Tag: broadway

Fun Recent Activities in Utah

It’s no secret that I spend a lot of my life cooped up in doors. Sometimes people will say the weather has been bad but I don’t really know because I’ve been inside all day! So lately for my sanity I’ve been trying to get out and go to more activities- particularly plays and concerts and I thought I would give you a round up of what I’ve seen. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these and what you thought.

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First cool experience is I got to go to the Utah Symphony to hear a concert called An American in Paris which was half Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and half Schubert’s Symphony No 7 in C Major. I preferred the Gershwin but as Utah has one of the best symphonies in the country it was a great experience.

Next, if you’ve been following my blog you probably know my favorite book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Well, after 13 years he has a new book called Bridge of Clay which I am dying to read. He came to Salt Lake for a lecture and book signing and it was really neat. He autographed my book and I was able to tell him how much his writing meant to me. So cool!

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Then I tried out a new theater in Provo called The Hive.  They were putting on a new original play called The Bookbinders Tale, which I had heard great things about. Unfortunately I found it to be a bit hipstery for me. I think it felt it was being more groundbreaking in its themes and messages than it really was. Still, I like what they are trying to do with the theater and would definitely give them another chance.

Anyone who has been following my blog knows how much I adore Josh Groban. One of the coolest experiences of my life was in 2007 when my friend Camille got bumped from the nosebleeds to down right by the stage! I also love Idina Menzel and have seen her in concert. So I was thrilled to see they were touring together and snatched up a seat (a terrible seat but I was sitting by nice people so it was fun). They did an amazing job and sung all the songs I wanted them to. My only qualm was that the big screen was broken so we could barely see them (the photo of them is from the Deseret News). But other than that a fantastic concert!

I also had the chance to make a new friend named Ashley who is a member of a theater group I follow on facebook. Always good to go out of your comfort zone and meet someone new. 🙂

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As I was driving around in my hometown of Draper I noticed a sign for ‘A Night of Broadway’ by the Draper Philharmonic and Choral Society and decided to give it a try. To my delight it was such a great experience! Everything was so well done with so many different shows covered by talented singers and dancers. There were a few minor hiccups with microphones but other than that it was amazing and I hope to go to many more of their concerts

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I was very excited to see Hale Center Theaters latest version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I had seen it there once before years ago (at the old Hale of course) and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately this time I left with mixed feelings. It was fun and I enjoyed seeing it with my family I thought some of the casting was a little off (not great chemistry) and the show isn’t very memorable. I couldn’t tell you a single song. Also it doesn’t use the Sink Me and iconic poem very well. The production of the play was very good and great costumes.

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Next I was able to see 3 shows at Hale Center Theater Orem. 2 of them were at a double header of sorts. First I saw The Velveteen Rabbit, which is a play for children written by my former teacher Dave Smith. It was a very sweet little play for kids. Next I saw Anything Goes which is a bright and bubbly play full of Cole Porter songs. Naturally I loved it!

But the greatest surprise was seeing Daddy Long Legs which is a 2 person show based on the classic book (which I’m not high on and I like the movie even less). I went into it with low expectations but I wanted to support Dave and I ended up being delighted. The songs are great! It’s very romantic and I was amazed how they could learn so many lines! Very impressive!

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Finally I went to another ‘Night of Broadway’ this time at the Scera theater in Orem. It was full of talent and they mixed in the standards with some more obscure picks. It was great. My only complaint is the seats in that theater are so small I could barely sit through it and you can’t move the seat arm rest up making it quite uncomfortable. Oh well

So there you have it! It’s been a pretty fun Fall for checking out the arts. There are so many great things to see and do that it can be quite overwhelming. I’m grateful to live in such a artistic and talented place.

What have you been doing lately? Been to any plays or concerts? Any recommendations? Let me know! Thanks!

Pirate Queen Review (Hale Center Theater)

pirate queenAnyone who has followed this blog knows I love musical theater and that Hale Center Theater both in Orem and West Valley are two of the finest regional theaters in the country.  I would truly hold their productions up to anything I’ve seen on Broadway.  You probably also know I am a die-hard Les Miserables fan.  It was the first music, not just musical, that made a significant impact on me and I’ve seen it 3 times on Broadway.  So it was with a great deal of enthusiasium I went to see The Pirate Queen at Hale Center Theater written by Les Mis composers Alain Boublil (lyrics) and Claude- Michel Schonberg (music).

The Pirate Queen tells the true story of Grace O’Malley the daughter of an Irish Chieftan in the 16th Century.  She’s a fiery lass and wants to hit the open seas with her father.  There’s a lot of bold female talk in this musical including songs called ‘Woman’, ‘My Grace’, ‘The Choice is Mine’, ‘Boy’s’ll Be Boys’, ‘She Who Has All’ and ‘Woman to Woman’.  There’s a point where it goes from bold to a little cheesy and patronizing.  It’s kind of like if someone is telling you too often you look beautiful, you probably don’t look that beautiful…

pirate queen2Anyway, Grace gets on the open seas and ends up involved in conflict at sea, in arranged marriage, forbidden love, sword fights and even confronting Queen Elizabeth.  She even gets in a sword fight just after having a baby.  It is quite the lass indeed!

All of this is done with tons of flair by Hale Center Theater.  The costumes are particularly stunning capturing that Elizabethan feel perfectly.  The Irish dancing is a lot of fun  and feels right out of Riverdance!  As always with Hale, the singing was excellent.  I saw it with Bre Welch as Grace and Cecily Ellis-Bills as Queen Elizabeth.

You can get a feel for it in this little promo:

The problem is, and it pains me to say it, I thought the songs and music were really poor especially being they are from Boublil and Schonberg.  I left not wanting to download a single song.  Nothing was memorable or even stood out as a big number.  It all kind of meshed together.  B and S’s musicals are practically all music so if it isn’t good that’s a huge problem.

As far as the script the plot and dialogue were also weak. I get it is a true story but Grace felt like a stock, predictable character. There was no break out moment like Dreamed a Dream or On My Own and most of the side characters were completely forgettable unlike Les Mis. (I know tough to compare to Les Mis but I can’t help it when it is the same writing team). pirate queen3

It’s not like I was miserable or something.  If you want a generic, well put together play than you’ll enjoy it, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.  The whole thing just felt very flat and soapy when it should have been epic and engaging.

But I certainly appreciate the effort put in by the cast and crew.  Like I said, they did everything they could to elevate the weak material, so I give them a lot of props.  Hopefully Boublil and Schonberg will be able to find their mojo and write something better that Hale can than elevate soon.

Have any of you heard of this play?  Does it sound intriguing to you?  In a way I kind of wish the story could be retooled and tweaked because there is potential there.  It reminded me of Hale’s production of Scarlet Pimpernel and Zorro both which had way more memorable music and in a musical that’s kind of important. Oh well!

Friday 5: 5 Great Broadway Singers

This week on the Friday 5 we were asked to focus on 5 great female singers.  Well, I could have easily went with singers like Adele, Whitney Houston, Celine Dion etc but the more I thought about it the more I came back to Broadway.  For my money there is nothing like a Broadway singer in terms of quality of the singing voice.  Maybe you could make a claim for opera but I’m not as familiar with individual opera singers as Broadway.  Anyway, Broadway was my pick and I chose 5 singers I love:

  1. Julie Andrews- Does anything even need to be said to defend this choice? I mean Mary Poppins and Sound of Music alone seal the deal alone. The fact she can no longer sing makes me very depressed.  What an amazing voice and actress! Here she is singing Spoonful of Sugar
  2. Linda Eder- You might not be as familiar with Linda but she is an incredible talent.  She became famous playing Lucy in Jekyll and Hyde.   The most famous song from that show is Someone Like You.  I almost went with her rendition of Anthem from Chess but I couldn’t find a good 25 second or under section.  That’s the trouble with Friday 5 is you have to find a song that sell’s itself in a short section because of copyright issues. Not all songs do.
  3. Idina Menzel- My favorite belt singer is Idina and after seeing her live I am an even bigger fan of hers.  What a mastery over this particular type of sound.  It’s bold, striking and beautiful.  Here she is singing Defying Gravity from Wicked and Let it Go from Frozen
  4. Judy Garland- Ok she was not technically Broadway but she was in a lot of musicals and did a lot of concert albums, so I say it counts.  This particular song I went with because You Made Me Love You is such a heartbreaking reality of Judy’s life.  I also love her in Meet Me in St Louis and maybe I will use some of her songs from that show in later Friday 5s like the Trolley Song. . Of course I love Over the Rainbow.  Here she is singing it live in her famous London concert
  5. Kelli Ohara- Perhaps non-Broadway buffs might not be super familiar with Kelli but she has an amazing voice and has done just about everything on Broadway.  Recently she lit it up playing Anna in the King and I.  She’s also been amazing in Light in the Piazza, Nice Work if You Can Get It, South Pacific, Pajama Game and more.  Here she is singing Getting to Know You.  and here is Beauty Is from Light in the Piazza. 

What do you think of my 5 choices?  What are some of your favorite female Broadway singers both living and past on?  As a musical buff I would love to talk about it!  What’s your favorite musical?

Best and Worst of 2015 of Everything

So we have almost reached the end of 2015 and what a crazy year it has been.  And is it just me or has this year felt incredibly long?  It feels like a million years ago I was recovering from my busted knee!

As I do every year I thought it would be fun to share with you my best and worst of the year in a bunch of categories.  I would love if you shared yours in the comment section.  Some of them I won’t have a worst because it doesn’t really qualify.

Best Book I Read

I loved The Martian but best book I read  was Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. 

Here is a hilarious novel about a girl who is overcoming a mental breakdown and has severe anxiety.  But it is also extremely funny with her family being much better written than any sitcom I’ve seen in a long time.  Particularly the battles between the Mother and Audrey’s brother Frank had me in stitches.  Kinsella has been a favorite author of mine for years but this was her first YA novel and she knocked it out of the park.  It was touching, sweet, handled the mental illness so well and yet was also made me laugh.  No easy task to balance but she did.

finding audreyWorst Book I Read

Me Before You is a book that really ticked me off.  It attempts to manipulate the viewer to agree with the selfish choices the character makes.  Even if I agreed with said choices I wouldn’t appreciate the way the author doesn’t give other viable emotional options and expects you to celebrate as empowering the taking of a life.  This is no Million Dollar Baby I will tell you that.  Plus, the dialogue is awful, the characters poorly developed and the situation not as deep and contemplative as it thinks it is.  I said in my review on goodreads ‘like a Nicholas Sparks book but not as competently written…’.  It’s very true.  It is definitely one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

me before youBest Movie

I already shared my best and worst videos, with you but I figured I needed to share it here.

My favorite movie of the year was Pixars Inside Out.  It blew me away to follow the journey of Joy and Riley as they try to accept all this change into their lives.  It’s moving, clever, funny, beautifully animated and just about perfect.

inside out5The worst movie I saw all year is called the Ridiculous 6, which is available on Netflix.  It is not only a stupid comedy but incredibly gross and offensive.  Plus it is 2 hours long!!  Kill me now.  You’ve been warned.

ridiculous 6-3Best New Restaurant

My favorite new place to eat is the Even Stevens sandwich shop that opened up in Draper.  I have had most of their menu and it is all delicious.  Plus, they donate ingredients for a sandwich to the hungry with each sandwich ordered.  My favorite is the Turkey Day but you can’t go wrong.  I’ve liked everything I have tried.  Great service there as well.

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Worst New Restaurant

It’s not new to the world but I’ve been to the new Dunkin Donuts 3 times and not been impressed.  The donuts are cold, dry and lacking in flavor.  I like my donuts light and fluffy in texture so I guess it is a personal preference thing but I don’t get the fuss.

dunkin donutsBest TV Show

It’s in its 2nd season but I started getting into Star Wars Rebels this year and have loved it.  I know it is designed for kids but the stories are good!  The characters are interesting and it’s fun to see a whole new non-Skywalker side of the Star Wars world.

rebels2Worst TV Show

I know people like it but I thought Blackish was awful.  I felt it took racial stereotypes and wallowed in them instead of doing anything interesting or funny.  Like why is it funny to have a Dad bother his son about playing field hockey? Thats not a black sport evidently but basketball is.  Come on?  The lead character father is so unlikable that I couldn’t get past it.

blackishBest Music

The best music of 2015 is definitely Adelle’s new album 25.  I’ve listened to it incessantly for the last month and find it haunting and beautiful.

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My favorite song on the album is called When We Were Young:

I don’t have a worst song because I pretty much just listen to my downloads so it is all songs I like.

Best New Broadway Show-

I haven’t seen it but have loved listening to Hamilton just like everyone else.

I think that’s everything! What are your favorite books, movies, TV, music, food etc?  Share in the comment sections.  Thanks!

Friday Five: Songs from Musicals

This weeks Friday Five is here and we are talking about one of my favorite genres of music- Broadway musicals!

It was actually kind of tough for me to narrow down my love of show tunes into 5 songs.  So, I decided to pick songs from shows I’ve seen on Broadway.  That left me 11 musicals to pick from and I feel like my songs show a variety and are from 5 shows I really love.

I don’t know if I would say they are my favorite Broadway songs but they are in the discussion for sure.  But here are my picks (in no particular order:

The Beauty Is from Light in the Piazza- musical about a young mentally special needs American girl going to Italy with her Mother and falling in love with an Italian. The musical in Light combines melodic and non-melodic sequences in the same song in a way I’ve never seen before.  Also the way they use harmonies and change keys within the songs gives them a uniquely beautiful song.

Stars from Les Miserables- Javert is one of my favorite villains because he isn’t really a villain.  He believes in justice which is a noble attribute but he  forgets about mercy.  In Stars he sings about his beliefs in upholding the law.

As We Stumble Along from Drowsy Chaperon- This show makes fun of musicals and is the funniest Broadway show I’ve ever seen.  It was also brilliant the way the story and the jokes came alive in the apartment of the Man in the Chair. This song lampoons the anthem songs of the modern musical and is very funny.

Defying Gravity from Wicked- As we saw from my last entry I love Idina Menzel and I think Stephen Schwartz did a great job with this prequel to Wizard of Oz (no small task considering every other film version has been terrible).  Defying Gravity is the most difficult song of the show and shows Idina’s amazing belt skills.  It is also the emotional heart of the show where Elphaba has made her decision and there is no going back.

76 Trombones from Music Man- Meredith Wilson’s Music Man will always have a special place in my heart because I saw this musical when I went to New York with my cousin Lisa.  She died 4 months after that trip. But even without that it is a story of redemption and how even a con man isn’t a total lost cause. Plus, there are some really catchy music to boot!

So that is my five choices.  What would you pick for your favorite songs from Broadway musicals?