There Are Other Worlds Than These

Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, which way to Never never land?

Emerald City’s gone to hell, since the Wizard blew off his command.

On the street you hear the voices, lost children, crocodiles.

But you’re not into making choices, Wicked Witches, poppy fields or men behind the curtain.

Tiger lilies, ruby slippers, clock is ticking that’s for certain. – “30/90”, Tick, Tick…Boom, by Jonathan Larson

Because of my foray into The Dark Tower (I’m through The Wastelands now, and it’s amazing, and I love it, and I remember the face of my father.) I’ve been thinking about other worlds in fiction.

I’m not talking about other planets, or even alternate realities. So that leaves out things like Mirror Worlds and Bizzarro Worlds, and even realms like Middle Earth, or Westeros or Tortall.

I’m talking about other worlds, that exist in some space near or in our own, and you access them through some sort of magic. I’m talking about your Narnia, your Wonderland, your Neverland, your Oz.

While I’m not sure if there strange desert world of Roland The Gunslinger is actually another world, and not a far flung future of our own, (NO SPOILERS! I’ve been spending the month restraining myself from Googling more about this series because I DO NOT WANT TO KNOW UNTIL I KNOW!) for the moment I’m treating it as someplace else.

Mainly I’ve been thinking about how you view those worlds as an adult, as opposed to as a child. The lyrics I posted above are from Tick Tick…BOOM, and are technically about anxiety about turning 30, which also, coming, and also, GAH trying so hard not to think about…although if in the next 6 years I can create something as indelliably awesome as Jonathan Larson did with Rent I think I’d be OK…I mean, not the dying at 35, without ever SEEING my creation completed part, but the writing something as resonant as Rent part. So much art about aging anxiety is about the destruction of childhood, and the wish expressed in “30/90” is to trade Oz for Neverland, as if one imploded and the other is just there waiting.

“Go on then,” Jake, the young boy who becomes the closest companion of Roland, says as he falls to his death in The Gunslinger, “there are other worlds than these.” Maybe there’s something about 30 that makes me want to seek out new worlds, or giving up on seeing them altogether, but this year has me being really introspective and kind of wishing I was someplace else. This is a general feeling, not one that I plan to act on and since the places I’m dwelling on don’t really exist, they aren’t really an option.

Emerald City’s gone to hell, since the wizard blew off his command.

 

 

I Didn’t Ask To Be A Half-Blood

LightningThiefPlay-300x300In case you’re new, you may not know that I have a few what I call “baseline” obsessions. They’re not the fundamentals of nerdiness, as deep in my bones as Star Wars, Harry Potter or Les Mis. But they’re things I come back to over and over, with love and joy and excitement, but I can detach myself enough to view them critically. Batman, The Collective Television Work of Aaron Sorkin, Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, Game of Thrones. 

A big one, a big big one is the connected mythological work of Rick Riordan. Percy Jackson And The Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, The Kane Chronicles, Magnus Chase And The Gods of Asgard, and The Trials of Apollo, are semi-annual joys to visit. (One book generally comes out in the spring, another in the fall…) They’re also, one of the earliest bits of nerd bonding that Aless and I came to. (The summer we became besties Sea Of Monsters, the movie, came out. We moaned over it’s disappointments together.) So, when we learned the there was going to be a musical of The Lighting Thief, we got tickets as soon as possible for the first Saturday night performance.  I also reread all of the Greek/Roman books.

The show itself is really great, capturing the sort of cheeky, totally epic fun of the books, and giving fans a lot to grab on to, especially given the various characters on display. At Camp Halfblood, necessary for the plot characters Percy, Annabeth, Grover and Luke are joined by Clarisse LaRue, Silena Beuaregard and Katie Gardner, with a brief mention of Charles Beckindorf. (Though it’s that he’s cheating on Silena, something he would NEVER DO. HE DIED LOVING HER SO MUCH THAT HE WAITED TO ENTER ELYSIUM FOR HER!) Grover sings a whole song about Thalia’s sacrifice, and there’s even a cameo in the Lotus Hotel and Casino of a girl who’s been there since May of 1939. (Yes, demigods, we see, though only for a moment, Bianca DiAngelo! She also mentions her brother. Aless and I spazzed accordingly)

As a musical it’s entertaining, with a few truly good songs, though the theater lover in me, did have to roll my eyes at a few elements. “We get it, you love Rent!” I mumbled at one point, while Chris McCarrell as Percy raged against his bad luck to a pounding drum beat while jumping around a set constructed mostly of scaffolding. But McCarrell really did well with a character I have a great deal of affection towards and said song, “Good Kid,” has been stuck in my head since leaving the theater. I was equally impressed with Kristen Stokes as Annabeth, particularly her big solo song, but my favorite cast member was James Hayden Rodriguez, who played Luke Castellan as well as Ares and a couple of other parts. (Most of the cast doubled or tripled roles.) Luke is definitely in my top 3 favorite Riordan characters (Number 1 is Leo Valdez and the 2 spot rotates between Luke and Rachel Elizabeth Dare, depending on my mood.) And this performance really got what I liked about Luke, the charm, the anger, the sheer heartbreaking grief when this guy you can’t help but like stabs you in the back.

I was really happy with the show and even happier to see it with my best friend. (I came cosplayed as Annabeth, and Aless provided us some blue food.) We then proceeded to drink approximately all of the Tequila in The Village, but overall we had a great night, and now I’m just waiting on the cast album.

And the possibility of a sequel? Maybe? While the escalating weirdness and ballooning cast of Percy Jackson might make for a tough fit on stage, I’d still love to see this group give it a shot.

You Can’t Stop The Beat

hairspray-promo-gives-first-look-at-cast-in-costume

 

I love Hairspray.

Like love it, love it.

There were nights in high school where it seemed like the only thing helping me hold on to my sanity was belting “Good Morning Baltimore” in my friend Lauren’s car.

“I Can Hear the Bells,” was a go to audition piece when I needed to show that I could “act.” (I cannot act, I can be cute in “I Can Hear The Bells,” and mildly affecting in “Nothing,” from A Chorus Line.) A theater camp show where a group of us acted out scenes and songs, as though we were girls at a pajama party in the 60’s was a highlight of my career. (The high point was playing Mrs. Paroo in The Music Man.) 

Anyway, this show matters to me in a big way. So, I was excited for NBC’s live version, especially after The Wiz was so fantastic, and Grease Live, upped the ante on what this kind of programming could do.

Hairspray Live, did not live up. It wasn’t actively bad, but it wasn’t anything special, outside of a few really great performances. Overall, I think moving the production to LA and away from Broadway talent was a big mistake. The things that propped up even the weaker points of The Sound Of Music Live and Peter Pan Live were the true blue Broadway vets giving it their all. And the pros pulled it out again for Hairspray.

Harvey Fierstien, Kristin Chenoweth, Martin Short, Derek Hough and Jennifer Hudson were outstanding. Even newcomer Maddie Baillio as Tracy turned in a decent performance, full of vulnerability and she’s got the voice for sure. But with the exception of Dove Cameron’s consumate mean girl Amber, the young cast seemed out of sync with each other and the piece. Garret Clayton and Ariana Grande in particular seemed miscast, neither of them understanding the comedy of their characters and in Grande’s case, a bad fit for the singing too.

This felt like a huge step back. We’ll see how things go next time around with a Jennifer Lopez lead Bye Bye Birdie. (Now, Clayton I could see doing very well as Conrad Birdie, as the swoony “It’s Takes Two” was the only part of his performance that I liked.)

But I’m still happy that this exists. This has been a big couple of years for musical theater, and it feels like we’re not going to get shoved back in our weird little corner anymore, and I’m psyched about that.

But this performance, when Billy Eichner came out at the end, I expected him to start shouting and smashing things, telling them that they were desecrating something beautiful.

He didn’t, but that would have been funnier than “Without Love,” a hilarious song that was played straight.

Things I’m Obsessed With Right Now: Indian Summer

Summer seems to be finally breaking and I’m thrilled about that. I love fall and here’s a bunch of the stuff that I’m using to wait out the heat, so we get to the time of year of tights, sweaters and boots. (I’ve already started with boots though…)

Anyway, here we go:

  • Gilmore Guys: I mean obviously, but I’ve been listening to it like crazy, not at the expense of my other podcasts, but a whole lot.
  • “Nobody’s Crying” a song by Sutton Foster about her divorce from Christian Borle. It’s on her solo album Wish. It’s melancholy and heartbreaking and perfect, and I’ve loved it for a while, but Crystan and I listened to it while we were driving into the city on Saturday and my love for it has sprung anew. Listen to it, I swear you won’t be disappointed.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena…WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHOW? I should explain, despite a long list of anime that friends I love and trust have recommended to me, I decided instead to dive into this one because, “The Mary Sue says that it heavily inspired Steven Universe.” As I have previously noted, I will do just about anything The Mary Sue tells me to, so I clicked it on Hulu and now I’m sucked in when I should finally be watching Stranger Things or at least Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood like everyone I know told me to. And yet now I’m sucked into this weird anime about sword fighting and lesbians and incest where everything might just be happening inside of the characters heads or whatever. But it’s fantastic and I love it and I think Utena might be my new favorite protagonist in anything (Sorry Korra.) Mostly because I love a passive protagonist. (Sup Harry Potter?) And Utena doesn’t really do anything except wear a totally stylish blazer and get dragged along by the plot. I’ll do a full post about it when I finish, but it’s taking up a lot of my time and brain power.
  • My friend Lora’s daily closet cosplays! She’s putting me to shame you guys! Check out her Tumblr and Instagram (@dailycasualcosplay)!
  • Party Planning! I made the facebook event for my birthday party this year and I’m really excited about it. My costume is done, which means I can focus on the other fun stuff, liked themed food and drinks, decorations, and entertainment options! I’m really excited about it.
  • Comic Con planning. I’m so organized that I’m worried I’m missing something. But I’m going to just let it go. (LET IT GOOOO…)

So that’s what I’m doing right now. See you tomorrow with more stuff!

Jellicle Cats Come Out Tonight

I went to go see Cats on Broadway last week. And here’s a thing that I’d forgotten, how much I love Cats.

I’ve said a few times that I’m trying really hard to remove ironic detachment from my cultural experience. There’s too much content that I do enjoy to spend time on stuff that I don’t like but want to mock. But I went to Cats deeply unsure if I was going to be able to enjoy it genuinely or not.

It’s an easy show to mock, because it’s weird enough that you can’t quite call it mainstream, but schlocky and successful enough that it’s certainly not considered “arty.” But it’s most certainly experimental, and strange and oddly beautiful.

Cats is a show that I think means more to theater performers my age than just fans. We saw this show when we were little and we sang these songs and approximated these dances and there’s something beautiful about that.

So I didn’t ironically enjoy Cats,  didn’t laugh at it’s corny approach, didn’t mock the actors. I loved every moment of it, genuinely and deep in my bones. I walked around for days after singing “Skimblehshanks The Railway Cat” and practically skipping.

It was all great.

West Covina!!!! CALIFORNIA!!!!

I did a thing this weekend. I mean, I didn’t actually do much. I sat around a lot. But I did a bunch of cosplay work, and watch a ton of TV and so, here we are.

I had a plan though. I was going to eat left overs, and binge something. I landed on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

This show is perfect. I should have always been watching this show. I mean, I enjoyed watching Supergirl live, especially because it was a piece of superhero material that my mom liked. But a dark comedy musical about a girl who stalks a summer fling to his crappy LA suburb ten years later? That is a show my mom would have liked even more. (And I like a LOT more.)

My favorite song is probably “I’m The Villain In My Own Story,” just for fun factor, but oh my god is “You Stupid Bitch,” the soundtrack of my life. And “If I Wanted To,” is a joy.

I’ve drunk the Kool Aid. At the moment that I write this, I’m sitting in my room, listening to the soundtrack (with the commentary! There is so much to get overly analytical about!) I can’t believe that I waited so long to get into this show.

Oh, and obviously, Team Greg! And not just because Santino Fontana is the best. (He is. This is objective truth…) But because Greg likes Rebecca even though she’s a nutbar. AND HE’S A LITERAL DISNEY PRINCE. But, he’s probabaly an alcoholic, and totally miserable, and that’s not great.

I get the Josh thing, though, he’s adorable. And sweet and can do so many backflips!

I also understand that the show is trying to show us that love triangles aren’t the point. I see that, but I’m a horrible shipping garbage person and this show makes it hard for me to totally disconnect that.

Anyway, I like the show, I love the characters and I super love the music. You should watch this show. The End.

Something They Can Never Take Away: Hamilton: The Revolution

Welcome to the first post of The Hamilton Reading List.

We begin our exploration with the purest distillation of Hamilton-ness, with Hamilton: The Revolution or as Lin-Manuel Miranda, it’s co-author, and the Internet are calling it #Hamiltome. The book consists of the full libretto of the musical, featuring informative and entertaining footnotes by Miranda. Also featured are a series of analytic and informative essays by Hamilton ally and theatrical critic, Jeremy McCarter.

IMG_0025

One of the first things that I want to discuss is the book itself which is gorgeous. Leather bound, aged pages and full of stunning pictures of the production and back stage and the size of a text book, I was very glad I picked up the physical book rather than read it digitally. It’s worth it.

One of the things that’s been acutely fascinating as Hamilton exploding is how documented this phenomenon has been, thanks to the internet and the relative youth of it’s creators, so between the amazing early leak on NPR of the cast album, the #Ham4Ham shows, the fan art, the endless pairing of lyrics with other forms of media (#Force4Ham and #Parks4Ham being my favorites, of course.), we get a level of engagement that I only could have dreamed of when I was a dreamy twelve year old playing the London Cast Recording of Les Mis on my discman curled up in a corner of my middle school band room.

The Hamiltome chronicles this, as well as the show’s unique evolution from Miranda’s daydream of “The Hamilton Mixtape” initially meant to be a concept album chronicling the life of the ten dollar founding father to the full blown theatrical phenomenon it is. And it is a journey, an excellent and interesting and tortuous one.

What I love about back stage looks in general is that they demystify the magic of theater. There is magic in it, that spark that ignites is real, but before you can get to that spark there’s hundreds of hours punctuated by sweat, tears and a ton of work and The Revolution gives us those moments in often excruciating detail. It would have been easy to keep Hamilton mythic, birthed like Athena, fully formed from the mind of Lin-Manuel Miranda, but that isn’t how theater works, and McCarter makes it clear that Hamilton had many fathers, going in detail about direction and costume design, and set design and choreography and even, bless my heart, what a producer does. (Most people don’t understand this. Hell, I barely understand it and I am a producer.)

The one thing that the book doesn’t get into, or at least not enough, is why this show? I mean as much as you can explore why pop culture phenomenon happen, but I do wonder. We were long overdue for a Broadway block buster and even longer overdue for a mainstream crossover success. Were we primed for it? Young people are hungry for revolution in every generation, but seem particularly vocal about it in the moment. So is that it? Broadway music hasn’t incorporated pop music in a new way since 1996, so is that it? (Well, actually since 2008, but you know, everyone seems determined to ignore In The Heights, so I guess I will too.)

But this is a phenomenon and it’s worth exploring.

Next up on The Hamilton Reading List:

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow which is the book that Miranda read that inspired him to write this musical, which then inspired me to write this series of blog posts. So in a way, I’m also a genius who is changing the face of pop culture.