CYAN YELLOW MAGENTA BLACK
Arts & Entertainment
One Popcorn, Poor • Two Popcorns, Fair • Three Popcorns, Good • Four Popcorns, Excellent
By Michael S. Goldberger
Not Eggsactly For the Kiddies 2 & 1/ 2 popcorns
A witty notch above the average chicken joke, Chicken Run asks the question, “Why did the chickens take aviator lessons? Give up? “So they could fly the coop.” That’s why.
Per this animated feature by writerdirectoranimators Peter Lord and Nick Park, learning to fly becomes a matter of life and death. For on a bleak chicken farm in Yorkshire, England, circa 1950s, where profits are the bottom line, push has come to shove.
To illustrate this harsh reality earlyon in the doings, a hen who has not made her egglaying quota is led to a dismal chamber where we see only a hatchet wedged in a log. The door is closed. We hear the thump. An eerie pall spreads across the farm’s drab landscape. No one — man, woman or chicken — needs this Business 101 lesson further explained.
Now, the question is, what is the age cutoff for a child not to be haunted by this rather effective illustration?
Granted, though there is nary another scene as harsh as this one, young children will quickly digest that this cartoon plays by different rules. This isn’t the indestructible Wily Coyote who springs back into shape after being run over by a steamroller, or who issues a declaratory “meep, meep” to announce his amazing survival after just being blown to smithereens. We know, and little Johnny knows, that we’re not going to see that chicken again.
Therefore, if you figure it’s time for Brittany to get that big splash in the face, this is it. But have a heart. At least wait until after Christmas before destroying the Santa Claus myth. Of course, if the offspring in question is over 10, there’s no concern. By then they can school you in the hard knocks of life.
That noted, what follows is an exquisitely produced fable constructed of the same sort of “claymation” figures employed in Toy Story (actually, they’re vinyl). Derivative of a genre that has traditionally spoken to a more sophisticated audience, the wellwritten tale is dappled with biting observation and astute political commentary.
The story of a group of hens who enlist Rocky The Flying Rooster (voiced by Mel Gibson) to help them escape their certain doom has the ironic faith of a Shalom Aleichem parable mixed with the moral tone of “Charlotte’s Web” and the political prescience of “Animal Farm.” Adults will be happy that they can see a children’s movie without checking their brains at the box office. But is it really a children’s movie?
The buttoned down and often very British humor may be lost on the 5yearold still gulping from the opening scene. And the aforementioned 10yearold, who would probably rather be downloading nuclear secrets from the Pentagon, might think it corny. Though, in the name of familial bonding, he or she may deign to enjoy the film for your sake. So refined, so moral and so painstakingly crafted, of course it’s the kind of movie parents would want their children to like.
However, like the child who is bought the sturdier and more expensive shoes rather than the cheap but more stylish ones, Tyler may wonder why he couldn’t see The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle instead. Maybe someday while
at Harvard he’ll even write an essay about it.
The plot is simple. Rocky, a wayward circus rooster, lands inside the perimeter of the gloomy farm run by domineering Mrs. Tweedy (voiced by Amanda Richardson) and her conspiracycrazed husband. Paranoid Mr. Tweedy, who obsessively spies on the chickens, is consumed with the capitalist’s nightmare. He is certain that they are organizing. Entirely impatient with her ineffectual spouse whenever he verbalizes these fears, Mrs. Tweedy angrily retorts: “They are chickens! They are not organizing!” Of course the milksop is absolutely right.
Head hen Ginger (Julia Sawalha) has been leading clandestine meetings. But little hope of escape exists until Rocky falls on their square.
Naturally, these two opposites are destined to attract. She’s the pragmatist, the properly British moral anchor. He’s the Yank, the philosophical gadabout ... sort of a cross between Bing Crosby in A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court
(1948) and Burt Lancaster in The Rainmaker
(1956). Their romantic symbiosis reminds of Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen
(1951). He’s got the ingenuity; she has the vision of Columbia. And the banter that ensues is as comically engaging as it is sociologically astute. In fact, most of the chickens know their way around a clever metaphor or two.
Numerous conventions of behavior are held up and chided for their stuffy pretension; others are nobly regaled for their civilizing virtues. So as Rocky and his enthusiastic students prepare for their aeronautical escape, the convolutions along the way are generally merry. Well, as merry as can be expected in what is ostensibly a concentration camp for chickens.
Unfortunately, things are going to get even more dire. Tired of making what amounts to, if you’ll excuse the expression, chicken feed, Mrs. Tweedy steps up her business plan when she buys a chicken pot piemaking machine. Just pop a chicken in one side, then wait for the pastry to come out the other end.
The ramifications of this capital investment are not lost on the chickens, thus necessitating a quicker game plan from our fine feathered friends. But ah.... the best laid plans of mice and chickens. It’s at precisely this crisis point in the story when Ginger learns that her fly boy just may not be all that he’s been cockadoodledooing about.
There’s no denying the level of quality that Messrs. Lord and Park achieve in this cartoon satire. And no doubt, their preoccupation with chickens hatches a humanistic and literate tale. But aside from the precocious children of college professors and certain adults who, for some reason or another, prefer their life lessons acted out by animated poultry, just who is
Chicken Run for? Trying to figure that out has sure ruffled my feathers.
However, I do admit a sudden appetite for chicken pot pie.
* * * * *
Chicken Run, rated G, is a DreamWorks Pictures release directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park and features the voices of Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha and Amanda Richardson. Running time: 84 minutes.
SYMPHONIC CELEBRATION… During the Westfield Symphony Orchestra’s Season Finale reception, President of the Friends of the Westfield Symphony Andrea McDermott presented a check on behalf of the Friends totaling $26,000 to President of the Board Stephen Barcan. The contribution reflected the success of the Friends’ May fundraiser, the Annual Tour of Notable Homes, which was attended by more than 1,000 guests.
State of the Art Music
SCOTCH PLAINS – On Thursday, July 20, the Scotch Plains Cultural Arts Committee will host the New Jersey Pops Symphonic Concert Band at the Village Green beginning at 7: 30 p. m. Please bring lawn chairs or blankets. Free birch beer will be provided. In case of rain, the venue will be the auditorium of Scotch PlainsFanwood High School. For more information, please call the Recreation Office at (908) 3226700.
Meet A Star!
SCOTCH PLAINS – All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Scotch Plains will welcome actor of 65 years and author Arthur Anderson on Wednesday, July 26. The evening will commence with a pot luck supper at 7 p. m., with Mr. Anderson scheduled to speak at 7: 45 or 8 p. m.
Mr. Anderson has performed for radio, television, live theater, films and commercials such as the CBS children’s program, “Let’s Pretend.” He has authored, “Let’s Pretend: A History of Radio’s BestLoved Children’s Show.”
For more information, please call (908) 3228047.
WESTFIELD-The Summer Workshop’s Studio One will present Cinderella on Wednesday and Thursday, July 26 and 27 at Roosevelt Intermediate School in Westfield. There will be two shows daily, a matinee at 1 p. m. and an evening performance at 7: 30 p. m. The fairy tale will include the usual cast of characters such as Cinderella, the stepsisters, and the prince; however some interesting additions to the cast have been made including an apprentice for the fairy godmother, all the lords and ladies of the castle, and even a few rivals for the prince!
Cinderella will also seek to involve the audience in the performance. Musical accompaniment will be provided by the Westfield Summer Workshop's student band with set by students in the "Paint a Play" classes. The Studio One class is open to students in grades 6 through 9. Tickets for the matinee performances are $3 and evening tickets are $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. The public is welcome. For more information or to obtain a brochure for The Westfield Summer Workshop, please call (908) 5181551; for any of the other programs call (908) 7899696 or visit 150152 East Broad Street in Westfield.
WESTFIELD – The Westfield Community Band will close their 88th season of Summer Concert performances in Mindowaskin Park on Thursday, June 20, at 8 p. m. A clarinet solo by Westfield’s George Toenes, “Tribute to Artie Shaw,” will be performed, as well as oldtime favorites including “Sound of Music,” “King Cotton,” and “Twentiana.” In case of inclement weather, the rainsite will be the Community Room of the Municipal Building in town. Bring lawn chairs or blankets. For more information, please call (908) 7894080.
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Meet Magnificent Ten: Area Actors Plan to Storm New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Brigadoon
role of Oliver in Oliver! with panache and pizzazz. So, is she ready for her role as a chorus member in Brigadoon?
“I feel I make a real contribution as a chorus member,” said Katie Rae, a 13yearold at Edison Intermediate School. “I love being on the stage and NJPAC is such a beautiful theater. It is a privilege to perform there,” she concluded.
The young actress has participated in community theater and school plays, and continues to study action and musical theatre with Ms. Meryl.
Although they could not be reached for comment, other local stars in the ensemble will be Dakota Nave Hurtt, Leanne Meriton, LindsayRose Sinclair, and Betsy Paynter.
Brigadoon is Westfielder Dakota Nave Hurtt’s seventh WYACT performance. She has held parts in Fiorello, Camelot, Merrily We Roll Along, The Children’s Hour, Carousel and Oliver!,
all WYACT productions. A 14yearold pupil of WYACT Artistic
Director Cynthia Meryl and Joanne Carey, Dakota also dances with the Westfield Dance Company and the Westfield School of Dance.
Since the ripe old age of eight, Leanne Meriton of Westfield has been building up her resume in theatre.
Brigadoon will mark her third performance with WYACT, as she has portrayed Mrs. Bedwin in Oliver! last year and a role in Carousel.
At Westfield High School, where Leanne will enter her senior year, she has performed in Godspell, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and as Abigail in
Big. Since age 12, she has studied voice at the New Jersey Workshop for the Arts in Westfield and acting and vocal lessons with WYACT since age 11. Leanne has also performed in Region II and AllState Chorus.
Scotch Plains’ Betsy Paynter, who sity Bookstore where an enormous stock of books, magazines, and academic literature has been abound since 1905. True Princeton “Tiger” pride is always in season, as the University Store vends insignia merchandise, dorm furnishings and trendy Princeton garb.
H. Gross & Co. on Hulfish Street also displays a plethora of Princetoninsignia merchandise. Bright, furry tigers sit in Princetonlettered director’s chairs outside of the store door, while orange and black jackets hang beside the shop’s broad teal awning near a Princeton flag.
Perhaps the most festive evening the University offers, tagged “Reunions,” is held annually in early June. In this event, Princeton University invites all members of each graduating class to participate in an exchange of camaraderie and celebration. The campus grounds are separated by graduating class, allowing alumna to mingle and catch up on old times.
Princeton is no doubt, an ambitious cultural mecca. Several musical bands and artists have emerged from the scene. Matthew Sweet, The Spin Doctors, and The Blues Travelers, which are all Princetonians, have all experienced international acclaim.
The University Radio Station specializes in vanguard fanfare. For years, upcoming artists are showcased at “City Gardens”, a club located on Route 206 in nearby Lawrenceville.
Princeton, located in Mercer County, is accessible from Route 206 and Route 1. Each individual can draw something unique from this town. Something one cannot put a price on. Parts offer quiet sanctuary, while other parts are very metropolitan.
To visit Princeton, despite which season one decides to journey, is to experience New Jersey’s most intellectual and cultural diverse town on the map.
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MAKING PLANS AND MAKING MUSIC... With the 75th Anniversary Concerts and new, commissioned music composed by Matthew Sklar in mind, the Westfield Glee Club Committee met and completed plans to resume fall rehearsals and scheduling of Winter Concerts. Director Thomas Booth presented the musical program which includes two sections to be sung by the Westfield Public Schools Childrens Chorus. The two ensembles will combine in singing two seasonal numbers. Pictured, left to right, are: seated, Accompaniest George Lachenauer and Mr. Booth; standing, William Sterr, Douglas Kollmar, Harlan Smith, Robert Porta and Howard Dreizler. Not pictured is Dale Juntilla. Male singers are invited to the Monday evening rehearsals from 8 to 10 p. m. in the choir practice room of The Presbyterian Church in Westfield beginning on September 11. Male students are welcome. For more details, please call Mr. Juntilla at (908) 2320673.
will be a sophomore at Scotch PlainsFanwood High School next year, will conquer roles in two WYACT productions during the summer – Brigadoon
and The Gay Divorce.
Betsy holds eight years of experience with the WYACT gang, also serving on its junior executive board. Past roles include Margaret Snow in Carousel
and Guys and Dolls’ Adelaide. LindsayRose Sinclair of Westfield is also an Oliver! veteran. With a career of voice and theatre to anticipate, her resume includes the role of Doris Miller in Damn Yankees.
Brigadoon, which is directed by Ms. Meryl as part of NJPAC’s For Kids, By Kids series, has been made possible in part by the Turrell Fund. Tickets are $16 for adults and $8 for children under 14. Tickets may be purchased by calling (888)GONJPAC or by visiting the NJPAC Box Office at One Center Street, Newark.
450 Park Ave • Scotch Plains (908) 4901200
BACCALÀ DI PAPÀ
Certain vegetable names, in some regional Italian usage, have been assigned another meaning: cetriolo (cucumber) and peperone (pepper) are used to refer to someone who is not particularly witty, cavolo (cabbage) has different meanings according to context (ex. Ma che cavolo dici? Che cavolo fai?).
Some members in the fauna family are also analogically used to describe human qualities il leone (the lion), la pecora (the sheep), la iena (the hyena), il lupo (the wolf), it cane (the dog), il serpente (the snake), la puzzola (the skunk), la gallina (the chicken), il pescecane (the shark), are just few examples. Baccalà (cod fish), in Italian, is also a colloquial synonym for dumb, (perhaps because, according to many fishermen, the cod is a very easy fish to hook).
Mezzogiorno Ristorante offers “Baccalàdi Papà” (salted cod fish cooked with potatoes and black Gaeta olives, with a touch of San Marzano tomatoes), to be translated as, “Baccalà prepared my father's way,” not, “My father was dumb.”
Arrivederci a Mezzogiorno! Francesco
Ample parking in rear • Open 7 days for lunch and dinner Available for parties on and off the premises
P. S. Did Aesop use the baccalà in his fables?
Covering Fanwood, Mountainside, Scotch Plains and Westfield, Union County, New Jersey (NJ)