7 Musicals You Absolutely Need to See

I know, I know. “Musical theatre isn’t really my thing.” For many people, it’s too cheesy or too unrelatable or there’s too much dancing, or something. Not every musical is for everyone, I’ll give you that. If you’re a minimalist, you probably won’t enjoy something as flashy as Phantom of the Opera or Miss Saigon. At the same time, if you love classic movies and Disney princesses, then Rent and Assassins are probably not for you. But no matter what your personal tastes are, I think there are a handful of musicals that you should absolutely see in your lifetime. Here they are, in no particular order.

1. The Sound of Music

Yes, fine, this is from the movie, not the stage version. But no one is more iconic than Julie Andrews. Via

Yes, fine, this is from the movie, not the stage version. But no one is more iconic than Julie Andrews. Via

Why it’s a must: Simply put, this is the classic musical of classic musicals. It’s about singing, after all, and learning to sing even in the hardest of times. Not only can we all relate to the cathartic power of music for ourselves, but we all understand how it can bring people together in ways big and small.

What to watch for: Familiar songs, such as “Do-Re-Mi” and “My Favorite Things”; cute kids; tons of themes relating to faith, family, and of course music.

2. Wicked

Why it’s a must: If you loved The Wizard of Oz as a kid (the book or the movie), you will love how Wicked tells the unheard story of misunderstood Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West. The music was composed by Stephen Schwarz, a prolific Disney composer, and the songs, sets, costumes, and characters are much larger than life.

What to watch for: Clever tie-ins with The Wizard of Oz; steampunk-inspired sets and costumes; awesome special effects like all the flying.

3. The Lion King

Why it’s a must: The stage version of this show is an adaptation from the Disney movie, which is the opposite of what usually happens. In order to overcome the challenge of creating a live musical of a story entirely about and told by animals, the writers and artistic staff developed tons of intricate, gorgeous costumes and oversize puppets that definitely suggest animals while not being overly “cartoonish.” Plus the singing is freaking incredible.

What to watch for: The various puppetry, especially for the less-important animals throughout the show; fantastic African-inspired vocals and percussion; some of the most beautiful costumes and sets you will ever see.

4. Les Misérables

Why it’s a must: Well, if you’ve only seen the movie version, then the only Javert you know is Russell Crowe, and I simply cannot allow that. Please, do yourself a favor and go watch some real singers. Sure, it was great that Anne Hathaway sang all of “I Dreamed A Dream” in one shot, but actresses who play Fantine onstage sing it in one “take” every night. I can’t watch this show without experiencing the full spectrum of emotions, and once you experience it live, you won’t be able to either.

What to watch for: Cool stage effects, like major set changes; the deep development that exists for every character in the show; famous songs like “On My Own” and “Do You Hear the People Sing.”

5. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

Why it’s a must: Honestly, because you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s a short show that adults will find hilarious because of the archetypal characters. Each of us in middle school was either a dramatic Logainne Schwartzandgrubenniere, a snarky know-it-all William Barfee (pronounced bar-FAY), an overachieving Marcy Park, a rule-abiding Chip Tolentino, a socially inept Leaf Coneybear, or an adorably awkward Olive Ostrovsky. We can all relate.

What to watch for: Opportunities for audience participation; truly excellent wordplay; people you may recognize within each character; whether or not the performing group has the guts to include the song entitled “My Unfortunate Erection.”

6. Spamalot

Why it’s a must: If you love the Monty Python franchise, here is your opportunity to see all the various movies and sketches combined into one ridiculous romp. Based mostly on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it is everything one could hope for and includes all of your favorite moments, jokes, and anachronisms from the movie, as well as tons of new ones as well.

What to watch for: As mentioned, the abundance of hilarious anachronisms throughout the show; a variety of musical and dramatic styles; things you may not have known about your favorite Arthurian (or Pythonian) characters.

7. Sweeney Todd

Why it’s a must: Well, first of all, because every list of must-see musicals should include at least one show by Stephen Sondheim. I chose this one specifically in case the above list isn’t dark enough for you. There is really nothing cheerful at all about this show, so if you want to be thoroughly creeped out while enjoying some fantastic music, this is the show for you.

What to watch for: Blood. Lots and lots of blood. Don’t worry, it’s mostly fake.

Musical theatre lovers, what shows would you add to this list?

TV Shows I Really Should Watch

Every time I start binge watching a new show on Netflix, I feel a weird sense of apprehension. What if this show isn’t really my style after all? What if it toys with my emotions way too much? What if it just plain sucks? I always think about how much time I’m about to put in to watching an entire series from start to finish… and then I do it anyway, and every time, I’m always glad I started.

Currently, I’m watching Friends all the way through for the second time in a row. Before Friends, I watched all of Gilmore Girls for the first time ever. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been through How I Met Your Mother, Boy Meets World, and of course, the gone-too-soon Firefly. Tears.

Even the poster makes me happy.

Even the poster makes me happy. via

Even though I completely adore all of these shows, I feel like it might be time for me to branch out and explore some new ones. Here’s what’s on my to-watch list:

  1. New Girl. In the interest of honesty, T and I have actually watched two seasons already, but since he won’t let me watch it without him, it’s rather slow going. But I can’t get enough of Jess and her shenanigans, nor can I ever have too many Schmidtticisms.
  2. Friday Night Lights. See above. We’ve watched one season and both of us are hooked, we just need way more time to devote to this show than we actually have.
  3. Orange is the New Black. After being totally sucked in by the book, I can’t imagine not loving the show. The true-story element is just too fascinating.
  4. Smash. An entire show about musical theatre? Ummmmmm, yespleasekthanksbye.
  5. Arrested Development. I don’t know much about this show, other than that my friends with otherwise great taste have recommended it.

Who knows, maybe one of these will end up being a new favorite show!

What are your need-to-watch TV shows? Any recommendations for me for shows to add to this list?

T&K’s Spring Break Pacific Northwest Road Trip Adventure 2015: Bucket List

This is my second post about this trip and we haven’t even left yet. Can you tell I absolutely can’t wait? I need a vacation bad. But also, I’m so excited about all of the different cities and national parks that we’re going to visit. Here’s my list of absolute musts for this trip, some of which we already have booked. Huzzah!

1. See a show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

I’ve been dying to get to Ashland for ten years, ever since it was offered as a senior class trip in high school and I couldn’t go because of marching band. Sigh. That was the beginning of rehearsals interfering with my life. Anyway, T and I have talked about going a couple of different times since then, but now we’re actually making it happen! We have tickets to see Shakespeare’s Pericles, which wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it’s what’s playing and I’m too excited to care.

2. Visit the original Starbucks at Pike’s Place in Seattle and buy a tumbler.

In college, while on a choir trip through the Pacific Northwest, I bought a travel mug at the original Starbucks. I absolutely loved it and used it all the time, until somewhere in the process of moving home after graduation, I lost it. So many sads. But now I have the opportunity to replace it, and so I shall.

3. Cheer for no one at a Canucks game in Vancouver.

One night in January, T and I were at a Sharks game, watching them lose depressingly, when one of us said casually, “We should go to a hockey game in Vancouver.” That was enough to distract us from whatever travesty was happening on the ice in front of us, and we promptly hopped on our phones, found a game on one of the nights that we’ll be there, and bought tickets. It’ll be the Canucks vs. the Phoenix Coyotes in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but we’ll be proudly displaying our teal inside Rogers Arena. No one will care since the Sharks won’t be in the playoffs anyway.

4. Go for a walk through the rain forest in Olympic National Park.

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Poor drought-riddled California hasn’t seen that much green in a long, long time. I would love to take the time to enjoy some greenery and some damp weather… and maybe we can convince some of it to come home with us.

5. Take T to Powell’s Books in Portland.

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Powell’s is basically heaven on earth. This was another stop on the aforementioned college choir tour, and I could have lived in there. Obviously our time was limited because of traveling with a giant group, but I’m very much looking forward to getting lost in there for a few hours. T wasn’t with me last time (though I did bring him back a book of German fairy tales  auf Deutsch), so I can’t wait to see his face upon first walking in.

Have you ever been to any of the cities or places that I mentioned, or do you live in any of them? Any recommendations are more than welcome!

10 Reasons to Be Sad That Your Show is Over

For the past month I’ve been performing in a show called “The Boy Friend” with a local community theatre, which finally closed this past weekend. Closing is always very bittersweet… it’s nice to get my life back, but there are lots of things that I always miss about shows once they are over.

1. You bought new tap shoes for this production and will be sad to stop using them.

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Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

2. You’ve lost your weekend escape and now have to deal with your life drama head-on.

3. Dancing in the show was enough of a workout that you weren’t feeling guilty about going to the gym, but now you have to think about actual exercise.

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Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

4. You’ll no longer be surrounded by people who understand your exact brand of crazy.

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We like to get our crazies out during warm-ups.

5. Nowhere else is your fake British accent acceptable, let alone encouraged.

6. Now that the “secret star” gifts have stopped, so has your supply of wine that you didn’t have to buy yourself.

7. Your wig hairstyle looked cute with your period costumes, but let’s face it, it wouldn’t work with your normal clothing at all.

Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

8. You no longer wear a microphone at all times, which means you’re forced to yell at people in order to be heard. Or so you think.

What everyone does when that happens. Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

What everyone does when that happens. Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

9. Getting daily emails from the stage manager with call times and reminders was a guarantee that you would never go a day without at least one “real” email in your inbox.

10. No matter how many shows you’ve done before or will do in the future, you’re always convinced that this cast is the best one ever.

Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

Photo courtesy of Edmond Kwong.

Musical theatre people, how do you normally deal with the inevitable “show hangover”?

Wooden: A Coach’s Life

Today I have the pleasure of bringing you a particularly special post. For my second book of the 2015 Reading Challenge, I chose Seth Davis’s Wooden: A Coach’s Life, which details the life of renowned basketball coach John Wooden. It’s a genre I don’t normally read (sports biography*), but the reason I picked this particular book is because my very own brother assisted Davis with the extensive amount of research for it.

*It could also have fallen under the category “a book my mom loves.” See above.

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In case you’re not as completely obsessed with college basketball as my family is, John Wooden is remembered as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game, if not the single greatest. He began as the son of a simple farmer in Indiana in the early 20th century, when the sport of basketball was still very young. He quickly fostered a love and a great skill for it and moved from playing in high school, college, and professionally to coaching high school and college ball himself. That career eventually brought him out to the west coast when he took the head coaching job at UCLA in 1948, and he never looked back. In 27 seasons with the Bruins, he led them to ten NCAA championships as well as several regional and conference championships. Coming from a family with a love of sports and a long legacy at UCLA, it was only fitting that my brother would spend his summers (and more) working on this book while a student at UCLA himself.

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I’m a proud sister.

I never had a chance to meet Seth Davis while my brother was working with him, but I can imagine from his writing style what a fun person he must be to work for. I’m not the hugest lover of sports in my family (the bar is set quite high), but I loved reading this book (even though it took me well over two months to read… it’s incredibly dense with information). Davis includes tons of interesting anecdotes about Wooden, his family, his players, and the world of the midwestern U.S. in the early 20th century. I especially enjoyed reading about various important basketball games throughout Wooden’s career and picturing them happening play by play. As I’m watching this year’s March Madness tournament, I keep thinking about the descriptions of the various games in the book and seeing them play out as if I were watching them on TV.

More importantly, though, is the picture of Wooden as a complete individual. Though Davis makes it pretty clear that Wooden was no saint, he also gives credit where it’s due, and it certainly is due. His contributions to basketball in general, college basketball in particular, and UCLA history especially, are an amazing legacy that have affected millions, my own family included.

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T&K’s Spring Break Pacific Northwest Road Trip Adventure 2015: What I’m Packing

Back in September, when we bought our outdoorsy, all-weather Subaru Outback, we decided that we needed to take it on a road trip as soon as humanly possible. Of course, for us, “as soon as humanly possible” meant “seven months from now when we have time off.” So we planned a spring break road trip adventure up the Pacific Northwest, through Oregon and Washington and up into Vancouver.

When we found out we had to move out of our apartment and our stress levels tripled in a matter of seconds, I began counting down the days to our vacation in earnest and making concrete plans. We leave the day after Easter and I can’t wait to share our travels with you, but for now, here’s what I will be packing for eight days in the car and enjoying all the West Best Coast has to offer.

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Tops: peach/beige sweater, white sweater, long-sleeve t-shirt, red sweater, white v-neck t-shirt (x3), yellow cardigan. Bottoms: black skinny jeans, blue skinny jeans, black/white maxi skirt.

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Outerwear, shoes, and scarves. Not pictured: tennis shoes because I forgot to get them out for the picture. Oh well.

More to come about preparing for our trip! Stay tuned!

New Apartment Loves

We’ve been living in our new apartment for about two weeks, and now that the chaos of moving has mostly passed, I thought I would share some of the things I find positive about this place. Not only does it help me to remember that there are in fact good things about it, but it also lets you, the lovely reader, know that I don’t actually hate it here.

So what do I like about living in this apartment?

1. The crispness of smooth wood floors and white walls.

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Our old place was unique in its design, paint colors, and various features like the imprinted metal kitchen cabinets. It felt homey right from the day we walked in the door. That said, it wasn’t super clean, and no matter how hard we tried, we could never quite it to the level of cleanliness that we would have liked. Here, the walls are all white, which seemed sterile before we moved all our stuff in, but now they’re covered by curtains, bookshelves, and artwork.

2. The closest thing to a “picture window” we’ve ever had.

Sorry about the mess.

Sorry about the mess.

One day while I was off doing a show, T hung up the curtains we used to have in the old place. It was quite a pleasant surprise to come home to window dressings that were much warmer and more friendly than the standard vertical blinds, at least on one window. Plus I think the way we have the window framed by bookshelves creates an awesome focal point (and also the cats love to perch there and watch people walk by).

3. The laundry nook.

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As much as it is kind of a pain to have to stand on my little footstool to empty the dryer, I do appreciate that our laundry area takes up minimal space. It’s also nice to have a door on it to block some of the noise, which we didn’t have at the old place.

4. Our bathroom storage solutions.

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It was clear as soon as we walked into the bathroom for the first time that we would need all kinds of storage in there. The over-the-toilet shelving unit has been a lifesaver, though it’s just barely too short for the taller-than-standard toilet (shhhh, you can’t really tell). I’ve also been dying to try the wine-rack-turned-towel-rack solution since I saw it on Pinterest about a year ago, but we never had the need nor the wall space. Now that we do, I’m loving the fact that it’s both functional and artistic.

5. The magnetic spice containers that eliminate a big item from our limited counter space.

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The key to this particular success is that the sides of the fridge are magnetic in addition to the door. The spices don’t take up any extra space that we want to devote to decor, and they don’t make the fridge look too busy, but they’re all right there within reach.

6. Having a desk that’s much more central to the main room.

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When I started grad school, I thought I would use the desk all the time because it had a lower pull-out section that seemed super convenient for spreading out books or musical scores. I was right about the convenience, but very wrong about using it all the time. It was relegated to a dark corner of our already-dark dining room, so I couldn’t write papers or do other work while also talking to T in the living room. Our new set-up has the desk right next to the couch, so all I have to do is turn my head or swivel in that awesome bungee desk chair.

7. My little makeup station.

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Now that we only have one mirror and it’s in the bathroom, we have to be extra conscientious about bathroom time in the morning. In order to get out of T’s way, I set up a little makeshift vanity that houses my makeup and jewelry. And isn’t that cat ring holder the cutest?

8. The little personal touches that have made it feel like home.

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I was anxious to hang artwork pretty soon after we moved in, and as soon as we did, it felt much more like our home. Seeing our wedding pictures on the wall, as well as the other art that holds significance for us, reminds me that we’re still us and we’re still a family no matter where we physically live.

9. The complex amenities.

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Just outside our apartment, on the other side of the big window, is the complex’s only pool. It’s been warming up in the afternoons lately, so it’s fun to hear the kids playing in the pool after school and on the weekends. We also have a clubhouse with a fitness center that my brother has already come over and used (though neither T nor I has checked it out yet). The lake is right across the street, and on the other side is the light rail station that can take us downtown and beyond easily. I also appreciate the extra little security of being able to park in the garage directly below the complex, and our parents chipped in to pay for a second parking spot in the garage so we can both park down there. It makes me feel much safer about getting home late at night after rehearsals or performances, and it’s easy to check mail and toss recycling on the way to and from the car.

In a way, the fact that this apartment is smaller has forced us to come up with creative storage solutions and utilize every inch of space. We’ve added extra hanging rods to bedroom closets, built extra IKEA drawer units, and bought a whole collection of plastic bins from Bed Bath & Beyond. We got creative with hanging shoe organizers by turning them into storage for socks and underwear. We put a big metal shelving unit inside our outdoor patio closet, which now houses sleeping bags, bulky suitcases, and various household items that we have no room for inside, stored in the aforementioned BB&B plastic bins. More than ever, I feel the importance of having “a place for everything and everything in its place.”

I’ve read several times that you should try to have your house be ten minutes from guest-ready at all times. The more we get settled, put things away, organize, decorate, and make it our own, the more I consider that and try to abide by it. We’ll be hosting the first friend-gathering here next week, which will motivate me us to finish unpacking, keep things as clean as they were when we moved in, and develop a welcoming vibe that our friends will want to visit and that we will want to come home to at the end of the day.

Burnt Out

It’s official: I am experiencing a classic case of burnout.

Lake Shasta, where I would very much like to be right now.

Lake Shasta, where I would very much like to be right now.

To be fair, I saw this coming a long way off. Even before T and I found out we had to move, there was enough on my plate. I’m under an enormous amount of pressure at my office job, as well as trying to prepare my church choir for Holy Week with too little rehearsal time. We’ve taken on more responsibilities as volunteers at church, which has unfortunately been tied closely with feeling somewhat distant from some of our friends. I’ve been deep in performances for my community theatre show, which still takes up a ton of time and energy on the weekends even though we’re no longer rehearsing on weeknights. One of our cars was broken into a couple of weeks ago, causing us (especially me) to feel generally unsafe and violated. And of course, the cherry on top of all of this was the shocking news from our landlord as T was halfway to Mexico three weeks ago. It’s no surprise that I am simply done.

For me, the signs of burnout look a lot like a textbook case of clinical depression. I’m exhausted all the time, even when I’ve gotten plenty of hours of sleep. I find myself falling into periods of being completely unmotivated to do anything, even the things I enjoy. Because I don’t have the energy to spend time cooking or preparing food, I end up eating terribly, which leads to not feeling well. That’s usually compounded by anxiety-induced stomach aches. I tend to feed off of other people’s negative energy as well. If a challenge arises or someone gives me criticism, however constructive, I fall apart instead of rising to it. Unlike depression, however, burnout isn’t brought on by a chemical imbalance in my brain. I know exactly where it comes from, but the problem is that they are circumstances over which I have no control.

I thought that finishing the move would alleviate some of my internal struggle, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead of stressing out about packing and physically moving, I’ve replaced that with feeling unsettled in our new apartment and worrying about our finances. Aside from the fact that we are making very slow progress on unpacking, as well as the fact that we have almost no storage space whatsoever, it honestly feels like we’re living in a hotel. Our old place was privately owned, so it had lots of personal touches that truly made it feel like a home. This new place, much like our first apartment ever, feels very institutional with its all-white walls, hotel-grade bathroom counter, and ADA-compliant safety bar in the shower (not that that last one is a bad thing). I’m sure it didn’t help that our moving day coincided with changing the clocks, which just made it even harder to get up the next morning.

I’m sure there will come a point at which I need to stop “wallowing” over this move and the other stresses and just “suck it up” and “get over it.” Granted, to that I say, “Give me a vacation and then I will get over it,” but I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to be bitter and hurt by being forced to move. I want to be excited about the things that the new place has to offer, and I want to feel inspired and passionate about the projects at work and the exciting services we’re planning at church. I know God must have a reason for giving me all of these things at once, but I don’t know yet what that reason is, and until I know, it’s hard to stay positive.

Staying Afloat

I promise you, friends, I’m still alive. It’s been a very difficult three weeks, to say the least. After finding out on Valentine’s Day, while T was halfway to Mexico, that we had sixty days to vacate our apartment, my entire existence has been consumed with moving. I found us a new place before T was even back on U.S. soil. We negotiated last month’s rent and the return of our deposit with our landlord, which wasn’t a particularly pleasant experience. We got the keys last week, and I’ve been spending most of my waking hours since then packing and moving.

The words “angry” and “upset” don’t even begin to describe how T and I feel right now. We feel violated and betrayed, and like nothing in our life is safe or sacred. One day we felt secure in our life and our plans, and the next day we were at the mercy of someone else’s whim, or at least someone else’s life decisions. Even though T assures me that the signing of a brand-new 14-month lease won’t affect us following through with any opportunity that comes up, I can’t help but feel like we’re stuck here for that much longer.

I really do want to enjoy the amenities that the new apartment and complex has to offer. We’ll be able to take advantage of the fitness center in the clubhouse, the light rail station next door, and the beautiful lake across the street from us. In the summer, I’ll be enjoying the built-in A/C while T grills on our patio because we’ll be living on the first floor for the first time ever (that’s the law in California). We might even be able to get a dog because of the dog park that the complex management plans to put in. There are plenty of positives about the new place, but it’s hard to be truly excited about them when a) we’re paying significantly more for them and b) we were perfectly happy without those things.

And of course this isn’t the only thing going on in our lives right now. I have a huge ongoing project at work, for which I have a big hand in its success or failure. We’re steadily taking on more responsibilities at church––I’m preparing our choir for Holy Week and starting to plan our summer houseboats trip with the youth group, and T has just become an elder and is the chair of the search committee to find a new youth director. And of course I opened a show last weekend, and while we aren’t rehearsing on weeknights any more at this point, a lot of this house stress overlapped with tech week.

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I am feeling a little better now that our bookshelves are set up at the new place.

So that’s what’s happening, and why I haven’t been around lately. Thank you for your patience with me, friends.