It Takes a Woman (Three, actually)

Greetings, readers! Sorry this post is late, but it was a long week and I was also suffering from some writer’s block. (Drat!) Luckily, I found some great subject matter this weekend in the form of a production of Jerry’s Girls.

My doll, Cecily, is on hand to help me with this recap.tumblr_ocyid8cb591thkr0po1_500
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The show was presented at my theatrical home-away-from-home, off-Broadway’s York Theatre Company. It is a breakneck revue of the songs of Jerry Herman, composer/lyricist for such classics as Hello Dolly!Mame, and La Cage Aux Folles. He was also the brain behind some lesser successes, i.e. Mack and Mabel and Dear World. Nevertheless, the fact that a piece of the Jerry Herman songbook is able to fill a 2-hour show…without any dialogue…cements him as one of musical theatre’s literary greats.

I got tickets to this production as a birthday gift for my grandmother, who loves all those old showtunes. It starred “two Stephanies and a Christine,” tasked with singing every number as a solo, duet, or trio- no ensemble required.

What I found particularly interesting was that each actress seemed to have a particular strength. Stephanie #1 (D’Abruzzo) was the physical actress, Christine (Pedi) was the classic comedienne, and Stephanie #2 (Umoh) was the torch singer. There was never a dull moment, thanks also in part to the charismatic (and very animated) pianist, Mr. Eric Svejcar.

Group songs like “Take It All Off” and “Hello Dolly” produced big laughs and inevitably brought the house down. In my opinion, each lady also had a couple of standout solos. I loved Christine’s rendition of “The Man in the Moon” from Mame, originally recorded by the peerless Bea Arthur…heaven rest her soul. Stephanie #1 delivered a simultaneously poignant and rousing “Before the Parade Passes By.” And Stephanie #2 showed off every vocal chop with a knockout performance of “I Am What I Am.”

Also, all three girls sang a number that made me cry. But I’ll let my doll friend cover that. Take it away, Cecily!

Cecily: “Your humble blogger cried first during Stephanie #2’s rendition of ‘I Won’t Send Roses.’ She bawled again during Christine’s ‘If He Walked Into My Life.’ Finally, she teared up with Stephanie #1’s ‘Time Heals Everything (But Loving You).’ She really ought to carry around a water-well when she goes to the theatre.

That’s all, folks! I hope you enjoyed this trip through history with Jerry’s Girls and little me. Stay tuned for next week’s post. I promise it won’t be as delayed.

Goodbye, Miss Kathleen: Reflection on a Teacher

“Goodbye Miss Kathleen,

From the young girl in the 22nd row

Who sees you as something more than what we know,

More than just our sophomore hero.”

Knowing the subject of this post in high school taught me some important lessons…and not just the ones I got from her classroom.

Kathleen Nolan taught a few religious studies courses at St. Joseph Hill Academy high school. She was a soft-spoken woman, probably in her sixties, with short mouse-brown hair and spectacles. She was rarely seen not wearing a sweater-and-long-skirt ensemble. This God-fearing educator was also fighting for social justice…as well as a long battle with cancer.

It was she who first told me to “keep things in perspective.” She was also one of the select people who found amusement (rather than annoyance) in my histrionics. At the innocent age of 15, I admired Ms. Nolan’s strength and tact, and yet her existence also confused me greatly. I couldn’t wrap my head around why such a gentle person had to suffer in such a manner. I remember crying over her more than once. Her cancer ultimately went into remission, but she still retired the following year.

Through my fleeting experience here, I learned that bad things would happen to good people. But I also figured out that if we spread charity and decency…and maintain optimism…happiness is still a very tangible goal.

I’ve sadly come to accept that I will never see Ms. Nolan again, at least not in this lifetime. I guess it’s often impossible for teachers to know whether or not they made a difference in their students’ lives. I think everyone fails to recognize just how many people drift in and out of his or her life; that doesn’t diminish their significance, though.

So…do as Ms. Nolan did…and be good to others.

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L.A.M.B. Album Appreciation Post

Is it just me, or does one of these “guilty pleasure music Appreciation Posts” pop up on my blog every year? First it was for Teenage Dream, then Spiceworld, and now…2004’s Love Angel Music Baby, the solo debut for Gwen Stefani. Can I start by saying that this album has one of the weirdest covers ever…and that it’s totally awesome?

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I would probably like this artwork more, though, if the shapes/colors weren’t morphed and gel-like. But what can you do.

Anyway, my first exposure to the record was actually from hearing my mom’s favorite track on the radio. Since then, that song- “What You Waiting For?”- has become one of my favorites as well. With Gwen’s signature vocals and a pounding electro-beat, it has an energizing effect on the listener. Mom wound up purchasing the CD for herself, but I basically stole it, and I don’t believe she’s noticed. It’s been over a decade.

I guess you could describe the underlying theme of the music as…megalomaniacal? Almost all of them are about love, fashion, money, or any combination of the three. So hey, it may not be great art, but sometimes you need that level of fun.

What makes L.A.M.B. unique is the fact that it spawned an entire franchise here in the United States. Gwen Stefani has a notorious fascination with Japanese street culture, so she used this album to share her love with us. Clothing, perfumes, and (really cute) fashion dolls were just some of the paraphernalia.

Unfortunately, that created quite a bit of controversy related to cultural appropriation…particularly when she went on tour. You see, Gwen had four backup performers at the L.A.M.B. concerts: young Japanese women she called her “Harajuku Girls.” This dynamic generated many ill feelings, as the girls were referred to as “modern day Geisha” by critics. I’m not looking to generate a discourse here; I will only say that their concerns are pretty valid.

Nevertheless, Love Angel Music Baby‘s controversial elements don’t prevent me from enjoying the record itself. If you feel like indulging in some “Bubble Pop” sound or acting like a “Rich Girl,” this is how you do it. So “what you waiting for?” Go B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

Spotlight: The Top 10 Musical Theatre Breakup Songs

FEELS TRAIN!

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One of the great things about the arts is that is can shape our emotions. As humans, we are often very driven by those emotions. Therefore, tapping into the right ones can bring about a great deal of social/personal change. But, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. This list is fairly basic: just a compilation of, in my humble opinion, the most powerful, sob-inducing musical theatre songs about the end of a relationship.

~Always Starting Over (If/Then)

“My love, our life is over, but love, I’ll make you one last vow…to start over and over and over somehow. My new life starts right now!”

~The Winner Takes It All (Mamma Mia!)

“I don’t want to talk about things we’ve gone through…I’ve played all my cards, and that’s what you’ve done too. Nothing more to say, no more ace to play.”

~The Music That Makes Me Dance (My Man) [Funny Girl]

“What’s the difference if I say I’ll go away, when I know I’ll come back on my knees someday? For whatever my man is, I am his forevermore.”

~Burn (Hamilton)

“The world has no right to my heart…you forfeit all rights to my heart! You forfeit the place in our bed…with only the memories of when you were mine!”

~Small World (Reprise) [Gypsy]

“Lucky, you’re a man who likes children. That’s an important sign. Lucky, I’m a woman with children. Small world, isn’t it?”

~Losing My Mind (Follies)

“I spend sleepless nights to think about you. You said you loved me, or were you just being kind? Or am I losing my mind?”

~Be On Your Own (Nine)

“And you’ll take with you all you own, from A to Z, and all of me.”

~This Nearly Was Mine (South Pacific)

“Now, now I’m alone. Still dreaming of paradise, still saying that paradise once nearly was mine!”

~Send in the Clowns (A Little Night Music)

“Isn’t it rich? Isn’t it queer? I thought that you’d want what I want- sorry, my dear…but where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns. Well maybe next year.”

~We Do Not Belong Together (Sunday in the Park with George)

“No one is you, George, there we agree. But others will do, George. No one is you and no one can be. But no one is me, George, no one is me…I have to move on!”

Pop Culture Pondering: Four Reasons Why Kids Should Play Neopets

Okay, this week’s entry might seem a little random. In fact, you may have read the title of this post and thought Amanda had finally cracked her nut. But I insist, hear me out on this one.

Neopets is the original MMORPG for virtual pets, but it is so much more. It’s a whole galaxy to explore. It’s a world of people from across the Earth chatting like they’re best friends. And, of course, it is cute pixel critters that you get to bond with. The company was started by two British folks just before the new millennium. Today, it has millions of users, many of whom have been part of the site for years. I myself began my Neopets adventure when I was just 9 years old. (I’ll be 24 in two weeks.)

And while, yes, the game is highly addictive…it also taught my younger self some great skills. Here are just a few of them, and why I think it is actually beneficial for parents to setup a Neopets account for their children.

queenfyoraHTML. I am not kidding; playing Neopets taught me HTML coding. You see, in order to customize the various pages on your account, you must do all the coding yourself. Oh sure, the site gives you many templates that you can copy and paste to create layouts. But looking at these codes, over time, enabled me to learn which ones triggered such-and-such on the Internet. I still use the foundation from this to date!

kacheekswimFinancial responsibility. Not only does the Neo-world have its own stock market system, you also learn basic money management principles. See, in order to get cool things for your pets and virtual life, you need to save up Neopoints (NP). It was here that I learned how to “haggle” prices, since you can barter with the online shopkeepers to get better deals on stuff. You’ll even open your own store for other users to visit and get a sense of how supply-and-demand works.

illusendollMotor skills. One of the ways you can earn NP is by playing an endless variety of Flash games, for free! These range from arcade-style games to brain-twisting puzzles. Now, I’m not saying that you should let your tykes spend hours trying to beat their high score. But studies have shown that limited video gaming can strengthen cognitive processing and, particularly, hand-eye coordination.

kioskwockySocialization. As I said earlier, Neo-folks have formed a bustling community. Although users cannot write on the message boards until their 13th birthday, they become an invaluable resource. The Neopets staff strictly monitors their forums to ensure that they are safe for everybody. So for someone like me who had trouble interacting in the real world…the online community became a haven. Here, I could see which social protocols worked and which did not.

(Source: Neopets)

Why Sutton Foster is Resume Goals

Two Tony Awards? Check.

Dance moves better than yours? Check.

A proven record on television? Check.

Well, there’s no doubt about it- Ms. Sutton Lenore Foster has the resume that every performer wants.

As one of Broadway’s most popular leading ladies, Sutton is one of those chameleon actresses, one that can slip in and out of almost any brassy role in the theatre canon. She manages to create portrayals that are both sweet and sassy. This, in turn, has earned her a very devoted fanbase. But perhaps the most remarkable thing about her is that, unlike most stage stars, she’s also managed to transition into the elusive entertainment medium of screen.

Most recently, as if she weren’t enough of a superhero…Sutton added “Mom” to her list of roles by adopting a little girl. In today’s entry- which just happens to be my 250th- I’m going to take you on a little tour of Sutton Foster’s career highlights.

Sutton Foster

photo credit: Joan Marcus

In 2002’s Thoroughly Modern Millie, she looked absolutely stunning in this iconic red dress and tap-danced her way to her first Tony Award win. At this year’s Tony Awards ceremony, she presented costar Gavin Creel with his first prize for Hello Dolly! (Don’t you just love full-circle moments?)

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In 2006, Sutton failed to prove she wasn’t a “Show Off” in the beloved, nostalgic romp known as The Drowsy Chaperone. In this musical-within-a-comedy, she played an actress portraying a bride-to-be named Janet. Confused yet? Don’t worry, it makes much more sense when you see it take shape onstage!

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She snagged her 2nd Tony Award for the 2011 revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes. Sutton played Reno Sweeney, the sexy songstress who actually makes a living as an evangelist. Opposite fellow Broadway heavyweight Joel Grey, she knocked standards like “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “Blow Gabriel Blow” out of the park.

"Younger" (Ep. 201- Airs January 13, 2016)

After making her mark on the short-lived ABCFamily show Bunheads, Sutton finally struck oil with TVLand’s hit program Younger. On this show, she portrays Liza, a 40something writer who ever-so-slightly fakes her age to get ahead in her career. The series is now in its 4th season.

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But just because she’s now a television name doesn’t mean that Sutton is abandoning her theatre roots. In fact, just last year, she headlined the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Sweet Charity. Extended multiple times, the show has generated rumors of a Broadway transfer. Is there anything this woman can’t nail?

Do you love him, Loretta?

“Love don’t make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart.”

Dearest Anonymous…we had a good talk last night, I think. It always feels good when you get things out on the table, because then you can work on fixing them. Step by step.

Of course, in our case, that will take quite some time.

It’s easy to fall in love with love. It makes your brain run on all cylinders. It makes your heart race in the best way. You get this stupid grin on your face for no discernible reason. And you feel at peace with your world. In my humble opinion, love is the most important driving force of the human spirit. It’s what keeps us together as a species. When channeled, it can move mountains.

Unfortunately, no matter how powerful love is, sometimes it gets misdirected. When that happens, you get what Nicolas Cage describes in the above quote from one of my favorite movies. Or you get what’s transpired between you and me over the past year.

Neither of us may have regrets, but I will still maintain that leaving me was a mistake on your part. Maybe that’s at the core of why I seem to get pulled into your gravitational field over and over. Because I don’t believe I got a fair chance to prove that I could be what you needed.

Near the beginning of Moonstruck, Olympia Dukakis asks Cher if she loves her fiancee. When Cher replies “No,” Olympia says that this is a good thing: “When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can.” Well…I don’t think you are quite that sadistic! But, you will lie in the bed you made.

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For now, Anonymous, have a lovely summer, good luck with your new gig, and may we both find the happiness we deserve. See you on the flip side.

Cut Song: “Bring Me Home” from SUMMER’S CHILD

by Amanda DeLalla

HOLLY:

BRING ME HOME

KEEP ME AT YOUR SIDE AND THEN

BRING ME HOME

SO I CAN FEEL ALIVE AGAIN

SO WHEN THE SUN WILL RISE

AT EVERY DAWN’S BRIGHT CRACK

YOU CAN LOOK INTO MY EYES

AND I’LL BE LOOKING BACK

OH, WHAT GOOD IS A MEMORY

IF IT ONLY BRINGS YOU PAIN?

IF I LOSE THE PAST, SET MY SOUL FREE

ALL MY STRENGTH I CAN REGAIN

I’VE NO ENERGY LEFT TO ROAM

SO OH, OH, OH BRING ME HOME

YOU AND ME COULDA BEEN A GOOD FIT

 

DEXTER:

DON’T YOU WASTE ANOTHER MINUTE

 

BOTH:

STEP ON INTO YOUR FUTURE

AND SEE WHAT COULD BE

DON’T LET YOUR FEAR OF ONE OR TWO

KEEP YOU FROM DOOR NUMBER THREE

 

DEXTER:

BRING ME HOME

DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD

BRING ME HOME

IT’S ALL YOU, OR HAVEN’T YOU HEARD?

BRING ME HOME

 

HOLLY:

BRING ME HOME

 

DEXTER:

BRING ME HOME

 

HOLLY:

BRING ME HOME

 

BOTH:

REWRITE THIS FATE

LET GO OF MY HATE

IF YOU’LL GAIN WHEN YOU LOSE

 

HOLLY:

THEN I KNOW WHAT I SHALL CHOOSE

 

BOTH:

AND BRING ME HOME

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(Source: Christopher Clark)

All That Jazz: Seven Things You Didn’t Know About the Chicago Film

Ah, Chicago. One of the greatest stage-to-film adaptations ever made, this Kander and Ebb musical has been playing nonstop on Broadway since the 1990s. Bringing it to the big screen was a considerably daunting task, but director Rob Marshall and screenwriter Bill Condon pulled it off…and then some. The movie was released just after Christmas of 2002 and proceeded to snag six Oscars, including Best Picture. In celebration of Chicago’s impending 15th anniversary, I’m going to share seven fun facts about this “razzle-dazzle” film that you might not have known.

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  1. Richard Gere was not the first choice for Billy Flynn. Weird but true! The producers originally considered John Travolta for the part.
  1. The original Velma Kelly, Chita Rivera, appears in the movie. The legendary Broadway dancer can be seen greeting Roxie (and smoking a cigarette) when the latter first arrives at the Cook County Jail.

 

  1. The director and screenwriter were later involved in two other major musical films. Rob Marshall directed 2009’s Nine, while Bill Condon did the screenplay for 2006’s Dreamgirls!
  2. Christine Baranski could never play Mary Sunshine on Broadway. Although Baranski is a veteran stage actress, she couldn’t actually play Mary Sunshine because (on Broadway) the role was written for a man!
  3. Lucy Liu wasn’t supposed to play Go-to-Hell-Kitty. They actually had pop diva Britney Spears tapped for this cameo role!
  4. The song “Class” was shot for the movie, but ended up on the cutting room floor. You can still watch the scene on the DVD as a bonus feature.
  5. Of the three main actors, only one has played a leading role on Broadway. That’s Catherine Zeta-Jones, who not only won her Academy Award for Chicago but took home a Tony Award for her performance in A Little Night Music.