, rather than distracting from the music. 

The orchestra began in a slightly disconnected manner for me, with a horn splat and some blurry transitions (after decades of listening to the Klemperer recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra, what can you do?), but they really settled in. And by the end of the overture, led by Eun Sun Kim, they gave us a thrilling and triumphant ride, as they gelled.

The score stands on its own. The love quartet, and prisoner’s chorus one waits intently for decades to see LIVE like this. Both are always rapt. It’s a top 5 favorite opera for me, so I know I bring a lot of my own memories and story to it, and we certainly bring our own so up socio-cultural narratives to it as well. That’s why It feels so timeless. Because this is a story that sadly will never end…incarceration and political prisoners, but ALSO liberation, freedom, and ultimately love.

Anne-Marie Mackintosh’s Marzelline, and Christopher Oglesby’s Jacquino offered more vocal heft than usual, not a soubrette nor a tenorino. That was welcome. Mackintosh really held her own in the large ensembles. I didn’t love her Megan McCain (on The View) styling (hair/wig and Republican-blue costume), and in this modern context the in-office flirting…no, harassment, from Jacquino which in past traditional productions felt “cute” and playful, here was really awkward and felt at odds with the modernity.

The rotating set was stunning, even if when in motion the sound was a bit distracting until it came to rest. I’d say the pay-off was there on the overall approach, and tableaux it enabled.

James Creswell’s Rocco was excellent, embracing the modern feel in his portrayal. A very tonally robust voice, never covered by the orchestra. I felt this context helped his character feel more real and less of a caricature.

Elza van den Heever was stunning. Her primary aria felt heartfelt and earnest. She struck just the right tone of sorrow and yearning. Her top resplendent. As her aria finished and the stage rotated, revealing the prisoners in their cages, it was emotionally overwhelming, supported by this very affective staging. She’d clearly make a great Chrythosemis and Sieglinde. Her bottom not quite as robust…but again, hard to banish the memory of the bottom of legendary mezzo, Christa Ludwig. I did, thankfully see Elsa at the SF Conservatory in the ’90s when she was was just emerging, and still a mezzo…I believe in Ariodante.

Greer Grimsley, dressed in a stiff suit, like an archetypal Republican, brought plenty of nefarious, villainous vibes, and his well known Wotan grandeur. At times he was a little more sizzle than steak. The “BOOs!” that greeted him during the view must be a Don Pizarro role tradition I didn’t know about. He played along well and it was sweetly amusing and apt.

Our introduction to Russell Thomas’ Florestan employed a piece of stunning staging and lighting. His first cry of “GOTT!…” began with a slow crescendo…as if from his soul. (This can’t be easy as a first onstage note for a singer.) I didn’t experience it as singing. He is a STAR. Elemental. Having trained my ear on Jon Vickers for decades, he did not disappoint. Offering shades of Vickers’ ring and percussive approach, but with plenty of his own tone and style. His race no doubt added meaningful additional layers of poignancy, and a haunting quality, as he sat languishing in chains, AND as he was liberated and celebrated.

The finale almost brow beats you with joy, in its almost impossibly sunniness. And I happily took the beating, as Beethoven used every voice percussively. The chorus delivered…making it sound fresh, unfored, and ebullient. And the primarily yellow prisoner costumes added to the sunniness. 

Elza’s bow showed just how grateful SF is to have one of its own back (from SF Conservatory and Merola/Adler). Her aria and her final bow received a very generous response. And she displayed being moved by that as well. It was such a satisfying and transporting night.

3) “The Ho Must Go On!” • Jackie Beat, OASIS, July 2

D’Arcy Drollinger, Owner and Artistic Director of OASIS (and reviewed below in The Golden Girls’ LIVE), understandably chose Jackie Beat to reopen their Cabaret Show lineup after the first wave of COVID began to subside. NOONE can do what Jackie does. She’s a stand-up comedian, writer, performer/singer drag genius, and easily my biggest/greatest drag influence all these years. PLUS she sings all of her material LIVE, and it’s all parody versions rewritten by her. 

The Intro by D’Arcy provided a warm, moving introduction to Jackie and her show. The audience was ALL AGLOW, given how starved we were for live stage shows, and comedy/laughs on this level.

Highlights from the show included:Don’t Speak,” “Tainted Love” (“Painted Mug”), “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “I Always Feel Like Somebody Watching Me,” Stevie Nicks’ “Stand Back“ (“Back Fat”), “Two Tickets To Paradise” (“Two Dicks Now I’m Paralyzed”), Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” (“Necromancing On My Own”), Chicago song, Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” (“In Quarantine”), and “Running with the Devil.” Her cover song titles alone are LOL-worthyam I right?

It was a real treat. She has a way of ripping you (i.e. an audience member) a new one, BUT you know she loves you and has a great heart. That’s a skill. It’s NO surprise she wrote for the Great Joan Rivers! Even her schtick about shamelessly heckling audience for tips is never grating, always hysterical…as she drags her tip bucket around the crowd, whilst never missing a note (and she deserves every penny 🤣).

Sadly, Jackie contracted COVID this week, and had to cancel her New Year’s shows…she’s doing ok, but send her healing vibes, or some love on her social medias!

Read more »

jcm’s TOP 10 Movies, Docus & Series of ‘21!

I promised myself after last year’s historic S.I.P., and no doubt breaking my own personal streaming record, I wouldn’t take in QUITE as much content in ’21, also not knowing how much longer the pandemic would lagger on, as well as the surge of new variants. Well, thankfully I did meet my promise, watching only about 80% of my ’20 amount. 🤣🤣🤣 But, ’21 also brought plenty of great content, and I’d love to offer these tips for you any you may have overlooked, and share my highlights of the year, acknowledging there’s loads of content I wasn’t drawn to, or didn’t see. Any favorites of yours I missed? Share in the comments!


1) Supernova (US theatrical release ’21) • Underrated IMO, particularly in the award show noms, where it was largely ignored. A poignant, intimate, and painfully real close-up on a partnership, confronted with a terrible cognitive challenge.
2) Nomadland (US theatrical release ’21)
3) West Side Story ’21 (see review at bottom)
4) Passing (Netflix)
5) Cruella
6) Dune
7) Promising Young Woman
8) The Father (US theatrical release ’21)
9) US vs. Billie Holliday (Hulu)
10) Bo Burnam: Inside (Netflix) • SUCH a unique and relevant piece!


1) Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It (Netflix) • This helped open my eyes up to just how trailblazing, and instrumental she has been. Holder of the rare EGOT, and yet, a seemingly ego-free, spacious human being. It’s also the perfect follow up to watching the new “WSS”!
2) The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears (Hulu) • THIS has surely been Britney’s year. Rightfully so.
3) Roadrunner • About the real Anthony Bourdain. Necessary viewing for all human beings.
4) Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (Netflix)
6) This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist (Netflix)
7) Tiny Shoulders: Redefining Barbie (Hulu)
8) STRAY (Magnolia Pictures)
9) The Magic of Callas (PBS/Amazon)
10) FOUND (Netflix) • About three teenage girls born in China, abandoned by their parents, and adopted by US families.


1) Feel Good (S2, Netflix) • This series perfectly rides that line between humor and raw poignancy, no doubt an embodiment of Canadian-born lead Mae Martin’s stand-up comedy material and tone.
2) Hacks (S1, HBO)
3) Only Murders in the Building (S1, Hulu)
4) The Other Two (S2, HBO)
5) The White Lotus (HBO)
6) The Chair (S1, Netflix)
7) Genius: Aretha (NG/Hulu)
8) Special (S2, Netflix)
9) Sex Education (S3, Netflix)
10) insecure (S5, HBO)


1) Penguin Town (Netflix) • These Penguins come to life as full-blown characters. Their trials and pleasures are captured so compellingly.
2) Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy: Naples, Bologna, Tuscany, Milan, Sicily, Roma (CNN)
3) Behind the Attraction (Disney) • This is a VERY fun series!
4) Bad Sport, Gold War episode (Netflix)
5) Worn Stories (Netflix)


1) Soul (DisneyPlus, Dec. 25, 2020) • This movie offers an important culture reference to “flow state“, which is an important awareness for mental well being.
2) Luca (Amazon) • Very sweet to see the story of two best boy friends develop.
3) OUT (short film, DisneyPlus)
4) Muppets Haunted Mansion (Disney) • a 1-hour Holiday Special


1) Portrait Artist of the Year (S3, Amazon) • A simply stunning series. It teaches you SO much about artists’ process.
2) The Great Pottery Throw Down (S4, HBO) • I SO vibe with this show, thanks to its tactile art form, and compelling filmed setting.
3) The Great British Bake-Off (S9, Netflix)
4) DragRace AllStars (S6, Paramount)
5) Motel Makeover (Netflix)


A Castle For Christmas (Netflix) • COMPLETE cheese, with Brooke Shields as a famous writer escaping to a Scottish castle to find herself again, but I gobbled it up.

jcm’s “RAZZIE AWARD” (i.e. worst movie)

A Clüsterfünke Christmas (Comedy Central) • Despite the very talented SNL-alum writing team, I couldn’t finish it! It was pretty unwatchable.

West Side Story ’21 REVIEW:

It’s hard to be objective about a piece that I’ve listened to since childhood, is literally a part of me, and in large part formed my musical and romantic ideals (the latter part not a good plan, of course). I got to play Diesel on stage, have sung “Something’s Coming” several times (and Maria’s/Anita’s parts in private…lol). My tears flowed throughout the entire movie…which was largely about my past memories, overlaid with current projections of this new piece itself.

Mike Faist (Riff) of Newsies and Dear Evan Hanson fame was a TOTAL star…I couldn’t take my eyes off him. Not a false note in his performance for me, he simply seemed to exist as this character. And he embodied unique casting as well, not the typical more thug-like Riff. He was more lithe and viscerally wounded. I REALLY hope he isn’t altogether overlooked in the awards show nominations.

The other leads were all stunning as well, even Ansel Egort, considered by most not at the same level as the others, was the best Tony I’ve seen in a modern version, offering moments that called to mind a young Brando. This may have been the first time I didn’t want to fast-forward through “Gee, Officer Krupke,” my least favorite song in the show, the staging concept was so kinetic.

The end of “America” is surely one of the greatest modern large company stagings ever captured on film…I was almost in disbelief at its grand scale. Rita Moreno’s LIVE “Somewhere” was a study in sincerity and longing. As much as I love the original, more traditional operatic approach, she sold me on this more intimate, and integrated one. Her portrayal was a gift, anchor, and thread of tradition for this production. Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography had us literally RIGHT in the midst of the action. It could not have been more experiential on a 2D screen.

The soundtrack, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel was also FULL of new layers and nuance, making the score sound fresh and new again. Nary a complaint, which is VERY rare indeed for a movie musical redux…only one may be that they cut the Somewhere Ballet.


Citizen Kane (’41)
Frida (’02)
The Artist (’11)
Versailles ‘73: American Runway Revolution (‘12 Docu.)
Frozen (’13)
The Lego Movie (’14)
The Sound of Metal (’19)
I May Destroy You (‘20 Series) – DO NOT MISS this series!

Are there any of your favorites that I left out? If so, share in the comments!

Also, check out last year’s BEST OF 2020 list (scroll down to see the movie, docu., series nods)!

jcm’s BEST SHOWS OF 2020!

Since nothing about this year was status quo (thanks to THAT “C…” word), nothing about my list will be either. FIRST, I share my Top 2 LIVE SF Bay Area Shows, admittedly from the woefully slim offering possible outside of our quarantines (that I didn’t also perform in, because that would be tacky, no?).

Then my list skews heavily towards VIRTUAL / ONSCREEN (with a strong penchant for Netflix, especially for Documentaries). As much as I’m enjoying this Golden Age of the Documentary & Series (my designation), I do hope I never watch quite as much onscreen content in the future, as I did this year. 😉 #BringOnTheVaccine!

But alas, whilst S.I.P., it’s sure been an engaging resource, which I’m grateful for. Oh, and why not see it as an accomplishment of sorts (LOL!) in this crazy year? Here’s what I logged (how did you do?):

67 Movies
40 Documentaries
27 Series Seasons
20 Reality Competition / Game Show Seasons
7 Specials / Comedy Shows

What were your top live/virtual shows or artists? Share in the comments below! I hope we can all return to our favorite venues in 2021, as performers and audience.


“Rightfully Ours”

Feb. 29 • Post:Ballet & SF Girls Chorus, YBCA

This was one of the very few live shows I was able to attend before our first lockdown in March, but it still earned this spot! I was thankfully invited by a Girls Chorus alum, a dear friend. The seamlessly woven evening of song and dance was haunting, provoking, and moving. The highlights for me were “Wanting Memories” and “Belong Not (On Children)”. I recognized the Ladysmith Black Mambazo music used in “W.M.” from my old Paul Simon cassette (I still have it). I loved staging tableaux choreographed in that number, as if they were sitting around a pond shore together, in stillness.


“Belong Not” included my favorite Kahlil Gibran text, On Children: “Your children are not your children…They come through you but not from you…” I appreciated the presence of four male dancers in the group, offering some balance. And yet, witnessing singers and dancers, and women and men dressed in the same grey skirts was compelling, and equalizing, in its non-binary approach.

I enjoyed the physical percussion technique used, including stomping, clapping, hip slapping, etc. This was a very mature and rather weighty show and rep. for a girls’ chorus. Not standard, traditional fare. I was impressed by its gravitas and daring. Perhaps I’m the old-fashioned one in my exceptions of what they would deliver…now I’ve thankfully been skooled!


“Dining + Drag”

Oct. 10 • SF Oasis, Rooftop & Parklet

After not having seen ANY live show in EIGHT months, let alone Drag, attending this one was like being let out of a cage. Technically, we watched it three times in a row <side eye>…and with the Mexican food delivered to our table, it was A TIME…and the QUEENS delivered! 

Hostess Roxy Brooks-Lords, an Austin queen, was hysterical in her banter, balancing vulgarity and charm well. She did a number werking the middle of 11th Street (!), unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Fearlessly dancing and prancing down the middle of the road, and improv. Interacting with drivers-by. Unforgettable.

SF Oasis, Rooftop & Parklet

Elsa Touche (’s ’20 “Best Drag Queen”!) delivered her signature “That CAN’T be a lip-sync!?” lip-sync in Liza’s “Yes,” offered a cute tear-away moment in her second number, and her always irrepressible charm and bright wit. Amoura Teese served up her EPIC LQQKS and unstoppable dancing. Juhnay Arabesque brought some apropos pre-Halloween witchiness and sass. A perfect quartet. We MUST keep this venue alive through the pandemic. It’s essential to our community!


Most impressive & heartening adaptative response:

Virtual Drag & Performance (!!!)

It has helped save our SF Drag & Performance communities (and some bars/clubs), and the livelihood of some (local) performing artists. Some of the essential ongoing SF Bay Area shows include: The MASCARA Show (at the Castro Country Club), SF Bay Area Ducal & Imperial Court Fundraiser Shows, NCTC, Drunk Drag Broadway, The Monster Show SF, Katya’s Quarantini, So You Think You Can Drag?, Polesexual, ENCORE, AND MORE! I could never place them in any order…the diversity and talent is astounding. And, let’s not forget the very fine, large scale A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration, and the Metropolitan Opera At-Home Gala, both early in the pandemic.

Most life-changing relationship:

My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)

A man and an octopus, in my favorite documentary (AND movie) of the year. It transcended the standard nature show format by having a strong story arch, and offered a reminder of the harm our disconnection from nature can bring.

Biggest shot of adrenaline:

Leslie Jones, as Host of “SUPERMARKET SWEEP!, S1

She was born for this, and her joy and playfulness are palpable. Watch the funny story of her early relationship with the show. (I need to get on this show!)

Most ample serving of kitsch:

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square (Netflix)

This musical is already a new kitsch cult classic, which I’ve watched twice this month! IT HAD ME at Christine Baranski’s earnest and antagonist-a “Gotta Get Out”. And, DOLLY is the Person of the Year (duh!), defying and transcending all categorization.

The thing we most didn’t know we needed:

The Masked Singer, S3&4

This was the show that back in 2018 we had NO IDEA we needed. But, Korea knew we did, with their “King of Mask Singer,” debuting back in 2015! Masks + costumes + solid pipes = MAGIC. To see some great artists try on new/different musical genres, and release them from the shackles of their pigeon-holed stylistic and public persona is cathartic for them, and for us. The judges are a fun quartet too, with Ken Jeong playing on hits grating brand. The costumes create fantastic and unique caricatures…asnd the guessing couldn’t be more fun.

Most fascinating persona:

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (Netflix)

The latest patron saint of eccentrics (ala Liberace). His legacy wavers between high camp and immense heart. Just my vibe.

Essential BIPOC stories finding new audiences:

We have SO much work to do. I am Not Your Negro (’16, Netflix), and 13th (2016, Netflix), and They’ve Gotta Have Us (’18) were essential viewing for this year, helping us define and reveal our blind spots, to see things more clearly as they are, and inspire us into greater action!

Most exciting use of a basic shape:

The Circle, S1 (Netflix)

Back when life seemed normal, pre-COVID, this was quite an addictive and fun ride! Will there be a Season 2? It MAY be a game well-suited to COVID area, actually. Top 3 Joey, Shubby & Sammie sure lit up that screen.

My biggest celeb besties. Obvs:

Issa Rae, Alison Brie, Michelle Buteau, Melissa McCarthy, Yvonne Orji, Sandra Oh…DUH! Well, they just don’t know it. Is that weird?

Most annoying surprise:

Kim-K on My Next Guest, with Dave Letterman (Netflix)

She MIGHT be real, and have a heart, not just a pocketbook. I didn’t want to like her. Ugh. I blame Dave. LOL. He’s such a masterful interviewer, and could quite possibly make a houseplant look empathic and interesting.


1) My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)
2) Our Planet, Series (Netflix)
3) Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado (Netflix)
4) Crip Camp: Disability Camp (Netflix)
5) Athlete A (Netflix)
6) Circus of Books (Netflix)
7) Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (Amazon)
8) Becoming: Michelle Obama (Netflix)
9) A Secret Love (Netflix) – an essential 7-decade story of love
10) Amazing Grace: Aretha Franklin (Amazon)


The Ice King: John Curry (’19)he was tortured in many ways, but gave us unsurpassed skating brilliance
• #cats_the_mewvie” (Netflix)
• The Lost City of Cecile B. De Mille (’17) – FASCINATING!
• Merely Marvelous: The Dancing Genius of Gwen Verdon (’19, Amazon)


1) Queens Gambit (Netflix)
2) Dead To Me, S3 (Netflix)
3) Killing Eve, S1-3 (Hulu)
4) Unorthodox (Netflix)
5) Insecure, S3&4 (HBO) – my sentimental favorite!
6) Atypical, S2&3 (Netflix)
7) TIE: The Great, S1&2 (Hulu) / Bridgertons, S1 (Netflix) – they were both equally delicious moderns twists
8) Sex Education, S2 (Netflix)
9) Dispatches from Elsewhere, S1 (Amazon) – quirky & flawed, but beautifully spiritual
10) EastSiders, S1-3 (Netflix) – I actually learned something about gay relationship from this


1) The Circle, S1 (Netflix)
2) The Great British Baking Show, S7&8 (Netflix) – delicious British perfection!
3) Next in Fashion, S1 (Netflix)
4) Cheer, S1 (Netflix)
5) Masked Singer, S3&4
6) The Big Flower Fight S1 (Netflix)
7) Project Runway, S19
8) The Amazing Race, S32
9) Dancing With the Stars, S29 – I was rooting for Nev & Justina! Ah well.
10) DragRace AllStars, S5


1) Chef (Netflix)rec. by a friend, this one surprised me…Favreu is sensationally real. Admittedly, I’m biased towards self-actualization-thru-travel, family food/restaurant, and tender father/son stories!
2) Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Netflix) – Chadwick Boseman (RIPower) & Viola Davis offer tour de force Oscar-worthy performances. Director, George C. Wolfe really allows the scenes to settle in and simmer, which also reveals its clear stage play origins. I was grateful to meet this embodiment of “Ma”…a self-possessed, unbending woman. An icon.
3) Boys in the Band (Netflix) – I still need to see the original. The screenplay (and original play) are problematic for me, but the overall synergy of the actors/characters reach some electric and authentic heights here.
4) Uncle Frank (Amazon)
5) The Photograph (Amazon) – Issa Rae!
6) Palm Springs (Hulu)
7) Enola Holmes (Netflix)
8) Funny Boy (Netflix)
9) Mank (Netflix)
10) The Life Ahead (Netflix) – Sophia Loren!


Roman Holiday
Holiday (“I love feeling free inside even more than I love you, Linda.”)
The Shining
The Witches (’90 orig.)
Valley of the Dolls
The Farewell (’19)

Check out jcm’s 2019 list too! >

The Greatest Love Duets & Arias of Opera

What better time spent on this Valentine’s Day than to bathe in the gifts of the operatic canon. I’ve selected only one from a given composer (i.e. we know Puccini or Verdi alone could fill an ENTIRE list). I tried to balance obvious choices with some less so. Surprisingly, none from Mozart inspired inclusion here.

Some embody a new or even first love (such as the Louise and Rigoletto selections), others a more mature, spiritual love (such as Tristan und Isolde and Die Tote Stadt). I’ve included translation excerpts in a few instances, where the text is particularly purple and ripe. I hope you enjoy this collection.

And, by all means, share your favorites, or any I missed in the comments. it was a challenge to narrow down, as you can imagine. Admittedly, the offerings are much more lean in the baroque realm, and none from modern opera <sad trombone>. And, yes, it’s terribly heteronormative, but alas, if you’re like me, you can project all sorts of fantasies onto these stories too ;-P

So, draw up a warm bubble bath, light some candles, get a great view of the stars, hop in the sack, and push <PLAY!>…

Und du wirst mein Gebieter sein (duet)
Arabella (Richard Strauss)

Depuis le jour
Louise (Charpentier)

“Since the day I gave myself my destiny seems all flower-strewn. I think I’m dreaming under a fairy sky my soul still intoxicated by your first kiss! What a beautiful life! My dream wasn’t a dream! / Oh! I’m so happy! Love is spreading its wings over me! In the garden of my heart sings a new joy!”

Ja vas lyublyu
Queen of Spades (Tchaikovsky)

O Nuit Divresse (duet)
Les Troyens (Berlioz)

“Endlessly intoxicating night of ecstasy.”

Signore ascolta
Turandot (Puccini)

“Her heart is breaking! My, how long I’ve walked with your name in my soulWith your name on these lips!”

Gluck das mir verblieb (duet)
Die tote Stadt (Erich Wolfgang Korngold)

“Joy, that near to me remains, come to me, my true love. Night sinks into the grove, you are my light and day. Anxiously beats heart on heart. Hope itself soars heavenward.”

Mild Und Leise
Tristan und Isolde (Wagner)

“Don’t you see it? Brighter and brighter how he shines, illuminated by stars rises high? …(It) sounds out of him, invades me, swings upwards, sweetly resonating rings around me? …be engulfed — unconscious — supreme delight!”

A te o cara (duet)
I Puritani (Bellini)

Caro Nome
Rigoletto (Verdi)

“Sweet name, you who made my heart throb for the first time, you must always remind me the pleasures of love! My desire will fly to you on the wings of thought and my last breath will be yours, my beloved.”

A levé toi
Romeo et Juliette (Gounod)

Dove sei
Rodelinda (Handel)

Signore deh non partire
L’Incoronazione di Poppea (Claudio Monteverdi)

Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix
Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns)

“My heart opens itself to your voice.”

Any glaring omissions, or ones you would like to add in the comments? Fire away!

jcm’s Top 10 Show Picks of 2019

I’m gaga reflecting on another rich year of San Francisco Bay Area opera, music, theatre, drag, dance… Welcome to my 11th Annual TOP 10 List! As always, reflecting on these is part of how I enjoy the pleasures of the year all over again, and an essential part of that was sharing in most of these with a good friend. I hope you enjoy perusing them as well. The top two offerings here fulfilled long-standing dreams/wishes to see each LIVE. That alone made them notable for me, even setting the amazing results aside.

What were your top shows/live artists? Share in the comments below…and hope to see you at a venue in 2020!

1) Heart: LOVE ALIVE Tour, Sept. 6

Ann Wilson is in ASTONISHING vocal shape at 69 years old…far beyond what I expected. She cast a heartfelt, passionate, witchy spell, and served up breezy, personable storytelling intros to each song, with a warmth I didn’t expect. 

It dawned on me that perhaps only because she’s still alive and kickin’, is she not considered the legend that Janis Joplin is. I mean, c’mon…this is a GODDESS in our midst! Why aren’t we bowing down before her? Even the masterful Linda Ronstadt can’t sing anymore. And this woman sounds like she’s 35. Plus, she also whipped out a masterful flute solo (ala Lizzo)…who knew?!


Her sister, Nancy is not far behind at 65. It was a nearly spiritual evening, with musical highlights incl. Magic Man, Dog & Butterfly (duet), Love Alive, Mistral Wind, The Boxer (a fantastic cover of a Simon & Garfunkel favorite!), and the fabulous encores: Alone (Ann’s anthem belt), Barracuda, and Stairway to Heaven (picking up on their Kennedy Center Honors’ tribute). Their hits have always been special to me, as my siblings and I used to belt them in our falsettos, racing down Cincy freeways.

This was my first time at the Concord Pavilion, which felt like quite a trek from San Francisco (even with a friend), but in a beautiful, natural, oh so very NorCal setting. It’s similar to Shoreline, but a more dramatic, inspiring location.

2) Rusalka, SF Opera, Jun. 13 (Unofficial Final Dress Review)

My favorite international DIVA, Rachel Willis-Sørensen was in divine, refulgent voice. I always liken her timbre to Golden Age German mezzo Christa Ludwig, but with thrilling, easy high notes. (I’m thrilled to have scored tickets to see her at Opéra National de Bordeaux in 2020 as Donna Anna, in a sold out run.) She was a chameleon throughout the night, and well supported by the costume/wigs/makeup team…Act I: ala The Ring (the 2002 film), Act 2: ala Katy Perry, Act 3: ala Lady Gaga or Bowie in Labyrinth. She is no doubt the full package.

Brandon Jovanovich was virile and passionate, his Czech sounding so idiomatic (to my ears), with just the right throatiness and nasality. Yet another powerful role assumption this finest of dramatic tenors has blessedly brought to our house.


Photo: Cory Weaver / San Francisco Opera

Jamie Barton was hysterical and offered a complete, 3D character. She just simply WAS Jezibaba, with a huge, booming voice. Act I was the highlight, Act III was powerful, and Act II sagged just a bit, based on the less seasoned Foreign Princess. Conductor Eun Sun Kim, recently announced as our new SF Opera Artistic Director (!) lent inspired leadership to the proceedings. I’m proud of the company for this historic promotion.

The opera ballet was surely the most playful and fun I’d ever seen (usually they feel like the bathroom or losenge break to me), with its camp, whimsy, mythic tone, and choreo by Andrew George. The Wood Nymphs were spectacular, particularly Natalie Image, who is a star-in-the-making. All three were perfectly whimsical and absurd. A welcome taste of Bouffon/buffoonery.

3) This Side of Crazy, New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC), Oct. 17

After performing some old skool #SouthernGlam in the “Happy Hour is a Drag” pre-show in the NCTC lobby, I stayed to experience the MainStage offering, Del Shores’ world premiere commission. Kate Boyd, scenic designer, offered an amazingly detailed, and intimate set that really drew one into the story, and created a real sense of place. I felt like I was really IN that home. The writing was masterful, with at least 25 quotable, quippy one-liners…surely a Del Shores specialty. Wes Crain curated costumes that with each entrance elicited a gasp or snicker. Just right.


Ditty Blaylock (Christine Macomber, left) & Bethany Blaylock (Amy Meyers, right) / Photo: Lois Tema, New Conservatory Theatre Center

Christine Macomber was a tour de force as the family matron Ditty Blalock, a narcissistic, self involved joy, but wrapped in a messy sort of love. I’d LOVE to know more about her past, and her own trauma. That could easily be a Part II play (calling Del Shores!).

The actresses portraying the Blaylock daughters/sisters were a very well-rounded trio. You could feel their dynamic synergy at all times. Alison Whismore was particularly affecting as the neurotic, chain smoking, gaunt, and just on-the-edge Abigail Blaylock. Cheryl Smith and Amy Meyers were also excellent and committed as the other sisters.

So many laughter and tears. This is silver screen ready! Throw Olympia Dukakis or some celeb in that role (or keep Christine!) and it’ll be the next Steel Magnolias. As Ditty exclaimed to her daughters: “I taught you to have conviction, even when you don’t mean it.” (close, if not exact quote).

Read more »

jcm’s Top 10 Show Picks of 2018

WELCOME to my 10th ANNUAL (!) post of the finest shows that the SF Bay Area has to offer. I’ve loved taking in local live/stage shows all these years, and sharing my resonances and reactions with you. In that vein, I pass on to you Langhorne Slim’s poignant message (from the Rooster Stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, my #5 entry below): “Wishing you peace, love & ALL THE SWEET SHIT in life!”

Especially in the past few years, the amount of what I’ve been able to experience has necessarily lessened, so this is hardly a comprehensive list. But I know what I like, and am grateful to have sampled even this much crème on top of another year of shows!

What were your favorite Bay Area performances of the year? Please share in the comments.

1) Erasure, World Be Gone Tour, The Masonic, August 17

Andy Bell gave us all (esp. the gays) a lesson in what 50-something can look like. He displayed boundless energy and a giving spirit, a fearless and bold play with his sensuality/sexuality (donning a faux tattoo full body tight), a voice nearly as fresh as in their earliest recordings (starting in ’86)…and THIS from someone who has had BOTH hips replaced! It was wonderful to dance with them for nearly half the concert. It was nearly impossible to stay in our seats.

erasure Fredy Rimando

(credit: Fredy Rimando)

Their setlist included every hit I craved to hear: Oh L’Amour, Ship of Fools, Breathe, Just a Little Love, Chains of Love, Sweet Summer Loving, Victim of Love, Phantom Bride, World Be Gone, Who Needs Love Like That, Atomic (Blondie cover), Love to Hate You, Blue Savannah, Drama!, Love You to the Sky, Sometimes, Always, Stop!, Encore: A Little Respect

2) Stacey Kent, I Know I Dream, The Fairmont, February 24

This was my second time seeing Stacey, her husband and bandleader Jim Tomlinson at the Fairmont. This concert was just as transporting. I lapped up the broad range of songs she performed, from diverse cultures and song traditions. But it is her Bossa Nova repertoire that will remain my favorite from her. Thankfully, this setlist offered at least 4 of them. Stacey always leaves me wanting more…just like travel, love, and sex, which most of her songs are about.


Highlights included: Make it Up, (a Jobim song), Les Amours Perdues, Happy Talk (by Rogers & Hammerstein), The Very Thought of You, Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Sinatra’s first hit, a requested song), Bullet Train, To Say Goodbye (by Edu Lobo, Brazilian), La Rua Madureira, Je Palle d’amore (by Nina Ferrer, performed as a samba, with a more hopeful air), Mon Jardin Hiver

The lyrics to their original, Make it Up really resonated to me:

“I love you and you love me
And I can’t tell you why
You’d have thought by now we’d have figured out
The reason and the rhyme
You love me and I love you
And it’s been this way so long
That if we knew what were doing
We’d be doing it all wrong
So let’s just make it up as we go along.”

3) Roberto Devereux, San Francisco Opera, September 18

Sondra Radvanovsky displayed dramatic and vocal fearlessness. A voice of this grand scale (aka true dramatic coloratura) was a treat in this repertoire. It made me crave some Wagner rep. from her, perhaps Senta, or even an attempt at Isolde, neither or which she has performed. Her final mad scene was surprisingly beautiful, and affecting. Her haggard and harried appearance never disrupted the sung line. It elicited a level of feeling from me the rest of the opera hadn’t, as much of it was VERY technically polished, but perhaps a bit too period.


(credit: Cory Weaver)

I really liked the production, particularly the mini opera that accompanied the overture. Jamie Barton delivered gobs of glorious tone, and with great dramatic commitment, even if some of the surtitles, and period cultural considerations elicited laughter. As always, she called to mind Marilyn Horne’s fach, but with cleaner technique. I could have done without her rape by the Duke.

Russell Thomas was very impressive too. It was great to see this trio back together again after our ’14 SFO Norma!

Read more »