Monday, November 28, 2011

"Sir I want to buy these shoes, for my mamma please..."

I hate that song. I hate it so much that I try to listen to it every year just to see if I can make it through the first damn verse without crying. I never do, and I always seem to be totally depressed afterwards...

For about two minutes.

Then I realize that the whole reason I am the way I am, the way I will never act my age at Christmas, and the way I still never get tired of watching Rudolph, is because of my mom. My mother was so full of the Holiday spirit I thought sometimes she would just about bust from sheer joy; it was a joy that she not only passed on to her children, but I think it was very infectious and everyone who came in contact with her always seemed to have a little more holiday spirit than they did prior to talking to her. From November first, to January second my mom was in full blown holiday mode. Thanksgiving had a fair time in the spotlight, she dared us to play any music before black Friday; I know now that she was showing us it is important to give thanks before we embark on the journey of gift giving and receiving. My mother was the perfect example of what it meant to be in the holiday spirit, and what it means to give and be thankful.

That first Christmas without her was one that I would give anything to forget; the way my dad was trying so hard to make it special even though there was a void there that seemed to swallow us in a dark wave of sorrow, or the way everyone was painstakingly trying not to bring her was terrible and I thought I would never get that spirit back again, that it was gone forever like my mother. Then the second Christmas came, followed by the third and the fourth; slowly but surely, as it always does, time began to ease the pain and fill that seemingly endless void of sorrow. Stubbornly, I held on to my void; I thought that if I did let go I would forget her, I would forget everything that I continued to let my wounds fester. I was just angry. I was angry and confused, but most of all there was still that fourteen year old girl inside of me that cried out for someone or something to take the pain away, to just let me see my mom one more goddamn time.

Then one day, I'm not sure when nor what just clicked. I finally saw that I was being stubborn and I was stuck on pause trying to hit the rewind button. If my mother were here, she would reem me out for being so a matter of fact I can almost hear her doing that (and still can occasionally when I screw up), and know exactly what she would say:
"Lauren Ellen Wilson! Now you know better than that! I taught you better than that, you stop being so hard headed! It's Christmas, and you know how special this is for me and for you. Don't make me take you to the bathroom..."

That last phrase was probably the most terrifying phrase my mother could ever utter...


I'm not saying that things are all fine and dandy around the Holidays, that ever present void is still there...but it is not consuming. Its just that tiny little pang of heartache every now and then when I open the box of decorations and see her favourite ornaments or Rudolph comes on and she's not here to hold me because the stupid Yeti scares me. Or how she encouraged me to believe in Santa Clause until I was almost twelve years old, despite the crap I took from my peers.
The most painful part for me is when everyone goes to bed and the house is dark and quiet, the only noise comes from the owls outside or the quiet murmur of our motion ornaments. It's in those moments, when I'm lying in my bed and my room has that ethereal red glow from my lights that I am swept back into the past; its like a movie in my head that plays from my earliest Christmas memories, its so real I can even remember how her clothes smelled like fresh baked bread that mingled with her perfume, or how she would help me style my hair and I can feel the gentle strokes of the brush as she ran it through my hair. Its then that I'll allow myself to grieve, to cry and to allow the longing that I have for her to really show. In those quiet nights, I am at my most vulnerable.

Then the sun rises, and I am greeted by its warmth. It is a new day, one day closer to Christmas; not only that but I am not alone, I have my family (friends are included in that statement), I have a safe place to call home, I am loved, I am a recipient of a bountiful harvest and I am still here. I have no reason to be sad then, it is because of my mother that I realize this, it is because of her that I have an overwhelming love for the holiday season. I feel her presence everywhere, especially around this time of year, it was always there; I just never allowed myself to be open to it until a few years ago.

So to you dear reader I offer this:
Yes the holiday season is doomed to be commercialized. Yes there will always be that one miserable son of a bitch that tries to completely suck every ounce of holiday spirit out of you like a leech. And yes you will probably get a fruitcake, an ugly holiday sweater, have to deal with that one relative that you wish would disappear, and you won't get what you want.

But, to the commercialization and the Scrooges say "Happy Holidays" anyway, say thank you to the fruitcake and the sweater, welcome your dysfunctional relative with open arms, and realize that there's always next year.

There are so many wonderful things about the holidays dear reader, but remember that you are wonderful. You are a divine, beautiful being with a soul and a heart; you have the ability to feel complex and beautiful emotions. Somewhere in your life, there is someone that loves you, someone who cares for you. Remember all of these things my friends, I know it sounds really sappy and cliche....but I truly believe all of this.

If it hadn't been for my mom I wouldn't have known any of this, and for that I am truly grateful. Its the best gift I could've ever received from her.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Too many Mornings

I didn't think my previous post did any justice to the spectacular production of Follies that I saw last weekend. Wow, was it really only a week ago? Holy crap...


I just wanted to talk about a few things that I liked about the show; now I realized that not everyone reading this is as into theatre as I am, so no worries I will provide you with a brief synopsis courtesy of the official site:
Past and present, dreams and reality collide for one triumphant, haunting and unforgettable night when former members of the "Weismann's Follies" reunite on the eve of their theater's demolition. Two couples remember their glorious past and face the harsher realities of the present as the shadows of their younger selves remind them of the complicated steps they've danced—both on the stage and throughout their lives.

Basically two couples meet in a dilapidated theatre, take a not so jolly trip down memory lane and the shit hits the fan.

The title alone should give you a clue that this is more than just a show about a theatre being torn down, it has a much deeper, more haunting meaning: the follies of human beings. The ambiance of the set was truly wonderful, when you first sit down in the theatre you really feel like you're sitting in a run-down, moldy, enigmatic theatre that is about to be torn down. I definitely give a huge round of applause to the amazing creative team, because they truly did a wonderful job in creating that world. The staging was just a dream, there was always a glamourous "Weismann girl" in the shadows to remind the audience of the greatness this particular theatre once held. I think it was some of the best staging I've seen in a long time.

Another thing that was very enjoyable for me was the way that the show flowed, because the premise of the story is entirely based on the different characters' memories, it was very fragmented. For me, that was the beautiful thing about it because our minds, especially when it comes to memories, are not consistent all the time; there are times when we remember things and they are not in chronological order, for most people they're fragmented and in bits and pieces, leaving us to put them together like a puzzle. The music was woven seamlessly into the show, Sondheim's genius really shines in this because the music is just as fragmented; each song is a display of the raw emotion the character is feeling, there is no other way for them to get that feeling across except through song. It truly was wonderful.

As you've probably already seen from the links posted, Bernadette Peters is starring as Sally Durant Plummer. If you don't know who Bernadette Peters is, I suggest you click here and here....quickly read before I come find you. This is the second time I've seen her live, and to be honest I wasn't impressed the first time because I preferred her predecessor in A Little Night Music. Not hatin' I just didn't think she was right for the part. I was very, very pleased with her performance as Sally. She breathed a sense of fragility and longing into Sally, portraying her as a woman who is on the end of her rope, a woman that longs for a second chance so she can have the life she dreamed of. Sally is a character that really, really, REALLY got on my nerves...but I also pitied her immensely, even if she had a few bats in her belfry. Bernadette Peters is a legend for a reason, someone didn't just say "Oh lets slap the Legend sticker on her!" No, she earned it through her pipes and talent as an actress; this show also showcased that she can still dance too. I consider myself very lucky, and am very humbled by the fact that this is the second time I've seen her live; I'm also very happy that I got to share it with someone who had never seen her before.

Jan Maxwell....oh let me count the ways. I had never seen her live before, and knew very little about her except that she was awesome. People don't get nominated four times for a Tony just by being mediocre unless you're sleeping with or blackmailing someone in the Wing. Jan Maxwell's performance was absolutely phenomenal. She was such a commanding presence, the character of Phyllis Rogers Stone just came so naturally to her. Did I mention that she was HIT BY A CAR like a few weeks earlier? You wouldn't have known it by the way she was performing, she simply blew me away. Do yourself a favor and see what I mean.

This musical really reminded me why I'm such a fan of Sondheim, why I have no trouble going to see a Sondheim musical that I know nothing about, because usually it's a musical that speaks to human nature. Sondheim's lyrics and music are a roadmap of the human mind and spirit, each lyric is something that everyone has felt or known someone to feel. This musical wasn't any different, on the way home my friend even said "I've had one of those moments." I too have sometimes felt the way Phyllis has felt, or even (God help me) the way Sally felt; if I didn't truly know what it was to feel that way, I definitely know someone who has.

That's the beauty of the theatre, it shows other human beings what it means to be a human being.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hello Little Dream, Hello.

"I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being." - Oscar Wilde

I should be doing the immense amount of work that I've shamelessly procrastinated doing. But I was so overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions that I just had to get this down, besides I've been in school this long...whats a few more semesters?

I think that it is quite obvious that I love New York, and I've gushed several times about shows and the things I do when I am in the one place that I can truly disappear from the world; for a few days I don't have to worry about anything because I'm too far away to do a damn thing about it. Irresponsible? Perhaps, but I find a little irresponsibility now and then saves sanity in a world that can be terribly suffocating with all of its responsibility.

But I digress...

As always this weekend in New York was magical, and I think what makes each visit more magical (and more addicting) than the other is the obvious: the amazing people that I get to share this experience with. The gang was all together again and we had a new member to add to our merry troupe. It was such an amazing thing to finally be able to share this other world with someone from my everyday life, to be able to allow them into this other life that I escape to when my provincial one becomes too suffocating; to watch them fit like a glove to my world and the people in it makes me so happy I could cry. Call me over-dramatic, and maybe I am (I did want to be an actress...and part of my soul still yearns for that life) but I don't think anyone could possibly understand unless they were that exceptional person I allowed in, or they spent a week in my shoes; and I thank those who don't try to understand.

I was able to show her what makes this city amazing to me, my tips and tricks for seeing up to 4 shows in a weekend, the little holes in the walls with their wonderful gems, and the organized chaos that comes with rolling the dice and taking chances. We couldn't see the show we picked for our evening matinee, so we kept searching until we found one. You'd think that she'd been doing this all her life, by the second hour she was a pro; I wondered why I hadn't asked her to come with me before. Naturally the gang was warm and welcoming, I was so happy that she got to see why I adore them so much and why I need them in my life. I was finally able to give someone the looking glass and have them see into my own little world, and have someone know why I sometimes run to it so often. It was truly a beautiful weekend.

Now on to the shows:
I should just go ahead and face the music now: I saw Anything Goes this weekend with Stephanie J. Block and will be seeing it again next month with Sutton Foster thanks to my amazing sister. So I am sorry for lying to you Lindsey. Please don't tear up the tickets.

Besides Anything Goes, I also saw Follies and Memphis (for a second time) and was able to share another institution with her: the theatre. I was very surprised when we arrived at the Marquis to see that they still had student rush for Follies because it did have the legendary Bernadette Peters and Elaine Paige, not to mention the superb Jan Maxwell (who had just been HIT BY A CAR while crossing the street like TWO FREAKING WEEKS AGO), and Danny Burnstien. I had heard the music before and owned the soundtrack (the kicker was Marin Mazzie singing "Loosing My Mind" at Stephen Sondheim's birthday concert, hang on to your hats kids, this dame is amazing) and really didn't care for it that much, but after seeing the show I realized that it made much more sense.

Memphis was the reason (and a damn good one) we didn't get rush tickets to Bonnie and Clyde, see there's this little modern day legend called Adam Pascal whose currently starring in it as the role of Huey. I thought he did a fantastic job, and naturally sounded amazing with Montego. It's always good to see a show at least twice with two different casts or minor cast changes to the leads because 1.) it's almost like seeing a different show and 2.) if you're the kind that likes to see different interpretations that's the way to go. I mean there was a guy that literally saw every performance of Rent on Broadway...that's going a little too far in my book but whatever floats your boat pal...

Anything Goes was just...I mean that's what all my feelings are about right now. Sutton Foster is currently out because she's filming a TV pilot, but that's not the real star of the story: the real star is the magnificent, amazing and just damn good Stephanie J. Block. If you know anything about me, or if you're one of my many dedicated know how I feel about Steph, and when the opportunity came to see her in a Cole Porter musical I would be a terrible fan to pass it up (besides, seeing it with Sutton in December will be like a whole new show). Stephanie is a very natural and instinctive actress, she just knows what to do without being over-dramatic or looking like she's trying; she's that way with her singing too (mad, MAD props to her vocal coach) she just has this voice that flows and you're swept away on a sea of melody, vibrato, harmonies and belts. Her dancing...I I was simply speechless during that AMAZING, FANTASTIC, MIND-BLOWING tap number at the end of Act I. To make this even more spectacular is the fact that Steph only had TWO FREAKING WEEKS to learn that entire show. Its no wonder she's going straight home after most shows, I can't imagine how tired she must be. She performed Reno Sweeney the way Barbara Stanwyck would, I swear she even had the Stanwyck saunter down pat. Last time I saw her was at Vera Stark and we established that classic film is amazing, so that's why I went off on a Stany tangent, no apologies.

I would go on more about the show but I think I've procrastinated enough and I should probably get on the ball here. Thank you dear reader for putting up with this word vomit, and for just reading.

If I could sum up this weekend in just one phrase, I would use the phrase that Lord Evelyn Oakleigh used when talking to Moonface Martin: "You give me hot pants."

But in all seriousness, I think another one of my little dreams came true this weekend, and I am eternally grateful for it.