Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Mamma Mia in Vegas

It has been nearly three months now since we returned from our Las Vegas vacation, and I’m still catching up on stories… Pathetic, I know. But hey, I’ve been busy. Trying to snag a literary agent for my novel. Designing tuition calculation algorithms for my employer. Shopping for diamond engagement rings…

But the real truth is that I have been slow to write this review because I’m afraid I’ll catch hell from old friends who already nave noticed some chinks in my masculinity. In the last six months I’ve reviewed “women’s literature” and critiqued Miss America and talked about my new obsession with hot tea…and the list goes on.

Today I’m here to rave about Mamma Mia!, the musical featuring the songs of ABBA. You can read its history here. How we ended up there is pretty simple: it’s the show playing at the Mandalay Bay, where the Maine State Lottery sent us in January. Included in our package were two tickets. Third row from the front, as it turned out… Spoiled me forever for show tickets. How I’ll go back to sitting in the nosebleeds, I can’t say.

My beef with musical theatre has typically been that showtunes don’t cut it for me. As readers who have read my other blog or my columns at Being There Magazine will know, I love music from many genres. But traditional musical theatre fare will never make it onto my iPod.

My opinions on the subjects oftened last summer, when Keryn took me to see Rent for my birthday. I thought it was great—in large part because the music was so good. Turns out that maybe what blocks me from enjoying musical theatre is that I wouldn’t like most of those songs if I heard them on the radio.

Mamma Mia! is an interesting phenomenon because the songs came first, and the story was built around a clever arrangement of those songs. That the story proves cogent given this approach is a testament to the writers. (Last week I read a review of the new musical based on the music of Queen; apparently they didn’t mange to do quite such a bang-up job there).

That isn’t to say that it isn’t a rather fantastic story. Young Sophie lives on a Greek island, and she’s set to marry her boyfriend. She doesn’t know her father, but she stumbled upon her mother’s old diary, where she learned that it might be one of three men. Remarkably enough, she has their contact information, thus enabling her to fire off three invites (unbeknownst to her mother, a former pop star, now hotel matron). Imagine the chaos when all three men show up… and one of them has never fallen out of love with Sophie’s mother!

The show is funnier than hell from beginning to end, and the songs stand up remarkably well. Going into the show, I knew only two ABBA songs: “Dancing Queen” and “Take A Chance On Me.” But by the end I had to grudgingly admit that “S.O.S.,” “Knowing Me Knowing You,” and “Voulez Vous” are pretty remarkable pop songs.

The performances were exceptional across the board, and Keryn and I spent a long time raving about the show… I give a solid gold recommendation to everyone, whether you think you enjoy musicals or not. Give Mamma Mia! a chance.

If you're in Vegas, check here for the Mandalay Bay box office. Even though we went for free, I'd hazard that it's more than worth the price of admission.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Normal Girl Explains Her Slacker-Ness

I’m a slacker, I know.

Normal Guy has been nagging me to contribute to our site, even providing me with potential topics. The problem is that I need to be inspired to write.

Well, maybe not inspired so much as motivated and in the right mindset. The past three months have been a whirlwind (to say the least), so in the hopes of being forgiven for my absence, here are my excuses (each punctuated with “a shining moment”).

#1: My Cat Ate My Homework
Just kidding! I wanted to make sure you were paying attention. By the way…my cat, Corky, COULD eat paper if she was inclined to do so. (Yes, she was named after Corky from the late-eighties show “Life Goes On.” I have the DVDs…)

#2: Work
Work has been insane. I knew it was bad when I started dreaming about reading admissions files! Then again, I have been reviewing them day-in and day-out. We received nearly 6600 applications at my office and I feel like I personally looked at each and every one over the course of the last three months… I even started remembering students by name!

The shining moment during “reading season” was my “heart file.” Each year, each of us fights for one student who doesn’t quite meet our admission requirements 100%, but deserves consideration. We present their information and the committee votes. I wrote a poem about my student from New York and he was unanimously accepted! (The caveat is that he now has to enroll and succeed or I will receive flak from my co-workers). When my reading partner said I might have changed the student’s life, it made those three months of reading files (almost) worthwhile. I am super-psyched for my heart file!

#3: Travel (which is the subject of this website, but that’s beside the point!)
Let me start by saying, I do not know how Normal Guy traveled for work as long as he did. We do a little bit of spring travel for work, and as I write this blog I am sitting at a college fair in Syracuse. I left Boston on Sunday and it is now Wednesday morning [though this update to the website is a few days later than I wrote it!]. I started the week in Rochester and immediately realized how spoiled I was for having Normal Guy travel with me last fall. You see, it was raining when I arrived in Rochester and I had to do everything on my own. I consider myself an independent woman, but it is helpful to have a set of muscle-bound arms to carry my luggage, work bag, or sometimes (gasp!) even my purse.

I jest, but what I miss most is Normal Guy’s company. Sightseeing is not quite as fulfilling when you don’t have someone to share it with.

Yesterday I did two cool tourist-y things on my own. First, I visited the Harriet Tubman House in Auburn (NY). Seeing a sewing machine used by Tubman was interesting, but it would have been more exciting if Normal Guy had been there.

I also learned that a Syracuse mall housed a fully-restored carousel built in 1909. Being a kid at heart (see our trip to the Strong Museum of Play for proof), I had to ride it. The sweet (yet amusing) fact is that Normal Guy would have ridden it with me, standing beside me in line to purchase a token while adults carrying toddlers gave us sideways glances. It was a fun two minutes, feeling the breeze on my face and seeing the breathtaking view of the lake behind the mall. I just wish Normal Guy had been beside me…

We both admit to being utterly pathetic, to the point where we can’t stand being apart for more than a day. Five days is preposterous.

Central New York Shining Moment: After dinner at a restaurant near my hotel. I turned down dessert, but my waiter returned to the table, check in one hand and a plate piled high with (drum roll, please) blue cotton candy in the other! I kid you not. It was AWESOME!

#4: Normal Guy
I probably shouldn’t use him as an excuse for not writing, but he’s been keeping me busy. As some readers have noticed, Normal Guy proposed about a month ago (one month and seven days, to be EXACT) and I have been distracted by my bling and the attention it garners.

While at a college fair in Buffalo, I stood under the fluorescent lights. I inherited my mother’s habit of talking with her hands, prompting a lady to approach me: “Girl, that ring is doing its thing!”

Of course, the proposal led to phone calls and emails, along with a visit to Portland to tell Normal Guy’s family our life-changing news. Needless to say, the shining moment was seeing Normal Guy’s thrilled, yet nervous expression as he got down on one knee.

How can you expect me to find time to blog with all that going on??

#5: Sisters
I have two younger sisters who have both recently gone through the college application process. Working in admissions seems to make me the expert, so they’ve been eager for my help.

My younger sister is 20 and was recently accepted to her dream college in Pennsylvania--her best friend goes there and she has been trying to transfer since last fall. Congratulations are in order to her! She has been calling me with questions about transfer credits, housing, and everything else she needs to know.

My youngest sister is a high school senior, and she isn’t sure what she wants to do. I have tried to guide her along the way, too. It makes me proud to know that I can help my sisters figure out their future plans. Two recent shining moments: a phone call from my youngest sister announcing her SAT scores had gone up 50 points in each section (!!!), and being at the house when my sister opened her acceptance packet from her first (and only!) choice. I am so proud of both of them!

It has been a jam-packed three months, but I wouldn’t change a thing. Forgive me for not writing now that you have read my excuses?

Next blog—my take on Vegas and Miss America. (A couple months late).