Monday, July 15, 2019

So You Think You Can Dance S16E05: Judges Auditions #5

© FOX
It’s not the heat it’s the humanity
by Stephen Mosher

If Episode 4 of SYTYCD was about meeting interesting characters, Episode 5 is about that box of Kleenex you’re going to need!  Have Mercy, with the heartstrings and the tears. But the truth is that I loved every minute of it.

Andrew Avila (25) and Melany Mercedes (24), salsa. This twosome from the Bronx returned after last season, clearly having noted and listened to the critiques they were given! The judges were super excited by them and their street brand of Latin ballroom, loaded with sharp hits and fluid hips - so excited they ovated them after their number to ‘Sal A Bailar’.  The height difference between the two is so pronounced that Andrew barely had to exert himself to do a high kick over Melany’s head! Mary called their style authentic, and when it was remarked upon that they took the old critiques well, Andrew laughed and said, 'I smiled my ass off!' It will be a real pleasure to see what the duo brings to The Academy.

© FOX
Dancer number two was Michael Sales, hip hop. Michael, 25, hails from Matawan, New Jersey and spends a few minutes sharing that he was bullied as a youth, wishing to be an athlete but unable to because people ostracized the young Filipino - so he found a Breaking Club in his school and it lead him to a life where he was named one of the Top 100 Best B-Boys of 2017. The personality-laden dancer delivered a dance to ‘Perm’ that lead Laurieann to thank him for 'paying honor to the groove', Nigel to use the word 'stunning' and Dominic to tell his fan 'I am inspired by YOU.'  After comments like that, it was a given he would be at The Academy.

© FOX
Mariah Russell, contemporary, is a completely irresistible 19-year-old from Nashville who shared with everyone that her father has been in jail since she was 6 or 7 and that her Mother did all she could to provide for the family, including dance lessons. This young dancer is petite, but not when she is in motion - then she becomes a Titan, performing breathtaking feats of strong athleticism and lyrical fluidity, never once forgetting that the face is a part of the dance. Mariah gives good face. This was a true story she told us, leaving Laurieann in tears: 'I see myself in you … Don’t worry about what other people think … You got to fight,' and then she offers her would-be protege some great advice: 'You’ve got one dance … get there quicker.'  Nigel expressed, 'When the choreography hits the impact of the music it just exhilarates us.'  Mariah walked on the stage a girl and left a woman with a golden ticket to The Academy.

A montage showed contemporary dancers Shamus Moriarty(18), Olivia  Alboher (18), and Luke Phillips (19) delivering what appear to be dances good enough to send them to The Academy.

© FOX
Phoebe Kochis, jazz. The adorable 19-year-old from Denver was born with Down Syndrome, and her Mother was told the girl would never do anything they expected. At an early age, though, the child showed a proficiency for dance and the parents enrolled her in class. Now it is her time to 'reach for the stars' and try for that which has been her dream since she was six. The winner of the Colorado Miss Amazing Pageant (for young women with disabilities) told Laurieann, 'I am overcoming to be a star on So You Think You Can Dance!' and, with that, won everyone’s hearts. Her number to ‘Tore My Heart’ showcased her limber abilities and her limitations, but the judges loved her. 'You’re my hero,' said Laurieann, while Mary told her, 'You’re a ham out there!' Dominic lovingly flirted with the Sass Master, and the wonderful, gorgeous, loving, gentle Nigel told her honestly that she would not be right for the competition but that he would love for her to be his guest at The Academy. There was no dry eye anywhere as the elated young woman left the stage with her Golden Ticket.

© FOX
James Cody, hip hop. The 26-year-old Grand Prairie native has tried out for the show in Seasons 10, 11, and 12, making it to Vegas in season 12. He confesses that he has a diagnosis of Type 2 Bi-Polar, an illness that troubled his father, who took his life at the exact age James is now. 'Dance is absolutely something that helps -- it’s a mood stabilizer, a natural one.' His hip hop/robotics number to ‘Take/Give’ reminded me of the great clowns of the silver screen, and my husband called him a 20th Century Scarecrow from Oz. Mary 'Loved every second of it,' Nigel said, 'You annoy me because you are brilliant at what you do ... I don’t believe you have done your homework.'  Ever the poetess, Laurieanne offered, 'Your future self deserves for you to humble yourself and strategize for a bigger win' and though it was touch and go for a moment, they put him through to The Academy. Like they ever weren’t. The young man impressed by telling the offstage camera, 'I am going to work TO NIGHT.' Git ‘er done.

Maia Bliudnika, contemporary. From the moment her performance to ‘Rain Dance Marian Hill Remix’ started, it was clear that this 19-year-old from Leominster, Mass. is a diva. It’s immediate. You can see it. The precision leaves you awestruck, indeed Laurieann was slack-jawed with awe. Nigel: 'It never stopped being entertaining.' Dominic: 'Absolutely loved it.' Laurieanne: 'The lines went on forever' and Mary: '..played everything right … one of the most perfect auditions of the season.' They did not lie. She was a revelation - one headed to The Academy.

© FOX
Last season we all met Eddie Hoyt, a tap dancer from Boscawen, NH.  Now 19 and living in Utah, teaching dance at a prestigious dance school, Eddie shares how much his life was changed when, last season, he came out on television. There were growing pains for him and his parents, but all is good now, evidenced by teary-eyed mom and dad sitting in the audience. Eddie shared his story with the audience through words and then did it again with a completely magnetic tap dance that left the entire panel of judges at a loss.Tears streaming down her face, Mary commended Eddie because he 'put so much into it' before declaring, 'I don’t think I’ve ever cried over a dap routine!' Laurieanne told the virtuoso performer that 'greatness needs no explanation', and it was clear he was going to The Academy. That is when the daring kid without boundaries shared the most amazing secret of all: the routine he had just done to ‘If You Want Love’ was not choreography - it was him freestyling. Laurieann threw her hands up and Dominic said: 'You’re gonna make me cry again, man!' And with Mary saying, 'It’s always been a yes for me,', he had his Golden Ticket to The Academy.

And that is it for the auditions. All the beautiful people who left it on the floor are on their way to The Academy, otherwise known as Hell Week. And, kids, we are all ready for it, when it happens Monday, July 15 at 9 PM.

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read more by Stephen at Hotchka.com!

Friday, July 12, 2019

Agents of SHIELD S06E08: Collision Course (Part I)

SHIELD is on a Collision Course!

© ABC
Snowbunny?!
by Brandon Coulson

So our storylines merged, quite suddenly, into one this week. As 'Collision Course (Part I)' wasted no time in getting everyone back into the same orbit, literally as we start with FitzSimmons, Izel, and crew arguing over the safety of making a jump back to Earth with wonky equipment. Though they barely have time to argue how bad the odds are before the jump is made and goes off without a hitch, like with zero bad side effects.

The space side of things got the short end of the stick in general this week, as they spend the episode slowly floating towards Earth and complaining that communications are not working which, let's be frank, is just lazy writing so their arrival is a surprise. It would have been easy to show Izel sabotage the comms or something, anything to make it seem reasonable. Instead it’s just bad equipment and Fitz can’t fix it.

Throughout the episode we get little visits back to the ship peppered in to show us Izel is actually the monster Sarge has been hunting. Which confuses me a great deal as to how everything ties together this year. Like was he just from another planet entirely, not another Earth? Also we seem to find out she destroyed the Chronicoms' world so I assume they will be involved soon too but apparently she’s been searching the universe for the monoliths for awhile and only now decided to check Earth. Umm, later on we get told she shows up in ancient Incan legends so she lived on this planet for a while yet never thought about checking it until now … I just found there to be one too many coincidences and the logic seemed thin at best.

Luckily on other areas we saw much more reason than before as Mack had some damn sense this week and while he let Sarge lead the way going forward, he only gave him one of his crew, Snow, and kept the other two as insurance that Sarge would come back. Also choosing to follow behind was wise as we found out Sarge is a big fat liar.

© ABC
Sarge’s scenes with May and Daisy worked pretty well. Watching Daisy play coy and not let on about her powers was smart and Sarge wisely sensed something was up and tested her, well actually baited her into outing herself. There were still many more questions raised about Sarge’s origins. Izel ominously says she knows his secrets while Sarge shows he’s never heard of DNA before, very odd details like this and his animosity when anyone questions his past give a very Tahiti type feel to things. On top of this, Izel paints Sarge as the monster and herself as an innocent, which of course we know is not true. The real question is whether Sarge is misguided or truly evil.

As part one of two, this episode was mainly setting up the pieces for next week to pay things off. Sarge’s cool teleportation through Jaco’s coat was a highlight and got his team minus Snow together and on the loose, though having them escape only for Yoyo to immediately recapture them, to getting broken out again was a bit much, but it was still fun. Meanwhile Deke finds a bomb in Sarge’s rig set to ram a Shrike tower and explode, taking out two hundred square miles or so. Oh and this comes after we find Snow and Deke’s gross hook up so I guess between that and Sarge leaving her she will be on SHIELD’s side now. You take that along with Izel speeding towards them and possibly the Chronicoms coming too and you would think next week was the finale.

While there are four more episodes to come, I do think next week should shed a lot of light on just who or what everyone is and give us a clear path for the last string of episodes. While not the highs of earlier this season, overall it was still a fun time to be had.

What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments section below!

Read more from Brandon on Hotchka.com!

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Friday, July 5, 2019

Agents of SHIELD S06E07: Toldja

Sarge gets to say Toldja! On SHIELD

© ABC
Holy Shrike!
by Brandon Coulson

Following last week’s incredible episode was going to be hard but 'Toldja' did a pretty good job of it. Picking up from the end of last week, FitzSimmons and Enoch found themselves transported back to Kitson and of course immediately lost their teleportation disc. While this beat was very funny, it also should be pointed out that by setting their story there, and the Earth side mostly on base, this was a very cost efficient episode as well.

The space side of things was definitely much lighter than last week. With Gemma reminiscing about her high times on Kitson to a cameo from Anthony Michael Hall as Mister Kitson himself. This whole visit to Kitson, while not quite as fun as the first go round, still managed to hold some charm and surprises. Little things like sending Enoch away to the brothels and having a guillotine test of strength, all made for a great entertainment.

They also managed to nicely tie up all the loose ends and send our team home finally as a mysterious woman named Izel wants them to help her find artifacts buried on Earth. These turn out to be the troublesome Monoliths and perhaps we’ll finally get an answer as to what they are and where they came from!

I can’t say I was sad to see Enoch go. His role had become superfluous and mostly he just screwed things up. I hope the pager he gives them is more to leave the door open in the future and not for the end of the season. If anything I’d like to see them streamline things by the season’s end and regain a bit more focus to the series.

Back on Earth it was the Sarge show as, even in captivity, Sarge seemed to be calling the shots. It was nice to flesh out Jaco’s character a bit. Hearing his story of a large family of Bakers humanized him some, which helped once he started hacking and coughing until he went full on dragonfire mode. I could see the whole escape from within coming so I was relieved when Quake easily put him down.

Some really good mind games here with Sarge and Mack too. Their whole god talk and the way they both tried to play each other worked very well. My only gripe would be when Mack sends his teams to capture the two Shrike and they put them both in the same containment cell. I know there was no way to know how crazy two together would get but you would think Mack is smart enough to keep any captives separate much less an interdimensional doomsday creature. The whole sequence of the creatures bonding and ripping through their cell and threatening to kill the entire plane of agents was well laid out. Though the series is starting to rival Star Trek for the number of 'red shirts' that get taken out. I swear every time one of our main cast says 'agent so and so, follow me,' I just start chuckling 'cause we all know what’s going to happen. Of course the same here as Agent, lets call him Rando, gets a spike to the head and another comes close if not for Yoyo’s quick hands.

We got an answer to whether Deke knew about Fitz (he didn’t) and he actually showed some genuine emotion for once. Of course this came after getting hilariously blown off by Daisy and acting like a hurt puppy dog as a result. I’m still not Team Deke but he was fairly entertaining here.


© ABC
By the episode’s end Sarge, as he predicted, has basically taken control. I know the affect they were going for by having the entire room turn to Sarge for answers but it did feel a bit too quick for this team to just say okay we’ll listen to this nut now. It was just a bit abrupt.

My biggest fear is that Sarge will end up staying on this Earth and taking over SHIELD, basically replacing Coulson. I hope against my instincts that he will leave at the end of the season and Coulson will finally and truly be gone. We got this sort of fake out multiple times with Ward and it wears very thin very fast. Otherwise still a very good time.

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So You Think You Can Dance S16E04: Judges Auditions #4

© FOX
A cast of characters show up for the show
by Stephen Mosher

Episode four of the new season of SYTYCD was sure full of interesting people! Really, what a cool and groovy bunch we got this week, each one of the contestants looks like someone you’d want to know in real life. And Laurieann wanted to know one of them in real life, too, till she found out his girlfriend was in the house!

© FOX
First up is Jalen Sands, 18, performing to ‘Desperado’ before the credits to the show even roll. We just jump in with the contemporary dancer who is extremely compelling, performing fascinating floor work and contortions. None of the flailing about we get from some contemporary dancers - it’s all controlled and calculated. But no judges’ remarks, so we don’t know what happens to her, except that she is going to The Academy, as the credits roll. Along with Jalen are these dancers moving forward:

© FOX
Trent and Colton Edwards, contemporary. The 18-year-old identical twins are ADORABLE and if they don’t go on the show and (one of them) win the show, some producer is going to snatch them up for some kind of reality show or talk show or something. They exude personality in the best way. These best friends have had three years of training, yet they turn in an electrifying performance to ‘Ten Miles High’ after which Nigel gives them a Standing O and all the judges pass them through, with Laurieann saying they were 'unique, awkward, fearless, not cut from the same cloth' which was a good set up for a joke from one of the twins. Dominic said he thought 'please don’t suck.' Well, they didn’t.

© FOX
Bryan 'Clocks' Volozanin, hip hop. Bryan was on Season 12 but got cut at the Green Mile. Since then he has been a professional dancer in Las Vegas, which I kind of think isn’t fair. I mean, if you have a union card to perform professionally, you sort of have a leg up on the competition. Nevertheless, he turned in an amazing performance to ‘Printer Jam’ about which Laurieann said was ’your timing is everything' and Nigel called entertaining. The only thing is that this season there’s no suspense. They’re only showing us the dancers that are so good that they would have to be put through. We watch the show now and a dancer like this comes out and we’re like: ‘oh yeah… he’s going through.' Still, he’s good, and he’s cute, so he’ll be good for the show.

In a series of clips, we see hip hop dancers John John Tarrayo (24), Lorenzo Rangel-Santos (20), Gerald Taplin (28) and Anna Linstruth (19) all get put through to The Academy. See? No suspense.

In a longer montage with more footage, we see a fun little theme when three ballroom contestants compete with dance partners who have already competed on the show. Sofia Ghavami danced with Kiki Nyemcheck, while Vlad Kvartin danced with Magda Fialik, and Annie Lynn Sheketoff danced with Ryan Dilello. It was great seeing the old competitors again and, natch, all three new contestants will be going to The Academy.

© FOX
Sydney Burtis, tap. This 18-year-old was diagnosed with autism at an early age and began dance lessons to help her to connect with others, and it sure has paid off. She is currently studying dance at Pace University and she gives a brilliant performance to ‘Any Other World’ in lime green tap shoes. She has great musicality and is definitely a show woman. Nigel said he didn’t get her choice of music and that it didn’t work but I totally got what she was doing. Still, after critiquing her musical selection Nigel said: 'Ignore all that comment' and gave her a yes, as did the rest of the judges, sending the super cute dancer to The Academy. Sidney admitted to Dominic that she has posters of him on her wall at home. He thought it was flattering … and a little scary. And Mary said, 'There isn’t anybody in this room you didn’t connect with,' so yay for those dance lessons, mom!

© FOX
Jarrod Tyler Paulson, contemporary. The 26-year-old does auto repair and construction when he isn’t dancing but dancing is his life … as well as his girlfriend Madison Jordan, 21, who danced right after him. They met in dance class and fell in love, and while they chose to dance apart, not as a duo, it is palpable how much they are into each other, and each others’ dances. Jarrod goes first to ‘Stand By Me’ and wows the judges IN BLUE JEANS yet, causing Laurieann to say, 'I would stand by you any day of the week' - but Laurieann does seem to flirt with the mechanic quite cheekily, in a really charming manner. The dance is truly magnificent and emotional causing Dominic to say Jarrod is 'exactly what this show is about.'

© FOX
'I was not expecting that,' said Nigel before offering the Academy bound dancer his own seat so he could watch Madison, an alopecia-diagnosed young woman whose 'control was magnificent,' according to Laurieann. Madison is quirky and interesting, filled with drama and technique while performing to ‘Woman’, and Mary remarks on the juxtaposition of softness and strength in the powerful performer, while Nigel wants to audition their kids. In fact, even though their dance styles are wildly different, Nigel urges them to dance together, which they do, to the delight of everyone. It is a pleasure to see this young twosome advance.

The one rejection of the night was Antonio Frias who embarrassed himself by dancing salsa solo. With very little technique, the Floridian simply looked lost up there and, thank goodness, Mary gave it to him straight, rapidly putting him out of his misery. She’s so wonderfully gentle about it, but she doesn’t lie. She tells him he’s not good enough with very specific critiques, the kind a dancer needs in order to grow. Thank heaven she is so gracious because maybe now he will go train some more and get better. He could, as we saw when Nigel pulled a random woman up from the audience to dance with him and he did, indeed, improve.  Not by much, but there was a marked difference. Nigel totally saved face for the poor guy.

And thus ends the night of characters on SYTYCD. It will be fun to get to know them all better at The Academy, but we will have to wait an extra week, as it will NOT air the first week of July, but will return on July 8th for the final night of Judge’s auditions.

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read more from Stephen on Hotchka.com!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Colin Cunliffe presents It’s a Gay Gay World

Can I Be Fierce celebrates Pride Month

© Austin Ruffer
Colin Cunliffe puts the Gay in Pride
by Stephen Mosher

I was 17 the first time I went into a gay bar. I paced the street outside for what seemed forever before getting the nerve up to go in, and once inside, I was terrified. That terror lasted for years. Once I was in college I tried to hide who I was, afraid of being judged, afraid of being rejected, afraid of being hurt. Even when, a few years later, I found a man who helped me inch my way into the light, I was afraid. It was the early 80s. We had to behave a certain way in public. We couldn’t hold hands at the movies or in restaurants, we would have to surreptitiously brush up against each other. We couldn’t kiss in public or say 'I love you'. We were out but in the shadows. 

I remember going into my first adult bookstore. I paced the street outside for what seemed forever, terrified I would be seen going in, terrified I would see someone I knew there, even though they would be doing the same thing I was doing. I was living in the gay neighborhood of Dallas and, still, I was terrified every time I walked into a gay bar, every time I walked out of a gay bar, and almost every minute that I was inside that gay bar.

It took time before I was able to let go of the terror and live in the light.

But it’s a new mutherf*cking day, baby.

Gay people of 2019 are still discriminated against but they will not be kept in the shadows. Since 1969, the year of the Stonewall Riots, the month of June has been hailed as Gay Pride and all around the world people have pride celebrations. They do this to protest, to remember, to celebrate. The people who participate in Pride are many and they go by many labels. Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Nonbinary, Gender Fluid, the list goes on. There is a group of people who celebrate called Allies - they are the people who celebrate and support, even though they themselves are not part of the queer community. There are, in short, many people who participate in Gay Pride.

And a lot of them were present recently when the nightclub at Pangea hosted Colin Cunliffe presents It’s a Gay Gay World.

If you had told terrified 17-year-old me that 38 years later I would be married to a man whose hand I would hold in public, and that there would be a nightclub show where I would watch a man with a lumberjack beard and eyeliner wearing a leather jockstrap, harness and cap singing to a room packed with people about being queer, I would have called you a liar. But I didn’t know, then, that activism actually works and that my people would not only be living in the light, we would BE the light. And it feels good in the light, which is exactly where Colin Cunliffe and company belong.

A veteran of six Broadway shows, Cunliffe entered the theatre at Pangea wearing a black onesie with a sequined heart on the front, harlequin cutouts on the sides and a crotch that rode so high that there was every chance that, at any moment, the audience would be knowing Colin more than they had anticipated. Over the onesie, he wore a kind of ringmaster/bandleader jacket in bright red with gold trim, and on top of his head he wore a top hat with a feather longer than King Kong’s arm. His face was made up in high glamor and sported blue mirror steampunk sunglasses. It was fabulous and uncomfortable at the same time. Fabulous because of sheer fabulosity and uncomfortable because I know I would never have the bravery to wear so audacious an outfit myself. With a metaphysical embrace of his willing audience, Cunliffe launched into what I can only describe as an LSD inspired version of 'Strawberry Fields', complete with a story about his Gay Uncle Jack - this is no Broadway chorus boy; Cunliffe is a raconteur, a poet, a showman, an activist, and an inspirator. He declared this night the night of Gay Pride when he and his family will gather to 'Get as gay as we possibly can', pausing to make the audience 'Clap as gay as you can' and teaching all how to properly say 'YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!' Setting my discomfort to one side, I settled in for the ride.

Cunliffe’s guests were all members of the New York theatre community, each of them beautiful and accomplished, some less flashy than others, some more trashy than the others; and each of them brought to the tiny cabaret stage a passion for life and love and living in the light.

© Austin Ruffer
Daniel Reichard’s take on a gay Mr. Rogers was charming and funny, balancing naughtiness and bawdiness with a message about loving your neighbor and yourself, 'There’s no person just like you', and wrapping up his appearance with a mash-up of ‘It’s You I Like’ and ‘It’s Such a Good Feeling’, including a sing-along, which should cast a light on the average age of the audience. The choice to bring the Jersey Boys alum up first was a smart one because once the life-threateningly handsome charmer had finished his number, the audience truly did feel at home in this Beautiful Gayborhood.

© Austin Ruffer
Jonathan Ritter took the place of the show’s maestro extraordinaire, Lance Horne, to present his own composition after sharing a personal story about growing up and struggling to reconcile Gay with God, a journey to which many can relate. With a lovely, mellifluous voice, Ritter brought forth that song you listened to in high school that always broke open your heart - it was sublime.
© Austin Ruffer

Emma Sofia Caymares simply flew up on the stage the moment her name was called, bedecked in a beaded brassiere, rhinestone studded belt and a take no prisoners lust for life. 'I decided to be subtle today cause that’s what I do!' and she was subtle enough to sneak a horn player into her smashing mash up of 'Born This Way' and 'Express Yourself'. For Pride. Madonna and Gaga. Um. Yes, please. When it was time for the Fosse/Verdon veteran to turn the stage over to the next performer, a grinning Cunliffe took hold of the mic and cried out 'She’s stupid!' Duh, he meant stupid with talent.

© Austin Ruffer
My heart skipped a beat when the dreamy star of Broadway’s Pippin took over at the keyboards to play his self-penned 'Backrooms'. Before starting the song, though, Erik Altemus dedicated the performance to the victims of PULSE almost three years later to the day, offering that 'without community, we really don’t have anything.' I loved that, in a celebration of being gay in your own personal way, Mr. Altemus appeared in modest dress, lit sage and brought us all into the deepest place of our hearts with a singing voice reminiscent of our own voice in that place where we are at our most introspective and vulnerable. How nice to get to go to that place, without actually having to go there.

© Austin Ruffer


Andrew Fitch took some time off of Waitress to open a vein for an appreciative crowd by singing a lovely little ballad called 'Brave', written by that girl who wrote Waitress. In Fitch’s hands, the Sarah Bareilles anthem became a lovely lullaby of hope and dreams, and where he went with his heartfelt performance, the audience was sure to go.

© Austin Ruffer







The entire room at Pangea had their hands in the air, cheering and mouthing the words to 'Colors of the Wind' as Sapphire Hart delivered the lyrics that have a different meaning as an adult than they did as a child, as a reply 'to everyone who’s ever told you you are not okay being who you are.' It was like being at a Big Gay Tent Revival, and if they had passed a plate, I would have put money in it, that’s how good it was.





© Austin Ruffer
A new trio of singers made their debut on this night and, with it, 3rd Vers made a room full of people happy, sending them home fans of their tight harmonies, entertaining girl-group-ography and powerful vocals. This self-proclaimed 'little faggot brotherhood' declares that they are 'three queer loving, sex-positive, gay men', a statement backed up by their leather wear, their camp fierceness, and their unapologetic mission statement to stay absolutely true to who they are. There were no cheers for 3rd Vers when they finished singing ‘Hang With Me'. There were screams.

© Austin Ruffer
Returning to the stage for another number, Cunliffe shared the story of his Red Ringmaster jacket, a gift from the famous Richard Simmons, who met Colin one night after Pippin when, in a moment of boldness, Cunliffe asked for Simmon’s jacket and the exercise guru told him 'Give me your address and I will send you a coat you will never forget.' The coat arrived with a note reading 'Never make a promise you can’t keep.' And having told this story, Cunliffe changed, right before our very eyes (with a little coverage from some friends) into a leather jockstrap, a harness and cap, before mashing up Tori Amos’ 'Leather' and Bette Midler’s 'Knight in Black Leather'. Cunliffe brings it all center stage and then leaves it there. We don’t need our imaginations when he is around because the rock star voiced Cunliffe has nothing to hide. It’s all on his sleeve -- if he had a sleeve to put it on. 'It’s about community,' says Cunliffe, 'We are all family.'


© Austin Ruffer
The next member of the family to hit the stage was the voice-like-a-trumpet, sequin sheathed Jack Bartholet, whose natural way with a crowd brought us all into the past with the question 'what does the gay world mean to you?' before telling us his answer with the fascinating 1920 tune 'The Lavender Song'. It was a thrilling performance worthy of Piaf, and it made me anxious to check out his show Lady With a Song at Pangea on June 27th.

Time to wrap it up, so Cunliffe, wishing to 'honor all of the ghosts who left us - it is important that we remember them' brings back Mr. Reichard for a lovely little ballad: the Disney classic 'Baby Mine', taking on a new meaning in this moment of introspection and retrospection.

However. It’s Gay Pride. It can’t end with a ballad. It has to end with a bang.

Enter Michael 'Bucky' Buchanan, probably the greatest male singer I have ever witnessed up close, capable of vocal pyrotechnics people only dream of being able to craft, for a sexy as f*ck mix of 'Make Me Feel'/'Kiss'/Sylvester. With a little request for the audience that 'we collectively participate' in the insane arrangement, this magical presence with a one-of-a-kind voice showed everyone how little it actually takes to live authentically. With audience and actors alike helping him along with our self-made percussions, he wailed the roof off of Pangea, bringing the entire room to its feet. It was a brilliant way to bring the entire cast onstage for an encore of 'Freedom' by the late, great George Michael, a perfect ending of a night celebrating being gay, being as gay as you can, being as gay as you want, being as in love with yourself and your life as you can be, and Just. Living. OUT. Loud.

Somewhere, in my past, in the long past, twinkie, terrified, 17-year-old Stephen felt a shiver run through him because there was, in some parallel universe, going to be a day when he felt, when he knew, it was okay to be gay. In fact, it would be more than okay. It would be Fabulous!

Read more from Stephen on Hotchka.com!

Agents of SHIELD S06E06: Inescapable

SHIELD has an Inescapable good time!

© ABC
Just watch it already...
by Brandon Coulson

Did we just get one of the best episodes of Agents of SHIELD ever? I think we may have. 'Inescapable' was a very small episode with some big ideas. Literally taking place over six minutes in the real world the episode took place mainly inside the joined minds of Fitz and Simmons.

I was nervous at first as the introduction into the episode was very exposition heavy. We got the stage set and basically our duo has been plugged into a virtual world, think of Morpheus’s White Room in The Matrix. Every tool at their disposal as well as all of each others memories.

After an adorable yet sad second proposal from the still out of the loop Fitz, we started to see where the drama would come from. As confronted about what happened in the future, Gemma regresses to a child state and retreats to her childhood bedroom. I loved the way we got to finally see a bit more on what makes her tick in this episode. The bedtime story she asks Fitz to read is adorable, and while avoiding the memory of future Fitz’s death we get a series of flashbacks detailing the arc of their relationship.

These scenes were sweet, informative, and incredibly well acted. Drifting in and out of memory and commentary, both actors impressed me with the smoothness they transitioned from their naive selves to mature personalities. I also have to say the direction and something in the writing made me think of the final season of Angel in all the best ways. The emotional beats just hit in all the right ways.

The first meeting was perfectly awkward and nerdy, the first meeting with Coulson struck just enough of sadness for his passing as well as reminding us of Season 1 FitzSimmons. Then in a turn to absolute horror, their worst selves coming out in the form of Fitz’s framework Nazi self and Gemma’s repressed rage in the form of, as Fitz put it,'A Ringu monster.' I found moments creepy and disturbing one second and then laughing at the bickering back and forth. Fitz’s 'You are so English' line just beautifully delivered and the whole thing just weaved from horror to comedy to action without feeling a bit jumpy.

If anything, the weakest part of the episode was when they called for mental backup conjuring their friends into the world. If only because the two of them, playing four roles total, were far more interesting and compelling to watch than Mack and Quake just being badasses. Also for the same reason every time we cut to Altarah and Enoch, however briefly, I found myself just wanting to get back to the main event. Also because the Chronicoms are idiotic and dull to boot.

© ABC
Even as I watched Fitz and Simmons get funneled into the containment cell, I knew we were getting a call back to the trapped in the ocean plot but it still worked even with my expectations. The capper of course was after they triumphantly overcome their doubts and fears and head out to confront their inner demons given shape, we get the greatest/most disturbing twist as their evil selves are also quite compatible and are in the throes of evil passion outside the cell. Their comments of 'Didn’t know you’d like that' and 'Didn’t know you’d do that' could have played cheesy but they have just the right chemistry together to sell it.

After it was all said and done Enoch saves the day at the last second in a disappointing turn after so quickly betraying Fitz so recently and now his people. Enoch needs to defragment or something cause that bot is bipolar. So they get saved and whisked away to another place for presumably another adventure and we are left to wonder if the remaining Chronicoms will reboot and come after them.

The ninety percent of the episode that centered on Fitz and Simmons was damn near perfect and made me remember why I loved them when this series started. It almost refreshed what had become a bit old hat and repetitive. The other ten percent of the episode was frankly kind of boring but with so much good a little bland can be forgiven.

Agents of SHIELD airs Fridays at 8:00 PM on ABC.

What did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments section below!

Read more from Brandon at Hotchka.com!

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Monday, June 24, 2019

Liz Callaway: Sets in the City review

Liz Callaway’s Sets sets the night right


Sets In The City: Stories of a beautiful city
by Stephen Mosher

When I moved to New York there was a night when Peggy Lee was singing in the city. I didn’t go. Over the years I read that Nancy Wilson was singing in town. I didn’t go. In fact, a number of times in my life I had a chance to go see one of the greats live and I didn’t go. I have learned from my mistakes and, now, when one of the greats is singing in Manhattan, I go.

Liz Callaway is one of the greats.

I considered Liz Callaway to be the female voice of Broadway in the 80s. Nobody was like her, and everything she sang was executed to perfection. I absolutely loved her, but the only time I ever saw her live was when she was playing Grizabella in Cats at the Winter Garden Theatre. For a reason passing explanation, I have never seen her do her club act. I have broken that pattern and gotten my butt in a seat at 54 Below to see her new show Sets in the City. You know that happy face emoji with the big toothy smile that people use? That was me all night long.

Sets in the City is Liz Callaway’s tribute to New York City, to her life here, to the songs about this place, and to the people who live here. And the show is simply dazzling. 

Callaway appears to be unchanged by time, physically and vocally. She looks spectacular and spectacularly fit, her voice is as powerful and nuanced as it has ever been, and her onstage persona is as winning and endearing as a person singing in a nightclub should be. When I go home from a show I like to feel like I’ve gotten to know the performer a little, and thanks to some marvelous tidbits about her life and the way those stories are matched up with the songs she sings, I feel like I actually do know Callaway personally. I already know her career, so I loved the inside nods to shows she has done, like starting the evening singing 'Who wants to live in New York, who wants the worry, the dirt, the heat, the noise…' from Merrily We Roll Along, a play she was in on Broadway, or songs she has sung, like mentioning that a reviewer once said she fared well with Stephen Schwartz songs, and that there is one Stephen Schwartz song she will never stop singing, and I knew it was ‘Meadowlark’. It’s like having an inside joke between you and the artist when they bring out the songs you know, and know them for, and the room must have been filled with fans because people around me were reacting the same way as I when they caught on to a clue.

The evening wasn’t only songs previously associated with the Tony Award nominated actress. Ms. Callaway shared a sweet story about trying to find a way to include the Flaherty and Ahrens tune ‘Something Beautiful’ in this show, to no avail, until Lynn Ahrens told her what inspired the story, bringing the pieces all together (no spoilers here, I’m afraid). In fact, while I could listen to Liz Callaway sing for more than the 75 minutes to which I was treated, I could also sit and listen to her tell stories for another 75 minutes. The comfortable way with which she discusses her family, her life as an actor, her courtship and marriage (to Dan Foster, who directed this show) was akin to listening to a performer at The Moth tell one of their stories. Callaway is honest about herself, poking fun at her youthful ambitions, sharing stories about celebrity encounters she’s had and journalist’s appraisals of her early work, and sincerely praising people like her idol Marilyn Maye (who was in the house and able to hear, first hand, the tributes Callaway paid her). It is very clear that Liz Callaway has a good time doing this work, and though I miss seeing her on the Broadway stage, I am happy to turn up at any nightclub where she is singing and catch her act again, anytime.

Musically speaking, the evening was filled with highlights for me. As a fan, hearing her sing her number from the musical Brownstone, ‘Since You Stayed Here’, was a tearful, yet smile-inducing moment for me, while my husband, sitting beside me, saved his tears for her totally in the pocket version of ‘Tell Me On a Sunday'. With mash-ups and medleys peppering the evening, it is easy to see why Callaway works with musical director and arranger extraordinaire, Alex Rybeck, because his own work on this show was swoon-worthy. An epic medley of songs about singing had the audience cheering, while a wonderfully sexy and strong-rhythmed performance (courtesy of bass player Jared Egan and percussionist Ron Tierno) of Chuck Mangione’s ‘The Land of Make Believe’ had me chair-dancing. The evening was a perfect blend of storytelling in the bright, and the quiet places where our hearts live, especially people like me who, when Callaway says she is nostalgic for a 'New York that isn’t there anymore,' know whereof she speaks, and are willing passengers on the ride of reverie that reminds us of the things we love, and have loved, about the magical city we have chosen to call home.

So You Think You Can Dance S16E03: Judges Auditions #3

© FOX
A night of rising to the occasion on SYTYCD
by Stephen Mosher

The third Audition episode on the new season of SYTYCD dropped, and boy, was it chock-a-block with memorable moments, starting off with some very silly judges acting up backstage, doing some ballet barre warmups that warmed up viewers’ hearts. But with only an hour for each episode, there is little time for fun and games (and, irritatingly, little time for Cat, and I miss the amount of time we used to spend with America’s Best Reality Competition Show!), so without further ado, they dove right into the evening’s dancers, each one more endearing than the last, and each one overcoming an obstacle of some kind - a physical limitation, a rejection of some kind, or separation from a loved one or passion.

The dancers moving forward:

© FOX
Bailey 'Bailrock' Munoz, hip hop. The 18-year-old from Las Vegas is shown in his profile package talking about having been born premature, which affected his health for a lot of years -- it is not clear if being a premie is responsible for it or not, but the B Boy is only 5-feet-tall and, being teased for years about it, he turned to dance for solace and strength. Well, strength is what he has because the judges went wild for his fast footwork and tricks. The affable young man is a complete joy to watch and audiences surely fell in love with him after his performance to ‘How Deep Is Your Love’ by Calvin Harris & Disciples. Dominic: 'You’re the newest generation of B Boy.' Bailey: 'You’re never too little to dream big.' The Judges: 'You’re going to the Academy!'

© FOX
Luke Romanzi, contemporary. The Brooklyn native works in his father’s bagel shop, which dad wishes he would take over, but the 18-year-old longs to dance, having auditioned for the famed Julliard, who turned him away. Dad may be disappointed the family business won’t stay in the family, but he clearly wants what his boy wants, crying during the interview and throughout Luke’s performance to ‘The Crumbling’, which was a compelling 'lesson in control' (Mary). While watching Luke dance I said, out loud, 'Oh, he brought a story!' and then 'He brought Martha Graham!' His technique and athleticism were admirable and while Laurieann said, 'There is something about Brooklyn that produces a fighter,' and Dominic told him, 'Julliard messed up,' it was also noted that there was an emotional disconnect. Nevertheless, he is advancing with the full support of all four judges.

Victoria Neukom, 19, contemporary. Dustin Payne, 27, hip hop. Jay Jackson, 30, contemporary. All three are returning dancers (Dustin is here for the 3rd time) and in a montage of clips all three are shown giving performances good enough to land them in The Academy. In a particularly satisfying moment we see Jackson, who danced in drag last year, admit that last season changed his life, a fact substantiated by this year’s focus and technique. When he got the news he was moving forward, tears rolled down his face and, frankly, down mine as well. Go, boy!

© FOX
Jordynn and Elan Lurie, 20 & 24, ballroom. Like the last three dancers, this brother and sister dance team returned after a trick gone wrong last season sent them home. They have, clearly, worked during the last year because their salsa furioso to ‘Baila Como Es’ set everyone ablaze, landing them on the Hot Tamale Train. Jordynn garnered most of the praise, perhaps rightly so, but both were given Golden Tickets after Nigel insisted their 80-year-old grandfather dance with Jordynn. Their tricks this year were astonishing and they executed, perfectly, the move that got them kicked off last season.

© FOX
Sophie Pittman, 18, contemporary. The high GPA’d recent high school graduate confesses she will be skipping college in order to pursue her dream of dance by moving to Los Angeles from small town Tennessee. Her profile package showed her at home with her younger sister and it was easy to see why they are best friends, a fact Sophie admitted through tears during the interview, and why she needs to move away from home to show her that 'she can chase her dreams'. Sophie’s performance to ‘Girl Crush’ had some proficiency but each of the judges was clear with their respective criticisms and the young woman took their critiques with grace, listening and thanking them. Laurieann used my favorite new turn of phrase when she told Sophie she would like 'one more level in your conversation'. The cameraman worked overtime getting her teary-eyed sister on camera but it paid off big when the judges put Sophie through to the Academy because the younger sibling was thrilled for her bestie, and that’s the kind of thing we want to see when the SYTYCD dancers aren’t actively dancing.

© FOX
Frank 'Ghost' Crisp Jr., 27, hip hop. The incredibly charismatic one-time mascot for The Harlem Globetrotters works in administration now for the famed basketball players but he misses, terribly, his performing. So he brings all 500% of his personality to the stage, whether he is dancing or not, and he wins over the hearts of all with an audition to ‘Pump it Up’, and while I found his dance to be in need of more dance and less comedy, there is no denying he belongs on the show. The judges thought so, too, because they gave him a Golden Ticket, reducing him to tears for a long while after his departure from the stage.
© FOX
Lauren Luteran, 19, contemporary. In the heartstrings story of the night, an inspirational young woman with cystic fibrosis discusses her illness and how dance has changed her life. Her parents are, naturally, emotional as they share that their daughter will not outlive them, and viewers see Lauren using her CF Vest to help her breathe. It’s an emotional story and the young dancer’s spirit completely wins over the judges, all of whom shower her with praise for her braveness. 'There is a cure coming and I hope I can spread awareness.' It is clear she is not up to the skill level of other contemporary dancers but, in absolutely the right move, all four judges send her through to The Academy. Well done, judges.

The only dancer from the evening not advancing was the charming Maria Babineau, a 21-year-old Canadian neuroscience/biology college major who admits to never having had one dance lesson before blowing the minds of the judges with her hip hop robotic audition to ‘The Devil’s Den’. Dominic told the YouTube taught dancer that he was simply speechless, and while everyone admits to having been entertained by her, she is kept out of The Academy by the men, both of whom vote no, while the female judges said yes. Back to the classroom, Maria - only make it a dance class and come back next season and show them you mean it.

One of the things I am noticing about the season, as these auditions continue, is that with only five or six dancers being put through to The Academy on each episode, viewers are getting to develop a relationship with a limited number of contestants. There won’t be a whole lot of suspense when it comes to picking who will be on the shows when they go live, will there? But that’s okay by me because I don’t need suspense when the competition begins.

I only need more Cat Deeley.

What did you think of this episode? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

Read more from Stephen on Hotchka.com!

Monday, June 17, 2019

Agents of SHIELD S06E05: The Other Thing

SHIELD takes care of The Other Thing

© ABC
You can go make a sandwich during this one.
by Brandon Coulson

This week on SHIELD we got a lot of things done. People were reunited and pulled apart. Battles won and lost. The pieces set up for the rest of the season. All necessary steps and done in a fairly entertaining way.

All this being said, the episode itself was very, very ... okay. There were some great moments sprinkled throughout, mainly our MVP May, but the exposition and a flashback framing device felt forced and old hat. It was jarring enough to make me wonder who directed 'The Other Thing'. I was surprised to find actor Lou Diamond Phillips was in the big chair this week and with only ten directing credits to his name it became clear there might have been a weak hand guiding the ship.

Now let me say again I enjoyed the episode overall, it wasn’t boring per se, the action moved and was well choreographed. There are even some really well done scenes between May and Sarge that get intense. Those scenes are without question the strongest part of the episode, credit to the actors and the director for that.

We set up that Sarge and company are trying to stop the parasitic bat things and that they share some similarity / connection to the obelisks from seasons past. We also got teased on a big bad who created these things.

On the other side of our story out in space, Enoch’s people have come for Fitz to get the secret of time travel because their world has been destroyed by some mysterious force. My guess is the same threat currently on Earth. Through Enoch’s multiple stupid comments we end up with Fitz and Simmons staying to design a device under duress while the rest of the crew go home.

With this setup there are a few theories moving forward. The number one floating around that struck me as well was that Fitz will end up inadvertently creating the threat on Earth in the past with time travel being the catalyst. I will say I’m a bit bored of the 'Evil Fitz' idea we keep getting pushed towards (spoilers per the previews, next week his evil side resurfaces). If it isn’t Fitz though, the vague way Sarge talks about the big bad seems to be setting up for some kind of big reveal, otherwise why not give him/her/it a name? So we have to think about who else might be a big surprise reveal. Another doppelganger, perhaps evil Simmons this time? Or, god I hope not, Ward? It will be tough to wow me on this reveal but I want them to succeed.

© ABC
Largely though outside of May’s close quarter combat and all of her scenes with Sarge I was not terribly invested in the other scenes. Mack and Yoyo’s talks about last week’s death felt flat and emotionless, and the professor's discovery about the parasite was literally telling us the same info May got from Sarge, serving only to make sure all parties are aware of the threat and what Sarge’s crew are doing, but it felt repetitive.

Again back to May her fight with one of the parasites was fantastic, the effects and stunt work top notch. But marring May’s sections were these strange flashbacks to her time with Coulson before he died. Feeling forced and not in keeping with May’s character they should have been removed entirely.

Then Quake barely got to kick and butt at all. In fact all of stuff with Altarah, Enoch’s former lover apparently, was just odd tonally. Their weird robotic sex talk was supposed to be funny but I just found it creepy, and her personality was non existent.

This was very much a bridge episode. Setting things up to hopefully pay off bigger things down the road. While not the worst the series has had to offer definitely the weakest of this season so far.

Read more from Brandon on Hotchka.com!

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