Sunday, October 28, 2007

Feels Like The First Time

I would climb any mountain
Sail across a stormy sea
If that's what it takes me baby
To show you how much you mean to me

You know how too much of a good thing can make you forget how much you liked it at the beginning. How that chicken parmagiana from your favorite restaurant still tastes good but maybe a little too familiar? Or that long time favorite vacation spot that still has a beautiful view but one that may not take your breath away every time?

Friday night, I traveled with friends to New York City see a tribute to Neil Sedaka for his 50 years of hits. We knew Clay Aiken would be performing so we decided it might be a fun evening all around. We met up with friends from all over including Canada and New Orleans and I know there were people who had come from the West Coast. And while that might have created awe in year's past, it didn't seem out of the ordinary any more.

We'd heard Clay sing Solitaire many times since Neil Sedaka night on American Idol in 2003. He returned to Idol on the following season and sang a bit of it there. He's sung it on TV. He encored with it during his 2004 solo tour. He does a great job with it but the song itself, while well written, can get old. It's not exactly your upbeat, pepppy song with a hook and a beat you can dance to.

So I went because I love the chance to see Clay live and I enjoy New York. The line up of guest acts honoring Neil Sedaka looked interesting and it turned out to be just that. Iconic acts like Connie Francis and Dion performed along with promising new acts like Renee Olsteed. But the funny thing is on the ride to NYC, we kept talking about what else we wanted Clay to sing besides Solitaire. It was like we were looking past the old, familiarity of Solitaire and hoping for something new.

David Foster teased us with a possible Clay entrance a couple of times and then introduced him to a nice hand. Clay walked out in an expensive pinstriped suit with great hair (always important)and a big smile. He adjusted the microphone higher, smiled at the audience and began to sing.

He crafted that song like a master painter works a canvas. He started out slow and soft, almost as if the sad storyteller has a wistful hope that the girl will return. He used his hands as much as he used his voice. As the song built, so did the anguish of the storyteller. He transitioned from notes that floated on air to notes that vibrated into your chest to notes that cut slivers from your heart.

The glory note was 12 seconds long and the fans rose to their well decked out feet. By the time he wailed that last ounce of pain and regret, the majority of the crowd was standing, including the entire Sedaka box.

And I guess it's just the singer in you
That brings out the fan in me
I know I can't help myself
You're all in the world to me

Perhaps words are not enough and you need to see and hear it for yourself.

And it feels like the first time
Like it never did before
Feels like the first time
Like we've opened up the door

The first time? You mean four and a half years ago?

Here's to many more first times, from his fun appearance on November 1st on a charity edition of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader to his Broadway debut as Sir Robin in Monty Python's Spamalot from January 18-May 4, 2008. And I think there's the familiar,warm blanket of his annual Christmas tour in between.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spamalot: Killer Rabbits, The Black Knight, Clay Aiken - Oh My!

As some of you who read this blog may know, I love the theater. I was an actress, I graduated Performing Arts High School and majored in theater at Boston University. Some of my theater stories can be found in the archives of ConCLAYve. I was never a fan of what is sometimes called "stunt casting". I have to admit, when American Idol contestants went to Broadway or got a big role in a movie musical, well I rolled my eyes a bit. What a snob I could be!!!!

But look how wonderfully well Fantasia is doing in Color Purple. Brava! I adored Jennifer Hudson in the film Dreamgirls - handling a part that is incredibly difficult and then making such a "big" role work on the screen - that is not easy as the camera shows the truth of what you are thinking and doing and being able to translate such a powerhouse role and make it work in close up is difficult. Beautifully done, Jennifer.

So now Clay Aiken is coming to Broadway in Spamalot and suddenly - who cares about "stunt" casting? I'm so thrilled I'm jumping out of my skin. What a brilliant move for Clay to choose Spamalot as the place to make his Broadway debut. And how wonderful that Mike Nichols and Eric Idle chose him. I saw this show with the original cast and my husband saw it once more. Now we're all set with tickets on my birthday to see it again. This is not your typical BIG VOICED musical. If Clay had done Les Miz or even RENT it wouldn't be such a surprise.

But Spamalot? Spamalot? What a wonderfully brave thing for Clay to do. A musical comedy that requires so much more than singing - and I've seen Clay's terrific comedy timing. I've seen his quick wit and his charm. I've seen him have fun with impressions of people and accents. I've seen enough of his concerts to know he's got a bawdy irreverant sense of humor. But most people remember Clay Aiken as the skinny geeky guy from AI. The earnest guy with the big voice. That's what makes this choice so intriguing, smart and brave - he is building an interesting career, full of surprises for his fans, challenges for himself and an opportunity to break down an identity some people have of him from AI that is completely one-sided. People who have the opportunity to challenge themselves, to work with great talents, to learn and grow - produce the best and I expect that the next CD that Clay does is going to be infused with all these new experiences. In the meantime, while he's working on that - he's also finding ways to bring excitement to his career, to stay in the public eye, and to have fun and give fun in return.

Here's a bit of Clay Aiken, the entertainer, this summer at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (with thanks to scruffy13)

What can I say to those Broadway snobs that I wouldn't say to myself? Give him a chance . . . you may be pleasantly surprised. If nothing else, his desire to stretch and grow - to challenge himself by tackling something so unexpected - should be admired. Broadway is full of wonderfully talented people. He recognizes that this is a big step for him to take and he is looking forward to working with the Broadway performers. As Clay says himself:

Taking part in a show alongside some of these multi-talented performers will definitely force me to stretch! A show like Spamalot seems to be such a departure from what I have been doing for the past four years. This show is not just a change of scenery from many typical Broadway shows, I think it is also a great opportunity for a temporary shift for me. So, I’m really pumped about being able to branch out. A little variation is always nice. And, it's a chance to learn and grow. Lets cross our fingers on that!

Thanks to Invisible926 for the great photoshop of Clay as Sir Robin!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Red Sox Nation and Clay Nation Collide

I'm a big Red Sox fan, as I noted in my Boys of Summer blog back in the spring. The Sox are battling it out with the Indians for the American League Championship with the winner headed to the World Series. I hope the Red Sox make it all the way and I hope the World Series doesn't go any longer than six games. If it stops before 7 games, I get to see Clay Aiken on a celebrity/charity edition of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.

This morning on the website for Major League Baseball, writer Mark Newman did a piece on 20 characteristics of a Red Sox fan. I couldn't help thinking of the similarities as my two Nations intersect once again.

Clay fans certainly have our rituals, from the way we purchase tickets to the things we do to prepare for a concert to the fact that (as Clay once told an audience)we spend “25 hours a day” on the message boards.
2.Always a Love Story: The point of Newman's story was that romances are created among Red Sox fans. I don't know about romances but some of the best friends that I have right now, I've met since 2003 when Clay stepped on to the Idol stage. One fan interviewed for the MLB article said
It's almost like a culture. It's probably not an accident that 'cult' is in 'culture.' We have so much in common."
3.History Buff: I know fans who can see a picture of Clay wearing a particular shirt and tell you every single time he's had that shirt on camera or at a concert. And that's a feat to be proud of as Clay tends to stick with clothes that he likes.
4.Respects all other fans: Unless of course they have a sign, are stealing a front row seat or are just plain famewhores. But I think that applies to Fenway too, at least until they stop selling booze in the later innings.
5.Passes it down: We're definitely on second generation Clay fans at this point, whether it be family or friends or just somebody you met at the grocery store when Invisible was played on the PA (that's public address system, not Pink Armchair) and you may have squeeled a little less discretely than you had intended. Newbies at concerts? Clay Nation members by the time we get through with them. Clay explains here.
6.Never Forgets: The good times like the AMA award or every concert you ever attended. The low points like the Vincident, the Anamoly, the fauxhawk hair for the 2005 Christmas tour merchandise. Those things are right up there with Bill Buckner in the 86 World series or Bucky Dent's pop fly that somehow ended up in the Monster screen for a home run.
7.Passionate: Sometimes to a fault, but nearly always with the right intentions.
8.Crazy: Apparently a synonym for enthusiastic.
9.Loyal/diehard: Jimmy Kimmel, honorary Clay Nation member, said it best here.
10.Knowledgeable (baseball/music) fan: Clay Nation knows about HDD and Media Base and what a radiospin means and that a drop isn't when Manny Ramirez misplays a flyball
11.Willing to travel: Some fans report the first time they ever got on a plane by themselves was to go to a Clay Aiken concert. Need to know the best route to get to a mid-west show and the best deal on a hotel? Ask a Clay fan.
12.Loves the players: We love Clay but we also love his band. I was happier to see
Quiana Parler get a little screen time on AI Rewind than anybody in the top 12.
13.Knows the words to Sweet Caroline: This is the Red Sox 8th inning song. I think most Clay fans would turn their heads when they hear the AI theme song (or else get that nervous feeling in their stomach)
14.Best Dressed: Newman was referring to Sox gear. Most fans have some Clay shirts and the really err... enthusiastic fans tend to take that one step (or 10 steps) farther than that. But yes, I had my red shoes during the AI tour. But that's so 2003.
15.Hates the Yankees: I guess Simon Cowell qualifies or any of the slovenly bloggers who eat too many donuts to try to make up for the lack of brain cells.
16.All walks of life: I've met students, business owners, doctors, LA Assistant Movie Directors, stay at home Moms, teachers and just about any profession you can think of as a member of Clay Nation. We have other things in common and we disagree on a lot. But, we all like to spend our money on Clay.
17.Loves an old ballpark/Venue: Some of the most beautiful venues I've ever seen are the restored old ones. And some of the best acoustics I've ever heard are from venues that just look like a roof and a stage. Each one brings its own memories. Now the only thing I need is for Clay to play Fenway.
18.Gets here early and is happy to stay late: Fans have waited for hours in the cold for a quick handshake after a concert. And the pre-concert parties which lead to the post concert parties are a way of life for us. It's all part of the experience.
19.Hardy: I believe the temperature was in the 20s the night fans slept on the sidewalk for a book signing by Clay the next day. We've also melted in 109 degree weather in the summer and it never stopped us from dancing.
20.Likes Sausage.....I really didn't know how to match this one, perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words.
Personally, I think this is more like Bratwurst.

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