My Top Ten Love Stories for the Stage

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to take the time to talk about some of my favorite love stories in theatre and why I like them so much. I’ll start with number 10 and move up the list so that your anticipation can grow!

10. On almost everyone’s favorite love story list (stage, screen or book) is Romeo and Juliet. I mean, Shakespeare created such a great model that when you speak of couples it’s almost like it is a coined phrase. If you don’t love someone like Romeo and Juliet loved then perhaps you aren’t in love? It is such a tragic story and teaches so many lessons of honesty, loyalty, feuding, that it is impossible not to be touched in some way by this wonderful story.

9. Cyrano de Bergerac. Also, a beautiful tragedy. I feel frustrated that Roxanne can’t see that it is really Cyrano that is writing the beautiful poetry she loves. I love that Cyrano wants Roxanne to be happy and loves her so much that he makes Christian into the man he thinks Roxanne can love. By the time Cyrano allows Roxanne to discover that Cyrano is the man she truly loves – he has been mortally wounded. Another love story gone horribly wrong.

8. Ragtime. Oh, how I wish this musical didn’t have such strong language. I believe the story could be told just as well without it, but sadly permission to change the language is not given so I won’t be producing this show anytime in the near future. This show is an epic love story. It is a love story with America (the good and the bad) and music and the passionate love of dreaming! It contains one of my favorite musical songs, “On the Wheels of a Dream.” If you haven’t heard it–trust me, find it and listen to it. It is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. (especially if you know what happens after they sing this song.)

7. The Phantom of the Opera. This is simply one of the best love stories of all time.  This story is set in the 1870’s Paris Opera House. The Phantom is a musical genius who prowls around with a mask hiding the disfigured half of his face. Even though he has been imprisoned by his disfigurement he feels love and even compassion for Christine. When she falls in love with Raoul, the Phantom’s heart is broken and he turns into a jealous, furious “monster.” It is a wonderful story of how love can conquer all or destroy. The music is haunting and beautiful. It is a timeless genius masterpiece.

6. Les Miserables. Unrequited Love. The song “On My Own”  makes me feel all the feels, after all, haven’t most of us had unreciprocated love sometime in our lives? Eponine and Marius are the couple that never was and how we ache for Eponine all the way to her death. The love stories play out on many levels throughout this celebration of human spirit. There is a reason it might very well be the world’s most popular musical.

5. Cinderella.I grew up watching the 1965 TV remake of this wonderful musical that was written for television. To me, there was no better Cinderella than Lesley Ann Warren. She was pretty, but not so pretty that it put my hopes of one day being a Cinderella out of reach. I loved “In my Own Little Corner” and I felt like I could also be “whatever I wanted to be” and, like Cinderella, it was ok to dream. Cinderella has a magical love. It is a fairy tale that makes most of us want the knight on a white horse-love at first sight kind of love. And honestly, that’s kind of breathtaking. (As a side-note I don’t like the modern version. For more on that read my review here: https://fromthewings.org/2018/05/01/rodgers-hammersteins-cinderella-changing-the-fairy-tale/)

4. West Side Story. Romeo and Juliet revisited. The tragic tale of two gangs that cannot mix with each other until Tony and Maria meet each other and fall madly in love. They defy the wishes of all their families and friends and commit to love each other for life. Oh, the power of love–it makes you believe that all things are possible. I won’t give away the ending, but since I said Romeo and Juliet you might get a hint.

3. Steel Magnolias. This story revolves around Truvy’s Beauty Shop. Everyone in the town gets their hair done there. When your hair is being dyed and cut you can bet some very strong friendships are being formed. This story is a love story between friends, and mothers and daughters. These bonds are powerful, life-sustaining and unexplainable. I wouldn’t give up the experience of playing Ouiser for anything. Life-altering.

2. Wicked. Most people might say that this is the story of Fiero and Elphaba. I believe it’s the story of a powerful friendship between Glinda and Elphaba. These two strong women meet and are instantly at odds because the pretty blonde just doesn’t understand the green-skinned girl. Yet, they each open their hearts and allow the lessons of the prejudice of the world change them “For Good. ” It is very rare that there are two female lead parts that are so brilliantly written for the stage. This one makes me long to be able to sing like Elphaba who does happen to sing my theme song. (Don’t we all want to Defy Gravity?)

1.Showboat. Anyone who knows me would have to know that this is my number one pick. It is the show that made me fall in love with theatre. I have seen it numerous times and have read the book and play just as many.

I love:

the love story that the show people have with performing

the love that Bill has for Julie that he would sacrifice his future by joining Julie’s race

I love that Magnolia loves Gaylord so much that she fights for him even when he is ruining her life

I love the way Old Man River soars and the love affair the people on the river have for the Mississippi.

My all time favorite musical song, “Can’t Help Loving that Man of Mine” (in fact I sing it to my granddaughter-with a few words changed) comes from this beautiful love story.

If you haven’t seen some of these make sure you search them out. If you have, I’d love to hear what you think! Please take a moment to comment, share and like!

In the meantime,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

The Most Famous Play Of All

What exactly is a Nativity Play?

The word “Nativity” is derived from the Latin word ‘natal” which means birth. So, a Nativity Play is a play that recreates the story of the birth of Christ. Usually, this includes the visit of the shepherds and the Wise Men.

This tradition seems to have started in Italy around 1223. The credit seems to go to St Francis of Assisi for creating the very first one. It seems that during this time many people were illiterate and couldn’t read the story of Christmas in the Bible for themselves. So, St Francis decided to show them what it must have been like on the night of Jesus’ birth. He set a manger, added some hay and live animals and got some people from the town to play Mary, Joseph and Shepherds. It must have been a success due to the overwhelming amount of churches that perform a play during this time of year. In fact, it is so popular a play was written about the process. (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever).

Around the country the Nativity play is a treasured moment;  we all worship together among cameras, videos and a few tears. Sad, isn’t it? That this tradition can’t be done in many schools and communities any longer and that they have to perform winter shows instead?

There was a time that we were not ashamed of Christ. There was a time we boldly shouted out, “Merry Christmas!” and identified with the fact that Jesus’ birth was Why we celebrate this day.

I hope the tradition of the Nativity play never ends. There is something wonderful about the community that comes together out of the recreation of the story.

  1. What could be better than teaching children the important aspects of each part of the story? You might say, “What could be important about playing one of the animals?” There is a verse in Isaiah 1:3-4, “The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master’s crib. But Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” What lucky children! They play the part of giving comfort, even the ox and ass understand and give homage to the King.
  2. Parents and friends who might not usually participate, get involved with a production to help their children.
  3. People will come to church to watch kids when they won’t come for anything else.
  4. The simplicity of a production done by children should focus us on the true meaning of the season.
  5. Don’t forget the reading of the Christmas story, but for this visual learning society we have now–seeing is so powerful.

Amazing isn’t it?  “the hopes and fears of all the years (wow that’s a lot) are met in Christ–the birth of Jesus–in a far away town–on a cold winter’s night.”

Let’s keep telling the story.

Do you have a favorite memory of a nativity story? Please share a comment/and this post if you like it!

 

Until next time!

 

 

Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn: A Theater Review

Based on the 1942 film featuring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, the stage adaptation of Holiday Inn makes some vital updates (for example, cutting the film’s blackface number), while satisfying those of us who love old musicals and including songs like “White Christmas,” “Happy Holiday,” “Blue Skies,” and “Cheek to Cheek.”

Michael Mahler stars as Jim Hardy, a musician who leaves New York and show business to settle on a farm in Connecticut. He proposes to his song-and-dance partner, Lila Dixon (Kimberly Immanuel), who accepts him (seemingly reluctantly) and promptly leaves for a touring gig with the third member of their original trio, Ted Hanover (Will Burton). While Lila and Ted dance their way across the Midwest to Las Vegas, Jim embraces the farming life with the help of lively jack-of-all-trades, Louise (Marya Grandy).

Events collide when some of Jim’s New York friends come to visit as he is discovering that the farming idea is well….a disaster. How do any performers cope when they are in a crisis? Well, of course, they decide to put on a show!  Jim hatches a plan with his newfound friend Linda Mason (Johanna Mckenzie Miller), a charming, reserved schoolteacher ( who once aspired to be a performer). They decide to open the farm each holiday, bring in Jim’s performer friends, and put on a show!

Costumes

I must say, I have never been disappointed in the costumes at Marriott’s; however, this time I was. As you know, wherever you sit at Marriott’s you will be looking at some of the performer’s backs at least half of the time. It would seem to me that it would be very important for the actors to look equally good from the back or front. Unfortunately, it was quite distracting to look at Michael Mahler who’s pants were…hmmmm….baggy. The Valentine’s dresses looked great until the girls turned around and we saw what looked like a huge decal on the chest of their dresses. The Easter dresses were ok, but the Easter bonnets, which were designed to be over-the-top, lost the class that I think that song usually demands. Overall, I would give the costumes a C-.

Set Design and Technical

One of the things I love about Marriott’s is how effortlessly the set pieces move in and out. The cast is always brilliant as they push the pieces on and manage to do it in character. This show is no different.

One of the highlights is the piano. Since it is so much a part of this singing and dancing trio it becomes a central part of the design. As Michael Mahler is such an accomplished musician it is a delight to see what he brings to his character as he skillfully plays.

The other pieces fit the story perfectly. I loved the ladder that rolled around as different characters climbed on and off of it. Masterful use of the space and props/set pieces.

Acting/Singing/Dancing

I must admit I wasn’t fond of Michael Mahler as Jim. I know I shouldn’t compare to the movie, but growing up seeing Bing Crosby in this part it was hard to listen to Mahler’s voice. I felt he was a bit cheesy in his portrayal and I wanted him to be smooth and in control. Also, Will Burton as Ted wasn’t exactly a Fred Astaire either. I wanted to like Ted, but be angry with him for his lack of friendship and loyalty towards Jim. Instead, I didn’t like him at all.

But then, Linda Mason, played by Johanna Mckenzie Miller, and Louise , played by Marya Grandy, walked on the stage and all was well. Grady was brilliant, charming, funny and brought an incredible amount of energy and life to the stage. Miller made us believe she loved Jim in such a way that I ended up wholeheartedly loving it.

The dancing ? Wonderful! If you haven’t seen clips of the tap number with jump ropes then you can’t imagine how breathtaking it is! Hands down a showstopper. Denis Jones deserves an A for his wonderful choreography that brought this story to life.

Favorite Line

Ted Hanover : “Every now and then it’s a good idea to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

Conclusion

I mistakenly thought that this show would be too much like White Christmas. I was so wrong. I smiled most of the time. I loved the music, dance and love story. It made me remember the movies of my youth and just plain made me happy.

If you can get a ticket. Go. You won’t be disappointed.

HOLIDAY INN runs through January 6 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, IL 60069. Tickets are available at 847-634-0200 or marriotttheatre.com.

I’d love to know your thoughts! Did you see this production? Please take a moment to comment and share this post!

Until next time!

Giving Thanks: Not Just on Thanksgiving

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
– Psalm 95:2

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”
– 1 Chronicles 16:34

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”
– Psalm 28:7

“Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. “
– Psalm 106:1

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.”
– Psalm 100:4

“Let our hearts overflow with thankfulness…”
– Colossians 2:7

“To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything He has given us — and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him.”
– Thomas Merton (Thoughts on Solitude)

“Thanksgiving Day is a jewel, to set in the hearts of honest men; but be careful that you do not take the day, and leave out the gratitude.” – E.P. Powell

“That I may make the voice of thanksgiving heard and may tell of all Your wondrous works.” – Psalm 26:7

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart.He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” – Psalm 28:2

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” – Psalm 69:30

He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God.”
Psalm 50:23

For days leading up to Thanksgiving I see many of my friends posting things  that they are grateful for. I enjoy reading the posts and seeing the photos they share. It is a great reminder that we have so much for which to be thankful.

God’s word is filled with constant reminders to be thankful–yet I see nothing that states this thankful spirit comes during the month of November. Instead, it seems that thankfulness should be a constant state of being.  “In everything give thanks.”

Everything?? 

The snow? The loss of power? Sickness? How expensive things are? Getting passed over for that promotion? The political state of our country?

Yes. EVERYTHING.

Here’s my top 5 for today.

  1. Thank you, God, for Medinah Baptist Church, (Jubilee Bible) who has provided such a wonderful space for Overshadowed and who has taught me much about God’s love in action.
  2. Thank you, God, for my family. (Both immediate and distant)
  3. Thank you, God, for Your artistry in creation. The snow layered on the trees is breathtakingly beautiful.
  4. Thank you, God, for weather, from rain to snow, from cold to heat. (I must admit, to be thankful for cold will be a struggle, but I’m going to try.)
  5. Thank you, God, for friends.

It is truly a wonderful life, isn’t it?

Please like and share and leave a comment! And sorry for the shameless plug…Overshadowed.org….It’s a Wonderful Life….plays for three more weeks.


Memorial Day–Remembering the Cost of Freedom

 On Monday we began the week by celebrating Memorial Day. I began wondering what the history of this special day was. I was surprised to learn that it was originally called “Decoration Day.” I guess it dates back to 1866 when the women of the North and South began to honor those killed in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves. After WWI those ceremonies began to honor those who were killed in all the wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday and we began to officially observe it on the last Monday in May. This day is different from July 4th where we celebrate freedom. This day we observe the cost of freedom.

At the first Memorial Day ceremony held in Arlington National Cemetery, small flags were placed at every marker, starting a tradition that is carried on to this day.

Have you ever been to Arlington? I have. My father, a hero in my eyes, is buried there.

Richard E. Ruffin was born on August 24, 1927, during WWII he was in the Navy and as

18765747_10155248332564831_6786388097962464756_n
My dad’s funeral. Arlington National Cemetery.

the story goes as soon as my 6 foot four inch tall dad got off the Navel ship he walked across the street and joined the Army. During the next years he was in Korea, two deployments in Germany and one tour in Vietnam. He received the Bronze star, the Purple Heart and several commendations. How I wish I had somehow asked the right questions to learn more about that time of his life.

My dad loved America. He taught me to value the freedoms that we have. I might not like everything America does or the decisions that some of our leaders make, but I know that we have freedoms that other people do not enjoy. Why? Only one reason. Because, people like my dad fought for those freedoms, died for them, protected them.

Since this is supposed to be a blog about things on and off the stage…I’d like to remember that we have the freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.”

Freedom of speech allows me to write this blog freely–to express my opinions about God, if I so desire–and to not fear government censorship. This is just one of the reasons I’m thankful for America.

This week let’s join together and remember the cost of our freedoms and the people who gave their all for us.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”– George S. Patton

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”    – John F. Kennedy

I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day.  I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it.  We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.  ~Benjamin Harrison

These heroes are dead.  They died for liberty – they died for us.  They are at rest.  They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.  They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.  Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace.  In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.  I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead:  cheers for the living; tears for the dead.  ~Robert G. Ingersoll

 

Do you know someone that served our country? Do you have a favorite story about them? Do you have a thought about freedom or Memorial Day? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!

Reba