Sunday, September 2, 2012


Dinner and a Movie

From John Adams to Samuel Adams

By Steve Herte

1776 (1972) Director's Cut

Every true movie lover has a collection of recordings of their favorites. Some, as do I, have recordings given to them as gifts awaiting viewing when time allows. This former Broadway hit show is one of those. Made one year before I started my soon to be 39-year work career, it combines an amazing cast, fiery acting and marvelous singing voices to dramatically depict the birth pangs of the United States of America in the creation of and the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams, played by William Daniels (who, in the TV series, The Adams Chronicles, plays the older John Quincy Adams) rants and raves, sings (he surprised me), debates and cajoles his way through a reticent Continental Congress against seemingly impossible odds to 1. Get Independence proposed, 2. Debated, 3. Convince Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) to write up the Declaration, and 4. Get it voted upon and signed. In two hours and forty-five minutes a little over a month passes in a steamy summer in Independence Hall. One has to have a fan on to watch this movie.

Howard Da Silva does an excellent job as Benjamin Franklin; playing the role as if born to it. The clever humor written into the script is mostly in his part (with his nodding off occasionally) and is very effective in lightening the mood of a serious subject.

The musical score is also powerful and effective, especially at the end, when each man gets up to sign the Declaration as the Liberty Bell tolls and the orchestration becomes more "dangerous" and unsettled, ending in a frightening chord that fairly shouts, "What have they done?"

The songs, with the exception of "Mr. Adams" and "Molasses to Rum to Slaves" are melodically difficult and thus hard to remember. 1776 shares this characteristic with such plays as Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber (with the exception of "Memory").

Blythe Danner is a bubbly and beautiful Martha Jefferson and Virginia Vestoff is the only woman who could take on William Daniels as Abigail Adams. Other sterling performances were given by John Cullum (Edward Rutledge of South Carolina); Roy Poole as the rum-drinking representative of Rhode Island, Stephen Hopkins; William Hansen as the cancer-ridden representative from Delaware, Caesar Rodney; and David Ford as John Hancock, whose patience is severely tried as President of the Continental Congress.

1776 is a patriotic soul-stirrer, a dramatic tour de force, and a musical with a well-written script. If it were only about thirty minutes shorter and had one song I could remember . . . (Rating: 4 out of 5 Martini glasses)

The Cheesecake Factory
1 Maple Avenue White Plains, NY

When you have a group of five people who haven't seen each other in a little over two years and one lives in Yonkers, one in Cos Cob, Connecticut, two on the Northeast shore of Long Island and one in Queens, where do you go to dinner? If you all have a good appetite, then the Cheesecake Factory is your destination.

Even though the menu has a page entitled "Small Plates and Snacks," beware. The portions are large. Even the Grilled Cheese Sandwich is impressively sized. The White Plains branch of this chain is never empty. Because reservations are not available, the policy is to come with your group and they'll tell you approximately how long it takes to get a table. It’s then up to you to decide if it’s worth the wait. If so, then they give you a beeper that will vibrate and perform a small light show when they're ready for you.

The cavernous corner space is gaily painted in shades of orange, red, cream and pale blues, and green with oval jewels making the booths looking like the "Eye of Sauron" from The Lord of the Rings. Music is piped throughout the restaurant, but played at a level low enough so that it doesn't interfere with conversation. Several children are also in attendance because of the family-oriented atmosphere, so take this into consideration when deciding to go.

We sat at the outdoor cafe wrapped around the angle made by the intersection of Maple Avenue and Bloomington and it was a lovely summer night for it. Our drink selections varied from a Sam Adams Octoberfest beer, to Root Beer Soda to a Dirty Martini with Bleu Cheese Stuffed Olives (my choice). Frankly I think it's the best drink they make. We ordered a plate of Fried Calamari for the table with two dipping sauces, Light Garlic and Horseradish/catsup, which was a little on the salty side.

The main courses, the Old Fashioned Burger - charbroiled on toasted brioche with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mayonnaise; the Lemon-Herb Roasted Chicken­ served with mashed potatoes, carrots and watercress and topped with a light lemon garlic-herb sauce; the Fish and Chips - hand battered and served with cole slaw, French fries and tartar sauce; the Cajun Jamablaya pasta - chicken and shrimp sautéed with tomato, onions and peppers in a spicy (not really) Cajun sauce over fresh linguini; and the Garlic Noodles/Spaghettini with fresh asparagus, Shiitake mushrooms, oven-roasted tomatoes and parmesan cheese in garlic (not enough for me) sauce and pieces of crispy roasted chicken on top (my choice) were all delicious and finished to the last piece.

But wait! Did you hear me call it The Cheesecake Factory? They do have 23 different cheesecakes for dessert, but nobody was hungry enough to eat one then and there (I told you about the portions). However, I ordered a slice of the Pineapple Upside­ Down Cheesecake, between two slices of moist, buttery pineapple upside-down cake, and a slice of Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake: Flourless Godiva chocolate cake, topped with Godiva chocolate cheesecake and chocolate mousse to go. They will be the perfect Sunday dessert.

For the Dinner and a Movie Archive, please click here.

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