by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on March 16, 2007


Altar Boyz, the musical will convert even atheists during it’s 90 minute blitz on the stage with the great songs of Gary Adler and Michael Patrick Walker. You will hear tinges of ‘Boyzone’, ‘n’Sync’ and the ‘Backstreet Boys’. The difference with this group of great singers is that they bring the sound light years ahead from 1999.

O.K. they got me convinced – I now have decided to be a ‘Holy Roller’. One minute there is hip-hop and the next minute an angelic song. Hymns have never sounded this soulful. Altar Boyz tells the story of how the guys Mark, Luke, Juan and Abraham got together as a group. And what a story it is as told through the music with irreverent lyrics. Lyrics that are so sly and delicious that you just about fall out of your chair (or is it a pew?) — doubled up with laughter. Ryan J. Ratcliff plays Mark who comes out as a – A CATHOLIC. Jay Garcia as Juan gives a poignant performance with his search for his long lost parents. And when he sings – you’ll hold your breath and PRAY the song won’t end. Dare I say – it was a real revelation. Then there is the dancing. >>it’s pulsating, thrilling and dazzling. The Finale is a Triumph. Altar Boyz is downright intoxicating and uproariously delightful!

Ryan Strand as Abraham the Jew who is in a Christian Band is truly mesmerizing. Jesse JP Johnson is ‘smokin’ and Matthew Bruckner as Matthew is scorching! The Boyz are UNMISSABLE! It’s a thrill ride of Biblical proportions at the Orpheum Theatre.

RATING: FOUR CLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-

FOREVER BLONDE (dateline Hollywood)

Photo of Sunny Thompson in ‘Marilyn Forever Blonde’

Where else could the story be told but on a Hollywood stage just a few doors away from the Kodak Theatre where the Academy Awards took place. The story is the timeless and endlessly tragic tale of one of the world’s most fascinating women – Marilyn Monroe.

What makes this telling of the life of Marilyn is that it is told in her own words, based on extensive research. This time you really feel that Marilyn is up there on the stage. And you know what – you really believe that she is right there in front of you. It is a haunting image that Sunny Thompson creates. Every nuance, every eye blink, every gorgeous gown and her walk is Marilyn.

The story unfolds with words and music circa 1962. It starts with the click, click of studio cameras taking pictures of Marilyn at a photo shoot. She is on a bed covered only by a silky silvery sheet. The image and the lighting plus the clicking cameras all add up to tremendous sensuality. This is Marilyn that we are watching. Not someone pretending to be her – Thompson IS she. There are about sixteen songs in the show, sung by Thompson. Even her voice sounds exactly like Marilyn. When see sang “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” – it was truly remarkable. This is truly one of the greatest performances of the modern stage. Thompson has the same magnetic presence that Monroe had and is astounding in this role. The production is exemplary. The set is gorgeous with exquisite design elements.

The direction by Stephanie Shine is inspired. Jason Roberts designed the fab Sets. The Marilyn Costumes by Mimi Countryman and Alice Worthy give the show that million bucks look. The seductive lighting is by Woody Woodburn. The great musical Arrangements are by Scott Farrell. Kudos to Producer Greg Thompson for getting his project on the stage. They open soon at a huge theater. Keep your eye open for it in your city. This is Marilyn’s story like you’ve never seen it before. It’s absolutely amazing and beautiful. IN HOLLYWOOD AT THE STELLA ADLER THEATRE.

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (highest rating) –trademarked-
(Sunny Thompson is a recipient of the Lee Hartgrave FAME AWARD for best Acting.)



I was lucky enough to stay at the Santa Monica Loews, that is right on the beach and next to the fascinating and glamorous Santa Monica Pier with it dazzling lights on the Ferris Wheel and the Roller Coaster in the evening. Yes, I was very lucky because I was able to see the view from my corner room. It was an escape. A fantasyland for me in this walk able city. On third street just a couple of blocks away there is a section that is blocked off to traffic. It is just jammed with interesting stores, sidewalk cafes and full service restaurants. The city is a treasure trove of architectural and historical buildings. And the people are friendly.

And the Beach is eclectic. Near the pier are a lot of fun places for the whole family. “There is Big Dean’s ‘World famous’ Muscle Inn Café” right next to the “Sea Mist Skate and Bike Rentals”. One of my favorites is the Tastee Frozen Yogurt stand. I loved the Tastee Freeze half chocolate and half vanilla. Perfect for beach walking. Just about a block away from the Pier is the back entrance of the Loew’s. Even that entrance is Grand…with the waves of the Ocean just a stones throw away. The weather was perfect so I stayed outside as much as I could, just taking it easy for the trip to Hollywood to see “Forever Blonde”. There was one afternoon that is was a little overcast and that is when I took a stroll down to 3rd street to catch the pix “300”.

The Santa Monica Loew’s is sort of the dream hotel for me. When you enter the lobby you are immediately bowled over by the Row of the seven story Palm Trees in the Atrium. At any moment, I expected to see Aida with her soldiers marching to the Triumphant March. Beautiful beyond description. I did take a photo, just to let you know that I was really there. Also an extra thrill for the guests that weekend was that the Dallas Mavericks were staying at the Hotel. One little boy who heard the news in the Elevator lit up like a Xmas tree. He was so excited when someone said that they were down in the lounge area off of the Atrium. A couple of them lived on the floor where I was staying.

On the Sunday when I was leaving. I was just about to get into the car when a big gold bus pulled up and the entire team headed for the lobby. I had on gray fedora on my head and a sport coat. Now visualize this: These guys are huge…Maybe 6’8. I am 5.3’. So, this big guy who looked like a Redwood Tree, who had a little goatee gave me a look as he approached me that said: >>that looks like a little basketball that I could pick up and dribble into the lobby << Naw – he didn’t say that, but he looked like he could be thinking it. Mostly – I was on my own during my too short of a vacation. So – I will call this trip “PARTY OF ONE” – but what a wonderful party it was. Why go to the Caribbean when you can stay on the beach at the Santa Monica Lowes. ‘300’ IDENTITY CRISIS (Dateline: Santa Monica) THE MOVIE HAS GROSSED OVER $70 MIL, SO FAR. Not bad for a movie that some have labeled a ‘soft core’ gay porn flick. Don Fanaras, of the Association for Same-Sex Soft Core said this: “With the success of ‘300,’ soft core gay porn has finally thrust itself into mainstream.” I saw the movie. It’s great to look at. The colors are really vivid. So vivid that it actually hurt my eyes. The audience was mostly males around the ages of 17 to 19 years. I probably was the oldest person in the theater. The pix is about a group of 300 Spartan Warriors. Legend has it that these 300 hunky guys were able to fight off hundreds of thousands of Persian invaders at the Battle of Thermoplac in 480 B.C. Full of violence the men who wear diaper kind of briefs and capes and nothing else, go to battle holding a shield and a sword. Their bare chests glisten in the sun. Here is what the director Zack Snyder told “Dateline Hollywood.” “I spent years unsuccessfully trying to sell the major studios on financing a movie about oiled, muscular hairless men wearing briefs. But then I found out there was a gay soft-core graphic novel by Frank Miller that I could adapt and the movie sold in no time. I think everyone in the homosexual soft core community owes Frank Miller a huge debt of gratitude.” For my taste the movie is too violent. Plus the fact the hoards of Persians on the battlefield were mostly digitized. You only see faces in the first few flanks of men. However, there is enough testosterone in the movie to give some to the baseball players (who are not in the movie.) Also some of the men’s abs (the six pack) was digitized. So what you get is a kind of a comic book look to the actors. They are almost human, but not quite. “The director has also admitted that he did do some enhancement. “When you’ve got a bunch of English Actors – you have to do something to beef them up. They are not as vain as American’s and need help to get that buffed look,” He said. The director also told Dateline Hollywood this: We always throw in a ‘hot chick” (King Leonardus’s Queen) so that the guys can convince themselves she’s the reason they got an erection and continue with the fantasy that they are $100% heterosexual.” I’m not sure that I go that far with describing the movie. It is somewhat homoerotic. And there is no doubt that the men seem to want to be next to other dirty, smelly bodies. That is what a ‘buddy’ movie is all about. Its not that much different than a football team. So, if you like ‘Football” – you will probably love ‘300’. Oh, and one more thing. They say the Iranians (who used to be Persians) are upset about how the Persians are portrayed. Why? …Just because their King is all dolled up in some kind of drag, and has enough Jewelry on his body to sink the Titanic? Get over it! Its B.C for cryin-out-loud. They didn’t know a King from a Queen. How much you wanna bet that the Iranians already are watching hundreds of bootleg copies? Homo or not – the flick is making tons of money. It is sexy. The colors are unbelievably brilliant. Almost blinding in intensity. RATING: THREE BOXES OF POPCORN!!! And a hanky, in case you >> you know. – trademarked –



Hi Lee,
From your recent column: << –Sonny Daye.

Dear Sonny Daye:

I purposely put in Avalon instead of Valli to see if you were paying attention. (Just Kidding). Your letter was one of many telling me about the error. How it happened I don’t know. Maybe Frankie Avalon was channeling me at the time. I saw ‘Jersey Boys’ and am aware that it is all about Frankie Valli. The error has been corrected on “The Blog”. Thanks and do keep me sorted out. –Lee

The Photo of Lee Hartgrave Boy Reporter is by Jim Ferreira – Film Noir & Hollywood Glamour.



Podcasts, blogs, vblogs:


Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

More Posts

Filed under: Arts & Entertainment

Translate »