[THEATER REVIEW] ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ (West Valley Performing Arts Center)

One of the things I’ve missed the most in quarantine is live performance, live music. It’s just not the same over zoom as much as we try to make it so! So it was with great anticipation I made my way to the West Valley Performing Arts Center (former home of Hale Center Theater West Valley) to see their production of Ain’t Misbehavin’. This show is new to me and it was a rollicking good time!

Ain’t Misbehavin’ isn’t really a musical in the traditional sense. It’s billed as a musical revue and is made up of 30 songs from the jazz musician Thomas ”Fats” Waller. Previous to this show I had only heard of a couple of Fats songs particularly ‘I’m Going to Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter’ and ‘I Can Give You Anything but Love’. However, part of the fun of an experience like this getting to know and enjoy new songs.

The production at West Valley is small with only 6 actors who are very talented and put their all into the singing and dancing. I particularly enjoyed Krispin Banks as Ken and Daysha as Nell Carter. My favorite part of the evening though was the pianist Mark Johnson who gives a marathon of a performance along with the live jazz orchestra! What a treat!

West Valley has Footloose next on their roster and it probably would have been wise to start their season out with something more accessible and popular (a known IP and all). I went to Ain’t Misbehavin’ opening night and the audience was pretty sparse. Hopefully the word will get around and people will give it a try because it deserves to have an audience.

COVID-wise this was a very safe evening at the theater. They went above and beyond to ensure distancing, masks and even checked my temperature upon arrival. It was much better than what I experienced at Hale Centre Theatre in Sandy. So if you are concerned in that regard this one is the way to go.

8 out of 10

Hello I’m 40…

Hey everyone! I hope you are all doing well. I am writing this having been in isolation for pretty much the last 3 months as I am trying really hard to not get the caronavirus. There is a side of me that wonders if isolation is worse than the virus but I don’t want to test out any theories. I have been able to leave my house for a few errands and to spend time with my parents (and my brother Sam has moved back home!). One of those occasions was to celebrate a big birthday for me! The BIG 40!

Yes ladies and gentleman I am now 40 years old. I have been on this earth for 4 decades. It’s honestly pretty surreal but I am feeling good about my spot in 40. Of course I had grand plans for my 40th Birthday but like most plans the last year they had to be put on the back burner. I wanted to go on a cruse, maybe even the Disney cruise, and that obviously isn’t happening right now. Hopefully someday but not right now.

Instead of going out we had a virtual murder mystery party that was a play on the Great British Bake Off called The Great British Bump Off. It was pretty fun and I appreciated how everyone got into it and did voices and got into their characters. My niece was even taking detailed notes so she could accurately guess the murderer. I hope we can do it again because I had a great time.

Of course such a milestone definitely makes a girl think. As I have pondered starting my 40s I feel pretty good about where I’m at. I think starting my 30s was a lot harder. Back a decade ago I hadn’t accomplished much and felt like I was still in the same spot I was when I graduated from college in 2002. Now I’ve purchased my own home. I have 2 successful podcasts and am a film critic on rottentomatoes. I feel like I actually have something to show for my life which I don’t think I had at 30.

Naturally there are things I expected to have which I don’t. I have yet to fall madly in love and get married. Who knows if I ever will? I don’t have any children and unfortunately I live far away from my nieces so I don’t get to see them often except for virtually. I wish I had more of a legacy when it comes to young people but I try to at least be a good example to my young followers online whether it be on youtube, podcasting or on twitter.

Most importantly I have wonderful friends who support me and hopefully I support them. I am so grateful to all of my cohosts for my various podcasts and all the guests and friends I’ve made through collaborations. There are too many to name. I know social media gets a bad rap and it can be toxic but I have been so buoyed up by my connections whether it be on twitter, instagram, discord or more. I would definitely say the good outweighs the bad in that department.

So there you have it! 40 has come and I am here to celebrate it! Let’s hope my 41st birthday I’m not isolated and am able to travel and get out of my house more often! That’s the dream these days. What’s your greatest advice for someone turning 40?

Sunday Devotionals and Life Update

It has been an unconscionable long amount of time since I wrote in this blog and I apologize for that. I have been still keeping up on my movie blog at rachelsreviews.net and on my podcasts but for some reason I have not felt the desire to write in this personal blog for a while. It’s been such an unsettling time and I think there is a part of me that expects it to be over and then it keeps stretching out more and more. Now this week in Utah it is quite possibly at its worst ever. It’s exhausting.

What’s also exhausting is my projects as a podcaster and critic. Somehow Hallmark and Lifetime made their full slate of holiday films in 2020 so I am as busy as ever working for the Hallmarkies Podcast. I am extremely proud of every last interview and recap we have produced and I hope if you haven’t you will take a look. I am also very busy as a film critic and podcaster for my own content at Rachel’s Reviews.

I think part of the reason why I haven’t felt much need to write a personal blog lately is I haven’t had any personal life to write about. My whole life has become work/my creative enterprises. Anything that I had to pull me away from those goals has gone away. Church? Gone. Movies? Gone. Friends? Gone as far as time goes. Book club? Gone. You get the idea. Luckily I am very fulfilled by my work and it is a lot of fun (and interactive) so it’s a pretty good situation to be in. It just doesn’t give me that much to opine about here. Maybe I will try and do better. If there is anything you’d like to hear from me on let me know. If not, keep watching me talk and talk and talk (and write and write and write) on my other platforms.

In the meantime, I have created a series of Sunday Devotionals with my friend Chris. We are each of different faiths but religiously inclined and so after church was canceled we created 28 devotionals to discuss God and Christ-centered themes in a non-denominational environment. It was a great experience and I miss it since we stopped. It’s only on hiatus now so we will be back for a Thanksgiving and Christmas episode. Still, I’d love for you to check them out and respond in the comments. I put a lot of heart and soul into each one of them so let me know what you think .

I’m very thankful to Chris for doing the devotionals with me and for anyone who did listen to them. They really helped me get through a tough time.

What have you been doing to keep yourself afloat during these times and have you found it strangely difficult to write about them like I have? I will try to do better. I really do love this little personal blog. Let me know how you are doing. Sure love ya! Rachel

My Heart in a Pandemic

emergency room

Just wanted to give you all a quick update on my health. If you are following me on social media you have no doubt seen me discuss some problems I have been having with my breathing since I finished up Sundance in the beginning of February.

It felt like I was always gasping for breath and of course as this is a major symptom of COVID19 I became very concerned. I saw a doctor at the beginning of March and he said it was just asthma inflamed by allergies and gave me a prednisone and inhalor prescription. These helped a little bit but the problem persisted. I was then tested for COVID19 and it came back negative. What could this be? I did not know!

Then last week I went into the doctors because I was afraid I was going to stop breathing all together. After examining me they found my blood pressure to be very high and my heartbeat and breathing to be elevated. They strongly encouraged me to go to the emergency room which, despite the expense, I decided to do.

At the emergency room I went through over 8 hours of testing (even though I was in the respiratory unit the place was completely empty which surprised me with COVID19 going on) and the doctor noticed something strange in an ultrasound of my heart, which he told me to have a cardiologist take a look at.

The next day I made an appointment for an echocardiogram, which was administered on Friday. I then talked to the doctor over the phone because of social distancing concerns. He was very encouraging and helpful, which was a great relief. He told me I have systolic heart failure which has to do with the left ventricle of your heart and that I have a problem with my ejection fraction (a measurement of how much blood your left ventricle is pumping out). Mine is at 30% when it should be more like 65%.

It might sound weird, but I was thrilled to have a diagnosis and treatment plan. For months I had been dealing with this mysterious breathing problem and having an unidentified medical condition is the worst. While not a good thing, this condition is treatable and I am working with the doctor to overcome. That’s the best I could hope for in such a situation!

The doctor has me on 4 different medications and I am taking my blood pressure/weight each day. I am also trying to eat as little salt as possible. In under a week of treatment I’ve definitely felt a difference, and I am highly motivated to continue to improve my health. I’ve been too lazy about it for too long!

If you have any favorite low sodium recipes I’d love to try them. The only major downside is I have to be extra vigilant with social distancing until the blood pressure gets under control. If I were to get COVID in this state it would be disastrous. I was already doing well with my isolation but not even going to the grocery store is going to make me crazy!

I guess at least I have plenty of motivation to get those numbers down and under control!

Most importantly I am grateful for my family and friends who I have missed terribly during this difficult time. Nevertheless, I have been thankful for all the emails/phone calls and social media posts that have come in (and prayers). Thank you for all the support. I am also grateful for the excellent medical care I have received from doctors, nurses and more.

I know this is just the beginning of a long journey to a healthy heart, but I feel at peace about it. I’ve been doing these Sunday Devotionals each week since being in quarantine. This has helped me be in a spiritually strong place for this health crisis. I have felt God’s guiding hand and His spirit comfort me each step along the way.

I hope He is helping you through this tough time. God bless!

Isolation, Family and Spirituality

As we all know the world has been put on lockdown and we are all waiting for COVID19 to take its toll and finish its course across this country (to a reasonable degree at least). Just when I think it couldn’t get any worse it does until I want to hide away in a little ball in my room. In many ways I feel like Elsa in Frozen but without a sister knocking on my door trying to play with me. It’s been such a surreal time!

While this time of quarantine has been very difficult there have been some surprises. First, I have been cooking way more. For a single person I think I was pretty well prepared and have a robust pantry (and fortunately had just gotten my toilet paper order from amazon the week before this all started!). While I have made 2 or 3 trips to the grocery I’ve kept it to a minimum and have rarely left my house. This has left me to cook almost all of my meals. I honestly didn’t realize how much I was eating out, so it has been very rewarding.

Secondly, my family has grown closer from all of this. My family is a combination of people who love each other but are all very different. Everything from our ages, distances apart, to our life choices make it challenging to develop a close bond. However, when all this started someone began an email chain and we’ve kept it up and all updated how we are feeling and dealing with this situation. This may sound like a small thing but it’s been big for me. I feel closer to my family than I have in a long time and for that I am truly grateful.

Finally, this time of isolation has actually proven to be a time of spiritual growth. While I have definitely had my lonely times (thanks for helping me deal facebook friends!), I’ve also had more time with the scriptures and my thoughts with God. In order to help my friends who are without church I started doing a Sunday Devotional series over on my youtube channel where I share a talk on a nondenominational topic and then discuss the subject with a friend of mine (Caroline and twice Chris from Durbania). I’m very proud of the series and even if it doesn’t help others (which I hope it does) I have been very edified by it. It reminds me of my days as a Sunday School teacher, which was a very rewarding time in my life.

So far we have talked about kindness, courage and hope. Next week is on forgiveness. I would love your thoughts on topics or anything else that might help the series. I hope you find it as comforting as it has been for me to prepare.

Fortunately, I tested negative for COVID19 so I feel a calm I had been missing for some time. It has been a tough time but I am so grateful for my job with Kobayashi and everybody involved with both of my podcasts. I am extremely blessed beyond measure. I hope that you have found ways to be edified during this difficult time. Please share your stories and what you have done to survive (maybe even thrive) during this time of isolation. God bless you all

ps. If anyone reading has the ability to support my efforts as a freelancer/podcaster I’d sure be grateful. Every little bit helps https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies