Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Death Over 100 Years in the Making

It's probably a good thing that Is He Dead?, written by Mark Twain in 1898, hasn't been performed until now because it's hard to imagine any actor in those 109 years could be as captivating as Norbert Leo Butz. The play, directed by Michael Blakemore, officially opens today (although the Playbill still lists the pre-strike opening night, November 29) at the Lyceum Theatre. In 2002, Stanford University English Professor Shelley Fisher Fishkin rediscovered the Twain play and brought it to producer Bob Boyett, who recruited David Ives for the adaptation (Jesse Green wrote a fascinating article on the process from the discovery to the production for the New York Times).

In the play, French painter Jean-Francois Millet (Norbert Leo Butz) can't sell a painting. When a snooty English man (played to comic perfection by David Pittu) wants to buy one of his paintings and then changes his mind upon realizing that the painter is still alive, Millet realizes that the only way for an artist to be successful is to die. His friends help him fake death, forcing Millet to pose as his widowed sister handling his affairs.

There is nothing particularly original or groundbreaking here, but then again most of it was written over a hundred years ago. Still, it's rare to find a show this funny that never loses its momentum. This is in large part due to the Butz, who bounces around the stage in drag with the same energy he displayed in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The supporting cast is just as engaging, especially Byron Jennings as the villainous Bastien Andre, complete with wicked laugh, and Pittu as four minor characters with a variety of accents. Even Jenn Gambatese was able to redeem herself from memories of the disappointing Tarzan with her performance as Millet's simple lover.

Aside from the problem of the multiple doors not staying shut, Peter J. Davison makes fantastic use of the vast stage with his set design. The cluttered effect of paintings everywhere makes the stage look much smaller in the first act, in contrast to the grandiose white room of the second act, when the characters have money.

Time will tell how successful the play is with critics and audiences, but with the all-star treatment Is He Dead? is getting, it's hard not to see parallels between Millet and Twain, who was just coming out of bankruptcy when he wrote this. I guess the answer to the question is that no, an artist is never really dead as long as his work lives on.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Northernly Exposed, Again

In the early '90s, my television habits mostly consisted of educational programs and cartoons. There were shows that my parents watched that were forbidden to me and my younger brother, such as Beverly Hills 90210, but the one "adult" show that they never had a problem letting me join them for was Northern Exposure. I was not even 8 years old when the show first aired, so I'm sure some of it went over my head (Chris in the Morning quoting Jung, for example), but I loved it. Now that the show is reairing on a local PBS station (which means no commercials), I can experience the show from an older and supposedly wiser perspective.

Northern Exposure aired from 1990 to 1995. The show was about Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow), a Jewish Columbia med school grad, who was forced to practice four years in the fictitious town of Cicily, Alaska to pay off his medical school debt. The characters are what appealed to me so much the first time--Joel's love interest and sparring partner Maggie O'Connell (Janine Turner), the sweetly innocent film buff Ed Chigliak (Darren Burrows), the Rolling Stone-ordained minister and DJ Chris Stevens (John Corbett), Joel's often silent secretary Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles), the young and silly Shelly Tambo (Cynthia Geary) dating the much older Holling Vinceour (John Cullum), and the rich astronaut Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin).

What I didn't remember about the show is how brilliantly the wide range of music tied in with the plots. One particular example that stands out is "Pretty Lady" from Sondheim's Pacific Overtures during a flashback of Maurice seeing Shelly for the first time. It sounds like pretty background music for a love at first sight scene, but the lyrics about sailors mistaking a Japanese girl for a prostitute reveal that the situation is more about love than lust.

It's pretty rare to find a show with intelligent dialogue that balances funny and tender moments. It's even more rare to find a show that everybody in my family enjoys. I'm so happy to have rediscovered it, I just may be tempted to save up for the complete series on DVD.

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd...

I tend to view Entertainment Weekly as a guilty pleasure magazine, but I am often pleasantly surprised at how well-written and informative it can be, especially in the Holiday Movie Preview issue. I usually don't like to read too much about a movie that I'm anticipating because I like to be surprised, but I really enjoyed this article by Steve Daly about the making of Sweeney Todd. It gives an interesting look at how the film was made, without giving too much away. I especially loved that Stephen Sondheim approved Depp for the role without hearing him sing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tonight We're Going to Party Like it's 1999

As I mentioned in a previous entry, today both the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears released new albums, titled Unbreakable and Blackout, respectively. offers a free listen, but it's not really worth wasting an hour and a half of your time (I learned that the hard way).

The Backstreet Boys, in addition to developing an inexplicable fondness for the prefix "un," delivered a boring album. Each power ballad seems to be a weaker version of the one before and even the few dance tracks seem to drag.

Britney Spears' Blackout is no more memorable. Most of the songs sound like the repetitive "Gimme More," all sung in that breathy whine of hers. I will give her one thing over BSB, she does know how to laugh at herself, such as in the autobiographical "Piece of Me" with lyrics like, "I'm Mrs. Most likely to go on TV for stripping on the streets." I can't give her too much credit, as she didn't write the lyrics.

Maybe Ms. Spears should have asked advice from her former beau and the Backstreet Boys should have enlisted Justin Timberlake's help instead of JC Chasez because so far, JT seems to be winning the battle of the '90s pop stars.

Monday, October 29, 2007


I started writing for a live music blog, My review of the Pipettes at the Echoplex is up now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Want Candy

I love October--pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pies, the beautiful fall weather, and candy sales galore. I know I'm supposed to be buying candy for the kids who will come around trick-or-treating, but I can never resist the urge to try whatever new combinations of flavors the candy makers will come up with each Halloween (I'm a purist for many things, but candy isn't one of them). This year, three new variations on some classics caught my attention.

The limited edition Elvis Reese's are my favorite so far. It's pretty much the same peanut butter and chocolate goodness, but with banana creme. It's like a peanut butter and banana sandwich, but better because it has chocolate. It's also a better combination than the caramel Reese's that were introduced last year.

Candy Corn Hershey's Kisses, which are only available at Target, also combine two of my favorite flavors--candy corn and chocolate. They are certainly cute and while there is a hint of candy corn, the overpowering flavor is white chocolate. One of these Kisses is more substantial that one candy corn, but I think candy corn is one treat that tastes better in its "natural" form.

Three Musketeer Mint was the most disappointing. This dark chocolate bar with a mint filling tastes very similar to a York. Don't get me wrong, it's delicious, but the only thing inherently 3 Musketeers about it is the fluffy texture. I was thinking that it would have the traditional chocolate nougat in addition to the mint, but that was not the case.

Anyone else have any particularly good or bad candy experiences this Halloween?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Backstreet's Back, Alright?

I will forever associate the Backstreet Boys with the summer of 1996. I was vacationing in Europe with my family and "Get Down" was a huge hit in pretty much every country we visited. Despite its ridiculous lyrics (especially in AJ's rap attempt), I couldn't help but dance along every time it came on. I wondered who these five guys were and why I hadn't heard of them, but gave it little thought until two years later when their US debut album, Backstreet Boys, became a huge hit. I'll admit that I bought that album (using my little sister as an excuse). I bought it mostly for sentimental value, but I actually enjoyed it. I was pretty anti manufactured pop groups at the time, but something about this group appealed to me. Maybe it was the harmonies, maybe it was the dance parties it provided the soundtrack for, maybe it was the whispered spoken interludes between many songs (but probably not). As fond as I was of the group, don't count on me waiting in line on October 30 to buy its seventh album (minus Kevin), Unbreakable. Incidentally, this is the same release date as the album for another blast from the '90s past, Britney Spears.

Unbreakable's first single, "Inconsolable" is yet another ballad, which could be the cousin of "Shape of My Heart." The harmonies aren't as strong with one less voice, but it's a perfectly acceptable song for the Backstreet Boys. I probably wouldn't have had a problem with it had it been on Backstreet Boys, but I don't want to see these guys post-marriage, post-children, post-rehab, trying to relive their glory days. I want to remember the Backstreet Boys as they were when I first saw that video on MTV in Europe and they persuaded me to get down.

You can check out "Inconsolable" here

Monday, October 15, 2007

No es Perfecta, es Miranda! mi Amor

If you’ve never heard of Miranda!, think Argentine version of the Scissor Sisters meets Mika. Ale Sergi (vocals), Juliana Gattas (vocals), Lolo Fuentes (guitar), and Nicolas Monoto Grimaldi (bass) specialize in over-the-top theatrics and electro-pop fun. El Disco de tu Corazon, Miranda!’s third full-length studio album was released on August 28 in the United States. The bright and glittery packaging of the album is hard to resist (and why I picked up the album in the first place at a music store in Buenos Aires), but the music itself ends up falling slightly short of expectations.

Nothing on this album is as addictive as the band’s biggest hit “Don,” off of the album Sin Restricciones. With its constant changes, danceable beats, and falsetto vocals, it was different from anything being produced in Argentina at the time. The problem is that when a band perfects the art of the pop song, it’s hard not to hit a plateau. Still, there are plenty of enjoyable dance tracks like the eerie “Prisionero” and the silly “Hola.” “No Me Celes” is perhaps the best song on the album, and it doesn’t even have the aid of synthesizers and sound effects, just sweet vocals and a Latin-flavored melody courtesy of la guitarra de Lolo. None of the lyrics on this album are as clever as “Don” or as provocative as “El Profe,” (also off Sin Restricciones) a song about a professor seducing a student. On “Voces,” when Ale sings “Voces adentro de mi costantemente quieren convencerme de algo que hare sin querer (voices inside of me want to convince me of something I’ll do without thinking),” it comes off as cheesy, but not in the self-aware way of previous albums, such as when the band performs telenovela theme covers.

For all these petty complaints, it’s hard not to love Miranda! After all, the title of the album translates to the album of your heart, and how can a band who wears superhero outfits, top hats, and roller skates, not find its way to your heart?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Disney Channel's Newest Original Series is Anything But

For its newest series, Wizards of Waverly Place, Disney uses its tried-and-true recipe. Familar faces from other Disney Channel shows/movies. Check. A fashionable and spunky heroine with a secret. Check. Annoying brother. Check. Check. Mean girl. Check. Dorky best friend. Check. The formula worked well in the past, but this show could have used a bit more originality to give kids a reason to watch when they could be watching Hannah Montana or Harry Potter.

Wizards of Waverly Place premiered last night at 9:30 p.m., although from now on it will air Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Alex (Selena Gomez), her older brother Justin (David Henrie), and her younger brother Max (Jake T. Austin) are three wizards in training. Before you think Hogwarts, this show is more Sabrina the Teenage Witch than Harry Potter. By day, they keep their magic a secret and attend school in New York City and by night (well, more like afternoon), their father (David DeLuise) teaches them wizardry.

In the first episode, Alex duplicates herself so she can attend a crazy 10 minute sale and not have to miss wizard class. Disney Channel has been running promos featuring this episode's major plot points all month long, which only added to the "Haven't I seen this before?" feeling. The funniest moments took place in the form of pop culture references. The sale took place at Suburban Outfitters, Max got his first wand, an eWand which doubles as an MP3 player, and the duplication spell sounds like "Edge Bono U2 sus".

If anything, this episode just leaves the viewer with questions. Are there other wizards in New York City? Why does the dad ask Alex to duplicate him at the end? Isn't he a wizard too? Is the mom a wizard? The terms for the show are not really set, although a visit to the Disney Channel website does answer some of these questions. The children are training for their wizard test, which will determine which one will keep his/her powers. There can only be one wizard per family. Their father already lost his powers to his brother, which explains why he cannot do magic himself.

As far as acting goes, it's pretty par for the course for a Disney series. Henrie is likeable as the teacher's pet older brother, but Austin has definitely not improved in the acting department since "Johnny Kapahala Back on Board." Gomez seems to be trying too hard to be the next Disney Channel starlet. Of course, I'm not the show's target audience and tweens will no doubt enjoy the crazy antics without too much questioning.

There is still time for Wizards of Waverly Place to improve. This was only the first episode. Maybe the next few won't feel so much like an edgebonoutoosus spell gone wrong.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

High School Musical: La Seleccion Es Lo Mas!

By now, everybody knows about the phenomenon that is High School Musical, which includes two movies, an ice tour, and a stage musical. Pre-pubescent Americans aren’t the only ones buying it up, the little made-for-tv musical that could is a worldwide phenomenon. In Argentina, High School Musical is so popular that Disney is creating an Argentine production of the film (until now, tweens watched a dubbed version with the songs played in their original English for their HSM fix). In order to cast the leads, Canal 13 is airing High School Musical: La Seleccion, a reality show in the tradition of You’re the One that I Want and its British predecessor How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria. A Mexican version of La Seleccion is simultaneously being aired in Mexico.

High School Musical: La Seleccion airs every Sunday night on Canal 13 in Argentina and replayed every Monday night on the Disney Channel, but episodes can be viewed worldwide on the channel’s website. Episodes are usually up by Tuesday and there is a backlog of episodes to catch up on the season. Twenty-six thousand young adults were narrowed down to 20. There are eight remaining and of those eight, four will be chosen to portray Troy, Gabriella, Ryan, and Sharpay.

Argentine reality shows (of which there are many) tend to be much more rigorous than American versions. The 20 finalists attend “escuela,” a sort of High School Musical training school. Each week culminates in a concert in front of a live studio audience. A panel of four judges the performances and the scores are then combined with a score for escuela. The two with the lowest scores go to the phone votes. Unlike You’re the One That I Want, only one person is eliminated each time, regardless of sex. Therefore, a boy can be up against a boy, a girl against a girl, or a boy against a girl (this last one is not really fair, because the boy almost always beats out the girl in the phone votes). Whoever wins the phone votes is still allowed to participate in the concerts. Unlike other reality show in which the losers go home, the kids who lose the phone vote still participate in school and are usually background dancers and singers during the concerts. Also, everybody had a chance to participate in the recording of the soundtrack (for the television show, not the movie), which is already gold in Argentina.

Last week was the final week for eliminations and the eight remaining finalists, four boys and four girls, will perform in the concerts until the end. So far, everybody who was eliminated deserved to go home. The theme of the show is “cantar, actuar, bailar” (sing, act, and dance), but of the original 20, only about six are a triple threat. This week, each contestant performed a song and the judges made comments, but did not give scores. At the end, the judges deliberated and decided which roles four of the contestants would be competing for. The other four will be decided next week. The whole episode was fairly pointless, but entertaining nonetheless.

Most of the contestants go by cutesy nicknames and the eight finalists are Fernando Dente (Fer), Walter Bruno (just Walter), Juan Macedonio (Juanchi), Gaston Vietto (he goes by Gaston, but they also call him “El Charango,” the name of an instrument which he plays), Agustina Vera (Agus), Delfina Peña (Delfi), Sofia Petros (Sofi), and Valeria Baroni (Vale).

Of the remaining male contestants, Fer has the best voice. He has a good range, consistently gives entertaining performances, and can actually dance and sing at the same time without losing his breath. He is a versatile actor who can do great comedic performances, but can also play the Romeo. The judges have not yet decided whether he will be competing for Troy or Ryan. He does have the Troy hair going on, but he is so good at being silly that I kind of hope he plays Ryan. He is the only one of the four that I think can do something with the role.

Walter is probably my favorite. I love his falsetto and his self deprecating humor (the poor kid has braces). The judges also haven’t decided which role he is going for, but if they have any sense, they will pick him for a Troy.

Juanchi is one of the fan favorites, but he is the most inconsistent of the males. He brings the house down with his rock performances, but he does not have the best vocal range. Altough he has given some weak vocal performances, he is, as the judges say, an excellent "showman". When he had to sing Mika’s “Grace Kelly,” a song that was clearly out of his range, he worked it with his energy and dance moves and the audience and judges ate it up. The judges picked him as a Ryan, which seems a little off. He is too rock ‘n’ roll and not enough musical theatre. He would make a good Chad, since he’s got that whole too cool for school thing going on, but unfortunately, they’re not auditioning for that role.

Gaston has no right still being in the competition. He has yet to sing an entire song without going out of tune. Gaston was saved twice by the fans and it’s fairly safe to say it was because of his looks. He was lucky last week because there were no more eliminations, otherwise he would have been in the bottom two again. The judges picked him as a finalist for Troy, much to everybody’s shock, but I think they did it because they know he won’t win and it will guarantee that either Walter or Fer will be Troy.

Delfi has the best voice of the girls. She looks a little too old to be Gabriella, but I was really hoping she’d get that role. The judges picked her as a finalist for Sharpay, probably because she is the only blonde and it's the role that she obviously wanted. However, this week she did some acting scenes as Sharpay and I have to say her acting abilities leave something to be desired, although she did channel her inner diva when performing her rendition of “Bop to the Top.” Sure beats Ashley Tisdale.

Agus has by far the best personality and acting skills of the girls. One of the best performances was Agus and Fer singing “Don” by Miranda! They have such great chemistry on and off stage that ideally she would play Sharpay to his Ryan. Agus does not have the most consistent voice, but at least she does not have a lot to live up to. The judges haven’t decided which role she is going for, but I kind of worry that she would lose to Delfi because everyone is convinced that she is Sharpay (probably because she is blonde). It wouldn’t be the worst thing if she played Gabriella; she gave a very sweet performance to Fer’s Troy.

The judges seem to love Sofia, but there is nothing special about her. She has a decent voice, but she does not show enough emotion when she sings and seems very stuck up. She might make a good Taylor, but she is going for the role of Gabriella.

Vale also has a decent voice, but she is boring. She always gives the most forgettable performances, plus she would have been in the bottom two last week, so she doesn’t seem to have a good shot. The judges haven’t decided who she is going against, but it hardly matters because she won't beat either Delfi or Sofi, the judges’ darlings.

The judges are one of the main reasons why the show works so well. They give constructive and detailed comments and hopefully the contestants are learning from them. The three female judges—-Soleded Pastorutti (singer), Laura Oliva (dancer/actress), and Andrea Del Boca (actress)—-are too nice. They tend to give everybody high scores, but somehow their comments are detailed enough to make up for it. Andrea is the worst, she pretty much always gives tens. She admitted in one episode that she wanted to be the nice one, but she’s not helping anyone by telling these kids that they are perfect and they don’t need to improve. The best and most under-appreciated judge is Peter “I’m sorry” Macfarlane (opera and musical theatre director), the Simon Cowell of the group. The contestants, judges, and audience members seem to hate him, but he obviously knows his stuff. He has never given anyone a ten because nobody has ever given a perfect performance. He constantly teaches musical terms to host Matias Martin, the family members of the contestants, and anybody else who cares to listen. His biggest pet peeve is singers who go out of tune (and rightly so). He also calls the “professors” out for the songs they choose, such as songs in English for students who clearly cannot pronounce a word of it or the “Grace Kelly” fiasco.

The coaches, Ricky Pashkus (theatrical director), Virginia Modica (vocal coach), Fernando Lopez Rossi (musical director), Veronica Garabello (dancing coach) are always ready to defend their choices, which often results in some pretty intense arguments. A frequent complaint by the judges is the English songs. Many Latin singers do sing in English, but these kids are just starting out. It’s hard enough for them to perform every week without the added difficulty of pronunciation. It would be one thing if every contestant had a song with the same level of difficulty every week, but the song selection seems totally random. Someone will perform a rock song, someone else a ballad, someone will sing in English, another in Spanish, some have to perform a duet, and others solo. The show would have benefited from theme nights to level the playing field, such as duet night, musical night, movie night, maybe even Queen night (they seem to really like picking Queen songs).

It's not perfect, but this is still a really well done television show that I can't get enough of.

You can watch episodes on the Canal 13 website.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hope for the Sitcom

Last season of How I Met Your Mother ended with one of Barney's (played by the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris) catchphrases, "Legen... wait for it." Season three picked up right where he left off, with the "dary." This ability of the writers to carry a running joke is what makes How I Met Your Mother one of the funniest shows on television right now.

The season premiere of How I Met Your Mother aired Monday night at 8 p.m. on CBS. Ted Moseby is still telling his two children the story of how he met their mother (the narration by Bob Saget still feels as extraneous as it did in the first two seasons). Despite the changes this season, namely that Marshall and Lily are married and Ted and Robin broke up, it's the same old show with high fives, suiting up, and hanging out at the bar.

The season premiere featured Enrique Iglesias as Gael, Robin's new boyfriend and Mandy Moore as Amy, a girl Ted uses to try and "win the break-up." This is not a show that needs to rely on big name guest stars. A scene in which the boys have trouble pronouncing Gael would have been just as funny with an unkown sitting at the table.

The highlight of the episode came at the tag where Marshall sends Barney a link to Last season, Marshall and Barney were involved in a slap bet which Barney lost and given the option of ten slaps in succession or five slaps over an eternity, he chooses the latter. Two of the slaps have already been doled out, and three are remaining. The website, which countdowns to the next slap, can be accessed on

The show's creators are promising that the "mother" will finally appear, but by this point in the series, it hardly matters. The amusing characters and running jokes are enough to carry the show even after the mystery of the mother is revealed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

624 hours in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is doing well these days. For all the economic turmoil Argentina has gone through, residents are finally spending again, and the prices reflect this. It's no longer possible to buy a pair of shoes for 10 American dollars as I did on my last trip four years ago, but at least it is still possible for three people to eat out at a nice restaurant with a show for about $10 each.

Lunch: Any confiteria in Buenos Aires is a good place for breakfast or lunch (I never really woke up early enough for breakfast). A confiteria is similar to a cafe or tea house and I've never been to a bad one. I usually opt for tostadas, sort of like grilled cheese but thinner than the American version. For meat eaters, tostadas with cheese and jamon crudo (prosciutto) is supposed to be quite good. Sandwiches de miga are another typical lunch food. It's also made with thin bread and no crust. Mr. Miga, which has various stores around the city, has options ranging from pineapple to corn to roquefort cheese.

Merienda: Tea time is known as merienda, and is usually around 5 p.m. The options for my favorite meal of the day are overwhelming. Tostadas are also an option for merienda and any confiteria will have a good selection of coffee. If you're more into chocolate, submarinos are available everywhere and can also be prepared at home. Made with hot milk and melted chocolate, submarinos get their name because the chocolate bars are long and slender and look like a submarine when placed inside the milk. Submarinos are usually made with Chocolate Aguila, available at any grocery store or kiosko. The best place to get a submarino, if you feel like spending a little extra, is Park Hyatt hotel (located at Avenida Alvear 1661), which offers specialty submarinos using truffles instead of chocolate bars. I really enjoyed the dark chocolate, which was not too sweet. Other options include white chocolate, whiskey, or mocha.

Pastries known as factura go well with coffee or submarinos or mate (an herbal drink made with yerba). There are different types of factura and anything with dulce de leche is a good option, but the most typical are the media lunas, which look like a small croissant, but taste sweeter. Any bakery will have a good assortment and I've never had a bad batch of factura anywhere in Buenos Aires.

Alfajores, another Argentina delicacy, are like big cookies filled with dulce de leche and usually covered in chocolate (there are variations on the fillings and coatings). They are available at every kiosco, but the best place for an alfajor is Havannah. You can sit down and have a coffee and alfajor at the store (you won't have trouble finding one as they are almost as prominent as Starbucks in the United States) or take a box home.

If you don't feel like going out for merienda, just go to the nearest kiosco, buy as much candy and chocolate as you feel like eating and take it up to wherever you are staying. I recommend Tita (chocolate with a wafer inside) and Bananita Dolca (chocolate with banana flavored filling).

If it's Monday, go to Freddo for buy one get one free ice cream and then take home a few kilos for dessert for the rest of the week. The dulce de leche ice cream tastes like pure dulce de leche instead of the caramel stuff that they try to pass for dulce de leche in the United States. The consistency of the ice cream is also smoother than anything I've found at home. The other two ice cream shops in the same league as Freddo are Persicco and Volta. Persicco has chocuquina ice cream with pieces of Chocolina cookies and Volta offers Bananita Volta (which tastes like Bananita Dolca). But if you just want a simple dulce de leche granizado, Freddo is still the best.

Dinner- Dinner is never earlier than 9 p.m. and can be as late as 1 a.m. Fabricas de pasta (places that make fresh pasta) are just as common as confiterias. My favorite place for fresh pasta to make at home is San Jose de Flores. They really pack the filling into the raviolis for exquisite flavor.

Nightlife- Like any big city, Buenos Aires has enough theatre, bars, clubs, and restaurants to never be bored. The best thing is with the new non-smoking laws, you can have a night out and come home without smelling like smoke. Paseo La Plaza (Av. Corrientes 1660) is a good place to start. It is an area with tons of little theatres, bars, restaurants, and shops. It is also the home of The Cavern, an imitation of the Cavern in Liverpool. We saw a talented George Harrison tribute band called Dark Horse.

There is no shortage of options of tango in the city, but a good choice that is not too touristy is La Viruta. It's kind of hard to find because it's located under the Armenian cultural center. The cover price gets you in for tango lessons, dancing, and a tango show. Make reservations if you want a table. Three-course meal specials are only 20 pesos each. The food is decent, but not spectacular, so you can always go for the dancing and eat either before or after.

Haircut- I always like to get my haircut whenever I go to Buenos Aires because I can go to a trendy place for about $10. This time I tried De La Cabeza (Mario Bravo 1136) on a recommendation. Kim cut both my hair and my sister's. We both have very different hair types and we both left very happy. He thinned and layered my hair so it wouldn't be quite so frizzy and poofy and he gave my sister long bangs.

Shopping- There are tons of shopping malls in Buenos Aires and they all have the same stores. El Solar de la Abadia is a little different. Although you'll find Kosioku and Cheeky and every other major store, the architecture adds something extra to the shopping experience. It used to be a factory, and the floors and walls were kept pretty much intact.

On the weekends, the bars in Palermo Hollywood have stands set up for shopping. The prices are reasonable and the merchandise is original. I bought a purse made out of paper for 39 pesos (about $12).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Best Invention Ever

You may have noticed that I've been neglecting my blog of late (if you're one of the few people that actually reads it). I've been out of the country in Argentina, having a wonderful time with my family and eating lots of food. I have a lot to post about and I'm not sure where to begin, so I think I'll start with a short novelty post to ease back into it.

I was visiting my cousin's university (she studies architecture at UBA, the University of Buenos Aires) and I was amazed to find that the soda machines had convenient straw dispensers. I've always found it annoying how if I'm are really thirsty and the only drinks to be had are a from a soda machine, I'm forced to drink it from the can with no straw or cup. Apparently, these straw dispensers are quite common in Buenos Aires as nobody could understand why I was so fascinated.

Here's a photo:

Monday, July 23, 2007

Partying Like They do at Hogwarts

A photo diary of the Grand Hallows Ball at Border's in Torrance, California (supposedly the biggest Harry Potter party in the South Bay). I wanted to take more pictures, but my sister had the camera in her purse and I kept losing her. There were a lot of Hermiones and Harrys, but I also saw Tonks, Snape, random Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students, but I think my two favorites were a girl dressed as Ron and Hermione's child from the future and a woman wearing a Save Lupin and Tonks shirt. This is the culmination of Harry Potter month. After attending the premiere, the midnight showing of the movie, a John Williams concert, and the midnight book party, I've been observing the different levels of Harry Potter mania from the perspective of a fellow fan. I was happy to see that the book caused much more excitement than the movies. It may seem a little scary to see fans dressed up as wizards, but I still think it's amazing that all this was started by a book.

We pre-ordered our book, but Borders started giving out wristbands when it opened at 9 a.m. They organize the lines according to colors. I got there a little before 9 and there was a short line which went really slowly, but I got orange, which was the first group. Three thousand people ordered books from the Torrance Borders and the store ordered about 1,000 more than that for those who did not pre-order.

The entrance to the Grand Hallows Ball (yes, that's me, dressed as Hermione, it's more fun when you get into the spirit).

Wizards and muggles milling around Borders. Many more activities were advertised than there ended up being, but it was still quite an amusing evening. There was a dance floor, face painting, and wizard hat making. The spelling bee and Snape debate never happened, although there was a costume contest.

There were giveaways, such as these glow-in-the-dark "wands"

and stickers

The snake cake.

The books,covered in a grey packaging of some kind. When the Borders employees started wheeling these out, the excitement really started to build.

The books out of the grey packaging and now only in boxes.

My brother messed up taking a picture of us buying the book, but the line went very fast and we were out by 12:14 a.m.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

This gURL's Life: Remy Zaken

Check out my interview with Spring Awakening's Remy Zaken on For this piece I set up and conducted the interview, did some of the photography (she gave me the other pictures), and edited down the quotes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Deconstructing Harry

For a film called "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," very little screen time is given to the members of the Order, or to anyone who is not, well, Harry Potter. New director David Yates and new screenwriter Michael Goldenberg chose to take the almost 900 pages of the book and focus mainly on Harry's inner battle. For fans of Daniel Radcliffe, this might not be a problem, but when there are so many interesting characters (who are not whiny and annoying as Potter is throughout the fifth book) played by so many talented British actors, some of the subplots are missed.

"Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" opened in theatres across America at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, July 11. Fans waiting to be first to catch the film wore their best wizard robes or favorite Hot Topic outfits and will most likely repeat this process in a week and a half when the final book is released.

Most fans already know the story going into the movie. The Ministry of Magic turns against Harry Potter and refuses to acknowledge that Voldemort is back. The papers make it look as though Potter is an attention-seeking problem child (which isn't far off, although he is telling the truth about Voldemort). Dumbledore and several others who believe Potter form the Order of the Phoenix to prepare to fight the Death Eaters. Potter and his friends follow suit by forming Dumbledore's Army in secret at school.

Somehow the longest book in the series, at almost 900 pages, became the shortest film so far, at two hours and 18 minutes. David Yates could have slowed down the film a tiny bit by taking out those montages. There are many entertaining and brilliantly acted scenes, but the film as a whole feels disjointed because so much is left underdeveloped. Percy Weasley shows up with the the Minister of Magic in one scene, but without reading the book, the audience wouldn't know that he turned against his family. The famous kiss with Cho Chang is in the film, but the relationship is dropped at some point in the film and never dealt with again. Gone from Hogwarts are quidditch (and with it some of the best subplots), the ghosts roaming the hallways, even most of the moving pictures. There is very little "magic" in this film except for the spells that Harry teaches the other students.

The acting, as always, is the strongest aspect of the film. Flashbacks show how much Daniel Radcliffe has grown since the first film. He certainly seems more confident as an actor. Rupert Grint always seems to fall most naturally into his role as Ron, but even Emma Watson, who continues to look less and less like the bushy Hermione, has matured as an actress and is able to play more emotions than just angry. Newcomer Evanna Lynch is sweetly eccentric as Luna Lovegood. But of the teenagers, Matthew Lewis stands out as the loveable Neville Longbottom, whose past is perhaps even more troubled than Harry's.

Imelda Staunton steps in as the new headmaster of Hogwarts. She is deceptively pink, but scarier than a Death Eater. Sirius Black is a favorite character among many Harry Potter fans, and Gary Oldman captures his childlike impulsive nature to perfection. Alan Rickman is brilliant as usual as the much debated Severus Snape and has some of the best one-liners this go around.

The biggest problem with the film is that there is not enough--not enough of the story and not enough of some of these brilliant actors. But if what is there leaves you wanting more, then it must be pretty good. Yates will have another go at pleasing Harry Potter maniacs with movie number six.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My First Red Carpet

Yesterday, hundreds of Harry Potter fans, both casual and obsessive, gathered at the Chinese Grauman's Theatre hoping to catch a glimpse of the young stars of "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." I was one of them. Sort of.

My sister had read that the US premiere of the fifth Harry Potter film would be in Los Angeles this year and she wanted to go in the hopes of meeting Rupert Grint. I'm a Harry Potter fan as well, and would enjoy seeing Alan Rickman or Gary Oldman up close, but not enough to deal with all the psychotic fans. So we debated whether it would be worth it, ultimately deciding that it would be too crazy and many fans would probably camp out overnight, which I was not about to do. But the morning of the premiere, we decided to go check it out at the last minute. She had to at least try to meet Rupert Grint and I figured I would have something to write about after. We arrived at around 10 a.m. and there was already a huge line. I was expecting that everyone would just find a spot along the red carpet so was confused about what the line was for. I asked an unfriendly security guard who would only give vague responses, but what I took from the conversation was that the line was for the bleachers and standing room on the side of the red carpet and the only way to see anything was to stand in line and wait. Those in the front of the line had, sure enough, waited overnight. We made our way to the back of the line, behind 500 or so people, and waited in the sun for a few hours, not even knowing whether we would get in. At first it was fun to see how many people were dressed up and to read the crazy signs like "Marry me, Daniel." Plus, it's nice how everybody starts to mingle and discuss topics such as how miscast Sir Michael Gambon is as Dumbledore and how we miss Richard Harris. After spotting a young man wearing a Wicked cap, my sister and I started discussing the probability of a Harry Potter musical and thinking of possible songs.

Eventually, the line started moving slowly. Every ten or twenty minutes, we would move up a few feet. The bleachers seats were long gone by the time we got to the front, but we did get a standing spot. The first row was completely full, predictably, by the time we got there, but we stood next to this nice woman from Wisconsin and her daughter. She let us go in front of her because of our height, but there were still tall people in front of us. We decided to take our chances with that spot because it was right across from the red carpet. It was only 1 or 1:30 so we still had a good two hours before anyone was scheduled to show up. A woman with a very small child was also in front of us and her daughter couldn't take the heat, so we told her we'd save her spot. At this point everyone was still fairly kind to each other and just seemed happy to be there. The woman and her daughter eventually came back so there was more shifting around and there was a good spot next to them in the second row, so I told my sister to take it. Some of the people around us had arrived at 7 a.m., so it was comforting to know that even if we showed up earlier, it wouldn't have made too much of a difference. I couldn't see a thing from where I was, but I didn't really care at that point. Probably around 2 or 3 p.m., I would hear screams every five minutes, but it always turned out to be a camerman shooting for some local news station (or so I was told, I couldn't really see to confirm this). Also the guy who created Mugglenet was running around, handing out stickers and filming. At around 3:30, the Harry Potter music started playing and the fans were really going crazy. This is about when everyone who had been so friendly before started to turn on each other. Why is it that events like this always bring out both the best and worst in people? This one family from Chicago was the worst. The parents seemed more into it than the daughter. The dad, who was huge, had no regard for the children behind him and was pushing to get closer and closer. You'd think he would go to the back since he'd be able to see from anywhere. Then he had the nerve to yell at others for pushing, including an 8-year-old girl. He also yelled at a girl for hitting his daughter with her hair (which I'm sure was an accident), when his wife had been doing that to me the whole time. I don't mean to sound spiteful, but I'm just amazed at how many adults were acting like children just to meet some teenage actors.

So the first star to show up was Rupert Grint at about 4:00. People were yelling something about Cho Chang before that, but I'm not sure if she was really there. Rupert Grint came up right to where we were. And there were a few moments when I could spot his ginger hair, but my sister got a great look at him, and although he stopped doing autographs by the time he got to her, she yelled "Weasley is my king," and he waved at her or at least in her direction. She got what she wanted, to see Rupert Grint up close, so that made it worth it. Next was Emma Watson who also came up to where we were. I saw her face for about a second, but couldn't really see her outfit. Again my sister got a good look. She was wearing a white dress. And then, nobody came for a long time. I was getting reports of actors on the red carpet who didn't go up to the fans, but these were Disney Channel stars and someone from "Heroes" and Melissa Joan Hart. Pretty weak for a movie of this magnitude. I was ready to leave, but I figured maybe Dan Radcliffe would come and everyone would leave and then if anyone else came after we could have a better look. Rupert Grint hadn't gone inside yet and I didn't want my sister to miss an opportunity for an autograph in case he came back. We waited for so long anyway, so I figured we might as well stick around. At one point, my sister shouted that the actor who played Cedric in the fourth film was there (I'm not sure why, he's not even in the fifth), so that was another highlight for her. Daniel did not show up until about 5:00 and he did not approach the fans at all. I was told this because I did not see him at all.

And then it was all over. The actors went in. I'm not sure if anybody else from the film was there, but if so, nobody on my side saw them. I almost feel like I wasn't there (I don't even have pictures, I brought a camera, but I figured it would be futile to even try), but although I was sunburnt, thirsty, and ready to faint, I'm glad I went. I know what to expect for future premieres (not that I would ever go to a premiere again without a press pass), I didn't have to camp out or wake up at a ridicuously early hour, and my sister still left happy.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

All About Me

Raquel Laneri at Electric Warrior tagged me with this meme. I've never done one of these before, and although it feels a little like a chain letter, I'll give it a go.


1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

So here are eight random facts that you may or may not know about me:

I've been in an academy award winning film.

OK. So I was an extra in American Beauty, but if you pause the scene at the basketball game in just the right spot, you can see me. I was also on TRL and appeared on camera twice in that episode. Combined, that probably makes up about 5 of my 15 minutes of fame.

I once wrote a juke-box musical of what else, Beatles music.

I took a class during my sophomore year of undergrad called "The American Musical." We had to do a creative final project. Most people did performances, but I did not want to subject my classmates or professor to my singing voice. So instead I wrote a musical using Beatles music. I got an A plus on it (probably the only A plus in my college career).

I've been published in Rolling Stone.

Technically. I had a letter to the editor published in response to a profile on Johnny Depp that I thought was particularly well-written.

I played the flute for eight years.

My elementary school started band in fourth grade and anybody who wanted to could choose an instrument. I chose the flute and loved it at the time, but I started to hate it in high school and haven't even touched a flute since then.

I'm old-fashioned and fearful of new technology.

I resisted CD and DVD players for a long time. I didn't have a cell phone until after undergrad. I don't have an iPod. And I still think it's weird that I have a blog.

I sometimes pretend to be younger than I am.

Since people always assume that I'm a lot younger than I am (I'm talking high school student), I sometimes lie just so I won't have to deal with the shock on their faces when I say I'm 24. This usually happens when I'm out with my family.

I went through a pick-up line phase.

Not that I constantly used them, I was just really fascinated by them and was always trying to learn new ones. My away messages in early college used to be a pick-up line of the day.

I have lots of collections.

A few items that I hoarde: buttons, keychains (I don't do this so much anymore, buttons replaced keychains, they're less noisy), shopping bags from stores around the world, postcards, playbills, and ticket stubs, but I think most people save their ticket stubs.

Now I'm supposed to tag eight other bloggers. I'm not sure if I know eight other bloggers who read my blog who haven't already been tagged.
Liney at Legally Committed
Carl at snarl_
Susie at the New F-Word
Jon at Syracuse Noise Forest
Suzanne at Meet You at the Crossroads
James at Last Exit Before the End
Jenna at Project Culture
Dave at Sincere Syllables

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why don't I live in the UK?

Yet another reason why the UK is superior--better theatre reality television.* I recently discovered that the BBC's How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, a reality show talent competition to find a Maria to star in the West End's The Sound of Music, has been followed up by Any Dream Will Do, in which Andrew Lloyd Webber and co. are searching for a new Joseph for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. My study breaks have become watching clips from the show. Thank goodness for YouTube, otherwise I would be deprived of reality television at its finest.

I saw a highly entertaining revival of Joseph on the West End in 2003, so I'm not sure it's begging to be revived again, but, and mock if you like, I'm just going to say it right now, I love Joseph. I love Andrew Lloyd Weber's eclectic score, plus it's always been my favorite Torah story. I'm still on the fence about this new casting method, although I got sucked into Grease You're the One That I Want. But if any musical was made to be cast this way, it's Joseph. The character is sort of a pop idol anyway (and he's usually played by one).

Obviously, I can't watch full episodes, but from what I've seen on YouTube, this show is much better produced than its American counterpart and the competitors are much more talented. They have more chances to showcase their talents, having to perform in trios, duets, as a group, solo, and facing various acting challenges. Also the singoffs are much more elaborate and intense. The competitors perform a whole song rather than little snippets as they did on Grease. It does seem cruel to have the losers sing "Close Every Door To Me" when they give back their coats, but that's reality television for you.

There are only three boys left in the competition--Lewis, Lee, and Keith. I'm rooting for Lee who has the best voice and stage presence. Keith has also given some knockout performances (and I'm not just saying that because he's Scottish), but he looks too young for the role and would make a better Benjamin. Come to think of it, since there were originally twelve in the competition, they should cast everyone else as the brothers. Anyway, you can bet I'll be checking for the results of the final, which is this Saturday.

Here's a clip of my favorite, Lee, singing "Paint it Black." This wasn't necessarily his best performance, but I like the bit at the beginning with the guys speaking in their charming accents:

*I realize my blog has been very theatre heavy of late. I'm spending most of my time writing about rock and pop music for my capstone, so I like to change it up a bit here.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

It was 40 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play...

I know, terribly unoriginal. I felt it necessary to take a break from my capstone to commemorate the 40th anniversary of one of the most important rock 'n' roll albums of all time. I've always been more of a "White Album" girl myself, and I also consider "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" to be stronger albums as a whole, but "Sgt. Pepper's" did give us the concept album, the Summer of Love, and "A Day in the Life."

It's a little strange to comment on the anniversary because I obviously wasn't around at the time. I never had the experience of going to the record store as soon as it came out, running home and sitting down next to the record player, and listening to it all the way through, completely mesmorized. I have no recollections of my first time listening to any of the Beatles albums because they were always there.

I do remember spending hours looking at the album cover, trying to figure out who all those famous people were. I would sing along to every song, lyrics in hand. I didn't know or care about hidden drug references, but I was intrigued by the lyrics, even then. I was fascinated by the contradictions in "Getting Better," both within the lyrics and the juxtaposition of the upbeat, sing-song melody with the darker words. I cried for the girl in "She's Leaving Home" as well as her parents. I loved the silly phrases in "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." I was jealous of Rita, who Paul McCartney wanted to have tea with. And I was stunned by "A Day in the Life."

It depresses me to think that 40 years have passed since Paul McCartney wrote "When I'm 64" and that he's on the verge of turning 65. I always thought of the four of them as those young boys from Liverpool even though they were in their 40s when I was born and John Lennon was no longer alive.

But Paul McCartney has moved on, at least in part. On Tuesday, he will release "Memory Almost Full," which promises to be an amazing album despite the label on which it's being released (Hear Music). He is focused on promoting the album rather than celebrating the anniversary of one of his proudest achievements (on the Anthology, he seems much more eager to take credit for "Sgt. Pepper's" than say, "Magical Mystery Tour," which is a very underappreciated album, but that's a story for another day). Still, his new album, as he's stated in interviews, is retrospective, with songs that look back on his childhood and his relationship with Linda. The first single "My Ever Present Past," which rivals the best songs on most McCartney solo albums (with the possible exceptions of "Ram" and "McCartney"), reminds us that Paul McCartney never can escape his past. I wonder if he realized that he would be releasing the album at a time when so many would be reliving the glory days of "Sgt. Pepper's." It must be hard to have your work held up to such high standards, but it looks like Paul is up for the challenge.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

It was only a matter of time...

Who wouldn't want to spend some time at Hogwarts or have a cup of butter beer in Hogsmeade? Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Universal Orlando Resort exploited this desire within Harry Potter fans by announcing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2009. As much as I love all things Harry Potter, it makes me a little sad that it has come to this. It started out as a really good book series that got kids to read and use their imaginations and now it's become a multi-million dollar franchise. Still, as long as people are still reading the books I guess it's OK. Plus, this could be a fun theme park, although I'm guessing it will cost a pretty penny to get in (plus airfare to Orlando). I guess I have a few years to save up.
Read the article here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tony, Tony

The Tony nominations were announced today. There were few surprises. "Spring Awakening" leads with 11 nominations. "The Coast of Utopia" was the most nominated play with 10. Here's the complete list of winners (taken from and some early predictions (I may update these as we get closer).

Best Play
The Coast of Utopia (author: Tom Stoppard)
Frost/Nixon (author: Peter Morgan)
The Little Dog Laughed (author: Douglas Carter Beane)
Radio Golf (author: August Wilson)
Early Prediction: "The Coast of Utopia." It did get the most nominations of a play, but then you never know. I wouldn't be surprised if "Frost/Nixon" walked away with the Tony.

Best Musical
Grey Gardens
Mary Poppins
Spring Awakening
Early Prediction: Do I need to say it? Is there any way that "Spring Awakening" won't win?

Best Book of a Musical
Curtains (Rupert Holmes and Peter Stone)
Grey Gardens (Doug Wright)
Legally Blonde The Musical (Heather Halch)
Spring Awakening (Steven Sater)
Early Prediction: I'm torn between "Gardens" and "Awakening," but I'll go with "Spring Awakening" for now.

Best Original Score
Curtains (Music: John Kander, Lyrics: Fred Ebb, John Kander, and Rupert Holmes)
Grey Gardens (Music: Scott Frankel, Lyrics: Michael Korie)
Legally Blonde the Musical (Music and Lyrics: Laurence O'Keefe and Nell Benjamin)
Spring Awakening (Music: Duncan Sheik, Lyrics: Steven Sater)
Early Prediction: "Spring Awakening" has the most exciting new score I've heard in a lont time and Sheik and Sater deserve to win this category. I'm guessing that they will.

Best Revival of a Play:
Inherit the Wind
Journey's End
Talk Radio
Early Prediction: I've only seen "Inherit the Wind," which I really enjoyed, but I don't think it will win. Based on what I've read and heard, I think "Journey's End" has a good chance.

Best Revival of a Musical:
The Apple Tree
A Chorus Line
110 in the Shade
Early Prediction: This is a tough category this year. I've seen all of them and I think they all have their merits. I think the overall strongest are "Company" and "110 in the Shade." I'd like to see "110" win, but I think "Company" has the best chance.

Best Special Theatrical Event:
Jay Johnson: The Two and Only
Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway
Early Prediction: I guess I have a 50% chance of getting it right. I'll go with "Kiki & Herb Alive on Broadway."

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play:
Boyd Gaines (Journey's End)
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)
Brian F. O'Byrne (The Coast of Utopia)
Christopher Plummer (Inherit the Wind)
Liev Schrieber (Talk Radio)
Early Prediction: Another tough category, considering all five of these actors already have Tony awards. I only saw Christopher Plummer's performance which is definitely Tony-worthy, but Frank Langella might edge them all out.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play:
Eve Best (A Moon for the Misbegotten)
Swoosie Kurtz (Heartbreak House)
Angela Lansbury (Deuce)
Vanessa Redgrave (The Year of Magical Thinking)
Julie White (The Little Dog Laughed)
Early Prediction: Julie White had positive buzz for her performance in "The Little Dog Laughed," so I think she'll take it, even if she is up against Lansbury and Redgrave.

Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical:
Michael Cerveris (LoveMusik)
Raul Esparza (Company)
Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening)
Gavin Lee (Mary Poppins)
David Hyde Pierce (Curtains)
Early Prediction: My favorite category. I haven't seen the performances of Pierce and Cerveris, but I loved the other three. I was happy to see that Gavin Lee was recognized, even though he doesn't have a chance. Although I haven't seen "LoveMusik" yet, Cerveris is one of the most talented actors and singers on Broadway, but it's not his year, it's Esparza's. I said it when I saw the show in November and I'm going to stick to it. As much as I would like to see it go to the talented young Groff, I think Esparza deserves it for his rendition of "Being Alive" alone.

Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical:
Laura Bell Bundy (Legally Blonde The Musical)
Christine Ebersole (Grey Gardens)
Audra McDonald (110 in the Shade)
Debra Monk (Curtains)
Donna Murphy (LoveMusik)
Early Prediction: Christine Ebersole has it in the bag. It's unfortunate that Lea Michele was snubbed for "Spring Awakening" since she's been with the show from the beginning. She's young, though, and I'm sure she'll get her Tony yet.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Play:
Anthony Chisholm (Radio Golf)
Billy Crudup (The Coast of Utopia)
Ethan Hawke (The Coast of Utopia)
John Earl Jelks (Radio Golf)
Stark Sands (Journey's End)
Early Prediction: I'd like to see Crudup win, and based on what I saw in "Voyage," I think he has a good chance.

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play:
Jennifer Ehle (The Coast of Utopia)
Xanthe Elbrick (Coram Boy)
Dana Ivey (Butley)
Jan Maxwell (Coram Boy)
Martha Plimpton (The Coast of Utopia)
Early Prediction: Jennifer Ehle for same reason as above.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical:
Brooks Ashmanskas (Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me)
Christian Borle (Legally Blonde The Musical)
John Cullum (110 in the Shade)
John Gallagher, Jr. (Spring Awakening)
David Pittu (LoveMusik)
Early Prediction: John Gallagher, Jr.! If you've seen "Spring Awakening," you'll understand why this kid deserves a Tony.

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical:
Charlotte d'Amboise (A Chorus Line)
Rebecca Luker (Mary Poppins)
Orfeh (Legally Blonde the Musical)
Mary Louise Wilson (Grey Gardens)
Karen Ziemba (Curtains)
Early Prediction: First of all, how did Charlotte d'Amboise get nominated? Her performance as Cassie was the weakest in the "A Chorus Line" revival, yet she was the only one to get nominated. At least she won't win, Mary Louise Wilson will.

Best Scenic Design of a Play
Bob Crowley & Scott Pask (The Coast of Utopia)
Jonathan Fensom (Journey's End)
David Gallo (Radio Golf)
Ti Green and Melly Still (Coram Boy)
Early Prediction: Bob Crowley and Scott Pask for "The Coast of Utopia."

Best Scenic Design of a Musical
Bob Crowley (Mary Poppins)
Christine Jones (Spring Awakening)
Anna Louizos (High Fidelity)
Allen Moyer (Grey Gardens)
Early Prediction: Bob Crowley again for "Mary Poppins."

Best Costume Design of a Play
Ti Green and Melly Still (Coram Boy)
Jane Greenwood (Heartbreak House)
Santo Loquasto (Inherit the Wind)
Catherine Zuber (The Coast of Utopia)
Early Prediction: Catherine Zuber for "The Coast of Utopia."

Best Costume Design of a Musical
Gregg Barnes (Legally Blonde The Musical)
Bob Crowley (Mary Poppins)
Susan Hilferty (Spring Awakening)
William Ivey Long (Grey Gardens)
Early Prediction: Bob Crowley for "Mary Poppins." Disney productions are always tend to be strongest in scenic, costume, and lighting design.

Best Lighting Design of a Play
Paule Constable (Coram Boy)
Brian MacDevitt (Inherit the Wind)
Brian MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner and Natasha Katz (The Coast of Utopia)
Jason Taylor (Journey's End)
Early Prediction: Brina MacDevitt, Kenneth Posner, and Natasha Katz for "The Coast of Utopia."

Best Lighting Design of a Musical
Kevin Adams (Spring Awakening)
Christopher Akerlind (110 in the Shade)
Howard Harrison (Mary Poppins)
Peter Kaczorowski (Grey Gardens)
Early Prediction: Kevin Adams for "Spring Awakening."

Best Direction of a Play
Michael Grandage (Frost/Nixon)
David Grindley (Journey's End)
Jack O'Brien (The Coast of Utopia)
Melly Still (Coram Boy)
Early Prediction: I'm still thinking about this one, but probably Jack O'Brien for "The Coast of Utopia."

Best Direction of a Musical
John Doyle (Company)
Scott Ellis (Curtains)
Michael Greif (Grey Gardens)
Michael Mayer (Spring Awakening)
Early Prediction: I don't think Doyle will win again, since "Sweeney Todd" was largely considered to be stronger than "Company." It stands to reason that Michael Mayer will win, since I'm assuming his show will win best musical.

Best Choreography
Rob Ashford (Curtains)
Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear (Mary Poppins)
Bill T. Jones (Spring Awakening)
Jerry Mitchell (Legally Blonde The Musical)
Early Prediction: I'll go out on a limb and say Jerry Mitchell for "Legally Blonde the Musical." If that show wins anything, it will be for this category.

Best Orchestrations
Bruce Coughlin (Grey Gardens)
Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening)
Jonathan Tunick (LoveMusik)
Jonathan Tunick (110 in the Shade)
Early Prediction: Duncan Sheik for "Spring Awakening" just because I want him to win.

The 61st Tony Awards will air at 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 10 on CBS.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Just Rocket!

Alexis Finc and I interviewed the girls in Rocket for an awesome new slideshow. We put the slideshow together, picking which photos to use and matching quotes with the photos, etc. I love the way it turned out. It's really fun, as are the Rocket girls. Check them out.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Happiness is... had users write in 10 things that make them happy. It turned out really cute. I had trouble narrowing it down to 10, so I cheated and made two lists (which still wasn't enough). You can view them
here and here.
What makes you happy?

Monday, April 16, 2007

4 Shows in 3 Days

In my family, we know how to do theatre. My mom and my sister, Amy, came to Syracuse to visit me last week and they came to New York with me when I went for my internship. We arrived Thursday morning and were there until Sunday afternoon. We each saw four shows (not the same four shows) and only paid full price for one. What follows is an explanation of the different ways in which we purchased our tickets, but you can always skip ahead to the reviews.

On Thursday, they were going to get tickets for "Beauty and the Beast" at TKTS (the 50% off ticket booth in Times Square). "Beauty and the Beast" does not have student rush, so the only way to get cheap tickets is at TKTS. My sister really wanted to see "Beauty and the Beast" before it closed. Also, John Tartaglia is in it and she's never seen him live. I will admit, I was a little curious about the show, having seen every other Disney production. Before they went to get tickets, they stopped at the theatre to make sure JT was in it, only to find out that such information is not posted until an hour and a half before show-time and that JT had an understudy the night before. They decided not to risk getting tickets in case he wasn't in it, so they stood in line for "Tarzan" student rush tickets I met them there after my internship at around 6 pm. Having seen "Tarzan," I was going to just chill at the hotel, but I decided to stop by "Grey Gardens" and try my luck. I strolled up to the box office, asked the nice woman if she had student rush, she said sure and gave me a fourth row seat for $26.

The next day, my mom and sister went to Studio 54 to see if they had rush tickets for "110 in the Shade" (I knew from previous experience that they tend to have general rush tickets in the mezzanine for $26 and more expensive student rush tickets closer to the stage, but every seat in Studio 54 is great). So they got general rush tickets for the three of us. Before the show, we stopped by the "Beauty and the Beast" theatre to find out that John Tartaglia was in it, so we thought it would be a safe bet that he would be in it on Saturday as well. We made a plan that my sister and I would go stand in line to get student rush tickets for "Spring Awakening" the next morning for the evening show and my mom would go to TKTS for the matinee of "Beauty and the Beast" (you can get up to two student rush tickets per I.D. and however many tickets at TKTS as you want).

We went to our respective lines at 8:30 am Saturday morning (this may seem crazy to some, but theatre isn't cheap, so these kinds of sacrifices are worth it if it means getting to see more shows). Unfortunately, they didn't happen to have any "Beauty and the Beast" tickets at TKTS, but we did have luck at "Spring Awakening," even though there were quite a few people in front of us. When we left the box office, we went to the "Beauty and the Beast" box office and found out that they did have seats available for $85. Because Amy was so desperate to see it, I decided to get a ticket for myself and for her. My mom was not curious enough for that kind of money, so we went to the "Chorus Line" lottery so maybe she could see a show as well. There was nobody there compared to how it was when I went and everyone won. So my mom got a front row center seat for $21. Had I known that before buying the other tickets, I would have made my sister go see "A Chorus Line."

So here is what I thought about the shows that I saw:

"Grey Gardens"- The story of Jackie O's cousin and aunt, Little Edie Beale and Edith Bouvier Beale, former socialites who became recluses in the 70s, is an unusual subject matter for a musical, and it might have worked better as a play. The songs didn't add much to the story except that the two women were singers (there are plays in which the characters sing without it being an actual musical). It's an interesting story, but you could always watch the documentary or read about them in a book. The only reason to see this show is for the performances of Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson. Ebersole plays the domineering Edith in 1941 and the childlike Edie in 1973 and Wilson plays Edith in 1973. The scenes in 1973 are the most entertaining, as the women play off each other in a manner both hilarious and tragic. I'm glad I saw this show, but it is the type of show I would see once. I appreciated it from a distance, but it didn't really move me.

"110 in the Shade"- The Roundabout Theatre Company has done it again. I've never been disappointed by any of its productions and "110 in the Shade" is no exception. The show is a revival of the 1963 musical with music and lyrics by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones (the team behind the music of "The Fantasticks"). The story takes place during a heat wave in the 1930s in Texas. Audra McDonald plays Lizzie Curry, who is in danger of becoming an old maid. Her father and brothers are desperately trying to marry her off. It's a sweet and entertaining story, expertly acted by the ensemble. It's easy to see why many flock to the theatre to see McDonald. Her singing is effortless, but she did not outshine the rest of the cast. Most notable was Steve Kazee as the mysterious rainmaker Starbuck (that name has such a loaded meaning nowadays). If the show was that near flawless the first night of previews, I can't imagine how good it will be once it opens. The show will have a short run and closes on July 15.

"Beauty and the Beast"- This is by far the worst of the Disney productions, even worse than "Tarzan." I'm hoping that the show was better when it opened in 1994 and that it's just grown tired. This is proof that it is time for it to close. I felt like I was watching children's theatre. Of course, this show is intended for children, but the other Disney shows didn't feel like they could only be enjoyed by children. Every joke was uttered so slowly. It didn't help that they were all taken directly from the movie so I got to the punchlines about 5 minutes before the actors did. The acting was pretty amateurish as well. The saving grace was Stephen Buntrock as Gaston whose scenes were by far the most enjoyable and pleasing to the ear (especially a song not in the movie, the delightfully wicked "Maison Des Lunes"). John Tartaglia was as charming and adorable as ever and although he did a good job with the French accent and Lumiere's characteristic voice, it did seem hard on his voice. I'm sorry I spent so much money on the show (especially when I can have a much better time watching the movie for free), but at least I've seen it and don't have to wonder anymore.

"Spring Awakening"- It should come as a surprise to no one who reads my blog or knows me that I love "Spring Awakening." It can be anti-climactic seeing a show for the second time no matter how good it is, but it was just as amazing as I remembered it. Plus, I loved being able to introduce my sister to a show that totally moved her. I'm looking forward to the Tony nominations. If it doesn't win best musical, I'll be shocked.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Whatcha gonna do with all that junk?

This is the best cover I've heard in a long time. It's almost better than Will Ferrell's version in "Blades of Glory."

Friday, March 30, 2007

More gURL-y Stuff

This isn't as exciting as the sensitive boy game, but I wrote a Fast Facts on cervical cancer that is on the site now. If you're interested, check out the What gURLS Think: Emo because I think the responses were really fascinating.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Excuse me, wha?

According to Entertainment Weekly, Aaron Sorkin will be writing the script to a new musical based on the Flaming Lips album, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. I'm too confused to comment right now.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

If You're Ever in Ireland...

As part of the arts journalism program, we got a free trip to Ireland for spring break. We stayed at the Forster Court Hotel in Galway from Saturday, March 10 to Tuesday, March 13 and then went on to Dublin until March 18, where we stayed in self-catered apartments. We saw four shows--"Leaves" at the Druid, "Julius Caesar" at the Abbey, "Salome" at the Gate, and "Don Carlos" at the Project Arts Centre. Not a bad deal. Anyway, here are some highlights and recommendations (I apologize in advance that I don't have pictures to post yet as I don't have a digital camera):

Roisin Dubh- A drunk man on the street told us that the Roisin Dubh was a touristy bar, but we went there anyway, and I didn't get that impression. It's located on Dominick Street in Galway and always has live music. There was no cover (at least at the time we went) and we got to see two decent bands, the Gorgeous Colours and The Cheerfuls (I love how happy those names are). There's nothing like getting to see a free concert when you're not expecting it.

Dun Aonghasa in Inis Mor- Inis Mor (Inishmore), the largest of the Aran Islands, is just a short bus and ferry ride from Galway. Although many of my classmates did not enjoy the ferry ride, I had a blast getting my "sea legs." I recommend sitting on the top level.

Once we arrived on the island, we took a mini-coach tour, stopping at various locations along the way. Inis Mor is very touristy over the summer, but it was still fairly quiet at the time we were there. It seems like it would be such a peaceful place to live, but the islanders work hard as well (Especially this one very nice woman who sells sweaters, hats, gloves, and socks. We sort of invaded her tiny shop). Gaelic is still the primary language, but everyone speaks English as well.

Our main stop on the tour was Dun Aonghasa, a stone fort atop a cliff that overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. The view was absolutely breathtaking (although I wasn't brave enough to lie down over the edge of the cliff) and I can't really do justice describing it.

Coole Park- Coole Park used to be the home of Lady Augusta Gregory (writer and co-founder of the Abbey Theatre). Her home was the center if the Irish Literary Renaissance in the early 20th Century and authors like Yeats, Synge, and Shaw used to frequent there. Not only is the park a lovely place to explore and collects your thoughts, there is an autograph tree signed autographed by the likes of Yeats, Shaw, and others. Needless to say, the literary nerd in me was quite impressed. My only disappointment was that I didn't get to see any wild swans at Coole.

Coole Park is located about an hour outside of the Galway city centre (we stopped there en route to Dubin).

Butler's Chocolate Cafe- The hot chocolate at this cafe is so worth it (even when you convert the price to dollars). There are various locations of Butler's throughout the city of Dublin, but both times we went to the Grafton Street location. The first time I had marshmallow hot chocolate. The marshmallows melt to the bottom, so when you get to the there, you have a treat of gooey marshmallow and chocolate deliciousness. The second time I had the cookie hot chocolate, which has either Oreos or Oreo imitations, which also melt at the bottom and the effect is just as delicious. Each hot chocolate also comes with a Butler's handmade chocolate. Yummy.

Nude- I was afraid I would have difficulty finding tasty vegetarian food in Ireland and was fully prepared to live off Cadbury's chocolate for a week, but I was very well-fed. I was so enamored with Nude in particular that I ate there twice, and I would have gone there a third time at the airport for a smoothie had it not been for stupid customs.*

Nude offers tasty wraps, paninis, soups, and smoothies. I had a toasted broccoli and goat cheese wrap which had just the right proportions of brocolli, cheese, and spinach. I also had a berry smoothie which was better than anything at Jamba Juice (and I'm a Jamba Juice fan). I also had a taste of the funky monkey (banana and chocolate). What I loved about the smoothies was the consistency--they aren't too thicked, but they aren't too liquidy either. On the second day, I had a mozzarella panini (because they were out of the jumping bean toasted wrap for the second day in a row and I still really want to try that). The paninis are really long and thin, and at first I wasn't sure if it would be enough, but again, it turned out to be the perfect size.

Nude is located on Suffolk Street, in the Grafton Street area.

Octagon Bar- I couldn't go to Bono's brother's cafe and not to go to Bono's hotel, The Clarence. The bar is called the Octagon Bar because, as you might guess, it's shaped like an octagon. It's a really good idea to have a bar shaped that way, because it allows for these little nooks. The bar is very expensive (8 euro for Bailey's and coffee) but it's worth it just to go for one drink and check it out. Plus, it has the nicest bathrooms in Dublin.

The Front Lounge- After the Octagon Bar, some of us went to the Front Lounge, located on Parliament Street. The combination of these two places was my favorite of the nightlife that we experienced.

The Front Lounge has a mix of gay and straight clientele. Drinks are pretty pricey as well (I asked how much a black Russian would cost, and the bartender said 5 euro, which I thought was reasonable so I went ahead and ordered it. When she rang me up, she said, "Sorry. It's actually ten.") I was still in a good mood, though, because I got to dance, and I had been looking for some dancing in Dublin. When I was getting my drink and I heard "Sexy Back" come on, I knew I was in the right place.

Project Arts Theatre- I loved all the theatre spaces that we saw. They were all pretty small, even the Abbey and the Gate, but especially the Druid and the Project Arts Theatre. It allows for such an intimate theatre experience. I think the Project Arts Theatre was my favorite space. It was a thrust theatre, with only a few rows of seating on each side. I was already pretty invested in the story of "Don Carlos," but being so close to the action heightened the experience.

Bewley's Cafe Theatre- Bewley's is a multi-level all-in-one cafe, bar, restaurant, and theatre space located on Grafton Street. On the top floor, it offers lunchtime theatre for the bargain price of 13 euro (15 if you're not a student). This includes a play and lunch (soup and bread).

We saw the play, "Living With Johnny Depp," which I was attracted to by the title. It was a one-woman show starring Joanne Mitchell and directed by Miceala Miranda, who played a 15-year-old student, her 60-year-old English teacher, and her 35-year-old principal, all obsessed with Johnny Depp for different reasons. Mitchell was fully committed to each role, and it was an entertaining and at times hilarious show.

Odessa- This is where we ate on the last night (fortunately, it was paid for by SU abroad because I probably wouldn't be able to afford it). As you can see from the picture, it's pretty fancy schmancy. For my starter, I couldn't decide between the butternut squash soup (my favorite) and the selection of dips with pesto, hummus, and harissa. I went for the dip, which turned out to be a wise choice, but I did taste the soup, which would have been an equally wise choice. The highlight of the meal, though, was the creme brulee with strawberries and rhubarb (I was also tempted to go for the chocolate marmalade torte). I wasn't sure what to expect, but there were pieces of strawberry and rhubarb in the creme brulee. I was about to burst, but I forced myself to finish it.

*In all my years of traveling, I've never had an experience like this. We had to go through American customs in Ireland (which I guess makes some sense, so they don't have to send people away once they get to the US), but the gates closed at 9:15 and we had to wait for such a long time behind this marching band that by the time we checked in and went through security it was 9. The Dublin airport is nice and I wanted to do some shopping and go to Nude, but we had to go through customs before it closed, only to find out our plane was delayed. We had to wait in this cramped room with tons of coughing people (which may explain why I'm sick now) and only one very very small cafe. Our plane was not scheduled to leave until 10:30 anyway, so I don't understand why we had to be there so early, and they should have extended the time once the plane was delayed. OK. That's my rant on that.

Oh Sir Paul, You Can't Do That

According to, Sir Paul McCartney is the first artist signed to Starbucks new record label. On the one hand, as a Starbucks barista, this should put me at one degree of seperation from my idol, but seriously, why does one of the most successful artists in the world need a coffee company to produce his records? As much as I love Paul, I'm not quite sure about his decision making processes ("Give My Regards to Broadstreet" anyone?).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cry Me A River

Are you dying to know who your ideal sensitive boy musician is? The wait is over. The sensitive boy musician selector (which I wrote) is up on

Monday, March 05, 2007

Maybe I could work for New York Magazine...

I totally had this idea.

I've been talking about it for a month or so. I've been really fascinated by the young cast of "Spring Awakening" because the show is about sexual awakening and adolescence, and the cast members have all either just gone through that or are still going through that. Also, the fans of the show are teenagers themselves, so there's another interesting dynamic there. I'm pretty bummed that New York Magazine beat me to the punch, but I can take comfort in the fact that I had an idea worthy of New York Magazine.

And I'm not going to be bitter, I applaud Brian Keith Jackson on his article. He gets to the heart of what I think is really interesting right in the first paragraph:
"There’s a real sweetness on that stage (not to mention one real coupling), and now the young actors are effectively pop stars. Among a generation not exactly known for flocking to musicals, they’ve set off a whole new wave of swooning, YouTubing fandom. Brian Keith Jackson spoke with them about the show, their lives, and what they listen to when they’re not singing 'The Bitch of Living.'”

Although "Spring Awakening" is based on an 1891 German play, it is essentially a musical for the YouTube generation. The scenes are fairly short, broken up by musical numbers, which are basically mini-rock shows, perfect for those with short attention spans. "Spring Awakening" is the only show I've ever seen with it's own MySpace page and the line between fan and friend is becoming increasingly smaller.

Jackson asks what I would have asked--What do they do when they go out, what do they listen to, what is it like to date a co-star, and what the fans are like. His individual profiles of the actors are fairly short, but each one gives a sense of who these teenagers are.

Even though I couldn't write the article, I'm glad somebody did, so please read it and if you have a chance, see "Spring Awakening."