Monday, February 23, 2009

Billy Elliot on Broadway

Many, many years ago, in Madrid, Spain, I saw Elton John perform on a grand stage somewhere in the heart of the city. We had skins (yeah, skins) filled with apple wine and we danced and laughed with our Spanish comrades to the raucous stylings of my childhood hero. I couldn’t remember ever not knowing Elton John’s music and flashy, dazzling style. I have always been and always will be a huge fan!
So when I received tickets to see Billy Elliot on Broadway as an anniversary gift from my husband, I could not possibly have been more thrilled! Elton John wrote the brilliant score for this incredible show, confirming his extremely high ranking in my heart!

Billy Elliot is an eleven year old boy growing up without his mother during the Northern England coal miners’ strike of the eighties. Against his father and older brother’s wishes, Billy trades his boxing gloves for ballet shoes. We follow Billy while he follows his dreams during this uplifting and inspiring musical.
With all the grit of an English coal mine and all the flamboyance of Sir Elton John himself, Billy Elliot is a delightful roller-coaster ride of dance, drama, and passion! It is riotously loud and heart-achingly tender.
The role of Billy Elliot is so demanding for such a young boy, that the part is actually shared by three gifted stars. Our Billy was played by Kiril Kulish, who is an amazingly talented young actor who has secured his place in history (and my heart) by being one of the original stars of this production. For three hours this adorable and prodigious boy dances his heart out (ballet, tap, contemporary dance), sings, performs gymnastic and aerial feats that leave us awestruck and screaming for more! Together with the charming, gregarious cross-dressing little smart ass, Michael, played in our production by David Bologna, Billy Elliot and the hysterical pack of uncoordinated ballerinas made me laugh and cry and cheer from start to finish.
Yes, it is dancing, and yes, it is a musical, but - to me - Billy Elliot is so much more! It’s rough-and-tumble, spitting, swearing, fighting ... ... ... ... dreaming, believing, struggling and succeeding! If I never see another Broadway production as long as I live, it would be absolutely fine by me because I have already seen the best!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Reader

It seems that lately I have been faced with one sad story after another. In the movies I have seen and the books I have read and in my life overall. So, while I still have a long list of movies I would like to see, I decided instead to read Bernhard Schlink’s “The Reader”.
And it was sad.
The book is divided into three sections, the first being pretty much, well, sex. I don’t know if it was the author’s style or the translation from German to English, but the sex wasn’t erotic or even interesting. It was just a matter-of-fact, statutory rape kind of sex. I found it more than a little unsettling that a thirty-three year old woman would have sex with a 15 year old child, but it was crucial to the story so I forced myself to just get over it.
The second section was the most interesting, philosophically amazing section of this book and, frankly, most other books, as well. The author raised so many questions of morality and responsibility, guilt and absolution. It really forced the reader (and The Reader), to delve into excruciatingly difficult issues. (You will probably change your opinion several times while reading it, as I did.) I didn’t understand the actions of some of the characters and found myself angry and confused. These emotions forced me to think outside my proverbial box and while I appreciated that, I am not sure I came to any exact conclusions ... just more anger and confusion.
The final section was absolutely pure sadness. It made me think of how easily we let life get in the way of living, sometimes, and how past events, large and small, can dramatically affect the entirety of our lives.
This book is horribly sad and, at times, quite disturbing. However, I still recommend reading it. Part of me wants to see the movie now. If Kate Winslet was able to capture this character at all, she truly is amazing and deserves all the recognition she is getting for this role. It must have been so difficult for her to act.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Well, I DID get an A.....

The other day I found a piece of paper tucked inside an old (gulp) library book. I didn't think much of it at the time, but then I started thinking about the games many of us have been playing lately via the internet. 25 Things About Me, for example. I went back to retrieve the paper. That's it! In high school, one teacher gave us an assignment to make a list of things about ourselves. A long list. The next day, we had to turn those same lists into a poem. I totally remember the exercise because it was more challenging than it sounds. When you make a list of things about yourself such as "I like to jog in the morning" and "I like to iron" without knowing you're going to have to turn it into a poem ... well, that's a completely different list than one you would make if you knew the next assignment.
So, I pulled out the paper with my poem and a big, fat, red A on top and had a good chuckle about myself! Here goes my teenaged angst:

Rebecca, Rebecca, why does it seem
That you love to eat and you love to dream
You love to pretend that you're somebody new
You love to count minutes, for minutes are true
You lay there forever and cover your head
Is life that much safer when you're still in your bed
You try to relate to another man's pain
His in the music, yours in the rain
And where does it get you to look at the past
When all you complain is that life is not fast

Rebecca, Rebecca, where will you go
You're looking so fancy but no one will know
You love to go dancing, although you can't dance
And you watch many people - you search for a chance
You think about life as you stare at the sun
Is there something unknown in your cool morning run
You wake very early with a breath of soft air
Your life is a tradewind that doesn't seem fair
So you cover your pain by making them laugh
They think you're together but you feel like you're half

Rebecca, Rebecca, why do you hurt
You iron your life like a wrinkled old shirt
You take off your shoes so you feel like you're free
And you look to the mountains that only you see
Do you feel you must win just to prove who you are
Must you act like a mad one or look like a star
And what makes your fingers dance when you touch
Soft shining hair and puppies and such
Is it some sort of magic that makes your eyes shine
And then in a moment you leave it behind

Rebecca, Rebecca, still you must wait
For letters from lovers, for small twists of fate
You run to new people with secrets to share
Then write out your problems for those who might care
You're made up of ice like the snowmen you love
Yet you melt in the light of a candle above
Some try to reach you - you brush them away
And wonder why no one has something to say
Oh, and you stand there all dressed up in red
Let out your pain, you've got dreams in your head

Two Rivers by t.greenwood

In spite of the overall sadness of this story, I whole-heartedly recommend reading Two Rivers. It's a haunting tale of guilt and grief, success and failure, hope and devastation. The characters are amazingly real and your heart will break for them.... but it will be worth it. I promise.