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Friday, February 24, 2017

Top Ten Movie Musicals

With the Academy Awards coming up on Sunday, there's a lot of buzz around the film, La La Land. While I somehow still haven't seen it, I wanted to reflect on some of my favorite movie musicals. Let me know your favorites in the comments! x

10. Into the Woods (2014)
Into the Woods is undoubtably a beautiful film with a stellar cast of stars. It's not the most faithful of adaptions and I'm not the biggest Sondheim fan (sacrilege, I know), but it's a lovely movie that is great fun to watch even if it misses out on some of the humor of the show.


9. White Christmas (1954)
Growing up, White Christmas was always one of my favorite Christmas movies. With a cast that includes Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, and Danny Kaye, it's a heartwarming holiday film with beautiful dance scenes.




8. The Sound of Music (1965)
There's nothing more classic than The Sound of Music so I had to include it on this list. Julie Andrews is lovely as the governess Maria and the children of this film are adorable. The original 1965 film version is much superior to The Sound of Music Live! 




7. My Fair Lady (1964)
Despite the controversy that surrounded Audrey Hepburn's casting and voice dubbing in the theatre community, I absolutely love this film. It's visually stunning and Rex Harrison is hilarious as the grumpy Professor Higgins.


6. Dreamgirls (2006)
While I do quite like the show Dreamgirls, the movie had to make this list purely for being one of the objectively best movie musicals in the past few decades. Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson are brilliant in their roles and the movie is appealing to both fans of the show and those who have never heard of it before.



5. Moulin Rouge (2001)
I was absolutely obsessed with Moulin Rouge in my high school years. Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are stunning in their roles and I love the soundtrack to this movie so incredibly much. I'm waiting every day for a Broadway production of it.




4. Les Miserables (2012)
While I have many problems with this film (unpopular opinion: I don't like Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean), it's undeniably visually stunning. Eddie Redmayne is an adorable Marius, while Samantha Barks absolutely slays as Eponine. I'll also always have a soft spot for this movie because of Killian Donnelly and Alistair Brammer playing Combeferre and Jean Prouvaire.



3. Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
This is another film that I love because I grew up watching it. I love the music from it, especially "The Boy Next Door" (#relatable). And how can you not love a Judy Garland movie?



2. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is me and my mom's movie. I watched it so much as a child that seeing it now makes me nostalgic. It's also an incredibly well-made film. Plus, my sister is named Hannah after the baby in this movie!


1. The Last Five Years (2014)
This is not only my favorite movie musical, but actually my favorite movie of all time. Jeremy Jordan and Anna Kendrick are perfect in their roles and it's some of the best acting I've ever seen from either one of them. Plus, the cinema nerd in me geeks out over how beautifully this movie was shot. If you've not seen it, I highly recommend it. (It's on Netflix!)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Top Ten YouTubers

In addition to theatre, I'm absolutely obsessed with YouTube. Not only do I have my own channel, but I also spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos. Upon reflecting on this list, I realized I watch mainly British vloggers!

I wanted to share my top ten favorite channels with all of you. Let me know who your favorites are in the description box below! x

The Michelaks
Hannah and Stef Michelak are a lovely couple living in London with their adorable son, Grayson, and absolutely my favorite family vloggers. Not only are they a cute family, but they're incredibly talented film makers. The editing in their weekly vlogs is better than most movies I see! Their recent Disney World vlog is definitely in my top ten YouTube videos of all time.


Fashion Mumblr
I actually discovered Josie's channel through a suggestion of Hannah Michelak. Another London-based vlogger, Josie films super aesthetically pleasing beauty and fashion videos. One of the things that I love most is how her knowledge from studying at the London College of Fashion shows through in her videos. I also adore her beautiful editing, posh style, and great sense of humor.


Zoella
Anyone who watches YouTube most likely knows Zoe Sugg, one of the most popular British YouTubers. Zoe was the first vlogger I ever watched and remains my absolute favorite to this day. She's the person whose videos I can count on to always make me happy.


Louise Pentland
Louise Pentland is like the older sister that you always wanted. Her videos are always hilarious and inspiring and her little girl, Darcy, is one of the cutest children I've ever seen. I also will always have a soft spot in my heart for Louise because my sister and I got to meet her at Vidcon a few summers ago.


Carrie Hope Fletcher
Carrie is one of my favorite stage actresses, YouTubers, and authors. I was lucky enough to see Carrie as Eponine in Les Mis in the West End three different times and I count her novel and self-help books amongst my all-time faves. However, I first discovered her through her YouTube channel where she posts covers, Disney videos, and more!


Lucy Moon
I've only been watching Lucy's videos for a couple of months, but I'm absolutely in love with them. Lucy is that cool hip girl that I wish I could be (and would love to be friends with). While she also films beautiful covers and artsy videos, I feel like I've learned so much from her about personal growth and life.


SophieBelle
If you love Disney princesses, you will love Sophie. Not just because she films lovely Disney videos, but because she seems like an actual princess! She has a girly aesthetic that I adore and I love seeing her fashion hauls and videos about Disney.


MrCheezyPop
You might recognize Maxwell Glick from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries or other YouTube series like Muzzled the Musical. But I adore Max's channel for his Disney World and Disneyland videos, which are incredibly well made and creative. I also love Max because my sister and I went to his meet-up at Vidcon and he was so incredibly kind.


MaryKateWiles
I've loved Mary Kate Wiles since she played Lydia Bennet on the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Not only is she a talented actress, but she has an amazing YouTube channel. She posts lots of videos that show the behind-the-scenes of being a struggling actress in LA, which I find so interesting.


Rebecca Smile
Rebecca is a Scottish YouTubers whose channel is full of Disney videos and Primark hauls. I love Rebecca's chatty style of filming, Disney expertise, and lovely makeup tutorials.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Newsies "Movie"

Ever since I saw it on Broadway several years ago, Newsies has been one of my favorite musicals. So I was absolutely thrilled when they announced that they were filming it to release to cinemas, especially because I had always wanted to see the original Broadway cast with Jeremy Jordan and Kara Lindsay. 


For those who may not know, Newsies is based on the 1992 Disney film of the same name which depicts a fictionalized account of the Newsboy Strike of 1899. Scrappy Jack Kelly, along with his friends, leads a strike against Mr. Pulitzer himself to stand up for the rights of the young newsboys.

The filmed version absolutely did not disappoint. I thought that it was incredibly well done as the filming style allowed an intimacy that is missing from theatre while still capturing the feel of the show. I particularly loved the filming of the strike scene the descends into a fight as the chaotic style matched the feeling of the scene itself.

The girls all loved the show!
Jeremy Jordan was every bit as stunning as I expected as Jack Kelly. While his vocals undoubtably shine in numbers like "Santa Fe" and "Something to Believe In," it was his acting that impressed me the most. Jordan has a unique ability to pull off comedy and drama equally well, and sometimes within the same minute. The only complaint I could make is that next to the young boys of the tour cast ensemble, Jordan is a bit old for the role of Kelly purely because he was the perfect age when he played it on Broadway.

I had always regretted not getting to see Kara Lindsay as Katherine Plumber and her "Watch What Happens" was one of the highlights of the show. While the song can fall flat in others' hands, there wasn't a dull moment in her performance.

Andrew Keenan-Bolger was suitably adorable as Jack's best friend, Crutchie. They chose to leave in Crutchie's solo, "Letter from the Refuge," which was added for the US tour and I'm so glad they did. It adds a level of realism about children's conditions at the turn of the century and centers Jack's anger in the following scenes.

My favorite character in the show is the intelligent and well-spoken Davey, played by Ben Fankhauser. I thought that he did a smashing job and was the perfect partner to Jordan's fiery Jack Kelly.

Newsies was a wonderful film experience and I hope that they will release it digitally or on DVD in the future so that I can see it again. Make sure to check the Newsies website to see if it's showing at a cinema near you on February 18 or 22.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Dear Evan Hansen Cast Album

I was already planning on writing a review of the Dear Evan Hansen cast album today since it's all I've been listening to since its digital release on February 3. But once I saw the news that the album debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200, I knew I made the right choice. In fact, it's the highest a cast album has debuted since 1961, joining just three other shows (Hair, Rent, and Hamilton) in the past fifty years to make it to the top ten.


This beautiful album, with music and lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, tells the story of a teenager trying to navigate high school, mental health problems, and a viral story. As soon as I heard that, I knew it was the show for me and honestly my only regret is that I didn't have this album when I was in high school. If you don't know the story, I would recommend looking it up on Wikipedia before listening.

Ben Platt is simply stunning as Evan Hansen in songs like "For Forever" and "If I Could Tell Her." His performance on "Words Fail" brings me to tears every time I hear it and of course, "Waving through a Window" is breathtaking. I've never heard anything that so perfectly captured that feeling of being small and insignificant that so many of us experienced in high school.

Laura Dreyfuss shines as Connor Murphy's sister, Zoe, especially in "Only Us." Will Roland and Mike Faist are absolutely hilarious as Jared and Connor in "Sincerely, Me," which has actually become one of my favorite songs.

Other favorites include the haunting "Requiem" and inspiring "You Will Be Found."

I would highly recommend this album to anyone who remembers their own rough days in high school, is passionate about mental health, or loves Pasek and Paul's other work. Have you been listening to Dear Evan Hansen? If so, let me know your favorite song in the comments below.

Friday, February 10, 2017

How to Make the Most of Your Study Abroad Experience

The most important that you can do when you study abroad is do your best to make the most of your experience. If you're anything like me, then you'll feel incredibly lucky to be spending a summer or semester abroad and want to do everything that you can. I sometimes feel like I didn't take advantage of where I was enough when I was in Scotland, but I definitely did this past summer in New York City. Here are some of my tips for how to make the most of your experience!

Get outside of your comfort zone.
When you choose to study abroad, you have to accept that you're going to have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. For me, just going to St Andrews where I didn't know anyone was out of my comfort zone! I also tried to do things I might not have at home, like auditioning for a play and going to Catholic services with my friend.

Embrace the culture. 
Any new place you go has a unique culture. Even spending the summer in New York City, I had to get used to the culture of "the grind." I find that it's better to fully embrace the culture in every way you can, whether that means going out to the pub with your friends in the evening in the UK or doing your grocery shopping every other day instead of one big shop.

Try new foods!
I'm undeniably a foodie, so I absolutely adored trying new foods while I was abroad. Some of the things that I tried, like chips (or fries, if you're in the US) with curry sauce or new Indian foods, surprised me with how much I loved them. And even the things I hated (marmite, I'm looking at you), I'm so glad that I tried.

Travel as much as you can.
One thing I regret is that I didn't make more of an effort to travel while I was in Scotland because now I don't have that kind of opportunity. Even just going to the neighboring town of Dundee for a few hours when I wasn't busy was fun for me because it gave me the chance to see a different part of Scotland than I previously knew about.

In case you missed it, earlier this week I wrote a post on how to choose a study abroad program and posted a video about my experience studying abroad at the University of St Andrews. My friend Kendal also wrote a post on five study abroad must haves!

Monday, February 6, 2017

How to Pick a Study Abroad Program

This week, I wanted to share some tips on studying abroad as I know a lot of people are beginning their semesters abroad around this time. I've studied abroad three times: I spent a semester at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, a summer at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England, and this past summer in New York City (technically called a Study USA at my university).

I have a video about my experience at St Andrews going up on Wednesday, so for today I thought I would share my tips for how to go about picking a program. Hopefully these questions can help guide you through your process if you're thinking about studying abroad!

1. Do you want to go abroad or stay domestic? 
One of the first choices that you'll have to make is whether you want to go out of the country or stay within the United States. A lot of schools, mine included, have domestic programs where you can spend a semester in places like New York, Los Angeles, or Washington DC.

2. Do you want to stay in the English-speaking world or not?
The next thing you need to decide is if you are willing to go to a country where you don't speak the language. Obviously, if you speak a foreign language, studying abroad is a great way to fully immerse yourself in it.

3. What kind of experience do you want? 
Look at the programs offered by your university. Would you rather do a homestay or live on a campus? Would you want to do something like Semester at Sea or be a student at a normal university?

4. Does the program have the classes you need? 
With many majors, where you will study abroad is partially determined by what programs offer the classes that you need. If possible, save some general requirements to take while you're abroad so you don't have to worry.

5. Can you talk to someone from your school who has done the program?
The only way to truly get a feeling for a program is to talk to someone who did it. Ask your school's study abroad center if they can get you in touch with other students who have gone there before you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Top 10 Theatre Experiences of 2016

We're already a month into 2017 (how did that happen?), but I wanted to look back on my Top Ten Theatre Experiences of 2016. I was so lucky to spend the summer in New York City, where I could easily see shows at discounted rates. It was hard to narrow this list down to ten, but I think these were the highlights (in my particular order).

Let me know what your top theatre experiences of the year were in the comments!

Hamilton 

I have to admit that nothing quite compares to Hamilton. I was extremely lucky to get to see it in both March (with the original cast) and in August (with some of the original cast and some replacement cast). If I had to pick one top theatre experience of 2016, I would choose seeing Lin Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton because it was definitely one of the most magical moments of my life.

Bright Star
I knew very little about Bright Star other than that it was set in North Carolina and starred Paul Alexander Nolan when I got rush tickets to see it. It was one of the best shows that I've ever seen and one of the best stage door experiences I've ever had. Everyone in the cast was SO nice! I'm so sad that this show closed (I was actually there the night closing was announced), but I'm definitely looking forward to the US Tour.

Laura Michelle Kelly's "All I Know Now" Concert 

It was hard for me to leave Finding Neverland off of this list, but I had to include going to Laura Michelle Kelly's concert and meet-and-greet. It was such a wonderful experience to share with my friends Kimmy and Julie and Laura was so incredibly kind. She even gave us candy!

Seeing Laura Benanti (in She Loves Me
Laura Benanti has been my favorite Broadway actress for years and I adore her witty and intelligent tweets. So getting to see her four times in She Loves Me this summer was absolutely wonderful (as was meeting Zachary Levi four times at stage door!). I feel so lucky that I got to see this incredible show so many times and that I got to witness Laura Benanti sing "Vanilla Ice Cream" in person.

Getting a backstage tour at the US Tour of Cinderella
My little sister, Hannah, and I had the very special treat of getting a backstage tour of Cinderella at DPAC. Johnny Link (our Prince Topher) and Tatyana Lubov (the lovely Ella herself!) showed us around the stage area and even let us stand on the palace steps! It was truly a dream come true.

Seeing my first show off-Broadway (Daddy Long Legs)
I had never seen a show off Broadway before this summer when I went to see Daddy Long Legs on the recommendation of a friend. I am so infinitely glad that I did because the album became the soundtrack to my summer. This charming little show was so well suited to its intimate venue and I will always treasure having seen it.

Seeing John Owen Jones as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables

I have wanted to see John Owen Jones as Jean Valjean for years and this summer I got to not once, but twice. His Valjean was absolutely every bit as great as I expected...and better! Hearing him sing "Bring Him Home" was honestly a spiritual experience for me.

Taking an acting class
This fall, I took Acting for Non-Majors with my friend, Jenna, and we had such an amazing time. Not only did I get to perform a scene from an incredible and challenging play, The Proof; I also got to do a monologue that a friend of mine wrote for a show called Bridge Over Oblivion. It was a challenge for me because I hadn't done any acting since high school, but it reminded me how much I used to love performing.

Meeting Daveed Diggs
There are no words to describe how incredible Daveed was as Lafayette/Jefferson in Hamilton when I saw him in March. He was also an absolute sweetheart at stage door and happily chatted with me and my family. My sister's lock screen for her phone is still their selfie! An absolute gent and someone that I feel honored I got to meet.

Ramin Karimloo's Broadgrass Concert

I'm not sure if I ever mentioned it on this blog before, but Ramin Karimloo was the reason I got into theatre in early high school after seeing the Les Mis concert video. So getting to see his Broadgrass concert (with special guests Andrew Kober and Tam Mutu, who are two of my favorite actors) was such a treat. I'm not afraid to admit that I cried because it felt like everything was coming full circle!

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