That Thing You Do

Is navel gazing strictly reserved for those with child? Or is my association of the two based on the book of photographs by Charlee Brodsky that my friend Alisa sent me when I was pregnant?

(Because I’m not. Pregnant.)

But I have been almost embarrassingly introspective these past few months year.

Strike that. It’s not (that) embarrassing. It’s actually understandable and appropriate and I guess I just needed time to reconcile all of those FEELINGS before trying to WRITE about them.

We made A Big Decision ten months (!!) ago and Moved Across The Country over the summer. (Anyone who doesn’t think selective capitalization [or parentheses] is effective should try their own Move for comparison.) It probably goes without saying that in order to do that I had to quit my job. It was (is) still weird not to be working full time. Hold that thought.

Two (!!!) cross-country drives and several hundred boxes later, California (and the Kralls) welcomed us.

It’s criminally beautiful here. I could gush about the produce all day. Avi has piles of new friends and we love his new school. Being less than a mile away from our closest friends is a perk I can’t even put into words most days.

If this place weren’t so far away from Pittsburgh it would truly be perfect. And by “Pittsburgh” I mean “the people we love and miss very dearly”. I said something today about “going home” – meaning Pittsburgh – and immediately felt guilty. I don’t know why. We’ve only been here five months. I lived there for most of 32 years.

I love the freedom and flexibility here. I love the time (and produce. Have I mentioned the produce?!) I have to cook healthy foods. I get to hang out with Avi more now than any other time since he was 9 months old. Awesome.

I’ve also been writing. And drawing. And writing and drawing. Apparently years of stifled creative energy can explode all at once if you’re not careful about how you release it when you finally have the time.

I have a lot of options, and that’s probably why I’ve been feeling so unmoored. And excited. And scared. Way back when we started talking about Moving Across The Country, the theme song (or lyric of choice, I guess) was usually Little Red’s “excited AND scared” from INTO THE WOODS. I think it’s taken me this long to realize that it wasn’t just the Move that had me feeling that way.

“The Sound of Music” Winner

Hooray! I’m on my way to Baltimore, but I wanted to quickly let the ticket winner know that she and her family have 4 tickets to opening night of Pittsburgh CLO’s “The Sound of Music” on Tuesday, July 19!

Kathleen Schultz, come on down!
(I’ll email you with details on your tickets.)

Tickets are still available online (including half price for kids under 13) so hopefully the rest of you will get a chance to see the show as well. Give me a holler if you’re going Friday night – that’s when Avi and I will be there.

My Soapbox, or Win Tickets To “The Sound of Music” For Your Family!

I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately. Last week was Chicago, next week is Baltimore. All great trips, but it really hits home how much I love my family when I’m away from them for a couple (or more) days. On top of that, we’ve been so busy already this summer with camp and hockey and ballet – all for Avi, of course – that when we are home we like to sloooooooow down. Much time is spent in the kitchen, and I have a lot of delicious things I should get around to posting, but we’ve also spent some quality time reading and (believe it or not) watching movies. Avi and I finally finished the first Harry Potter book

(Ahem. I have read them all many many many times. He was reading [with me] for the very first time.)

and then I let him watch the movie. We also recently watched one of my favorite movie musicals of all time, “The Sound of Music”. How can you not love this show?! I myself prefer to ignore the political undertones entirely and just enjoy the timeless music. Avi was pretty interested in the puppet show.

I was super excited to see that Pittsburgh CLO is doing the show this summer (that’s right, I said “doing”, as in “locally produced theater”, not a tour) because as everyone knows by this point (and if you don’t, you should) taking kids to live theater is my giant, sparkling clean soapbox. And this! This is theater with kids in it, even! These kids:

They look very Austrian, don’t they?

So, yeah. Pittsburgh CLO’s production of “The Sound of Music” opens next week, and I have a pack of 4 tickets to opening night, Tuesday, July 19, to give away to one lucky reader and his or her family. Just leave a comment below telling me the name of the first show you ever saw. If you want, tell me how old you were, also – but no worries if it was just last week and you’re 42 years old. Theater at any age can be magical. My soapbox has room for everyone. One entry per person, and entries must be in by noon on Sunday, July 17. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winner and contact that individual directly.

Even the mountains are wholesome, aren’t they? You know you want to go to there.

Disclaimer: Pittsburgh CLO is providing me with four free tickets to use and four tickets to give away. But you knew that since I explained it up above.  You can purchase tickets for “The Sound of Music” here if you don’t win, but I’ll cross my fingers for you.

“The Book Of Mormon” on Broadway

Last week I saw a show with Stephen Sondheim. And James Franco. Me and the guys.

Yeah, that’s obviously not the whole story. In fact, that’s an entirely different story than the one I’m going to tell. Instead, I’m going to offer a little bit of insight as to why I happily stood for NINE HOURS on Friday to see my friends in their little show. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Got just a bit of attention recently, what with the FOURTEEN TONY NOMINATIONS. Holy moly, color me excited. And also totally ahead of myself.

I went to New York for the second School of Drama Showcase, and had the chance to see a few shows while I was in town. I knew I wanted to try to see “The Book of Mormon” if at all possible, because everything I’d heard about Josh Gad and Rory O’Malley’s performances fills me with intense, 100% non-creepy pride and honor to have known them in school before the rest of the world figured out how awesome they both are. See “Tony Nominations”, above. Also: squee.

The thing is, the show is kinda the hottest ticket in town and that’s exactly what I didn’t have. Rory could get me backstage after the show, but it was up to me to get into the show in the first place.

So my last full day in the city, after a super productive meeting that officially ended the work part of my trip, I decided to spend in the Standing Room Only line so I could see the show. I arrived at the theater at 2:06pm for the 8pm show. I was officially the fourth person in line.

Let me tell you something about waiting in line with like-minded (read: crazy) people for six hours. You either bond (Hi Stephen! Hi Stephanie!) or you don’t (Hi weirdo guy who will be the punchline for my story!) but it’s basically impossible to ignore humanity that entire time.

Oh look! Here are some of my line friends now:

Care to guess who was the weirdo? Even better, who ended up being a scalper?! His inanity is actually too mind-numbing to go into here, but suffice to say that sleeping on the concrete, taking up the *entire* space nearest the ticket window – the only dry place to sit – was the least annoying thing he did all day.

But at long, long, loooooong last, SRO tickets went on sale for $27 at 7pm, and I knew for certain that I was going to see the show.

And my god, what a show. What. A. Show. I don’t know if part of it was the rush of seeing Rory and Josh on stage, or the fact that the show is seriously brilliant, but my feet stopped hurting for the duration of the performance (hours six through nine of standing for the day) and I had a stupid grin on my face the whole time.

Afterwards, I got to see them both backstage (thanks, guys) and talk to Rory specifically about some of the amazing work he’s doing with Broadway Impact. (I’m so, so overwhelmed by this organization he co-founded. It means a lot to me, and I hope you’ll take a minute to learn about them and maybe even donate to the cause of marriage equity, which to me is about basic civil rights in general.)

So that’s how I ended up seeing “The Book Of Mormon” the same night Stephen Sondheim and James Franco had legitimate-seat tickets for it, by earning the right to stand during the show by standing for six hours prior.

Best deal ever.

Have an amazing run, guys. The entire Carnegie Mellon School of Drama family will be rooting for you June 12!

Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival

(No, I don’t have tickets to give away.)

You can buy them here, though. Because what better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than to order tickets to a children’s theater festival next weekend? (I’m actually not really joking.)

I have very tangible memories of attending the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival as a child. Since the festival is turning 25, that would make me probably 8 or 9 when I attended, which is well within memory range for even a goldfish like myself. This year we are taking Avi to see Knuffle Bunny with his cousin on Sunday afternoon, since the weekend wasn’t full enough already with the senior jazz concert, Pittsburgh marathon, commencement and my dad’s epic birthday.

Speaking of birthdays, I am a little bummed that we’re missing the Children’s Festival birthday bash because of all the other weekend events. I like birthday parties, especially ones that involve complimentary theater tickets. You can still go without me, though. I won’t mind.

And seriously, if you haven’t taken your kids to see live theater yet, after my many many soapbox posts, this is really the perfect opportunity. Tickets are so reasonable (like under ten bucks a piece), and there are tons of shows and genres to pick from. If you can’t decide, go for the birthday bash and make a day of it. Wish we could do the same.

Just. Go.

So next to normal.

Wow.

I don’t have much I can say. It wasn’t quite magic, but it was close. Put it this way: I cannot remember the last time I went to a live performance knowing so little about the story beforehand. I hate surprises; I skip to the end of books and read movie synopses. But in this case, I didn’t have time to ruin it for myself in advance. Being able to truly experience and discover and…get. it. (!!!!) during the show last night is something I am truly thankful for.

Afterwards, a (necessary) stiff drink or two with many wonderful people.

Just go and see it, okay? And if you can, go tonight and use the code SUPERBOY for a $15 discount. Or student rush for 50% off at the box office before the show. Go without reading about it. Without listening to the soundtrack. Without knowing.

And bring kleenexes.

The Big Tap In VIP Ticket Giveaway

I’m going back to LA at the end of the month for work. This is a super exciting thing, since I’m going for Showcase and I’ll get to see a lot of friends. But I fly out on Saturday, April 30, which previously was circled on my calendar for something else entirely.

So my loss is your gain, potentially.

I have two VIP tickets that I’m giving away to one lucky reader who promises to enjoy all the amazing craft beer in my absence. These tickets are valued at $65 a piece, but since VIP tickets are actually sold out one could argue they’re even more valuable. If you don’t like your odds, you can always buy regular tickets for $40 each here, but I have it on the highest authority that the VIP tickets – and the special tastings they allow access to – are totally worth it.

Leave a comment telling me your favorite beer before noon on Sunday, April 17, 2011. (I’m keeping the contest open for that long since I have this little event next week that’s going to be pulling my attention just a bit.) I’ll pick the winner using a random number generator and he or she will have 24 hours to respond. Assuming all goes well on that end, tickets will go into the mail on Monday, April 18.

You must be 21 to enter. Since you can’t even get into The Big Tap In if you’re under 21, there’s no point in winning a pair of tickets you can’t use. Just saying.

The Big Tap In benefits HandsOn Volunteer Network of the Valley. You can also donate here if you’re so inclined.

Fine print: I purchased these VIP tickets on my own. I’m not receiving anything from The Big Tap In or sponsor Vintage Estate Wine and Beer. I sincerely just want these tickets that I cannot use to go to a good home!

N2N

I’m seeing next to normal next week.*

No biggie. It *only* won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2010. Do you know the last time that happened? 1996. Know the musical? Maybe you’ve heard of it…RENT. Even better? The same director – Michael Greif – was responsible for both.

Perhaps now you can start to understand my excitement. Eleven Tony nominations, three wins for Score, Orchestration and Best Actress for Alice Ripley WHO IS COMING TO PITTSBURGH.

Friends, how often do you get a chance to see an actress on tour in the role that won her a Tony?!

(A clue: not that often.)

So yeah, I’m pretty stoked. Even though I am unbelievably busy at work with a little thing we like to call Spring Carnival & Reunion Weekend, I’m taking one of my precious free evenings to see this awesome show.

Wanna come too?

Use the promo code SUPERBOY for $15 off tickets in price levels A, B and C for performances on Tuesday, April 5 and Wednesday, April 6. And if you pick Tuesday, let me know! That’s when I’ll be there.

You have to log in to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in order to use the promo code, so don’t skip that step.

And don’t skip this show. Seriously.

Fine print: I received this discount code as a proud member of the Greater Pittsburgh arts community, and confirmed with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust that it was okay to share. I acquired my tickets elsewhere – thanks Rachel!

*Wikipedia told me it was stylized like that.

Aaaaand, that was odd.

Or, what not to do if you want a so-called blogger to write about your show.

Or, how not to act as an audience member.

Or, how not to act as The Cat in the Hat.

Or, my “review” of PMT’s  “Seussical The Musical”.

So Avi and I saw a show on Friday, as you may have guessed. He’s seen “Seussical” before and we have the soundtrack. I was excited to surprise him with tickets to see Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s production because he is five and not an asshole theater snob like his mother, and I could use a reminder about that once in awhile.

We were at will call to pick up the tickets when something very strange happened.

The first set of tickets I received had my blog listed. Sort of. Not exactly the correct name. They were also not in the section I had purchased. And I was So. Incredibly. Confused. On the one hand, cool! Someone set aside free press tickets for me because of ye olde bloggedy blog blog. On the other hand, NO ONE TOLD ME. Seriously, how could that happen?! Who just assumes that a) I’d be interested in writing about “Seussical” – which, honestly, I wouldn’t have been because I’m an asshole (see above) (and below) and b) I will show up on Friday night for the show without being told to do so! The fact that I purchased tickets ON MY OWN was just a coincidence. Otherwise, I would have never known these tickets were set aside for me.

I did some investigating and haven’t been able to figure out who the *someone* was who made these arrangements and failed to tell me about them. So odd!

In any case, we went inside, sat in the seats I had paid for and saw the show, which brings me to part 2 of this too-long tale.

There was a kid sitting next to us with his grandmother. I judged him to be about six or seven based on size. He was out of control obnoxious the entire first act. Yes, it’s a family show. Yes, I think all kids should be exposed to live theater. But I also think they should be encouraged to behave appropriately as an audience member, and that that behavior should be reinforced by their adults. This boy was loudly talking and singing and pointing pretty much constantly. I thought for awhile it was because we were RIGHT NEXT TO HIM that it was particularly distracting, but people two, three, four rows away were turning and glaring. Now let me make it clear that Avi was sitting SO quietly this whole time. He was obviously bothered by the boy’s behavior, but he was also polite and tried to ignore it. Rockstar.

At intermission, a group of teenage girls sitting in front of us turned around and told me that Avi was SO well behaved. They begged me to say something to grandma. I waffled (unsurprising) and chickened out (also unsurprising), hoping the second act behavior would be better. It wasn’t. Finally I turned and glared for a looooong time so grandma couldn’t ignore me anymore. She said “What? He’s five!” And before I could stop myself I shot back, “SO IS HE!” and jammed my thumb in Avi’s direction.

I wish I could tell you she shut up or apologized or something. Nope. She glared back at me and said “Oh grow up!” and that was that. (Which, huh? What does that even mean?!) At the end of the show, she and the boy bolted and the girls in front of us turned around. One of them actually told me, “You did nothing wrong. Don’t worry about what she said!” which was kind of adorable. Thanks, kid.

Whew. Now, part 3 and 4 of this saga come with a disclaimer (I’m an asshole.) and a cop-out: see, my friend Brian said pretty much everything I can say about the production, including the sentiment about youth theater. But I was especially disappointed in The Cat in the Hat, who was played more as a bloated cameo than the spry emcee of the whole story. I have major objections to that particular casting and the ad libbing, and I fully understand that I may be one of few people in Pittsburgh who feel that way, or at least who will admit it. Sorry. But when my kid whispers (because he is a good audience member!) to me that he wishes The Cat would stop interrupting the show, well…it’s not working. That thing you’re doing. At all.

And to steal another line from Brian, other than the parts I didn’t like (The Cat, the set, the lighting, the sound), the parts I did like (Jo Jo, Gertrude, Horton, the costumes, the orchestra, the ensemble) were great.

But I’m an asshole like that.

That was fun!

Wow. We had a blast! SHREK THE MUSICAL (normally I would italicize or quotation mark-ify, but come on! it’s about an ogre! it needs all caps) is great fun.

To recap, I did a little contest thingey on ye olde blog, giving away four tickets to opening night courtesy of The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, who also gave me some tickets to use this evening. Avi and I went with friends and had a spectacular time, despite many cosmic forces conspiring against us (original friends stricken with the flu this morning, late departure necessitating emergency drive-thru sustenance, temporary technical issues at the start of the show, to name a few). I’m glad the cosmos got itself together because I really enjoyed myself.

Everyone (except Avi*) knows this story, and there are no major changes to the musical book than what you’re probably familiar with from the movie. I felt like the whole falling-in-love thing was shortened, but I often feel that way in movies and musicals alike and it’s been awhile since I’ve seen the movie anyway.

*Yes, you are correct – I did tell you that we would show Avi the movie before tonight. We ordered it from the library. It just came in today. Oops.

I guess I’m just trying to say that I didn’t miss anything from the story in that truncated-yet-longer way that musical adaptations often are.

But SHREK? It’s so funny! And I don’t mean the fart jokes! (Of which there are plenty.) It’s actually very musical theater-savvy, with references to “Gypsy”, “A Chorus Line”, “Wicked”, “Lion King” and “Les Miz” that we caught. Hilarious references that made me laugh out loud in an embarrassing way. Lots of layered humor – parfait, not onion – that appealed to the parent/child mix that dominated tonight’s audience.

And the music? Is fantastic. Seriously. I just downloaded the soundtrack. Not kidding. The first number by the fairy tale characters, “Story of My Life” is clever and catchy, done in one of my favorite styles. “The Ballad of Farquaad” also made me giggle when it started because it sounded like an old English mining song. Totally appropriate. Haven Burton (Fiona) and Carrie Compere (Dragon) both have very strong, very different, very competent voices. And actually, the way the dragon was handled was one of my favorite parts. Goes along with how nifty (and hysterical) David F. M. Vaughn was as Lord Farquaad, who you might remember is rather short in stature. And Eric Peterson (Shrek) was most especially lovely during “When Words Fail” in the second act.

It’s not perfect, but few productions are. The technical problem I alluded to above was taken care of lickety split at the start of the show; I highly doubt it will affect any of the remaining performances. Transitions will probably get tighter in the next few days as everyone eases into the routine of this particular theater. But I definitely enjoyed this far far FAR more than anything else I’ve taken Avi to see in the past year. His review was simple: “That was so awesome!”

Go see SHREK THE MUSICAL. It’s super fun, quite well crafted and honestly appealing to both you and your kids.

Just don’t forget your ogre ears.

Disclaimer: the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust provided me with four free tickets to use and four tickets to give away. But you knew that since I explained it up above. You can purchase tickets for SHREK THE MUSICAL here. The tour – part of PNC Broadway Across America – is in Pittsburgh from March 15-20, 2011.