Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Time Traveling at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ever since reading "From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" to Ashley I have wanted to take her to explore The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We are fortunate to live close enough to the Princeton University Art Museum, and have explored their treasures many times. Still, there is nothing quite like the original. As an added bonus, kids under 12 are free! Yes, it is a pay what you want museum, but I feel less guilty about it when one of us is clearly free.

We started in the ancient worlds of Egypt, Greece and Rome because this year Ashley is studying these cultures. Even limiting ourselves to a an eighth of the museum we still had a lot to see and too much to absorb. 

While wandering through the ancient world we stumbled upon a room filled with Japanese screens. It reminded me of the Kano school artwork we saw in the Nijo Castle in Kyoto last summer, and of our visit with Masumi and Hiroko. I had the odd sensation of feeling most calm and relaxed in this part of the museum. It could be because this area had less visitors, or because the artwork was bigger, therefore there was less of it, or because I had less of a learning curve with it since was saw similar artwork last summer in Japan. After battling crowds in "Ancient Egypt," it was a nice sensation.

After 90 minutes, Don and Ashley were done. Ashley in particular looked like the girl in the red sweater in this painting. 

I tried to find the French Impressionist art, and a bench for Don and Ashley, but got trapped in Modern Art instead. *sigh* Instead we headed through Medieval Art to the exit.

While there we learned the Costume Institute will be opening in May. Sounds like a good excuse to go back.

They are now open 7 days a week (even Mondays), which should make a return visit easier. We wanted to visit last year when we went to see Newsies, but they were closed on Mondays.

Ahh... the Metropolitan Museum of Art where you can travel 5000 years in 5 minutes.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Aladdin on Broadway

When the announcement was made that “Aladdin” was moving into the New Amsterdam Theater in New York City, our family knew we wanted to see the show. We had two main questions: 1) How did the Broadway version compare with the Hyperion Theater at California Adventure, and 2) How was the theater transformed from Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane to Agrabah.

2007: Ashley's first Broadway show was Mary Poppins,
in the same theater
I’ll answer the second question first because it is shorter. The theater was spruced up between shows, but the essence is the same. The stage was gutted between shows. For a while a giant hole existed. In the year between shows the theater held an awards show and a special Muppets performance. Olive the ghost was free to roam around. The 111-year old theatre maintained its early 20th century classic look. They did get a new curtain to tie in Agrabah.

We were the first people upstairs.
We had some fun posing in the wall of mirrors
Back to the first question: how does the Broadway version differ from the theme park version of the tale of Arabian Nights. The Broadway version is three times as long, plus a 15-minute intermission. They use that extra time to add in a back story and give Aladdin (Adam Jacobs) three male friends. The back story is that Aladdin’s mother died 2 ½ months ago, causing Aladdin to turn over a new leaf and become honest. As his friends Babkak (Brian Gonzales), Omar (Jonathan Schwartz), and Kassim (Brandon O’Neill) point out, he still doesn’t have any money. Aladdin makes exceptions for stealing food. He sings an amazing solo “Proud of Your Boy” to his dead mother, which was reprised twice.

As with the theme park and animated feature versions, the Genie steals the show. Instead of the storyteller, Genie (James Monroe Iglehart) opens the story and captures everyone’s attention from the first second. He has such a command of the theater. “A Friend like Me” is an 8½ minutes long showstopper, which has included a standing ovation at the end of each performance. Genie injects a bit of humor into the songs. For example during “Arabian Nights” song while describing Agrabah there is a line “where everyone has a minor in dance,” that is so appropriate as the ensemble dances their hearts out. That type of humor is sprinkled throughout the performance, along with amazing singing and dancing and 84 illusions and effects.

I was told by someone involved with the show Genie and Aladdin have permission to ad lib a little, and that it is even funnier when they do. Still, we missed the timeliness of the jokes told by Genie at the Hyperion Theater. My favorite example was the afternoon performance after the Disneyland Half Marathon. Genie jogs on stage huffing and puffing and declaring he is the final finisher of the race. Wearing my half marathon medal, I roared alongside the many others resting our tired feet in the air-conditioned theater.

The Broadway show includes the familiar songs “Arabian Nights,” “One Jump Ahead,” “Friend like Me,” “Prince Ali,” and “A Whole New World.” They also added a few songs to flesh out the story. We hoped Jasmine’s song about the bird inside a gilded cage would be one of the songs. The stage is set with a giant birdcage on it, as if to allude to the Hyperion Theater song. Instead she sings “These Palace Walls.” Another moment where the Broadway version seemed to play homage to California Adventure’s version was when Aladdin hands the bread he stole to an old beggar woman in a blue dress, like he does to Jasmine, during the “One Jump Ahead” song. Instead it takes three more songs before the couple meets and starts to fall in love.

On Broadway, Aladdin and Jasmine (Courtney Reed) have more time to get to know each other before falling in love. Jafar then uses his knowledge of their romance to convince Aladdin to go inside the Cave of Wonders. Incidentally, Jafar is played by Jonathan Freeman, the actor who provided the voice for Jafar in the animated movie. According to his Playbill bio, this is the first time that has ever happened. Also according to his bio, he was in Mary Poppins, which played in the same theater.

The second act was just as amazing as the first. It opens with “Prince Ali.” After the show I spoke with one of the members of the ensemble. He mentioned many of the men have four costume changes during that scene, he only has three. With a bit of “Disney magic,” his quickest costume change is 17 seconds long. During the “Prince Ali” number the cast seems to multiply before our eyes. Other fast costume changes take place on stage. Overall there are 337 costumes in the show – all hand-crafted by Tony Award winner, Gregg Barnes, using fabric from 9 different countries.

The magic carpet ride was really neat, but did not fly over the audience as it does in the Hyperion Theater. Since Mary Poppins flew over the audience, we expected the magic carpet would, too. It is an amazing feat in other ways. The cast also does not come through the theater, as they do during the “Prince Ali” number at the Hyperion Theater. Another big difference was that all cartoon aspects were taken out of the Broadway version. Iago, instead of being a puppet, is played by a man (Don Darryl Rivera). The magic carpet is just a carpet and not an acrobatic side kick. The Genie is a person. There are no puppets or animals in this production.

Unfortunately all good things have to come to an end. At 10:30 sharp the show ended and we followed everyone outside. All good theater-goers know to head to the stage door and hope for some autographs, after all they have to go home at some point, right? The cast of “Aladdin” were all amazing! Each one came out armed with a Sharpie pen and a winning personality. Each one walked from one end of the line of fans to the other, pausing to take pictures, sign autographs and answer questions. Then they left to go home and melded into the NYC crowd and anonymity. The crowd waiting was extremely polite and friendly, as well as patient. As the show is only two months old, the cast spent time after the show giving their friends backstage tours (lucky friends!). Even an hour after the show closed, they were still friendly with their fans. 

Aladdin: Adam Jacobs

Jasmine: Courtney Reed

Genie: James Monroe Iglehart

Each one is a class act.

It was a phenomenal experience overall.

Addendum: speculation for the next Broadway shows include "The Muppets" or "Frozen." Take that with a grain of salt as the former prediction was for "Peter Pan" or "Dumbo," and instead "Aladdin" became the next show.

Addendum 2: You can read the same post on DAPs Magic

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Let it go

It has been said if you have been friends with someone for at least 7 years, you will always be friends with that person. I'm struggling with what to do when it seems the person on the other end does not want to be friends with yo. They don't want to be enemies, just fond acquaintances. 

It has always taken me a while to make a friend. While on vacations, my middle sister would make friends with anyone around her, I never could do that. When I someone into my heart as a true friend, it is hard for me to let it go when life changes. 

This is especially true for friends I made over 21 years ago -- back when I was Jacquie, and not Don's wife or Ashley's mom. The really true friends who know me as me, and I know them as them. The ones who knew my dreams and my likes and passions before life changed them, or life simply got in the way. They are the ones when I spend time with them (either online or in person) I feel half my age -- and, quite frankly, I like that! The ones where months can pass between conversations, yet we still pick up and laugh.

Recently, though, I've had to accept some of these friends have moved on and I am not a part of their lives anymore. Part of me is happy for them -- both of our lives are just fine, in each case there has been no trauma, just life getting busy with families. The selfish part of me mourns the loss of our friendships. 

The signs have been on the wall a long time (hey, I wasn't called "Clueless" in Kappa for nothing). The time between messages and visits grow further apart. The visits are forced. They are easy to cancel when something else comes up. They take longer and longer to reschedule. When they do happen, they are cut short.

Still I remember these friendships. I remember smiling and laughing with my friends. I remember sharing in their milestones. I smile when their names pop up in my in-box.

I have to let it go. 

As I was talking to Ashley about this post, she said even at her age she realizes she is moving apart from some of her friends, too. Rather than mourning her old friends slipping into the land of fond acquaintances, though, she is making new friends and having fun. 

As Elsa says "the past is in the past."

Growing up isn't easy, even at my age.


When our kids are little we note every milestone -- first smile, first time sleeping through the night, first time crawling, first step, first tooth, first word (hi), first time sitting up alone, etc. We added unconventional items to the list: first Thunder game, first trip to the zoo, first time yanking the bib off, first bee sting, etc.

As parents, though, we don't often note the end of a stage. Most times growing up happens without our realizing it. One day we have a little kid, then all of a sudden they are grown up, or at least making steps in that direction.

Last Sunday was Easter. In the past Easter was celebrated with egg hunts. This year we had the opportunity to go to the same egg hunts, the weather was even nice, but Ashley had no wish to go.  Part of me missed the social aspect of hanging out at the hunts (as a baby, I had to it with her, but as she got older I could hang with the other moms). The other part of me was glad to eliminate the running around and enjoy a quiet day at home.

As a big kid, though, she recognizes her responsibility to keep the fun alive for the little ones. She still hunted for eggs with her cousins.

She also still wanted an Easter bunny, or in this case, an Easter kitty.

Monday, April 14, 2014

2014 Rutgers Unite 8K/Half Marathon

I'm not a huge fan of repeating races. I feel the same way about reading the same book more than once, or watching the same movie. I feel like "been there, done that." There are exceptions to every rule. Both years I even managed to take a picture with the Scarlet Knight.

Yesterday I ran the Rutgers 8K for the second year in a row. With a couple of minor changes, you can read last year's post and see what this year's race was like.

1) 2014 was a lot warmer -- 65 degrees at the finish, after adjusting to polar vortexes, I found it a bit warm by mile 3.

2) I was lapped by only one half marathoner this year, but my time was slower (57:09 vs. 58:43), still under an hour.

3) The post race food was blah this year vs. outstanding last year (no yogurt parfaits). My bag had: a pre-made Smuckers PB&J sandwich, a pretzel, a banana and a bag of chips. My friends all got TK Butterscotch Krimpets, too. I feel gypped! 

4) Last year's shirt was a nice, girl-cut shirt vs. this year's unisex cut (unisex=men's cut). I spoke with a race director who agreed with me that women are taking over this sport, and we should have clothes that fit. 72% of the Philadelphia Love Run were women. So when do men have to start dealing with having unisex=women's cut shirts? That is a big benefit to doing women's only races.

5) I missed seeing Team Rutgers Sparkle, but was happy to bump into Debbie.

Passing my alma mater in the home stretch -- wish they did not take the words LIBRARY SCIENCE out of their name.

Flat Jacquie -- I wore shorts under the sparkle skirt. So glad I left my jacket in the car.

AWESOME medal! It is even engraved on the back with the date of the race. Okay, the shiny medal might entice me to sign up again next year. By then I will have forgotten about the lack of yogurt parfaits at the finish line.