Review: War Paint

I began my Labor Day Weekend with a performance of the musical War Paint on Friday evening. I had minimal expectations because, honestly, I hadn’t heard much buzz about it at all. I knew Patti (Lupone) and Christine (Ebersole) would be fabulous, so that’s really all the convincing I needed to go see it, and I knew it was about some rivalry between Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden but not much else. Douglas Sills was out that night and Chris Hoch stepped in for him. I wasn’t there to see Sills, so I couldn’t care less.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the story the most (Doug Wright did a great job with the book). Helena Rubenstein is my new hero, although she was portrayed a bit more punk rock in the script than in real life (for example: she had kids in real life which were never mentioned). We began in the 1930’s when Rubenstein moved back to New York City and Elizabeth Arden finds out from her associates and: drama. Arden’s salon is the ultimate destination for feminine pampering (and everything is “Arden pink”) and Rubenstein sells herself as beauty + science. It was because of the questionable ingredients they both used in the “age-defying” products that the FDA decided all ingredients must be printed on the bottle (thank you!).

Helena Rubenstein was, at one point, one of the richest women on earth and attempted to make an all-cash offer on a penthouse triplex on Park Avenue. When she was denied board approval because she was Jewish, she instead bought the entire building and lived in the triplex for 35 years until she died (per Wikipedia).

Elizabeth Arden’s first marriage falls apart in part because she won’t give her husband any credit for the sales work he’s doing. She says, “The moment I give you [her husband] credit is the moment I lose all of mine.” So true.

These two women detested each other and only met once.  They died within months of one another, too.

The music was fine – as in I don’t remember hating it. The dancing was also fine. But really, everyone was there to see LuPone and Ebersole and they were AMAZING. They are worth any price of admission (within reason, unless you’re Rubenstein-esque levels of rich then by all means, buy premium tickets). You should put “seeing two powerhouse women portray two powerhouse women onstage” on your bucket list right now because OH MAN.

War Paint is your standard length – two acts, two and a half hours long, but I never felt like it dragged. It was too much of a pleasure watching those two badasses onstage to check my watch.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a photo of Rubenstein’s childhood home in Krakow that I took last year while I was in Poland. (It’s the little green house.)

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My Experience: Meditate Your Weight

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Yesterday I completed the final day’s meditation and journaling for the three-week journey that Tiffany Cruikshank offers in Meditate Your Weight. She’s a doctor who has been using this course with her own patients for years, helping them lose weight, and so she decided to publish it.

Around January, I’d become frustrated with the 5-10 pounds I’d gained over the past couple of years and I didn’t know what to do about it. I eat super healthy (or at least 80/20) and usually worked out 5 times a week. I thought I’d give a go at examining the mental side of things and see if that was my issue, as I suspected it was (because I’m really hard on myself mentally, about most things).

I love reading books like this – and one of Gabby Bernstein’s books that’s a 40 day mental work-out – because it gives me something to look forward to doing every morning. I really enjoyed checking the box of, ‘Yup, done!’ I also, and I HATE to admit this, loved the freedom from my Vedic meditation practice for three weeks. I think I just needed a break. I don’t know why, but I did. Don’t judge me.

Anyways, it’s a 3 week process to go through and unpack your mental baggage that you have about yourself as a person and the image of yourself; to discover what makes you feel good and what gifts you have to offer the world. It sounds cheesy, but it was helpful. The best day is probably day 18, which is the visualization meditation. Where you visualize (duh) yourself at your healthiest. It’s powerful. I felt really good after. I also really enjoyed the daily mantra one day of “My inner glow makes me radiant.” I might get that printed on a bracelet.  Stop it, I know it’s cheesy.

Did I lose any weight, you might be wondering. I lost a couple of pounds, but her message overall is to find your healthiest SELF, not your healthiest weight. She actually recommends throwing your scale out.

So, two thumbs up for this book. It’s good to work on your health mentally just as it is to work on it physically. I celebrated finishing it with a 5k and an iced coffee at my favorite coffee shop. #winning

The Leftovers… Meh.

Brain dump alert. I’m debating whether or not to give The Leftovers another try since there’s a new season on (the final season?).

I stopped midway (or less) through season 2. They’re all just awful people that I don’t particularly care much about. And I’m not sure I can empathize over their situation because I don’t think I’d lose my mind if 1% of the population disappeared. We’re overpopulated as it is.

Does that sound bad? I feel like the people who’d lose their minds figuring out “why” are those same people who losing their minds trying to figure out the meaning of life and WHAT-DOES-IT-ALL-MEAN. And I’m just not like that. I don’t see the point in wasting my time hypothesizing reasons for events that I’ll never be able to verify. Does that make me lazy or sensible? Probably both.

If we didn’t have such an aversion to feeling our feelings in real time, the characters on the show might be able to move on. Instead of honoring their feelings of loss and confusion, they’re trying to figure out why it happened as a distraction because feeling anything isn’t admirable in our society.

It’d be sad if anyone I loved disappeared, sure. I’d mourn. I’d wonder why. Briefly. But then I’d be all, “Well, shit happens.”

Maybe I just need to binge it when the series is over. With wine. And Sweetgreen.

2016 in Numbers

I’m late in doing this but here goes. 

10 Movies: LaLa Land, Star Wars: Rogue One, Arrival, The Girl on the Train, The Purge: Election Year, Independence Day: Resurgence, Captain America: Civil War, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Macbeth, The Big Short

20 Books: The One and Only (Emily Giffin), Griftopia (Matt Taibbi), Revenge Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger), On Writing Well (William Zinsser), American Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis), Your Brain At Work (David Rock), The Woman I Wanted to Be (Diane von Furstenberg), Wherever You Go, There You Are (Jon Kabat-Zinn), The Nest (Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney), The Girls (Emma Cline), The Universe Has Your Back (Gabrielle Bernstein), The Couple Next Door (Shari Lapena), First Comes Love (Emily Giffin), Good As Gone (Amy Gentry), Behold the Dreamers (Imbolo Mbue), The Confidence Effect (Grace Killelea), The Woman in Cabin 10 (Ruth Ware), The Joy of Less (Francine Jay), Night (Elie Wiesel), Born For This (Chris Guillebeau)

29 Shows: The Encounter (2x), The Illusionists, The Cherry Orchard, Heisenberg, Beautiful, An American in Paris, American Psycho (2x), Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Waitress, The Color Purple, Blackbird, School of Rock, Eclipsed, Our Mother’s Brief Affair, Noises Off, Snow White, Marie and Rosetta, Small Mouth Sounds, Oh Hello, She Loves Me, Avenue Q, Tuck Everlasting, The Woodsman, Vietgone, Seen By Everyone, Fiddler on the Roof, The Crucible (There are probably a couple that I’m forgetting.)

I need to see more theatre this year. 

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I’ve been trying to read more fiction recently. If you’re my friend on GoodReads, you’ll probably notice that my reading list is very non-fiction heavy. I love non-fiction but I’m finding a lot of books, even about things I find interesting, are harder to get through. So, I decided to rectify that with signing up for a 3-month subscription to Book of the Month Club and Kristen and I are trading books. (Spoiler alert: I quickly became overwhelmed with the frequency of the book’s arrivals so I canceled my account a couple of weeks ago.) I’m currently reading The Woman in Cabin 10, which is a fantastic and gripping thriller so far, but before that, I read Kristen’s copies of The Girls, by Emma Cline, and The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney.

I was immediately captivated by The Nest and loved learning about the semi-atrocious characters and what they’d been up to until that point in their lives. It’s always great to see how a family acts when money is involved. Spoiled and entitled does not begin to describe these siblings. I finished this in, like, two weeks. (Which is fast for me. #slowreader)

Next was The Girls. I’d been a little skeptical when Kristen had informed me that this was about a cult and that it took a little while to get into. She was correct on both accounts, but once I was into it, I was hooked. It takes a look at the girls who probably would’ve been part of the Manson Family. The book takes place in present day (where the main character, Evie, is an adult and she is confronted with her past when two teenagers ask her about the aforementioned cult) and her teenage self in 1969. It’s easy to see why teenagers could get swept up in this. This one was a quick read, too. A+.

That’s my book update for now. Let me know what your current favorite fiction reads are! I have so many unread books right now but maybe I’ll get to them eventually! I’m currently restraining myself from buying Emily Giffin and Lauren Weisberger’s new books, too. I love ChickLit though! I’ll buy them in paperback. 

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I am nobody’s mother, but I am somebody.

On Tuesday night, @endotique met me (at the last possible minute, goddamn you, traffic; she literally got to the seat as the lights were going down!) to see new revival of The Color Purple. I saw the original production some years ago and I literally remembered nothing about it. LaChanze was in it, sure, but I don’t even remember her performance. I remember that Oprah was a producer and it didn’t do well – that’s about it. 

I think it’s safe to say that I will definitely remember this production.

The stage is very bare and has a semi-Our Town feel to it – in the sense that part of the first act has the characters that aren’t in the scene sitting onstage and watching. 

The elevator pitch for the show is it’s about two sisters, Celie and Netty, who live in Georgia and are separated when Celie is “given” to man by her step-father (who had been raping her since she was 12) to marry and basically be his slave. The new husband is abusive and doesn’t allow her to have contact with her sister at all. The Color Purple is about Celie’s journey to find her sister and her independence. Or at least a life that doesn’t include and daily rapings and beatings. 

Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.

The score is beautiful and I really enjoyed the direction (finally, John Doyle, you did something right!). The choreography is really excellent, too. But the stars of this show are Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks, and Heather Headley. 

Cynthia Erivo was Celie and she has a voice you wouldn’t believe. She earned a standing ovation after one of her big songs in the second act. I’d be surprised if she talks at all when she’s not onstage. Give this woman the Tony Award ASAP.

Danielle Brooks, aka Tasty from Orange is the New Black (who I totally didn’t know was in this and it was a fantastic surprise), was Sophia, a woman in their small town who doesn’t take shit from her husband or any one else. Brooks has a killer voice and she’s a great actress. She helps encourage Erivo to leave her abusive husband.

And then there’s Heather Headley (who recently replace Jennifer Hudson, who, honestly, I could not care less about no matter how talented she is) as a famous singer named Shug Avery. Avery used to be in a relationship with Celie’s abusive husband and later becomes another advocate, and love interest, for Celie. I haven’t seen Heather Headley onstage since AIDA and I was so excited to be witness to her greatness again. She didn’t disappoint. She sounded great, she looked great, and her acting was, as far as I could tell, spot on.  

I could go and name the rest of the cast as they were all wonderfully talented with gorgeous voices, but you can go to IBDB for that. We stood as soon as the curtain call began and didn’t sit again. I enjoyed this show so much more than I thought I would and I’m so glad I gave it a second chance. 

The original production was a joke in comparison. Don’t hold it against this production because it’s 100% better. 

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A Theatre Date with Myself

So, I’ve been whittling away at the shows I need to see this season and when Tuck Everlasting came up for the Saturday matinee last weekend, I said why not. I knew it was based on a book (or a movie?) and it had a great cast (Terrance Mann, Carolee Carmello, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, etc). The summary on Playbill did not make it sound enticing though: “When Winnie Foster discovers the magical secret of the Tuck family, she embarks on an extraordinary adventure that will change her life forever.” Snooze. It sounded pretty damn boring. I was already committed though so there was no turning back. I was hooked up by TDF in the fourth row of the mezzanine with a great view. 

Playbill’s elevator pitch was accurate but the story (and show!) was actually a lot more interesting and entertaining than the pitch would let onto. When Winnie runs away, she meets the Tuck family who, 100 years earlier, accidentally drank from a spring in the forest that Winnie’s family owns and they are now immortal. 

Andrew Keenan-Bolgar plays Jesse Tuck, the 17-year-old son of Angus (Michael Park) and Mae (Carolee Carmello) Tuck and brother of Miles (Robert Lenzi). He tells Winnie (the incredible Sarah Charles Lewis) his families secret which is less than ideal for his family. After some conflict, Winnie has to decide whether or not to drink the water that Jesse has given her when she turns 17 and live forever with him.

Terrance Mann plays “Man in the Yellow Suit.” He’s a strange old man that can tell people’s ages by looking into their eyes. You can probably tell what happens and he goes after the Tuck family, though unsuccessfully. Mann has always been one of my favorites and he certainly didn’t disappoint with his supporting role in this show.

I have to say that I really enjoyed it. It was really sad at times and really funny during others. It had a lot of heart and was really heavy. The one thing that bugged me was the ensemble choreography in the first few numbers of the first act. Maybe it was where I was sitting, but it looked so sloppy. It got better from there though.

This entire cast is uniformly strong and meshes really well together.

The buzz is that this show won’t make it past Sunday, which is sad but what can you do? If you’re skeptical about whether or not to see Tuck Everlasting, I’d recommend giving it a shot. It could surprise you the same way it surprised me. 

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This is what being Patrick Bateman means to me. 

J and I went to see American Psycho on Tuesday night (remember when I waited on line in the freezing cold for like way-too-long?) and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d listened to the London cast recording a bunch of times on Spotify and loved a lot of what I’d been hearing, but who knows how it would transfer, right?

I’ve been lurking on the American Psycho Previews thread on BroadwayWorld and the buzz was that the first act was amazing but the second act dragged. I was excited to see how they’d handle the chunks of the book that included the mass murders of numerous prostitutes and how much blood, exactly, would be on that stage. I’d also heard the opening moment of the show was amazing. I was really excited but trying to keep my expectations low, anyways. 

Spoilers ahead!

The opening moment WAS cool. The stage was filled with smoke and there was screaming, but I wanted it to be more frightening. (Maybe they’ll up the scares during previews.) For those of you who saw the cast perform on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last week, well, Benjamin Walker is only in tighty-whiteys and looks like he’s eaten nothing but protein shakes since then. He looks good. He describes his morning routine and then the song Selling Out starts.   

I know Selling Out wasn’t in the London production and I have no idea how the show must’ve felt without it. It sets the feel for the entire show. These are a bunch of empty, shallow (albeit extremely well-dressed and good looking) people who care about all the wrong things and are extremely annoying.

I digress. Cards was the next great song. Theo Stockman is playing a completely different character from who he has played in the past (Hair, American Idiot) as the obnoxious colleague of Bateman’s Tim Price. J burst into a laughing fit as soon as he spoke his first lines because his voice is just that ridiculous. Another stand out was Drew Moerlein in his Broadway debut as another one of Bateman’s colleagues Paul Owen. He was as smug and overly expressive in that douchey way that only an investment banker on Wall Street can be. 

You Are What You Wear was an introduction to the women who (sometimes) occupy these men at night. Helene Yorke as Evelyn (Bateman’s girlfriend) and Morgan Weed as Courtney (Evelyn’s friend) outshine every other female on that stage with their comedic timing and portrayals of these socialites. I don’t think Yorke opened her mouth a single time that wasn’t answered with laughter from the audience.

Side note: Jennifer Damiano plays Bateman’s secretary, Jean, the same way she always plays her roles (Next to Normal being the exception). That said, she didn’t disappoint. Alice Ripley plays Bateman’s mother in addition to two other small roles and she’s great. She’s supposed to be a heavily medicated mother which she’s done before and won for a Tony for it, so: this is basically a walk in the park. 

The pre-written songs that Sheik wove into the show were seamless and worked without question. Everybody Wants to Rule the World and In the Air Tonight (this one sounded exceptionally spectacular) fit right in, as does Hip To Be Square at the end of the first act. 

The score is so very 80′s and it’s so much fun. Not a Common Man was one of my favorite songs of the first act and I Am Back and This Is Not an Exit were definitely my favorite in the second act. I had I Am Back in my head all day yesterday. 

There are LOTS of projections used in the show. And there are two turntables on the stage. Even though Les Miserables is referenced over and over (it was the hot thing in 1989!), the turn tables don’t make it feel like we’re watching Les Miserables at all. Don’t worry. Donald Trump is also referenced probably a dozen times, too, since he was a big thing especially to Wall Street douchebags. Trump is referenced three times as much in the book though. The producers couldn’t have picked a more appropriate time to transfer American Psycho to New York with this reference intact. 

So, the gore. There’s not a lot of blood in Act 1. He kills his first person at the end of Act 1 and there’s a decent amount of blood on the plastic scrim. I was really curious as to how they would get through all of the people he murders in the book and they handled it perfectly. Patrick Bateman has really loses his mind by Act 2 and after trying to clear it with a trip to the Hamptons accompanied by Evelyn, he returns to Manhattan (I Am Back) and goes on a killing spree. There’s lots of blood on people and the walls for this. Imagine a pile of dead bodies center stage and that’s how this song ends. It was a perfect way to get through a good 100 pages of the book that describe how he murders dozens of people.

Oh, and the sex. There’s a silly, but hysterical scene in Act 1 with simulated sex between two prostitutes and Bateman with ridiculous projections. I read that lots of people hated this but by the time the end of Act 1 rolls around, you’ve already forgotten it’s happened because you’re enjoying the rest of it so much.

The audience was largely a theatre crowd. You could tell that they hadn’t read the book because they gasped when Bateman invites Jean to his apartment before they see a show. She doesn’t die in the book and she doesn’t even have much of a role in the movie, so they would never have killed her off in this adaptation.

Benjamin Walker was so, so good. He’s a playing a character who is a genuinely bad person but I felt sorry for him at times, especially when he was being ignored. All Bateman wants is to fit in and he feels invisible; that’s just sad. He has a much better voice, in my opinion, than Matt Smith does and I hope they plan to record this soon (as far as I know, they don’t). 

It clocked in at 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is long, but the book is 400 pages and a vast majority of it is in Bateman’s mind. When he’s really losing coherence in Act 2, there’s a lot of dialogue to try to express this. He’s covered in blood, dressed in his tighty whiteys and he realizes there’s no way out (This Is Not An Exit). It’s a heavy second act, though I’m not sure what you could cut to make it shorter. 

You could say this is a representation of how society in America completely ignore mental illness if said-mentally ill person has an outward appearance that satisfies us. Even if that person tells us they’re going out of their minds and want to kill people, we’re more likely to say, “great joke!” than take it seriously. Bateman’s pleas for help are ignored by his friends and family. 

To say I had a good time at American Psycho is an understatement. Is it a perfect show? No. Is it for everyone? No. I could imagine the New York Times panning it’s non-traditional but I hope word-of-mouth and the cult following that the book and movie have can make it a hit. 

There was a great energy inside the theatre on Tuesday night and I hope they can sustain the momentum they’ve been building and take your average Broadway audience by surprise.