December 31, 2012

Farewell 2012

2012 officially ends (here in Central Standard Time anyway) in 5 hours and 14 minutes.  It's hell of a year.  The above compilation just came from my phone's camera roll, and is just a small sampling of what this year has held for me. I'm going to see what I can remember based on photos and my own memory...and Facebook's timeline feature (hey! it is good for something!)...but I do love doing these end of the year posts, so just bear with  me.

* Rang in 2012 with my husband and some great friends at a low-key party.  Was probably home by 12:30am. 

* Performed in the ensemble of Kismet in concert with Lyric Stage.

* Saw The Civil Wars and The Staves live in concert at the House of Blues in Dallas, Texas.
* Was honored as a small part of the Denton Women's Collective by the City of Flower Mound for bringing the Finding Kind documentary into the local high school.

* Deactivated my Facebook account for the month, just to take some time away from all the online drama.

* Said goodbye to the "family dog" -- my mom and stepdad's dog, Deogee.  He was a good boy up until the very end.

* Made my Assistant Director (and sound designer) debut with Dog Sees God, and also played the role of Van's sister. A very special show to me, and a moment of great personal pride as an artist.

* Donated my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths

* Welcomed my beautiful and hilarious baby niece into the world.

* Renovated my bathroom.  Well...I supervised and picked out colors. Professionals did the dirty work.

* Discovered Seryn.

* Was honored to edit the first draft of a manuscript by the recently agented and up-and-coming YA author Kelsey.

*  Enjoyed Twilight Tunes with friends and the Andrew Tinker Band -- what is becoming a spring tradition.
* Entered a Jason Robert Brown karaoke competition and was complimented by the composer himself!

* One word: OKLAHOMA.

* Directed one and acted in another staged reading for DCT's Method & Madness Playwriting Festival.

* Was named a Star Performer at my job.

* Found and rescued an abandoned pit bull named Baby with my husband.  Nothing made me happier than the day that the Denton Animal Shelter announced she was adopted!!

* Attended my first SOFAR show.

* Watched a spectacular(ly lousy) fireworks show with my handsome husband.

* Began rehearsals for The Most Happy Fella.

* Celebrated my best friend's 30th birthday by seeing Hairspray (brilliantly music-directed by my talented and dedicated husband).

* Celebrated four years of marriage to my best pal.

* Sent a friend off to Spain -- my carpool buddy for every Lyric show, my favorite gay husband, my friend...Tyler.

* Performed in The Most Happy Fella, made all new friends, met the composer's widow.

* Turned 31! Celebrated at Spiral Diner and the Dallas Arboretum. And got beautiful flowers from my husband.

* Voted early. And for the first time ever.

* Saw Seryn for the first time in concert -- and twice in one weekend. It was life-changing.

* Found out the best news EVER:

November and December

Yes, I'm getting lazy. I've been sitting here for two hours now.  But honestly, November and December have been a lot of family time, holiday fun, preparing myself for this pregnancy, and just reflecting on the past year and getting ready for the next.

2012 has brought MANY friends...changes...loss...heartache...unspeakable joy...and I'm thankful for ALL of it. 

I hope that, no matter how you feel about 2012 -- sad to see it go, or ready to kiss it GOODBYE -- that you have taken something with you from this year that you will carry forever.  Joys and Pains -- they all continue to strengthen and build up our character.

Thank you for being a part of my year.

December 20, 2012

Pregnancy Post -- When does it get fun?

This post may be a little grinchy and whiny...

I've been wanting to post another "hey, here's how things are going!" post after my first one about a month ago, but I've been putting it off for several reasons:
  • I am superstitious and wanted to wait til I had another doctor's appointment and confirmed the baby was still doing well (this is also why I JUST sent out Christmas cards yesterday).
  • I've been busy at work.
  • I don't have a lot to say that's cheerful and excited.
That third bullet up there is what's bothering me the most.

I am officially 14 weeks pregnant today.  I had a doctor's appointment on Tuesday of this week, at which my husband and I heard the baby's heartbeat via Doppler.  I wasn't overcome with joy, though. I was just RELIEVED.  I needed proof and evidence that the baby was still alive and kicking (though I can't feel it yet) inside me. It took the doctor a few seconds to find the baby and the heartbeat, which I'm sure is perfectly normal this early, and my husband said he could tell by my body language that with each passing second I was starting to panic until I finally heard that galloping noise.

We had lunch together yesterday, and we had a lot to say about how we're feeling about this pregnancy.  At one point the question came up, "We are excited about this, aren't we?"  Of course we are! We planned this and prayed about it and cannot wait to be parents.  It's just...well, I'm not going to speak for him on this, but for me it's just that I don't feel emotionally connected to this pregnancy.

Everyone seems more excited about it than we are, which, in turn, makes me feel super guilty and lazy.

I started crying at lunch because I told Michael all I have been truly focusing on have been the more negative things:
  • The fear. 
  • The annoyance when people brush off or invalidate my fear (i.e., "Oh it's fine, stop worrying.").
  • The loss of control over my body and my hormones (i.e., the exhaustion, the gag reflex that seems to sit right behind my teeth and seems to be getting worse rather than better, the little sharp pains here and there, the emotions GOD THE EMOTIONS).
  • The fact that I have to remind myself "Oh right...I'm pregnant" sometimes.
  • The weight gain that isn't quite cute yet.
What's wrong with me??  I prayed fervently yesterday morning when the dog woke me up at 5am and I couldn't fall back asleep...I prayed that I'd feel happier and more excited.  I prayed that I will feel this baby move sooner than "normal" so I can have a daily reminder that it's there.  I prayed that I'd let go of my anxiety and fear and the desperate need for tangible proof that this is actually happening...

(Which of course leads me to thoughts of faith in general.  Why do I need evidence to believe?  Why am I so convinced that something bad is going to happen? I don't generally live my life in fear...that's not who I am.  If anything, I'm usually kind of a "Well, there's nothing I can do about it, so whatever happens happens" type of person.  I do get anxiety, sure, but this is brand new [as it should be...I've never been pregnant before] stuff.)

I also just overall feel really really guilty that I'm not sitting around feeling like Mother Earth here, all peaceful and serene and rubbing my belly happily.  I may be one of those women who just views pregnancy as a means to an end, and all of this will seem silly and crazy and hormonal once I'm holding my baby.  I'm aware of that.

I'm just ready for it to get fun.  To feel as excited as everyone is around me, and not take their excitement for me away with my Charlie Brown attitude about all of this. 

It just still doesn't feel real.  Whine whine whine.  Maybe putting this "out there" will help, and I'll feel stupid for publishing it in a couple of days when I feel completely different.  Here's hoping!

December 17, 2012

Friend-Makin' Mondays -- 12 in 2012

I'm really bad about doing FMM posts, but this is a good one. I like reflecting on the year as it comes to a close, so thanks Kenlie for giving me an early chance to!

Twelve in 2012

1. What was your greatest personal accomplishment in 2012? I grew up a lot. I know that seems...too general, or something, but I really did. I ran smack into a brick wall of realization of just how much my selfishness was hurting my life, my friendships and my marriage, and I stopped being so selfish. I can honestly say that 2012 has been the best year of my life.

2. What’s the best thing your did for your health? I stopped drinking sodas and booze back in May, and started eating much more naturally.  As a result, I lost about 25 lbs and quickly.  My skin and hair look better, even. Just goes to show how much that stuff harms your body.  I'm not saying I'll never have another Dr. Pepper or Shiner, but I will definitely monitor my intake a LOT more now.

3. Share one thing that caused a significant change in your life this year. Well, see #1 first. I had my eyes opened to the importance of what I have in my life right now, and the addition of a few key people and some key choices (see #8 and #2, respectively) have just really improved my quality of life in general.  But I'm going to cheat since those are all other numbers on this survey and pick one more thing: getting pregnant.

4. List a few things that you experienced for the first time at some point over the last twelve months.  
  • I assistant directed and sound-designed my first show.
  • I directed my very first show alone (a staged reading, but still).
  • I got pregnant.
  • I earned a Star Performer award where I work.
  • I finally saw SERYN in concert! THREE TIMES!  And maybe once more on December 30th!

5. What was the coolest place you visited? Sadly, I don't think I traveled at ALL this year! But, my husband and I visited the Dallas Arboretum this past fall and saw a really cool Chihuly glass exhibit.  We don't really get out and take advantage of our local attractions that much, and I hope we'll change that, especially once the BabyMonster arrives.

6. If you could change one thing about the last year what would it be?....I honestly don't think I'd change a thing.

7. What is the best meal you ate this year? I have no idea.  Food doesn't stick out to me really, when I think of the year.  But, seeing as how I'm starving right now and I'm ALWAYS starving, I'm gonna go with "the lunch I'm about to have."

8. Tell us about a new friend you made.  Savannah and Erica, my Oklahomies. Changed my life. Seriously.

9. What did you hope to accomplish this year that you did not? I was hoping to get back into running, and maybe direct one more show.  But I'm not upset that neither of those things happened.

10. Share something you learned in 2012. Putting others before myself truly does make me happier. Especially when those others are my husband, my family, and my close friends.

11. Share an odd and unexpected thing that you experienced this year. I got pregnant.  Is that answer old yet? GET OVER IT. 

12. How do you think 2013 will differ from 2012?  I'm going to have a BABY. A small spawn of me and my husband completely taking over my life.  And I cannot wait.

December 4, 2012

Why I'm Cautiously Excited About the Les Miserables movie

Let me just start out by saying two very important things:

1.) I can be a bit of an asshole about the arts, and most people are going to disagree with this blog.  If that's why you're here, save your breath, because I've heard it before.  I realize that, when it comes to music and acting, I can be a purist to the point of being obnoxious (see also: my recent Facebook rant about Carrie Underwood playing Maria in The Sound of Music).  Usually I just keep quiet and only vent my opinions on to people who tend to agree with me because, otherwise it's just a giant exercise in futility.

2.) Les Miserables is probably #1 on my list of Favorite Musicals. I love it.  Even (maybe even especially) that 10 year anniversary recording with Michael Ball in all of his schmaltzy freakin' glory and Colm Wilkinson's ridiculously thick Scottish accent.

There, now that that's out of the way, and just before we get into the meat & potatoes of this blog, here's the extended international trailer for the Les Mis movie (top), and an inside look, going behind-the-scenes and explaining why this particular movie musical is different from any others before it (bottom):

Still with me?  Okay. 

Let me just start by saying that I flipped my lid (with joy!) when I saw the first teaser trailer for this film.  When I heard Anne Hathaway's heartbreaking rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" in that clip, I was one of the few musical theatre performers/fans who did not get upset about her choice to not belt it to the back wall, as the song is usually performed. There was a general outcry of "NO! THAT SONG SHOULD BE BELTED!" from fans everywhere, but I was intrigued. It made the hair on my arms stand up and brought tears to my eyes.

(See? That right there should tell you that I'm open to new interpretations of my favorite music!)

As longer trailers were released, and the above clip going inside the making of the film made the rounds on the Interwebs, I got more and more excited.  I am especially excited about the way the songs were filmed -- LIVE.  There was no recording that happened months before filming started, to which the actors would lip synch during filming.  Ohhhhh no. They are singing LIVE, y'all.  They wore earpieces on set, through which they heard an accompanist playing live, and there was a direct relationship happening between singer and music. The orchestra was filled in later, during editing and post-production.

This is groundbreaking for a movie musical, and I'm thrilled about it. It's about as close to a stage performance as a movie musical will come, as they still film out of order and do several takes, which never happens in a live stage performance.


At a recent showing of the movie Lincoln (excellent film, by the way), I saw the extended international trailer (the first clip above) and my heart sank a little when I heard clips of Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman singing. Especially Crowe.  Remember Pierce Brosnan in the film version of Mamma Mia? Handsome, renowned actor...had no business being in a musical.  None. That's kind of what I'm worried about with these two men.

Now before you get all defensive...I'm well aware of Hugh Jackman's musical theatre resumé.  I've heard him sing, and he's not bad at all in the things he's done.  But is he Valjean-worthy?  Hmmm.  Time will tell. So, you people who get your undies in a wad and sputter at me that "Hugh Jackman is classically trained, Mandy!" just...calm yourselves.  I want him to do well.  Truly.  But even "classically trained" singers struggle with "Bring Him Home." That sumbitch is high.

As for Crowe, the only thing I've heard is that he has a "musical background."  Sheesh.  That doesn't tell me much.  A quick glance at Wikipedia shows me that he was in The Rocky Horror Show as Eddie/Dr. Scott at some point, and that he's done a lot of recording/performing as a non-classical singer.  Pop, rock, whatever. 

For someone who's used to this performance by Javert, I think I'm justified in being a little worried:

I mean, I didn't even like Norm Lewis as Javert in the 25th Anniversary Concert version of Les Mis, and a LOT of people loved him.  See? I'm an asshole about my singer-actors, especially in Les Mis.  And just don't get me started on Nick Jonas, ok?  Just...don't.

Also...does it not seem a tiny bit fishy to anyone else that with huge names like Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe, the marketing campaign for this movie has been centered around Anne Hathaway?  The actress who is already getting Oscar buzz just based on a few clips from trailers and from those lucky enough to have attended pre-screenings?  Just something to think about...

As for the other actors chosen...I am pretty stoked about Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the Thénardiers, and Aaron Tveit as Enjolras (my favorite character!).  I don't know much about Eddie Redmayne (Marius), but he seems like he'll be fine. I liked Samantha Banks (Eponine) in the 25th Anniversary Concert, though she does get a little poppy at times for my personal taste.  Amanda Seyfried and her tinny little voice and fast vibrato will probably annoy me, but Cosettes usually annoy me, and the best one ever was Judy Kuhn anyway.

Here are my final thoughts. I'm not so much of a musical purist that I think opera singers need to play all of the classical-type singing roles in musical theatre (or film adaptations, in this case). Hell, a lot of times the best singers in the world can be some of the worst actors!

There are times when an actor will be so very good that I will forget about the voice, or that I'll even prefer their interpretation of the song.  Again, Anne Hathaway, ladies and gentlemen.  I know the girl can sing.  Do I usually prefer a little more power behind Eponine? Sure.  But she's still making such excellent acting choices and still staying true to the integrity of the song and the character.  And that is the most important thing to me -- not the level of technique in the vocal performance.  But rest assured that the vocal performance is only a very close second.  It's so close it's almost tied.  Why? Because it's a musical. And the music, in musical, should be the first priority.  Crazy talk, I know!  If even the most world-renowned, award-winning actor can't carry a tune, I'm going to hate his or her performance in a musical, most likely.

Also, let me be clear once again that I am very excited for this movie.  I'm going in with moderate expectations, though.  Expect a follow-up post on this blog once I've seen the movie 2-3 times (which is gonna be the bare minimum, methinks).