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By Jacqueline Monahan
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Philip Fortenberry’s Broadway My Way

There are no lyrics, no voices raised in a heavenly choir, although you might swear that the sounds you’re hearing are from that approximate region. Actually, they emanate from eighty-eight ivory keys manipulated by the seated gentleman in the black suit.

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Summoning celestial sounds with his fingers, virtuoso pianist and Broadway veteran Philip Fortenberry transformed the Clark County Library Theater into a stage befitting the Great White Way with his renditions of “Jellicle Ball” (Cats), “You Must Love Me” (Evita) and “All I Ask of You” (The Phantom of the Opera).

Lest you think the man can’t swerve his way out of romantic numbers, there’s the upbeat “I Steal with Style” (The Robber Bridegroom), the mischievous “Gettin’ Ready Rag” (Ragtime) and the ebullient “Dancing Queen” (Mamma Mia!).

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Fortenberry gave a 90-minute solo performance on Sunday, November 22 that was well attended by his many fans. The talented musician, who has performed for President Bush and Margaret Thatcher and has accompanied Eartha Kitt and Charlotte Church, is a veteran of numerous Broadway productions (Saturday Night Fever, The Lion King, Jersey Boys,- he’s currently the associate conductor, and Hairspray).

This performance included music from modern classic hits such as “Oliver,” “A Chorus Line” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” plus lesser known cult favorites like “Sideshow” and “Seussical, the Musical.” He also featured songs from Broadway classics “The King & I,” “South Pacific,” and “Carousel” in a tribute to the legendary composer/lyricist team Rodgers and Hammerstein.

On a stage set with posters, billboards and flowers the Mississippi native, who now makes his home in Las Vegas, offered a show that highlighted his piano skills without words. “I’m the worst kind of triple threat,” said Fortenberry. “I can’t sing, act or dance. I CAN play the piano.” This last line was met by an appreciative and spontaneous ovation from the crowd.

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Displayed against a back curtain were video graphics of hit Broadway productions, from the Phantom mask to the Cats’ eyes to the laughing maiden of Mamma Mia! These changed as smoothly as Fortenberry as he gracefully transitioned from song to song, stopping to relate a story or anecdote about the piece at hand.

There’s the time he worked with Madonna. “She had on a denim skirt, a pink sweater and sensible shoes. Her hair was pulled back. I didn’t recognize her.” There’s the story of his very first Broadway show, the one-night-only Cleavage which had the tagline, “Close to where the heart is.” Fortenberry couldn’t resist adding, “Titillating or not, it was still a bust.” He includes one of its songs “Only Love” in his show, rescuing it from obscurity with his keyboard.

“Who Will Love Me As I Am” (Sideshow) is sweetly melodic and comes from the true-life tale of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Fortenberry transforms the story into a mood with his hands, allowing you to float past plot into heartfelt passion or whimsical humor.

The nostalgic “Give My Regards to Broadway” came with a mini-slide show tribute to the Twin Towers with a story from Fortenberry of the resilience of the performers and the rallying spirit of continuing the tradition that got a nation through the immense tragedy of 9/11.

His arrangements are pensive and moving. You can spend either a few minutes or the entire duration of a number moved to the point of tears. Fortenberry’s the kind of neighbor you wish for, the classical pianist you’d encourage to practice at home with the windows open. With resonating notes and gorgeous melodies, he evokes poetry without words, yet the meaning is clearly understood and able to be shared simultaneously with an audience.

Fortenberry ended the performance with the evocative “What I did for Love” (A Chorus Line) and garnered a standing ovation from an enthusiastic crowd. Immediately afterward he debuted his newest CD, “Broadway, My Way” at the theater box office, signing each purchase. Thirty minutes later, he still hadn’t finished, illustrating that the music man might truly possess the keys to the Kingdom. All eighty-eight of them.


For further information:
www.philipfortenberry.com

 

Nevada Film Festival at Rampart Casino at the Resort in Summerlin
(Photos by Terra King)

From the opening night party and filmmaker reception on Friday, November 20 to the closing awards ceremonies twenty seven hours later, The Nevada Film Festival (NFF) screened an impressive and varied array of features, shorts, and documentaries.

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The NFF is the state’s annual celebration of the best in American and international cinema, bringing together top independent filmmakers, industry professionals and an ever-increasing indie audience. The Festival offers filmgoers a rare opportunity to meet directors, screenwriters, cinematographers and actors willing to share and discuss their work.

This year's festival line-up included both award-winning and world premiere feature films, documentaries, short films, foreign films, animations, music videos, experimental films, a screenplay competition, and an actor's showcase. Genres included drama, comedy, action, horror, and family fare. At NFF, films are selected solely on the basis of their merits, with an eye for quality screenwriting, originality and storytelling.

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Laurie Handlers, Actress/Producer of Tantric Tourist

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Phone Sex Grandma

With offerings as diverse as the bleak post-apocalyptic “Deadland” (Winner, Best Feature Winner) to the hilarious spoof “Catching On: The Day the World Turned Gay” (Winner, Best Short) the NFF made the most of its 2-day run inside the Rampart Conference Center. In a blitz of back-to-back screenings the festival managed to keep the productions running, often with Q&A panels from filmmakers afterward. The quick pace (hardly any down time between screenings) made it an intense, marathon-like experience for attendees.

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Production staff of 'Catching On'

Film presentations, listed here in order, took place on Saturday, November 21 compressed into a twelve-hour period of time in which offerings from the U.S.A., France, Brazil, Australia, China, and the United Kingdom flickered across the large screen that dominated the Marquis Ballroom.

Beyond the Call (Documentary, 82 minutes, USA) – Grand Jury Award, Best Documentary

Nevada Film Block
Tales From the Catholic Church of Elvis (Feature, 86 minutes, USA) - Best Nevada Feature
Growing Up Vegas (Short, 20 minutes, USA) - Best Nevada Short
Crime Sweepers (Short, 30 minutes, USA) – Special Jury Prize

Deadland (Feature, 107 minutes, USA) – Best Feature

Short Film Block
La Dernière Leçon du Parrain (29 minutes, France) - Best Foreign Film
Catching on: The Day the World Turned Gay (20 minutes, USA) – Best Short
My Brother’s Treasure (21 minutes, USA) - Best Student Film
I Can Speak Swedish (18 minutes, Australia) - Best Director

StarTrip Chattabago (23 minutes, United Kingdom) - Best Television Pilot

Tantric Tourists (Documentary, 80 minutes, United Kingdom) - Best First-time Director

Short Film Block
Liminal (14 minutes, USA) - Best Experimental Film
Vitruvius’ Toybox (6 minutes, USA) - Best Music Video
Inself Sea (13 minutes, Brazil) - Best Documentary Short
Elle(s) (29 minutes, China, France) - Best Actor, Ge Jia
True Beauty This Night (10 minutes, USA) - Best Screenplay
Phone Sex Grandma (9 minutes, USA) – Best Comedy
3 for Anna (24 minutes, USA) - Best Actress, Betsy Cramer
Enigma (42 minutes, USA) – Special Jury Prize
Skylight (5 minutes, Canada) - Best Animated Film

A 10:00 p.m. closing night award ceremony directly followed the screenings.

A personal favorite of your humble correspondent was the award-winning “Catching On: The Day the World Turned Gay” which won the festival award for Best Short. Trumpeting show tunes and drag outfits for newly gay men (an ass grab will do it) and flannel shirts and sensible shoes for newly gay women, the humorous look at fear and intolerance has some great lines. While being chased by a butch crowd, a woman asks, “Why are they running so slow?” to which her more knowledgeable companion replies, “You know it’s hard to run in Doc Martens!”

The Best Feature winner, “Deadland” couldn’t be more opposite, depicting a survivalist world of plague and enslavement. No boas, no show tunes. Still, it’s a formidable effort with good production value and one particularly memorable scene of captive women being freed.

Smaller festivals such as the NFF are growing in popularity due to their diversity of subject matter, international offerings and more intimate venues. With CineVegas being on hiatus for the 2010 season, there’s more opportunity, not to mention visibility for such cinematic organizations to thrive.

Next year’s NFF will take place from November 19-21 at the Rampart Casino once again, which gives film goers everywhere something to be thankful for. And not a turkey in the bunch.


For further information:

www.nevadafilmfestival.com
www.catchingonmovie.com

 

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