The Glorious Corner: Jeff Daniels, Freddie Mercury, George Bush, The Beatles Final Concert and More

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Jeff Daniels

G.H. Harding 

DANIELS TOPLINES MOCKINGBIRD — Jeff Daniels is just electric in the Aaron Sorkin revival of To Kill A Mockingbird; that officially opens on December 13 here in NYC. I’m a huge Daniels fan; I think his work on the three seasons of Sorkin’s Newsroom (on HBO), was just mesmerizing (not to mention his Emmy-winner work Godless on Netflix) and one of the best series ever. There’s no denying that the chemistry between Daniels and Sorkin is potent and magical. The actor himself has said that Sorkin knows him better than he knows himself.

Dipping into Harper Lee’s formidable novel, the two have created something terrifically compelling; as good as the book and certainly the 1962 movie with Gregory Peck. Sorkin’s well-known word-play and lengthy monologues are all here and actually services Lee’s work brilliantly. Looking at the credits, Sorkin’s only mention is “a new play by Aaron Sorkin,” but you can clearly hear his style. As a writer, Sorkin’s work is just off the charts. I adored his 2006 TV show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. I know it didn’t suceed, but it was spot on.

That said, Mockingbird is a brilliant work, with a huge cast, and kudos to the kids, Celia Keenan-Bolger; Will Pullen; Gideon Clark, now re-envisioned as adults. Veteran TV and stage actor Dakin Matthews is spot-on as the judge. LaTanya Richardson Jackson as Finch’s house-help is utterly brilliant, stealing almost every scene she’s in.

The casting of for the whole play is just brilliant too.

Racism is alive and well in America today and the emotional resonance of the play is stronger than ever. To bring this story back, and to the stage now, is lightening in a bottle.

The play is long; almost two and a-half-hours, and I think a quick tweak would rivet the attention even more. Also, the constant changing of the well-designed stage, from one scene to another, ultimately becomes somewhat distracting.

Still, Daniels is positively riveting. He’s doing this play for a year. Don’t miss it. It has already become the stage event of the year. Watch this video of Daniels recent interview on NBC’s Today show:

Freddie Mercury

MAY QUEEN —In light of the worldwide success of Bohemian Rhapsody (and, deservedly so), interesting story re Brian May via Ultimate Classic Rock: Brian May recalled how he and Roger Taylor fought to keep a key scene in the final cut of Bohemian Rhapsody, even though the real-life moment had been difficult for them.

In the movie – set to become the most successful music biopic in U.S. history (500 million worldwide thus far) – Rami Malek played out the moment when Freddie Mercury told his Queen bandmates he was going to work on a solo album.

Describing the scene as his “favorite” in the whole film, May told Classic Rock that “it’s a wonderful piece of acting – and a lot of that wasn’t in the script. And when I watch it I feel that is so Freddie. He’d talk quietly, puff on his cigarette, not want to come out with the words. Eventually he did it – in a very cut-and-dry manner. But you can see the angst inside.”

He noted that the scene “nearly got cut from the movie – that’s a little secret – just because there’s always this pressure to make things shorter. But we fought for that scene to stay in, because the realism of it is quite gut-wrenching. That was a difficult moment for us. It’s Freddie kinda leaving his family.”

May also explained why Gwilym Lee, who portrays him in the movie, is seen in one of the film’s trailers playing guitar with a violin bow, even though it never really happened and the scene didn’t make the final version.

“The funny thing is, the trailer people work from film stock which is their own,” he said. “So a lot of what’s in the trailers is not in the movie. The scene with me and the bow was shot as part of a bunch of experimental things. We weren’t there for the shoot. And when I saw it I went, ‘No, that’s not what happened. And don’t let’s even pretend it happened, because that’s a Jimmy Page thing, that’s not me.’ But the trailer people liked it. That’s all I can say. But no, you won’t see that in the movie.”

Dana Carvey as George Bush

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

“The Roof” book cover

Ryan Eggold

SHORT TAKES — Micky Dolenz at the RCG Farm in Newton, Connecticut yesterday, performing at the debut of the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Shelter. The event, which was MC’d by Gretchen Carlson, marked the six years since the loss of Catherine in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Dolenz  sang “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” “A Little Bit Me A Little Bit You,” “Last Train To Clarksville,” “Run Run Rudolph,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Gimme Some Lovin’,” “Daydream Believer,” and “I’m A Believer” … Dolenz is in NYC today, doing Sirius; ABC Radio; and the U.K.’s Daily Mirror, in conjunction with The Monkees Christmas Party album …Kudos to last night’s Saturday Night Live, which at the end of their Weekend Update segment, had a nice remembrance to George W. Bush and even showed Dana Carvey’s impression of him. Nice touch! … Just when you think you’ve read everything you can about The Beatles comes a book on their final 42-minute rooftop performance (on January 30, 1969) at their Apple Records. Written by Apple Records-insider Ken Mansfield. Hey, I’m a fan and will read this too. Check out the Amazon link here with an audio sample: … Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson is the latest bold-faced name to be accused of some sort of inappropriate act. I’ve met him several times and really cannot believe it, but who knows. A hug these days can telegraph, well, anything. Deadline had a great write-up on it, including his response. Check it out here:

I will add one personal observation. when he says once an accusation is made … you should NOT be judged guilty. Honestly, anything’s possible these days. But with high-tech security everywhere and social media totally in your face, one does have to proceed with more than a modicum of caution. Pretty soon, even a handshake will be deemed inappropriate … NBC’s two-big new shows, Manifestand New Amsterdam both had their fall finales last week. Manifest was good … but, still teasing lots and revealing little. New Amsterdam was terrific, again showing what an excellent show it is. Ryan Eggold is positively mesmerizing … His old show, Blacklist, returns in January … I’ve been fascinated by the Gary Hart scandal since in first erupted in 1988. I’ve not see the new movie (The Front Runner) with Hugh Jackman, but keep hearing excellent things about it. I recently saw a CBS interview with Hart, who still makes a lot of sense and now looks like Millennium’s Lance Henriksen. If there ever needed an older Hart, please call Henriksen. I am seeing it next week and will report on … Sad to see that Murphy Brown was not renewed. It was great to see the old gang and I thought the writing was great, if at times forced … The next show to be-rebooted, NYPD Blue …RIP Ken Berry – Mayberry RFD.

NAMES IN THE NEWS: John Hughes; Jazon Elzy; Jess Giordano; Alicia Spiegel; Jacqueline Boyd; Van Dean; Jodi Ritzen; Tyrone Biljan; Jane Blunkell; Donna Quinter; Gilbert & Dara Gottfried; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Len Berman; Randy Alexander; and, CFS.

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