Tag: Les Mis

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!

2012 Favorites

Happy New Year!  My neighbors are lighting a million fireworks so I’m still up despite coughing my head off.  I thought it might be fun to give you some of my favorites of this year.  Here goes

Favorite 2012 Book

1.  Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson- Should be no big surprise to anyone as I’ve been pedaling this book to everyone I know (and everyone else has liked it to.)    It is a ‘regency romance’ in the style of Heyer or Austen.  It is a juicy story of Marianne Daventry as she tries to train herself in the ways of good society at large estate of Edenbrooke.  Along the way we get a highway robbery, kidnappings, miscommunications and tons of romantic dialogue.

edenbrooke

2. Other books I loved this year- I read 50 books this year and some of my favorite are Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart, I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg, Boomerang by Michael Lewis, The Joy of Hate by Greg Gutfield, and the somewhat trashy but enjoyable Chicago Stars series by Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Favorite 2012 Music-

1. Chris Mann- Roads- The standout on season 2 of The Voice (much better than the winner who I can’t even remember his name!).  A great debut album.  If you like Josh Groban or Andrea Bocelli you will like Chris Mann.   He has a light opera voice  but isn’t afraid of a modern song like Viva La Vida

2.  Phillip Phillips- Home- Probably my favorite single of the year.  I must say I didn’t think his album was as good as the single but I still love this song. The winner of the last season of Idol made me wonder if I should watch the show again.  A folksy, earthy song that I could listen to again and again.

Favorite 2012 Movies-

1. Perks of Being a Wallflower- I’ve mentioned it a couple times on this blog but this movie really spoke to me.  It is set during my high school years (the setting could have been my high school) and I could relate to every character.  Dark, sad, tragic, funny, bizarre, disturbing, intriguing and everything else.  I liked all the performances and even little details like the music were perfect.

Written, and directed by Stephen Chbosky as adapted from his novel, it is one of the rare instances where I think the movie actually improves upon the book, which is written in the tired cliche of a letter-format.   I loved Emma Watson who does a convincing American accent and all of the teens felt like teens with authentic problems, parties, attitudes and romances- something so rarely seen in the teen movie genre.  I felt so inspired after seeing this movie for the first time that I went home and wrote a chapter of my book.  It made me want to write, express myself, and be creative.

I will say that this movie is not for everyone.  It is challenging but I found it exhilarating!

2. Les Miserables- The much hyped live performance version of the broadway musical adapted from the Victor Hugo novel (which I have never been able to get through btw).  I first saw Les Mis when I was 14 years old and went to NYC with my choir group.  I knew every song, every line of dialogue and for once my high expectations were completely met. I was blown away.

I then saw the show again in 2006 with my Aunt Kate when they did a revival and it moved me once again.  I love the story of the merciful Jean ValJean hunted by the ruthless Javert who seeks only justice.  I love the music and aside from a bit of over-the-top antics from the Thenardiers I thought the movie totally nailed it.  I loved the performances, cinematography, long fading shots, singing (with the exception of Javert), staging etc.  I loved it.  It brought me to tears and I wanted to see it again almost immediately.  I liked almost every single choice they made.  Definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen in years.

3.  Other movies I liked- Friends with Kids, The Hobbit, Bully, Pirates: Band of Misfits, ParaNorman, and Brave.

Favorite Television 2012-

Such a weak year for television.  All the reality shows are getting tired including once reliables like Dancing with the Stars, Pawn Stars and Project Runway.

1. Downton Abbey- I got on the Downton Abbey bus early in 2011 but really loved both seasons this year, although I’m still traumatized by the recent Christmas episode!  Still, Dame Maggie Smith’s scenes are worthy of note alone.  There are so many well developed characters and the dialogue is always sharp.  I’m a believer in soap so I don’t really mind those elements.

2. Drop Dead Diva-  My favorite show this year. Drop Dead Diva had a great season with a huge ending that has me dying to know what is going to happen.  They got slightly less ridiculous in the cases presented and the romance between Jane and Owen felt believable.  With the return of Fred in a slightly altered form next season proves to be great.  A campy, silly show but done so well I love it!

3.  BYU TV- I’ve been enjoying BYU TV lately especially their shows American Ride and The Story Trek.  American Ride is a bikers version of American history.  Interesting and entertaining.  The Story Trek is great.  They literally go door to door and try to get interviews, hearing everyone’s story.  It is great what they come up with.  I like that I can turn on BYU TV and always find something enriching and clean.  It is not overly Mormon, just squeaky clean and fun shows.

4.  Other standouts- Go On about a widowed radio sports jock who goes to a grieving group, Up All Night about a couple struggling to raise their little girl in yuppie LA, Portlandia making fun of all things hipster, The Mindy Project basically the tv form of Mindy’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which is another favorite book of the year and I thoroughly related to. I also enjoy Bunheads written by the writer of Gilmore Girls and has the same crackling dialogue.  Plus, it has Sutton Foster in it who is divine.

So there’s some of my favorites of 2012.  What are some of your favorite books, movies, music, TV?

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