Musical Review: Billy Elliot

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to see this production at the Des Moines Civic Center, now touring nationally. I went to the Saturday matinée where the lead role of Billy was played by Zach Manske and his amusing side-kickish friend Michael was played by Cameron Clifford. I mention the latter in particular (besides just the star) because that kid pretty much stole whatever scene he talked in.

I have a habit of seeing things without knowing what they are about (or as my Fifty Shades of Grey will attest, it’s not limited to the performing arts) and usually it works out rather well. This time was no exception (one exception could be made for August Rush…that was a major shock. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a musical that partially deals with mental illness, not too upbeat of a show). Things I learned:

  1. This place took place during Margaret Thatcher’s term as Prime Minister.
  2. One of the subplots (or happenings) is the miners strike (which actually took place – and was the nation’s longest).
  3. The play was loosely based on the life of Peter O’Brien
  4. Puff might be a synonym for pansy
  5. Giant puppets of Margaret Thatcher (a grotesque version – obviously) are creepy

I was very impressed with this kid (well teenager a suppose if you want to be technical) who had the tremendous task of carrying a production of such scale. This was a huge ensemble production, but if you don’t like the title character/main character it certainly makes things trickier, I would imagine. (I did see a performance last year where I couldn’t stand the main character’s singing voice. It made it hard to stay engaged when whenever she opened her mouth I would disconnect thinking, “Why on earth would she sing that way?”) This show, obviously, was dance heavy and it was odd when I realized some of the songs listed in the program were purely danced through, no singing. I have the habit of counting how many songs are in each act so I can judge how close we’re getting to the end. The dancing only messed me up, but I also lost count because I was just so absorbed by all the movement and such on-screen. It was also weird, for me, that the main character only had one or two solo songs. Unlike Legally Blonde, for example, which there are several. This production just was a bit different from anything I’ve seen in the past, and it makes me wonder why. Is it because it’s dance heavy? Or child actor heavy? Whatever the reason it was quite refreshing.

I should preface this next comment with that things have been making me easily cry for a while now (apparently I’m repressing something so I cry at random things) but I did get choked up when Billy was reading both the letter from and to his mother. I don’t know why, granted it was touching, but it was just kind of sad I suppose. Anyway, I liked how subtle it was, the scenes with his mom. You were able to tell him imagining her there – oh and at the end when he asked if he’d be seeing her again and she replied ‘what do you think’ and in return he said ‘i suppose not’. (Roughly, it was a few days ago – but that was the sentiment). Such a simple moment, but with such huge implications. Like he’s off on his way to grow up and can’t continue to have day dreams about his mother despite the fact he’ll carry her with him. Just very well done.

Now a quick praise of the character Michael. I loved him, and the kid that played him was AMAZING! The first big scene with this kid has Billy going over to talk to him about ballet. Michael talks about Billy perhaps being a puff all while wearing a dress. Brilliant. Than he makes Billy dress up too “It’s fine to do it, my dad does all the time” – gold. Like I said, every scene where he had bits of dialogue, usually with Billy, he stole the scene. He was Billy’s opposite I suppose. Michael is such a bright ball of…something that offset Billy’s serious/difficult nature. Billy’s dealing with his mother’s death, not wanting to be a normal kid and box, his desire to do ballet, his dad and brother being on strike, letting his ballet teacher down and not being ‘himself’ – which is one of the things his mom tells him to do in her letter to him. Where as Michael can just run around wearing skirts (in private) and box, even though he usually hides/slacks off from the teacher. A pleasing balance in a childhood friendship.

So all in all, I enjoyed this musical and would recommend it. So until next time ~ Q

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Quick Post: Chicken Stuffed Shells part deux – leftover

To report on how well this dish meets my rules on being good or not (how it is originally, left over and cold) it passes with flying colors! While waiting for the leftovers to heat up I snitched some from the container and was pleased it was still tasty. Although it is pretty hard to mess up cheese. So yeah, I will officially be making this again. Until next time ~ Q

Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss vs Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Comparing A Study in Scarlet and A Study in Pink

So since I apparently can’t have enough posts on the subject I have one last thing for now. While I was reading the book I kept running into similarities in the show Sherlock. I figured since the book was fresh (and I just watched Sherlock while writing this) I’d do it now. So I whipped up a venn diagram comparing the two. As a designer I probably should have made it look, well designed, but I feel I’ve already spent to much time on it. There’s lots of writing so you should click on the image if you want to see it clearly. Also I’m positive there are more things that could be added to all lists, but like I said, too much time. Hope you enjoy, until next time~Q.

*Update* thanks to rozzychan for reminding me that in the ending bit of dialouge between Sherlock & Watson in Moffat’s recreation they chat about him being hurt in the shoulder as well. The diagram has been fixed to reflect this.

Quick Post: Chicken Stuffed Shells

Apparently Wednesdays are my days to decide I can whip up food without the rules a recipe provides. That’s what I did again and it turned out all right (upon first eating – we’ll see about leftovers). Anywho the other night I was feeling like having something more complex then steam cooked frozen veggies so I scoured my cabinets and found giant shells. Upon further investigation I also found cheese, ricotta, chicken, and sauce. So while the shells were cooking I threw the other in a bowl, added some basil and PRESTO (not pesto) I have the stuffing for giant shells. I can’t quite recall the exact measurements but I think I used a cup of ricotta, half a cup of both mozzarella and italian cheeses, a few dashes of parmesan, a dash of basil, and a can of precooked chicken. Not the most organic, but it was pretty tasty. I stuffed the shells until I ran out then cut up the few remaining shells and sprinkled them on top of the other shells in addition to adding more of the mozzarella and italian cheese. After baking it in the oven (for either half an hour or an hour – I can’t recall which, the side of the pasta box had a different recipe but I followed it’s baking time and it worked out) it came out marvelously and now I have leftovers for several nights (I’ll be eating this well into next week I imagine). This experiment in cooking turned out well, so I don’t mind so many leftovers. I’ll close with a picture of my first meal with the Chicken Stuffed Noodles. Until next time ~ Q

Book Review: A Study in Scarlet

So I finally have finished one of my summer reading books. I realized, after making my list, that I’d have to finish a book a week…which usually wouldn’t be a problem. I’ve done it in the past, but apparently I’ve gotten busier or something because its been tricky. However that is neither here nor there. On to the book.

I just finished A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I enjoyed this story, although I was thoroughly confused as to the second half of the book. It seemed to crop out of no where. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone so as fair warning SPOILERS AHEAD. The first half introduces us to the odd man that is Sherlock Holmes and a returning war veteran Dr. John Watson. Watson observes Holmes’ various acquaintances and is with him when he is summoned to a crime scene. There they discover a dead man whose face is contoured in anguishing fear. Sherlock methodically scours the scene, both the immediate area as well as out side. Then he quips off some facts that no one else as gleaned. Such as the murderer’s tall and sturdy frame and that they knew one another. Sherlock, after sharing some conclusions with Detectives Lestrade on Gregson heads out to conduct some of his own inquires. After a scene with a woman’s wedding band and a second murder both detectives are back in Homes’ flat. There, after a short while, Holmes’ delivers the murder – much to everyone’s surprise (the murder included).

Then the story shifts to several years before and across the ocean. The narrative picks up in John Ferrier’s point of view as he and a little girl, near death, are found in the Nevada dessert by passing Mormons who are on their way to the promise land. The story gets kind of odd after that, dealing with the Mormon lifestyle and beliefs. Long summary turned short, the girl was adopted by Ferrier and was the prize of all Salt Lake City. Ferrier promised her to Jefferson Hope whom the girl had fallen in love with. The leader of the town didn’t like that and decided that Ferrier had to either give her to his son or another Elder’s son. Ferrier is murdered while he, the girl, and Hope try to flee and the girl is brought back to Salt Lake. She died a month later, from despair. Hope vows then and there to seek vengeance again both of the sons. (One married the girl and the other killed Ferrier.) Of course the two murdered men were the sons. Then the story jumps back to London and ‘present’ time (Sherlock’s time that is) where Hope fills everyone in on what happened after he left Utah. That very night, after being brought to custody Hope dies of an aneurism.Then Watson and Holmes are chatting and he explains analytical thinking versus narrative thinking. Which, seemingly, is his secret. END SPOILERS

Over all I enjoyed the story. The one part that was tricky was the part that took place in Utah. I don’t know enough about Mormon culture to fully understand those parts. I got the gist though, but since I didn’t get it I wish that part of the book  would have been wrapped up quicker than it was, but it was still good. And the deductive bits, by all three detectives were so enjoyable it was worth wading through the Utah chapters. I think what I didn’t like was I had a sinking feeling for Ferrier and his daughter. I knew something bad was going to happen, if two murders were the result years later, how could it end happily? Yet I found myself rooting for Lucy (the daughter) and Jefferson to somehow end up together. My silly romantic side once again giving me false hope for a happy ending. When a person achieving his revenge is the happy ending you know you’re not reading a comedy. However a great beginning to the legend that is Holmes and Watson.

I enjoyed how he somewhat ended it with Watson telling Holmes that he would write Holmes’ story down so that everyone would know that it was he, not Lestrade and Gregson, who was the brilliant one. Holmes’ doesn’t seem to care though, he doesn’t want the publicity, even if he does comment that the others steal the limelight all the time. I guess part of him wants recognition, but not necessarily form the public though. I think he just wants the detectives themselves to not falsly take his credit.

Anyway the story ends with a Latin (or Roman) phrase: “Populus me sibilat, at mihi plaudo Ipse domi simul ac nummos contemplar in arca.” When I googled it I discovered it was from Horace, Book 1, Satire 1 and translated to “The public hisses at me, but I applaud myself in my own house, and simultaneously contemplate the money in my chest.”
I take that to mean it doesn’t matter what the public thinks, for I will be proud of my own accomplishments and think about the things I have done within myself. A nice sentiment. So overall, a good story, and I’ll be working my way through Doyle’s other works too, I’m sure.

Anyway, until next time~Q

Movie Review: Underworld Awakening

So something felt off with the fourth installment of the Underworld series. I think it was some of the all of a sudden trust. Selene, a character who has been betrayed and hunted so much has to have trust issues. The only one she has been able to trust, apparently, is Michael and now he’s out of the picture so logic might suggest she would then trust no one. Especially after finding out she’s been on ice for the last twelve years. So understandably the first thing she wants to do is find Subject 2, who she is under the impression is Michael. WRONG – surprise you had a daughter. Now understandably, despite just finding out she has an eleven-ish year old daughter, Selene feels the need to protect her.

What makes Selene trust David so quickly? The fact that he is a vampire. Vampire’s have been betraying her all of her immortal existence, but since he does end up being a good guy I suppose I’m over it. Just seems weird, but he did come back in the end, proving her trust wasn’t misplaced.   The other random trust relationship was the one with the cop. Apparently him confessing he knows she can kill him quickly if necessary shows that he understands her? Likewise he stands by her when no one else is while she retrieves her daughter, but it could have gone sideways so easily.

One thing that stuck with me about this movie was how freaky Eve (the daughter) looked when she transformed. Giant bug eyes, creepy moving. I can’t even describe, but when I think back on the movie that’s one of the first things I recall. I’m reading a book right now (Uglies) and they talk about how all these people have surgery to get big doe eyes. In the book they say that biology dictates that people feel the need to protect others who seem vulnerable (and doe eyes help that cause). Bring this full circle, Eve’s giant eyes make me think that’s what the people in the book look like. There is something about the kid that makes you want to help her. Perhaps its her false helplessness. I did enjoy the twist in the end when they had started with ‘Subject 0’ – those tricky scientists. Also that was a very tricky conspiracy with the lycans. I did not see that twist coming, which was pretty great.

I don’t know if I’d watch it again or not, but I can think of other movies I’d dislike re-watching more, and it is enjoyable to see Beckinsale kick serious tail. Seriously, the grenade to the gut that can’t be taken out (like in Pirates of the Caribbean) is always enjoyable. Until next time~Q

Quick Post: Veggie Omelette

I swear I always buy eggs thinking I wont wait until the expiration is two days away to start eating them. Low and behold here we are again. I suppose if I would actually meal plan, like I always intend to, that wouldn’t be a problem. Anyway, breakfast today was a veggie omelette. I don’t really keep tons of fresh veggies in the house, they go bad before I can eat them all. Two things I do keep are baby carrots and onion. So it was really a cheese-onion-carrot omelette and it was quite tasty.

I think this is my first successful omelette I’ve made since I took beginning foods as a freshmen in high school, ten years ago, wow. I can’t believe it was that long ago-yikes. Usually I end up breaking the omelette so then I just make scrambled eggs instead. Anyway, it was good and I’ll make it again, I’m sure. Super thrilling I know, but I realized I hadn’t included any cooking posts in a long time and can’t the picture speak for itself anyway? So until next time~Q.