Jun 5, 2016

The Little Mermaid Live at The Hollywood Bowl

Celebratory fireworks
Under the sea at the Hollywood Records Party, probably trying to find John Stamos

I attended the first night of The Little Mermaid Live at The Hollywood Bowl, and in short, it was full of Disney magic. (I didn’t expect anything less, though.)

The iconic amphitheater had hoards of Disney fans in attendance: families with young children – who, surprisingly, loved Ariel just as much as Elsa and Anna —  and 20-somethings; an eclectic mix of older and younger generations that you’d see gallivanting around Disneyland.

The Hollywood (Fish) Bowl
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this performance – was this the Broadway musical? Was the cast going to sit on stage and take turns reading lines and singing songs? Would they be dressed in character?

It was the perfect culmination of the classic Disney movie that tapped into the musical prowess of its performers. Alan Menken, the man behind all of our favorite animated classics, kicked off the show by performing a medley of all his songs. He introduced the “Hot Crustacean Band” — the orchestra — and welcomed us to The Hollywood (Fish) Bowl.

He explained that there would be four additional songs added to the performance from the Broadway musical. At this point, we weren’t aware of exactly what was going to transpire. Then the lights when down at sunset, and the giant screens it up with Disney’s trademark logo and jingle.

They played the entire movie! Here’s how the show was performed:

As the movie played, the orchestra performed the score live.
All speaking parts were kept from the original movie.
During a musical number, a small pause would occur so introduce the performer(s) and then the orchestra would start back up, with the movie perfectly synced to the live music.
During songs that weren’t featured in the movie, they showcased sketches from the film.

For lack of better words? IT WAS AWESOME. I had chills when the movie started. Being in a city with so much history, watching my favorite Disney movie in an iconic setting? It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. They had a small fireworks display go off during the scene where Prince Eric’s ship catches fire, along with a full-blown show to finish off the movie.

A video posted by Ursula the Seawitch 🔱 (@ursula_seawitch_) on

For those wondering, the cast did come out in costume! And in terms of the performances, I was most impressed with Rebel Wilson. Admittedly, I wasn't that excited about her in the role, and I’m not sure why, because I enjoy her in movies. But she knocked Ursula out of the park — she perfectly captures the fulsomeness of the villain and her accent was spectacular, too. She added humor to the role, which, thinking about it, Ursula was always funny character, but you don’t realize it until you’re adult watching the movie. People were in stitches during "Pour Unfortunate Souls." Her outfit was spectacular too — a long, sequined gown that looked purple as she moved, and a kickass wig that I absolutely need in my life. (I have been trying to master Ursula's look for Halloween for years and it’s really, really hard to make the look attractive! Bravo to all the artists online that pull it off.)

Sara Bareilles was a great Ariel. Fantastic voice, but nobody is surprised by that. She wore a glittery teal gown and red extensions in her brunette hair to pay homage to the character.

Two original cast members from the OG version of the musical took the stage: Norm Lewis as King Triton and Tituss Burgess as the leader of the hot crustacean band, Sebastian. It goes without saying that Tituss crushed "Under the Sea" and "Kiss the Girl."

Darren Criss was an adorable Prince Eric, who performed a song on guitar, and John Stamos made insane French Chef Louis particularly sexy. (But when isn’t he?)

The four songs they included from the musical were:
"She’s in Love" — Ariel’s sisters and Flounder (the precious 13-year-old Joshua Colley, who has been in Les Mis and Newsies on Broadway)
"If Only" — Ariel, Sebastian, Prince Eric and King Triton
"The World Above" — King Triton
"Her Voice" — Prince Eric (which Darren sang on guitar with the orchestra)

At the end of the show, Sara brought out the original voice of Ariel, Jodi Benson, to perform an encore of "Part of Your World." You could have heard a pin drop. As a Disney fan, it’s hard to describe seeing a voice from your childhood performing a song you sang while pretending to be Ariel on a regular basis — again, it was magical.

We ended the night at the Hollywood Records after party, which was setup to look like we were under the sea. And the cast showed up! I met Jodi Benson, Rebel Wilson, Darren Criss and Tituss Burgess — who, for whatever reason, thought we knew each other? I told him we were just kindred spirits and then made him take a selfie. He didn’t disappoint. I also ran into Patrick Starrr and Manny Gutierrez (Manny MUA) at the party — they're so warm and fun, and really good people, too. 

Darren holding his breath (under the sea) while we're getting our drank on
Darren was charming — he engaged one of my friends who went to the University of Michigan (his alma mater) in the fight song, and then had his friend take a picture of all of us together so we could all be in the photo. I asked him about his favorite Disney movie, too.  (Only stipulation was he couldn't say The Little Mermaid.)

“My favorite? Or the best of all time?”
“Let’s go with your favorite.”
“Aladdin, because I’m a boy. But of all time? Beauty and the Beast, obviously.”

And there you have it.

Jun 2, 2016

What I Want to Say About Taylor Swift's Breakup

Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris broke up.

My initial reaction?
I liked them together! And I was happy for Taylor.

But then I started thinking about her. As in her well-being. I know, I will probably never meet Taylor Swift. I enjoy her music, I like her personality, and frankly I'm inspired by her. I like that she's inclusive of others and that some of her best friends initially didn't like her. (I'm sure some of you would like to argue both of those points, but give it a rest, please?)

Maybe I am juvenile for going to this place, but all I could think about after I heard the news was if she was okay, emotionally. (And you know what? I don't know why I'm defending myself for being empathetic of another human being. Good lord.) I work in online publishing, an industry that I love, but that often conflicts with this mentality. I spend a lot of my day crafting the perfect angle for videos and posts, hoping to get clicks. Granted, I'm not reporting on celebrity news. (Yet.) But I start thinking about myself in these headline situations, and I have to admit that I take breakups really hard. Even if I'm the person doing the breaking up, it tears me to pieces. (Even if it's for the better!) She's 26. This was her first real relationship. Not say her other relationships weren't real, but we all know that hitting the other side of 25 brings more maturity to a relationship.

These aren't the people you're taking to mixers just for fun anymore, or people you have summer flings with, that will inevitably pick back up the next summer. These are the relationships that are meaningful. For her, this isn't the high-profile boy band relationship. This isn't the infant relationship that elicits an angry response in the studio. This person could end up being your "happily ever after," your spouse, your life partner. Or they might not. When those relationships end, it hurts on a deeper level. Because you can handle it, and you'll be okay, but it still doesn't stop the sting of the dead relationship.

That's why I've been a bit disappointed (disgusted?) with the coverage of the end of this particular relationship. She is Taylor Swift, pop superstar. Her life is carried out in the headlines, yes. But regardless of the excuses given, she is a human being. I can't help but feel hurt for her when I scroll through my Instagram feed and there are six photos in a row of the couple holding hands, a relationship trivialized by a caption regarding the end of a "15 month" relationship with a broken heart emoji. I'm sure she is at the point where she has stopped reading anything online and that fodder like this means nothing to her, but if it were me, I'd be miserable.

I am an emotional being. Before my current relationship, I was single for six years! The last real relationship I had was the end of college, that lasted about a year and a half. Before, when you broke up, it just ended. People who you wanted to tell would be the ones to know; at school, it could spread through gossip. But you didn't have the additional hurt of dealing with social media. (Unless it was your ex logging on to AIM, not messaging you and putting a love quote about their new beau in their profile.) And even without Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, breaking up was hard to do!

Breaking up on Facebook is messy and horrifying: having to remember sweet moments of an otherwise terrible relationship, or watching a person you weren't quite over move on like they're happier without you isn't exactly helpful in the transition to single life. So that's why I can't imagine having people, who didn't know anything about my relationship, pick apart "what went wrong," and say things about my ex that aren't true — or worse, are true. It feels viscous, unwarranted and inconsiderate, doesn't it?

I know a lot of people have been excited about the prospect of new music due to this breakup. Yes, I love Taylor Swift for her ability to perfectly encapsulate the feelings I had during, before or after a breakup. But why should a time for her to heal and find happiness turn into a celebration of a stereotype people have about her? Only 3 of the 16 tracks on 1989 were about a breakup or toxic relationship; the rest were about friendships, new life adventures and falling in love. On the other hand, why use her talent against her during time where she probably feels heartbroken? It's like telling your best friend, "Sorry you broke up, but now you can party with the girls!"

Something one of my best friends told me when my very first relationship ended? "I won't shove sunshine up your ass. Come here." She handed me a Java Chip Frappacino (ah, teenage metabolism) and gave me a hug while I cried on her shoulder. And that's what I needed. I didn't need her lifting me up and telling me I was better off without him. (That would come later.) I didn't need her to talk about all the awesome things that lie ahead. I just needed her to be there for me, and she was.

And at the very least, that's what we should be doing for Taylor. Don't shove sunshine up her ass, don't remind her of all the special moments that are now gone, don't tell her it's going to be fine because she's going to make an album out of it. Don't pick apart her relationship. She's going to have to deal with the reminders because of her public status, but we don't have to rub it in. We might not know her, we might not be her friends, but we can see her as she is: another person, with feelings, whose relationship ended.

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