Assorted ramblings from the world of entertainment:
In all the years I've been going to shows by Easy Street Productions, I don't think I've ever seen a musical that looked unpolished, under-rehearsed.
So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by the first Easy Street "Studio Sessions," a concert series ESP is starting at its rehearsal space on Mahoning Avenue in Youngstown. The event was dubbed "Girls Night Out" and featured the talents of Easy Street co-founder Maureen Collins; her niece, Katy Collins (whose plan to move to Nashville at the end of the month was the impetus for the show); Natalie Sprouse, winner of last year's DeYor Singing Star Competition; Teresa Weakley, best known as a news anchor on WKBN-TV; and Olivia Powell, who appeared in Easy Street's recent production of "Annie."
I've been to these kinds of shows before. Each singer takes a turn while the others add a guitar strum or a simple backing vocal while biding time until it's their turn.
Each woman got a turn in the spotlight Saturday, but this was really a well-rehearsed multi-talented quintet. As good as each was individually, they really shined as a collective. Katy Collins' rendition of "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" wouldn't have stood out as much without Weakley's violin accompaniment, and Weakley added some girl group style backing vocals to Katy Collins' cover of Duffy's "Mercy."
The instrumental backing of the other women fleshed out the sound on Sprouse originals like "Queen Bee." Powell didn't take lead vocals until the second half of the show with The Beatles' "Let It Be," but her backing vocals and keyboard work stood out throughout the evening. Maureen Collins led a couple of Janis Joplin favorites ("Mercedes Benz," "Me and Bobby McGee") but they quickly turned into group numbers.
And a full-throated version of Florence and the Machine's "Shake It Out" featuring all five women made for thrilling climax to the evening. There was nothing unpolished about this night out.
Plans are to turn "Studio Sessions" into a monthly series. Based on the first concert, I can't wait for the next one.
The I-X Center announced this week that it is combining two of its biggest culinary events into one show.
The Fabulous Food Show and the International Beer Fest will be part of a joint weekend event on Nov. 8-10. Last year there was both a spring and a fall Fabulous Food Show and a separate beer fest in the spring. It will all be one weekend in 2013.
Attendance seemed to be slipping a bit in recent years for the food show. There only are a few chefs that have the drawing power to pack the show's kitchen theater for demonstrations, and even Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri probably saw their crowds shrink some after multiple trips to Cleveland.
The chef lineup and ticket information will be announced this summer.
There is one week left to enter the Tribune Chronicle's Oscar Contest. All ballots must be received by noon Feb. 21 in order to be eligible to win the $100 cash prize.
A ballot can be found in today's Ticket, and ballots also can be filled out online at www.tribtoday.com.
I'll make my final Academy Award predictions in next week's column. And I can guarantee there are going to be some changes from my original picks.
Andy Gray is the entertainment writer for the Tribune Chronicle. Write to him at email@example.com