Sunday, November 9, 2014

Broadway Grand Rapids' "Once" ~ 11/9/14 (and Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ~ 10/5/14)

The only pictures I can get from these shows are the before and after, and sometimes I might snag a few from google images. Typical of a show, here are my before and after images from Joseph last month.
And I loved the show. It was highly entertaining and led by two American Idol alumni, Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo. I didn't remember the latter but did remember the former when he was sadly voted off (I quit watching the show when Simon left). Ace wasn't the most adept dancer today but he did have a powerful, athletic presence and his voice was certainly fine for the role. It was interesting to see him here in a great role as I was a big fan of his on Idol. Diana DeGarmo has a stunning voice and I discovered later that the two of them are married. They seem to be doing just fine post Idol :-)

Just one more note from the show has to mention Pharoah played by Ryan Williams. He was a scene stealer when on stage. In his first number he was obviously wearing a skin-tone sleeve on his upper arm to cover a tattoo. Later it slid off during one of his gyrations but why have it to begin with? Tattoos certainly go back to Ancient Egyptian times.

But back to today's show, different from any other I've seen. When the doors opened at 12:30pm, instead of a stage curtain, we were greeted by a working bar on the stage where everyone was invited to visit and imbibe. So of course, I did. $6.00 for about 2 ounces of wine - yikes! No pictures were allowed up there so this one was the best I could do back in my seat. There's a large bar in the center with a mirror behind it that gave us reflective views throughout the show. Other than the bar, there were chairs and instruments along the wall and that was the set.
About ten minutes to one, a stage manger started clearing the imbibers but still continued to allow audience members to stand in line for a drink. Suddenly a few musicians started playing center stage, awesome foot stamping, pounding on boards, Irish fiddling music. At 1pm the stage was cleared of audience members and a total of eleven musicians continued to entertain us until 1:10 when the house lights finally went down and "Girl" was introduced to "Guy" on stage.

This multi-talented cast also operated as stage hands and provided all of the musical accompaniment. (It was odd to see people seated in the section where the orchestra is normally located.) They all sang, most danced, and a fair number of them played more than one instrument. When they finished a scene, they would retreat to a chair against the wall where they might continue to accompany by instrument and/or voice. The most powerful moments occurred when they were singing en masse. I never heard a wrong note until the loan officer sang, but that was intentional :-)

During intermission, the stage bar again opened up for business and the performance hall volunteers wandered throughout the house asking people to turn their cell phones off. Apparently no emailing or texting was allowed today unless you left the hall. A little strange and unusual, and inconsistently applied.

Set in a Dublin bar, which we had all now been invited into, the show boasts authentic Irish accents that were sometimes difficult to understand as were the Czech accents of the "Girl" and her family. When the Czech family was supposedly speaking in Czech, subtitles were shown, which was a clever way to let the audience know that the Irish were not privy to this conversation. The choreography going on at most times was very effective, even when it was four people seated at tables making head and hand movements.

The musical was based on a 2006 movie and some of the same music is included. Much more is added (the movie is 88 minutes and this show is 135 minutes). There's also more humor in the show than the movie and the "Girl" is much quirkier. The performance and the entire cast were so great. Very notable was Stuart Ward as the "Guy," Dani de Wall as the "Girl," Cassidy Stirtz was a powerhouse musician/dancer/vocalist as Reza, and Evan Harrington was hilarious as Billy.

After the second curtain call, Evan Harrington announced that cast members would be in the lobby collecting for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. Contributions, depending on the level, would get you some souvenirs. Who could resist?
Here I am with Stuart Ward, the "Guy" (disconcerting to hear his very English accent) and my cast-signed poster. Catch it if you can somewhere. I think this touring show is closing in January. And are you wondering about the title? The writer/director of the movie (John Carney) knew many talented artists who put off their careers because they weren't quite ready. "Once" they got this or that they'd pursue their goals. Cheers to following your dreams and to enjoying a good musical.

Falling Slowly by Ward & de Waal

2008 Academy Award Winner for Best Song 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Meijer Gardens ~ 10/30/14

Each visit begins with a walk on the boardwalk, after a quick stop in the gallery. Today the gallery still contained the ArtPrize exhibit.
Creepy feather girl ~
But I came here for the outdoors, and Meijer Gardens rarely disappoints. They know how to do color.
Today preparations were underway for Christmas.
This item must be someone's idea of a joke because it's certainly not up to the Garden's usual standards :-)
Off on the Boardwalk.
Mansions across the lagoon that are usually hidden are slowly revealed as winter approaches.
The boardwalk offers ever-changing scenery and a tranquil place to walk. Today the leaves were evenly distributed between the trees and the water/ground.
Suddenly I heard of lot of splashing and saw this group of ducks move en masse from one end of the lagoon to another. That was a fun moment.
Past the farm, the Japanese Garden continues to develop. The 8 acre park is scheduled to open in June of 2015 and I think it's going to be magnificent. I can't wait to see the finished product.
Aria by Liberman was stunning in its surrounding fall color.
Next stop was the waterfall, and as throughout the rest of the Gardens, I was surprised how much brilliant fall color was still around.
A circle around the pond at B-Tree II brought more.
Lying Man is waiting for the Summer Season to begin, and here's a view from the stage.
Neuron looks great in any season, and American Horse was for once all alone.
A quick walk through the Children's Garden found these clever creations.
The Chief Horticulturist, Ian, is Scottish :-)
Although the butterflies are no more, the greenhouse has interesting plants and birds to see. The birds were too fast for me today but the plants posed nicely.
Here's a few photos from The Perennial Garden.

A beautiful sculpture that many people may not notice is the one under their feet, "Beneath the Leafy Crown" by Michele Oka Doner. It's a creative and unique floor that's not to be missed.
After two hours and miles walked, it was time to go. I found this last rose of summer in the parking lot. There is beauty everywhere, and especially at Meijer Gardens.