Tag: theater

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!

Why The Greatest Showman is the Most Mormon Movie Ever Made

Currently in US cinemas there is a new film called The Greatest Showman very loosely telling the tale of PT Barnum in an extravagant musical. I have seen the film twice now and after my recent visit I tweeted out:

I have to admit Greatest Showman‘s flaws are more obvious on rewatch but in many ways I think it is the Ultimate Mormon Movie

I then promised to explain this tweet and so here I am to elaborate!

SPOILER WARNING!!

First, I should state that I enjoyed the film. It’s an old school, classic family musical. It is written by the same people who made La La Land, and I honestly prefer it. I like the songs better. I like the message better, and I just think it is more of a fun time. Take your family and go enjoy yourselves at the movies!

Obviously The Greatest Showman has no Mormon characters and is not a faith-based film, so how can I say it is the ultimate Mormon movie? Well, it comes down to themes, style and messaging that will ring true for many Mormon people (obviously speaking in broad generalizations here but I have yet to find a Mormon who dislikes the film…).

So let me explain why I think The Greatest Showman particularly resonates with a Mormon audience:

Mormons are Misfits

The first reason is that Mormons see themselves as ‘peculiar people’. Several times in scriptures we learn that the “Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself” (Deut 14:2). This is something Mormons take very seriously and wear with a kind of pride. For example, each year BYU is voted “the most stone cold sober school in the US.”  Most of us are are very proud of this designation and boast of it when promoting the church. Look at this video BYU put out heralding the accomplishment.

But this idea of the Mormon Misfit goes back to the church founding where such practices as polygamy and communal living certainly made the people peculiar.We were literally expelled from several states and an extermination order written against us by a state governor (another source of pride).

However, this ‘rebelliousness’ obviously takes a very PG rated form and this is what makes The Greatest Showman so perfect for Mormons. The peculiar people of Barnum’s circus are different from the world but in a sweet, very clean cut way. This is a PG rated movie but it has a ‘freak show’ the whole family can enjoy

If you watch this video on ‘This is Me’ you will see what I mean about the clean cut misfits of The Greatest Showman

Mormons Love Marriage

Mormons have unique views on marriage that helps them bond with The Greatest Showman. We believe that marriage in the temple can be for time and all eternity and that the bond between a couple lasts forever. Children are an important and sacred calling for a couple but it is a marriage between 2 people that the highest ordinance of the church is based. There is nothing more important than a faithful marriage to most Mormons.

In The Greatest Showman PT Barnum is shown as a young child who is the son of a poor tailor. He meets a young girl named Charity who he bonds with immediately and the two are obviously destined to be together. These children grow up to be Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams and they leave her parents, get married and have two beautiful daughters. This is literally the dream of nearly every Mormon person.

In the movie Barnum’s marriage is tested by a woman named Jenny Lynde played by Rebecca Fergusson. In most Hollywood movies he would give into the temptation and betray his marriage. Not in The Greatest Showman. He stays true, even after she publicly shames him and implies scandal. He is true to his wife and the two make up and stay committed to each other. This is very appealing to a Mormon audience. It’s certainly more appealing than say the characters in La La Land who have premarital relationships and give up on their relationship fairly quickly. No such luck in a Mormon musical fantasy! LOL

Barnum is also very sweet with his daughters creating a world that shelters them from the troubles of his work and other stresses. This is encouraged in Mormon households as we have Family Home Evening and other family time to teach, fortify and bond as a family. The scene where Barnum gives the girls a special lamp might as well have come out of a church movie.

Mormons Are Theatrical

People that did not grow up in Utah or Idaho may not be aware of the theatrical traditions of the Mormon people. In fact, when the Saints arrived in Utah one of the first buildings they erected was a theater. Along the pioneer trek the Saints were known for having dances, reciting poetry and singing in choirs.

Today there are few places that support regional theater the way Utah does. Literally every town has their own little theater.  We also have the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Utah Symphony, Utah Opera, Ballet West and the Utah Shakespeare Festival- all institutions that have received national recognition (to name a few).

Utah is very dance focused and whether it is team dance or ballroom dance students are taught young and are encouraged to display their talents. These performances are usually clean cut, boisterous shows that are very similar to what you get in The Greatest Showman.

Look at this video of the BYU Young Ambassadors and tell me it does not seem right out of The Greatest Showman playbook:

Before every temple dedication there are cultural celebrations with grand theatricals and BYU is famous for its acapella, dance and show choirs. People eat that stuff up and it’s just part of the culture.

This is totally the style of The Greatest Showman. Big boisterous and cheerful:

You could argue that Zac Efron became a star based off of the Mormon template of entertainment. All the High School Musical movies were filmed here and are very emblematic of the type of musical that is popular.

Mormons have a Pioneer Spirit

I am well aware that the version of PT Barnum we get in The Greatest Showman is mostly fictitious, but I think that is largely irrelevant for the effectiveness of the musical. Nobody cares that The Sound of Music is wildly inaccurate to what happened with the von Trapps. Certainly no one should be looking at a fluffy musical for historical accuracy.

So, if we just take the character presented in the movie it is a very appealing for a Mormon audience. He is literally the man who invented the phrase ‘show business’. He gathers his group despite everyone laughing in his face and Mormons relate to that spirit. I mean most Mormons are either returned missionaries or related/married to one. The idea of being a bold thinker and being rejected is very attractive.

He is also kind of a prophet type character that leads with great charisma and enthusiasm. This type of evangelism is encouraged as we have no paid clergy and must all be responsible for public speaking and motivating our fellow church members. Barnum might as well be a bishop in this movie! LOL

Conclusion

The Greatest Showman is not a perfect movie. The script could be better, but it does a good job selling itself to a Mormon audience and evidently the producers thought so as well because they did a very early screening of it in September here. Whether that will turn out to be a good approach to take across the country will be interesting to see. It certainly selling out here! Pretty much all my local friends on facebook and twitter who have seen it, loved it.  Just it being a PG live action film alone is enough to excite people here but you add in grand musical spectacle and you have a winner!

It’s not often we get an old fashioned family friendly musical so go see it! Have fun and enjoy it whether Mormon or not. My Dad hasn’t seen a movie in the theater since Les Miserables but I know he will love this. 🙂

Fences: Stage vs Screen

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Last month a movie called Fences came out starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. This naturally caught my attention and then I realized it was based on a pulitzer prize winning play of same name by August Wilson written in 1983 and I got more excited.

Then I found out that Pioneer Theater Company here in Utah was doing a production of the play at the same time the movie was released. So I thought it would be fun to see both the play and movie and compare/contrast them.

I was going to do a video analysis but the truth is they ended up being so similar I didn’t have much to go off of.  Nevertheless, let me profile both as there is still plenty of time to see both if you are interested.

Fences Summary- Before I go into both versions let me give a quick plot summary. Fences is about a black man named Troy in the 1950s. He has a wife named Rose and 2 sons- one from his relationship with Rose who is high school athlete named Corey and another who is a vagrant musician. Troy resents pretty much everything about his life. He believes he was robbed of being a professional baseball player because he was black and so everything has become about duty and obligations to him. The story goes over the course of 6 or 7 years as Troy makes selfish choices that impact his marriage and family. The whole time he is building a fence that is an analogy to his building fences on the inside and his attempts to scare away death.

Pioneer Theater Company Play-

fences-playThe Pioneer Theater Company’s production of Fences stars Michael Anthony Williams as Troy. He originally played the part of Troy’s friend Bono in the original broadway production, and he is up for the task here. My only qualm with him is I don’t know if he is physically imposing enough for the role. He doesn’t seem like an ex-athlete and for what a beast he becomes there is something that always feels a little slight about his appearance.

fences-play2The part of Rose is played by Gayle Samuels and she is very good. I don’t know if she is quite Viola Davis good but who is? I kind of wish the play gave a bit more time to Rose.  There are a couple of dialogue sections between Troy and his buddy or son that I think could be swapped out for more time with Rose. She is the one who has to adapt and forgive the most so I kind of wish I saw more of her.

JJ Jeter plays the son Corey and he is fine in the role. There is a final scene between Corey and Rose that he pulls off quite well as he is struggling to forgive his father and fighting off the amount of his father he sees in himself.

fences-play4Fences is a very intimate experience as a play. There are only 6 actors in the cast and the set is the front of house with a yard and tree. It never changes aside from the ever-growing fence. At Pioneer Theater Company it looks convincingly like a real house with a kitchen inside you can see through the door. I also thought the tree looked very realistic.

The play in comparison to the movie feels a bit brisker and maybe that is just because I saw it second so I knew what was coming? I’m not sure because they are nearly identical in content.

If you take kids to this play be forewarned they do use the ‘n word’ and there are mature topics like infidelity discussed.

Overall, Pioneer Theater Company did a great job with their production of Fences. Aside from wishing August Wilson had given us more Rose and feeling Williams was a little slight for the role of Troy I have nothing else to really say about it. PTC could keep the prices down a little bit as $44 is pretty expensive. Also the people next to me had clearly never been to a play before and were acting like it was a sports game. Ugh…

But if you live in Utah I recommend checking out Fences at Pioneer Theater Company

Fences Movie-

fences-movieI don’t know if I have ever seen a more faithful stage to screen adaptation than the recent film version of Fences. Pretty much the only difference is they can have a few more sets as opposed to the constant house-front of the play. They on occasion actually go in the house in the movie!

Other than that, they are exactly the same. The dialogue is exactly the same in the same spots with the same characters. At least to my eyes they were.

So it comes down to the cast. Denzel Washington plays Troy and he is more believable than Williams as the bitter ex-athlete. He feels intimidating and I think part of that may be the ability of film to get up close and personal with a character that you can’t in a stage play.

fences-movie2Jovan Adepo isn’t that great as his son but in a way that works because it makes Troy seem all the more dominating and controlling. I mean this kid doesn’t stand a chance against his Dad! If you watch this clip I think you will agree Denzel owns this kid actor.

fences-movie35Viola Davis is amazing in the role. Even though I still wish August Wilson had written more dialogue for Rose, Viola makes the scenes she does have so powerful. It feels like Rose is in more than she actually is and has more dialogue than she actually does.  A particular scene between Rose and Troy where she says “I’ve been standing right here with you” is unforgettable.

The rest of the supporting cast is all good and feels like they know the parts from a Broadway production. I particularly liked Troy and his friend Bono played by Stephen McKinley Henderson. They had nice chemistry together.

fences-movie3For some people it will be a little bit tough to sit through a movie that feels like a play. There’s something about the way dialogue is done in a play that can be an adjustment for a movie and that won’t be for everyone.

The story of Fences is pretty simple and will be depressing for many but the true gravitas comes from the performances. I think it is worth seeing just for Viola Davis alone who puts on an acting class. The fact she will be beat out at the Oscars by Emma Stone or Natalie Portman makes me kind of sick. Sigh…

So I recommend Fences but I suppose just know what you are getting into when you get your ticket. It’s basically a play on the big screen but a good one at that with great performances.

I’m curious after reading those 2 summaries/reviews which experience sounds the most appealing to you?  Which would you like to attend? If any of you in Utah get to see both let me know what your thoughts are. As there are many wonderful theaters here in Utah I hope to do more of these compare/contrasts in 2017. Hopefully most of them will be a little more different than these versions of Fences but I enjoyed seeing both.

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!

NYC Trip Day 3: An American in Paris

Day 3 of my New York trip was pretty simple. I had a rough time getting to sleep the night before because my cold was coming on strong and I normally have a hard time sleeping. Well, I slept in ridiculously late which Megan was kind enough to let me do.

Then we enjoyed a leisurely walk down the Manhattan streets.  It wasn’t too cold during our trip but it could be quite windy which made it feel colder. Given the winter they’ve had we certainly brought some good luck with us because at least it wasn’t snowy and freezing. P1050863 My favorite thing in New York is all the flower stores.  They are so beautiful and I love how they have different than just the ordinary boring flowers I can get in the suburbs and at low cost.

flowers

We then had delicious New York bagels! Nothing quite like them and we talked about books and movies and had a lovely time.

2015-03-13 13.00.05 Megan had an appointment with her editor that afternoon and I rested at the hotel.  My only regret on the hotel is that it didn’t have a hottub or pool.  That would have been very nice especially on my poor feet which got the beginnings of an ingrown toenail I had to work on.  Ouch!

toeLater that we went to an Italian restaurant that was reasonably priced and yummy.  I got chicken Parmesan and Megan got gnochi.

italianThe big event of the day was going to Times Square

2015-03-13 19.30.40 2015-03-13 19.32.54 2015-03-13 19.33.00And seeing the opening night premiere of the new Broadway musical An American in Paris!

an-american-in-paris-large-643x441It was an amazing show full of incredible Gershwin music. The story is minimal and sometimes it was a little hard to tell the actors from each other but I really enjoyed it.

an american in paris3 An American In Paris an american in paris2It’s probably the most dance heavy Broadway show I’ve ever seen.  Just like in the old Gene Kelly/Leslie Caron movie there are long stretches without any dialogue and just dance.  I don’t pretend to be an expert on dance but I really enjoyed watching it.  To me it seemed exceptional with choreography that really popped.

The sets were minimal but effective and the costuming was simple but it all worked.  There is also a very small cast with only 6 leads and a few ensemble performers but it had a big feel.  I think the music is so grand that it can hardly help but feel big.

At first I was worried because our balcony seats were so steep looking onto the stage below but it actually worked out great and we could see everything just fine.

2015-03-13 20.01.38 2015-03-13 19.57.19 So that was our Day 3.  It was a lot of fun and featured a show I won’t soon forget. Sometimes the simple days are the most fun!