More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

New York Theatre Weekend August 8, 2017

Filed under: Friends,Pop Culture,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 8:12 pm

This Broadway season has had an unusual number of shows I was dying to see including several plays. A lot of times I don’t get too sad about not getting to see some musicals on Broadway because I know they’ll eventually tour and I’ll see them then. That doesn’t really happen with plays in the same way, so I was exceptionally keen to get up to New York and see a number of shows.

April, May, and June were too crazy with other travel and things going on in my life, so I wasn’t able to go up at any point in the spring. My passion to make this happen got reignited after watching the Tony Awards at the beginning of June. Sadly, I did not realize until that night when I started thinking about planning a trip that two of the plays I wanted to see were closing June 25. There was no way I was going to be able to make it to New York before then, so I was very sad that I was going to miss out on seeing Sweat and Indecent.

But then the theatre gods smiled upon me and I got a little bit of a reprieve. I did indeed miss out on Sweat, but they wound up extending the run of Indecent at the last minute through August 6. After I found that out I vowed to make it up before it closed for real. I also planned to see Doll’s House, Part 2 during the weekend. It supposedly is not closing until January, but if it continues to be as empty as it was on Sunday, I suspect it’s not going to make it that long. I also decided I could fit in three shows over the weekend, especially since everything I wanted to see was only 90-100 minutes with no intermission, so I also added in the musical that was highest on my list, Come From Away.

I took the train up early on Saturday morning. I was happy that all my trains ran on time despite all the crazy track work that is happening at Penn Station right now and ruining everyone’s life. In a Smalltimore moment I wound up in a train car with another librarian from Baltimore that I know who was going up to New York for the weekend with her daughter. They were seeing Come From Away at the same time I was. I stayed with a friend who lives in mid-town, which of course was super convenient for all the theatre I had planned. It was nice to spend time with her between  all my shows.

The first show I saw was Come From Away. I loved every show I saw over the weekend, but Come From Away was probably my favorite. It’s a musical based on the true story of the small town of Gander, Newfoundland that wound up taking in 7,000 plane passengers after their planes were diverted there when U. S. airspace closed on 9/11. The music has sort of a Gaelic feeling to it with both rock and folk influences. I loved everything about this show. It’s funny, moving, I adored the music and dance, it made me cry, and it reminded me that humanity does have good in it even when it’s being horrible. If you get the chance I highly recommend seeing this show. It’s probably the Broadway show I’ve loved the most since seeing Hamilton.

Saturday night I went to see Indecent. It is also based on a true story about the life of the play The God of Vengeance and the people involved with it.. It was written in 1905 by a Jewish Pole and was the first play to feature two women kissing on stage. It was an international sensation until anti-Semitism grew stronger around the world and obscenity charges were brought against the actors during a 1923 production in New York. The story continues into the 1950s after World War II when many of those involved with the play are killed. It’s a great story about the power of art and love to prevail over the worst in humanity. I do wish that I had read The God of Vengeance prior to seeing it, but I’m probably still going to read it now to get a better understanding to reflect on.

My final show of the weekend was A Doll’s House, Part 2. It’s a newly written play, but it is a sequel to Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 play, A Doll’s House. It takes place 15 years after the events in the original play with Nora returning to confront the husband she left after she finds out that he had never filed their divorce papers. The original play is pretty serious, so I was not actually anticipating how humorous A Doll’s House, Part 2 was going to be. It’s a very dry, sarcastic humor but very amusing nonetheless. I just missed seeing the original cast which included Laurie Metcalf who won a Tony for the role, but Julie White does an excellent job in the role of Nora. I would highly recommend this show as well if you can see it before it closes in January. You don’t even really need to be familiar with A Doll’s House to enjoy it. The play pretty much sets up everything you need to know. There was only one line that I think probably would be lost on you if you hadn’t seen the original show but it doesn’t really affect anything.

It was a great weekend with three great shows. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect weekend of theatre. I’ll definitely have to do it again sometime.

 

 

 

 

New York Theatre Trip March 2, 2017

Filed under: Friends,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 8:18 pm

There are approximately 1000 shows currently on Broadway or set to open soon. There is sadly no way I’ll get to see them all, but I decided to take a trip to New York to mark at least a couple off my list. I get way more vacation time than my husband, so I decided I’d take a few days off work and take a mid-week solo trip up to see a Tuesday night show and Wednesday matinee. Hotel rooms in NYC mid-week at the end of February are fairly reasonable, and it turns out we had enough points on our credit card to pay for my hotel that way anyway.

Thanks to the credit card points I actually wound up staying at the Doubletree Suites in Times Square because it was the best deal with the best location for what I was doing. I really didn’t need a suite to myself especially just for one night, but I pretended I was all fancy for a night. The hotel was a perfect location and I was surprised at how quiet it was at least where my room was located. No usual traffic noises keeping me awake. The hotel itself could use a little updating. It was looking a little tired, but the bed was comfortable enough so I don’t have any real complaints.

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My suite. I even had 2 sinks in the bathroom.

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View from my hotel room.

I took the train up on Tuesday afternoon. Happily it worked out that for reasons both my friends in NYC were not at work during my trip so I got to steal them away to meet up. Tuesday night I met up with one at the bar in an Italian restaurant for called Casa Nonna for an early happy hour dinner. It was great to catch up with her in person and enjoy some delicious pizza.

After that I headed to the newly renovated and reopened Hudson Theatre for Sunday in the Park with George starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Annaleigh Ashford. Sunday in the Park with George is one of those classic Sondheim musicals that I had never seen, but always felt like I should so I was super happy when this production came around and it started getting such good buzz. I immediately put it at the top of my list of shows to see given its limited run. It was great. Turns out Jake Gyllenhaal can sing. Who knew? He made an excellent Georges Seurat. Despite her Broadway bona fides this is the first show I’ve seen Annaleigh Ashford in as well, so I’m glad I finally got to see her perform too. The theatre itself was beautifully restored, though I suspect they’re soon going to regret their decision to serve wine in actual wine glasses instead of the normal Broadway sippy cups given the cream colored velvet seat covers.

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Wednesday morning I of course got myself a bagel for breakfast and then took a walk on the High Line. I’d walked part of it in the past but not the whole thing. I figured it would be a good way to get my steps in for the day. Scenes from the High Line:

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In the afternoon I met up with another friend for lunch and then we went to see Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 together. The reviews for this show had been really great and my boss who also sees a lot of Broadway shows but doesn’t care that much for musicals told me she loved it, so that’s why it was also one of my top choices of shows to see. I’m definitely glad I saw it on Broadway because there is no way it’s going to translate into a touring production even remotely close to what it is now. The staging is set up in such a way that the actors are everywhere in the audience a lot of the time with staircases from the stage leading up into the Mezzanine. There’s no way they’ll be able to do that on a tour. There’s lots of seating on the stage as well, which will also be something can only be approximated to a degree.

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The show itself is based on War and Peace, which is something I’ve never read so I have no idea how faithful the storyline was. Condensing a book that long into a Broadway show I’m sure results in a lot of cuts. I certainly felt the story lacking in certain places. Entire plot threads seem to show up in a song and then just completely disappear. The overarching love story was the heart of the show and made sense to me, but most everything else including Pierre and the Great Comet left me slightly confused. It’s a sung through musical, which I’m not sure I realized going in. It made me wish I had listened to the cast recording ahead of time as I know I always miss things when they’re solely in song form on first go around. At any rate none of that really mattered because it’s just such a fun production full of delightful dancing and costumes and hey did you know that guy Josh Groban can really sing? There were a lot of fun audience interaction touches too. At one point the second act they pass around Great Comet branded rhythm eggs for people to shake along to the song. Now I have a little souvenir from the show I can annoy everyone with. If you’re thinking about seeing a Broadway show I would definitely recommend this one because it is a really good time and you’re never going to get the same experience from a touring production.

It was an excellent trip. I’m really glad I decided to plan it for myself. Everything worked out perfectly. I should probably do it again some time.

 

My Most Memorable Pop Culture of 2016 January 2, 2017

Filed under: Books,Concerts,Podcasts,Pop Culture,Songs I Love,Television,Theatre — dwhren @ 10:55 am

Once again it’s time for my post on what was the most memorable pop culture of the year to me. It’s pop culture I consumed in 2016, not necessarily things that were exclusively released in 2016. And once again I point out that this is the stuff that made the greatest impact on me. It’s not a list of the top anything. Even I acknowledge that there are things on this list that I would not put in a top 10 or even top 20 list. They’re not necessarily the best of anything, just the stuff that I enjoyed the most or which had some special meaning to me.

Movie I Saw in a Theatre

I’m pretty sure I saw more movies in the theatre in 2016 than I have in a long time. I’ve seen 4 movies since Thanksgiving alone, which is very unusual for my life these days. I enjoyed most of the movies I saw, but I’m giving this category to La La Land. It was the one movie I saw this year that I almost immediately wanted to see again. It wasn’t a perfect movie. It didn’t quite live up to its promise as a movie musical. It started out with a bunch of musical numbers and then almost completely dropped them until the end. It was a little uneven, but I still loved it. It’s a beautiful to look at, and I really could just watch Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling interact forever. Their relationship seemed so real. At the time I saw it I was a little disappointed that they didn’t end up together even though realistically that’s what should have happened. Usually I would have enjoyed that ending, but wasn’t in the mood for at the time. In retrospect though I can appreciate it, and whatever my feelings about it were they did not detract from my love of the movie as a whole.

Movie I Watched at Home

Last year I said I should probably retire this category because I don’t watch that many movies at home, and I had a hard time thinking of any. I’m still singing that tune this year, but I’m apparently not quite yet ready to let it go because it’s still here. In doing a review I discovered I actually watched a lot more movies at home than I thought, but I literally had to go back and look because I couldn’t remember any of them. Once I did though the obvious choice was Sing Street. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a sweet little film that takes place in 1980’s Dublin about a teenage boy who starts a band to impress a girl. The songs in it were all written for the movie, but definitely evoke the sounds of 80s music. It’s a delightful little film.

 

Fiction Book

Alas my great streak with books I loved last year did not continue into this year. I did manage to meet my reading goal of 100 books for the year, but there were very few I rated above 3 stars on Goodreads. This category like several other ones exemplified how out of sync I was with pop culture this year. Almost every best of book list I saw had Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad as it’s top pick. I did not care for that book. The fiction book I most enjoyed did show up on most lists as well, so I guess I wasn’t completely off. It was Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Essentially its a series of connected short stories, which makes it unusual that I would like it that much since I generally don’t care for short stories. The thread that connects them though is following two lines of a family through two sisters on the Gold Coast of Africa, one who is sold into slavery and the other who becomes a slave traders wife from their lives in the 1600s up through present day. Each story is essentially a new generation. It was a wonderful and heartbreaking book that really demonstrates how the sins of the past continue to haunt the present even hundreds of years later.

Non-Fiction Book

I had much better luck with non-fiction books this year than fiction ones. Most of the books I rated over 3 stars on Goodreads were non-fiction. My favorite non-fiction book of the year was another book that was not very uplifting, but was extremely interesting. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond explores poverty and housing through the lens of the city of Milwaukee. Desmond explores the intricacies of housing and the tenant/landlord relationship especially when dealing with people living in poverty. Many books like this seem to take sides, but Desmond does a really good job in following a couple of landlords and their tenants at showing how complicated the relationship and that there are failings on both sides.

TV Show

With as much good scripted television as there is these days I feel like I’m going a little off book in declaring my favorite tv show of the year as Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. It was the biggest surprise to me because I was never the hugest fan of Samantha Bee when she was a Daily Show correspondent, especially towards the end of Jon Stewart’s run when she really seemed to be going off the rails a little bit. I didn’t even plan on watching Full Frontal because I figured it was just going to be more of the same stuff I wasn’t enjoying on The Daily Show, but my husband insisted that we at least try it out and I’m very glad he did. Full Frontal is really smart, and I appreciate having a woman’s voice in the late night world, especially one who will focus on woman’s issues in a way that no one else is. I’m definitely going to need Sam Bee’s outrage to help keep me sane as we move into the horrors of whatever this Trump presidency is about to bring us.

 

TV Episode

I stopped watching Halt and Catch Fire a few episodes into its first season, but decided to get caught up this summer after hearing so many people talk about how much better the second season was. So in a way it’s a little surprising to me that my favorite episode of the year was from the third season of this show. Season 3, Episode 7 – The Threshold is a great hour of television. Donna and Cameron’s relationship and their building of Mutiny together was the heart of season 2 and what turned this show into something worth watching. Watching it fall apart in this episode was sad but wonderfully acted and excellent to watch.

Album

Music is where my tastes really did not converge with critics or other music listeners as my favorite songs and albums really didn’t show up on any best of 2016 lists. My favorite album of the year was Joseph’s I’m Alone, No You’re Not. Joseph is a group of three sisters who have wonderful harmonies but some of their songs also have a great pop sensibility. I love this whole album, and I hope to be able to see them play more of the album live in 2017.

 

 

Song

I suspect the song I’m putting in this category has a bit of recency bias. I suspect that if I first fell in love with this song say back in March instead of November that I’d probably be sick of it and wouldn’t be including it here, but Wrabel’s 11 Blocks was the song that I loved to sing along to in the car more than any other song this year and the one I always hoped I would hear on the radio when I was driving which is what it earns it this spot. Realistically my choice here should have been Joseph’s SOS (Overboard), which I love and is probably the song I listened to most this year.

 

Concert

Every year my real favorite concert experience is going to the Newport Folk Festival. This year that was no exception. I was already beat down my 2016 at the end of July and that weekend was such a balm for my soul, but I always like to pick another show from the year for this category since Newport being a festival isn’t really a single concert. This year my favorite concert was Garth Brooks. I never got to see him back in the 90s, so I’m glad I finally got the chance. He is an amazing performer and manages to make an arena show feel intimate and so fun. It was so fun to sing along to all those songs of his I loved and also to see Trisha Yearwood perform some of her songs. They are some of the first country artists I ever fell in love with and it was great to finally get a chance to see them live.

 

Broadway Theatre Production

In last year’s post I named Hamilton my favorite theatre production of the year and said I’m going again in April of 2016 so maybe it will be my favorite show of 2016 too. Let’s be realistic. It was. But I also saw other great Broadway shows this year. So even though the best show I saw was Hamilton again, I’m going to put She Loves Me in this category. The production starred Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi and it was delightful. I even paid to re-watch it online when they broadcast a recording of it later in the year.

Baltimore Theatre Production

My favorite theatre production that I saw in Baltimore snuck in at the last moment. It was the touring production of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. The Broadway production won the Tony for Best New Musical in 2014 and I’ve wanted to see it for years. It was never something that I felt that I needed to see on Broadway though given the limited number of shows I get to see there each year. I always knew I was going to wait until it toured to see it, so I was happy that it finally came around as part of our season tickets to the Hippodrome this year. It was a great show and well worth the wait. It was extremely smart and clever and a show the likes of which I haven’t seen in a long time.

Podcast

I already gave away in a post a few weeks ago that my favorite pocast this year was Out of the Blocks, a local Baltimore podcast from Aaron Henkin and Wendel Patrick. Their tag line One City Block, One Hour of Radio, Everybody’s Story pretty much describes what the podcast is about. It’s a fascinating look at the city and in the human condition. I highly recommend it to everyone not just people from Baltimore.

Podcast Episode

If Out of the Blocks didn’t exist Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs would have gotten my vote in the previous category. Instead they’ll get the mention in favorite podcast episode. I of course had to pick the episode where they discuss the song I requested, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”.

 

Me in NYC November 7, 2016

Filed under: Family,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 9:15 am

As is probably apparent by now I travel up to New York City fairly frequently. Usually I’m going up with my husband and we’re visiting his sister, her husband, and our niece and nephew. We usually take in a show while we’re there too, but the rest of our activities on those trips are rightfully dictated by what will keep two small children entertained. If I happen to be there not visiting family I’m usually doing the slightly crazy trip to see a show with friends in which we go up in the morning, get up to the city in enough to time grab lunch, see a matinee, grab dinner, and then head back to Baltimore. There’s not really much time to do anything else in those ventures. So there’s just a lot of things that the city has to offer that I never have a chance to do when I’m there.

Now that my husband’s office is technically in NYC even though he works from home it now makes sense to occasionally go up so he can go into the office and I can tag along and play by myself in the city. Our holiday plans got all switched around this year, so we’re not going to NYC for Thanksgiving like we normally do. I really wanted to see Sweet Charity, which has a limited run, so I told my husband we needed to go up another weekend in November. He said if that’s the case let’s go on a Friday so I can go into work and you can do whatever you want.

After I derided it in my post about London, New York decided to finally offer me a beautiful fall weekend while I was there. We took the train up on Friday morning. The first thing on my agenda was an exhibit at the New York Public Library’s Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center about shows that have won both Tony Awards and Olivier Awards (London’s West End equivalent to the Tony’s). Since the weather was nice I decided to walk up to Lincoln Center from Penn Station.

The exhibit was great. It’s not crazy huge since it’s in a library not a museum, but I’m glad I went. They had lots of things from shows including footage from them and interviews with actors playing on televisions, lots of costumes, stage notes, production designs, etc. If you like theatre and you have a little time to kill I’d recommend it.

After that my plan was to head over to the Upper East Side to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I don’t think I’ve ever been to. Though it’s possible I went as a kid with my family and I don’t remember. Getting there involved walking across Central Park, which wound up being slightly more complicated than I anticipated. The New York marathon was this weekend, and knowing nothing about it I managed to walk across the park at pretty much the exact spot where the finish line for the course is. This was Friday and the actual marathon wasn’t until Sunday, but apparently there were some kind of kids events going on Friday and a ton of kids were running to the finish line right when I got there. Getting through the crowds to get on the opposite side of the finish line so I could continue across the park was really annoying.

My plan was to eat lunch before going into the museum, and I almost stopped and outdoors at a Le Pain Quotidien in the middle of the park. They had a nice little patio I could have sat on and stared out at the park on a lovely fall day, but I decided I would prefer to find something non-chain to eat at. Big mistake! I wound up coming out of the park much farther north than I anticipated due to my race detour, and there was pretty much nothing around in terms of places to eat. I had one option, which was E.A.T., which I guess is fairly well known restaurant that I had no idea about and in retrospect I was annoyed at having to eat at. If there was literally anything else around I probably would have gotten up and walked out after I was handed the menu and I saw the prices. Those fancy pants Upper East Side New Yorkers might think it’s reasonable to pay $24 for a grilled cheese sandwich, but I do not. Aside from a small bowl of soup that cost $12 everything else that was literally just some regular types sandwiches were $22 or more. At least the soup came with a basket of bread, so it did wind up amounting to a decent lunch even though I was annoyed by the whole experience.

I spent the next four hours wandering around The Met, which is really, really large. I didn’t even come close to seeing everything. I specifically wanted to see the exhibit they had on Jerusalem: 1000-1400, which had a lot of artifacts from the city in that time period most of them having to do in some way with the three major religions that consider that city their Holy Land. There were a lot of illuminated manuscripts, but also all kinds of other stuff including pieces of buildings, weapons, pottery, tapestries, and other artwork. The other exhibit I didn’t set out to see but wandered into was Valentin de Boulogne, who was a French painter in the 1600s. Turns out I really like his work, so I’m glad I got to see that exhibit. I didn’t make a good plan for the rest of the museum, and I always get so confused in museums because there are entrances and exits on 3 or 4 sides of every room and I never know which way to go. So I saw a random amalgamation of things ranging from Egyptian artifacts, literal rooms from houses and hotels with fancy furniture and decorations that were removed from their original locations and installed in the museum, and I think most of the modern art.

After the Met, I met up with a friend who lives in New York for dinner before meeting up with my husband to see Sweet Charity. It’s not particularly one of my favorite shows, but this off-Broadway production is starring Sutton Foster who I really like. I knew from having seen a previous production of the show that there were a lot of instrumental interludes in the music that involved a lot of dancing. In my memory, which we have recently established is very faulty, I thought there was a lot of tap dancing which I love and which Sutton Foster is great at (I probably shouldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched videos of her tap dancing in Anything Goes on YouTube). I don’t know if this production is just different or I remembered wrong about what kind of dancing was in the show the last time I saw it, but there was only one really short tap number this time though of course still lots of other dancing. I’ve never been to an off-Broadway show before, so that was kind of fun and it was nice to be in such a small house and be so close to the stage. I’ll never be rich enough to afford tickets that close on Broadway, not even in Baltimore really. It’s still not one of my favorite shows, but I definitely enjoyed it more this time than the first time I saw it.

On Saturday we took my niece and nephew to the National Museum of Mathematics, aka MoMath. It seemed like they had a good time, but as an adult I can tell you it’s a pretty lame museum on top of which half of the interactive exhibits were broken. There were an awful lot of out of order signs on things in a place that isn’t all that big to begin with. For the things that did work their signage did not really give very good explanations about what you were supposed to go or what mathematical concept was being applied. I’m glad the kids had fun, but overall I give two thumbs down that museum and would not recommend it. We then had to race back home to get the kids to their swimming lesson on time. After that we took our niece to one of those paint your own pottery places. Then it was pretty much time for us to catch our train home. All in all an excellent couple of days in New York doing some things I don’t normally do.

 

London Trip Part 4 October 13, 2016

Filed under: Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 8:37 am

On Saturday morning we headed down to Greenwich. I had been before, but my husband had not and this was the one thing he said he wanted to do on our trip. In the ongoing theme of this trip that my memory is terrible, not only did I not really remember anything about Greenwich, what I did remember was apparently completely wrong. I have a vivid memory of standing on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory in a grassy area. There is no indication of the line in a grassy area. It’s on a brick patio that seemed not at all familiar to me. I didn’t remember anything from the Royal Observatory museum either. I guess it’s good because it made it more interesting.

As you’ve probably gathered by now the Prime Meridian was founded at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich and is the genesis of Greenwich Mean Time, which helped standardize time and navigation. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich was previously the home and workplace of the Royal Astronomer, but it has since moved elsewhere. Now it is just a museum.

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Royal Observatory

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Standing on the Prime Meridian at the Royal Observatory

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View of London from the Royal Observatory. I was all about the views of London this trip.

In addition to the Royal Observatory Greenwich has an old Naval College and the British Maritime Museum. We walked around the grounds of both but didn’t go inside either. It’s also a cute little town with a small little market that we wandered through. In looking for off the beaten path things to do in London I stumbled on Goddard’s Pie and Mash shop, which has been in business in Greenwich since 1890. We went there for lunch and it was quite tasty. It almost made up for the terrible fish and chips I ate the day before.

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Steak and Ale pie and mash

We also discovered a footpath built under the Thames between Greenwich and Island Gardens that was built for dockworkers to get to work replacing an old ferry. We walked back and forth because I was curious and thought it would be fun to say that I had walked both over and under the Thames during our trip.

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View of the British Maritime Museum from across the Thames in Island Gardens

After lunch we headed back into London. At that point we had exhausted all the things we had specifically put on our itinerary for the trip. We eventually settled on the Museum of London, which I had very much enjoyed the last time I was there and that my husband had never been to. It’s free now aside from their special exhibit, which was not the case last time I was there. I still think it’s a neat little museum, but I also understood my husband’s point that if you know the basics of British history you’re not really going to learn anything.

Without any set plans for the evening I decided we should check out what was available from the TKTS booth and see another show. We settled on something called Murder Ballad, which had like the show we saw on Friday, had previously been off-Broadway. It only had middling reviews, but since it was only 90 minutes and we had to get up at 5 am to catch our flight we decided to go with it. Even though the theatre is in the West End, it’s not one of the grand theatres. It’s in a place called the Arts Theatre, a small 350 venue whose entrance and box office is actually in the middle of the Madd Hatter’s Cafe. The show itself is a musical about a love triangle that ends in a murder as the title would suggest. It was as the reviews indicated a sort of middling show, but I’m not sorry we went.

Prior to the show we tried to get dinner at a well-reviewed Indian restaurant nearby. One of the things on my list was to eat Indian food when we were in London. It didn’t work out as the restaurant literally had a line down the block and we didn’t have time to wait in it. We wound up eating at Wagamama’s instead. I tend to try and avoid chains when traveling, but since Wagamama’s is a London-based chain I enjoyed eating at when I lived there and their only existing location in the US is in Boston nowhere near me I don’t feel too bad. I don’t know whatever happened to the DC location that was supposed to open. Either it never did or it closed really quickly. It appears a New York location should be opening soon based on their website.

Sadly that concluded our too-short, but wonderful trip to London. We had to head out early on Sunday morning. Even though we left on time we got into Toronto 30 minutes late. Our connection was always going to be tight and with that 30 minutes gone Air Canada preemptively rebooked us on a flight back to Baltimore that left 4 hours later than our original flight. I was really not happy thinking I was going to have spend 4 extra hours in the airport. Luckily though we had no checked bags and were able to get through both Candian and US customs and the security checkpoint we had to go through fairly quickly. We basically ran to our original gate in hopes that we could get rebooked onto our original flight. I was slightly worried our seats might have been given to standby passengers, but happily everything worked out and we got home as originally planned.

It was  great trip that reminded me of all the reasons I adore London. It made me wish that I could get there more often.

 

London Trip Part 3 October 12, 2016

Filed under: Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 7:54 am

In addition to going to the theatre, the one thing I said I wanted to go on this trip was to go to the Tate Modern museum, which was still in the process of being built the last time I was in London. So that’s what we planned to do on Friday morning. Funnily enough our hotel was pretty much right next door to the Tate Britain but we never went this trip. I spent lots of time there for the art history course I took while studying in London though, so I didn’t feel like I missed out this time.

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The Tate Modern Museum

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View of St. Paul’s from the other side of the Thames in front of the Tate Modern Museum

The Tate Modern was built in the old Bankside Power Station. The museum is split in two parts with one side being the old Switch House and one being the Boiler House. There is an incredible view of the city from the top of the Switch House. The museum is free aside from special exhibitions. There were three going on while we were there, but we opted not to pay to go in any of them. I had never heard of two of the artists and we had seen a lot of Georgia O’Keefe in New Mexico and didn’t feel like paying £20 to see more.

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Selfie with the view from the top of the Tate Modern Museum

We wound up spending a lot more time in the museum than I anticipated. We pretty much covered the whole thing while were there. We did the galleries in the Switch House and then decided to go out and grab lunch before doing the other half of the museum. We went to a pub that we passed on the way to the museum where I sadly had the single worst fish and chips I’ve ever eaten. I’m still mad about it. I was counting on some delicious fish and chips while were there. After lunch we headed back and did the other half of the museum.

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This fish and chips may look delicious, but don’t let it fool you. It was terrible.

I admit I’m someone who doesn’t always “get” modern art. There were definitely some of the things that have come to symbolize modern art like singular colored shapes or what appears essentially be a blank canvas because it’s painted white. That really was not the majority of the collection though and wasn’t the stuff I don’t get. I have decided what really does nothing for me is the sort of performance art videos that play on a loop. Those are definitely not for me.

There were a number of things I really enjoyed though. They had some great collections about the intersection of art and culture and art and social issues that I loved. They also have several Picassos and I enjoyed seeing the series of Rothko paintings that inspired the play Red.

After we left the Tate Modern we walked across the Thames on the Millennium Bridge, which obviously was also not there yet when I was last in London in 1998. Then we headed over to Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus because I wanted to hit up some of the cheesy tourist shops. I collect Christmas ornaments as souvenirs and was sure I’d be able to find one there. I was not wrong. We then wound up walking over to Covent Garden as well to kill some time before heading to dinner and the theatre.

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View of the Tower Bridge while walking across the Millennium Bridge

It took me a long time to figure out what show I wanted to see while we were in London. Too much of the stuff in the West End right now is stuff I’ve already seen on Broadway or that I didn’t care about, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and No Man’s Land starring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, the two shows I wanted to see were sold out. I thought we might just see what was available at the TKTS booth after we got there, but a few days before we left I managed to pick something based purely on the venue, which wasn’t even in the West End.

I was looking through a list of off the beaten path things to do in London and stumbled across Wilton’s Music Hall, which bills itself as the oldest grand music hall in the world. I decided to see what was playing there during our trip, and conveniently it turned out to be a theatre production of Floyd Collins: The Musical. I looked up the reviews and they were all raves, so I was sold.

The show is based on a true story of a Kentucky man who liked to explore caves and got stuck in a cave. The rescue mission became a huge nationwide story in 1925 before a cave collapse ultimately doomed Collins to death a few weeks after he first got stuck. I enjoyed it and was happy with my choice. The production itself was great, though there were some parts of a couple of the songs that I thought went on too long. I’m sure most people in the audience were British and thus didn’t think about the accents, but as an American I was kind of amused by some of the very British sounding Kentucky accents. I appreciated the experience of going to an off-West End production in a historic space that’s not just some ornate theatre that you would be hard pressed to distinguish from any other ornate theatre.

 

 

Waitress on Broadway October 4, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Theatre — dwhren @ 8:57 am

I usually am not a fan of the idea of movies being turned into Broadway musicals, something that seems to be more and more commonplace these days, but for some reason I was excited about the prospect of Waitress as a Broadway musical the second I heard about it. I loved the movie written by Adrienne Shelley starring Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion. I’m still sad about Shelley’s tragic death as we’ll never get to see what other great things she may have created. It’s nice that her existing work continues to gain new life though.

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The music in the show was written by Sara Bareilles, whose music I enjoy. The music in Waitress very much sounds like it was written by her, so if you have a strong aversion to her for some reason this show probably isn’t for you.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the movie, but from what I can remember the Broadway production seemed very faithful to it, but not in a way that made it feel constrained. It still felt like it’s own thing, but most importantly it kept the feeling of heart that was the center of the movie.

The Broadway production stars Jessie Mueller as Jenna, the titular waitress, who finds herself falling for her obstetrician after her abusive husband gets her pregnant. With encouragement from her friends in the diner she starts to think about bettering her life for herself and her future child. Part of the story is that Jenna is a fantastic pie baker and thinks of new pie recipes to suit her feelings about particular situations. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work in the Broadway production, but I thought they incorporated it really well. My only complaint about the pie baking, which I realize I’m being ridiculous about, is that she’s playing with pie dough as part of the choreography and the baker in me couldn’t stop thinking about how she was handling the dough way too much.

Despite some sort of heavy stories, the show is really light and just plain fun. It’s really not any great dramatic work, and I don’t think it will be a show that people are going to be talking about years from now. However, if you’re looking for a fun outing to the theatre this completely fits the bill. It really was just completely delightful from start to finish. I’m not sure it’s something anyone think to take kids to, but just in case I will say it’s not a really kid friendly show. There’s lots of sex talk and one fairly explicit simulated sex scene. So leave the kids at home and enjoy a fun date night on the town. I presume this show will tour before it eventually goes off into Broadway graveyard in the sky, and when it does if it comes near you I would highly recommend seeing it.

One of the great things they did for completing the experience was sell little pies in jars before the show and during intermission. I of course could not resist getting one. They had apple, cherry, and cookies and cream. I went with the apple. It was really more of an apple crumble than a pie, but it was still delicious so I’m not complaining. I’m really glad I got to see this show before it shuffled off of the Great White Way.

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