Tag: Les Miserables

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!

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Updates and Friday 5: Songs when I was a Teenager

Happy Friday everyone!  I hope you have all had good weeks.  The last few months have flown by for me.  It’s been a bit dominated by headaches but a lot of fun experiences too.

Mainly I keep growing in my video creation skills.  It might not sound like much to be excited about but it really is thrilling to continue learning and growing.  Just today I figured out how to alter color in Adobe Premiere (a really tough software to use).  That was a huge breakthrough!

Anyway, it keeps me busy and motivated.  Next week we have Batman v Superman and I will be reviewing all the Superman and Batman movies on my blog.  I have watched all the Batman movies and in the weeds with the Superman movies right now.  This weekend is Superman 4, Superman Returns and Man of Steel…Yikes!

On Sunday I am doing a ranking video with my friends Abby and Jeremy where we are each giving our rankings for the Star Wars films.  It’s been tougher than I thought because I like most of them for different reasons.  Here’s the link if you are interested in watching.  https://plus.google.com/events/c7gog64knsdhfnbve6521ehh6k4?authkey=CLedlabMkNfIhAE

This week for the Friday 5 the topic is Songs from When I Was a Teenager.  This one was actually kind of easy for me as they are still songs I love.

  1. Who Am I? From Les Miserables- I am running out of Les Miserables songs but I had to pick one for this category because Les Mis was the first music I really fell in love with and I still love it to this day
  2. Ease on Down the Road- Musical theater was pretty much the music that meant the most to me in high school.  In fact, theater was more important to me than film or books at that time.  The Wiz was my favorite play I was ever in hence this song on the countdown.
  3. Hands by Jewel- Jewel’s Spirit album really spoke to me.  I remember my friends even getting annoyed with me because I would just play it over and over again (that’s so my personality.  Repetition never bothered me). I still love the album and song.
  4. Thy Word by Amy Grant- My Mother and I had a lot of conflict about music.  I felt she judged me too harshly for the music I liked and sought her validation. It was kind of silly looking back on it but Amy Grant was a singer I felt was an olive branch to my Mom.  She was Christian and a pleasant singer we could both agree on.  Thy Word is one of my favorite of her songs.
  5. Sidewinder Sleeps Tonight- REM’s Automatic for the People is another album I listened repeatedly too throughout my teen years.  I still love every song.  This is a deeper cut but it’s got a great hook and I love that you can hear Michael laughing in the take. That’s just awesome.

So those are my Friday 5 and a little updates on things going on.  What about you?  What are your favorite songs from when you were a teenager?  What do you think of my list?

Are you pumped for Batman v Superman and what is your favorite Batman or Superman movie?  How would you rank the Star Wars films?

Sorry this post is a little jumbled but sometimes it just works out that way.  Love you guys!

Mothers in the Movies

motheres day video

I couldn’t sleep tonight so just for fun I put together a video of my favorite mothers in movies.

I learned a lot putting this video together and hope to do even more in the future

1. Back to the Future

2. Blind Side

3. My Left Foot

4. The Incredibles

5. Les Miserables

6. Grey Gardens

7. Julie and Julia

8. Tangled

9. Harry Potter Movies (Mrs Weasley)

10. Sound of Music

Any you haven’t seen?  Any you disagree with?  What are some of your favorite?

Life Changing

Today I went to the gym for the first time in over a month.  Wahoo!  Still feel very congested but am trying my best to push myself without getting sicker.  We’ll see.  Trying to relax after the gym I watched the PBS airing of the recent documentary Salinger about reclusive writer JD Salinger.

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a huge Catcher in the Rye fan.  I read it in high school like everyone else and I found Holden to be whiny and annoying.  The style bothered me and the language was too adult for me at the time.  I really don’t get why so many relate to such an aggravating lead character?

Anyway, it was still interesting to learn more about such a famous author- a lot less than complimentary I might add.

But one of the annoying things in the  movie is it has all kinds of actors and pundits talking about what a life changing experience it was for them to read about young Holden’s quest to find himself and save the innocents from the phony and fake.

While the interviews were kind of useless it did make me wonder if there are any such works that I could talk so effusively about?   Did anything change my life in that way? Hmmm.

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Start with Religion

Well, it might sound cheesy but the definite answer is The Book of Mormon.  The first time I read it I was 12 or 13.  My teacher had this book of quotes with funny drawings of animals that I liked and sensing my interest she told me she would buy me one if I read The Book of Mormon (smart teacher), so I read it.

At first I was impressed with the great storytelling and aside from the Isiah chapters which dragged (I was 12!) I was so excited to read these stories of faith, family and especially the coming of Christ.  The next time I read it it was more about the doctrine and how each time I read I wanted to be a better person.  I wanted to be more like Moroni, Nephi and Alma.

Now I’ve read it at least once a year every year since I was 12 and it still changes me.  I still find something new and inspiring most every time I read and I can’t deny how I feel when I read it’s pages.  It’s been a tremendous force for good in my life.

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Les Miserables

So branching off from religion there isn’t a ton of other things that had a big impact on me as a youth but one that comes to mind is Les Miserables. The first time I was exposed to the musical was when I was 13 or 14 when PBS had a 10 year anniversary ‘dream cast’ concert.  I watched it over and over again and had the entire score memorized.  I was that annoying person who is muttering all the words under their breath.

Aside from the lovely ladies and the Thenardiers song (which I could still live without) I loved every song and it all just spoke to me like nothing else I’d ever heard. I then saw the musical on broadway in 1995 and it did not disappoint.  I remember leaving the theater with my choir group my eyes red with tears (still gets me when I see it today)

Reasons I love Les Mis-

idealistic rebellion of youth, redemption, justice, value of friendship, loyalty, honor, nobility in life and death and the realization there is never a lost cause.  I love On My Own, Bring Him Home and Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, Dreamed a Dream probably the most and I still get a chill up my spine when i hear it.

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And an Experience

The only thing else that I can think of as being life changing was my entire college experience.  It’s honestly impossible for me to pick one moment in college that changed my life.  Something happened in my brain at that time period where things clicked that had never clicked before.

Taking philosophy classes, learning about other cultures, serving the lost boys, working as a teaching assistant, political economy of women, meeting friends, losing family, taking finals, deciding to go on a mission, all of those things and more.  It was the best time in my life.

I loved BYU.  I loved college.  I loved political theory.  I loved reading Kierkegaard, Plato, Aristotle and teaching other people about that.  I made my best friends at that time and I decided that I really believed in this thing called Mormonism and that nothing was going to ever change that.  I kind of wish I had dated more but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.  The best.

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Anyway those are the life changers that come to mind for me.  What about you?  What things really influenced you, made you into the person you are today?

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?