Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: National Ballet

On Friday, Ro and I went to the National Ballet’s performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It was at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts; I can’t remember if I’ve ever been there before because the inside didn’t look familiar (though someone told me it’s recently been renovated). It’s possible that I went at some point in high school on a music trip, though I’ve only ever been to one other ballet and that was The Nutcracker many years ago.
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We had pretty decent seats; we were in Ring 4, but it’s nicely angled so that you never have to worry about straining over the heads of a tall person in front of you. It made for a great view of the stage.
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Of course, the people in the orchestra level were treated to “flowers” dancing in the aisle the first time Alice sticks her head through the tiny entrance to Wonderland, but they were an extra $100 and, since I’m not a ballet expert, I didn’t really see the pointe (see what I did there?) in being that close to the stage.

The set design was absolutely gorgeous. The background and a large screen were manipulated beautifully, especially in the scene where Alice is in a room full of doors. I was wondering how they would achieve that, since they couldn’t get the dancer to actually grow or shrink, but it was really effective.
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The familiar cast of characters were also done well. The Chesire Cat was genius, as he was made of multiple moving parts (held by dancers clad completely in black). The Caterpillar was also really cool: he was a belly-dancing harem leader!
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Of course, the part I was most looking forward to was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and I was not disappointed. The Hatter was a tap-dancing madman, and my only issue was that I wish it had been a longer segment.
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The Queen of Hearts was also magical, and I loved that her dress doubled as a seat for the King.
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There were a few parts that I felt dragged for a little too long. While the flower dancing scene was very pretty, it seemed to go on forever without actually advancing the plot (Ro says the same thing happened in the Disney movie, but I don’t remember it very well, so I’ll have to take her word on it). The beginning also took a while to really get started, which is funny because Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole within a handful of paragraphs in the book, but it did a nice job setting up the story.

The ballet stayed close to the source material with only a few major changes; it starts off at Alice’s house, where guests are arriving (guests who will later play Wonderland residents) and we meet Alice’s love interest who is kicked out for stealing a tart (guess who he ends up being in Wonderland?!).
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I have to admit that I’m a sucker for the “it was all a dream – or was it?” ending. After the court tumbles down around her, a modern-day Alice wakes up in the courtyard of a university with her boyfriend, convinced that she had been dreaming after reading a book. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but the White Rabbit makes a final appearance, and I thought it was just perfect.

*All performance images were taken from the National Ballet’s website*

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The Phantom of the Opera (is here)

So remember yesterday when I talked about the song “Masquerade?” Well, today I’ve decided to talk a little bit about the show it comes from: The Phantom of the Opera.

The movie trailer – not quite the same as the stage show, but close enough for our purposes.

As I mentioned, it’s my favourite theatre show. I’ve seen it four times in four locations: Toronto (2007), Las Vegas (2012), London (2012), and New York (2013).

I also read Gaston Leroux’s original novel (an English translation. My French probably isn’t that good) and marveled at the plot points left out of the stage production (like the Persian who, I believe, is simply referred to as “the Persian”).

While the story itself is good – and tragic – the music is really what makes it so phenomenal.

Here are my top five favourite songs:

1) “Masquerade”, obviously

2) “Angel of Music” (up to and including “The Mirror”)

3) “The Phantom of the Opera” and 4) “The Music of the Night”

5) “Think of Me”

BONUS: The ending. The chair, and the mask, and the way the music swells for that final moment…I’m tearing up just thinking about it.

I really do love the Phantom, he’s so misunderstood (like, yeah, stalking is a big no-no, but if no one taught him what love is/how to love someone without being creepy, how was he supposed to know how to treat Christine??).

P.S. Raoul’s a jerk. Maybe not a jerk, but the whole thing really is his fault.

There’s a new tour that I hope will end up in Toronto. I’ve read reviews and apparently certain things have changed (this trailer shows the “Masquerade” scene happening on a completely different set), so that worries me. However, most reviews have also said the chandelier’s descent is much more remarkable (and it was pretty good to begin with).

 

My Favourite Scrubs

Last week, Ro and I finished re-watching (for the umpteenth time) Scrubs, aka one of my favourite TV shows to ever exist.

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The Janitor, Elliot, Dr. Kelso, J.D., Carla, Turk, Dr. Cox, and Jordan.

I didn’t religiously watch Scrubs when it first aired on TV (I rarely watch TV on actual TV), but I own all the DVDs, and I watch them constantly. After much deliberation, I’ve come up with my favourite episode from each season (it was so hard to choose!).

WARNING: Spoilers were inevitable, but I tried not to give too much away.

Season 1My First Day

The first episode, obviously, introduces you to the characters. One of the reasons I love it is because I know how the characters’ storylines will eventually end, and I like trying to spot any foreshadowing. It also sets the stage for my favourite TV relationship since Gilmore Girls‘ Luke & Lorelai: J.D. & Elliot. I love them.

Season 2My Fruit Cups

One of my favourite Janitor-J.D. interactions occurs in this episode:

Janitor: Hey, have you been stealing pudding cups and toilet paper around here?
J.D.: No! I hate pudding and I don’t use… toilet paper.
Janitor: *stares*
J.D.: I have one of those French things that shoots water up your butt.
Janitor: Bidet?
J.D.: BIDET to you sir.

I’m laughing just thinking about it.

Plus Carla and Elliot’s friendship is on point in this episode (one word: bajingo). Oh, and pregnant Jordan coming back – you gotta love her messed up relationship with Dr. Cox.

Season 3My Screw Up

This scene, man. This scene. It’s horribly sad, but I remember being completely shocked the first time I watched it, and I still get chills. It was one of those episodes that had you on an emotional rollercoaster the entire time.

Season 4My Office

One of my favourite J.D.-Dr. Cox moments. I often yell at Ro, “Why do you hate me when I do nothing but love you?”

Season 5My Jiggly Ball

I’d rather play Jiggly Ball than try to explain why this episode is so great.

 Season 6My Musical

It’s guy love, between two guys.

I love every song in this episode.

Season 7My Princess

I like the way it’s told (as Jack’s bedtime story) plus the costumes are great and, apparently it’s supposed to be an homage to The Princess Bride which, as everyone knows, is a fantastic film.

Season 8My Finale (parts 1 and 2)

This ending is so perfect. I don’t always acknowledge season nine mainly because I feel like it takes away from this amazing two-part episode (especially the montage at the end. Don’t mind me, I’m just sitting here, sobbing forever). Easily the best series finale ever (How I Met Your Mother could have taken a lesson from Scrubs. Just sayin’).

The Giver: Book vs Movie

Earlier this year, I was reluctant to watch the Jeff Bridges’ adaptation of The Giver because I remember reading and loving the book when I was about 12-13, and based on the trailer, it seemed like a lot had changed.

A few weeks ago, when I was sitting on an airplane, mildly stressed out (I get nervous when I fly), I decided to watch it because it wasn’t like I was doing anything else. It seemed like my initial reaction was on point: a lot had changed. But then I started wondering if maybe my memory of the book was a little fuzzy so I re-read it.

“Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.”

I could ramble about the differences for a while, but I chose to focus on the five points that bothered me the most instead. NOTE: spoilers (book and movie) and Adventure Time reaction gifs abound!

1) Ageing the characters. 

Holy frack, it drives me insane when characters are aged in movie adaptations. 99% of the time it’s because the filmmakers find it necessary to introduce a love interest who either a) doesn’t exist in the original book or b) doesn’t become a “love interest” until later in the series (I’m looking at you, Percy Jackson). Here’s a tip: if the source material is already good and/or beloved, it’s not necessary to add romance.

According to the IMDB page: “Jonas and Fiona were aged up four years* because they can not show a twelve year old have stirrings to the public.”

*I read somewhere else that they were aged six years (18 instead of 12), but it doesn’t really matter.

“Stirrings”, if you’re wondering, are dreams that Jonas has about his female friend. Nothing too scandalous or sexual but growing up in a community without love (i.e. love literally doesn’t exist), he doesn’t understand his feelings for her. In the book, he describes his dream to his parents…and yes, when we read it in school, there was a lot of tittering and no one could take it seriously, but the movie didn’t have to show it. They could talk about…you know, exactly the way it plays out in the book.

1b) Jonas/Fiona

Honestly, their relationship was awkward. SPOILER ALERT: he can’t share memories with everyone, that’s literally the whole point of the story and it’s why Jonas is the ONLY Receiver of Memory. So if he can start sharing memories with Fiona, the whole plot line becomes pointless.

2) “Futuristic”

Yes, it’s a dystopian novel set in the future where a lot of things (including colours and feelings) are controlled. But nowhere in the book does it say that their technology is super advanced. I always assumed they lived in a sort of backwards world with little to no technology (apart from planes). But that’s a personal thing, I guess.

3) Assignments

Asher goes from being the Assistant Recreational Director to becoming a Pilot.

*mouth popping noise to indicate confusion*

Two completely different careers, not even remotely related. SPOILER ALERT: it’s because they needed Asher for the BIG DRAMATIC ENDING. Instead of just making him comic relief, like in the book.

Similar to how they made Fiona a Nurturer instead of a Caretaker of the Old because then she too could be all “I love you, Jonas, even though I don’t know what love is. Here, let me help you steal a baby.” Which, I mean,  yay for strong female characters but that plot point was a little more impressive when book Jonas did it on his own.

4) T-Swift

Let me be completely honest: I don’t like Taylor Swift. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but there was a year when all I heard at work was Taylor Swift and now her voice hurts my brain. I also don’t know why they needed her to play Rosemary (the Receiver of Memory who failed before Jonas was selected) because in the books, the Giver hints at music but doesn’t share it with Jonas. This was clearly a scene dropped into the movie to give T-Swizzle more exposure because she’s so obscure…

5) The Chief Elder

I like Meryl Streep as much as the next person, but she was the BIG BAD VILLAIN and honestly, the Elders were only in the book for 5-10 pages TOTAL. It’s more of a philosophical text and less of a “here’s what GOOD looks like and here’s BAD”, so her character was sort of out there. She made for a lot more drama though, so I guess that’s a good thing?

Conclusion:

It wasn’t terrible. It definitely wasn’t the worst adaptation I’ve ever seen, but for something that claimed to be “loyal” to the original, it strayed awfully far from the source, presumably to make it more accessible (even though it really didn’t help but it didn’t do well in the box office).

If you genuinely love the philosophical nature of the book, don’t bother watching the movie. Otherwise, it was decent, if a little slow.

Top 10 Movies

Once more, I’ve decided to tackle a “top ten” list, and this time, I’m going with favourite movies.

For previous top ten lists, please see books, albums, and songs.

Thus, in no particular order:

1) The Nightmare Before Christmas

I’m pretty sure I’ve explained my love for Jack Skellington before.

2) 10 Things I Hate About You

Forget that time he played the Joker – Heath Ledger as Patrick Verona is one of the best things to ever exist. I should also note that the first time I watched this, I was going through a  3rd Rock from the Sun phase, and I loved seeing Tommy and Alissa (aka Cameron and Bianca) together again.

3) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Of course I have to put a Harry Potter movie on this list. I chose Prisoner of Azkaban because it was my favourite book for the longest time (it’s slowly being replaced by Deathly Hallows, but still holds a special place in my heart). Plus I think this is the one where my love for Daniel Radcliffe reached a whole new level.

4) The Sandlot

Ro and I (and, on occasion, our brother Kevin) quote this movie all the time. It was a summertime staple, and everything I know about baseball, I learned from Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez. Base up, you blockheads!

5) School of Rock

This movie made me want to start a band when I was 13 (it still does). Jack Black is hilarious and I only wish we had had cool substitute teachers like him in school.

6) The Jungle Book

My favourite Disney movie in general. I watched this a million times as a child. My nieces have all, at some point, been obsessed with it, I, for one, never complain about watching it with them.

7) Tangled

My favourite “classic” Disney princess is Belle (because I relate to her on so many levels), but Rapunzel is one of the best recent princesses. I would argue that Tangled is more enjoyable than Frozen (yeah, I said it!).

8) She’s the Man

Remember when Amanda Bynes was a promising young actress? It makes me a little sad to re-watch this, knowing that she has all sorts of problems now, but this was probably the peak of her popularity, and she was so talented.

9) Easy A

Emma Stone is one of my girl crushes. I want to be her (or at least be friends with her). The only unbelievable thing about this movie is trying to convince me that someone who looks like Emma Stone could be invisible in high school. No es posible. Otherwise, it’s flawless (like Emma Stone!).

10) The Princess Bride

Three words: as you wish. Enough said. (Also, I can’t truly hate Prince Humperdinck – even though he’s a tool – because Chris Sarandon was the voice of Jack Skellington – see #1).

Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities

On Friday, I went to my first ever Cirque du Soleil experience: Kurios.

I don’t know if I’ve ever really thought about going to Cirque du Soleil before, but when we saw the ads for this new one, Ro pointed out that if I was ever going to go, it would be to the steampunk inspired show. So we did! We had great seats – side stage, row D – so we were really close. For the most part, it’s easy to follow along with what’s going on on-stage, though, like all productions, it can be distracting if there are other characters in the background and you can’t decide where to look. There were many different acts, but I can’t decide which one was my favourite. The opening was, of course, very fun because it (literally) set the stage for what was to come. The invisible circus was hilarious, especially when -MINI SPOILER ALERT- Felipe the invisible lion escaped and ran down the aisle. I’d probably have to say the upside-down dinner party – I didn’t even notice them setting up the upside-down table until the lights brought it to my attention. That was the other thing: these acrobats moved so fast. It was incredible to see how quickly they could move from one position to another, both in terms of how fast they could twist their bodies around and how fast they could get from one side of the stage to the other. The act that I thought was the most mind-blowing was the contortionists. HOW IS IT PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE TO BEND YOUR BODY LIKE THAT? I can’t even touch my toes without bending my knees (don’t judge, I’m working on it). One thing we didn’t count on: the stress of watching people catapult themselves across a stage without safety nets/harnesses. Yes, it was fascinating, but every time someone leaped through the air, we both cringed as they dropped down to the stage. Of course, they were always caught, but there were some moments – for example, when three guys were standing on top of each other’s shoulders and a fourth guy was tossed on top of them – where there was some staggering and swaying and genuine looks of alarm. I don’t know if that was part of the show, to make it more visibly death-defying, but it was a little scary. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but I really enjoyed it. It’s amazing what people’s bodies are capable of with the right training and a good dose of flexibility.

Birthdays, Bullets, and Books

Birthdays

balloonHappy one year anniversary to my blog! I started this blog last year because I a) had been meaning to start a blog and b) my BFF Nina had created a (fantastic) food blog and it was a show of solidarity.

Over the past year, I’ve uploaded 135 posts and I’m interested to see how much I can increase that number in the coming years.

To celebrate, I’ll be writing a post every day this week. Ambitious? Yes. But I already have ideas so it shouldn’t be too hard (or so I tell myself).

Bullets

To kick off the celebrations, here is my (inaugural) Theatre Tuesday post for Bullets Over Broadway. It’s a Woody Allen-penned show (adapted from his 1994 movie of the same name) that is currently playing at the St. James Theatre in NYC (until the end of the month).

I’m not actually a Woody Allen fan (in fact, I don’t think I’ve seen any of his movies…), but I had a reason for seeing this particular play: Zach Braff.

I’m a huge Scrubs fan. I constantly re-watch episodes (a few summers ago, when I was unemployed from May to mid-August, I re-watched almost the entire series), I have all the DVDs, and I quote it at any possible opportunity. I also consider Zach Braff to be my favourite actor (I mean, sure, I loooove Daniel Radcliffe, but do I love his acting or do I just love his face/the fact that he was Harry Flippin’ Potter?).

“In 1929, playwright David Shayne [Zach Braff] is finally getting his first play God of Our Fathers produced on Broadway. The producer, Julian Marx, has enlisted the wealthy gangster Nick Valenti to pay for the show. Valenti wants to have his dim-witted and untalented girlfriend, Olive Neal, star as one of the leads. Valenti has assigned his strong-armed gangster, Cheech, to watch over Olive. Surprisingly, Cheech comes up with great ideas for improving the play. However, aging diva Helen Sinclair, the real star of the show, romances the younger David, who already has a girlfriend, Ellen. Meanwhile, the leading man, Warner Purcell, has his eye on Olive.”

The play was funnier than I expected. From the minute Olive opens her mouth and lets out the most screeching, nasally New York accent you can imagine, you know you’re in for a hilarious two hours. Cheech was also fantastic and his tap-dancing mob buddies owned every scene they were in.

Of course, the highlight of the show for me was the minute Zach showed up on stage and I aggressively punched Ro, hissing “IT’S HIM!!” (because the day before he had tweeted that he was in France and I was terrified that he wouldn’t be back in time for Saturday’s show).

Now, it should be pretty obvious by now that I was biased going into the show, but I thought he did a wonderful job. His voice probably wasn’t the strongest, in comparison with some of the other actors, but it was still great and really fit the character.

We had seats on the balcony so it was a good vantage point; it was also interesting because we could sometimes see the set up for a new prop i.e. the person sitting in the house set, rolling up the telephone wire so that no one would trip, or the trapdoor in the floor opening before the scene was done. Despite that, there were still moments that can only be put down to “theatre magic”, my favourites being Cheech’s car (which he drove twice in order to shoot people off a pier), and the Pomeranian who we couldn’t figure out if it was a real dog or not (it seemed to move on its own like it was real, but there were a couple of scenes where it was unnaturally still).

When the show ended, one of my fondest wishes came true: I met Zach Braff. He comes out after every performance to mingle with fans – there are barriers in place so that he’s not crushed to death, but he signs Playbills and if you hand him a camera/phone, he will pause to take a selfie with you.

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After screaming (internally) “OMG, ZACH BRAFF JUST TOOK A SELFIE WITH ME”, I walked away like this:

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Books

It’s fitting that I went to New York for a writers’ conference and the only things I bought were books. I went to a session given by Barry Lyga, a YA author who I’ve been meaning to look up, so I ended up with two of his books (regrettably I missed his signing – who schedules a signing during the closing keynote speech?!). And then we went to Barnes and Nobel and I bought a bunch of Neil Gaiman books because they have beautiful covers (I think I can actually get the same editions here, but they were all conveniently in one place so I don’t have to comb every Chapters/Indigo stores in the city for a full set).

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