Friends were startled when I told them I’d never seen any version of The Lion King. What can I say? I’m just not really a Disney guy. The recent dead-eyed, soulless “live-action” remake hadn’t done anything to spark my curiosity, and so I was going in cold to this touring production of Broadway’s second-longest-running, and most by far most lucrative show.
I gingerly entered the lion’s den, with little expectation. The rousing opening salvo by the baboon Rafiki (here reimagined as a shamanic priestess) in Swahili - “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba! / (Here comes a lion, father!)” - coupled with the stampede of animals that it heralds, though, was like an electric jolt.
From the stage wings and from the back of the theater, a Noah’s Ark of wildlife arrives to welcome the new heir to the throne. Birds swoop, puma slink, giraffe saunter and a huge elephant marches through the audience to complete the crowd of animal onlookers. This is an immediately awe-inspiring introduction to the audience of the puppet-lead artistry that graces the entire production.
Six actors live inside that near life-size elephant, and the rest of the savannah is equally thrilling. I join the multi-generational audience in being nothing less than agog as the story begins. You’ll be familiar with the plot, which draws from Hamlet as a young prince navigates a perilous route to the throne, protected by a loving king father but beset by danger from a scheming uncle who feels overlooked.
The songs come thick and fast, and although Elton John and Tim Rice are the marquee names, the work and atmospherics provided by the African composer Lebo M. are the heart of the show, and are further brought to life by two live rhythm sections.
The ingenious animal costumes, employing puppetry that mixes simple light and shadow with the most elaborate exoskeletons, are a complete joy. Even when the actors are clearly visible, their commitment to movement and mimicry never detract from the aesthetic, and in fact it creates an even more dream-like visual.
The young Simba (Jaylen Lyndon Hunter) is a revelation, while scheming uncle Scar (Peter Hargrave) is played pitch-perfectly, bitter and sinister with a splash of camp. The entire ensemble is nothing but charismatic, with stand-outs for me being the comedy provided by avian consort to the king Zazou (Nick LaMedica), and the meerkat and warthog who befriend young Simba (Tony Freeman and John E. Brady as Timon and Pumba respectively. Gugwana Dlamini (Rafiki) steals every scene she’s in and Khalifa White’s Nala is a whirlwind of badassery.
In short, it’s a joyous extravaganza, and the presence of legions of children (who often hilariously react to onstage dialogue) reminded me of the pantomimes of my home country. The production levels, though, are ones that show a satisfying portion of the ticket price right up on that stage, and the visual logistics of the wildebeest stampede alone are worth the price of admission. Even Disney-sceptics such as this old warthog left blown away by the showmanship, delivered without a trace of cynicism, and with storytelling and truly inspiring spectacle to the fore. (PO)
Broadway in New Orleans continues at The Saenger Theater, with Six on November 29th
Being interviewed on stage as the movie opens, the life of classical conductor Lydia Tár looks to be resounding with symphonic levels of success. Through sheer talent and a singular drive, she has worked her way up to the heady heights of helming the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Her resume is longer than a CVS receipt, with a PhD from Harvard, years spent in remote jungles exploring music anthropology and even EGOT-ing (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) her way to fame beyond the concert halls.
Nowhere to go but down from here, right? An upcoming completion of recording her hero Mahler’s works is the backdrop to a nuanced and expertly-paced fall from grace, but director Todd Field isn’t in a hurry to get there. Settle in for a near-three hour psychological drama that both Field and lead Cate Blanchett deliver with a masterful touch.
At first, small actions hint at some of Tár’s more worrying idiosyncrasies: courting sexual attention from admirers, mild germaphobia, lying to her long-term partner (the orchestra’s first violinist, played by Nina Hoss) with whom she is raising a young child (Mila Bogojevic). She leads a bad-tempered tutorial at Julliard, cowering a young conducting student into submission about the separation of art and artist when he suggests that Bach might not be a hero to everyone.
What follows is a compelling examination of Tár’s lifestyle of panoramic manipulation, balanced with her descent into utter derangement. Dissatisfied with her long-time, aging assistant conductor, she plots to have him removed but rigs it to like his own choice. She elevates less qualified players in the orchestra so that she can seduce them, and she gaslights her long-term partner in sinister, controlling ways.
The death of a former protégé sparks increasingly frequent bouts of paranoia. As much as her life is dedicated to sound, Tár also suffers from misphonia - a condition where ambient noises trigger a flight-or-fight response - and she often wakes at night, startled by a buzzing refrigerator. Aural irritations add to the growing cracks of a mental breakdown, as her professional machinations and predatory behaviour begin to catch up with her, shaking her lofty perch.
It’s a performance that should have Blanchett in real-life Oscar contention come awards season. She is at once utterly controlling, intimidating and dynamic, but with weaknesses that lay her vulnerability bare. Sometimes impulsive, never satisfied (especially romantically), insecure and bullying. She’s a loving mother, though, and she lives for musical beauty, and so even as she deteriorates, sympathetic virtues underpin her worst excesses.
Tense lingering takes, the absence of a score beyond the music played on screen and a script that makes the audience calculate plot inferences for themselves instead of being spoon-fed: these are all daring choices by Field given the film’s length. However, it’s gripping from the start thanks to the subtle way that the rot sets in, as well as the engaging performances. Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s Noémie Merlant is excellent as Tár’s long-suffering assistant, as are ingénue cellist and temptress Sophie Kauer and classical old guards Mark Strong and Julian Glover.
It’s a thrilling character study, as well as one that addresses sexual morals in entertainment head on. The film’s movements are conducted expertly by Field and Blanchett, and in the end, it’s more of a requiem for a dream than a mighty opus. (PO)
Tár is playing at Prytania Canal Pace
There’s a heady echelon of artists who didn’t just excel at what they did, the very fact of their doing it changes the landscape of their craft. Louis Armstrong is, to borrow a phrase, in that number. From his first musical outings in ragtag bands at the Waif's Home for delinquents in New Orleans (where he became band leader at 13 years old) to a global presence that few musicians attain, Armstrong lead an extraordinary life.
Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues, by director Sacha Jenkins, leans on a wealth of impressive source material (including the vast library of Armstrong’s uncensored home tapes) to create a structurally jazz-like film that paints an unflinching picture of a musical titan.
His somewhat known rise from poverty, playing in the red light district of New Orleans’ Storyville, is fleshed out with some remarkable tales and film footage. The stories of his influence come thick and fast - he created scatting, his pivotal innovations injecting African rhythms into Western music, his pioneering of improvisational techniques…what we’re describing is virtually the invention of a genre. To quote virtuoso saxophonist Artie Shaw, “I would say jazz almost stems from Louis Armstrong.”
Armstrong smashed through barriers as a force of nature. He was the first black artist to open a club, and a ballroom, and a radio station, and the the first black actor to have his name above the title in movie promotion. There are way too many anecdotes and insights to summarize here. The documentary packs them in, though, via talking heads, voiceovers by musical legends and extracts from Armstrongs’ letters and private archives.
If you’re reading this you likely have a relationship with New Orleans. Louis Armstrong had one too, and it was…complicated. He left the city as a young man, following his musical heroes to Chicago and then to New York as his star ascended. His returns here were a mix of joy and stark reminders of Southern prejudice.
We hear about his taking a private train to travel here, selling out a large theater, but the announcer of that theater refusing to bring him up on stage, using the most offensive slurs imaginable. The then mayor gave him the keys to the city, but in reality those keys could not unlock swathes of white-only spaces. White supremacy might performatively make token concessions, but it does not relent in its persecution.
Armstrong’s civil rights stances are, of course, examined. He was often mocked by other black artists for playing a submissive role in the media, but like Sammy Davis Jr, this was a stealth offensive. Decades before Hendricks at Woodstock, Louis Armstrong would play the Star Spangled Banner as a political statement, he was in rooms that many other black people could not dream of entering, he was working to survive and elevate others from his position.
There’s an incredible story by black actor Ossie Davis, who had “malice and ridicule” for Armstrong until he worked with him on a movie set and saw a steely melancholy in him. “Beneath that gravel voice and that shuffle,” he says, “Under all that mouth with more teeth than a piano had keys, was a horn that could kill a man.”
New Orleans’ own Wynton Marsalis is one of the main commentators. He too came from a position of cynicism about Armstrong. It was all “Dixie and shufflin’,” he says. “In my time I hated that with unbelievable passion.” When Marsalis moved away from New Orleans, his father sent him tapes of Armstrong and said, “Why don’t you learn one of these solos?” After trying and failing to match the sonic range, the power of the musical register and the sheer endurance of Armstrong’s trumpet playing, Marsalis conceded his genius.
Sacha Jenkins covers huge tracts of biographical ground. We get Armstrong the global megastar, playing to tribespeople in Ghana and in front of the pyramids in Egypt, Armstrong the marijuana and laxatives proponent, the avuncular chat show guest, the four wives, the uncompromising artist, the sweary rants at astonishing racism from low-level media personnel. Armstrong is criticized for not marching, but he buys coal for poor residents of cities he plays in, and he gives generously, working a different line of attack.
In a lot of the footage, though, he is just spreading industrial amounts of joy. That famous, infectious grin, as big as a sunrise. As one commentator remarks, “It was not a simple-minded happiness, it was a transcendent joy.” That transcendence - social, musical, cultural, - is the feeling that you walk away with. Welcome to Armstrong’s complex, but wonderful world. (PO)
Louis Armstrong's Black and Blues is playing at the Prytania Canal Place
Saba’s Lounge Dinner Series is coming up next week. These specially curated dinners will be like a classic salon meets lively dinner party—a family-style meal with all the hits from Saba paired with wine, spirits, and intimate conversation from some of the team’s favorite makers in the beverage world. Details on the lineup are below; all take place at Saba’s Lounge, the newly opened space that connects with Saba. Tickets can be found on Resy.
Milk & Honey Spirits | Wednesday, November 9, 6PM - 9PM
Milk & Honey is an urban distillery located in one of Tel Aviv’s up and coming neighborhoods. Among many other entrepreneurs, innovators, and makers, it is a part of the city’s fabric. M&H gin and whiskey will be featured.
Women in Wine | Thursday, December 15, 6PM - 9PM
Women are the word. Saba’s team has hand-picked pairings from their favorite women-owned wineries to accompany Saba’s salatim, and the fabulous winemakers will join to share stories and expertise.
Kimberley Jones Wine Selections | Thursday, January 19, 2023, 6PM - 9PM
Kimberley Jones is a leading California fine wine broker & distributor who will showcase a selection to accompany the evening’s five-course tasting menu.
‘Eat the rich’ is a common enough anti-capitalist slogan, and here’s a movie that prods at what that might actually look like in extreme circumstances, begging the further question of whether the rich would be as appetizing if you knew what they were marinated in. Excuse my grammar: if you knew in what they were marinated. Happy now? OK.
Director Ruben Östlund is a big cheese on the European film circuit, collecting his second Palm D’Or at Cannes last year for this satire. If you’ve seen his previous outings, Force Majeur (an avalanche-themed social comedy with beardy Game of Thrones star Kristofer Hivju) and The Square (a skewering of the modern art scene set in Stockholm), then some of the themes of the Triangle of Sadness will be familiar.
Östlund loves to dwell on the tensions between the middle/upper classes and those that serve them in luxurious surroundings, the wasteful, frivolous decadence of the rich, and the conflicting memories that two people might have about the same event. Those are all in evidence here, the former two being the main motif.
The title refers to the patch between a model’s eyebrows, the film opening with a pointed look at catwalk auditions, and introducing us to ernest himbo Carl (a chiseled but dour Harris Dickinson) and his semi-flighty influencer/model girlfriend, Yaya (the late Charlbi Dean Kriek). The first act is a precision dissection of modern sexual and economic morals in a personal, romantic sense, and one which leads to a free jolly on a luxury yacht.
Enter uptight steward Paula (played with perfect intensity by Vicki Berlin), corralling her starch-white uniformed staff to pamper their rich guests with the promise of huge cash tips, all the while the camera panning down to the Filipino cleaners and cooks, none of whom will see these bonuses. The captain seems to be drunk, though it’s hard to tell as he refuses to leave his cabin, but soon enough we’re in the middle of the ocean.
Secret Marxist Captain Thomas (an amusingly wasted Woody Harrelson) pulls it together for the Captain’s Dinner, welcoming a selection of oligarchs, tech billionaires, arms dealers and old money types, and it’s here that the tone shifts. What follows is a visceral and highly scatlogical literal shitstorm, the climax of which has Harrelson locked in his office with a Russian businessman, shouting communist epitaphs over the PA while everyone else swims in their own filth.
A hilariously ironic bout of piracy has the third act set on a deserted island, the few that survive thrown into a whole new society as a woman from ‘the staff’ (the excellent Dolly de Leon) emerges as the only one with the skills to hunt, make fire, or do anything of value. Looks and wealth mean nothing at first, though these things do have corrupting impacts as time passes, even in this apparent desolation.
Money, desirability, influence - these are all just ways to ease transactions of power, and this is laid bare. It’s a satire that’s perhaps more heavy-handed than Östlund’s other films, and the excesses of the rich could be painted in more subtly brutal terms. The director does have a nose for the minutiae of human behaviour, and how it shapes and is shaped by society. There are some laugh-out-loud set pieces, and a belligerent Woody Harrelson is always worth the price of admission. If you’re squeamish, though, you might have to look away for that shocking, mid-movie tidal wave. (PO)
The Triangle of Sadness is playing at the Prytania Theater Canal Place.
On November 6, 2022, celebrity + restaurant teams will go head to head in a competitive cook-off to raise money for Children’s Advocacy Center - Hope House at the 10th annual Men Who Cook, sponsored by the Brooke It Forward Foundation! The event will take place from 4-7PM on the rooftop of the St. Tammany Parish Justice Center Parking Garage in Downtown Covington.
Each participating team, comprised of a local government or business leader paired with a top local restaurant, will prepare tastings of a favorite dish for attendees to sample. Teams will compete for the title of Judges’ Choice, People’s Choice and Most Money Raised for Hope House.
The Men Who Cook gala on Nov. 6 will also include a silent auction, live music by Louisiana Music Hall of Fame inductee Gregg Martinez, live painting by local artist Scott Withington, and complimentary wine and beer. Event tickets are $70 (single) or $125 (couple) online in advance, or $80 at the door. Event tickets, raffle tickets and tip tickets are available here.
Acclaimed Ethiopian Restaurant Addis NOLA will soon be opening its doors at a new location at 2514 Bayou Road, NOLA’s oldest road. Ahead of the opening Addis NOLA is hosting a sneak peek
'Afreaux' weekend celebration of black businesses, cuisine, and culture. The two-day bacchanalia, taking place Halloween weekend, will be a fun-packed extravaganza.
The weekend will start with the AFREAUX Block Party, featuring live music, unique food experiences, local vendor pop-ups and special guests. The block party is free and open to the public. Also on Day One, an exclusive VIP sneak peek Preview Dinner of the new location. Seats are limited; tickets must be purchased in advance. On Day Two, Halloween Eve, a not-to-be-missed spooktacular Halloween party!
Saturday, October 29, 2022
AFREAUX Block Fest, 2-5pm. Free and open to the public but RSVPs are requested and can be made here.
Exclusive VIP Preview Dinner, 5pm. Tickets are limited and priced $60 per person (excluding tax and service). Tickets must be purchased in advance here.
Sunday, October 30, 2002
Afrobeat Halloween Block Party; 7-11pm. Free and open to the public with a donation.
When it comes to culinary trends, vegetarian and vegan cuisine are on the rise. Health-conscious consumers and animal rights supporters from around the world are dedicated to following vegan guidelines, cooking vegan food, and dining in vegan restaurants more than ever. Top New Orleans restaurants are embracing the vegan lifestyle with a variety of specials and menu staples.
Jack Rose is known for spontaneous celebration and an eclectic mix of cuisine created by Chef/Owner Brian Landry. Sous Chef Takara Hein, a vegan herself, creates a variety of vegan dishes and specials weekly. Guests can enjoy veggie-centric offerings including Vegan Pozole – a rich, brothy soup made with hominy, mushrooms, chili broth, cabbage, radish with a fresh Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette. Additional specials rotate.
Where: Jack Rose is located at the Pontchartrain Hotel, 2031 St Charles Avenue, New Orleans
Celebrating the culture of East Africa through authentic Ethiopian communal dining, Addis NOLA has earned praise for its traditional stews, stir-fry, and fresh vegetables. Each week, the restaurant pays tribute to all-things veggie with Vegan Monday. On National Vegan Day, guests are invited to enjoy dishes such as Misir Wot. This is a spicy, deeply rich and vibrant red lentil stew. Also on the vegan menu is the Veggie Combo - red lentils, yellow split peas, collard greens, cabbage, beets, and green lentils, as well as a traditional coffee roasting ceremony.
Where: Addis Nola is currently located at 422 S. Broad Street, New Orleans
The Roosevelt New Orleans is hosting a drag brunch, “Drag Me to The Roosevelt – Halloween Edition,” on Sunday, October 23. Guests will enjoy a three-course meal and lively entertainment from New Orleans’ own Kitten N’ Lou (pictured). Voted Best Duo by The Burlesque in the World Hall of Fame, Kitten N’ Lou have dazzled audiences across the globe with their signature brand of highly choreographed comedic camp extravaganzas.
Guests are encouraged to come dressed in their Halloween best and participate in a costume
contest. The event will be hosted in the Waldorf Astoria Ballroom (Mezzanine Level), the event promptly beginning at 11:00 a.m. General seating tickets are $99 plus tax, gratuity and service charge and include a three-course brunch and bottomless mimosas. Limited VIP seating tickets are available for $119 plus tax, gratuity and service charge. You can buy tickets HERE.
Some select events for the Halloween season!
Tujague’s restaurant is the birthplace of brunch and the Grasshopper cocktail. In celebration of Halloween, Tujague’s is hosting several spooky happenings in October.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 22: KREWE OF BOO PARADE WATCHING PARTY, 6pm-10pm
Enjoy an open call-brand bar along with specialty cocktails, beer & wine and an extravagant buffet. Guests will have access to the private balcony, use of indoor seating and access to private bathrooms throughout the evening. Tickets are $150 per person inclusive of tax and gratuity. Tickets are available HERE or by calling the restaurant at 504-525-8676.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28: WITCHES LUNCHEON, 11am-2.30pm
Executive Chef Gus Martin has created a three-course menu for the occasion. Priced at $45 per person (excluding tax and gratuity), options include Chicken & Sausage Gumbo, BBQ Shrimp, Gulf Fish Almandine, Grilled Petite Filet Mignon and more. Cocktails will include Bottomless Mimosas ($18) and other spooky specialty cocktails. Reservations can be made through OpenTable or by calling 504-525-8676.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23: DRAG BRUNCH- Poppy’s Pop-Up Drag Queen Bunch, 11.30am
Poppy and her fabulous entertainers will perform a show filled with singing and dancing while you enjoy a three-course brunch and bottomless mimosas for $70 per person plus tax and gratuity. The menu will feature Turtle Soup, a choice of Gulf Fish Almandine - haricot vert, toasted almonds, citrus beurre blanc or Duck Hash - poached eggs, sauce choron, and for dessert enjoy Creme Brulee. For reservations click HERE (once on OpenTable please select “Experiences” to reserve) or call 504-525-8676.
VIRGIN HOTELS NEW ORLEANS
The Warehouse District Hotel will have plenty of programming throughout Halloween weekend for guests and locals to enjoy. The festivities will kick off a week early with Krewe of Boo weekend and continue the following weekend through Halloween.
Krewe of Boo Weekend Happenings Include:
Friday, October 21: Sorellas’ Boutique Hat Bar & Vintage Halloween Pop-up (3pm-7pm)
Sorellas’ Boutique will be popping up at the hotel’s first floor Funny Library Coffee Shop to host a build-your-own hat bar and vintage Halloween costume shop. Guests will be able to create personalized, show-stopping hats with a variety of accessories from ribbon, feathers, trim, buttons, and more, as well as shop for one-of-a-kind costumes.
Saturday, October 22: Kendra Scott Pop-Up (11am-1pm)
In celebration of Tulane Homecoming Weekend, fashion brand Kendra Scott will be hosting a pop- up at the Funny Library Coffee Shop for guests to shop and enjoy.
Saturday, October 22: BOO Bash (2pm-6pm)
The hotel’s 13th floor pool and bar, The Pool Club, will host BOO Bash with palm and tarot card readings, caricaturists, costume contests, a live DJ entertainment and a cash bar. This event is free and open to the public.
Halloween Weekend Events Include:
Friday, October 28: Brunch & BOOs (9am-2pm)
Virgin Hotels New Orleans first floor restaurant, Commons Club, will host a Halloween Bottomless Brunch to kick off the holiday weekend. The brunch will feature free-flowing drinks and a DJ spinning everyone’s favorite Halloween tunes. Reservations are encouraged and can be made on OpenTable.
Saturday, October 29: BOOlesque Brunch with Trixie Minx (10:30am & 1pm)
Brunch festivities will continue on Saturday at Commons Club with Trixie Minx. The burlesque-style brunch will include a two-course menu priced at $45 per person (excluding tax and gratuity). Reservations are encouraged and can be made on OpenTable.
Saturday, October 29: BOO Bash (3pm-7pm)
The second installment of BOO Bash at The Pool Club. From 3pm until 7pm, attendees will be able to enjoy palm and tarot card readings, caricaturists, costume contests, a live DJ entertainment and a cash bar. This event is free and open to the public.