“PopSmart NOLA” on WHIV, Ep. 16: Will Coviello on Krewe du Vieux, Leslie Castay and John Pope on “Sweeney Todd” and Alison Logan on “The Original Classy Broad”

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We had a lot of fun on Saturday’s (Feb. 11) episode of WHIV (102.3 FM), in which we welcomed a wide range of guests:

Will Coviello, arts and entertainment editor for Gambit, as Krewe du Vieux prepared to roll in the Marigny and French Quarter that night. (Coviello also is a member of the sub-krewe Spermes).

Leslie Castay, who played The Beggar Woman in the New Orleans Opera Association’s staging of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd,” and writer John Pope, who offered his take on the blurred lines between opera and musical theater for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune.

And finally we welcomed Alison Logan, who brought back a different version of her one-woman show, “The Original Classy Broad vs. The Exes” to Bar Redux on Sunday night.

SEGMENT ONE: Will Coviello on Krewe du Vieux
Will Coviello is the award-winning arts and entertainment editor for Gambit. Full disclosure: Will was my successor at Gambit after I left for Atlanta back in 2006, and somehow the paper managed to survive. The northern New Jersey native moved to New Orleans in 1992 and has been covering the entertainment scene for 20 years, including the past decade at Gambit. He’s also been a member of Krewe du Vieux for 16 years. He spoke with us about this, Krewe du Vieux’s 31st annual parade, with its theme, “The Crass Menagerie, and its royalty, King Bunny Matthews, famed (or infamous) journalist and illustrator and creator of Vic and Nat’ly.

SEGMENT TWO: “Sweeney Todd”: Leslie Castay and John Pope
Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” was presented by the New Orleans Opera Association to the Mahalia Jackson Theater of the Performing Arts. I wanted to get different perspectives on the work, so I interviewed two of my favorite people:

Leslie Castay is a veteran of New Orleans musical theater who also has worked in film, known for “The Big Short” (2015), “Beautiful Creatures” (2013) and “Shark Island” (2015). She’s working on her master’s in musical theater at Tulane University, and performed in the Summer Lyric Theatre production of “Sweeney Todd” in 2016 (that time as Mrs. Lovett). This time she performed in the role of the Beggar Woman, and so I asked her to discuss how these two roles came about.

As Castay noted, Stephen Sondheim’s work blurs the lines between opera and musical theater, and so I wanted to continue that discussion with veteran New Orleans journalist and author John Pope, who wrote about that subject for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Pope is also the author of “Getting Off at Elysian Fields,” a collection of his obituaries for the paper, back in 2015, so he knows a thing or two about death. But here we discussed how this Sondheim piece brought new life to musical theater, or opera, or, I’m not sure what it is.

Alison Logan, is a performer who moved to New Orleans from the Chicago area, where she spent several years in the comedy, improve and theater scenes. Logan has performed her recent one-woman show, “The Original Classy Broad vs. The Exes,” at The Hollywood Fringe Fest in L.A. In Chicago, she played at The House of Blues and The Second City. In New Orleans she’s performed at Cafe Istanbul and Jazz Cafe. She is also a graduate of The International Cabaret Conference at Yale University. Check her out: http://www.theoriginalclassybroad.com.

Her new version of “The Original Classy Broad vs. The Exes: Lonely Hearts Edition,” was performed at Bar Redux in Bywater on Sunday night.

Logan says her show aims “to convict each and every one of your ex-boyfriends. … Names have been changed to protect the guilty! You, the audience and jury, get to decide if these scoundrels are innocent…or guilty as charged! The Taylor Swift of cabaret will leave you chuckling out the door, and reminiscing about your first “I remember when…” moment in love. The Original Classy Broad will undoubtedly win you over, and convince you to send all the gents straight to the slammer!”

A few weeks ago, I introduced a new segment on “PopSmart NOLA,” and I call it “Relevant Link,” in which I share an interesting story I’ve come across over the past week.

Jarvis DeBerry on Jerome Smith and “I Am Not Your Negro” (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

I hate to beat a dead horse, but because I really enjoyed last week’s discussion about “I Am Not Your Negro,” I wanted to call attention to a column Jarvis DeBerry wrote after the show focusing on the local relevance of the documentary – or, rather, what DIDN’T make the movie. There’s a rather historical meeting between Robert F. Kennedy and several key African-American leaders. And while the documentary notes the presence of such giants as Baldwin, playwright Lorraine Hansberry and others, DeBerry notes the absence from the film of another participant, New Orleans’ own Jerome Smith. Smith was a noted civil rights activist who participated in the famous Freedom Rides, and his presence in that meeting was important to remember. And so does DeBerry, who, writing in his column, says and I quote here:

“In the book ‘Nobody Turn Me Around: A People’s History of the 1963 March on Washington,’ author Charles Euchner quotes Smith saying, ‘Mr. Attorney General, you make me want to puke. I don’t care what you think, and I don’t care what your brother thinks either.’

“In the book ‘Robert Kennedy and His Times,’ author Arthur Meier Schlesinger quotes Hansberry saying, ‘You’ve got a great many very, very accomplished people in this room, Mr. Attorney General. But the only man who should be listened to is that man over there.’ She was pointing at Smith.’”

Jarvis DeDerry continues: “Lena Horne remembered Smit’s presentation – including his statement that he was unsure how much longer he could be nonviolent — being the most important part of the meeting: ‘This boy just put it like it was. He communicated the plain, basic suffering of being a Negro. The primeval memory of everyone in that room went to work after that… He took us back to the common dirt of our existence and rubbed our noses in it. …You could not encompass his anger, his fury, in a set of statistics, nor could Mr. Belafonte and Dr. Clark and Miss Horne, the fortunate Negroes, keep up the pretense of being the mature, responsible spokesmen for the race.’”

That’s our Relevant Link for this week.

Want to remind everyone that if you like what you hear on “PopSmart NOLA,” we’re here every Saturday from 3-4 p.m. on WHIV (102.3 FM). You can listen to the archived, podcast version of the show on my SoundCloud account, “dlsnola.” Also, you can visit the website at popsmartnola.com, and like our Facebook page. You can also follow us on Instagram at “@popsmartnola” and I’m yammering away on Twitter at @dlsnola504.

Also, if you like our show, we’d love your support in the form of underwriting; email me at dlsnola@gmail.com for more info.

Thanks again for joining us, y’all. For “PopSmart NOLA,” I’m David Lee Simmons, reminding everyone to keep the intelligent discussion going.

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