‘Jersey Boys’: (Psst! It’s a play) A sexy, cool, award-winning musical

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‘Jersey Boys’: (Psst! It’s a play) A sexy, cool, award-winning musical

Posted on: March 23rd, 2014 by tommyj

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Certain musicals draw theatergoers who aren’t looking for something new but for something they already know they love. They want to enjoy it once more, live and in person.

“Jersey Boys,” which comes to Columbia for a multi-show run beginning Tuesday at the Koger Center, is the latest big show to make fans come back time and again. Of course, memories were part of its appeal from the start. A lot of people who turn out for the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons arrive at the theater knowing the songs by heart.

Packed with hits including “Walk Like a Man,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “Jersey Boys” could almost work as a concert. But it’s not a concert. It’s a full-scale, Tony-winning musical. That means in addition to a can’t-miss score, striking costumes, special lighting effects and, obviously, dances are essential.

Enter Sergio Trujillo.

The choreographer remembers the show’s early days in LaJolla, Calif., before it went on to Broadway (and four 2006 Tony Awards, including best musical). “I did a lot of research,” he said. “I had already done (the London stage musical) ‘Peggy Sue Got Married,’ so I had the dance vocabulary of the period.

“‘Jersey Boys’ had to look sexy and cool, but not presentational. The audience has to buy into it until they think they really are seeing boys from New Jersey. So the dances are simple, but very effective. I wanted it to feel as uncomplicated as the chorus to a song.”

Born in Colombia, Trujillo moved with his family to Toronto when he was a boy. “Dance is part of my makeup,” he says now, but he didn’t pursue it until he was a 19-year-old chiropractic student. “I decided to take a sabbatical,” he said. “I went to New York.”

With little training and no experience, he was nevertheless cast in “Jerome Robbins’ Broadway.” It was the start of a decade of dancing in Broadway shows, culminating with “Fosse.” “I only danced for 10 years, but they were phenomenal years,” he said. “From Jerome Robbins to Bob Fosse – I had great bookends.”

And a great future. By 2010, four shows that he choreographed were playing on Broadway simultaneously: “Jersey Boys,” plus “The Addams Family,” “Next to Normal” and “Memphis.” But those shows look and move so differently from each other, you couldn’t make the Trujillo connection just by watching them.

That’s not an accident. The choreographer takes pains to give each show its own distinctive style, true to the characters and situations (rather than to the artist behind the dances). His creative approach varies, too. A few examples:

“Guys and Dolls,” 2009 revival:” I went back and read all the Damon Runyon stories (that inspired the Frank Loesser show). Des (McAnuff, who also directed “Jersey Boys”) and I decided to reach into the source material.

“After I read them, I went into the studio and created a vocabulary. I put on ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ and other famous songs of the swing area. I let them make me move.”

“Next to Normal,” 2009, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in drama: “I was attracted to the material (about a family dealing with mental illness), and I am a big fan of the composer, Tom Kitt. I wanted to work with him and his team.

“The choreography really needed to be character-driven, and I had to create a framework for each member of the family. My favorite number is ‘Alive,’ when the son is on the scaffolding. It looked as though he were going right through the walls in the house. It was meteoric.”

“Memphis,” 2010, winner of the Tony for best musical: “That was thrilling because it’s a real dance show. It has a more soulful vocabulary, which is part of who I am. You have to make sure that you land the idea that the hero (a white DJ in the 1950s who plays black artists) loves this music right away. That’s the opening scene and you have to land it as soon as he comes into that nightclub.”

“The Addams Family,” 2010: “I reacted to the material, to the cartoons. At first I wanted to create a dance vocabulary that was very, very strange.

“But it didn’t work. I had to make sure I did not stray too far from the characters in the TV show and the movies. I wanted the dancing to fit those characters, the characters the audience already knows.”

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India Toilets for the Future

— Who would have expected a toilet to one day filter water, charge a cellphone or create charcoal to combat climate change?

These are lofty ambitions beyond what most of the world’s 2.5 billion people with no access to modern sanitation would expect. Yet, scientists and toilet innovators around the world say these are exactly the sort of goals needed to improve global public health amid challenges such as poverty, water scarcity and urban growth.

Scientists who accepted the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s challenge to reinvent the toilet showcased their inventions in the Indian capital Saturday. The primary goal: to sanitize waste, use minimal water or electricity, and produce a usable product at low cost.

The World Bank estimates the annual global cost of poor sanitation at $260 billion, including loss of life, missed work, medical bills and other related factors. India alone accounts for $54 billion – more than the entire GDP of Kenya or Costa Rica.

India is by far the worst culprit, with more than 640 million people defecating in the open and producing a stunning 72,000 tons of human waste each day – the equivalent weight of almost 10 Eiffel Towers or 1,800 humpback whales.

Pooping in public is so acceptable that many Indians will do it on sidewalks or in open fields. Gaze out the window of any Indian train and face a line of bare bottoms doing their business on the tracks. Meanwhile, diarrheal diseases kill 700,000 children every year, most of which could have been prevented with better sanitation.

"In the West, such things are a nuisance, but people don’t lose their lives," said Christopher Elias, president of global development at the Gates Foundation. "People don’t immediately realize the damage done by infections coming from human waste."

India has been encouraging rural communities to build toilets, and last year launched a $1.6 billion program to help. But building sanitation systems in developing countries is not easy. Flush toilets are not always an option. Many poor communities live in water-stressed areas. Others lack links to sewage pipes or treatment plants.

To be successful, scientists said, the designs being exhibited at Saturday’s Toilet Fair had to go beyond treating urine and feces as undesirable waste, and recognize them as profit-generating resources for electricity, fertilizer or fuel.

"Traditionally, people have gone into communities and said, ‘Let’s dig you a pit.’ That’s seen as condescension, a token that isn’t very helpful. After all, who is going to clean that pit?" said M. Sohail, professor of sustainable infrastructure at Loughborough University in the U.K.

The designs are mostly funded by Gates Foundation grants and in various stages of development, though others not created as part of the Gates challenge were also exhibiting on Saturday.

Some toilets collapsed neatly for easy portability into music festivals, disaster zones or illegal slums. One emptied into pits populated by waste-munching cockroaches and worms.

One Washington-based company, Janicki Industries, designed a power plant that could feed off the waste from a small city to produce 150 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power thousands of homes.

The University of the West of England, Bristol, showcased a urine-powered fuel cell to charge cellphones overnight.

Another team from the University of Colorado, Boulder, brought a system concentrating solar power through fiber optic cables to heat waste to about 300 degrees Celsius. Aside from killing pathogens, the process creates a charcoal-like product called biochar useful as cooking fuel or fertilizer.

"At the core are really interesting scientific principles, so translating this into scientific advances that people can relate to is really exciting," said one of the project leaders, Karl Linden, professor of environmental engineering in Boulder. "Biochar is an important subject for scientists at the moment, since it can be used to sequester carbon in the soil for 1,000 years or more."

A team from Beijing Sunnybreeze Technologies Inc. also brought a solar-biochar system, but with the solar panels heating air that will dry sludgy human waste into nuggets that are then heated further under low-oxygen conditions to create biochar.

"We are trying to build a system simple enough to be fixed in the village," technical adviser John Keating said.

One company from the southern Indian state of Kerala was not as concerned with providing toilets as with cleaning them. Toilets are more common in Kerala than they are in much of the country, but no one wants to clean them, said Bincy Baby of Eram Scientific Solutions.

"There is a stigma. The lowest of the low are the ones who clean the toilets," Baby said. Eram’s solution is a coin-operated eToilet with an electronic system that triggers an automated, self-cleaning mechanism. With 450 prototypes now looped into sewage systems across India, electrical engineers are lining up for jobs as toilet technicians. "Now, they’re proud of their jobs."

People Gregg Allman

— Bronchitis has sidelined Gregg Allman for at least two dates of the Allman Brothers Band’s annual shows at the Beacon Theatre, but his rep says the musician hopes to return to the stage in a few days.

Allman was forced to sit out shows Friday and Saturday. Michael Lehman says Allman is under a doctor’s care and is doing better and intends to return for the group’s final four shows over the next week.

Lehman says the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had been feeling fine up until the illness; the 66-year-old has had health issues in the past, including a 2010 liver transplant.

The band is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Its annual run at the Beacon started March 7 and wraps up March 29.


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— A 12-year-old girl with a rare case of medically induced obesity that pushed her weight past 200 pounds is recovering after weight-loss surgery.

Alexis Shapiro, from Cibolo, Texas, was sedated and on a ventilator late Friday after undergoing weight-loss surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, NBC News reported. A message left by The Associated Press at the hospital Saturday seeking an update on her condition wasn’t immediately returned.

The 4-foot-7-inch girl was stable and comfortable after the surgery but expected to remain in the intensive care unit at least through the weekend, Dr. Thomas Inge said Friday. Doctors expect Alexis to lose weight and resolve many health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and pulmonary issues.

The condition arose two years ago after brain surgery to remove a tumor damaged her pituitary gland and part of the brain that signals hunger, WCPO-TV in Cincinnati reported. The condition called hypothalamic obesity also inhibits Alexis’ ability to produce adrenaline, limiting her energy so she can’t burn off the extra calories, the station reported.

Doctors had planned to perform a gastric bypass operation and procedure to cut part of her vagus nerve, but they had to change their plan because her liver was bigger and fattier than anticipated. They switched to a sleeve gastrectomy to remove up to 80 percent of her stomach.

Inge said the change of plans wasn’t a medical complication but rather a clinical decision.

Shapiro’s mother, Jenny Shapiro, told NBC News in an email Friday that she and her husband, Ian Shapiro, are fine with the change.

"And it was what’s best for her," she wrote.

Inge said doctors will wait to see how Alexis responds to the surgery before deciding whether to go ahead with the gastric bypass and vagus nerve operations.

"I think she will have a new normal," Inge said. "The new normal for her will be at a healthier weight perhaps with less damaging conditions."

Shapiro was expected to remain hospitalized for about a week and could return to Texas in two weeks, NBC News reported.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share
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newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day,
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— Gavin was the best big brother 4-month-old Mia could want — but not because he’ll one day help her with homework or give her advice about boys. In fact, she’ll never meet him.

Gavin was stillborn in September 2012, 29 weeks into Priscilla Cervoni’s pregnancy. An autopsy revealed he suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes the heart to weaken and enlarge.

Nearly a year later, Cervoni was 29 weeks pregnant with Mia when she went in for an ultrasound. Keenly aware of Gavin’s fate and the tendency for cardiomyopathy to be genetic, Cervoni’s doctors had been watching the pregnancy closely. During the ultrasound, the technician asked the doctor to look at something on the black-and-white screen.

"The tech said ‘come here’ and the instant she said it, I knew. I looked at my husband and I started crying," said Cervoni, 34, of Clearwater. "I thought, ‘Oh no, I cannot go through this again, I cannot bury another child.’ "

Mia’s heart looked "thick" on the ultrasound. Doctors confirmed that like Gavin, she had dilated cardiomyopathy. Mia was given drugs in utero to regulate her heartbeat and help her survive the pregnancy.

She responded so well to the drugs that doctors let the newborn go home, hoping her condition would improve. Six weeks later, though, she was admitted to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where she’s been ever since. At only 4 months old, Mia needs a new heart.

Cardiomyopathy is a general term that describes weakening of the heart caused by the muscle becoming large, thick or rigid. Dilated cardiomyopathy, said Dr. Alfred Asante-Korang, Mia’s cardiologist, is when one of the ventricles — the left, in Mia’s case — becomes enlarged. Mia’s heart is two and a half times bigger than it should be — the size of a healthy 6-year-old’s.

The condition is rare: Asante-Korang said about one out of every 1,000 babies is born with it. It can be genetic or caused by an infection.

Cervoni and her husband, Kevin, underwent testing to determine whether they carry a genetic abnormality that could cause the condition. The tests came back negative, but Asante-Korang isn’t convinced. Doctors have identified about 90 genes associated with the problem, but more may yet be discovered.

"I think it’s genetic," the doctor said. "Look at how uncommon the condition is, and to have two babies with the condition, usually that’s genetic. We just don’t know the gene yet."

Mia’s big brown eyes are what people notice first. She’s very expressive with her eyes, her mother said, because all Mia can see of other people is their eyes above the masks they must wear to protect her from germs.

Mia has an older sister, Kylie, 5, who is healthy and excited about having a sibling in the family.

"She’s been waiting to be a big sister for a long time," Cervoni said. "She was very excited about having her brother, and he didn’t come home."

Kylie plays with Mia in the hospital room, jumping around while Mia laughs. They watch TV together.

"Kylie totally gets that Mia needs a new heart," Cervoni said. "She knows that Mia’s heart is broken and that she needs a new one so that she doesn’t have to go to heaven."

Cervoni lives a split existence — with Mia at the hospital during the day, with Kylie at home at night. She’s on leave from her job in billing at a medical consulting company until she can return. But her husband was furloughed from railroad giant CSX in December, just two weeks before Mia was placed on the transplant list.

The family receives health insurance through CSX for now and will be covered under the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare, when CSX’s coverage expires. The family also will be eligible for Medicaid to help pay for the operation.

However, the insurance can do little to defray the secondary costs of the surgery, such as lost income and a lifetime of doctor copays and drugs for Mia.

Kevin picked up some shifts at Home Depot to help, but the family also started a donation fund with a nonprofit based in Indiana, the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.

Donation checks can be made out to COTA, with "In honor of Team Mia C" in the memo line, and mailed to the association at 2501 W COTA Drive, Bloomington, Ind., 47403. Or visit the website COTAforTeamMiaC.com.

The family’s goal is to raise $50,000. They are at about $39,000 now, mostly because of generous donations from their church and Mia’s maternal grandfather’s company.

Cervoni said her family has always helped others, and "to now be on the flip side of it is very humbling."

Statistics from the United Network of Organ Sharing, the organization that manages transplant wait lists, shows that from 2009 to 2011, 69.9 percent of children up to age 18 received hearts within 90 days of being listed. But the data from 2012 and 2013 indicated the median wait time for a heart for children under 1 year old was 111 days.

Mia was listed on Jan. 3. There are 53 infants under 1 year old awaiting hearts across the country; nine are in Florida.

For now, Mia is doing well. She smiles, laughs and eats. Eating is important, because a key sign of heart failure in infants is loss of appetite. But Mia’s relatively good health may mean she’ll have to wait longer for a heart.

The scariest thing, Cervoni said, is knowing they may have to watch Mia get sicker while they wait. But even harder is thinking about the pain another family will have to endure.

"My husband and I buried a child already, and another family has to do the same to save Mia’s life," she said.

Even with a new heart, Mia will be on immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life. And because she’ll be getting the transplant so young, she will likely need another heart in her late teens or 20s, and perhaps another transplant in her 30s.

But she has a chance to live, thanks to her older brother Gavin and the autopsy the family decided to get when he was stillborn.

A Christian woman, Cervoni said that for a long time, she didn’t know what purpose Gavin’s death served.

"Now, looking back, I do have a reason," she said. "If what happened to Gavin hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have Mia. We would have never known to even look for that diagnosis in Mia."

— A man accused of firing a gun as he tried to make off with costumes and props used by Thunder From Down Under male performers in Las Vegas denies the allegations against him.

In jailhouse interviews Friday with KLAS-TV and the Las Vegas Sun, Joey Kadmiri said he suffers from mental-health and drug problems and needs outpatient therapy.

"I hope that I can get past this and get the proper mental help on the outside, outpatient, and be a good person again with my family and have everything being back to being normal. That is all I want in my life," he said.

Kadmiri, 24, said he’s convinced all police are out to get him and he believes everyone is an officer when his hallucinations intensify. That’s why he refused to go to court Friday for his arraignment on felony attempted murder, armed robbery, burglary and weapon charges, he said.

"I have these hallucinations that I’m running away from somebody, and I ended up backstage somehow," he said, adding he was on methamphetamines that night.

Terrified that someone wanted him dead, Kadmiri decided to use the show’s costumes as a disguise, he said.

"I didn’t try to hurt anyone. I know myself," Kadmiri said. "I was just trying to protect myself and be safe."

The judge reset his hearing for Monday.

No one was seriously wounded in the incident Tuesday at the Excalibur Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip.

A member of the Australia-themed men’s dance revue was treated at the scene for minor facial injuries, and Kadmiri was hospitalized overnight with a black eye and other minor injuries after being subdued by several heavily muscled male dancers.

Witnesses told police that Kadmiri pointed a gun at one show member’s head before another cast member jostled the suspect’s hand and the shot hit a wall.

Kadmiri had been confronted by the show director and others as he tried to take a suitcase with show props and clothes, police said.

He remained Saturday at the Clark County jail, where he was being held without bail.

— An elderly driver escaped serious injury when her car was struck by a New Jersey Transit train in central Jersey.

NJ Transit says the accident involving a northbound North Jersey Coast Line train occurred around 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the White Road railroad crossing in Little Silver.

A vehicle driven by an 86-year-old woman was going over a crossing when the gates came down. She wasn’t seriously hurt, but was taken to a hospital for observation.

Further details on her condition were not disclosed, and her name wasn’t released.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.

The train did not sustain any substantial damage, but service on the North Jersey Coast Line between Long Branch and Red Bank was suspended for about an hour after the accident.

— A social worker fired by the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center for allegedly having sex with a client has admitted to the wrongdoing and has been stripped of her license, The Roseburg News-Review reported.

Jamie Carlson, 32, surrendered her license earlier this month. She will be barred from practicing social work in the state for at least three years.

"Sometimes people make a stupid choice," she told the newspaper (http://bit.ly/OG6pPI ). Carlson denied any improper behavior with the veteran throughout the investigation, which she called "a witch hunt." Carlson accused VA officials of discriminating against her because she is young, a woman and Pakistani American.

The order from the Oregon Board of Licensed Social Workers also sanctions Carlson for socializing with five clients and fines her $15,000 for those ethical violations. Two-thirds of the fine will be suspended if Carlson complies with the terms of the order.

Carlson admitted she had an intimate relationship with a man who attended 19 group sessions she led at the VA between 2007 and 2011 for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. She told investigators the relationship began in 2011, after the last session he attended.

Carlson said the man twice asked her to marry him, but she turned him down.

State ethics rules forbid social workers from entering into a relationship with a client within three years of counseling.

The VA barred Carlson from counseling patients as it investigated her case between August 2012 and November 2013, when her dismissal was made final. During that time, Carlson remained on the payroll and collected her $65,000 annual salary.

Carlson was employed by Roseburg VA Medical Center for six years. During the investigation, many of the veterans she counseled for post-traumatic stress disorder rallied to her defense.

One of those patients, Bud Bessey of Myrtle Creek, expressed shock and disappointment after hearing Carlson had admitted to having a sexual relationship with a client.

"In all honesty, I don’t know what to say. I thought everything she told me was true. I’m surprised it happened that way," Bessey said.

Still, Bessey said Carlson helped him with his PTSD.

VA officials declined to comment on the case.

Carlson said she plans to pursue an appeal through the federal Merit Systems Protection Board and added that the VA violated her due-process rights and its own policies in handling her case.

Information from: The News-Review, http://www.nrtoday.com

— A new City Council member has proposed an ordinance that would require nearly every music-oriented venue in Minneapolis to make earplugs available to patrons for free, after a trio of local companies pushed the idea as a public health issue.

The ordinance proposed by Jacob Frey is a first of its kind, and would affect about 185 businesses, the Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1f3LlZB ).

"Going to one of these venues, a lot of people just don’t know about hearing loss," said Brian Felsen, whose apparel company, Locally Grown, Globally Known, is working with the Miracle-Ear Foundation and 3M to coordinate and fund the campaign. The earplugs would be provided for free to the city and venues to give out.

The proposal is scheduled for a public hearing April 1.

San Francisco has an ordinance requiring venues with dance floors to carry water and earplugs. But the clubs can charge for the earplugs. Felsen’s plan would offer free 3M earplugs in dispensers — a model he hopes to take to other cities.

Attorney Cam Winton, who ran as an independent for mayor this fall, said the government shouldn’t mandate something because it’s a good idea. He said there is a role in society for personal responsibility.

Winton also was concerned that the ordinance would require businesses to carry one company’s product.

"That’s not how we do business in this country," he said.

The club industry seems to be taking it in stride for now, since the earplugs would be free.

"My position would be that if the government can provide a tool for us to do good or to provide safety and comfort for our customers, I’m all supportive of doing the right thing because it’s at no cost so it’s a no-brainer," said Deepak Nath, co-owner of the Pourhouse on Hennepin Avenue.

Bert Schlauch, a hearing expert at the University of Minnesota, said concerts, work-related noise and guns are the primary causes of noise-induced hearing loss.

Jenni Hargraves, executive director of the Miracle-Ear Foundation, said the average noise level at a concert is 115 decibels, but damage can occur after 15 minutes of exposure to 100 decibels. She said damage often occurs gradually, but "you can have hearing loss after a one-time exposure to something" extremely loud.

— Gov. Dannel Malloy says his administration is awarding grants worth $9 million to help Connecticut’s nursing home industry diversify services to meet the changing needs of older residents and people with disabilities.

Malloy says the grants are part of an initiative designed to expand options for long-term services for people who can live safely in their homes, instead of an institution.

The governor says the state’s "Strategic Plan to Rebalance Long-term Services and Supports" involves several strategies. They include helping skilled nursing facilities adapt to the growing demand for greater choice about where and how Connecticut residents receive care.

The grants announced Friday represent first-time funding for the initiative. The money will benefit programs based in central Connecticut, New Haven, Torrington, Meriden, West Hartford and Fairfield.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share
information, experiences and observations about what’s in the news.
Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the
newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day,
and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal
comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time
to offer your thoughts.

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