Saturday, June 28, 2008

Insurrection

So this past Thursday was my Grandma's Funeral. The text of my last post was basically the eulogy i wrote for her. I'll have to go back and make a few revisions, but that post was basically my working draft going into Thursday night. I wasn't sure I would be doing the eulogy at that time, but I had to head home prepared. My Dad has a tendency to ask me to do stuff like that at the very last possible second. I think he waits so long so that I don't have the opportunity to say "no" but it just makes it more difficult for to say something coherent with no time to prepare. There have been many speeches and readings and sayings of Grace before dinner that were just dumped in my lap over the years. I said my mom's eulogy at her funeral 10 years ago, and it went over well, so i knew I'd be at the top of the short list to say something for Grandma.

So I get home Wednesday afternoon and my Dad doesn't say anything about it. On our way to the funeral home for the wake my Dad does say, "oh, this is the reading you're doing tomorrow at the mass.." referring to a piece of paper that's laying on the seat in the back of the car. Instead of giving me the paper though, he takes it and shoves it in with a bunch of other papers. I ask him why he's hiding it away, when I could look at it on the ride over. He looks genuinely perplexed at my desire to read the paper beforehand, but gives it to me anyway. It's a reading from the book of Ecclesiastes. Of course i get a reading from a book who's name I can't pronounce. I can't read something from Luke or maybe Genesis? Corinthians even! No, i get Ecclesiastes. Now for the record I'm pretty sure it's pronounced ek-clee-zee-AST-ees, but in my head I always want to say ek-clee-zee-AST-uh-sees. I like adding that extra syllable. Anyway, nobody in my family can confirm for me the proper pronunciation.

At the wake, my sister asks me if my Dad asked me to the eulogy. I say no, not yet. We're just doing the readings. She's doing a reading, she asks? Yes, I say, didn't Dad tell you? Apparently not. Typical!

Now later that night, my other sister (who can't make it home from Michigan because she just had a new baby) calls and asks about the eulogy. I tell her he hasn't said anything. She thinks I should ask him about it. The thing is, I'm not really ready to volunteer myself for it. Having done it before, my experience with it is that it's not easy. Getting through my mom's eulogy left me wrecked for several weeks. That was a different circumstance than this, but it wasn't something i was gonna throw myself back into. I would serve if called, but i didn't want to bring it up on my own.

But my sister convinced me i should find out from my Dad what was going on. So i went and asked him, who's doing the eulogy. Oh, no one, he says. They don't do them anymore. My eyes narrow. They don't do them anymore? No apparently the church doesn't like the family to talk about their deceased relatives anymore in Church. They only give you a minute to say something, and my Dad didn't know if i could say something in a minute. I think this is ridiculous. What are they going to do? Stand by with a stopwatch, and when 60 seconds is up, cut my mic and drag me from the podium? Maybe the organist will start playing over me like an acceptance speech that goes to long at an awards show? With the gauntlet thrown down by the Church, I'm ready for the challenge. I tell my Dad i already wrote something and he excitedly says he'll tell the Church people I'm doing the eulogy. For serious, my Grandma lived 95 years, she doesn't get a two minute telling of her life in God's house as we say goodbye? It's totally offensive to me.

So we get to the funeral home in the morning before heading over to the Church, and the funeral director tells me basically the same thing: the Catholic church no longer wants people to speak at the church. We can say something at the funeral home or the cemetery. No effing thank you, sir. The funeral director says he'll go make a call and see if we can do it at the Church. While he's gone, someone makes the suggestion that I say the eulogy regardless of what the Church says. I honestly don't think it was my idea. It could've come from half a dozen people, we were all equally pissed about it. But at that point I decided I would read the eulogy when I got up to do my reading, if i wasn't going to have a proper place in the service. While the idea of sticking it to the church was a huge adrenaline-rush, i have to say that i was gonna do it because my family wanted me to, my Dad asked me to, and because I believe my Grandma deserved it. The fact that i was gonna be publicly rebellious against Church rules I don't believe in, was just gravy.

So we get into the limo and make our way to Church. Upon arriving, the funeral director very apologetically tells me I'm not allowed to give the eulogy because the priest didn't get it in writing the night before for review. I calmly tell him that it's fine and not to worry about it anymore, as I'm more resolute than ever to get up and give the speech. The family agrees, with the added bonus of my aunt saying "good for you, Owen! If it was me, I'd do the exact same thing!!" and she meant it, because she is awesome. Now initially I planned to just read my thing and sit down, but as my sister pointed out, it was a mass and i also had to do the actual reading. Fine, I'd do both.

So we go in, and the mass starts. The priest is one I've seen before, very very slow and monotone. No energy behind anything he says. About 3 minutes into the service I'm called up to read the first reading. The church helper lady directs me to the podium, and shows me a copy of the prayer, but i assure her I have my own copy. I take out the prayer and then i take out the eulogy, putting it on top. I adjust the mic and say "If you'll allow me just a minute..." and then launch into my eulogy. As I'm going through it, silent craziness erupts in the eyes of the church people. I keep going, I'm about a third of a page into it when the priest stands up. Holy crap, i think, as I keep reading. Is he going to physically try to stop me from reading. I momentarily lose my place and then keep going. The priest turns and leaves the altar area, and goes back into that little room place where they prepare. i used to know the real names for these places, but now i can't think of them. So I keep going. When I'm done, i do the actual reading, during which the priest returns and sits. I finish the reading, and book it back down to my seat. The rest of the service goes on without incident. Although when my sister got up to do the second reading the Church Helper Lady asked her "do you have something extra YOU'D like to say?" She assured her she did not.

So that happened. It was a little crazy. The priest and the funeral director didn't mention it at all after the service. A few family members were angry the priest got up and left, but honestly, I'm not. He has his job and his rules to follow, and quite possibly he couldn't be present if i was going to break the rules. He wasn't gonna stop me at that point, but his position made it impossible to witness it. That's my interpretation of what happened. But everyone agreed doing the eulogy was the right thing to do given the circumstances and that i handled it well. As my uncle said, it's this stuff that makes people leave the Church, because the services should be about the community and a funeral should be a reflection of who the person was. You take all that away, why even stop at the Church on the way to the cemetery? As another Aunt said, who cared what the Church thinks. We all follow our own Personal Catholicism. We're not big fans of arbitrary changes to the services the Church makes to distract from the fact they don't address actual changes that need to be made.

But I must say, that it did feel like I crossed some sort of line by breaking away from the course of the ceremony on what's essentially their home turf. It shouldn't be their home turf though! It shouldn't feel that way. it should be everyone's turf. It was the same place i stood 10 years ago saying goodbye to my mom, and it was fine to do it then, but now it suddenly wasn't? Makes no sense to me. But there we were, once again in that House of God, this time having a bit of a stand off in his presence as to how people ought to be remembered. The whole place didn't collapse in on us, so I guess we're all okay. Besides, the priest who did my mom's funeral service called her by the wrong name for half the service, so I feel like they owed us one this time around. I do regret deceiving the Funeral Director, who was a very nice guy, and tried his best, and I turned around and did exactly what i wanted to, after he told me i couldn't. I just don't want his Church friends to think he'd been complicit in my defiance.

So, in conclusion, Grandma Mae could very well be the last of the Panettieri's getting into Heaven. If God really cares about toeing the line, then I'd say my open defiance and my family's expressed support pretty much knocks us out of the running. But I don't really believe that. That's not part of my Personal Catholicism.

Monday, June 23, 2008

In Memoriam: Mae Panettieri

Over the years, people in my family would joke to each other that because my Grandmother had lived for so long and been in such good health that she was going to wind up outliving us all. Now, I don’t think she had any interest in doing that, but God did bless her with a long, healthy life and it was easy to think she was just gonna keep on going.

All the way through her 95th birthday my Grandma had her sight, her hearing, her mobility and a sharp mind. Her memory for people and events was still good, and she enjoyed following her favorite sports on TV, especially baseball and tennis. I inherited my tennis enthusiasm from her, and I particularly enjoyed calling her up during the Grand Slam tournaments and discussing who was winning and losing. I was all set to do that again as Wimbledon started this week, when I got the call from Dad on Sunday that Grandma had passed away. Despite her increased physical frailty over the past several months, the news still came as something of a shock. I will miss my grandma and I will miss handicapping the field of contenders for this summer's events with my favorite arm chair double’s partner.

Having lived for almost a full century, it’s amazing to me to think about all that my Grandma lived through in all the different periods of her life. Visiting her house, you were treated to all of these wonderful collages of photographs hanging on the walls that told the story of where she had been and what she had done. You could mark the passages of time as the pictures went from black and white, to faded color prints on thick square photo stock, to Polaroid pictures, to 4X6 prints and digitally-printed photo calendars. I love looking at her wedding photos where she looks so tall and beautiful and happy beside my grandpa, with a train following behind her that seems to go on for miles. I love seeing her in all different places with my grandpa, taking care of their store in Brooklyn, playing tennis and golf, clamming together out in the Bay, going on cruises and vacations with friends, dancing together at their 50th anniversary. It was a life filled with love, and hard work, a competitive spirit and a sense of enjoyment.

After my Grandpa passed away, the scope of her world got a little smaller, but she still had a lot of love surrounding her. She took care of two parakeets that both could speak to you in three languages, she tamed my rather scruffy and lovably disagreeable dog Sparky, she had the constant love and support of my dad and in recent years she had the joy of spending time with three of her great-grandchildren, Anna Mae, Ava and Mallory.

There are so many images and memories that immediately jump to mind when I think of my grandmother, The way she held a bocce ball or a horseshoe when she was preparing to throw, the way that she threw down her pinochele cards when she had all the remaining tricks of trump in her hand. How she rolled out the crust when making apple pies with me and my sister Nancy. The way she stood at the door and waved to us as we’d drive away from her house after a visit. The joyful way she danced at her 90th birthday party, and the way she held and comforted my sister Anne Marie after my mom’s funeral. My grandma was strong but soft-spoken, she was competitive but not over-bearing. She loved her family and she took care of us. She was a great lady.

When my dad told me she had passed away, he told me she had a very good last day. She woke up happy and with energy, the great grandkids came over and she played with them and they went outside in the sun. Then as they left to go back home, she waved good-bye, and then later she was tired and she laid down and drifted away. After 95 years of living and working and loving, that sounds like a very nice day. I wouldn’t have wanted it any differently for my grandma, and she deserved nothing less. I’d like to close by saying thank you to my Dad for taking such good care of her these past few months under difficult circumstances. I’d like to thank her caregiver Lydia, who took such great care of her these past few months, Anne Marie and Randy and my nieces for showing Grandma so much love and attention and keeping her mind focused on happy things. I’d like to thank everyone who sent her cards, or made phone calls or just kept her in your thoughts and prayers. She felt your love and it sustained her. We can all take the memory of her with us, as she now rests in God’s love.

Friday, June 20, 2008

PTSD

So all week, things have been off for me. I have been inexplicably exhausted. The acute state of tiredness was really strange and unexpected and I couldn't figure out why I had no energy and was emotionally all over the place. Finally sometime on Wednesday or Thursday, it hit me. i'm suffering from PTSD - Post Tony Stress Disorder.

Here are some symptoms:

1. You remain excited about it, enjoy talking about it, but physically you feel like your totally breaking down.
2. Emotionally draining recurring dreams with people wearing tuxedo shirts, have you waking up in tears.
3. Your brain involuntarily takes mental notes of lyrics from nominated shows hidden within the course of normal casual conversations, driving you to distraction.
4. Your ability to refrain from lashing out at people who tactlessly inquire about house seats has flown out the window.
5. An increase in appetite.

The dreams are the worst part. To describe them would seem silly, but I can't state enough how emotionally intense they have been. It's awful to wake up more tired than when you went to sleep. I think I was suppressing my nerves as we got close to the ceremony, and once it was over, it kinda whiplashed on me. Also, looking back, last week when things were so busy at work, and I was very anxious for my friends' success, one of the Owens in my head was saying "When the Tonys are over, things will calm down." and then another Owen in my head would try to counter, "Actually, you know the week after the Tonys will also be crazy. We're not quite done with it yet." And then that first Owen would reply, "Hmm? Did you say something? I was thinking about how cute we look in our tux. We do, don't we?" So when Monday came around and things were crazy, followed up by a crazy Tuesday and Wednesday, my brain kinda freaked out. It wasn't quite prepared for the Victory Lap. I was ready for a break. So basically, i believe the cure for PTSD is a nice vacation. But the opportunity to take one is still a few weeks away, so i'm hoping in the meantime that the tuxedo shirt nightmares subside.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Completed Races

Today was a good long full day of goodness. It started bright and early when I had my 5 Mile run in Central Park. Conditions were not awesome for running. It was still rather hot and humid and the ground was damp and a little muddy from yesterday's rain, but I still managed to run a respectable 8:25 per mile pace. This was right in line with my 4 mile race a few weeks ago, so it's a good indicator that I am able to run longer distances at the pace i want to be at. Plus my physical recovery after this race was much easier than last time. So I was proud of myself. My dad called me while i was on the train ride home and I wished him a Happy Father's Day. He asked what I was doing and I told him about the race. "5 Miles!" he said, "did you finsh?" "Yes, i told you I was on the train home." i know," says Dad, "but did you get winded?" WINDED? No Dad, I was fine." But thanks for the vote of confidence! It's kinda hilarious that my Dad would think that i'd enter a race I coul

Then I came home ate lots of food, watched the Tim Russert Memorials on Meet The Press and the Chris Matthews show, and then took a nice two hour nap. I woke up, showered, ate some more food, then got dressed up in my tux and headed over to the Richard Rodgers Theater where we waited to get our limo to the Tonys.

The Tonys were fantastic. ITH won the four awards I was really hoping it would win: Orchestrations, Score, Choreography and the top prize of Best Musical. I couldn't be happier for Lin. This has been so many years in the making. God willing, Lin will go on to contribute so many other musicals to the Broadway stage. He's definitely got it in him to do so. I'm sure I've said it before in previous posts, but I love all the kids over at In the Heights, onstage and offstage. I'm so excited that their dreams have come true. I really am just overwhelmed by the love. They have come SO far and now they have their legacy on Broadway. The after-party was a joyous (and totally packed!) celebration of all their achievements. This evening was everything I'd hoped it would be for them. Now it's 4am and time for bed. But today The cast of Heights and I both crossed the finish line in our respective races and I'm very happy for what has been achieved.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Feeling the loss of Russert

I was sitting in the karate school waiting area yesterday afternoon, feverishly typing away on my blackberry, when the mom of one of Miggy's friends came over to me looking shaken. "Tim Russert died!' she said to me in puzzled anguish. My brain froze. I think i made some gesture to illustrate my dismay, but inside i was in total shock. "What? How?" I asked. "They think it was a heart attack. I just read the headline on nytimes.com" She said. "That's... awful..." i said. "I really liked Tim Russert..." she said. and wandered away.

I loved Tim Russert and his show, Meet The Press. His death seems crazy to me. I have been watching the news coverage of all the MSNBC people talking about him for the past 12 hours and it's still really hard for me to understand that it's real. The thought that keeps coming into my head is "I wonder what Tim is going to say about his own death on Meet The Press this Sunday."

I was talking to another friend about it yesterday, and while we don't go to church, Meet The Press was a weekly Sunday ritual for us. It's been that way for so many years. I enjoy the Chris Matthews Show and the absurd shouting chaos of the McLaughlin Group had it's entertainment value, but Meet The Press was definitely the classiest of news shows. There were plenty of political figures I loathed and would never want to listen to that I'd watch on MTP because of Russert's presence. I feel like he had an amazing wealth of knowledge and a very personable delivery. Occasionally, I'd want him to go for the jugular on people who were clearly HUGE liars, but he just exposed them as liars and let the public take away what they would. He came across as an incredibly decent man who loved his family, and his sports teams and his country. He was especially energized by this year's presidential campaign and it seems impossible that I won't hear his commentary on all the action as it unfolds. I will never forget his dry erase board mathematics, his dust up with Colin Powell and most recently, his declaration that Barack Obama was the presumptive Democratic Nominee, after which all the newsmedia took his lead and it really meant the end for Hillary's Campaign. He was such a huge figure in the political news team that i enjoyed, I can't imagine how they are going to fill his void. Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews and David Gregory are really gonna have to step up. I believe they will be motivated to do so in Tim's honor.


My heart really goes out to his Family and Friends. It's so sad that they should lose him right before Father's Day. Especially for someone who so publicly expressed his love for his own father and son. You could see watching him year after year, that he a hard worker, a critical thinker and strove to be a good person. His public persona was that of professionalism and decency. His legacy will long be remembered and his loss will be long-felt on the political scene. Thank you for educating me on what was going on in our country and throughout the world every Sunday for all these years, Tim Russert. I will miss you. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

For Your Consideration

So... i saw tons of shows this season and I've been debating how to assess the tony nominees in a blog post. I was going to do a Will Win/Should Win kind of post, but then the Times came out with theirs and i thought it kinda sucked. I just wanted to punch Charles Isherwood right in the mouth. I know they don't mean it this way, but it seems like by saying someone should win, but won't, that the person who will be winning doesn't really deserve to, and I don't think that's fair. So many of these categories are FILLED with deserving winners. I'm way too personally involved with Heights to wish for any other show to win over it in any given category, but I can also recognize the talent and craft involved in the other shows, and I understand that Heights will likely not walk away from the ceremony Sunday night with 13 trophies (it could still happen though! I'm not totally counting that out!). So instead of writing "Should win - In The Heights" in thirteen categories, I'm listing the nominees in each category in the order I personally enjoyed them, and then I'll add a nice comment about all the shows nominated in that category. I'll leave the "will win" to the actual tony voters and we'll see what happens on Sunday night. An asterisk* next to a nominee's name means i didn't see that production. That basically means Little Mermaid, Young Frankenstein and Grease. Oh, and I'm only doing the musicals because i didn't see that many straight plays and August: Osage County and Macbeth will probably clean up in those categories anyway. Here we go!

Best Musical
In The Heights
Passing Strange
Xanadu
Cry-Baby

ITH, of course, i think is phenomenal. Xanadu is light and fun and successful art made out of something that was infamously considered to be crap. Cry-Baby also had some very strong elements that made me like it even though i went in expecting not great things. Passing Strange is a very unique and powerful experience. I'm glad it's gotten the attention it has. There should be room for a lot of different types of shows on Broadway.

Best Book of a Musical
In The Heights, Quiara Alegría Hudes
Xanadu, Douglas Carter Beane
Passing Strange, Stew
Cry-Baby, Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan

Q's book didn't get the credit it deserved from the critics. Xanadu has a very funny book, Stew's book has a distinct voice that really rings true. Cry-Baby's book doesn't really stand out for me, but it didn't pull me out of the show either.

Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre
In The Heights, Music & Lyrics: Lin-Manuel Miranda
Passing Strange, Music: Stew and Heidi Rodewald Lyrics: Stew
Cry-Baby, Music & Lyrics: David Javerbaum & Adam Schlesinger
The Little Mermaid, Music: Alan Menkenn Lyrics: Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater*

Please God, let Lin win Best Score. Passing Strange really rocks and Cry-Baby is has some fun energetic music. Little Mermaid is one of my favorite movie musicals of all time. But the score of in the heights is really gonna stand the test of time.

Best Revival of a Musical
South Pacific
Gypsy
Sunday in the Park with George
Grease *

Oh, The Big Three Revivals. I had the most difficulty picking an order for these shows. It feels wrong to have Sunday in third. Both Gypsy and Sunday are tied slightly behind South Pacific. They are all amazing productions. Sunday has so much heart married with brilliant design aspects. Gypsy has amazing performances in a truly grand production, and South Pacific is just brimming with magic as a production.


Best Performance By A Lead Actor in a Musical
Lin-Manuel Miranda, In The Heights
Daniel Evans, Sunday in the Park with George
Paulo Szot, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Tom Wopat, A Catered Affair
Stew, Passing Strange

You know, people tend to say that Lin is an amazing natural performer and he is, but his portrayal of Usnavi has really deepened from the off-Broadway production to Broadway. I think there are so many layers to Usnavi that Lin has found over time. Daniel does a great job of perfecting two different characters in Sunday, Paulo is extremely charismatic and powerful in SP, Wopat is impressive and captivating and Stew is a brilliant storyteller. This is a very strong, very diverse category of nominees.

Best Performance By A Lead Actress In A Musical
Patti LuPone, Gypsy
Jenna Russell, Sunday in the Park with George
Kelli O'Hara, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Kerry Butler, Xanadu
Faith Prince, A Catered Affair

And here's another one! They all deserve to win. Lupone really just propels that production into the Ozonosphere though. The other four really shine in their shows though. Russell like Evans does an amazing job in two roles, Kelli O'Hara is beautiful in SP, Kerry Butler is working her ASS off in Xanadu but making it look easy, and Faith Prince is really the best thing about A Catered Affair, in my opinion.

Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical
Robin De Jesús, In The Heights
Daniel Breaker, Passing Strange
Boyd Gaines, Gypsy
Danny Burstein, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
Christopher Fitzgerald, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein*

Robin doesn't even have his own song, and here he is slugging it out with the other featured actors. Go, Robin! Breaker is so fresh and engaging in Passing Strange, Boyd Gaines is simply amazing and has 3 tonys already, Burstein was very very good in South Pacific. There was so much good work going on this year!

Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical
Olga Merediz, In The Heights
Loretta Ables Sayre, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific
de'Adre Aziza, Passing Strange
Laura Benanti, Gypsy
Andrea Martin, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein*

Paciencia y Fe! Olga knocks it out of the park. Loretta's was my favorite performance in SP. de'adre is also totally amazingly talented and Laura Benanti is also stunning as Gypsy Rose Lee.
Sorry I didn't see your show, Andrea Martin!

Best Direction of a Musical
Thomas Kail, In The Heights
Sam Buntrock, Sunday in the Park with George
Arthur Laurents, Gypsy
Bartlett Sher, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

All of these nominated shows excelled on so many levels. It's because they had great directors leading the way and putting it all together. These really were my four favorite shows of the season.

Best Choreography
Andy Blankenbuehler, In The Heights
Rob Ashford, Cry-Baby
Dan Knechtges, Xanadu
Christopher Gattelli, Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific

Blankenbuehler's fusion of style and use of dance to tell the story is just exemplary. I still have some of Ashford's moves in my head months after seeing Cry-Baby. I only saw the dancing in Xanadu from the back but those actors were going at it with huge amounts of energy and athleticism.

Best Orchestrations
Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, In The Heights
Stew and Heidi Rodewald, Passing Strange
Jason Carr, Sunday in the Park with George
Jonathan Tunick, A Catered Affair

Alright, so I'm not a fan of A Catered Affair, but some people really enjoyed it's understated, conversational nature. So if it worked for you, hooray! I much preferred the orchestrations done on Heights and Passing Strange. Sunday was very good too, but i don't know how to assess the difference in the orchestrations from the original version.

Best Scenic Design For A Musical
Anna Louizos, In The Heights
Michael Yeargan, South Pacific
David Farley and Timothy Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network, Sunday... with George
Robin Wagner, The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein*

The city block! The palm tree on that amazing shoreline! The ever changing landscape of the white room! All of these sets were fantastic and were truly a tremendous element of the success of these productions.

Best Costume Design For A Musical
Paul Tazewell, In The Heights
David Farley, Sunday in the Park with George
Martin Pakledinaz, Gypsy
Catherine Zuber, South Pacific

All these costume designs seem very evenly matched to me. There's really no overlap in style or time period, so I don't really know how you choose. Really brilliant and memorable work.

Best Lighting Design for a Musical
Howell Binkley, In The Heights
Ken Billington, Sunday in the Park with George
Donald Holder, South Pacific
Natasha Katz, The Little Mermaid*

The further you go back in the theater. the more truly amazing Heights' lighting design becomes. Sunday's lighting design is beautiful as is South Pacific's. I know i keep saying it over and over again, but the amount of storytelling that's being done in these productions by their tech design is really something that's worth seeing. Go see these shows!

Best Sound Design for a Musical
Acme Sound Partners, In The Heights
Sebastian Frost, Sunday in the Park with George
Scott Lehrer, South Pacific
Dan Moses Schreier, Gypsy

I could hear all these shows! Everything! Nothing got lost! Do you know there was a time when I'd go to Broadway, and after every show i thought "the sound in there was just terrible!" But in all these shows the orchestra sounded vibrant and thrilling, the lyrics and dialogue were clear and they didn't sound fake or processed. i was so happy with these listening experiences.

So that's everything. I know i wrote a lot and basically only said "everyone was great!" but really, everybody was and they all deserve to be celebrated. In all likelihood, the level of excellence across the board will probably result in several shows getting multiple awards, and I would have to agree that'd be fair. But that being said... go kick their asses, In The Heights! Wepa!

Street Fighter vs. Subway Dancer

You may think you've seen the before, but the soundtrack breathes new life into it. Tiger uppercut! Yoga Flame! Enjoy.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vamos, Rafa!


I love Raphael Nadal's tennis. I think he's an amazingly entertaining and talented player. It does seem like he will be forever stuck behind Roger Federer as the #2 player in the rankings, which is sad. But don't get me wrong, I love Federer too. It's just that in terms of who i prefer watching, it's always Rafa. Federer is effing amazing, but he can totally decimate an opponent and make it look so easy. What I love about Rafa is that he makes it look difficult. His arms are huge and he just rips the ball all over the court. With Federer, you see him make an unbelievable shot and you think "how did he DO that?" But with Nadal, you know exactly how he did it. He powered it there. And it's awesome. He also is a bit OCD, with long amusing routines for having things just so before each point. Both he and Roger are amazing competitors and treat each other with a tremendous amount of respect. They are both amazing athletes and are equally impressive ambassadors for their sport. They approach what they do with intensity and hunger, but seem to be very humble gentlemen off-court. They are the best of adversaries.

This morning was the French Open Men's Final at Roland Garros. Nowhere is Rafa more dominant than on the clay at Roland Garros. He has won every match he's ever played there. He has won it the past three years, beating Federer in the Final the past two years. Federer's missing French Open trophy is all that's keeping him from a Career Grand Slam and the title of the Greatest Tennis Player in History. So it's always high drama around whether Roger will come up with a plan to get past Nadal.

Today, Rafa totally crushed Roger. It was not even close. Ever. It was competitive for about 15 minutes in the second set, but the eventual score was 6-1, 6-3, 6-0. 6-0!! Against Federer in a Final. It's not even like Federer is bad playing on clay. He's just second best after Nadal, but the distance between them sometimes is so great. At this point in his career, Nadal cannot be touched on clay. The thought of someone taking 3 sets from him in a clay court match seems unbelievable. So now Rafa has 4 consecutive Roland Garros titles, tying the record with Bjorn Borg.

The thing is I LOVE that Federer can't beat Nadal at Roland Garros. I love that Nadal is undefeated there. If he wasn't then I wouldn't care, and would be thrilled to see Roger win. but why should Nadal have to suffer his first loss and mar his record just so Federer can be the King of Tennis for All-Time? When the commentators are pulling for Federer, I want to remind them that Nadal is trying to make history too with the most consecutive wins ever at the French Open, plus this kid wants to be number one and he's never gonna get there by losing a tournament he won the year before.

In two weeks, Wimbledon starts, where the situation for Roger and Rafa is flipped. Roger's not undefeated there, but he's dominated it for the past 5 years. Rafa has been getting closer and closer to winning it himself, taking Roger to a 5th set last year before ultimately losing. It remains to be seen if they can get through the field and meet again in yet another Final. But if they do get there, you'll know which one I will be rooting for. Vamos, Rafa!!

Drink Up, Me Hearties! Yo Ho!

Yesterday I went to see Pirates of Penzance put on by The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players at the New York City Center. I went with a BFF, both of us not really knowing anything about Pirates of Penzance. Pirates was one of FOUR G&S shows that are playing in repertory at City Center for a few weeks. These G&S Players must really LOVE G&S to be doing all these different shows at once. It's the same actors cast in all 4 shows. That's a lot of opera songs to keep straight in a two week period.

Pirates is a light, silly show but certainly requires of it singers with some considerable vocal prowess. Everyone in the show was very good. The production was fine although BFF and I both thought there was something a little bit missing that was hard to pinpoint. BFF thought that maybe it would've helped to see a more serious version of the show so that some of the gags they pulled weren't so jarring. I countered that I don't think you could find a "serious" Pirates, because the show seemed to be inherently light and comedic. BFF then thought that maybe it was just some of the gags themselves that fell flat because they were too contemporary and outside the world of the show. I think that hits it on the head. Not only were some of the sight gags out of the realm of the show, they were also a little easy. Like there's one point where all the policemen don Chorus Line-style sparkly top hats and do a kickline, and the audience mostly ate it up, but i kinda just thought "... really?" I wasn't quite sold on it. But other than those little things it was very enjoyable, lovely to listen to and funny. There was also this moment where these two young ladies were supposed to be playing badminton and it seemed like they had not adequately practiced, because they kept hitting the birdie way off course. At one point it flew way off stage and you could see crew members running after it, while the girls tried to improv something else to do with their rackets. They lost the birdie in different ways three or four times during the show. It was very funny.
This production also made me very curious about Gilbert & Sullivan and these Players who put on their works. How many shows are there anyway? How does one become a Player? These are questions to be investigated over the summer...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Your Very Last Chance, To Shut Your Face And Dance!

So it all comes down to this. The not-at-all-surprising conclusion to Shut Your Face And Dance. We have Cody aka Captain Vanilla, Michelle aka Mochi aka Mochelle, Nick aka Nearly Passionless Nick aka NPN and Miguel aka Homeless Prince. They all want it, but who wants it BAD enough?? Let's tune in and see, shall we?

You can go now, Gay Credits. KABOOOM!!!

Breakfast! Cody does not like being characterized as cold by Nancy. He is going to step it up. Emotionally. Miguel also did not like being in the bottom. He is going to step it up. Physically. Let's see who can do better in the GRAND FINALE!
The 4 remaining cylon dancers meet with EB and Jerry. Each dancer will get 30 minutes with Jerry Mitchell to work on their solo pieces. That's great. Jerry knows what he's talking about. He's been sitting around for a whole season before they let him finally DO something. Nick is up first. His dance is fun in a silly way, but doesn't look that technically hard, to be honest. Jerry constructively tells him he needs to find an ending that makes sense with the rest of his story.

Mochi is next. She is doing an Asian warrior dance. Jerry loves it. Mochelle has a kimono costume she wants to use. Jerry points out that it masks some of her beautiful lines. Mochelle finds a good point in the dance for her to lose the kimono and is very excited about what Jerry has done with her.

Next is Miguel who is doing a clark kent-alter ego routine. It is going to show off his choreography skills which Miguel tells us (again) is one of his strongest assets. Jerry gives him some pointers on how to dance in the kind of sneakers Miguel wants to wear. Miguel loves working with Jerry, but to me, Jerry's not too thrilled with Miguel's piece compared with Mochelle's.

Cody is last, but not least. He dances around. It looks mostly like everything else he's done, meaning technically great and a little emotionally vacant. Again Jerry seems to give him thoughtful advice that Cody appreciates. Jerry is 4 for 4 this week on giving awesome advice. They should've shown him being this level of helpful during the entire run of this show. I feel like all his screen time was spent spouting cliches about not giving up in the face of adversity. He's worth more than that.

The four come back to the theater and see EB standing there on the stage. She tells them they're gonna be dancing that night in front of a packed house of the Dance World's elite. Really? I don't understand why the elite of the dance world want to be on this show. Perhaps they have not seen it. So they have an opening number to learn. All four of them would rather just do their solos now and end the competition but they know it ain't gonna happen, so they suck it up. They will be dancing to Fergie's new song off the SATC Movie soundtrack. If I haven't seen the movie yet, can this be considered a spoiler? We'll find out after the break.

Commercials. I hate these alltel commercials with the Wizard and the guys from all the different mobile service companies. I really hate them. They must be stopped.

So the choreography for the opening number is by famous dancers/choreographers Keith and Sharon. The dancers are gonna be like the Sex and the City girls! except with 3 boys. Who is who? Mochelle is Carrie. Miguel is Miranda. Cody is Charlotte and Nick is Samantha. Miguel thinks he is Carrie and Mochi is Miranda, but he's wrong. While rehearsing, Miguel rolls his ankle. Badly. He has to go to the hospital. We learn that he has strained his ankle. The doctor tells him to stay off of it for a week. But what about the competition?? Miguel is understandably conflicted and sits down with Jerry to talk about it.

Commercials. Coming up? More twists, of the non-ankle variety.

We're back. People are filing in to the theater for the finale show. There are fallen contestants. There is Mary Murphy in the house. There is some singer/songwriter you and i have never heard of. Miguel has decided to dance. Jerry says there is one more surprise. It's family members. Everyone is happy to see their parents. Jerry shoos the families away and gives final words of support and encouragement. Hands in, one last time. On three: Step it up and dance!

Final group performance. EB greets the packed house and introduces the Final Four Cylon Dancers. EB then introduces the judges. Vincent and Nancy are in the house. As is Akon. And his protege, the singer i couldn't identify before. There's a clip of his song that you and I have never heard before. The winner will be featured in this guy's new video. Somehow I still think the Final Four are more excited about the 100K Grand Prize. Okay, let's dance!

The group dance starts. I don't like it, It's not very dancy. I think it's maybe they way it's edited for TV but it just doesn't seem like they're really DOING anything. So then the audience filters out and the judges discuss who wins round one, based on the group number. Akon gives it to Mochelle, because his protege is male and wants to feature a female dancer in the video. It's that plain and simple. Mochelle was great as usual, but the guys didn't have a chance of winning this one. When we come back, we'll finally get to those solo numbers the dancers have been waiting to perform since the beginning of last week's episode.

Commercials. P.Runway, i await your return. I am sad you are going to lifetime next season. That seems like a weird fit.

The audience has gotten back into their seats. Mochi's solo is up first. The kimono is on and then it comes off. Mochelle really has a sick body. I think she's beautiful. Her dance is really passionate and powerful. Good Job, Mochelle!

Miguel and his swollen ankle are up next. His dance is sharp and has tons of personality. I do enjoy it as does the audience. Good work, Homeless Prince.

Cody takes the stage. He starts dancing... and his face has emotion! EMOTION! He looks... vulnerable! Who knew? And he has great technique and a perfect dancer's body. He has totally won. You know he has. Congrats, Captain Vanilla.

Then there's Nick. He's too hammy. He's not bad, but on SYTYCD they often tell people who are hammy that there is too much face-pulling and that's Nick's problem tonight. They probably won't address it, but it's a turn-off. He's a good guy though. Good work, NPN!

EB tells the audience to go home so the judges can decide. The judges congratulate them all and send them upstage so they can whisper about them from the house one last time. The judges like them all and are wowed by the solo pieces, but as the saying goes "it's getting near eleven, and we have to wrap things up." They've come to a unanimous long-foretold conclusion. We'll announce Cody as the winner on the other side of the break.

Commercials. That juice commercial just made me equal parts thirsty and horny. Ahh, advertising!

We're back. Decision time! Mochelle had power and grace and elegance. Cody showed passion and explosive technique. Miguel is fearless. Nick has definitely found his passion for dance again. The winner is: Cody. Shocked? No you're not! He's very happy. He immediately thinks of his dance partner who passed away so young and reminds us that there's no need to let fear stop you from doing what you want to do, while you have the chance. We must all find a way to Step It Up and Dance in our own lives. And also know when we need to Shut Our Faces as well.

With that, we're out. For those who have read this particular thread of posts, i thank you for sticking with the show all the way through. Enjoy the rest of your summer by watching the awesomeness of So You Think You Can Dance. And thank you EB, for all your awesomeness as the host of this show. It was great spending this time with you.

Now it's time to tap dance.

In Case You Forgot, Shut Your Face and Dance

So last week, when I was seeing Xanadu, my DVR did not record SYFAD. I don't know why, i think it became as disinterested in the obvious outcome of this show as I am. But I'm all about finishing what I start at this point in my life, so I'm not gonna let this show set me back. Here we go, kids!

Previously, there was a lot of dancing and too much talking. Many contestants are gone. Five remain. The Gay Credits do their best to entertain you. Step it up!

After the last challenge, The Final Five Cylon Dancers headed home to work on solo pieces. And they also went to New York to promote the show and recreate the Thriller Dance for its 25th anniversary. Then they came back to LA. In the meantime, Mochi went back to dancing in The Lion King. She has a Mama Rose stage momma, but she does not resent her all June-style. Janelle made a cheerleading video. She is very nervous to be in the finals because the others are all kinda better trained than she is, and a bit older. Miguel went home to his house and... saw his family? His parents seem the opposite of Mama Rose. They don't want him in the mind set of winning but of giving it everything he has. They seem sweet! Cody went back to dancing at Grease. I did not see him there, since I won't go see that show. He does let us know he's suffered some big losses in his life, and I've got to be respectful of that. Dealing with people dying young and your house burning down are not small things. You know, I wouldn't dislike him so much if the show didn't seem to have decided he would win weeks and weeks ago. Nick went home and taught dance i think. I missed what he said, but that's what it looks like he's doing in the video. He always loved dance, and then lost his love for dance, and then this show is about him finding his love for dance again. We know all this already! It's the only thing we DO know about Nick! Give me something new that i can use!

So they all come back to the apartment and there is champagne on hand, but who knows if they drink it because we are immediately whisked back to the dance studios to meet EB and Jerry. EB is all giant eyes and sparkly personality when greeting them. Jerry tells them there is a surprise beyond just performing solo pieces. They have two guest choreographers... the judges? Nancy and Vincent?? People who's names I can never remember even though they share names with my sister and father? Vincent wants to do MJ stuff with them, Man in the Mirror to be specific. Nancy wants to criticize their work ethic in the studio. This will be the last elimination to to decide who makes it to the grand finale.

Commercials. I'm already bored this week. Someone start coughing up blood!

4 hours to work in the studio. Nancy and Vincent run through the dance once for the dancers. It doesn't look that crazy hard. Vincent gives a deep emotional context to the movement. As they start, they are all over Cody. They want Nick to not be so centurion. Janelle and Miguel are having issues with technique. Mochelle is old and the challenges are catching up to her, but she looks fine. They do the routine. It's alright. Cody seems more removed than usual. Miguel is freaking out. Nancy gets him, though. Be concerned about that, Miguel! They go back home. Some people drink, some people sleep.

Commercials. The A-List awards still haven't happened. Even though this show has been on for 12 weeks or so and the commercials have been running the entire time. What the hell?

Back at the house, the kids cook breakfast. Janelle is celebrating her 19th Birthday! How nice. This may come as a shock to you, but everyone still left in the competition says they want to win the whole thing! Who would have thought?

They go back to the studio with Nancy. She's kind of a total bitch. But it's early still, so full out mega-mega bitch is probably just around the corner. She watched them do the routine one at a time. Nick is first. Nancy thinks he did well, and that he showed a lot of emotion but that he can do more.

Mochelle dances and gets all emotional while dancing. Nancy is like, let it go or you're not gonna know what's inside you. Fine. Mochelle wants it! It's her time! Cody is next. After he's done, Nancy asks for more guts and calls him a snob. It's totally uncalled for, even though the dance is lacking emotion. Maybe she's just trying to rattle all of them. Get them out of their comfort zone. Cody handles it well, but he is not happy with Nancy. Miguel is next and he tanks. Janelle is last and is nervous as hell. Nancy asks how she approached dealing with her nerves. She has no good response and cries. But Nancy didn't manage to kill them, so she just made them stronger. When Vincent comes back, they are much better. Hooray for bitchy attempts to get people to do their best.

The Callback is coming up. Nancy, Vincent and EB are joined on panel by Toni Basil. Random and Awesome. We'll see them dance... after the break!

Commercials. Obama '08, baby! Get on board!

It's showtime!! I wonder what they decide to wear during this dance. i guess it's just reflective of them? Well... the dance is fine. i don't know, the return of So You Think Tou Can Dance has kinda put the dances on this show to shame. But good work overall.

The Judges really like Nick. They thought Miguel's technique was not great. He gets scared and weepy. They think Janelle lacks technique but Vincent starts to cry about how much heart she has. Mochelle was great. Nancy digs into the call Cody snobby again, and he won't even look at her. EB does a double take and starts defending Cody and then things get awesome. Nancy and EB go back and forth "politely" about whether snobby is a word that should be thrown around, and it's a tough call to think who'd win in a fight between these two. Nancy is tough as nails, but EB has Nomi inside her, who will kick your head in and throw you down a flight of stairs. I have to give the advantage to EB. Whatever, the judges are done with the dancers and it's time to deliberate.

They talk with civility. Mochelle was great. Nick was great. Cody is cold. Miguel fell out of his turns. Janelle just has not enough technical knowledge of herself. They call the dancers back. The win is between Mochelle and Nick. Nick wins! EB congratulates them and sends them offstage. 3 Cylons left. Who will go home? Who will go to the finale? WHO????

Commercials. It's hot. Is it raining outside? What's going on? I'm hungry...

Elimination. Cody looks really sad. I think going back to that horrible Grease machine hurt him. I think it put him on emotional autopilot. Who can blame him? Well, he's through this round. As is Miguel. Janelle is gone! Boo! But what can you do? the technique really wasn't there. Is she doing her last dance? Yes, she will be. First Jerry consoles her. He really did nothing this episode. Janelle gets curses bleeped out in her final goodbye. Perfect. Peace out, Starbuck!

Next Week: The Finale. End of Line!!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

It's Just A Little Crush


I have always had an intense love of American Gladiators. I thought it was the most amazing show when i was eight, and i still think it's the most amazing show at twenty-eight. I love the events, I love The Eliminator, and I love me some Gladiators. My earliest memory of Gladiators came from searching through the channels on a Saturday at noon to look for new cartoons, when I came upon Atlasphere, already in progress. Atlasphere, of course, is the game where two contenders and two gladiators climb into giant steel sphere cages and roll around the arena. The contenders try to roll their spheres into scoring pods and setting off actuators for points, while the gladiators try to bump them out of the way and stop them from scoring. It's awesome. And from the first time I saw those steel cages slam into each other, i was hooked.


When the show went away in the 90's, I was heartbroken. For a while there was Global Gladiators and NBC tried some really strange Challenge of The Gladiators that featured former NBC-stars competing against Gladiators, but it was not the same and eventually the show went away completely. Each year I harbored a secret yearning that the new fall line up would include the resurrection of Gladiators, but it never happened. But then, on the eve of the writer's strike, came great news. My show of shows was coming back! I couldn't believe it! I jumped up and down. I celebrated with friends. This was the best news ever.


But then I became nervous. Clearly after all these years, there would be new Gladiators, new hosts, new events, and - gulp! - perhaps a new theme song. I had such affection for the likes of Ice, Thunder, and Turbo. Could I embrace a new generation of Gladiators?


It turns out I could. The changes and updates are all pretty cool, and I've especially developed a fondness for Crush, my favorite of the female gladiators. Crush is a strong, beautiful brunette. She's totally hot, and an awesome competitor. So awesome, in fact, that she has never lost to a contestant in any one-on-one American Gladiator event. It's been one and a half seasons of the new show and she's never lost at Joust, Pyramid, Sky Track, or Earthquake, or anything else. She has battled to a couple of draws, but she is still a totally undefeated Gladiator. She's so intense and beautiful. I love her. Her dominance is so supreme, that she got bumped up to first in the credits over team-captain Titan. You have to respect that.

But my love for her has become a bit over-protective. Whenever I hear the next event for the ladies will be Joust, or Earthquake, I start to freak out, and almost HOPE that it's not Crush going up against the contenders. I want her perfect record to stay perfect. I should have more faith in her ability to knock any of those girls down and send them into the water, but I feel like none of them have really earned the opportunity to face her one on one anymore. Maybe they can come up against her in the semifinal rounds, but first round contenders are just not ready for her.


There was no new episode this week because of some dumbass NHL game, so I will have to wait until next week to see her kick more ass. Despite my fears, I know Crush will come through and deny the Contenders victory. It will be glorious. I can't wait to see the damage she can do in the new version of Altasphere.