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  Margaritas and Motown

July 31st  2012.

 Location: La Velvet Margarita Cantina


Time: Happy Hour[1]

Drinks to be ordered: All of them.

Except for the ones with citrus in them.[2] Because I'm allergic. Not in a throat closing, deathy kind of way, but in the horrible hives cover my body and last for a week and itch and I scratch them and look like a detoxing junkie kind of way. Not life threatening, but ugly, and I don't have any pride left (or shame) but I do have my vanity. It's also a new allergy - I didn't think that was possible, or allowed (curse you science!) - that made it's gross rashy debut this Christmas so I'm still in the adjustment phase. No delicious juice, no delicious drinks made with delicious juice, no lemon meringue pies, no lemon bars, no nothing with oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruits, etc.

 Why divulge this personal health problem/annoyance? Because I chose to go to a bar with "margarita[3]" in its name. Why did I choose to go to a margarita bar? Because I'm a masochist. Also, they serve delicious Mexican food. Also, maybe I wanted to look at the margaritas longingly from afar, my love unrequited, knowing I could never be with them but still wanting to know that they were being lovingly consumed by other healthier patrons with stronger immune systems than I, and maybe I've been reading too much Brontë, maybe.

Regardless, I was determined to have a good time. My friend, El Rojo[4], was joining me for a night of drinks and Theatah! And having drinks at La Velvet Cantina Margarita is a theatrical experience in and of itself.


You walk in and are immediately consumed by its atmosphere. Blue velvet walls, a ceiling covered in sombreros, black velvet (lots of velvet basically) paintings of 50's icons and lucha libre wrestlers, dia de los muertos puppets dangling, Elvis movies playing on two large projectors, it's a whole lot of kitsch. And I love kitsch. Kitsch and $5 margaritas. Wait - not regular margaritas, the other fruit flavored ones!  And never has anyone looked at me with such pity or bewilderment as my waiter when I explained my allergy and then ordered a mango margarita. He almost shed a single, sorrowful tear. I'm sure of it.

On the left, my sad instagramtastic photo. On the right, the former Hogwarts Headmasters that watch you while you eat.

Anyways, I was one drink and half a complimentary basket of chips in when El Rojo showed up. (I was early, he was on time). It was time to step it up. No more sad faux-garitas for me. If I couldn't have margaritas then I was going to have.........a drink served in a giant pineapple! The Royal Velvet, (or Velvet Royale if you're in France[5]) is made of tequila, amaretto, fresh pineapple juice and Chambord. El Rojo ordered the Velvet Elvis which is made of tequila, crème de cassis, fresh pineapple and orange juice and ginger ale. My Royal Velvet was delicious but I couldn't help but take El Rojo's flaunting his ability to drink not one but two citrus juices as anything but the most grievous of insults. But that's just how he rolls. For dinner I had the salmon quesadilla and he had the salmon tacos (copycat). I rounded it off with one more mango faux-garita (yes I'm making this a thing) for old time's sake and we were off to the Pantages!

My night in pictures.



Huey, not in front of your mother! (Left: Bryan Fenkart and Felicia Boswell, Right: Julie Johnson belting out "Change Don't Come Easy.")

I was originally excited about this show. I hear the words "Tony," "musical," and "motown," and I can't wait to get my groove on. And even the premise was somewhat intriguing: 1950's Memphis, the birth of rock n' roll and an interracial couple fighting for acceptance, would it be rollicking yet emotionally moving like West Side Story? Or would it be campy and inspiring like Hairspray? I at least expected fun songs and impressive choreography.

But what did I get?

Let me say first, that those actors worked their butts off. Their dance and vocal talents were clearly very impressive, they kept the energy high and the pace moving - basically they did the best with what they had to work with, and that wasn't a whole lot. The dialogue is cartoonish and straight out of a Tyler Perry film. If I were to take a drink every time one of the actors had to state their race and religion (options: black, white, Christian) I would have died of alcohol poisoning before intermission. And the songs were even more broad. This was the musical that won several Tony's, including Best New Musical and Best Book and Score? Who wrote this? Oh right, the keyboardist for Bon Jovi (David Bryan) and Joe DiPietro (another white dude).

 David Bryan, hair show goddess.  Joe DiPietro, needs funnier hair.

In Charles Isherwood's review of the Broadway performance he described it as "the Michael Bolton of musicals," and I'm pretty sure they should adopt that as their new tag line. Songs like "Everybody Wants to be Black on a Saturday Night" and "Colored Woman" while striving, in earnest, to promote positive messages of equality and tolerance just come off as offensive cliches.[6] The catchiest song, "Change Don't Come Easy," belongs to Huey (the protagonist)'s mother. It's also the most honest. Even with the histrionic vocalizing at its end [7]. But despite it's many many [8] flaws there were a few truly delightful and funny moments. Bryan Fenkart, Huey, was charismatic and enthusiastic - even if he spoke, inexplicably, like Larry the Cable Guy, and Felicia Boswell, the singer he falls for, has a stunning voice. Julie Johnson, Huey's mother, has excellent comedic timing. Will Mann, Bobby, is a big man with some serious dance skillz. As I said before, these are extremely talented actors workin' hard for that money [9].

Felicia Boswell and co. are "Scratching that Itch." I guess they have a citrus allergy too!

There are larger social issues with this play and its commercial success[10] that I would love love LOVE to get into (I mean hello it's a musical about race relations in the segregated south in which the stealing/appropriation of African-American music is treated as a punch line. Three separate times. [11]) but I think I have to save that for when I'm Charles Isherwood. Or Angela Davis. [12] I could write pages and pages on it's unintentional Brechtianism (just go with it) and camp, but this is a blog about having fun exploring Hollywood so I'll content myself with talking the ears off of all my friends. Or, leaving my acapella renditions of the entire Memphis soundtrack on El Rojo's voicemail. (Revenge, like citrus, is a sweet and sour thing. And since I can't sate myself with citrus....)

In summation:

La Velvet Margarita Cantina get's 5 out of 5 Pineapples of awesomeness.

 Memphis get's 2 out of 4 frowning Isherwoods.

And David Bryan's hair get's 4 out of 5 disapproving Boltons.


El Rojo get's his contact info in my phone permanently changed to El Rojo.


COMING SOON: Never a dull moment on the metro Red Line and "Summahfest!"

[1] Every hour that involves alcohol is "happy." But in this specific instance, it was 6 o'clock in the pm.

[2] Which is 95% of drinks made with alcohol, turns out.

[3] You know, that drink made of two things: tequila and LIME juice.

[4] This is what you get when you ask for a pseudonym.

[5] Pulp Fiction jokes are hilarious and topical! Oh god...pulp...I....I can't escape you citrus!!!

[6] Especially when considering they were written and composed by 2 WHITE DUDES.

[7] Another plague of this production. Unearned melismas every three verses don't make a song powerful or good. I call it "American Idolitis."

[8] Many many many

[9] So hard for the money. So you betta treat them right.

[10] It got a standing ovation. Los Angeles, as my former mentor Alice Tuan said, is very promiscuous with it's standing o's. Any show with a budget over $10,000 is guaranteed one apparently.

[11] 2 WHITE DUDES. More privileged than 2 BROKE GIRLS and even less entertaining.

[12] I'm going to have the most amazing business cards when that happens.

Posted By Brittany on August 02, 2012 04:39 pm | Permalink 
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