Taylor Swift donates $50K to NYC Public Schools

2. March 2015 10:45 by Julie Merar in General  //  Tags:   //   Comments ()

Taylor Swift's 1989, her first foray strictly into pop music, has proven that she has unfathomable crossover appeal. The country artist turned pop icon's album, named after the year in which she was born, sold more than 4 million units in the U.S. alone in its first 12 weeks and more than 6 million copies total worldwide. 1989 kicks off with an upbeat track titled "Welcome to New York," perhaps in reference to Swift's move to the city in 2014. In honor of her new hometown, Swift has announced recurring donations to NYC Public Schools stemming from sales of the song, and began with a $50,000 donation in late February 2015. 

New York's Welcome Ambassador 
Swift originally promised to donate proceeds from the single to her new home's school system back in October 2014 on "The View." That same month, Swift was named the NYC & Company's global "Welcome Ambassador," and began her duties by making a number of promotional videos for the Big Apple. Though she initially caught some flack on social media for the size of her donation, NYC officials were quick to clarify that Swift would be making regular donations on a continuing basis. 

Devora Kaye, NYC's Department of Education press secretary told Entertainment Weekly, "We're deeply appreciative of this kind gesture to donate her proceeds of the single 'Welcome to New York' to benefit NYC public schools." 

A spokeswoman for the artist also ensured EW that "this is not a one-time donation." According to Time, Swift held an event with students from NYC public schools in fall 2014 and is often recognized for her philanthropic efforts. 

As welcome ambassador to the city that never sleeps, Swift's promotional videos have included praise for the quality of NYC's coffee and lattes and definitions of vocabulary specific to the city. Though Swift has not lived in the city long, her ongoing donations to the school system and marketing heft are a sure sign that she can make a positive impact on her new home. The artist currently resides in a penthouse apartment in Tribeca. 

For the majority of 2015, Swift is scheduled to be performing on her "1989 World Tour" with support from Vance Joy, Haim and Shawn Mendes.  The tour will take the artist across stadiums and arenas in the U.S. and Europe, before she closes out the year with a handful of shows in Australia.

'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.

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