Marion Cotillard stars in ‘Rust and Bone’ at Alliance Française

(Trailer for ‘Rust and Bone’ – Sony Pictures Classics)

Described by The Telegraph as “….. bruising, beautiful, and fierce, a love story written in scar tissue, acted with galvanising intelligence, and directed like a dream” Rust and Bone is the Tuesday evening movie at the San Francisco Alliance Française this week.

Starring Academy Award-winning actress Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, Rust and Bone is directed by Jacques Audiard (Read My Lips and A Prophet), who co-wrote the screenplay with Thomas Bidegain.  It’s based on a story by Canadian author Craig Davidson, with a score by multi-award-winning composer Alexandre Desplat.

The film tells of the unusual relationship which develops between an orca trainer, Stéphanie – “played with piercingly shrewd intelligence and sensuality by Marion Cotillard” says The Guardian – who loses both legs in an accident, and Ali, a Belgian nightclub bouncer and security guard with aspirations of becoming a specialist in the martial arts.

Following the failure of a relationship, Ali, with his young son Sam (played by Armand Verdure), hitchhikes to Antibes, where his sister Anna (Corinne Masiero) has a home. A ‘what you see is what you get’ type of character, he meets Stéphanie who is in a state of deep depression following her accident, but who discovers a soulmate in Ali. They find themselves becoming ever closer in response to a series of challenges and unpleasant incidents which arise, but each of them is a fighter and each of them needs the other to survive what life throws at them.

Director Jacques Audiard, says The Guardian, “…. takes huge risks navigating his way through this pummelling workout of a film …..”, adding that “His sure sense of rhythm, Juliette Welfling’s typically incisive editing, and the tremendous leads give it clout”.

At the 2013 Césars ceremony, Rust and Bone won four awards – for Matthias Schoenaerts as Most Promising Actor, Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain for Best Adapted Screenplay, Alexandre Desplat for Best Original Music, and Juliette Welfling for Best Editing.

Among numerous nominations were those in five categories at the Césars, including one for Marion Cotillard as Best Actress. Jacques Audiard was nominated for the Palm d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, and there were also nominations for Rust and Bone and for Marion Cotillard at the 2013 Golden Globes and BAFTAs, and for Cotillard at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Rust and Bone screens – in French with English subtitles – at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, at 7.00 pm on Tuesday, August 2. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.

Alliance Française

Rust and Bone

Marion Cotillard

Matthias Schoenaerts

Jacques Audiard

Thomas Bidegain

Craig Davidson

Alexandre Desplat


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From classic to contemporary – San Francisco Ballet at Stern Grove Festival


Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian in Balanchine’s ‘Theme and Variations’ at the 2015 Stern Grove Festival © Erik Tomasson

The versatility of San Francisco Ballet will be on display this weekend as the Company presents four works at its annual performance at the Stern Grove Festival. Sunday’s program features Act II from Helgi Tomasson’s production of Swan Lake, his 2005 creation The Fifth Season, the pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain, and Rubies from George Balanchine’s ballet Jewels. Martin West will lead the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.

Despite Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake having been something of a failure when it premiered at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre in 1877 with choreography by Julius Reisinger, it was revived in 1895 by the genius of Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov for the Imperial Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg. Almost all interpretations of what is possibly the world’s best loved ballet have subsequently been based on this revival, as has this version by San Francisco Ballet’s Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. Act II is probably the most magical part of Swan Lake – the stage filled with dancers in shimmering white, the tender pas de deux between the Swan Queen, Odette, and Prince Siegfried, and some of the most romantic and beautiful of Tchaikovsky’s music. The principal roles will be danced on Sunday by Frances Chung and Tiit Helimets.


Hansuke Yamomoto in Wheeldon’s ‘Rush’ at last year’s Stern Grove Festival © Erik Tomasson

Welsh composer, Karl Jenkins – now Sir Karl Jenkins, having been knighted in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2015 Birthday Honours List – is the most performed living composer in the world today (The Arts Desk Global Survey). Sir Karl has composed for the advertising industry, for documentaries and a feature film, for commissions by HRH the Prince of Wales and the London Symphony Orchestra, for the royal gala at the opening of the Welsh Millennium Centre in 2004, he has numerous recordings and gold and platinum discs to his name – but his music hadn’t often been linked with the world of ballet before Tomasson selected his String Quartet No 2 as the score for The Fifth Season. Somewhat minimalist in design, this ballet gives Tomasson scope to present a diversity of styles – to music inspired by the Baroque era, followed by a Tango, a Waltz, a Romance and a Rondo. Tomasson also added a sixth movement, for a pas de deux, using the largo from Jenkins’ Palladio.  This performance features Dores André, Aaron Robison, Mathilde Froustey, Carlos Quenedit, Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets

Christopher Wheeldon choreographed his ballet After the Rain for New York City Ballet’s 2005 annual celebration of the Company’s founder, George Balanchine. The work, set to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel, was created on NYCB principals Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, and is in two parts, the second being an emotionally charged, almost haunting pas de deux, and it’s this which will be performed at Stern Grove. The dancers – in this instance Yuan Yuan Tan and Luke Ingham – are simply clad, with nothing to detract from their artistry and Wheeldon’s trademark creativity in a work of mesmerizing beauty. The British choreographer is currently Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet, and was granted an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2016 New Year’s Honours List.

The performance ends with Balanchine’s Rubies – the jazz-inspired movement from his gorgeous ballet Jewels, set to the Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra by Igor Stravinsky – with whom Balanchine had a very close and successful working relationship. Visually spectacular, Rubies is Balanchine having a bit of fun, slotting this spirited and playful movement between Emeralds – a cool, elegant piece with music by Gabriel Fauré – and Diamonds, Balanchine’s homage to the grandeur of Imperial Russia and the Mariinsky Theatre, with music by Tchaikovsky. The principal roles will be danced at the Festival by Vanessa Zahorian, Joseph Walsh and Jennifer Stahl.


WanTing Zhao and Carlo de Lanno in Thatcher’s ‘Frayed’ at a previous performance at Stern Grove © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet performs at the Stern Grove Festival on Sunday, July 31, at 2.00 pm. All Festival performances are admission free, no tickets are required, and admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more details, visit or call (415) 252-6252.

San Francisco Ballet

Helgi Tomasson

Karl Jenkins

The Arts Desk

New York City Ballet

The George Balanchine Trust

Christopher Wheeldon

Arvo Pärt

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‘Innovative and unique’ – Lila Downs at SFJAZZ


Lila Downs – courtesy SFJAZZ

Following her highly acclaimed appearance at the Montreal International Jazz Festival earlier this month, Mexican-American vocalist Lila Downs brings to SFJAZZ this week her particular blend of international sounds and styles – what the Los Angeles Times describes as “a stunning voice” and “a confident multicultural vision grounded in her Mixtec Indian roots”.

Regarded as one of the most celebrated singers of her generation, Lila Downs is a passionate global ambassador for the indigenous music of Mexico, yet also includes in her repertoire a wide range of musical genres – from blues, jazz and soul, to cumbia, rock, rap and even klezmer. This ability to combine a combination of styles, without losing her cultural roots, won her the 2016 Antonio Carlos Jobim Award as “an artist distinguished in the field of world music whose influence on the evolution of jazz and cultural crossover is widely recognized.”

Downs rose to the ranks of an international star when she performed, with Caetano Veloso, the Oscar-nominated song Burn it Blue from the Frida Kahlo biopic, at the 75th Academy Awards ceremony. She has recorded a total of nine studio albums, and won a GRAMMY and a Latin GRAMMY (her fourth) for her 2011 release Pecados y Milagros.

Her latest album, Balas y Chocolate, featured in the UK Sunday Times Best Album of the Year list in 2015, as well as in the 2015 US iTunes best world music releases. According to her website, “Lila’s compositions are often striking commentaries on social conditions ….”, and the lyrics of this album – inspired by the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos – are critical of the violence and corruption which currently blight the reputation of her homeland.

“Fluency in Spanish isn’t necessary to understand Lila Downs’ shape-shifting voice,” says The Associated Press, “it transcends language, carrying pure emotion. Downs moves from operatic stylings to rap and everything in between, with both artistic exploration and pop sensibility.”

Lila Downs appears in the Miner Auditorium on July 23 and 24. For more information, and for tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.

Artist’s website – Lila Downs

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Three great concerts from the San Francisco Symphony


Madeleine Peyroux © Mary Ellen Mark

If you’ve only one opportunity this week to spend an evening with conductor Edwin Outwater and the San Francisco Symphony, you’re going to have a hard time deciding which of three concerts to attend. On offer are An Evening in Paris with Madeleine Peyroux, a Russian Celebration – with the music of Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich – and a performance featuring two of America’s greatest composers – George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.  Spoilt for choice!

American-born singer and songwriter Madeleine Peyroux spent her teenage years living in Paris, where – with her distinctive voice – she used to join the buskers performing on the sidewalks of the Latin Quarter of the city. This week at Davies Symphony Hall, Madeleine Peyroux, with her guitar, brings Paris to San Francisco as she performs a selection of some of the loveliest songs so closely associated with the City of Light – numbers like La vie en rose and J’ai deux amours.

The program also features a performance by the Symphony of the Passepied and Claire de lune, from one of Claude Debussy’s most famous piano works, the Suite bergamasque, much of the inspiration for which came from the works of fin de siècle poet, Paul Verlain. There are a number of orchestrations of the suite, but this version was the work of Debussy’s close friend, composer André Caplet.


George Gershwin © Acorn

The final work in this concert with a French flavor is Gershwin’s jazz-influenced tone poem An American in Paris, which was commissioned in 1928 by then conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Walter Damrosch, who wanted to present a premiere performance of a work by Gershwin at Carnegie Hall that year. During a stay in Paris in 1926, Gershwin had become fascinated by the ambience, the sights and sounds of the city, all of which proved to be enormously inspirational in the composition of this hugely popular work.

An Evening in Paris with Madeleine Peyroux and the San Francisco Symphony takes place at Davies Symphony Hall on Thursday July 21. For more information, and for tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.


San Francisco Symphony conductor Edwin Outwater © Larry Williamson

On Friday evening, Edwin Outwater leads the Symphony in A Russian Celebration, featuring the music of three of the greatest of that country’s many wonderful composers – Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff and Shostakovich.

The concert opens with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture – a work which was commissioned in 1954 by the conductor of the Bolshoi Theatre, Vassili Nebolsin, for a concert to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. Shostakovich was apparently given just three days in which to write it, and succeeded in delivering a lively and melodic piece of music with plenty of razzmatazz – perfect for the introduction of a celebratory performance.


Pianist Natasha Paremski – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto is one of his most loved – and most romantic – compositions. It’s not for nothing that the incredibly beautiful slow movement was used as the theme for David Lean’s heartbreaking 1945 film Brief Encounter.  The Piano Concerto No 2  is a powerful and passionate work, and in this performance the soloist is Russian-born American pianist Natasha Paremski, winner of a number of prestigious awards, including the Gilmore Young Artists prize when she was just 18. Ms Paremski has been described as “dazzling” by the Coventry Telegraph, and American Record Guide wrote: “Comparisons with Argerich should not be given lightly, but Paremski is so clearly of the same temperament and technique that it is unavoidable here.”

The Tchaikovsky work is his magnificent Symphony No 4, which the composer dedicated to his then patron Nadezhda von Meck, and which, in his own words, “cost me so much labour” but which he considered at the time to have been “better than anything I’ve done so far”.  We just know that the San Francisco Symphony is going to deliver a sumptuous performance.

Edwin Outwater and the San Francisco Symphony present A Russian Celebration on Friday, July 22, at Davies Symphony Hall. Visit the San Francisco Symphony website for further information and tickets.


Jazz pianist Makoto Ozone © Kishin-Shinoyama

Saturday evening’s concert promises to be a very upbeat affair!  It features the music of Gershwin and Bernstein – and opens with Exhibition Blues, a jazzy arrangement by Erik Jekabson of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, with internationally acclaimed Japanese jazz pianist Makoto Ozone making a welcome return to Davies Symphony Hall.  He takes center stage again in the Symphony’s performance of Rhapsody in Blue – the work which Gershwin composed in the space of five weeks, for a 1924 concert in New York put together by band leader Paul Whiteman. The New York Times described it as a “composition of extraordinary talent” – and the rest, as they say, is history.


Leonard Bernstein – New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection, Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons

This concert also features Leonard Bernstein’s overture to Candide, his ‘comic operetta’ adapted from Voltaire’s 1758 novella.  Candide has undergone a number of revisions since it premiered in New York in December 1956, at which time it was received with mixed reviews, but there’s no denying the quality of the score and the popularity of its colorful and wonderfully melodic overture.

And finally, there’s another outing for Gershwin’s An American in Paris, the work in which the composer visualized three scenarios – the American visitor wandering around Paris, taking in the atmosphere, followed by a blues-type interlude which might indicate a brief spell of nostalgia for home, before he finally revels once more in the sights and sounds of the city.

This jazzy evening of music by Edwin Outwater and the San Francisco Symphony takes place at Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday, July 23. Further information and tickets are available on the San Francisco Symphony website.


Edwin Outwater

Erik Jekabson

Makoto Ozone


San Francisco Symphony

Artists’ websites –

Madeleine Peyroux

Natasha Paremski

Encyclopaedia Britannica

All Music

Leonard Bernstein


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Alliance Française screens Oscar-winning ‘Amour’

One of the most highly acclaimed foreign films of recent years, Austrian director Michael Haneke’s Amour, is to be screened at the San Francisco Alliance Française movie night on Tuesday, July 19. Described by the Philadelphia Enquirer as “a masterpiece”, Amour features a cast headed by legendary French stars Emmanuelle Riva, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert.

Trintignant and Riva play an elderly couple, Georges and Anne.  Both in their eighties, they are cultured, former music teachers. The pianist Alexandre Tharaud also features in the film, using his own name, but playing the role of one of Anne’s finest pupils. Isabelle Huppert plays their daughter, Eva, who lives abroad, with her family.

When Anne suffers the first of two strokes, she makes Georges promise that he’ll never put her in a hospital or home, but as Anne’s condition is complicated by the onset of a form of dementia, the enormity of his promise becomes ever harder to bear. As her health deteriorates, Georges finds himself having to care for her without any palliative care or assistance until she passes away.

If this sounds somewhat depressing, bear in mind the calibre of the three main actors, and the acclaim which the film has received from a wide range of critics.

Entertainment Weekly referred to Amour as “the most hauntingly honest movie about old age ever made”, adding “In Amour, these two actors show us what love is, what it really looks like, and what it may, at its most secret moments, demand”.

Empire pulled no punches: “Michael Haneke’s Palme D’Or winner is uncomfortable, uncompromising, unflinching… and utterly unmissable. Old age may not be a reality you wish to confront, but you must see this film.”

The New York Times described it as “A masterpiece about life, death and everything in between”, and Time magazine wrote: “In the history of movies about love, Amour shall last forever”.

Not only did Amour win the 2013 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, but – among its 76 awards – were the 2013 Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, and two 2013 BAFTAs for Best Film not in the English Language, and for Emmanuelle Riva as Best Leading Actress. Amour won Michael Haneke the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Festival de Cannes as well.

The film also received 101 nominations, among which were those at the 2013 Academy Awards for Best Motion Picture of the Year, for Emmanuelle Riva as Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, for Haneke for Best Achievement in Directing and Best Writing, Original Screenplay. BAFTA nominations for Michael Haneke included the BAFTA Film Award for Best Original Screenplay and the David Lean Award for Best Director.

The last word of praise goes to the New York Observer: “Don’t let Amour join the legion of ‘Best Films You Never Saw’. I urge you to share its sweetness and wisdom, and learn something.”

A collaboration between France, and Germany and Austria, Amour is shown in French with English subtitles.  The Alliance Française community partner for this event is the Goethe-Institut in San Francisco.

The screening takes place at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday, July 19, at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.  The film is rated PG-13.
Alliance Française


Michael Haneke

Jean-Louis Trintignant

Emmanuelle Riva

Isabelle Huppert

Alexandre Tharaud




Philadelphia Enquirer

Entertainment Weekly


The New York Times


New York Observer


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Summer Concerts under the stars at the Prince’s Palace in Monaco


The Courtyard of the Prince’s Palace, Monaco © Monaco Press Centre

Is there any more magical or awe-inspiring venue for a symphony concert than the Courtyard of the Prince’s Palace in Monaco, under a starlit sky?  Each summer, the Royal Courtyard hosts a series of performances by the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra, continuing the centuries-old patronage of the arts – and music in particular – by the Grimaldi Princes.

Not only does the grandeur and beauty of the Courtyard complement the calibre of the performances featured each year, but owing to its design – with walls which form a perfect trapezoid – it has excellent acoustics, producing what is acknowledged as an unusual clarity of sound.

The first concert of this year’s season takes place on 17th July, with a performance led by Gianluigi Gelmetti  – until recently Artistic and Music Director of the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, who now takes the title of Honorary Conductor. The concert opens with Francesco Bongiovanni’s elegant and melodic Symphonic Overture Le Prince, in its premiere performance by the Philharmonic. This is followed by two gorgeous works by Tchaikovsky – his Violin Concerto in D major and the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, with its heartrendingly beautiful main theme. The Violin Concerto – one of the most popular in the classical repertoire, yet also one of the most difficult – is performed by German violinist David Garrett, the classical artist who also has a substantial following among rock and pop fans with his crossover shows, and whose performances are noted for the passion with which Garrett plays. Also on the programme is Rossini’s spirited overture to the opera William Tell.


Gianluigi Gelmetti and the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic Orchestra © OPMC

The performance on 21st July features Israeli virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman, as both conductor and soloist, in a programme of music by Mozart. The concert opens with the overture to his opera The Magic Flute, Mozart’s foray into the world of fantasy and enchantment. Zukerman then plays the Violin Concerto No 3 in G major, written when the composer was just 19 years of age, and regarded as the most popular of his five violin concertos. According to All Music, “the sweetness and ingratiating simplicity of its melodies are surpassed by virtually nothing Mozart ever wrote”. Zukerman has been described by the Los Angeles Times as “the forever-young virtuoso: expressively resourceful, infectiously musical, technically impeccable, effortless”, adding “It was a joy to be in his musical company.” The concert ends with Mozart’s Symphony No 39, one of the last three symphonies which he wrote.


Kazuki Yamada © OPMC

The concert on 24th July features a hugely popular all-American programme.  Kazuki Yamada, the newly appointed Artistic and Music Director of the Philharmonic, leads the Orchestra in George Gershwin’s vibrant Cuban Overture, followed by his Piano Concerto in F, the most classical of all works by a composer with the unique ability to – brilliantly – transcend the boundaries between both jazz and serious music. The soloist in this performance is Cuban pianist Jorge Luís Prats, recipient of both the Alejo Carpentier and Félix Varela medals, the highest awards granted by Cuba to national and international exponents of the arts and culture. The program ends with a flourish – Leonard Bernstein’s fabulous suite of Symphonic Dances which he lifted from his widely acclaimed score for West Side Story – a selection of pieces by turns pulsating, jazzy and hauntingly romantic.

On 31st July, French conductor Emmanuel Krivine  takes up the baton to lead another programme of favourites – Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony, Ravel’s jazz-inspired Piano Concerto in G Major and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, which was orchestrated by Ravel. Maestro Krivine, regarded as one of the most distinguished conductors of today, and known for his elegant and colourful interpretations, is Music Director designate of L’Orchestre National de France, as of the 2017-18 season. Flamboyant French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet is the soloist in the Ravel concerto, a recent performance of which was described by the San Diego Union-Tribune critic as “Not just nearly perfect. It was perfect, the best I’ve experienced in 50 years”, and the Seattle Times wrote: “It’s hard to imagine this music emerging with more loving finesse and more exquisite detail”.

Two Brazilian luminaries dominate the concert on 4th August – orchestral and operatic conductor John Neschling and cellist Antonio Meneses. Neschling, Artistic Director of the Municipal Theatre of São Paula and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Music, leads the Philharmonic in a performance of works by Johann Strauss, Robert Schumann and Richard Strauss. The concert opens with Johann Strauss’ overture to La Chauve-Souris, more widely known as Die Fledermaus, followed by Schumann’s lovely Cello Concerto in A minor. The final work is the wonderfully melodic suite from Richard Strauss’ score for Le Chevalier à la Rose or Der Rosenkavalier, with its beautiful waltz sequences. Antonio Meneses – winner of the First Prize and Gold Medal at the 1982 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow – is a frequent guest at many important music festivals, and is also a dedicated chamber musician. A member of the Beaux Arts Trio, he has collaborated with the Emerson and the Vermeer quartets, and with pianists such as Nelson Freire and Cristina Ortiz.


The Monte-Carlo Philharmonic in the Royal Courtyard © Monaco Press Centre

The final concert in this season, on 7th August, is devoted to the music of Beethoven – his Piano Concerto No 4 in G major, and Symphony No 7. Gianluigi Gelmetti again directs the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic, with French pianist Philippe Bianconi as guest soloist. Hailed by BBC Music Magazine as “a true aristocrat of the piano”, Philippe Bianconi says that the Fourth Piano Concerto is his favourite of all of those written by Beethoven, describing it as “intimate” and “poetic” with themes that have “a melodic quality that really touches the heart”. Bianconi is currently Director of the American Conservatory, located in the Palais de Fontainebleau, following in the footsteps of illustrious artists such as Nadia Boulanger – who held this position for thirty years. The faculty has also boasted illustrious personages such as Maurice Ravel, Marcel Dupré, Robert, Gaby and Jean Casadesus, Jean Francaix, Henri Dutilleux, Betsy Jolas and Leonard Bernstein.


The Prince’s Palace, Monaco © Monaco Press Center


For more information and reservations, visit the Monte-Carlo Philharmonic website

More information on the Principality of Monaco can be found on Visit Monaco US

This article was first published on Riviera Buzz


Gianluigi Gelmetti

David Garrett

Pinchas Zukerman

All Music

Kazuki Yamada

Jorge Luís Prats

Emmanuel Krivine

Jean-Yves Thibaudet

Antonio Meneses

Philippe Bianconi

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‘City of Angels’ – what a show!

Jimmy Powers (John Paul Gonzalez, center) sings with the Angel City 4 (Ken Brill, Monique Hafen, Caitlan Taylor, William Giammona in the opening number

To wrap up the 2015-16 San Francisco Playhouse season, Directors Bill English and Susi Damilano have pulled out all stops with a hugely ambitious revival of City of Angels – and it’s just fabulous!

Winner of six 1990 Tony Awards – including best musical, original score (Cy Coleman), book (Larry Gelbart) and lyrics (David Zippel) – and an Olivier Award for Best New Musical, City of Angels is a brilliantly conceived production, set in 1940s Los Angeles. It tells of a struggling novelist, Stine, who’s working on the screenplay for what he believes is his masterpiece, but which the bombastic Hollywood producer, Buddy, insists on tearing to shreds every time he’s presented with the latest copy.


Stine (Jeffrey Brian Adams) drafts a scene of his detective drama ‘City of Angels’ for the silver screen

Stine’s plot is set in the murky world of private detectives, duplicity, beguiling women, money and murder. Stone is the private eye who, against his better judgement, takes on a case to find the missing daughter – a beautiful ‘bad’ girl – of a voluptuous woman whose husband is pretty much on his last legs and whom she plans to have bumped off so that she can get her hands on his money. Stone might have guessed that this bizarre case would lead to the most extraordinary series of events – mishaps, mistaken identity, bed-hopping and violence – they’re all there in a roller-coaster ride with plenty of laughs.


Private investigator Stone (Brandon Dahlquist) contemplates taking on his next tough case

As Stine bashes away on his typewriter, we see the action of his film noir – entitled City of Angels – being played out, in ‘black and white’, on a raised platform behind him, while the actuality of his life moves along front of stage. The two plots then begin merging and drifting, with Stine’s fictional characters taking on a reality of their own. His struggle to separate fiction from actuality isn’t helped by the fact that he’s based some of these characters on people in his actual life, which has hilarious consequences, as the penny drops, and the audience gleefully  recognizes the ‘alter egos’ of the film stars.


Buddy (Ryan Drummond) gets a shave from his barber (Ken Brill) while making movie deals

There are 36 characters, played by 11 cast members, some of whom, of course, are playing both their actual and their film characters – and they’re all tremendous.  Jeffrey Brian Adams (always great box office) plays the down-trodden Stine who ultimately finds his inner machismo. Ryan Drummond is the outrageous Hollywood producer Buddy, and Brandon Dahlquist plays the somewhat world-weary private eye, Stone.

The production is brilliantly directed by Bill English who’s also responsible for the innovative set. His ‘rewind’ sequences are simply amazing – winning spontaneous outbursts of applause in their own right.  And Music Director Dave Dobrusky and the orchestra do a grand job with the jazzy score.

This is an extremely clever, and very funny musical – with just enough intrigue to keep your mind on the hop throughout. It’s a good old-fashioned, marvelously entertaining piece of theater. You won’t want to miss it!

City of Angels runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until September 17. For more information, and for tickets, visit the Playhouse website.


Stine (Jeffrey Brian Adams) tries to convince his wife (Caitlan Taylor) to stay with him in Hollywood



Donna (Monique Hafen) gives Stine (Jeffrey Brian Adams) some pointers on his script



Alaura (Nanci Zoppi) and Peter (John Paul Gonzalez) hatch a scheme



Donna (Monique Hafen) seduces Stine (Jeffrey Brian Adams)



Stone (Brandon Dahlquist) is surprised by Mallory (Samantha Rose) in his bed



Stine (Jeffrey Brian Adams) tries to regain control of rehearsals

Photographs by Jessica Palopoli

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Alliance Française movie night – ‘The Sweet Escape’

Credit:  UGC Films

Screening at the San Francisco Alliance Française this week, Bruno Podalydes’ The Sweet Escape (Comme Un Avion) tells of a middle-aged man who takes himself off on an unusual journey, as an antidote to boredom and an attempt to ‘find himself’.

Described by The Hollywood Reporter as “Feather-light, yet finally profound and packed with both visual ideas and delightful banter”, The Sweet Escape also stars Bruno Podalydes – as Michel, the lead character – and he wrote the screenplay as well.

Michel is a designer at a computer graphics studio. He’s happily married to Rachel (played by Sandrine Kiberlain) is obsessed by old-style postal planes – to the extent of having pictures and models of these aircraft all over their home – but he also realizes that he needs to do something different to help him deal with the challenges which middle age throws up.

Michel doesn’t plan on doing anything dramatic to cope with his restlessness, he simply longs to take off in one of these planes and fly wherever he pleases.  When – as a birthday surprise – his friends arrange a surprise gift of a three-hour plane ride for him, Rachel realizes that that’s not what Michel wants at all.  He wants the freedom to make his own decisions about when and where he goes, and since he doesn’t have a pilot’s licence, she encourages him to buy a wooden kayak on which he’s set his heart.  He’s chosen a kayak because its wooden frame is the nearest he can get to the wing of an old fashioned plane, and, he reasons, it’ll give him the opportunity to indulge his desire to get away from it all.  Michel duly orders the flat-pack kayak, assembles it, and heads off for the waterways of Burgundy and the nearby Centre-Val de Loire.

He eventually finds himself at a tavern in the forest, which is run by a widow Laeticia (Agnes Jaoui) and her young helper, Mila (Vimala Pons),  where Michel discovers a group of people who are warm and appealing, and a pace of life that suits him very well, so well in fact that every time he leaves the tavern to continue his journey, he finds himself returning.  The two women are in no small measure an attractive reason for his inability to depart for very long.

Although there isn’t any action of major consequence in the film, it does, says The Hollywood Reporter, demonstrate “Podalydes’s brilliant command of tone”, going on to say that “The surface actions are grounded by an underlying melancholy that suggests that even something as seemingly straightforward as happiness can be a profound and complex emotion”.

The List describes it as “a charming French midlife crisis film ….  Low-key, unassuming but immensely engaging”.

The Sweet Escape is the Tuesday movie at the San Francisco Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on July 12 at 7.00 pm.  Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.

San Francisco Alliance Française

The Sweet Escape (Comme Un Avion)

Bruno Podalydes

Sandrine Kiberlain

Agnes Jaoui

Vimala Pons 

The Hollywood Reporter

The List

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