BWW Reviews: Fantasies Come True! Avenue Q is BACK at Austin Theatre Project

Below is a review of Broadway Across Austin’s production of Avenue Q at Ground Floor Theater, presented by Austin Theatre Project (February 15, 2015). Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com.

I’ve seen three productions of Avenue Q in my life, all of them ranging from the Broadway national tour to a local community theater performance, to Sunday’s matinee performed by the Austin Theatre Project. Bottom line: Avenue Q smart, funny, and relatable show. It’s crude, sometimes a bit cringe-worthy, but simultaneously downright hilarious. Throw in an equally humorous and catchy soundtrack, and it’s no wonder the show won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical (beating Wicked, mind you).

Avenue Q follows Princeton (Isaac Arrieta)- a fresh-faced, right-out-college English major with a small bank balance but big dreams. Looking his purpose, he moves to the somewhat run-down but lovable Avenue Q, where he befriends superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman, played by Michelle Alexander), Christmas Eve (June Julian), an Asian American trying to make it as a therapist, her fiancé Brian (R. Michael Clinkscales), a wannabe comedian, love interest Kate Monster (Marett Hanes), a Kindergarten teaching assistant, Nicky (Eric Meo) and Rod (Matthew Charles Burnett), the Bert and Ernie equivalent of the block, and Trekkie Monster (Eric Meo), whose one and only hobby is…well…porn. Together, they learn that life can suck sometimes; everyone’s a little bit racist; and sometimes you just wish you could go back to college. Think of it as a raunchier, adult version of Sesame Street.

The challenge of performing Avenue Q is no easy feat. Despite the show’s intricate use of puppets, correct timing and delivery of humor, relatability of the characters needed to make the show a success, it’s a show that, surprisingly, is being more and more frequently performed. Austin Theatre Project has quickly jumped on that bandwagon; having originally performed the show back in 2013 to rave reviews and local Austin theatre awards. Reassembling the majority of the cast, adding a few new faces, and changing venues, the company remounted their award-winning production for a second run.

Despite ATP’s daunting, somewhat intimidating performance space (a theater nestled inside a legitimate warehouse off of Airport Blvd. and Springdale Road- allow time to get there, you’ll get lost), the production is an impressive one. With hardly a weak link in the company, the story is just as memorable, funny, and relatable as the version I saw on the Broadway stage. Specifically, Hanes’ Kate Monster shines. She plays the lovable, yet soft-spoken monster with the perfect amount of self-doubt, strength, and kindness- making her an audience favorite. Burnett’s Rod also stands out as the unintentionally hilarious, stuck-in-the-closet, uptight roommate Rod. Julian, while funny and memorable in her role, is clearly more of an opera singer, and the more casual, showtune style of the musical’s repertoire wasn’t a perfect fit her voice. Burnett and Laura Galt’s Bad Idea Bears, however, make the show. Their hilarity, chemistry with the other characters and with each other, in addition to their impeccable timing and- for lack of a better word- adorableness, really steal the spotlight.

The set, while a bit simple and somewhat lacking, gets the job done. The live orchestra (though unseen) did a phenomenal job, and the technical aspect (specifically, a television that sporadically played cartoon clips a la Sesame Street to teach lessons and add to the plot) went off without a (noticeable) hitch). The choreography, as well, added to the production and was very well thought out and executed- especially when considering the puppetry involved.

For any fan of Avenue Q, Broadway musicals, or just comedy in general, Austin Theatre Project’s production does not disappoint. ATP pulls of yet again a successful mounting of the Broadway favorite, with brilliant direction, a talented and energetic cast, a live orchestra, and an obvious love of theatre throughout clearly being the reason why. The term don’t judge a book by its cover comes to mind, because inside the somewhat dark, cold, and hard-to-locate warehouse off Airport Blvd. is a little gem of Broadway magic. The house music (composed of School House Rock, Sesame Street, and more) may drive you a bit insane, though.

Avenue Q plays at the Ground Floor Theater, 979 Springdale Road, Austin, TX 78702, and runs through March 8th. For tickets, visit austintheatreproject.org.

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BWW Reviews: Here I Go Again! MAMMA MIA! is Still Irresistible

In case you don’t follow the obnoxious, self-promoting tweets and Facebook posts I make regarding my moonlighting as a BroadwayWorld.com reviewer, it is, in fact, one of the many grown-up endeavors I have taken on (ahem…and also, a way to see great theater free of charge). My reviews can be found at BroadwayWorld.com, but I will also start posting them here!

Below is a review of Broadway Across Austin’s production of Mamma Mia! at Bass Concert Hall (January 21, 2015). Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com.

“Mamma Mia- here I go again” weren’t just familiar song lyrics I was thinking of when I walked into Bass Concert Hall Tuesday night. No, it was also literal thinking going through my head. Why? The opening night of Broadway in Austin’s Mamma Mia! was my fifth time seeing the production. From seeing the first national tour back in 2002, to the dragging my dad to the production in Las Vegas, to seeing it twice more through Broadway Across America Houston before sitting in the audience at Bass, here I go again may have been the understatement of the evening.

A jukebox musical based on the songs of ABBA, Mamma Mia! tells the story of Donna Sheridan- a single, perhaps overworked mother living on an island in Greece with her soon-to-be-married 20 year old daughter, Sophie. Desperate to find out which one of three possible dads is her own, Sophie invites all three to her wedding (unbeknownst to her mother). What follow are 2 and a half hour of what can only be described as a party. Known and loved chart toppers, impressive and comical choreography, and endearing characters are the reason the musical, after literally dozens of international engagement, an impressive 15-year Broadway run, and a Hollywood motion picture, keeps drawing audience members (myself included) back.

While the more snobbish Broadway crowd may slam the musical for its lighthearted, admittedly obtuse storyline and its somewhat underdeveloped characters (Jersey Boys it is not, think Rock of Ages), I (an avid Broadway fan myself), can’t name one time out of my five that I haven’t laughed, sang along, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Understudy Rebecca Mason-Wygal successfully pulled off the stubborn, headstrong Donna Sheridan. While her notable vocals took a bit of the evening to fully make themselves memorable (numbers like Money Money Moneyand Super Trouper paled in comparison to her impressive rendition of the second act’s The Winner Takes it All), her relatable approach to the comical, yet often stand-offish character complimented the absolute joy that was Chelsea Williams’ Sophie. Williams easily made the audience fall in love with her (not that Thank You for the Music and Under Attack hurt her case), with my only major critique being her comedic timing. Mason-Wygal and Williams gave a lovable performance as the mother-daughter pair.

The dynamic between the three fathers, Mark Harmon (Harry Bright), Michael Colavolpe (Bill Austin), and Jeff Drushal (Sam Carmichael) was a thrill to watch onstage. Their effortless chemistry made for gratifying scenes (both dramatic and emotional) and even more delightful musical numbers, both between the three of them and with other members of the cast. Sarah Smith’s Rosie and Bailey Purvis’ Tanya, however, deserve their own standing ovation (which they did in fact receive). Both women’s impeccable comedic timing and fleshed out characters made them the hit of the evening. While I worried at first that Purvis may be a bit young to play the older, more matured Tanya (her credits include Elle in Legally Blonde and Skylar in Bring it On), she nailed it. As cliché as it may sound, Purvis and Smith made the audience have fun because they were having fun.

In one word, Anthony Van Laast’s choreography is fun. From hopping scuba divers, to retro 70s Dancing Queendisco, it doesn’t take itself too serious, but requires a lot of energy. The energy in Donna and the Dynamo’s Dancing Queen, however, an arguably pivotal number, unfortunately slacked. Whether it be energy or technique, the number didn’t exactly wow the way I’m used to- though the audience ate it up. In terms of Lay All Your Love on Me, Does Your Mother Know, and Voulez-Vous– the cast rocked it, and the party continued.

The bottom line? Mamma Mia! was and still is one of Broadway’s biggest parties (I may be stealing from Rock of Ages’ marketing team on that one, but it’s nonetheless true). Of course I’m going over it with a fine tooth comb; I’m a Broadway fanatic who has seen the show a total of 5 times now, I’m allowing myself to be a little picky. However, did I leave just as excited and satisfied as I have in the past? Absolutely. If you have the time, whether you’re seeing it for the first time now or are a tired fan, get to Bass Concert Hall this week and treat yourself (and if you’ve only seen the movie, please run to Bass and rectify that for the better).

Mamma Mia! plays Bass Concert Hall as part of Cadillac’s Broadway in Austin Series January 20-25. For tickets and information, visit http://www.texasperformingarts.org.

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Thankfully, INTO THE WOODS Leaves Little to be *Wished* For

Specific movie plot spoilers are marked, so if you already know the musical (or simply don’t care), it’s safe to read .

“I wish,” the (arguable) theme throughout Stephen Sondheim’s classic musical Into the Woods, was the one thing not muttered by the audience of the pre-screening I attended Monday night, December 8th. Why? The Tony-winning Broadway show turned Disney motion picture left little to be desired- much to my (pleasant) surprise. The Long Center, in partnership with Moroch Entertainment and Regal Cinemas, partnered up to host an exclusive pre (and when I say pre I mean pre…this screening was held the same night as the world premiere in New York. We saw the film the same night as the cast did) screening. And, like I said, as the credits rolled, I didn’t wish for much else.

Set against the backdrop of “once upon a time…” Into the Woods dares to tell us what happens to our favorite storybook characters after the alleged “happily ever after.” Narrated by the Baker (a slight change from the original stage show, but one that works given the format of film and the decision to not break the fourth wall), the musicals follows the lives of the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt), who long for a child, Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), who wishes to go to the ball (against the orders of her stepmother (Christine Baranski) and evil stepsisters (Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard)), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), on her way to Grandmother’s, and young Jack (Les Miz’s Daniel Huttlestone) and his mother (Tracy Ullman), scraping by on little to nothing as Jack sets out to sell his cow and best friend, Milky White. After reliving the fairy tales we know so well, Cinderella, Jack (as in the Beanstalk), the Witch (Meryl Streep), and Little Red Riding Hood are forced to team up and face their fears when a giant threatens to destroy their village. There, however, is where my plot spoilers end, simply because those who know and love the musical already know it, and those who don’t (I’m assuming) would like to be surprised.

With most movie musicals, especially for fans of the Broadway production, there are usually two prime concerns going into the theatre. These consist of a) How much of the story was changed? and b) Are the actors capable of playing the roles to their full potential Can they sing (Here’s looking at you, Russell Crowe)? Thankfully, with Into the Woods, I worried for nothing on both accounts.

The cast brings together several Hollywood A-listers who, thankfully, have both the name to carry the film and the talent to play their parts spectacularly. And then, to add to the dynamic company, Disney had the obvious yet brilliant idea to round out the cast with Broadway vets (Annie’s Lilla Crawford, Next to Normal’s MacKenzie Mauzy (Rapunzel), and Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike’s Billy Magnussen (Rapunzel’s Prince)), all of whom, as expected, were perfectly cast.

The biggest surprise of the evening was Emily Blunt’s Baker’s Wife. That girl has some extremely impressive pipes, and I’m shocked and a bit upset I’ve never heard her sing before. She took a leading role in her first movie musical and knocked it out of the part, and any die hard Into the Woods fan will tell you the same. Anna Kendrick, of course, was fantastic as always. She needs to make the move back to Broadway as soon as possible, or at the very least, have a lead role in every single movie musical from now until eternity. It was a breath of fresh air to see her subtle sass and spunk brought to the character of Cinderella, with a phenomenal voice to match.

Chris Pine (Cinderella’s Prince), the furthest thing from musical theatre you would ever imagine, played a humorous prince. His Agony duet with Magnussen by far brought the biggest laugh from the audience, relying on physical humor and entertaining choreography, and even garnering auditorium-full applause. The arguable throwaway in the stage show was transformed into one of the most entertaining numbers of the night.

Meryl Streep, whose less-than-decent vocals in Mamma Mia! gave me- and I’m sure others- a bit of apprehension, pulled off the Witch much better than expected. Whether better editing, singing lessons, or just general improvement, she performed “Stay With Me and “Last Midnight with ease and obvious talent. Her acting, of course, was on point (never a concern). Into the Woods fans? You have little to worry about over casting. I literally cannot find a weak link in this company. Perhaps when I see it again Christmas Day I’ll be down from my pre-screening high and can provide a more critical update (but hopefully not).

Given that this musical, known for its darker elements, was being produced by wholesome Disney, the plot gave me cause for concern as well. As early as June, fans were up in arms about “Any Moment” potentially being cut, and several characters living when, in reality, they meet their doom. Call it the crazy power of the internet, the anxiousness of die hard fans, whatever…(most of) the worrying was for naught. SPOILER ALERT! The wolf’s (Johnny Depp) “Hello, Little Girl, while not blatantly sexual, can certainly be conceived as so. The Baker’s Wife most definitely has an affair with Cinderella prince (well…it shows them kissing, but us musical fans are more than able to assume what else goes on when the camera pans away), and, immediately after, she dies (albeit from falling off a cliff and not from the Giant squishing her like a bug, but I’ll take what I can get). The one issue I had over and over during the second half of the film was that every single death was done extremely subtly. If I hadn’t had known Jack’s mother died onstage, her death resembled more of a ladylike faint. It took the Baker telling Jack is mother had died for it to really resonate. Same for the Baker’s Wife. One moment you see her let go of the tree she’s holding onto for dear life (you don’t see her fall, it cuts to next scene). Only once Jack tells the Baker he saw his wife at the bottom of a cliff does it sink it. I can only assume this is Disney putting their family-friendly spin on it. While I understand the importance of maintaining the Disney name, garnering a PG rating, and exposing the musical to as many people as possible, I feel as if even this minor change tarnished the story a bit. It, by no means, ruined the movie for me. At this point I’m looking for a critique, and this was definitely one of them. Rapunzel, whose entire storyline onstage revolves around her disobeying her mother and being killed because of it, does not happen. She, instead, happily rides off with her prince into the sunset, causing (for some reason) the Witch to sing an emotional Children Will Listen. The song clearly doesn’t weigh as much emotionally onscreen as onstage, for this very reason. At least 3 characters die in the movie, adding one more, whose entire character arc (and her mother’s) pretty much depends on her death would have satisfied fans, improved the film, and just made much more, obvious sense.

Cutting numbers is understandable to fit the run time of a film, and, given that the film did not break the fourth wall, it’s even more understandable. SPOILER ALERT However, the one change that really irked me was the cutting of the finale. While somewhat present, the song ends after the Witch’s reprise of Children Will Listen before cutting to the credits, at which point we hear the rest of the finale number as the credits roll. I think it would have been beneficial to the film, and satisfying to fans, to have the dead characters reappear (in true movie magic fashion, the way they perfectly created the final scene between the Baker and his Wife), or at the very least, have the remaining living characters sing it. It exists, true, and this may be more of a “pick your battles” criticism, but as the screen went dark after Children Will Listen I had the only agape (with confusion) mouth of the night. The move had some obvious holes, but I guess the slotted spoon does catch the potato (see what I did there?).

The energy in the theater was contagious. Call it excitement over being at an early pre-screening, or even just seeing the characters we know and love onscreen for the first time (trust me, the energy is just as present at Twilight and Hunger Games midnight premieres)…but it was definitely there. Applause after several musical numbers and consistent laughs, sighs, and gasps throughout made the movie an interactive experience, much like the stage show. However, I was also at a pre-screening, meaning it’s safe to assume the majority of audience members were original Broadway production fans or, at the very least, knowledgeable of the original musical. That being said, something tells me the reaction will be similar once I see it Christmas Day, and once not-so-die-hard musical theatre fans see it, appreciate it, and fall in love with musical theatre. I’m not one to (usually) rip movie musicals to shreds, even with its flaws, even Sound of Music Live! got people interested in musicals and live theatre. Thankfully, however, Disney took something magical and, with a star-studded (and talented) cast, a pretty true-to-book script, and beautiful cinematography and orchestrations, simply moved the magic from the Broadway house to the cinema auditorium. And it’s hard to wish for more than that.

-Wendi

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That Time Neil Patrick Harris High-Fived Me

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Alright, I’ll admit it: adult life has hit full force and my blogging (or lack thereof) has fallen a bit to the wayside. Because, my dear friends who are still living the fantastic life known as college, my day pretty much includes work, possibly working out, making dinner, and sleeping. Exciting, huh? Don’t worry; I’m not going to pull a “work life is hard” again…probably.

What I am going to do is relive a very exciting evening for this Broadway fangirl last night- when I met the Neil Patrick Harris. Tony winner, television star, future Oscar host…yeah, that Neil Patrick Harris. And it was legen…wait for it…dary. And then some. Yes, it was probably the quickest book signing/ pseudo meet and greet EVER, and yes, I was fangirling probably way too hard. No shame, y’all.

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Neil just released an autobiography entitled Choose Your Own Autobiography (which, by the way, I am very excited to read…and only a bit deterred that it’s the first book in a year I won’t be reading on my Kindle- technology, guys). After seeing a tweet that he was going on a cross-county book signing tour, naturally my next step was to anxiously scour the internet, fangirl over his coming to Austin, and purchase my ticket to see him in the flesh at the local bookstore Bookpeople (which I had never actually been to, but after stepping inside have realized it’s pretty much an avid reader’s dream).

Being a grown up, I couldn’t get in line for this 7:00 event until around 6:15. As someone who has frequented Twilight (not proudly), Divergent, and Hunger Games midnight premieres, stood in line for the famous Franklin’s Barbeque here in Austin, and rushed Broadway shows for an entire summer, I thought I had seen some pretty intense lines. I was wrong. 45 minutes before the event started, the line wrapped around the store, the building, and the entire shopping center. People had been there since 2:00 pm. Keep in mind this was a ticketed event; every single person with a ticket was guaranteed entry into the event. And people still thought it necessary to get there 5 hours beforehand. At least I wasn’t the craziest fangirl there. I did see a lot of Hedwig playbills (in addition to my own), that, sadly, were not allowed to be signed. The Broadway fans though were a nice reassurance that everyone wasn’t there to simply meet Barney Stinson (though of course that was exciting, as well).

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At around 7:45, we made it into the building. Of course, the last 20 minutes or so weren’t as boring, as I was jamming along to the Hedwig tribute band while onlookers looked in confusion and asked what kind of band it was. No shame.

I had never been to a Bookpeople signing before, but damn that place is a well-oiled machine. After reaching the entry checkpoint, a certain number of us were ushered up the stairs to level #2, where an attendant took our names down on a post it and gave it to us to hold. Then, at the level #3 checkpoint, we would slap the post-it onto our book So Neil would know for whom to personalize the book. With over 600 tickets sold, I guess these people know what they’re doing.

Even though I’m clearly not, I like to think I’m an expert on meeting celebrities. I stood in line to meet the Glee cast back in 2010, I got a picture with Cory Monteith a couple of years later, I met Jimmy Kimmel during my internship last spring, and I’ve stood by countless stage doors garnering signed Playbills and harassing my dad to “make it a good picture because we only have one shot!” Of course, the no posed photos rules threw a bit of a wrench in my master plan (“Hey, can you hold my phone and take a picture of us as he’s signing my book?”), Which brings me to an important point- make friends in line. We were waiting for two hours; some awkward small talk is a bit inevitable. Be nice, fangirl (not too much- don’t freak them out) a little, and secure a photo-taker. How else would my high-five with NPH himself have been documented?

After telling him what an adorable family he had (truth), eliciting a small laugh (of course I died) and requesting- and getting- a high five, I left with a personalized copy of the book I cannot wait to read, and the opportunity to cross off meeting one of my favorite celebrities and biggest celebrity crush (DON’T SAY IT! I KNOW!) off my bucket list.

As for my Playbill? I guess I’m stuck with it just being signed by the not-at-all talented, lowly Andrew Rannells.

Sarcasm, ya’ll. He’s awesome too.

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-Wendi

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Six Inches Forward and Holding Nothing Back: Why HEDWIG is My New Favorite

I would like to preface by saying that this is not a review. Reviews are balanced, constructive, and unbiased. This is none of those things. This is my extremely unbalanced account of how I completely fell in love with Hedwig and the Angry Inch (and Andrew Rannells’ flawless portrayal of the title character) at the Belasco Theater last night.

Oh, and also, no matter what I say, I still love Neil Patrick Harris always and forever. Okay, let’s go.

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When I first heard the news that Neil Patrick Harris would be headlining a Broadway revival of Hedwig and the Angry Inch (almost a year ago, sitting in the Broadway.com office), I knew I would have to see it. Because of its cult following? No. Because of the acclaimed music and book Obviously false. Because of the way it has exploded across the world, played to thousands of different audiences, and even become a feature film?? Of course not.

Because my Hollywood crush, Mr. Neil Patrick Harris (don’t even mention his sexual preference to me…I (begrudgingly) already know) was starring.

Fast forward a year later- to my graduation present/ sisters’ weekend/ Broadway trip to NYC. On the roster? A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder (2014 Best Musical- self explanatory), Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Pippin (at sister’s request, although I won’t complain about a shirtless Kyle Dean Massey and getting to see Rachel Bay Jones’ hilarious performance all over again), and Hedwig and the Angry Inch…starring Broadway veteran and Girls star Andrew Rannells. Granted, I knew about this casting change back when I bought the tickets (Neil’s Tony performance of Sugar Daddy got me on the “see it not just for NPH but for the integrity of the show” bandwagon), but sitting in our seats at the Belasco Theater, I couldn’t help but wish we’d been there a few weeks before to see the Tony winner and How I Met Your Mother star in the flesh instead.

Well, that thinking went completely out the window maybe 30 seconds into Rannells’ rendition of “Tear Me Down.”

I saw Rannells as Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys back in the day, and I saw him slay the role of Elder Price in The Book of Mormon. I knew he was talented. I didn’t know he was a freaking ROCK STAR. I am not at all ashamed to question if Rannells’ performance rivaled Neil Patrick Harris’. That- I’m telling you- is how phenomenal it was.

What begins as a C-list concert- set in the Belasco Theater (the previous home of immense failure The Hurt Locker: The Musical- with its set still in tact)- right outside internationally famous Tommy Gnosis’ sold out concert- quickly, and undeniably enjoyably- turns into the hilarious, entertaining, and moving story of Hedwig.

Set amongst catchy and extremely well-written numbers such as “Sugar Daddy” (YouTube Neil’s Tony Award performance for that one- actually- I’ll just put it below. You’re welcome), “Angry Inch”, and “Wig in a Box”, Hedwig tells the audience the story of his life.

With a perfect combination of wit, irony, and sass, the audience learns of Hedwig’s- formerly Hansel’s- journey of love, heartbreak, and music. A “slip of a girly boy” born in East Berlin to a single mother, Hedwig suffered a botched sex change operation (hence, the Angry Inch) whilst attempting to escape to America with husband, U.S. soldier Luther. Once that relationship fails (Luther leaves him on their first wedding anniversary), Hedwig meets aspiring musician, looking-for-the-meaning-of-life, lost boy Tommy. Together, the two write songs and fall in love- Hedwig believing Tommy is his fated “other half,” until confusion, embarrassment, fame, not to mention the Angry Inch, chase Tommy away.

Oh, did I mention this is pretty much a two person show? Yet Rannells himself makes Hedwig’s story comes alive more vividly than a thirty-piece company could.

Now, amongst husband Yitzchak (played by Tony winner Lena Hall) and his five-piece band, Hedwig performs a one night only set, accompanied by this ongoing monologue.

What would seem- at least in the synopsis- as a cold, depressing story, is absolutely anything but. John Cameron Mitchell’s hilarious (I wish there was a word that meant funnier than hilarious), literally laugh-out-loud script, Stephen Trask’s catchy, memorable, and upbeat score, and Rannells heart, energy, improv, and obvious passion and love for both his character and this show, made me wishing an hour and a half was much, much longer.

Now, with the soundtrack sitting on my iPhone (and fated to be played on loop for at least the next few weeks, I’m sure), I’m literally looking at my signed Playbill right now wishing I could see it again. Well this is anything but your typical, run of the mill, ensemble musical (and for the immature, faint of heart and those who cringe and the mention of a curse word or a sexual reference- run the other direction), it is without a doubt one of the most impressive and animated nights on Broadway you will have. Andrew Rannells is a revelation- if it were possible to give Tony Awards to replacements; he’d without a doubt take home the prize. Making the audience fall in love with a book or a score is the easy part- it speaks for itself. Making the audience fall in love with a character, with all of his or her flaws, is a bit harder. Rannells makes it look easy.

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Rannells received a packed, warm welcome at the stage door probably rivaling Neil Patrick Harris’ stage door experience- and one just as deserved. If this story about staying true to yourself and chasing your dreams taught me absolutely anything last night, it’s that Rannells needs to keep doing exactly what he was born to do- gracing the Broadway stage…preferably as Hedwig.

Here’s hoping this musical gets an extension- so I can go and see it again.

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The Real World: Austin (Minus the Drinking, Partying, and Pretty Much Everything Else)

“I’m in this weird place because I went from being around all my friends all the time to working 9-5 and being tired everyday and having zero social life.”

This statement is usually met with a small laugh, a not so subtle eye roll, or a hearty “welcome to the real world!”

Speaking of, I’ve officially been in the so-called “real world” for a month now. And it is an awkward, adjustment-required place. I’ve traded pregaming for early bedtimes, late night Whataburger for early evening lunch packing, sorority tanks and Nike shorts for pencil skirts and blazers (though, if I’m being honest, the sorostitute getup makes a return appearance everyday after 5 PM).

So far, I’ve hit almost every cliché in the book. I’ve scoffed and/or laugh at a paycheck I initially thought was great but that ended up going towards more taxes than I ever thought possible. I’ve naively apartment hunted, underestimated my budget, abandoned every intention of trying to be social and/or fit by crashing at 8:00 pm, and I’ve milked Dad’s payroll for about as long as I’ve can.

When I was younger and wanted to do something, buy something, or experience something that was dangerous, inappropriate, or just against my mother’s wishes, I was greeted with ever-popular phrase, “Well, when you are working and paying for things yourself, you can do that.” Working and paying for things yourself always sounded a mystical, far-away time that was talked about but that I would never actually experience.

And BAM- here I am, looking at my checking account, ready to turn back time and follow every single one of mom’s rules in exchange for some of that cold hard cash.

Alright, so I’m a bit overdramatic. Maybe even a tad (tad) on the bratty and spoiled side. Honestly, the idea that I’m a real-life, working and functioning adult is still a bit lost on me. I’m half convinced (and half wishing) that come August I’ll be reunited with my friends and resume a life of minimal studying and maximum fun. Instead, I’m fully convinced that come August I’ll be moved in to my new “big girl” apartment, living off my own, hard-earned paycheck, and trying to balance working out, having a social life, and sleeping all among a 40 hour work week.

No matter how many Buzzfeed quizzes I take that tell me otherwise, vent sessions I have with my family about this newfound traffic, or 8:00 PM bedtimes I welcome; I am a grown up. I have more freedom than I will ever have, I’m completely and utterly in charge of what I do, what I buy, and where I go, I have full support of my parents and sister (who, by the way, I will finally have in the same city as me (read: blessing for me, curse for her)), and I’m in the place I’ve been preparing for for the past 22 years.

And despite the shock, THAT place is a pretty awesome place to be.

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The ‘Other Plans’ Work Life Had in Store For Me

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012 (according to my Timehop), my newest tweet read: “Just got to sit in and watch the @KPRCLocal2 11AM live newscast in the studio! Can’t wait until I’m behind the desk one day! #internship.”

Thursday, June 13th, 2013 (according to my memory), I was in the third week of my editorial internship at Broadway.com in New York City, convinced I was ready to pick up and move across the country to pursue a destined career in entertainment news.

Today, Friday, June 13th, 2014, I’m not sitting behind a news desk or covering the opening night of a Broadway production. I’m sitting here, at my parent’s house, days away from starting my first full time job…in public relations.

Wait what? Public Relations?! But you just said…

…yeah, I did, but turns out I was wrong.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” We’ve listened, laughed, and even remained a bit skeptical of this thought-provoking but better-suited-for-Pinterest quote while continuing on, what we think, is our destined trajectory. For me, this trajectory led to the anchor desk. Life moved it to the marketing office.

In the years leading up to college, I was warned I would want to change my major. “College freshmen change their major an average of three times,” others told me, “so what you think you want may not be what you actually pursue.” I took this advice with a grain of salt. I was given a lot of worthwhile, valuable advice in college (still getting used to that being in the past tense…), but regarding my major, I was spot on from day one (from 7th grade, to be specific) with graduating with a degree in journalism. And countless journalism courses, hundreds of hours spent at Texas Student Television, and three internships later, I was still dead set on both graduating and pursuing a career in journalism.

And then the fourth internship came along.

You always hear about the right internship. The one you’ll inevitably find and fall in love with, the one you remember most about your time in college, or the one that landed you your first job. But, unless it’s absolutely catastrophic and/or the source of some hilarious work stories, you rarely hear about the wrong internship. Finding the right job is dependent on finding that right internship.

But my experience depended on finding those wrong ones.

I loved every single internship I had. Two straight up, newsroom gigs, one summer adventure on Broadway, and a semester delving into public relations adorn my resume, and all four helped me land the full time job I start next week. I enjoyed shadowing reporters, turning packages, appearing on camera to introduce stories, and practicing anchoring a top 10 news market broadcast, but there’s a reason I’m not doing that on Tuesday. That reason? Unbeknownst to me at the time, an internship I thoroughly succeeded at was that wrong internship. Why? I found something I love even more, thanks to my marketing internship at Austin’s Long Center. I found somewhere I could implement my degree, apply my journalism skill set, and go beyond the scope of the newsroom while still utilizing my love of broadcast. My newsroom and PR internships were worthwhile; both were educational, both were enjoyable, and both produced a successful, skilled product (me). But one internship: the PR one, the right one, showed me that the other: the newsroom one, was indeed the wrong one…for me. It didn’t matter that my degree, resume and work experience reflected a trajectory towards the newsroom (though that route would have been the easier one). What now mattered was the challenge of taking that degree, resume, and work experience, and selling those unique skills in a new field.

It’s not necessarily about what you’re talented at, what you think you should do, or even what you’ve dedicated your entire college career to doing. It’s about what you want to do, every day, for the majority of your career, and if it takes one or two “wrong” internships to determine that? That’s a pretty small and valuable price to pay.

Here’s to the real world. And here’s to June 13th, 2015’s social media post reflecting on a fantastic year.

-Wendi

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