Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Beautiful Bio



Stop for a moment and think about your life. If you were going to tell the story of it, where would you start and stop? Biopics and bioplays are always interesting to me because we get to learn more about actual people. There is a reason so many musicals have been built around the lives of real people from Fanny Brice to Gypsy Rose Lee to the Jersey Boys. I went to see the musical Beautiful: The Carole King Musical with no real expectations. I know I love her music, but I actually know very little about her life.

Well - wow! Beautiful is a wonderful title because that's what this show is. They have picked the section of her life from ages 16 to 29 to share the story of the woman that wrote for everyone - staying in the background - and how she made her way out of the shadows and front and center to win all those Grammys for Tapestry. Douglas McGrath has supplied the book for the well-known songs and director Marc Bruni and Choreographer Josh Prince have used a very serviceable set to keep the passage of time moving (at times with a nod to the great Michael Bennett). 

You can not mention this musical without singing the praises of Jessie Mueller. The woman
is a star. And not only a musical theater star, but an incredible actress. I was so moved by her performance. The rawness of her voice. The realness of her acting choices. The quirkiness of the "Brooklyn Jewish girl" and her ability to downplay Ms. King as she allowed others to shine. The actress never has a diva moment in her body to appear as if "I am the star of this show". No, at times she drifts into the background mimicking the very story she is telling. I now will make sure I see everything this actress does on Broadway because this must definitely seal her status on the Great White Way.

The fact that Carole King wrote so many songs that we know (that were recorded by African American singers) shows how much she drifted into the background because it was the singer of those songs we recall and demonstrates how diverse her writing style was for all those years and how that style changed with the times. And this story shows how her life and her marriage added power to pull her front and center.

The entire cast is truly wonderful in this. Jake Epstein as lyricist/husband Gerry Goffin rides a rather rough line of good guy gone bad, turning in a memorable performance. Anika Larsen and Jarrod Spector are a great pair in not only portraying real life writing team Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, but as nuanced musicians and actors. You can't help but perk up each time they are on stage. I have loved Liz Larsen since I saw her in Starmites all those years ago and only wished we would have heard her sing in this as the mother, but still - she knows how to make the most of her time on stage. The entire ensemble has moments to shine which is very important in a play about one woman.

I've read reviews that wanted to see more of Ms. King's life or that this musical has too much in Act 1 of all the singing groups she wrote for, but for me - that's what Beautiful is about. Her life of writing for others and then seeing that beauty in herself. So naturally, Act 2 is where we see more and more of her singing her own work. And when she does, well let's just say Ms. Mueller inhabits the role and you can't help but smile. I smile for remembrance of music I've always loved. I smile as a writer/composer watching a specific moment in time (The 1650 Broadway Building writers) and seeing how writers survived at that point. And I smile for this real life woman who chased a dream, lived it and still speaks to us through her words and music today as evident on the recent Grammys.

To me - that is beautiful.
Carole King

Now excuse me while I download Tapestry to my iPhone & Ms. King's memoir to my kindle. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Day the Old People Took Over Facebook

Recently my nephew was at my house and saw me on Facebook and said "you still use that?"  But of course I do, I thought. This is how I make snide comments on people's status and share my photos on Throwback Thursday and piss off my friends by sharing numerous vacation photos. Instead I said, "Yes, don't you?" "Nah....we do everything on Instagram now."

Let's face it, anyone over the age of 40 has pushed the younger generation right off of Facebook - a social media site that was started for them and by them. The whole thing got me thinking about how people use Facebook now and to help out some of that generation that is even older than me using it - I came up with a small primer. 

1) You have a news feed and a wall. The two are not the same thing. When you open Facebook and see status updates, photos, etc flying by - that's not YOUR wall. That's just things your friends are saying. I've seen fights where people think someone is putting 'crap' on their wall - but NOT the case. They aren't. You don't own the content there. Your news feed is like driving down the highway with a bunch of people and not sitting in your own driveway (wall).
2) And while we're on the subject of news feeds - just because it's there doesn't mean it was written TO you. You don't like it? Don't comment. You can actually hide the person so they don't show in your news feed or un-friend them.
3) Guess what? The moment you comment on something - THEN it shows up in YOUR news feed and all of your friends can see that you commented/liked it. So if you leave it alone and let it go, your friends will never have seen the photo of  (insert something that upsets you here: Bert & Ernie in a gay embrace, The Pope giving the finger, something else that upsets you.)
4) Do you like when people yell at you? Neither does anyone else. Find the shift key and turn OFF those cap locks. It only makes it appear as if you are the crazy old person yelling at the kids playing in the middle of your street or on your lawn.
5) Clicking the LIKE button is nice to show a friend you agree with or like something they've shared. But there is no need to click the SHARE button with every single thing you read/see. It only makes those show up in your own friend's news feed and how many puppies, roses, angels, children laughing while being fed should your friends be exposed to?
6) Lastly - want to have your grand kids hide you on Facebook? Reprimand them publicly. That's a sure fire way to accomplish it. Now I know you may not like what they are saying or how they interact with their friends, but we have to remember that everyone has a different face they put forward around different friends. Unfortunately, Facebook has created this arena where it is hard to keep everyone separated (unless you create groups and that's too complicated to go into with this primer). So you may want to hide that grand child so you don't see their posts in your news feed. Or honestly...you probably don't have to worry about it because like my nephew, they've stopped using Facebook long ago.   

Friday, January 10, 2014

Procrastination Can Often Be My Middle Name

Sometimes we put off things for several reasons. Time constraints, fear, money. Last January my doctor wanted me to have a sleep study. The doctor I had previously to him told me over a year ago that he thought I had sleep apnea. But I just didn't want to think about wearing that machine to bed to help me breathe. Instead -  I thought - I'll work on getting my weight back down.

Well, a year went by and I didn't get the weight down. But I've also learned that while weight can play a role, there are many skinny people that suffer from sleep apnea as well. Bottom line, I know I need to get better sleep at night. It always takes me forever to get to sleep and when I do, I sleep so lightly that the smallest of noise can wake me (not to mention my own snoring which can jolt me awake).

So I finally had the sleep test done in December. Much apprehension, but I showed up not knowing what to expect. Would a team of people be staring at me via a huge window while I attempted to sleep? What if I talk in my sleep? Fart? All of those thoughts flooded my mind as I showed up at 8:00 pm to start the study. I was ushered into a very nice looking hotel room with a camera. Told to go into my private bathroom where there was no camera to prepare for bed. The TV in my room didn't work and I thought that was best as TV is one of the evils that keeps me awake. Well, they ended up fixing it and I watched some Christmas specials while the tech hooked me up. And I mean HOOK ME! 

I knew there would be wires involved, but I had no idea the amount. Legs, chest, head, face, bands around your stomach and chest, wires under your nose to check oxygen going in nose and mouth - and tons of tape. Everything is taped to you. All you can think is "how the heck are they ever going to witness me sleeping as there is no way it's going to happen."

Interesting side note: here I was at a place to study sleep patterns, problems and everyone that works there basically has their own issues as they are up all night and sleeping during the day. So in order for people like me to be helped - there are others that have to mess with their own sleep habits. I applaud them for what they do.

The air we need while sleeping 
Back to the bed - it was 10:30, I took a sleeping pill and climbed into the bed. Shockingly, I was turning the TV off 15 minutes later and was out. Sleep had begun. The tech only came in twice during the night with his little flashlight to fix a wire that had come undone during my evening of tossing and turning. I did check a clock around 2:00 am and thought I had been sleeping forever by then. The next time I woke up it was 6:00 am and I knew they would be coming in to wake me any moment.

Using Provent
So now we are in a new year and I went back to the doctor this past Monday to get my results. As expected: a mild case of sleep apnea. (Mild means I stop breathing around 9 times an hour during the night when on my side: on my back it's more like 50...MILD??) But thankfully, we're not slapping that machine to my face. No, instead we're going to try Provent Therapy for the next month which is a natural way to get air flowing back into your body. I tried my first night plugging the buggers into my nose and let's just say...it's gonna take some getting used to. 
Provent: up close & personal

Still - for health reasons, it is best I take care of this all now. But if there is something you are putting off - for whatever reason...just go ahead and put it on your schedule to get it done. In the long run, you'll be glad that you did.