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1. Secrets and trivia from the Broadway stage

Why do some great Broadway shows fail, and mediocre ones thrive? How does the cast onstage manage to keep tabs on the audience without missing a beat or a line? Ken Bloom, author of Show and Tell: The New Book of Broadway Audiences, delves into the inner workings of the Broadway stage and the culture surrounding Broadway hips and flops.

The post Secrets and trivia from the Broadway stage appeared first on OUPblog.

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2. Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony, Tony

Several years ago, I tuned into the Tony awards telecast eager to find out whether Ragtime was going to beat The Lion King. (It didn't.) I made my new boyfriend watch the whole thing with me, even though he didn't care at all about the results. The next day at his work, his colleagues were talking at lunch about what they had watched on television the night before. "Anyone watch the World Cup?" someone asked. Several people had. "How about the NBA Playoffs?" Again, a lot of murmurs of agreement. My boyfriend said, "Hey, did anyone watch the Tonys?" Dead silence.

I've always loved that story because I think it's a fairly good representation of the Tonys in popular culture. They have a very limited audience- you have to physically go to New York and see the original productions. You really can't tell who is going to win Best Choreography if you listen to the cast album. This is completely different from the Oscars, because you can see the nominated movies anywhere.

Also, that boyfriend is now my husband, and I still make him watch the Tonys with me every year. 

This year, I'm particularly excited to find out how Hamilton will do at the Tonys. Let's start with this question: How many Tonys can Hamiltonactually win?

It's eligible for the following 13 categories:

1. Best Musical
2. Best Book of a Musical
3. Best Original Score
4. Best Orchestrations
(These four categories can only be won by new musicals).

5. Best Direction of a Musical
6. Best Choreography
7. Best Scenic Design of a Musical
8. Best Costume Design of a Musical
9. Best Lighting Design of a Musical
10. Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical
11. Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical
12. Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
13. Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
(These nine categories can be won by either new musicals or revivals- which means the field is much larger for these awards.) 

The current record is held by The Producers, which won 12 Tonys and was nominated for 15. The Producers won every single category for which it was nominated, which is a rather incredible acheivement. The three nominations that The Producers didn't win were in the acting categories because multiple actors from the show were nominated for the same category. The one category it didn't win, is also the only one it wasn't nominated for:  Leading Actress. 

The Tony Administration committee has ruled on eligibility for certain parts in Hamilton, and whether they belong in the Lead or Featured Actor categories. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr.  and Phillipa Soo will all be considered in the Lead categories.

If Hamilton gets nominated in all thirteen categories- then it is within striking distance to go for the record. The Producers only had three eligible performer categories, but with the decision to put Phillipa Soo as a Leading Actress, Hamilton now has all four performer categories available.

Also, don't be surprised if it receives more than thirteen nominations. Hamilton is likely going to have the same problem as The Producers. If multiple actors get nominated in the same category (which I would expect), it won't be possible for Hamilton to win all of its nominations. 

How many possible Tonys could Lin-Manuel Miranda personally go home with? If he was nominated for every available category andhe won all of them, I see four Tonys on the list above that could wind up on his mantel. Best Book of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical and Best Orchestrations (which he collaborated on). The award for Best Musical is given to the producers- and he didn't produce the show. But the possibility of seeing the same person win both the composing and writing awards and an acting award and an arrangement award- that is a phenomenal and exciting possibility.

I have an image in my head from when Norah Jones won so many Grammys in the same night that she could barely hold them all. I keep thinking about this picture every time I think about what a photo of Lin at the end of the Tonys might look like. 

In The Heights was nominated was for 13 Tonys and won 4. Lin-Manuel Miranda was personally nominated for two: Best Score (which he won) and Best Actor (which he lost). (As a footnote, I'll mention that In the Heights was also nominated for Best Sound Design, a category that no longer exists.) But Hamilton is a whole different ball game. It's a hit, it's a hit, it's a palpable hit. A crazy lottery, standing room only, sold out forever hit. A show doesn't have to be a monster hit like Hamilton to win Tonys, but it doesn't hurt. 

For me, a lot of the drama is going to be in the Actor categories. Ignoring the other shows for a moment- if it was a match-up between just Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Burr)- who would win? (Oh, the irony, given that the show itself is a matchup between Hamilton and Burr.) Common sense probably tells us Lin, but I have to say that Leslie was show-stoppingly phenomenal. 

What about the Featured Actors? The ensemble work was all exceptional and it is difficult to rank one above another. If I absolutely had to, I would say Daveed Diggs (Lafayette/Jefferson) and Chris Jackson (Washington) were truly standouts. So was Jonathan Groff (King George III), even through he was only on stage for a few moments. Okieriete Onaodowan (Mulligan/Madison) was also terrific, but there may not be enough room in the nominations. 

On the actress side, both Phillipa Soo (Eliza) and Renee Elise Goldsberry (Angelica) were outstanding, so I'm glad they won't have any other competition in their categories from within the show, unless Jasmine Cephas Jones (Peggy/Maria Reynolds) gets nominated as a Featured Actress.

We can't ignore those other shows forever. Here's a listof eligible new shows that will be vying very hard not to be shut out.

The Tony nominations will be announced on Tuesday, May 3 and the Tony Awards will be on Sunday, June 12.

<!--[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE <![endif]-->
Wait for it.

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3. The Secret Garden - The Original Broadway Musical

My sister, Bella, has (or had?) this blog party thingy going on over at her blog. I'm not going to do the whole thing - I'm lazy that way. But I am going to do a blog post from #9 on her list:

My favourite book-to-musical adaption.

I'll be honest, guys. Phantom is my favourite. I basically grew up with that. It was the first musical I ever listened to. However, I feel like I harp on that all the time, so I'm NOT going to do The Phantom of the Opera. I'm going to do my second favourite.

The Secret Garden.

Actually, the way I came to this musical is kinda funny. I've always loved the Phantom. Always, always, always. Sarah Brightman, Michael Crawford, and Steve Barton are IT! (Sorry, I go for passionate musicality over straight-out pitchy passion - Sierra, Ramin, I like you, but c'mon, you're professionals. Can't you sing the notes on key?) However, my best friend in the whole wide world is a fan of Les Mis, and we share music back and forth. I had her listen to the Original Cast Recording of Phantom, and she let me listen to the Complete Symphonic Recording of Les Mis, with Gary Morris as Veljean, Philip Quast as Javert, Michael Ball as Marius, and the one and only Anthony Warlow as Enjolras. (You notice I only mention the male singers. That's because Les Mis, like all the rest of the musicals out there, tend to go in for busty-voiced singers, or high-pitched vibratos, and I hate it.) I liked Les Mis, though the lack of musicality always annoyed me. However, I was quite wildly fond of Anthony Warlow's fabulous interpretation of Enjolras, and I WAITED for those moments when his voice would swoop in and save the day (and the musical).
http://kingedmundsroyalmurder.tumblr.com/post/115955129444/mens-hairstyles-ca-1830
 I do not know why they stuck that
ugly brown wig on his head, though.

I started digging, to see what other songs he sang, and discovered he was the lead singer of Jekyll and Hyde on the Concept Album (which, by the way, is the ONLY version to listen to. David Hasselhoff is a huge and crying letdown over Anthony Warlow's incredible delivery as Jekyll). Then, I realized Anthony Warlow had CDs!! Surprise, surprise, right? I got his Best of Act One CD, and on that CD was a song called "Lily's Eyes" that he sang with Philip Quast.
This is probably my favourite version of this song, even though
the Original Cast is my overall favourite. Anthony Warlow and
Philip Quast as Archibald and Neville Craven are amazing. 

I researched to see which musical this came from, and found THE SECRET GARDEN.

I am fond of the book. I never much cared for the pantheistic element to the story, where the garden becomes this sort of godlike entity and is responsible for all the good that happens to the characters. But I have always liked to read the story, so I can forgive a lot.

In the musical, I feel a lot of that mysticism is muted. Instead, the garden seems more like a refuge, a place that Mary makes her own, and it's her love of the garden that lends it that sense of magic. Also, Daisy Eagan as Mary is gold. And also, Rebecca Luker. 'Nough said 'bout that.
http://theredish.com/img/define%2520starry-eyed

What I love about the musical version of the Secret Garden is that fabulous blend of music and dialogue that The Phantom of the Opera captures so well, and which (IMHO) many musicals lack. For instance, in Phantom, when characters read the notes received from the Phantom, the way the music is written is basically how one would inflect their voice while reading aloud.

In Les Mis, it's like this clunky crash of chords that I just don't get.

Secret Garden emulates Phantom in the sense that it IS very musical, every bit of it, dialogue and chorus and all. There is not a bit that sounds dissonant or ill-fitted.

The best version is the Original Broadway Cast Recording, starring Mandy Patinkin as Archibald Craven, Rebecca Luker as Lily, Daisy Eagan as Mary, and James Cameron Mitchell as Dickon. (I have a fondness for the Australian version that I don't own, because Anthony Warlow is Archibald Craven and Philip Quast plays his brother Neville, and they have FABULOUS voices, but the rest of the cast is lacking. Seriously lacking. Trust us, precioussss.)

The Secret Garden is the story about Mary Lennox, a little girl born in India and raised more by servants and housemaids than by her parents. She is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, in his house in York, after an outbreak of cholera kills her parents and pretty much the entire household, leaving her the sole survivor.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34348668@N02/4660095001


At the beginning of the story, Mary really is an unpleasant child, sickly and foul tempered. Her mood is not helped by Uncle Archie, a brooding, "miserable hunchback" who wanders through the house, still grief-struck over the death of his wife, Lily, who died about 10 years ago.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/119978777545944261/

The house is also haunted by far-off cries, which Mary is forbidden to seek out. Instead, when her maidservant, Martha, tells her about a secret garden, Mary decides to find it.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/356488126727999045/
 Her hunt for the garden sends her roaming the moors outside the manor. The exercise and fresh air invigorates her. She becomes friends with an old gardener, Ben Weatherstaff, and Martha's brother, Dickon, as well as a robin redbreast that lives in the secret garden. 
https://www.google.com/search?noj=1&tbm=isch&sa=1&btnG=Search&q=james+cameron+mitchell+secret+garden#btnG=Search&imgrc=eoKXEboOEfBHbM%3A

With the robin's help, Mary finds the entrance to the garden, and she and Dickon begin to secretly tend the neglected flowers. But not even the garden can help her ignore the distant, mysterious cries. Flagrantly disregarding orders, Mary hunts out the source of the cries and discovers Colin, Uncle Archie's invalid son who everyone in the household believes will die an early death. Since Archie cannot bear to look at his son, being reminded too acutely of Lily, Colin has been hidden away, his every whim granted by the servants that wait on him. Fantastically spoiled, Colin meets his match in Mary, who refuses to put up with his tantrums.
http://www.markrobinsonwrites.com/the-music-that-makes-me-dance/2015/4/22/remembering-the-secret-garden

Believing Colin's sickness to be more in his mind, Mary thinks that the surest cure for Colin is for him to spend time in the secret garden. The good air works the same rejuvenating magic it did on Mary, and Colin begins to improve. Eventually they are discovered, but Archie is so grateful to what Mary has done for Colin that he finally accepts her and loves her as his own, and Mary finds the home she never had with her own parents.
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/356488126727999045/


Take a listen to this version of I HEARD SOMEONE CRYING (The voice at the very beginning doing the vocalise is Rebecca Luker. Come on. You can't beat THAT voice.)

I love the absolute crystalline quality Rebecca brings to Lily's voice. It is so soaring, clear and gorgeous, and what I desperately look for in most musicals these days. I can't stand the belting Broadway sound (Idina Menzel, for example. It's not pretty. I'm sorry. Not a fan.)
http://giffity-gif-gif.tumblr.com/post/32957668981/1336-2245-2350-1861
Me when listening to Idina's voice...

I also love Mary's voice. She sounds like a little girl. She doesn't sound trained. I can't stand it when little girls have these ridiculous vibratos and don't sound like little girls. I like that Mary has a natural sound to her voice. It's another one of those things I desperately look for in musicals, and never find. (Darn it, Cosette, you're like... six! Can't you sound like it?!)
http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3uubo5

This quartet is really, really good. I love when musicals have these songs where each singer has a different line to sing, and then everyone sings together, and it's just like... *shiver*. (Skip about 20 seconds into this one. This QUARTET is fabulous and the blend of voices is perfect.)

I love how, in this song, Lily doesn't sound angry. I've heard so many versions where the female singers are like, "No, me!" and they just over-sing the men, and it, again, drives me crazy. Here, Lily just sort of soars over them by virtue of being soprano, and she sounds more like a loving Lily, not a confrontational Lily. She sounds like she truly loved Archie, not like she married him to spite her sister, Rose, which is how a lot of Lilys sound. (Why are singers so angry in their performances? Can't we have gentle solos? When did passion in music become rage?)
http://www.greenroomonline.org/greylite/secret.htm
One really cool thing the writers did with this musical, is they took a lot of the 
people who died - Lily, Mary's parents - and made them ghosts, and these "ghosts"
came to life in picture frames. Which is why Lily is sitting in this picture frame here.


And also, in my opinion, this is the best Dickon ever. Just, don't even try. This WINTER'S ON THE WING is the bestest version ever. James Cameron Mitchell NAILS Dickon.

My first introduction to Mandy Patinkin was as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bridge. Finding out he could sing was like discovering Michael Crawford (whom I had only known from the corny, crazy 1981 movie CONDORMAN) was the Phantom. It blew my mind.
 

Mandy Patinkin is STELLAR as Archibald Craven. He plays it so well, as the melancholy man who is suffering from the crushing loss of losing the love of his life, and having a sickly young son whom he believes is going to die as well. This song, RACE YOU TO THE TOP OF THE MORNING, is just so sweet. This is one of the best versions ever (Anthony Warlow sings it too, you see, so I have the hardest time choosing which version is better).
http://www.markrobinsonwrites.com/the-music-that-makes-me-dance/2015/4/22/remembering-the-secret-garden

I love the way he sings it, and depending on my mood, it makes me cry. He delivers it so well!

So, the Original Broadway Cast Album of The Secret Garden is probably my most favourite book-to-musical adaption I've heard (other than Phantom). I hope you give it a listen, and let me know what you think. :-)

Kay, that's all that's on my ninja mind for now. TTFN! (Let's see how many people know what THAT stands for. Mwahahaha).

God bless!

Le Cat
http://www.kickvick.com/funny-cats/

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4. Poetry Friday: Wait For It from Hamilton

Love doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep loving anyway
We laugh
And we cry
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm by her side
When so many have tried
Then I'm willing to wait for it
I'm willing to wait for it...

Death doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners
And the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise
And we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
When everyone who loves me has died
I'm willing to wait for it
I'm willing to wait for it...

I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable
I am an original
I'm not falling behind or running late
I'm not standing still
I am lying in wait

Life doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise
And we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes
And if there's a reason I'm still alive
When so many have died
Then I'm willin' to-
Wait for it.

- selected lyrics from the song Wait For It from the musical Hamilton

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

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5. Hamilton

I hesitated in writing this- because what is there to say about a show that is already a hit? What is there that has not been said? I've tried to stay away, as much as possible, from all the hyperbole. I didn't listen to the cast album. I only read one review of the off-Broadway production. I wanted to find out about it for myself.

My favorite class in college, which I took my first semester because I couldn't wait any longer, was a history of American Musical Theater. We talked about landmark shows such as Showboat, Oklahoma, West Side Story and Company. If I was taking that class now (or better yet, teaching it), I would add Hamilton to that list of game changers. 

Why? It's not enough that it's a hit. 

It's easier to like a show when the lines at the box office go down the street and the tickets take a year to get... just as it is easier to like a book that already has a Caldecott or Newbery Medal on the front. Someone else has already told us that this is something extraordinary. The stamp of approval has already been given. 

What Hamiltonhas done is to bring the rhythm of popular music back to the theater. The kind of music that is playing in clubs and on the radio is now playing on Broadway. How wonderfully refreshing. Broadway, which in recent years has been criticized as elitist and apart from popular culture, is now being brought back into it.

But, Hamiltonis not all hip-hop or rap. It combines so many musical styles, often within the same song, that it is mesmerizing. It would probably be a shorter list to say which musical traditions are not in Hamilton, rather than the ones that are. And the lyrics are brilliant, incredibly tight, interwoven and multi-layered. And Hamilton is not a regular book musical, where there's a song and then a scene, and back and forth. It's an opera. There are only a few lines that are spoken without a beat or rhythm behind them. Call it a hip-hop opera if you like, but an opera it is nonetheless.

If Hamiltonreminds me of anything, it's of another landmark show that is currently playing only a few Broadway theaters away. Les Miserables. Also an opera. Also about a revolution, the difference between the rich and the poor, and breaking into the ruling class. Also based on a very, very long book. (Hamilton is based on an 800 page biography.) Also with a turntable- although Hamilton has a double one. And there are echoes of the melodies of Les Miserables sprinkled throughout Hamilton. Plus, if The Story of Tonight doesn't thematically make you think of Red and Black, then I don't know what does.

The difference between the two shows is that when I listen to Les Miserables, I always feel as if I’m hearing the same song over and over. It seems as though there is a melody that has been written to be used between major numbers, and the words change but the tune stays the same. 

Hamilton isn't like that. There are 17 songs in each act (which is unusual, because the second act is typically shorter) and each of these 34 songs are distinct, unique and complex. There are musical patterns and phrases that are repeated, but not whole songs and melodies. Compare that to when I saw Andrew Lloyd Webber's show Whistle Down the Wind during an out of town tryout. All but one song in the second act was a reprisal of a song in the first act. 

The Hamiltonsubject matter is incredibly intriguing as well. Here's a musical told from the point of view of an often-overlooked Founding Father. Having been fascinated with Alexander Hamilton since ninth grade American History, I was happy to see him finally get his due. But while telling the story of someone who has been marginalized, it also has a go at people such as Thomas Jefferson who are typically lionized. What an interesting change of pace. There is one historical question that the musical doesn't address, however- was Hamilton eligible to be President since he was born outside of the United States?  

The references are so far reaching and varied as to be astonishing. There's not a lot of people who can quote the Lovin' Spoonful and then the Declaration of Independence a few sentences later, as seen in the song "The Schuyler Sisters." And as it takes Broadway a little further, it also refers back to it. Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance is directly quoted, as is Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. Also, Shakespeare, the Bible, Socrates, fairytales, and nursery rhymes. It's a brilliant homage to what has come before. 

I can't quite remember when I first heard the name Lin-Manuel Miranda. I feel like I've known about him for a long time. Obviously, through In the Heights and the publicity and Tonys for that. But the thing that made an impression is this video from his actual wedding which was circulating around on social media. 
This knocked me back. Here was a talented Broadway actor who had gone to the trouble of recreating one of Broadway's most famous songs, and a rather complicated one at that, at his own wedding reception. Weddings are stressful events, with lots of built-in craziness. He had clearly gone to a lot of effort while the events of the wedding were swirling around him, to find time to rehearse, with his future father-in-law, his father, with the bridesmaids and groomsmen. And managed to keep it all from the bride. And it came off brilliantly. And paid homage to Broadway. 
Who is this guy?

Then I watched the 2011 Tony Awards with the fantastic Neil Patrick Harris. What struck me the most was the closing rap at the end, which summed up all the events that had just occurred during the show. The performance by Neil Patrick Harris was incredibly impressive, but I was amazed by the writing, which had great rhyming, solid rhythm, funny jokes and heartfelt thoughts about Broadway tying it all together. And it had clearly been done on the spot. I later read that Lin-Manuel Miranda had been the one in the basement during the Tonys writing the closing number. 
Who is this guy??
A musical has three parts that have to be written: the music, the lyrics and the book. The division of labor varies depending on the creators. For Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals, for example; Richard Rodgers wrote the music and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the lyrics and the book. Stephen Sondheim writes the music and the lyrics for his shows (with the exception of his first two), and has collaborated with several different book writers during his career. Usually, there is then another composer, called an arranger, who adapts the music for different instruments in the orchestra. There are only a handful of all the creators of musical theater who have been able to write the book, music and lyrics all themselves, and have produced a hit musical in the process. Meredith Wilson (The Music Man) is one. Jonathan Larson (Rent) is another.

One of the many things that made West Side Story a landmark musical is that it required the chorus to sing, dance and act. Before then, there were two different choruses: the singing chorus and the dancing chorus. But now, performers have to be triple threats, that is they have to master three separate disciplines.

For Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda has written the book. And the lyrics. And the music. And collaborated on arranging the music. Plus, he's the lead in the show. He acts. He sings. He dances. He's a septuple threat. SEVEN disciplines. I can't think of anyone in the history of musical theater who has done this before. Not even him- for In the Heights he didn't write the book or work on the arranging. 
Who is this guy?? And why is he writing like he's running out of time?

Something else impressed me about him. I've been to a lot of Broadway shows and seen a lot of stars. I've seen them race out of the theater after the show into waiting cars with police protection. Or sign a few programs of the people standing at the front and then call it a night. Not this guy. Lin-Manuel Miranda went the length of the entire line of people waiting to see him, in freezing weather, shaking hands, having conversations, and taking pictures with every single person including me and my husband. My camera jammed at exactly the wrong minute, he waited for us to fix it while everyone else was clamoring to talk to him and then took the picture himself. I imagine that he must go through the line after every show. What a mensch. 
WHO IS THIS GUY??? 

Whoever he is, he's extraordinary. There's no doubt.

As amazing as Lin-Manuel Miranda is, and it is obvious that the MacArthur Foundation made an excellent choice, this is not a one man show. The ensemble work is fantastic, with every actor and actress making memorable performances. The off-stage talent is crucial, and the collaboration of the director, designers, musical director, and choreographer comes together to make the whole show a success. A perfect example of this are King George's songs. If you only heard the cast album, you would think the songs were funny, catchy and enjoyable. To understand how truly hysterical they are, you would have to see Jonathan Groff's deadpan performance, Paul Tazewell's elaborate costume, Howell Brinkley's lights that come in at the right moment and Thomas Kail's great direction.

Even the marketing and publicity in Hamilton is notable. The primary logo is black- which means our eye is drawn to a lack of color. The color is completely contained in the gold background. Hamilton stands on the top of an iconic star from the American flag, which is missing its fifth point. Hamilton's body creates not only the star's final point, but also the letter A, his first initial. The images of Hamilton are everywhere. Not just on the marquee like most shows, but on the walls of the theater and the stage door. All over Penn Station. Inescapable, convincing us that Hamilton is the show to see. 

If I could say anything to the people involved with Hamilton, or to someone who has won a Newbery or Caldecott Medal or otherwise achieved great success, it would be this. Try, as hard as you can, not to be encumbered by past success. Success can be just as paralyzing as failure. They don't all have to be life-changing hits. Just keep doing work that you're proud of. That's all anyone can ask. 

I hope you get a chance to see it. Do not throw away your shot. 

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6. 2015: A Summary

This was a tag from Bella back in the beginning of January, which I'm not finally getting to. (Congratulate me, friend! Two blog posts in March!) It was supposed to be a New Year's Tag, but since I'm so late, it's going to be a "2015: A Summary" tag. So whatever.


1. What was the single best thing that happened last year?


Um, let's see. Honestly, probably going to Carmel and visiting a couple of the missions. That was such a wonderful and epic trip. My older sister and I went for three days and it was just really lovely. Plus, the ocean was gorgeous! (I think I might love the ocean.)

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
I had a two-day jury summons, waiting while the judge and attorneys tried to decide on jurors.
http://mr-monk-confessions.tumblr.com/

3. What was the most memorable thing?
Christmas. Christmas was definitely the most memorable thing about last year.
http://www.alabouroflife.com/2014/12/twas-night-before-with-cat.html


4. What did you get really, really excited about?
'Kay, I was able to go to this thing called WordWave, where I got to meet an agent from Fuse Literary. That was really cool and exciting and SO helpful for my query and synopsis.
I was also excited to hear that Prison Break is getting a new season. YAY! :-)

5. What song/album will always remind you of 2015?
Josh Groban's STAGES CD. Especially "What I Did For Love" and "Dulcinea."


6. How did you spend your Christmas?
Epicly! (Epically?) We had Midnight Mass privately up near where we live, and we got some pretty awesome snow Christmas Eve, so we had these huge soft drifts everywhere, and there was a full moon that night, so I wished on it.
Christmas is always glorious in our house. We light the Christ Candle first thing and sing Joy to the World, and put Baby Jesus in the manger. My dad always gets a fire going and makes sausage rolls and puts down a pot of coffee, and we open stockings and eat food and drink mimosa and/or orange juice and coffee and pass out gifts and get really, really loud. We had a lot of people over that day, too. We have a friend who moved to Tahoe from Wyoming, and her brothers came for dinner, which was our traditional gnocchi and ham. We also had a snowball fight later that night, and it was pretty freakishly cold out there, which probably wasn't good for all of us with our wicked chest colds. We were all:
https://theeyelife.wordpress.com/2015/02/

 7. What was a hardest thing you to face in 2015?
https://www.tumblr.com/search/dry eyes
I don't even know. Maybe... That one time... Or perhaps... Nope, I got nuthin'.

8. What were the best movies you saw in 2015?
Antman, Age of Ultron, and The Scorch Trials, because Marvel, because AVENGERS, and obviously because Dylan O'Brien
https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0ahUKEwjngtDHrNLLAhVGy2MKHS7MBYEQjxwIAw&url=https%3A%2F%2Fforums.marvelheroes.com%2Fdiscussion%2F110903%2Fbest-marvel-gifs&bvm=bv.117218890,d.cGc&psig=AFQjCNF17mF8HETsFxvxl8QrBiza3dWodQ&ust=1458669213354266&cad=rjt


9.What were the best books you read in 2015?
What Came From The Stars by Gary Schmidt; The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

10. Was there any awesome/fun TV show you discovered in 2015?
I was briefly hooked on Person Of Interest, then a female character was introduced who sort of usurped my boys, Reese and Finch, and I later discovered she was having a relationship with another female and I lost interest. I restarted 24, though. (Still adore Jack.)
http://fuckyouimfinch.tumblr.com/

11. Did you discover any new musicals?
Yes! Finding Neverland, and A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder.

12. Did you write any new books?
I am mostly revising books I've already written - namely, DragonFire and Fulcrum. I had been kicking around an idea concerning nightmares, and that one has really taken off this month. I've been actively writing it a few hours each night. I'm pretty excited about it. :-)

13. Did you make any new friends?
https://www.tumblr.com/search/i%20don't%20have%20friends%20gif

14. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
http://giphy.com/search/despicable-me-minion

15. Is there some change you will have to go through in 2016?
Gosh, I hope not. Well, I'd like to move. But otherwise... Gosh, I hope not.

16. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
Pinterest.
http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/54tg

17. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
Life is hard, but trust in God. Worry gives you insomnia.
http://www.carbonated.tv/lifestyle/13-amazing-facts-about-sleep-gifs


18. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
"He will always hate me / No matter what I say / And there is no mistaking the love is gone."
(This is actually a man's song, so I had to change the "she" in the original lyrics to "he".)


19. What are five things you want to do in 2016?
a.) Land an agent. (That makes me sound like I'm hooking a fish. Sorry, agents!)
b.) Buy a piano and start composing music again.
c.) Go to one of the two SCBWI Annual Conferences in either LA or New York (though since I didn't get tax returns this year, that's probably not going to happen this year).
d.) Get a better job.
e.) Move.

20. Describe 2015 in your own words.


Truly, not the best year I've ever had. It had it's ups and downs, and I was mostly very worried and stressed during it. I concentrated on trying to be a bit more trusting and take it one day at a time. I sometimes felt like I was doing good with that, but then someone would say, "Are you okay? You seem sad," and I so I guess I wasn't being as brave as I'd thought I was being.

2015 did have some epic moments - Carmel and WordWave and Christmas were three incredible highlights to the year and I want to go back to check out more of the missions in the very near future. That's a definite To-Do. I also got myself submitting to agents, which is an A+ for me in regards to my courage. (Submitting to agents is scary!)

However, I seem to have grown more antisocial. The best thing in my life is going to my little home and being alone, with no people other than my sisters. And Netflix. (Seriously, guys. NETFLIX.)
ifunny.co/fun/jHdnh3ta2


So that was my last year.
http://wifflegif.com/gifs/261690-bath-tub-lol-cat-gif
And this was my relationship with last year
HERE'S TO A BETTER THIS YEAR!!! :-) 

God bless. 

The Cat

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7. Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway: A Sneak Preview

AladdinBefore I get into the nitty gritty..

Buy your tickets NOW

Stop reading, and go buy them.  This is “Lion King” big.  This is “plan a vacation around the tickets you can get” big.  It’s fun, it’s spectacular, and will please almost every theater-goer.  (Except for a few theater reviewers.  There’s always one.)

I’ll wait.  Splurge and buy orchestra seats.  Lower half of the alphabet.  Done?

After a long and evolutionary production (starting in Seattle in July 2011), Disney’s Aladdin had its first preview on Broadway Wednesday night.  (It officially opens March 20th.)  Replacing a reworked Mary Poppins at the New Amsterdam Theater, Aladdin takes the plot, characters, and award-winning music from the animated movie, reinstates characters and music cut from the film, then add another four new songs on top of that!  (Chad Beguelin, who wrote the book of the play, penned the four new songs, joining Alan Menken, Howard Ashman, and Tim Rice

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much.  Sure, it’s Disney, and one expects a spectacle, but aside from Jonathan Freeman, who reprises his role from the movie as Jafar, the rest of the cast is mostly unknown, yet talented.

I was more curious about how this production deviated from the movie, and how certain scenes would be translated for the stage.

Reveals and transformations were done as one would expect, with rapid costume changes and ingenious trap doors.  The Genie steals the show with his dancing, singing, and free association.  The book follows his lead, adding fun lines for the rest of the cast.  This is more of a comedy than the movie was, and there is quite a bit of Broadway jokes, breaking of the fourth wall, and some sly references to Disney.  (Although the “Prince Ali” number did not include any puppets from The Lion King.)

How broad was the humor?  I was laughing at bits that others missed (like a brief musical reference to West Side Story).

The sets are intricate, yet minimal (aside from the Cave of Wonders, site of the “Friend Like Me” number), with the curtain serving as a frequent backdrop.  Lighting adds much to the design, especially to the “Whole New World” number (which otherwise didn’t impress me).

Costuming…if Disney publishes a book of the production, buy it!  Even from twenty rows back, fabric sparkled, swirled, and mesmerized.  Lots of sequins, sparkles, and material sourced from nine countries!

The choreography worked well, with few gymnastics.  Like the music, the dancing was eclectic… tap, chorus, flamenco, jazz, and what seemed to be ersatz Bollywood.

Overall, it was an enjoyable evening.  Kids will enjoy it, adults will laugh at the sly jokes, and theater geeks will have lots to squeal about.

Here’s one of the new songs from the musical:

st-aladdin220x260And the obligatory beefcake photo, of Adam Jacobs as Aladdin:

 

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8. Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg | Book Series Giveaway

Enter to win a set of all three books in Julie Sternberg's Eleanor series. Giveaway begins March 13, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends April 12, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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9. Behind-the-scenes tour of film musical history

As Richard Barrios sees it, movie musicals can go one way or the other — some of them end up as cultural touchstones, and others as train wrecks. In his book Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter, Barrios goes behind-the-scenes to uncover the backstories of these fabulous hits and problematic (if not exactly forgettable) flops. In the slideshow below, take a tour through some of the great movie musicals — and some insight into life on set.

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  • Can't Stop the Music

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide8-CantStop.jpg

    Can’t or won’t? The wonder that is Can’t Stop the Music, with the Village People, Valerie Perrine, Bruce Jenner, Steve Guttenberg, and way too much badly used supporting talent. In an awful way, however, it sort of was the movie music of the ’80s. Film poster for Can't Stop the Music, Associated Film Distribution.

  • The Sound of Music cast

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide7-SoundOfMusic.jpg

    An informal portrait of the Von Trapp family, in the persons of Kym Karath, Debbie Turner, Angela Cartwright, Duane Chase, Heather Menzies, Nicholas Hammond, Charmian Carr, and proud sort-of-parents Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer. Yes, it’s as relentless as it is cheery—and, for many, resistance will be futile. Publicity photo for The Sound of Music, Twentieth Century Fox.

  • “It’s Gershwin! It’s Glorious!”

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide6-PorgyBess.jpg

    So said the ads for Porgy and Bess—even as this stiff and rather stagy shot of Dorothy Dandridge and Sidney Poitier reveals the other part of the equation. The tin roof and peeling plaster look way calculated, everything’s spotless, and the camera isn’t willing to get too close. Screen still of Porgy and Bess, Samuel Goldwyn Films.

  • Hello, Dolly!

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide5-HelloDolly.jpg

    Not all of the massive quantity of the marathon “When the Parade Passes By” sequence in Hello, Dolly! lay in its cost. Nor in the number of people, of which only a tiny fraction is seen here. It also came musically, with Barbara Streisand singing (or syncing) what the publicity department calling the “the longest note of any movie musical.” Anybody got a stopwatch? Screen shot from Hello, Dolly!, Twentieth Century Fox.

  • The Four Stars of Guys and Dolls

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide4-GuysDolls.jpg

    On the screen and in the photo studio, the four leads frequently seemed like they had all been compartmentalized in some fashion. Brando seemed a tad offhand, Simmons gorgeous and radiant, Sinatra disjunct, Blaine working it. So they are seen here, and so they are through the film. Screen shot from Guys and Dolls, Samuel Goldwyn Films.

  • Astaire and Crawford in Dancing Lady

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide3-DancingLady.jpg

    In Dancing Lady, Fred Astaire spends a fair amount of his first film working hard to be a proper partner to Joan Crawford. Here, in “Heigh-Ho the Gang’s All Here,” the strain almost shows. Screen shot from Dancing Lady, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

  • Gene Kelly in Cover Girl

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide2-CoverGirl.jpg

    Gene Kelly, as dogged by Gene Kelly, performs the “Alter Ego” sequence in Cover Girl. This is a photographically tricked-up evocation, yet it still shows the scene for what it is—one of the most striking moments in 1940s musical cinema. Screen shot from Cover Girl, Sony Pictures Entertainment.

  • My Fair Lady

     

    http://blog.oup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Slide1-MyFairLady.jpg

    The singularly formal stylization of My Fair Lady on film is adored by some and irksome to others. Here, an on-the-set shot of Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison gives a good representation of many of Fair Lady’s components—the style, the stiffness, the wit, the calculation. Publicity photo from My Fair Lady, Warner Brothers.

    Richard Barrios worked in the music and film industries before turning to film history with the award-winning A Song in the Dark and his recent book on the history of movie musicals Dangerous Rhythm: Why Movie Musicals Matter. He lectures extensively and appears frequently on television and in film and DVD documentaries. Born in the swamps of south Louisiana and a longtime resident of New York City, he now lives in bucolic suburban Philadelphia.

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    0 Comments on Behind-the-scenes tour of film musical history as of 6/12/2014 10:35:00 AM
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  • 10. Theatre Review- Avenue Q

    Title: Avenue Q
    Writer: Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty
    Director: Cressida Carré
    Performed by: Sell A Door
    Major cast:  Tom Steedon, Lucie-Mae Sumner, Stephen Arden, Richard Morse,Jacqueline Tate ,  Ellena Vincent, Jessica Parker,
    Seen at: Wycombe Swan
    Other Info: They're still touring! Try and catch them if you can. More info here.

    Review: Princeton has just completed a BA in English. He now doesn’t know what to do with his life. Moving into Avenue Q and meeting a range of colourful characters, puppets such as Kate, Rod, Nicky and Trekkie, and humans like Christmas Eve and Brian. Oh, and Gary Coleman. Avenue Q follow them all as they all wait for their dreams to come true. 
    I wanted to see this because...hello, Avenue Q! It’s a brilliant coming of age show, with a few songs for which it's well known but some others that are also really good, and I was looking forwards to a night of comedy and music and adorableness.
    The show started with a cute little animation to the short opening theme. The screens occasionally came on between scenes or during songs, providing extra comedy.
    All the cast were really good. Lucie-Mae Sumner's Kate voice was annoying to start with, because it's quite squeaky in places, but her Lucy was really good. Tom was good as both Princeton and Rod. I would have liked to see more of Ellena Vincent/Gary. Jacqueline Tate and Richard Morse's Christmas Eve and Brian were both cute and funny and paired well together. My favourites were Stephen Arden and Jessica Parker, who are Nicky, Trekkie and the Bad Idea Bears. They worked together really well, Parker's facial expressions as... well, everyone, were really good, and I loved the range of voices that Arden did (normal for Nicky, growly for Trekkie, and quite high for the Bad Idea Bears).  All the actors put a lot of energy in, the very skilled puppeteers made the puppets come to life, and this really showed.
    The music was very good. The arrangements were a little different to the one on the recording (of a different cast), which I liked, though it's a shame they only got licensed shorter versions of Schadenfreude and The Money Song. Trekkie's song was very good, with an added pause after Kate's “Normal people don't sit at home” line  which worked really well for comedy. You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You're Making Love) was really well staged, showing off the whole cast  (and the puppets' inventive sex).  I also really liked the way they did My Girlfriend Who Lives in Canada, Fantasies Come True, Schadenfreude, and The More You Ruv Someone. 
    I liked the staging, and the use of lights in windows to show where on the street each scene was taking place in.  The book is very good (someone else must have thought so too because it won an award for it). It touches on lots of themes, like acceptance,  friendship, relationships, in a way that is funny about 90% of the time, emotional the other 10%, and brilliant throughout. 

    Overall: Strength 5 tea to a wonderful show with a very strong cast that made for an excellent night out.

    Links: Company | Writer | Theatre

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    11. Fusenews: The Snow Queen – There Can Be Only One

    • Howdy do.  As per usual I’m going to direct you this morning to that lovely little Wild Things website where Jules Danielson and I have been posting the stories that got cut from our upcoming book Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature.  If you haven’t already seen them you might like to read some amusing stories about:

    WildThingDragon 300x225 Fusenews: The Snow Queen   There Can Be Only One- Some Madeleine facts you may not have known, two straight lines and all.
    - The downside of owning your own tropical island, even if you DID do all the art for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
    - The story I was MOST sorry to cut. War of the Pooh! It’s what happened when a British MP decided that the dolls of Pooh and friends had to come back to the UK. What followed . . . got a little crazy.
    - A quick look at some of the WORST school visits suffered by authors and illustrators of all time.
    - Children who would one day become writers bugging cranky older authors. It’s one of the more peculiar posts but it has nothing on . . .
    - Udders, cleavage, and a monster penis. Need I say more?
    - A nightmare publishing story to rival publishing stories.

    • The New York Public Library’s pathetic summer reading list for kids. Come again?  That would be The New York Post taking issue with a list that includes books kids would have fun reading as well as dreaded diversity.  Apparently if a book contains a non-white kid it can’t possibly be any good and must have appeared on a summer reading list to appease some kind of demographic.  Full disclosure, I’m one of the folks that made the list (which wasn’t just for NYPL but for Brooklyn and Queens library systems as well) so all I’ll do is gently point you to Rita Meade’s incredibly restrained response.
    • And how did you spend your evening last night.  For my part, I saw The Snow Queen.  The composer of the show is my buddy Haddon who, years ago, did the intro music for a podcast I posted for a while (the podcast is no longer up so his good work has been lost to the wilds of time).  Now the show is here for a limited run in NYC, before the inevitable Frozen musical steals its thunder.  Of Snow Queen musicals there can apparently be only one.  Here’s a New York Times article about the show, if’n you’re interested.

    WaldoBookbug 300x223 Fusenews: The Snow Queen   There Can Be Only OneWhere do you even get a Where’s Waldo costume, I wonder.  Everyone’s favorite stripey hero is key to this very clever children’s bookstore promotion thingy thing.  In Kalamazoo the fabulous bookstore Bookbug is hiding Waldo in 26 of the local businesses on sort of a scavenger hunt.  Other small town bookstores take note.  It’s good for the store and good for the other businesses.  I love a clever campaign.  Thanks to Colby Sharp for the link.

    If you have ever taken the Leonard Marcus walking tour of children’s literature here in NYC then you’ve probably seen Margaret Wise Brown’s house in Greenwich Village.  Good thing you did since the poor little structure is slated to be razed.  Has someone alerted Leonard?  I think we’d better start sounding the alarm on this one.

    • Don’t have enough conferences in your life?  Well The Nerdy Book Club was kind enough to feature this post on the upcoming Kidlitcon.  The only conference out there for children’s and YA literature bloggers, it’s happening in October in beautiful Sacramento, CA.  Would that I could go!  If you’re able, I highly recommend a trip.
    • This.  Just . . . . this.  No words.
    • Not a shabby idea.  Over in Britain they recently had a Great children’s books author bake off for all those novels and picture books featuring baked goods.  I am hungry.  Therefore someone should do this over on our side of the pond.  And then invite me.  Nom nom nom nom.
    • Daily Image:

    Finally, could somebody do this for a couple works of children’s and YA literature?

    HamletTights Fusenews: The Snow Queen   There Can Be Only One

    If I had my choice I’d like some Westing Game tights.  And imagine how much money you could make off of The Fault In Our Stars tights.  The mind boggles.  Thanks to Aunt Judy for the link.

    share save 171 16 Fusenews: The Snow Queen   There Can Be Only One

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    12. Theatre Reviews: I Need a Doctor and Shakespeare's Avengers Assembleth

    Title: I Need a Doctor: The Whosical

    Director: Benjamin Occhipinti
    Major cast: James Wilson-Taylor and Jessica Spray
    Seen at: Pleasance, Edinburgh Fringe
    Review: Jamie and Jess are two Whovians who want to perform a Doctor Who themed musical. Who have recieved a Cease and Desist notice from Stephen Moffat. Oh well-changes can be made so copyright infringement can be avoided, right? With this in mind, Jamie and Jess take on the roles of a companion, A Doctor, and multiple villians, and journey through time and space in the TARD- Phone Box. I wasn't sure if I was going to see this, but then I got told they make fun of Moffat and I was sold.
    Its a very clever parody. Yes, they do  make fun of Moffat, using fairy godmother Amy Wand, who continually advises Jess to obey the Doctor and stay where she is. Like companions of a better time, Jess ignores her and goes and has adventurers.
    Both performers, and the pianist, are very good at what they do. The multiroling that Jamie does is brilliant, especially when portraying A Doctor and Da Master simultaneously.
    Jokes come continually, a mix of Who-related, musical related, generally awesome lines, and one thing that was set up from the start just to include
    which just made the whole show better.
     [if you can't see it, that’s the BARROWMAN gif]
    The original songs are catchy, and funny. I also likes how they included changed bits from other musicals like The Ballad of Sweeney Todd (the Exterminators), Confrontation (from Les Mis, A Doctor and Da Master), and Music of the Night (from Phantom, Da Master and Jess, leading to "sing for me, angel....bloody hell!")

    Overall Strength 4 tea to a really fun show that every Whovian and every fan of musicals (that catches most of you guys, right?) must see.
    Links: Company

    Title: Shakespeare’s Avengers Assembleth
    Performed by: Drake's Drummers Theatre Company
    Seen at: Greenside Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe
    Review: Queen Elizabeth is about to be crowned, making England Protestant. Knowing that The Pope will try and keep England Catholic she commissions William Shakespeare to write a play with his greatest heroes,  warning of Catholicism. The Vatican's High Inquisitor is not happy about this, and he in turn summons Shakespeare's greatest villains. This results in a cobbled together play starring Cardinal Dave, William Shakespeare, and his greatest characters (and Brutus).
    I was very excited about seeing this play. I knew it wasn't going to be Marvel's characters in Shakespearean (though that would have been awesome too), and was excited to see how they'd all interact.
    There were lots of running gags that always made me laugh, such as Hamlet  always talking to Banquo, Ophelia's offstage actions, Brutus being very stabby and the High Inquisitor's grasp on his religion.
    Interpretation of characters was a mix of brilliant and...interesting. I loved the characterisation of Brutus, Macbeth, and Juliet.
    The plot wasn't great, and the play within a play was impossible to follow. I think that might have been intentional though, judging by the jokes about it within the script. This play should be judged more on its jokes; the oneliners, physical things, and ones that take a bit more time  to set up.
    The cast multiroled and played off each other really well. The lighting and stage were kept very simple, and I think as well as a riff off Shakespeare, it's also a comedy about very amateur productions and how they get produced (that is, badly organised, lots of arguements, and lots of laughs, which is highly highly accurate). 
    Overall Strength  4 tea to a fun story and spin on Shakespeare's characters.



    0 Comments on Theatre Reviews: I Need a Doctor and Shakespeare's Avengers Assembleth as of 8/13/2014 5:35:00 PM
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    13. The 10 best shows for music directors, in no particular order, for several reasons

    Listing the ten best shows for a music director to work on is as subjective as choosing the ten greatest composers, or painters, or novelists, so it’s worthwhile to stipulate some qualities the winners must have, subjectively speaking. Yet these qualities can only reveal themselves by working through the reasoning of what makes a show a music director’s favorite.

    Of the many musicals I’ve attended in recent years, among the most enjoyable and perhaps the funniest was Monty Python’s Spamalot. The music cues come fast and furious, and in all varieties, from classical quodlibets to Spike Jones-like punctuations–a true challenge for the music director to keep up and maintain the comic timing. Yet despite such diversity of style, despite the expertise of the orchestrations, regardless of the virtuosity of the players in the pit, the music is so fully integrated into the fabric of the comedy that it almost ceases to have a discrete identity of its own. It acts more as laugh-enhancer to the goings-on onstage.

    Are the shows that music directors are partial to leading from the podium perhaps not the best ones to view from the house as an audience member or critic? Most music directors, it seems, prefer directing musical material with its own distinction.

    That’s why many readers are probably expecting the top of this list to be occupied by the musical jewels that always seem to outshine the rest, and are likely the offhanded choices of just about any music-director-on-the-street you might ask: West Side Story, Sweeney Todd, South Pacific, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, Gypsy, Fiddler… And isn’t it interesting that as the list continues, that the best scores seem to coincide with the best stories; they are inseparably connected to the best musical theater works, the best overall entertainments. A great book marks the finest examples of the form, and great scores masterfully accompany these great stories or themes, just as Spamalot’s does. There have been many excellent, crafty scores alongside librettos that have not sufficiently engaged their audiences–and those shows have rarely succeeded–but seldom has there been a great musical without an outstanding score.

    For a music director, it’s about the sparks that fly when music and drama collide and collaborate; that’s what makes the job exciting. Therefore, I will, after all, include Spamalot among my top ten, for the same reasons I cited above to argue against it. It seems impossible that the music director-conductor of that show could ever get bored in performance, what with the variety of musical involvement, and the charming music is very much a part of the outrageous humor.

    Stephen Sondheim on piano with Leonard Bernstein and Carol Lawrence (on far right) standing amongst female singers rehearsing for the stage production West Side Story. NYPL Digital Collections.
    Stephen Sondheim on piano with Leonard Bernstein and Carol Lawrence (on far right) standing amongst female singers rehearsing for the stage production West Side Story, 1957. Copyright: The New York Public Library. NYPL Digital Collections.

    And yes, the great scores (some, but not all of them–I’ll tell you why in a moment) belong on the list, if for no other reason than the pure musical satisfaction they provide music directors. West Side Story is there because, well, because the score is not only unthinkably beautiful and profoundly interesting, but is also a seminar on music theory and composition. Sweeney Todd, too, because nothing can touch that unique sound, that combination of dark and light, the stuff that waves of goosebumps are made of. Both of these scores are also musically challenging for all involved: singers, musicians, and music directors. On the other hand, though you may adore a lush, sophisticated work such as The Most Happy Fella or The Bridges of Madison County, you might be prone to disconnecting from the emotional content, which are diluted by threadbare (albeit emotional) story lines. Instead, I’ll include something comparably original and musically intelligent, Carousel, which though certainly corny by today’s standards, is still a marvel of lyricism, and of connection of music to story. I’m sure many readers would want to add their own favorites in its slot.

    Music directors covet music with “groove,” especially since groove began to dominate popular music in the mid-20th century. Nothing is more satisfying than rocking out with a great band in front of an audience that is really into the proceedings. Perhaps the deepest grooves in musical theater history have belonged to a handful of authentically rock/pop shows–among them Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rocky Horror, Mamma Mia!, Tommy, Rent, Jesus Christ Superstar, Spring Awakening, In The Heights, and now Hamilton. I’ll disqualify Tommy and Heights due to my bias as an alumnus of their Broadway productions. Hedwig is a whole different animal, with its onstage band and few songs; Mamma Mia! has a silly story; and Spring Awakening’s music direction is subtle and overshadowed by its remarkable staging and storytelling, so let’s just narrow the list down to Rent and Superstar. I give the nod to Jesus Christ Superstar because its music calls upon all the influences of its time–rock, R&B, blues, psychedelia, etc.–while retaining a true classical heart and a tenacious theatrical bent. It’s nearly through-composed, and the conductor plays keyboards, keeping him or her busily occupied throughout. Almost all of this is true of Rent too, so let’s keep them both on the list.

    As for onstage bands: Ain’t Misbehavin’ or Smokey Joe’s Cafe. Both are a just a gas to lead, the music director gets to show off at the piano a bit, and the spirit and music of the shows tend to evince stellar performances from their singers and players, as well as rowdy approval from audiences. Take your pick; it’s a tossup.

    Let’s add shows that get better the more you view them. The Music Man, for example, has brilliant construction, sharp characterizations, and a glorious score, featuring intricate melodic connections and spectacular dance arrangements. And because they so epitomize the musical theater form, it’s almost impossible to exclude A Chorus Line or Chicago. I’m choosing A Chorus Line on the list because of its scant 100 minute duration (no intermission), which for working stiffs, gets many music directors home at a quite reasonable hour. (I was also tempted to include Little Shop of Horrors for this reason, and because it is a brilliantly crafted musical with a great, grooving score, but again, as an alum of the original production, I am biased.)

    Any show that you yourself help to arrange or create as music director, any show that you truly care for, is probably your darling. It could be the show you arranged for your local theater club, or a revue you did with your favorite singer. Shows that you work hard on get under your skin, into your soul, and never leave you. Nine years after departing Broadway’s The Lion King, I still have Lion King ear worms.

    Any of the shows I list might be compromised by an irresponsibly reduced orchestration, or an unjustifiable or unattractive synthetic musical element. I am considering them are their ideal, pristine, original or very-close-to-it versions. So here they are, in an order that I will change countless times after posting this blog article:

    10.   Rent
    9.     Spamalot
    8.     Carousel
    7.     A Chorus Line
    6.     The Music Man
    5.     Tie: Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Smokey Joe’s Cafe
    4.     Jesus Christ Superstar
    3.     Sweeney Todd
    2.     West Side Story
    1.     Your own personal Lion King, whatever it may be–the show that is closest to your heart.

    Headline Image: Music Notes. CC0 Public Domain License via Pixabay

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    14. Theatre Review: Willy's Bitches

     I'm sorry for taking so long to get this up! 

    Title: Willy’s Bitches
    Written By:Shannon Thurstone
    Performed by: Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
    Director: Philip Howard
    Music: Tamara Saringer 
    Seen at: Assembly Checkpoint, Edinburgh Fringe
    Review: Willy’s Bitches is a cabaret show featuring various women of Shakespeare. A variety of characters are used, selected from tragedies, comedies, and histories, and they take you on a journey of classical dialogue and modern music.
     So, there’s a joke in my family that anything I read/watch is gay, feminist, murderous, or Shakespeare. I was looking through the giant list of shows at Edinburgh and I came across this, which promised to be three of these things...I had to go and see it!
    My favourites were Rachel Graham as a cold, distant, creepy Lady Macbeth, and Hannah Kerbes and Samantha Taylor Burnes as Beatrice and Kate, drinking and singing a bawdy song. Jenny Douglas was a really strong Julia, who is played with a lot more madness than a)I would have read from Two Gentleman of Verona and b) than Brigid Shine’s sweet and vulnerable Ophelia. Melanie Morton and Shannon Thurston make a great comic pair as Helena and Hermia fighting, while Queen Mary (Ash Henning) was powerful and terrifying.  I’m also in love with how they  performed Lavinia’s part, with eerie harmonising as she emerges following her mutilation, then Lauren Meyer sings a powerful song about rape culture.
    The music is really good- I wish they’d released a soundtrack. The harmonies introducing Lavinia sounded brilliant, and every actress had a voice that fit their song. There’s a small band on stage, which provides the men for the women to interplay with, which I liked seeing (Lady Macbeth scaring I think it was the clarinettist, while the guitarist takes the part of York). The music varies between styles, which fit the plays being referenced.
    The staging was simple, some chairs and a table, which got moved around as and when needed. By costume, we saw each of the plays being set in very different settings, mixing the canon time period with modern with 50s fashion, and I liked the mixture of aesthetics.
    I wasn’t expecting it to be in this format (being listed as a musical, I was expecting all the women to interplay with each other a lot more than they did, and it would have been nice if they had) but the transitions from play to play worked, even if it did just end seemingly randomly following Margaret’s section. I’d have also liked a bit more of the speech to come through, and to get to know a bit more of the women’s stories from what I saw on stage, rather than filling in gaps with research afterwards.

    Overall: Strength 4 tea to a strong new take on Shakespeare

     LinksCompany


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    15. Wordless Wednesday - Beauty and the Beast

    We went to a performance of the musical Beauty and the Beast last weekend. My daughter enjoyed meeting Belle and showing off her Belle doll.



    The musical is based on the Disney version, so it includes characters like Gaston and the enchanted objects. I had never read the original fairy tale until this week. The Walter Crane version can be read online at Internet Archive if you'd like to take a look. It's interesting to see how different illustrators portray the Beast. My daughter drew her own version last year. I saved it along with some of her other drawings and thought now was the perfect time to post it. I do love how her Beast turned out.



    Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom or Seven Clown Circus.

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    16. Wordless Wednesday - Wicked






    This weekend I attended a production of Wicked. What a powerful message of tolerance, understanding and friendship. I wasn't expecting the witty dialogue and marvelous music and singing. So glad I went - I had a great time with my friends! Have you seen the musical yet or read the book?


    Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom or Parenting for Dummies.

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    17. Fusenews: Encyclopedia Peck

    As far as I’m concerned, every good blog post should begin with fiction starring Gregory Peck.  What we have here is one of the luscious finds boasted by Greg Hatcher over at the site Comic Book Resources.  I’m a big fan of Hatcher because when he does round ups like this one he always takes care to mention a lot of collectible children’s literature.  In this post alone you’ll see what the going price is for a good old hardcover Oz or Narnia title, as well as his discovery of Millions of Cats.  I remember that when I conducted by Top 100 Picture Books Poll that Millions of Cats was the surprise Top Ten winner.  Folks continually forget to give it its due.

    • Collecting Children’s Books has the usual plethora of wonderfulness up and running for your consideration.  First Peter discovers and prints out the complete shortlists of Newbery contenders between the years of 1973-75 (something I wish they still did) and then in a different post considers the state of recent children’s books and whether any of them have been made into Broadway musicals.  None that I can think of, since A Year With Frog and Toad isn’t exactly contemporary.  Coraline did sort of make it to Broadway a year or so ago (or was that considered off-Broadway?), but that’s the only one I can think of.
    • Hey hey!  While we were all sleeping the candidates nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award were announced.  You can see the full list of candidates from countries all over the country here.  If I had the time and ability I would familiarize myself with all those names that are unknown to me.  On the American side of things, however, here are the USA representatives: Ashley Bryan, Eric Carle, Julius Lester, Grace Lin, Walter Dean Myers, Anne Pellowski, Jerry Pinkney, Reading is Fundamental, and Allen Say.  Good luck, guys (and well played Grace for being the youngest).  Here’s hoping some of you make it to the final consideration.  After all, the Lindgren is the largest monetary award a children’s writer or illustrator can win.
    • It was a good week for finalists of all sorts, actually.  The National Book Award finalists were released last week and included Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker, Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird, Laura McNeal’s Dark Water, Walter Dean Myers’ Lockdown, and Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer.  How interesting it is to me that non-fiction didn’t make even a sin

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    18. J.K. Rowling Rejected Michael Jackson’s Harry Potter Musical Proposal

    The great Michael Jackson once offered to make a Harry Potter musical for J.K. Rowling. The story came out during a recent Oprah Winfrey interview special with the bestselling author.

    “Were you reluctant to increase the empire?” asked Winfrey in the video embedded above.  Rowling replied: “It could be so much worse. Michael Jackson wanted to do a musical … I said no to a lot of things. For me, I love the films, I love the books, and there’s elements that I love around it.”

    Winfrey called it “one of the most fascinating interviews I’ve ever conducted.” The women spoke at Edinburgh’s Balmora Hotel, the place where Rowling finished Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. Rowling mentioned that if she wanted, she could write more Harry Potter books. She explained: “I definitely could write an eighth, ninth, tenth book. I could, easily.”

    continued…

    New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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    19. Kill Your Darlings - A Movie Musical Analogy

    I'm in the midst of serious revisions and feeling a little loopy, which is why this post is about revisions and one of my all time favorite things, random musical movie moments! And um, how those two things relate to each other.

    We've all heard that saying "Kill your darlings." (Or murder them, whichever.) Essentially it's saying any time you have something you find especially clever or that's close to your heart DELETE IT because it probably doesn't fit with the rest of what you've written or even belong in your book. This is killing your darlings to the extreme, but you get the idea. I think it's easy when your book is about A, and all your scenes are focused on A, to slip off into tangent B and then think it's brilliant just because it's so different from the rest of the book.

    It's at that point that you must stop and really look at the scene about B. Does it have anything to do with the plot of your book? Is it there just to be awesome? Will it stop readers in their tracks as they wonder when this dark thriller turned into a slapstick comedy?

    How does this relate to my love for random spontaneous musical scenes in movies? I'll show you!

    Take the 80s classic TEEN WITCH. (Shut up. It IS TOO a classic!)

    This is the blurb for TEEN WITCH:
    Louise is a shy misfit with a huge crush on and no chance of dating Brad, the hunky star of the high school football team. When Louise discovers on her 16th birthday that she's descended from Salem witches, she uses her newfound powers to become the most popular girl on campus! But when sparks fly between her and Brad, how can she be sure it's true love and that he's not simply spellbound?

    You'll not that nowhere in the description is the movie called a musical. Yet, fairly early on, we're given this:



    (Take a moment to recover from the 80s explosion. I'll wait.) I remember even as a kid, the first time I saw this I thought, WTF is this a musical? BUT IT WASN'T. It was just a movie with a scene where everyone broke out into a choreographed dance routine for NO REASON OTHER THAN THAT IT WOULD BE SHEER AWESOME. And as you can see, it was, but that's not the point.

    The point is, as a first time viewer, I was confused. I kept waiting for more dance routines, but there really weren't any. And in the end I was sort of disappointed about that. And I wondered why that scene was in there anyway. Just to tease me with a glimpse at how awesome Teen Witch would've been as a real musical?

    So as you can see, if Teen Witch was a book, as much as I love the random dance scene, because I love random dance scenes, that particular darling would have to go. It sticks out and it's distracting because it doesn't really belong.

    Do you have a scene like this? So full of awesome it could be it's own book? So unrelated to what's actually happening in your plot? You might have to save it for a different project. Put it in a drawer and when you're sad, take it out and read it and know that it's proof of your magnificent talent.

    And now, just in case I have thoroughly depressed you by telling you to take out your favorite scene, here's my all time favorite spontaneous musical scene. I SO wish this would happen while out at a restaurant in real life!

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    20. Video Sunday: Blogging, I Am. Everything, I Post.

    Time to brush up on your high school German meine damen und herren.  Yes The Strange Case of Origami Yoda got its own pretty impressive fan trailer straight outta Germany the other day.  It’s interesting, but I was even more taken with the German name of the book.  Yoda, I Am!  Everything, I Know! As overseas titles go, that’s gotta be one of my favorites.  I also like the description of the book that accompanies the video: “Eigentlich ist Dwight ein totaler Loser.”  No matter where you go in this world, “total loser” is a universal.

    I swear I didn’t mean for this to happen, but by complete coincidence the Germans have the floor today.  This next one is actually a small filmed version of a picture book called Vom Kleinen Maulwurf, der Wissen Wollte Wer Ihm Auf den Kopf Gemacht Hatte by Werner Holzwarth and Wolf Eribruch.  You can debate what the best possible translation of this might be, but I think my favorite has to be Wikipedia’s The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew It Was None of His Business.  See it and you’ll comprehend why.

    Needless to say, this book has yet to be published in America.  Not even the Plop-Up version.  Jules brought to to my attention after her fantastic post on Maurizio Quarello’s take on Bluebeard led to a fascinating discussion in the comments of what Yanks do and do not find squeamish.  Thanks for the link, Jules!

    Ruh-roh.  I heard that someone wanted to do an “updated” musical take on Alice in Wonderland for Broadway.  Of course, that brings to mind another musical as well: The Wiz.  Updating classics isn’t as easy as all that (though I’ll forgive many things for “Ease on Down the Road”).  Here’s an interview with the woman playing Alice.  Join me as I wonder if it’s possible that the music was written in 1982.  Hoo boy.

    Yeah.  That ain’t good.  Here’s a bit from the Playbill blog post about it as well.  Thanks to @MrSchuReads for the link.

    This one’s interesting, and related to children’s literature in that much of my own childhood was spent reading New Yorker cartoons.  Cartoonist Liza Donnelly and I have something in common.  We both attended Earlham College (fight fight inner light, kill, Quakers, kill!!).  We also both have an interest in humor and women.

    11 Comments on Video Sunday: Blogging, I Am. Everything, I Post., last added: 2/6/2011
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    21. Poetry Friday: Monticello by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

    Carol at the diner tried to be a singer
    Mark still swears he'll end up on TV
    Everyone has plans for something greater
    But they never leave town
    They just let themselves drown
    But I won't be pulled down
    Not me
    ...
    I know this might sound crazy
    But I’m not like other people
    And though settling for less is fine for some
    If I keep treading water here in nowhere Indiana
    I know exactly who I will become

    - selected verses from the song Monticello from Edges: A Song Cycle by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

    You may listen to the song at their website.

    View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

    View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

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    22. Poetry Friday: Gold by Fergus O'Farrell of Interference

    And I love her so
    I wouldn't trade her for gold
    I'm walking on moonbeams
    I was born with a silver spoon

    And I'm gonna be free
    I'm gonna be free
    I'm walking on moonbeams
    And staring out to sea

    And if a door close
    Then a road for home start building
    And tear your curtains down
    For sunlight is like gold

    And you better be you
    And do what you can do
    When you're walking on moonbeams
    Staring out to sea

    'Cause if your skin was soil
    How long do you think before they start digging?
    And if your life was gold
    How long would you think you'd stay livin'?
    Hey

    And I love her so
    I wouldn't trade her for gold

    - Gold by Fergus O'Farrell of Interference

    This song can be heard in the film ONCE and the new stage adaptation of ONCE, which is now on Broadway. Listen to the version from the film - then get the original Broadway cast album, which has two beautiful versions, one fully orchestrated, one a capella.


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    23. The Phantom of the Opera

    For my birthday last week, I treated myself to the CDs containing the original (London) soundtrack of Phantom of the Opera

    I've always enjoyed Andrew Lloyd-Webber's music (Senior Management still has the program we bought when we saw it in London, back in the 90s).

    (Read more ...)

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    24. Drama

    by Raina Telgemeier Scholastic 2012 Romance and friendships are tried and tested during the production of a middle grade play where everything is one giant emotional... drama. Callie is crushing on Greg, and after he breaks up with his girlfriend Bonnie it looks like she might get a chance at him, but after one sweet kiss it goes south when Bonnie and Greg reunite. Good thing there's the

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    25. Blog30 Questionnaire

    I just found Blog30. I liked their questionnaire and thought I'd share my own answers:

    Where do you look for inspiration?

    Life. Truth. Music. Stories. Nature. People.

    What's your favorite book?

    I have favorite books in different categories. My favorite books include, but are not limited to:

    Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (fantasy classic)
    The NeverEnding Story by Michael Ende (fantasy)
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (modern classic)
    Body Bags by Christopher Golden (contemporary thriller)
    The Boys are Back in Town by Christopher Golden (contemporary horror)
    The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (mystery)

    What's your favorite movie?

    As with books (and anything else you can categories), I have favorite movies in different categories. For example:

    Favorite musical picture: Singin' in the Rain
    Favorite film noir: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
    Favorite Hitchcock film: North by Northwest
    Favorite screwball comedy: Bringing Up Baby
    Favorite Barbara Stanwyck comedy: Ball of Fire
    Favorite John Hughes film: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
    Favorite Cary Grant/Irene Dunne performance: My Favorite Wife
    Favorite Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau movie: The Odd Couple
    Favorite book-to-miniseries adaptation: Anne of Green Gables, 1986 version starring Megan Follows
    Favorite Disney animated musical: The Little Mermaid

    Again, give me a genre, theme, time period, director, writer, or actor, and I'll tell you my favorite film for that topic or person.

    What's your favorite line from a play?

    I just realized I don't have any lines from plays listed on my page of favorite quotes. I'm going to have to think on this and get back to you.

    What play or production changed your life?

    Since I've been on the acting/performing/writing/creating path since birth, I don't know that any play has changed my life, but many have touched me - either the script or the storyline really spoke to me, or the experience I had performing them. This includes but is not limited to Spring Awakening, The Polar Express, and the first school play I ever did. I'm also a writer - screenwriter, playwright, (hopeful) novelist, and poet, so I've performed original works, and had works published, and all of those experiences mean a great deal to me.

    Is there anything you still dream of doing?

    Everything I haven't done yet, but will: Have a great career, working regularly in television (including work as a series regular), film, and theatre (both musicals and straight plays) as an actress, writer, and director, creating and sharing roles and shows and songs that make me happy and inspire others.

    I feel most like myself when I... am performing, singing or acting - or discussing something I'm really passionate about, or retelling the story of something I've experienced.

    What is your best escape?

    Performing. Writing. Reading. Watching films and TV.

    What's the one thing nobody knows about you?

    If I told you, then someone would know.

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