Friday, February 19, 2016

Theatre Thoughts: Something Rotten!

Last December, I happened to see a show in NYC that made me fall head over heels in love with it.  And I meant to tell you all about it at the time, but Christmas got in the way, and it flew right out of my head. That's going to change right now.

"Something Rotten" is sort of high concept and sort of hard sell if you're trying to explain it to someone but here goes - Pretend it's the 1590s and Shakespeare is vying with another playwright to stage the very first musical in history.  See?  It just sounds ridiculous, which it is - ridiculously funny!

If you're a Shakespeare geek or a musical theatre geek (2 for 2 here), then you'll spend the entire 2.5 hours trying to catch all the hidden references and Easter eggs the show throws your way.  That is of course, while you're not laughing loudly because of a perfect song or sarcastic comment.  It's just so very funny. For a taste of the humor, see the video below from the Thanksgiving Day Parade. 
Imagine about 12 more songs equally funny, and you sort of get the idea of just how great the show is.    
Then you have the cast - Christian Borle as the Bard himself, Brian d'Arcy James, and Brad Oscar are just a few more well-known names in the show.  Others include Brooks Ashmanskas, Heidi Blickenstaff and Kate Reinders - all phenomenal!  To say they earned their pay 10 times over, is an understatement. It's been a very long time since I left a show and just had to google what else the entire principal cast was in.  They landed every joke even the obvious ones and just looked like they were having the time of their lives - which is of course, the absolute key to a good show.

Aside from the cast, and the set and the music all being perfect, you're also privy to an all out tour-de-force of choreography thanks to the likes of Casey Nicholaw.  I didn't know much about him before seeing the show, but now that I've completely fallen for his style, I just had to google him.  Apparently, he's been the choreographer for a few more huge concept musicals and did it brilliantly with those as well.   Saying the numbers are showstopping doesn't even begin to cut it. 

It may sound like I'm gushing, and I mostly am.  But after seeing it for the first time with someone who was seeing it for the second time, I can say I honestly know why she wanted to pay the money to see the show again. Had our bus not been leaving at 6, I would have turned around and seen the 8:00 show that night.  So if you're in NYC in the coming months, I would most definitely suggest going to see it, if only to see an entire cast dressed as eggs performing an 11:00 number.  See?  Now you're interested, aren't you?  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Daytripper: NYC

There are so many, many things to love about Manhattan.  It's hard to put into words just how much this city means to me.  I got my first taste for my 16th birthday and it's fair to say it was love at first sight.  There was just so much to see.  On that first trip, I we saw the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, The Twin Towers (I have a beautiful photo of them taken from a boat that I'll always treasure), the view of the city from the Top of the Rock, and the piece de resistance, a real-deal Broadway show; my very first!  

Just as my love for the energy of the city was instantaneous, so was my love of the theatre. From the first chords of The Phantom of the Opera, I was hooked. I'd never be able to sing and dance like the amazing people on stage, but I could totally keep finding ways to see these glorious shows - and that I did!  

Over the years, I've become a little less of a tourist in the city.  I now have favorite restaurants that are off the beaten path.  I can get myself around and even hail a cab all on my own. Of course, there are still the occasional disasters - who knew Chelsea was such a long walk from Midtown?!  Certainly not me.  But it's more like a second home now. However, it's never lost that energy and electricity for me.  In a perfect world, I'd be living in Carrie Bradshaw's apartment and working as the theatre and the restaurant critic for the Times.  But I just don't see that happening any time soon, unless a lottery is won.  So for now, I'll focus on the occasional day trip here and there - which, in the goals for 2016, will be monthly.  (I'm already booked up to September, so I'm not feeling this is going to be too difficult...)

January's trip was a last minute one.  We really didn't have much planned, but we knew the weather forecast was calling for rain, so we chose something indoors - Chelsea Market.  I'd been there before, and as long as I was able to get a No. 1 Taco, I was all in.  On top of the Taco, there may have also been some doughnuts (from The Doughnuttery) as well some Macarons. Seeing as the market is mostly food, and seeing as we had had our fill, we left in search of something else to do.
That took us to Bryant Park, one of my most favorite destinations at Christmas Time.  Like I said, though, it was no longer Christmas Time.  Therefore, the shops I had foolishly assumed would still be up on the 9th of January were not.  All that was left was an ice skating rink, a half & half Christmas Tree (why de-decorating one half was easier than the other, is a mystery to me) and the view of some beautiful buildings. Not really the time-killer I had in mind. 
After some meandering, we made our way to a pre-theatre lunch of burgers at HB Burger.  Not sure how I ate after all the food I'd consumed at the Market, but somehow I did.  Then it was on to the St. James to see "Something Rotten!"  This was my second time and it was still just as magical.  It's currently my most favorite show on Broadway and I'm not ashamed to say, the cast album has been on an almost constant repeat since I first saw it in December. (Get there quick to see this amazing cast and this fantastic show!)
After the show, there was just enough time to head to Schmakary's for some cookies, which I chose to not partake in.  (Small caveat: Everyone in the theatre community is nuts for these cookies.  I personally think they're too soft and too sweet and they are just not my cup of tea!)  Then grab dinner at Don Anotonio in Hell's Kitchen for some brick oven pizza.  Then catch a last glimpse of Times Square which you just can't appreciate until the sun goes down. 

Then we were off and dreaming of the next trip back - which is in just a few weeks so woohoo!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Sherlock "The Abominable Bride" - Review

I was expecting a lot from the Sherlock special.  It'd been 2 years since we'd been graced by a new episode of this gorgeous program.  So to say fans were ready for something new, was an understatement. Thankfully, the dynamic duo of writing knew that and they definitely gave us what we desired.

It was original and a bit off the wall, and I'm still not sure if I understand it all, but oh my goodness, believe me when I say it was fantastic! When word first broke the extra episode would be set in Victorian times, I was a little skeptical.  What would make it different than any other version of Sherlock Holmes we've seen over the years?  I really should have known that the creative minds had something else in store.  

The shock that the Victorian times tied into what had happened in the finale was so very delicious.  No spoilers here, but seeing what they accomplished within the whole Sherlock narrative, is exactly why I love Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.  While I may clamor for more between seasons, I know this kind of out of box thinking, can only be accomplished in such a time table.  No matter the episode, you know the writing will always be top notch - sometimes funny and sometimes heart breaking, but always quotable. What I wouldn't give to have the talent these guys have. 

Then of course, you have the production choices.  An episode of Sherlock is just gorgeous. There's no other way to describe it.  Between the signature text messages appearing on the screen, to the always crafty scene transitions, I just can't get enough.  There are some big-budget movies that don't have the same production value as Sherlock does.  The set designers and directors, really put a great deal of care into it.  And it's reflected in the episodes.  The specific color choices, and lighting decisions all feed into the narrative.  These choices are always unique and always creative.  And always a delight! Oh, and one last note on this team, whoever chose the costume and makeup for the character, the Abominable Bride, you are spot on in the creepy department.  Oh so macabre!

Lastly, of course, you have the on camera team.  It's not hard to see why this show is so popular.  The team of actors they pulled together, is unbelievably talented.  And harder to pull off, they're beautiful as an ensemble as well.  Sherlock and John had to be a great unit or the show would never have worked, and Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have that relationship in spades.  But more than the main cast, you also have a truly outstanding supporting cast.  Sherlock wouldn't be what it is, without a perfect Mrs. Hudson, or Mary, or Lestrade or Molly.  Some of the best scenes take place between the main and supporting cast. I honestly couldn't imagine replacing a single member of that cast.  They've all made their roles their own, and I'm over the moon for them!

If you couldn't tell from my gushing, I was incredibly happy with the special.  Avoiding it for the first week of 2016, until I could see it in the theatre, was torturous.  But the payoff was ten fold.  In fact, I think I've been spoiled and I now want to see every episode in the theatre. Can we make that happen, please?  The Sherlock fandom is pretty powerful, I think we totally need to work on this...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Project Life 2016: Re-Do

In 2014, I talked a lot about not getting Project Life. While layouts and spreads were beautiful, and the idea behind it was lovely, the process seemed a bit over-done.  It seemed to me that scrappers were spending more time scrapping their lives rather than living them. At the time, I decided it was most definitely not for me. 

Then 2015 rolled around...

After milling around Pinterest and tons of gorgeous blogs, I began to get it.  It wasn't so much the process and what the product looked like in the end that counted, it was the fact that you actually had something to share.  The final product was a review of all things wonderful and not so wonderful in that particular year.  These albums are like snapshots of a moment in time and can be used to show children and grandchildren what life was like "back then."  It took me long enough to come around but I finally got there. 

So the obvious next step was to start an album of my own...


That sounded like such a great idea at the time. I bought a 6"x8"" album, organized my supplies, and started taking photos.  Now, I'm single and have no pets.  I read a whole lot and like to bake, cook and watch Netflix.  Often the most exciting nights I spend are at the weekly trivia game with friends.  Now if that sounds boring just reading it, imagine how truly nail-biting the album was.  I made it about 3 months and I was done.  At the time, I decided you needed a giant family full of kids and pets and daily schedules to make project life work.  There's no way you can have a "fun" album as a single girl in a not so exciting city.

Then along came blogs and twitter and Instagram - brimming with ideas for the single girl to scrap.

After a few months of kicking myself for not succeeding the first time around, I decided it was a fabulous idea to start back up in 2016.  So, long story, sort of short - here we go again. What's the plan you may (or may not) ask. Because in my life, there's always a plan - it's just whether or not the plan is followed is the real question. 

The Album: I'm in love with all the scrapbooking ideas I find on A Beautiful Mess, so it only made sense to purchase their 9"x12" album for my project.  Honestly, I've always found 12"x12" albums super intimidating.  They're just too large and bulky and have way too many holes to fill.  And the 6"x8" albums - my absolute favorite for trips and travel - are just too small for weekly layouts (the one thing I did learn in my half-hearted attempt last year.)  On top of the logic, the black and white with the aqua inside is just adorable!

The Kit: Last year, I was convinced (ok, mostly I was being cheap) that I didn't need a kit.  I could just make cards out of the ridiculous amount of paper I have on hand.  Yeah, No. While some cards I made were cute, others were not and none of them matched each other. Also, as I'm learning, Project Life isn't supposed to take too much time - adding in the time to make inserts, was killing me.  So, I decided on one of the gorgeous kits from Project Life and it just so happens that the one I chose was created by A Beautiful Mess as well. Honestly, how can you not love the bright colors with the black and white.  It's just so happy!

The Photos: I'm not a Photoshop person.  I've tried to be.  I wish I could be.  But I find it incredibly difficult to use.  Instead, I use PicMonkey.  While it can't do as many things as Photoshop can, it works well in a pinch for quick and dirty edits and collages. I also use Costco for photo printing.  No matter what printer I buy, it never seems to work correctly so it's just easier to send them out.  However, I'm tempting fate at the moment, and purchasing the Canon Selphy to make this process a little easier.  Hopefully, this might be the one (seeing as every scrapper I read about LOVES this little thing.)

The Apps: My favorite apps are ones that I can use on the go for photos.  Seeing as I take most oh my photos on my phone, getting a chance to edit them quickly, is a total timesaver. The one I love the most is PicFrame.  It allows you to stitch together 2 3"x4" photos into a 4"x6" for easy printing.  The other I've just discovered is PicTapGo.  It's great for one stop edits. After the photos have been edited and stitched together, they can be sent directly to Costco for printing through the Costco app.  What a lifesaver!

The Add-Ons: In my search for Project Life inspiration, my most favorite and most visited destination has been StudioCalico.com.  They have TONS of beautiful products from super-talented designers.  Because they had such a good Black Friday Sale, I may or may not have spent a boat-load on fancy inserts to add on to my kit.  I cannot wait to use them!  Through Studio Calico, I've also recently discovered digital downloads.  These cards and digital stamps, are super cheap and super fun to use. And since the digital stamps can be used in PicMonkey, I'm set for life!

The Process: My plan is to scrap weekly.  Chances are some weeks will be heavy with photos and some will be very very light, but that's ok.  I plan to do a Day in the Life each month and use 6"x8" inserts for those.  I have high hopes to do 52 weeks of lists too and incorporate those.  Outside of that, the plan to be go easy and not to stress it too much.  And keep reminding myself: Project Life is fun not stressful!

And Away We Go!