More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Anything Goes January 30, 2012

Filed under: Pop Culture,Theatre — dwhren @ 12:48 pm

My husband and I both enjoy the theatre, so we like to try and take in a show whenever we go to New York City to visit his sister and her family. This trip we got tickets to see the most recent revival of Anything Goes, which won a Tony in 2011 for Best Musical Revival. The show was originally from 1934 with music and lyrics written by Cole Porter.

Incidentally, Anything Goes was the first musical theatre production I ever attended. When I was 10 or 11 my family took a trip to the UK and while we were in London we attended a couple of shows, one of which was the West End production of the 1987 revival of the show. Other than the fact that the show took place on a cruise ship, I didn’t remember much about it.

This most recent revival starring Sutton Foster as Reno Sweeney and Joel Grey as Moonface Martin is, to quote music from the show itself, absolutely “delightful, delicious, de-lovely.” There was nothing about this show that I didn’t love. Every part of it, the music, acting, costumes, set, and choreography was divine. Speaking of the music you are probably familiar with several of the songs from Anything Goes even if you don’t realize it. Many of them have become musical standards including “I Get a Kick Out of You”, “You’re the Top”, “It’s De-Lovely”, and “All Through the Night”.

I really wanted to see this show because I had heard nothing but amazing things about Sutton Foster’s performance as Reno Sweeney, which she won a Best Actress Tony for in 2011. I was a little scared going in to the show that we were going to get one of Sutton’s understudies. In the weeks leading up to the performance we were attending, she apparently had been off at Ball State University co-directing a production there, and based on a Broadway World forum there seemed to be some question as to when she was returning to Anything Goes. I was thus super excited to find the only cast replacement for our show was the role of Old Lady in a Wheelchair. And let me just say that my expectations were not raised too high. Holy crap does that woman have stage presence. Her performance was amazing, and even after essentially performing 8 shows a week for the past 10 months she still looked like she was having a fabulous time doing it. At the end of the show after all the bows were taken, the cast was walking off stage and the curtain was mostly down I caught a glimpse of Sutton grabbing one of her cast mates and leading him in a little dance obviously just for fun since the audience couldn’t really see anymore. It was a delightful little moment, and I’m glad I caught it.

The dancing in the show is marvelous. Particularly the spectacular tap number that accompanies the titular song Anything Goes at the end of the first act. It seems like tap dancing is out of fashion and you don’t see it in too many shows these days. I see at least 6-7 musicals a year and I am hard pressed to remember another show I’ve seen in recent years that included a tap number, and I love me some tap so this dance made my night. I also adored the costumes in this show. I would love add non-stage versions of at least half of the outfits they had the Reno Sweeney character dressed in to my own wardrobe.

It was just a fantastic show all around, and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you’re looking to see a Broadway show. It’s scheduled to run through September 9, 2012 and then begin touring in October. If you can make it to New York to see it while Sutton is still in the lead I would make the effort, but even if you miss her or just catch the touring production there is much to recommend this show aside from her performance in it.

I’m including two different videos of the tap number from Anything Goes. The first is the shortened version performed on the Tony’s this past year. It’s scaled down and I find the panning and zooming of the camera really distracting, but it has the cast in costume on somewhat of a set. The second video is just from a rehearsal for the show so there is no set and no costumes, but it contains the full number which outshines the scaled down version by a factor of 100. I did see a bootlegged video of an actual performance of it, but I can’t condone that and am thus not linking to it. Plus it’s rather shaky and not great quality since it was most likely filmed with a camera phone by someone trying to be covert about it lest they get kicked out. I’ll let you look that one up on your own if you’re curious to see what the actual performance looks like.

 

 

The Twins’ First Birthday January 29, 2012

Filed under: Family,Life — dwhren @ 7:37 pm

This weekend my husband and I traveled up to New York City to help celebrate the first birthday of our nephew Ryan and our niece Lily. We got up there just in time to head out to their birthday brunch. Even with not so great naps and a almost 3 hours at the restaurant they hung in there like little troopers. We had a great visit with them. Much better than the one last month when the whole family was felled by a stomach bug. They’re both walking now and getting in to everything. Hopefully we’ll see them again soon.

 

Birthday Boy Ryan

Birthday girl Lily. She’s wearing a sock on her hand because she decided to make her actual first birthday on Tuesday exciting with a trip to the ER. She got her finger slammed in a door and wound up losing her fingernail and needing stitches. The sock is to try and keep her from pulling the bandage off.

The birthday boy and birthday girl together.

Ryan and Lily blow out their birthday candles.

Lily gets her first taste of ice cream.

Ryan made good work of his ice cream and cupcake.

After brunch it was time to open presents. This bag was one of Ryan’s favorite gifts. 

Their favorite actual present seemed to be this puzzle.

Lily and Ryan get ready to cheer on their Giants in the Superbowl next weekend.

Their mom wanted to make sure they each had their own birthday cakes, so in addition to the party yesterday we had birthday cake for them this afternoon too.

Fishface Lily

 

Chuck January 27, 2012

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 10:00 pm

Tonight was the series finale of one of my favorite TV shows ever, Chuck. I have been reading tons of retrospectives and interviews with the cast and creators over the past week as it ends its unlikely 5 season run, so I was inspired to offer up my own little tribute to the little show that could. Over its run Chuck faced cancellations at just about every turn and yet somehow not only managed to get renewed for 5 seasons but got additional episode orders in seasons 3 and 4. Much of this no doubt is due to the show’s loyal fans and their ingenious Subway campaign in which they put their money where there mouth is (literally) to support one of the show’s sponsors.

I will never understand why Chuck was not a bigger hit than it was. It really has something for everyone: action, spy adventures, comedy, drama, romance. Maybe it was just that the concept seemed to geeky for mainstream viewers? I don’t know. If you’re not familiar with Chuck, it’s the story of a nerdy guy who got expelled from Stanford and is now working at The Buy More in their Nerd Herd (i.e. Best Buy Geek Squad) until one day he receives an email from ex-best friend from college. When he opens the email a computer called the Intersect which contains all the CIA and NSA files essentially gets downloaded into his brain. Obviously you have to suspend your disbelief for this part, but it’s such a part of the show that you don’t even really think about the fact that it could never really happen. The show is really about the story of what happens from there when he becomes involved with the spy world due to his possession of this computer in his head. He falls in love with his CIA handler, Sarah and their relationship is really at the heart of the show.

This show was also wonderful for introducing me to new music. I can’t tell you how many songs I immediately downloaded after watching this show each week. If there is any number of people out there like me, then this show should have been kept on the air for the music royalties being made from it alone.

The finale was befitting of the show. There were lots of callbacks, one last performance by Jeffster! and most of all a focus on the relationships that were the heart of the show over it’s entire run.

If you never watched Chuck, I highly encourage you to seek it out. I promise once you start watching you’re going to plow through those 5 seasons wishing for more. If you don’t see the charm in this show I’m not sure we have a lot in common.

Here’s a couple of clips from Chuck to whet your appetite. Television critic Alan Sepinwall, and one of Chuck’s biggest champions, has repeatedly called this first clip “the quintessential Chuck moment” so I thought it would be a good one to include to demonstrate all that Chuck has to offer.

As a bonus I’m also including the first ever musical performance by Jeffster!, which then became a thing. It’s still my favorite out of all the Jeffster! performances and also features a really sweet moment between Chuck and Sarah and great scenes of Casey’s reactions to Jeffster! all of which I really feel capture the essence of these characters and their relationships on the show.

 

The One Where the Introvert is Proud of Herself January 26, 2012

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 1:06 pm

As I’ve previously mentioned I’m a bit of an introvert. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test about 1,000 times in various venues throughout my life, and I always wind up almost in the center of the Introvert/Extrovert scale with it being slightly tipped toward Introvert. I definitely consider myself an introvert in my tendencies towards people unless I know them really well, but because I still have a fairly large part of me that has extroverted tendencies I feel like I often am stuck in this weird place where I really want to interact with people but am freaked out by it at the same time. I am generally fine in small groups where I can exist on the fringes until I am more comfortable, but still feel like I am part of things. I do not do well in large group settings where I don’t know anyone and have to try and interact with people because that generally requires me inserting myself into conversations, which I am not good at. People may also be surprised at how anxious being in one-on-one settings makes me because it requires me to actually hold up half of a conversation, which unless I know you really well or you are a really big talker who will entirely carry the conversation is also something I am not good at. Small talk is not my forte, which of course is what you need to start with when you first meet people or are interacting with people you don’t know very well. Many people reading this would probably be surprised to learn just how much anxiety I have had about hanging out with them at various times. Not so much that I am not functional. I certainly don’t have any kind of social anxiety disorder, but I certainly don’t always feel comfortable going into certain social situations.

This is all to set up the reasons why I am currently proud of myself. Last Thursday-Monday I was in Dallas for the American Library Association’s Midwinter Meeting. I was the only person from my library attending and although I know a lot of other Baltimore area librarians most of them were also not attending this year due to the budget constraints that we are all under. My good friend Alison was there, but since she has moved over to the dark side (i.e. she now works for a vendor instead of a library) she is in a slightly different orbit. Being the introvert that I am it would have been very easy for me to float through the conference talking to people minimally and just grabbing something to eat in my room for dinner by myself. I am proud of the fact that I did not in fact do that.

I went to several breakfasts/lunches put on by vendors where I sat at tables full of people that I didn’t know and carried on conversations. Additionally, the ACRL Leadership Council (sorry for all the acronyms non-library people, just go with it) had a networking reception prior to our meeting on Friday afternoon. Instead of standing off in a corner by myself I actually talked to a number of different people that I didn’t know. That evening I didn’t have any dinner plans on the books and was lamenting on Twitter that I was already exhausted from having had to interact with so many people I didn’t know. A librarian that I had recently connected with on Twitter replied to me asking if I wanted to meet up with her to go through the exhibit hall, so instead of sitting in my room by myself I went over to try and find her. We actually did manage to connect in the sea of people despite having never met before. After a trip through the publisher booths grabbing ourselves some free books, we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the sports bar in the hotel connected to the convention center.

Saturday evening I decided to go by myself to the reception being put on by Oxford University Press. I did not do well there. I lasted about 20 minutes before I bailed because I didn’t know anyone and didn’t see any good way to connect with anyone. However, RUSA was having their social at about the same time, and I had to walk past the location where it was being held on the way to my hotel. I decided I was going to stop there for a bit and told myself that I was not allowed to leave until I actually talked to some people. I sat down at a table with a few other people at it and had a good conversation with them. I also managed to get myself recruited to be on a RUSA committee. Towards the end I also finally ran into someone I know from Baltimore, so it was good to see a friendly face.

So for the most part I am really proud of the amount of interactions I had with people I didn’t know at this conference. There is definitely a lot of room for improvement. Most of the conversations I engaged in with people I don’t know were in fact initiated by the other person, so I definitely need to work on being the one to start conversations. I am never going to be the extroverted person who everyone is drawn to and engages with people she doesn’t know easily, but this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t work on putting myself out there more. It usually results in good things. I know I’ll have plenty of other conferences and other social situations to keep working at it, but for now I can be happy with where I am right now.

 

 

My Heart Can’t Tell You No by Sara Evans January 17, 2012

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 8:00 am

I’m really digging this cover of Rod Stewart’s My Heart Can’t Tell You No by Sara Evans even though it’s not a particularly happy song. I liked the original, but think it is an absolutely perfect country song. My favorite kinds of cover songs are ones that are not just straight out covers, but those who add something to the original song which this one does by changing the genre. I know most of my friends, thus most of the people probably reading this blog detest country, but give it a listen any way you might just enjoy it.

 

BBC’s Sherlock January 16, 2012

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 6:59 pm

I adore the BBC’s new adaptation of Sherlock. If you somehow missed all the hubbub about it during the run of its’ first series (yes, I am just pretentious enough to make sure to refer to it as a series instead of a season as it’s a British show), it’s a modern adaptation of Sherlock Holmes created by Steven Moffat and starring the utterly delightful Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Even his name is delightful. There’s nothing not happy-making about the name Benedict Cumberbatch. I will also point out that watching the first series of Sherlock is what finally got me to watch the new Doctor Who. Many people I know including my husband insisted I should watch it, but I kept avoiding it. However, I loved Sherlock so much that knowing that Steven Moffat was also involved with the new Doctor Who managed to tip the scales and get me to watch it.

There have been two series of the show so far, which each consist of three 90-minute episodes. So they’re really more like a series of movies than a television show. PBS acquired the rights from the BBC and broadcast the first series here in the States. The second series has just finished it’s run in Britain. PBS will air it at some later date. I believe May is what I heard. I have seen it already thanks to certain means that will go unnamed here. I’m including a preview of the first episode of the second series, which was my favorite of the three episodes in it.

If you haven’t watched any of Sherlock yet I would highly recommend it. The first series is available on Netflix both streaming and of course on DVD. I’m sure you could also get through other means such as iTunes or Amazon video if you prefer to acquire it that way.

 

 

Shake It Out by Florence + the Machine January 11, 2012

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 7:17 pm

I am so very much in love with the song Shake It Out by Florence + the Machine. It’s a great anthem about putting the past behind you and moving on. I adore the way it’s a slow burn building throughout the song into a big crescendo. The show Covert Affairs used the instrumental parts of the song during their season finale in some tension building scenes and it worked beautifully as the soundtrack. That musical style is one of the things that I really like about most of Mumford & Sons’ songs too. They start off slowly and just keep building until there’s that wonderful release. Writing this is making me think I should create a playlist of great songs that use that musical style. What would you put on it?