Sunday, November 01, 2015

Peanuts Gang Goes Jaded in Belmont Student Production of "Charlie Brown"

Lucy is a flask-swilling drunk who blows chunks. Snoopy peddles a publication about the homeless while brown-bagging his Muscatel. Sally is an air-headed bimbo in a push-up bra. Linus's security blanket is a pack of Marlboros.

That what it's like in the alternative world of Belmont University Student Theatre's weekend production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, the now nearly 50-year-old musical based on the late Charles M. Schulz' classic comic strip Peanuts.

This is a totally student-driven production, performed and directed by a platoon of ambitious and talented college kids, which Belmont continues to produce like the fruit growing on so many Florida orange trees. In fact, there's so much talent in Belmont's music, dance and theater programs that there aren't enough campus productions to accommodate their theatrical urges. Hence, BUST, endorsed by faculty and staff, and, in this case, performing at Bongo After Hours Theatre, across the street from the school and its excellent but apparently overbooked venues.

In at least one way, the BUST kids are taking a liberty with Schulz that's echoed in the new Peanuts Movie that releases this week: Offering us the physical embodiment of the Little Red-Haired Girl, hapless leading man Charlie Brown's perennial crush. Purists will see this as a huge transgression, and it is reasonably certain that deceased creator Schulz will be turning in his grave when the film opens.

Here, LRHG's a fairly quiet presence—mainly because she does not appear in the actual script, so her modest activity has to be trumped up. But that doesn't stop the BUST creative team from taking other huge liberties with the material, performed in arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library. The imposed setup deletes the childhood world of Schulz and—in the spirit of Dog Sees God, Bert V. Royal's 2004 spoof that turns the Peanuts gang into troubled teens—recasts them as young professional office workers, poised at their (school)desks, staring at their iPads and dealing with their own brand of dysfunction.

This new universe does not stop anyone from singing the enduring songs, of course, most written by Clark Gesner in 1967, others added in a 1999 Broadway revival. Hard to believe, the program credits none of the original creators. Chalk it up to youthful oversight.

As for Charlie Brown, he's still a lovable sad sack, though his "Kite Song" is somehow transformed into an ode to marijuana. (Flying high. Get it?) Some numbers, like Snoopy's "The Red Baron," are well-played but are absent context (and perhaps simply dated). This happens also with "The Book Report," a rousing and fairly textured company number that makes no sense if we're inside the corporate offices of this reimagined world. Yet it works, as the kids just burst into song as necessary and we find ourselves simply going with the flow. (Among the other great numbers is the memorable "Suppertime," Snoopy's celebration of food, in this case, a McDonald's cheeseburger.)  

From the title song opener to the still poignant closer "Happiness," we experience a lot of wonderful music, including even a cagey but brief little snippet of Vince Guaraldi as excerpted from the 1965 TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas. Credit music director Corwin Davis with keeping it all together with his seven student players, who, on balance, do an amazing job. If all the chops aren't perfect, they are surely good enough, and you can bet the learning experience is invaluable.  (They are still students, after all.)

The irrepressibly appealing cast numbers 12, all eager and willing under the direction of Arik Vega, who is assisted by choreographer Wesley Carpenter. The standout performers include Adam Stecker, Charlie Allen, Jack Tanzi and Chris Lee, the latter seen off-campus earlier this year with Street Theatre Company in their production of Heathers. Cameron Cipolla makes a particularly strong impression as Sally, moving and singing as boldly as the celebrity she seems to be successfully channeling: Kristin Chenoweth, who won a Tony Award in the role in the Broadway revival.

Finally, there's Cassie Donegan, who comes off way hotter than Schulz probably would've ever envisioned his Lucy. Stuffed tightly into her zip-up royal blue skirt, Donegan certainly doesn't lack for crabby confidence, black high heels and all. Perhaps she has potential as an ingenue/leading lady type, yet she seems already to have achieved serious character actress status, never mind her youth. Like Lucy always was, Donegan is in command, and when she leads we follow.

The Bongo After Hours space is a fairly tight squeeze, of course. Nevertheless, the endlessly energetic ensemble performs with no microphones, which should make their teachers mighty proud. And kudos to the prop mistress for summoning up what looks like an original issue Peanuts lunch box from God knows when.

Whether Schulz would approve of college kids monkeying around with the childhood world that meant so much to him—as man and artist—who's to know? But maybe it's a firm testament to his inspiration that even viewing it through the jaded prism of adult life only allows us to better appreciate the child that's in all of us—and never leaves us no matter how old we get.

As of this writing, there's one performance left, today at 2 p.m., with the outside possibility of an evening performance. Catch the show at Bongo After Hours Theatre, 2007 Belmont Blvd., Nashville.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

                                         MARTY'S RACE-A-DAY


Allowance purse: $53,000 (plus up to $15,900 to Cal-bred winners) for fillies and mares three years old and upward which have never won $10,000 other than maiden, claiming or starter or which have never won two races. Three-year-olds, 122 Lbs; Older, 124 Lbs; Non-winners of a race other than Maiden, Claiming or Starter Allowed 2 Lbs. A race other than Claiming or Starter Allowed 4 Lbs. Six And One Half Furlongs. 

Note: Horses are ranked in ascending order of Morning Line odds. Asterisk indicates predicted winner.  

*Pleasant as Pie--When this Florida-bred, Ron Ellis-trained 4-year-old went off at 33-1 at Del Mar on Sept. 6, who imagined she would unassumingly settle into the middle of an 11-horse field, then suddenly make a sharp outside move with a quarter of a mile to go, and then pour it on for a convincing win with a big $68.80/$24/$12.80 payoff? Same identical kind of  race awaits here, only jockey Joe Talamo takes over from Drayden Van Dyke. PAP is a bit of a mystery, purchased for $125K as a yearling, with no other races on the resume. But somebody up there likes her to repeat that maiden effort: the early line is 9-5.  

Radiant Journey--This 4-year old, Cal-bred D’Amato trainee returns after an 8-month layoff. Her four races around the turn of the new year were strong efforts (2 wins, 2 places), showcasing an aggressive, tireless runner (foxish-rabbit) perfectly suited for sprints on dirt. Martin Garcia was the jock on all of those races; Tyler Baze jumps into the saddle this time, and he will pull a #1 post position, which actually seemed to help Radiant Journey in three of her four previous races. The early line is 3-1. 

Daddy’s Duo--For the past year and some change, 3-year old Daddy’s Duo has been shepherded by the Desormeaux clan. The KY-bred filly is a versatile  runner, with a few turf races under her cinch, but she runs best as a sprinter on dirt, sporting an aggressive style not unlike today’s likely challenger Radiant Journey. The horse has recently been moved into the John Sadler barn, and there’s a new rider: Martin Garcia. This race suits her, though, and she might get into the mix nicely from the outside #7 PP. The early line is 4-1.

Moyo Honey--This Patrick Gallagher filly’s been racing at longer lengths and on turf of late, but clearly her best efforts, both earlier this year, were sprints on dirt (a place in May, a win in June). Drayden Van Dyke had been her exclusive jockey, but James Graham will give it a go with the KY-bred 3-year-old. Early line: 5-1.

Fashioned Gem--Not much data to compute on this 3-year-old Florida filly, with trainer Mark Glatt seeming to be experimenting so far with her on surfaces and distances. But Fashioned Gem’s Aug. 5 win on dirt at 6-and-a-half furlongs at Del Mar was an eye-opener. As soon as Trevor Denman’s call had all but written the horse off, she stormed back on the outside to blow past the field of 12 to pay off handsomely as a 21-1 shot. Still a pretty unknown quantity at 6-1; all-star jockey Rafael Bejarano takes over for Flavien Prat.  

Bennett Jean--An 8-month layoff and a new trainer, Peter Eurton. This 3-year-old KY-bred has done little of distinction since June 2014, and it’s been a year since her only win. Mario Gutierrez rides, taking over from Aaron Gryder, who tried to establish some consistency with the filly over her last four races. 8-1 on the early line. 

Call to Congrats--Once upon a time—Aug. 2014, to be precise—this KY-bred filly looked promising as a sprinter on dirt. Since a trainer switch—Sadler to Gary Mandella—the 3-year-old has only raced once, an unimpressive 7th place finish in a turf sprint at Santa Anita on 6/28. Just trying to round back into form, it appears, and doing so with Mike Smith in the irons. The early line is 12-1. 

Sunday, October 04, 2015


                                    MARTY'S RACE-A-DAY

RACE  3--SANTA ANITA--OCT. 4, 2015

Stakes for fillies and mares, three years old and upward. The winner to receive $60,000, $20,000 to second, $12,000 to third, $6,000 to fourth and $2,000 to fifth. Non-winners of a Graded Stakes since April 4, allowed 3 lbs. Non-winners of a Graded Stakes since October 4, 2014, 5 lbs. Six and One Half Furlongs.

Note: Horses listed in ascending order of Morning Line odds. Asterisk indicates predicted winner.  

*Taris--Kentucky-bred 4-year-old Taris debuted in Dec. 2013 with a 10-length victory at Aqueduct. Seems to have been on a short leash since then, with sporadic appearances in the East, then a single race at SA in Dec. 2014 and more recently at Del Mar (8/15), where she scored a really impressive victory as the favorite in a race that looked a lot like this one, featuring Wasted at Midnight, Uzziel and another strong runner, Baruta, who took 2nd. Gary Stevens will ride the Callaghan trainee again, and the only knock against her is the absence of more evidence to confirm her superiority. Yet Taris passes the eye test, and with her 6-5 ML, it’s clear that others think so too.      

Unforgettable U--A year’s worth of consistent activity marks this 4-year-old as a reliable sprinter but with some erratic results overall. More recently, UU, now being trained by Richard Baltas, has looked very good, with a win last time out (9/7 at Del Mar) and a close 2nd (8/9), edged out at the wire by one of today’s competitors, Ben’s Duchess. Edwin Maldonado has been a regular aboard UU, and he’ll ride her today. 9-5 ML.

Ben’s Duchess--Impressive Sadler 3-year-old has finished ITM eight straight races, including two excellent wins out of her last four starts (8/9 & 6/14), and a tough 2nd-place finish last time out (9/6), losing to one of today’s challengers, Uzziel. Joe Talamo jumps aboard for his sixth straight ride on a horse who’s never seen a dirt sprint she didn’t like. Good stalking style. 4-1 ML.

Uzziel--The 4-year-old Cal-bred spent the early portion of this year in route races with okay results, but has returned more recently to sprints. She won last time out (9/6) and has now finished ITM in three straight starts—all races featuring a cozy field of battle-tested fillies and mares who like to race fast and hard, and rarely more than six furlongs. Formerly trained by Mike Puype, Uzziel is now in the care of the Desormeaux clan, with Kent D. her exclusive jockey since March of this year. 4-1 ML.  

Wasted at Midnight--This 5-year-old Florida-bred mare set the pace last time out (8/16 at Del Mar), but hit the wall late up against two tough competitors whom she meets again today, Uzziel and Taris. With no wins since February, WAM is a study in a good horse who competes hard for the lead for about five furlongs... and then simply can’t keep up. Martin Garcia has been a steady presence in the irons and he again rides this hard-working lady, who’s been in the Richard Mandella barn since early 2014. 15-1 ML.

Saturday, October 03, 2015


                                       MARTY'S RACE-A-DAY

RACE 2--SANTA ANITA--OCT. 3, 2015 


Note: Horses listed in ascending order of Morning Line odds. Asterisk indicates predicted winner.  

Flat Footed Mama--This Baffert hopeful has spent the last six months in a series of longer races and scratches, never taking better than third and usually fading further from view. One career victory (a route race a good while ago), with all 11 career starts under the command of Martin Garcia, which implies familiarity and consistency but nevertheless has meant mediocre results. Garcia will try again. The 9-5 ML positions FFM as the early favorite in this battle of unknowns and underachievers. 

Wild Street Party--One prior race, at Los Al on 9/11, and scored a nice late sprint victory over a field of 9. Fernando Perez rides again. 2-1 ML.

*Kantina Kowgirl--With 15 starts since Jan. 2014, this aggressive self-starter always hustles out of the starting gate with purpose but rarely scores ITM. A mixed bag of shorter and longer races on dirt have been KK’s world, plus pass-around trainers (Glatt, Belvoir, Papaprodromou) and a succession of riders, including Bejarano, who won with her in Jan. 2015. Kerwin John is today’s jockey. In this company, maybe the Avis approach (”We try  harder”) can pay off. 4-1 ML.

Italian Baba--Veteran 6-year-old hasn’t won a race in two and a half years. She’s a chronic slow starter, who might be classified as a turtle, though that usually implies coming from the back of the pack late to actually win the race. Whatever life is left in the old girl, Felipe Valdez will attempt to parlay it into victory. 4-1 ML.

Beyond Lucky--This 4-year-old Cal-bred Papaprodromou mare (since July; McCarthy before that) is a Fox-style runner, the bulk of whose experience has been dirt sprints. So this is the right race, but the odds of her performing as she did in April, when TBaze rode her to a solid victory on this track,  seem remote. Even this nonplussed collection of misfit challengers should test all of Beyond Lucky’s mettle. Tiago Pereira is the jock. 8-1 ML.

Gold Locket--After three solid starts at Santa Anita early in the year, including a gutsy Mar. 22 at-the-wire winner in a nine-horse field, this 3-year-old was on hiatus five months, finally reemerging under the tutelage of Jeffrey Metz.  She finished sixth at Del Mar on Aug. 29. Another rider change means Ry Eikleberry trying to help recapture that early promise. 12-1 ML, but given the uncertainty of the field, that’s a good price for an adventurous player.  

Thursday, October 01, 2015

                         MARTY'S RACE-A-DAY

Santa Anita--Oct. 1, 2015
RACE 5--Maiden Special Weight--$52,000 Purse--Mile and 1/8 on turf--3-yr.-olds

Big Discovery has six prior races, all routes, none shorter than a mile, and the first four were on turf. Interesting horse. BD has never finished out of the money. He starts every race lagging toward the back, then responds (under various jockeys) almost like clockwork mid-race, steadily gaining on the leaders and then pushing hard to the finish. Yet he hasn't ever completely closed the deal. Mike Smith rides and maybe the slightly longer distance will pay off for this on-the-verge closer. 5-2 ML.

Broken Up has only two races under his cinch. His latest, a 1-1/16er on the turf at GGF, presented us with a patient Hound with a big urgent finishing kick that almost nipped the co-favorite Saxon Lord at the wire—and seemed to have more in the tank. Mandella trainee strives to go 1/16 further for the win with Gary Stevens aboard. Looks to have the talent, but maybe too early to trust? 3-1 ML.

Boone Docks has tried it every which way for the past year--sprints, routes, dirt, turf, East Coast, West Coast, as Hound, as Rabbit—and has finished ITM but once in 6 tries (a 3rd at Saratoga in Aug. 2015). In strictly relative terms, he's showing improvement, and he gets some needed consistency here with Santiago Gonzalez riding for the third time in 2015, but Boone Docks' penchant for getting lost in the shuffle looms a liability, especially at this distance. 4-1 ML. 

Lightly raced Carla Gaines trainee Fishel scratched out of his last scheduled race, 8/30 at Del Mar. Only previous two starts (June/July) have yielded inconclusive results, a 10th place at SA and then a better 4th at Del Mar. James Graham rides Fishel for the first time. 5-1 ML.

Paythebank's most recent races include a late-running 5th at Del Mar (8/22), a 3rd place in the slop at Del Mar (7/19), a 7th at SA (6/28) and a close 2nd at SA (5/7). The Kruljac trainee has been out and about since July 2014, through 14 scheduled starts, all surfaces and distances, a few scratches, a 4-5 month mid-career layoff, and a passel of jockeys, including Talamo, Trujillo, Garcia, TBaze and more recently Nakatani, who rides today. Nary a win through all those variables, though the horse has shown some talent and hustle on a few occasions. There IS a scenario where he might break through, wherein the reliable-looking favorite simply misfires and the second favorite proves too green. There WILL be a winner in this race, though, and Paythebank has as good a shot as any of the lesser wannabes. 6-1 ML.

Y's Passion is a virtual newbie with only two races, both sprints on the dirt at Del Mar. Drayden Van Dyke returns to ride the Patrick Gallagher colt, and with no experience on the turf, or at longer distances, he can only be a speculative choice. Yet his most recent 9/7 effort, at 7 furlongs, showed us a horse able to come gamely up to 4th from faraway at the back of a 9-horse field. It may mean nothing here, but the visual was impressive. 10-1 ML.

Radio Silent finished 7th in his only start, on 9/7. Alonso Quinonez will again take him out for a spin. 10-1 ML.

Based on his June 5 performance at GGF—a valiant 3rd, in a 1-and-1/16-mile route on turf—Junior G  Man looks like a hustler. Prior to that, in April, on the same track/distance, he scored a game 2nd place. So he's a competitor. But his one race since being acquired by Art Sherman, on Aug. 22 at Del Mar on the turf at the same distance, was a lackluster 7th place out of 9. Ty Kennedy is the jockey. Inscrutable horse here, but maybe worth a flyer as the longest shot in this race. 12-1 ML.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

On Flags, Forrest and Hysteria in the Wake of Charleston

In the wake of Charleston, my Facebook feed is stuffed full of hysteria about Confederate flags and Nathan Bedford Forrest, including reports that Nashville mayoral candidate Megan Barry wants a Forrest statue hidden from public view and Rep. Jim Cooper wants a bust of the Confederate general removed from the State Capitol in Nashville.

Sorry, folks, but I'm going to have to say no. People, you cannot erase history. If you remove the evidence of history, it does not make history go away. You cannot pretend that things didn't happen or that people did not exist or that deeds were not done. Furthermore, you cannot forbid human beings from commemorating their history (flags, symbols, etc.) or from memorializing their dead. 

I have been a Civil War freak since I was about 7 years old, when my parents gave me The Golden Book of the Civil War. Growing up in Maryland, a Border State, I always had a fascination for and curiosity about the two sides of the conflict, as well as the key issues that went back all the way to our nation's founding. Now, like it or not, hundreds of thousands of Southerners died fighting for their cause—just under a half million, per best estimates—however misguided morally that cause was in regards to slavery. That, people, is the great tragedy of the South, and that also is a part of history. What next? Demolition of Stone Mountain? The forcible renaming of Washington and Lee University? Redaction of A Streetcar Named Desire to remove all mention of the plantation Belle Reve? (In fact, the vast majority of the combatants in the Confederate army weren't even slaveholders, but that's a sad-eyed discussion for another time.)

Are you aware that Confederate monuments memorialize the dead at Gettysburg, and that the state of Tennessee's Gettysburg monument was dedicated only as recently as 1982? Shall we remove those monuments and pretend that the 23,000 Confederate casualties of the battle never happened? Perhaps we should just eliminate mention of the Civil War altogether from our history books and our public consciousness. We could simply choose to forget that nearly half a million Southerners died in that conflict, but I daresay that the descendants of those who perished have every human right to commemorate their forebears as they see fit. I also would suggest that Abraham Lincoln would've allowed the South a wide berth in recovery from the war's brutality and would've seen the need for proper grievance. I doubt Lincoln would've censored icons and ceremony. 

Yes Yes Yes: I understand why this is touchy territory. What happened in Charleston was ugly, and I have been utterly speechless about it, because, like so many others, I was thunderstruck. Truly, there are no words. 

But getting at the heart of racism in America will not be accomplished by removing the statues of dead generals or censoring the display of old battle flags. That journey is a more personal one, incumbent on each and every one of us to better our relations with all our fellow humans in every circumstance, every single day of our lives. 

Finally, history is there for the learning. Let us learn from it, and not be afraid to confront it. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

Santa Anita Park, 2011/Canon PhotoStitch by Martin Brady

Race #1/Santa Anita/June 12, 2015
CLAIMING $50,000-$40,000 PURSE $45,000. (PLUS UP TO $5,400 TO CAL-BRED WINNERS FROM CBOIF) FOR FILLIES THREE YEARS OLD. Weight, 122 Lbs Non-winners Of A Race At A Mile Or Over Since April 27, 2015 Allowed 2 Lbs. Claiming Price $50,000, For Each $5,000 To $40,000 1 lb. (Maiden and Claiming races for $32,000 or less not considered). One mile. (Turf) (Rail at 30 Feet). 

#1 Won’t Be Shaken--This 3-year-old has been regularly raced since December, usually entered in 8F routes and on dirt. Results have ranged from gutsy wire wins to abject defeats. She’s also faced some of today’s challengers previously—Abets Abet, Backstreet Lisa—and has finished well behind them. Her two turf races yielded mixed results—a 6th-place finish on May 21 at SA, and an April 19 win at Golden Gate Fields against lesser competitors. Flavien Prat is the rider. 6-1 ML.

#2 Abets Abet--Another busy 3-year-old with 14 races tallied since May 2014. Won her last outing, on dirt at a mile on Mar. 28, defeating decent competition, but Abets Abet’s resume is a mixed bag of sprints and routes, neither seeming to be an obvious strength. Also, she’s never run on turf, so today’s race poses an extra challenge. The filly should at least feel comfortable with Tiago Pereira once more in the irons. 4-1 ML.

#3 Lookin for Money--Doug O’Neill trainee has good experience on turf, and returned to Santa Anita in January off a turf win in Frisco. Alas, disappointing finishes since. She gives it another go, with a significant rider change—from Elvis Trujillo to Rafael Bejarano. 2-1 ML.

#4 Sound City--Winner of a dirt sprint Jan. 16, Sound City appears to be going against the tide in this turf miler. She has limited turf experience—1 sprint, 1 route—and the results have not been positive. A succession of jockeys have jumped on and off Sound City’s back. Now Drayden Van Dyke will ride the former Richard Baltas trainee. 12-1 ML.  

#5 Backstreet Lisa--Peter Miller 3-year-old won a hard-fought victory in a rainy muck on May 15, to cap a series  of respectable runs on dirt. The horse has a few turf rides to her credit, including an Oct. 2014 victory over a mile against a large field. Some talent here but lacks consistency. Tyler Baze rides a second time in a row following up on the recent win. 5-2 ML.
#6 Housemaker--SCRATCHED

1. Backstreet Lisa
2. Lookin for Money
3. Abets Abet