Friday, August 29, 2008

"Under the Sea" in the Big Apple

Having only see four Broadway plays before last weekend — and two of them were the same show — I'd never watched one from anywhere other than the balcony or mezzanine.

Well, that all changed a week ago Saturday, when we went to see "The Little Mermaid" from the second row of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre!

That's right: My GF and I were able to score a pair of second-row seats for the Walt Disney Theatrical Productions musical I'd been waiting to see since it opened in January.

A little context here: I've always thought Ariel was the hottest of all the Disney princesses. Maybe it's the red hair; perhaps it's the seashells ... I don't know. But, with that said...

Every time we've been to the city since last summer, I'd look at this sign outside the theater (you might remember it as the former home of "Beauty and the Beast") and wait for the show to open. Then I saw the ticket prices — yikes! I'd return to Poughkeepsie content to watch my "Little Mermaid" DVD at home for free.

Well, as luck would have it, the gods of the sea smiled on us Saturday, and we were able to snag the coveted seats on the day of the show for much less than we'd ever dreamed about paying. And we got our money's worth, and then some!

Without giving away too much, the Broadway adaptation was awesome! There's only a few slight deviations from the 1989 movie, and even those don't detract from the story in the least.

All the great songs we love from the movie are in the show — tunes like "Part of Your World," "Kiss the Girl," "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and, of course, "Under the Sea" — but they're brought to life right in front of you, as only Disney can do. (Yeah, the Disney geek in me shined through this day!) Additional songs like "I Want the Good Times Back," "She's In Love" and "Positoovity" only add to the fun.

Again, without divulging too much, they do a great job of creating the illusion of swimming on stage, too. I'm not going to say exactly how they do it ... let's just say you can replicate it at home if you have these like me. Overall, it was just an amazing experience watching the whole spectacle and — did I mention?! — we were in the second row!

Plus, it was cool to see how kid-friendly the theater was to the littlest mer-people in the crowd, as it was fully equipped with booster-seat cushions for Moms and Dads to plop down on their kids' seats so Junior and Suzy-Q could see everything, too.

Just in case the actual show, itself, wasn't cool enough, fans got to get up close and personal with many of the cast members following the show. (A Broadway veteran for many years, my GF knows all about hanging out outside the stage door!)

Seriously, where else can you get this this close to the stars? Can you imagine bumping into Scarlett Johansson just after watching one of her flicks on the big screen?!

Seen here, "Sebastian," Flounder" and "King Triton" came out to meet fans and sign autographs in between the conclusion of our matinee and the start of their 8 p.m. performance.

Other actors (who were less recognizable to me without their make-up on) likewise met with fans in between shows; but I missed the one I was waiting to see, Sierra Boggess, who plays "Ariel." Someday, my little mermaid. Someday...

Still, we had no complaints here 'cause we had a great time going "Under the Sea" in NYC!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Do you smell what "Sean's Space" is cookin'?

So while my GF and I were in New York City for a fun-filled jaunt this past Saturday, I ran into a familiar face on West 42nd Street...
Yes, that's me with (formerly) the most electrifying man in sports entertainment: The Rock. You might also know him as Dwayne Johnson, the star of such movies as "The Scorpion King," "Walking Tall" and "The Rundown." We're quite the intimidating duo, huh?

Yup, he was just standing outside this place in Times Square, letting folks like me just snap a pic with him!

I've gotta say: The Rock was kinda stiff and had an unusually waxy complexion. (Hey, we've all got skin problems, right?!) He didn't talk and — now that I think of it — he didn't move a muscle the entire afternoon. His famed "People's Eyebrow" seemed almost glued in place, as he didn't flinch the whole time.

Mr. Johnson here wasn't signing autographs, but it's all good, as if if you remember, I've already got his signature. Still, it was cool layin' the smackdown on the Big Apple with The Rock!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Drove our "409" on a "Surfin' Safari"

Long before her son became a fan of the New Kids On The Block, my mom was a devotee of the first all-American boy band, the Beach Boys.

So it was my pleasure to buy Mom front-row seats as Mike Love and a revamped lineup of Beach Boys played the Dutchess County Fair on Wednesday.
Thousands of fans of all ages — from baby boomers to a few actual babies — packed the fairground grandstand to hear all the hits from "Good Vibrations" and "Surfin' USA" to "Kokomo" and "I Get Around" for an hour-and-a-half.

The Boys' 1965 classic "California Girls" kicked off the show, which you can watch here by clicking the video:

From there, all the songs Americans have taken with them to beach parties for years filled the mid-August air, as the aroma of the neighboring racing pigs occasionally wafted overhead.

With beach balls bounding through the audience, there was clapping, singing along, cheering and — at Mike's urging — plenty of middle-aged fans waving their cell phones back and forth, from side to side, creating quite a spectacle of light during the slower songs.

These days, keyboard Bruce Johnston and Mike are joined by several younger bandmates, and they perform more than 150 shows a year. For more info on their current tour, click here.

As if his Beach Boys credits weren't enough, Bruce won a Grammy in 1976 for Song of the Year after he penned "I Write the Songs" for my favorite solo artist of all-time, Barry Manilow. (See how it all comes back around?!)

As for the show itself, it was really cool listening to the songs I'd heard as a kid, be it on the AM oldies station or — for many "Sean's Space" readers my age — during a very special "Full House," when the boys guest-starred alongside Uncle Jesse himself, John Stamos, who was actually playing a few gigs with the band until recently.

Almost 50 years after their first hit, Mike was still a rock star, pointing to fans in the audience and waving to others (I swear he was singing right to Mom in certain spots!) and soaking up the love from all the Rhondas and Barbara Anns — not to mention plenty of us beach bums — in Rhinebeck, a fitting end to a glorious summer night.

Decked out in my patchwork Bermuda shorts and Nike sandals, I was left with one sentiment after the show: Kowabunga, dude!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"The Clone Wars" brought me snores

OK, let's just get this out in the open: I'm not a fan of the new "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" animated film.

Simply put, to me the movie was less about advancing the "Star Wars" saga that began 31 years ago and more about indoctrinating a new crop of young fans who will ask Mom and Dad to buy them new toys. With that in mind, I thought I'd illustrate this entry with some of the new merchandise that's meant to keep the cash registers beeping this summer and keep the dollars pouring into the franchise that should have ended with "Revenge of the Sith."

See Ahsoka Tano here? She's an obvious attempt to bring in a new demographic into the "Star Wars" fold, one that's never really been a part of the fun: little girls. Sure, the original trilogy had Princess Leia, but let's face it: She never really caught on with the girls in my third-grade class the way Luke Skywalker and Han Solo did.

The result? The majority of lifelong "Star Wars" fans are geeks like me, not women in their early 30s. Hence, producers sought to make a new, sassy heroine — a "youngling" who seems like the Hannah Montana of the Hoth set. I think it's great that they're trying to lure girls into the fan-dom, but here it's too blatant.

And these battle droids?! Look at that name: battle droids. Having made appearances in all three of the "prequel" flicks, these guys were Jedi- and Republic-seeking gunslingers. In "The Clone Wars," they're reduced to the Abbott & Costello of Coruscant. Their only dialogue is meant for laughs, again as a means to lure young fans into the franchise, leaving us old traditionalist fans feeling the product is watered-down.

One widely held criticism of the first prequel, "The Phantom Menace," was Jar-Jar Binks, a needless (not to mentioned animated) character whose sole purpose was to provide comic relief and similarly attract young viewers. He was then all but eliminated from the subsequent "Attack of the Clones" and "Revenge of the Sith," though both Ahsoka Tano and these battle droids seem to be Jar-Jar's reincarnation, serving the same respective purposes.

And this Giro the Hutt guy? He's supposed to be Jabba the Hutt's uncle, though we've never heard of him before. Just watch the movie and make up your own mind about him. Enough said.

There were other instances in the film when I was thinking to myself, "This isn't 'Star Wars!' " Indeed, in my mind, it was just 98-minute commercial for new merchandise — all available in a toy department near you! — or a primer to the new "Star Wars" world, which has nothing to do with the films millions of fans like me grew up watching in the late '70s and early '80s, and little to do with the prequels. George Lucas even deemed it "an afterthought" in this interview from the spring.

In short: If this movie is supposed to be a glimpse into the new "Clone Wars" TV series, I won't be watching. While the three prequel films seemed distant from the original trilogy, this latest flick is even further away; how faint a memory will Luke and Leia seem when the TV series begins?

If nothing else, though, this summer's offering makes me want to warm up the DVD player and pop in "Episode IV: A New Hope," the one that started it all. Then "Episode V" ... then "Episode VI" ...

Yeah, admittedly, this may seem like way too big of a fuss to make over a movie, but it's more than that. I feel like an integral part of my childhood — "Star Wars" as a whole — was sold out for nothing more than a new chance to sell action figures like these.

I'll try to forget such vain attempts and keep memories of the old "Star Wars" franchise preserved forever, like Han Solo frozen in a block of carbonite!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Force was with me

Just like Luke Skywalker hurtling through the canals of the Death Star's surface in his X-wing fighter, so, too, did I make a valiant — if not hurried — trip down the long corridor of Route 9 early this afternoon, intent on watching the first matinee of "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" in Fishkill.

Having already planned to be one of the first in the area to see this latest chapter of the saga, I wished a loved one (think of her as my Princess Leia) a fond farewell at around 12:05 p.m. in Poughkeepsie, just 45 minutes and a dozen miles separating me and the moviehouse.

First stop, though: the dollar store to pick up a box of Sour Patch Kids and a bottle of Diet Dr Pepper. (Seriously, have ya seen the prices at the theater's concession stands lately?!) Having taken my first swig of the my fav 23-flavor concoction, I encountered both construction and lunch-hour traffic.

As the minutes — and my chances of getting to the theater on time — ticked away, one thought entered my mind: I have a bad feeling about this.

Undaunted and despite the pair of slow-moving vehicles with Connecticut license plates that impeded my movement almost the entire time down (they were my metaphorical Tie-fighters), I arrived at my destination at 12:47, with three minutes til the movie — or at least the five previews — was scheduled to begin.

But just like Luke in his aforementioned mission, the job was not done yet! (Cue the dramatic music...)

Only a pair of mothers, each with 2 or 3 children, stood between me and the front of the line for tickets. The first paid with a credit card, surprising holding up the line. (Turns out, those TV commercials aren't really accurate!) The second not only paid with a debit card that wasn't signed on the back, necessitating photo ID that wasted precious seconds, but she proceeded to fill out the form for a Regal Cinemas loyal customer rewards card just as the big hand approached the 10 on the clock behind the counter!

Alas, when I — clad in my glasses and blue "Empire Strikes Back" movie poster T-shirt that screamed "Star Wars" geek by himself! to everyone who saw me — reached the front of the line, I plunked down my $20 bill and asked for "one for 'Star Wars,' please" ... like she had to ask, looking at my dweeby appearance.

I received my change — not even checking to see if it was correct — and darted to find an open seat, meeting some Empirical resistance (someone was saving an entire row!) before settling for an vacant chair along the aisle.

Triumphant, I felt safe and victorious as I watched the first of those five previews for movies I will never go see.

Check back later for some thoughts on the actual movie...

Monday, August 11, 2008

The JB story “Burnin’ Up” newsstands

For those of you not lucky enough to have picked up Sunday's Poughkeepsie Journal, which will surely become a collector's item (my tongue firmly implanted in cheek as I write that), I proudly present my story about the Jonas Brothers, set to play the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts this Thursday...

Jonas Brothers: Band popular with adults, too

By Sean T. McMann
Poughkeepsie Journal

As the arena's lights dim, it's like standing on the runway as the engine of a 747 revs up, the roar from the packed house steadily increasing.

Standing among tens of thousands of screaming tweens, the volume becomes deafening when pop music's biggest sensation, the Jonas Brothers, hit that first note of the night.

"Yes, being in the audience is one thing. You should try being in the other direction when it's coming at you," 20-year-old Kevin Jonas told the Poughkeepsie Journal during a recent conference call to promote the group's "Burning Up" tour, which stops at Sullivan County's Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Thursday, and its new album, "A Little Bit Longer," which comes out Tuesday.

He and his younger brothers — 15-year-old Nick and Joe, who turns 19 the day after the Bethel Woods show — have sold out arenas across North America since their current string of concerts began July 4 in Toronto.

Last August, the Jonas Brothers played an intimate show at The Chance in the City of Poughkeepsie before receiving a large boost by opening up for Disney Channel star Miley Cyrus on her "Best of Both Worlds" tour.

Along the way, they've attracted millions of devoted, young fans, from Newburgh to Newport Beach, and from Portland to Poughkeepsie.

"I love them," said 13-year-old Danielle Arasim, who will be a freshman at Spackenkill High School next month. "I like them because one of them is around my age, and one of them is talented at that age ... and because they're cute, too!"

But it's not just the preteen and high school set that's packing the arenas.

While the majority of the band's fans are young girls, parents in the crowd won't be left out on this tour, Kevin Jonas said.

The brothers' concert is designed to be enjoyed by everyone — from Mom and Dad, to brothers and sisters, he said.

"Sure, there are some that can't drive themselves," he said of the group's younger fans, "but what's good about the opportunity of the venues is, it's a family show. It's made for everyone, so everyone can come."

Angie Arasim, Danielle's mother, took her daughters to see the Jonas Brothers in Bridgeport, Conn., in March. She said it's heartwarming to watch parents and children enjoying the brothers' music together.

"It's great to see this, the kids there with the parents," said the mother, calling Nick, Kevin and Joe "wholesome and sweet kids" she's happy to see her daughter support. "It's good that my kids want me to go along with them. It's really a good, family concert. It's nice to see."

"I'm not alone," she added.

Indeed, Holly Nenni will be among the parents enjoying the music and atmosphere Thursday. The mom will be part of a six-person contingent traveling from LaGrange to Sullivan County for the show.

A mother of two daughters, ages 10 and 12, Nenni thought it would be a nice treat to bring her friend with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, and her two daughters to the group's Bethel Woods performance.

"It's definitely going to be a special night for all the girls to go out," said Nenni, who is hoping her friend and her daughters could meet the boys before the show. "We saw they were coming to Bethel Woods — I've been there before for concerts and it's beautiful — and I thought it would be a nice place to take them."

Nenni said she wanted to surprise her friend and their daughters with the idea of going to see the Jonas Brothers, and the girls have been excited about the show ever since.

"They've been working very hard on making posters — 'I Love Nick' and 'I Love Joe' — and I think they're very excited," she said, adding she enjoys the guys' music, too. "I hear the songs all the time. My daughters always listen to their CDs."

Music is only the beginning of the Jonas Brothers brand, which is quickly turning into an empire.

In addition to guest-starring alongside Cyrus in an episode of her Disney Channel hit show "Hannah Montana," the guys co-starred in the network's film "Camp Rock" in June. Fans can watch Nick, Joe and Kevin this summer on cable's "Disney Channel Games" competition, and they've also been featured in a series of short "Living the Dream" documentaries on that network.

Despite the rigors and demands of stardom, the guys said it's easy to motivate themselves for this summer's nightly gigs.

"We really love what we do," Nick Jonas told the Journal. "I mean, at the end of the day, when we get to play a show and be with our fans, it's all worth it — the late nights, whatever it may be — it's all worth it at the end of the day."

The Aug. 14 concert, in particular, is of special interest to the brothers.

With the upcoming Bethel Woods show taking place on the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair, Kevin Jonas said it's "an amazing opportunity" for him and his brothers to play on historic ground.

"It's humbling," he said, "because you know you would have never thought you'd be able to be in places like that."

No matter where success takes them — either on the charts or geographically — Joe Jonas said being surrounded by family is something the group embraces.

"We have a great family and we have each other," the singer said, "so we're always watching out for each other, and we're just doing what we do and having fun."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Kellie Pickler answered YOUR question!

You ever see someone famous on TV, and they seem very nice and all; but then you meet or speak with them, and they're nothing like that?

Well, Kellie Pickler was truly friendly and warm when I spoke to her Friday afternoon, exactly the way she was while appearing on the fifth season of "American Idol" as a finalist. I could tell she was genuinely grateful and appreciative of the life she's been afforded since hitting it big.

Kellie graciously spoke to me about life on the road, her post-"Idol" fame and the upcoming Hudson Valley Country Fest.

I respected her privacy, though, and didn't ask any questions about her personal life, including her well documented childhood. I did, however, squeeze in a question posed to Kellie by one of her fans. So here is his question, followed by Kellie's answer...

Robb from Poughkeepsie, NY: How has becoming a huge country star changed your life?
Kellie Pickler: I live in Nashville now — I’m originally from North Carolina — so I’ve relocated to Music City. I’ve sort of started my life over. There was really nothing to go back home for. There’s been a lot of filtering of the people in my life. I’ve just now found where I belong I belong. I’m finally happy now. I was so miserable before. I’m around good people and I have a good company and a good team around me.

So there you go, Kellie fans! Robb asked. Kellie answered. Thanks again to everyone who e-mailed me and submitted a question for Kellie.

Be sure to check out the Poughkeepsie Journal in September for the full story on Kellie and her appearance in Fishkill!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Just got off the phone with Kellie Pickler...

...and she was just as sweet to speak with as I'd hoped, a very nice "Small Town Girl."

The former "American Idol" finalist and I spoke for about 15 minutes in anticipation of the Hudson Valley Country Fest on Sept. 14th, when she and Trace Adkins will be the headliners of the concert at Fishkill's Dutchess Stadium.

"In my shows, I do songs from my first album," Kellie told me, "and I’ve actually added songs from my new album, ones that people haven’t heard before."

We chatted about everything from touring with Trace ("He's so talented and he's so amazing") to that forthcoming sophomore CD ("It's got the whole nine yards") to even her support of the AARP ("I just love old people").

She was very charming and honest, and a pleasure to interview.

And along the way, I was able to ask Kellie a question submitted by a "Sean's Space" reader, which Kellie answered.

I'll be posting Kellie's answer to the reader's query — thanks, by the way, to all of you who e-mailed me questions for Kellie — over the weekend, so be sure to check back and see if yours was the one she answered!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

YOU can ask Kellie Pickler a question!

It's that time again: I'm opening up one of my celebrity interviews to "Sean's Space" readers!

Tomorrow afternoon (Aug. 8th), I'll be talking with former "American Idol" finalist Kellie Pickler for a story I'll be writing about the upcoming Hudson Valley Country Fest coming to Dutchess Stadium on Sept. 14th.

Just as I did before when I interviewed Clay Aiken, Bret Michaels, Taylor Hicks, Blake Lewis and most recently, the Jonas Brothers, I'm giving you a chance to ask Kellie a question when I talk to her!

Now, all you've got to do is e-mail your first name, your hometown and your question for Kellie to me at by 12 p.m. tomorrow

I'll pick the best one (and only one) out of all the questions I receive and ask it to Kellie I speak to her. Then, I'll post her answer to your question right here at "Sean's Space."

Be creative! Ask the Kellie a question that no one else has ever asked her. Then, check back here to see if she answered your question!

A New (Kids) day on "Today"

Just months after their record-breaking concert on the "Today" show, the New Kids On The Block are returning to Rockefeller Plaza!

That's right: Jon, Donnie, Jordan, Joe and Danny (seen here in their soggy May 16th "Today" appearance) will return to the show's stage on Labor Day, but they won't be alone.

No, for this Sept. 1st concert, the New Kids will bring along R&B singer Ne-Yo, with whom they've collaborated for their latest single, ironically enough titled "Single," part of which you can listen to by clicking here.

The New Kids' first studio album since 1994, entitled "The Block," will come out the next day (that's Sept. 2nd), but the good news doesn't end there.

Both "Single" and a new New Kids "Greatest Hits" CD (seen here at left) will be released on Aug. 12th both to online retailers like iTunes and, and in a store near me! And, there's just over a month 'til the guys' tour kicks off in Toronto.

As you can guess, I've already got my tickets for two of the guys' concert stops (with a possible third on the way), making their Labor Day "Today" gig an opening act, of sorts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Coming soon: The JB in the PJ

Promise me you'll check out the Poughkeepsie Journal this weekend, as my story on the Jonas Brothers' upcoming show at Bethel Woods will be featured. Promise?
Thanks to all the JB fans, both far and near, who e-mailed me questions for the guys and who wrote in to be part of the actual newspaper story.

Just in case you live out of our coverage area (like all the JB fans in Brazil), I'll be sure to post my story here at "Sean's Space" when it runs in print.

Confused a little bit, I am

Don't get me wrong: I'm sure I'll be one of the first ones on Aug. 15 to go see "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" when it hits theaters.
Any loyal "Sean's Space" reader knows I'm a huge "Star Wars" geek and I've watched just about everything George Lucas has ever put his name on. (Ever seen "THX 1138?" I have ... and it's kinda weird. And did ya notice the Yoda-speak in the title of this entry? What's that tell ya about my fan-dom?)

With that said, and with my vast (if not nerdy) "Star Wars" background in mind, here's my question: How does this new flick differ from the 25 "Clones Wars" shorts that ran on the Cartoon Network from 2003 to 2005, and has subsequently been released as one movie on DVD?

Both releases document the years between when "Episode II: Attack of the Clones" ended and "Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" began, and they detail the Clone Wars, which have long been discussed on screen but never seen on the big screen.

But other than the new film being computer-generated, as opposed to the traditional animation of the Cartoon Network series, I've yet to learn exactly how this new movie is different from its predecessor.

If nothing else, I suppose that curiosity, in particular, will hasten my trip to the theater next week, as I'm sure it will for other fans like me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Take a little Police action

Having seen Sting, Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland last Friday night in Saratoga, I found this posting on our Web site most timely.

My Poughkeepsie Journal colleague, John Barry, is looking for fans of The Police (seen here last month in Brazil) to submit their fondest memories of the band, as the guys play their final show on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

As for Friday's show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, The Police were just as impressive and energetic as they were the first time my GF and I saw them at MSG a year ago to the day.

But, please ... click here and share your Police memories with John. And, as always, tell him Sean sent ya!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A little help from her friends

When the Jonas Brothers bring their "Burning Up" tour to the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on Aug. 14th, they'll bring someone familiar to Disney Channel viewers along.

Demi Lovato, who starred with the guys in this summer's Disney Channel flick "Camp Rock," will be the opening act with the JB come to the area.

Along with Selena Gomez who stars in the network's "Wizards of Waverly Place," Demi is being groomed to be the next 'tween face of the channel with "Hannah Montana" (starring Miley Cyrus) wraps up, likely at the end of the upcoming third season.

Kevin, Nick and Joe received a big boost to their career last year when they opened for Miley on her "Best of Both Worlds" tour, so it's nice to see the guys returning the favor and letting Demi open for them this time around.