“You Will Be Found”…Missing Live Theatre

Dear Evan Hansen, rose to fame on Broadway, with some viewers finding it via bootlegs on Youtube. Regardless, audiences have all been captivated by the music, the once in a lifetime talent of Ben Platt, and the story that motivated millions to keep going when life felt unbearable. The show that captivated audiences around the world is now a major motion picture which was released on September 24, 2021.

Dear Evan Hansen follows the tumultuous senior year of Evan Hansen, a young man isolated and crippled by anxiety. Evan’s therapist encourages him to write letters to himself, detailing how Evan will have a “great day.” Evan’s life drastically changes when his letter falls into the hands of a grieving couple who have lost their son to suicide.

The film adaptation begins with Evan singing “Waving Through A Window.” The viewer watches a now 28 year old Ben Platt re-enter the character he originated on Broadway. For staunch supporters of the musical, this beginning will be jarring. The Broadway musical version begins with the song “Does Anybody Have A Map?” The song sets a tone for the show by allowing the audience into the homes of the two families that the story follows. “Does Anybody Have A Map?” has been left out of the film adaptation all together. Amy Adams would have given us a beautiful rendition of the song. Beginning with “Waving Through A Window” will be confusing for anyone who is unfamiliar with the story. It felt like a dramatic Hollywood movie, losing the humble beginning that the audience is comfortable with. 

This review would be incomplete without discussing the masterful performance of Ben Platt. As previously stated, Platt originated the role of Evan for Broadway nearly six years ago. Platt’s voice is incredible and he captures the emotion of the character flawlessly.

However, is he a believable high school senior? Of course not. Platt looks like a 28 year old who is struggling to graduate. As much as we all love Ben Platt, he may have missed “the window” of time where him playing the character is believable. The character of Evan would have benefited from a fresh, new performance. The creators of the film missed an opportunity to cast a new actor. Ben Platt is amazing, but he should pass this role on to someone new. That being said, audiences cannot wait to witness what is next from Platt.

A true standout in Dear Evan Hansen was Kaitlyn Dever as Zoe Murphy. Zoe is a tortured character, trying to mourn the death of her brother whom she believes never truly loved her. Dever’s performance was electric. The speeding car scene (not in the original version) was by far the most memorable of the entire film. Dever’s raw emotion was palpable, the entire theater went silent and simply lived the scene with her. Dever’s singing was impressive, but she was not the strongest vocalist to play Zoe Murphy. 

Dear Evan Hansen missed the mark…slightly. We waited too long for the film adaptation. By the time it got here, we were expecting a film that would have been perfect in 2016. A younger, more relatable Ben Platt. The original broadway cast. Maybe it wasn’t made to be a Hollywood film. There is a vulnerability that comes with a live performance of this show that the actors couldn’t accurately portray on screen.

If you’re a fan of the musical, you should see the film. The “You Will Be Found” scene was beautiful. Listening to Ben Platt sing for two hours is enjoyable any way you can get it. Just remember, if you miss live theatre, you’re not alone. Because it’s the human connection that we miss most of all.  

Lights Out On Golden Hour

Let me set the scene…two lovers ripped right at the seams

The first moments of Star Crossed are a spine tingling indication of what’s to come. What was a peaceful Golden Hour type of love has gone up in smoke. The lights are out. Things aren’t the same, but are they worse? As I dive into Kacey’s heartbreak manifesto for the second time, I’m still not sure. All I know is this era is vivid and haunting. The tracks on the album are unlike anything we’ve heard from her. 

Star Crossed the album and film were released on September 10, 2021. Kacey Musgraves has been teasing new music for the last year following her divorce from former husband, Ruston Kelly. Regarding the split Kacey has said, “it simply didn’t work.” With the release of Star Crossed, Kacey has provided her audience with a front row seat to her healing process. A healing process that has been anything, but linear. The album is seemingly split into three parts. 

The first explains what went wrong. The second track, “Good Wife” details the pressure Kacey felt in her marriage to be everything her ex husband wanted. The wife trope was filled with expectations and drudgery. “Simple Times” is a relatable track with a nostalgic style. Kacey laments about wanting to put everything on pause and “kick it at the mall like there’s nothing wrong.” She sings about wanting a break from expectation just to be with her friends. The other tracks in this first section explain Kacey’s pain and denial about the end of her relationship. 

The second section of the album exhibits all the mid-breakup feelings. That angst from seeing pictures on your phone of memories you’d like to forget (“camera roll”). Those contradicting feelings of lust and disdain (“justified”). One of the most revealing tracks on the album is definitely “breadwinner.” Kacey shares her former husband’’s jealousy of her success over a fun, 90s style dance beat…genius. 

The final section of the album feels the most classic Kacey Musgraves. It’s filled with self-affirming songs and hope for better days to come. Tracks like “keep looking up” and “what doesn’t kill me” encapsulate the good days during a bad year. The second to last track “there is a light” is my personal favorite on the album. The chorus goes, “There is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is a light inside of me.” It is a triumphant ending to the album and a glimpse into what’s to come for Kacey. 

Was this a review or an ode to Kacey Musgraves? You can decide. Either way, Star Crossed is my recommendation for anyone on their own healing journey. There is a light even if you can’t see it right now.  

Why “New Beginnings?”

Homecoming (noun): a return home or an annual alumni celebration at a high school or college. I recently experienced a “homecoming.” However, my version wasn’t planned and certainly did not involve queens, kings, punch, and handmade parade floats. My homecoming was abrupt. The year was 2020 (maybe you’ve heard of it?).  March 9, 2020 to be exact. I was having a disgusting Monday. It was freezing cold and cloudy in Colchester, Vermont. My mouth tasted of chicken patties and stale peppermint tea as I walked to my 11am statistics class. I had just returned from Montreal, Canada and was feeling supremely lost at school. It seemed like everyone around me was having the time of their lives. Partying, posting on social media…partying for an excuse to post. I felt like everyone had great friends and everyone was having fun except for me. For the last couple of weeks, there were rumors about a certain contagious virus sweeping China and parts of Europe. It was that very Monday, on my rainy walk to class, that I first heard about cases in the United States. 

Coronavirus.

Within two days, my college would be closed. My mom rushed to Vermont to help me pack up my tiny dorm room, unsure if I would return to campus in five weeks as planned. News flash, I didn’t. I remained home for the remainder of the spring semester. We were all isolated, forced to learn Zoom: the communication vessel of our discontent. My Monday morning stats class looked less like a class and more like the Brady Bunch opening theme, tiny people in tiny boxes stacked on a screen. 

Amidst all of the chaos, I felt a strange sense of relief. I was free from a situation that was making me miserable. I went for walks with my parents, instead of alone. I ate delicious home cooked food, instead of cold chicken patties. I slowly began to rebuild my life. Surprisingly enough, I began to appreciate my “homecoming.” During that difficult time, I found my voice, and I began to write my thoughts down. 

Since March 2020, I’ve had countless new beginnings. New school, new friends, and a new way of looking at the old stuff. New Beginnings Blog is a combination of creativity, passion, and healing. My words and thoughts live here for your eyes and brains to enjoy. 

New Beginnings (big and small) are possible. My writing reflects that. If your life feels like a rainy walk to statistics class right now, my heart is with you. 

Begin a new chapter or an entirely new book..

Hoop Earrings: Power Through History (July 2021)

Hoops are more than just earrings. They’re a symbol of inner strength and confidence. Hoops can transform one’s mood for the better. Suddenly a simple tee shirt and jeans can turn into a fabulous expression of style. I couldn’t help but wonder, What gives hoops their power? Is it their rich history? Or is it the people who wear them? 

Turns out hoop earrings are one of the oldest fashion trends of humankind. The first hoop earrings originated in 2500 BCE in Nubia, a civilization that we now know as the African nation Sudan. In 1500 BCE, Egyptians sported hoops as a sign of beauty, wealth, and power. Hoops were also worn by Ancient Roman women as a sign of high class luxury. Hoops continued to grow with international trends throughout many decades. They reached prominence in the United States in the late 1800s. 

 During the Roaring 1920s, hoops became crucial in completing a high fashion look. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, hoops were the perfect accessory to compliment a low cut blouse and jeans. Cher and Diana Ross were notorious for wearing large gold hoops on stage in the 1970s. By the 1980s, however, hoops became a symbol of hip hop and rap music. This was a suitable transition because hoops served as a respectful nod to the African and Dominican cultures from which the style of music originated. 

The empowerment that hoop earrings provide is no coincidence. It is through their diverse history that I’ve realized that the wearer holds just as much power as the earring itself does. An influential history has paved the way for us: “The 2021 hoop obsessors of today.” Today’s hoop lovers are wonderfully flawed. We don’t always play by the rules. We are free to create, inspire, and incite change.     

Source:

https://www.romadesignerjewelry.com/blogs/education/a-brief-history-of-hoop-earrings

That Really Good Playlist (April 2020)

I recently read a New York Times article titled, “How to Make the Perfect Playlist.” The writer Tyler Hayes began the piece by stating, “Life is just one playlist away from being perfectly soundtracked.” I absolutely agree. Music can turn any situation into a memorable one. I often remember times in my life based on the album that I was listening to at the time. Kesha gained fame when I was in the third grade. My best friends and I were obsessed with her first album. We had a fully choreographed dance to “Tik Tok.” Luckily, we filmed all of our dance videos on my digital camera, so an 8 year old me will never be seen on the internet. It was because of the music that I have that memory today. Whenever “Tik Tok” comes on my workout playlist, I can’t help but laugh. 

Tyler Hayes goes on to write about how to create the perfect playlist for our different situations in life (read his article after this one). I was inspired to share some of my own tips for creating that really good playlist. You know the one, the playlist that perfectly compliments how you are feeling. I unapologetically have about 15 playlists on my phone and they are always evolving. We all need more than one because you’ll never find me listening to Norah Jones on the treadmill. 

The first thing I always consider is how I want the music to make me feel. Do I want to dance or do I want to cry?? The vibe is crucial because every song on the same playlist should compliment the next. Just like peanut butter and pizza, some songs have flavors that seriously clash. After choosing the perfect vibe, you should consider the following questions: Should the playlist follow a specific sequence? Should it be all old favorites or songs I’ve never heard before? Is this mix personal or for others to enjoy as well? 

After you’ve considered these questions, experiment with different songs and how they sound together. Remember that you can always add to the mix as time goes on or take songs away. Most streaming platforms have a “Discover similar artists” feature, so you can always add to the list. Consider creating a collaborative playlist with friends! 

The possibilities are limitless, but the bottomline is to always have fun when creating a playlist. Allow the music to distract you from life or make you uber focus on an assignment. You’ll know a playlist is a really good one when you’re dancing with your friends like you’re 8 years old again. You should be able to look back and say, “that moment was perfectly soundtracked.” 

Must Watch: Schitt’s Creek (October 2020)

I’m sure many of you saw the headline, “Schitt’s Creek Sweeps 2020 Emmys!” This lesser known Canadian sitcom won every comedy category, including Best Comedy Series.

I don’t typically follow television and movie trends. People are shocked when I say I haven’t seen Game of Thrones or Stranger Things. I have never seen Forrest Gump and you’d have to pay me to watch Dirty Dancing again (sorry!). I used to think the only trendy entertainment that wasn’t overhyped was Hamilton. That was until I watched Schitt’s Creek

Schitt’s Creek is simply THAT GOOD. It is more than a comedy, the characters are compelling and the audience gets the pleasure of watching them evolve on screen. Show writer and actor, Dan Levy describes the show as, “a celebration of love.” I would say he is spot on. 

For those who don’t know, Schitt’s Creek is a sitcom created by father and son, Eugene and Dan Levy. If Eugene Levy sounds familiar to you, you’ve probably seen American Pie or Cheaper By The Dozen 2 (yes, the sequel with Carmen Electra). The father-son duo star in the show alongside Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy (both took home Emmys). Schitt’s Creek follows the wealthy Rose family. Johnny Rose, family patriarch and owner of Rose Video gets himself into a bad deal financially and loses all of his wealth. Johnny, his wife Moira, and their two adult children are forced to leave their glamorous lives and move to “Schitt’s Creek”, a town that Johnny bought as a joke 20 years earlier. The town is for all intents and purposes, a shit hole, so the name is fitting. The show begins with the Rose family’s hilarious attempt to acclimate to their new home, an abandoned motel. However, as the show progresses, the family meets some wonderful people in “Schitt’s Creek” and their characters begin to recognize the value in their relationships. 

This show makes my day every time I watch it. It is funny, clever, and at times emotional. I must confess that I binged all of it in quarantine on Netflix. In order not to spoil the entire plot, here are 2 reasons why you should binge watch Schitt’s Creek right now. 

  1. The writing and the characters are seriously hilarious. Each member of the Rose family has countless, quotable one liners. Dan Levy took a run of the mill riches to rags story and gave it perfectly timed comedic elements. My mom, my step dad, and I all watch it together. All of us are laughing our asses off. By the end of season 5, I could do impressions of all of the characters, so I gained a party trick from watching Schitt’s Creek as well. Schitt’s Creek is the perfect escape from the stress of our lives. Life doesn’t get much better than laughing for 25+ minutes a day. 
  2. This show is beautifully inclusive and celebrates the best values. David Rose, played by Dan Levy, is openly pansexual. His sexual orientation is never addressed on the show as something unusual or controversial. His sexual orientation is never a storyline. His family and the community around him are accepting. David is an eccentric character. His humor and heart for other people are the most important things about him. Schitt’s Creek features people of color and LGBTQ+ actors. This show encapsulates acceptance and inclusivity that the media needs a lot more of these days. 

Schitt’s Creek is truly a celebration of love. The actors are real life family and friends, their love for each other is palpable through the screen. So, yes, Schitt’s Creek certainly deserved all those Emmys. Watch it on Netflix or Pop TV…thank me later!

Hannah Montana’s 44 Year Old Brother and Other Musings (March 2021)

I recently learned that Jason Earles is 44 years old. Jason Earles is the actor who played Miley/Hannah’s brother Jackson on Hannah Montana. Hannah Montana premiered on Disney Channel in 2006. This means that Jason Earles was a 28 year old man playing a 16 year old kid for money. Not to mention, he had a wife at the time! He had probably already utilized a car rental service and been summoned for jury duty by that point. The viewers of the show hadn’t yet hit puberty.

Jason’s story struck me for several reasons. The first being that it’s funny af. Secondly, I began thinking about the concept of success. We’ve all heard the phrase: fake it till you make it! If you want that promotion, that grade, that parking spot, the first step is believing you can have those things. Jason Earles actually did that. He dressed like an early 2000s teenager. He acted the way teenagers on Disney Channel act. I added “on Disney Channel” to my previous statement because I acknowledge that teens on Disney are nothing like real life teens. Disney teens wouldn’t last a day in real high school. Can you imagine Billy Ray Cyrus filling out a FAFSA? Anyways, the point I’m trying to make is we believed Jason Earles was 16. He was really a 28 year old actor (with a sh*tty manager if Hannah Montana was his only notable gig). Jason Earles taught me that the key to success isn’t changing who you are. It’s just believing you can be something and being so damn believable that other people believe it too. I believe I can achieve my goals and be successful. So, I’m gonna take a lesson out of Jason Earles’ playbook. I’m gonna believe in myself, so other people will believe it too. Who knows maybe one day I’ll be watching my glory days on Disney + with wife number two, just like my pal Jason. 

Fierce Femininity (March 2021)

When someone says the word ‘feminine’ to you, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Do you think of makeup? High heels? Dolly Parton’s illustrious career? Well, what if I told you that all of those answers are right and all of those answers are wrong…This is because femininity cannot be defined in a word, phrase, or country love song. Femininity is unique and exists in all of us. Dictionary.com tells us that “femininity is the quality or nature of the female sex.” I wholeheartedly disagree. If that definition was accurate, then all females would be feminine and that is not the case. Femininity transcends gender. It is simply a quality that the soul emanates. So if femininity has nothing to do with sex or gender, what is it? It manifests in kindness and strength. Confidence, passion, and determination can all be uniquely feminine qualities. It manifests in walking into a board room and giving the best damn presentation your colleagues have ever seen. It’s standing up for a friend when you know there is a lot at stake if you do. It is more than hair, clothes, and shoes. 

You might be thinking, Abb, I thought femininity was submissive and modest? As I expressed earlier, femininity is unique to the individual, so for some people those qualities might be applicable. I really dislike the definition we’re given in Merriam Webster, as it leads us to believe that femininity is innately weak. That if you wear heels or a skirt to a meeting, you are suddenly stripped of your validity in the office. That’s why I wanted to explain the power that femininity holds, what makes it fierce. Femininity is fierce. It’s saying “I like to wear nailpolish and I’m a confident, strong college student.” It’s saying, “the way I dress has nothing to do with my intelligence and experience.” Just take a note from Dolly’s playbook. She has been equal parts singer-songwriter, business woman, and beauty queen for 50 years. Just think if Dolly held back her femininity to be “taken seriously.” She has been successful because she has always been herself. The same goes for icons such as, RuPaul, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Rihanna. None of them would be here without channeling their fierce femininity. Don’t be afraid to channel your own fierceness. Take the risk, take a stand, and when in doubt, belt out “9 to 5” in the car. Just don’t underestimate the power your femininity holds and how far you can go by being yourself. 

Must Watch: Demi Lovato, Dancing with the Devil (April 2021)

Content Advisory Warning: This article contains language regarding substance abuse and addiction.

“FYI, I’m just gonna say it all.” These were the first words uttered by singer-songwriter Demi Lovato in their four part documentary series, Dancing With The Devil. To the viewer, it seemed like Demi held nothing back. I have chills thinking about what more information they could have shared, but kept hidden. The series was released in late March 2021 after filming in Spring 2020, during lockdown. Demi tells a detailed account of their July 2018 heroin overdose, which nearly ended their life. Demi’s former assistant, body guards, friends, and family shared their own testimonies. Everything I thought I knew about Demi Lovato was tested upon watching Dancing With The Devil. Demi was more honest than I expected and more resilient than anyone ever knew. 

During Spring of 2018, Demi Lovato was touring the U.S. for their sold out Tell Me You Love Me Tour. Demi’s album had multiple hit songs. To the public, Demi appeared to be at the peak of their career. To millions of people, they were not only a popular musician, they were an activist. They were 6 years sober, an inspiration for those battling addiction and mental health struggles. Then, on June 21, 2018, Demi released a new single, “Sober.” Demi revealed publicly that they were no longer sober from drugs and alcohol. Demi explained in Dancing With The Devil that their former drug cocktail was Xanax and cocaine. When Demi relapsed, their dealer convinced them to try heroin and crack. One month after releasing “Sober,” Demi overdosed in their home, and the world was stunned. 

I won’t tell Demi’s story verbatim here. I could never do it justice. I do, however, want to share some of my thoughts about Dancing With The Devil. 

The series was raw and true. It was innately human. It was heartbreaking to hear testimonies from Demi’s family and friends. They were truly expecting them to die. I was inspired by their loyalty to Demi. Every person in the series stated that they would never give up on Demi; I could feel the emotion through the computer screen. I subsequently felt grateful for my own loyal support systems. 

  Demi Lovato is a creator of brilliant music. Their voice moves me now, like it did in 2009. Since watching Dancing With The Devil, I have been listening to their new album by the same name. In more ways than one, music heals. I am relieved that Demi still desires to share their gift with the world, after overcoming years of trauma. I hope Demi is proud of their new music because it is their most triumphant yet. 

Demi Lovato never signed up to be idolized. They never wanted to be the poster child for sobriety. Demi formerly lived a life that was out of their control. Their story is a bleak reminder that celebrities are still human. We hold our “favorite people” to insurmountable standards of beauty, class, and talent. We are trying to mold real people into a perfect image that to any “normal person” would be unattainable. We must encourage our favorite stars to burn bright, not burn out. Because even fame and money cannot help people do better. We must help each other do better.  

Navigating “Social Distancing” (March 2020)

COVID-19 is obviously terrifying. 

There are endless unanswered questions. In the attempt to keep the virus from rapidly spreading, the CDC has encouraged us all to practice “social distancing.” This means limiting our social interaction by staying home and not going to see people. What a heartbreaking time for this madness! We have all just arrived home for spring break, the first thing we want to do is see our family and friends. We all have mental lists of our favorite hometown restaurants, movie theaters, and shops. Now, many of those locations are closed down, leaving us inside our homes alone. This is the worst time for so-called social distancing. However, our safety and the safety of others should certainly be the priority. 

So, I guess my question is: how do we stay connected while social distancing?

My immediate thought is to Facetime and call everyone! Keep up the communication as much as possible. Call your friends who live across the country or one street over…it doesn’t matter. It is especially imperative to call older relatives who were expecting a spring break visit. It may not be quite as wonderful as seeing your grandparents, best friend, coworker etc in person, but it is so much better than nothing.

The second less obvious thing I thought of is to walk outside. If the condition in your area is really severe, this might mean going into your front lawn. However, if you are able, take a walk around your neighborhood. Simply, wave to someone passing by in their car or walking outside. This may seem extremely odd, but that brief interaction with a neighbor, aquantaintance, or stranger is meaningful. Getting outside is positively impactful for one’s mental health regardless, so if this is a possibility for you, take it. 

If going outside is not an option for you, challenge your immediate family to a round of competitive board games. My mom and I are Jenga fans, but it can be anything. Watching a movie with a sibling may seem like nothing, but that is a meaningful connection with another human being that is so necessary right now. 

We are never alone in scary times like these. Reach out to everyone and make meaningful connections. Use technology and social media as a tool when face to face communication is not an option. 

Love is boundless and can exceed “social distancing.” So, please keep connecting with those you love and who love you.