Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Broadway!

We went to New York City this past weekend. Just Bryan, Julianne and me. A long-time-in-coming-somewhat-belated-sixteenth-birthday trip, that's what. I mean, Julianne turned 16 a good 2.5 months ago. But it's cold in the Big Apple in February, yes? Plus there was "Footloose" and out of town gymnastics meets, and madrigal tour to Seattle, and the big Easter cantata. None of which you've read anything about because I'm freakishly behind on blogging....but you will, oh you will.

Rebekah requested San Diego for her 16-year birthday trip. She wanted to plop her behind on the beach, soak up the sun and transform into a California beach babe for four days. Which she did, admirably. Julianne, my theatre geek, wanted to see a Broadway show. "Newsies," to be more specific. And if we had flown in, seen the show and taken a red-eye back home that very night, she would've been content. But if Rebekah gets four days on the beach, then surely Julianne can have four days in the city. And she was giddy when her Daddy told her that she could pick three Broadway shows to see rather than just the one. (I was giddy too...)

So we took a red-eye over this past Thursday night. I'm not sure how I feel about red-eyes. (The flights, not the actual physical ailment.) I rather loved that we got to NYC at 6:00 AM on Friday morning. We watched the sunrise from the airplane window and how nice was it to know that it was a new day and we were already there! But well, we were tired, of course. (I've discovered that all neck pillows are not created equal. Julianne's was too mushy, mine was to firm. Clearly I need to find a happy medium before my trip to Europe in June.) I slept on the plane. And I likely got more sleep than Bryan or Julianne did judging from the questions that Bryan asked later as to whether I had been at all aware of the beverage cart making the rounds and other such events. I remember none of it. But even if we had all slept completely solidly...it was only a four hour trip.

But guess what? Though check-in was not until 3:00 PM, the hotel put us in our room regardless and we went right to bed and slept till close to noon. So much for being in the city right as the day is starting....

There is much to see in New York City and we saw a lot. Well, only a minor fraction, really because...there is really just so much to see in New York City. But the main draw as I've already mentioned, was Broadway. So that very first night we saw "Wicked." (And by we, I mean Julianne and myself. Because Bryan doesn't really care about musical theatre so why spend a goodly amount of coin on a ticket for him? He claimed to be just as happy to sit in the hotel room and read a book. Plus, he's already seen "Wicked.") As the curtains opened and the music started, I leaned over and whispered, "Welcome to Broadway...." To which Julianne responded with a slight shove and an irritated "Shhh!!" She was already completely and totally focused on the stage. And truthfully, as fabulous as "Wicked" is (and somehow I think I was even more impressed with it on this, my second time seeing it) the very best part was watching Julianne's reaction. Which I did, frequently. She was completely engrossed...with a grin splitting her face from ear to ear. During intermission she overflowed with thoughts about costuming, sets, choreography, symbolism and character choices. And the more she talked, the more emotional she got...just overwhelmed I guess, with the sheer spectacle of the thing and immense gratitude maybe, about being there at all.

Our second show was a matinee of "The Fantasticks" on Saturday afternoon. It was an Off-Broadway production in an old and dinky little theatre. Such a different viewing experience from the night before. Simple and intimate. It had been recommended by a couple of friends from home and was well, simply fantastic! I was so hugely impressed with the production, the actors performing right there in front of us, almost like we were a part of the show with them. I'd heard of "The Fantasticks" before but didn't realize I was actually familiar with quite a bit of the music. Apparently "The Fantasticks" is the longest running show in the world. Humorous and silly as the show is, it still packed quite a thoughtful punch and has been spinning around my brain ever since.

And then, saving the best for last...if you can even compare the three shows we saw and declare one better than another, we saw "Newsies" on Saturday night. We are big fans of the 1992 movie and its soundtrack at our house. It came out when I was in college, and though it wasn't a huge hit at the time, it's had a strong cult following ever since. So apparently bringing "Newsies" to Broadway for a "limited engagement" a few years ago was for the fans. I remember hearing about "Newsies" coming to Broadway and sharing my half-baked plan with Bryan to run out to NYC just for 24 hours so I could see the show...that's how bad I wanted to see it. (Apparently Julianne and I think similarly.) But clearly my plan didn't come to fruition. And "Newsies" turned out to be a hit which turned their limited engagement run into a more permanent home on the Great White Way. We are grateful. Because we enjoyed "Newsies" tremendously. We had seats on the front row of the mezzanine...we couldn't have asked for better. And even with such killer seats, Julianne was so into the production that I found her sitting on the edge of her seat. The choreography was tremendous, simply mind blowing. And truth be told, when they actually started tap dancing in "King of New York" at the beginning of the second act, I actually cried. The actors would finish a particularly big number and strike a pose....and then hold it while the audience went nuts. Clapping, cheering, on and on for far longer than I'd ever seen done in any other show before. They'd hold their pose, breathing heavily with big smiles on their faces...holding, holding, holding...till finally the orchestra would just start up again because otherwise, who knows how long we'd keep cheering?

Other than "Newsies" it was hard choosing which shows to see...Broadway is just a smorgasbord of amazingness. We were swayed by Indina Menzel's new show "If/Then" and Sutton Foster's new "Violet." Laura Osnes had moved from "Cinderella" over to the "Three Penny Opera." Audra McDonald was doing a show about Billie Holiday. Heck, we could've even seen Neil Patrick Harris! But these three shows seemed to be the best fit for a first time trip to Broadway. My only regret is in wishing that we could've seen even more than three.

Up next...more out and about in the Big Apple.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Seattle

One of my favorite high school memories was Concert Choir tour during my senior year. We travelled by bus making a stop for a night in Arizona to sing, and then onto our main destination of Anaheim, California. We did multiple high school exchanges, sang at Disneyland, went to the beach and attended a performance of Phantom of the Opera. Considering Phantom had just come out a couple of years earlier, this was some serious awesome. Up to that point I had also never been to Disneyland, so to spend even just one day there (after performing) was pretty amazing. (Side note: A few years later Bryan took me to Disneyworld on our honeymoon because I was Disney deprived. How sweet is he?)

Rebekah was really excited when her choir teacher announced a Madrigal tour to Seattle, Washington. Ms. May was looking for a few parents to travel with them as chaperones. After clearing it with Rebekah first to make sure she was okay with her mom tagging along (luckily she thinks I'm cool) I volunteered myself.
















We left late at night so as to drive while we were all sleeping. But sleeping on a bus is difficult, at best. Even when you have a whole double seat to yourself seeing as you are an adult chaperone. Those poor choir kids who had to drape themselves all over each other to try and get comfortable....on second thought, maybe they didn't mind too much. Regardless, none of us got any meaningful sleep, but we arrived bright and bushy-tailed (or maybe just hopped up on adrenaline) for our first stop in Seattle....the Space Needle. And then on to Pikes Place Market. The two things Seattle is most famous for. Oh, and the gum wall. Why the gum wall even exists baffles me a little bit. It was equal parts disgusting and fascinating.

The pictures they are holding up are the faces of those Madrigals who weren't able to join them on the trip for one reason or another. Still along in spirit, I suppose...
Shelly was my fellow chaperone and hotel roomie. We explored Seattle together and became very good friends. Funny discovery...apparently her husband grew up in the same ward in Concord, California as my grandparents. Small world.

I can't even describe the awesomeness that is Pikes Place Market. Fresh flowers, fresh fish, fresh fruit....everywhere. Little pathways that wound all around leading to eccentric little shops. A store packed with vinyl records. A used bookstore where I couldn't quite tell if the owner was trying to flirt with me or was just really friendly. Terrific seafood restaurants with equally terrific views out the windows. And the most amazing store filled with maps! I bought one where the world is made up of tiny little music notes. I found it appropriate for a souvenir from a choir tour trip. I'm dying to go back.

We cruised through Elliott Bay twice while in Seattle. Once on a dinner cruise where we had the whole boat to ourselves. Dinner and then a dance party on the deck. The kids loved it.

















And then another little cruise to Tillicum Village on an island off Seattle with all the high schools that participated in the choral festival. We were happily surprised to have some Orcas come check us out on our way. The captain stopped the boat so we could all try and get a glimpse. It was pretty awesome. 

We had a rehearsal at this Baptist church. The stained glass windows were amazing. And the organist treated us to an impressive Bach number after our practice was done.

















One day we had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe...

 ....and then a visit to the Pacific Science Center.
There was a spy exhibit on display while we were there. I was especially excited to see an Enigma machine (that the Nazi's used during WWII) and a piece of the Berlin Wall. We also spent a huge amount of time in the butterfly house.





















Nolan was rather delighted when one of the butterflies decided to spend some one-on-one time with him....






















One evening we even were able to spend some non-rainy weather at the beach. No swimming, obviously...it was far too cold for that. But we let the kids loose to find some dinner on their own and explore the beach.

Two mainstays of Seattle....umbrellas and Starbucks. Did you know that there are 157 Starbucks within a 5 mile radius of Pikes Place Market? Starbucks did originate in Seattle, so maybe it makes sense. Their hot chocolate was much appreciated on the chilly and rainy afternoons.

I wish I had pictures of the kids singing at their festival. They were absolutely great and sang so beautifully...I was super impressed. Or the fun underground Seattle tour we took afterwards...It was fascinating to learn the history of the city. But somehow I lost those pictures. Sad face.

On our way home we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls for a picnic lunch. Such a majestic waterfall...pictures don't really do it justice. Why do I feel I must try all the same?
Ms. May, Shelly, Adriaan (our bus driver) and me enjoying our lunch. Only missing Nolan's parents who also chaperoned with us but decided (wisely) to avoid the long bus drive home and fly instead.

While we were there I found a bunch of kids all gathered around someone's iPhone where they were intently listening to General Conference that was happening that day in SLC. Impressive! I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them on tour....good kids, all. I'm so glad that Rebekah was okay with me joining in on all the tour fun!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Photo shoot at the Great Salt Lake

Lots of things to consider and make plans for when you have an upcoming high school graduating senior. One of those list items is graduation announcements. And though we had ordered the official and traditional Josten graduation announcements much earlier in the year, we needed pictures. So we turned to our very favorite photographer, Jon Woodbury....good friend and talented shutter-bug extraordinaire.

We decided on a day, time and place....and then watched as the weather decided to turn cold and windy. But Mother Nature stopped just short of rain so the shoot was still on. And really, those dark and ever-changing clouds in the background actually made for a neat backdrop...maybe making up for missing out on the sunset we were originally hoping for.

Originally Rebekah had been pining for Salt Flat shots. But those were quite a ways away and we were going to be short on time, so Jon suggested we meet at the Great Salt Lake, a location with a large variety of places to shoot, and even some that look Salt Flat-ish if we so desired. Rebekah was delighted, even if it ended up differently than what she had pictured.

It got pretty cold, pretty fast and along with that came freezing noses, toes and fingers. But Jon clearly has dealt with this before and had brought along hand warmers in his pack full of camera gear. Kind of hard to deal with little camera gadgets and gizmos when your fingers don't work. The wind picked up right at the end so we had to literally hold onto the light tripod so it didn't go blowing away like a kite...but Jon even cleverly worked the wind to his advantage to get some neat shots.
































I think we're in for some really great pictures and I can't wait to see them after Jon finishes editing. But while we all wait for the big reveal, here's a sneak peak of what we were doing that night...and some general silliness as we tried to keep warm.

Go visit Jon at
www.jonwoodburyphotography.com