Thursday, April 13, 2017

Disney's Aladdin - North American Tour playing at the Cadillac Palace in Chicago

Another magnet added to the collection
I saw the second performance of Disney's Aladdin North American Tour last night at the Cadillac Palace from three rows from the backrow in the balcony - and I want to go see it again!

I've been a subscriber of Broadway in Chicago for near 10 years now and although I was not excited about many of the shows in this years spring package - I was excited about Aladdin.

The one thing about a Disney Production is that it is a PRODUCTION.  Oh my goodness, the costumes, the sets (even though it's a touring set), the dancers and the leads make it one heck of a show.

Don't think that you're going to get a scene by scene rendering of the classic 1992 movie starring Robin Williams - you're going to get something different and better.  I know sacrilegious, right?  But it is a different show.  The theme is the same, the scenes are the same but they don't try to disguise people as animals (i.e. Iago) instead you've got fully fleshed out character and his side-kick has been transformed into three best friends.

This tour includes the original Ali - Adam Jacobs and introduces Anthony Murphy as the Genie.  Adam was wonderful and kept the show grounded because Anthony blew the roof off.  At first he really reminded me of Titus Burgess' character Titus Andromeda from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but then he morphed, and morphed again he had one-liner after one-liner and not old ones, new ones.

Enough has been written about the show itself, but this is the first production of the National Tour so that's why it requires being written about.  The show is so popular that it's been extended until September 10th and to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if it were extended through the Holidays.

The thing with an actual Disney production, and not the faux kind like the last touring company of "Disney's Beauty and The Beast" presented by "not Disney," is that you get a REAL show.  From the very opening notes of the orchestra you're swept away to the dessert and land of Agrabah.

The costumes were beautiful, brightly colored and the men were mostly shirtless - I was for once sad that I was three rows from the back instead of three rows from the front!  For only the second "public" performance by this Cast, they have really pulled it together.  There were a few klumps along the way, but there was nothing that was distracting or made you go tsk tsk.

I would seriously go again to just watch the Cave of Wonders/Friend Like Me number over and over.
 Up until that point the sets were expected, they did a good job of portraying the scene but they were just good.  OMG, the Cave of Wonders was AMAZING and it just kept going and going.  When he first entered the Cave there were a few things on stage, and then more came from the fly space, more came from the sides, more came from down in front it just kept coming and coming and truly became a Cave of Wonders.

This is the scene where Ali meets Genie for the first time and Genie sings "Friend Like Me" a nearly 8 minute long production number with nearly the entire cast jumping up from inside the stage, appearing in columns magically on stage, performing a magic chest trick, wearing rhinestone tuxedos that were blinding me three-rows from the back - it was spectacular and THEN there was the tap number, pyrotechnics and confetti!  When the number finished the audience clapped for nearly 3 minutes, seriously we just clapped and clapped and clapped it was awe inspiring and probably one of the best scenes I have ever seen on stage, so much better than Be Our Guest - meh!  The cast really pulled it together and presented a spectacular number, I can only imagine that it will get better the more they perform it.

Yep, that's my view from my seats
I haven't even talked about the Magic Carpet yet - that transition from Jasmine's room to the carpet is a bit wonky, but once they're on the carpet it's amazing.  Perhaps it was a mix up but the entire scene was REALLY dark, like from the third row from the back I could barely see what was going on.  I know there's some amazing technology behind making that carpet go all over the stage, but it was just really too dark to see what was going on.  It's like when they don't want you to really see the monster in a horror movie so it's really dark - it was that dark.  The scene itself was beautiful to watch, I seriously thought they were about to do a Mary Poppins and have them fly off the stage into the audience.  Sidenote:  Mary Poppins started it's National Tour in Chicago in the same theater.

One of the nice things I like about being a subscriber - is getting to see the show EARLY, literally this was the second public performance of this cast and it's going to be running through September.  I would like to go back and see it later this year if I can find some affordable tickets, just to see how much better they are going to get as they hit their marks, find their groove and really get into the show, I know they'll be phenomenal.

Find out more information about Disney's Aladdin playing at Broadway In Chicago

Monday, February 13, 2017

Updating the Dog GPS

This is our dog Deeohji, we recently had a medical scare with him and he ended up in the animal hospital for three days and "in recovery" at home for about 2 weeks.

He's doing better now and we have a follow-up appointment later this week, but ever since the "scare" he's been sniffing up a storm.

During the recovery period we wouldn't spend much time outdoors, literally pee, poop and back in the house.  Honestly he wasn't up to much walking either, in fact we've just gotten back in to our normal "walk around the block."

One strange thing since then is that he is a sniffing fiend.  Literally he'll walk 30 feet and have to stop and sniff the air, seeing who's around.

I'm wondering if his stay at the hospital reset his doggy GPS?

So now our walks take twice as long because he's trying to remap the neighborhood.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Day Finally Came: I'm Old!

Whelp, the day finally came, I officially said "I'm old today."

Want to know why?  I read an article about a video game that I had heard about and I literally knew NOTHING about what they were writing about.

I didn't understand the lingo, I didn't understand the concept of what they were trying to do and I was like "Oh my goodness, what the fuck is this?  I must be old because I have no idea what they're talking about."

Now I know how my grandmother felt when I would spout off about programming on my TI 99-4/a, but she would sit there and listen and I'm sure she was saying "What the fuck is he talking about."

I honestly never thought this day would come, I'm cool, I read, I keep up with current technology, but you know what, I have a life too...and a job - so I guess I don't keep up that well.  Technology is innovating so quickly now, I figure that by the time I hear about it - it's either going to go belly up or it was hot 5 years ago.  Heck I just found out about MySpace!

But it's here and I accept the consequences, but at the same time, I think that I can now yell "Hey you kids, get off my lawn." and really own it, because I'm old now!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lifehack That Works: Corn on the cob

Yeah, yeah, everyone has a lifehack for everything can't just live your life, you've got to hack your life to make it better.  But you know what, a lot of those hacks just don't work, or are so cumbersome that they're not worth it.

I've collected some Lifehacks for Corn on the cob that ACTUALLY work, like work in the way that this is the way that I now deal with corn on the cob.

Lifehack That Works #1: Cooking

There have been a few hacks for this, but the one that I found works best is to throw the corn in the microwave and hit it for 4-minutes an ear.  You're golden.

Don't husk it, don't soak it in water for 30 minutes, don't wrap it in wet paper towel, just toss it in there.

Lifehack That Works #2: Removing the Silk

Remember, you didn't husk the corn

Step 1: Cut off the end

Step 2: Grab the end with the silk and pull out

Step 3: Seriously this was all that remained!

Lifehack That Works #3 & #4:  Cutting and Collecting

Grab your electric knife and your bundt pan, that's all you need

Stick the small end in the middle - no fuss, no muss

Seriously these hacks work and don't do it the old way, I've tried everything - seriously I have, and this is by and far the easiest way.  I am able to do a half dozen ears of corn in no more than 5 minutes, it's that quick - and the more you do it the more confident you'll be.

Now a few hints:  Get an Ove Glove  and plastic gloves, it will make handling the corn that much easier.  I've always struggled with how to hold the corn, with an Ove Glove it's simple.

Hurry, summer is almost over, get out there and eat some corn before they turn it into a Maze!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Gay Trifecta Weekend

This past weekend was the Gay Trifecta and I came in first place...well I was the only one in the running contest so if I hadn't won!

Friday night I went to the Culture Club concert with my friend Gregory.  He is the biggest Boy George fan I have ever (or will ever) know, he loves Boy George so much.  We had great seats at The Chicago Theatre, front row loge on stage left.  There was no one in our little section so we got to stretch out and really enjoy the concert.  The concert was a ton of fun, I was surprised that I knew so many songs...and I even danced for a few minutes (during the encore).

Saturday night I decided that I had to go see Absolutely Fabulous - The Movie on opening week, so I drug myself to the cinema.  The first 30 minutes or so of the film was a rehash of the series, pulling out a lot of the gags that made it funny.  At one point I thought "Did they just pull out the best bits to make the movie?" and then it moved on to new territory - I guess they just wanted to remind us exactly who Patsy and Edina are - like we'd ever forget!

Sunday morning I finished out the Gay Trifecta by watching Star Trek Beyond - I hadn't seen a Star Trek movie since 2009 - I really enjoyed it.  I was wondering why it is that I don't like Action Movies, per se, but I like Science Fiction Action Movies - why is that?  I don't know!

Oh yeah, and on top of the Gay Trifecta weekend it was freaking HOT here all weekend, temps in the 90's with "real feel" in the 100's, it was stifling.

I'm glad it wasn't really a race this weekend - I woulda died!

Friday, July 01, 2016

REVIEW: Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole in' War Paint' at Goodman Theatre Chicago

Saw Patti and Christine last night in War Paint at the Goodman Theatre- they were amazing.  The show was "meh", the songs were not entirely memorable, but OMG did they fucking SING.  I didn't care what they were saying, it was Patti Lupone and Christine Ebersole, they could sing cooking recipes and I'd listen all day long.

Long awaited and eagerly anticipated, War Paint has been on the tip of everyone's tongues lately - and rightly so.  Broadway royalty has made the trek to Chicago and people want to show their appreciation.  Friends at work who aren't into theater have been asking about it, so I know a lot of people are talking about it.

Typically our tickets aren't until the end of the run, literally we're the last Thursday performance before close, so we're used to seeing some well performed theater at Goodman, but I had to change out my tickets for an earlier date because of some things going on later this month - and I snagged the FIRST Thursday performance.

I love seeing the first previews of a show, when it's still raw and the actors are finding their way and learning how to make the characters real.  This show was no different, it was remarkably tight for a third performance - everyone was en pointe, or as the kids say "on fleek."

The stage hands definitely have their work cut out for themselves on this show, there is a ton of movement in this show - things going on and off the stage up and down from the fly EVERY scene - literally every scene.  Which is so different from most Goodman shows where they have a single set, like Vanya and Sasha; or a really innovative set like the rotating stage of Luna.  The sets are usually beautiful and semi-stationary.  The sets for War Paint are beautiful and on the move, so much movement, so much light design, so many beautiful duets sung together yet separately at the same time.  The staging was impeccable and for so early in the run - not that I was expecting problems but I can imagine it will only get better as they go, the stagehands deserve a round of applause.

I took my friend Logan with me, I've known Logan for 20+ years and last night was the first time I seriously ever saw him go totally Broadway Queen - he was more excited than I was to see Patti, it shocked me.  Patti has this strange European accent that she sometimes lost while singing, but you know what I didn't care, because watching her sing live is all encompassing, she'll get it, it was the third performance.  As the show went on she was able to carry it through, but I can't imagine how difficult it has to be to sing with an accent, to focus on the words, the music, the tone and then the accent - if anyone can do it Patti Lupone can do it.

I snapped this during curtain call, I know I'm bad but I would
never take a photo during a performance - especially Patti, she
calls people out for that shit!  
Christine Ebersole was amazing, her voice was crisp and as always amazing, I would love to hear her sing unmic'd, she could fill the room and have it bouncing off the rafters, her voice is lovely. Every word she sang was filled with purpose, you could feel her pain and loneliness, it was glorious. The screech that she lets out in the last scene was so surprising that I couldn't help but laugh.

The costumes were beautiful, couture in style and period, the spa scenes with the women were so wonderfully choreographed and so much fun to watch.  The story was interesting, so if you're like me and know nothing about it you could easily follow along and know what's going on.  There was just one "joke" that we didn't get, I had to ask the lady sitting next to me what they were laughing about - it was a make up joke!  Patti had some wonderful one liners and a fourth-wall breaking glance that was spectacular.

There was a lot of music, music between scenes, music playing during scenes as background, it was filling but not overpowering.  A few of the songs still stick with me, especially the opener "A Woman's Face" and the heart-breaker "If I'd Been a Man" OMG that song was so powerful - I can't wait to get the album for that song alone.  The song "Dinosaurs" sung by the men in Act Two needs to go or get re-worked, they really struggled pulling it off...perhaps with some practice they'll get it more in sync.  

The music wasn't outstanding, no melodies stick with me, the music was familiar but in an unfamiliar way like I think I may have heard it somewhere before but can't place it.  But the songs were soaring, Patti and Christine singing a duet together but not together never got old, to listen to them sing together and pass back and forth was delicious, I could just listen to that all day.  I'm sure that when the album comes out I'll have a different opinion because I'll be able to listen to and digest the music, in all honestly I wanted to hear Patti and Christine sing, the orchestrations were secondary.

This will go to Broadway as I can only imagine that their performance will  improve as time goes on, Patti and Christine will both be nominated for a Tony - mark my words!

P.S. There must be a lot of people rushing the Stage Door, they had security barriers and a guard watching the area.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Is this the start of the Apocalypse?

England has voted to exit the European Union, David Cameron will be stepping down and I have this terrible terrible feeling that Trump may just be the next President of the United States.

Is this the beginning of the Apocalypse?

If it is, then why are there so many "Good Christains" left, did they miss the Rapture?

Did the Rapture happen but nobody went because no one is a good Christian any longer?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Artists of the Wall Festival - I just can't believe it

We made it to Season 2 for the Artists of the Wall Festival - so few programs actually make it to Season 2 so I'm stoked.

I knew we were going to make Season 2 because we decided at the end of last year that we wanted to do it again.

2016 was the 23rd running of this festival and the theme was "Drawing on the Lake"

"Drawing on the lake" oh boy did we have a tough time coming up with ideas....literal, figurative, allegorical, how do you interpret that?

Here's what we did.

Arms and hands are holding knitting needles which are knitting a tapestry of leaves from the water within the lake.  Those leaves are then filled in with the names of the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando, Florida.  You see what you want to see, you interpret it as you like, the same as when you look at a person and see what you want to see.  The choice is yours.  


I was so honored to find out this morning.....that our team actually won 2nd place!  I know my friend Marcio knew it all along, but  I never think I'm going to win.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The SpongeBob Musical Review - playing in Chicago until July 7 2016

The SpongeBob Musical Review - I liked it more than I ever thought I would.  This review is of the pre-Broadway World Premiere showing at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago until July 7, 2016

This show is as close to watching a cartoon as there ever will be!  Bright, loud, colorful, full of inside jokes that I didn't get because I never watched SpongeBob but nonetheless - funny as hell.  Sound effects as the characters walked (Squidward), rapid screen swipes as action moves from character to character and digital projection GALORE!  Costumes were out of this world, since I don't watch SB I don't know who all of the characters are, but the audience sure did and gleefully clapped as each character was revealed.

So much technology in this show it was astounding - digital projections that moved around the stage live, neon everywhere, junk everywhere, exactly what you would think Bikini Bottom would look like.  It's interesting to see how digital projection has grown.  I remember seeing the Lady in White (Andrew Lloyd Webber) in London, which was a big blank stage where they projected everything, and imagining back then how far it would progress - it seems as though you can't go to a show now where there isn't some kind of digital projection - it really helps move this show along.

Flanking the stage are two huge Rube Goldberg machines that spew out lava balls - unfortunately it only got used twice, I would have liked to have seen more of that.  The stage was built out, reaching out into the audience and covering the orchestra pit with ramps connecting each side; surrounding the stage and hanging above were all kinds of floatsam and jetsam that you would expect to see in the ocean.

ALL of the actors had, in my opinion, strong clear voices and they did great justice to all of the different songwriters, including doing the voices of the characters that so many people know so well.  I'd completely forgotten that Gavin Lee was playing Squidward.  Who's Gavin Lee?  He played Bert in the Broadway and then touring production of Mary Poppins.

Songwriters: there were twelve famous songwriters amongst the 15 songs, Plain White T's, Cyndi Lauper, David Bowie, John Legend.  I was concerned that it might sound more like a juke-box musical with so many different styles of songwriters - but there was no concern at all, each song flowed easily to the next and none seemed out of place.

My FAVORITE number was "I'm Not a Loser" which was Squidwards big song written by They Might Be Giants.  A huge production number where it seemed that the entire cast (men included) donned huge Vegas style show girl costumes replete with big feathered head dresses and a big tap number (I'm a sucker for tap).  Several of the songs I was bopping along or tapping along at which point I would catch myself and say "why are you doing that, you never watched this show?"

My favorite song was No Control by David Bowie and Brian Eno, within a few bars of the start of the song you KNEW it was a Bowie song.  Dark, twisty and the perfect way to start off the conflict of the show.

The choreography was really good, especially the tap number - they were ALL in sync for a show that's only been out for a week.  There were skateboarders and roller skaters that used the ramps in front of the stage and there was even a mini-pirate show to kick off each of the acts.  There was so much going on in this show that it really was like being in a cartoon.

I'm definitely not the target audience for this show, but the youngin's sitting around us definitely LOVED IT!  Everytime a character was introduced they'd go wild, when the actors would say or do something, people lauged.  Apparently it really fed right into the appetite of that target because the young ladies sitting next to us couldn't get enough, whereas the older couple sitting next to us never came back after Act One.

I surprised myself how much I liked this, so much so that when intermission came I didn't ask the question: Do you want to stay for Act Two?

I sorta wanna see it again, if it makes it to Broadway it's going to be a big hit with those that love SpongeBob!

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Happiest Thing I've Seen

I went to visit a friend last week and while we were out walking around the neighborhood I saw the happiest thing I think that I've ever seen in my life.

Picture it:  One of the first nice Spring days we've had this year, the sun was out, the clouds were out, the leaves on the trees were out, it was gorgeous.  

We had decided to walk down to Vedgewater Garden and check out the plot.  Last year my friend was able to get a plot and we had a grand harvest.  He's signed on for Season 2, I told him he didn't realize how lucky he was, most programs get cancelled after Season 1 - and he had made it to Season 2.

He'd already been to the garden and cleaned it up, in fact he found a bunny hatch under a big oregano bush that had grown overwinter, there were four cute little bunnies calling it home.
Garden Bunny
We took our time in the garden and had a leisurely walk home through the neighborhood.  As we were turning a corner we heard what we thought were shouts, but only once or twice and then nothing so we paid no attention.  Then we heard it again, but now it sounded like singing.........and laughing.......and it grew louder.

Before we knew it, it had passed us and we sat there trying to take it all in, I was astonished at what I'd seen.  (ooohhhh clickbait)

We had just seen an old man (I mean OLD man) in a wheelchair, in a "contraption" holding the wheelchair, attached to a bicycle that was being peddled by a young man.  I had no time to pull out my camera, I had no time to take it what was going on, but it was the happiest thing I think I have ever seen.

The look on the old man's face was priceless, like he was running a marathon, like he was re-enacting that scene from Titanic on the bow, like he was 15 years old again.  He was singing at the top of his lungs, and he was laughing and basically hootin' and hollerin'.  The boy powering the contraption had the biggest smile on his face, getting satisfaction beyond belief from the reaction he was getting from the old man. 

I can only assume that this gentleman's grandson had created this device (there's a picture of something similar) so that he could take his Grandfather on a bike ride, to allow him to feel the wind blowing on his face after probably being stuck at home for years.  

But as we watched them pass by, suddenly a car came barreling down the street blowing it's horn and caused the whole bike wheelchair combination to flip and end up on it's side, an ambulance was called and the old man......nope, that didn't happen, but I couldn't leave you with such a sweet, fantastically touching story and not make you think something bad didn't, something wonderful happened.  

I hope that man gets to go on a bike ride every day!