Are you a Fansie of Newsies?

I’m a pretty huge Disney fan. I’ll sit and watch “The Little Mermaid” for fun with a daughter (and, not coincidentally, both daughters are named for Disney characters), or see a newly released animated film while it is in theaters. For some reason, though, I’m not a Fansie.

IMG_4166What? Haven’t heard of Fansies? They’re the cult followers of Disney’s “Newsies”, a musical based on the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. This sleepy 1992 film was so requested as a musical, that Disney took it to Broadway. It seems many tweens on Tumblr followed – in overalls and snap caps – drooling. Now in its first national tour, Disney’s “Newsies” is CURRENTLY IN TAMPA at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

I was offered two free tickets to see Newsies in exchange for an honest review of the show. Here’s my opinion:

I enjoy a musical without too many extra bells and whistles. I like to focus on song, dance and story when sitting in a theatre. Emotion on an actor’s face and in his voice is enough to make me tear up. I don’t need techno tricks and LED boards. Newsies earns an A- in this area. The dancing is highly energetic and emphatic. I read there are over 37 backflips in each performance! These young men are acrobatic and adorable, and can capture your eye while pirouetting 6 times on a single piece of newspaper.

The amazing dancing you can expect to see in NEWSIES

The amazing dancing you can expect to see in NEWSIES

On the other hand, the songs are repetitive. Kinda cute and catchy, but repetitive both in the lyrics and in the way they reprise throughout the show. Maybe this is to help get the crowd singing the songs in their heads, or to leave singing “I’m the king of New York!” But my husband admits that trick didn’t work on him. He did not leave singing and had forgotten most lyrics aside from the phrase “I’m the king of New York!” by the next morning. As much as he was entertained by the spectacle, he’s truly not a fansie. Like the Orlando Weekly said, “Alan Menken’s score, which includes “King of New York,” “Santa Fe,” “The World Will Know” and “Once and For All” from the film, plus a few newly composed songs, really has less than a dozen tunes in total, with several reprised repeatedly.”

The set has a bit of digital background, but other than that it is old-school. The multiple levels of fire escapes spin, while losing and gaining staircases, creating clever use of space. The first time the set moves completely before your eyes, it’s quite captivating. The digital effect I liked the most was that the clouds in the “sky” moved across the moon throughout the show. It made me feel like the boys were really outside even though I was in a theatre.

I grew up with much love for the musical “Annie”. I wondered if “Newsies” would just be Annie for boys? In fact, the two shows have had a sing-off over which is the ultimate show about New York City. But despite the appearance of ragamuffin youngsters and a Roosevelt or two, the shows aren’t very similar. “Newsies” had a larger story about challenging a young generation to make change for the future. Perhaps boys selling newspapers working together to fight ‘the man’ could also help make life better for children in sweatshops, shoeshines and others trapped in child labor. Seriously, this is discussed in song in the show!

In a review of the show by Carter Gaddis for Tampa Bay Bloggers, he says, “Morgan Keene‘s performance as Katherine on Watch What Happens was my favorite number — as a longtime journalist, I could relate to the nerves associated with an intense desire to get the story JUST right.” In this somewhat-meta song she mentions the story in a story placed before her and the audience. There’s the David and Goliath story of the newsboys rising up against media giants, and there’s also the thought that she could cover the story and make news out of the little guys. I enjoyed the message of this song, but Keene’s performance here was not my favorite. My husband and I both thought she got a little screechy at times.

Something about the refrain she sang throughout the show made me hum a line from Beauty and the Beast’s ballad “Home”, “What I’d give to return to the life that I knew lately.” The musicality of the two were very similar to me.

To see a bit of the show for yourself, here’s a playlist of clips:

Follow @newsies or #newsiesontour online to find out more about the cast.

Disney’s “Newsies” is at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida, through Sunday. Click here for show times and tickets. I was provided with two tickets to the premier of “Newsies” for review purposes.


A Guide to Love and Murder from the Straz

When Tampa Bay Bloggers offered me two free tickets to see and review “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” at the Straz Center, I had not heard of the show. I should have, I mean it won a Tony for Best Musical last year, and it’s based on a book – but I didn’t know about either. And because I am not a drama nerd, I had no idea it was the big winner at the 2014 Drama Desk Awards.


This show is closing on Broadway in January, but you can catch it right now at the Straz Center! It’s a great time of year for this show, because it mocks murder and makes jokes about death, which goes along with all the Halloweening around us.

GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE tells the story of Monty D’Ysquith Navarro, who finds out he is an alleged heir to the D’Ysquith family fortune. But there are eight pesky relatives who stand in his way! Most of the D’Ysquith family members are played by Tony winner Jefferson Mays in what The New York Times calls “the year’s greatest musical theater performance”. Think Eddie Murphy in “Coming to America” – he’s a different character in almost every scene and cracks up the audience! Meanwhile, Monty has two passionate relationships he can’t decide between, and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Will it all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance? Can he make it to Earldom before it’s in time for tea?

The show started by all of ask being asked to leave by a singing chorus of mourners. “For God’s sake, go!” they cautioned.

“The show started kind of slow, but picked up after the first 20 minutes, you know, once people started dying.” said my husband.

The humor was silly and campy, there were great set details like fun backgrounds and singing portraits – all in all a light, fun romp. But wordy, very wordy. Must be a thick script! They spoke and sang quickly and had jam-packed conversations. Here’s a video clip:

Catch “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” at the Straz Center through Oct 25 at one of the next 6 shows. Get all the details here.


College Roommate Tips

naked roommateLast year, Bob Andelman (aka Mr. Media, and a friend) interviewed Harlan Cohen, of “Help Me Harlan” and author of The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only (which I’ve read and recommend), about parenting teens leaving for college. I took notes because my daughter’s boyfriend was a graduating senior, and my daughters were a junior and sophomore, so I figured I had some relevant lessons to learn.

There was a lot I enjoyed about the interview, found here: Today I share with you, paraphrased…

3 Roommate Rules:

1. Your roommate is there to share the fees and does not need to be your friend. I had this problem with my first college roommate. I got there, we bonded, then I made other friends and she felt left out and retaliated in rude ways. I wasn’t wearing a promise ring from her, I just wanted to get along… which brings us to…

2. If you want to get along with your roommate, you’ll find a way. Seriously, all you need to do is be respectful. You can avoid drama even if you don’t like each other. But sharing space is always more comfortable if you do like each other!

3. The Uncomf0rtable Rule: If you are ever uncomfortable with something that happened with your roommate, you must communicate about it in 24-48 hours. Not before, not after. Make this a pact with your roommate so you BOTH do it. People suck at uncomfortable, but if there is a plan in place it helps.

One parent asked about a very sexual roommate living with her religious, virgin teen, and how that might play out. Remember, says Harlan, living with someone who has different values probably won’t change you. You won’t start having threesomes five times a day because of a sexually active roommate if you are saving yourself for marriage. You won’t become a huge partier after watching your roommate throw up from drinking too much and failing math class. In fact, it might make you second guess their poor choices. You’ll learn and grow from it, like a visit to a foreign country. I discovered the band “The Cure” from my roommate even though she ended up being a butthead.

My daughter found two roommate leads before freshman in year in different ways. One was through a cousin who had a friend with a daughter interested in the same school. The other was through a Facebook group her college made for her graduating class, like “College Name Class of 2019.” People left little notes about themselves and their personalities, and could message others who sounded compatible. “I’m a science major who plans to rush Ate Two Pizzas sorority and I like loud techno music. I’m a night owl who eats peanut butter out of the jar, and I will totally help you with your hair – I’m really good with braiding and products.”

Good luck to whoever lives with DD1! She’s a mess! But she’s honest and fun, which will probably matter more.


Beauty and the Beast

When I was in college, I knew someone whose mom worked with Broadway costume designers. She offered us tickets to a special event. Disney was putting together Beauty and the Beast for Broadway, and there was going to be a reveal on stage of some costuming, a couple of songs, and other ideas for a V.I.P. crowd. Directors as well as cast would be on stage with a big projector screen to bring the ideas to life.

I already loved the story. When I was a senior in high school, the movie hit theatres and I saw it with my friend Cindy. I remember leaving wow‘ed by the attention to detail. During the big ballroom dance scene, you could see the reflection of the chandelier in Belle’s fingernails. Now THAT’S animation!

beauty_and_the_beastobjectsI don’t remember who I went to this Broadway preview with, but I remember seeing the jovial Lumiere with his hands in the air representing a candelabra, and an over-the-top yellow ballgown for Belle. “Disney might actually be able to pull off people playing people turning into inanimate objects,” was my parting thought.

When my daughters were little princess freaks, the movie was played on a huge IMAX screen near us, and we went as a family. I’m pretty sure we have it on VHS in the attic too. And we’ve seen the stage show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and enjoyed Enchanted Tales with Belle in the Magic Kingdom. Now you can even drink LeFou’s Brew (an apple soda with a marshmallow foam topping) in the Beast’s enchanted castle! 

beautybeastThen my daughters became older princess freaks, and their school performed Beauty and the Beast Junior. DD2 was in 7th grade and was in the chorus. She sang, danced, and swung a metal beer stein around. She wore a dumb flowered dress. And her best friend played a whisk! With shiny, wobbly things around her head she danced to Be Our Guest along with forks and plates.

When I first heard Beauty and the Beast was coming to the Straz Center, I felt like I had enough experience with the show and I really didn’t need to go see it. But princess moments are becoming fewer and further between as my daughter age out of the house, and DD1′s good friend played Belle in the school production, so I thought we’d have a fun girls night out at the show.

It ended up not being girls night out, because the show fell during AP Exam week. *shudder* (Be happy you’re not in high school anymore!) We managed to get a group of 4 excited viewers together for the show.

Most importantly: The touring Broadway musical is a lot like the movie come to life. I missed Mrs. Pott’s accent and didn’t care for the alterations made to Belle’s dress in the final scene of the show, but other than that it is exactly what someone who enjoys the movie would expect. There are many of the same jokes – LeFou and Gaston had us laughing out loud a lot – and some extra songs. Jillian Butterfield had me believing she was born to play the role of Belle! Her sweetness, chutzpah and smarts filled Straz Center’s Carol Morsani Hall almost as well as her beautiful singing voice did. Gaston had the giant biceps, Chip had the adorable innocence and the Beasts yak-like horns were creepy.


Despite my prior experience with the story, I had a new perspective last night. The beast can certainly represent a rotten brat becoming loving, but suddenly I thought of the story being all about one character. What if Belle, the Beast, the inanimate objects of the castle, Gaston and all the others were parts of the psyche of the same person!? The moral there could be that the Beast is trapped in his current state – which might be low self esteem or depression – and until he can throw off the Gaston parts of himself and embrace the Belle parts of himself, he’ll never become the Prince he longs to be. If he lets life go by without learning to love himself, he remains a Beast (in nature) forever.

This is truly a magical musical – and a great first musical – for little ones who love fairy tales, ballgowns and princesses. Running time for Beauty and the Beast at the Straz Center is approximately 2 hours 30 minutes, including one 20-minute intermission. There were still plenty of little ones dressed in their yellow dresses and hugging blankies despite the late run time. Hurry – the show is only here through May 10!

Thank you Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center for 4 free tickets to the show. All opinions and my latest Beast epiphany are my own! #ad.


Chicken Drop Bingo

A few years ago I met Marilyn McCloskey. Someone told me about a 5k in downtown St Pete at the base of The Pier that needed volunteers. They knew I was tapped into the local running scene and might be able to help out. That was before Running 4 Brews had a team at virtually every race in Tampa Bay.
Somehow I managed to rope in the Cross Country team of Shorecrest Preparatory School to volunteer. The team needed an annual service project, and the kids were seasoned 5k runners, so it made sense.
Last week at the 2015 Iconic Women of St. Petersburg “Celebrating Women with Vision” Awards luncheon, I bumped into Marilyn again. She remembered me. She said that not only did we have great volunteers who brought supplies for the course, like huge water jugs, but after I shared the Facebook event she was contacted by two people who knew me who knew someone who had Huntington’s and asked Marilyn for people to contact for medical assistance locally.
Apparently, Marilyn has a much better memory than I do. That was YEARS ago. But I remembered reading something much more recently on Facebook about an upcoming event to support the Huntington’s Disease Society, and I asked what she was up to. That was when Marilyn told me about Chicken Drop Bingo.
“Win a CRAPLOAD of Money” at Chicken Drop Bingo! the flyer earnestly proclaims. It’s meant to be funny, but if you don’t know what Chicken Drop Bingo is, there’s some explaining left to do.
Basically there’s a giant bingo board. Instead of having your own board, like in traditional bingo, this is a large shared board. You put money down on a square, like in Vegas. And then a CHICKEN wanders around the board. People call out and cheer and try to get the chicken to walk around the board and POOP on the square they put money on. If it drops on your number you’re the winner!
$5 buys you a numbered square. It’s FREE to watch, and just $5 to play, so you can bring friends and have a silly time supporting a great cause!
When: Saturday, May 16th, 2015. 3:00-6:00 p.m.
Where: Quaker Steak & Lube, 10400 49th Street North, Clearwater, FL 33762
15% of food sales will be donated to HDSA. There will also be drink specials and auction Items.
And back to my recent luncheon – Congratulations to Marilyn on being a finalist for the Community Service Iconic Woman of the Year!! Marilyn says, “I volunteer for HD in memory of my sister Connie, and for all those out there who are fighting the disease or worried they might have it!”
Be there – buy a square!
Learn more about the crazy day on their website – or Facebook event.