Cosplay Corner: WORK!

Hey all, Renn Faire got bumped again. (I was able to take pictures this time, but, well, something came up.)

What did happen this week was that I saw Hamilton. So, I decide to pay tribute to it via my closet cosplay this week, and…because of Lora, I’ve very much felt the need to up my game.

I decided the Schuyler sisters were the best way to go, so let’s start.

Angelica Schuyler


This is what I wore on Tuesday to the show. So, I went with a black flippy skirt, a pink tank top with some macrame on top.

I decided to do some focus on jewelry for these in a big way. Angelica got some Tory Burch style earrings (You just know that the Schuyler sisters would be preps.)  and a necklace that was a gift from my friend Cha that says, “Nothing is impossible to a determined woman.”


I wore my riding boots (again prep!) because they also look straight out of the Hamilton costume closet.

Eliza Schuyler


Eliza felt the need to be softer and a little more traditional than Angelica. So, I went with a breezy blue crop top and my pencil skirt, super feminine and very sweet. I also did combat boots though, because she’s sweet but also tough as nails.

Eliza’s jewelry is my oversized pearl earrings and a small necklace with a blue stone and pendant that says “ma soeur” (my sister in French) that my sister got me for Christmas a few years ago.


Peggy Schuyler


Peggy’s the yellow one! Anyway, for Peggy I wore a yellow peasant top and jeans and my frye boots. Again, I’m pushing the prep factor.

Peggy’s jewelry is a pair of stone set earrings and a blue a yellow colored glass pendant that my uncles gave me for Christmas one year and a yellow wooden bangle.

Anyway, that’s what I did this week. I had a lot of fun with it.

 

The Room Where It Happens

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So, nearly a year exactly (give or take a few days) since I first sat in my office and listened in awe to the Hamilton original Broadway cast album, I found myself sitting a seat in the Richard Rodgers Theater, sipping on a “Dueling Sangria” (I got the white, Mom got the red…) inhaling sharply as Brandon Victor Dixon ran onstage and began to recite Alexander Hamilton’s life story.

A million thoughts crossed my mind.

“Oh God, I’m finally here!”

“I can’t believe I missed the OBC.”

“That doesn’t really matter. You’re here, live in this moment.”

“What if it doesn’t live up to what’s in my head?”

“What if I’ve been hyping this up for a year and my family doesn’t like it?”

By the time Javier Munoz declared that there were “a million things he hadn’t done,” that was long gone. I was entranced. To crib from an early review, “yes, it really is that good.”

I was really excited to see Mandy Gonzales as Angelica. I was lucky enough to see her as Nina in the original cast of In The Heights, and a few years back, when I took my cousin Bobby to see Wicked, she was our Elphaba. She killed as Angelica as well. Honestly, I don’t want to single out any single cast members, the show is so thoroughly an ensemble piece.

I do want to talk about costume design. HOLY SHIT DO I LOVE EVERYTHING ABOUT THE COSTUME DESIGN OF THIS SHOW. I mean, it helps that I was raised by a costume designer, but I love the whites on the ensemble, I love that each character gets their own color scheme, I love that the duels are fought in black cloaks. I love that James Madison is wearing a prototypical Confederate uniform. (The rise of The Confederacy can be linked almost directly to the rivalry personified by Hamilton and the Southern Mother Fuckin’ Democratic Republicans!) It’s all fantastic.

The staging isn’t revolutionary, which is actually preferable. There’s enough revolutionary about this show, the music, the casting, that a straightforward (though still incredible) staging grounds the show in the musical theater tradition, in a bigger way even than the many theatrical references in the libretto do. (Easy call outs, Burr stating that, “You’ve got to be carefully taught,” from South Pacific, Hamilton stating that “nobody needs to know” about his relationship with Maria Reynolds, from The Last 5 Years, the best cheating song ever written, and of course Hamilton calling out “Sit down John,” as a criticism to John Adams.)

I cried, a lot, though not as much or as hard as I thought I might. It’s hard not to get choked up during “It’s Quiet Uptown,” but I also found myself swelling with pride and unable to stop the tears during “One Last Time.” If nothing else this is a deeply patriotic show. Lin-Manuel Miranda clearly loves this country deeply, and it comes across beautifully.

I could keep gushing, (honestly, I could!), but I think Joe’s comment at intermission is the best think that could describe the show, “I just want to stay in my seat and wait for them to do the whole show again.”

Cosplay Corner: Give My Regards To Old Broadway!

Because the Tonys I decided to focus this week on Broadway Cosplays! (Hooray!)

Con Ready Cosplays

I don’t have any strictly Broadway cosplays (I threaten to do Galinda every year and always wind up backing off)

But I do have Belle and Beauty And The Beast was a Broadway show. So we’ll talk about that.


This was the simplest costume ever (except maybe Captain America…), I owned the blue dress as a 50’s costume for years, and the white long sleeved shirt is from my Princess Leia costume from last year. I bought the apron on Amazon, threw on a pair of black flats, tied my hair back and voila! Belle! (If you’re interested in Kristi’s Jedi Sleeping Beauty costume, check out her great post about it!)

Closet Cosplay

I had a lot of fun with these this week. Thinking of shows that I love and characters I like and embracing those aesthetics and figuring out what in my wardrobe would work to bring it across.

Eponine – Les Miserables


I wore this on Sunday for the Tonys, but I didn’t actually wear the whole thing because it was too hot to wear the coat and hat. BUT I know that I can do that for colder weather.

Les Mis is my favorite musical ever and Eponine is my favorite character in it. So it’s nice that approximating her look is so freaking simple.

Anyway, the outfit is simple, jeans, a grey tunic, a brown jacket and a cap. Add a distracted forlorn look and you’re a perfect Eponine!

Hamilton


I didn’t zero in on a specific character here, I just wanted to put forward a general feel for the show’s aesthetic as I understand it…having not actually seen the show yet. You know what? That’s OK. I think so at least.

Anyway, the white leggings come from my Princess Leia costume, the riding boots from my life as a preppy girl, and a blue shirt that I’ve always felt looked vaguely historical, an invokes the color of the Patriot Army. I’m all set to be in the room where it happens…

Galinda – Wicked


After Les Mis, comes Wicked when it comes to my favorites. And I’ve related to the character of Galinda/Glinda from the moment I met her.(You know, through the OBC, as played by Kristin Chenoweth)

A simple costume, pink fluffy skirt, white V-neck and pink jewelery! It helps that I’m blonde!

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.

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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.

That Would Be Enough

I remember sitting in the theater and watching In The Heights.

I remember loving it.

I remember being blown away by the talent and charisma of it’s star and creator.

I remember realizing that it was like nothing I’d ever seen before and yet so familiar I couldn’t deny it.

I remember it’s connections to my family, the generation of immigrants before the generation who’s stories it told. I remember thinking about circles and cycles and New York and home.

I remember thinking, “this will change everything.” Pop music had been on Broadway for decades. But the pop music on Broadway didn’t sound like the pop music on the radio anymore, if it ever had.

I remember a few years later, when this man came to us again with something that could barely shine. I remember when someone else tried to bring hip hop to Broadway and everyone ignored it and it went away faster than you could realize it was there.

I remember being sad about it. I had thought that the game would change and instead we got a Les Mis revival.

I remember arguing with friends about him. I remember insisting that he was a genius, that he needed to be more famous.

“Of course, ‘Let It Go’ is important, but…”

“The Book of Mormon is great, I’m sure, but…”

“Yeah, we need to preserve our history, and I’m glad The King And I is here, but…”

I remember conversations with my sister, talking about not seeing in teenagers, even artsy ones, we encountered the fervor for this scene and music that we’d had.

“We need a new Rent,” she’d say, “a new Wicked, a new something that speaks to people on a wider popular level.”

Then we started hearing what he was working on.

I remember talking in hushed tones about “that presidential rap musical.” I remember wondering aloud if it would work. Or was this man a one hit wonder?

I remember the rumblings from The Public Theater when it premiered. I remember hearing and reading the word “masterpiece” over and over again. I remember hearing about impossible to get tickets, and color blind casting of historical figures and a move uptown to Broadway delayed.

I remember a month ago seeing Something Rotten! and Mary and I loving it. I remember looking at each other and sighing, “It’s great but, it’s not the one.”

“No,” I said, “but I think Hamilton might be.” She rolled her eyes. Considering she’s the one who sold me on In The Heights I was surprised.

“Just because you want him to change musical theater entirely, doesn’t mean that he will,” she said. “Hamilton is going to be too intellectual and weird. Too idiosyncratic. If In The Heights couldn’t be that show for Lin, it won’t be Hamilton.”

Still, I was sure that it had to be something really special. I was waiting for a chance to see it. I was waiting for a cast album. I wanted a piece of it to prove that my faith hadn’t been misplaced.

And I got it on Friday.

Lin Manuel Miranda has created something amazing. I don’t know about the show itself, I still haven’t seen it. But the album.

Wow.

This isn’t In The Heights.

In the Heights took hip hop and blended it with traditional Broadway, which made it interesting. This is something completely new. This is a hip hop and pop opera. This is rap battles between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. This is the radio ready “My Shot.” This is framing King George as an abusive and oblivious boyfriend to the US.  This was worth waiting almost a decade for.

Hamilton will save us. Hamilton will remind us that this is a medium that is alive and growing. That it’s a medium that can absorb what’s happening around it and evolve and survive. It did it before. It did it when Rock and Roll showed up and pushed it to the side. It did it when Hollywood decide it was no longer a sustainable investment, so it didn’t have to cater to the tastes of a wider world and it could speak a more sophisticated language. It did it when families came back to it’s thoroughfare. It did it when a new generation of divas was born from that time.

It will do it again. Hamilton is the first shot in a new revolution. It’s a reminder that musical theatre isn’t old, isn’t out of touch, or doesn’t have to be.

I’ve been saying for months that I was pretty sure that Hamilton would be the one.

Now that I’ve heard this incredible musical, I know that Hamilton is the one. Or at least it should be.

Bring Him Home

A Short Preface: Kyle Jean-Baptiste died in an accident on August 28, 2015. He’d recently made history by being the first black actor to play the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables on Broadway. He was 21. I didn’t know him and I never saw him perform, but these are the thoughts I’ve had for the past two weeks. Forgive my clumsiness here. 

I keep thinking about Kyle Jean-Baptiste.

I keep thinking about this man, a boy really, he was only 21. I keep thinking about my friends who had early success on Broadway and their overwhelming joy about it. I keep thinking about how two weeks ago he was probably celebrating the fact that he made history, and that he’d achieved this incredible milestone so early with the people he loved.

I keep thinking about how, now, those people are mourning him.

I keep thinking about how excited my mother and I were to go see this boy perform our very favorite music in the world. (We didn’t manage to make it, he’d ended his run already) I keep thinking about how that music is about hope and love and letting go of this world and it’s miseries to accept a greater glory and joy. I keep thinking how strange and awful it is, on a cosmic level, it is that his earthly glory was so fleeting.

I’m not dwelling on it. But a few times a day I remember that this boy who I never knew, but who’s voice I couldn’t wait to hear is now gone and my heart breaks a little.

The Epitome: Claude-Michel Schonberg & Alain Boubil “The Fall Of Saigon”

Welcome to a new sporadic feature. Like “Things I’m Obsessed With” and “Weird Actor Patterns” and “Lies Musical Theater Told Me.” I’ll do these whenever something hits me that fits into it.

So, I’ve been doubling down on musical theater lately. Listening to show tunes has always been a safe space for me, even as I find new things, I tend to enjoy them and wrap my mind around them, and since lately, I’ve been really tired and not terribly interested in exploring, wrapping myself in the comfortable world of musicals seemed like a good plan.

And then last week, I decided to revisit The Pirate Queen, which, isn’t as good as I remembered it (I didn’t expect it to be) nor was it as awful as I feared. But it did remind me about the patterns of it’s music team, Claude-Michel Schonberg & Alain Boubil tend to fall into, and I decided to do a bit of a deep dive into their stuff.

Rather than simply limp along with the multiple versions of Les Mis (For overall quality, I recommend the 10th Anniversary Concert, for individual performances you can’t beat the Original London Cast, and if you want every note and word, you need The Complete Symphonic) I decided to listen to Miss Saigon.

Miss Saigon has always been an anomaly for me out of those early 90’s British import epics, in that I didn’t listen to it until high school. I know my parents saw it and that they weren’t really fans. (I like it a lot but I can totally see how it’s not their thing. My dad did love the helicopter though, because, I mean, they landed a helicopter on the stage!) And for that reason, I’m able to see it’s flaws much more than it’s big sister, Les Mis.

Which I’m sure has them. Couldn’t tell you. I refuse to look.

Anyway, that was Friday, and I’ve listened to it 5 times since then, because that’s how my brain works. And yesterday morning as I listened to “The Fall of Saigon,” which chronicles the evacuation of the American embassy in the city, as well as separation of our main couple Kim and Chris, due to circumstances way beyond their control, I realized, “this song is really an excellent example of everything that Boubil and Schonberg do well, and also of a lot of their flaws.”

So I figured, let’s break down why I feel this way:

1. Operatic Tradition

Being European composers rather than American or British, Boubil & Schonberg have a much better grasp of opera & operetta than other composers in the medium. They’re one of the few modern writers who use full scale arias in their work for example. (“I Dreamed A Dream” & “Valjean’s Solioquy” from Les Mis, “Woman” & “I’ll Be There” from Pirate Queen, “Why, God, Why?” & “I’ll Give My Life For You” from Miss Saigon) And “The Fall Of Saigon” is operatic in stakes, sound and style. Chris leaves Kim with his gun and heads to work at the embassy. Hearing the evacuation is happening she rushes to join him, only to be lost in the crowd. Meanwhile, Chris is forced on a plane without his beloved, after securing her a spot beside him with the promise to marry her. Obviously, they’re separated. Their individual parts are stunningly written, with Chris arguing for Kim’s visa, Kim attempting to get through the crowd to get in, and Kim’s eventual singing of a reprise of “I Still Believe,” fits into an operatic pattern that few musical theater composers could pull off.

2. Aggressive Chorus Parts

As the Vietnamese attempt get over the wall the American soldiers sing, “Get back, tell you don’t shout, the ambassador won’t leave til everyone’s out.” It’s heavy, heady stuff and it’s also incredibly melodic and in your face. Similarly, the poor & convicts chant “Look down,” in Les Mis, but this is that turned up to 11. And it…doesn’t quite work. While I think Kim and Chris’s parts of the sequence are fantastic the chorus parts aren’t terribly inventive or compelling. The Vietnamese chanting “They’ll kill who they find here. Don’t leave us behind here,” is equally aggressive but way more effective, which leads to my next point…

3. Marginalized Voices

Boubil & Schonberg excel telling stories of people on the fringes of things. Hell, Les Mis (as Hugo originally envisioned it and as it’s adapted) tells the stories of people on the fringes, not heroes, the miserable ones. Miss Saigon isn’t about an American Marine who falls for a hooker at the dusk of the occupation of Vietnam, although that happens. This isn’t Chris’s story, he’s third on the list at best. It’s Kim’s story primarily, and secondarily, it’s The Engineer’s. This is a musical about a 17 year old Asian prostitute that pretty much never makes her a victim, and a FrancoVietnamese pimp who’s given depth and nuance but is never once likable. I can’t even begin the fathom how difficult that is to do, let alone do to the level of quality that they do it. But it’s their ability to write about characters on the fringes that make the Vietnamese half of the song, and Chris and Kim’s individual parts more interesting than the more aggressive marines. Kim and Chris have no control over what’s happening to them, even as they fight tooth and nail to get to each other.

4. Moralizing

I don’t know if it’s just the material they choose (possible) or if it’s inherent in what they do, but there’s always a moment in a Boubil & Schonberg musical that telegraphs the point they’re trying to make in a big way. In Les Mis, “To love another person is to see the face of God,” in Pirate Queen, “There is a time, there is an hour, for those in power to set aside their grief, a time for women to behave as men, when men aren’t men.” And in Miss Saigon it comes in “The Fall of Saigon” from Chris’s buddy John, “Your mercy trip has failed, there’s nothing you can do, that ship has sailed. She’s not the only one we’ll have betrayed.” And…that’s a pretty cogent view of Vietnam, and how America views that chapter of our history. “We tried, we failed, we screwed up a lot of stuff.” And that’s pretty much the moral of Miss Saigon. This could either be a flaw or a plus, depending on how you feel about people singing the thesis statement of a dramatic piece right in your face.

I’m a fan to be honest, and I think it works really well here, coming from a character who’s sort of a shit at this point in the story, though we’ve already learned has turned things around and now advocates for the abandoned children of Americans. John has a mountain of regrets about Vietnam, and they actually start the moment he leaves.

Anyway, I think that these pieces are going to be fun. It all depends on how often things that are the epitome of something cross my path. Meanwhile, I’m going to go listen to “Sun And Moon” again…and “Reflection…” and the live version of “On My Own…” look, I’m just going to marvel at Lea Solanga’s perfect voice for a bit…