Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sound of Music, Civic Theatre - 12/1/13

A seat in the first row balcony provides an entirely new perspective of this beautiful theatre, which was packed with families this afternoon. But seeing a version of the original stage play also made this an unsettling performance.

We all know the movie, the songs, and in which scenes the songs are performed. This started right off with “My Favorite Things” in the Abbey, when we all know that’s the song sung “during the storm” scene. The play gave us “The Lonely Goatherd” during the storm instead.

There’s no “I Have Confidence” but there are three additional songs unknown to movie audiences, “How Can Love Survive,” “No Way To Stop It,” and “An Ordinary Couple.” The love story plot is changed and the end result remains the same but without “I Must Have Done Something Good.” Rolf is not a snitch in this play but was in the movie - major change-up.

So other than these shakeups, the production was quite effective, complete with singing nuns dispersed throughout the theatre for the opening number. Maria mis-stepped slightly while climbing her stage hill for her “The Hills Are Alive” and the choreography during the song was clumsy. Her voice went slightly sharp or flat on several numbers and she doesn’t have near the octave range of Julie Andrews (maybe Mother Abbess) but then who does?

Spot on was Mother Abbess, Darla Wortley. Looking up her bio information in the program during intermission, I found she is a member of the Opera Grand Rapids chorus; her voice was so controlled and stunning, and with a huge range. She blew the house away with her rendition of “Climb Every Mountain.”

Max Detweiler (Andrew Schneider) was hilarious and the children were all good to great. Rolf and Liesl (Joshua Regan and Lydia Blickley) were sweet in their “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” number and had obvious ballet training.  When the children sang together, the harmonies were beautiful and mesmerizing. All in all, the cast was a wonderful ensemble.

The second to the last scene, when the Von Trapp family is performing at the festival while planning their escape, came complete with Nazi banners rolled out and soldiers placed strategically throughout the theatre, including up in the lights (middle section in photo). It was a little eerie.

What’s left to say other than either due to the balcony acoustics or the attendees, I heard candy paper rustling and audience whispering the entire time. My seat was a little too far right but all in all, first row balcony is pretty sweet seating. Cheers to live theater!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Wine, Beer & Food Festival - November 21-23, 2013

Friday night was our first foray to the festival and like last year, it was packed. Our first hurdle was getting through the coat check process. Two women were manning the station and were so incredibly slow that it was hilarious. The line snaked across the hall and it seemed like 10 minutes went by between a woman taking our coats and coming back with our tickets.  On Saturday there were additional faster-moving personnel (photo).
But we finally picked up our wine glasses and started working our way through the hall. We had an hour to spend before we would sit down for our reserved Tre Cugini Wine & Food Pairing.
It was time to sit for dinner and after a seating snafu with people who didn't read their ticket time/date quite right, we settled in for a lovely time. The owner introduced the wines and the executive chef, the food.
Our first course was ravioli filled with goat, ricotta, and parmesan cheeses, brushed with butter and sage, served over a light tomato sauce. It was exquisite, and remembering the tomato sauce still makes my mouth water. It was paired with a sparkling Villa Tavernago Ortrugo "Podere Visconti."
The main course was braised wild boar stew in red wine, thyme, and sage, served over polenta, and paired with Grifalco Aglianico del Vulture "Gricos." It was just ok as we preferred the wine and not the slightly gamey stew.
Our last course was dessert, a delicious napoleon puff pastry layered with whipped cream and fresh Michigan strawberries (we all laughed at the "fresh Michigan" strawberries at this time of year :-) ) It was lovely to behold and was paired with a dessert wine, Merk Verduzzo (2008 Venezia-Giulia, Friuli).
When we originally parked, we discovered we could park in the city reserved spots, and when I returned on Saturday, I did the same thing.
There was an entire Beer Loft to discover ~
 What is PBR doing here?
Other miscellaneous food and beverage photos ~
Finally the miscellaneous vendors hawking their wares ~
I should have moved this blanked-faced model slightly to the left to fill the sleeve :-)
Cheers to this festival and to great eating and drinking in Grand Rapids!!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Lyle Lovett at Meijer Gardens - 8/24/13

The best and the worst of the evening ~
Lyle and his very large band were professional and impressive. The band walked out and started at 7:05 (we could hear them warming up as we waited in the huge line at 6pm). Lyle joined them five minutes later and they performed together starting at 7:10 and didn't stop until 9:44pm.
They were all in black suits and ties, that stayed on all night, and were extraordinary musicians. Lyle introduced a couple of them but didn't engage verbally with the audience until 35 minutes of great music had passed. He first introduced every musician and then admired the headware of the audience, commenting on the University of Michigan/Michigan State fans, and then telling the ladies that the Kentucky Derby had nothing on them :-)

Then Lyle played to the women, telling them that men know they would be lost without the guidance of the fairer sex, and want to do the right thing, if they just knew what is was; followed by: My Baby Don't Tolerate.

Lyle referenced how they were asked to be quiet during their warmup because a wedding was going on and then played  I Will Rise Up.

Besides the audience favorites, Lyle spent a lot of time allowing the musicians to hawk their own wares and perform their own numbers. If the musicians weren't top-notch, we might have minded but they were all great. Arnold McCuller (amazing singer), Keith Sewell (do you have your CDs here with us? Pause. I think so. That's good marketing), and Luke Bulla - fantastic on Temperance Reel and everything else he played. Every time he performed or was announced, the audience shouted "Luuuuke," which first sounded like boo. Obviously he has a fan base.

(Update from Martin Waalkes: "Luuuke" is actually a reference to a past Detroit Red Wings player. Fans always cheered this back to the announcement of his name, forcing all TV and radio announcers to explain the convention to their audiences. I wonder if this Luke had any idea...")
The people in front of us added a mysterious liquid to their beverages (not sure how they smuggled it in but kudos) and also a smoking device of unknown nature that was surreptitiously passed among them. And...I also got us in their picture.
The worst of it was the foursome that crowded next to us, armchairs overlapping (I had to have my entire row move to the right to get some space), dancing with arms akimbo bumping into me with no regard, and then taking a cell phone call - jackass.
Lyle took us beautifully through the evening, ending with a 3 number encore, and as always, some people left early but they always do at Meijer Gardens to beat the parking lot traffic. It was a high energy concert played straight through for 2 hours and 35 minutes.
Once you attend, you will understand why Lyle is a perennial favorite. Check it out next year but you'll need to know a Meijer Gardens member to get tickets - it sells out before tickets open to the public.
Day moved softly into night, and Lyle played us out...