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Monday, August 22, 2016

Back to School Haul!

I wanted to share my back to school stationary haul, full of fun bits from Target! Let me know if you'd like to see other back to school/university themed posts and videos. x

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ranking Broadway Shows: Summer 2016

While I was in New York this summer, I saw twenty one shows and four (Broadway) concerts. Well technically, I saw sixteen different shows because I saw a couple of shows twice and I saw She Loves Me four times (Oops.) Since I was lucky enough to have this experience, I wanted to put together a little ranking of the shows that I saw...some of my choices might surprise you! 

Did you see any of these shows? Let me know what you think in the comments below or tweet me about it! 

16) The Crucible 
Out of all the shows I saw this summer, this is definitely the one that I didn't click with. Which isn't to say that I didn't think it was interesting, I just didn't quite...get it. At least not this staging. (Review coming soon.) 

15) The Rockettes's Spring Spectacular
Despite my fifteen-year dance background, I wasn't overly excited by the Rockettes. It was great to see them, but they couldn't compare to some of the other shows I saw. 

14) American Psycho 
The best thing I can say about American Psycho is that it was definitely ahead of its time. While it was riveting and the cast was very talented, as someone who doesn't like horror or scary movies, this definitely wasn't the show for me. (Review coming soon.) 

13) Troilus and Cressida
Reflecting on it, I realized that I loved the experience of Shakespeare in the Park more than I loved the actual show that I saw. While it was a beautiful production, Troilus and Cressida has definitely not beat out Coriolanus as my favorite Shakespeare production. (Review coming soon.) 

12) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater
What an amazing cast this show had! (I got to live out my dream of seeing Santino Fontana, who voiced Hans in Frozen). However, the show itself seemed a bit jumbled with the Disney-esque music (of course with Alan Menken and Howard Ashman at the helm) at odds with the dark storyline. (Review coming soon.) 

11) Aladdin 
Speaking of Menken and Ashman,  Aladdin is a lovely stage version of a Disney film. While I enjoyed the show, and especially its feminist reimagining of Princess Jasmine played by the wonderful Courtney Reed, I've never been overly fond of the story or its music. (Review coming soon.) 

10) Wicked
Those who know me know that I'm notoriously hard on productions of Wicked because I was spoiled enough to see Gina Beck as Galinda in the West End several years ago. I wouldn't have gone to see Wicked on Broadway if my class hadn't paid for it, but I'm so glad that I did because Rachel Tucker's Elphaba was truly astounding. The show gained the number 10 spot on my list for her "No Good Deed" alone. (Review

9) Kinky Boots
I fell in love with Kinky Boots via the West End cast album last year and was so excited to finally see it live. It's a truly solid production, only getting bumped down to the number 9 spot because Broadway's Charlie Price didn't quite live up to my standards (but perhaps having Killian Donnelly as my standard is unfair). (Review)

8) Something Rotten 
I don't think I've ever laughed as hard during a show as I did during Something Rotten. I'm not usually one for comedies, but Christian Borle as Shakespeare won me over. (Review

7) The Color Purple
It should be no surprise that Cynthia Erivo's performance guaranteed this show a high ranking. Plus two of my faves, Kyle Scatliffe and Heather Headley? I would see this show again in a heartbeat. (Review coming soon.) 

6) Les Miserables
If I were ranking this list based on the shows alone and not the productions, Les Mis would have the number 2 spot (with Hamilton in the lead of course). While I still prefer the West End blocking with the turntable, this Broadway cast is stunning and seeing John Owen Jones as Valjean fulfilled a dream of many years for me. (Review)

5) Finding Neverland
I loved Finding Neverland so much that I brought my family to see it...and we're already planning to see it when it comes to North Carolina on tour! The sets, the costumes, the dancing, the cast: there's nothing about this show that I didn't adore. (Review

4) Daddy Long Legs
The only Off-Broadway show that I saw this summer was the one that I came out of and immediately bought the cast album. I'm 100% in love with this charming show and the fact that the couple I saw in it are married in real life made it even better. (Review

3) Bright Star
Bright Star somehow manages to be new and exciting (that bluegrass music! that set!) while still having everything I love about musical theater. Perhaps I'm biased as a North Carolinian since the show is set in North Carolina, but I absolutely loved this show. (Review

2) Hamilton 
Who would ever have thought Hamilton would be second on my list? While it's undeniably my favorite show on the list, this She Loves Me production pushed it to second place. I was incredibly lucky to get to see Austin Smith as Aaron Burr, who absolutely killed it, and to see Michael Luwoye's second ever show as Hamilton. (Review coming soon.) 

1) She Loves Me 
And for first place...the show that I saw four times. I cannot describe how in love with this show I am, except to say that rarely have I left a show so happy. Something about this show made me feel at peace with the world. Plus the flawless combination of Zachary Levi, Jane Krakowski, Gavin Creel, AND Laura Benanti? (And my favorite ensemble member, Andrew Kober.) Obviously this show had to take first place. (Review

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Little NYC Vlog

Well, I'm officially home in North Carolina! There's certainly more content about New York to come (show reviews! a ranking of all the shows I saw! restaurant recommendations! anything else you want?), but I've left the city for a bit slower-paced life. It's nice to have some time to just concentrate on the things that I need to accomplish before I head back for my last year of university. 

In the meantime, here's a little vlog I pieced together of the time that my family spent in New York when they came to bring me home. x

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: Daddy Long Legs

One of the first shows I saw this summer was the off-Broadway musical, Daddy Long Legs. And despite the nearly two dozen shows I’ve seen, it has remained one of my absolute favorites!

Based on a 1912 children’s novel by Jean Webster, the show follows the story of Jerusha Abbott, an orphan from New England who is gifted with a college education by a mysterious benefactor. That mysterious benefactor is actually not the old man that she imagines at all but the young and handsome Jervis Pendleton. I don’t want to give away any more of the plot, but let me say that you can tell that it’s based on a children’s novel -- in all the best ways.

While Paul Alexander Nolan (who I saw in Bright Star) originated the role of Jervis Off-Broadway and appears on the cast album, I got to see Adam Halpin in the lead male role. This was so special to me because Adam is married to his co-star Megan McGinnis! Both of them were incredibly talented actors and singers and their chemistry (of course) was off the charts. One of the unique things about the show is that there are only two roles and thus those two actors carry the show entirely.

I downloaded the cast album the day that I saw the show and haven’t stopped listening to it since. Unfortunately the show closed only a few days after I saw it (which made me sad because I definitely would have seen it several more times, as they had $25 student rush tickets), but you can buy the cast album online!

By the end of the first act, I’d fallen in love with not only the music and storyline but the characters of Jerusha and Jervis. Their story, and especially Jerusha’s determination, helped me get through my first few weeks in New York City when I wasn’t entirely sure what I was doing. I highly recommend buying the album and giving the show a listen and you can bet that if I ever find another production of it, I’ll be going…at least twice!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Laura Michelle Kelly is "All That Matters"

You know when you see an actor in a role and absolutely fall in love with their performance and immediately want to see every other thing they’ve ever been involved with? That’s how I felt about Laura Michelle Kelly after seeing her in Finding Neverland. So when my friend, Julie, told me that Laura was having a concert on Monday, July 25th, I knew that I had to go.

Laura Michelle Kelly is a British actress from the Isle of Wight. She won the 2005 Olivier Award for playing the title role in Mary Poppins in the West End and also reprised the role on Broadway. She had a cameo role in the Sweeney Todd film as Lucy Barker. She has been playing Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies in Finding Neverland since its previews off-Broadway.

Laura’s “All That Matters” concert was an absolute delight. Her set ranged from a soulful “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (I couldn’t help dancing in my seat!) to her beautiful solo in Finding Neverland, “All That Matters.” For me, one of the highlights was definitely when she sang “Come What May” from the film, Moulin Rouge, with her special guest, Dez Duron who was a contestant on The Voice.

Another highlight was when Laura sang some of her own original music, written about the death of her mother and a difficult time in her life. It was very touching to hear music that she’d written about her personal. Laura has a lovely voice and her uplifting and bright personality (and that lovely British accent) kept the mood light and enjoyable.

The cutest thing about the night might be that she brought tons of light blue balloons for people to take home with them and gave everyone at her meet-and-greet a Hershey kiss to thank them for coming. Getting to meet her after the show was absolutely lovely as she was so sweet and excited to hear that I’m bringing my family to see Finding Neverland next week.

Laura Michelle Kelly’s concert was a fun and intimate-feeling experience, with a great and varied set list. If she ever decides to reprise it, definitely go if you can!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ramin Karimloo's Broadgrass Concert

I attended Ramin Karimloo’s concert last Saturday at B.B. King’s.

Quick story: When I was a little girl, I loved theater. I would spend hours listening to and imitating my Broadway Kids CDs. But then I kind of forgot about theater until my first year of high school when I was a part of the school play. Then, I saw the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert on PBS when I was probably about sixteen years old. Initially, I was lured in by watching Nick Jonas’s somewhat disastrous Marius, but then I kept watching because the guy playing Enjolras was amazing.

That guy, of course, was Ramin Karimloo. The following week a friend lent me the Love Never Dies cast album and I fell head over heels in love with Ramin, and through him, theater. Now, six years later, I’m pursuing a career in theater marketing/advertising/PR and my life is completely tied to my love for theater.

I got to see Ramin Karimloo when he was playing Valjean in Les Miserables a few years back on Broadway (unfortunately, it was during the time that he wasn’t stage dooring because of an injury). But ever since the hours and hours I would spend listening to him and Hadley Fraser’s band, Sheytoons, when I was in high school, I’ve wanted to see him in concert. When he announced a “Broadgrass” concert in New York City at B.B. King’s, I knew I had to go.

Ramin is one of those people who is not only insanely talented, but also has a light that shines out of him. He was amazing, unsurprisingly, singing songs from the Avett Brothers and other bands amidst things like “Bring Him Home.” Hearing him sing “Til I Hear You Sing” live, the song that truly got me entrenched into musical theater, was such a special experience.

I was lucky enough to go to his concert on Saturday night, when Andrew Kober and Tam Mutu were guests. I absolutely adore Andrew Kober from seeing him in Les Miserables and She Loves Me. He joined Ramin to sing a bluegrass song and “Lily’s Eyes” from The Secret Garden, which just happens to be one of my two favorite male duets of all time. I was beside myself with excitement! Andrew was truly lovely and he Periscoped the whole thing, which was hilarious.

I saw Tam Mutu back when he was playing Javert in London. (Sidenote: He’s the only person that I’ve ever gone completely starstruck in front of at stage door.) He and Ramin sang a beautiful rendition of “Edelweiss,” that I’m so happy I got to hear live!

If you ever get a chance to go to one of Ramin’s “Broadgrass” concerts, definitely take advantage of it! He has a great voice, a charismatic stage presence, and superb guests.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Saturday in the Park with MC and Kendal

Anyone get the reference in the post title? If so, major kudos to you. Last weekend, my roommates Kendal and MaryClaire and I decided to go to Washington Square Park and have a mini photoshoot for our blogs. One thing that I appreciate about New York is that it seems like no matter where you are, you're always close to a park!

Lately, I've been absolutely in love with button-downs and tie-up flats. So I liked that this outfit incorporated both of them! Lately, my weekend outfits have been a lot of casual shorts paired with my work shirts, because I didn't have the room to bring a ton of casual shirts to New York.

Shirt: Banana Republic (Similar), Shorts: Madewell
Shoes: DSW, Bag: DWS, Sunglasses: Target 

Check out the fun video that I filmed of our mini photoshoot!

All photos by MaryClaire Schulz.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: Wicked

I was lucky enough to attend Wicked Tuesday night as part of the program I’m doing this summer through my university. My professor knows someone who works on the crew of Wicked, so we saw the show and go to go onstage afterward. It was my fourth time seeing Wicked, but my first time seeing it on Broadway (I saw it on tour twice and once in the West End, with the marvelous Louise Dearman and Gina Beck).

If you somehow don’t know Wicked, it’s a retold story about the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good from the Wizard of Oz. I think most theater people go through a Wicked phase (mine happened when I was seventeen). I’m not particularly fond of the show, but I do love the character of Galinda.

Having seen the tour and the West End production, it was very interesting to see the original Broadway production. Wicked has been operating in the Gershwin Theater for the past thirteen years and the show is much the same as when it opened in 2003. The current cast is very solid; the only weak member would perhaps be the Wizard, who was a bit bland and spoke-sung most of his lines.

My friends from the UK told me that I would love Rachel Tucker as Elphaba, but I was not prepared for how amazing she was. She’s the longest consecutive running Elphaba in the West End and let me tell you, her “No Good Deed” is by far the best I’ve ever heard. She was one of the first Elphabas I’ve seen that made me truly care about the character (I’m much more of a Galinda girl, myself). Her acting was great and her singing was flawless.

The only way I know how to describe Carrie St. Louis’s Galinda is that she’s Elle Woods, in all the best ways. Carrie is an adorable Galinda who brings a lot of true emotion to her character. I am highly picky about Galindas, after seeing the amazing Gina Beck, but Carrie exceeded my expectations by a lot. While perky and cute in songs like “Popular” (definitely the highlight of Act I), she also masterfully depicted Galinda’s pain in songs like “Thank Goodness” and “No One Mourns the Wicked.”

Jonah Platt is easily the best Fiyero I’ve ever seen. He was charming and sincere, while also displaying amazing dancing and singing skills. Often, it seems that Fiyeros are cast based on their acting and dancing (and maybe how good they look in the Fiyero pants?) alone and “As Long As You’re Mine” can be a bit cringey. But Jonah’s vocals were truly lovely, making it one of the best moments of the show.

After the show, we got the privilege of going on the actual stage and seeing some of the large set pieces. I got to see the Wizard of Oz’s head, the cabinet that Elphaba appears in when she visits Nessa, and Nessa’s chair! I was most excited that I could see Galinda’s bubble overhead where it’s stored. Getting to actually be on the stage of the Gershwin was such a cool experience. (And I felt fancy because I knew what the ghost light was, thanks to Finding Neverland.)

While not my favorite show that I’ve seen this summer, going to Wicked with my class was a very special experience. I’m very grateful to my professor and his friends for setting it all up! This current cast is simply lovely, so if you have the chance to see it, you should. I will certainly be sad when Rachel Tucker returns to the West End.

Monday, July 18, 2016

NYC Weekend with Carolyn Vlog

My best friend Carolyn came to visit and I vlogged our time together! 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Review: Finding Neverland

Whether or not you've seen the movie that it's based on, Finding Neverland is well worth going to. It's a spectacular production with beautiful costumes and sets, a heartbreaking storyline, a talented cast of adults and children, and a dog. Seriously, what more could you want?

We were able to get incredible seats through rushing the show. For just $37, I got to sit in the center orchestra, row C! One tip though: Finding Neverland rush only accepts cash. For more tips on how to see Broadway shows inexpensively, check out my blog post.

Finding Neverland is the story of how playwright J.M. Barrie was inspired to write the play, Peter Pan, when he befriended a family with four boys. It deals with love, loss, breaking social norms, and mortality. (I think I just made it sound much darker than it actually is!) As someone who grew up loving Peter Pan, Finding Neverland was the perfect choice for me.

I can't talk about this show without mentioning how truly talented the four little boys in it were. The boys who play the Llewelyn-Davies brothers are all impressive young actors and singers. One of the things I loved about Finding Neverland is that it's not your typical show with children in it; it's much more Les Mis than Annie or Oliver in that the children are there to portray specific characters rather than to simply be children in a musical. 

When Alfie Boe first left Finding Neverland because of medical issues, I was so disappointed but Tony Yazbeck surprised me in the best of ways. He was amazing in the role of the conflicted and imaginative J.M. Barrie and his vocals in songs like "Never Neverland" and "Stronger" were stunning. He brought an intensity to the role that was refreshing, though his Scottish accent wavered at times (but that's coming from someone who lived in Scotland for six months, so perhaps it's unfair). 

With the very talented Tony Yazbeck
I mostly went to see Finding Neverland because one of my best friends in the city is a fan of Laura Michelle Kelly, who plays Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, a newly-widowed mother of four. I was not ready for how insanely talented she is. Laura Michelle Kelly reminds me of Laura Osnes in some ways: her voice is clear and beautiful and she has a way of lighting up a room (or rather a stage, I guess). She looked absolutely gorgeous in the period costumes and her tragic storyline broke my heart. "All That Matters" is definitely my favorite song from the show.

I don't want to give away any spoilers, but Finding Neverland has some amazing dance scenes and some touching intimate scenes. I truly both laughed and cried. (At one point, I turned to Julie, sobbing, and whispered, "Why did you bring me here?") I can't wait to go see the show with my family when they're in the city in August, because I have to introduce them to it. If you're in New York and have the chance to go, definitely take advantage of it before the show closes at the end of August!

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