Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nothing new

Sorry friends and family! Nothing new to report so far, as this week has been filled with studying and midterms. I took my hardest one today (Presence of the Past-aka Art History HELL) and while I'm certain that I mangled the poor Italian language, I think it went ok.

Other than that, I had economics, the Black Death and an Italian midterm to study for, and tonight I'm busy prepping for my Italian presentation tomorrow. Should be a piece of cake, especially after 2 hours of writing down everything you know about art in Siena. Fun times.

You probably won't hear from me until after Spring Break, which starts Friday when I head to Spain! I'm seeing my lovely friend Liz there, heading to Portugal to hang by the beach, and finishing up with a visit to see my bestie Nic in Switzerland! I don't know how I always end up doing 3 countries on Spring Break, but this time it's only 3 cities, not like 9. Hopefully it will be a bit more chill, but just as fun!

Hope you are all enjoying the lovely weather at home! Ciao tutti!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ventuno anni!!!!

As I'm sure you all are well aware, yesterday was my 21st birthday! It's a bit bizarre to celebrate a big birthday in a country where 21 doesn't mean much. I mean, they're happy for you; they know you're now legally allowed to drink at home, but it's not that big of a deal here. I mean, I have been able to legally walk down the street drinking my own bottle of wine for 2 months now, the novelty of being legal might have slightly worn off. Buuuut, when I get back to the states it will be a whole new experience! This is the year we all turn 21, and since none of us are together to celebrate, I guess we will have to have one big 21st birthday party insieme (together) when I get back!

Anyway, instead of studying (like I should be doing now), Emily, Charlotte and I (coincidentally we all had birthdays this week) headed to a beautiful town called Lucca for a day trip. Paola actually lived in Lucca for a bit, so that was interesting to hear. 

The train was god-awfully early because we had a couple of transfers, but totally worth the early morning wakeup call. Paola sweetly had my breakfast laid out with a gift bag beside it- she gave me my very own contrada flag! I can now display my Torre pride back at IC!

Here are some pics of the lovely trip:
walked by this in Siena on the way to the station

I love you like bees like honey, like fish love to swim
and like the sun loves to rise in the morning.

The weather has turned rather fantastic here

We stopped by the Puccini museum
The Puccini museum was super cool (if you're an opera fan like me haha) because it is made out of his house. We saw where he was born, where he slept, ate, and composed. We even saw the piano he used when composing my favorite of his operas, Turandot (from which the famous aria Nessun Dorma comes from). He didn't actually finish the opera before he died, so he never saw it completed, which is sad...

This is a summary (taken from Wikipedia) of the plot:

The story, set in China, involves prince Calàf who falls in love with the cold princess Turandot. To obtain permission to marry her, a suitor has to solve three riddles; any false answer results in death. Calàf passes the test, but Turandot still hesitates to marry him. He offers her a way out: he agrees to die should she be able to guess his real name.

He sings Nessun Dorma after she declares that everyone in her palace must find out the princes name before morning (if they can find it he will let her kill him) and he sings a song about how none will sleep-"nessun dorma" but he is the only one that knows his name. In the last triumphant lines of the aria, he tells the stars to set because at dawn he will win! If you want to listen to this awesome aria, you can do so here. Luciano Pavarotti basically made it his signature song, and it was the song he sang at his last performance at the Olympics (well, 'sang'- there are some rumors that it was prerecorded). I also enjoy Andrea Bocelli's version as well.

We even got to see the original costume from a performance in New York from like 1926. It was unbelievable!
I didn't take this but it is magnificent! Looks
so cool up close!

Alright, enough dorking out about Opera...


we had lunch at the Turandot caffe in honor
of my love of the opera

First drink as a 21 year old! Chardonnay frizzante- yum

this used to be a Roman amphitheater

We walked along the wall of the city and took in the
gorgeous scenery

After lounging around in the sun, we hopped on the train back to Siena so we could get ready for that night's adventure: la discoteca!  I've never been before, and I wanted to go at least once while in Italy so I could have that experience.

Emily bought me this wine in honor of my birthday

It was delicious
The discoteca proved to be interesting- we actually ended up going to the wrong one, because we got on a different bus. But I was with friends and it was the same kind of thing, and it was a lot of fun! I'm not usually in Siena on the weekends so I don't usually have a chance to go, but it worth checking out at least once while I was in Italy. All in all, a great 21st birthday. I had a lovely relaxing day and got to try something I had wanted to do for a while. Not a bad way to spend a birthday. 

Time to study like mad for my exams! Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

World's Best Gelato

Yesterday, our Presence of the Past class had it's first of two field studies outside of the city. We unfortunately had to take a tiny bus to said destination, which meant that I had to take motion sickness medicine, equalling a very groggy me for the first bit of our oh-so-interesting tour and discussion of frescoes.

There were some interesting facts though: San Gimignano is the city that we visited. It is famous for being a medieval city that, like Siena, had a bunch of towers. These towers were built to show off how rich and powerful people were (cause if you were rich and powerful you could afford to build and live in an uncomfortably small but tall space). When Florence took over Siena, the nobles knocked down all the towers to demoralize the Sienese and get rid of their objects of power. San Gimignano still has some, so that's cool

The Devil's Tower now sells pizza

More importantly, San Gimignano is home to a very important gelateria. It apparently won World's Best Gelato for 3 years in a row and is always crowded. It was DELICIOUS

 After hearing about more Madonna and Baby Jesus pictures, we had a little free time to wander around and see the views

I also noticed that Charlotte's cone had a great design. 

I also bought some wine. Contrary to Mom's belief that buying the cheapest bottle randomly at the store would not help me learn what kinds I liked, I did find out that I enjoy San Gimignano wine made from Vernaccia grapes just a week before we went. So of course I had to get some from the actual city! Mom, we can try it when I'm home so you can see how classy my taste buds have become.

In other news, I finally picked up the leather jacket I bought when I was in Florence with mom and Cesca- It had to be altered a bit and I didn't have a free day to pop over to Florence till today.

What do you all think?

I love it

I also stopped by the video store that was having a sale today and bought a couple of my favorite movies in Italian. Now I can add Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Howl's Moving Castle and The Nightmare Before Christmas to my list. It may seem silly to buy these movies in Italian (especially since I have both Howl's and Nightmare in English at home) but knowing that I will be returning to America soon without too many people who will tolerate or understand me speaking Italian, I'm going to need some way to keep it on my mind and keep practicing. Reading and watching movies will definitely help, so I'm looking forward to my own Italian movie nights!

Heading to Lucca tomorrow bright and early before checking out the discoteca! Can't wait!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Last Thoughts on Phantom (for now)

Ok friends and family, bear with me. Seeing Phantom 2x this weekend has put me in rare Phantom obsession form so let me just get this last post out of my system, then I promise I won't update until I do something fun and interesting in Italy that has nothing to do with Phantom. I also don't expect you to read this (unless you really want to read another review of Phantom, haha) but it's more for my own personal enjoyment.

Saturday, as you all know, I returned to London to see the original West End production of the show. Surprisingly, this was my first time seeing the show twice in 2 days (albeit different productions) and it was great. I stated on my facebook that I was on a Phantom overload but “ridiculous Phantom high” is probably the better way to describe it. Every trip makes me ready to plan my next visit to the show (I’m thinking Vegas next!).

I was a bit worried when I was planning this trip. The timing had to be right- I wanted to have time to get to Plymouth to see the new tour, but I had to go early enough that I could catch Earl Carpenter in the West End version because I wanted to see him before the new Phantom, Peter Joback, arrived. I wasn’t 100% sold on him in the 25th anniversary concert, and more importantly Earl is on a list of actors that had played the role that I would have loved to see (JOJ and Hugh Panaro were on that list- coincidentally all of them returned to the role at a time where I could venture to see them! How lucky!) so I was desperate to catch him. Next weekend is out- it’s my birthday (which would have been perfect) but alas, my midterms week immediately follows, and since I tend to get ill after flights, I wanted to have time to study and relax. The weeks before were too full or the tour wasn’t playing. My window of opportunity was small- especially since actor illness or surprise holidays could strike at any time!

Fortunately, the stars aligned- I made my flight and all of the journeying with little to no trouble. After seeing the tour, I was a bit worried about seeing the original. Not because I thought it wouldn’t be good, but JOJ is one of my favorite Phantoms and I didn’t want to be biased about seeing the show with a different Phantom immediately after. Plus it is hard to see the two versions close to each other and then try not to think of the tour when you’re watching the original and vice versa.

I was not disappointed in the slightest. All three leads, Earl, Sofia and Killian (who I was also DYING to see- his tweets are hilarious) were on and really, the show was everything I could have asked for, especially for a two show day. I don’t know how they have the energy to do it twice in such a short amount of time!

Some highlights of the show (for me):
Killian Donnelly’s Raoul- he is hilariously full of himself in the beginning, even stopping to fix his hair and adjust his bowtie in the mirror while Christine is reminiscing about the Little Lotte stuff. I loved it because he obviously expects things to go his way, and when they don’t and Christine is threatened, he grows up and becomes her protector. It was awesome. He’s quite fierce by the end as well, when the noose is around his neck and the Phantom comes to grab Christine for the “start a new life with me” bit, Killian shouted “NO” and grabbed for the Phantom when he snatched Christine. I thought it was a brilliant touch. He was fantastic and very nice at the stage door. He asked where I was from and we had a nice conversation about him and Kyle being Raoul buddies and the wonders of the ‘magnetic portcullis’ when the noose fails, which happened a few nights prior.

Sofia- I find Sofia to be a brilliant Christine. Her voice is astoundingly beautiful and I think she’s very lively, innocent and adorable. She always has fantastic chemistry with her male leads as well, plus she’s one of the sweetest people you will ever meet. She remembered me and even said she missed having me next door! (I used to work next to HM when I was abroad in London). I can’t gush enough about her and her kindness/awesomeness.

Earl- What a brilliant Phantom. His voice is a bit different than JOJ, but I swear at some points they sound exactly the same. It only happened once or twice but I was like o.O whoaaa. I loved his MOTN especially- his body language was really interesting. During the “Turn your face away” facepalm (that I ABHOR) he only turned her face then sort of ran his hand back and caressed Christine’s hair lightly. This slight adjustment makes the blocking more bearable. His faint catch was awesome as well- usually it looks a bit awkward and staged to me because they don’t let her fall enough. Earl stood a bit farther back than normal and genuinely looked surprised and had to dart forward to catch her. I prefer the faint much more than letting her fall, but often it looks staged and fake (Peter Karrie is an excellent example of how to catch Christine, if you care to look it up).

You can tell Earl’s Phantom dearly wants to care and love Christine, but he doesn’t know how to put his violent temper aside. After the faint he literally stands there and looks at Christine and looks around much longer than any other Phantom I’ve seen, like in an “oh god, what the eff do I do now?” kind of way, because this is so foreign to him. His final lair was terrifying, awesome and  heartbreaking as well (though the noose wasn’t working well that night either, the magnetic portcullis was not necessary). He and Killian had an interesting standoff after “be my guest sir” where Earl was kind of taunting him in a “I raised the gate- am I really gonna let you through? I don’t know” kind of way while he kind of chuckled under his breath. Loved it. Plus his doll throw was terrifying. Thought it was gonna break or something!

When Christine kisses him the second time, he kind of pulls away quite shocked and bewildered, and when he falls to his knees after they leave, the monkey music box scares him and he gets startled. He looks so expectantly hopeful when Christine comes back that you can see the despair when she gives him the ring. He at first will not take it, then falls to his knees and tries to give it back to her. It was so pitiful and moving. You could literally hear people sniffling all over the theatre.

In his interpretation I saw the realization dawn on the Phantom that he needed to let Christine go, and that his life and love weren’t the best for her as he pulled away bewildered from the kiss and looked back and forth at Raoul and Christine- JOJ and Hugh show it through the kiss- they both did this wonderful thing where at the very end of the second kiss they drop their hands resignedly. It was really poignant, like he knew what he had to do, that this could never be. It made me think of a really nice quote from Susan Kay:
" It was finished then, of course...that kiss ended everything. The moment I knew she was mine - - truly mine - - I knew I could not kill that wretched boy."  And though he hopes with all of his heart that she has come back to stay, I like to think that deep inside he knows it’s best for her. They both knew that it was for the best, even though Christine is sad to leave him as well.

(Unfortunately Earl is the fastest make-remover ever and was out of the stage door just as I got there, so I didn’t get to meet him as I wasn’t willing to run down the street…again… to catch him since I wanted to see Killian and Sofia).

Seeing the show in its original form made me appreciate the UK tour a bit more in some ways, but seeing the two together also helped me realize a lot. I love the original and am very attached, but it was interesting to see another interpretation. Originally, Cameron Macintosh (who was, coincidentally like 5 feet away from me at the stage door talking to the crew) only wanted replica productions of the show. The idea was to let people all over the world see what the show looks like in London or NYC. Well, that changed with the Hungarian and Polish productions, and I have to say I’m not a huge fan of all of those changes. The UK tour still keeps some of the flavor of Maria’s designs with the costumes (well, Christine’s costumes, which remain largely the same- others are modified or altered) and it isn’t completely different like the other 2 non replicas. I would still say that I prefer the original, though the tour has some changes that I really liked. At this point, they’re the same in plot and music, but diverge so much on design that it’s almost like comparing apples and oranges. Like I did with the 2004 movie, I’m going to have to treat them as separate entertainment entities and not go crazy comparing every detail- they’re not the same and they aren’t meant to be.

Like LND, the tour reminded me of everything that was fantastic and brilliant about the original and renewed my love for it even more. I think the tour is wonderful for people far away from London or those who are not super attached, but personally I like seeing the same design over and over again, because I like seeing what actors do in the confines of a 25 year old role- Every actor I’ve seen plays their role differently and I think it is amazing to see how different the Phantom or Raoul or Christine can be portrayed using the same blocking. When you change the tour blocking, this is some way changes the characters; it gives them different ways to move, choices to make. Maybe if the tour was around for years and years (and I got to see it multiple times) I would enjoy seeing the different tour interpretations as well. I would love to see it again soon, though I probably won't have the chance. Here's to hoping some bootlegs come out!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Phantom of the Opera Tour Observations: Act 2

Act 2
Andre does not have a skeleton costume for this, so that gag is out. Instead, Andre and Firmin wear creepy Carnevale masks that are bases on masks that doctors wore during plagues in the Middle Ages (I’m living in Italy, I know this stuff). They look like this:

There is no staircase in Masquerade, and I know this will upset Kaedra- the costumes are significantly different. There is no little band, no half/half manwoman, no Triton, none of that. A few of the costumes look like they were modified from the original to be more ballgown-y because the dancing in this version actually looks more like the dancing  a ball would have- lots of couples choreography and such. Everyone is actually wearing masks on their faces- Raoul has one and Christine’s is not on a stick. The background is a semi-circle of mirrors (sound familiar??) and when Christine and Raoul are downstage, there’s a figure lurking. He’s wearing a red overcoat thing and a full mask, but he’s very tall and his wig looks quite familiar. Once Christine and Raoul separate, he dances with Christine for a bit (with some other guys as well) and I think it ends up overwhelming her/freaking her out because she grabs her head a lot.
Note on her costume- the puffy arm things are gone but she is also not wearing her silver boots. Her shoes look more like her dressing room shoes.
rehearsal shot of Masquerade. You can see Katie's silver
shoes in the center

Anyway, the man in red slyly sneaks off at the end of the dance break and the crown keeps singing. The party is interrupted when the man in red enters through a door in the mirrors (now wearing a cloak and hat, still nowhere near the Original Red Death) and does his “Have you missed me” thing. Important to note that in this production, it has been 12 months since the Phantom was seen/heard from. This may not make much of a difference, but I think it must make Christine all the more terrified because she probably thought she was rid of him for good and could live happily with Raoul. That’s a pretty long time to leave everyone alone. Thankfully there are no whispers of “Christine! Christine!” when the phantom motions her forward- they do it in the London production and it is silly to me. Once or twice maybe, but 20 whispers is too much.

Anyway, there’s no spark after “You will sing for me!” He just turns and walks out the back door. However, there were a few statues in the room and they kind of enclose the guests and sort of trap them in the mirrors until Madame Giry shows them out (I think- there’s a lot of commotion). Raoul catches up with her and is like “wtf is happening” so she tells her story. As she does, some shadows appear on the wall behind her, showing a man in a cage getting his mask pulled off, etc. An interesting addition. Not too graphic, and you might miss it if you aren’t looking, but it was kind of creepy and cool.

Notes II
There are no scores in the scene, so they don’t throw it around and such. They also don’t sit Christine down in the chair, but most of it is the same. EXCEPT FOR THE RAOUL SLAP. Yup. That happens. Not sure why she slaps him, I mean, I guess she is frustrated. And Raoul did just set her up as bait. Yeah, I guess he deserves it. But right after she gets all weepy again. And runs out. In an added scene, Raoul runs and catches up with her. She shakes him off and yells “You said you’d protect me” or something like that and dashes off, and then Raoul delivers the “So it is to be war between us” line.

During the practice scene, Christine doesn’t have her cloak yet. She walks in and they do the rehearsal. The part that I really like about this scene is when they all get possessed. They stand in a bunch and all point at Christine while they sing. It really adds a creepy element to the scene that I think it was lacking (in fact, I normally don’t care much for it). Then they all just break off and walk away like nothing happened, which I think shows the Phantom’s power. I dunno, it was actually really cool. Afterwards, some random guy hands Christine her cloak and she heads to the graveyard.

The possessed crowd

The graveyard, as a previous reviewer described, is sparse- Cross with DAAE on it and an angel statue. (Thankfully it wasn’t a weeping angel or we would have all been screwed. Ahem). Hmmm. I wonder where the Phantom is. Anyway, there is no scarf attached to her cloak. I find this a significant change (what is their problem with giving this girl a scarf???) because A.) It gave her something to use as a prop and B.) I always took it as a symbol of her attachment to Raoul and her past (you know, cause I assumed it was the scarf he saved…) I felt like they were trying to either loosen the connection, or they just assumed people didn’t understand why she had the scarf in the first place.

After the song (in which Katie had to wander around about half the stage in circles for a bit) the Phantom reveals himself from behind the angel statue. He’s on the same level as Christine (and Raoul when he enters) instead of being above them. Raoul stays in the back and sings as he observes, and the Phantom and Christine end up downstage left. At a certain point they make a triangle, which may be to emphasize the love triangle. They do this in the West End version as well, though the phantom at the top is above near the cross.
The phantom begins to hypnotize Christine again, holding out his hand and beckoning to her. She walks towards him, entranced, as Raoul screams in the back. I think the spell is more broken by the Phantom getting annoyed rather than Raoul snapping Christine out of it. The Phantom whirls around, taunting Raoul. Anytime Raoul gets close, the Phantom blasts fireballs at him (in the same way it was done in the 25th). I actually like this change. It’s quite scary and makes him seem superhuman or something. The staff is alright, but sometimes can be a bit underwhelming. Especially compared to huge bursts of flame from the floor. Eventually Raoul gets close enough to slam the Phantom into the wall near Daae’s grave, but the Phantom just laughs it off. I thought this was a nice little confrontation- the Phantom obviously doesn’t feel threatened by Raoul (Simon isn’t helped by the fact that JOJ is like 6 feet something) and then Raoul and Christine get outta there. The Phantom doesn’t seem super angry- he seems like he knew it was coming and was prepared for war. The final wall of flames is still there, which I’m happy about- that effect always wows people.

“Are the doors secure” is about the same (Rebecca will be happy to learn that the “secure!” guys voices are the same ones used on West End and Broadway- they didn’t change them like the 25th did) and the only diff I noticed was that only a shadow of the Phantom appeared in the box, not a double (the shot got lots of squeals-haha) and the line “let the audience in” was cut during Seal My Fate Tonight.

OK, PONR is where I have a difference of opinion with the director. It is VERY sexual. Christine reveals, quite early on, that there is a thigh high slit in the Aminta dress. She shows us this a bunch of times. HOLY SEXUAL. I was a bit embarrassed to be sitting next to the older couple next to me, it was almost that awkward. What I did like about this scene is that the switcheroo actually almost makes sense. The cloak is not the full body cloak like the Original, but instead only covers his head and shoulders. Piangi puts this cloak on before he hides, and when the Phantom comes out, they look almost the same. Not that JOJ is fat or anything, but he has an imposing figure and since he’s quite tall, from far away they don’t look that different. They're both in their shirtsleeves (the Phantom spends PONR through Final Lair without is overcoat on) so with the cloak over his head, they look very similar.

Anyway, PONR is very sexualized. Some parts, I liked. I’ve always seen it as almost a tango between the characters, and lo and behold, they actually do a sort of tango for a part of it. It gets very sexual- Christine gets on the table a couple of times (the table in this scene is actually the length of 2 standard PONR tables from the original) and at one point leans back while the Phantom sexily taunts her with grapes. It’s kind of the opposite of how she taunts him with the apple in the Original. Anyway, as she is leaning back he runs his hands up her shoulders to her head and covers her eyes during “what warm unspoken secrets will we learn.” Christine sits up with a bit of shock, then returns to performing like normal (much like in the original where she suspects him but remembers she has to perform) And this, to me, is where the blindfold from MOTN connects- he blindfolds her both times when he wants her to imagine something strange and wonderful and when he wants her to ‘surrender’ to something. It actually made sense to me in a roundabout way… Opinions? I'm personally a fan of the old version better and thought it was plenty sexy, but hey, it's a different production.

Moving on, during Christine’s verse, she stays on the table for a good part, there’s a lot of leg showing (so much so that I expected her to rip off the bottom of the dress at one point- it was that intense) and there’s a bit where she picks up a goblet and drinks, then shares it with him. (While she’s on the table he’s sitting at a bench in front of her watching her- his back is to the audience). She walks to the end of the table and around the last “Past the Point of no return, the final threshold” he lifts her off the table and down onto the floor. In some way he ends up kneeling in front of her and during “the bridge is crossed” she runs her hands along his chest from behind (kind of like in the original during ‘when will the blood begin to race’) and at the last “we’ve passed the point of no return” at the end of the phrase she pulls down the hood, fiercely revealing that she knew it was him the whole time. Christine has a backbone here which I liked. Not sure if she was distracting him by seducing him the whole time or not, but I dunno.

The Phantom gets up and tries to run, but the gunmen run onstage and Raoul shouts “stop him!” They don’t do anything, though, as the Phantom sings his plea to Christine, and this happens pretty much the same. He gives her the ring, she unmasks, they run. The gunman downstage right shoots but misses and accidentally hits the guy upstage left. It’s not supposed to be funny, but I thought it was lol.

In the commotion, Meg is already in her Final Lair outfit. Her mom tells her to stay and one of the male dancers tries to bring her with him as Raoul and Madame Giry leave, but Meg wrenches herself out of his grasp and follows behind (I like this change because it means she would have actually been able to follow them down).  She leads Raoul to the overlook of the stairs down to the lair and that’s as far as she will go. Raoul slowly and cautiously descends the stairs and we get to Final Lair (down once more is largely the same).

There is no veil in this scene (though he was using it during STYDI when he was talking about beauty- no idea where it went). When she sings the first “have you gorged yourself” blah blah when she sings about the flesh he throws her on the bed (I was like OMG HES GONNA RAPE HER???) But he didn’t. He just got all sad and whatnot. When Raoul comes, there’s no portcullis or anything so he kind of just wanders in from the back. The Phantom gets Christine in this kind of death grip while Raoul stands opposite- I can only describe it as an ‘evil’ version of the “floating, falling” hold the Phantom does in MOTN. He then ends up actually choking her and when Raoul says “let me see her,” the Phantom lets go and looks at his hand like he didn’t realize he was choking her- he wasn’t choking her as long as Ramin in the concert so it was more believable.
I am alright with this change. I think of it as a different interpretation- I know some people don’t like the choking bit, but I think the Phantom is fully capable of hurting Christine without realizing it when he is in a blind rage. That’s just me.

Evil "floating, falling" pose as I call it. Idk why she's
in Aminta, this deff wasn't in PONR
Anyway, when he lets her go, there’s an opportunity for a tender Raoul/Christine moment as Raoul rushes to her and you can hear him murmur “I’m right here, Christine, I’m here…” which I found really cute. The Phantom obviously did not.

The lasso is largely the same, though Raoul is off to the side (stage left) rather than in the center like the original. I don’t remember any major changes besides that though. You know, emotions running high, all that. Oh, actually during the “We had such hopes and now those hopes lie shattered/murdered” Christine grabs the Phantom’s music and throws it so it scatters all over the lair.

She only kisses him once, and he falls to his knees. She hugs him on the floor and he kind of scrambles away in the end, unsure of what to do. He looks back and forth between the two and then kind of just waves at the lasso and it drops like he is a wizard or something. Kind of cool, makes him seem more magical or mystical, and avoids awkward moments where everyone can tell you had to turn on an electric candle. Ahem.
Anyway, they scramble away and JOJ despairs as he sings to his knees and the stupid music box plays. Christine comes back and gives him the ring and runs away, distraught over leaving him (in this version, though, she deff makes the right choice by leaving. He was driving her to suicidal thoughts! That is a red flag about the relationship if I ever saw one!). He wanders over to his scattered music and picks up a sheet, and sits on the bed and sobs as the voices of Raoul and Christine echo over him (we don’t see them leave). He hears the mob coming and puts on  a black cloak. He runs to escape but little Meg Giry enters, and he tries to run another way but a couple of armed officers enter and trap him. He’s by the bed and stops. Meg runs up to him and grabs him from behind (to hold him for the shooters? I dunno) and holds his shoulders for a few seconds, then the cloak just drops. Underneath, all that remains is the Phantom’s mask. End.

Overall, I enjoyed the show. There are some changes I liked, some I felt were unnecessary. I think that the stage design doesn’t use the whole stage as well as the original (many scenes like AIAOY, WYWSHA and Notes only use a part of the stage because of the set restrictions) andn I think those of us who are very attached to the original might have a hard time with the changes at first. I think it is refreshing to see a new design done professionally (new high school designs don’t count. Ugh) and I think I would like to see how the actors grow and adapt in the roles. The show is not set in stone yet, but still in previews.

The show is definitely good for those that live around the UK that want to see the show but can’t make the trip to London. I think people who have only seen the movie or the show a couple of times will enjoy it more. I think if I had a chance to see it again I would definitely go, because I spent so much time noticing the differences that I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have. That being said, I did truly, really enjoy the show. It’s hard to change something so iconic, but thanks to the music and at the base, the story, this production does try to keep the flavor of the original alive. If you do ever get a chance to see it, I would say see for yourself how you feel. I personally am looking forward to production shots so we can see the deformity up close.

Hope you enjoyed my notes and observations on the show!

Phantom of the Opera Tour Observations: Act I

As you can see from the picture of the chandelier, the set design is slightly different. The chandelier is not well covered, but the ushers weren’t shouting at people to not take pictures, so I don’t know how well protected they wanted it to be (or maybe not too many other people were trying to take a picture, I don’t know).
The show was packed, first of all, and the nice couple I was sitting next to had said they’d seen it in London a while ago (as in, when MC was the Phantom) and were dying to see it again but didn’t live close enough. I feel this will be the case for most people who see the show.

Anyway, I took lots of notes so I will try and summarize the changes and give my reviews of the scenes.

JOJ- Phantom
Katie Hall- Christine
Simon Bailey- Raoul

All of these actors have played the role before, so I was curious about how they’d work with the new design.
The show starts with the actuioneer leading everyone onto the stage for the last few items (Hannibal poster is different, just FYI) and the Elissa costume is randomly in the corner downstage left. No idea why. Raoul has been significantly de-aged. He looks much younger than in the original. He wins the music box, which has a new design as well. It kind of opens like a flower to reveal the monkey is inside of it. 

new music box design. The top triangle opens
to reveal the monkey
Don't get distracted by my mad art skillz guys.

The chandelier lowers when the guy is talking about it and I think it sparked in the beginning, I can’t read my notes. Raoul lingers on stage as the dancers wander on and the set begins coming on, so it is kind of like he’s remembering everything which makes sense since the whole show is a flashback. Since we don’t have the chandelier rising from the stage, I think bringing Hannibal on early is a good change so we aren’t staring at the scene shifters the whole time.

Raoul finally wanders away and Hannibal starts. It’s largely the same as the 25th anniversary- the dancers get a full dance, and are not interrupted by the Christine dialogue. Piangi enters on chariot, no elephant. This means that the end of Hannibal is not as comedic. He does a bit with the knife when he pulls it out and looks at it like “what the eff it’s tiny” but it’s largely lost if you’re not looking for it. During Carlotta’s TOM sandbags with a severed rope fall from the flies, which adds a bit more menace I think- it shows the phantom was actually up there messing with stuff. 

Christine is shoved forward by meg to sing and they ask about her father. She begins TOM- sans scarf and crown, to note a difference. What I like about this scene is they added a background when the actual opera is happening, as opposed to a bare stage. Raoul is in his own box, the normal Raoul spot, and the managers are in a box under Box 5. Christine is joined by dancers while Raoul sings who bring her the scarf (which I think she should have had the whole time- I miss the prop and it forces Christine to just spend a lot of time walking around singing with nothing to use). She finishes  her song (no scarf toss) and bows to us, no back to the audience bow trick like in the original (you know where the back of the stage looks like the front and such) and the dancers rush on, some in robes, having already changed out of their costumes.

The dancers no longer rehearse on stage behind the dressing room after Madame Giry yells at them. Christine returns to the room (which is now like a chorus girl locker room) to change. Not a huge fan of this change, though in the context of the stage show it makes sense- she is only a dancer, though in the novel she had her own room since she sang minor roles so the dressing room always made sense to me. I’m just partial to the dressing room. The chorus girls’ room takes up most of center stage, and the door is upstage now so everyone exits or enters from the back. Christine now has a locket (I'm assuming- it's a necklace of some sort) that she wears from the dressing room to WYWSHA where she rips it off (in despair? trying to let go?) Raoul brings a red rose to her and as he opens the door Christine has undone her dressing gown and is checking herself out in the mirror (I find this funny cause the Phantom is totally watchin) and she jumps and covers herself when Raoul enters. They do their bit and the Phantom appears. The mirror isn’t as clear in this version, but the point gets across. Like it’s literally dirtier cause it’s in the dancers dressing room. It’s a bit bigger than the original, and doesn’t slide open but opens more like a normal door, if I remember correctly.

JOJ is effing fantastic as usual. The descent, as another blogger mentioned, is a lot different. The Phantom and Christine are visible the whole time. It is hard to describe the set, but it is set on the turntable thing in the center that people were wary of. There’s like a level with a railing and a door that they hang out on for the first verse, then they go through the door and down the stairs that magically appear along the side of the wall. This leads to the boat, whose fire starts by itself in the middle of the song. The Phantom is not wearing a hat for this scene, so no sexy hat toss. He does get to cloak twirl though. The set turns as the boat glides across stage to reveal the simple lair- an organ on the left and a bed on the right if you’re thinking from the audience perspective. The floating candles do nothing for me, especially after being reminded of the awesome descent in the original. Hell, even the movie version had the rising candelabras. I think the floating ones just aren’t as mystical.

... I can't draw it in paint well either, but this
is what the descent set looks like. The stairs
retract into the set as well

Christine is overwhelmed by the vocal amazingness that is exiting her throat and has to sit on the bed to rest. MOTN definitely has less blocking. The Phantom sings at her a bit in the beginning and then, yes, blindfolds her during the “close your eyes” verse before leading her forward around the lair to let her spirit soar. Then he takes it down. I do like that they took out the facepalm during “Turn your face away” because I HATE that part. I miss “Floating, falling” though. Christine is being led around the lair and gets lightheaded near the end or is totally overwhelmed by JOJ’s awesomeness, because she kind of staggers and then he leads her to the bed where she falls asleep. He covers her with the cloak as per usual and finishes the song.

STYDI has no costume change. After playing the organ uber loudly, Christine just rolls over. Cue music box, which is loud enough to wake her up. While the monkey plays, the Phantom is sealing his notes to the managers and then takes his mask off. This part is essential. He doesn’t just chill there with it off though, as I think happened the first preview, but he has some sort of bottle or salve or something and a cloth. So while Christine is all “holy crap, was that a dream? Nope, there’s mist and a lake and a boat and A MAAAAN” the phantom is dabbing his face with whatever like he’s healing it or something. I wasn’t close enough to see the deformity at any point in this show so I have no idea if it was oozing or whatever, but I think this is an interesting change. Christine picks up the mask and turns him around. He-obviously not expecting her to wake up to him blasting organ music 2 feet away (I’m making fun of this in both versions- come on, it’s totally ridiculous) and gets mad.

They end up on the same sides of the stage as normal, but JOJ doesn’t crawl to her. He does his “Oh, Christine…” and she picks up the mask and walks over to him. In a sweet moment, he lowers the hand holding his face and she doesn’t cower in fear so he takes the mask back and puts his dignity back on. I do miss the blocking for MOTN and the mirror bride (no wedding dress throwing in this version, FYI). Magical lasso commences as the descent set piece turns around to hide the lair. (I don’t know if that makes sense… but it rotates in front of the lair and they move the lair off while Buquet is talking). A chorus boy has joined the ballerinas below and tells Buquet to leave them alone- he is taunting them from up above (where the Phantom and Christine are before going down the stairs) and Madame Giry does her “WARNING STOP IT HE'S GONNA GET YOU” from below. There’s no Phantom sneaking Christine back moment, but I didn’t really notice that making much of a difference. I always thought it was a neat little addition to the stage show but wasn’t totally necessary.

The bottom of the big set piece opens up to reveal the manager’s office. This scene is largely the same (though feels a bit more confined by the small managers office) with a few line deliveries slightly different. When the Phantom’s last note is being read, he can be seen up above where Buquet was just a scene ago, narrating. Carlotta enters, and I was surprised to see her in a red dress! I think many of her costumes may have been scaled down for budget issues or costume issues (her’s are super heavy, apparently) and that was one thing I noticed.

Il Muto happens like the 25th anniversary concert, with Carlotta changing on stage before hand (there’s a funny bit where, like in the 2004 film, gifts are brought in to bribe Carlotta). Her countess costume is also much pinker and very different. Don Attilo hides behind a mirror and then hides in the wardrobe- I found this hilarious. It’s so like an Opera to be totally obvious but have the characters pretend not to notice. No phantom on the catwalks above the stage when he’s warning them that he’s angry, but most people don’t notice that anyway I think.

Il Muto ballet is much different. Their costumes are totally different, and we also get 2 Mr Tumnus like dancers running around. I can’t particularly comment on the dancing because on stage left Buquet is chilling while another flyman hangs out in the back. In a switcheroo a la Devil Take the Hindmost, the flyman turns around and BAM nabs Buquet. The man is hanged live on stage, an effect that would be more terrifying if I hadn’t seen Sherlock Holmes, which explains how the trick can be done. It was still cool to see him actually hanged live on stage, though I do like the shadows. I was so intrigued watching the hanging that I totally missed the ballet, and being a ballet fan I like in the original where you can see both at the same time.

Raoul and Christine head up to the roof, which is only about half the stage. There’s a tall statue with a lyre in the back and it’s snowing. Why is it snowing? I dunno. Christine is freaking out and then after she hears the Phantom whisper walks to the edge, ready to plummet over. Raoul sees this and his pre-AIAOY “Christine?” snaps her back from the edge and she huddles down. Raoul crouches a few feet away from her and starts the song. Now, I’m not 100% on board with the change. I like the suicide reference (Christine does try and kill herself in the novel, after all) but it changes the meaning of AIAOY. Much like I didn’t like Hadley Fraser’s condescending looks right before the song in the 25th anniversary concert, I think making Christine suicidal at this point turns AIAOY into less of a love song and more of a “I’m gonna say what I have to to keep her from the edge” song. AIAOY is supposed to be about dispelling the fear and comforting her with how much he loves her, not just telling her the things she wants to hear so she doesn’t jump.
But Katie and Simon are adorable and do turn it into a love ballad eventually. I found their kiss to be less awkward for some reason, as they kiss lightly and Christine pulls away. Raoul grabs her arm and pulls her back and they kiss again. It was a little forceful but also I think was meant to reassure Christine that he really meant all that he said, and since she responded I guess it worked.

As they leave the stage, the man statue in the back pushes forward to reveal that *gasp* the Phantom has heard all! I prefer the whole statue descending from the proscenium thing, but I’m glad they kept the lyre statue part in there. And it does look a bit more realistic than a floating-in-mid-air statue. I figured out why they made it snow- so the Phantom could look more dramatic when he swings his cape. JOJ again kills it, and here comes the finale!

The cast is on  stage taking their bows- The Phantom appears in box 5 with his walking stick and shouts GO as sparks fly from either his stick or the chandelier, I couldn’t tell. There’s a huge POP and flash and the chandelier drops a bit and is swinging wildly, lights flashing, while on stage there is a top boarder that lowers (mimicking the proscenium of the orginal). During the flash part of it has fallen off and is swinging, so after it the whole thing it kind of looks like a bomb went off or something and blew the stage apart. It’s not chandelier crash, but it’s better than just sparks like the 25th concert, and actually I was pleasantly surprised at the result.
I’m not sure I’ve done the first act justice in describing it, but those were my general impressions and reactions.

A few things to note: I didn’t like Katie’s wig from what I could see. I don’t know why, it wasn’t as curly as I’m used to.
JOJ’s wig was different too. It isn’t the normal slicked-back version we are used to. It’s a bit thinker and longer, and kind of made me think of a LND/2004 movie crossover, but I have absolutely no clue how it really looks because I wasn’t close enough. The style looked a lot looser to me and he didn’t look like the normal JOJ phantom I’ve seen a bunch. Sometimes I felt it made him look a little bit younger but other times it didn’t bug me. I can't wait to see it up close. I don't know if there will be a souvenir brochure once the tour starts, because the playbill only had rehearsal shots, not production photos. I'm dying to see some close ups.

And that’s act 1’s summary for you! On to act 2!

Potentially the Dorkiest Weekend Ever

Cheerio mates! I'm in a London mood as I've just returned from a wonderful visit (though my 7:30 am flight, and thus 4:30 am wake up call, wasn't my favorite part) and want to blog all about it! I'll give you all a brief overview of my trip in this post and then I'm going to do another post of my reviews of the shows I saw (non-phantom fans will probably want to skip the next one- haha).

Thursday night involved a trip to my beloved Stansted Airport. I say beloved with as much sarcasm I can muster because London Stansted is not remotely close to London at all. After an hour and a half bus ride (during which I felt the stirrings of a migraine- joy) I arrived at Victoria coach station. My hostel was thankfully in walking distance and I went to sleep right away, though the 4 loud Russian boys in the hallway shouting at 4 am did little to help.

This water is still Scottish. It hasn't turned Irish yet,
just so everyone knows

Hey friends, remember these?

Friday I journeyed outside city of London for the beginning of my "most dedicated phan" weekend, as I am going to call it. Why, you ask? Because the journey I took outside of London was a 5 hour coach ride to Plymouth, where the Phantom of the Opera UK tour was playing. Yes. 5 hours. I am that insane. In my defense, it's a different staging of the show so I obviously had to see it.

Found my hostel!



After finding my hostel and wandering around a bit, I headed over to the theatre. I wasn't having a very good day. I was groggy from my motion sickness medicine (as usual) and for some reason every key/lock I had on this trip was really difficult and frustrating. Even I questioned why the hell I was in Plymouth, UK, until I got to the theatre. No matter how angry I am, the excitement of waiting for a performance of Phantom to start turns me into a giggling, giddy mess.

Ferris wheel in Plymouth. Did not ride

Theatre Royal

New chandelier and stage/set design

The performance was interesting, to say the least. It featured a wonderful cast, including one of my favorite Phantoms, John Owen-Jones (you may remember him from last semester when I saw it 7 times. 6/7 were him) and a few other actors I'd been keen to see. I'll be writing a review of the changes. but I will say that, while I did enjoy the show, there are some changes I'm not too sold on. Overall, it is a great experience and worth a visit. I'd like to see it in a while when it isn't quite so new and see what the actors have done with it when they have time to grow into the roles again.

Anyway. After stage dooring like normal and meeting Katie Hall (Christine) and JOJ again (missed Simon Bailey cause he walked out too fast with a group) I headed to bed. Fun fact: in the picture below, you see a man in the backgorund next to the car. Well, he was the driver of that car. Waiting for whom? Cameron Mackintosh, the producer of Phantom of the Opera, Les Mis, Cats and like 500 other major shows. I was standing like 2 feet away from him, but he was talking about important stuff and then hopped in and left. But still.

With Katie Hall, a lovely Christine
I took notes. These are for just Act 2. Act 1 is on my phone
but I ran out of space... 

Bright and early the next day, I hopped back on a coach for another 5 hours and got back to London. Explored a bit (my knowledge of central london helped me avoid being late because of a severe delay on the Piccadily line- thankfully I knew what other lines to take to get to the same place) and I people-watched in Trafalgar Square. It's strange how different it is in a year. Things that were being built have been completed, construction has changed the landscape a bit, etc. The Famous 3 Kings pub near our flat was painted over again and there were a few new shops that changed the West Kensington I remembered. But how lovely it was to be back! I didn't even have to pay for the Tube, since someone at the station was leaving and gave me their day pass!

It isn't a horrendous shade of pink anymore!

street performers in Trafalgar- guy in red was a ninja and
they were breakdancing. Yup.

I didn't time my travel well enough to visit the ICLC or the old shop where I worked (they close early on Saturdays) but I did pop into my favorite place on the West End, Her Majesty's theatre. And this, my friends and family, is why this is the Dorkiest Weekend Ever. Not only did I travel hundreds of miles to be in London, but I traveled over 10 hours on a bus to see the new tour and return to London to see the original. Which. Was. Fantastic. I've never seen the show 2 days in  a row before!
Phantom swag from the 2 shows

I was a bit afraid that the current Phantom, Earl Carpenter, wouldn't match JOJs standard (since his performance was fresh in my mind). Proof that Phantoms only get better with age, Earl, who like JOJ is reprising the role after a few years off, was amazing. I loved seeing Sofia Escobar again (cause she is the nicest person ever and an amazing Christine) and seeing a new Raoul, Killian Donnelly, was fantastic. Review of that coming later as well.
He's on the list as one of the best/nicest Raouls ever

After hanging out with some Americans and variuos foreign students I met at the hostel, I decided to turn in so I could be ready for my flight. t-minus 4 hours later I was up and huffing it to the train station. Gatwick is a nice airport and they are well organized, but I hate flying so I'm always anxious anyway. I was not pleased when the engine I was sitting near was making a strange whirring sound before takeoff, nor was I happy when the engine appeared to be smoking (this was probably just a jet stream but I'm jumpy). But I landed safely in Pisa and hopped on a train after helping a nice British man find his way. We had a lovely chat about travel and life and parted ways.

The alps

All in all, it was a great weekend. I miss London a lot, and would still jump at the chance to live there again, but it is lovely to be back in Siena, where I also feel quite at ease and happy. I'm going to take this week to relax, as the constant travel has made me a little run down. Totally worth it!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm not Dammi Cinque-ing you for that

The title of this blog comes courtesy of my lovely mother. Dammi Cinque is literally "Give me 5" in Italian, (though the actual phrase for a high 5 is "Batti il Cinque") we at the IES Center Americanized it and yell it sometimes. Cesca and I were discussing how happy we were that our 21st birthday was coming up and I told my mom to "Dammi Cinque." She isn't thrilled about our birthday, hence the blog title. haha.

Anyway, our last day in the south of Italy was dedicated to buses. We took a minibus to the small coast town of Amalfi (we skipped Positano because 847 stairs to the beach was far too much for any of us to handle) and had a few hours to spend there. We wandered around, put our feet in the Mediterranean (though it was not a very sunny day), and saw the Duomo. It was really nice and refreshing to see a more arab inspired Duomo rather than the ones up North in Siena and Florence that start looking the same after a while.

Literally driving along cliffs

beautiful cliffs, but cliffs nonetheless


Chillin in Amalfi

Gemelle love

I adore this picture of my mamma. So
proud of her for doing this trip and being
a champ about everything we put her through!

This is about 5 seconds before my sneaker
almost washed away


a snack shop that reminded me of my grandma
(her maiden name was Cataldo)
We also saw what I consider one of the most amazing things I've seen here: A funeral. This may seem morbid, but it was beautiful. We were in a shop and the shopkeeper turned the light of and asked us to wait as a funeral was passing by (we had been wondering why the shops all seemed to be closed). In Italy, when there is a funeral procession going through the city, everything stops. The whole family was following the car with the flowers and the hearse, and as they passed people made the sign of the cross and shopkeepers closed the shutters on their stores. It was very moving and emotional. The amount of respect that Italians have for family and loved ones, even if they are not their own, is astounding and beautiful. It's something America could learn a lot from.I was honestly moved to tears by the respect and care this entire town had for the grieving family.

After a relaxing lunch in town and a little more shopping and exploring (we had to check out the Limoncello shops, because the drink is made in this region) we hopped on the bus back to Sorrento. Cesca and I took a short walk around the Sorrento while we waited for our (late) escort back to Pompeii where we would take the large bus back home. It was a long trip but totally worth it!

The next day, mom and cesca's last in Italy, we explored a few sites in Rome they wanted to see. These included the Colosseum (which is still cool the second time around), the Spanish Steps, John Keats' House (where he died of tuberculosis), the Trevi Fountain (where I ran into a group from Ithaca including one of Casey's friends from Voicestream) and the Pantheon (which I often confuse with the Parthenon. I will therefore be calling both the Panthenon) before we headed back to the hotel and packed up.

Getting our Gladiator on

DiCillo girls at the Colosseo

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me
your ears

being cute at the Colosseum

please note the yellow "No climbing on
the ruins"sign

View from above

Just a group of gladiators chatting it up outside

Ces in front of the house of John Keats

Climbing to the top of the Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain in the daytime!

Making our wishes/guaranteeing our return
to Rome someday

Their last gelato in front of the Pantheon

They took me to the train station where we put off the goodbye as long as possible. But saying goodbye was inevitable, and we all shed a tear when I had to board my Hogwarts train (seriously, it had compartments like on the Hogwarts Express). Ok, a lot more than a tear was shed. I get used to being around my family and I loved having them here. Paola said being close with the family runs in my Italian blood and that's why I miss them so much. That must be the reason, because goodbyes are always painful.

I'm happy though, since even though the goodbye was hard, I got to show Mom and Cesca my life here and how well I've adjusted to living abroad. My mom could see that I have a great life with Paola and that I can get around on my own. I feel like I've definitely become more independent while becoming much closer to my family at the same time.

Well, that's a recap of Mom and Cesca's (hopefully) amazing week in Italy. I hope you've enjoyed reading about it as much as I've enjoyed recapping it!

My next post will probably not come until at least Sunday after I return from a Phantom-filled trip to London! Ciao tutti!!