Musical Theatre Review: Les Misérables

A haunting re-telling of a Broadway classic, the current staging of Les Misérables embodies all the aspects of the show that fans love with a rawness that adds a new perspective.

Throughout 25+ years and many adaptations, Les Misérables remains a beloved musical. With the newest Broadway revival gracing the Imperial Theatre’s stage, an entirely new generation of theatre-goers get to experience the sweeping music, powerhouse vocals, and moving story.

I was thoroughly impressed and moved to tears during a recent Saturday matinée performance, and here are just a few reasons why:

  • MUSIC AND LYRICS: Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil’s tremendous score and profound lyrics lives with you long after the curtain closes.  This treasured musical makes in indelible impression on not only the performers but the audience, due in large part to the incredible music.  The melodies float as needed, like during the instrumental “Bring Him Home” reprise in Act Two.  The stunning harmonies of “Turning” echo the voices of not only those lost but of the ones left behind.
  • VOCALS:  The music of Les Misérables demands incredible vocal prowess.  You must be able to do justice to the beautiful yet powerful melodies while infusing emotion into the meaningful story.  Each cast member, principal and ensemble, achieves that and much more.  Just try not to cry during “Bring Him Home” or sympathize with his plight during “Who Am I”.  Bring a sweater, because you’ll get chills when Caissie Levy belts out “I Dreamed a Dream”.  When Will Swenson sings “Stars”, you understand what motivates Javert while also fully aware of his tormented soul.
  • GIFTED ARTISTS: If you are well-versed (pun intended) in musical theatre talent, then you’re already familiar with some of the gifted performers. The following actors excel in their craft, creating performances that are both memorable and heartfelt: On the day I saw this show, the Jean Valjean understudy, Aaron Walpole went on in the starring role and was tremendous. Given Aaron’s phenomenal job, I’m look forward to seeing Les Miz again to experience Ramin Karimloo’s award-winning interpretation of Valjean.  Will Swenson’s Javert embodies anger, righteous determination, and a conflicted soul, all of which this well-respected artist handles with ease and talent.  Caissie Levy breaks your heart as she balances Fantine’s unwavering love for her daughter and determination to keep fighting. Nikki M. James’ exquisite range is on display in her role as Éponine. She grabs hold of Éponine’s fiery personality, infusing fragility, tenderness, and selfless love to this iconic role.  As Marius, Andy Mientus takes us on a journey of self-discovery.  Marius’ youthful energy, adventurous side, and naïveté early on brings home the severity of what’s to follow. When Marius is thrust into situations that require him to re-examine his beliefs and what’s worth fighting for, we believe his plight due to Andy’s adept handling of the role.  Remember the names of Keala Settle (Madame Thénardier) and Samantha Hill (Cosette), as these two talented actresses will both surprise and impress.  The ensemble cast members enrich the production with subtle nuances and powerful moments, adding depth to each scene.  Pay close attention to the student rebel scenes, as these young men are both impressive and heartbreaking.
  • STORY: Based on Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name, this musical is not only a story about forgiveness and redemption but one about love. Whether that love takes shape in the form of friendship (rebels), family (Fantine/Jean Valjean/Cosette), or romantic entanglement (Éponine/Marius/Cosette), love guides the actions and intentions of the characters. As we sit in the audience, we’re invited to examine our own choices and perspective.  Do we choose hate instead of love?  Do we reach out to those in need or pass judgment?  Are our decisions based on a need for power and control, or are they guided by love for ourselves and others?

 

As soon as the lights dimmed and the familiar opening chords reverberated through the room, I smiled. This amazing theatrical work affects me not only on a musical level but a spiritual one as well.  I venture to guess that many of you would say the same. You may have seen the 2012 film version or saw Les Misérables during an earlier run, but I recommend experiencing this modern stage telling of Victor Hugo’s novel.

 

*DISCLAIMER: I do not have affiliation with any of the afore-mentioned talent or anyone associated with this production. No endorsement by the artists or musical mentioned is implied! I’m simply singing their praises!*

 

Musicals to My Ears

I saw my first musical, Annie, when I was four-years-old.  I distinctly remember the elaborate stage, adorned with a massive Christmas tree and a winding staircase.  I don’t remember the music, just the image and the sensation that I wanted to see more. Thirty years later and I’m still in awe of how profound an experience live theatre is in my life.

Artists known for their musical theatre careers are some of the ones I hold in very high regard.  Their musical talent shadows so many other in mainstream music.  Their voices reach the back of the house, leaving me moved to tears and utterly impressed. Despite the overwhelming power of their vocal gifts, it is the sheer spiritual experience of being in a theatre during a show that moves me.  My soul transports to a dimension filled with artistry, passion, and unwavering purpose when the music swells and the vocal talent pierces the room with their abilities.

Given my passionate affinity for Broadway musicals, I made it a priority to buy a ticket to this year’s Tony Award broadcast on Sunday, June 8th.  I had it all planned – watch the nomination announcements online, blog about my thoughts afterward, buy a ticket to the award ceremony, and go to NYC numerous times in May to see the nominated shows.

I got excited as I pictured how amazing it would be to sit in Radio City Music Hall and watch some of the most brilliant talents perform.  “Could you imagine,” I’d say to friends, “how awesome it would be to be in that audience when Ramin Karimloo sings with the Les Miserables cast or see Idina Menzel win another Tony?”  I expect the chances that both will occur to be high, but I won’t be there to see it; the tickets sold out before I even knew they were on sale. (**Yes, there may have actually been some tears.**)

I’ll still go see the shows on my “must-see” list and will likely go to Times Square and watch the award show live on the massive TV screen – surrounded by my fellow theatre aficionados. It wasn’t Plan A, but perhaps an even more exciting option is around the corner.  Now I’ve got the soundtrack to Thoroughly Modern Millie playing in my mind.  (Kudos if you understood that musical theatre connection.) Apropos given Sutton Foster’s nomination for VIOLET this year.

Musical theatre may not be your “thing”, but it’s certainly mine.  And that’s one role I’m proud to play!

If you have not heard of the musical theatre artists I referenced above, stop reading and go download the cast albums.  You’re missing out on incredible talent!!

 

 

*DISCLAIMER: No endorsement from any of the above-mentioned artists or corporate entities intended or implied. I seek to share my appreciation of the industry with fellow theatre fans or those who don’t yet know they are one.*

 

 

Revenge Season 3 Finale Recap

Season 3 of ABC’s Revenge started with a bang and a splash, keeping our interest the entire season through.  So, it’s no surprise that the finale would not only match the opener but take it to the next level of anticipation and intrigue!

Let’s recap, briefly, because there’s a great deal we need to discuss:

  • David Clarke was framed for a crime he didn’t commit
  • He was framed by Conrad and Victoria Grayson
  • David’s 9-year-old daughter Amanda was there the night her father was forced to the ground and taken into custody.
  • David Clarke died while in prison
  • Amanda Clarke, now grown, returns to the Hamptons as Emily Thorne, moving in next door to the Graysons.  Her plan – seek revenge for those who framed her father.
  • She married Conrad and Victoria’s son, Daniel, only to be intentionally shot by him on their wedding night (long story involving a fake pregnancy, alcohol, and a subplot about an ex-girlfriend).
  • Along the way, Emily/Amanda was helped by a handsome trio – David’s protegé (Nolan Ross), another revenge-seeker due to the David Clarke set-up scheme (Aiden Mathis), and her childhood sweetheart who only learned of her true identity during last year’s jaw-dropping season finale (Jack Porter).

WARNING: Spoiler alert!  Spoiler alert!  If you are not up to date on the last two episodes of Season 3, be forewarned that spoilers will follow.  Proceed at your own entertainment “peril”!

 

When we last left the Hamptons, Victoria had figured out that Emily was not all she claimed, Emily and her trio of helpers successfully trapped Conrad into admitting his long list of crimes and he was arrested, Charlotte Grayson Clarke (product of Victoria and David’s affair) finally opened her eyes, metaphorically speaking.  Oh, and Jack informed Emily that there’s a teensy-weensy possibility that David’s still alive.  And that brings us to tonight’s phenomenal season finale…

An entire hour of twists and turns, all lead up to a final few minutes that set an entirely new game in motion.  In summary, Victoria killed Aiden (I sobbed), Charlotte realized Jack was the “kidnapper” (darn it), and Emily had Victoria hospitalized in a mental institution (well played, Ms. Thorne).  Oh, wait…did I forget something – or someone?  A very much alive David Clarke climbed out of that van and revealed himself to a flabbergasted Conrad.  That is, right before David stabbed his former employer and drove away.  This sets up a multitude of directions for the show to take when it returns in the fall.  And I, for one, can’t wait!!  When does the full Season 3 DVD set come out, so I can watch them again? :-)

Television programs receive my high praise when they keep my interest each week.  They hook me in with intriguing characters and surprising plot twists that ultimately create an added level of dimension to the story and the players.  Revenge is one such television drama series.  I’ve seen every episode from the pilot on through and look forward to seeing what happens next!

Theatre review: The Cripple of Inishmaan

Go see THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN on Broadway!  If you require more than just my word that it’s a fantastic show, keep reading.

Set on the island of Inishmaan in 1934, this poignant play makes you laugh, cry, and contemplate not only the actions of the characters but your own as well.  As this small village must face their own flaws and struggles, both internal and external, the audience reflects upon their own.  All of the above is possible due to a seamless blend of gifted actors, a talented playwright, and thought-provoking direction.  Let’s look deeper at each, shall we?

ACTING:  Each and every one of the performers who grace the “Inishmaan” stage at the Cort Theatre embody complexity, comedic excellence, and heartfelt performances.  From Broadway newcomers to veteran stage actors, this cast shines individually and as a team. One moment you’re laughing and the next you’re moved to tears.  The gifted acting ensemble weave in and out of comedy and drama with ease, giving their characters dimension and authenticity.  I applaud them all and with pride I list them here – DANIEL RADCLIFFE, INGRID CRAIGIE, PÁDRAIC DELANEY, SARAH GREENE, GILLIAN HANNA, GARY LILBURN, CONOR MacNEILL, PAT SHORTT, JUNE WATSON, HELEN CESPEDES, LESLIE LYLES, AIDAN REDMOND, and JOSH SALT.

WRITING: The talented cast may be the “face” of the play, but Martin McDonagh provided them with richly-layered dialogue and flawed yet immensely human characters from which to work with.  At times he takes you right to edge of offense only to interlace the darkness with witty humor and a reminder that we not understand the characters’ choices/actions but perhaps have made similar ones ourselves.

DIRECTION:  Taking McDonagh’s words and entrusting them to a talented ensemble of actors, Michael Grandage guides us on a journey we won’t soon forget.  Each action has meaning, purpose, intention.  Every pause adds dimension to an already layered piece.  He’s created an environment where the performers and story are equally impressive.  One can not excel without the other.  He’s to be commended for creating a piece of theatre that will stay with you long after the curtain falls and the house empties.

 

Experience the multi-faceted dimensions of THE CRIPPLE OF  INISHMAAN sooner rather than later as it’s only at the Cort Theatre for 14 week engagement.  You’ll be “cow”-ting your blessings that you did! (Wink, wink,  nudge, nudge for those of you who’ve already seen it.)

 

Please visit their website and connect through social media.

*No endorsement by those involved with THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN intended or implied.*

Celebrating My Birthday and Entertainment

I’ll admit it; I was bummed that no one threw me a surprise party for my 30th birthday. Sound egocentric and ungrateful? Yeah, I thought so too. I decided to throw myself a birthday party the following year and themed it around my main interests: fairytales, music, musical theatre, and film/TV. I decorated the sunroom with princess tablecloths, plateware, and cups. I put music notes all around the house, hanging them from the ceiling and making them the centerpiece at the dining room table. My friend gave me a film clapboard, and I put up an entertainment-themed banner in the entryway of the TV room. We played “Kelly Trivia”, listened to musical theatre soundtracks, and enjoyed one another’s company. It remains a highlight in my life, and I look forward to throwing another one soon.

 

Birthdays are meant to celebrate YOU! You, with all your quirks, varying interests, and struggles. So many times I hear people say, “It’s just another day.” They don’t like celebrating their birthday. Want to avoid it at all costs. If the day passes without a “Happy Birthday” uttered, then it’s a good day. Even in the midst of low self-esteem and spiritual crisis, I always recognized the joy that was my day of birth. I felt special in a world that frequently promoted normalcy. You are important and deserve to be celebrated. So, next time your birthday comes around, consider throwing your own party. After all, it is a day about you and what/whom you love.

 

There are some birthdays that went by as any other – work/school, dinner at home, and watch TV at night. However, here’s just a few that stood out:

 

  • My Sweet Sixteen party was one of the most memorable birthday celebrations I can recall. I had a small-ish number of close friends over. We proceeded to watch The Mighty Ducks and my mom surprised me with a birthday cake adorned to look like a TV set. Written in icing was All My Children in the center of the cake. Boy, does she know me well! It was a perfect day because I was surrounded by people I cared about and we celebrated not only the anniversary of my birth day but mutual interests, good food, and laughter.

Sweet Sixteen cake

 

  • Last year, I celebrated my birthday in New York City (a place I consider to be a second home) with family and friends. We stood in line at the discount ticket booth in Times Square and got our tickets for Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella. We walked around the area, picked up a princess crown for me to wear, and had lunch at one of my favorite NYC restaurants: Ellen’s Stardust Diner. It was a beautiful day, and I was so grateful to share an interest of mine with people I love.

 

  •  This year, I originally thought to do something different than last year. Until I heard the amazing casting news from THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA;  Norm Lewis and Sierra Boggess will be on-stage together again as “The Phantom” and “Christine”. They played father and daughter in The Little Mermaid a few years ago. (Read the full news article here.)  You only need to watch the Les Misérables in Concert: 25th Anniversary to see and hear Norm’s brilliant talent. He gives me chills and makes me cry every time I watch it. He’s a perfect fit as “The Phantom”! Besides, I saw my first Broadway show around my birthday in 1994, and it was a show that Norm appeared in – The Who’s Tommy.  That show remains one of my favorites even twenty years later. The beauty in Sierra’s voice is matched with a beautiful spirit within. She’s a gifted artist who continuously promotes acceptance, self-love, and belief in one’s abilities. If you’re not already “following” Sierra on social media, you’re missing out on uplifting and insightful posts. Both Norm and Sierra excel in their craft due to a combination of exquisite vocal talent and magnificent acting skills.  Going to see these two phenomenal individuals on-stage together is a birthday treat to myself this year. And most definitely worth the expense!

 

I look forward to my birthday every year, because to be completely honest I’m very happy to be alive and sharing my life with an amazing family and tremendous group of friends. Those who know me well wouldn’t find it surprising that I decided to go to California during big award show weekends or that I planned themed parties in honor of my favorite Broadway musicals. They’d get a chuckle at the fact that the selection of music on my phone consists of animated films and vocalists known for their musical theatre talent. I’m proud to celebrate the artist within and cling tight to the empathetic spirit that guides me. I love who I am today, but am just as excited as who I’ll be five years from now. That’ll be a celebration!

 

Please click on the links listed within the post to learn more about the artists, shows, or business entities mentioned.

 

 

*DISCLAIMER:  No endorsement by any of the above-mentioned companies/artists is intended or implied.*

 

Music: The Unsung Hero in My Life

Sing out – from the tips of your fingers to the top of your voice!

When I was younger, I took full advantage of the times when I was the only one home.  I put on my favorite musical theatre soundtracks, walked around the house, and sang with as much gusto I could find.  I sat on the edge of the sofa, closed my eyes, and pictured myself on a Broadway stage.  I felt the music through every core of my being, the lyrical melodies sending waves of electricity through my body.

During beautiful Spring days at college, I’d roll my car windows down, blast my uplifting music, and sing along.  I didn’t care if people stopped to look at me as they sped passed on the highway.  Maybe it made them smile to see someone enjoying life and embracing art in the everyday moments.  I loved driving long distances by myself because I could play the music I loved and sing without disturbing anyone else.  It made the time fly by and helped decrease  my stress level when other drivers made careless decisions.

Every now and again I would decide to pursue my love of music.  I’d take voice lessons to strengthen the spiritually-moving gift within only to realize how much work it took to be a professional singer.  My voice has flaws, sure, but I love singing for the act of it.  I never put in the work to make it “better” or strengthen the muscle as music professional deemed necessary.  I stopped singing, found it more difficult and my “gift” waning.  I couldn’t maintain a breath and frequently lost the pitch.  Every time I get up the courage to audition for a part of showcase my voice in a public forum, I walk away discouraged and disappointed in myself.  I doubted my ability and went back to the artistic outlet that others respond to – my written works.  I’d get frustrated with myself and return to my laptop instead. I still dream of performing on stage, but I don’t have the belief that it’ll happen any time soon. My focus right now is earning a living as a writer.

As I sat at my computer this morning, I listened to my collection of musical theatre favorites and sang along.  I felt the rush of energy surge through my chest, filling it with unwavering pride and love.   As long as I am physically able, I will continue singing.  It may not be in front of a room full of people or a packed theater, but I can’t imagine a day when I won’t be able to break out in song, sing my niece/nephews to sleep, or simply stand in the center of my living room and let my voice fill the void.

Music saved my life many times, and I have no doubt it will do so in the future.

Award Show Viewing Parties: Sharing in the Excitement

I took a leap of faith by traveling to Los Angeles to celebrate the film industry’s beloved award show, and it inspired me in ways different from what I expected.

As I’ve stated before, award shows are to entertainment fans what sport competitions are to devout followers of athletic teams.  I might cheer on my local team if they make it to the play-offs, but I’m not very engaged in the world of athletics.  I’d much rather spend my time conversing about my favorite television shows, catchy Broadway musicals, or memorable films.

It got to be quite lonely sitting on my couch, eating popcorn, and cheering on nominees  with no one who was as excited about the results as I was.  My parents and siblings gave me the “Oh, Kelly” looks and went to bed long before the host stated “That’s a wrap!”  I wanted desperately to share my excitement with others, so I started having viewing parties at my (aka my parents’) house and invited close friends.  I’ll never forget the first viewing party I threw about ten years ago when my friend made cupcakes decorated like clocks in honor of “The Hours”.

Last year, my mom made “Shepherd’s Life of Pi”, and I made “Pretzel Lincoln Logs”, bruschetta with a French baguette, and other themed menu items.  I decorated my apartment with streamers, clapboards, gold/silver stars, and created a red carpet for guests.  While attendees enjoyed the appetizers, we watched the pre-show activities and played games.  It was an evening filled with laughter, good fun, and great company – all that a party should include.

This year I decided to fly out to California and attend a viewing party in Hollywood.  The day before the awards, my sister, brother-in-law and nephews took me to the area where the award show would take place.  I stood in awe at the gold statues covered to protect them from the rain.  I cried tears of joy as I stared at the red carpet and understood the enormity of putting such an event together.  I felt at home in a way I can’t quite comprehend or express without further reflection.  As impressed as I am with what occurs on-screen, I’m even more intrigued by what goes into the behind-the-scenes preparation.  To know that you were part of such an incredible event, that must be a proud moment whether you stapled the red carpet or stood guard in front of the theatre doors.

Award Show ready

The day of the big show, my sister and I got all dressed up and headed out to mingle with others who would be as excited to watch the awards show as we were.  The main dining area (VIP seating) was decorated rather elegantly with gold chairs, pristine table settings, and beautiful accents.  Attendees followed the “black-tie preferred” request, and cocktails were served as we waited for the show to start.  Once the show began, we got directed to the “No Seating/General Admission” area and mingled with some very engaging individuals.  About halfway through, our feet told us it was time to go.  We stopped to grab something to eat on our way home and watched the last 30 minutes of the show from the comfort of a couch.

While it’s an experience I’ll have forever, I realized that I’d prefer to spend the next award show differently – either working the event, sitting in the theatre, and/or celebrating with friends and family.

Block your calendars now for my Broadway party in June!!!  Themed menu to be planned upon the nomination announcement.

TV insights: The “Shipping” Industry

That ship  has sailed!  Fans of TV romantic pairings are quite familiar with the term “ship” for reasons that differ greatly from what may be your understanding of the word.  They champion a certain pairing, send letters, start campaigns, and write post after post after post in “support” of the fictional coupling that moved them more than others.

California coast

While I acknowledge there are certain fictional couples that I root for more than others, I don’t get as passionately involved (pun intended) as my fellow “shippers.”  I sit back, watch the show, read the fan postings and either roll my eyes or chuckle at some of the absurd remarks.  I’ve spent many years observing, and sometimes partaking in, the entertainment “shipping” industry. From all my years of observation, I’ve come to the conclusion that “shippers” fall into three categories:  Smooth Sailing, Bumpy Ride , or Lost at Sea.

  • SMOOTH SAILING:  You know they’re going to pair up one character with another.  You know it’s coming!  It makes perfect sense from a story purpose and character development.  It’ll add intrigue, conflict, and perhaps set the pairing on a journey all their own.  You enjoy the characters on an individual level but when they are in a scene together, the chemistry is palpable.  You may follow a website dedicated to the pairing or comment to a blog when the writer is blatantly disrespectful, but you wouldn’t take the time or effort to bombard head writers or actors with postcards, gifts, or letters.
  • BUMPY RIDE:  Hold on tight now, because you’re in for quite a ride when your favorite TV pairing hits a story pothole.  “They broke them up?!  Noooooo!!!!!”  Okay, I’ll admit it; I’ve uttered those very words a few times.  But that’s only because the Powers-That-Be were wrong.  Sarcasm aside, passengers on the “Bumpy Ride Ship” hold on for dear life while forging friendships with others dealing with the same ups and downs of the journey.  They are passionate, determined, but never prone to cruelty just to make their point.
  • LOST AT SEA:  Some “shippers” have left port and are so far out to sea that they’re on their own deserted island.  They’ve lost the know-how of communicating with others.  They are always right.  Their wants and needs supersede anyone else’s.  So, if they believe that the TV couple they “love” is getting the shaft, they come out the claws sharpened and tongues wagging.  They slash at you, pounce on you, and couldn’t care less if they stepped over you just to achieve the goal they deem to be of more value than yours.  They use insults, hurl accusations, and misquote everyone associated with the show if that will prove their point.  They twist words and write with tunnel vision.  They are so far out to sea that they wouldn’t see the buoy if it was floating right in front of them.

Whether you are, or know someone who is, part of the 3 “shipping” groups, don’t worry…there’s plenty of others out there who are on the same boat!

General-ly Speaking: Why Claire Labine and Wendy Riche Inspire Me

Writers, executive producers, directors.  Individuals whose skills, talents, and artistry are frequently overlooked by the general public, yet without them our favorite films and television programs would never exist for us to adore.  Actors and actresses graced my screen, big and small, mesmerizing me with their talent.  Most of the time, I didn’t care one bit about who directed the episode or what an executive producer did.  I was only concerned with what was on my screen.  Twenty years ago, I started caring about those who worked behind the scenes.  My mind opened and my creativity flourished thanks to two exceptionally gifted women who helped bring my favorite daytime drama series to excellence.

In the early 1990′s, General Hospital excelled in not only the daytime drama medium but throughout all of television.  The writing was superb, the acting brilliant and the storylines heart wrenching and uplifting at the same time.  During this time, the teenage me was intrigued to learn more about those who worked behind the scenes.  Who wrote the storylines and dialogue?  Who was making the decisions that created such excellent television programming? As head writer, Claire Labine took GH and its characters to emotional levels that left the viewers exploring their own lives.  If we didn’t care about the characters, then why should we care about what happened to them?  With Claire and her writing team, GH viewers knew that we’d be in for a combination of beautiful everyday moments between friends (“Lois” and “Brenda” or “Brenda” and “Robin”) or in-depth serious issues (“Maxie” gets “B.J.’s” heart / “Stone’s” death and “Robin’s” H.I.V. diagnosis).  When these characters cried, I cried.  When they examined their own prejudices, I re-examined by perspective on important issues.

During my Media and Society class in college, I had to pick someone or something that made a substantial impact on media.  I chose Ms. Wendy Riche, the Executive Producer of General Hospital at the time.  “How many of you know who {insert well-known primetime series mogul} is?”  All hands went up.  “Now, how many of you have heard of Wendy Riche.”  The latter question prompted only a few raised hands.  I proceeded to discuss the impact that GH had at the time, the ground-breaking issues and critical praise it received.  An excellent television program is deemed so, in my opinion, only if each part blends to create an exquisite piece of entertainment.  Each and every aspect of General Hospital excelled, allowing none to supersede another.  Writing, acting, editing, music selection, cinematography, etc…all played a part to bring about a finished work that deserved the critical and viewer appreciation it received.  Without an Executive Producer who values the medium and seeks to help it flourish, General Hospital would not have been the brilliant drama series it came to be.  And I attribute its brilliance to Wendy Riche – a woman I still hold a great deal of admiration and respect for twenty years later.

Both of these women showed me through their craft that high quality and artistic passion are not mutually exclusive.  I respect them for not only the work they created but the evident love of industry.  As a fan of all things entertainment and a writer of various genres, my artistic career would be one step closer to fulfillment with an opportunity to work with either Claire Labine or Wendy Riche.  Perhaps once my novel is complete, Claire will write the screenplay and Wendy will produce the film.  A girl can dream!!

*SIDENOTE:  I wrote one of my first “fan” letters to Ms. Riche in the mid-90′s and was elated to receive a postcard back.  I kept that card tacked upon on my inspiration board and thankfully it was part of the collection of items that were spared in my apartment fire earlier this year.*

Film Review: “Saving Mr. Banks” touches the heart and imagination

If you have yet to see Saving Mr. Banks, do so faster than you can spell S-U-P-E-R-F-R-A-G…

As a lifelong fan of anything Disney-related and an author who cares very much for the integrity of her characters, this film moved me.  Inspired me.  And had me both laughing and crying.  The world that Walt Disney created played a significant role in my childhood development and remains firmly intertwined in the woman I am today.  The ideals of hope, love, belief in oneself, kindness to others, and a combination of magic and art, guided my actions and reaffirmed my view that all is possible if you believe hard enough.

Saving Mr. Banks is more than a fictionalized telling of how Walt Disney acquired the rights to turn P.L. Travers’ “Mary Poppins” into a film. It’s a heartfelt examination of family, love, imagination, and our own inner turmoil.  How do we overcome that which keeps us frozen in time and place?  Can we find the strength and solace in our imagination and creativity?  This beautifully made film answers the above and so much more!

Director, John Lee Hancock, guides the motion picture with care, allowing the viewers to understand and appreciate the emotions and actions of both Walt and Mrs. Travers. The seamless transitions between present day and the author’s childhood are juxtaposed in such a way that they make complete and utter sense.  From the blending of speeches/song lyrics, to the mirroring of conflict, Hancock and a gifted editing team prove that the past is sometimes so ingrained in our present that the two become intertwined in our reality.

Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith’s screenplay provides not only an inspiring tale but also one filled with warmth, love, laughter, and creativity.  These gifted ladies pay tribute to an author’s plight – caring so immensely for their characters that letting go seems impossible to do.  They easily could have made Walt or Mrs. Travers a villain, having us root solely for one over the other.  However, through heartfelt dialogue and imaginative storytelling we understood the struggles that each character faced and the consequences of what might happen if they failed.

All of the above sets the scene, giving the actors ample material to work from.  And that they did, with elegance and grace.  Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are flawless in their portrayals of the two determined storytellers.  As brilliant as these two beloved actors are in their work, I was wholeheartedly taken with the powerful performances of Ruth Wilson and Colin Farrell.  (After seeing the film, I am disappointed and surprised that Farrell or Wilson have yet to be recognized this award season for their phenomenal portrayal of the complex Travers and Margaret Goff.)

Great acting makes us forget that they are doing so.  They simply become the characters they are portraying.  We don’t think, “Oh, there’s Tom Hanks talking with Emma Thompson.”  We can believe in that moment that Walt Disney and Pamela Travers are having an animated (pun intended) discussion.  The gifted actors in Saving Mr. Banks fused together a range of emotions, never once making them appear one-dimensional.  When they disagreed, we understood why.  When they failed, we felt for them.  In this reviewer’s opinion, the most impressive show of their talent is that I cared about these characters.

This film deserves the critical praise already received and will hopefully garner more in the coming months.  It’s absolutely worth seeing more than once and will no doubt become a favorite for years to come in households all over the world!

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**DISCLAIMER: No endorsement of actors, production companies, or other groups/individuals associated with this film is intended or implied!**