playing stylist

I’m pretty sure everyone with a fondness for fashion has had an idle daydream or two about being a stylist. I know I’ve seen plenty of stars on the red carpet and thought “…honey no. Who told you that was a good look?”

Well, now is finally my moment to play stylist…pretend stylist, at least! In honor of the Oscars, I was invited by Tommy John to play dress up with the hunk of my choice, and I jumped at the chance to look at beautiful pictures of suits (and, y’know, the guys who wear them).

The Victim:

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I’m a huge fan of Sebastian Stan’s work in the Captain America movies, and since he’ll probably be at this year’s awards with the rest of the cast of The Martian he seemed like the perfect choice. Sebastian often looks very sharp on the red carpet, but I’d like to offer my own spin on it.

The Look:

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Even if no one sees them, fun undergarments really set the foundation for a good look. So why not go bold? I love the fun polka dots on these; a little playfulness on the biggest night in Hollywood is just what the doctor ordered.

And speaking of going bold…

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Image source.

The Oscars are traditionally pretty staid as far as men’s fashion goes but…that’s boring! As much as I love a classic black tux, an event this special deserves some fashion adventures. Why let the ladies have all the fun? When I started with this post, I went straight for Tom Ford; he’s definitely one of my favorite menswear designers, and I love how many colorful, inventive creations he has in his collections. I think this gorgeous textured blazer would look amazing on Mr. Stan as well as being truly brilliant on camera (an important consideration for an event airing live!).

Finish it off with some fun socks for the perfect extra peek of personality (I couldn’t find a pair quite the right shade, but if I was a Hollywood stylist I’d probably have an assistant to send scurrying around to find those for me…), and my client is ready to strut his stuff on the red carpet tomorrow night!

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cabaret at the marcus center

In here, life is beautiful.

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Randy Harrison as the Emcee and the 2016 National Touring cast of Roundabout Theatre Company’s CABARET. Photo by Joan Marcus.

I won’t bury the lede: this incredible production of Cabaret is a must-see for any musical theater fan. It’s an intense show, pulling the audience through joy and misery, sweetness and seediness, and tremendously well-performed by this company. Randy Harrison’s Emcee is sexy and a little frightening, and I was especially impressed by Andrea Goss as a very raw Sally Bowles, at once fragile and tremendously tough. Cabaret may seem at first glance like your standard musical (and there’s definitely no shortage of great songs), but there’s a darkness under the glitz. Even apart from the ever-looming specter of the Nazis, there’s an omnipresent grime and quiet desperation, a sense that this life of sex and parties isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be.

The show really starts before the lights go down with the girls and boys of the Kit Kat Klub warming up on stage. Throughout the show, the theater began to smell faintly of cigarette smoke. I loved how immersive it was, bringing you deep inside the seedy world of the nightclub. Like I said before, the performances were great from both the lead cast and the ensemble (how do you get to be an awesome saxophonist AND an awesome dancer??). And the dark political narratives are, unfortunately, still so relevant today. Can, like Sally, we insist that politics have nothing to do with us? The (futile, the audience knows) hope of so many characters is especially chilling to me.

This one’s only in town for a short time, so if you’re thinking of seeing it, don’t hesitate.

The Facts

Cabaret is playing at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts now through Sunday, February 28.

of mice and men at milwaukee rep

As much as I love the razzle dazzle of fun, spectacle-type shows, it’s performances like this that really remind of what theater can do.

Unlike pretty much everyone else in the world, I did not read Of Mice and Men in high school. I’m a notorious pop culture sponge, so I definitely knew the major ups and downs going in, but seeing the play was definitely a fresh experience for me. I was able to attend the Rep’s Tech Talk for the show which, in addition to letting me know that figuring out scene changes is just as silly and laborious a process in a professional theater (“Stumps exit downstage, rocks exit upstage!”), gave me a great sneak peek into Mark Clements’ vision for the play. He talked about how though the story is set during a very specific historical time period that the concept of outsiders trying to achieve their American Dream still holds true today, and I very much agree with that. Part of the tragedy of this story for me is how much it does still ring true, in the ways that people who are different are marginalized and kept at arm’s length, forced to try to find their own way to survive. That even the simplest dream can be just past your reach, depending on where you came from. Y’all probably talked about this in high school, so I won’t get my English major on and write an essay about the themes.

As with other Steinbeck pieces (he wrote the script as well, if you didn’t know!), I love the economy of this story. It doesn’t feel sparse by any means, but nothing is wasted. Every scene and every word has meaning, and that’s something that really attracts me as a writer.

George and Lennie are, of course, the heart of the production, and Jonathan Wainwright and Scott Greer (respectively) both delivered amazing, moving performances. There was a comfort between them that spoke to how well these men know each other, something rare for migrant workers of the time as is constantly remarked upon by the text. The other major standout, for me, was Jim Pickering’s Candy. From his first appearance to his final monologue, I ached for Candy, in large part due to Pickering’s performance; in a lot of ways, at least in this production, I felt his suffering more strongly than any other character’s. There’s a sweetness to him that I really responded to.

This was also the first time in a long time that I sat on the extreme side at the Rep, and it really did remind me that there isn’t a bad seat in that house. Though I missed out on what exactly was happening at center upstage, I got so much closer to the actors which was even better. I’ve only been in shows on a more traditional proscenium stage, and I’ve always been fascinated by everything that goes into creating a show on  a thrust stage that’s equally compelling from all angles. The Rep has definitely mastered that art!

Overall, this was a great production (the set is, as always, beautiful, and there are some really great scene changes [she said, like a true theater geek]), and I wished that I had a fresh tissue at the end of the show. Whether you’ve read the book a hundred times or are going into it fresh, I highly recommend seeing this one.

The Facts

Of Mice and Mice is playing in the Quadracci Powerhouse at the Milwaukee Rep now through February 21.

aesthetic: labyrinth

The news of David Bowie’s death yesterday hit me harder than I expected, in part because it was so sudden. Just days before my social media had been full of tributes wishing him a happy birthday, and then he was all over my feeds again for a much sadder reason. I’ve read lovely remembrances of Bowie, feelings about how much he inspired a generation to feel free to be weird, and of course listened to a plenty of my favorite songs (and maybe cried a little to a last pre-bedtime listen to Under Pressure…here’s hoping those two are jamming together in rock n’ roll heaven), but I have to pay tribute in my own way.

Let’s talk about Labyrinth.

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Oh, Labyrinth. The movie’s actual release was a bit before my time, but cult films live forever. I watched Labyrinth for the first time in middle or high school and didn’t properly appreciate it (though I was, even then, enraptured by David Bowie’s appearance in the film)…I really came into Labyrinth fandom properly in college, and one of my best memories of this past summer was watching the movie with hundreds of other fans at Film on the Hill in Humboldt Park.

David Bowie and his ridiculous outfits are to this day one of my favorite parts of the movie – a leather vest with ridiculously poofy shirt and knee-high boots? Yes please!

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Just hangin’ out in my navy blue sequined frock coat, like you do. Jareth’s eye makeup choices in this movie (an ultra extended/almost vertical cateye with super short straight brows) are not ones that I would emulate for myself, but I love the otherworldly, feline appearance they give him. Plus, that hair!

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This movie is so gloriously 80s. If I had a giant white fur cape, I would wear it everywhere, and probably try to steal children and entrap people in my mystical labyrinth. Maybe it’s best that I don’t have one.

And the piece de resistance, the hands down best part of the movie, the scene that ignited romantic stirrings in a million teenage hearts…

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The masquerade fantasy. First off: any nerdy fantasy-loving girl who tells you she doesn’t love over-the-top masquerade scenes is lying to you. (Maybe she’s not, I don’t know her life, but she probably is.) In fact, I had to take a break watching this post to go watch the scene again. Feel free to take a break from reading it to go check it out. Masquerade scenes are my bread and butter, and a ridiculous glitzy 80s fantasy masquerade is like taking that bread and butter and pouring glitter and sprinkles all over it. The only thing bigger than Sarah’s sleeves in this scene is her hair, and the only thing more fluffy and ridiculous than both of those is the waterfall of ruffles that Jareth is using as a cravat. Plus SEQUINS. and LACE. and MORE GLITTER. Also, check out those blue highlights in Jareth’s hair – now that’s commitment to a look.

Although obviously I didn’t know David Bowie personally, I’ll be sad knowing that we’ll never see anything new from him again…I’m grateful he’s left us one more album. There’s one less fabulously weird, creative person in the world, and that’s always a sad thing. May we all work to add a little bit more weirdness to the world in our own small ways.

don’t you forget about me

breakfast club

A little belated, but my most recent cross stitch was a Christmas present for my former roommate & general partner in crime. She loves The Breakfast Club, so I grabbed this pattern from Wee Little Stitches and stitched away! I learned a new stitch for this one, the french knot, and also included a lot more detail work which was fun (the french knots, for the record, were not fun). I loved adding bits like the streak in Bender’s hair…little things like that really bring something as simple-seeming as this to life.

It’s definitely one of my goals to do some more needlecrafts this year. From the projects I’ve done, I’ve ended up with a pretty nice stash of embroidery floss, so I’m eager to start experimenting with creating my own patterns. I’d also like to do some embroidery in addition to cross stitch, learn some new stitches. Maybe I can make myself some decorative tea towels or something…eventually I’d love to jazz up some plain cardigans with some cute embroidery work, but I’ll get some practice in first. I find needlework to be very soothing; it’s great for keeping your mind engaged enough that your thoughts don’t wander too much without being so taxing that it’s difficult to work on. It puts me in kind of a zen place, so it’s really nice for de-stressing. Plus you end up with something pretty at the end! Always a win.

newsies at the marcus center

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Original company, North American Tour of Disney’s NEWSIES. ©Disney. Photo by Deen van Meer.

I went into Newsies knowing only that it was a cult favorite Disney movie about newsboys that starred a very young Christian Bale and included a song called “Seize the Day” which I once performed at a middle school drama camp. I left having had a pretty darn good time.

If you love splashy dance numbers (which I do), this is definitely the show for you. As one can guess from its 90s Disney movie roots, it’s not exactly a complicated story, serving up all the classic “scrappy street kids” beats (there’s even a witty-beyond-his-years moppet character) without a hint of irony. The set is significantly more complicated than the story, a tenement building represented by a supersized industrial “Hollywood Squares” deal with columns that move independently, traveling upstage and downstage carrying their singing newsies, with individual screens that descend to show headlines, newsprint, and occasionally drawings. I was sometimes so fascinated by the movement of the set that I forgot to watch to watch the dancing happening in front of it, which would be a shame. This show is a true musical spectacle of dance, filled with leaps and spins and acrobatics. Sometimes they would even do a super energetic dances just as part of a scene change! There’s such joy in every number, even when I couldn’t even conceive of still having enough energy to do another backflip, it’s awesome to watch. The dancing is what originally intrigued me about the show at the season preview event…it’s well-worth the price of admission all on its own.

There has to be a love story in a Disney show, of course. I’m never one to turn down a plucky girl reporter, but I have to admit, the real chemistry I saw was between our hero Jack Kelly and his bestest pal, Crutchie. C’mon, the show starts with Jack embracing Crutchie and insisting he should come along with him when he leaves the hustle of NYC behind for idyllic Santa Fe (what’s up with down-on-their-luck New Yorkers in musicals and Santa Fe anyway?), and Crutchie has his own plaintive ballad about how he misses sleeping on the rooftop with Jack and how they should run away together (because, the song belatedly adds at the end…they’re brothers). I knew it was impossible, but a not insignificant part of me wished that Jack and Crutchie could ride off into the Southwestern sunset together at the end of the show.

Enough about the homoerotic undertones (which are pretty much unavoidable when there are maybe 3 women in your entire show). Newsies is a bright, fun show. It brings up a lot of surprisingly serious issues, like child labor, unionization, and women’s rights, and…mostly tap dances them away. But that’s okay – I spent a lot of the time instinctively smiling and even joined in the whoops for a few especially impressive moves, and that’s a good night at the theater in my opinion.

The Facts

Newsies runs now through January 10 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.

2015: a year in review

Here we are again at the end of another year!

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2015 was interesting. My new year’s resolution last year was “have more adventures,” and I think I definitely succeeded in that. During the course of the year, I traveled to two places I had never been before (Arizona and Ohio!), flew by myself for the first time, did a grown-up rock n’ roll bootcamp and played on stage (twice!), moved into my first solo adult apartment, changed my hair color for the first time since 2009, published a book (!!!), and appeared on live TV and radio and did a reading and signing because of said book. I also said goodbye to a very much beloved family pet, and I thought a lot about what, exactly, I want out of life (a belated quarter life crisis?). I still don’t know the answer, and maybe that’s part of why 2015 feels a little…unfinished to me. I accomplished a lot, but there’s still more I wish I could have done. Oh well…there’s always next year, right?

Going into 2016 I want to continue having adventures and saying yes, but my “official” resolution this year is this: live your best life today. It’s so tempting to want to be “ready” for something before you embark on it, whether it’s a creative project, a relationship, a personal goal…but there’s no such thing as ready. There’s never going to be a perfect moment. Start living your best life today, and hopefully you’ll never have to look back and regret wasted time.

Cheers – here’s to 2016!

holiday aesthetic: white christmas

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When I discovered White Christmas was on Netflix, I simply couldn’t wait to watch it. I know that there are…mixed opinions about this movie around, but it’s one that’s in my family’s annual rotation and it doesn’t really feel like Christmas without it. I can’t say no to over-the-top musical numbers and awesome vintage style at any time of the year, especially not at Christmas! So here’s to the fabulous and covetable holiday aesthetic of White Christmas!

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I have to start with my very favorite, of course, the iconic “Sisters” scene. A frothy aqua daydream of tulle, lace, and feathers, I would wear this every day and twice on Sundays given the opportunity. Aqua is a marvelously retro color for Christmas, and I’ve worked some pale blue into my own Christmas tree this year. I also love Rosemary Clooney’s hair styling throughout the movie (it’s so shiny!).

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When are floor-length sequined gowns with giant poufs of tulle and sequined gloves going to come back into fashion? I’m waiting. (Probably around the same time green suits with red shirts and gloves and shiny green top hats do…)

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I definitely focus on Rosemary Clooney’s looks throughout the film, but Vera Ellen has some winners too! This big checked skirt with a fitted black sweater and big red belt is…pretty damn close to something I would actually wear in every day life (not just in my feathered flights of fancy). So cute! It has a lot of winter/seasonal flair without screaming “Christmas!!”

Are you a White Christmas fan? Or are you a White Christmas hater? Are there movies you appreciate primarily for their aesthetics?

thanksgiving

thanksgiving

The turkey has been devoured, and the pie has been served. I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving spent with people that you love, whoever you are, eating some delicious food. (My favorite is a cranberry-raspberry jell-o.)  I’m thankful to have spent another year surrounded by family, and that those I love that I didn’t spend the day with are safe and happy. I’m thankful to make a living by writing, which still blows my mind everyday, and to have my own warm apartment with a big sparkly Christmas tree inside. It’s a pretty great life that I’m privileged to lead, and it’s worth remembering that every day, not just once a year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

the mousetrap at milwaukee rep

It was perfectly appropriate that I spent the night of the first snow of the year at the opening night of The Mousetrap (which features a snowstorm much more dire than ours turned out to be). I went through a big Agatha Christie novel phase in middle school, and I’ve always been a fan of the Poirot TV series, but I somehow managed to have avoided The Mousetrap up until now. So I went into the show completely blind and ready to get wrapped up in the mystery.

This is a classic drawing room mystery. It has it all: a group of strangers gathered together, a house that no one can leave, dark secrets from the past, lies, British accents. There’s not a lot of surprises here if you’re generally familiar with the genre, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s a lot like picking up an old favorite book you haven’t read for a long time to curl up with under a blanket on a snowy evening, much like the one in the play. You know the basic plot, remember some of the zigs and a few of the zags, but it’s fun to take the ride.

As always, the set and costume designs were impeccable. I always fall a little bit in love with the styling during period pieces at the Rep, because I’m a soft touch for anything vintage, but it really is lovely. I definitely found myself wishing I could stay a few nights at the charmingly appointed Monkswell Manor (though perhaps not in the winter, if it’s as drafty as the guests claim…).

For an extra bit of fun, you can also fill out a “Whodunnit” form with your best guess for the murderer’s identity before intermission ends. I didn’t end up filling mine out, which was just as well…I turned out to be wrong!

This would definitely be a great alternative (or addition!) to the Christmas-themed shows that tend to take over this time of year, if you and your friends and family are the type who prefer murder over holiday cheer. Personally, I like a little bit of both!

The Facts

The Mousetrap runs through December 20 in the Quadracci Powerhouse at the Milwaukee Rep