Where Is The Wild? (Music Thoughts: Wild And Free, Jessica Vosk)

51RfjVOLtQLPost ‘Wicked,’ female Broadway singers now usually fall under two categories: the brassy belters (the Elphaba type) or the sassy sopranos (the Galindas)  I am of course generalizing, but I guess this has been true for a while (see Ethel Merman vs Mary Martin)  Jessica Vosk falls under the former, for sure. I mean, she is the current Elphaba on Broadway. ‘Wild and Free’ is her debut album, funded through crowd-sourcing.

The album is *exactly* what I thought it would sound. It’s not really totally show tunes, because she is probably influenced by pop music. But there’s a fair number of show songs there, and they are not bad. I am glad she sang ‘Nobody’s Side,’ from Chess, for example, although in my opinion, her version is good but nothing I haven’t heard before. Her ‘Music That Makes Me Dance’ is competent, but I still hear Idina doing Barbra in her version. I paid attention a little bit more on her medlette of ‘Help/Sondheim’ (The Beatles and Sondheim do not make a bad combination) and ‘It All Fades Away,’ from The Bridges of Madison County might make into one of those I can take out of context but you know, the typical Jason Robert Brown tuneless mess. (Sutton Foster does it too on her new album)  Elsewhere in the album, I found some uninspired moments: a predictable song from ‘the Greatest Showman’ (A Million Dreams) and an all-too-familiar belter choice (Sia’s “Chandelier, always a yawn-inducer from me)  So there are some mixed reactions from me here.

Bad Cruising (Movie Thoughts: Like Father)

lfNetflix movies: is that really where rom-com will thrive? I checked out ‘Like Father’ because a lot of people have been talking about it – good and bad. I also read that a big part of the film takes place on a cruise ship (Royal Carribean’s Harmony Of The Seas) and I am a ship whore so that’s always interesting to me. Plus – Kristen Bell! She is almost always worth the time.

Sadly, I found very few things to like about the film. It is a rom-com of sorts, but more focused on the relationship between a woman (Bell) and her estranged father (Kelsey Grammer)  This is the kind of movie where you can probably tell everything that’s going to happen within minutes, and you have to enjoy it via the performances. Both Bell and Grammer are pretty good, but for me they don’t save the ship from drowning. Well, not Titanic-style, but still under the water. I found myself bored through most of it, even with the appealing cruise ship scenery. And I was asking out loud, why is Seth Rogan playing a supporting role int his movie. Well, it turns out he is married to the Director, Lauren Miller Rogen. I was going to recommend this movie to family members who also love cruising, but now I don’t know if I will

Not A Hard Knock Life (Stage Thoughts: Annie, The Hollywood Bowl)

30086_show_portrait_largeSeeing ‘Annie’ at The Hollywood Bowl last night was significant for me for a couple of reasons. First, ‘Annie’ was my very first Broadway show at age thirteen, so obviously it holds a special place in my heart. Second, this is my first time at The Hollywood Bowl, an iconic Los Angeles venue, on my six-month anniversary weekend since moving to Southern California. Plus, this show stars Lea Salonga as Grace Farrell, who I remember seeing playing the role of Annie when she was a young girl. So, essentially,  there’s all kinds of intertwined emotions here.

The nineteen piece orchestra (amplified to high heavens) sounded good, and the score sounds glorious in its hands. Kaylin Hedges is a wonderful Annie, with a voice of steel that the role requires (I read she was discovered via YouTube)  Call me an indulgent purist, though, but couldn’t her Annie have worn a curly red wig? That’s a major directorial choice I had a problem with. The rest of the cast worked well, with David Alan Grier a serviceable Daddy Warbucks, and Salonga more than fine Farrell (I wonder if the latter’s mid-century British/New Yawk accent was a directorial choice, though) Ana Gasteyer’s Miss Hannigan was more funny than menacing and that works for me. (I still get nightmares from  Nell Carter’s scary Hannigan from the 1997 revival) But the best performances for me were Roger Bart’s Rooster and Megan Hilty’s Lily St. Regis, both stealing all the scenes they were in. And adorable Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja captured the audience’s hearts as Molly. I love the diversity of the cast, representing the colorful landscape of now. Director Michael Arden manages to not have the venue dwarf the performances, and the book scenes never overstay their welcome.  He really doesn’t do any earth-shattering change in this production, which is most of the times all you need. (cc: James Lapine’s dark humourless take from 2014)

Surely, this is not my most ideal way of seeing this show, but as an experience, I would say this is one satisfied me at that particular moment of my life. A perfect breezy summer evening and overflowing wine contributed to the magical experience.  I went with my three best friends (we have all known each other since we were nine) and the whole time I was there, I kept on telling myself, ‘Life is good,’ because, truly, at times, it is.

Putting It Together (Film Thoughts: Puzzle)

large_puzzleSometimes we get too complacent and comfortable in our lives we do not realize that parts of it are broken.  In Marc Turtletaub’s ‘Puzzle,’ Kelly MacDonald plays Agnes, a housewife whose sole responsibility is to take care of people until she realizes that she hasn’t taken care of herself. Sounds familiar? Yes, I have been in that situation, and all through my life, I have always been a caretaker so for sure I could relate with Agnes situation. Agnes’ only ‘outlet’ is putting together jigsaw puzzles, and when she discovers a puzzle partner, a whole world opens up to her, and she realizes that in order to put her family together, she needs to break them apart first in pieces so they could go back to places where they naturally fit. Sure, the metaphor is probably too obvious, but the emotions aren’t necessarily so. Kelly MacDonald breathes life into Agnes and it is special to see her as a character slowly finds herself, When she does, we are as fulfilled. Irrfan Khan as Robert, her puzzle partner, has great screen presence, and has effective slow-burn chemistry with her. I have to give special mention to Bubba Weiler whop plays Agnes’ son Ziggy. You cannot help but be able to notice him as the son trapped in an unfulfilling job, dreaming of something else he wants to do with his life. I do have one big problem with the plot: Agnes having an affair with Robert. I think that would have been very out of character for Agnes, and the film’s message would have been just as effectively conveyed without it. But for sure, this film works in a lot of levels even with its flaws. It speaks directly to our hearts, to our emotions, to our longings and wantings. The heart will always feel what it feels.

Pretty Powder (Perfume Thoughts: Wildfox)

375x500.31759A while back, I bought ‘Wildfox’ on a whim because I tried it, and I was in that kind of shopping mood, and thought it was worth the impulse purchase. So of course, the box was left unopened for months before I used the perfume. I know nothing about Wildfox but I have since learned that it is a Los Angeles based clothing line. SO I guess it must be fitting that here I am now, living in Los Angeles, and I am wearing the scent.

It’s been very hot and humid lately, so I wanted something light and fresh to wear. I remember this was a fruity floral so I said, yeah good enough. And the initial burst of peach and apricot is nice enough. The floral part is not as well defined for me. I see in the notes that it is camelia, honeysuckle and jasmine, but I just get a generic floral blend, not unlike a shampoo accord. It’s fine and inoffensive if somewhat boring. It all dries down to a nice powdery floral, and really appropriate on a Summer day like today. I was reading a review of this that compared it to the 90’s scent Coty Exclamation (which I loved) and it is an apt comparison. All in all a nice powdery fruity floral – nothing more and nothing less. It isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Turn A Blind Corner (Film Thoughts: Blindspotting)

large_blindspotting_ver2‘Blindspotting’ is one of those films where halfway through, I changed my opinion of it. I mean, let’s face it, I went into this because it was written by, and stars Daveed Diggs from Hamilton. And I feel like supporting Broadway performers when they venture outside of the stage. As I was watching the film, I thought, this isn’t for me. It is set in Oakland, California and is very male-centric: gangs, guns, etc. But by the end of the film, I was sold. This film has a lot of things to say, and I get it. And Diggs is fantastic as Collin, a man who was incarcerated and is now on probation, living in a halfway house, and working for a moving company with his friend Miles (Rafael Casal, also great in here) I have never been to Oakland but I hear it is akin to South Central Los Angeles in terms of crime and gangs. We see here how the place is slowly getting gentrified – and that seems to be a recurring theme for a lot of ethnic neighborhoods nowadays – how to balance maintaining a place’s identity as you see it advancing. There is also subplots dealing with police brutality, gun control, and at times it feels like a mess. But nothing feels heavy handed, situations happen organically. I find myself still thinking about the characters and situations hours after seeing the film. This film is getting good buzz. I hope it finds a broad audience.

Untangled Liaison (Perfume Thoughts: Liaisons Dangereuses, By Killian)

375x500.4321I have been obsessed with coconut-smelling things lately, and perhaps because I now live where there’s more humidity. (my favorite line nowadays: ‘I lived in the desert for years I thought my body forgot how to sweat’)  So I was so happy when I realized I had samples of By Killian’s Liaisons Dangereuses in my stash of samples. I remember trying this years ago when it first came out (I was still living in New York then) and loving it, but of course, By Killian prices.

But now that I have reunited with it, I love it more – the fruit jam opening (peaches, black currant, plum) mixed with the summery coconut – at this point of my life, it just makes more sense for me. I was walking under the summer sun and it just bloomed in my skin in the best possible way. And surely, this could have gone all wrong – sour, rotten-y – but it just agreed with my skin . Mixed with the florals, it just became a big fruity-floral bouquet. And it stayed that way for a long time, before the )admittedly) boring musky drydown. But I will take it as it is. Sometimes the chemistry is just right.