Chicago the Musical at the Straz

As part of their Broadway series, the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida, is welcoming the razzle-dazzle smash “Chicago” this week.

Chicago is slinky and sexy, it’s funny and brutal, and it makes you think twice about what you hear and what you read. It’s actually all about SEX, CRIMINAL JUSTICE and FAKE NEWS. And I’m not kidding. It is intended for mature audiences, and they should wear their black fishnets. (That said, on Thursday, September 20, deeply discounted tickets are available for teens, plus a free pre-show event with live entertainment, games, raffles and refreshments.)

This jazz-era hit musical is the recipient of 6 Tony Awards®, 2 Olivier Awards, a Grammy®, and is now the No. 1 longest-running American musical in Broadway history. The 2002 film version of the musical won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It must be the hot dance moves from Bob Fosse!

So here’s the setting. Think back to the 1920’s. It was lewd and lascivious for a woman to roll her stockings down. Rouge was the devil. Booze and jazz music were corrupting people right and left. Suddenly there was a string of murders committed by women, and rumor had it that in the city of Chicago a pretty woman would not be convicted. The world was just too bamboozled by the right hair curls, the bat of an eyelash, and some cleavage.

There are real women and real cases the show is based on, and most of the events are very plausible. It makes consumers of journalism (us) think twice. And that’s all I will tell you.

However… there’s more to my story…

I hear only 5% of theatres who ask for the rights to perform Chicago receive those rights. And somehow a few years’ back my kids’ school managed to buy rights and perform Chicago. It is a little odd to see 17 year olds who babysit the little ones suddenly turning cartwheels and cha-cha’ing in fishnets and black lingerie. But it was so well done and very, very FOSSE.

Chicago at Shorecrest, 2014

My son auditioned and came home with his role on a piece of paper. It said, “one actor to play the jury.” We didn’t know what that meant. I said he probably had to sit in a jury box in a courtroom scene and do nothing. Boy was I wrong. He was ONE actor playing all 12 members of the jury! It was pure comic relief… He had little bits of costuming pieces in the jury box and would duck behind the box and pop up real fast as a cowboy, or an old lady, or someone crying into a tissue with a rosary. He played all 12 jury members in succession and the audience never knew what he’d pop up as next. (In addition he was a reporter and an ensemble singer/dancer.)

My favorite part of their production was the opening number, “All That Jazz.” It really sets the tone and shows off the singing and dancing. So when you go see Chicago at the Straz, don’t be late! It would be criminal to miss it! The show runs September 18, 2018 – September 23, 2018 and ticket prices start at $31/ea. (Except the teen special I told you about.)  The Thursday, September 20, 7:30pm performance will be American Sign Language interpreted.

BUY TICKETS NOW

Thanks to my relationship with the Tampa Bay Bloggers I received 2 free tickets to see “Chicago” in Tampa, FL, in exchange for this post. All opinions are my own.

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Save $10 on groceries

I don’t usually promote something I have not experienced, so when I saw an offer to save $10 off $50 of groceries by using the new https://grocery.walmart.com, I decided to try it for myself first.

Basically, you put all the items you want in your online shopping cart, then choose to pick them up at an available nearby Walmart, or have them shipped to you. I went for pickup. My local Walmart Neighborhood Grocery was not on the list, just the larger Walmart superstores near me. I’m sure it depends where you live. You get the Walmart low prices for the exact items you want without having to step into the store!

It was nice to think about the basics I needed for my day-to-day eating, and staple items I was running low on too – like soy sauce or apples, throughout the week instead of just during one shopping trip. I kept adding to the cart throughout the week without having to grab my credit card. So when we ran out of napkins and face wash, I quickly added those. And it’s not only limited to grocery/health, so I added a clip hanger on the list for my closet too. And I was able to continue adding through Friday night.

I chose Saturday 9-10am for my pickup, because I have an 8am meeting nearby on Saturdays. Pickup is free! There may be a fee to get your pickup faster.

First you make an account on the website. Obviously they have to know where you live to find a store near you, and if you do pickup you need to download the Walmart Grocery app to let them know when you are on your way. The website says: Choose a date and time for your order by clicking “Reserve” before you start to shop to make sure you get the time slot you want. This will also ensure you are looking at the store inventory of the store where you’ll pick up. You can also wait to book your time slot until you’re ready to place an order, but you risk not having your desired time available.

If you want items to show up on your doorstep, the delivery fee varies, and is based on the time slot you book. They use different partner companies to fulfill delivery orders depending on where you are located. Basically, they are trying to compete with Amazon Prime Now.

You can also choose to substitute or NOT substitute items on your list with a simple checkbox. If you you are accepting substitutions and the store doesn’t have the item on your list, they will go for the same item just a different brand – or they will substitute it for a bigger size at the same price.

I checked the app when my meeting ended at 8:33 and I was ready to drive to Walmart. The app said my order was ready (a little early) and I just had to click the “Check in” button to let them know I was on my way. I had the choice of sharing my location so they knew exactly when I’d be there, and what color my car was. I shared both. (The only thing missing here was a reminder to follow the orange arrows in the parking lot when I arrived, but I remembered that from the website.)

I drove down the street to Walmart and followed the orange arrows to the side of the building where there was a designated pickup area under a large, orange overhang for shade. Three other cars were there the same time as me – 8:42am. They all backed in to have their trunks facing the building. That’s not my style so I pulled in facing forwards.

Someone came to my car window with a device and asked my last name. About 6 minutes later two girls with some plastic bins on a dolly came to my car. They offered me a cold, bottled water. Then they asked if I wanted everything in my trunk. I said yes. One asked if I wanted the bread up front with me. I said it could go in back with everything else. The three of us loaded my trunk together, only because I chose to get out of my car. I certainly didn’t need to. I wanted to kind of eyeball the order and be sure it was right.

Everything in my order was right. One item that I allowed substitution for was substituted – the napkins were a different brand. They let me know that, and had me digitally sign their device and approve my order.

When I got back in my car I had missed a text from Walmart letting me know my order was ready!

The biggest drawback of using this system was the plastic bags. I shop with canvas reusable bags and try to avoid single use plastics in general. Luckily the kids at the school I work for use plastic bags for an art project each spring, so I have a place to turn them in to be reused. The volume of bags was increased because some items were double bagged, and sometimes one item was in its own bag – which was fine for the bread but wasteful when it was simply because the 2 items came from a different department.

One great convenience, besides not having to enter Walmart, is that you can easily reorder the same items again.

All in all, I got my groceries with forethought and ease and $10 off!! You can too! Just use this special link to shop, and you can share the link with anyone who hasn’t tried the system before – it’s good for any new customer: http://r.wmt.co/keG3w

This post was not an ad. I just used a coupon and shared the info.

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Waitress “Opening Up” at Straz

I knew I was in for trouble when I sat down for the touring Broadway musical “Waitress” at the Straz Center’s Carol Morsani Hall and the place smelled like sugar. See, I have a sweet tooth. A theatre lobby selling pies in a jar with little wooden spoons and a wafting scent of sugar over the audience makes me hungry. Then the show started and all they talked about was pie.

OK, that’s not true. They talked about love, and loss, and trust and motherhood. Relationships were picked apart and kindled and stomped on. But there was a LOT of pie.

  • Deep Dish Blueberry Bacon Pie
  • Betrayed By My Eggs Pie
  • Everything’s Just Peachy Peachy Keen Pie
  • Marshmallow Mermaid Pie
  • In the Dark Dark Chocolate Pie
  • Pineapple Upside Down Pie
  • A Little Wild, Wild, Berry Pie
  • Lulu’s Strawberry Dream Pie
  • Sweet Victory Pie
  • Polka Dot Peach Pie

I’ve read books where women dissolve their feelings into shared baked goods, and it’s all a bit magical and mysterious. Then I saw the movie “Waitress” and thought it was kind of slow – even though I really like actress Keri Russell. But I gave the musical a shot.

This show is certainly not slow. It covers the same emotional rollercoaster with some sexy twists, lots of laughs, a few tears – and most of all AMAZING vocals! This cast can SING!

The show features original music and lyrics by 5 time Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles. The lead we saw, Desi Oakley as Jenna, made me feel like I was listening to Sara sing her own songs. Her voice had a similar tone. I liked how real Jenna seemed. She stood awkwardly, she second guessed her decisions, and she forgot to practice what she preached. I just wanted to hug her and go to the mall with her.

“Waitress” runs at the Straz through April 29. You can buy tickets here. (I also read but did not confirm that you can get 35% off tickets with promo code SUGAR.) I recommend this show for a ladies night out, not a date night. The show is very pro girls lifting each other up! And arrive hungry, so you can taste those little pies in the jars!

Learn recipes for some of the tempting pies mentioned in the show here. Remember to use ice cold water when making pie crust. Using ice water helps the fat of the butter remain solid, and the colder the fat when you put the pie into the oven, the greater the chance for flakiness. Also add one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to keep your pie dough from becoming tough.

I received two free tickets to the show via Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center in exchange for my honest review. But I paid for parking, and my husband bought two drinks. I did not buy the pie. 🙂

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Pour la Première Fois: 5 Takeaways from Cirque VOLTA

By guest blogger Rachel Barrett

It was Valentine’s Day under the big top, and my husband and I were offered the opportunity to attend Cirque du Soleil’s latest show, VOLTA, in Tampa. Heralded as acrobatics meets ballet meets action sports, VOLTA’s alignment with Olympic season is perhaps the perfect timing for such a show, when there is a collective, if passing, passion for celebrating feats of human athletic prowess.

Guest blogger Rachel (l) and RunningBetty (r)

The energetic two-hour show flew by in a glorious blur of haunting original music, incredible feats of athleticism, and thrilling daredevil stunts; all peppered with impeccably timed comic relief. For this first-time Cirque attendee, these were my 5 biggest takeaways.

1. Ignorance is Bliss: While I knew of the general Cirque brand, I didn’t know any specifics about #VOLTA, or any of the Cirque shows for that matter. Even after I knew I’d be attending, I did no research of the show, but instead walked into the big top completely oblivious. With no expectations, I couldn’t help but be impressed! The Europop aesthetic, the music, the sets, the lights, the skill of the performers, the fact that there is not a bad seat in the house! I was like a 5-year-old on her first trip to Disney World with each new scene more awe-inspiring than the last.

2. Nods to Pop-Culture: Perhaps it was my novice interpretation, but I found nods to pop-culture at every turn. When we first meet Waz, the main character, I was immediately reminded of Gob’s intro for his magic tricks (no, ILLUSIONS!) from Arrested Development. In the dynamic and commanding male vocalist, I saw similarities to Titus Andromedon, the scene-stealer from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The whole game-show opening overall was very Hunger Games-esque. In addition to enjoying the show itself, my husband and I had fun playing a game of “that reminds me of…”

3. Cirque Crosses Audiences: Before seeing the show, I wasn’t sure at whom exactly Cirque shows were aimed. Is it sophisticated patrons of the arts? Or is it families with young children? Perhaps it’s a different target audience for each show? I can’t speak for all Cirque shows of course, but VOLTA most certainly appeals to all kinds of demographic and psychographic categories – almost everyone can find something to enjoy about this show. There is beautiful ballet, incredible gymnastics, BMX stunts, silly skits, incredible music – it really is like seeing seven different entertainment events at the same time!

4. I’m Out of Shape: The bodies and abilities of these performers were absolutely unreal. They made everything look effortless. Unicycling with a woman doing an arabesque on your shoulders? No big deal! Triple backhandspring-ing through a hip-width ring four feet off the ground? Cakewalk! The muscles and definition of their physiques are jaw-dropping. Instead of pitying myself by comparison, I felt proud to be of the same species!

5. A Word to the Wise: While I loved that I had no expectations of the show, I do wish I’d done some homework about logistics beforehand. The trip from our home in St. Pete to the Tampa Greyhound Track was a long one, particularly because of holiday traffic – if you’re traveling across the Tampa Bay Area (which is totally worth it), give yourself extra time so you can settle in, grab a drink, and take some photos beforehand. Also, the parking/venue area is massive, plus the stairs to your seating area are a bit precarious, at least in stilettos. Shoes that you can walk far in, and up grated stairs are a must. For heel-wearers like myself, a comfortable wedge is ideal.

Overall, Cirque VOLTA was a wonderful way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Any shared novel experience is good for a relationship, but this one in particular is one that we will be talking about for while. I’m grateful to my friends at Tampa Bay Bloggers for the opportunity to attend.

VOLTA is under the Big Top at the Tampa Greyhound Track now through March 18, 2018. Visit cirquedusoleil.com/volta or call 1-877-9CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783) for tickets, starting at $37.  

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VOLTA Cirque du Soleil {giveaway closed}

For a long time, La Nouba was the closest Cirque du Soleil show to my home, at less than a 2 hour drive. La Nouba was in a theater custom-designed and built for Cirque du Soleil on December 23, 1998, at Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando. 

The first time I saw the show it was on a date with my husband and it was a total surprise. He splurged on tickets and a hotel – I think it was an anniversary gift. The second time I saw it, we brought the kids and we were all already Cirque fans by then. We’ve seen Cirque du Soleil shows in other Florida cities, New Orleans and Las Vegas.

cirque bmx bike actLa Nouba ended its 19-year run on New Years Eve 2017, and rumor has it the show will be replaced by a new Cirque show eventually. But don’t fret – if you are in the Tampa Bay area and miss the theatrical and athletic excitement, Cirque is bringing its 41st original production, a new touring show, under the big top at the TAMPA GREYHOUND TRACK STARTING FEBRUARY 14, 2018!

The new Cirque show is called VOLTA. In literature, volta refers to a point of dramatic change. VOLTA the show is a story of transformation. It is about being true to oneself, fulfilling one’s true potential, and the power of the group to make that possible. You know, finding your true self by finding your TRIBE.

The show has a modern, youthful feel with elements of rope skipping, roller skating, BMX, parkour, acrobatics and so much more. What I’ve heard so far about it is:

“Volta contained all of the signature elements I’ve grown to enjoy: elaborate costumes, interesting themes and storylines, creative choreography, dramatic lighting and music, and (of course) mesmerizing acts with elements of humor and surprise that keep you enchanted. I enjoyed the cast interacting with the audience and the creative props and stunts.

The passion shines through every single artist, so amazing!! The wardrobe was soooo cool too! Totally blown away! One of my favorite shows I’ve seen by them!

Exciting and creative acts with plenty of audio and visual stimulation for you to enjoy. Definitely worth seeing.

It was fast paced, exciting and the costumes were amazing! I’ve seen many Cirque du Soleil shows but this one was really special! Go!”

VOLTA will be presented under the Big Top at the Tampa Greyhound Track February 14 – March 18, 2018. I’ll be there on opening night and will be back to blog all about it.

Cirque Club members can purchase tickets for these performances online at www.cirquedusoleil.com/volta. General public tickets are also on sale now by visiting www.cirquedusoleil.com/volta or calling 1-877-9CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783). Tickets start at $37. Or you can enter to win free tickets below!!

Thanks to my relationship with Tampa Bay Bloggers and Cirque du Soleil, I have a wonderful giveaway to offer to my readers – a pack of 4 tickets to see VOLTA in Tampa! #sponsored #ad The tickets may be used any Tuesday through Thursday the weeks of February 20 or 27. 

To be entered for a chance to win, find the VOLTA photo on my instagram account @rafdarrow. Follow the account and leave a comment on the VOLTA photo (from last week) letting me know your favorite thing about Cirque du Soleil. The giveaway will end at 9pm EST Feb 12, 2018. One winner will be randomly chosen and announced/tagged in the comments on Instagram on Feb 13.

Good luck and enjoy the show!

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