Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Girl on the Train

My book club chose the wildly popular novel The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins as its March selection.  I was enthralled from the very first page.  Rachel takes the same commuter train into London every morning and, at a signal crossing, she sees the same couple having breakfast on their deck.  Little by little, we learn that Rachel is an alcoholic whose husband has left her for another woman and, furthermore, that she has been fired from her job and only takes the train to keep up appearances with her landlady.  She idealizes the couple she sees every morning, even making up names for them, and assumes they have the perfect life.  Then one day she sees something she shouldn't and the next day the woman goes missing. Rachel inserts herself into the investigation and learns that the couple didn't have the perfect life she imagined for them after all.  The narrative is told from multiple perspectives and the suspense builds and builds to a climax I didn't see coming (although several members of my group did). There have been many comparisons to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl (which my book club also read) because they are both psychological thrillers with unsympathetic characters and huge plot twists but I actually liked this book more. Even though Rachel is a complete mess with questionable judgement, I couldn't quite hate her.  I kept rooting for her to put the gin and tonic down and get herself together.  I did, however, get a bit confused with the sequence of the multiple narrators occasionally but I found it to be a quick and enjoyable read.  I would recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers.

Note:  Does anyone else romanticize people you don't know at all but come in contact with on a regular basis?  I have had season tickets to Broadway in Utah for years and I always sit near the same couple. They are quite a bit older than me and they are very affectionate with one another. I decided that they were a newly married couple who found each other later in life and were now living a fun and adventurous life together.  I was completely devastated when I eventually talked to them and learned that they had been married for years and had several children...

Monday, March 30, 2015

California Dreamin'

The trees are not brown and the skies are not grey (in fact Utah has had one of the mildest winters I can remember) but I am still dreaming of California!  Spring break starts for me tomorrow (I am taking a few extra days off) and I will be on my way to California in the wee hours of the morning!  I get to spend three days at Disneyland, a day at the Santa Monica Pier, and I get to see the musical Newsies at the Pantages Theatre in L.A. on Friday night.  I am so excited!  You can follow along on my instagram account (I'm @phaedrasadventures) and I will share the highlights when I return.  In the meantime, here are some of my favorite adventures in California.

Sea World
San Diego Padres game
San Diego Zoo
Wicked
Tour of the U.S.S. Midway
The beach

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Beethoven & Wagner

Last night, after an absence of over a month, I was very happy to be sitting in Abravanel Hall listening to the Utah Symphony!  This concert was much needed (my student body officers just finished sponsoring spirit week at school) and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the performance.  The orchestra began with Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 2.  This piece was very light, airy, and pretty.  It reminded me a great deal of Mozart so imagine my delight when I read in the program at intermission that Beethoven was very much influenced by Mozart during his early period.  I think I am slowly getting more knowledgeable and sophisticated in my appreciation of classical music!  I sat in the third tier so I really enjoyed watching pianist Ingrid Fliter's fingers literally fly up and down the keyboard.  She was amazing!  After the intermission, we heard the Orchestral Suite from The Ring by Wagner.  It was incredibly stirring and dramatic!  The Ring cycle is actually a series of four operas (Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried, and Gotterdammerung) which follow various Norse and Germanic mythological characters in their quest for a ring which gives dominion over the world.  The suite is a musical summary of these four works and, based on the sampling I heard last night, I would really like to see the entire cycle (which usually takes four nights to complete) because I absolutely loved it!  Guest conductor Jun Markl was just as dramatic as the music and I enjoyed watching all of his wild gestures.  At one point I thought he was going to leap off of the podium!  What a spectacular evening of music!

Note:  Remember when I said I was getting more sophisticated in my appreciation of classical music?  During "Ride of the Valkyries" from Die Walkure, all I could think of was "Kill the wabbit.  Kill the wabbit."  Clearly I have a long way to go!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Hate Hamlet

Last night I saw I Hate Hamlet at PTC.  It is absolutely hilarious!  Andrew Rally (Ben Rosenbaum), an actor whose popular TV show has just been canceled, moves to New York when he's inexplicably offered the role of Hamlet in a Shakespeare in the Park production.  As it happens, his new apartment was once owned by John Barrymore, an actor known for his legendary performance as Hamlet.  When Andrew realizes that he doesn't have the acting ability to play such a complex character, the ghost of Barrymore (J. Paul Boehmer) returns to coach him through it.  I laughed and laughed at Boehmer's antics as the over-the-top Barrymore, particularly when he challenges Andrew to a sword fight and when he teaches him how to bow.  Add a real estate broker who holds a séance to summon Barrymore, a ditsy girlfriend who thinks she is in love with the character of Hamlet, a talent agent who once had a fling with Barrymore, and a Hollywood producer trying to lure Andrew back to television and you get a really fun evening of theatre.  Juxtaposed with all of the comedy is a fascinating discussion about art vs. entertainment and selling out for fame rather than earning glory.  I must admit that the snob in me enjoyed all of the jabs at television.  "When you watch TV, you can eat.  You can talk.  You don't really have to pay attention."  However, I also enjoyed the funny comments about Shakespeare:  "It's like algebra on stage."  I'm sure many of my seniors would agree with that sentiment after reading Hamlet last semester.  All of the actors do a great job, especially Boehmer, the costumes are a lot of fun, especially the codpieces, and the set of John Barrymore's New York apartment is fantastic.  I highly recommend this production!  It runs at PTC until April 4 and you can purchase tickets here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Summer Concerts

There are so many great concerts coming to SLC this summer.  It seems like a new concert is announced every week and I keep buying tickets!  It looks like 2015 might be the Summer of Concerts and I am so excited!  It all started with Taylor Swift.  By the way, I read somewhere that life is too short to pretend that you don't like Taylor Swift so I will admit right now that I am a huge fan!  I debated and debated about getting a ticket but I decided to go for it (I had to use an alternate ticketing source because the SLC show sold out in minutes) because I really regret not seeing the Red tour.  Then I bought tickets to Rush!  I actually bought these tickets as soon as they went on sale which was in the middle of one of my classes.  I am the consummate professional!  I also have tickets to Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, Sam Smith, and Shania Twain!  Then last week U2 announced that they were adding a show in Denver to their schedule!  Squeal!  I have loved U2 since I was in eighth grade and I have seen them in concert every time they've come to SLC (SLC is currently not on their schedule).  I was toying with the idea of getting a ticket to one of the Chicago shows but it will be so much easier for me to get to Denver!  I was able to get a ticket and I am beyond excited!  The show is on the first day of summer vacation and I can't wait!

Here are some of my favorite summer concerts from years past.
U2 at Rice-Eccles Stadium - May 2011
The Eagles at Rio Tinto Stadium - May 2009
Paul McCartney at Rio Tinto Stadium - July 2010
Crosby, Stills & Nash at Red Butte Garden - August 2012

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sing Your Heart Out

Last night I went to see The Last Five Years, a film adaptation of the popular musical by Jason Robert Brown.  I haven't seen the musical but I really enjoyed this movie.  It tells the love story between Jamie Wellerstein (Jeremy Jordan), an up-and-coming writer, and Cathy Hiatt (Anna Kendrick), a struggling actress.  The narration alternates between the two of them with Cathy's story told in reverse chronological order starting at the end of their marriage ("I'm Still Hurting") and Jamie's told in chronological order starting just after they first meet ("Shiksa Goddess").  Their stories intersect in the middle with both of them singing about their wedding in the song "The Next Ten Minutes."  I thought it was a very clever device and I particularly liked the ending.  Cathy sings "Goodbye Until Tomorrow" after her first date with Jamie and Jamie simply says goodbye to her and walks away after writing the note she reads at the beginning of the movie.  I also liked the use of Cathy's jewelry as symbols of their relationship.  After reading Jamie's note, Cathy removes a watch, a bracelet, and her wedding ring and throughout the rest of the movie we see Jamie give them to her.  The lighting is also used very effectively to convey the status of their relationship: very bright and saturated in happier times and dark and somber as things deteriorate.  All of the songs are memorable and both Kendrick and Jordan give incredible performances.  I loved Kendrick's singing and dancing in "A Summer In Ohio" and Jordan gives a passionate rendition of "If I Didn't Believe in You."  I recommend this movie to all fans of musical theatre.  If you live in the SLC area, it is currently playing at the Broadway Centre Cinemas.  Go here for information and tickets.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Insurgent

Thursday night I went to the first screening of Insurgent with my cousin Emily and we had such a great time!  I loved this movie and I loved seeing it with my cousin.  Tris, Four, and their small band of rebels take refuge, first with Amity, and with the Factionless, and finally with Candor.  However, Jeanine needs a Divergent to open a box containing a message from the city's founders so Tris eventually surrenders in order to stop the needless killing of the rebels.  Tris undergoes a series of simulations, one for each faction, to discover the message which changes everyone's perceptions of the Divergents.  It is very rare that I like the movie adaptation better than the book, but in this instance I think the movie is much more cohesive.  I lost the thread of the story in the book and the differences (and there are a lot of them) in the movie helped me tie everything together.  Shailene Woodley has a much more emotionally complex role as Tris in this installment as she struggles with the consequences of her actions and she does an outstanding job, particularly in the scene where she confronts herself in one of the simulations.  I also loved Kate Winslet as the evil Jeanine and I really enjoyed her Eva Peron-like propaganda pieces projected on the buildings and vehicles in the city.  However, I thought the casting of Naomi Watts as Evelyn was odd because she doesn't seem old enough to be Four's mother.  Also, all of the other actors in the movie seem like window dressing (with the exception of Miles Teller as Peter who has a few amusing scene-stealing moments) because the narrative focuses so much on Tris and her guilt.  The action sequences and special effects, especially during the simulations, are incredible.  Devotees of the novels by Veronica Roth may be upset by all of the changes (dare we hope that there might be significant changes in Allegiant?) but they worked for me and I recommend the movie for what it is:  an escapist action adventure!

Note:  This week I spent time with three of my cousins!  I love that!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cosi Fan Tutte

Monday night I went to the opera Cosi fan Tutte by my favorite composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, at the Capitol Theatre.  Two soldiers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, are betrothed to a pair of sisters, Dorabella and Fiordiligi, respectively.  When they brag about the fidelity of their fiancees, Don Alfonso scoffs and devises a plan to test their loyalty.  He tells the women that the men have been called to war and then has the men, posing as Albanians (with elaborate mustaches which are, of course, the true symbol of manhood), try to woo them.  Don Alfonso enlists the help of Dorabella and Fiordiligi's maid, Despina, to aid the Albanians in their pursuit and thus ensues some hilarious physical comedy.  Even though the women eventually succumb to the Albanians' charms, Ferrando and Guglielmo decide to marry them anyway, because "women are like that."  The entire cast is outstanding, particularly Aaron Blake as Ferrando.  Some of his comedic elements were a bit over the top but his aria, "A Loving Breath," was the highlight of the production for me.  I thought the sparse set was very effective and I loved the beautiful costumes.  Susan Memmott-Allred dressed the cast in clothing from the 1920s and I especially loved the spats worn by the men.  This production is exceptionally well done but I definitely prefer the tragedies over the comedies.  I want a grand passion with desperation and betrayal, not mere flirtation, and I need someone to die in the arms of their lover!  However, the assembled audience at the Capitol Theatre seemed to enjoy this opera immensely (hoots of laughter greeted many of the antics on stage) so I suspect you will, too!  There are performances tonight and Friday night at 8:00 pm and a matinee on Sunday at 2:00 pm.  Go here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Note:  Hockey one night and opera the next!

Monday, March 16, 2015

A Weekend of Hockey in Denver

I absolutely love watching the Colorado Avalanche play at the Pepsi Center!  My dad and I try to go to at least one game every year (last year I went to three; two with my Dad and one with my cousins).  A couple of weeks ago we chose to go the game against the Calgary Flames (we try to pick a Canadian team so we can hear "O Canada" at the beginning of the game) on Saturday night and we invited my cousin Blaine, who lives in Denver, to go with us.  I counted down the days because I was so excited.  We drove to Denver (about an eight hour drive) and met my cousin Blaine downtown for dinner.  He picked a great place called My Brother's Bar and I ate one of the best burgers I have ever had!  Then we went straight to the Pepsi Center.  I like to get there early because I like to smell the ice (Blaine thought I was weird at first but then he said that you actually could smell the ice) and watch the practice skate.  That gets me really amped up for the game!
It was an incredible game!  The Avalanche are still in the hunt for a playoff spot so they started the game very aggressively!  They got a lot of shots on goal and it was so fun to watch!  At the end of the first period, the Flames really tightened things up and started shooting more.  During the second period, the Avalanche went on a power play and Alex Tanguay got a nice goal.  Just a few minutes later Ryan O'Reilly got a goal which electrified the Pepsi Center.  In the third period, the Flames scored two goals but John Mitchell (with an assist from my favorite player, Matt Duchene) got one of the prettiest goals I've ever seen and, luckily, the play that led to the goal happened right in front of us.  My dad always gets the good seats!  The last five minutes of the game were really tense but Semyon Varlamov (who stopped 29 shots) had an amazing save which got the crowd chanting, "Varly, Varly, Varly!"  I loved it!  The Avalanche won the game 3-2, which was thrilling for me because they lost the last two games I attended.  I loved every minute of this weekend!

Colorado Avalanche road trips are the best!
2014
2013
2012
2009

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mamma Mia

Friday night I had the opportunity to see the Broadway touring company perform Mamma Mia at Kingsbury Hall.  It was just as good as the first time I saw it in London twelve years ago!  Sophie Sheridan is getting married and wants her father to walk her down the aisle but she has a problem:  she doesn't know who he is and there are three possibilities!  She invites all three candidates to her wedding without her mother's knowledge and chaos ensues!  Add the music of Abba and you have more fun than should be allowed in a theatre!  I really loved the entire cast of this production, especially Georgia Kate Haege as Donna, Jeff Drushal as Sam, and Chelsea Williams as Sophie.  The highlights of the evening for me were Haege's rendition of "The Winner Takes It All" and Drushal's performance of "Knowing Me, Knowing You."  Both of them gave me goosebumps!  I also really enjoyed "Dancing Queen" performed by Donna and the Dynamos (Haege, Bailey Purvis as Tanya and Sarah Smith as Rosie).  It is hilarious when they try performing some of their old dance moves and hurt themselves.  All of the choreography is really fun, particularly in "Voulez Vous," "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!," "Under Attack," and "Lay All Your Love On Me" (I loved the fins).  However, the best part of the show just may be the encore after the bows.  The cast comes out in spandex jumpsuits and platform boots to sing "Mamma Mia," "Dancing Queen," and "Waterloo."  The audience usually sings along and dances in the aisles and it is so much fun!  This is definitely a show that I can see over and over and still enjoy!  I highly recommend getting a ticket if you have the opportunity.  It closes tonight at Kingsbury Hall but you can still get tickets here.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Cinderella

Last night was Girls Night Out with my mom and sister for the first screening of Cinderella.  Kenneth Branagh's lovely film is a live action version of the classic fairy tale and it is very much informed by the 1950 Disney animated version.  If you are at all offended by the someday-my-prince-will-come notion that a girl needs to be rescued from an unpleasant situation by a man, then this might not be the movie for you.  But if you are open to it, this film is absolutely enchanting and there is such a great message about having courage and being kind.  I loved everything about it:  the performances, the costumes, the set and art direction, the special effects, and even the choreography in the ball scenes.  Lily James (from Downton Abbey) and Richard Madden (from Game of Thrones) are perfect as Cinderella and Prince Charming and I especially love the fact that he falls in love with her when he first sees her as she really is (a common farm girl) rather than at the ball.  I also really enjoyed all of James' interactions with the mice (including Gus-Gus).   Cate Blanchett is delightfully wicked as the stepmother.  She is, without question, a villain but I liked Blanchett's vulnerability in the role.  The audience certainly understands her motivation for treating Cinderella so badly. My favorite performance was definitely Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother.  This role was tailor-made for the quirky Bonham Carter and I may or may not have giggled out loud when she said, "Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo."  The costumes are beautiful, especially Cinderella's dress at the ball, and those glass slippers (made of Swarovski crystal) are spectacular!  I also loved all of the over-the-top dresses worn by the stepmother and the stepsisters.  Branagh's aesthetic in this movie is so beautiful.  Cinderella's house, the surrounding forests, and the palace all conspire to transport the audience to a magical time and place while the ball is everything that a young girl could ever dream of and more.  The special effects are incredible.  Again, I was literally giggling (so was my mom) when the Fairy Godmother turned a pumpkin into a coach and the mice into horses.  It is just as impressive, if not more so, when the spell is broken at midnight and the coach is turned back into a pumpkin.  I would recommend this movie for the first dance at the ball alone!  I was spellbound by the choreography and the camera angles when Cinderella and the prince dance together.  It looks like James is floating on a cloud of blue silk and organza.  It is so incredibly romantic and it almost makes you believe in magic!  The whole time I was watching this movie, I felt like I did when I was a little girl watching the animated version.  Cinderella is so much fun and I especially enjoyed watching it with my mom and sister.

Note:  Stay through the credits so you can hear Helena Bonham Carter sing "Bibbity-Bobbity-Boo."  It is worth it! 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Weekend Camping Trip

The mild winter we have been having in Utah has given me a serious case of spring fever!  I have been itching to go camping so Marilyn and I planned this little weekend getaway to our favorite KOA in Fillmore (ironically we had the biggest snowstorm of the year last week).
We left in the afternoon on Friday but we hit some massive traffic on the way out of town so we didn't arrive until late in the evening (Fillmore is about 150 miles south of SLC).  The wonderful people who run this KOA know us personally because we camp here so often!  They told us they were getting worried about us!  They asked us why we weren't in the motor home, if our parents were with us, and if we brought the dogs!  I guess we do camp here a lot!
We love staying in the KOA cabins!  They are so comfortable with heating, air conditioning, and mini refrigerators.  They have nice beds (you bring your own linens or sleeping bags), a desk, and some chairs.  They don't have their own bathroom but there is a communal one nearby with really nice showers.  Friday night felt like a sleepover because we watched movies and ate treats all night!
Some views of our cute cabin. I especially love the porch because it is really relaxing to sit out there and read.  The weather was a little bit chilly but I still sat out there for quite some time!
Saturday was absolutely perfect because we literally did nothing but relax!  We read and sat around the firepit for most of the day.  Sunday was basically a repeat of Saturday. There was nothing that I had to do and that felt so good (especially after a few stressful weeks at school).  Camping (even in a cabin) definitely recharges my batteries and I hope I get to do a lot more of it this spring and summer!

2012
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