Wednesday Apr 23, 2014

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A million dollars will change you. Since a father and son took their 10 flipping, twirling dogs from the center ring of a circus to the stage of a reality show, where they won TV competition "America's Got Talent," people pack their performances at...
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TV

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A million dollars will change you. Since a father and son took their 10 flipping, twirling dogs from the center ring of a circus to the stage of a reality show, where they won TV competition "America's Got Talent," people pack their performances at large venues and they have been tapped to star in short films bankrolled by Ellen DeGeneres' pet food company, one of which is set to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. Richard Olate, 56, son Nicholas, 21, and 10 poodle-mix dogs — most of them rescues — dazzled audiences and grabbed the "Talent" title in 2012 with their jumping, running, hiding, rolling and riding of dog-size cars and scooters. In the fast-paced, trick-filled shows, the dogs use slides and jump ropes better than most kids, fall into a conga line in perfect sync and one does backflips flawlessly. After winning the million-dollar prize, the troupe headlined a show at the Venetian resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip for six months and started traveling in a cushy motorhome and trailer that pamper people and pooches. "The dogs give us our life, so we make sure they are always in a good place," Nicholas Olate said of the dogs' new mode of travel, which has heating, air conditioning and showers. "Everything's decked out for their comfort." The Olates, including wife and mom Rebecca, who serves as road and communications manager, spend more than 11 months a year on the road. They still play circuses, but with their fame, now take their performances to concert halls, NBA games and other large venues. A major draw is 6-year-old Lili, the family's only canine performer who can do a backflip and a key reason the Olates won "America's Got Talent," whose new season premieres May 27. The act triumphed after 45 years of work by the elder Olate. Nicholas Olate says his father, the second youngest of 22 children born in Chile, was 10 when he adopted and started training strays. By 12, he was supporting his entire family with his dog shows. After a circus group saw the act, Richard Olate and the dogs were performing in the United States. Nicholas Olate, born in Oregon, started working with his dad when he was 6. He said he is often asked how they train the dogs — they don't use treats, instead making the work fun and filled with love. "Maybe my dad would have trained with treats, but he was so poor, he didn't have money for them," Nicholas Olate said. For those who wonder if the dogs enjoy performing, you can tell how they feel by their body language, said Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, a San Diego veterinarian and author of pawcurious.com. "In my experience, high-energy dogs that are given an outlet for that energy are usually pretty darn happy," she said. "Running, jumping, weaving — those are all activities a dog's body is suited for. Work, take a break, have a snack, repeat: not a bad life for a pup." The Olates and their dogs have even taken on a new type of performance, starring in a series of short online films promoting shelter adoptions. They could even be eligible next year for Oscar consideration in the narrative short film category. Told from the dog's point of view, a 6-minute French language film called "Le Sauvetage" ("The Rescue") opened the Sonoma International Film Festival in California this month and will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France in May. Nicholas Olate plays lead character Phillipe, who falls in love after the dogs rescue him and co-star Tate Ashley from their lonely, boring lives. Richard Olate also appears in the film, sitting on a bench holding a dog. The next film, set for release in June, will look at how dogs choose their human best friends. The Olates' pooches also manage some brand placement for Halo, Purely for Pets, the DeGeneres-owned natural pet food company that's funding the films. Steve Marton, Halo's CEO and executive producer of the films, wants them to gain a large audience "because they show how lives can be changed forever when you take a shelter dog home." "Before you see the show, you assume the guy's a good dog trainer," Marton said of the elder Olate. "Then you see it, and you realize Richard is not managing the dogs. He is out there with his partners." The dogs liked the crowds that gathered for "America's Got Talent" and the show they headlined in Las Vegas, the family says. "The crowds pumped the dogs up and added to their energy," Nicholas Olate said. The younger Olate continues to add to his repertoire, displaying his singing chops in a pop album called "Think Big." The dogs also released one, called "The Olate Dogs' Christmas," where they bark along to the music. Olate hopes to try out for "American Idol" next year. The dogs aren't eligible. ___ Online: — http://olatedogs.tv/ — Watch "Le Sauvetage" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI-HlqNJL3w Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Justin Bieber apologizes for Japan war shrine trip
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
Justin Bieber apologizes for Japan war shrine trip

TOKYO (AP) — Justin Bieber apologized Wednesday to those he offended by visiting a Japanese war shrine, saying he thought it was a beautiful site and only a place of prayer. The Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo enshrines 2.5 million war dead, including Japan's 14 convicted war criminals, and operates a war museum that defends Japan's wartime aggression. It is a flashpoint between Japan and its neighbors that see the shrine as distinct from other Shinto-style establishments mainly honoring gods of nature. China and South Korea in particular see Yasukuni as a symbol of Japan's past militarism and consider Japanese officials' visits there as a lack of understanding or remorse over wartime history. Two images posted on Bieber's Instagram account were met with outrage from Chinese officials and by commenters on social media. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the pop star should remember China's position on Yasukuni. "I hope this Canadian singer, after his visit, can have some knowledge of the Japanese militaristic history of external aggression and their militaristic thinking," he said. Yasukuni confirmed Bieber visited earlier this week in what appeared to be a personal trip to Japan. A Yasukuni official, who spoke on condition of anonymity citing privacy of a specific visitor, said he strolled in the shrine's precincts, like other ordinary tourists, and most people didn't seem to notice. The two photos, which were subsequently removed, showed Bieber praying outdoors at the shrine and standing beside a Shinto priest. The Yasukuni official said Bieber did not pray in the shrine's main prayer hall. In a new Instagram post Wednesday evening, Bieber said he asked his driver to stop when he saw the "beautiful shrine," located in the capital's central district near Budokan hall, where he performed a concert in 2011. It's also near the Imperial Palace and other places tourists visit to see cherry blossoms, though they've mostly finished blooming. "I was mislead (sic) to think the Shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry," the post said. Bieber, 20, gained stardom with his debut album at age 15 but has had a string of recent legal troubles and criticism for perceived cultural insensitivity. Last year he wrote in the guestbook at the Anne Frank House museum that he hoped the Jewish teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp "would have been a Belieber" — or a fan of his — if history were different. And he apologized after appearing to drag two Argentine flags off stage with his feet and a microphone stand during a concert there last year. He's scheduled to go on trial in Miami in July on charges of driving under the influence and resisting arrest. A misdemeanor assault case in Toronto is awaiting trial, and Los Angeles prosecutors are considering whether to bring a felony vandalism case against Bieber over eggs thrown at a neighbor's house in January. The Yasukuni Shrine holds a spring festival April 21-23, a major event that already has drawn attention this week. Two of Japan's Cabinet ministers and nearly 150 lawmakers prayed at the shrine, triggering outrage from Beijing and Seoul. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has visited the shrine once during his current term in office, last December, worsening ties with those countries and triggered Washington's concerns. He sent a religious offering to the shrine on Monday, an indication he may not visit during the spring festival. ___ Associated Press news assistant Zhao Liang in Beijing contributed to this report. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

ABC to introduce 'Black Box' this Thursday
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
ABC to introduce 'Black Box' this Thursday

The new medical series starring British actress Kelly Reilly will premiere on ABC this Thursday, April 24 in the time slot previously occupied by "Scandal."Produced by "X-Men: First Class" director Bryan Singer and by "The L Word" creator Ilene Chaiken, "Black Box" will focus on a world-renowned neuroscientist who is hiding a big secret from her fiancé: her bipolar disorder. English actress Kelly Reilly, seen in "Flight" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," will star as Elizabeth Black. Her compatriot Vanessa Redgrave ("The Butler") will play Dr. Hartramph, Elizabeth's psychiatrist and one of the few who know her secret. Bryan Singer will reunite with some of the medical drama themes he came to know as the producer of "House MD." For this new project, Singer's co-producer Chaiken will also act as showrunner. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

WhatsApp hits 500 million users
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
WhatsApp hits 500 million users

The social messaging app has added another 50 million users worldwide over the past two months.When the news first broke that Facebook had snapped up WhatsApp for a scarcely believable $19 billion, reports stated surfacing that the social messaging app's closest rivals had started to see a huge influx of new customers. The belief was that consumers were deserting WhatsApp because of its Facebook connection. However, it appears that the opposite is true. WhatsApp has just announced it has hit the 500 million active user mark, that's 50 million more than in February when the acquisition was announced. What's more, the fastest growth is in India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia, which suggests that the Facebook connection is positive -- the social network's fastest growth over the past 12 months has been in the same four countries. As a result, WhatsApp now shares 700 million photos and 100 million videos every day. Compared with other fast-emerging consumer tech markets, India is very much playing catch up when it comes to moving from feature phones to smartphones, yet, according to WhatsApp spokesperson for the India market, Neeraj Arora, the country currently has 48 million active WhatsApp users, up 8 million since February. Exactly a year ago, Nokia launched the affordable Asha 210 handset in India. Developed in partnership with WhatsApp, the device, a stepping stone between a feature phone and a smartphone, offered owners a full QWERTY keyboard, but more importantly, was the first phone ever to feature a dedicated WhatsApp button and free use of the app for the life of the device and all for just $72. At the time of the launch, Brian Acton, Co-Founder of WhatsApp, said that the decision to partner with Nokia was in order to tailor the "WhatsApp experience" to different consumers' needs and revealed that the company was attracting 200,000 new Indian consumers a week. One year later, that growth remains almost constant -- the app is still attracting over 130,000 new Indian users every seven days. And while the app is still growing strongly in emerging consumer markets, in countries like the US and Japan it faces stronger competition. To continue to compete with the likes of Tango in North America and Line and Viber in South East Asia, WhatsApp is preparing to add voice calling as an integrated feature. However, the company is yet to say when the feature will be going live. The publication of WhatsApp's latest user figures comes on the same day that the aforementioned Tango social messaging app, with 200 million users, launched its news feed feature which allows users to share tracks from Spotify and to create and distribute videos within the feed as well as via direct messages. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus to return for fourth term as 'Veep'
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
Julia Louis-Dreyfus to return for fourth term as 'Veep'

HBO announced that its political comedy will return in spring 2015 for its fourth season. The premium cable network also said it has renewed "Silicon Valley," its freshman comedy on the tech world created by Mike Judge.Julia Louis-Dreyfus will return to the small screen as the US vice president Selina Meyer for another season, which will be aired next year on HBO. The network opted to renew "Veep" in spite of its flagging ratings. Since its return to the air on April 6, the show has drawn less than a million viewers each week. Nonetheless, the comedy is a hit with critics, as indicated by its frequent award nominations. "Silicon Valley," on the other hand, has been a hit with critics and viewers alike so far. The show, which follows a group of young IT developers and entrepreneurs, has attracted two million viewers per episode on average. It is worth noting, however, that the comedy is aired just before "Game of Thrones," currently HBO's most-watched series. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

Movies

Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
Performing dogs go big after $1 million TV prize

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A million dollars will change you. Since a father and son took their 10 flipping, twirling dogs from the center ring of a circus to the stage of a reality show, where they won TV competition "America's Got Talent," people pack their performances at large venues and they have been tapped to star in short films bankrolled by Ellen DeGeneres' pet food company, one of which is set to screen at the Cannes Film Festival. Richard Olate, 56, son Nicholas, 21, and 10 poodle-mix dogs — most of them rescues — dazzled audiences and grabbed the "Talent" title in 2012 with their jumping, running, hiding, rolling and riding of dog-size cars and scooters. In the fast-paced, trick-filled shows, the dogs use slides and jump ropes better than most kids, fall into a conga line in perfect sync and one does backflips flawlessly. After winning the million-dollar prize, the troupe headlined a show at the Venetian resort and casino on the Las Vegas Strip for six months and started traveling in a cushy motorhome and trailer that pamper people and pooches. "The dogs give us our life, so we make sure they are always in a good place," Nicholas Olate said of the dogs' new mode of travel, which has heating, air conditioning and showers. "Everything's decked out for their comfort." The Olates, including wife and mom Rebecca, who serves as road and communications manager, spend more than 11 months a year on the road. They still play circuses, but with their fame, now take their performances to concert halls, NBA games and other large venues. A major draw is 6-year-old Lili, the family's only canine performer who can do a backflip and a key reason the Olates won "America's Got Talent," whose new season premieres May 27. The act triumphed after 45 years of work by the elder Olate. Nicholas Olate says his father, the second youngest of 22 children born in Chile, was 10 when he adopted and started training strays. By 12, he was supporting his entire family with his dog shows. After a circus group saw the act, Richard Olate and the dogs were performing in the United States. Nicholas Olate, born in Oregon, started working with his dad when he was 6. He said he is often asked how they train the dogs — they don't use treats, instead making the work fun and filled with love. "Maybe my dad would have trained with treats, but he was so poor, he didn't have money for them," Nicholas Olate said. For those who wonder if the dogs enjoy performing, you can tell how they feel by their body language, said Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, a San Diego veterinarian and author of pawcurious.com. "In my experience, high-energy dogs that are given an outlet for that energy are usually pretty darn happy," she said. "Running, jumping, weaving — those are all activities a dog's body is suited for. Work, take a break, have a snack, repeat: not a bad life for a pup." The Olates and their dogs have even taken on a new type of performance, starring in a series of short online films promoting shelter adoptions. They could even be eligible next year for Oscar consideration in the narrative short film category. Told from the dog's point of view, a 6-minute French language film called "Le Sauvetage" ("The Rescue") opened the Sonoma International Film Festival in California this month and will be shown at the Cannes Film Festival in France in May. Nicholas Olate plays lead character Phillipe, who falls in love after the dogs rescue him and co-star Tate Ashley from their lonely, boring lives. Richard Olate also appears in the film, sitting on a bench holding a dog. The next film, set for release in June, will look at how dogs choose their human best friends. The Olates' pooches also manage some brand placement for Halo, Purely for Pets, the DeGeneres-owned natural pet food company that's funding the films. Steve Marton, Halo's CEO and executive producer of the films, wants them to gain a large audience "because they show how lives can be changed forever when you take a shelter dog home." "Before you see the show, you assume the guy's a good dog trainer," Marton said of the elder Olate. "Then you see it, and you realize Richard is not managing the dogs. He is out there with his partners." The dogs liked the crowds that gathered for "America's Got Talent" and the show they headlined in Las Vegas, the family says. "The crowds pumped the dogs up and added to their energy," Nicholas Olate said. The younger Olate continues to add to his repertoire, displaying his singing chops in a pop album called "Think Big." The dogs also released one, called "The Olate Dogs' Christmas," where they bark along to the music. Olate hopes to try out for "American Idol" next year. The dogs aren't eligible. ___ Online: — http://olatedogs.tv/ — Watch "Le Sauvetage" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FI-HlqNJL3w Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Review: 'Quiet Ones' is more creaky than creepy
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
Review: 'Quiet Ones' is more creaky than creepy

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Paying homage in style and theme to the vintage horror movies of the 1970s, "The Quiet Ones" is the latest stylish shocker from Hammer, the recently reactivated classic U.K. studio imprint. Mixing creaky haunted-house and exorcism tropes with a nod to the contemporary found-footage subgenre, the film relies on high production values and sense-battering shock tactics to make up for wooden performances and an illogical, silly script. As an exercise in retro pastiche, it impresses. But as a postmodern genre reinvention, it fails to deliver. The sophomore feature of Washington-born screenwriter-turned-director John Pogue, "The Quiet Ones" boasts the usual vague claims to be "inspired by actual events." It draws very loosely on the "Philips Experiment" of 1972, in which a group of Toronto academic researchers tried to prove that ghosts and poltergeists are constructs of the human mind. Needless to say, the original trials did not involve satanic cults, paranormal love triangles or high body counts, but reality can be disappointingly mundane like that. Print the legend. Set in 1974, the film stars "Mad Men" veteran Jared Harris as Joseph Coupland, an Oxford University psychology professor with highly unorthodox methods. Coupland hires amateur cameraman Brian McNeil ("Hunger Games" regular Sam Claflin) to document his controversial experiments on Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a mentally unstable young woman who appears to be possessed by a diabolical alter ego named Evey. The professor believes Jane is creating Evey purely through her own telekinetic powers, and thus could hold the key to curing mental illness across the globe. His cutting-edge treatment, bizarrely, involves locking her in a cell-like bedroom and blasting her with loud rock music. Driven out of Oxford by angry neighbors and nervous university authorities, Coupland and his team relocate to a crumbling country house straight out of the horror-cliche handbook. No other living souls for miles around? Check. Broken phone connection? Check. Spooky attic rooms? Check. Flickering lights that malfunction on an hourly basis? You get the picture. As the obligatory sexual tension begins to crackle between Brian and Jane — or is it Evey? — shocking revelations come to light about several key characters, and Evey's poltergeist-like antics turn steadily more sinister. A bloody battle between scientific reason and supernatural evil follows. Harris clearly relishes playing Coupland as a louche, chain-smoking, libidinous dandy, just a degree away from hammy mad-scientist caricature. In a vintage Hammer production, Vincent Price or Christopher Lee would have owned this role. The professor may be two-dimensional, but the rest of the cast are limited to one each. Claflin's Brian is a pale cipher of naive goodness while his fellow researchers Kristina (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne) are thinly written eye-candy roles. All three are burdened with clunky dialogue and contrived plot exposition in place of character. A charitable horror aficionado might interpret all these clumsy touches as self-referential allusions to Hammer's notoriously cheap, semi-exploitation ethos. But they still grate, and sit oddly alongside the film's high technical polish. Production design is strong, capturing the washed-out tobacco browns and bell-bottomed post-hippie fashions of the era. Connoisseurs of vintage British rock will enjoy a well-curated soundtrack that includes Slade, T-Rex and Hawkwind. Visual effects are also impressive, particularly Brian's hand-held footage with its authentically retro lens flare, degraded colors and scratchy frames. The sound design is striking too, a sonic collage of percussive booms and deafening static roars that are often more unsettling than the film's relatively mild visual shocks. "The Quiet Ones" is not very original, nor even especially scary, and its title ultimately proves as meaningless as its plot. All the same, this genteel shocker earns its place in Hammer's campy canon of superior B-movie schlock. Creaky and predictable, it should serve as comfort food to the huge and undemanding global fan base for old-school horror, the heavy metal of movie genres. "The Quiet Ones," a Lionsgate release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "intense sequences of violence and terror, sexual content, thematic material, language, and smoking throughout." Running time: 98 minutes. ___ MPAA rating definition for PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

ABC to introduce 'Black Box' this Thursday
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
ABC to introduce 'Black Box' this Thursday

The new medical series starring British actress Kelly Reilly will premiere on ABC this Thursday, April 24 in the time slot previously occupied by "Scandal."Produced by "X-Men: First Class" director Bryan Singer and by "The L Word" creator Ilene Chaiken, "Black Box" will focus on a world-renowned neuroscientist who is hiding a big secret from her fiancé: her bipolar disorder. English actress Kelly Reilly, seen in "Flight" and "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows," will star as Elizabeth Black. Her compatriot Vanessa Redgrave ("The Butler") will play Dr. Hartramph, Elizabeth's psychiatrist and one of the few who know her secret. Bryan Singer will reunite with some of the medical drama themes he came to know as the producer of "House MD." For this new project, Singer's co-producer Chaiken will also act as showrunner. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

Designers return to childhood Disney memories for charity
Tuesday Apr 22, 2014
Designers return to childhood Disney memories for charity

Disney France has invited around 20 fashion designers and visual artists to explore the theme of "Bad for Good" ("Le Mal pour le Bien") through a series of works that will be exhibited in Paris and sold at auction for charity.Once again this year, Disney France is renewing its tradition of partnering with designers and artists for a charity fundraiser. For the first time, participating artists were asked to create a work on the theme of "Bad for Good," presenting a very personal vision of the theme and calling to mind the iconic villains of Disney films through the ages. Chantal Thomass, Christian Louboutin, Paul Smith, Christian Lacroix, Anne-Valérie Hash, Manish Arora, Kobi Levi, Laurent Pernot and Martin Grant are among the talents who contributed sketches and other works that bring their childhood memories to life. The works will be exhibited at the Espace Commines in Paris from June 10 to 12 and sold at auction on June 12. Proceeds will benefit the non-profit group La Source, which aims to help children and teenagers confronted with social, academic or family issues. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks could reunite for Cold War feature
Tuesday Apr 22, 2014
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks could reunite for Cold War feature

The actor and director could soon reteam for their fourth collaboration.The project that could bring Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks together once again does not yet have a title, although the plot seems to have been established, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The feature will tell the story of James Donovan, a lawyer sent to the Soviet Union during the Cold War to negotiate the release of a U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers. Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks have already collaborated on three films: "Saving Private Ryan" (1998), "Catch Me If You Can" (2002) and "The Terminal" (2004). The two stars were also co-producers on the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers" and "The Pacific." As usual, Steven Spielberg is currently involved in multiple projects. The director is working on "Robopocalypse," a sci-fi movie produced by Fox, and on "Montezuma," which will depict the conflict between the famous Aztec ruler and the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

Events

VMAs returning to LA; trying out renovated Forum
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
VMAs returning to LA; trying out renovated Forum

Live from Inglewood! After visiting New York last year, the MTV Video Music Awards announced Wednesday that the show is returning to the West Coast this summer to become the first major awards ceremony broadcast from the storied Forum in Inglewood, Calif. For decades, the "Fabulous Forum," as it was known, hosted some of the world's biggest musical talents, from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones. But in recent years, the arena and its working-class neighborhood near the LA airport fell on hard times as newer, hipper venues gained favor. Then, after a $100 million makeover, the Forum reopened in January as the largest indoor entertainment venue in the country. It has already hosted such acts as the Eagles and Justin Timberlake. The 2014 VMAs will air on Sunday, Aug. 24. Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus to return for fourth term as 'Veep'
Wednesday Apr 23, 2014
Julia Louis-Dreyfus to return for fourth term as 'Veep'

HBO announced that its political comedy will return in spring 2015 for its fourth season. The premium cable network also said it has renewed "Silicon Valley," its freshman comedy on the tech world created by Mike Judge.Julia Louis-Dreyfus will return to the small screen as the US vice president Selina Meyer for another season, which will be aired next year on HBO. The network opted to renew "Veep" in spite of its flagging ratings. Since its return to the air on April 6, the show has drawn less than a million viewers each week. Nonetheless, the comedy is a hit with critics, as indicated by its frequent award nominations. "Silicon Valley," on the other hand, has been a hit with critics and viewers alike so far. The show, which follows a group of young IT developers and entrepreneurs, has attracted two million viewers per episode on average. It is worth noting, however, that the comedy is aired just before "Game of Thrones," currently HBO's most-watched series. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2014.

Harris channels 'Hedwig' when audience acts unruly
Tuesday Apr 22, 2014
Harris channels 'Hedwig' when audience acts unruly

NEW YORK (AP) — Neil Patrick Harris knows that his character Hedwig speaks directly to the audience throughout his Broadway show, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." So he understands how things can sometimes get unruly. "Hedwig's energy transfers itself into a dialogue with the audience. So if someone calls something out, it's sort of my responsibility, in character, to make sure that that person knows that this isn't the kind of show like 'Rocky Horror,' where I'm going to be bantering with them," Harris said after the show's opening on Tuesday. Several times during previews, Harris responded to fans calling out to him as "Neil," and his replies were just what you'd expect from Hedwig, sometimes laced with sassy expletives. "That's part of the job that I have to say, 'All right,' in character, 'Settle it down girl, we're in the middle of a show right now," Harris said. "So that happened and people thought it was funny. I've done worse. She's a tough girl that Hedwig." But the actor says his responses are never planned. "I don't come up with zingers and think, 'I can't wait to say something rude to this person,' but sometimes things happen. That's why it's theater," Harris said with a smile. Theater is what the 40-year-old has always thrived on doing. He has three Broadway shows already under his belt, but he couldn't do much during the past decade while he was starring in the highly successful sitcom, "How I Met Your Mother." He successfully hosted the Tony Awards four of the previous five years, but claimed that experience was too brief for him. Harris got to do big numbers during the Tonys, and though he enjoyed the hard work, regardless of how well it went, he said "you'd never do it again." The actor last appeared on a Broadway stage in the 2004 revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Assassins." He's always wanted to return, but the time wasn't right because of his day job. "I didn't want to finish (a season of) 'How I Met Your Mother,' and jump right into previews and rehearsals, and as soon as it was done go back to the show. I would have just been exhausted. I was anxious for them to not cast somebody else," Harris acknowledged. But all good things come to an end, and his sitcom recently had its finale, freeing him up to get back on stage. Harris is savoring the experience of being in a Broadway show again. "The repetition of it is what has drawn me to it," he said. The story of the Hedwig — the transgender East German performer and her tortured path from Berlin to a mobile home in Kansas to New York — was written by John Cameron Mitchell with music by Stephen Trask. It draws heavily from Mitchell's personal life growing up as the son a U.S. Army General. Mitchell originally performed the title role in the cult musical in 1998 and starred in the film version in 2001. Mitchell called Harris the perfect Hedwig. "He's got every skill necessary. The dancing and the singing and the comedy and the emotional weight, and also the extra dimension of Hedwig, who has to be a Queen, where she's the top," Mitchell said. ____ Online: http://www.hedwigbroadway.com Twitter: Follow AP Entertainment's John Carucci at http://www.twitter.com/jacarucci Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Milsap, Wiseman among Country Hall inductees
Tuesday Apr 22, 2014
Milsap, Wiseman among Country Hall inductees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ronnie Milsap, Mac Wiseman and the late Hank Cochran are the newest members of the Country Music Hall of Fame. The 2014 induction class was introduced by Kix Brooks during a news conference Tuesday at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The trio will be inducted later this year. "I anticipated and hoped for it a long time," Wiseman said of his selection in the veterans era category. "This is the biggest thing that's ever happened to me in my 70-odd years. Being in the same categories with all the greats over the years, I'm just really flattered." Wiseman got his start in music after contracting polio as a child, which kept him out of the fields in his native Virginia. He was an original member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys, made his Grand Ole Opry debut with Bill Monroe, was an executive with the influential Nashville independent label Dot Records and a founding board member of the Country Music Association. Milsap, inducted in the modern era category, was an established talent by the time he arrived in Nashville in the 1970s. He'd played in J.J. Cale's band in the early 1960s and moved to Memphis to work with Chips Moman at the hit-making American Studios, where he worked with Elvis Presley, among others, before accepting an invitation to go to Nashville to record for RCA Records. It was something of an experiment for Milsap, known as an R&B and rock singer, but he made sure he had a regular gig before he hit town, playing nightly at Roger Miller's King of the Road Hotel. He found country fans were open to his style, and he went on to win several Grammy Awards, the CMA's entertainer of the year award in 1977 and four album of the year awards between 1975 and 1986. "They developed me as an act that when you heard me on the radio, people knew who it was," Milsap said of RCA's Jerry Bradley and Joe Galante. "When you turn on the radio and hear Merle Haggard, you know who it is. When you hear Charley Pride, you know who it is. When you heard Ronnie Milsap, that's that new guy over at RCA." Cochran, who is being inducted posthumously in the songwriter category, probably secured his place in country music history when he got Willie Nelson a songwriting job at Pamper Music by forgoing his own raise. He wrote the Ray Price standard "Make the World Go Away" and Patsy Cline's second most-memorable song, "I Fall to Pieces" (following Nelson's own "Crazy"), among many others. He died in 2010 of pancreatic cancer shortly after a touching bedside singalong that included friends Jamey Johnson, Buddy Cannon and Billy Ray Cyrus. ___ Online: http://countrymusichalloffame.org ___ Follow AP Music Writer Chris Talbott: http://twitter.com/Chris_Talbott . Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

'Wicked' composer, others fight sheet music piracy
Tuesday Apr 22, 2014
'Wicked' composer, others fight sheet music piracy

NEW YORK (AP) — By now, some young musical theater fans have received an email from Stephen Schwartz asking them to stop illegally downloading sheet music from any of his shows. Or anyone's show, for that matter. The award-winning composer of the Broadway smash, "Wicked," wants people to know that it's stealing. "You wouldn't walk into a music store and walk out with a piece of music under your arm. So why would it be acceptable to do it online," Schwartz told The Associated Press Monday at an anti-piracy awareness event hosted by the Dramatists Guild. He added, "I just went to the first of the Web sites that I'm going to be emailing, and I typed my name in to see how many individual pieces of sheet music that were available for free of mine — over 11,000. "I didn't know I had that many pieces of music," said an astonished Schwartz. The event proved to be a summit of musical theater composers that included Jason Robert Brown, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Amanda Green, Stephen Flaherty, Marc Shaiman, Scott Wittman, and others. Many of them sat in a room across the hall from the organization's headquarters hunched over computers, writing letters to offenders as a projection screen showed the organization's Twitter activity. The idea of reaching out to sheet music pirates began a few years ago, when composer and Dramatists Guild member Georgia Stitt found out during a talk with students that her husband's sheet music was being illegally downloaded. Stitt is married to "Bridges of Madison County" composer Jason Robert Brown. Brown took to a letter-writing campaign to ask illegal downloaders to stop. "About three or four years ago, when Georgia had told me about it and I got on the Internet, I saw a whole list, about three or four hundred people pirating my sheet music that day, and I said 'I'm just going to write them,'" he said. While that doesn't entirely solve the problem, Brown feels getting an email from a Broadway composer carries enormous clout. "If Stephen Sondheim had written to me when I was 20 years old, when I was 16 years old, I would have had an aneurism," Brown said. "It's more of a reason to take somebody seriously. You're not going to listen to your mother about it, or your teachers, but maybe you'll listen to someone that you respect when they say to you, 'This hurts me.'" Miranda, composer of the Tony-winning "In the Heights," feels most of the people illegally downloading music are unaware of the impact on the artist. "Musical theater artists, we thrive on productions and we thrive on sheet music. That's our bread and butter," he said. "We're not ranked iTunes artists. We create for live productions, so we suffer more than most in this era where you can download anything." Dramatist Guild committee chair Craig Carnelia is leading the fight in shutting down these illegal Web sites, as well as bringing awareness to the problem. "There are more songs being stolen than being sold... there are people that believe that intellectual property should belong to everyone, but for the most part, it's people that don't really understand that by doing this, they're taking from the very people they revere, and damaging the business they hope to become a part of," Carnelia said. The Anti-Piracy Committee was founded in 2010. Since then, it has produced numerous resources for writers, as well as "Someone Wrote That Song," a musical PSA with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Carnelia. The committee has not assigned a dollar value to the sheet music illegally traded, but feels it's significantly impacting the livelihoods of composers and lyricists. Well-known composers have tens of thousands of pieces of music available for download. Carnelia said he's seen thousands of pieces of his material being offered for free. "On one site, there are some composers like Sondheim that have 30,000 being offered," Carnelia said. Sheet music generally sells for $5 to $10. But some sell as low as 99 cents. "Hands on a Hardbody" lyricist and composer Amanda Green understands why young people just want to get their hands on some music. But she feels it's important to let them know of that it hurts the composer's livelihood. "I think it's about changing people's mindset." Green said. She added: "The more attention that's paid, and the more we refuse to be quiet about it, the more impact we can have." _____ Online: http://www.dramatistsguild.com ___ Follow AP Entertainment's John Carucci at http://www.twitter.com/jacarucci Copyright (2014) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.