Tag: Hairspray

The Weirdness of Singing

Today I had master class for my voice lessons.  This is a monthly event where we prepare a solo to preform for our fellow students and teachers.  Singing in front of a crowd has always been difficult for me.   Acting and performing the song is easy its just trusting my voice that’s hard.  One of the many weird things about singing is that you don’t hear your voice accurately.  What I mean by that is when I hear myself sing I am having an entirely different experience then the audience.  Something that sounds  over-the-top to me, even shouting, sounds great to them.  Something that seems big to me, may need more emphasis to them.  Its almost as if you have 2 different voices- one the voice I hear, and one the voice everyone else hears.

In my lessons I often have to trust my teacher that my voice sounds good.  In my ear it sounds screeching or off but in her ear it is great.  Today at master class I sang “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray.  For the first 2 verses I did pretty good (in fact my teacher said it was the best belt sound she’d heard in me).  Unfortunately once the chorus came I hit a high note weird and had a hard time fighting my way out of that bad voice moment. It was especially frustrating because I had done it right in practice just hours before.

By the end of the song I was feeling deflated and discouraged, almost wishing I could walk away for the feedback.  Amazingly enough the good job I had done for the first half of the song got very high praise and the weak 2nd half a few minor critiques.  They even said if I hadn’t made it such a big deal in my facial expression they would not have noticed most of the mistakes. My teachers were especially pleased with my performance and said I told the story well, and some of the best  mix/belt I’ve ever sang- even with the mistakes.

This scenario at master class is exactly why I am still taking voice lessons.  When I sing I want to be perfect.  I want to be a skilled singer more than almost anything else in the world.  It satisfies a longing in my heart placed there when I was just a girl.  Naturally wanting to be perfect I notice each flaw in the performance.  Does the audience notice- no, unless I make them notice by my facial expressions? Even more, my actual voice sounds better to the audience then it does in my ear.  Isn’t that strange?

I wonder how many times I criticize myself for something others find beautiful? I’m not sure I want to know the answer.  I have always been pretty open in complementing myself and have a high self esteem; however, with the singing, my voice actually sounds different to my ear.  In a way I have to throw out my ears and listen with other ears- not an easy task.  Once I am hearing myself through their ears then I will hear the beauty of my voice in a new way.  I’ve gotten better at this over the years but still have a long way to go.

I wonder how many other parts of my life I am hearing the wrong voice? I hear the squeaky nervous girl.  Everyone else hear’s the belty/mix girl with a lot of spunk?  Is there beauty within me that I don’t notice but others would applaud? Hmmmm. Makes you wonder?

This is kind of a rambling post.  Hope it makes sense.

By the way….exciting news!  I bought a piano!  It is a Samick SSP10 Digital Piano. It is very well made, looks gorgeous in my room and is drooling in anticipation for its inaugural jam session.  I love singing with my friends, and I hope the piano will make my apartment even more of a gathering place.   It will certainly help with my voice because I can at least plunk out most songs.  It’s awesome!  You should all come and sing/play with me!

My piano!!! Come jam with me!

I am going to continue working on Good Morning Baltimore and eventually I will post my performance online.  It will be awesome.  Tracy Turnblat never sounded so good!

Favorite Movies of The Decade

night-at-the-movies

So I was watching At the Movies and they are doing a series of their “Top Ten Movies of the Decade”.  This week they put their 10th and 9th selections. Ironically of the 4 movies already selected I have only viewed one of them- Million Dollar Baby.  For various reasons I missed the other three.  Million Dollar Baby nearly made my list.  If it wasn’t for the ending.

Ever since I started my blog I’ve wanted to do an entry on my favorite movies.   One of my most popular postings was in May of last year called Music Galore.  It has had over double the hits of any other post.  My entries on comedy, theater and books have also been popular. Many times I began writing a similar entry on movies- but the topic proved too daunting each time.  There are just too many to choose from! Seeing the more narrow “Top Ten of the Decade” concept, I thought I would take another stab at a list of just my favorite recent movies.

First of all, let me explain what I love about the movies.  I would say 90% of the time I go to the movies to be entertained.  Some of my choices may not be the most educational or even uplifting films but they did entertain me.  This does not mean they are all comedies.  In fact, of my top 13 (ok I couldn’t narrow it down to 10!) 5 could be considered comedies, 2 are musicals, 2 are animated, 1 is a documentary and 2 dramas.   Each of the selected movies has also entertained me multiple times.  Not all movies do.  For example, the Prestige with Hugh Jackman and Christian Slater was enthralling the first time I saw it; however, the second time I didn’t really like it.   The Sixth Sense is another example; although that is not a movie from this decade.

I love the way movies can take me away from life and introduce me to a new world- whether that be a mystical Japanese spirit bath house or a modern-day fashion magazine.  I also appreciate movies that make me think a little bit while being entertained.  I am a particular sucker for movies about work and what we dedicate our lives to.  Having gone through the process of leaving a job I hated, I sympathize with characters that are sucked into workaholism and modern cubicle despair.    This can take the form of a comedy or a more somber drama.  You can see this theme in almost all of my choices-characters who struggle with what to dedicate their life too and who they are inside.  They struggle with how to live- what is the best life?  I enjoy that discovery.

So here goes- the top 13 in no particular order:

1. About a Boy- Touching and funny movie about a near-do-well who learns to be unselfish through befriending a young boy and his mom.

2. Spirited Away- Visually stunning animated film from Hiyao Miyazaki.  I dare you to guess what is coming next.  There is everything from a giant baby, to a paper dragon, to a witch that turns into a bird.  So creative!

3. Enron:  The Smartest Guys in the Room- Fascinating documentary about the rise and fall of Enron.  Amazing how one little rationalization, followed by another, really will lead a man carefully down to Hell.

4. Best in Show- Hilarious mockumentary about the Westminster dog show.  All of Guest’s movies are funny but this is my favorite.  I think because I am not an animal person I find those that are funny.

5. Pixar movies- Ok. I know this is lame but I couldn’t decide.  They are all so great.  Since 2000 Pixar has made Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, the Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Walle and Up.  I especially like how there is no hamming it up to the camera and adult humor like the Shrek movies.  I hate that.

6. Slumdog Millionaire- I’ve never been to India but my aunt and uncle said Slumdog is a reasonably accurate depiction of the slums.  It feels so real while watching.  It is brutal and beautiful at the same time.  My favorite part is how the two lead characters maintain their innocence and love despite the chaos surrounding them.  I’ve seen this movie 4 times and each time I leave feeling inspired and comforted, which is suprising given some of the tough scenes.

7. Hairspray- While I have loved the return of  musicals in the last few years most of them have been on the raunchy side.  Finally Hairspray was the musical I’d been waiting for.  Its  music is catchy and will make you smile.  I just love it.

8. Walk the Line- Even as a conventional bio-pic I enjoy Walk the Line.  I love the music and how it brings June and Johnny Cash together.  Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are great.  I particularly like the scenes where Johnny goes on the “June Carter love walk” and she turns him down!  Great movie!

9. Devil Wears Prada- Funny and interesting movie about the modern work-world.  I like that Meryl Streep’s character is cruel but honest in her cruelty.  She knows that the fashion business is about making money and that is what is important to her.  Money and fashion are her life and in many ways that is sad. While I do think there can be a balance between career and family, it is tough.  DWP asks how much are we willing to give up for success? How much will we change to achieve it? Plus, there are some great lines like “One more stomach flu and I’ll be at my ideal dress size!”

10. Stranger than Fiction- Another great movie about work.  Will Farrell plays a man who starts hearing a narrator in his head.  This voice describes what he is doing and how he feels about it.  However, it becomes  disturbing when the voice predicts Farrell’s death.  Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson are great.  Wonderful movie that makes you think about your life choices and what a narrator would say about them. Also, would our lives make a good book? If no, is that necessarily a bad thing?

11. Breach- Great suspenseful movie of the undercover operation that brought down Robert Hanson an FBI agent who sold secrets to the Soviets for over 20 years before he was caught.  The acting is top notch- particularly Chris Cooper as the complicated Hanson.  On one hand, we hate him but on another we get a glimpse of why he did it.  He wanted to be smarter than everyone else in the FBI.  He was tired of being marginalized and ignored.  Who can’t relate to that? Very exciting and interesting movie.

12. Dan in Real Life-  A simple movie I love.  It is funny, the kids are great and the story is touching.  It is about a widower played by Steve Carrell who writes a nearly-syndicated  parenting column.  Meanwhile his 3 daughters are all struggling.  I felt I could relate to the family dynamics in the story and again it asks the question- “What are you doing with life? and Why does your life matter?” I also like they kept the family chaos to a realistic non-slapstick level (for the most part at least).

13. Juno- I know the dialogue can be a bit glib, but I don’t care.  Juno is about a high school know-it-all who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption.  It is the most pro-adoption movie I have seen in a long time, and I don’t think it glamorizes teen pregnancy as some have claimed.  Juno learns that she isn’t quite as smart as she once thought and this new humility comes with some hard-taught lessons.

So there it is.  My top movies of the decade.  Maybe there will be something in the next few months as amazing and have to be added to the list.  Hopefully!  I will be curious for your favorites.

The Theater, The Theater

“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts” William Shakespeare in As You Like It

In this blog I have written about music, film, and books but have yet to add my thoughts on my favorite medium- live theater.  I have loved attending shows my whole life.  I am not sure how it got started but the earliest memory of the theater that  I have is when my dad took me to the Utah Shakespeare festival.  I believe I was 9 because it was before Anna was born (that’s brave to take a 9 year old to Shakespeare).  We saw Taming of the Shrew and a couple other plays and I enjoyed it so much that I saved the programs.  The first musical I recall going to was when my dance teacher in 5th grade played Anybody’s in a local production of West Side Story.  We went to see it and I remember crying along with Maria and loving the experience.  I also remember going to see Phantom of the Opera with my grandmother around the same time and that was like nothing I had ever experienced.  Amazing!

When I got to high school I embraced more theater by appearing in 5 school productions (A christmas medley, The Wiz, Up the Down Staircase, Bye Bye Birdie, Scenes from Shakespeare plays).  Each production boosted my confidence and made me feel alive.  I have often said that they should have recovering addicts participate in the theater. That may sound strange but it is so rewarding working together and then when the final applause comes it is one of the best highs I have ever known.  Of all of the productions I was in my favorite was The Wiz.  It’s fun music, lively sets and great cast made it memorable.

My favorite show that I have participated in- The Wiz
My favorite show that I have participated in- The Wiz

In addition to appearing in live plays I also took a huge step in high school.  In 9th grade I made my first trip to New York City, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  There are so many things I love about New York that I will have to do an entry solely devoted to the city.  However, the most incredible part of the Big Apple is Broadway! The first show I saw there was Les Miserables and it was beyond words.  I saw it again a couple of years ago and was reminded of how moving the story is and how beautiful the music.  When I went to see Les Mis I had seen the PBS concert many times and knew the soundtrack almost by heart and yet it did not disappoint. If anything it exceeded my expectations. In fact, it got me hooked on Broadway.  Since that first visit I have been 5 more times seeing the King and I, Music Man, Beauty and the Beast, the Rockettes, Light in the Piazza, Drowsy Chaperon, Lion King, Hairspray, 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, Les Mis (again) and Wicked.  There is no doubt but that I have been abundantly blessed.

Each time I see a live show I feel excited.  It’s hard to explain but even the comedies move me.  I love everything about a Broadway musical.  I love the songs, the voices, the melodies, the stories, the acting.  It’s magic!

One of the things I actually like about living in Utah is the great local live theater.  In Maryland there was one local theater in our town.  Aside from that you had to go to DC or Baltimore and there was no guarantee that it would be family friendly and it was expensive.  In Utah you get all 3- family friendly, inexpensive and high quality.  There have been productions I have seen at Hale Center Theater (Orem and West Valley) that are Broadway level quality.  I saw the Secret Garden there last year and it was fabulous.  The little girl playing Mary was outstanding.

It’s interesting because I know people that feel the theater is a rare luxury.  For me, I would give up a lot before giving up my chance to see great productions (or even mediocre ones.  I love it all!).  I used to have a little theater group that got season tickets to the shows at Hale and it was always fun.  Unfortunately, the other members of my group decided to give it up for financial reasons 😦  Hopefully I can form a new group and if any of you are interested call me. It adds so much to my life that I try to go as often as possible.

I suppose I must close this entry by saying my favorites.  It’s hard to say but when push comes to shove my favorite musical is probably still Les Mis.  It’s the only one I’ve seen on Broadway twice and still loved.  It’s just so moving.  I also loved Wicked and the Drowsy Chaperon is my favorite comedy.  Other favorites are My Fair Lady, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Fiddler on the Roof, Little Woman, and West Side Story.  I love Sound of Music but actually more as a film than play (its a rare exception and Julie Andrews! Amazing).  As far as plays go my favorite is Death of a  Salesman for its penetrating character development.  I also love the Christmas Carol every holiday season and any Shakespeare.

My love for musical theater has also introduced me to great talent on the stage.  Some of the many voices that amaze me even on the soundtracks are Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Sherie Renee Scott, Pattie Lupone, Bernadette Peters, Laura Benanti, Sutton Foster (who I saw in Chaperon- amazing), Beth Leavel (who I also saw in Chaperon), Brian Stokes Mitchell, Adam Pascal, Raul Esparza, Kristen Chenoweth, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Idina Menzel, Laura Bell Bundy, Heather Headley, Kellie O’hara (who I saw in Light in the Piazza- amazing), Victoria Clark (who I saw in Light in the Piazza) , Audra McDowell, Anna Gasteyer (who I saw in Wicked- incredible) and more.  They are such talent.  I highly recommend checking out their CDs at the library or on ITunes and enriching your life by their truly marvelous music.

If you get a chance go see live theater.  It may be expensive but look at it as a chance to support the arts in your community and it may teach you something, make you laugh or cause you to ponder.

And remember when it comes to the theater…

“Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?”

William Shakespeare As You Like It.

The best show ever
The best show ever