'Jersey Boys' comes to DVD

2. January 2015 08:13 by Julie Merar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Clint Eastwood's film adaptation of the cultural sensation "Jersey Boys" is slated to come to DVD this holiday shopping season. The film is a musical biography of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, based off the celebrated musical of the same name. According to SI Live, the Blu-ray DVD is loaded with extras and bonus featurettes. While the film may be a great gift to get for the theater lover in your family, the only way to truly experience "Jersey Boys" is by enjoying the live stage production. The show has won a slew of Tony and Grammy awards, and is so successful that the national tour is in its eighth year. With "Jersey Boys" traveling throughout the U.S., theater tickets provide the perfect outing for this holiday season.

'Jersey Boys' 
In many ways, "Jersey Boys" has become a national treasure, showcasing the possibility of making it in America. Productions of the musical are performed in major cities across the country, and the one in New York is in its ninth year on Broadway. Hayden Milanes plays the role of Frankie Valli on the national tour, performing 27 songs each show. Needless to say, that's a tall order for any actor, but in this case it's especially challenging, considering Milanes is cast as an American icon. 

"When I go out there playing Frankie, the attention and recognition is for him," Milanes told the Idaho Statesman. "I'm playing a guy who has made a great name for himself and they're applauding me, but it is really borrowed glory. The reality is people come to see Frankie, not me."

The Four Seasons gained international success in the 1960s, becoming one of the most recognizable rock 'n' roll groups of all time. The group still tours, however, Valli is the only remaining original member who continues to perform. The group's original members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Known for singles like "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and "Big Girls Don't Cry," The Four Seasons were first known as The Varitones and then The Four Lovers before adapting their timeless moniker. 

Now, "Jersey Boys" first came to Broadway in 2005 and became an instant success. Since then, it has continued to run on Broadway, and various productions have entertained audiences worldwide. The national tour is currently performing the musical in theaters across the country.

Fox brings back 'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?'

27. December 2014 11:03 by Julie Merar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Fox is officially bringing back the quiz show "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" after the network removed the show from prime time approximately five years ago. The show was syndicated during daytime hours until spring 2011, when it ultimately was canceled. Mark Burnett, executive producer of the show, has been vocal about possibly bringing the show back onto the air for some time. Jeff Foxworthy is making a triumphant return as the host of the family-friendly quiz show, although no official premiere date has been announced. 

'Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?' 
Burnett pitched the quiz show to Fox in 2007 and it was quickly produced and aired only weeks later. The straightforward concept of the show pits adults against kids in a quiz covering grade school-level academic topics such as spelling, art and geography. The quiz is divided up into rounds, with questions slowly becoming more challenging as contestants answer correctly. The rounds are ranked by grade level - first to fifth - with two questions in each round. 

With each question answered correctly, the contestant wins more money, making $500,000 by the time he or she has answered 10 questions. The contestant is then given the opportunity to take on an 11th question that if answered correctly raises the grand prize total to $1 million. Contestants receive a classmate, grade school participants who play alongside the adults and answer questions as well. Similar to other quiz programs such as "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?," the show provides contestants with three aids from their classmate to help them answer questions correctly.  

Of course, the show puts adults in a potentially embarrassing situation, but also highlights how much elementary knowledge we forget from our school days. Fox's recommitment to the program is perhaps partly due to the recent success of "Masterchef Junior," another kid​-friendly competitive show. Officials from the network have also hinted that while "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" will be holding on to aspects of the traditional game play, new elements will be added as well.

Simon Andreae, Fox reality chief, explained that the show, "shares so much DNA with the Fox brand that it feels only natural to return it to the schedule - it's smart, witty, irreverent and it turns the adult-child power dynamic upside-down ... All of the core components of the classic format will be there, but we are also adding new twists that make it fresher and more fun for viewers."

Jeff Foxworthy 
Host Jeff Foxworthy is a celebrity stand-up comedian, actor and radio personality, perhaps best known as a member of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Other members who join Foxworthy on stage when he performs on the comedy tour include Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and Ron White. Foxworthy has released numerous multi-platinum comedy albums as well as several books of jokes and an autobiography. When "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" originally aired in 2007, the comedian was already a TV personality, having previously played the lead on "The Jeff Foxworthy Show." The sitcom was based off of Foxworthy's stand-up persona, but only aired for one season. 

Foxworthy hosted "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?" until it was canceled in 2011. Now he is ready to reprise his role as humorous host and quiz master, while he continues to perform live tour dates throughout the country. Often recognized for his "You might be a redneck if ..." jokes, Foxworthy still performs stand up, and has upcoming shows in Atlanta, Las Vegas and North Carolina.

Behind the scenes at Burning Man

28. August 2014 10:31 by Julie Merar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

The mantra of the Burning Man festival, "leave no trace," seems a perfect explanation for the celebration's ephemeral deity. In Nevada's Black Rock Desert, a massive wooden effigy of a man is annually constructed and then set ablaze, erupting in flames that can be seen from miles away. The figure usually stands between 50 and 100 feet tall, symbolizing an artistic community that illuminates the barren landscape for a week, only to disappear. The city is erected and submerged every year, a kind of modern day Atlantis that reveals itself on the dried-up lake known as the Playa. The festival attracts everyone from environmental hippies to billionaire tech CEOs, and remarkably proves that those two types of people aren't so different. That's because Burning Man is based on the principles of artistry, self-expression, self-reliance, gifting, civil responsibility and radical inclusion. In this way, Burning Man creates a truly esoteric culture, one that is rebuilt differently from year to year, juxtaposing the ideas of free society and massive organization.

Make no mistake, Burning Man is not an impromptu party. The Burning Man organization plans the festival for months leading up to the event, working with law enforcement as well as the Department of Public Works. It should be no surprise then that there are medical professionals, police officers, federal law enforcement and DPW workers in attendance. This group of participants might confuse some who have only heard the Burning Man legend, but the truth is the festival could not exist without a dichotomy of government-style order and artistic freedom. In fact, the idea of not including these officials, or any person for that matter, goes against the ideology of the entire event. Yes, Burning Man is a unique week-long bacchanalia, but it is also a summit for people of all ilks to build a one-of-a-kind community. Needless to say, Burning Man takes a little preparation.

First consider the measures it takes to create the horseshoe-shaped city that surrounds the festival's namesake. Workers must scope out the desert months in advance to decide the exact location of the structure on the Playa, and then trace out how the community will be built around it. This is no small task, encouraging many DPW workers to rove the streets of the festival asking for beer and food in repayment for all their hard work, which is readily given due to the event's gifting nature. 

Tough conditions
Then take into account the challenges of the landscape. All those attending Burning Man are expected to come prepared for the arid heat and shadeless expanse of dessert. Officials recommend 1.5 gallons of water per day per person to safely stay hydrated in the 100-plus degree heat. Furthermore, the Playa has the ability to appear as an angered goddess, exhibiting unpredictable weather which can bring high winds, lightning and dust storms. These conditions task officials and volunteers with securing port-a-potties, cleaning up burn scars from bonfires on the Playa and ensuring trash does not get blown away in the wind, that way no trace of the festival is left behind. 

A hodgepodge of art
Artists partaking in the event face their own set of unique challenges. Sculptures and artwork must be transported to the Playa and then reconstructed. Artists have to find ways to provide electricity for much of their work, which can vary in size, structure and purpose. These art installations often takes months of planning to build, all to be revealed at the Burning Man festival. Much of the art is interactive, providing unforgettable, esoteric experiences for festivalgoers. Imagine glowing neon trees controlled by cellphones, pyrotechnic sculptures and interactive light shows linked to a participant's heartbeat. These brilliant displays then must be deconstructed at the end of the festival, leaving no trace that the technological wonders ever emblazoned the vacant land.

In more recent years, some critics have ironically cited the downfall of Burning Man due to the influx of elite members of the tech world. What most of these pundits don't seem to realize is that IT pros have been hiding in plain sight at Burning Man since the beginning. Moreover, not including these brilliant minds would take away from the concept of radical inclusivity. Frequent participants in Burning Man include Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are also known as regular Burning Man participants, having in the past donned full-body spandex suits to hide their identities. In many ways these techies make Burning Man possible, rigging up light structures, fixing electrical and tech problems, managing light shows for musical acts, participating in art displays and generally adding to the gifting culture of the event.  

The Burning Man festival is perhaps one of the world's most expansive and remarkable displays of human creation, collaboration and expression. Yet, the key to the existence of the event relies on a devoted following of staff and volunteers working to create order among chaos.

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