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?

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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?

Why MAC Makeup Rocks

I didn’t start wearing makeup until the summer before I started college. Insert gasp here.

In high school I was one of those girls who was determined not to care about her appearance, because I thought that made you shallow. I didn’t put a ton of effort into my hair, my clothing choices, or my makeup routine. In fact, I don’t know that I even owned a single beauty product that wasn’t a flat iron until I was officially a high school graduate.

Oh, how the times have changed. T knew me back then and is probably either appalled by how much makeup I own now or thanking God in heaven that I saw the light and figured out how to make myself look publicly presentable. Why he wanted to date me during that phase is, and forever will remain, a mystery to me.

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Me at my high school senior prom. Yikes. Why, why, why did I not wear makeup?

When I took my first reluctant tiptoes into that world, I had no clue where to start. The beauty blogosphere wasn’t really a thing yet, so I didn’t have easy access to guidance about which products were worth the money and which ones weren’t, or what types of products I should be using for my skin type (picture 18-year-old me thinking, “There are different skin types?”). I didn’t even really know how to apply these mysteriously-packaged beauty aides to my skin to create an even somewhat aesthetically pleasing result.

In my travels through the ridiculous number of makeup brands out there, I’ve experimented with only a tiny fraction of the products that are available, but I’ve always had a hard time settling on the foundation that works best for my face. I’ve tried drugstore brands and expensive, upscale products. I’ve tried mineral makeup, which didn’t provide nearly the amount of coverage I wanted for my far-from-perfect skin. Eventually I was able to narrow my choices down to liquid foundation, but I still had trouble finding the right shade for my face or a brand that wouldn’t make my skin look cakey or my pores look huge.

Then I started doing theater, and I learned about a brand called MAC Cosmetics, which was not only a consumer brand, but also had a professional line of stage makeup. I figured since it was designed to last for hours under harsh stage lighting without sweating off, I should try it as an everyday foundation. It turned out to be magical.

MAC products currently in my makeup arsenal.

MAC products currently in my makeup arsenal.

MAC’s Studio Fix Fluid lasts all day on my face without wearing off, and the NC-15 shade matches my face closer than any other foundation I’ve ever tried, especially with a color-correcting primer underneath. It feels smooth when it goes on and doesn’t smell nasty like many other similar foundations out there. I follow that with MAC’s Prep + Prime Transparent Finishing Powder, which is hands-down the best finishing powder of all time because it makes my skin feel incredibly soft to the touch and doesn’t flake at all. I’ve also used their Mineralize Skinfinish bronzer, which comes in multiple shades, including a light one that doesn’t make my skin look too orange. Throughout the day, I carry around a compact of Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation in the same shade as my liquid foundation, for little touch-ups.

Recently I’ve added additional MAC products to my daily regimen. In the fall I started using the Prep + Prime Skin primer, which adds a nice subtle shimmer beneath the surface of my foundation. And every day I finish off my makeup routine with a spritz of the Prep + Prime Fix+, which sets everything and keeps it lasting all day.

Every once in a while I get tired of paying so much for MAC products and I go off in search of something comparable for less, only to find that I’m not as satisfied with those products. It really is the only brand of makeup that works on my skin across the board through all of their different products. I would definitely be open to trying out some of their other types of foundations and finishing solutions, given how much I have loved the ones I’ve used so far. Plus how can I resist their recycling program? If you bring in six empty MAC containers, you can trade them in for a free eyeshadow or a free lip product. It’s a win-win!

If you use MAC makeup, how do you like it? If not, would you ever consider using it?

Note: This is not a sponsored post.

Weekend Reads and Watches

Hooray for Friday! I love not working on Fridays… it’s a whole extra day to get things done.

This weekend I’ll be busy with all kinds of fun activities: a community theatre audition tonight, followed by a movie night with our youth group kids. Tomorrow I’m taking my church choir on a little retreat so we can work on music for Holy Week, among other upcoming events, and in the evening T and I will be cheering on our local NHL team. And on Sunday, I’ll be avoiding watching the Superbowl (booooo Seattle) by going to dance rehearsal for the show I’m in.

In case you’re not as busy as I am (lucky you!) and need something to keep you entertained, here are my favorite articles and videos from the past week. Enjoy!

This is how I feel (and how I probably look) at dance auditions and rehearsals!

One husband’s moving story about his wife’s struggle with mental illness.

What a cute way to introduce children to Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Are there more of these videos out there?

The art of inventing an imaginary significant other has finally reached the 21st century.

Live-action Beauty and the Beast? Emma Watson as Belle? Yes please!!

Have a great weekend!

Weekend Reads (and Watches)

Happy Friday! I’m off to winter camp this weekend with the high school kids from church. We’ll be spending the next few days with youth groups from several different churches in our area, attending seminars and worship services, playing games, and learning what it means to be faithful to God in all aspects of our lives.

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To tide you over until Monday and keep you entertained this weekend, here’s a compilation of some of my favorite internet gems from the past week or so.

What one guy learned from his week of wearing makeup.

A fellow believer’s take on why people leave the church.

The cutest little seashell ever.

As a wife, am I treating my husband fairly?

A vending machine of sorts that gives food to stray dogs!

I don’t actually live in San Francisco, but I’ve definitely thought, said, or heard almost all of these things at some point.

Looking for a new job? Avoid these five cover letter clichés.

On the list of the 25 most amazing college concert halls, number one looks awfully familiar!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Casting Crowns – Peace On Earth

Merry Christmas, everyone! What a joy it is to celebrate the birth of our Savior!

I’ve been saving the best for last in the Christmas Album Countdown. Today I give you my favorite Christmas album, the one I’ve been listening to on repeat since Halloween (don’t judge). This is the one that T and I will have playing in our house today as we celebrate Christmas with my family. It’s Peace On Earth by Casting Crowns.

Casting Crowns has been one of my favorite Christian bands since high school. Besides the fact that their music is singable-along-to, their songs address profound spiritual issues and doctrines as well as social justice. I’ve had my soul spoken to on more than one occasion by a Casting Crowns song (like this one). I’m so glad they have a Christmas album, because it falls right in line with how I perceive their music.

The album includes a handful of standard Christmas carols, like “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Away in a Manger,” and quite possibly my favorite version of “Silent Night.” They also perform a few of their original songs, such as “While You Were Sleeping,” “Christmas Offering,” which our church has since adopted as a congregational worship song, and “God Is With Us,” which I have sung as a solo in Christmas Eve services. The album concludes with a beautiful piano-accompanied arrangement of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy,” which reminds us that the world had no idea what Christ’s birth would lead to. This is followed by the closing track, a haunting violin solo of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” that leaves us with a heavy sense of anticipation.

It’s really hard to choose a favorite track to share with you, so here is the one I know T would choose. It’s the opening song on the album, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” but like you’ve never heard it before. Enjoy the song (and the rest of the album), have an absolutely wonderful Christmas, and may the birth of Jesus bring joy and peace to your hearts today.

Glad – An Acapella Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve, everyone! We’re just two days away from the end of the Christmas Album Countdown. Can you believe Christmas is already here?

I’m betting that 99.9% of you have never heard of the a capella group Glad. It’s not too surprising… they’re a group of five middle-aged guys who were at their music-producing peak in the 90’s. However, I grew up listening to their music, and we even hosted them at our church once for a Christmas concert. It was a much bigger deal than it sounds. At any rate, their Christmas album, An Acapella Christmas, is one of my all-time favorites, and I’ve listened to it so many times in my life that I could probably sing you all five of the parts for any song on the album.

As you probably already know from my posts about Pentatonix and Straight No Chaser, a capella is one of my favorite vocal music genres, simply because of how cool it is that voices alone can create such complex music. Glad is no exception. Every one of their songs is rich in texture and harmonies, and I love the purity of their voices. It doesn’t sound overly pop-y or manufactured, like other a cappella groups can sound at times. Besides that, the guys of Glad are all Christians, and maybe it’s just me, but I think you can actually tell by the way they sing that every word of every song means something to them.

The album opens with a fanfare on the text, “Glory to God in the highest!” and it only gets better from there. They sing innovative arrangements of “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night” (with the first verse in German), “O Come All Ye Faithful,” and more of the most beloved carols. There are also a couple of original songs, like “Starlight” and “One Quiet Moment.” But the absolute best song on the album is the penultimate track, “In the First Light.” It tells the story of Jesus’s birth, life, death, and resurrection in an incredibly moving and ultimately triumphant four minutes. You will get chills and maybe tears as you listen to this song and realize that there is so much more to the story than the birth of a baby.