Monday, December 29, 2008

Revival of South Pacific

Winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein's SOUTH PACIFIC concerns the lives of U.S. military men, nurses and residents of the Polynesian island they occupy during World War II. Nurse Nellie Forbush is “In Love With a Wonderful Guy,” a French planter, Émile, with small children. Clean-cut Lt. Cable has fallen hard for Bloody Mary's daughter Liat. And the seabees, sailors and marines will tell you that there is “Nothing Like a Dame.” The show's ravishing score also includes “Cockeyed Optimist,” “I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Younger Than Springtime,” “Honey Bun” and “This Nearly Was Mine.” In fact, some would say the musical score is the real star of this show.

The touchy issues of race and war that permeate the book of this sixty year old musical are still relevant. Based upon James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific,” this was the second ever musical to win the Pulitzer Prize.

The Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific, helmed by Tony-winning director Bartlett Sher, opened April 3 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater and was originally scheduled to close June 22, 2008. Lincoln Center Theater later announced that the musical would play an open-ended run at the Beaumont. Good luck getting tickets.

Current Cast Complications:

Noted operatic bass-baritone David Pittsinger will twice assume the role of Émile de Becque while Tony Award winner Paulo Szot fulfills his previously scheduled opera commitments. Szot, who earned a Best Actor Tony for his portrayal of South Pacific's romantic leading man, will take leave to appear in “The Merry Widow” for Opera Marseille this winter and “Carmen” for Opera Toulouse in the spring. In Szot's absence, David Pittsinger has been announced to assume the role of French plantation owner Emile de Becque from Dec. 2-Jan 25, 2009, and again from March 12-April 12, 2009. Later this season Pittsinger will also appear in the New York City Opera's concert performance of “Antony and Cleopatra” at Carnegie Hall.

Matthew Morrison (who plays Lt. Cable, shown below in leather jacket) will leave the production January 4, 2009, to take on the leading role in a FOX TV sit-com called GLEE, which will premiere in May. His role is the director of a high school glee club down on its luck.

Brazilian opera star Paul Szot as Émile de Becque and Kelli O'Hara as Nellie Forbush.

Friday, December 12, 2008

UNICEF Snowflake at 57th Street

Located in front of Bergdorf Goodman, the UNICEF Snowflake is a dazzling, illuminated crystal ornament that graces the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City each holiday season as a beacon of hope, peace and compassion for vulnerable children around the world.

The huge snowflake has become an iconic fixture in New York City during the holiday season. It was handcrafted by German lighting designer Ingo Maurer and is adorned with 16,000 Baccarat crystal prisms. At 23 feet in diameter, over 28 feet in height and weighing 3,300 pounds, the UNICEF Snowflake is the largest outdoor chandelier of its kind. It was switched on November 18, 2008, and will flash and sparkle for the entire holiday season. The snowflake was dedicated to UNICEF by the Stonbely Family Foundation.

The United Nations Children's Fund (or UNICEF) was created by the United Nations general assembly in 1946 to provide emergency food and healthcare to children in countries that had been devastated by WWII. In 1953, UNICEF became a permanent part of the UN system, and its name was shortened from the original United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund. However, it has continued to be known by the popular acronym based on its former name. Headquartered in New York City, UNICEF provides long-term humanitarian and developmental assistance to children and mothers in developing countries.

Saks Fifth Avenue Snowflake Show

Just in time for the holidays, 50 huge snowflakes lit by LEDs appear annually on the landmark Saks Fifth Avenue façade in Manhattan. Set to an original rendition of “Carol of the Bells,” the snowflake show, which opens each November, runs for two minutes every half hour throughout the evenings during the holidays.

The project was designed by American Christmas Decorations Inc., and lighting consultants Focus Lighting, led by Paul Gregory. Philips Lighting, the event sponsor, worked in collaboration with Permlight Products on the system. The LEDs are used in fourteen 20' snowflakes and thirty-six 8' snowflakes. Illuminated by 72,000 LEDs, the snowflakes feature more than 24,000 linear feet of lighting tied to 8,000 linear feet of steel.

The Saks Fifth Avenue flagship store is directly opposite Rockefeller Center. One of the most famous holiday sights in "Rock Center" is the herald angels placed along the Channel Gardens, which separate the French and British Empire Buildings of Rockefeller Center (appropriately named after the English Channel). These angels are wire-sculpted figures that have decorated Rock Center during the holidays since 1954.

Note: The stylized sun applied to the British Empire building alludes to the saying, "The sun never sets on the British Empire," and original tenants of La Maison Française included Baccarat crystal, Mumm's champagne, Les Parfums de Molyneux, the French consulate and the remarkable Librairie de France).

The snowflakes that decorate Saks Fifth Avenue are prominent in the background of this photo of the Channel Gardens Herald Angels.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

The 76 year old tradition of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree goes a bit greener this year. The Norway Spruce shares the center stage this year, not just with singing sensations, but with the energy saving environment in which it’s displayed. The majestic tree is festooned with over 30,000 energy-efficient LED lights, powered by “a ground breaking permanent array of photovoltaic panels” installed on the roof of 45 Rockefeller Center (after the holidays, the panels will continue to help power the center). The tree is topped by a 9.5-foot, 550-pound Swarovski Star with more then 25,000 crystals and 1 million facets — the largest ever for a Rock Center tree. This year's tree is a 77 year old, 8-ton, 82-foot-tall Norway spruce from the Varanyak family in Hamilton, N.J. The family used it as their Christmas tree in 1931, then planted it outside. It has grown a bit since then.

The first Christmas tree ever erected at Rockefeller Center was placed there in 1931. This time the concept was green, a nod to the environment movement that is generating steam. Green is now a marketing strategy. Solar power is among the renewable energy technologies that play a key role in ecomagination; every little bit of energy savings helps. The use of LEDs lighting instead of incandescent bulbs will reduce the electricity consumption for a daily savings of energy equal to the electricity consumed by a typical 2,000-square-foot house for a month.