Saturday, October 31, 2015

Mysterioso

After a somewhat difficult week at school (end of the term, full moon, Halloween), it was wonderful to be sitting in the audience at Abravanel Hall for an incredible concert with the Utah Symphony last night.  The evening featured music, magic, and mayhem!  I loved it!  The orchestra, under the baton of guest conductor Jack Everly, played moody and atmospheric background music as various magicians and musicians performed.  Joseph Gabriel was very elegant and sophisticated in his presentation and he did things like light handkerchiefs on fire and then turn them into doves.  No big deal!  Les Arnold and Dazzle were absolutely hilarious.  They spoofed traditional vaudeville magic shows with Dazzle in an over-the-top sparkly costume with exaggerated movements and Les in tails and top hat.  They replicated Joseph Gabriel's act but, instead of doves, they used a goose.  Although their act was comedic, I was impressed with some of their tricks, especially when Dazzle was magically transported from one box to another.  Next Joseph Gabriel "randomly" selected someone from the audience and had her sing something.  At first she protested, saying she couldn't sing very well but he eventually convinced her to sing "The Sound of Music."  She sang it very badly!  Then he proceeded to hypnotize her and, at the snap of his fingers, she was able to sing classics by Barbra Streisand, Bernadette Peters, Judy Garland, and Celine Dion.  It was pretty spectacular but was she really hypnotized?  I admit that I actually fell for it for quite a while but it ended up being vocalist Christina Bianco performing some of her acclaimed one woman show called Diva Moments.  Pretty clever, nonetheless!  Finally, David and Dania performed an unbelievable routine where they change into a variety of different costumes in a matter of seconds.  I have seen them perform at Utah Jazz half-time shows before and it was even more amazing to see them close up.  In between the various performances the Utah Symphony played the main theme from the movie Spellbound and the Waltz from Masquerade Suite.  It was a great show and I really enjoyed it. I recommend getting a ticket (if you can) for tonight's performance if you want something sophisticated to do for Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tashena is Fifteen!

Yesterday was Tashena's birthday!  I simply cannot believe that she is fifteen!  Shortly after she joined our family, we celebrated her fifth birthday!  It is hard to believe that she has been a part of our lives for ten years and what an amazing ten years it has been.  She is a beautiful and talented girl and we love her so much (although both Marilyn and I wish we could still buy her Barbies like we did for her first birthday with us).
For her main present she wanted Beats headphones which made all of us jealous.  Tashena always has better technology than anyone else in our family.
Tashena got lots of gift cards (and is really excited to go shopping!), a purple umbrella, and the Pitch Perfect 2 DVD.
Tashena wanted brownies instead of a cake so our local bakery made this for her.  

2014
2013
2012
2011
2009
2008

Note:  I'm missing a few but the past ten years with Tashena have been amazing and we are so glad that she is a part of our family!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Bridge of Spies

Last night I went to see Bridge of Spies which tells the true story of the exchange of U.S. and Soviet spies during the Cold War.  As a student of history and a fan of spy novels, this movie definitely appealed to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  In 1957, Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) is suspected of being a Soviet spy and is subsequently arrested.  New York attorney James Donovan (Tom Hanks) is asked to represent him to give the appearance of due process.  Despite the objections of his firm and his family, not to mention the American public, Donovan vigorously defends him and eventually argues against execution on the grounds that Abel could be useful to trade for an American spy caught in the Soviet Union.  Donovan's words become prophetic when a U-2 spy plane is shot down in the Soviet Union and the pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is captured.  Donovan, as a private citizen, is asked to broker the exchange in East Berlin.  When he learns that the Stasi has captured an American student, he works to include him in the exchange with Abel to the dismay of the CIA.  Donovan gives East Germany an ultimatum and the exchange takes at Checkpoint Charlie while the exchange of Abel and Powers takes place in a dramatic scene on the Glienicke Bridge between East and West Germany.  The action is slow but incredibly intense with many dramatic scenes involving Cold War intrigue, especially in East Berlin.  In my opinion Tom Hanks excels at portraying these "everyman" characters and this role is no exception (I once read that Tom Hanks is the Jimmy Stewart of our time).  The scene where Donovan argues an appeal before the Supreme Court is extremely powerful and a scene where he is reviled on the train is very affecting.  I also really enjoyed Mark Rylance in his self-contained performance as Abel.  In addition, there are quite a few excellent performances in small roles such as Alan Alda as Donovan's boss and Sebastian Koch, a noted German actor, as Vogel, the East German negotiator (Eve Hewson, Bono's daughter, does a good job in a small role as Donovan's daughter).  I took a contemporary American history class in college and wrote a paper on the U-2 spy incident (which fascinated me) so I literally had goosebumps during the scene where they showed the plane to the pilots (much like my reaction to seeing the Enigma machine in The Imitation Game).  I am such a nerd!  I would recommend Bridge of Spies to fans of the genre.

Note:  As I was walking out of the theater, I ran into my sister and brother-in-law who were waiting to see The Martian.  I decided to join them to see it for the third time.  It is so good!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Thriller 2015

One of my favorite Halloween traditions is seeing Thriller performed by Odyssey Dance Theatre.  I've been going to this dance concert for years and years and I always look forward to it.  Just like The Nutcracker at Christmas time, I anticipate every dance even though I've seen them countless times!  The concert always begins with the undead cavorting in a graveyard to Michael Jackson's iconic song, "Thriller."  Speaking of the undead, they roam the aisles of Kingsbury Hall before the concert and they usually leave me alone because I don't make eye contact with them.  Last night they targeted me for some reason (maybe because I was on the front row?).  I loved the breakdancing mummy in "The Curse of the Mummy," the Pas de Deux gone horribly wrong in "Frankenstein & Frankenstein," the tap dancing skeletons in "Dem Bones," the trio of Jasons with their knives and swords and chainsaws (oh, my!) in "Jason Jam," the scarecrows who come to life in "Children of the Corn," the condemned witches who return for revenge in "Salem's Mass," the acrobatic vampires in "The Lost Boys," and the doomed Irish dancers in "River of Blood Dance."  There were also a few new surprises this year which were a lot of fun.  All of the dancers are amazing and the show is incredibly entertaining and fun to watch.  It just wouldn't be Halloween without it!  Thriller is being performed in multiple venues around Utah through Oct. 31.  Go here for tickets and more information.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Big Fish at HCT

Wednesday night I had the chance to see the musical Big Fish at Hale Centre Theatre.  I didn't know anything about the music or story before I saw it but now I can tell you that it is absolutely charming. Will Bloom is exasperated by all of his father's wild stories involving an encounter with a witch, learning how to swim from a mermaid, a friendship with a giant, running away to the circus, and stopping an assassination attempt of a general during the war. When Will learns that his father is dying of cancer, he returns to visit and, after a Wild West confrontation between the two, discovers that his father has been a real hero all along. All of the songs are so uplifting, especially "Be the Hero," and I loved the choreography, costumes, and props featured in the fantastical stories recounted by Edward.  I think the scenes at the circus were my favorite and I just about died when the elephants (wearing pink tutus) appeared at the top of every aisle!  As usual, Kacey Udy has outdone himself with the set design.  There is a river (literally) flowing through the middle of the stage and it is pretty spectacular.  I also loved the use of miniatures to denote various locations such as the witch's haunted house, Auburn University, and the city of Ashton. Both Douglas W. Irey and Jacob Theo Squire are outstanding as Edward and Will Bloom, respectively. Irey portrays Edward's zest for life with an enthusiasm that is palpable and I really enjoyed his facial expressions, especially when he is wooing his future wife Sandra (Amanda Crabb). Squire portrays Will's journey from skepticism to appreciation for his father's stories with heartfelt emotion, particularly in the song "What's Next."  I also really enjoyed Mackenzie Seiler as The Witch.  She has an incredibly powerful voice and her song, "I Know What You Want," just about blew the roof off of the theatre (and received thunderous applause). I highly recommend this delightful show about the reconciliation between a father and son.  It runs at Hale Centre Theatre until Nov. 28 and you can go here for tickets and more information.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I Heart the Hard Rock Cafe

When I was in Las Vegas over fall break, I had to visit the Hard Rock Cafe on the Strip.  Even though Las Vegas is known for its many famous restaurants, I always seem to end up there!  I guess it started in 1990 when I was on a study abroad trip.  I visited London for about a week and near the top of my wish list of places to visit was the London Hard Rock Cafe because it was the very first one and it has a lot of fabulous Beatles memorabilia.
I wanted a souvenir from the HRC but I didn't have a lot of money and the shirts were quite expensive.  I decided to get a pin instead and thus began my pin collection.  Whenever I am in a city with a HRC, I try to get a pin and I now have hundreds of them.  It is a fun tradition to have when traveling.
Berlin
Denver
Barcelona
San Diego
Rome

Note:  My favorite HRC is the one inside the Rogers Centre.  Go Blue Jays!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jersey Boys in Las Vegas

Ever since I saw the Midtown Men (the original Broadway cast of Jersey Boys) perform at Abravanel Hall last spring, I have wanted to see Jersey Boys again!  I decided to see the Las Vegas production while I was in Southern Utah over fall break (Las Vegas is about two hours south of St. George) and, once again, I absolutely loved it!  I am fairly certain that I was one of the youngest people in the audience but I knew every single word to every single song and there were many times when I had to stop myself from singing out loud!  The musical tells the true story of how Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons became rock and roll legends from the perspectives of each of the four members. All of the main actors, Graham Fenton as Frankie Valli, Jason Kappus as Bob Gaudio, Jason Martinez as Nick Massi, and Daniel Robert Sullivan as Tommy Devito, are incredible performers who sing and dance just like the Four Seasons.  I loved all of the great music, especially when they performed "Sherry Baby" on American Bandstand, "Dawn (Go Away)" on The Ed Sullivan Show, and "Rag Doll" at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  The staging is incredibly clever.  They would often begin singing a song around a piano then move set pieces to depict recording the song and then they would put on jackets to perform the song on TV or on stage.  As the cameras filmed them, the footage would be projected on screens which I also thought was really clever.  There were three actresses who played multiple parts simply by changing costumes and wigs.  It was all incredibly seamless.  It is a very entertaining show to watch, although there is quite a bit of profanity, and I had such a great time.  After the bows, the cast came out once again to sing "December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)" and the entire crowd danced in the aisles!  It was so much fun and definitely worth the drive to Las Vegas!

Note:  Jersey Boys is performed at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.  It made me wish that I was really in my favorite city!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Zion National Park 2015

Over fall break I took a quick trip to Southern Utah.  Zion National Park is one of my very favorite places on Earth and it had been more than a year and a half since I had been there last.  That was much too long!  There is something about those red rocks that just calls to me and I spent a lovely day wandering around.  It was incredibly peaceful even though it was quite crowded and I needed a bit of peace after a crazy couple of months!
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