Bandstand on Broadway

It was my last day in New York. I had just left the matinee of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 in utter disbelief of the magic that was made on the stage of the Imperial. My mother and I had gone to dinner and were now waiting in line to enter the Jacobs Theatre to see Bandstand.

Bandstand was the one show that I had actually planned on seeing while in New York. I knew I would see others, but hadn’t bought the tickets, but I wanted to make sure to see Bandstand. Maybe it was a bit of a redemption for the first time I had come to the city to see Cinderella and Laura Osnes was out of the show that week, maybe it was my incessant need for originality on Broadway, or maybe it was both. I knew I wanted to see this show.

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Something that I love doing, and rarely have the opportunity to do, is seeing a show without even an idea of what it is about. I love being able to enter a theatre with a blank pallet and let the actors and musicians take me away. I had an idea of what Bandstand was about. I knew that it was about men who returned home from WWII and started a band, but Lord, I had no idea what I was in for.

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The show starts and you are instantly taken to the war. You are there with Donny and Michael and are faced with the harsh realities of what happened there. They don’t sugar coat it, its real. When you end up in Cleaveland and see the way the war has changed people, it’s an eye opener. Before I saw this show, WWII seemed so far away, so disconnected. I knew that my grandfather had fought, I knew he saw things he never talked about, but this show put it into perspective for me. The way you see these men behave and try to deal with their inner demons is such eye-opening theatre. When the doctor tells Donny to find something quick, that he’s gone to three funerals that month because the men wanted a way to make it stop, I actually wanted to cry. Back then, and even to an extent now, people didn’t talk about what happened. They were expected to get over it, see it as an honor, and get through it. But talking about experiences helps so much, but it just wasn’t seen as an option then, they just had to do what it took to make it like it was before.

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When the 11 o’clock number rolls around and you see that someone is talking about it, that they want every man who served to know that they aren’t alone, I wanted to cry even more. I wish something like that was more readily available to men then, or even now. Sure, TV shows and movies talk about it, but back in the day, they had the MGM movie musicals that were more about the lavish homecomings than the realities of war.

This show has so many amazing aspects to it. It is a swing musical, which isnt common on Broadway, and not just that, but the actors on stage also play their own instruments. This means that not only do these actors have to act, sing, and dance well, but also be able to play swing music amazingly. There are still pit musicians who play the rest of the score, but when the Donny Nova Band is playing, the actors are playing the music.

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Also, Tony winner for Hamilton, Andy Blankenbuehler directs and choreographs the show. I remember that during one particular dance number, there are people sliding with chairs across the stage and the audience went absolutely nuts for it. It was amazing. There is no doubt that this show had the best choreography this season, they won a Tony for it.

But what makes this show even more amazing is that this show is the first Got Your Six certified Broadway musical, meaning it’s the first show to accurately portray veterans stories. These stories need to be told just as much as any other story on Broadway.

The performances by the actors were just so touching. Having been a fan of Laura Osnes for years, finally getting to see her in a show was such an amazing experience. But it was Corey Cott’s performance of Donny that absolutely blew my mind. Why he was not nominated for a Tony still baffles me. He gave his all and left it on the stage during that performance. His performance was one that will honestly stick with me for years to come.

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Whatever your thoughts on the military may be, this show tells the stories of what happens to people who do what they think is the best thing for their country and how they do their best to cope with those experiences.

Great Comet, Great Birthday

Saturday. Matinee. My 22nd birthday. Great Comet

I left Los Angeles for New York two days before my 22nd birthday with tickets for only one show (Bandstand) and an idea of what other shows I wanted to see. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 was at the top of the list. So when I was able to buy next-day matinee tickets at TKTS I was absolutely beside myself.

I had listened to the Off-Broadway Cast Recording for about a year before leaving for New York and had fallen in love with the story and the show itself. I knew that some changes would be made but I had absolutely no idea about how I would feel during this show.IMG_4309.jpg

We, my mother and myself, rolled up to the Imperial Theatre in an Uber after getting myself a birthday blowout at DryBar, ready for what this show would become. Upon entering the theatre, I was immediately transported and disoriented. This is not what a Broadway theatre typically looks like, I felt cramped and a bit like Kimmy Schmidt, trapped in a bunker. But after following the crowd through the entry, I was once more transported into a lush, lavish, and absolutely beautiful Russian supper club.

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When the lights went down and the actors came out to discuss the rules of the club, I was instantly committed to the show. And then they won me over once more by handing out boxes of potato and onion perogies, which I was lucky enough to find myself in possession of. I was in love.

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The lights dimmed, the chandelier rose, and the show began. The prologue makes me so happy with the repeating verses which are insanely helpful. I find that by repeating the names of who is who, it helps the audience get a better grasp of the characters and their personalities.

I wasn’t a fan of Josh Groban, not that I didn’t like him, I just hadn’t had much exposure to his music. I knew him from the 2008 UK Concert of Chess, and thought he was wonderful in that. But he truly shines as Pierre and I feel lucky to see him make his Broadway debut. I also knew that as a fun fact he attended LACHSA, which is one of the high schools that are basically on my college campus.

As for Denée Benton, I actually saw her 3 years ago in the National Tour of Book of Mormon as Nabulungi. From what I remember, she was great in that. As Natasha, however, she soared. I cannot imagine someone more suited for this role than her. Her performance was so wonderful and she truly embodied that naive, love-struck character that is Natasha. Also, this being her Broadway debut was pretty exciting.

For me, however, the absolute standout of the show was Lucas Steele as Anatole. He was able to exude the charm and stubbornness that the character requires all while singing his little heart out. He was funny and, God, he was so charming.

When I woke up on Tuesday May 2, 2017 to the news that all three of these actors were Tony-nominated for their performances made my heart soar.

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A criticism I have heard about the show is that they speak a lot of their actions and some people do not like that. But I think it’s genius for two reasons. ONE, the show has pretty much redesigned the Imperial Theatre and the actors are performing around you all the time, including up in the mezzanine and at the back of the orchestra so nearly ever seat has some sort of obstruction, and so the actions being narrated is necessary. TWO, the show is based on a 70-page section of War and Peace, a book, by narrating the actions, it stays truer to the book, as if they are reading directly out of it. I think that is brilliant.

I love that the show is interactive, the actors are playing with the audience and toasting with them. I remember that during the song Letters, Anatole sends a letter along a row in the audience to Natasha. The row happened to be comprised of mainly older people and the last in the row was an elderly lady who was supposed to give the letter to Natasha. She, obviously, couldn’t move as well as a younger person might have so it took her a bit longer than anticipated to hand the letter over, but the audience gave a big cheer as she went to sit back down, and my heart swelled.

When the cast members came out with egg shakers for Balaga and the audience couldn’t keep the rhythm of the song, I felt so much joy. I love audience participation so much when no one is singled out.

I love how different and immersive this show is. It doesn’t leave you with a warm feeling in your heart unless the idea of no one being happy or in love makes you feel warm and fuzzy. To each their own. Still, this show is special, it leaves you feeling new and refreshed and like you and these characters are given a new start.

Everything about this show, the actors, the set design, the costumes, the book, and the music come together to form a perfect art piece. Not one day has passed since I saw this show that I have not listened to the cast recordings and spoken about this show. Of the three shows I saw on that trip, this is the one that has left the biggest impact on me. The fearlessness this show has by being different than the others is so promising of the future of Broadway, and that gives me hope.

I know this seems like a rave, but thats because it is. I love Great Comet. I love this show and want nothing but the best for this show and these actors. I want to see this show a million more times and I wonder if ever this could tour. I want everyone to see this show. When my friends tell me about the trips to New York they have planned for the summer, I tell them to see this show. Even when Groban leaves in early July, Oak will come in and kick ass.

Until next time,

Katie

Legends Take the Stage in War Paint

A Broadway fan can only dream of seeing the legends that are Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole take the stage, but can you imagine how utterly overwhelming it can be for that fan to witness them take the stage TOGETHER?! It sure is something, I tell ya.

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On April 21, 2017, I had the most wonderful pleasure of witnessing two of Broadway’s most iconic performers play two of the most iconic women of the makeup industry. Patti Lupone as Helena Rubinstein and Christine Ebersole as Elizabeth Arden.

Upon purchasing tickets from TKTS at Lincoln Center, I was informed that Patti had been out of the show for the past few performances and it wasn’t a guarantee that she would be in the show tonight. Still, I took my chances even though I knew it was a possibility she would not be in because it was her birthday. I had faith and figured that I would at least see a new musical about strong powerful women.

There’s a rule I heard about once or twice, that if a lead will be out of show, two of three things need to happen: a notice must be posted on the board the audience sees upon entering the theatre, a flyer must be put inside the playbills, or an announcement must be made over the PA before curtain. None of these happened, but I would not believe anything until I saw her with my own eyes. And there she was, Patti Lupone in all her glory, commanding a stage like the legend she is.

The audience erupted with applause and cheers when Christine Ebersole and Patti Lupone took the stage. We all must have felt the profound energy they exude upon making their entrance. They were absolutely impossible to take your eyes off of.

Christine Ebersole’s performance was flawless. She portrayed Elizabeth Arden with such poise and class. A strong woman who understood the difficulties she was up against, making makeup a common household item rather than one saved for the stage, film, and prostitutes. When, towards the end of the second act, Arden sings about her board’s desire to step down, Ebersole showed such passion and pain for Arden who was being told subtly that she was only wanted for her name and her signature color, pink. This was the part of the show that made me feel the most emotion. For a woman to work so hard her entire life and only be summed up by a color has got to be the most dreadful experiences a woman can have.

Patti Lupone portrayed a different type of woman that Helena Rubinstein was. She was a woman who came from nothing, who worked hard to get passed the barriers set by society concerning her look and religion, strong in different ways. Both of these women had to break past the gender stereotypes and glass ceilings of the time, persevering through the second World War and helping America in what ways they could to show their alliance. Patti sounded so wonderful in her singing, though it was hard to understand. She spoke with an accent like Helena Rubinstein had, also singing in it which, when mixed with the music, ended up a cacophony. However, Lupone brought humor and wit and power to the stage, that I feel blessed to have witnessed.

The sets were so intricate and the costumes reflecting the time so that the audience could differentiate between the 30 years the show takes place. There’s a definite stylistic difference between the Arden and Rubinstein salons, Arden’s being more feminine and Rubinstein’s being more clinical.

My only critical comment about the show is that the fact that they were women was brought up quite a bit. Hear me out for a second. Obviously, we all know the hurdles women had to go through then and continue to go through, bringing it up over and over again is just redundant. We know these women were powerful and commanded companies successfully, but you can show their power without talking about that gender gap. Personally, I believe that only widens the divide and makes it a bigger issue by enforcing the idea that women were/are not as powerful as men. Clearly, they are and can be.

This show was the epitome of a lavish Broadway musical, the sets, the costumes, the legends on stage are what the show really has going for it.

What’s Going On with the National Endowment for the Arts and What It Means.

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Lets talk about the National Endowment for the Arts and everything thats been going on with it for the past few weeks.Since Donald Trump has taken office on January 20, 2017, the world has been a bit of a mess. There are reports of Fake News, Alternative Facts, and a whole bunch of Executive Orders. I won’t get into that in this, it doesn’t relate to the Arts right now and until it does, I’ll keep my mouth closed. However, something that has been tossed around recently is the possibility of Trump defunding the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Now, this can all seem a little confusing so the point of this post is to break down exactly what this means.

The Facts:

  • Donald Trump reportedly wants to cut cultural programs
  • Privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (according to the Hill)
  • Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities (according to the Hill)
  • All of this is in order to reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years
  • Cultural programs make up 0.02% of Federal Funding (according to the Washington Post)

How an Endowment Works

Because I have twice interned in Development, which is the fundraising side of nonprofit organizations, I know a thing or two about endowments and how exactly nonprofits are funded. I am not an expert by any means, but I believe that I know enough to say something.

Essentially an endowment is a sum of money that sits in a bank that the organization cannot touch (unless circumstances are dire, in which case its seen as a bad thing in the org’s books). While they can’t touch the money itself, while it is in the account, it acquires interest which the organization can touch. Over the years the endowment can be added to which will then allow more money to be made off of it. A lot of nonprofit organizations rely on their endowment and the money they are granted by the National Endowment for the Arts. So, the NEA is pretty dang important.

The National Endowment for the Arts

A little information about the NEA

  • Established by Congress in 1965
  • Independent federal agency
  • Government funding—$148million of the $3.9trillion (Washington post)

“Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. Visit arts.gov to learn more about NEA.”

What Does This Mean?

Trump wants to completely eliminate programs that don’t even equal 4/100000 of a percent each year. Now, I’m not an economist or much of a math person, but I know how to do basic multiplication and division. If you multiply $148 million by the 10 years in which Trump wants to reduce spending, you get $1.48 billion. Divide that by the $10.5 trillion he wants to reduce federal spending by and you get 0.0001409, which is 0.01409%, not even two-hundredths of a percent.

Again, I am not an economist, but these numbers seem to do nothing but hurt the NEA and the organizations that they fund, the communities they help throughout the country.

This is really no surprise, though, is it? The arts have always been the first thing to go when discussing budget cuts because our education system’s ideal is for students attending public schools to be more educated in STEM areas in order to keep up with technology and whatnot globally. Completely understandable, I get it. But public high schools have already eliminated so much of their arts programs in the past 10 years which keeps the students in lower income communities from being exposed to the arts in a hands-on setting. Yes, student matinees put on by local theatre communities but not all schools are able to attend, much less those that have already cut their arts programs. By cutting those programs it makes it nearly impossible for students to have a well rounded education. It further hurts children who are just not cut out for STEM subjects by telling them subconsciously that there is nothing out there for them because they do not provide it in school. This is why we need people who understand the public school system to be the Secretary of Education, not Betsy DeVos who has never attended or been employed at a public school and who thinks that the teachers are overpaid. (PS. my AP Lit teacher was full time at my high school and worked part time at two different colleges just to make ends meet, so thats a load of bull)

If this happens, if Trump does in fact cut the funding and completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts, organizations that rely on that funding will have to look for other sources.

What You Can Do

Speak Up!

  • Remember, Donald Trump works for us. Contact your local representatives about all issues that concern you, whether it be the Executive Orders, the “Wall”, or the possibility of cutting the funding to the NEA

Donate what you can!

  • You can go to Arts.gov and donate whatever you can to the National Endowment for the arts. Every little penny makes a difference because even a penny can accumulate interest over the years.

Go see art!

  • Go to the theatre, a museum, symphonies. It does not matter. Take a friend who might normally not be exposed to this sort of culture on a regular basis and introduce them to your world. Research the organization before attending to see if it is a nonprofit, and to reiterate the previous point, donate what you can if you enjoy the work they are doing.

 

Thank you so much for reading. If you have any comments or suggestions, please share them in the comments because I would love to hear what you have to say!

xx Katie

La La Land is a Feminist Film!

As I’m sure a lot of people know, the movie La La Land has been surrounded by a lot of buzz in both conversations and award shows for the past couple of weeks. This is all for good reason, because this movie is like nothing I have ever seen.
Movie musicals are something that seem so rare these days, but when you think back to a lot of the classic early Hollywood movies, and even up to the 1960’s, most of them are musicals: Singin’ in the Rain, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz, and the list goes on. Seeing a brand new musical set in today’s Los Angeles about passionate people trying to achieve their dreams just simply warms my heart. 
From the get-go I was excited about this movie because of the names attached to it. Not Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, we’ll get back to them, but Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the lyricists. I have been a fan of Dogfight since it premiered Off-Broadway years ago, and from what I’v heard of A Christmas Story and Dear Evan Hansen I knew that at least the songs would be good. I was not disappointed. 
The first number “Another Day of Sun” is such a fantastic song. In my opinion, this song sums up living in Los Angeles and trying to remain hopeful in the pursuit of dreams. I am from the Los Angeles area, I go to school in the city, I have interned in the city, and I am constantly seeing theatre in and around the city. I understand why people want to live here, why they move here. We do have wonderful weather, I mean as I write this it is currently 65 degrees in January which apparently is not the norm for most parts of the country. Los Angeles does have a lot of beautiful parts, the skyline, the beaches, and Disneyland. I love being able to surround myself with culture in museums, art, and theatre, I understand and appreciate how lucky I am to be living here. I think that this first number is so much more impactful for those who are here. We just have to keep doing what we need to do to get to where we want to be. Also, as a side note, this song has basically been on repeat in my car for the past three weeks.
I also really enjoy the way this film was shot. I think that Damien Chazelle is such a wonderful director, especially during the song and dance scenes. They all seem to be single-shot scenes which make the talent of those on screen that much more visible. There are no cutaways to other, more trained dancer’s feet pretending to be Mia and Sebastian, they hold on the action in wide shots and makes it feel that much more like a Broadway dance number. In “Another Day of Sun”  the camera follows dancer to dancer as new people come into shot, and it just feels like we are getting a glimpse at each of these dancer’s personalities. It’s different than other movies and media of today where there are jump cuts to avoid pauses in order to maintain attention spans. Its refreshing. 
The use of block colors in the sets and costumes make the film so beautiful and exciting and aesthetically pleasing to watch for two hours. It makes it so simple and easy, not distracting from the story that is going on. 
Something that seems to be an issue for some people is that they believe that this movie is not feminist. I whole-heartedly disagree. I understand where they are getting it from, a man is teaching a woman about music, telling her what she should do, but there are such feminist aspects to this film. For starters, Mia heard the music from the street, was intrigued by it and entered the restaurant by herself because she liked what she heard. Mia worked the job she had to work in order to be able to surround herself with what she loves and audition to be a part of it all. When Mia realized that she wasn’t getting any parts, she wrote her own part, produced it, and performed it. She was so happy with this decision and even though only a few people showed up, there was “Someone in the Crowd” who saw her work, really enjoyed her storytelling, and brought her in to audition for a role that would change her life and allow her to achieve her dreams. Also, there is nothing anti-feminist with following the advice of a man, she clearly didn’t even think to write a play before he brought it up. Sebastian is nothing but supportive of Mia, he believes in her when she was lost and it doesn’t even cross his mind that her gender could even possibly be a hinderance to success in her career and aspirations. If women following the advice and teachings of men is seen as anti-feminist, then people surely do not understand what feminism truly is. 
This film tells such a phenomenal story of following dreams and learning how to forge your own path. This film shows that what some consider to be a “typical” path might not work for everyone, and that lesson is something that can be applied to anyone who feels a little lost in their career path. I just so happen to be one of those people. 
I love getting to watch people who are so passionate about something, especially creative arts, and seeing them work towards achieving those goals. Watching characters that you can relate to go through situations that are similar to yours and working through their tough times can be so inspiring and helpful that your can get through anything. 
Now, to talk about Ryan and Emma’s performances in this film. Emma Stone starred as Sally Bowles in Cabaret a few years back, so I knew that she had to have some singing and dancing chops. I was so impressed with her work, her dancing seemed so natural that I’m surprised we haven’t seen anything like this from her before. Her singing wasn’t Broadway belting, but the role did not require it and I think that she did such a wonderful job doing what was given to her. I think that Emma Stone is such a wonderful, comedic actress and knowing that she is capable of something like this makes me completely ecstatic for what is to come from this. 
Part of me remembers in the way back of my brain the small fact that Ryan Gosling was a member of the Mickey Mouse Club, a TV show just a little before my time in which the members would sing and dance. I knew he was on this show as a kid, meaning he had to have been able to sing and dance a little as a child, but I think the collective American memory has forgotten this over the past twenty years. Clearly, he has brushed up on his skills and put them to use in this film where he danced gracefully.
Seeing these two perform the way they did in this film warms my heart and makes me so happy. I have a feeling that the silver screen will be seeing a couple more movie musicals in the coming years as an answer to this. In the past few years it seems like the American public has been allowing themselves to be open to musicals on a bigger scale than just Broadway. I mean, part of me is still impressed Smash was created, produced, and aired for two seasons. This and the fact that NBC has been doing live musicals for the past 4 years and now Fox has gotten in on the game. I am so excited to see where this leads for the production of musicals not just on Broadway but on film and television. I am inspired, I am hopeful, and I am loving every minute of it. 

Amélie: An Out of Town Tryout

Seen: December 23, 2016
Its a rare thing nowadays for a Broadway show to do an out-of-town tryout, let alone one that isn’t in DC, Boston, or Chicago. It happens, of course, but not often. Still, having the opportunity to see Amélie at the Ahmanson was such a magical experience.
To start, may I just say that Phillipa Soo is a legitimate gift from God. Her voice is so pure and angelic. She has such range in her acting and is one of the few actresses that can make me cry.  After having seen her in Hamilton last March, during which she had me in tears, I was so excited to see her in a new show and drastically different character. Also, Adam Chanler-Berat as Nino. I love him. I forgot how much I loved him. Next to Normal helped me get through high school and made me feel less alone when I was a freshman in a school where I didn’t know anyone. I remember writing the lyrics to different N2N songs in the back of my notebook to get out my teenage angst. Good times. Hearing him singing on the stage in front of me was one of those times where reality seemed altered and I was taken back to being 14. It was surreal. 
This show was just so whimsical and magical and wonderful. Obviously as an out of town tryout, changes will be made (I think that wig needs to be one of the first things to go) and I am just so curious as to how it will look when it opens. 
For those who are unfamiliar with the story (like I was) because they have not seen the movie/didn’t have the patience for subtitles (like me), Amélie follows a young woman as she starts her life in Paris and makes a connection with a stranger in the metro. She is inspired by the death of Princess Diana to make a difference and starts by returning a box that was hidden under the floorboards in her apartment to its rightful owner. While on this trip, she keeps crossing the path of a young man, Nino, who is asleep by the photo booth in the metro, eventually coming into possession of the book he leaves behind when scrambling to meet his train. She wants to return it but is afraid that actually meeting this young man will distort their ideas of each other. His book is filled with pictures that had been torn up and Amélie creates stories for each person in the pictures. After a series of clues left behind, Amélie and Nino finally meet decide to give the relationship a try. And they all lived happily ever after. 
I loved it. I loved it so much. The set was just as whimsical and wonderful as the actors who took residence on that stage. The costumes perfectly fit the characters and added to the fairytale-whimsy. I only wish I could remember any of the songs. I think this is only the second show I have seen where a cast recording was not available to listen to afterwards, the other being Shuffle Along. I’m just a little bummed that I cannot remember even a lyric of the show. 
Pippa, like I said before, is one of the only actresses who have ever made me cry. The difference between Eliza and Amélie is so huge. Eliza is such a strong woman and mother with so much love and has a serious side. Amélie, on the other hand, has such a child-like spirit, she is a tad awkward and nervous but always kind. These two characters, though so different, are so strong and wonderful and memorable. 
 
Adam, much like Pippa, portrayed Henry in Next to Normal, which I already stated means so much to me, and that is also such a character change. Henry is a stoner who works hard to provide some form of normalcy in Natalie’s life and understanding that she’s going through a tough time but refuses to give up on her. Literal boyfriend goals for a 15 year old Katie. Nino, however, acts as a sort-of narrator of the story, who goes to lengths to get to know the girl he has a connection with and does not give up… because she has his book. It was so refreshing seeing him portray such a different character because, thank God, I am no longer in that angsty teenage phase (as much, thank God). 
As an out-of-town tryout, it was great. I know there will be changes when it hits broadway in March. I hope they change the wig, its truly horrendous and makes her look 40 not 20 (when Samantha Barks played the role at Berkeley Rep, the hair was much better). I know the changes will be for the best, but part of me doesn’t want anything to change because I loved it so much. In the past 2 weeks, this show has grown on me so much that I am actually entering the TodayTix lottery to win tickets every day I don’t have to work. its only here through the end of next week and I so badly want to see it again. 
Go see this show, whether it’s here in LA or when it hits Broadway in the spring. See it and let yourself be transported to a whimsical Paris 1997. That is the one word to describe this experience: Whimsy. 
 
Also, as a side note, whilst waiting in line for the photo booth before the show I was looking at the poster in the lobby of all of the actors’ head shots and noticed that one looked particularly familiar and I couldn’t place it. When I looked in the program when I was finally in my seat, I saw that she was in She Loves Me on Broadway. And then I knew it! She is the one who took this picture of me and Zachary Levi at stage door as a part of Playbill’s two-show day with Alison Cimmet.

The King and I on Tour

Seen: December 17, 2016
Because I love Rodgers and Hammerstein, because I love classic musicals, and because I have season tickets to the Pantages, I spent a night in Siam with Anna and the King. Having never seen the movie, but knowing my share of the music, I was expecting a nice, enjoyable night at the theatre, and that is what I got. 
 
The King and I is so very classic Rodgers and Hammerstein. So much so that it made me realize something that I, for some reason, had never noticed before: a lot of R+H shows are essentially the same story. A single, strong, leading lady (Anna, Nelly, Maria) is entering a new and unfamiliar territory where she is put up against a strong, stubborn leading man (the King, Emile, Captain Von Trap) where the two bicker and ultimately bond together and realize they complement each other in a unique way that has never happened before. Something happens with the man that the woman does not like and that causes a rift (The King lashes out, Emile has children of mixed race, and Captain Von Trap is going to marry Elsa). All the while there is an impending sense of doom lingering in the air (European imperialism, WWII, Nazi occupation) and a secondary love plot (Tuptim and Lun Tha, Lt. Cable and Liat, Liesl and Rolf) that does not end well. In some way/shape/form the leading couple reunite and make amends with usually a happy ending. 
 
I realized this about twenty minutes into the first act and therefore, the show was predictable. Because I knew essentially how this show was going to end, the story itself started to lose my attention. I found myself paying closer attention to the set and the costumes and realized just how drop dead beautiful it all was. All of Anna’s costumes were just so gorgeous, so big and classic, Catherine Zuber did such a wonderful job. I so badly wish I could just wear just one of her costumes, not the purple ball gown my best friend Nicole likes, but the final dress, the maroon one. God, that was just so beautiful to me. 
 
I was also able to focus more on the individual actors’ performances. Laura Michelle Kelly’s voice is just so pure and a true blessing. She flawlessly took on this role and disappeared into the character, which is a sign of a true great. In a video of her getting into character for Finding Neverland, she mentioned how much she enjoyed working with children and that definitely seemed to transfer to this show. She seemed to be having such a wonderful time with those talented little actors. Jose Llana was also just so great as the king. He had starred twice in the Lincoln Center production and it truly seems like he has taken this role and made it his own and feels really comfortable in it. That is always great to see. 
 
When it comes to the show itself, aside from the fact that its the same as other R+H shows, I think there are some really shitty things about the facts about the story. This isn’t so much about the show, but just about history in general and imperialism and how just fucked up that is. The fact that the King is seen as being barbaric just because of his culture is just not a great thing that happened. The Europeans thinking that they are morally and societally superior than Eastern cultures is something that I just cannot wrap my mind around. Granted, this is coming from the retrospect of a Southern Californian white girl who is of 3/4 European descent. I just do not like the idea that there are cultures that assume they are better than others just because they do not understand it. In the case of Tuptim, the fact that she was given as a gift and forced to be one of the king’s wives, that is the most barbaric thing about the culture. In this story, the other wives don’t really have any complaints about being one of the many, though maybe that is because their voices just are not heard. 
 
In all, The King and I tour was such a wonderful and beautiful production. The talent on the stage is what is the real draw for me, the voices and acting abilities and set and costume designs as opposed to the story and music. Every show has little things that make it great and had it not been for this particular cast and this direction and this lighting design and this costume design and these musicians all coming together for this production, I may not have had as great of a time as I did that night.