Short Takes: Sep. 7, 1992

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A Battalion-Size Musical Force

They have lifted their voices in sacred and secular song ever since their wagon trains pulled up to the Great Salt Lake in the summer of 1847. That once small choir soon became one of the world's finest battalion-size forces (325 singers), reason enough for Sony Music to reissue some of the MORMON TABERNACLE CHOIR'S top hits. The five-CD set includes hymns, Civil War songs and American standards. The choir's ringing harmonies and bright tones are perfectly suited to chorales (Sheep May Safely Graze, with its heavenly shifting of voices) or patriotic marches (The Caissons Go Rolling Along, sung with a suitable military fervor). Some show tunes, though, are overly orchestrated and could do without the distracting backup.


Beach-Front Bauble

A dead body turns up on the beach near Lisa Hartman's ritzy house at 2000 MALIBU ROAD, and one of her new roommates complains, "I thought you said this was a safe neighborhood." Not so safe, maybe, but trashy enough for the pilot of this CBS series to place first in last week's Nielsens. Hartman plays a former hooker who shares her pad with a lawyer (Jennifer Beals -- remember Flashdance?), an actress (Drew Barrymore -- remember E.T.?) and the actress's scheming sister (Tuesday Knight -- remember silly stage names?). Director Joel Schumacher launched the series with a lot of dumb style; it's just the sort of + flashy bauble that could bring prime-time soaps back into fashion.


Big Apple Comics

Animated only begins to describe Tama Janowitz's style, as readers of Slaves of New York and A Cannibal in Manhattan have already discovered. THE MALE CROSS-DRESSER SUPPORT GROUP (Crown; $20) continues the author's carom through the Big Apple. This time it's a send-up of bizarre life-styles as seen through the hungry eye of Pamela Trowel, advertising director of Hunter's World magazine. Pam is miscast not only in her career but also as a sex object and surrogate mom of Abdhul, a stray who looks like a child but talks like a grownup. The plot? Forget about it. The characters? Instantly forgettable. It's Janowitz's hyper-real prose servicing a cartoon vision that still marks her as a talent in search of an adequate subject.


Serious Fun In the Swamp

Venue (Louisiana) and history (a corrupt past) evoke the Long family; sexual carelessness mixed with liberal idealism recalls the Kennedys. Together these touches give the tale of the Fowler clan of STORYVILLE a certain vibrancy. The story line -- in which the family scion (a well-cast James Spader) runs for Congress, investigates a murder in which he could be implicated and sorts out the circumstances surrounding his father's suicide -- is twisty and full of colorful characters and weird behavior. Director Mark Frost, co-creator of Twin Peaks, has made a good-looking movie, combining intellectual ambition with darkly glamorous conflicts between private demons and public trust. Storyville is good, serious fun.



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