seeing ‘Newsies’ live…twice!


I’m still glowing from the experience. ❤

A friend from church was recently in a student production of ‘Newsies’ and she invited my family and me to come watch.  We went on a Thursday evening and I enjoyed it so much that I went by myself on Friday (the last performance).  The whole thing made me want to give a Katherine Plumber-esque squeal.  I mean, it was student production quality, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good!

Actually, it was all kinda magical.

Ninety-eight percent of the newsies were played by girls (that included my friend from church) and it weirded me out for ten minutes and then I got used to it. (Well, Jack took a little more getting used to but I was firmly behind her performance by the second evening.)  There was a bit of off-key singing, awkward scene transitions, and bad acting but overall it was AWESOME.  Completely revitalized my love for Newsies.  I’ve been a fan of the show/movie for five years, you guys (pretty much exactly five years, come to think of it) and getting to see it live was literally a dream come true. (I don’t care that it was ‘only’ a high school production.) 

bought a newsies-esque hat for Friday night’s performance. #worth

Random cool stuff about this particular production

-I actually knew someone in the cast!  My friend played Seitz and Mush and, yeah, seeing her performing on stage was awesomeness.

-I, um, preferred this Crutchie to Andrew Keenan-Bolger. *ducks flying tomatoes*  I know it’s hard to believe, and it’s only a tiny preference, but she was so, so sweet and absolutely killed ‘Letter to the Refuge’ (in a good way).  Just…SO good.

-Davey was also awesome!  Davey is my favorite character in the original movie/pro shot/this production and the girl who played him (weird to say, but okay) was a Pro™.  And she hugged me after the production which was really nice of her.

-The cast did a super cool thing during ‘Once and for All’.  You know when the beat kind of drops near the end?  Well, they all came out into the aisles and sang directly at the audience, waving The Newsies Banner in our faces.  It was Uncomfortable (slightly) but also sooooo neat.

-I didn’t have courage to do this the first night (#introvert), but my mom and Katie talked me into asking for autographs after the performance on Friday and I’m so glad I did.  I got autographs from my church friend, her friend, Crutchie, Davey, and Pulitzer.  I couldn’t stop grinning afterwards.

everyone scribbled their autograph by their character name (#helpful), except Pulitzer (#mean) (#butjk)

-Friday night was dinner theatre and the meal/desserts they served were what the newsies, Katherine, Pulitzer, etc. could have eaten back in the day.  Which was awesome.

If you haven’t figured it out by now…this was one of the highlights of my life. (No exaggeration here!)  And definitely the highlight of 2019.  I’ve only seen a few live performances of plays and musicals, but ‘Newsies’ is my favorite so far. *continues to fangirl for the rest of my life*

Have you seen any Broadway productions live? (Whether on Broadway, on tour, or at a school.)  I’d love to hear about your experiences!



musical theatre review: ‘the hunchback of notre dame’ at la jolla playhouse

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No, I didn’t go see it live. 😦

BUT.  There’s an excellent bootleg available on Youtube right now and ever since Katie and I did that dream cast for the live-action version of ‘Hunchback’ I’ve been low-key obsessed with the musical.  So yes.  I watched it last night and, guys, I’M IN LOVE.


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rehearsals, not the actual musical.

I knew something of how gorgeous and rich the music is because a) I’ve seen the Disney animated movie, duh, and b) I’ve listened to the studio recording on Spotify.  But seeing it actually performed (even a kind of grainy performance) was a million times better.  I’m actually not sure how to review this properly, but I guess I’ll start with the characters because there’s sooooo much to unpack when it comes to them.

The success of any version of ‘Hunchback’ rests mainly on Quasimodo’s shoulders and Michael Arden was brilliant.  At first I was kind of weirded out by Quasi’s voice but when I learned he was deaf (character, not actor), it all made sense. (And his singing voice is still crystal clear.)  Loved the little bits of ASL here and there, loved the emotions he went through (fear, sadness, the new beginnings of love, guilt, etc).  It was all so good. (Arden is actually adorable IRL, by the way.)

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Okay, you know what I just said about productions of ‘Hunchback’ depending mostly on Quasimodo’s character?  Well, I almost felt that this production was more Esmeralda’s story than Quasi’s (almost).  I’ve seen Ciara Renée in The Flash and I had no idea she was such a beautiful, powerful singer.  She nailed ‘God Help the Outcasts’, ‘In a Court of Miracles’, ‘Someday’…allllll the songs. (At the end of ‘Outcasts’, you can hear a guy wolf whistling at her [from the audience] and I was like, “Srsly?  You do know you’re putting yourself on the level of Jerk Phoebus and Frollo, right?”)

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Patrick Page was really good as Frollo.  Which…I guess is a compliment, but at the same time, well, y’know.  I think ‘Hellfire’ was a lot more impressive in the movie (Page did a good job showing all of Frollo’s emotions and everything, but you can’t really beat creepy faceless monks and actual fire).  There was one moment where he explodes at Esmeralda (because she was like “I’ve seen the way you look at me!”) that was fantastic acting.  Loved it.  Also, the backstory with his brother was interesting (though I’m not sure which backstory I prefer – animated or stage musical).

Phoebus was a lot more annoying than in the animated film.  Quite a jerk for most the musical, which I HATED because it made it so much harder to ship him and Esmeralda in their (super romantic) scenes.

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The musical sticks more faithfully to the book with Frollo’s backstory (at least was a Jehan in the book, though Quasi wasn’t his child) and Esmeralda dying at the end.  Of course, that makes it sadder but I was obsessed with Les Mis for years, so yeah.  I don’t mind.  Loved the songs that were in the original animated film (except for them changing “Who is the monster and who is the man?” to “What makes a monster and what makes a man?”) and I adored most of the new songs too.  ‘Someday’ is achingly beautiful.  I also appreciated that they kept ‘Heaven’s Light’ and ‘Hellfire’ back to back because it shows such a startling, powerful dichotomy between Quasi’s pure love and Frollo’s corrupt lust.

In the end, I love how this stage musical reinforces the message of the animated film: every human being has value, no matter what.  And we need to be kind to everyone, no matter what.  It’s a lesson all of us – and I’m definitely including myself in that – could stand to be reminded of.

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I’m so grateful that the person who recorded the show included the curtain call at the end.  Because I was bawling my eyes out over the finale and having everyone happy (and ALIVE) on stage and all that joyous clapping and cheering…it was the cathartic release I needed.  ‘Cause I’ve found that if I watch something sad and there’s no happiness at the end, it’ll depress me for the rest of the day.  So, yes.  Thank you, bootlegger. *grins*

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I highly recommend watching the musical sooner rather than later (if you have the inclination) because Youtube will probably take it down at some point. (It’s definitely PG-13, just so you know.)

Have you seen the stage musical version of ‘Hunchback’?  What’s your favorite of the new songs?


my favorite composers #6 – Bernard Herrmann

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Elmer Bernstein was going to be the next composer featured in this series, but I watched ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1959) yesterday and, well, Bernard Herrmann knocked that score out of the park.  So I had to write this post about him.

Bernard Herrmann is probably best known for scoring Hitchcock films – ‘The Trouble With Harry’, ‘The Wrong Man’, ‘The Man Who Knew Too Much’ (1956 version), ‘Vertigo’, ‘North By Northwest’, ‘Psycho’…and the list goes on.  In fact, he scored almost every major Hitchcock film of the 50’s and 60’s.  It’s no wonder, then, that whenever I see Herrmann’s name in a film’s credits, I expect something atmospheric, a little creepy, and definitely intriguing.

Like this:

But aside from Hitchcock’s films, Herrmann also did excellent work with other genres and film makers.  His first film credit was ‘Citizen Kane’ – a fact that speaks for itself.  I also love his work in ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ (1951) as I mentioned in this post.  Probably the first Herrmann score I heard was, as I talked about earlier, ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’.  It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun one, and the music is ingrained in my brain.

Just to give you a taste…

So, do you enjoy Bernard Herrmann’s work?  Have you seen ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ (1959 version)?


my favorite composers #5 – James Newton Howard

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James Newton Howard is the composer with whom I have the longest ‘history’.  I think he’s the first composer who I actually noticed, the one whose name I remembered instead of simply enjoying his music.  It was 2012 or 2013 and I was determined to write the next big dystopian series.  I hadn’t read or watched The Hunger Games yet but I listened to the first movie’s soundtrack approximately one million times while writing that series.  And the soundtrack for ‘Catching Fire’ once it came out.  Those two soundtracks informed my dystopian series and, since I hadn’t actually watched the movies, I came up with all kinds of weird ideas about them based on the track titles.

Anyway, I think James Newton Howard is pretty close to a genius.  He wasn’t the original composer for The Hunger Games series and had to create the score for the first movie on very short notice, but he delivered.  And continued to deliver throughout all four movies. (Personally, I think the soundtrack for ‘Catching Fire’ is the best, though the last three soundtracks rely heavily on the same themes and musical cues.)

Howard also composed music for Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.  He scored all the parts with Bruce Wayne (Hans Zimmer scored Batman’s scenes) and I adore the melancholy, poignant atmosphere he brings to Bruce’s scenes.  My favorite cue in the soundtrack for ‘Batman Begins’ is the bit that plays as young Bruce and his parents ride the train to the opera.  (It can be found in the track “Macrotus” and begins around 1:07.)

I also dig Howard’s scores for ‘The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep’ (sooooo much) and ‘Treasure Planet’ (ASOIOIWIEFWJOLSID). 

While not prolific as some of the other composers covered in this series so far, James Newton Howard is my second favorite movie composer (after Michael Giacchino).  Have you listened to any of his scores?  Which is your favorite?


P.S. While I was proofreading this post and researching Howard, I discovered that he replaced Danny Elfman as composer for ‘The Hunger Games’.  And now I’m intrigued because Elfman does great work – it would have been interesting to see how he handled scoring the Games.

my favorite composers #4 – Hans Zimmer

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There isn’t a Hans Zimmer score that I don’t love.

Of course, there are loads that I haven’t listened to but he’s a musical genius so I don’t expect my opinion will change even if I listen to ALL of his soundtracks.  The main thing that prompted this post (besides the fact that I’m overdue to write another favorite composer thingy) is that I watched some of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ and his score was the bomb.  Really unique for his style (based on the music of his that I’ve heard so far) and very, very fun.  At this point, I can’t over-listen to it!

Besides creating some of my favorite soundtracks, Hans Zimmer has also scored some of my favorite movies – ‘Prince of Egypt’, ‘Rain Man’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Batman Begins’ (with James Newton Howard; Zimmer scored the Batman scenes and Howard did Bruce Wayne’s parts which I think is so COOL, the way they split it up), the Kung Fu Panda franchise, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’…and then there are other soundtracks of his that I enjoy even if I haven’t watch the movies.  Like the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.

(I will point out that quite a few of Zimmer’s scores are collabs with him and at least one other composer.  But he is still a great composer in his own right.)

Definitely check out Hans Zimmer’s soundtracks on Youtube or Spotify – you won’t be disappointed!


my favorite composers #3 – Dimitri Tiomkin

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Whenever I watch the opening credits to a movie and see that Dimitri Tiomkin did the music, I grin to myself because I know that I’m in for a treat, soundtrack-wise.  Even if the movie is garbage, his score is sure to be wonderful. 

Tiomkin composed the music for some of my favorite classic films.  I believe his best-known work was what he did for ‘High Noon’ (1952).  Love how he reworks the main theme to fit a variety of moods, situations, and scenes; listen to the soundtrack suite and you’ll see what I mean.

Two other favorite movies of mine are ‘Rio Bravo’ (1959) and ‘Friendly Persuasion’ (1956) and Tiomkin outdid himself on the scores for both.  ‘Rio Bravo’ has a particularly chilling bit of music called ‘El Degüello’ – according to the film it’s the song that the Mexicans played day and night as they laid seige to the Alamo.  According to Wikipedia, the song used in ‘Rio Bravo’ wasn’t the actual song played at the Alamo (instead, it was composed by Tiomkin) but it’s still chillingly well-employed within the film’s context.

And then there’s ‘Friendly Persuasion’, which has some toe-tapping dance music that I love. (I couldn’t find a video on Youtube so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

Have you heard of Dimitri Tiomkin (or heard any of his work)?  Let me know in the comments!


P.S. The reason there was no read-along post for The Outsiders yesterday was because I always write the post on Saturday and schedule it for Sunday but last Saturday was turned upside-down because of some plumbing issues in our home.  So…yeah.  This coming Sunday will have a read-along post, though.

my favorite composers #2 – John Williams

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John Williams is Iconic.  He’s scored several of the most famous, highly acclaimed, top-the-favorites-list-every-time movies.  ‘Star Wars’ (all the major movies except ‘Rogue One’ and ‘Solo’, I believe?), ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Indiana Jones’ (all four movies and hopefully the fifth), ‘Jaws’, ‘Schindler’s List’…I could go on. (I’m always mildly surprised when I remember that he didn’t score ‘Back to the Future’ but I don’t know why.)

So. Favorite soundtracks/tracks.

Basically, I love anything Williams puts out.  I’ve been listening quite a bit to his soundtrack for ‘The Book Thief’ because the wistful melancholy of that music works well for the novel I’m writing.  And one soundtrack of his that’s not very well known but that I absolutely LOVE is ‘The Adventures of Tintin’.  My siblings and I enjoy the graphic novels and I think John Williams did a great job of capturing the tone of the stories and translating it into a fun, lively score.  Listen!

The iconic ‘Raiders March’ was what made me fall in love with Indy/the world of those films.  I remember that moment so clearly – my brother, Noah, had previously seen all the Indiana Jones films and borrowed ‘The Last Crusade’ from the library for us to watch together (why that one and not the first, I don’t know).  I thought it wouldn’t be My Thing (silly me) and was only barely interested until that scene where Indy and Henry burst out of those crates on the motorcycles and the music blared triumphantly and I was like “OKAY THIS IS EPIC IN THE EXTREME”.  So, yep, John Williams made me fall in love with Indiana Jones.

(The Piano Guys’ version because why not?)

Recently, I watched ‘Jurassic Park’ for the first time and the music made everything so much more amazing (and that’s saying something, because it’s golden even without the music).  I also really, really dig the main theme for Star Wars and the Force theme and what Williams did for ‘The Patriot’ and ‘War Horse’. 

I could link to sooooo many tracks here, but I won’t. (Except for this one.)  Just go play Spotify’s John Williams radio or a playlist on Youtube.  Lose yourself in the grandness.