Friday, April 29, 2016

A New PR

Tashena had another track meet yesterday!  Usually I really love watching her compete but it was unbelievably cold.  Even though I was freezing I was still so proud of her!  She took first place in the long jump and second place in shot put!  In the discus, which is her best event, she threw 132.1 feet!  Yes!  You read that correctly!  She threw 132.1 feet which is her best distance ever.  She shattered the high school record and one of the coaches told my brother-in-law that Tashena would place in the top 40 in the nation on the college level with that distance!  Of course our family has always believed that she is incredibly talented but it is an amazing feeling to hear all of the other coaches, parents, and students cheering for her by name!  I always tease her about watching her compete at the Olympics but I may need to start saving my money for a trip to Tokyo in 2020!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Purple Rain

As with David Bowie several months ago, I was inexplicably saddened by the news of Prince's death.  I say inexplicably because, clearly, I do not know either of these musicians personally (although Marilyn and I saw David Bowie walking through the streets of London when we were there in 2010) which makes my grief seem somewhat excessive.  However, I believe that music is incredibly evocative.  Just one note can take me back to a particular time and place so when artists who are synonymous with my adolescence die it is like losing a piece of myself.  Whenever I hear a song from the Purple Rain soundtrack I instantly become the 16 year old girl who snuck into the movie with her friends (because it was rated R and they wouldn't let us buy tickets without our parents) during the summer of 1984.  That was a magical summer and seeing Purple Rain with my friends was very memorable and so much fun (we felt like such rebels).  When I heard that select AMC Theaters would be showing Purple Rain as a tribute to Prince this week, I knew that I had to get a ticket.  I saw it last night (I didn't have to sneak in this time) and it was awesome!  The theater was packed without a single seat available (on a Tuesday night!) and the crowd was rowdy, singing and cheering throughout the whole movie.  That it has the thinnest of plots (a tormented singer must deal with his inner demons in order to find love and success) and a terrible lead actress matters not.  Prince is the ultimate showman and this movie is at its best when he is on stage at the real-life Minneapolis club First Avenue.  My attention was riveted on his every move, especially during "Let's Go Crazy," "The Beautiful Ones," and, of course, "Purple Rain."  I was surprised at how tame "Darling Nikki" seemed to me now because it was pretty scandalous back in 1984!  Seeing Purple Rain on the big screen made me mourn Prince all over again because, in reality, I am really mourning the loss of the 16 year old girl who loved this movie so much!

Note:  When I heard that Prince had died, I was with my officers and the majority of them didn't know who he was.  I played snippets from my extensive collection and the only song they vaguely recognized was "Kiss."  What?

Saturday, April 23, 2016

On the Pitcher's Mound

This year Sean's Little League baseball team is the Giants.  He has a had a few games but last night was the first time I've been able to come see him play.  Before the game my sister said that he might be pitching for the first time.  After two innings, his team was down 16-0 and the coach decided to put him in.  We were really nervous for him because the crowd at Little League games likes to yell at the players (they are eleven).  My sister said she didn't think she could take the pressure and it was especially hard because he had to stand on the mound for a really long time before the catcher came out of the dugout to let him warm up and he seemed really nervous.  He was amazing!  He would stand there for an unusually long time with the ball in his glove staring the batter down before he would throw a pitch.  My brother-in-law called this his "strategy."  It worked!  I think he psyched the batters out because he would always make them swing away and strike out!  Even though his team lost, he was so happy after the game because we were so proud of him!  Everyone congratulated him as they walked past him, even the parents of the players on the other team!
 I hope he gets to pitch at his next game!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Peter and the Starcatcher at HCT

Peter and the Starcatcher is a magical story for children (and adults who refuse to grow up) about how a mistreated orphan boy becomes Peter Pan. It is currently playing at Hale Centre Theatre and I was able to see it last night. I've seen this wonderful play before but HCT's production just might be my favorite. The story is told on a minimalist stage with ordinary items used in creative ways as props requiring the audience to use their imagination. Many of the people sitting around me commented at intermission that they didn't really know what was going on!  I guess I am still a child at heart because I thought it was absolutely hilarious and I can't remember when I have laughed so hard! I laughed and laughed throughout the whole show and sometimes I was the only one laughing!  All of the actors are amazing with most of them playing multiple roles.  I really loved Kooper Campbell as Peter because he brought such a vulnerability to the role, Brighton Hertford as Molly because she portrayed her as such a strong and independent girl, and Nicholas Siler as the alliteration-loving Mrs. Brumbake because he was hilariously over-wrought but, in my opinion, Ben Abbott stole the show as Black Stache. Granted, Black Stache is my favorite character in the play but Abbott brought such a physicality to the role that made me laugh every time he was on stage (I felt the same way about his performance in HCT's production of Is He Dead?).  I loved watching his facial expressions and I loved it when he spoke directly to the crowd. I thought the staging was absolutely brilliant, especially the scene with the mermaids (I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe), and I particularly enjoyed the use the actors made of the many levels of the stage.  Kudos go to Peggy Willis for the fantastic costumes, especially the aforementioned mermaids, and Michelle Jensen is to be commended for the sheer number of props as well as the creative use of ordinary objects (I loved all of the green neckties used in the forest). I was absolutely enchanted by this production and, if you can summon your inner child as you enter the threatre, I suspect you will enjoy it too.  However, I highly recommend that you get a ticket as soon as possible because many shows are already sold-out.  Peter and the Starcatcher runs through May 18 and tickets can be purchased here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Miss Track Star

Tashena had her first track meet of the season yesterday.
She threw the shot put 29 feet to take first place!
She jumped 15.4 feet in the long jump, which is a PR, and took third place.
Finally, in discus, her best event, she threw 111 feet to easily take first place!  I think she is amazing and I can't wait to see what she does during the rest of the season!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Rain

If there is one thing you need to know about me it is that I love the Beatles!  I have loved them for as long as I can remember and, even though I have seen Paul McCartney several times, it always makes me sad that I never got to see the Beatles live.  The best that I can do is see a tribute band but there are some really great ones out there.  I've seen 1964 several times, I saw Classical Mystery Tour with the Utah Symphony last summer, and yesterday I got to see the Broadway show Rain which might be the best Beatles tribute concert I've ever seen!  Part concert, part theatrical experience, this show actually makes you feel like you are seeing the Beatles perform in various venues!  There are large screens projecting images such as the Ed Sullivan Show, Shea Stadium, and Abbey Road Studios.  I loved it!  I especially loved it when the screens showed footage of screaming fans from actual Beatles concerts next to footage of the crowd screaming at Kingsbury Hall!  Steve Landes (Johns Lennon), Paul Curatolo (Paul McCartney), Alastar McNeil (George Harrison), and Aaron Chiazza (Ringo Starr) look and sound so much like the Beatles that it is easy to imagine that you are seeing the real thing!  They began the show dressed in the signature matching suits and Cuban-heeled boots the Beatles wore on the Ed Sullivan Show and sang "She Loves You," "Please Please Me," "From Me to You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "A Hard Day's Night," "I'm Happy Just to Dance With You," "If I Fell," "Yesterday," "The Night Before," "Day Tripper," and then they got the crowd up and dancing to "Twist and Shout."  They changed into the Sgt. Pepper's uniforms and sang "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band," "With a Little Help From My Friends," "Eleanor Rigby," "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds," "When I'm Sixty-Four," "Penny Lane," "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band (Reprise)," and "A Day in the Life."  After the intermission they were dressed like hippies and played "Magical Mystery Tour," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Across the Universe," "Blackbird," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "In My Life," "Here Comes the Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Come Together," "Get Back," "Revolution," and "The End."  Before the show they had the audience request a song from a list provided on Twitter and Facebook and they ended up playing "Norwegian Wood" which is the song I requested!  For the encore, they sang "Let it Be" and, of course, a rousing rendition of "Hey Jude."  I loved hearing the entire audience singing the chorus!  It gave me goosebumps!  I really enjoyed the selection of songs included and I was very impressed that all of the music is actually played on stage (A fifth member of the band, Mark Lewis, is on stage performing keyboards and other instruments to recreate the Beatles' sound).  I especially loved McNeil's guitar solo on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."  I thoroughly loved this show and I highly recommend it to Beatles fans!

Note:  Most of the audience members were my parents' age but I was happy to see quite a few kids who were singing every word!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet

View of downtown SLC from the windows of Abravanel Hall
Last night I returned to Abravanel Hall (after what seems like a very long absence) for a Utah Symphony concert featuring excerpts from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet and performances from actors with the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  Several years ago I attended a similar performance featuring Mendelssohn's incidental music from A Midsummer Night's Dream and excerpts from the play performed by noted Utah Shakespeare Festival actors.  It remains one of my favorite Utah Symphony concerts and I knew this production would be every bit as good so I have been looking forward to it for weeks.  I think Prokofiev's score is incredibly dramatic.  I particularly enjoyed "Montagues and Capulets" because it is so stirring yet it features an evocative theme played by the flute in the middle.  I also really liked "The Death of Tybalt" because it is another stirring piece with a bold theme played by the brass.  In between the musical numbers, corresponding scenes were performed from Shakespeare's classic tale of star-crossed lovers by Betsy Mugavero as Juliet, Claire Warden as Lady Capulet, Sarah Shippobotham as the Nurse, Luigi Sottile as Romeo, and Peter Lohnes as Friar Lawrence.  These scenes were directed by David Ivers, who is one of my favorite performers and directors from the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  I liked the selections, especially the famous balcony scene because Sottile's characterization of Romeo was quite playful which I thought was very interesting.  The combination of Prokofiev's music and Shakespeare's text, not to mention the outstanding performances, certainly produced an enjoyable evening of entertainment (which was definitely needed after a long week).  I hope that the Utah Symphony and the Utah Shakespeare Festival continue their collaboration for many years to come.  This concert will be performed again tonight and if you are anticipating this year's festival as much as I am, this might tide you over!  Tickets can be purchased here.

Note:  My favorite moment of the evening came courtesy of a large group of high school theatre students sitting near me.  I saw them arrive on their bus and they seemed so excited to be there.  After the concert one of them said, "That was sooooooo good!"  It makes me happy when I see young people enjoy the performing arts because it has brought so much enrichment to my life!

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Jungle Book

Last night my family and I saw an early screening of The Jungle Book and let me tell you now that it is absolutely magical!  My whole family loved it and my Dad even said that he wants to see it again as we were walking out of the theater!  This movie is a live action version of the stories written by Rudyard Kipling about the man-cub Mowgli and his adventures in the jungle and it is very much informed by the 1967 animated classic (If, like me, you grew up watching the animated version you will love this movie).  Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is an orphan who was left in the jungle and raised by the wolves Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and Raksha (Lupita Nyong'o).  When the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) learns that the wolves have been raising a man-cub, he threatens them causing Mowgli's protector, the panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), to tell him that he must leave the jungle and join the man-village.  After an attack by Shere Khan, Mowgli gets separated from Bagheera and he has adventures with Kaa (Scarlet Johansson), a giant python, Baloo (Bill Murray), a bear, and Louie (Christopher Walken), a giant orangutan.  When Mowgli learns that the wolves are being threatened by Shere Khan, he returns for a final showdown.  The voice cast is absolutely perfect!  Ben Kingsley, who also narrates the film, is a wise Bagheera, Idris Elba is a truly frightening Shere Khan (more about that later), and Christopher Walken is a suitably bizarre King Louie, but Bill Murray absolutely steals the show as Baloo and hearing him sing "The Bare Necessities" is worth the price of admission alone!  The visual effects are simply stunning!  Even those who are not fans of CGI are sure to be impressed by the beautiful images on the screen.  I found the animals to be absolutely enthralling, particularly the baby elephant.  I loved this movie and I highly recommend it for families, but I think it might be a bit scary for really young children (many children were taken out crying during my screening).  There are some incredibly frightening scenes with Shere Khan that actually made me jump and both Marilyn and I covered our eyes during some of the scenes with Kaa.  However, I am sure that this movie is destined to become a classic and you definitely want to see it on the big screen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Jazz Game with Tashena

While I sometimes miss the little girl who used to love to play Barbies for hours on end, I have to admit that the teenage Tashena is also pretty fun.  Recently she told me that she really, really wanted to go to a Jazz game so, clearly, we had to go to last night's game against the Dallas Mavericks because it was the last home game of the season.  I am so glad that Tashena talked me into going because it was intense!  The game had huge playoff implications for both teams as they were both battling to clinch a spot.  The crowd was loud and rowdy and Tashena and I definitely added to the noise.  The Jazz stayed with the Mavericks with some electrifying three-pointers from Joe Ingles to end the first quarter and they ended the second quarter down by just four points.  It was so much fun listening to Tashena analyze the game.  In the third quarter the Jazz were down by as many as eleven but then went on an 8-0 run to get back in the game.  The Vivint Arena was absolutely out of control cheering for the Jazz at this point and it was so much fun to watch Tashena take it all in.  There is nothing like a Utah Jazz crowd when they are playing well!  In the fourth quarter the Jazz could not seem to make a basket no matter what they did.  Gordon Hayward eventually got a nice three-pointer and made two foul shots to bring Utah within five in the last few minutes but it was not enough and they ended up losing to Dallas 101-92.  It was a heartbreaker because the Jazz lost control of their own destiny and now need to beat the Lakers and they need the Rockets to lose to the Kings to clinch the final playoff spot.  Needless to say, we were a bit more subdued walking out of the arena than we were walking in, but I had so much fun at this game.  It was almost as much fun as playing Barbies!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Fun at the Bees Game

Saturday night Marilyn and I took Sean and Tashena to a Salt Lake Bees game against the Sacramento River Cats.  We had so much fun!  The Bees played really well (with a dramatic home run in the third inning) and eventually won the game 6-0, but being with Sean and Tashena is what made this night such a good time.  I sure do love them!  We got laughing so hard that I could not breathe and I think we were more entertaining to the people around us than the game was.  At one point Sean was taking a bunch of selfies with Marilyn's phone and the lady behind us started photobombing.  Good times!  After the game there were fireworks which is always a lot of fun. It did eventually get a little bit chilly but sitting outside in the sunshine and watching some baseball made me get really excited for summer!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Gwinna

Yesterday I went with my family to watch Tashena dance in CDT's production of Gwinna at Capitol Theatre.  The production, based on the children's book of the same name by Barbara Helen Berger, tells the story of a little girl who has wings but doesn't know that she can fly.  A woodworker and his wife want a child desperately and ask the Mother of the Owls to help them.  She promises them a child but they must let her go when she turns twelve.  The couple agrees but when their child, Gwinna, develops wings, they bind them up so she can't leave them.  Gwinna hears a melody that only she can hear and it frightens her parents.  When Mother Owl calls her home her parents try to stop her but they are turned to stone.  When Mother Owl learns that Gwinna can hear the music, she sends her in search of it.  With the help of a griffin Gwinna finds Druantia, the guardian of the trees, who tells her that her song has been forgotten and that she must bring it back to the world.  Gwinna builds a harp and the wind teaches her how to play it.  She flies back to her parents and brings them back to life by playing her harp.  I really liked the story, the choreography, and the music.  The costumes were really beautiful, especially all of the owls and their wings.
Tashena's dance (which was at the end!) was called "Wind in the Harp" and I thought it was very elegant and graceful.  My favorite part of the choreography was when Tashena had a very dramatic leap to mimic the wind.  I always love watching Tashena on stage because she expresses everything she feels through dance.
Tashena did such a good job and we are so proud of her!
Gwinna will be performed once again at the Sandy Amphitheater on June 21 (a free concert) and at the Utah Arts Festival on June 25.  Come see my beautiful and talented niece perform.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

I Saw the Light

I have definitely heard my fair share of country music lately!  While I am not usually a fan of the genre, I have been looking forward to I Saw the Light, a new biopic about country music legend Hank Williams, because I always enjoy stories about interesting people and I was hoping that it would be as entertaining as Walk the Line, a biopic about another country music icon, Johnny Cash, which I really enjoyed.  Hank Williams lived a life that was every bit as compelling as Johnny Cash did but, unfortunately, this movie certainly does not live up to Walk the Line.  I saw the film last night and it chronicles Williams' (Tom Hiddleston) first marriage to Audrey Sheppard (Elizabeth Olson), his early days as a radio performer, his first recording contract in Nashville, his heyday on the Grand Ole Opry, his descent into alcohol and drug abuse, his second marriage to Billie Jean Jones (Maddie Hasson), and his untimely death at the age of 29.  In my opinion, the narrative lacks cohesion.  Events seem very random and there were many times when I wondered what was going on.  This is particularly true when Williams is in a sanatorium trying to get sober.  Out of nowhere we see Williams writhing on a bed and then, in the next scene, we see him signing himself out as an attendant tells him he looks better than when he came in and Williams vows that he won't be back.  We see many early scenes of Williams behaving badly, before becoming famous, but we never really know the cause of his ennui.  The script briefly touches on his mother's possessiveness, his absent father, and his not-even-remotely-talented and self-serving wife's attempts to use him to further her own career, but these themes are abandoned quickly and I wish that they had been explored with more depth.  What redeems this film, somewhat, is Hiddleston's amazing portrayal of Williams.  Like Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, Hiddleston physically inhabits the role while performing all of Williams' songs himself and, while he doesn't sound exactly like him, he does a convincing job of capturing all of his idiosyncrasies.  I will admit that there were times when I lost interest in what was happening on screen but my attention never wavered when Hiddleston was performing, especially when he sings "Lovesick Blues" during his first appearance at the Grand Ole Opry.  I had goosebumps!  Such a brilliant performance deserves a better script!  I would recommend that you give it a miss.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It's That Time of Year...

A favorite photo of the Student Council at Leadership Camp last July.
Last week I began the process of electing new Student Body and Class Officers.  It is definitely bittersweet.  While it is a lot of fun to get to know a new group of students who are enthusiastic and full of great ideas, it is always really hard to say goodbye to the group you have worked with all year and this group has been especially wonderful.  I'm not sure that I can let them go!   They have worked so hard and accomplished so much this year!  I have grown to love them so much and I am incredibly proud of them!  I know that it is time for them to move on to bigger and better things (I have no doubt that they will all accomplish great things) but I will certainly miss them!  While they have set the bar really high for the 2016-2017 officers, I am hoping that this year is just the beginning of some great traditions at HHS!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Six Months

I have officially lived in my house for six months!  Moving is definitely the best decision I have ever made (I only wish I had made it sooner!).  I feel so completely comfortable in this house and I am now perfectly content to stay at home without constantly thinking of ways to escape!  I have had so much fun buying new furniture and decorating each room.  I love how every room turned out because my house feels like a sanctuary.  My desk is in front of a large window with a view of trees so I don't even mind bringing home papers to grade!  My neighbors are so warm and friendly!  Every one of them made a point of introducing themselves to me and now call me by name and ask about school whenever they see me.  My neighbor right next to me is especially attentive to me, making me feel very safe.  I love living in Bountiful because it is a big city which feels like a small town.  Everyone at my neighborhood grocery store and the post office now knows me by name!  One of my favorite perks of living in this house is that I am now less than 20 minutes from downtown (instead of 45 minutes).  I spend a lot of time downtown and it is so nice to get home from a Jazz game or a performance at 10:00 instead of 10:45.  I definitely eat at my favorite downtown restaurants more often!  Also, even though I am physically farther away, it takes me less time to get to school than it did from South Jordan because I use the freeway for the whole trip.  I love that, especially coming home in the afternoon.  Finally, I love being closer to my family.  My Dad has had a few health scares and it has been very helpful to have me nearby.  Plus, I am now available for all of those impromptu dinner and a movie get-togethers which are really fun.  Every aspect of my life has improved because of this move and, while I went through a lot to get here, I am so grateful that I found the perfect place to live!

Note:  Now that it is spring, I am especially happy about the fact that I don't have to do any of the yard work!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Tale of Two Musicals

Seeing Les Miserables at the Queen's Theatre in London in 2010
When I was in high school I watched a PBS special about the making of a new musical called Les Miserables.  The toast of London's West End was about to make its debut on Broadway and composers Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg were interviewed about the process of bringing Victor Hugo's masterpiece to the stage.  I was fascinated!  I distinctly remember them talking about how they wrote the song "On My Own," because they needed a powerful opening to the second act, and it instantly became my favorite song in the show (I still judge every production by how the actress playing Eponine sings this song!).  To say that I became obsessed with this musical would be an understatement.  I bought a copy (on vinyl!) of the Original London Cast Recording and listened to it over and over (much to the dismay of my family) during every waking moment.  I wanted to see Les Miserables more than I wanted anything else in the world!  When I was in college I had the opportunity to go on a study abroad trip and I knew that I would be in London for a week.  I tried everything in my power to get a ticket but it was sold out!  My heart was literally broken at the thought that I would be in London and wouldn't be able to see it.  Before I left for Europe, my Dad gave me a newspaper article about London's West End which said that you could very often get tickets to sold out shows on the day of the show in kiosks located throughout the city.  I found one in Piccadilly Circus and learned that there were tickets available for that evening but I would have to buy a block of four.  I didn't have a lot of money but such was my mania to see this show that I immediately bought all four.  When I got back to my hotel I asked a friend if she knew anyone who wanted to buy the other three tickets.  A man staying in the hotel overheard me and offered to buy them on the spot.  He even offered to let me ride with him and his family in their taxi to the theatre and, because I was so visibly excited about seeing the show, he bought me a program (which I still have!).  Words cannot describe how I felt when I first heard those opening notes!  To this day, I still get goosebumps when I hear them.

In January I watched an interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda on 60 Minutes about the staging of a new musical called Hamilton.  This story about the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton set to rap and hip hop music performed by a young and multiracial cast left me spellbound!  The song "My Shot" instantly became my favorite when Miranda said it took him a year to write because he wanted it to be the best song it could possibly be!  To say that I am obsessed with this musical would be an understatement!  I immediately downloaded the Original Broadway Cast Recording and I listen to it every day on the drive to and from school.  I want to see Hamilton so much!  Next month I am going on a theatre trip to New York City and I tried to get a ticket but it is sold out for the next year!  I would be brokenhearted to be in NYC and not be able to see it so, since I am a little bit more savvy than I was in college (not to mention I have a little bit more money), I eventually found a ticket on StubHub.  It cost the equivalent of the gross national product of a small country but such is my mania to see this show that I didn't hesitate to buy it.  I am so excited and I don't know how I am going to wait five weeks before I leave!  I know that it will be the experience of a lifetime just like it was seeing Les Miserables for the first time!
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