Hello friends!

Did you think I disappeared? It’s okay if you did… there’s been a lot of non-activity on here and for that I do sincerely apologize.

I have read 25 books in the last 3 months, but due to time constraints at the moment, I will not be posting my thoughts on all of them right this second. If you would like to keep tabs on what I’m reading, I encourage you to befriend me on Goodreads!

Speaking of books… my M/M YA ebook, Out at Home, is available on Amazon. It was published on December 6th and most people who have left comments/ratings seemed to have liked it. I will admit upfront that the book needs help on the editing-front. Unbeknownst to me, no one at the publishing company edited it before it was posted (to be honest, I don’t think anyone there actually read it…). Am I thrilled about that? No. But is that going to stop me? Also no. I have received some truly awful critiques and emails about the book, but I’m using them as a learning experience. Right now I’m 52+ chapters into writing a second YA novel (M/F this time) and am planning on querying agents when that’s finished later this year.

Another reason why I haven’t posted much on here is that I have been super busy seeing shows!

I mentioned in my New Years Resolutions post that I hoped to see at least one show a month. Even though I’m still broke as hell, I have been really privileged to see a bunch of shows this year thanks to my amazing blogging gig with IN New York magazine.

Here are my posts for shows I’ve seen this year:

Nevermore – Edgar Allan Poe: The Musical

Chicago the Musical – Chicago Continues to Razzle Dazzle Audiences With All Its Jazz

The Heidi Chronicles – Revival of The Heidi Chronicles Brings Feminism and Friendship Back to Broadway

Honeymoon in Vegas – Book Your Reservation For a Honeymoon in Vegas

(Stay tuned for more posts about On the Town, Fun House, Dr. Zhivago and Something Rotten!!)

In addition to the shows I’ve seen/will be seeing for my blogging gig, I saw Constellations and Brooklynite. Jakes Gyllenhaal and Ruth Wilson were beyond amazing in Constellations. We had 2nd row seats (because I was the first person in line for Rush tickets – woot) and it was a dream come true to see Gyllenhaal on stage. (Especially since I just saw his sister in The Real Thing a few months prior.) Brooklynite was great too! This time we had front row tickets for the Off-Broadway show starring the always adorable Matt Doyle.

I’ll also be seeing Darren Criss on his opening night as Hedwig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I’ve seen the show three times so far (with NPH, Andrew Rannells and Michael C. Hall), so I’m looking forward to see how Darren will put his stamp on the role. Michael C. Hall was my favorite Hedwig by far. I don’t expect Darren to top him, but I am very interested in seeing how someone so young will tackle this role.

The heavy depression I was in surrounding the holidays has lifted considerably. Some things are still a bit (a lot) bumpy, but I’m definitely feeling loads better than I was. So that’s good, right?

And really that’s all that’s been going on. Oh, and I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix and HBO Go. (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was wonderful, as was The Newsroom. I’m catching up on Mad Men right now and am looking forward to Daredevil.)

Well – I must get back to work! Have a wonderful day 🙂

Heathers the Musical allows audiences to experience the worst parts of high school over and over again through the catchy score and darkly twisted stage adaptation of this 1989 cult classic.

The show starts on the first day of Veronica Sawyer’s [Charissa Hogeland] senior year. Friends with the unpopular chubby girl, Veronica suddenly finds herself hanging out with the uber-popular trio of Heathers [Jessica Keenan Wynn, Elle McLemore, Kristolyn Lloyd] who rule the school and treat just about everyone like crap. Veronica knows the Heathers and their fans are bad people, but popularity trumps morals and she willingly dumps her friend and goes along with them. When new kid JD [Dave Thomas Brown] shows up, Veronica (and the audience, let’s be real) is immediately intrigued with his general badass-ness and they quickly become the audience’s OTP. Until they aren’t.

After confrontation at a party, the Heathers banish Veronica from their little posse and she is marked as a victim of social suicide (“Dead Girl Walking” … sure to be a go-to shower song for angsty girls everywhere). Revenge quickly gets out of hand when accidental homicide starts turning into a series of planned endings. Serious topics like teen violence, sexual desire, suicide and eating disorders are addressed with biting dialogue, delightfully entertaining physical comedy (slow motion fighting sequence, an ode to blue balls), and memorable music numbers. The show is laugh-out-loud funny but also edge-of-your-seat suspenseful (especially if you haven’t seen the movie).

Veronica is a relatable protagonist because you really get why she tolerates hanging out with the Heathers. Being someone people want/respect in high school seems like the most important thing at the time even though years later you’ll realize it’s not. The Heathers are just as flawed as everyone else, except they have money and money means power. (“Candy Store” will be stuck in your head for days.) And JD… oh, JD with his Slurpees and black trench coat. He’s the mysterious new guy and if you aren’t drawn to his charm, well then you probably weren’t watching the same show I was. So when JD starts doing and saying things that are quite questionable, you don’t want to believe he’s really capable of going through with any of it. JD makes your heart race for a number of reasons throughout the show, but his “Meant to Be Yours” performance that is all kinds of intense and really drives the show toward its finale. Electric and scary moments like when Brown owns the stage during his aforementioned solo make seeing the show a necessity. The soundtrack is fun to listen to, but seeing the characters come alive through the music adds to the overall enjoyment of the experience.

Because that’s what Heathers the Musical is – it’s an experience. The costumes reminded me a bit of Cher and her friends from Clueless, but with bigger 80s hair and hair accessories. Because the main characters wear the same outfit for a majority of the show, it’s easier to focus on the lyrics and dialogue. The humor and horror is all there, but it’s all through words and actions rather than superfluous set or costume changes. The set is rather sparse and the props are minimal (but so effective), but you’re never wishing there were more things on stage because the actors do their jobs so well.

Heathers the Musical might be closing at New World Stages on August 4th, but it deserves to find legs elsewhere in the city so more people can lick it up, baby. Lick. It. Up.

This afternoon, I had a chance to see the Off-Broadway musical Little Miss Sunshine at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theatre.

 

Based off of the 2006 film of the same name, Little Miss Sunshine is the humorous, and at times heart-breaking, tale of the Hoover family’s weekend trip from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, California so that nine-year-old Olive can compete in a pageant she qualified for while visiting relatives. What’s special about this family is that none of them are special in that they are dysfunctional and unglamorous just like the rest of us. Two parents, two kids, a formerly suicidal gay uncle and grandpa who abuses drugs travel in a barely running VW van on a long road trip. The dad is unemployed and desperate for a book deal for a 10-step motivational plan he keeps using on anyone who will listen. The son has taken a vow of silence until he can get into flight school. The daughter wears glasses, has a bit of a tummy, and is the antithesis of any girl you see on that Toddlers and Tiaras show. We laugh with them because we can relate to them. We laugh at them because it’s easier to laugh at their hardships than deal with our own.

 

Based on the cast and source material, I had high expectations going into this show and can honestly admit that they were met. Little Miss Sunshine wasn’t flawless, but isn’t that the point? With no act breaks or intermission, we are with the Hoovers every step of the way (or every mile they drive, rather), for better or worse.

 

I wondered how they were going to handle the family being in that VW van for a majority of the musical (for if you’ve seen the movie, you know that the van is a major set piece) and was enamored when six yellow chairs on wheels were rolled around the stage in formation to represent the van (said chairs also were used as chairs and beds). The actors basically Flinstoned themselves about the stage, but it didn’t seem silly – it was practical and believable. Those chairs were the van and those actors were the Hoover family.

 

The cast was very strong. I had seen Will Swenson, Rory O’Malley and Wesley Taylor on stage before, but it was great to see them in different roles than I was used to. I was most excited to see Stephanie J. Block, as she is a performer I had always wanted to see in person but had missed out on before.

 

Swenson and Block played Richard and Sheryl Hoover. They looked like parents – hell, they looked like my parents – and it was easy to believe that they had been together for awhile and were dealing with a lot of crap that adults don’t want to be dealing with on top of having two rambunctious children and live-in family members (her brother and his dad). The stress was written all over their faces, but so was the underlying love that ultimately kept the family together. Both Swenson and Block are strong actors with equally powerful vocals and it was a pleasure to see them act opposite each other. (Throughout the show I wondered why Will Swenson and Matt Bomer haven’t been cast as brothers in something. Someone needs to make this happen. Please and Thank You.)

 

O’Malley played Frank, Sheryl’s gay brother who had recently tried to slit his wrists because of relationship problems. This production delves a little deeper into Frank’s story than the movie did (with the addition of a couple scenes between Frank and his former lover, as well as Frank and his nephew) and the audience understands a little more (if not a little better) about why he did what he did and how he’s doing now. O’Malley was great, but I couldn’t help but think that he reminded me an awful lot of Jesse Tyler Ferguson for some reason… (I’ll blame the facial hair and how they have similar dialogue/lyric delivery).

 

David Rasche, an actor who I was not familiar with, played the grandpa (the role that won Alan Arkin a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in the film). He got a lot of laughs because the character is so inappropriate, but I also appreciated the bits of scenes where he was able to be serious. (I often say how I think comedic actors/roles are at their best during dramatic moments.)

 

Olive and Dwayne Hoover were played by Hannah Nordberg and Logan Rowland, respectively. Nordberg was a delight as Olive. I thought she projected well and definitely held her own on stage among the more seasoned actors. She had a great handle on the comedic moments, but also shined during Olive’s more dramatic scenes. Rowland was great as Dwayne. As Dwayne is silent for half the show, Rowland’s facial expressions and body language were vital in getting that character across and I thought he pulled it off. Dwayne was always one of (if not) my favorite character in the show and though his freak out was a little less underwhelming on stage, it still made an impact.

 

So, I mentioned Wesley Taylor earlier… he had a small role as Frank’s former boyfriend and as a surfer-esque dude who works at the pageant. Let’s just say my body was not ready to see his abs underneath his neon pink polo shirt, but his voice is just as stunning as I remembered it to be. (I saw him in The Addams Family when it premiered in Chicago a few years ago… “I’m Crazier Than You” was on repeat for awhile.)

 

Sadly the Playbill does not list the songs from the show, so I don’t know any of their names (and I’m too lazy to Google it right now…). BUT, I can say that the music was good and if there happens to be a soundtrack someday, I’d totally get it because the voices of these performers are top notch and the lyrics were solid. The group numbers were great, but I was a little Meh about the song Richard sang about his dad. That was just not the best sounding note for Swenson to end with, you know?

 

If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it ends right after the pageant. And if you remember the pageant… well, then you’ll be pleased with how the musical’s pageant ends too. I had a grin on my face that you couldn’t have smacked off.

 

When the show was over, our performance had a moderated Q&A with Stephanie J. Block. (I was unaware of this prior to being seated… there was a note in everyone’s Playbill.) Though she said a lot of “actor-y” things about finding her character and the different productions of the show leading up to this one, I still found it to be wholly enjoyable and informative. It was fun to hear her speak so highly of the show and her cast and it very much seemed that this was a labor of love for everyone involved. (I kind of ran into Block in the lobby after the show. I let her duck out the exit ahead of me and she told me to have a good night, so I told her that the show was great and she thanked me.)

 

If you liked the movie, then you’re sure to enjoy the musical. Little Miss Sunshine is playing at Second Stage Theatre (305 W 43rd St, New York, NY) through December 8, 2013.

So, as pure luck would have it, I am friend with someone who had two tickets she couldn’t use to the 2013 Tony Awards dress rehearsal. When she asked me if I wanted them, I pretty much said “OH MY GOODNESS, YES” and then I asked my theater buddy, Antoinette, if she wanted the other ticket. She said yes… and then somehow magically got two ridiculously cheap tickets to Murder Ballad (an Off-Broadway musical we were jonesing to see). So, Sunday June 9th was a day of ALL THE THEATER.

 

And it was magical.

 

Going to the Tony Awards is on my actual Bucket List. I would still like to attend the ceremony itself one day, but going to the dress rehearsal definitely fulfilled a life-long dream to be at the Tonys.

 

The dress rehearsal was the entire show, full-out. Neil Patrick Harris was there, in wardrobe, and did the opening number with all the ensembles/casts from the nominated musicals and other musicals that are still running on Broadway. We heard all his jokes, saw him do his shtick (including the BRILLIANT and funny music number with Andrew Rannells, Laura Benanti, and Megan Hilty), and watched him be the professional performer that we know him to be.

 

It was thrilling, to say the least, to be able to watch the music numbers of all the shows. For as many shows as I see on Broadway, I only saw two of the nominees for Best Musical. So, while it was great to see the ensembles from Kinky Boots and Matilda perform again, I was delighted to see snippets of the shows I missed, those I won’t see, or those I want to see. I still can’t really tell you what Pippin is about, but I do know that seeing all those acrobats in person was something I’m not likely to forget. (And can we talk about Patina Miller?! Holy smokes.)

 

I have never seen The Phantom of the Opera, nor do I plan on seeing it any time soon, but it was really amazing to see the Phantom and Christine singing among the clouds of dried ice on that boat thing. I wasn’t planning on seeing Annie, but it was a treat to see Jane Lynch come out and sing a piece of “Little Girls.” I was sad to have missed Bring It On: The Musical while it was on Broadway, but I was overjoyed to watch the cast perform my favorite song from the show – “It’s All Happening.”

 

Mostly I was over the moon to see the casts from Matilda and Kinky Boots perform again. I saw Kinky Boots in previews (more specifically, I saw its fifth preview, where the cast was pretty much begging people at the stage door to tell our friends about the show) and thought it was the most fun show I’ve ever had at a Broadway show. I would love to see it again, but even getting the chance to see them perform “Everybody Say Yeah” yesterday was enough to make my smiles hurt. Kinky Boots is the show that I keep telling people to see, and I knew it had to walk away with multiple awards last night. (I was so pleased when Cyndi Lauper won for her score, Billy Porter won for Best Actor in a Musical, and it took Best Musical. The show is FLAWLESS and amazing.)

 

It was great to see Matilda’s performance as well. “Revolting Children” is my favorite song from the show, and I love that I can pick out Taylor Trensch and Ryan Steele from the ensemble. It’s fun watching people you’ve met or seen a few times getting the chance to perform at the Tonys. I know I’m “lucky” in that I live in NYC now and have more of an opportunity to see a lot of these performers on an oddly regular basis, but it’s still a thrill to see actors you admire getting to show the world just how good at their jobs that they are.

 

I saw someone’s post online earlier today saying that they love the Tonys because it’s one of the few awards shows where the people nominated get to share their skills with everyone else. Like the Grammys, the Tonys are a venue for the performers to perform for their peers and the home audience. It’s a way to actively show what they do for a living and show that they love what they do. I mean, I love the Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmys, but those often come across as pageants for pretty people who get paid a lot and wear fancy clothes and get free swag. The Tonys (and Grammys) showcase why these people are put on pedestals by the fans, and why the people in the Broadway (and music) community embrace said community. It’s neat to see a large group of people encouraging each other for the sake of their art. Creative expression is a beautiful thing, and to watch people use every fiber of their being to tell stories is special – especially when you get the chance to see something performed live in person.

 

Another fun thing about the dress rehearsal was seeing if the presenters were actually there when their names were announced. Some of them were not, but a lot of them were! We got to see Zachary Quinto, Jesse Eisenberg, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jane Krakowski, Anna Kendrick, Sally Fields, Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters!

 

If being able to sit through the dress rehearsal of the Tony Awards wasn’t enough theatrical excitement for the day, seeing Murder Ballad definitely was icing on the theater-going cake.

 

All I knew about Murder Ballad was that it had Will Swenson and Cassie Levy, got Meh reviews from the lady I saw talking about it on New York 1, and takes place in and around a bar. From the snippets I saw on TV, the show takes place on a “stage,” but said stage is set up like a bar, and there are tables and chairs next to the bar and pool table. There are rows of seats surrounding three sides of the stage area (the fourth side holds the band) and then there are audience members sitting at the tables and chairs next to the bar.

 

We had tickets for the center table directly next to the bar.

 

As soon as we were seated, we were told by someone in the crew that where we were sitting, especially the aisle in between our table and the bar, was going to be used by the actors during the show. As such, we were not allowed to have any personal items on the table, we were not allowed to have anything in the aisle, and we weren’t allowed to leave during the performance. (Or, rather, if you left, you couldn’t get back to your seat.)

 

We had about ten minutes before the show started so we looked around from our seats near the bar. A stranger who was separated from his own party ended up at the table with us. We made small talk, but then it was time for the show to start.

 

Murder Ballad is performed by four cast members (two female, two male) completely through song. I did not know any of the songs heading into the show, but it wasn’t too hard to figure out their general gist. A girl was hooking up with a bartender, but then their relationship went sour. She then ended up with this scholarly guy and they got married and had a kid. Several (ten?) years down the road, the girl runs into the bartender and they hook up. She feels bad and wants to end it because she has a family, but the bartender guy gets a bit crazy and tells her she is his. There is a big confrontation between the three people and you think someone is going to get clubbed to death with a baseball bat. The fourth cast member is the narrator who provokes the other characters as she provides exposition. The whole musical is a cautionary tale, though most people would likely never find themselves in this situation.

 

I was excited to see this show because of Will Swenson. Having never seen him in anything before, I was very much looking forward to seeing him perform. He is a great actor with unfairly good looks (like, he looks like Jon Hamm, but with even better hair…) and his voice is equally gorgeous. There was something oddly electric and wholly terrifying to be sitting that close to the action as he chased Cassie Levy’s character about the stage, or simulated having sex with her on the bar mere feet away from me. It was a completely new theatrical experience to be sitting in the middle of the choreographed chaos around me… I wouldn’t say I loved it, but it definitely added something to the viewing experience and perhaps made me like the show more than I would have if I just was watching it from a “regular” seat.

 

After the show, we hung around the stage door and were able to get autographs and pictures with some of the cast. It was a great way to end our amazingly fun day of theater-going.

 

As I walked home, exhausted from the long day of seeing all the things, I realized that in that moment and for that day, I was wholly glad to be myself. This is not a daily occurrence (for example, as I’m typing this, I wish I was anyone but myself, having just sat through something I wish I didn’t have to see/feel), but yesterday I was just blissfully happy to be me because if I wasn’t me, I never would have gotten a chance to see what I saw and just be surrounded by theater.

 

Someday I hope to be financially stable enough to see a show anytime I wanted to. For now, though, I shall be forever grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, the shows I’ve gotten to see, and the friends I’ve seen shows with.

 

A friend and I went and saw the recent Off-Broadway revival of The Last 5 Years last week and I am still having all sorts of feelings days and days after the fact.

 

 

 

This was the first time I had ever seen the show before (I guess I should say “live” before… I have seen bootlegs of the Norbert Leo Butz/Sherie Rene Scott version from Chicago), but I was very familiar with its format and all the songs. I guess I thought I would be okay seeing the show since I knew what to expect. I wasn’t expecting to still be reeling a week later; angry at a fictional character for breaking my very real heart.

 

 

 

For those of you who have never heard of the show or have never seen the show, The Last 5 Years tells the story of Jamie and Kathy and their five year relationship. The catch is, the show is told from his point of view from the beginning to the end of their relationship and from her point of view from the end to the beginning of their relationship.

 

 

 

A two-person show, each character sings every other song with the exception three songs. Their only proper duet, “The Next Ten Minutes” is their engagement/wedding song – where their stories meet in the middle for one, blissfully happy and romantic number – only to be reminded moments later that he’s going to sing about the end of their relationship juxtaposed against her being super happy about falling in love. The finale, “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You,” is an emotional punch to your heart because you’re watching her sing about how she can’t wait to see him again while he’s leaving his wedding ring on a table and walking out the door.

 

 

 

I know the songs of this show inside and out, but somehow seeing them  performed in a row on stage with actors putting themselves completely into those characters… I lost is couple times. I’m not a crier at many things, but tears fell during both “The Next Ten Minutes” and “Goodbye Until Tomorrow/I Could Never Rescue You.” I cried during “The Next Ten Minutes” because the lyrics to that song are just so simple and honest. He’s asking her to share her life with him and she sings about wanting to be his wife and having his kids. And for a fraction of a second, you think they’re going to make it, only to remember that he leaves her in a few more songs.

 

 

 

And then the finale. Oh, that finale. I was just so… angry. I won’t spoil for you why he leaves, but as a woman, I’m on Kathy’s side of this scenario. That’s not to say I don’t fully disagree with some of the arguments that Jamie makes, but I walked out of that show firmly thinking that Jamie was a coward and how his actions were inexcusable.

 

 

 

It really makes you think, though… what if their roles were reversed? What if she was the one in the relationship with a successful career? What if she was the one to leave? What if it was told from the end of their story from his point of view as opposed to hers?

 

 

 

I am beyond grateful I got a chance to see this production. Though it was honestly one of the most gut-wrenching and painful (to the emotions) shows I’ve ever seen in my entire life, it was something I needed to witness firsthand. Jason Robert Brown’s lyrics are brilliant. Though my favorite song from the show (“I Could Be in Love With Someone Like You”) was actually replaced (with “Shiksa Goddess”) after the  Chicago show, I get why that was done. ICBILWSLY showed Jamie as too vulnerable of a character (the line “I don’t know what I’m doing, but come in and ruin me” will forever be my favorite line from any song of all time), while SG shows him to be more selfish (albeit in a joking, charming manner that we all fall for, but you know eventually that’ll turn sour…).

 

 

 

The Last 5 Years has been extended at the Second Stage Theatre in NYC through May 18th and I highly recommend it for people who are actively looking to feel emotionally conflicted.

(Originally posted on my Tumblr on January 26, 2013.)

A week before it’s set to close, I finally got a chance to see bare the musical.

Why did I wait this long?

I get how and why people are obsessed with this show. There’s more angst than fan fiction and the characters are the outcasts we thought we were (but probably really weren’t). In bare, high school drama is turned up to 11 as these Catholic School kids deal with love, drugs, homosexuality, bigotry and judgement within a religious setting.

Religion itself, though, was just a MacGuffin.

The students were not fearful of punishment from God… they were more afraid of their parents, society and their peers. Especially Jason.

See… Jason is a jock who happens to be with Peter. Jason and Peter are adorable together but inly when their alone. Jason is not out to himself, let alone the rest of his world. Peter wants to celebrate their relationship and be honest about it, but Jason thinks their relationship is best kept secret.

Though Peter is the protagonist of the show, I was drawn to Jason’s character because he had the most “drama” going on in his life (and I thought the actor playing him – Jason Hite – looked like a poor man’s version of Matt Damon).

Watching Jason’s internal struggle get the best of him was heart-wrenching (to say the least). I don’t emote much when watching movies/television/theater, but tears welled up and then spilled slowly down my cheeks during “Cross” – Jason’s confession scene/song to the priest. The lyrics alone were a sucker punch to the heart, but watching Jason go there was intense and moving. The boy was on his knees, trying to understand how to feel what he was feeling while still trying to adhere to what he’s been told by parents, religion and society. I wept silently for this boy as he tore at his hair and begged for answers that would never come.

Jason and Peter’s story was not the only plot line of the show (obviously), but it was the one I cared most about. However, my favorite vocals from the talented ensemble came from the girl who played Jason’s sister, Nadia (Barrett Wilbert Weed). That girl can siiiiiing.

Another highlight of the show, for me, was seeing Missi Pyle play Sister Joan. I’ve been a fan of Pyle for well over a decade and it was a real treat to see her on stage 🙂

This show was an epic combination of Peter Pan, Romeo and Juliet and most high school-based after school specials. (Teen pregnancy, jealousy, sexuality, repression, drug use, etc…) It was one of those “anything that can go wrong, does” scenarios where you know that a happy ending is not a likely outcome.

Once you embrace the angst, it’s easy to get sucked into the heightened drama and great songs bare the musical has to offer.