Tag Archives: Britain

Milwaukee Chamber stages a supreme encore for “Jeeves”

Good heavens! A British bachelor is embarrassingly engaged again — to two different women. There’s a pinstriped gangster ready to put him and his best friend in a coffin at the slightest provocation. He’s wearing terrible socks.

Call for Jeeves, one last time!

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre has proven the success of playwright Margaret Raether’s Jeeves series twice now, with productions of both Jeeves Intervenes and Jeeves in Bloom that were wildly successful for the company. So it makes sense they’d go for the trifecta with Jeeves Takes A Bow, the third and final adaptation Raether wrote of P.G. Wodehouse’s classic tales of a bumbling British aristocrat named Bertie and his perfect valet Jeeves.

The Jeeves formula is simple. We are introduced to Jeeves (Matt Daniels, reprising the role for the third time) and his employer Bertram Wilberforce Wooster (Chris Klopatek), a paragon of Britain’s idle rich. A meddling aunt shows up to try and reform Bertie. We encounter a school chum of Bertie’s in a pickle — in this case, Nigel Bingham-Binkersteth (Chase Stoeger), Binky for short. In his attempts to help, Bertie gets himself confused for his friend, with comically unfortunate results. And just before it all goes to hell, Jeeves steps in with a multi-layered, complex chessmaster’s solution that ends with everyone getting what they want, be it marriage, bachelorhood or just a clean, tidy living room.

If Jeeves Takes A Bow were merely a paint-by-numbers recreation of that formula, it’d still have been an exquisite evening of theater. Having mastered the role over five years and two productions, Daniels has the comic timing of Jeeves down perfectly, catching letters in midair as Bertie throws them and smoothly gliding in and out of conversations to drop off or take away teacups before their owners even know they’re gone. There’s a bit of meta-humor inherent in the mistaken identities of Klopatek and Stoeger’s characters, since they’ve both played Bertie in Jeeves productions (Klopatek originating the role), and having both played the part of the buffoon before allows them to perform their buffoonery in tandem all the more effectively.

But Raether’s added a wrinkle to the plot that breathes new life into the premise: Jeeves and Bertie have traveled to New York City, a realm that is both a welcome respite for Bertie from his bothersome aunts and deeply unsettling for the normally unflappable Jeeves, caught off-guard by handshakes, showgirl gowns and the peculiar American custom of Prohibition.

Just seeing Jeeves temporarily off his game is worth the trip across the Atlantic alone (don’t worry, he’s back to his old self after a few scenes), but it’s the culture clash between the Brits and the Yanks that really punches up the plot. 

Anna Cline is a vivacious burst of energy as Ruby LeRoy, the actress Binky has fallen in love with while pretending to be Bertie, and just about every heavily accented line she utters is a showstopper. Her knight in shining zoot suit is “Knuckles” McCann (Steven M. Koehler), a protective mobster with an amusing connection to Ruby who injects the play with more legitimate danger than any antagonist Jeeves and Bertie have faced before. Both give the play a distinctly Broadway sensibility, only compounded by the actual song-and-dance number they participate in near the end of the play.

It’s not only the Americans who punch up the play though. Bertie may have no aunts in America, but one has sent him the next best thing: a prim, proper and morally upright young fiancee named Vivienne Duckworth (Kay Allmand). Allmand is a gem from her first moments onstage, playing the role with a rigid physicality matched only by Daniels, but she’s even stronger once she loosens up, increasingly corrupted for the better by New York’s many temptations.

No critique of Jeeves Takes A Bow would be complete without a separate round of applause for director Tami Workentin, who’s directed all three plays in the Jeeves cycle. Leading actors and designers to create a world of impeccable timing and immersive hijinks isn’t easy to do once; to do it three times is a triumph in itself, even with the good fortune to have some of her cast members returning more than once. 

Bertie’s motto is “In Jeeves we trust.” Insert Workentin’s name, Raether’s, or MCT itself, and the sentiment seems likely to ring equally true.

Milwaukee Chamber Theatre’s production of Jeeves Takes A Bow runs through May 3 at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway. Tickets range from $15 to $40 and can be purchased at 414-291-7800 or milwaukeechambertheatre.com.

Elton John planning a low-key wedding in England

Elton John and his partner David Furnish are planning a low-profile wedding in May, following a change in British law allowing gay marriages.

The singer told NBC’s Today show that he wants to celebrate “very quietly,” and added: “It will be a joyous occasion and we will have our children.”

The two men, who have been in a civil partnership since 2005, have two children.

In quotes released on NBC’s website on March 31, the singer said: “We shouldn’t just say `Oh, well, we have a civil partnership, we’re not going to bother to get married’. We will get married.”

Same-sex marriages were allowed for the first time in Britain Saturday, when a new marriage law came into effect.

Holyfield reprimanded for anti-gay remarks on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield has been reprimanded by the bosses of a British reality TV show for saying being gay “ain’t normal.”

Holyfield compared being gay to being born with a deformed leg, saying “you go to a doctor and get it fixed back right.” He also said it was “a choice” to be gay.

The 50-year-old American made the comments during a conversation with a fellow contestant on “Celebrity Big Brother” in an episode that was aired Sunday in Britain.

Program officials told Holyfield these “aren’t the views that are held by a large section of society, and expressing these views will be extremely offensive to many people.”

Holyfield was warned to “consider very carefully the effects expressing such views may have.”

UK pardons gay WWII code-breaker Alan Turing

Britain has posthumously pardoned Alan Turing for a gay sex conviction. Turing was the computing pioneer and code-breaker credited with helping to win the war against Nazi Germany.

Turing committed suicide more than 50 years ago, after his persecution and prosecution for homosexuality, which included forced chemical castration.

Iain Stewart, the British lawmaker who pressed for the pardon, told The Associated Press, “He helped preserve our liberty. We owed it to him in recognition of what he did for the country – and indeed the free world – that his name should be cleared.”

The AP said Turing’s contributions to science spanned from computer science to biology, but he’s perhaps best remembered as the architect of the effort to crack the Enigma code, the cipher used by Nazi Germany to secure its military communications. Turing’s work gave the Allies the edge across half the globe, helping them defeat the Italians in the Mediterranean, beat back the Germans in Africa and escape enemy submarines in the Atlantic.

“It could be argued and it has been argued that he shortened the war, and that possibly without him the Allies might not have won the war,” said David Leavitt, the author of a book on Turing’s life and work. “That’s highly speculative, but I don’t think his contribution can be underestimated. It was immense.”

Turing also pioneered the field of computer science, theorizing the existence of a “universal machine” that could be programmed to carry out different task years before the creation of the world’s fully functional electronic computer.

Those accomplishments didn’t save him from arrest and prosecution for the offense of “gross indecency” stemming from his relationship with another man in 1952. Turing was stripped of his security clearance, subjected to monitoring by British authorities, and forced to take estrogen to neutralize his sex drive – a process described by some as chemical castration.

Turing committed suicide in 1954. S. Barry Cooper, a University of Leeds mathematician who has written about Turing’s work, said future generations would struggle to understand the code breaker’s treatment.

“You take one of your greatest scientists, and you invade his body with hormones,” he said in a telephone interview. “It was a national failure.”

The pardon on Dec. 24 was officially granted by Queen Elizabeth II, although in practice such pardons are an executive decision taken by the government.

Leavitt said, “Everyone should be equal under the law,” he said. “It’s wrong to give famous privileged pardons.”

Olympic diver Tom Daley ‘so happy’ with boyfriend

Nineteen-year-old Olympic diver Tom Daley of Great Britain has posted a YouTube video in which he comes out and shares his happiness about having a boyfriend. The video is titled, “Something I want to say …”

In the video, first circulated on Dec. 2, Daley said, “Come spring this year, my life changed massively when I met someone, and they make me feel so happy, so safe and everything just feels great.”

He continued, “And that someone is a guy.”

Daley won a bronze in the 2012 games. He did not define his sexual orientation in the video. Multiple news organization first to broadcast the story called Daley “gay” and later “gay/bi.” Some have since retracted the headlines with those labels.

In the video, Daley said the relationship with another man took him by “surprise a little bit. It was always in the back of my head that something like that could happen.”

He also said, “Of course I still fancy girls, but I mean right now I’m dating a guy and I couldn’t be happier.”

To all his fans, Daley later tweeted, “Overwhelmed by all the support! Means the world! Thanks so much guys.”

Daley hopes to compete for Great Britain in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

On the Web…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJwJnoB9EKw

Lloyd Webber’s new show mines ’60s sex and scandal

He’s done the Bible, felines, operatic phantoms and Argentine politics. So what is Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest musical about?

Sex – as well as politics, spying, social revolution and the Cold War.

“Stephen Ward” centers on a sensational real-life scandal, the 1963 revelation that Britain’s war secretary, John Profumo, was involved with model Christine Keeler, who was also sleeping with a Soviet naval attache.

The “Profumo affair” rattled Britain’s establishment and fascinated that nation.

But Lloyd Webber says the show, which opens in London in December, is about more than the scandal – it’s a portrait of a “febrile time” of tumultuous social change.

At a preview of songs from the musical this week, the “Phantom of the Opera” composer said, “It’s just extraordinary, really, the ramifications of what went on.”

British conservatives hire Obama campaign guru

Britain’s governing Conservatives have hired Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, to advise them ahead of the 2015 general election.

Messina was Obama’s national chief of staff for the 2008 presidential campaign and the president’s campaign manager in 2012. His organizational flair and social media strategy have been credited for helping secure Obama’s re-election.

Messina is now chairman of a nonprofit called Organizing for Action and head of consulting firm The Messina Group.

Messina said that he had “long admired Prime Minister (David) Cameron” and would be offering the Conservatives “strategic campaign advice.” He said he would remain based in the United States and would not manage day-to-day political operations.

The Conservatives currently govern in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, but hope to win a parliamentary majority in 2015. Their challenge is to gain re-election at a time when Britain’s economy is only weakly recovering from the recession triggered by the 2008 global financial crisis.

Under Cameron, the party combines conservative economic policies such as privatization and spending cuts, with a liberal stance on issues like same-sex marriage, which Britain recently legalized.

The BBC reported that Messina will advise Conservative chiefs and the party’s campaign strategist, Lynton Crosby. Since hiring Crosby – a veteran Australian political operator nicknamed the “Wizard of Oz” – in November, the Conservatives have appeared to take a tough stance on issues such as immigration in order to win support away from rivals on the right.

This is not the first time the Conservatives have turned to U.S. Democrats for advice. Cameron hired Obama adviser Anita Dunne to help him prepare for televised debates during the 2010 election.

Gay marriage in France, Britain: A curious contrast

The French like to make fun of the British, joking about their repressed ways in matters of the heart. But when it came time to debate same-sex marriage, it was France that betrayed a deep conservative streak in sometimes violent protests – while the British showed themselves to be modern and tolerant.

With little fanfare or controversy, Britain announced on July 17 that Queen Elizabeth II – hardly a social radical – had signed into law a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in England and Wales. France has also legalized gay marriages, but only after a series of gigantic protests attracting families from the traditional heartland that revealed a deeply split society.

Official word that the queen had approved the bill drew cheers in the usually sedate House of Commons.

“This is a historic moment that will resonate in many people’s lives,” Equalities Minister Maria Miller said in a statement. “I am proud that we have made it happen and I look forward to the first same sex wedding by next summer.”

There were British political figures and religious leaders vehemently opposed to gay marriage but the opposition never reached a fever pitch, in part because the same-sex marriage bill had broad public support and the backing of the leaders of the three major political parties. In fact, it was Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the tradition-minded Conservatives, who proposed the legislation in the first place.

The public seemed to take it for granted that gay marriage should be a part of British life. It was perhaps a sign of how Britain has evolved in past decades into a much more cosmopolitan nation than its starchy, traditionalist image would suggest.

“The opposition seemed restricted to a very small number of people very vigorous in their views,” said Steven Fielding, a political scientist at the University of Nottingham. “It was restricted to the back benchers of the Conservative Party. It wasn’t shared across the political spectrum. It was an issue whose time had come. To oppose it seemed slightly strange.”

The law was also written in a way that allowed the Church of England – which is opposed – to sidestep the controversy since it is explicitly barred from conducting same-sex marriages.

The picture was completely different in France. Few people had expected legalizing gay marriage to face much of a hurdle. French polls had shown for more than a decade that the concept enjoyed majority public support, and Paris has had a gay mayor for years.

And to outsiders, of course, France is seen as the land of “anything goes” when it comes to sex – from the Marquis de Sade to author Colette to disgraced French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, notorious for his libertine sex parties.

Politically, too, it was meant to be a blip. Legalizing gay marriage was near the bottom of French President Francois Hollande’s 36-point agenda for his presidency. It was mentioned in passing during his presidential campaign but was never an issue that galvanized opposition, and was entirely eclipsed by concerns about the economy.

Then, something clicked in the conservative heartland – which showed just how much of a force it is in French life.

When the law was drafted and the idea of gays marrying turned from concept to imminent reality, traditionalists spoke up, and loudly. Protests grew bigger, and spread wider. Opponents of the bill stirred up fears about gay parents raising France’s new generations.

A fringe of far-right skinheads drew camera crews and condemnation as they wrestled with riot police at Paris protests. But most of those at the barricades were families, children with grandparents, members of France’s minority of practicing Catholics bussed in en masse from towns and villages to march on the capital. Some conservative Muslims and Jews joined in.

In marching against gay marriage, the demonstrators also seemed to be protesting freewheeling Paris life, the image of a wanton, insatiable French sexuality celebrated in films and art – but far from the reality of many provincial French families. For a time in early 2013, France felt like a deeply divided nation.

But the size of the anti-gay marriage movement was largely the result of a political backlash against Hollande, whose popularity dived soon after his election over his handling of the economy.

The movement was the right vehicle at the right time to target Hollande and his Socialists. Once the law passed, the momentum stalled.

Even the protesters seemed to realize they remain the minority, and polls continue to show that most French people think gay marriage – now that it is a fact of life – is fine.

UPDATE: Queen Elizabeth II approves marriage equality bill

British lawmakers have passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in England and Wales, with the first gay weddings expected to take place in the summer of 2014.

In what was largely seen as a formality, members of the House of Commons on July 16 approved minor amendments made to the legislation, which had cleared the House of Lords a day earlier.

Early on July 17, the bill received the official approval from Queen Elizabeth II.

Ben Summerskill of the LGBT civil rights group Stonewall said, “It’s impossible to express how much joy this historic step will bring to tens of thousands of gay people and their families and friends. The bill’s progress through parliament shows that, at last, the majority of politicians in both Houses understand the public’s support for equality – though it’s also reminded us that gay people still have powerful opponents.”

Gay couples will be able to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales.

Also, couples who had previously entered into a civil partnership can convert their relationship to a marriage.

“The title of this bill might be ‘Marriage’, but its fabric is about freedom and respect,” said Culture Secretary Maria Miller, according to Reuters.

“Freedom to marry regardless of sexuality or gender, but also freedom to believe that marriage should be of one man and one woman, and not be marginalized,” she said.

In the U.S., Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry said, “After a rich and extensive months-long debate in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, Britain’s parliament passed a historic freedom to marry bill, introduced by a conservative prime minister and drawing support from across the spectrum. This victory makes 18 countries on five continents in which gay people can now share in the freedom to marry, with England and Wales joining Uruguay, New Zealand, France and Brazil in ending marriage discrimination this year alone.”

Freedom to Marry partnered with Freedom to Marry UK on the legislative efforts in Britain, with a focus on making the case to conservative members of the parliament and the public.

Gay marriage bill passes final reading in British House of Lords

A marriage equality bill on July 15 passed its third and final reading Britain’s House of Lords. The measure still needs final approval in the House of Commons.

A statement from Ben Summerskill of the British civil rights group Stonewall read, “Today we’ve all made history. 

“For the very first time, every child growing up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual in this country will have exactly the same rights, responsibilities and choices as their heterosexual friends and family. 

“Throughout the campaign we’ve heard comments and accusations ranging from the absurd to the deeply offensive. Loving, committed same-sex relationships have been compared to bigamy, incest and slavery.

“Thankfully, MPs and peers from all parties have heard the public loud and clear and supported this final piece of legislative equality for gay people. Now the House of Commons will give final approval to the Bill before it receives Royal Assent. This should allow the first same-sex marriages to take place as soon as next spring. 

“Tomorrow the work to change hearts and minds continues. But today, let’s all be proud of what we have achieved together.”