Newsies on the Road

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I saw Disney’s Newsies the musical for the first time during opening week on Broadway in New York. I never knew much about the show and it blew me away. What I remember most about the show was the phenomenal dancing, all male dancing. There is something very powerful and mesmerizing about all those guys spinning, leaping and flipping in unison. The dancing is what I looked most forward to when I got the invite to review the show at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!
Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

It did not disappoint.  I can’t tell you how many times the choreography gave me chills. It was honestly better than I remembered. Seize the Day had me wanting to run from the theater to start changing the world for the better, while simultaneously completing insanely difficult dance moves and acrobatic tricks. However, the dancing wasn’t the only part of the performance that had me moving. This time the lead girl, Katherine, truly resonated with me.

I’ve been slacking on work lately…. Even after 16 months I can’t seem to juggle stay-at-home Mom/blogger/tutor/what have you. (Although, I have discovered many other bloggers secret: a babysitter. I should really look into those…) In any case, the female star of Newsies, Katherine played by Stephanie Styles, is a true hardworking, witty, stand-up for what is right, seize the day kinda gal. She’s basically a Lorelei Gilmore for the 19th century, and I adore her. In fact she’s this week’s #wcw.

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Her character, which doesn’t even exist in the movie, is a super cool girl that you not only want your daughters to look at as a role model, but that you yourself will look up to and love. There are a few notable changes between the movie and the musical, and in my opinion, they improved the show, especially with Katherine’s character. It’s nice to have the strong woman who can hold her own in the almost all male cast.

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Speaking of the male cast, they are bursting with talent. Yeah, they can dance their asses off, but they can also sing as well as any other musical cast, act and entertain an audience that ranges in age from preschoolers to senior citizens. Husband and I were both impressed and entertained from beginning to end.

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If you want to see Newsies in Nashville, you have a few nights left to catch it! For those of you outside of Tennessee, don’t forget to check out their tour schedule. AND, for all the locals you MUST take a peek at the line up for next year’s Broadway season! I am stoked!!!

Cheers!

We’ve Got Magic to Do… Just for You

I am one lucky blogger. Last night, I got to review Pippin at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. I miss seeing and reviewing shows in New York so much, but I am so grateful that TPAC offers opportunities to see so many amazing musicals throughout the year. Thanks to them, I get a little taste of Broadway about once a month, and Pippin was the show of choice this month.

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I actually saw Pippin in New York about a year and a half ago, when Husband and I took a little NY vacation. To be honest, I liked the show, but I didn’t love it. I don’t know if we were just too tired or too pregnant, but I remember feeling confused and unhappy with the ending. Last night, I arrived with small expectations and few memories of the show. Then, it completely blew me and my expectations away.

Pippin is fantastic.

It is a combo of cirque du soleil, magic, Fosse dance moves, scantily clad performers, satire, burlesque, comedy, murder and love. Could you squeeze anything else into a 2.5 hour show? It is entertaining from beginning to end, and while it is sometimes hard to decipher exactly where and when the story is taking place, it doesn’t really matter. It’s Pippin’s journey to find meaning in his life and the unbelievable talent and stage presence of the “leading player”. And, yes that’s the name in the playbill, for that character has no actual given name.

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The Leading Player is being played by Sasha Allen (from season 4 of The Voice), and she is phenomenal. When she is on stage you cannot help, but watch every move she makes. She is flawless and has a powerful voice. Another character who took my breath away is Berthe, Pippin’s Grandmother, played by Priscilla Lopez. She is 67 sings, dances and performs aerial stunts better than any 30-year old I know. I aim to be her when I grow up.

Terrence Mann, left, foreground, and Patina Miller in the musical "Pippin."

The show ends with a meaningful lesson, as well as an uncomfortable idea. True happiness may be found in the most simple joys of life, but time and time again, each generation will question whether their life had any meaning at all.

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Pippin will be at TPAC until March 15th. Get your tickets here, and check out dates in other cities here.

Cheers

Luna and the Wolf

Middle Tennessee has become one big ice cube today. Our driveway has become a skating rink in the little bit of snow that covered the grass is now thick ice. Good thing we had a super busy weekend and I don’t mind being stuck in the house too much. Yesterday, I told you about the Hot Chocolate Run we ran early Valentin’s morning, but the day wasn’t over then. That afternoon. Luna’s Great Grandmother took me and Luna to see the Nashville Ballet perform Peter and the Wolf.  (Her first ballet!)

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The ballet was at TPAC, our favorite place in Nashville, and the Polk theater was jam packed with kids of all ages. Luna was definitely one of the youngest (and cutest) little future ballerinas in attendance. Before the show started she spent every moment climbing up and down the stairs and trying desperately to roam the aisles. I was dreading the start of the show because I just knew Luna would be too wiggly and restless to sit still. However, when the lights dimmed and the story began, my little wiggle worm leaned back into my chest and focused her attention directly to the stage.

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The ballet was adorable. It was all geared towards the kids. The props and costumes were super colorful, the music was not too loud or complicated, the dancing was entertaining and graceful and, best of all, it was educational. Luna stared at the dancers for a good 35 minutes before getting bored. I was well prepared though, I quickly handed her some baby crackers and she was content for the next ten minutes, which is when the show ended.

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Afterwards they had a special activity for the kids to stay in chat with the dancers, but Luna is a too young to enjoy that. We all had a great time at the ballet. It’s been YEARS since I’ve seen Peter and the Wolf  and I’d completely forgotten how great it is. Hopefully, Luna will continue to enjoy it and I’ll get to take her many more times as she grows up!

Cheers!

These Teens Will Never be the Same

Two days ago, I was invited to cover one of the coolest events I’ve ever witnessed. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center along with Cydi Laupers’s True Colors hosted a behind the scenes day for Nashville’s Oasis Center. It was so inspiring and touching to watch this event, the kids and the professionals who made it happen, but before I tell you all the amazing details, I should give you some quick cliff-notes on the organizations involved so you truly understand the impact of the day.

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True Colors is the organization that put this whole shindig together. This organization was founded by THE Cyndi Lauper, and its mission is “to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, creating a world in which young people can be their true selves”. I chatted with their Community Organizer Intern, Cassie, and learned that this is all put together by their “Raise You Up” program, which involves Kinky Boots with a community organization. She also informed me that 40% of homeless youth is from the LGBT community (mostly due to family rejection), which is clearly unacceptable and why True Colors is so dedicated to helping these kids.

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Then, there is the heart of this whole operation, the Oasis Center. This local organization is HUGE. It serves about 4,000 local youths a year, and it’s mission is to “provide safety and support to  the most vulnerable and disconnected youth…it seeks to provide resources that allow them to transform their situations and prepare them for productive fulfilling lives”. That’s perhaps the most important mission ever, to encourage the future, our youth. I also had the pleasure of speaking with Pam, the program director, who taught me lots about the Oasis Center. Their were a limited number of teens/ youth that could attend this special event, so Oasis brought a group of LGBT kids as well as some that have a strong interest in theater. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of the kids who were on the list to go, showed up, on time and ready to learn. That’s some kind of miracle, because as all us teachers know, students are never ever all present, on time and ready to learn. These particular kids knew they were in for something special.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when I entered the main lobby of the theater yesterday. I did not know the age of the kids, how they would behave, how interesting the tour would, or would not, be and very little about either organization. I met up with the group of teenagers right before they entered the largest theater to watch the cast of Kinky Boots rehearse. Oh my, the look on their faces as the cast began singing and dancing was priceless. That one moment was worth my drive to TPAC.

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There was one boy in particular, a talented young dancer, who was so lit up when the dancing began. You could see the wheels turning as he watched the insane choreography being rehearsed on stage. Like, he all of a sudden realized, “Oh, I can do this, this could be my future.” As the number ended, the small group of teens erupted in applause, even though they were told not to make a peep. They couldn’t help themselves, and the cast certainly didn’t mind the appreciation.

We were all then taken backstage for a little behind the scenes tour. The kids got to see what a dressing room looks like, where costumes are kept, how the cast enters and exits and lots of other cool ins and outs of the backstage world. I think everyone’s favorite part was seeing the thigh-high high-heeled sparkling boots in everyone’s dressing room.

We ended in a conference room, where the kids had the opportunity to listen, learn and ask questions to part of the Kinky Boots crew and several staff members from TPAC. You may think this sounds boring, but I promise you it was far from it! I learned so much myself that I’m ready to put in my application! These teens got to learn about the coolest jobs in the theater business that most of us either don’t think about, or didn’t even know existed. The staff told them their background (some theater, some not), their experience (EVERYONE lived in NYC at one point or another), how they got their job (work hard! do what you love! learn! be scrappy!) and some funny personal experiences (one involving a Barney suit). The, they were able to ask whatever questions they wanted! Once again, you could see their eyes light up, the wheels turning and the excitement, excitement about their own dreams and ambitions.

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I was so impressed with these young people. They were genuinely interested in everything they were being presented. They were polite, respectful, enthusiastic and asked some really great questions. (My favorite was, what was the best/worst play you ever worked?) This wasn’t even the end of the day. Yes, there was more.

Once the speakers finished, the kids got to eat dinner (pizza and soda) before going to see the entire musical themselves! THEN, after the show, they got to stay for a Q&A with the cast! Who gets an opportunity like this? I grew up in a nice area, went to great schools and never got to do anything this cool. Teenage Hilarie is super envious of them. These at-risk teens got an experience of a life-time. They were exposed to talents, jobs, art, culture and career options that they otherwise would have likely never known existed. That is amazing.

HUGE thank you to the True Colors Fund for selecting Nashville as your second city to participate in this program! Also, if any of you are interested in donating, volunteering or somehow getting involved with the Oasis Center please visit this link. TPAC, as always, you rock.

Cheers!

These Boots are Made for Watching

Kinky Boots is in Nashville!!!! EEEEEeeeee! I LOVE this show. I saw it on Broadway in New York when it opened and actually sat right behind Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein (the creators of the musical).It was a magical night of drag queens, glitter, shoes, high kicks and British accents. Can  you ask for more? Yes. You can ask to see the show again, the traveling show. Lucky me. I got to see it for a second time last night at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center.

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My friend, Bella, and I went together and because we love dressing up, we decided to dress the part, which can best be described as….well, kinky. That’s really just a nice way to say we looked like hookers, cute hookers. TPAC was decked out for the show. They had the usual huge crowd, themed snacks and souvenirs, but they also had a shoe cam. It’s like the one you see on the E! network.

workin' it!
workin’ it!

The BEST part was seeing Tony (one of TPAC’s best employees) dressed in the iconic red high-heeled boots! From across the room a spotted a photo backdrop and a line of people waiting to take their photo with who I assumed was a cast member. I then see Tony’s head peaking through the crowd and thought he must be doing crowd management. Then, the crowds parts just enough that I spot the boots… the red boots on Tony’s feet! It was amazing, and yeah we definitely took advantage of that Kodak moment.

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Before the show began we took the theme one step further and ordered ourselves a double of the “Kinky Boots” drink, delicious BTW. One minute before showtime we finally got to our seats, settled in, took a sip of our pink drink and got read for a show unlike any other.

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Kinky Boots is a musical based off of a movie based on a true story. The story is of two boys with two dreams. One dreams of dancing in high heels. One dreams of doing anything, but running the family business, a shoe making factory. As adults. the first boy is a very talented drag queen in London, the latter is forced to run the shoe factory when his father unexpectedly passes away. The factory is failing quickly and the son has no clue how to save it in everyone he loves’ jobs. The two very different young men cross paths unexpectedly and together they not only learn how to save the business, but also discover the importance of accepting others and being true to yourself.

Throughout the heartwarming and hilarious story are some seriously impressive musical numbers. The music and lyrics reminds me of classic Broadway hits, but the dancing is like none other. It’s not often you see grown men doing high-kicks, splits, back handsprings and a myriad of other moves in 6-inch heels. Well… I guess it’s possible you do see this often, depending on what clubs you frequent, but I guarantee you that you have yet to see this level of talent.

The show rocked. We left feeling excited, happy and desperate to go shoe shopping.

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Kinky Boots will be playing at TPAC until February 8th! GO SEE IT! You may even spot a celebrity… Reba McEntire and Kelly Clarkson were there last night. Check out show details and future shows here. If you don’t live around Nashville (shame on you), check out the tour dates here.

Cheers!

Blue Man Group Review!

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“Dude that was bad-a@#,” was the first thing my friend said when we stepped outside after seeing Blue Man Group perform at TPAC this Tuesday. “My mom and brother definitely need to see this!” he followed up with as we walked through downtown Nashville to our car. I really have to agree with him; you definitely have to see this.

The Blue Man Group, if you don’t already know, started in the late 1980s as a group of three friends who were a little burnt out on the consumerism of the times and decided to make a show that’s somewhat anti-technology and pro real-life interaction. It’s really hard to believe if you haven’t heard of them; they have permanent shows  in New York City, Boston, Chicago, Orlando and Las Vegas, a US National and an International Tour and a plus they were in all those Intel commercials, come on!

The show is pretty hard to describe. Well I guess I could describe it pretty accurately, but you’d never understand what I was talking about; “Wait so they eat Twinkies with an audience member and then the Twinkies spray out of a tube in their chest…?” Also, I’d hate to give away too much but I’ll just explain it generally. As you enter the theater, and find your seats, you’ll notice a quote on stage that says something about the best way to make new friends is to have an experience together, be it cooking a meal, making some art or having a dance party. While you wait there are scrolling marquees on the sides of the stage that at first display normal messages about not talking or using your phone, but gradually get more and more absurd, eventually calling out specific audience members and having the crowd sing happy birthday to them. And then it starts.

Through the hour and a half or so performance, you’ll get a combination of crazy loud  bass thumping music, played by the Blue Men themselves and a live rock band on stage, and comedic scenes where it almost seems like the actors are aliens, who have no knowledge of, Captain Crunch for example. Again I don’t want to spoil anything but the show ends with a dance party that will have your fist pumping, butt shaking and ears ringing long after its over.

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This was the third time I’ve seen the Blue Man Group (once in New York and once in Orlando) and this traveling show is just as fun and crazy as the others. My friend who went to see this performance with me was a little worried that he might fall asleep, having been up very early in the morning. I promise you, even if he had wanted to sleep he couldn’t have; Blue Man Group has you dancing, laughing and questioning what is going on for the whole night and you seriously don’t wanna miss it. And if I actually convinced you, Blue Man Group is performing through January 11th at the Tennessee Performing Art Center in Nashville and then in Ohio and Michigan and all over the country after that.

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I Met the Blue Men

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The Blue Man Group is in Nashville at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center this week, and I should have seen them last night, but thanks to a sick cranky baby (who is currently fighting sleep with every little bit of will power she has), I stayed home and Husband went to the show. Lucky for you, he’ll be sharing his very own review very soon. I have seen the Blue Men before, once in Orlando and once in New York, but I was still very excited to see them again. Not all was lost though…this morning I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of the guys (sans blue), learning about their instruments and even snagging an interview. Lucky me.

First of all, if you haven’t seen them perform yet, you are missing an incredibly entertaining and wildly creative show. Second of all, if you have seen them, you should know it is REALLY weird to see them in real life without all of that blue paint. I know this should be obvious, but they look like real people. Real people, with hair, regular eyes and the ability to talk and smile. It’s hard to imagine them as the performers when you are talking to one out of character. It’s a lot like talking to a 70 year old Asian woman who tells you she is Mickey Mouse from 9 to 5 at Magic Kingdom. (True story.)

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It was cool to watch them play a few instruments, goof around and talk to us about how all the pipes and whatnot in the show work, but the real excitement was when I got to talk one-on-one with one of the talented performers. His name is Adam. He’s young, very tall, funny, a former musical theater performer and has been a Blue Man for the last year and a half.  Here’s what he had to say about being on tour, auditioning for a Blue Man and more…

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Me- What’s the different between the tour and the permanent shows, like Orlando and New York?

Adam- There are a decent amount of difference between the shows. New York is our smallest show and it’s very intimate. They aren’t able to do the bigger aspect of the shows that we do on tour in these big venues. New York is a great show though, and you can really see and connect with every single person in the audience, which you sometimes lose in these bigger shows. We try to accomplish the same goal in each show though, which is to communicate with the audience on a different level, without talking.

Me- What’s your trick to keep from smiling? You guys are so funny, yet you never crack a smile! How do you look at each other and never laugh?

Adam- Well, we do, in our heads. When we are in character we try to stay solid. Instead of thinking of things as funny, we try and discover why the audience is reacting to certain things.

Me- Have you ever accidentally broke character?

Adam- Well, I mean, we try not to, but it’s tough. Sometimes, random things happen and we are just like “that was crazy!”.

Me- Once you become a blue man, how long can your career last?

Adam- Potentially…it’s kind of open ended. As long as you keep evolving as a Blue Man and keep exploring your character and coming up with new things, keep it fresh, it can be open ended. It’s awesome, it’s a great job. A dream job.

Me- When auditioning to become a Blue Man, what are some of the things you have to do?

Adam- We do a little drum interview, but it’s not very long because most of the audition is about acting. They do a lot of silent improv kind of games. They might set up a situation that you have to solve with other guys without talking. You may be up there with three guys you’ve never met before, put in a really strange situation and you can only communicate with your eyes and non-verbally. After a few days, you end up learning a number from the show and implement that into the audition as well.

Me- That sounds hilarious. We should be able to watch auditions.

Adam- It’s a kind of a secret process. They have their ways of trying to see the Blue Men in people.

Me- Do you have a background in acting?

Adam- I do. I was in musical theater before this. I did a lot of singing, dancing acting and I also played piano, which helps a lot in the musical aspects of the show. So, I went from that to not talking at all! I love it though, it’s really the best job in the world. I get to do it every night and we get to experience different cities. It’s a blast.

Me- Okay, one more…are the ever any inquiries about “Blue Women”?

Adam- It is possible, yeah. As long as you meet the requirements. You have to be musical, able to carry a beat, 5’10 to 6’2… so a pretty tall woman, but if you meet the requirements and have what they want than yeah, it’s possible. They hired a woman who was a Blue Man before, who performed in Boston.

Very cool.

Thanks Adam!

Stay posted for Husband’s review of the Blue Man Group and remember they are in Nashville until January 11th. Get your tickets here!

Cheers!