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.*

 

A Magical Delight: Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA

*UPDATED 1/5/2015 – This fantastic and heartwarming show just closed on Broadway, but is now on tour!*

Showing 8 times a week at the Broadway theatre, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA is designed for theatre-goers of all ages!  With music that gets you humming along, costume changes that leave you puzzled and a stellar cast of brilliant talents, this classic musical exudes charm, elegance, and an overall joyful experience.

I’ll admit that the first time I heard any of the music from this version of the fairy tale princess’ story was from watching the TV movie with Whitney Houston and Brandy.  Since Cinderella was always one of my two favorite princesses I gravitated to this version.  I found the songs enchanting, the costumes stunning and the message as inspiring as ever – that kindness, decency, love and hope can make even the most impossible of dreams quite possible.  In 1997, when I was 20 years old, I watched the movie numerous times – rewinding (yes, this was during the time of VHS tapes) my favorite songs so that I could memorize them and sing them around my house.  I even broke out singing “In My Own Little Corner” while cleaning up the tossed pillow section during my shift at the local bedding store I worked at.  The store was closed, no one was around and the music just came flooding out.

The current Broadway staging of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA provides us with catchy melodies, a beautiful score and an inspiring message.  If you believe in yourself, hold on to your dreams, and fight for them you can overcome even the steepest of mountains.  The music creates the mood and moves the story along, but the set design, lighting and costumes add ambiance to an already stunning show.  The sets are simplistic, mobile and don’t overpower the action or actors on-stage.  They tell us where we are without the necessity of overwhelming us with too much detail.  “Cinderella’s” home features wood construction with subdued accents – a reflection of the simple life in which they live.  That setting works to contrast the vivid colors that “Madame” and her daughters wear.  It hits home to us that while “Cinderella’s” attire blends into the natural tones of the home, her stepmother does all she can to not fit in.  The costumes accent the setting with colors that pop, especially when set against the stark white contrast of the palace setting.  They shimmer, they sparkle and they morph before our eyes with the flick of a wand!  Leaving the audience to “Ooo” and “Ah” then ponder “Wait, how did they do that?”

While the setting reflects the story, and the music creates the mood, the performers put all the pieces together.  This marvelously talented cast includes both well-known stage veterans and newcomers alike.  Yet, each one holds their own – allowing the individual character a range of emotions and vitality.  The hysterical Ann Harada, as “Charlotte”, balances a larger-than-life persona while also giving this self-involved stepsister a layer of depth and conflict.  Marla Mindelle embraces the various layers of “Gabrielle’s” personality.  We see and understand the young girl’s struggle to honor her mother’s wishes even though her dreams and wants differ significantly.

As “Madame”, the brilliant Harriet Harris keeps the stepmother from becoming too one-dimensional.  She adds moments of conflict that you can find believable, despite her characters clearly deplorable treatment of our beloved “Cinderella”.  Her comedic timing is impeccable and her talent continues to impress.  The exceptional Victoria Clark portrays “Marie”, the main character’s confidante and support system.  Her stunningly powerful vocal ability sends chills down your spine while lifting your spirit.

And last, but certainly not least, the show’s power couple – “Cinderella” and her prince.  Laura Osnes owns the title character from the moment she graces the stage.  She moves across it with ease, reflecting “Ella’s” effortless joy despite the girl’s family situation.  She makes you believe, wholeheartedly, that people such as this exist.  That kindness, warmth and a zeal for life have the ability to effect everyone they come into contact with; that doesn’t even begin to include Ms. Osnes’ ethereal voice.  Beauty, regal and joy –  those were the three terms I thought of first as I listened to her sing “In My Own Little Corner”.  A phenomenal talent, Laura has rightly received both critical and popular praise for her work in this show.  She gives “Ella” heart without making her sickly sweet.  You believe that she truly means what she says while yearning for a life that seems out of her reach.

To my delightful surprise, my favorite character was “Topher”.  Newcomer, Santino Fontana, takes us on an enjoyable ride as the prince struggles to figure out who he is and what role he truly wants to play in his own life and that of the villagers.  He’s got charm, charisma and a voice that melts your heart.  Plus, he gives the young prince a playfulness that doesn’t make him appear cocky or dim-witted.  He wants to grow.  Wants to change.  And little by little he comes into his own.  This young man is destined to have a long career on Broadway and I am glad he’s been recognized during this award season!  Together, Laura and Santino complement one another perfectly!  They play off one another’s strengths and they harmonize, not only in music, but in stage presence.

I definitely recommend going to see the current revival of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s CINDERELLA at the Broadway Theatre.  Whether you’re a five-year-old girl dressed in her favorite princess gown or a thirty-something birthday girl singing along to one of her favorite shows, it’ll provide you with a delightful experience that children of all ages can enjoy!

Cinderella: A Dream Come True

I have a Cinderella complex.  There, I’ve said it.  Phew!  In all seriousness, my connection to this particular fairy-tale spans decades and has yet to diminish.

By the time I was seven years old my family had made numerous trips to Walt Disney World.  It remains a place that brings me great joy, inspires creativity and fosters imagination.  From a very young age, Cinderella quickly became my favorite Disney movie.  Was it the representation of a character so kind, thoughtful and caring that moved me?  Perhaps it had to do with the beautiful melodies that instilled a deep love of music that has yet to loosen its grip on my soul.  Or, maybe I identified with this film and its title character because she looked like me.  Regardless of the whys, the fact remained that “Cinderella” was my favorite Disney character, and the seven-year old me was about to meet her idol.

Sitting on the Main Street curb in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, I waited with anticipation for the evening’s parade to commence.  The music started, the lights illuminated the night sky, and the crowd erupted in cheers.  I waved with excitement alongside my fellow parade-watchers.  Then finally she arrived!  Strolling down Main Street in her silver carriage, “Cinderella” greeted the onlookers with a wave and a smile.  Then she pointed at me and mouthed “You look like me.”  Me?  Did she really just speak to me?  With my long blond hair and tiny stature.  A girl who would shy away from attention was just recognized by her favorite Disney princess?

photo

That moment means so much to me, nearly three decades later.  I think about the graciousness of the young lady riding in that carriage.  I wonder if she realized just how much a single moment of kindness and attention mattered.  As an adult I still look for those moments but seldom find them through external means.  When I go to concerts, stand outside Broadway stage doors for a picture and autograph or attend award show red carpets, I do so with an appreciation, respect and connection to those who choose the remarkable power of artistic expression and am inspired to create my own.

For my 36th birthday in a few weeks, I’ll be visiting NYC in the company of dear friends and family with hopes to attend a Broadway show.  There’s still that 7-year-old girl inside who lights up with the mere mention of Disney World and combined with my long-time love of musical theatre here’s hoping that Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella will be one of the shows we’ll be able to see!

To all those young girls out there who sit on that Main Street curb waiting for their favorite Disney princess, keep dreaming, wishing and believing.

*DISCLAIMERA reminder that the opinions stated above are mine alone and do not reflect any other person, company or entity’s position.  I simply share my appreciation and respect for those stories and characters that helped shaped my childhood.*