Lessons Learned: Wicked.


“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason,
Bringing something we must learn.
And we are led to those who help us most to grow, if we let them,
And we help them in return.”
~”For Good,” Wicked

You guys … guess how I spent yesterday evening? Seeing the phenomenal touring cast of Wicked. FROM THE FIRST ROW. To say it was a cool experience is pretty much the understatement of the century. I’ve been a fan of the show for years – it’s my very favorite of them all! – and saw it from the mezzanine at the Gershwin, but there is just no way anything can compare to being that close. It’s like the OzDust sprinkles out from the stage and bestows you with its shimmery glitter. Truly, it was mesmerizing. I will never not get chills when watching Defying Gravity and For Good performed live, and I totally don’t even care that today’s editing session was continuously interrupted by random lyrics running through my head. Seriously, it was like: “You don’t spend six years with somebody and simply wipe the slate clean … ONE SHORT DAY IN THE EMERALD CITY” and “Rejection’s sting lingers so long after the dust settles … IS THAT ALL GOOD DEEDS ARE WHEN LOOKED AT WITH AN ICE COLD EYE” and “There are a thousand reasons, but they all seem jumbled in my head, like Juliet’s favorite ball of yarn after she’s rolled it across the floor … TO THOSE WHO’D GROUND ME, TAKE A MESSAGE BACK FROM ME.” Oops?

Anyway, watching the show last night, I was thinking about all the lessons we can take from it. Parts of the story are sad, of course, but others are inspiring. Others hold these tidbits of wisdom:

1. Stick to the courage of your convictions, always. Don’t compromise yourself – or your heart – no matter what anyone says.

2. Appearances can be deceiving and things often aren’t what they seem. Be willing to look at situations through a magnifying glass instead of through rose-colored glasses.

3. Life isn’t black or white. It’s gray (maybe with a splash of emerald thrown in?). There are strands of good and bad, of purity and calculatedness, and sometimes you have to delve deep to figure out someone’s true motivations.

4. People come into our lives for a reason. They change our lives for good, and if we’re lucky, also for the better. Treasure these friendships because they’re sunshine for the soul. Our lives are interconnected like sentences on a page, like the bond between Elphaba and Galinda, and that’s a beautiful thing.

5. Pink goes good with green. ;-)

I’m curious: what’s your favorite Broadway show and why?

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A Step Back.


“Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself.”
~Lucille Ball

Lucy

It’s no secret that I, along with countless others, love Lucy. I own every episode on DVD, have a stack of books dedicated to the show, the actors, and the incredible innovation of everybody involved in Desilu, and even wrote about the timelessly classic cultural phenomenon for a final paper in one of my college courses. Two Lucy dolls sit atop my hutch, a pocketbook with scenes from the show makes me smile whenever I use it, and I’m determined to visit the Lucy-Desi Center in Jamestown, NY sometime soon. So when I first heard there was an I Love Lucy stage show? And when I subsequently heard that the first stop on the production’s national tour would be Atlantic City? You can bet I was excited.

I’d looked forward to seeing the show for months, and it didn’t disappoint. Of course there will forever be something special, something iconic, something untouchable about the dynamic between Lucy, Desi, Vivian, and William. There’s a reason the television show is still aired worldwide, introducing new generations to the hilarious antics of the lovable foursome. But the stage version isn’t about comparisons. It’s about paying homage to the magic and history created more than sixty years ago. From the in-costume actors mingling with people outside the theater, to the setup of the stage and production – designed to mimic the Desilu studios from the 1950s and make the audience feel as though they’re watching two episodes be filmed – to the fabulous talent of the leads Sirena Irwin (Lucy) and Bill Mendieta (Ricky) … well, let’s just say it’s like living in Lucy’s world. I loved every minute, from the episodes themselves (“The Benefit” and “Lucy Gets Her Eyes Examined”) to the interludes with live, in-person commercials, just like the audience experienced it six decades ago. The cast had grandiose shoes to fill, but they did it beautifully. Sirena’s facial expressions and comedic timing were so on point with Lucille’s, and I swear, if you closed your eyes while listening to Bill talk, it’s like you were hearing Desi … that’s how perfectly he did his accent. They are fantastic.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that, after this leg of the national tour, they’ll decide to travel the country again and perform new episodes. I will happily be front and center for it. So much of society today is about looking forward, dreaming and planning and working toward the future, and while that’s important, of course, I think it’s equally as necessary to take a step back sometimes. Getting to do that yesterday was a treat. It was such a neat experience, and I’m sending all my appreciation to everyone involved in the production for giving that joy to countless audience members across the country. The original show made its viewers smile from start to finish, from the opening chords of the famous theme song to the last ones. This show does the same (even down to that theme song, which they performed at the end!). I didn’t think it was possible, but truly, it made me love Lucy even more.

Five Things.


“If you want to know where your heart is, look to where your mind goes when it wanders.”
~Anonymous

1. Seeing Les Miserables for the first time is quite an experience. Seeing it from the second row at the Academy of Music, one of the most beautiful buildings in all of Philadelphia, makes the experience even more fabulous. So many kudos to the amazing cast and crew of the touring company. They did a phenomenal job. (Also: “On My Own” has now been running on constant repeat in my head since yesterday afternoon.)

2. Whoever came up with the idea for antibacterial hand sanitizer is a genius. I cannot even begin to count how many times I’ve used it this past week. New favorites from Bath & Body Works: Iced Gingerbread, Vanilla Buttercream, and Paris Amour. Such pretty scents to go along with the germ-fighting.

3. As of last Friday evening, my query letter and synopsis are both finished(!!). I’m working on my agent database for the next couple days, and then it’s time to jump back onto the emotional roller-coaster also known as querying. I’d be lying if I said I’m not nervous – for some reason, the process just feels even more important and electrifying with this novel – but I’m excited, too. It’s been a joy to send the book out to a few readers, and I can’t wait to see what agents think.

4. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are beyond awesome. Can they please host every awards show from now on, even the ones that have nothing to do with television?

5. There is nothing better than a flash of writing inspiration. I haven’t begun any official planning for my next book – wanted to focus on getting the first Mine to Love queries out there first – but even so, ideas have been flying into my head and I’ve been rushing to put them to paper (well … computer). So, so excited to start fleshing out this manuscript even more in the days and weeks ahead.

Your turn: tell me something that’s on your mind today!

For Good.


“If you want to do something, do it. Start, like I have. Like she has. Like many of you have. Leave your mark. Leave your mark on this world. We just don’t know what a smile can do, what a buck can do, giving of your time, all of it.”
~Kristin Chenoweth

An equation to describe last night:

Academy of Music + banana split waffles + Kristin Chenoweth + great friends + Broadway + country + “Shalom” + goosebumps + Mother Nature’s craziness + inspiration = Priceless.

Ready to head to the Academy of Music!

My attempt at being a food blogger ;-)

I have been looking forward to Kristin’s concert in Philly ever since buying the tickets at the beginning of March. Actually, scratch that – I’ve been looking forward to it ever since first hearing about the tour. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, and not only because she has a voice that can give anyone chills. Not only because she has a talent for acting that allows her to jump seamlessly into any role and make it believable. Of course those things are awesome, and I will readily admit that several songs from her newest album occupy top slots on my iTunes “most played” list. But beyond the music, and the acting, and the dancing, there is such an inspirational person with a heart of gold. She encourages us all to “do somethin’ that matters.” To change the world for good. To, as she said last night, “leave your mark.” Through her example and her music, she certainly leaves one of her own. And – this may sound silly, but that’s okay – ever since I heard her song “Borrowed Angels” last September, I’ve just felt so grateful to her. Truly, the beautiful lyrics and her emotional interpretation of them was one of the only things to bring comfort after the heartache of losing Gram. The song made me cry. The song made me stop everything and listen. The song made me feel. The song helped me heal.

Kristin and the Avenue Q puppets

And so, as you might imagine, it was a joy to be at her concert. Not only did she perform a mix of classics, Broadway, disco, her album songs, and various covers, but she interspersed skits, videos, and touching tributes, as well. She talked about her love for Philly, how she “knows the difference between WaWa and 7-11,” her career path and mentors, the shoes that fill her closet, and so much more. There were hilarious moments (actually, most of her commentary could fall under this category – talk about quick-witted!) and moving moments. There was her “Shalom” and “Oy Vey” – made this Jewish gal smile! – and her heartfelt reminder that art can change the world, that people can change the world, that you never know when something as simple as a smile will resonate deeply. And through it all, during a show that ran the gamut from laugh-out-loud hysterical to goosebump-inducing inspirational, Kristin was just … Kristin. She reminded us all that we should wish on a star, but also go out there and make our own luck.

Singing “Popular” in four different languages. SO COOL.

Where luck didn’t come into play? Mother Nature. As in, the tornado watches and warnings issued while the concert was playing on. As in, the trickling off of rain after the show was over, luring us into a false sense of security as we waited by the stage door for Kristin to sign autographs. As in, the downpours that started forty-five minutes later, sending people dashing down the sidewalk for cover. Seriously, it was like a combination of a monsoon and a cyclone. Umbrellas didn’t just blow inside-out. They blew upside-down and backwards, to the point that I was becoming concerned about actually being tossed into the next block. The parking garage was across the street, so only a couple minutes’ walk (run? sprint? slosh?), but man, it felt like hours. By the time we were finally undercover, we literally looked like we’d jumped into a swimming pool in our clothes. I don’t even want to talk about my new fabric shoes that I was wearing for the first time. Sigh. But safety comes first, and although it was disappointing not to be able to talk to Kristin – I so wanted to tell her how much her song helped me through such a dreadful time – I’m just glad we made it home okay. Drenched and shivering, but okay. And you know, after the fact, it’s even sort of funny. Sort of. Ha.

Before the deluge started…

COOLEST EVER.

Weather aside, it was a truly special night. Kristin closing the show with my favorite song of hers, “I Was Here,” is something I’ll never forget. Finally hearing her sing “For Good” live is something I’ll never forget. Her responses to me on Twitter (one on Thursday night and another just an hour ago – SO. VERY. COOL.) are something I’ll never forget. Much the same as with authors, with writing, with sharing stories, I think that’s the mark of an incredible singing talent – that she too is able to share stories and hope through her lyrics, her voice, and her soul. Something to never forget … and always remember.

In a New York Minute.


“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.”
~Thomas Wolfe

It’s been a picture perfect spring so far when it comes to the weather – mild temperatures, sunny skies the color of robin’s eggs, trees and flowers blossoming with a rainbow of pinks, reds, yellows, and purples. So naturally (because this is the way it always works, yes?), the one weekend we had tickets to a Broadway show in New York, there was a Nor’easter. I know, I know – Nor’easters are for the winter. They involve swirling snowflakes and frigid digits. Except when they storm up the coast in April, and then they involve sheets of rain and gusty winds that make using an umbrella a Herculean task (or maybe just a useless one).

So what do you do in NYC when Mother Nature refuses to cooperate?

-Take goofy pictures in your hotel room.

Marquis

-Adopt a cuddly friend (because everyone has to love stuffed polar bears, even those of us who are twenty-eight).

Polar

-Watch the sky’s leaky faucet drop over three inches of rain on a deserted, waterlogged Times Square (SO STRANGE to see it that desolate!).

Times Square

-Snap photos of the surrounding skyscrapers disappearing into a blanket of fog.

Fog

-Fly out of your hotel the next morning when you see that Kate Walsh is on Good Morning America, because really, how awesome would it be to catch a glimpse of an actress you love? When she’s jetted off for her next appearance on Live with Kelly, hang around outside the studio and watch the fabulous Robin Roberts celebrate her tenth anniversary with GMA.

Robin 1

Robin 2

Robin 3

-Walk for miles, despite the cold weather, because WHOOHOO IT’S NOT RAINING ANYMORE!

Broadway

Times Square

Rockefeller

Rockefeller 2

S&S

-Pose with Times Square in the background.

Window

-Go back to the theater the day after seeing the show so you can actually get a picture without rain splatters dotting the camera lens.

Newsies

We may have been rained upon, but we definitely didn’t allow ourselves to get rained out. Because NYC is always magical, always electrifying, always alive with energy. It is the kind of place you can belong to instantly. It’s the kind of place you can immerse yourself in, the kind of place you can travel to again and again (and again), the kind of place that makes you feel big and small at the same time. Have you ever been somewhere that evokes the same inspiration in you? Where was it?

Tuesday’s Tunes: Soundtrack Edition.


“Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I’m through with playing by the rules of someone else’s game
Too late for second-guessing, too late to go back to sleep
It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap!
It’s time to try defying gravity…”
~Wicked, “Defying Gravity”

I thought it would be fun to change things up a bit for this week’s Tuesday’s Tunes. After all, it’s not only music and writing that go hand-in-hand. It’s also music and imagery. Whether those scenes unfold across the small screen, the silver screen, or on Broadway’s vast and far-reaching stage, the idea remains the same. Music enhances what we see. It plays upon our emotions, describes what the characters are going through, and offers an almost magical escape. As my main character Sofie describes her theater-going experience:

Rows of red chairs flowed like the sea, glittery lights hung above, and around us, vested ushers guided people to their seats. It’s amazing to think how many theaters are like that in New York, each its own snow globe in a city that pulsates outside with its rhythmic heartbeat. Broadway is special. It’s a connection, an outreach, a chance to emerge more affected than when you entered.

Like Sofie, I love theater. I also love when television shows and movies incorporate chords of inspiration among their words. So, this week, here’s a look into some of my favorite soundtrack songs.

“Defying Gravity” – Wicked: I. ADORE. THIS. SHOW. As in, I could see it time and again, never once getting tired of its layered, beautiful, chilling story. There is something uniquely special about it, a universal connection that reaches straight into your soul and refuses to let go. It makes you believe – in magic, in hope, in faith, and in the fact that we can all truly be changed for good by the people who come into our lives. And, perhaps most importantly, it reminds us all that we can defy some gravity of our own, if we only have the courage to take that first leap.

“The Story” – Grey’s Anatomy: I dare you to listen to this and tell me that Sara Ramirez doesn’t have an amazing, captivating voice. Go on, give it a try. You won’t succeed, though, because she sings this song like the Tony Award winner she is. She tells a story so many of us can relate to – that, yes, we have lines across our faces, but that’s a good thing, because they make us who we are. They tell our stories. And, in this conclusion to Grey’s Anatomy’s musical episode, as we watch Callie convince herself to fight, as we watch her find the strength deep inside to live for her daughter, we’re reminded of something precious. Bravery can be hard to come by sometimes. Courage can be hard to find. But when you have something, someone, who makes you feel like a million bucks, then your stories become intertwined. The lines get crossed. And what follows? A song with beautiful harmony.

“The Living Proof” – The Help & Private Practice: Mary J. Blige’s song was featured in The Help – you can see scenes from the fantastic movie in the music video – and was also used in last week’s emotionally-charged intervention episode of Private Practice. It really struck me how the lyrics were so deeply, innately fitting for both experiences. They gracefully told the story of Aibileen Clark and Ms. Skeeter, and they also poignantly told the story of Amelia Shepherd. For each character, it was indeed a long, long journey to overcome. It was an uphill climb. But they persevered, they dug deep and found faith, and they came out on the other side changed for the better. How can you not love a song that plays those melodies?

What songs are you listening to this week? Do you like soundtrack albums? What’s your favorite musical?