Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Chess is a Few Moves Ahead of its Time

Chess is just one of those shows in the theatre community. Everyone has an opinion on it, but not many people have actually seen it. It has this reputation for having a fabulous score and a crazy mixed up mess of a story line. I've learned the writers have basically been tweaking the story line for the last 20 years, and are still no closer to cracking it than they were when it was first written. As you can imagine, based on these issues, it's not revived very often. But for this same reason, it's the perfect inaugural show for the Broadway CenterStage series - Kennedy Center's answer to New York's City Center Series. Their plan is to revive shows that aren't revived often and give them a concert staging for one short week. It's a win-win for us here in the DMV - Broadway caliber talent, without having to make the trek to NYC (not that I mind doing that at all...)

So how exactly was Chess then? I absolutely loved it, even though I'm not entirely sure what I was seeing. I haven't been able to get the songs out of my head all week, but still what story are they trying to tell? My feelings are complicated, much like the plot of the show...

The staging was supposed to be more of a concert with stand-up microphones and playbooks at the ready, but as it is with City Center, there was enough choreography to satisfy anyone who was expecting a full production. The actors still held tight to their scripts - after all, they had only 2 weeks to prepare - but for some of the bigger numbers, they dropped the scripts and jumped into the action. Some of these numbers worked. "One Night in Bangkok" for instance was a perfect antithesis for the rest of show. It was loud and fun and surprising to say the least. I think my first thought was "What's happening? And my second was, "This is awesome!"  While other numbers, like the interpretive dance number towards the end of the evening which I believe was supposed to implicate the game of chess, were a little less useful to the plot.
Chess Production Photo - Kennedy Center
However, the producer's choice of trained dancers in the ensemble was a perfect addition to this stunning cast. The choreography was definitely a highlight. Then there was the main cast. And oh what a main cast there was! It was full of Broadway powerhouses. I'm not sure I could have cast this performance any better in my dreams. Raul Esparza - the crazy (like a fox?) Trumper - played his part with bravado and flair, and went for it in every one of his numbers. He's just so incredibly talented. I spent most of the show dreaming of a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar with him in the lead, based on his belting of this Tim Rice score. Can't you just see it? Broadway producers, take note!

Ramin Karimloo's Anatoly, was quieter and less in your face, but no less powerful. He was the perfect rival for the insane Trumper. And also, I spent a great deal of time casting him as Judas in Superstar. There's a chance I just really want to see Superstar back on Broadway sometime soon... Karen Olivo as the torn between two lovers Florence was truly a force to be reckoned with. Her solo performance brought the house down. (Maybe she could be Mary Magdalene...Ok I'll stop now) Bryce Pinkham as the arbiter, narrating the action was perfectly cast. His nervousness and humor worked well. He provided some of the funniest lines of the show with flair.  Bradley Dean & Sean Allan Krill, as the KGB and CIA agents respectively brought menace and humor to the piece. Their manipulation of the plot and the characters alike was complicated, much like chess - which I'm assuming was on purpose.

This chess game of a story, centered on two world-champion players, and their love of the same woman, with some added dramatic elements throughout, which may or may not have been needed, depending on who you ask. Added to that, their countries were in the midst of the cold war. It's hard to believe that Russia and the US used Chess as a way to resolve their differences, but I just went with it. It may have been convoluted, but it was also semi-true. So then, you may ask, what wasn't there to like? It can be summed up in two words: sound design.

Chess Production Photo - Kennedy Center
I thought it just may have been me, but it turns out most people in the audience had no idea what was happening because you couldn't understand a word the actors were singing. The sound design was so bad, that I missed pretty much the entire plot just trying to decipher the lyrics. The actors could be heard when they were speaking, but the second the fantastic on-stage orchestra began playing, you lost the thread. Because this is a "rock" show, many of the songs are belted, so that may have affected what we were hearing. But the show has always been a rock show, so the sound designers should have accounted for that. It's just unfortunate that the work of such a talented cast, was minimized by something as technical as microphones.

In the end though, I still loved it. I'm dreaming of seeing it again with this same cast, un-aided by terrible sound issues. And I'm even willing to chalk the sound issues up to growing pains. I can't wait to see where the Kennedy Center is planning to take this series. They've already planned out the next two shows in this season (In the Heights & How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying), which should be amazing, but I'm waiting to see what surprises they have up their sleeves for next season. Maybe, just maybe a fresh revival of Jesus Christ Superstar could be in the works. If so, I already have the perfect cast. A girl can dream...

Friday, February 16, 2018

Street Art in the City

I have this weird fascination with Street Art. I think it may have started in Austin, TX which has murals all over the city. I became so excited each time I'd find a new one, I'd feel the need to yell "Street Art!" It wasn't so bad when I was walking with someone, but when you're alone it's a bit embarrassing. This love affair with the medium continues today, especially in big cities like New York or Washington, DC. 

It's now one of my favorite past times when I'm traveling; trying to find new and exciting forms of street art. Luckily others have this same fascination, because I've learned to use Pinterest to help fuel my love affair. The problem with seeking them out using Pinterest is that the address is not often posted - so I feel the need to randomly wander around cities just searching for specific murals. The positive in this way of travel is that I more times than most, find other pieces of art along the way. However, the negative is that my friends often feel the need to kill me because I've made them walk way too far for no good reason.  

This is why just randomly happening upon the murals is a much better way to find cool things. You get lots of steps in and your friends don't feel the need to murder you. It's a win-win for everyone. 

This is how I fell upon these art pieces throughout Chinatown and Little Italy. After eating some delicious Dim Sum, and ice cream, there wasn't much else to do but wander off the calories. Thankfully, these two neighborhoods are rich with art around each and every corner. Unfortunately, like most people on Pinterest I didn't take the addresses down either. So if you're interested in seeing these masterpieces yourself, you'll just need to wander and happen onto them like I did. I promise you being surprised by them, is the best way to see them!

Monday, February 12, 2018

BroadwayCon in Review - Day 1

It's hard for me to talk about just how lovely BroadwayCon is without thoroughly gushing about everyone and everything. It's just one of those things that you need to experience to really understand what makes it so wonderfully unique. However, I am going to try to give you a sense of its awesomeness by writing small samplings (vignettes if you will...) of each day of the Con, which will hopefully send you head over heels and push you to buy a ticket for next year's event!

Here goes Day 1...

~ Shopping the Vendor Hall: So. Many. Cool. Things. The vendor hall is a Broadway lover's dream. Everything you can think of - tees, prints, jewelry, decals, etc. - are all there for purchasing. Last year I went hog wild, but this year I tried to keep my head. I managed to purchase a super cute Come From Away necklace (that matches my Come From Away Playbill flower headband from last year perfectly), and some decals that will need to wait until I get a new car to reveal their sheer Broadway awesomeness. My favorite vendor is Desiree Nasim. She creates minimalist prints of the casts of Broadway shows. Last year I purchased Falsettos, and this year I couldn't resist the brilliant cast of Come From Away and the originally brilliant cast of RENT.

~ Photos with Lin: You may remember that I'm most terrible with celebrities. TeeRico, the company owned by Lin Manuel Miranda's family must have heard, because a version of Lin was ready and waiting for me at their booth. Lifesize Cutout Lins in 2 different poses were swamped with con-goers all weekend. And of course, I was also one of those people. 

~ In the Heights 10 Year Reunion Panel: Somehow, I've yet to see In the Heights. However, that didn't stop me from wanting to see the panel. Lin was attending this year, in the flesh so you can't blame me for wanting to be in the Room Where it Happened. This cast is so lovely and so like a family, that you couldn't help by smile and laugh at their inside jokes. The panel was moderated by Luis Miranda - Lin's dad - who was funny and warm. You could tell how proud he was of these people and how much the cast loved him and his son. 

~Arts & Advocacy: Now more than ever, advocacy in the arts community is so incredibly important. And the organizers of BroadwayCon seemed to understand that. There were many panels outlining how the arts can highlight certain issues. The attendees at the panel I attended shared how they advocate for issues they feel are important, and provided ideas and examples of how attendees can get motivated to help. It was a very clear representation of how this convention is not strictly about being a fan of Broadway. It's about sharing in something with like-minded people, and empowering those people to get involved. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold. 

Now if all of that hasn't caught the attention of your purse-strings yet, tune in soon to see what Saturday and Sunday brought to the gaggle of Broadway Lovers.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

January in Review

Here in Maryland, January has been a bit rough. With temperatures hovering around the 20s, we are so over winter. However, that hasn't stopped me from exploring some new opportunities and having a bit of fun - though, that fun has been mostly in doors as of late.

January Reads

2017 was a very bad year for reading for me. I started off so well, but then I got a little bored and a little restless - having a ridiculous President and a 24 hour news-cycle will do that. But this year, I'm hoping to find my way back on track by completing a challenge I read about on Adventurous Kate's blog. She is reading one book per month around a certain theme. In her case, she's reading authors from countries she's never traveled to. In my case, I'm reading Young-Adult fiction. There's just so many good books out there that the former Elementary school teacher in me is dying to have an excuse to read. I'll be reading many more books along the way - hopefully. But at least one of those - or in the case of January, two books - will fall in the young adult category.

~ Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Before you say anything, I've read them all before. But each Christmas, I receive the illustrated versions of the books (Gorgeous!) I've been loving re-reading them. I've forgotten so much because I don't watch the movies, and it's sort of like discovering them all again for the first time. 

~ The Sleeping Beauty Killer by Mary Higgins Clark: I'm a sucker for a Mary Higgins Clark mystery, even though they're sort of predictable at this point.

~ Green Glass House by Kate Milford: Oh, how I LOVED this book! It was so well-written that I could picture each scene perfectly in my head. I've heard rumors of them turning the book into a movie, which simultaneously excites me and scares me. I loved Harry Potter too but hated those awful movies!

January Travels

Like I said, January was a very cold month, that was mostly spent hibernating under many, many blankets. But BroadwayCon is also held in January so that meant a weekend getaway to New York City. While there, we explored Chinatown a bit and then pretty much hit the convention for the rest of our trip. Both of which will be posted soon. One of my favorite things is just exploring New York City, so having the chance to do so for a few hours was exciting even if it was a bit chilly.

January Shows

During BroadwayCon, we didn't see a Broadway show - sacrilege I know! - but we did attend Broadway Sings Curtains at 54 Below. Now I've never seen the show Curtains and I know nothing about it. However, the show was still pretty great. Richard Kind and Michael Reidel were the true stars of the event, however, the supporting cast (which was huge!) were just as talented. I always enjoy shows at 54 Below because where else can you eat so well, surrounded by recognizable stars?

After arriving home from New York, I saw Waitress at the Hippodrome. Now, I don't really enjoy seeing shows at the Hippodrome only because the seats were made for teeny-tiny people with very short legs. To say it's uncomfortable is an understatement. But I do enjoy many of their shows. This production specifically was unbelievably good. I was pretty hard on Waitress when I saw it in New York, but I've re-thought my original feelings. I loved the cast, the music and the experience, plain and simple.

January Moves

After a whole month of Yoga, I am enjoying it even more than I thought I would. It's working out the weird kinks I have in my back, and I can almost feel myself getting more and more flexible. Okay, maybe not flexible, but more able to do the moves and stretches that everyone else is seemingly having no issues with. It may not be a hard core workout, but it's good to know that I'm doing something that relaxes me.

I'm also working on learning Spanish again, for no other reason than I thought it might come in handy in the future. Even if I never use it, it fun to realize I can still recall so much of what I was taught in high school. Duolingo is the app I'm using, and if you're interested in learning, I strongly recommend using it. It's amazingly well-formatted and if you keep up with it - you're awarded extra points if you keep up your streak which is a great motivator for some reason - you will most definitely learn.

January Eats

I recently discovered Chuys in Annapolis which is a Tex-Mex chain, but honestly, I'm pretty sure I've become obsessed in a short period of time. The real appeal for me is their happy hour special - unlimited queso, chips, salsa, beans and ground beef. You can pretty much make a meal out of it. It doesn't hurt that their queso is basically made up of unicorns and rainbows - it's so delicious! 

So there you have it, January in a small nutshell. Not all that groundbreaking, but pretty good when you consider I'd rather live as a hermit when the temperature drops below 45...

Friday, January 19, 2018

BroadwayCon 2018 Preview

In 2016, BroadwayCon started. I so wanted to go but I was snowed in, in Maryland and forced to watch the fun online from my sofa. In 2017, I went. And it was truly more fabulous than I had imagined it would be. What I enjoyed most about the people and the events was the overwhelming sense of positivity, and acceptance that every attendee and guest radiated. Everyone was there to celebrate Broadway and theatre, and to have fun. It was a weekend that I gushed about a bit for BroadwayWorld, but I also haven't really processed yet. It's hard for me to put the magic into words. 

Maybe this year, I'll have a little easier time, because as you may have guessed from the title of this post, it's that time of year again, and I and my Broadway Buddies will be attending. I'm pretty sure I've been waiting for next weekend until the last day of 2017's con. With so many great shows closing in the last year, and so many opening in the next few months, I'm thinking the line up will be a bit different. But if anyone can pull off the right balance of fun and celebration, it's the organizers behind BroadwayCon. 

So what's new this year?  In other words what have I been antsy about seeing since the schedule was released?

~ The panel discussions specifically Come From Away.  These panels join together the lovely creatives, and actors from shows that are on Broadway now, and give them the chance to talk about what's fabulous in doing what they do. With Come From Away,  I love every single one of these cast members and as I've gushed about a bit, it is on my Top 5 of all Time list.  I can't wait to see what new and exciting things they'll share during their panel.

~ Lin Manuel Miranda! at the In the Heights Reunion.  Last year, this is how we at BroadwayCon got to see Lin:
It was a surprise appearance via Skype from England which was still pretty awesome! This year he'll actually be in the building.  I worry that seats for that panel are going to go fast, but I'm going to try my hardest to make sure we have them. Because, honestly - how can you not want to be in the room where it happens? (Sorry not sorry for the terrible Hamilton pun...)

~ The Preview Show on Sunday.  Last year we were treated to performances from Come From Away, Anastasia, Bandstand, and many more. I can't wait to see what this season will bring in regards to new shows and new talent.

~ Swag! - Last year I bought a Come From Away flower for my hair, and a minimalist hand-drawn print of the cast of Falsettos, and amongst many other things. Also, the Lights of Broadway showcards always have a BroadwayCon exclusive, so that's just a necessary expense.  This year, I'm hoping to not be as terrible with my wallet, but seriously - Buy all the things!

So that's what's on the agenda, but there's also something on our personal agenda, that we've never tried before. It's a bit different and I'm a little nervous and a lot excited about it. Two of us are cosplaying. I've always wanted to try it, but never had the nerve. After seeing the amazing costumes last year, I'm not sure mine will measure up, but I'm going for it anyway.  My one Broadway Buddy is wearing something that represents her favorite show.  While I'm choosing to dress as two different characters from two different shows - one on Saturday and one on Sunday.  Below are hints to the shows.  See if you can guess, who or what they are, and I'll follow up next week with pictures of our creative, but maybe not super true to life cosplays, as well as highlights from my very favorite weekend of the year!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A New Way to be Crafty

I'll admit when the concept of Paint Nights (groups of people get together to drink and paint the same picture) were first introduced, I was intrigued.  I went to one and had a blast and discovered I wasn't nearly as terrible at painting as I thought I'd be. However, after attending 2-3 more, I was sort of over it. How many not all that fabulous canvases can you hang in your home?  It turns out, none. I liked the paintings I had done, but I didn't like them enough to hang them in my house. So I've been fairly anti-Paint Night ever since.
But I did enjoy the concept of going out and trying some new form of craftiness. Scrapbooking is fun, but no one in my group of friends does it, so it's a fairly lonely activity. I enjoy it immensely, but I'm not engaging when I'm doing it. That brings me to the new and totally fabulous business that just opened in Anne Arundel County called Mix & Marble. The ladies behind Mix & Marble also enjoyed the Paint Night concept, but saw the same issues I had seen. They were also not a fan of having to possibly paint with many people they didn't know. They felt it was like a wedding scenario (small talk and chatter without much substance) instead of a fun night out with friends.  This led them to the art form known as silk dying.
At Mix & Marble, they have long troughs filled with some substance (it was clear - that's all I got). You're given the choice of a whole rainbow of colors to choose from - 3-6 colors are ideal.  Then you drop the colors in whatever pattern your heart desires into the trough. The dye mixes and swirls into all sorts of shapes and sizes which is way cool, if you're as easily amused as I am. You then can use a paintbrush or 2 types of rakes to swirl the colors even more. Once you're satisfied with the design, the lovely ladies help you to place the scarf into the trough, where it soaks up the gorgeous design you've just created. Like I said, I may be easily amused, but the process was fascinating!
Once it's dry - which takes about 24 hours but you can still take the scarf home with you that day - you have a one of a kind silk scarf to wear. And I don't know about you, but I have a slight obsession with scarves, so Mix & Marble is sort of the ultimate craft night for me. Added to the fun of the craft, they also have a nice bar where you can buy wine, beer or soft drinks. They don't have a permit to sell food - however, they encourage customers to bring snacks and hang out before and after crafting. (Pro tip - The Donut Shack which resides above Mix & Marble sells the best homemade donuts in the county!)
Overall, I just loved Mix & Marble.  The owners were lovely and super helpful and seemed to really enjoy this new business they've created.  The shop itself is cute which of course, made me like it even more.  And the crafting was first rate.  I may not need a bunch of new scarves, but they are expanding into new items to dye such as leggings.  And from the looks on the faces of the girls from the girl scout troop that were also there when we were, leggings are going to be a hot seller for Mix & Marble. With the rise of Lula Rowe, I can only imagine how many little girls, and moms alike are going to enjoy making their own designer leggings to compete with this trend. Also scarves make so much better gifts than canvases that may or may not be awful.  So there's always a reason to visit.  And based on my experience there, I can see that I will be doing that quite a bit!

Mix & Marble
497C Ritchie Highway
Severna Park, MD 21146

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Journey into Yoga-Land

As I said earlier in the week, one of my goals this year was to take a yoga class.  I am not what you might call a "fit" person.  Exercising, and gyms are not my favorite things.  I tried to run once and made it about 20 feet before I felt like I was going to die.  In the case of the zombie apocalypse I'll most definitely get bitten first. I also have a job where 80% of my day is spent sitting in front of a computer screen which is boring as heck, and not great for my health.

So I know the benefits of being fit and active, I just haven't figured out a sure fire way (aka a way that I enjoy) to do so.  That brought me to Yoga.  First off, it doesn't require running which is a huge positive in my book.  Also, it's not something that requires a great deal of equipment to do.  (though, if you need some Yoga "equipment" - such as cute pants and sweatshirts - Old Navy should be your first stop.  My theory is if I look cute, I'll enjoy it more...) Lastly, it's low impact and great for your muscles.  Because I sit all day, my back has not been behaving lately. So a practice that promotes stretching and alignment over hard core cardio sounds just my speed.

I lucked out by having a small Yoga studio within a few miles of my house that received great reviews on Facebook, and also offered a free intro class this week to get newcomers interested in the practice.  The studio wasn't exactly what I had pictured in my mind (which was pretty much what Yoga studios look like on television not any in real life) but it was cozy and quaint.  I had fears that I may be the only student there, seeing as it was cold, snowy and did I mention it was cold? (11 degrees at last check!)  But that fear was quickly laid to rest when about 10 others were there when I arrived.

So how did the actual class go?

I kinda loved it.  It wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.  Rather, it wasn't hard core by any means, but my muscles actually felt as if they were getting a work out.  The flow of the class was what I really liked.  The teacher who was fabulous, started with what can only be described as Quiet Time.  We sat cross legged on our mats, and breathed and stretched.  Then she moved from easier to more complicated poses throughout the class.  Then more quiet time to end the hour.  

The hour seemed to fly by, and I really enjoyed the work.  I enjoyed the quietness of it.  Yes, I was in a room with 10 other people (even 2 men, which is exactly 2 more than I thought would be there), but the only real talking being done was by the instructor.  It made it easier to concentrate, and focus on our breathing and stretching.  For an introvert like me, not needing to make small talk or chatter about form and feeling is pretty ideal.

I enjoyed it so much, that I am most definitely heading back to class on Thursday for the entire 10 week session.  My hope is that I become a little more flexible, and a little less run down all the time.  I know I'm not going to shed tons of pounds - this is not P90X or some such like - but it's better than nothing.  And if I do shed a pound or two, I will not be complaining.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

So I totally failed at blogging in 2017.  I have high hopes for 2018 though.  In that vain, I have a few resolutions to make me better in the new year.  One of those is of course, to start blogging regularly again.  It's a thing I say every year.  I have high hopes...If only to outdo myself for the last few years. One can hope...

~ Yoga is next up on my resolution list.  I pretty much hate exercising, however yoga seems like a way to exercise but not kill myself as I do it.  Also, my old lady back has been having issues, and the best I can hope for is that Yoga helps it.  I'm hoping to love it.  I mean, I just hit the Old Navy yoga pant sale, so I have to like it a little to justify my purchases.

~ Then there's dating.  I hate, hate, hate the idea of using Match.com to meet a significant other.  That's not the love story I want to tell my future children.  The issue with this is, all my friends are single as well, so they don't have anyone to set me up with - if they did, they would set them up with themselves (as I've been told.). So my 2018 goal is to go on lots of dates, yet I haven't quite figured out how to make this happen yet.  It's a resolution, that's still in the works so to speak.

~ Then there's finances.  I want to pay off bills.  If for no other reason, than having more money to travel fun places. I get more vacation hours after 5 years with the same company - it would be a shame not to use them! I've been really good for the last 2 months, so momentum is going strong. (At least that's what I tell myself anyway.)

As you can see, my resolutions are so very, very different from everyone else's.  No one else in the world wants to get in shape, meet a significant other, and pay off debt, right? : )  Lastly, on top of the resolutions, I like to participate in Ali Edwards' One Little Word.  I choose one little word to focus on throughout the year.  2017 was Explore and based on the number of steps I logged in New York and England, I'd say I did pretty well fulfilling that word.

2018's word dujour is ENGAGE.  My wish is to engage more with those around me, and those I love.  I spend a little too much time avoiding contact, and being the introvert that I've always been.  This year, I want to come out of my box a little.  I want to go out of my way to connect with new people and reconnect with those I've lost touch with.

I plan to engage with the world around me by traveling, and reading, and constantly learning.  I want to engage in meaningful conversation - not just the usual casual convos we all have on Facebook.  However, I'm going to attempt to disengage from those crazy political conversations that send me over the edge.  I want to get involved, but I also don't want to stress myself out while doing it. The power of positivity is going to be my friend this year.  It's a process, but I'm working on it.

Here's to 2018 being one of the best years yet - at least, let's hope it's just wee bit better than 2017 was!