Monthly Archive for December, 2009

Comedy Showtime: The Comedy of Musician Steve Moris

Comedy Showtime: The Comedy of Musician Steve Moris (12/31/09) Explorer’s Lounge, Sapphire Princess (2009 **1/2) According to the brief video montage before the show, Moris used to perform rhythm guitar with The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and other musical acts. Like Scott Harris, who we’d seen a few nights before, Moris is in his mid-fifties which, if you think about it, is probably a good age for a comedian performing aboard a cruise ship. While Moris was likable enough, his “funny lyrics” / guitar-based surfer dude comedy wasn’t nearly as sharp or funny as the other two funnymen on board.

Ray Coussins

Ray Coussins (12/29/09) Crooner’s Lounge, Sapphire Princess (2009 ***) Coussins played with (and for) Frank Sinatra for 32 years. At one point he lived in Sinatra’s house and performed a role similar to that of a live-in chauffer, but with a piano instead of a car. He began his set by explaining that he’d been sick for several days and that he would be taking “requests” later. He then told a story about playing the theme from Phantom of the Opera for Andrew Lloyd Webber at a dinner party, which was a segue for telling how Princess had received a letter on behalf of Webber that forbade the playing of any of his music onboard their ships. His first number was a tribute to Sinatra in which he played “My Way” intermixed with the theme from The Godfather. Other songs included “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin and John Barry’s theme from Somewhere in Time. Coussins then played Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which we’d already heard at the Christmas Variety Show but it was a pleasure to hear it again. He closed his set with Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” and “Piano Man,” the latter of which was a strange choice. While he did a fine, sincere rendition, my mind drifted toward a book on Postmodernism I’ve been reading. It seemed so self-reflective, a true old-school “piano man” playing that song. The situation virtually dripped with irony, and I worried that if I thought about it too much my mind would get sucked into some kind of endless irony feedback loop.

Dialogue

Dialogue (12/28/09) Nonfiction (1989 **1/2) Written by Lewis Turco, part of the “Elements of Fiction Writing” series. Turco took the unusual approach to writing a book about dialogue by presenting the entire text in the form of a dialogue between the author and a fictional character named Fred Foyle. It was a slightly gimmicky approach to the subject, and it’s probably not the approach I would have preferred. The book, only 114 pages not including the index, was a short read, and when I got to the end I’m afraid I hadn’t learned much, if anything.

Comedy Showtime: Scott Harris

Comedy Showtime: Scott Harris (12/27/09) Explorer’s Lounge, Sapphire Princess (2009 ***) Harris is a 55-year-old Canadian and his comic delivery was crisp and professional. He was new to the cruise ship circuit, having been aboard only a few weeks. His set consisted of a lot of jokes about upper middle age, something much of his audience could appreciate, and a lot of his jokes followed a “when we were kids we didn’t wear bicycle helmets” thread. The energy of his act was augmented by the presence in the front row of a 6′ 2″ former marine with the unlikely first name of Hazel.

Christmas Variety Show

Christmas Variety Show (12/25/09) Princess Theater, Sapphire Princess (2009 ***1/4) This was a special Christmas program that was a smorgasbord of other shows. It was emceed by comedian Scott Harris and featured comic/juggler Dan Bennett, with songs by Sapphire Princess singers Bruce Smith and Tracy Dawdy. The high point of the show was undoubtedly Ray Coussins playing Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

I Got the Music

I Got the Music (12/24/09) Princess Theater, Sapphire Princess (2009 **1/2) Musical revue, featuring Bruce Smith, Anthony McQuirter, Tracy Dawdy and Carola Eriksson with music provided by Doug Tan and the Sapphire Princess Orchestra. While the focus of Do You Wanna Dance was fancy footwork and the focus of Piano Man was artists best known for their ivory-tinkling, I Got the Music focused on a prescribed set of vocalists (male and female), including Carole King, Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand. The show was good, though not particularly memorable.

The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century

The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century (12/24/09) Short Fiction (2005 ***) Edited by Harry Turtledove with Martin H. Greenberg. As the particularly astute amongst you might conclude from the descriptive title, this anthology was comprised of time-travel themed stories originally written between 1941 (Theodore Sturgeon’s “Yesterday Was Monday”) and 1994 (Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea”). The most famous story was probably Ray Bradbury’s renowned 1952 dinosaur-hunting causality piece “A Sound of Thunder.” I’ve always had an inexplicable affinity for time travel stories, and so this book was a natural choice. As I’ve gotten older and more cynical, I’ve come to recognize that the word “best” in the title of any anthology is usually pretty subjective and far more likely to be determined by licensing availability than by an independent panel of objective judges. As with any short story collection, I was more affected by some stories than others, though it was nice to read a cross-section of thematically-linked literary styles written across several decades.

Do You Wanna Dance

Do You Wanna Dance (12/23/09) Princess Theater, Sapphire Princess (2009 ***) Dance-focused musical revue. You may find this hard to believe, but this is actually the third time I’ve seen this show. What makes it especially crazy is that I didn’t realize the second and third times that I’d seen it previously. Had we not been traveling with my wife’s 86-year-old grandmother, my wife and I would have bailed. The show included a number of dances and styles from around the world, including Latin, East Asian, and American. The show ended with what could best be described as “Star Trek Meets Riverdance.” The dancing itself was generally solid and the dancers on the Sapphire were generally superior to those on the Coral Princess, where we’d seen the show twice previously.

Variety Showtime: Dan Bennett

Variety Showtime: Dan Bennett (12/22/09) Princess Theater, Sapphire Princess (2009 ***1/4) Dan Bennett is a juggler/comedian, though some would consider him a comedian/juggler. He has performed on cruise ships for nearly two decades, and I can see why he’s a favorite. Early in his act he called attention to his name as a kind of mock-curse one would utter when hammering a thumb or stubbing a toe. (“Dan Bennett!”) Throughout his act, whenever he’d drop balls, pins, rings or other juggling objects he would shout out his name in what I thought was a rather clever act of brand-recognition. Much of his verbal material was nicely geek-intellectual, which naturally appealed to me. I only wish I’d heard more of it, as he tended to mumble a bit. Several days after seeing him on-stage, I was walking the Promenade deck and saw him walking the other direction. He was unshaven and looked a bit sad, immediately suggesting a possible title for his next project: “Dan Bennett, Suicide Risk.”

A Time to Kill

A Time to Kill (12/21/09) Novel (1989 ***) Written by John Grisham. Set in the deep south, young lawyer Jake Brigance must defend a black man who takes the law into his own hands after his 10-year-old daughter is brutally raped by two rednecks. Sometime in the early 1990’s I read and enjoyed lawyer-turned-writer Grisham’s The Firm, though its main effect was to temporarily turn me into an workaholic. A Time to Kill was Grisham’s first novel, and I generally found it to be a good, if imperfect book. If nothing else, his fluid writing kept me reading all 500+ pages.