2017 Scrapbook

2017 scrapbook

I used to do this on Livejournal.  Then, not only did Livejournal become a ghost town, Photobucket basically went belly up. So I figured it was way past time for a new home for my annual tradition.

Basically, this is a compilation of all the things that I had enjoyed in my year, like music, books, television, films, and actors. Now that I have an entire blog dedicated to talking about books, I hardly need to include that in the scrapbook, but I still wanted to include my other new discoveries! I’m certainly not including every single thing I watched or listened to, only the things I want to remember.  I always have such great fun doing this virtual scrapbook, and, as I’m going to tag people, I hope you will as well! (Feel free to use my banner if you like!)


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Stage Corner: Sweeney Todd

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Last week, I attended a performance of Sweeney Todd at the Barrow Street Theater.  Small and intimate and shedding the matter of the proscenium, the entire show takes place in a recreation of Harrington’s Pie & Mash, which is a London pie shop that has been in operation for 109 years! The set looks exactly like Harrington’s, with cafeteria style tables and dilapidated tiles.  This makes for an immersive, almost claustrophobic atmosphere that intensifies the performances.

And what performances they were! Pretty much the entire cast was stellar, with standouts for me being Michael James Leslie as Judge Turpin and Eryn Lecroy as Johanna.  Leslie has a deep bass voice that practically made the room quake.  Lecroy has a sweet, high soprano, probably typical of this role, but what made her stand out for me was her acting! She played Johanna with a kind of resigned snark and hidden simmering fury that made the character way more intriguing than she could have been.

Carolee Carmello as Mrs. Lovett was utterly hilarious, and rightfully received most of the laughs.  John-Michael Lyles was a very endearing and flamboyant Tobias.  And Jake Boyd played Anthony with a kind of wild exuberance and barely controlled panic (and his voice was fab!).  Hugh Panero was fine – I didn’t dislike him, and his voice is certainly good, but his acting left much to be desired. Perhaps it’s the direction, perhaps it’s the role, but I found him to be wooden and somewhat removed from the performance, as though he were a dimension away from all the other actors.

The show itself was so, so creepy! It made great use of the small room to play around with various lighting effects that enhanced the creep factor.  The actors totally gave in to camp, joining together in intense chorus that sounded nearly hymnal, a brilliant contrast given the show’s subject matter.  There was black humor in droves, including a song consisting almost entirely of puns about baking people into pies.

It was such a fun experience! I really felt like I had been transported to Victorian London, that I was a customer in a dingy pie shop.  I even had the pre-show meat pie and mash, which, sadly, were not to my taste.  Spices, people! Have you heard of spices? And why are you putting cheese in mashed potatoes, come on!

My first and only experience with Sweeney Todd was that Johnny Depp movie like ten years ago.  Needless to say, this was definitely an improvement on that, and a perfect show to see during Halloween month!

Stage Corner: War Paint

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Yesterday I entered the War Paint lottery on a whim, since I was entering a bunch of other lotteries, and I didn’t really expect to win. I didn’t even know what the show was about when I put my name in. I think I had some vague notions of an actual war, but that is not what this show is about at all.  It is in fact using “war paint” as a euphemism for makeup to tell the story of rivals Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein.

Historically speaking, this was an intriguing story.  I had no idea Arden had had any kind of rivalry with anyone, and I’d never even heard of Rubinstein (apparently what was left of her company ended up being owned by L’Oreal).  According to the Playbill, the show tried to be as historically accurate as possible, with the exception of a condensed timeline, and so it was fascinating to witness the rise and fall of these two giants of industry.

What was not fascinating was the musical itself.  The music carried certain hints and flavors of 40s tunes that I like, but otherwise it was forgettable and uninspired.  I don’t think there’s a single song that has stuck with me (I mean, maybe Fire and Ice?).  Staging was quite basic as well.

Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden did fine, though she didn’t wow me.  I did very much enjoy Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein, however.  She was given most of the comedic lines, which she delivered fantastically.  I actually found myself much more invested in the spoken dialogue than in any of the music.  John Dossett and Douglas Sills as Tommy Lewis and Harry Fleming were practically indistinguishable, though perhaps that was intentional.  The rest of this small cast didn’t have very much to do, so there were no particular standouts.

And, not to go into some heavy discourse here, but the hodgepodge mix of varying feminisms was somewhat jarring.  Makeup was praised “war paint” and talked about as if it was the one thing that could raise a woman up.  “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones,” Helena Rubinstein famously said.  In the show Rubinstein also muses on her own unusual beauty: her dark hair, her Slavic nose, and insists this is what makes her unique. In one touching moment, she reads a letter from a girl who wonders why she is still ugly after using makeup.  Arden and Rubinstein also frequently muse on their roles as women in a man’s world.  Through it all runs the thread of makeup as empowering and improving lives.

Then, at the very end of the show, when Arden and Rubinstein finally talk to each other, Arden wonders, “Did we free [women] or enslave them?” Yet this throwaway line, sung somewhat abruptly in the final song, feels like an afterthought, tossed in just to satisfy those who might raise issue with the portrayal of makeup.  It is certainly never given appropriate weight, or even appropriate time.  One the one hand I understand this decision given that the story is, after all, about two women who pioneered the makeup industry.  On the other hand, if that line about enslaving women was going to be included, I would have liked to have seen some more foreshadowing of it throughout the rest of the show.

Overall, I didn’t love this, but I didn’t dislike it either.  I certainly enjoyed the show as a learning experience and Patti Lupone is a master at delivering comedic beats.  But would I recommend it? Not really.

The Great Ask Tag of 1812

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I have seen Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 four times and counting (I already have tickets to see it another two times RIP my bank account) because it is an incredible piece of theatre. After I see it the sixth time I will likely post something talking more in depth about my experience with it and its intense draw for me, but for now, here’s an ask meme I stumbled upon on Tumblr.

 

1. Which song do you want to see performed live the most?

Well, I’ve seen them all, and I think the pieces where the whole ensemble is on stage (The Duel, Preparations, Balaga, The Abduction) are freaking incredible. The cast is absolutely bursting with manic, frenzied energy and it’s infectious.

2. Were you a fan of Comet before it came to Broadway?

Not at all! In fact I had never even heard of it before it came to Broadway. I am a fan of Rachel Chavkin, having seen her Hadestown three times, but I only realized she was directing Great Comet literally the day before I saw it for the first time. I don’t even remember why I wanted to see it in the first place.

3. Act 1 or Act 2?

Ahhhhh that’s tough! The first time I saw it I thought Act 2 was better, but I think it depends on who’s playing Pierre, since he has more solos in Act 2.

4. Favorite character?

Helene Bezukhova, followed closely by her brother Anatole! I just think the pair of them are fascinating characters and quite the dynamic duo.  I could write pages and pages of headcanons for both of them. They are so utterly flawed and rather terrible privileged selfish people, but they have these small moments when kinder traits shine through and it is super intriguing to me. Helene in particular I find interesting because she is a woman who so brazenly owns her sexuality and is taking charge of her own life.

5. Least favorite character? 

I just started reading War and Peace, so perhaps I’m blurring the lines a little here, but I don’t like Andrei.  So far in the book he comes off as a misogynist. If we’re talking strictly about the show, hmm, perhaps his father?

6. What would you do to stop Comet from closing?

A Lot. I literally had a dream about the Great Comet’s closure, clearly I am very distressed!

7. Off-Broadway or Broadway cast recording?

I have actually never listened to the Off-Broadway recording! That’s next on my list.

8. Has Comet made you read or want to read War and Peace?

Yup! I tend to shy away from classics, and I never ever would have picked up the gigantic tome that is War and Peace if it weren’t for this show. I started reading it yesterday and I’m about 60 pages in so far; it’s so much fun tying the show to the characters in the book! It definitely makes the reading experience more interesting.

9. Favorite cast member? 

I am obsessed with Lucas Steele and Amber Gray, particularly the pair of  them together. According to interviews they are rather good friends, as they have been performing together for so long. It really shows in their performance, too, in the way they interact; their chemistry is off the charts. When I saw the show last night Amber’s understudy was playing Helene and her interactions with Lucas, while good, just weren’t the same.

10. Favorite Natasha?

I’ve only seen Denee Benton and Shoba Narayan in action, but I loved them both! They’re both gorgeous and adorable and have beautiful voices; they play Natasha a little bit differently but both their performances are wonderful.

11. Favorite Pierre?

I’ve seen all the Pierres, so my ranking is thus: Groban, Oak, Scott, Dave. I actually really dislike Dave’s Pierre; his voice really grates.  I think Groban has the best vocals, Oak has the best stage presence, and Scott does a really great job of combining those two things.

12. Character you relate to the most? 

I just…really love Helene for some reason? We are absolutely nothing alike at all, but I sympathize with her so much. She’s married to this man she detests, whom she only married because her father arranged the marriage, and she’s just trying to eek out whatever pleasure she can from life. If that means hurting other people, so be it. It’s not a great character trait, but it just makes her so fascinating, particularly as a female villain.

13. Do you ship Anatole and Dolokhov?

100%.  I fully believe Anatole and Dolokhov and Helene have a threesome going on.

14. Do you ship Hélène and Marya?

Meh, not really?

15. Do you ship Dolokhov and Hélène?

If Anatole comes along, then sure. Otherwise, meh.

16. Do you ship Anatole and Natasha?

Kind of! I’m actually really fascinated by this whole thing. In the show, when Pierre is looking for Anatole and Anatole is singing “It is essential that I see Natasha; how can I see her?” he is clearly very distraught.  He looks disheveled and nearly on the verge of tears as he goes through her letters; it certainly doesn’t look like he’s a rake who doesn’t give a shit about anything. I do think he’s really just a privileged man who’s totally oblivious to consequences and just as rash and impulsive as Natasha herself.  I think he really did fall in love with her and decided he had to have her and consequences be damned.  Like, he just doesn’t think about other people or rules or traditions but I don’t think he’s malicious; in fact so far in War and Peace Anatole comes off as rather benevolent, someone invested in making sure everyone has a good time.

17. Have you met anyone in the cast? If so who did you meet?

Nope! I’ve been tempted to wait outside the stage door before but like…I would be an awkward mess.

18. Fuck, marry, kill; Dolokhov, Anatole, and Hélène.

Kill Dolokhov, fuck Anatole, marry Helene.

19. Have you seen Comet?

Four times and counting!

20. How long have you been a Comet fan?

Not very long! I first saw it right before Groban left which was…early this summer, I think?

21. The Duel or Letters?

The Duel. It’s a wild party from start to finish, with strobe lights and cast members dressed up like they’re at a 90s rave, nonstop dancing…it’s ridiculous.  But Letters is awesome too, especially when Lucas sings the “Nataly, Nataly, Nataly!!” bit at the end.

22. Pierre or Dust and Ashes?

Dust and Ashes!

23. Moscow or Sunday Morning?

Moscow, although there’s something to be said for the way Grace McLean belts out “Time for church!” in Sunday Morning.

24. Character you want to play?

Helene, hands down.

25. Have you written Comet fan fiction?

Haven’t quite reached that level of obsession yet, but I’m getting there.

26. Have you read Comet fan fiction?

See above.

27. Anatole’s and Dolokhov’s kiss or Marya’s and Hélène’s kiss?

Anatole and Dolokhov kiss??? How have I seen this show four times and never noticed this?

28. Favorite song?

This is nearly impossible to answer! I’m very, very fond of the Prologue, especially on stage when the spotlight jumps so quickly from  character to character! The Opera is fantastic for the way it introduces Dolokhov, Helene, and Anatole.  The Ball and Letters are fantastic because Lucas gets to belt out some incredible lines.  The Duel, Preparations, Balaga, and The Aduction are an insane nonstop party with the entire cast dancing like it’s their last day on Earth and a million ridiculous things happening all over the stage.  I’m also fond of Sonya & Natasha, In My House, The Private and Intimate Life of the House (“And tiiiiiiiiime moooooooves ooooooooon!”), Moscow, and Charming (AMBER!), A Call to Pierre, and Pierre & Anatole.

…I think it would have just been easier to name my least favorite songs.

29. Least favorite song?

Definitely Pierre & Natasha and The Great Comet of 1812.  They’re such a snooze fest compared to the rest of the musical! Whenever I listen to the album I always skip these.

30. Favorite lyric?

A single one? Hmm…I’m fond of “the queen of society: beautiful, barely clothed!” and “We lived, laughed, and loved!” and “Smash your glasses on the floor!” and “Here’s to happiness, freedom, and life!”

31. Own any merch?

Not yet! Yesterday I lingered around the merch station thinking I might buy a t-shirt, but I left and ended up buying tickets for another show instead.  I might still buy the t-shirt, though! If the merch is available online I’ll browse and think on it.

32. Have you listed to or are a fan of any of the cast members’ solo music?

I like Lulu Fall’s work! She was only an ensemble cast member, though. I’ve tried out Dave Malloy’s Ghost Quartet but didn’t like it much, nor do I like Grace McLean’s music. I haven’t listened to anything of anyone else’s yet, though I would love to try it if someone pointed me towards it!

33. Can you play any Comet songs on an instrument?

I can’t do anything music related to save my life. I’m not exactly tone-deaf, but rather close. I wish more than anything that I could sing, but alas.  Perhaps that’s why I’m such a fan of this show; everyone in it is clearly so multi-talented.  Singing, dancing, acting, instruments…they do it all splendidly!

34. Do you follow all of the cast on social media?

Not all, but a few! Lucas and Denee are the first who come to mind. I think I follow Shoba as well? Not sure.

35. Do you have a dream cast? If so who is in it?

After I finish reading War and Peace you can bet your ass I’m doing a gigantic fancast.

36. Character you would be best friends with irl?

I’m just…in love with Helene, you guys.  I also think Anatole would be a really fun friend to have.

37. First song you heard from Comet?

The Prologue!

38. Describe Comet using 5 words.

Mesmerizing, Carnivalesque, Enthralling, Enchanting, Eclectic

39. Can you pronounce all the Russian and French in the show correctly?

I don’t speak either language but I tend to be rather decent at accents, so yes!

40. How did you become a Comet fan?

I mentioned this briefly before, but I sort of went to see the show on a whim? Like, a theater friend had said it was a really good show and that the soundtrack was kind of electropop/chamber pop/opera-ish and I was immediately fascinated because I really love that type of music. The fact that a black woman is the leading lady was also a huge draw.  I didn’t even know it was about War and Peace until like the day before when I read summaries online. I had no idea what I was getting into! The first time I saw it I liked it a lot, but it was really only after the second time that I truly fell in love. There’s so much going on that you really appreciate it more the second time when you’re not trying to keep track of everything and you already know everyone’s names and what happens.
I want to tag people, but I don’t know who’s seen this except Rachel @ pace, amore, libri and Chelsie @ Spotlight on Stories! If you’re a Great Comet fan, please let me know in the comments!