On Dying, an Actor’s Obituary

I’ve hesitated writing this blog post because 1. it’s going to probably seem melodramatic to anyone who doesn’t quite understand from where I’m coming and 2. it feels like too much of a low point for even this blog, despite it being entirely about low points. I mean, I write about the silly, dumb stuff that happens to me in my life that isn’t life alteringly bad, so when I get serious things get awkward. #amirite

A part of me died this month. [Again, this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to what could be classified by misunderstanders as melodrama.] And it hurt, and it was surprising, and I’ll be totally honest right now, I miss it because it had been a really integral part of what made me who I am.

So here’s the backstory. I started out my life a piano playing kid, and I had this dream to not become a concert pianist but to land a job playing the piano in Nordstrom (I kid you not. That was literally a dream I had.) for the rest of my life and be really happy playing flowery music for shoppers. I think I probably also figured I could buy stuff there as well, so it seemed like a real plus. Piano, department store, cafe. I could live there.

When I was in eighth grade, my mother and I saw a local high school’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It wasn’t the first time I’d ever seen a show (or even that one — we were big theatre goers when I was younger), but for some reason that particular production really spoke to me. The lead, who was a high school drama prodigy (and is now a Broadway star/national touring co. Elder Price in “The Book of Mormon”), also choreographed the show, and they had the dance team in the ensemble, and … it was spectacular. (It wasn’t really, but it felt like it.) We left church early one Sunday to catch the matinee, which meant we saw all six performances that week, along with purchasing a video recording of it. We liked it that much. And something happened. I’m not sure if it was because I was an Asian kid trying to live the dream, realizing there aren’t a lot of Asian roles in musical theatre, or if it was the music (I mean, haters gonna hate, but that music is just catchy, and don’t even get me started on the megamix), but I knew the role of Narrator would be mine someday.

If Diana DeGarmo could do it, then darnit so could I.

If Diana DeGarmo could do it, then darnit so could I.

So I quit piano lessons. I began voice lessons, took Drama in high school, threw myself into the theatre world the best I could, and even signed up for some dance classes. I was going to be on Broadway, and I was going to be the Narrator, and it was going to be the best life I could imagine.

But, you know, stuff happens, and plans change, and I found myself entrenched in the choir department for the remainder of high school and the first half of college before switching majors to American Studies, which really means “eternal secretary with big dreams and a side of disenchantment.”

That’s the backstory.

When I got married, I became really blessed. I mean, that’s kind of an obvious statement because unless you’re in a loveless, destined for divorce type marriage, you’re blessed, and that’s just the way it is. But I was blessed with a remarkably understanding spouse who knew I wasn’t happy filing and collating all day long, and one day he came home from work and told me I could quit my job and pursue my love of acting for as long as I wanted. That’s the short version, anyhow. And I did. I quit my job, and I auditioned for shows, and I got cast in some of them, and I built up my resume and continued voice lessons and threw myself back into the world of theatre and got new headshots every time I changed my hair, and it was really exciting. Rejection happened, it hurt, but I moved on, and I knew things would turn out okay in the end.

But then my makeup artistry job started to not really pan out, and no one would hire me, and I stopped getting cast in shows (or even called back in a lot of instances), and I found myself sitting at home with the animals for several hours till Husband came home so we could play video games and talk and eat junk food (till I put us on a diet) and just be a family. Part of me was heartbroken, but part of me really loved it. I didn’t have rehearsals in the way of my relationship, I didn’t spend hours and hours and hours with people who weren’t my loved ones, I didn’t have to wear stage makeup or wigs or musty costumes that had been worn by dozens of other people.

Little Shop of Horrors, The Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City, Utah

Little Shop of Horrors, The Grand Theatre, Salt Lake City, Utah

And a little part of me started to die — the part that thought my happiness was intrinsically connected to performing. It felt like a good thing, like progress, and I looked at that death as a moving on, a growing up, a becoming closer to my husband and never wanting to turn back.

But it was just a little part, and that didn’t stop me from continuing to audition for shows — I just did so with less gusto and pizzazz. If I got cast, that would have been great, but if I didn’t … it wasn’t really the end of the world.

Of course there was a low point, there always is, and it hit with such incredible force that I kind of had to pick up my pieces and put myself back together, except I couldn’t find all the pieces in the rubble, and I’m still looking for them, half-heartedly, under a cloud of *sighs* clinical depression: I lost the role of Narrator. Twice.

My husband and a friend/former director once jokingly accused me that all the dreams for which I audition are dream roles, and I’m going to set the record straight right now that that is just not true. I have four dream roles, one of which I’ve already been blessed to perform, and the rest are just the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, any colloquialism you can think of that implies added bonus of delicious success. They are: Narrator (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat), Eponine (Les Miserables), Lucy (You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown), and Wednesday Addams (The Addams Family). I could be cast as Ursula in The Little Mermaid, Cathy in The Last Five Years, or The Witch in Into the Woods and be really over the moon, but landing one of those roles wouldn’t make my life complete, either, so they’re, you know, further colloquialisms I suppose.

Because Joseph changed my life so drastically, changing my career path from pianist in Nordstrom to Broadway star, and then from choir director/voice teacher to secretary to regional, decently-known actress, I always felt like I could land the role of Narrator and play it for the rest of my life without feeling too upset about it. It’s like when people ask you what one food you would eat for the rest of your life if given the choice; I’d eat up that Narrator role for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I’d probably even snack on it in between meals. (And since your curiosity was probably piqued, the actual food answer is Thai.)

Thai-Food-Wallpaper-3To lose it once was upsetting. It involved a lot of crying, some therapeutic binge eating, the usual stuff that gets me through a sad time, but I knew there was another audition coming up for the exact same show and role because my state goes through these ridiculous phases of doing the same shows as everyone else all the time, so I prepped an audition piece and waited, impatiently, for the audition to come.

And I did a pretty good job. Good enough to be called back.

I did not do a good enough job to be cast.

The night of discovery was a kind of dark one. I mean that literally and figuratively — despite having a great morning and afternoon, the evening was immediately sullied, and on top of it, things were overcast. (There’s your regular dosage of sarcasm for this post.) And that’s when the part of me that had begun to die earlier — the part that wanted to perform onstage for the rest of my life, to dance under hot stage lights and go to Denny’s at midnight and have permanent mic tape residue on the back of my neck — completely gave up the ghost. At first, I thought it was mere acceptance, a sort of fast-acting hopefulness that told me it just meant another role was supposed to be mine in another show at another theatre, but by the next evening, I realized that wasn’t the case at all. I just couldn’t do it any longer.

Not getting something you want is just a part of life with which we all have to deal. But there’s something painfully personal about not getting cast in a show — you’re not just slipping into a cupcakery five minutes before closing to discover the chocolate raspberry cupcake is completely sold out or bidding on an item on eBay — you’re giving who you are as a person and a performer to a panel of judges. It’s not just your voice and your acting ability and how well you move (for the record, I’m a non-dancer who moves relatively well), it’s your entire self. You’re telling them that for the next several months you’re willing to be theirs, that you’re willing to give every ounce of what moves you, drives you, challenges you to have a handful of most likely unpaid performances on a stage to complete strangers because you love it that much. Rejection isn’t just saying you’re not a right fit like a job, it’s saying all the sweat and tears you put into getting where you are wasn’t enough for them. Forget talent for a second and focus on the other stuff — that you didn’t look right, sound right, or move right. Talent becomes secondary. You just aren’t who they want, but you’ve chosen a career path that craves being wanted. It’s desperate, it’s vulnerable, it’s often embarrassing.

Can we go somewhere else?

Can we go somewhere else?

The second and final death didn’t feel like progress at all. And I find myself itching to discover what it is that I need to live joyfully, to express myself because that’s what keeps me sane. I wake up wondering if the spark of performing has come back. It still has not.

I recently joked with my best friend that the real problem here is that I’m really only good at belting, so what on earth will I do with that if I’m not singing in musical theatre. And this might be the point at which friends and family rally around me and try to point out other things that I’m good at, but I’m truly great at belting because it’s what I love to do. So I don’t say that with arrogance as much as I believe, rather firmly, that you’re especially good at what you love. I have the ability to sing in a very specific way, and I don’t have anywhere to put it, and I’m at a loss as to what I should do next. I cannot belt sing in a box, I cannot belt sing with a fox.

And that’s the end. For now, at least. Fellow actors continue to ask me if I’ll be auditioning for upcoming shows, and I waffle around for their benefit, but deep down, the answer is a resounding no. I recently saw a show with a dear friend, and it was fun, but I didn’t love it like I used to love seeing shows because it really hurt. She told me afterward, when we slipped backstage to congratulate a friend of mine, that being backstage made her want to be in a show so badly, and my response was just a noise because I couldn’t agree. Being backstage made me want to jump into bed and not wake up till I felt less depressed (but being in bed is depressing).

I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being. – Oscar Wilde

… but

Image courtesy juxtapost.com

I once dated this guy whose entire relationship with me was a massive train wreck from start to finish. People who’ve known me a long time know who this is, and they know precisely what I’m talking about because they watched said train wreck — it was on their 24/7 Mary news channel, it had casualties, fatalities, there was a lot of blood and gore. People who haven’t known me long enough to hear about this guy, you’re pretty lucky, and you won’t be hearing much about him ever, so that interest of yours that has piqued? Simmer it down.

Anyhow, one day he told me that he heard a song on the radio that made him think of me (this wasn’t the exact conversation but this also isn’t a non-fiction essay, and I do what I want), and the lyrics to the chorus are:

“You can’t always get what you want / but you get what you need”

I love sweet nothings.

I’d hit a point with this guy that my feelings didn’t get hurt all that much because I was so desensitized to it, and there was something really funny about it. He thought he was being sweetly romantic, telling me this really awful story, and instead, he was being a mega douchebag, and he didn’t even realize it. I mean, just totally clueless to the fact that you don’t tell your girlfriend stuff like that.

This blog post isn’t actually about him, I promise. Digging up old relationships in blogs is an uncomfortable thing for people — you can pretend all you want that you don’t talk about them with your friends, but yeah of course you do because you’re a human being — but blogs are where you’re supposed to be the best, unweathered version of yourself. You haven’t gone through stuff because your life is so damn perfect. I mean, I think that’s the point, but I started an entire blog focusing on the low points of my life, so clearly I missed the mark somewhere.

I think about that conversation a lot (not to be confused with thinking about him or our relationship because that ship sailed about seven years ago, and then, like the Titanic, it fell to the depths of the ocean floor).The sadness that he thought that he needed to be with me because it was what he needed, despite wanting to be with someone else because it was what he wanted. The hilarity that he shared such a thing with me to my face like it was something I would want to hear or be able to fix (dude, if you don’t really want me, then you probably shouldn’t have me is all I’m saying kthxbai). And, most of all, how utterly untrue it is.

That always word is a tricky little guy — English professors are forever telling students to not use the always or the never words because y’all don’t know, and standardized tests are laden with it to screw you up, make you fail, not get into college, become a deadbeat, live in your parent’s basement, become morbidly obese, never see the light of day again, become a pod person (I don’t like standardized tests).

The song may ring true, but the sentiment of tying it to an interpersonal relationship may (hopefully) not. When I met Husband five years ago (holy crap we’ve been together five years now — HA in your faces, people who thought we’d be divorced by now), I got exactly what I wanted, and the real cherry on top was that he was precisely what I needed as well. And I’d like to think that I fit both the want/need columns for him (he does seem to be very fond of me).

I can’t help but feel like the degradation of relationships these days is in part due to Kim Kardashian the fact that people think they can’t always get what they want, but they get what they need. To quote Geico, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!” There are a lot of instances in my life where I live the standard of “good enough” (DIY crafts, family meals, ironing my husband’s dress shirts, filling in my eyebrows), but marriage isn’t one of them. Little girls don’t sit in their rooms, playing with dolls, and imagining an adult life filled with good enough — they imagine perfection and happiness and joy and laughter and the opportunity for symbiosis (despite not knowing what that is at the time). Is marriage that way all the time? Ha. No. Not even kind of (just last night, Husband and I got in a big argument over my becoming a “Destiny” widow ever since he hooked his stupid headset to his PS4 controller and becoming friends with numerous strangers across the nation). But at the end of the day, when tempers have cooled down, when we force ourselves out of our selfish behavior, he’s still what I want and I’m still what he wants.

Image courtesy juxtapost.com

Image courtesy juxtapost.com

I suppose it was good my ex made the correlation of me and that song so we could get out of the mess we were making (if not spurned by him then me because he might be an idiot but I am not). Because I might not deserve being a princess or living in a house cleaned by other people or having a restaurant-quality kitchen, but I am absolutely and undeniably deserving of what I need and want. So I guess my alteration to the song, when thinking of a relationship, would be: “You can always get what you want / and you get what you need.”

Ah-ah, I Workout

Wow, three months. That’s got to be a record of ignoring my blog (so that means, Puneet, I can literally never rag on you again). And chances are, the world has forgotten about my wry sense of humor and dry wit (yeah, the whole world. I’m pretty sure the whole world was reading my blog, which explains all the fame and fortune).

I don’t really have any solid excuses for it either. I mean, I got really busy doing four shows this year, but also I don’t have a day job, so using it to explain away why I haven’t done the dishes/laundry/chores/meal planning/writing/reading is actually super weak, and I realize that. But I also found that with a newfound lack of major depression coupled with no longer having a soul-sucking clerical job, my low points weren’t particularly plentiful. I mean, really, my life is pretty bomb. We bought a house, we have a really stupid destructive puppy (but she is so so cute that we just deal with it, plus we understand how anxiety works, and she just wants love you guys), Stella is still perfect, and a really fabulous sushi restaurant opened mere minutes from our neighborhood.

We ate food from there two nights in a row last week. We regret nothing.

BUT if we’re going to be real, there’s been this black cloud of low pointage really looming over my head, and I’ve now finally broken down to share my woes and cry with you all: The Gym.

Ugh.

To be fair, we didn’t actually join a gym (you know, the 24 Hour Gold Anytime Planet variety, with meatheads who grunt and check themselves out in all the mirrors and girls who actually cheer in Zumba); we joined a local rec center. Like, the nicest rec center of our lives.

Photo courtesy herrimantowncenter.com

Photo courtesy herrimantowncenter.com

I’m not even kidding, that’s where we work out. I wasn’t exaggerating about it being nice. It’s like Adobe except without the pdfs.

So it’s not the actual gym/rec center-ness that’s the problem. Clearly. It’s this fancy state-of-the-art building with fancy classes and fancy machines with individual TVs and iPod jacks that all work and fancy locker rooms that don’t smell like Axe body spray and like, the fanciest pool I’ve ever seen short of a water park. Also, these:

Image courtesy amazon.com

Image courtesy amazon.com

In every. single. bathroom.

So, yeah, spending time at this place can be fairly enjoyable for me. The problem, however, lies in the fact that I have to go there on a pretty regular basis (I was killing it and going every day till I got sick one day or maybe injured or perhaps I was just feeling lazy and then it all went to pot, so I go maybe three times a week instead). I mean, enjoyable or not, I have to be there, and I don’t like that too much.

Reasons Why

First off, I have to wear a bra, and the worst kind at that, because, you know. I shouldn’t have to spell it out for you.

Second, I have to wear pants or else they won’t let me in.

Also, the part about adulthood people don’t really tell you about when you’re young is how your metabolism rate dies a horrible, tragic death, and then you’re FORCED to eat healthfully and exercise regularly if you don’t want to become a character actor.

[I could get used to being a character actor, I’m sure of it.]

And have you ever lived in Utah during the wintertime? Unacceptably miserable. That 5:30 am TRX class sucked to begin with, but when paired with temperatures sitting in the teens, it’s downright life-ruining. I don’t want to leave the house to get in the car, and once I’m in the car, I don’t want to leave it to enter the gym, and once I’ve finished the class, I don’t want to go back outside either.

Yeah, you heard me, 5:30 am. I married a sadist, obviously.

I don’t want to say that the stomach bug I’ve been enduring the past week has been a blessing exactly … I mean, feeling gross 24/7 is clearly not the preferred option, and though I haven’t puked for a week now, I’m growing weary of regretting everything that passes through my lips (yesterday’s Red Robin, for example, which was still probably worth it). But it’s also gotten me out of going to the gym at ungodly hours for classes that make me feel sore, so … it might be a win.

Other Peoples’ Kids

When I told Husband I wanted to get back into acting, I don’t think he (or even I, really) realized that would lead to 2014 being The Year of the Neverending Rehearsals. I was cast in a show early on in the year, beginning rehearsals in February, and damned if I haven’t actually had a break from rehearsals since then (three shows later, and no, there haven’t been breaks for performances because all three shows have overlapped because life). I begin new rehearsals at the end of this month, only two weeks after my current shows closes.

Because choosing the arts means a lifestyle change. Because artists are passionate and fickle and obsessive and so self-conscious that it would make even a tween cringe inside.

And it’s been crazy and fun and so anxiety-inducing that I’ve forgotten how to sleep or frankly what sleep is, instead opting to lay in bed, with the puppy snoring at my side, wondering just how we’re going to get ten clown characters in and out and back into their clown makeup with five minute breaks between scenes, one makeup palette between the entire group, and the utter idiocy of some certified makeup artist insisting upon basic corrective otherwise (oh wait, that would be me, and I’m mad at myself). [It’s my blog, I’ll run-on sentence if I want to.]

Community theatre is a weird animal. I’m just going to go ahead and say that with no segue because it’s a standalone statement that will forever and ever be true, amen. First of all, it’s entirely volunteer-based, and if it’s a city, chances are the money for set builders and stage crew and painters are extremely low, which leads to a bunch of artsy fartsy people getting together and trying to use tools and, like, measure stuff.

Barnum stage

Laughable, by the way.

But it’s rewarding in a way that semi-professional or professional theatre simply is not; you build this rapport with your fellow castmates you couldn’t have otherwise because you were hunched over a platform for several hours in the blistering heat painting everything black, because you hauled props from literally every random place props could possibly be to an outdoor theatre space,  because one night at rehearsal things were abruptly ended because the rare but indomitable Utah monsoon hit and your lights and mics went out. You went through stuff.

Because I am Lucy IRL.

Because I am Lucy IRL.

It also carries with it challenges that make you want to gouge your eyes out. See also: other peoples’ kids.

Having done two shows thus far that involved only adults and being cast in another that’s the same, I’d kind of forgotten what it was like to perform with a bunch of little humans who 1. you can’t swear in front of and 2. want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and 3. occasionally carry with them stinky attitudes.

Scratch that — who always carry with them stinky attitudes.

The thing about theatre of any kind is that no one’s really above it. And if someone thinks he/she is above it, then either he/she is Idina Menzel or hasn’t bothered auditioning for any shows or roles deemed unworthy because ain’t nobody got time for that. And yet you get those brilliant kidlets who, for whatever reason, determine at some point during the rehearsal process that they have somehow been duped into the whole ordeal. That their initial decision (by their own volition) to audition was actually forced upon them because NO WAY would they stoop so low as to perform in the ensemble of a community theatre production.

Or maybe that’s not what they think. Maybe they think something entirely different but lack the human capabilities to express anything other than that sentiment because they’re like puppies or babies, unable to intimate their feelings, so instead they whine and cry.

My current director tells us all the time that we’re “always auditioning,” even through the rehearsal and performance process. The kidlets remain unphased. She calls them out during scenes because they’re talking or giggling or touching their hair or breaking character. They smile and keep on keeping on. They even decide to make snide comments to those around them (including me, which, go ahead honey because I can be snide all day erry day, and if you ask me “Is your cat dead yet?” one more time I WILL CUT YOU, and for pete’s sakes leave the other kids alone when their faces get red during the dance numbers because sometimes faces get red during dance numbers), and the littles take note of it. It’s like we’re breeding a generation of Regina Georges in the theatre community.

Regina George

And it gets tricky for a person like me who is child-free but still a full-fledged adult. Because do you say something? Do you just let it go? What about the underdogs who can’t stand up for themselves against kids like that? Do you just stand back and watch it happen and feel bad about the world? I know some parents who say, “I’d want to know if my child were acting like that,” but would you really, guys? I don’t think you actually would, especially from a person who refers to her cat and puppy as her children.

Other peoples’ kids, man. Other peoples’ kids.

“Les Miserables” – the Utah County premiere

DISCLAIMER TO ALL READERS: this is kind of a show review, which I typically don’t ever attempt because I’m not a reviewer of things besides food, and even that is probably debatable for most foodies. But I’ve got a lot of friends who were interested in what I’d think about the show I saw tonight, and rather than regale them with the longest Facebook status update in the history of all time, I decided to bring it on over here. If you’re not interested in reading non-low point stories from yours truly or musical theatre, go ahead and skip this one. I seriously won’t mind.

FOLLOW UP DISCLAIMER: I’m friends with a few cast members and have performed with several. I am going to do all I can to keep my opinions as objective as possible under the circumstances, but when you’ve worked closely with someone and know his/her strengths, weaknesses, and tics, it’s hard to not hone in on them.

FINAL DISCLAIMER: I don’t like to hurt feelings or step on toes, but I’ve got opinions about stuff, and I’m pretty willing to share them. I’m not really qualified to be a good reviewer of theatre since I’ve only done six shows in my life (on my seventh), many of them ensemble, but I did take professional voice lessons for several years, and I know when things suck. But if you’re interested in any qualifications I may have, they include a ton of singing, choirs, performances, vocal competitions, a few shows, and certified makeup artistry (which will come into play later).

 

Tonight I saw “Les Miserables” at the Scera Shell in Orem, which is their outside stage. To start off, I really don’t care for any performances in the Scera Shell for several reasons: I don’t like watching a show partially in the daylight (actually I hate it), I don’t like bugs, I don’t like heat, and I don’t like the feeling of a broken coccyx from sitting in a hard, plastic chair. I also find the stage too enormous for truly great blocking/staging to take place, regardless of how great the set, direction, and actors may be. Seriously, it’s the size of a city block, and I’ve never felt like any show I’ve seen there benefited from that. Les Mis wasn’t really any different for me — the set was beautiful, the direction good, and the actors generally phenomenal — but by utilizing the entire stage, certain scenes were pretty cut off from the majority of the audience or felt extremely cramped. I also found some of the blocking choices to be poor, and I wanted to yell at several actors (several times) to cheat out! Due to my being smack in the center of the audience, I could see pretty much everything, but I felt for the audience members to my left and right who were staring at the backs of heads for most of the night (every scene between Cosette and Marius was probably boring to 2/3 of those in attendance).

The lighting was fine — I don’t typically notice lighting unless it’s really, really good and enhances the performance as though it’s a character as well, but there weren’t a lot of technical aspects of the lighting that bothered me. A few times they simulated lightning, which would have been fine in an indoor theatre, but with the lighting exposed to the audience, I found it far more distracting. There were, unfortunately, quite a few small sound issues throughout the show, and several entrances were missed, especially from ensemble members, and I was disappointed they didn’t get their full opportunity to shine. They also used sound effects that ended up louder than the music at certain points, and that was distracting and had a “Three Stooges” effect on what should have been serious scenes (Thenardier breaking someone’s neck, Marius punching Thenardier, a bubbling stream before Javert’s suicide were amongst the greatest of offenders).

Costuming was fantastic — having performed at the Scera in the past, I know the costumers and their capabilities, and I was pleased to see them have the opportunity to really shine. The only issues I had throughout the entire show were: a red revolution jacket Eponine wore during battle and a white top Valjean wore, which were all fantastically clean and pressed to the point of drawing away from their performances. As a  makeup artist, I was terribly disappointed in the entire show’s makeup. Javert and Valjean were aged slightly, but by the time they died, it felt like they were more or less on the young end of middle aged. Both actors are young to begin with, and I needed them to look older and harder than they did — after all, Valjean was a hardened “criminal,” who served a 19-year prison sentence. He’s going to look like he was rode hard and put away wet, and this Valjean was almost dashing. The ensemble got the worst of it, with bad, messy contouring (one female ensemble member looked like she had a beard — FOR SHAME — and another looked like a cross between someone who just finished the Tough Mudder and Snooki), too dark brows, and inconsistent dirtiness. The prostitutes during “Lovely Ladies” had such thick, red makeup on their cheeks that I had difficulty watching their faces. I certainly understand the need for extreme makeup in that case (if you’ve seen the Broadway version, you know it exists), but the color was so off-putting that it ruined their faces. I teach stage makeup classes, and I believe very firmly that makeup should only enhance a performance and never take away from it (even in instances like Hedwig — it’s really, really extreme, but it’s also consistent with the storyline and the show as a whole). I saw several cast members with very straight lined brows, most too dark. The leads fared better, although poor Eponine’s face was so filthy that from where I was sitting, it appeared that she didn’t have a nose, and Gavroche’s dirtiness seemed almost pre-planned, rather than looking like actual mess. In fact, the only characters whose makeup I didn’t find appalling were Cosette, Marius, Fantine, and Enroljas (basic corrective) and the Thenardiers because in their case, more is more.

The stand-outs for me were: Fantine, Eponine, both Thenardiers, Valjean, and the ensemble (yeah, you heard me). Under no circumstances did I find any of the actors bad, but there were a few leads that left much to be desired for me for several reasons — we’ll get to that.

Fantine, played by Kelsey Thacker, was a sympathetic character whose plight made you heartsick. Her vocals were extremely strong, and she performed with a great amount of passion, so you felt like an engaged audience member during every one of her scenes. When she passed away, I shed a couple tears because the scene was so moving. I particularly loved her quiet moments — her belt is extremely strong, but when she’d back off, you’d feel the hurt, the anguish, the worry and fear, and it made for a very personal experience.

I’ll admit it right now: I auditioned for Eponine because it’s my dream role. Well, sort of (I couldn’t come to auditions, my conflicts sheet essentially said “due to the show I’m currently in, I’ll be able to make it to tech week and then perform”, and the director ended up with an email with my YouTube channel link and a pdf of my resume, so … I guess if you want to get technical, I auditioned, but if you want to really face the music, I totally did not). I find myself filled with a certain amount of trepidation when it comes to nearly every Les Mis character because the 10th year anniversary concert ruined us all FOREVER. This young woman, however, was such a pleasure to watch, that I was almost glad I wasn’t cast so I could enjoy her performance. Portrayed by Kira Knorr, Eponine was kind of the quintessential young woman in love with a young man in love with another young woman. She held her own vocally, with a strong belt and great control for excellent dynamics. Her lower range wasn’t quite what it needed to be, but when I discovered she is only seventeen, I applauded her for being able to accomplish what she did with a voice that won’t fully develop for another ten years. Her characterization was a sweet girl trying to be strong despite having a truly tragic life, turned away by the people she needed to love her, and I found myself wanting to rally the troops and get up on stage to give those who shunned or abused her a piece of my mind. I’ve seen Eponine portrayed as a weaker female role, and I was very pleased to see that Knorr did the exact opposite, giving her strength but showing her vulnerabilities.

The Thenardiers were exactly what you would hope for in a performance of the show. They were brash, filthy, not entirely all there, lewd, but both Allison Books and Benjamin James Oldroyd had such incredible control over their characters that they never went too far. They knew exactly when to step back and let others on the stage have the limelight and stepped right back into taking over at the appropriate times. Their vocals were very strong — I think Books was the strongest vocalist of all the leads, never hitting a sour note, and Oldroyd had the perfect amount of dirty belt and growl that it kept the vocals, well, grungy. While I absolutely enjoyed him as Thenardier, I found myself wishing he’d been cast as Javert the entire time, however (more on that later). Due to it being performed in Utah, there were several language/content edits during the entire show (the most distracting being “bum” instead of “butt”), however they left most of the language in “Master of the House,” which (and this is going to sound weird) made me remarkably pleased. The ensemble did tend to cheer or shout during each swear word, in what I assume was a feeble attempt to censor it for the primarily Mormon audience, but I found it less irritating and cheesy than I anticipated beforehand. All uses of Deity were removed, replaced instead with “Geez,” and when I initially heard that was the plan, I was mortified, but the actors played it off extremely well, and there were times when I didn’t really even notice the change.

If you’ve seen Colm Wilkinson perform Valjean, then you’re ruined for life. It’s just simply how it is — much like Michael Crawford was the Phantom, Wilkinson was (and frankly still is) 24601 for the vast majority of musical theatre junkies (actors and audience members alike). The role is vocally taxing — he growls in one line and jumps to falsetto in another. Many of his lines need to be delivered quickly and with precision, or else they become a jumbled mess, and on top of it, his humanity has to shine through. I felt as though Matt Krantz accomplished all these things almost flawlessly, with a strong performance both vocally and emotionally. But there is a but. Krantz is a 22-year old junior at BYU, and though they attempted to age him throughout the show, his falsetto was a young one, and he played the character overall much younger than originated (think Gerard Butler as the weird 30something Phantom that never should have been). This unfortunately distracted me throughout the entire show — I don’t have anything negative to say about his performance aside from his being so young, which he can’t much control, but it was fairly glaring for me. However, I feel very confident that if Krantz continues on the path he’s on, in about twenty years, he will play a remarkable Valjean that audiences will take note of.

This was undoubtedly one of the strongest ensembles I’ve ever seen in a community theatre production, and in many instances, they almost upstaged the leads. The vocals were extremely strong, with tight harmonies and incredible dynamics, and I tip my hat to director/music director, Jeremy Showgren, for producing such an incredible cast. The featured men’s ensemble during numbers such as “Do You Hear the People Sing” and “Drink With Me” could have probably all been cast as any of the lead roles, and they added a depth to the musical numbers that’s difficult to find in many community theatre productions. “One Day More” sent chills down my spine, and it took nearly all I had within me to not stand up and cheer during the song because I was so moved by their heart and passion. [Right here I have to give special props to to Stephen Tullis, who was undoubtedly the strongest ensemble member, for planting himself immediately during “Do You Hear the People Sing” — my eyes went directly to him, and I wanted to encourage the rest of the ensemble to follow his lead. I feel pretty strongly about planting since I am generally not very good at it — I notice when someone does it absolutely right.]

Unfortunately, I did not find strength in all the characters, and I wanted more from both Javert (Jeffrey Smith) and Marius (Christian Jones). Javert unfortunately lacked any passion at all, and I didn’t find him walking with a purpose across the stage, and during the Confrontation, he was quite possibly the least confrontational individual I’ve ever come across. What made me love Oldroyd as Thenardier was completely lacking in Smith’s performance, and I found “Stars” uninspiring, which is a disappointment for me, as it’s one of my favorite songs of the show. That being said, his vocals were very good — he could sing all the notes and hold them out till kingdom come, but it was a very passive performance of Javert, and even his suicide felt anti-climactic. I thought Jones’s portrayal wasn’t particularly bad but neither particularly good, and nothing stood out for me as an audience member. The staging of “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” was some of the best in the entire show, however, leaving Marius caught up in a dream, surrounded by all of his fallen friends, and when Thacker (as Enroljas) stood, planted firmly, staring at Marius, it was extremely powerful. That song has often been a throwaway for me, and it left a rather lasting impression for me tonight.

Cosette, played by Morgan Flandro, was fairly forgettable, but I personally find the character as a whole to be forgettable — she’s there so Marius has someone to love and for Valjean to redeem himself with, but there’s nearly zero character development throughout the entire show, and her songs are entirely duets/group numbers. A graduate of AMDA, I wanted her to be Broadway good, and while she was excellent, I enjoyed her character the least (which again is not entirely her fault — let’s just blame Schonberg and Boublil). She had an excellent range, however, and hit all the high notes with ease.

The children characters (Gavroche, Young Eponine, and Young Cosette) were about what you’d expect from child actors in community theatre. Young Cosette sang “Castle on a Cloud” very well, but her inability to keep a straight face was distracting.

I noticed both Kelsey Thacker and Jones were used as ensemble members at certain points of the show, and the tactic to make them less obvious was to cover their faces halfway with their hair, which I found very “Mahana you ugly” (if you’re not Mormon, you probably won’t get that reference). I’d have rather had them look normal or not been in the ensemble at all (or disguised better than with emo hair). The ensemble was large enough, that it certainly wasn’t necessary for them to be in it, so I imagine it was simply a chance for them to be onstage a little longer, but having been an ensemble member in the past, sometimes you’re in shows that leave you backstage for 90% of a show, and you just have to go with it. Bring a book, it’ll make the time pass by faster.

This is an incredible show that proves the Scera is on the upward path to better quality productions. Despite Utah going a little gaga over Les Mis, this performance was a standout for me, and I’m thoroughly pleased I ended up attending.

The Day Statistics Were On My Side

Statistically speaking, I was kind of screwed from the beginning healthwise. I’m almost always in that 1-5% of people who end up nearly dead from medications — with side effects so rare, doctors sometimes don’t even mention them because there’s just no way I’d possibly suffer dire consequences.

That might be kind of an exaggeration, but seriously I’ve had those side effects more times than I can count, so … you know. I’m jaded.

Anyhow, this is where this blog gets real personal (Mom is cringing already, I can just picture it). The other day, I found a lump.

Like, the kind of lump that makes a person with anxiety and OCD start imagining dead-in-a-ditch type scenarios over and over again. And luckily Mom was in town, so I didn’t go completely crazy, although the thought crossed my mind again and again (and again and again because, duh, OCD). When I told Husband, he immediately hopped on the computer, and said to me, “It says here 85% of breast lumps are benign.” He told me over and over how I was fine, how it was nothing, how I didn’t need to worry.

As it turned out (yeah I wasn’t going to leave you hanging for a long, meandering blog post, don’t worry), he was actually right this time around. The stats were on my side: it was nothing (well, unless you consider naturally occurring lumpy breasts at 30 years of age to be something, which … I’m kind of on the fence about).

So, yeah, I still have a medication-controlled seizure disorder and OCD and major depression (that comes in cycles) and TMJ and carpal tunnel and SI joint problems and chronic sciatica BUT I don’t have cancer. And that makes for a pretty good life.

Guess what guess what guess what

SPEEDING TICKETS ARE MORE EXPENSIVE IN SALT LAKE COUNTY THAN UTAH COUNTY!!!

And, of course, the reason I know this is because, sandwiching a rear-ending that was 100% my fault, I got a speeding ticket in each county. #YOLO

Also, it remains the case that if you rear-end someone, it’s your fault and your insurance has to cover everything.

Kind of I’ve been busy doing really productive things, obviously. Sometimes when you’re an adult, you have to confirm the things you were told as a child/teen to be Life Truths … or something like that. Incidentally, I’m one of the most paranoid drivers on earth these days, and I’m just waiting for the day I get a ticket for not driving fast enough (haha just kidding, I at least drive the speed limit everywhere I go).

I think this is what happens when I don’t work and feel house-trapped by a puppy who pees on all the things (update, however: she only pees in her crate when I leave, so I guess count your blessings, though the correlation between peeing and leaving continues to make me feel, you know, house-trapped). We did get the mail the other night, though, so things are looking up. And, I’m sorry to say, but my dishwasher is either really dismal or the hard water of my city doesn’t rinse worth crap, and the end of this story is: I have a dishwasher except I don’t. And hand-washing dishes is the least fun of my entire life.

But! Light at the end of the tunnel. Mom’s coming into town tomorrow, and I’ll bet she’ll feel sad about a lot of dirty dishes and do them for me. Because that’s what moms do.