December brought a few more live theatre experiences to round out the year! Starting off December 1st, I was back at Dallas Summer Musicals for Hamilton #15 with the Angelica Company. The night started with a pre-show meetup of the DSM Associate Producers at Pizza Lounge across the street from the Music Hall. Then before the show started, I ran into my good friend Ashley. There were lots of people on that I hadn’t seen before and it was so cool to see new people onstage even though this was the third time I’ve seen this company during the Dallas run.
I took a one night trip to Los Angeles to see the Eliza Company of Hamilton on December 4th. IT seems strange to take a one-night trip for a show, but I had airline credit that expired at the end of December and this ticket was cancelled and rebooked from 2020 as well, so the only “new money” I had to spend was on a hotel and a couple of meals. This company is comprised of Hamilton veterans from other companies, some who I have seen and some who I’ve always wanted to see. The Hollywood Pantages Theatre is also absolutely gorgeous. It was a wonderful night and a great performance. The short trip was well worth it!
On December 12, I took Aiden to see my school’s production of The Spongebob Musical. I’d previously seen the recorded on stage version and didn’t really love it, but it was so good live! I think it helped to see all of the students I work with onstage and how hard they work and how talented they are. They put together a really phenomenal show for this one!
That was it for December! I’ll be back soon with a full run-through of all the shows I saw in 2021 before getting into all the planned shows for 2022. See you at the theatre!
Hold on to your hats, y’all – November 2021 marks my return to Hamilton after 22 months since seeing the Broadway company in January 2020. The Angelica Company started a three-week run in Dallas at Music Hall at Fair Park and naturally, I had to be there! In November I actually went twice!
But first, I have to talk about the other show I saw before Hamilton. Our son was in the school musical, Matilda Jr., earlier in the month. I was in the audience for 2 performances, and worked the popcorn machine at the concession stand for the 3rd performance. Aiden was cast in three roles (Michael, Mechanic, and Cook), so he was the only actor making multiple quick changes. He and the other students did a great job bringing this story to life and improved their performance with each show. They will perform again during the school day for their classmates later in December.
My first visit – my return to Hamilton for my 13th viewing – was with Jonathan on Friday November 19. I had never seen this tour company prior to that date, and was thrilled to be back in the room where it happens to take in the performance. The show was crisper, sharper, cleaner, more dynamic than I’ve ever seen it. I immediately found myself visually following certain performers who stood out as exceptional or engaging. I noted the changes in choreography at the top of Act 2 (referenced in this article) and I felt like the new movement still really felt seamless like it had always been done that way. I miss getting to stage door, but I loved the opportunity to see the show again.
Then I turned around and went right back to see Hamilton the next day, November 20th – now my 14th performance. I took my friend Erin, who has never seen the show live. We went on what is actually Dallas Summer Musicals’ annual gala night, only we didn’t have the budget for the high-priced fundraiser dinner that happened before the show. We went across the street to Las Almas Rotas, a Mexican restaurant that offers a pre-show menu with cocktails themed to whatever show is in town. For the gala night, DSM set up a Barbie-box style Playbill photo prop, allowing us to step inside and grab a photo of us as though we were on a Hamilton Playbill cover. I loved the show, Erin loved the show, and we had lots of great nerdy theatre conversations all the way to Dallas and back. It was such a great night!
Also of note, I have officially made it! Well, kind of. I am serving my second year on the board of the Dallas Summer Musicals’ Associate Producers, our young professionals group. They put our names in the Playbill this year, so am officially in a Hamilton Playbill. Don’t give up on your dreams, y’all!
I’ll be back with a December recap before you know it! This year is really flying by!
Last month I took my mom on her first-ever visit to NYC! We had just a long weekend to cram in as much as possible, and while we barely scratched the surface of what the city has to offer, we did lot. I always do a lot on my trips though, I’m not a sit-by-the-pool-and-relax kind of traveler.
We started on a Saturday with a 6AM flight. After quite a bit of road traffic, we finally made it to our hotel, Hotel Edison, at lunch time. Our room wasn’t ready, so we stored our bags and went to Patzeria Perfect Pizza for the NYC pizza slices I’ve been missing. We took a little walk around Times Square and stopped by the Broadway Up Close booth for a photo with the Broadway sign, then walked up to shop at the Drama Bookshop. We walked back down on 8th Avenue and stopped for a treat at Carlo’s Bakery. Once our room was ready, we freshened up and headed back out for the evening. We went to two Broadway shows (Freestyle Love Supreme and Ain’t Too Proud – details in my October show recap post), and in between we grabbed sandwiches and chips for dinner at the Star Lite Deli. It was a full first day!
Our Sunday was jam-packed as well. We headed downtown to Leo’s Bagels for breakfast. There was a bit of a line, but it was well-worth the wait. We took a short stroll over to board the Staten Island Ferry and enjoyed beautiful views of the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan during our trip to Staten Island and back. Once we returned to Manhattan, we took a walk through the historical sites downtown on our way over to the 9/11 Memorial. After spending some time there, we hopped on the subway to Chelsea Market, where we did some shopping (mostly browsing) and ate lunch at Creamline. We then headed back to the hotel for the afternoon to refresh for the evening. We ate dinner at The Mean Fiddler before heading to see Chicago at the Ambassador. We finished the night with a half a cinnamon raisin bagel saved from the morning’s trip to Leo’s and it was perfection!
Monday was our last full day in the city and we made the most of it. We started with breakfast at the Brooklyn Diner (57th St location). Then we took a 2 hour pedicab tour of Central Park, which I highly recommend! It’s the best way to see the whole park and cover a lot of ground quickly. After our trip, we went shopping at Bergdorf Goodman. I bought beautiful Christmas ornaments and some pieces of Victoria Beckham’s new makeup line. Then we went up to the Bergdorf Goodman restaurant for Afternoon Tea service. We each chose our own pot of tea and then shared a 3-tiered tray of finger sandwiches, scones, and miniature desserts. It was a fun experience to have together! We walked back to our hotel to refresh for the evening and start packing to head home the next day. For dinner, we went to one of my favorites, Bond 45, before heading to see Six. It was a lovely way to close out the trip.
Then on Tuesday morning, we grabbed a quick breakfast at Carve Unique Sandwiches and headed to the airport. It was a whirlwind trip, but a great time. We enjoyed our time together and I was able to see some new things in the city.
Y’ALL. WE ARE BACK TO MONTHLY SHOW RECAPS. I’m so excited to be seeing live performances regularly again, and I’m even more thrilled that most venues have some kind of safety measures in place (outdoors, masks required, and/or vaccinations/testing required). It gives me hope that all my friends in the theatre industry will be able to work safely for a long time without worrying about another nearly two-year unemployment stint. Let’s dive right in to the shows I saw in October.
On October 8th, I went to my school’s fall showcase of shows. Over that weekend, they performed 4 plays total, but three on each day. On the day I went, I saw A Monster Calls, Holes, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Some of the seating was on the stage (where I opted to sit) and the overflow was in the traditional theatre seats. It was so great to see my students back in their element. I really enjoyed all three shows and felt super proud to work with these amazing young people.
I was fortunate enough to squeeze in a short 3-night trip to NYC with my mom this month (more on that in another post soon), and we saw a few shows, naturally. First up, on October 16th we went to the 5pm show of Freestyle Love Supreme at the Booth Theatre. If you are unfamiliar, this is a completely improvised freestyle show; they have a set format for the show, but the content, the words, the music are all made up on the spot at each performance. Unlike when I saw the show in January of 2020, there were no yondr pouches for phones – not really very practical for sanitizing in pandemic times. We submitted words via google form instead of handwriting them on index cards. Christopher Jackson hopped into the cast for this show and he does what CJack does and makes people cry with his smooth tones and touching insights. The show was hilarious as usual. I LOVED every minute of it and it was the perfect first Broadway show for my mom. If anything, it makes me jealous of those who live near enough to take advantage of rush and lottery options to see each nightly version of this show.
After a quick dinner, we went to the re-opening night of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations at the Imperial Theatre at 8pm. The house was packed and frenzied with the excitement of the reopening. The show was incredible (my first time seeing it) and Nik Walker led the show as Otis Williams brilliantly. After the bows, they called up the real Otis Williams onstage and had us all sing Happy Birthday to him as he was celebrating his 80th birthday. If you haven’t seen this show, DO IT – either on Broadway or in the upcoming national tour.
The next evening, October 17, we headed over to Ambassador Theatre to see Chicago. I love the music of this show, but I had only ever seen the movie version before now. If you’re expecting the splashy costuming of the movie, you’re gonna be disappointed – but I was not. I love the sleek black, the band onstage, and the iconic Bob Fosse choreography. Lillias White killed as Mama Morton and I’m glad we got to see the show during her run. This one is a classic for a reason!
Our last Broadway show was on October 18, Six at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. You may remember me sharing my first experience at Six during their pre-Broadway run in Chicago in the summer of 2021. The queens are on Broadway now and the costumes got an upgrade for the affair. The show is still as cheeky and captivating as it ever was and I love seeing the actresses’ incredible vocal and dance talents showcased in such a skillful way. I am not able to pick a favorite queen/actress – they are all phenomenal in their own right. This one is a lot of fun!
In addition to theatre, I also threw a concert in the mix in October. I was able to take my 11 year old son to his first ever concert – the Jonas Brothers’ Remember This Tour – on October 22. This tour was held exclusively at outdoor venues and required either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter, which made me feel better since 11 year-olds still cannot be vaccinated (though it will be soon! maybe within a week!). The JoBros put on a great show as always, and it was so fun to watch Aiden jam out and sing along. It was a night to remember for us both!
And finally, I went to see my friend Gayla as Alice Beineke in The Addams Family at Repertory Company Theatre. I went with my friends Lynette and Lila. I’d seen a high school production of this show before, but it’s always elevated when someone you know is in the play. It’s such a fun and funny show, and I love being able to support and spend time with friends after the last two years we’ve had.
That’s it for October! It was A LOT! But I wouldn’t trade the busyness of the past month for the world. I’m just so excited to be back at it. Stay tuned for November, when I return to my favorite past-time: seeing Hamilton!
Reopening in-person theatre has been a precarious notion throughout the later stages of the pandemic. School and community theatres seem more eager to reopen than professional productions, but as we move into fall, there are all levels of theatre reopening. I was able to experience a few in-person theatre productions this spring & summer, and I wanted to relive those experiences with you.
Back on April 29, my school’s theatre department held socially-distanced, masks-required performances of their one act play selection, People, Places, and Things. It was so strange and amazing to be back in a theatre seat waiting for the lights to go down. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a few tears about it. The students put on an excellent production and I know they were thrilled to be performing for an audience again.
On June 18, long after school was out, I went with some coworkers to see one of our school’s choir directors in Garland Summer Musicals‘ production of Grease. This was my first time seeing a musical since February of 2020 and to be in a packed community theatre was a little weird. It turned out to be a great experience and the show was really great!
Then on July 16, Jonathan and I went to Dallas Theater Center‘s production of Working. This regional theatre company performed at an outdoor theatre space in Texas in July, and what they were able to do in that kind of heat was incredible. They took the original concept of the show about the working people of America, and added in interviews from local front-line workers and really tied the show into the experience of local workers during the pandemic. It was really well-done and even despite the sweat rolling everywhere and the mosquitos, we really enjoyed the show.
Then in late July, I went to NYC with my friend Lynette. Broadway wasn’t really open yet (except for Bruce Springsteen, and we’re not dropping that kind of money), but we still found some shows to get into for that trip. On July 29th, our first night in the city, we went to the off-Broadway production of The Office! A Musical Parody. Masks were required for this performance at the time (and now full vaccination is required for all shows in NYC). They somehow squeezed 9 seasons of characters and gags into two acts with a very small cast. It was hilarious!
The next night (July 30), we went to see a different kind of off-Broadway show – Drunk Shakespeare. As the show’s title suggests, one member of a company of actors takes a few consecutive shots of alcohol and the company performs a work of Shakespeare (Macbeth at this performance) whilst hilarity ensues. This show required all attendees to be fully vaccinated, so masks were not required. The stage and seating area is small and intimate and we were sat on the edge of the stage. I was even handed a puppet to play Lennox for a few minutes! It was really a fun night!
Our final show in NYC was August 1st at Feinstein’s/54 Below for the cabaret style performance of John Cardoza entitled Things I Learned from My Roadtrip Playlist. The evening was a musical and storytelling journey that made us laugh and cry. John invited several Broadway friends to join him onstage including Lauren Patten, Sam Gravitte, Christiane Noll, and Gabrielle Carrubba. It was a truly magical night of music. If you’ve never seen a show here, you absolutely should! Food & drinks were great, and the intimate atmosphere is just incredible.
Wicked was the first national tour to reopen, and they happened to reopen here in Dallas. Being back at Music Hall at Fair Park as Dallas Summer Musicals subscribers was pretty special. We went as a family on August 7th, and then I went again on August 26th as a social event with the Associate Producers, the young professionals group for DSM. Somehow I had never seen Wicked before this, and though I had heard enough music to know I would love it, it hits as especially relevant in this time of racial reckoning during a pandemic. It was a wonderful show.
Fall is shaping up to have more incredible live theatre experiences so be sure to come back for those updates. They will probably be monthly now that things are picking up!
If you read my last post, you know that I recently went to NYC for the NYC Planner Addicts Expo. Of course, for my first post-Covid vaccination trip, I had to do more than just the event. I went with my friend Lynette for a few days before and stayed a few after, taking in old favorites and new experiences in the city. We even got an extra day in NYC due to storms at home and flight cancellations.
Normally I would walk through the trip day by day and share photos and stories, but wordpress is not playing nice with all my HEIC photos and it doesn’t even like them when I converted them to jpeg format. I’m over it! But if you want to see how it all went down, I’m going to link you to a few places for highlights!
I finally got to attend a LIVE, IN-PERSON planner event. Last year’s postponed NYC Planner Addicts Expo was rescheduled for July 31, 2021 and I was thrilled to be back in NYC. The event was held at the DUMBO Lofts in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. I’ve never been to Brooklyn on any previous trip to NYC, so it was nice to check out a new neighborhood. The event was Broadway-themed, so I was super excited to get back to the planner event space with that as the guide. I was all a little bit of a whirlwind – seeing people in person, all of the fun and flair of a planner event, and the greatest city in the world. The morning session was full of inspirational speakers and planner ideas, then after the break, the late afternoon/evening was open to shopping with vendors, make-and-take stations, and raffle prizes. I’ll share the day in photos to tell it properly.
It was a great event and I had a lot of fun! It was the perfect opportunity to attend a planner conference after all that has happened since March of 2020.
So, umm…hi? As the few of you who regularly come here have probably noticed, summer came and my blog mostly went away. Since I was using it to recap theatre and travel – and theatre became largely non-existent (at least in the live sense) while travel has not been the best idea in a pandemic – I lacked the motivation to write. Pretty much once I went back to working on campus at a public school where students were attending against prevailing science, I couldn’t keep up with one more thing and something had to go! While I can’t turn back time and make up for lost opportunities to share, I can do one thing. Today I am sharing a full look back at my 2020 theatre experiences, live and virtual.
Normally I only count live, in person theatre on my show list of the year and through February, that was still true for 2020. After February I allowed counting a virtual viewing if it was a totally virtual production or it was filmed live on a stage/soundstage or it required a ticket purchase to view. Movie musicals (such as The Prom) did not count and only the first viewing in 2020 could count. Here’s my 2020 show list, with links included:
1/2020 – Freestyle Love Supreme (Broadway) 1/2020 – Mean Girls (National Tour) 1/2020 – Hamilton (Chicago Company – Closing Show) 1/2020 – Hadestown (Broadway) 1/2020 – Jagged Little Pill (Broadway) 1/2020 – Moulin Rouge (Broadway) 1/2020 – Beetlejuice (Broadway) 1/2020 – Hamilton (Broadway) 1/2020 – Emojiland (Off Broadway) 2/2020 – Selected scenes from 101 Dalmatians [Kids] (District Elementary Theatre Showcase) 2/2020 – The Band’s Visit (National Tour) 2/2020 – The Bridges of Madison County (Repertory Company Theatre) 4/2020 – Newsies (Filmed Live on Stage, Streamed via Disney+) 5/2020 – Puffs (Filmed Live Off Broadway, Streamed via BroadwayHD) 5/2020 – Fun Home (Victory Gardens Theater, Streaming via Vimeo Event) 5/2020 – Bandstand (Filmed Live on Broadway, Streamed via Broadway On Demand) 6/2020 – Memphis (Filmed Live at the Hollywood Pantages, Streamed via BroadwayHD) 6/2020 – Scenes from Harry Potter (Oh Look Performing Arts Summer Camp) 6/2020 – Falsettos (Filmed Live at Lincoln Center, Streamed via BroadwayHD) 7/2020 – Hamilton (Filmed Live on Broadway, Streamed via Disney+) 7/2020 – Improv Scenes (Oh Look Performing Arts Summer Camp) 7/2020 – Shrek the Musical (Filmed Live on Broadway, Streamed via Netflix) 7/2020 – Legally Blonde (Filmed Live on Broadway, Streamed via YouTube) 8/2020 – Southern Baptist Sissies (Filmed Live on Stage in LA, Streamed via BroadwayHD) 8/2020 – A Killer Party, Season 1 (Virtual Musical, Streamed via Vimeo) 8/2020 – Jekyll and Hide (Filmed Live at the Old Vic, Streamed via YouTube) 8/2020 – Performance Class Monologues (Dallas Theater Center Virtual Classes) 8/2020 – Our Offering (Virtual Play, Streamed via YouTube) 8/2020 – Kinky Boots (Filmed Live in London’s West End, Streamed via BroadwayHD) 10/2020 – Sweeney Todd (Filmed Live on tour, Streamed via BroadwayHD) 10/2020 – Gretchen & the Grudge (Virtual Play, Oh Look Performing Arts Center) 11/2020 – What the Constitution Means to Me (Filmed Live on Broadway, Streamed via Amazon Prime Video) 11/2020 – A Christmas Story Live! (Filmed Live for Television) 11/2020 – Holiday Inn (Filmed Live on Broadway, Streamed via BroadwayHD) 12/2020 – The Grinch Musical (Filmed on stage for TV) 12/2020 – Jagged Little Pill Reunion Concert (Filmed on stage, streamed via ticketed event) 12/2020 – ‘Twas the Night (Radio Play, distributed via The Hamilcast podcast) 12/2020 – In the Bleak Midwinter (Filmed Live at Dallas Theater Center, Streamed via ticketing service) 12/2020 – Estella Scrooge (Virtual Musical, Streamed Via Universe)
I am looking forward to the day when we can gather in the theatre again and experience all of the feelings that come with a live show. But for now, I’m spurred on by the virtual theatre that exists. See you back here, hopefully soon!
I was meant to travel to NYC in July. I had tickets to Hamilton, and Six, and the NYC Planner Addicts Expo. Hamilton and Six were refunded as the Broadway shutdown amid this global pandemic rages on, and the planner event was rescheduled for July 2020. The organizers wanted to give us something to do to connect as planners this summer, so they planned a virtual one day event for ticket holders at no additional cost. I was super impressed!
We were able to submit photos ahead of time to allow Draw My Party to create caricature drawings of us. Here’s mine:
The sessions were held in a private Facebook group for ticket holders. We took lettering classes and watercolor classes from Miranda of Desert in Bloom Co. My lettering is still not great but I feel like Miranda did a great job of not rushing through instructions of the strokes and I understand it a lot better (I just need practice). The watercolor class came easier to me and I really enjoyed it! We heard panels from shop owners, had a session on self-care, and even closed the night with a DJ’d dance party.
What I found especially helpful were the vendor spotlights! Shop owners each got a few minutes scattered throughout the day to share products from their shop. I honestly spent more than I normally would with the vendors because the spotlights helped me see what they were offering and how to use it! I usually don’t like to approach busy vendor tables where I have to elbow my way in, so I thought this was a perfect alternative. I also won a couple of the giveaways sprinkled throughout the event so I have a lot of happy mail coming.
Honestly, pandemic or not, I hope this event can be the start of more virtual planner events. There’s less expense for the hosts which translates to less cost for the attendees. It also makes events more accessible to those with disabilities, those without childcare, and those are not local. Not to say that there should never be in person events (I absolutely love those and will return when it is safe), but more options is always better!
June was a month of disappointments, theatre-wise. I was meant to see the Eliza company of Hamilton in LA (cancelled). I was meant to see the tour of Frozen in Dallas (cancelled, followed by the announced permanent closing of the Broadway production). I was meant to see the Angelica company of Hamilton at home in Fort Worth (rescheduled to 2022). My Broadway tickets for Hamilton and Six in July were cancelled. I continued my Broadway Weekends at Home classes and watched some things on Broadway HD, but there wasn’t a ton of theatre to access at home in June. And then it was July.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, a filmed stage performance of the original principal Broadway cast of Hamilton was released on the Disney+ streaming platform on July 3rd at midnight PDT. The recording is minus one original ensemble cast member who had already left the show (Betsy Struxness, the originator of the Woman 2 track). This is no mere pro shot like you might see in a Fathom event in movie theatres. This is a dynamic movie-quality production shot over 3 days in June 2016, including 2 live performances with an audience, and another day of close-ups and on-stage filming with just the cast. There are cameras shooting from every angle, even from overhead. Director Tommy Kail really knocked out the selection of shots in this film to leave us with the best possible filmed version of this show. It is masterful.
We wanted to have a good time in getting ready to see this show at home. I made us paper tickets that resemble the design of the tickets we receive here in Dallas for our Dallas Summer Musicals subscription package. I designed a Playbill-type cover personalized for the occasion as well. People have asked me to sell or share these, and I don’t have the copyright authority to sell them nor do I have the software to share an editable pdf. And while I’d like to make free personalized copies available to everyone who asks (and I have done so for a few people who have asked), it would be an undertaking to do on demand for free and I will not tangle with the Hamilton and Disney lawyers to accept money for it. At the end of this post, I will link a few Hamilton programs for this recording that exist for free that you can use instead.
The first watch was me, by myself in the dark at 2AM Central time when it dropped onto Disney+. I woke up from my nap a little early and went through the Whataburger drive thru so I could have a breakfast BURRito as my themed show food. It was the perfect atmosphere to see the show for the first time. Having seen this show 12 times live, I was still knocked out by this filmed version. The closeups really pull you into the characters’ emotions in ways even the best seats in the house (and I’ve sat in those) could not. Afterwards, I tweeted “#HamilFilm is masterful. Same body responses I have in the theatre in all same parts – chills, tears, laughs, stomach aches, it’s all on my TV in brilliant detail. Thank you @Lin_Manuel and @disneyplus and all the @HamiltonMusical cast, creatives, & crew. Thank you.”
In the morning after breakfast, we had our first watch of Hamilton as a family. We decided to celebrate in style and truly re-create the theatre experience. We dressed appropriately, entered through the front door, visited the merch & concession stands, and even waited in line at the restroom. There are some still shots below, but the entire process was documented on TikTok here (you can watch even without an account): https://vm.tiktok.com/JRQpkKL/
I’ve watched it 4 times already and I’m sure there will be many, many more viewings to follow. I am aghast that we just HAVE it. It’s ours. It lives in our TVs and smartphones and tablets. I’m still finding new things to see and deriving new meanings from the lyrics. This show is my favorite thing, and now I can literally carry it in my pocket. And even with its new-found accessibility, I’m more hungry than ever to see it live and in person. Broadway’s intermission has been extended until at least 2021. I’ll be on the first flight I can get away on when it does. I hope you all enjoy my favorite thing!
The Hamilcast – A Hamilton Podcast by Gillian Pensavalle, with many episodes including interviews, with cast, crew, and creative team members of Hamilton (website is linked, but also listen wherever you get your podcasts)