Monday, February 27, 2017

The Red Turtle

Yesterday I decided to go to the Broadway to see the Academy Award nominated film The Red Turtle and I am so glad that I did!  It is absolutely brilliant with a simple yet profound narrative about life, love, and fate.  A man is washed ashore on an uninhabited island.  After discovering a plentiful supply of bamboo, he makes a raft and attempts to leave the island.  The raft is broken up by a red turtle not far from shore and the man is forced to return to the island.  After several more attempts with the same result, the man sees the red turtle wash up on shore and, in an act of revenge, he turns it upside down.  Feeling remorse the next day, he tries unsuccessfully to revive the turtle.  When the turtle's shell cracks, it is transformed into a beautiful woman.  Years go by and the man and woman eventually have a son with an unusual connection with turtles.  When their son decides to leave the island with a group of turtles, the couple remains to live out their lives in a series of beautiful vignettes.  After the man dies, the woman is, once again, transformed back into the red turtle and it slowly swims away from the island.  The story is incredibly beautiful and affecting and even though there is almost no dialogue (aside from a few exclamations) the characters are able to convey genuine emotion.  I also loved the distinct portrayal of the animals on the island.  My favorite "characters" are the crabs which become the man's constant companions in some amusing situations.  The animation is absolutely stunning and even the gray and sepia tones of the ocean in a storm are somehow vibrant.  I loved this film and I highly recommend it!

Note:  Speaking of Academy Awards, I am so glad that Moonlight won Best Picture.  It is such a beautiful film and I highly recommend it, too!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Brahms' Symphony No. 4

Last night, for the second weekend in a row, I found myself at Abravanel Hall eagerly anticipating another Utah Symphony concert.  In my opinion, you can't go wrong when you start the weekend with the Utah Symphony.  Last night's concert began with Introduction, Theme and Variations by Johann Nepomuk Hummel.  I was not at all familiar with this composer (to me, Hummels are the figurines that my Aunt June collected) but I absolutely loved this piece because it reminded me a lot of Mozart.  It featured an oboe and the soloist, Francois Leleux, was incredible.  He played with so much passion and exuberance and it looked like he was having so much fun.  It was certainly a lot of fun for the audience to watch his dramatic expressions and gestures.  Who knew that the oboe was so cool?  Next, Leleux joined the orchestra once again for the U.S. premiere of Aquateinte by Michael Jarrell, a piece commissioned by the Utah Symphony.  It is brilliant and I really liked that it featured so many instruments.  I was particularly fascinated by the myriad of percussion instruments (played by just two musicians).  After the intermission, the orchestra played Symphony No. 4 by Johannes Brahms.  I actually recognized much of this piece (maybe it has been programmed by the Utah Symphony before?) and I liked it because, even though it is quite lively,  it is a bit melancholy.  It was another lovely evening at Abravanel Hall and I highly recommend spending part of your weekend there, too.  This program will be performed again tonight (go here for tickets).

Friday, February 24, 2017


To be honest, I didn't have a lot of interest in seeing Matilda, the Broadway musical based on the book by Roald Dahl.  However, I saw it last night and, as is so often the case, I enjoyed it much more than I expected.  It was quite entertaining with outstanding performances by a cast of adorable children.  Matilda Wormwood (the incredibly talented Jenna Weir), a precocious five year old with a penchant for reading and telling stories, is neglected by her mother (Darcy Stewart), an amateur Latin ballroom dancer, and her father (Matt Harrington), an unscrupulous used car salesman, and is terrorized by Miss Trunchbull (Dan Chameroy), the tyrannical headmistress of her school.  The story is quite dark but Matilda triumphs in the end because sometimes you have to be a little naughty and stand up for what is right.  As I mentioned, the children are absolutely adorable and I particularly enjoyed the song "When I Grow Up" (I may or may not have had a tear in my eye during this song).  Miss Trunchbull is hilarious (think of Miss Hannigan crossed with an East German Olympic athlete) but I think my very favorite character is Rudolpho (Eric Craig), Mrs. Wormwood's ballroom dance partner.  His over-the-top performance in the number "Loud" had me (and everyone around me) laughing out loud.  All of the song and dance numbers, especially "Revolting Children," are a lot of fun but I often had difficulty hearing the lyrics which was a little bit disappointing.  The set is very clever and I particularly loved the use of typography throughout (the dancing on the alphabet blocks during "School Song" is amazing).  This is definitely not my favorite musical but I did enjoy it.  The Eccles Theatre was filled with children (some quite young) which really surprised me because I think the story is very dark and most of the humor seemed to go right over their heads (at least the ones sitting near me).  I recommend leaving the kiddos at home for the remaining three performances (go here for tickets).

Note:  Broadway at the Eccles will be announcing the 2017-2018 season on March 8 and I can't wait!  I am beyond excited that I will get to see Hamilton again!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Women in Jeopardy at PTC

Yesterday was a dark and dreary day filled with intermittent rain and snow showers.  I was definitely in need of something to raise my spirits and I found it at Pioneer Theatre in the form of a new play by Wendy MacLeod called Women in Jeopardy.  It is a hilarious farce set in present-day Salt Lake City involving three divorced middle-aged women who get caught up in an intrigue and I laughed out loud more times than I can count.  Mary (Anne Tolpegin) and Jo (Rosalyn Coleman) are concerned when their friend Liz (Elizabeth Meadows Rouse) becomes involved with Jackson Scull (Joe Gately), a man whom they rather fancifully suspect is a serial killer.  In their minds, their suspicions are confirmed when Jackson wants to take Liz's dimwitted daughter, Amanda (Betsy Helmer), on a camping trip in a remote area of Southern Utah.  They share their concerns with Sgt. Kirk Sponsullar (Joe Gately), who looks remarkably like Jackson, but to no avail.  In desperation, Mary recruits Trenner (CJ Strong), Amanda's ex-boyfriend, to try to convince her not to go on the trip but he interprets this to mean that Mary is interested in him.  Chaos ensues when they all meet up at a campsite in the middle of the night.  This production is filled with amusing situations, lots of physical comedy (I laughed so hard that I couldn't breathe at Trenner's ill-fated attempt to seduce Mary), and fast-paced dialogue filled with lots of fun local humor (a line about Democrats had the entire theatre in hysterics).  All of the actors have great comedic timing and I was particularly impressed with all of the quick costume changes.  I highly recommend this fun comedy which runs at PTC through Saturday (go here for tickets).  It is the perfect antidote for the winter blues!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Hell or High Water

Every year it is a goal of mine to see all of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture.  Now I can officially say that I have seen them all!  Megaplex Theaters are screening all of the nominees this week and yesterday I saw Hell or High Water, the only film I hadn't seen yet (you can read my commentaries on Arrival, Manchester by the Sea, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, and Hidden Figures).  My friend enthusiastically recommended this film to me last summer and now I know why.  Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his reckless and impetuous brother, Tanner (Ben Foster), rob a series of branches of the Texas Midlands Bank.  They take the proceeds of these robberies to a casino on an Indian reservation to be laundered and, in an ironic twist, have the check made out to the Texas Midlands Bank.  It turns out that they need the money to pay a reverse mortgage held by the Texas Midlands Bank which is due within the week.  A Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), and his partner are hot on their trail and just miss catching them as one of their robberies goes awry.  Tanner leads the Rangers into the hills, allowing Toby to escape, and is eventually killed by Hamilton in a dramatic shoot-out.  Toby pays the mortgage and puts the ranch, on which oil has been discovered, in trust for his sons, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty in his family.  I am not normally a fan of Westerns (although I really enjoyed this movie) but I think this film is a brilliant indictment of the economic depression felt by much of small town America.  What I liked best about this film, other than the outstanding performances of both Bridges and Pine, was the pacing of the narrative.  Information is revealed little by little to explain the motivation of both the brothers and the Rangers. I also really enjoyed the resolution which, for some reason, was incredibly satisfying to me!  I highly recommend this film, especially to fans of the genre.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Newsies on the Big Screen

Yesterday I saw the musical Newsies on the big screen and it was simply amazing.  The touring company was joined by many of the original Broadway cast, including Kara Lindsay as Katherine, Andrew Keenan-Bolger as Crutchie, and Jeremy Jordan (squeal) as Jack Kelly, and the production was filmed live on stage at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles (where I saw it for the first time) for release in movie theaters.  I love this musical so much!  I love the story of how a group of "newsies," with the help of a fledgling reporter, defy Joseph Pulitzer's attempt to raise the price of newspapers with a city-wide strike.  I love all of the powerful songs, especially  "Carrying the Banner," "The World Will Know," "Seize the Day," "King of New York,"  and "Once and for All."  I love the dazzling choreography, particularly all of the high-energy leaps and spins in unison.  I absolutely loved this film version!  I loved being able to see the incredibly passionate performance of Jeremy Jordan, who is the best Jack Kelly I have seen.  I loved all of the different camera angles which made watching this film like having a front-row seat at the Pantages Theatre (for a lot less money!).  Just like the first time I saw it, I had goosebumps throughout the whole performance and I highly recommend that you seize the day and get a ticket to the final screening on February 22 (go here).

Note:  I loved seeing all of the groups of theatre nerds wearing their newsboy caps!  I also loved seeing every single seat filled!  Theatre nerds rock!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mozart's Requiem

The very first Utah Symphony concert I attended, back in college, was a performance of Mozart's Requiem.  It is has been my very favorite piece of music ever since I heard it in the movie Amadeus and I always take every opportunity that I can to hear it performed live.  Last night I was able to hear the Utah Symphony perform it once again and it was magnificent!  I find the mythology surrounding the composition of this piece to be fascinating.  The fact that Mozart died before it was complete makes one wonder whether he knew he was dying and, therefore, writing the mass for himself.  It is almost as if Mozart was wrestling with Death itself as he wrote the music that lifts the soul up to God.  I find the music to be incredibly stirring and I especially love the "Confutatis" and the "Lacrymosa" (which I performed in college when I was in the choir.)  The orchestra was joined by the Utah Symphony Chorus and the University of Utah Chamber Choir as well as soloists Joelle Harvey, Sarah Coit, Benjamin Butterfield, and Derrick Parker and they performed this piece beautifully.  I closed my eyes many times during the performance and let the music carry me away.  I was completely overcome by the end of it!  After the intermission, the orchestra continued with Symphony No. 4 by Charles Ives and this piece was epic, to say the least.  When Ives composed this symphony, he was concerned with philosophical questions about existence and it reflects both chaos and beauty.  It was sometimes cacophonous with more performers (and instruments) on the stage than I have ever seen before playing complicated melodies with different rhythms (there were even two conductors) over top of each other.  However, underneath the turmoil was peace and I especially liked the third movement.  It was definitely a never-to-be-forgotten evening at Abravanel Hall last night and I highly recommend getting a ticket (go here) to tonight's performance of the same program.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at HCT

I have very fond memories of watching all of the old movie musicals, like Oklahoma, The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, at my Grandma Anderson's house. My cousins and I would sing and dance and act them out in my Grandma's living room over and over again. I love these classic musicals and I always try to see them performed live whenever I have the chance.  I was able to see Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Hale Theatre last night and it was so much fun! It is a wonderful production filled with great performances, rousing musical numbers, and energetic choreography.  Adam Pontipee (Dan Frederickson) leaves his frontier home in the mountains to find a wife in the nearest town. He finds the perfect candidate in Milly (Erin Royall Carlson) but she is dismayed when she discovers that she must also care for his six brothers.  Her solution is to get them all married off so she tries to teach them how to court women ("Goin' Courtin'" is such a fun number).  Adam fears that his brothers are becoming soft and suggests that they just go get the women they want to marry and chaos ensues! Both Frederickson and Carlson have lovely voices and I especially enjoyed their renditions of "Where Were You?" and "Love Never Goes Away."  All of the brothers, Benjamin (Brock Dalgleish), Caleb (Taylor Morris), Daniel (Christopher Gallacher), Ephraim (Patrick Wendel), Frank (Brian Nelson), and Gideon (Matthew Sanguine), are incredible dancers and I absolutely loved the church social scene, especially the dance-off between the brothers and the suitors.  I am always amazed by the big song and dance numbers that are performed on such a small and intimate stage.  I also really loved the brides, my favorite is Dorcas (Amelia Rose Moore), and I was impressed that each of them seemed like individuals with distinct personalities. All of their costumes are fabulous, particularly the skirts made from quilts. The rustic set is simple but effective and I liked all of the little details such as the gingham bunting at the church social. This is a production that will appeal to fans of the movie and I highly recommend it.  Many shows are sold out so act quickly (go here for tickets) because you don't want miss out on such a nostalgic show.

Note:  Yesterday I picked my nephew up from school and spent the afternoon with him.  He asked me what I was doing in the evening and, when I told what play I was seeing, he declared it to be lame.  Perhaps it might not appeal to twelve-year-old boys!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sweethearts Dance 2017

Last year the preparations for the annual Sweethearts Dance were fraught with difficulties.  It took three meetings just to decide on a theme!  Every other decision, from decorations to refreshments to the DJ, was met with similar obstacles.  This year was the exact opposite!  At the very first planning meeting with the officers they knew exactly what they wanted (and showed me pictures on Pinterest of every detail).  They wanted to do something completely different and have a more casual black light dance in the auxiliary gym.  I loved the idea and the theme, "Glow the Night Away," was immediately approved by the administration.  They found a company which rented black lights and we ordered them the next day.  We ordered glow sticks and neon cups (I was more excited about these cups than a normal person should be) from a party store.  We asked for a simple black backdrop from our photographer and we made photo booth props out of fluorescent cardstock for students to hold in the photos.  We bought neon balloons and ordered LED lights to place inside them to make them glow (they looked so cool).  They really wanted candied popcorn so I googled it and found a company that made popcorn in ten different flavors in individual bags which made it so easy!  The officers even found the DJ!  Every detail came together very quickly and the officers were able to set everything up in less than an hour.  They were so excited for the dance to begin;  in fact, I've never had a group so excited for a dance!  It was a huge success!  We had over 300 people at the dance and it definitely looked like everyone was having a good time.  I am very proud of my officers for all of their hard work (but I am glad that it is over!).

Note:  Sometimes I feel like I live at Hunter High!  This week, not only have the officers been preparing for the dance, but they also worked on Spirit Week every day after school.  I also stayed really late at school on Friday to see the play The Crucible, which was fantastic.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Dancing Queen

Donna and the Dynamos are making a final visit to SLC in a production of Mamma Mia billed as the Farewell Tour.  When I saw that Mamma Mia was part of the Broadway at the Eccles 2016-2017 season, I debated about whether or not to get a ticket because I've seen it so many times.  I finally decided that it is such a fun show, you can see it over and over again and still be completely entertained.   How can you go wrong with platform boots and spandex jumpsuits?  Also, the music of Abba is so infectious that you simply can't help singing along and it is impossible to stay seated during the encore!  As predicted, I had so much fun last night.  Sophie Sheridan (Lizzie Markson) wants her father to walk her down the aisle but the only problem is that she doesn't know who he is!  When she invites Sam Carmichael (Shai Yammanee), Bill Austin (Marc Cornes), and Harry Bright (Andrew Tebo), the three likely possibilities, to her wedding without telling her mother (Betsy Padamonsky), chaos ensues!  I love all of the Abba songs in this show but my favorites are "Dancing Queen," "Lay All Your Love On Me," "Super Trouper," "Voulez-Vous," "Under Attack," and "Knowing Me, Knowing You,"  The choreography is so much fun and I especially love when the male ensemble dances wearing flippers.  All of the leads have amazing voices and this production is a great way to end the run of this spectacular show.  I dare anyone to stay seated when the leads come out on stage in colored spandex jumpsuits to sing "Dancing Queen" and "Waterloo" during the encore.  Mamma Mia has one more performance today at the Eccles Theatre (get tickets here).

Note:  I ran into Karen, my roommate in New York, at this show.  It was bound to happen sooner or later because we both see everything!  We tentatively planned to see Hamilton in Los Angeles over fall break!  She has season tickets to the Pantages Theatre and she is going to get me a ticket because we had so much fun in New York.  I can't wait!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Moana Sing-Along

I really love the movie Moana (I actually saw it twice in one day!).  It is probably my very favorite Disney animated film because it has a wonderful story filled with adventure, vibrant animation, and amazing songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (one of which is nominated for an Academy Award).  My sister Marilyn found a special sing-along engagement and last night we took my Mom and Tashena to see it.  As you may know, I've been singing songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda at the top of my lungs in the privacy of my car for the past year so it was a change to sing his songs in public (also at the top of my lungs!).  The original movie features on-screen lyrics and during the first song, "Where You Are," people in the theater were pretty tentative but everybody eventually got braver and started singing louder and louder.  Tashena basically belted out the song "How Far I'll Go" complete with dramatic gestures.  I especially liked singing "We Know The Way"  and "Shiny" but everyone in the theater really raised the roof during "You're Welcome."  We may or may not have been a bit boisterous ("I'm just an ordinary demi-guy.")  I even heard my Mom singing!  Not only did we sing every song but we also started speaking the dialogue ("I am Moana of Motunui.  You will board my boat and sail across the sea to restore the heart of Te Fiti.").  This movie was so much fun!  Tashena told us on the drive to the theater that she wouldn't sing along and that she was going to be really embarrassed by us but we could hardly contain her in her seat.  She was laughing and giggling the whole time and she even kept singing through the lobby and parking lot!  If you are a fan of this movie, you definitely do not want to miss this!  Tickets can be purchased here.

Note:  Speaking of Academy Awards, I've seen all of the 2017 nominees for Best Picture except one (you can read my commentaries on ArrivalManchester by the Sea, La La Land, Lion, Moonlight, Hacksaw Ridge, Fences, and Hidden Figures).  My friend enthusiastically recommended Hell or High Water but it was released when I was in Australia and it didn't have a long engagement in SLC.  I am hoping to be able to see it somehow before the big night.
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