My Fair Lazy, Culturing Up, and Six Months Of Lovely Accidents

So, a lot of people are writing, “it’s halfway through the year, here’s a check in posts.” I wasn’t planning one, but last night I has a realization that made me very happy.

A few years ago my favorite non fiction writer Jen Lancaster, wrote a book called, My Fair Lazy that was about a year long project to expand her horizons and get a bit more cultured. The project included exploring fine dining, attending theatrical performances and reading “important” books.

Y’all, between The Epics Project and The Best Theatrical Year of My Life, this sort of happened to me by accident, I realized as Aless and I picked up our champagne at the second intermission of ABT’s production of Don Quixote. (Partially, realizing that this wasn’t a terribly unusual outing for us anymore. We’ve come a long way since those $5 margaritas on 34th Street!)

Here are the cultural milestones I’ve had this year:

  • Read: War And Peace, Ulysses, Middlemarch, Don Quixote, Dune, David Copperfield, The Alchemist and Lincoln In The Bardo. As well as several other books that are probably not as culturally important but I have enjoyed quite a bit. That I’m reading a lot again is good. It means I can read things that are important and literary and the crap that I’d been consuming for the past few years. And I’ve got six more of the biggies (and a few smallies I’ve been putting off) before I’m through that project.
  • Watched: I’m still not good at watching things that are good for me. I’ll hit an occasional indie film or documentary, but for the most part, what I’m watching is still junk food. Often very well crafted junk food, like those sundaes from Serendipity or whatever, but still, empty calories
  • Attended: BEST THEATRICAL YEAR OF MY LIFE! It’s amazing how no longer participating in theater has made seeing theater feel essential to me. The Children, Children Of A Lesser God, Once On This Island, My Fair Lady, Angels In America, La Boheme and Don Quixote. I’ve still got a revisit to Hamilton and Springsteen On Broadway coming up and likely a few more.
  • Food: Most of my food exploration has come from cooking rather than eating out and my skills are still basic but improving. I can make Chicken Korma, which is exciting (Though I’m still tweaking my spice mix. It comes out a little too sweet for me every time…)

So that’s my culture year so far. It’s been good.

Advertisements

Fangirl Concert Series: Flogging Molly & Dropkick Murphy’s at The Stone Pony

I’m seeing a bunch of concerts this summer so I figured that I’d talk about them a little bit, y’all up for it?

Anyway, my summer concert scheduled kicked off with seeing the two most famous Celtic Punk bands in existence. (As these things go, I know it’s a niche genre.) Also, the show was at The Stone Pony, (Well, their outdoor summer stage…not the club itself…) which if you know a lot about Rock history, you’ve probably heard of. (As a primer, it’s the small club in Asbury Park, NJ where Springsteen first assembled The E Street Band.)

I was excited for this show, I’ve been a fan of both Flogging Molly and Dropkick for a while, and hadn’t seen either of them live. This was mostly out of fear, if I’m honest. I like a lot of punk music, but a lot of the crowd action freaks me out. I hate moshing and crowd surfing, so if a venue isn’t big enough that I can hang back, I tend to skip it.

Dropkick’s shows in particular, are notorious for their heavy violent pits, because you know, drunk Irish dudes and angry music.

Anyway. I drove down to Asbury on Sunday, worked my way into the summer stage area (gorgeous, really well laid out.) picked up a Coorrs Lite (Only $6! AT A CONCERT VENUE IN THE TRI STATE AREA! I was floored!) and prepared for the Shenanigans.

Shenanigans were had, friends were made, dancing occurred. I preferred Flogging Molly’s set. I’ve always preferred them though, being more of a Ramones type punk than a Sex Pistols one, and thus I place more emphasis on general songcraft than loud emotion. (There are merits to both) But man, when both bands came out and closed the show with “Shipping Out To Boston” it was such a joyous explosion of musical joy that Dropkick may have won the day. (If this were a competition.) Also enjoyable? Flogging Molly congratulating the Mexican World Cup team on their win, and dedicating their song about parenthood to the separated families at the border, to the general uncomfortable rumblings of their audience. (I had found a lovely group of queer ladies by then, and we all WOOOED and clapped, but it was quiet when they said it.) (Also, I was not like, blown away that discussion on ICE activity brought on uncomfortable grumbling from this audience rather than wild applause, but I’m glad it was brought up.) (For the record, I am staunchly AGAINST ripping children away from their parents and putting them in cages and warehouses.) (I have already called my reps about it and so should you. ALSO VOTE IN NOVEMBER!)

Discussion of human atrocities aside, I also just liked their vibe more. Flogging Molly plays like a prototypical rock and roll group, letting the music largely speak for itself, which I think suited the laid back beachy vibe of the venue. Dropkick puts on a heavier show, which was also fun, but way less my scene for this kind of thing.

I’m glad I went and I’ve broken another “single girl” barrier, by going by myself. More solo concerts to come, I’m sure!

The next concert (that I know of, unless something comes up) is Taylor Swift at MetLife Stadium on July 20.

So…that’ll be different than this…almost entirely.

 

I Could Have Danced All Night

Sometimes I just wind up going to see Broadway shows all the time.

Seriously, I’ve had a very good theater year, and I’m planning on taking the summer off, mostly, because of my wallet.  And I’m doing a bunch of concerts instead!

So, on Sunday, after the ultimate theatrical binge watch the was Angels In America, I went for something completely different and took my dad to see My Fair Lady at The Lincoln Center Theater.

My Fair Lady is easily my father’s favorite musical so this was a no brainer. I’m also a fan, and genuinely love all of the music. Also, as a bonus, the cast featured Dame Diana Rigg (YESSS) and Norbert Leo Butz (Widely considered by people who are related to me as the greatest musical theater actor of  his generation.)

The production is beautiful, as one would expect from Lincoln Center, with firm beautiful music direction, strong comedic acting performances, particularly Lauren Ambrose and Harry Hadden-Patten, both of whom I’ve enjoyed in various 90’s teen comedies and X-Files Episodes (Ambrose) and favorite British TV period dramas (Hadden-Patten). They were electric together, as Eliza and Higgins should be, and she hit Eliza’s Julie Andrews Mandated high notes with ease, while he infused actually melody and range into Higgins’s Rex Harrison Mandated talk-sing patter.

The set was beautifully constructed, especially 27A Whimpole Street being on a turntable, which allowed us to move between the study, hall, and front stoop with ease. A directorial choice makes the ending a bit less questionable from a modern sexual politics angle. I loved the details of the costumes, and in general the show was played very naturalistic-ally which with visual gags throughout with the ensemble. (As a frequent flier of the chorus back in my performing days, I always appreciate that kind of thing)

I was happy to see the show and of the big budget revivals currently running, I’m glad a chose this one over the one with the wife beating and carnival. (Carousel sucks!) And in general, I’m happy about my theater in take for the first half of the year. I don’t feel as blindsided by the Tony’s as I did last year. (Though I haven’t seen any of the new musicals. I’m cool with it. I’d like to see The Band’s Visit but Spongebob and Mean Girls can wait…) and I’ve fallen in love with seeing straight plays, something that I used to avoid like the plague. (Turns out all it took was comped tickets, former teen idols and you know, arguably the greatest American play ever written! WHO KNEW!)

 

The Dark Sentencer

There is a new Coheed & Cambria song.

It is 10 minutes long and we’re re-entering The Amory Wars story line. (The Future? The Past? DOES IT MATTER?) (It kind of does…I’m pretty sure we’re post the fall of Supreme Tri-Mage Whilhelm Ryan…but I could be wrong.)

This is all very important and exciting if you are me, or any of my siblings, or our high school friends.

I don’t think I need to fully outline my very long, emotional history with this band again, but to catch up people that are new:

I was a fourteen year old dorkus who loved Billy Joel and Boy Bands and showtunes, and then I heard Coheed and became a fourteen year old dorkus who also loved Emo. My love of the rest of the genre has faded but Coheed stuck, due to them, well, being SO FREAKING NERDY, an incredible band to see live, and constantly evolving their sound, while still sticking to what attracted me to them in the first place. (Hard driving guitar, ultra violent lyrics and space ships)

Travis Claudio Chondra NYCC

Also, ya know, the multiple times I’ve met them!

There, you’re caught up, on to the new song.

WARNING: What follows will probably require you to be passing familiar with the mythos of The Amory Wars and Coheed & Cambria to make any sense at all. I have neither the time nor inclination to explain that whole mess to you. Google it. There will be some parenthetical for context though.

So we know that “our story begins with the romance of two unheavenly beings.” I assumed this meant Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon, the Beast and Knowledge, IRO-bots created to destroy Heaven’s Fence, and free the planets of the Keywork from the tyrannical control of Supreme Tri-Mage Whilhelm Ryan. (A sentence I will never get tired of typing, btw)

But then we go on to learn that our narrator here is, “their son, Vaxus.” NOW, this intrigues me, because that means, we may not be talking about Coheed and Cambria up top, since their son is named Claudio, (also Matthew, but Matthew is long dead.) (His parents killed him thinking that they were preventing the release a virus called The Monstar which would destroy The Keywork.) (This was a lie and they were very upset about it later. Also, they both died.) I mean, it could still be Claudio talking, to someone named Vaxus? Or this is a new title? Or, we’re far enough beyond Claudio’s destruction of Heaven’s Fence as he accepted his destiny as The Crowing that this is a completely new character who’s dealing with the wreckage? OR, as we’ve learned that “The Dark Sentencer” is a prison, it might be Claudio’s time in prison. (Between The Second Stage Of The Turbine Blade  and In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth)

I don’t know, but I’m curious. Amory has always been very influenced by Star Wars so seeing the rise of a new savior in a post Force Awakens and Last Jedi world would not be totally ludicrous. (Plus Claudio’s talked about a sequel a few times, but decided he’d rather write nice little pop songs about his wife and baby for a while, because I guess he can do whatever he wants.) (“Atlas” and “You’ve Got Spirit, Kid” are pretty great.)

But what intrigues me the most is the repeated use of the phrase “Welcome Home.” “Welcome Home,” is of course, one of the band’s most recognizable songs, since it was in Rock Band. (Also, they tend to either close a set or start an encore with it at live shows) Claudio Sanchez tends to repeat imagery and themes from album to album, The Keywork itself and it’s accompanying musical theme (Which I think is supposed to represent the passage of time, if I’m recalling correctly) the Kilgannon family, themes of tragic or lost love, appeals to a God who may or may not be listening, rebellion against horrifying authority, lines crossed that should never be, child murder, mad scientists, space ships, a sentient evil bicycle who wishes the death of a main character, and brings it about through a meta narrative about a writer. (Everything sounds weird out of context!) (That one, actually, is always weird.) (How’s that work? You’re a bicycle!) So I feel  like that’s probably significant.

Either way, while I talked to Mary about it last night I just got more and more excited. “It feels like the old days, when we had no idea what the fuck he was talking about!” I said. She also noted the music feels heavy again, which is true, and exciting.

Also, I’ve had “A Pharoah Story” from Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat stuck in my head for a week, completely inexplicably, and now it’s been pushed out. Which is a relief.

Children Of The Fence, we’re back!

[title of show], Killing My Vampires and remembering to be “Nine People’s Favorite Thing”

When I lose inspiration or the drive to create, there are lots of things I do. I watch Julie And Julia, or listen to Kevin Smith talk on one of his podcasts or specials, or sometimes I just take a break from creating and consume because I’m tired.

But in the past few months, I’ve found a new one to add to the rotation. And that’s [title of show] which I had vague memories of from my college fading theatrical obsession days (it opened on Broadway in 2008, I for sure watched a few you tube clips of it, but never saw it) and it came roaring back to me as something I needed in my life when the podcast that is my soul This Is Rad did an episode about it and I listened through the cast album.

[title of show] is a musical about writing a musical, and it’s whacky and silly and perfect and lovely and everything about it is great.

But it wasn’t until I posted a video of the particularly funny and insightful “Die Vampire Die” on a friend’s blog post about feeling creatively blocked that I realized how much in the past few months I’ve come to rely on [title of show]’s viewpoint to keep myself moving creatively.

Particularly I’ve been thinking about “Air Freshener Vampires” and the “Vampires of Self Doubt” which require you to sanitize your work and remind you that you’re not good enough anyway so just give up. (And to fight them, remember that if you clean up too much you’ll wind up with a tight paragraph about kittens that your grandmother will just love, and that if a stranger said those kinds of things to you, you’d think they were a mentally ill asshole)

I’m pouring a lot of my heart and soul into The Marina Chroniclemore than I even thought I would previously. That said, it’s not necessarily yielding the kind of returns I’d hoped for. (But that all of my closest friends are reading it totally warms my heart. Love you girls to bits!) And that was discouraging until I remembered that I’d rather be nine people’s favorite thing than ninety nine people’s ninth favorite thing.

That is, I’d rather my original vision speak to only a few people than water it down or change it to make more people like it.

I wanted to write One Tree Hill in Westeros (not exactly, but that’s the gist!). I wanted to focus on the myriad of complicated threads that hold teenage girls who love one another deeply together. I wanted to talk about family, and heartbreak and getting what you want and realizing that it wasn’t what you wanted after all.

Most of all I wanted to create these girls. These infuriating, beautiful, powerful girls who are in control of their own lives and fates. These girls realizing that they have to forge their own path, because the carefully laid out plans of their lives don’t make sense to them, or are gone for whatever reason. That’s who Marina and Annalise are to me, and I won’t compromise on that, not for a minute.

And when that doesn’t work and I still have writers block, I remind myself that writing should be easy, like a monkey driving a speedboat.

Also! Read my thing. Next week is going to start an excellent jumping on point! (And a reprieve if Marina’s boy whining and Daddy worrying is not your thing!)

Too Much Heaven On Their Minds

In the past five years the wave of TV musicals have ranged from “DEAR GOD WHY?” (The Sound Of Music Live, Dirty Dancing) to “That Was Adequate I Guess,” (Peter Pan Live, Hairspray Live) to “Quite Good With Moments Of Greatness” (A Christmas Story Live, Grease Live, The Wiz Live)

On that spectrum, Jesus Christ Superstar: Live in Concert hits in the “Quite Good With Moments of Greatness” and from a personal standpoint it’s my favorite so far. Mostly because I like JCS more than I like Grease, so while I think from a critical and technical standpoint they were on par, I was going to enjoy this more.

Let’s start with the not as great stuff so that I can gush later:

  • We need to stop casting pop stars who can’t act as major acting roles in these things. John Legend is a talented and charismatic dude, with a lovely and hilarious spouse, who was hopelessly outclassed by all of his scene partners. Not, by the way, that being outclassed by Brandon Victor Dixon, Norm Lewis and Ben Daniels is anything to be ashamed of, but they were so much better than he was that it was distracting. Also, I felt bad for him as he struggled through “Gethsemane,” kind of. That’s a really difficult song, but also, if you can’t take Andrew Lloyd Webber’s heat, get out of that particular musical theater kitchen, ya know? (Words I also wish someone had once said to Madonna)
  • Alice Cooper’s performance as King Herod was kinda meh. I was thrilled to see him (and he’s a member of my favorite version, the 1996 studio cast, also with Peter Gallagher!) but the execution here left me underwhelmed.
  • There were both tech issues and vocal blowouts galore. Which means that this was badly rehearsed. NO musical director worth their salt should let both their Pilate and Jesus push so hard that they struggle through Act 2. And no sound tech with adequate preparation should be dropping mic ques on a production at this level.
  • OMG WE GET IT WITH THE SCAFFOLDING! I know, I know, this musical has a lot of electric guitar in it, so we need to have scaffolding in the set because Rent said so, but this has become such a lazy and cliche design choice, I’d rather not see it used again for a while. (You’ll notice about a year ago, I had this same complaint with The Lighting Theif)

Now onto The Stuff I Liked (A LOT)

  • Brandon. Victor. Dixon. While to the uninitiated it might seem odd that Judas is better than Jesus, this is not even remotely unusual for this show. It’s the better, more dramatically important role. He gets three great songs to Jesus’s one. (“Heaven On Their Minds,” “Damned For All Time,” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Granted, the one for Jesus is a doozy…but still) And Dixon is, you know, incredible. After seeing and loving him in Shuffle Along and being blown away by him in Hamilton I loved seeing him play this role, which he just ran away with. Seriously, I hope this serves as his mainstream coming out party because it was just so good.
  • Sarah Barielles as Mary Magdalene. I’m protective of this role. It’s songs served as audition pieces for me throughout high school. Sarah did very well, and I loved the directing and costuming choice of making her a flower child in a sea of punks. It made her stand out among the followers and is a more organic fit for both Barielles’s energy and Mary’s songs.
  • Pretty much all of the supporting roles were great, but I really loved what Ben Daniels did with Pilate. As Mary exclaimed, “HE LOOKS LIKE 80’s BOWIE! THAT’S PERFECT!”
  • Pretty much all of the staging and costuming? Like, nothing was revolutionary, but it all worked. And the Crucifixion was a technical marvel. And I couldn’t help but giggle at the ensemble taking Wayne and Garth style “We’re not worthy” stances as Alice Cooper entered.
  • The band and orchestra: Because Webber is a beautiful weirdo who doesn’t believe in genre lines JCS requires both a rock band and a traditional orchestra. Some production only pick one and they usually go with the band. We got both here! Yay! But also, the fact that this show requires three guitars players to do it justice is one of my favorite things about it.
  • I want to specifically call out Jason Tam and Erik Gronwall who played Peter and Simon Zealotes because Simon sings my favorite song in the show, and Tam was so adorable that he made me give a crap about Peter which I never have before in this show.
  • BRANDON VICTOR DIXON

I was overall really impressed. Have watched the thing twice. My greatest joy with it was that it didn’t feel neutered, which I was afraid it might. No, it was as weird and challenging and beautiful as ever. As Katie (who is not a fan of this show BTW) once said, “if nothing else, Jesus Chris Superstar has a point of view, and if that gets lost, well, there’s nothing there.” This production had a point of view.

Our next one is Fox attempting Rent next January.

You can be sure that I’ll have opinions about that.

Our Lives Become The Stories That We Weave

“There is an island, where rivers run deep. Where the sea sparkling in the sun earns it the name, ‘jewel of the Antilles…'”

There are few lines that make my hair stand on end the way that that one does. When the chimes go and I’m transported from whatever theater I’m in to a beach in Haiti and told my favorite story.

love Once On This Island. It’s my second favorite musical after Les Mis. I love the heart at this show, which is about tales spun and hearts healed and it has music that propels you from moment to moment.

OOTI was also the second show I produced and the one of my “babies” that’s dearest to my heart. (I know we’re not supposed to pick favorites…but well…) And, I’ve found it’s a kind of secret handshake for theater kids. We all did it, in high school or college, or have friends who did. We passed it around. We sang it’s songs in choirs and voice recitals. It’s ours in a way that few mainstream musicals are. The wider world never found it and watered it down.

What does this all mean for the rootsy new production hanging out on Broadway now? It means that I was going to enjoy myself immensely, and that if it wasn’t good, though I’d probably like it anyway, I’d have been disappointed.

It’s a beautiful production. Intimate, and intense in ways I never expected, and lovingly performed by an ensemble of actors you just know currently refer to themselves as “family.” Due to a story of our own (involving misread tickets and an ill-advised second round of drinks) we were seeing the Saturday evening performance rather than our planned matinee (which meant understudies for Erzulie and Asaka…which just means I have to go back to see Lea Solanga and Alex Newell.) And while I cried through a lot of it, I also couldn’t imagine a better moment than seat dancing and whooping it up with my brother and sister. (At appropriate moments, obviously!)

Stay tuned for more musical theater gushing this week when I write about Jesus Christ Superstar Live on Wednesday. (Spoiler alet: WELL SHIT)