Into the Woods: Advanced Screening Review

Broadway, Reviews

**NOTE: If you don’t want to know anything about the movie, do not keep reading. If you have no idea what Into the Woods is, watch the trailer below.**

Plot Summary: Into the Woods is the re-imagined look at fairy tales. Where Disney, Grimm, and the original meet. A Baker and his wife wish to have a child but find that they are  cursed by their neighbor, the Witch. In order to undo the curse, they must find 4 objects: a cape as red as blood, hair the color of corn, cow as white as milk, and a slipper as pure as gold. The Baker and wife come across Cinderella, Jack (and the Beanstalk), Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel who all posses the things they need, but are wishing for their own change of fates. However, the magical beans get in the way of their plans as giants are invited into the kingdom. As they enter Into the Woods they find their path’s cross as they learn about the consequences of wishes, responsibility, and the legacy we leave our children.

Review (no spoilers):  Star studded casts in movie musicals usually scare me, but this cast pulled off Sondheim. James Corden (the baker) and Emily Blunt (the wife) had the perfect amount of heart and affability mixed with the desperate desire to have a child. They also brought the comedic side that this version wanted to pull off. They were joined by Meryl Streep (the Witch),  Anna Kendrick (Cinderella), and Chris Pine (Prince Charming). All my friends were surprised Kendrick could sing that well (then I told them she was a Broadway kid) and Pine could sing at all (I was too). Perhaps the funniest moment of the movie was Pine and Rapunzel’s Prince singing “Agony”. I didn’t know Pine could be so dramatic, the whole theater was laughing and secretly wishing he was singing about them. Streep’s voice is much better suited for this type of role than her previous movie musical foray in Mama Mia. We all know she can act the hell out of anything, but she can even sing Sondheim. Even the youngest of the cast, Little Red (Lilla Crawford, Annie on Broadway) and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone, Les Miz the Movie) were flawless actors and singers. Both a little naive, but full of passion. The pacing near the end began to wane and it gets a little long. Due to the fact they had to shorten a 3 hour show, the end jumps a bit, one thing after another happens without much time to process. However, I think musical theater lovers will still appreciate this film, Disney didn’t completely take away the darker aspects. New audiences will be singing as they leave the theater and still pinning after Pine.

I was lucky to see an advanced screening with friends. I refrain from divulging too much information but feel free to ask questions about the movie! — J

On Broadway: What Musicals You Need to See NOW

Broadway, Travel

What would a Seattlite know about Broadway? They only know about coffee, rain, and the tech industry. About two years ago, I would have been one of those people but three trips to NYC and the discovery of Broadway blogs later, I am hooked. Now people come to me when they are heading to NYC to hear about what shows they should see. I realized instead of keeping all this to myself, I should share it with all of you! I will stick to my wheelhouse and only cover the musicals currently on the Great White Way (Dec 2014). So, let’s start with the shows you need to see NOW!

hedwig beautiful ifthen

1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
I have to be honest, I bought tickets to the show without knowing anything about it. This was when Neil Patrick Harris was first announced as being in the production. When I saw his publicity photos with all the glitter, I called my friend ASAP and got us tickets to see it during our upcoming trip to NYC.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a raucous musical comedy that tells the story of a fictional rock ‘n’ roll band, fronted by Hedwig, a transgender woman and “internationally ignored song stylist” from East Berlin.

The story-telling and music in this production is like nothing that has been on Broadway before. It is fresh, energized, and funny as hell. Since NPH’s tony winning run, Andrew Rannels has taken on the role, and currently Michael C. Hall is taking a whack at Hedwig. On January 21st, the original Hedwig from the Off-Broadway production, John Cameron Mitchell (who also wrote the book) will hit the stage! Also, check out Lena Hall’s Tony-winning performance as Yitzhak. Her voice is out of this world.

2. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

I had heard nothing but great things about Beautiful online so when I booked a trip with my sister to NYC for my birthday, I chose Beautiful as the show to see. This was also my sister’s first Broadway show and I was scared it was going to be her last.

Beautiful tells the inspiring true story of Carole King, from her early days as a Brooklyn teenager (named Carol Klein) struggling to enter the record business to her years spent as a chart-topping music legend.

Luckily, my sister loved it. What is so great about this show is that we realized that we were raised on King’s music without even knowing it! It is one of those shows where nothing could have been done better. The music makes you tap your feet in your seat and you are literally up on your feet dancing during the outro. You need to see Jessie Mueller’s Tony-winning performance before she exits the show on March 6, 2015. Highly recommend bringing your parents and grandparents to this one, but anyone will love it!

3. If/Then

These days, every book is made into a movie, every movie into a musical, and vice versa. It is very rare to find completely new original work on Broadway, but right now there is If/Then. With powerhouse Idina Menzel as the leading lady, this musical ponders the choices we make in life and how it shapes our journey.

If/Then is a contemporary new musical that follows two distinct storylines in the life of Elizabeth, a city planner who moves back to New York to restart her life in this city of infinite possibilities. When her carefully designed plans collide with the whims of fate, Elizabeth’s life splits into two parallel paths. If/Then follows both stories simultaneously as this modern woman faces the intersection of choice and chance.

The simple set design allowed us to focus on the relationships and the emotion. You really don’t need anything more than Idina Menzel singing on the stage by herself. I actually stood up clapping by myself as she sustained her last, powerful note– something I have never done before. However, Idina isn’t the only amazing performance. The fairly newcomer, James Snyder, is SO charming. Idina’s old Rent pal, Anthony Rapp, once again enters a complicated relationship with Idina’s character. Tony award winner, LaChanze, is so powerful, as well as her love interest, Jenn Collela. You need to see it before Idina gets even more famous on her world tour starting this summer.

These are just three of many amazing musicals currently on Broadway. I’ll make sure to punch out a few more of these lists in the coming weeks, but feel free to ask any questions about shows until then! — J

Gender Norms in Dance

Dance, Gender

Let’s talk about gender roles in dance.

All styles of dance have traditional gender norms. Ballet showcases the women, while the men in ballet have been teasingly called the “tote and carry,” just there to lift. Social dances have the men leading the women, while once again showcasing the women and making sure they look good. Nowadays, the contemporary styles have begun to stray from the norm and have challenged the status-quo of the older styles. For example, Fosse had his male and female ensemble members dance the same choreography with the same stylistic intentions. Look at this video of dancers from Chicago doing All That Jazz and see how every person on stage was dancing exactly the same.

Seeing this change has helped me start to think about and challenge gender norms in dance. But an important lesson while teaching has made me think differently.

A few summers back I was teaching introductory ballet and tap combo classes for 4 to 7 year olds. One week it was Prince and Princess themed. The boys were given capes and crowns, the girls were given wands and tiaras. The boys were marching, the girls were skipping. The boys were bowing, the girls were curtsying. Nothing was out of the ordinary.

Before class the next day, the mother of one of the boys came up to me. She said that her son was torn up after class the day before because he wanted to wear a tiara but was too embarrassed to ask. He was experiencing confusion around what was expected of him and what felt normal. I was dumbfounded. I had never once considered this as something one of my students would be battling.

Now I teach all my young students how to march, skip, bow, and curtsy. If we dress up, I encourage mixing and matching, even dressing up myself to make others feel more comfortable with it. I want to encourage dancers to become their best selves.

However, you have to take all of these things with a grain of salt. If you want to dance in classical ballets, you will have to learn to embrace those typical roles. If you want to dance in Chicago on Broadway, you will have to learn to let go of your preconceived notions of what your gender should dance like and learn Fosse’s style.

I don’t see these norms changing anytime soon, but as teachers we should prepare students for anything. — J