Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Storage Room: Fry Battle

That's the title that my Mom (aka, trusted proof-reader) gave it. XD

Monday, July 28, 2014

Oklahoma! Broadway Revival Cast Recording [1979]

Oh, what a beautiful morning! Oh what a beautiful day! I've got a wonderful feeling, everything's going my way.
-Curly, Act I [Oh What a Beautiful Morning]

Yay! I can't wait for the Dust Bowl!!
When I picked this up at the library (My buddy Ice Cream likes Oklahoma, so I wanted to check it out) I thought I was picking up a chipper, light-hearted musical about some cowboy and the lady he's trying to woo. Heh heh. Close, but wrong.
Oklahoma is actually kind of dark and a little wrong sometimes. For starters, one of the characters mentions a strip show he went to while visiting Kansas City, Curly (the hero!) tries to talk Jud into killing himself so that people will feel sorry for him, Jud has a very unhealthy obsession with Laurey, there's an easy girl who 'can't say no', and some rather suggestive lyrics.
So yeah. Not exactly G rated.
Despite the aforementioned ickiness, I've actually grown quite fond of this musical. Though I hear that there's a fifteen minute ballet sequence at the end of act one. That... that sounds not great. But this review is mostly for the music, since I haven't actually seen Oklahoma in its entirety. Just read the little plot synopsis that came with the CD. :P
The music is very nice, and there's a lot of good, hummable songs. Oh What A Beautiful Morning is so pretty, and even though I've never seen it, the mental picture it paints is vivid and pleasant. The guy who plays Curly has a good voice, and his acting is pretty good, so far as I can tell. I do think that Curly is kind of an impetuous clown though. From what I understand, he goes to talk Jud into killing himself just because he heard that Jud was interested in Laurey. Hello, what kind of man are you, Curly? I understand that Jud is a real creep, but talking a guy into killing himself is kind of odd behavior for a guy we're supposed to find fun and likeable. My favorite character is Aunt Eller, don't ask me why, I just thought she was a fun character.
Ahem, back to the music. As disturbing as it is, Lonely Room is pretty neat sounding. It's a good obsession song, in that it's got a slightly eerie melody, creepy lyrics, and leaves you feeling a little unsettled. (Obsessions songs shouldn't feel romantic, they should be unsettling, so that the audience gets how wrong the situation is.) Anyhoo, I don't usually go nuts over the slow, orchestra swell-y love duet, but People Will Say We're In Love isn't a typical love song, and the tune is lovely.

The Verdict: B
Some of the songs are a little on the over-long side (Many a New Day), but the score is splendid to listen to. Listening to the CD has me interested in the story, and I feel quite tempted to put the movie on our Netflix queue so that me and Libby can watch it!
Favorite Song: Oh What a Beautiful Morning!
Runners Up: Lonely Room, People Will Say We're In Love,and All 'Er Nothin'

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Les Miserables in Hollister

Whew, where do I start? [At the beginning, Monica, we've discussed this!]
Well, the production we went to was one of those community deals, so we didn't quite know what we were going to get, in terms of staging and music. But it was actually quite good, they had their own tiny little orchestra, a very versatile stage layout, and some neat lighting! And extremely loud gunshot/cannon noises... extremely loud.
The beginning sounded real neat, and they made the overture sound so big despite the small orchestra. And yeah, it was very exiting when they started! I thought the rhythmic hammer-thumping in the Prologue was cool.

Jean Valjean was a good actor and singer, he compensated for the notes he couldn't reach quite well, and his performance was very enjoyable. Javert was good too, his voice was quieter, but when he hit high notes in Stars and Javert's Suicide it sounded awesome. And the Bishop. Well, the Bishop is always awesome (running out of adjectives :P), and on the programme it said that he was played by an actual Friar!

At The End of The Day was my favorite part. The way they did it was that during Valjean's Soliloquy the curtain was closed (he was singing in front of it) so that they could change the set, and when the curtain opened, the chorus just kind of ran at the audience, and they had cast members going through the aisle to get to the stage, and it was very cool.
Fantine was good, no complaints here, though sitting through Lovely Ladies was pretty uncomfortable. I liked The Confrontation, despite the awkward pause at the end when Valjean brandished a candle at Javert. XD

Little Cosette was so pitiful, poor thing. I almost felt bad for laughing so hard during Master of the House. I mean, the Thenardiers are a nasty pair of people, but I couldn't help it. Monsieur Thenardier's actor was hilarious and their rendition of Master of the House was great!
Valjean was very sweet with Little Cosette, and he pulled a rag doll out of his hat to give to her, that was cute and funny at the same time. He's a magician!

Anyway, then there's Look Down, which is always cool. Probably because it introduces so many new characters. Gavroche, who totally owns the town, Marius, who is adorkable, Enjolras, who you can't decide whether or not you like, Eponine who knows her way around... It's terrific, I tell ya.
Oh, and the thing that stood out to me during The Robbery was that after Marius knocks Cosette's basket off her arm, and they put the flowers back in, this production had her gesture at the book he was carrying around and they both start to read it together! It was very nice, and my sister was having a fangirly squee attack next to me.

And Stars... [dreamy sigh] it was wonderful.
I was pretty happy that they kept in Eponine's Errand (They actually didn't cut all that much), though I had to laugh whenever anyone said 'Ponine. Because for whatever reason they all pronounced it like 'Panine, and it made me think of those toasted sandwiches, Paninis. Ahem, moving on!
Oh, The ABC café. Marius was great here (always looking so hurt whenever Enjolras snapped at him), and they added a few really awesome harmonies that I'd never heard before in the big Red & Black sections. The only part I thought was weird was when Enjolras started to draw his gun at the others when they were being obnoxious. Whoa! O.o

Do You Hear The People Sing was excellent, they did the cast-members-in-the-aisle thing again. And then there was In My Life. The lady who played Cosette had a nice, non-Snow White-ish voice, and her interactions with Jean Valjean were nice. My sister once again had fangirly squee attacks at A Heart Full of Love. ...and so did I. Marius was just so sweet in this production! In the intro of the song, he almost ran away because he was so nervous about talking to a lady. :D

One Day More was brilliant. I always get chills when the orchestra drops out and there's a moment of silence between each word at the end. ONE... DAY... MOOOOOOORRRREEEE!!!
After the intermission things got back into swing nicely with the students getting ready to build the barricade. But more importantly, On My Own! (Sorry, Friends of the ABC.) The actress did a very good job with it, and I loved her acting. Then after that come the revolutionary funtimes, I lose track of the songs that happen around here. But somewhere in there the army captain told them that they had no friends, Gavroche sold out Javert, and Eponine got shot and died. That scene was pretty dang sad, I'm tellin' ya.

After A Little Fall of Rain, Jean Valjean arrives, and after he apparently saves some guy from a sniper, Enjolras gives him the uber-privilege of getting to kill Javert. Then comes Drink With Me, which is probably the second most depressing song ever. I mean, wow. Way to kill the mood, guy who I think is supposed to be Grantaire. But I like it, it's got a lovely, wistful tune, and it sounds great in Japanese. Bring Him Home, well, I have beef with that song. It's beautiful, it's moving, but I have book-purist issues with it. Valjean's actor did a pretty nice job with this song, though. So I didn't even mind that it was totally book inaccurate. I'll um, stop with the book-purist ranting because it's probably very annoying. ;D

So then Gavroche gives Enjolras a letter that apparently says that they're all doomed, because next comes Dawn of Anguish. And Gavroche's death. Oh man, I can't even, that scene is so completely traumatizing.

I almost hate to say it, but I really like The Final Battle, as a song. And this version was amazing! So Enjolras says his line, and then on the last bit, "Let others rise to take our place, until the earth is free!" EVERYONE joined in and they did another awesome harmony. It was so cool, I loved what they did with that part. Though again, I almost hate to say it, but the trauma of watching a bunch of people getting shot to death was kind of undermined by this one guy who totally hammed his death in a slightly comedic way. I um... laughed. And then felt bad about it afterward. But not too bad. ;)

So! I was quite impressed with Jean Valjean's actor during the sewers segment. He lugged Marius across the stage several times, and didn't even waver. But then came... Javert's Suicide. Once more, I shall admit something that I hate to say out loud, and say that Javert's Suicide just might be my favorite song in the whole dang musical. It's a striking parallel to what happened to Valjean at the beginning of the story, and the instruments are so dramatic (that's the time for the orchestra to really jam!), and the actor for Javert certainly lived up to my expectations. Not like I walked into the theater with expectations, but you know what I mean. Now, the way that they executed the actual suicide was interesting. In the last verse, we noticed these guys in convict outfits standing on the edges of the stage. Then, right before the big last line, they lined up behind Javert (who was standing on this box thing) and at the line "There is no way to go OOOOONNNN!!", Javert tipped backwards and the convicts caught him and carried him off the stage. Sure, it looked like Javert was crowd surfing, but it was a creative way to do it, and man! Javert's actor was so brave to fall backwards and trust those guys to catch him!

Whew, almost done. Almost done. Turning was depressing, as usual. Not much to say there. Empty Chairs at Empty Tables was pretty good, I really liked the actor who played Marius. Then there was Every Day, where Cosette does her best to cheer Marius up, and Jean Valjean get steeped into the depths of despair. Poor man. Of course, there's a few songs in between there and the Epilogue, but this post is long enough, and I don't have anything in particular to say about them.

So! The Epilogue, how many layers of awesome is that? Everyone did a good job with it, and the reprise of Do You Hear the People Sing sent shivers down my spine! Of couse, we spent I don't know how many minutes clapping, and then it was over. And boy, was it awesome!
Something cool about attending a production put on by a smallish town is that you get to meet some of the actors outside. We got to have our pictures with Matt Thorpe, who played Jean Valjean and Corbyjane Troya who played Cosette. We also met Jorge Torrez (Marius) and Josh Oelrich (Javert). They were very nice, and it was a fun way to wrap up the evening!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Storage Room: To The Theatre!

Okay, first off, we went to see Les Miserables last night at the local theater, and it was so awesome!! I might even write a post about it, if I feel like that wouldn't bug everyone too much. :) But it was terrific, and we all had a very good time.
So, with that I thought it would be appropriate to put up this comic, which has a little bit to do with musicals I suppose.
Because Timmy really is that implausibly clueless. :P

Friday, July 25, 2014

Bucket List Tag!

I was tagged by Miss Jane Bennet of Classic Ramblings , so thank you very much!
So, in no particular order, you just list 10 or more of your goals from your 'bucket list' (I don't know why they're called that either, I literally just learned that phrase when I was tagged), and tag some friends. :)

~Play Vivaldi's Winter (All three movements) at full speed (Yes, on a flute :P)~
~Sing well~
~Finish writing a book~
~Start a prolife group on campus~
~Learn the opening of Hotel California on my guitar~
~Write 50 good poems~
~Record an iRiff with a friend~
~Visit Mexico, Japan, and France~
~Sing Stars in the backyard on a clear night~
~Make a book-purist edit of The Hobbit movies~
~Learn to shoot a gun (don't look at me like that, a girl has got to have her protection! ;)~
~Film and edit a short movie~
~Write a Haiku in Japanese~
~Visit the Vatican~
~See the real Van Gogh Starry Night~
~Compile 1,000 good Chibi comics~
~Go to an SJ Sharks game where they don't lose~
~Shake off my nail-biting habit~
~Go see a play/musical on stage~
I would like to Tag... Um, well, I was going to tag mi compadre Ice Cream for the other tag I received this week, but if you want to do this one, go for it! When you're not busy that is, I know you're pretty busy in the summer. :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Storage Room: Quiet Time

Timmy and Mireille are having some nice quite time reading their favorite books, Moby Dick and Emma, respectively.
As you can see, the scenery is kind of non-existent. If that bugs any of you, just give me a holler and I'll see about backgrounds. I personally kind of like the minimalist approach (makes it easier to read the text, and I don't have to try to use artistic techniques that are way over my head), but if having like, a flower vase, or a window makes the whole thing feel more complete, I'd be happy to try and put more scenery in.
Stay frosty, my friends. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Storage Room: Rene Can't Draw

And neither can I. Realistically, that is. I remember when I took that art class back when I was 10, and the teacher forced us to do self-portraits and mine looked like a zombie... good times man, good times... traumatizing times, but still good nonetheless.
Oh right, comic!
Hope you all (non-specific 'you all') enjoyed it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I Finished Lord of the Rings!

Not like it matters to anyone, but I'm exited! I loved it all the way through, and by the end I almost felt like I was about to cry, though in honesty maybe it was because of the fact that I had gum stuck in my braces again. No, I'm pretty sure it was the book. ;D
"Sniffle! This ending is so happy and sad that I'm melting down!!"

Anyway, I did have a few issues. Just because I like to spoil the fun. Sometimes the prose felt like it was taking itself a bit too seriously (And the star of Third-Hamenhanger-Dingen-Darin hung about Aragorn's manly breast as he slay his enemies in various gruesome ways...), but seeing as that's an issue in most books (Except for The Hunger Games, which actually doesn't seem to care that much about it's own plot) I don't really hold that against it. I also thought Arwen was bland, but maybe that's because the movie had me thinking she would be a bit more interesting and have a personality beyond being pretty and looking like Luthien. And I still want to know how they told Faramir that his dad went crazy and burnt himself to death. But that would be awkward, so that's probably why we never find out. :)

Now, on with the fangirly rambling that the world hasn't seen since I finished A Tale of Two Cities.


Ahem, what was that? Let's hope that never happens again!
Well, despite the fact that this book is most certainly NOT an allegory, I actually did notice some of the not-quite-allegorical bits that people are always saying are there. Like the bottled star that Galadriel gave Frodo and Sam reminded me of The Rosary. They used it in dark places and it chased the darkness away and gave them hope. The Lembas bread is said to nourish the spirit and give strength to the will, and that made me think of the Holy Eucharist. Especially the bit about how when you relied less and less on mortal food and more on Lembas, the more of an effect the Lembas has on you.

My favorite characters were Sam, Gandalf, Sam, Faramir, Eowyn, and Sam. I mean, Sam Gamgee is just so completely awesome! He resisted the Ring's temptation, he fought his way up a tower and when hope seemed lost he sang, he carried Frodo up Mount Doom, he helped to clear all those nasty men from the Shire, and in the end he got to marry his sweetheart and have kids! Sam is just as cool as Aragorn, and certainly one of the best characters in the book. Um... in my opinion.
And I felt so sorry for Sméagol. Really, the whole Sméagol/Gollum thing really broke my heart.

Ahem, again. Faramir and Eowyn's little romance was one of the least mushy love stories ever, and I totally squealed in delight when they kissed (in sight of everyone!). Despite the fact that I had read that part many times when I was 13 and had a huge crush on Faramir. Was that out loud? ;)

The Verdict: A+
Because yes, this kind of was I review I suppose. A really ranty one, with lots of capital letters.
Well, I totally understand why these books are so popular, and I'm so glad I read them! When I have time I'm going to read the Luthien bit in the Silmarilion, and the Appendices. Yay, I feel literate now!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Storage Room: Barkeep

Creative name, hoooo!!
Ahem. I did something different with this comic, because I realized that my handwriting must be very hard to read. I replaced the written text with type-text, and because I didn't think of that until I had drawn the comic, I had to block out the existing text on MS paint. If you all like the result, then I'll just draw the comics with no text and edit it on once the comic is photographed. So tell me what you think! :)

Thanks for reading! I'm well aware that most of these comics won't be hits, but at least 1 in every 10 should be mildly funny, so thanks for hanging in there! I hope to mature as a writer (and artist), and... writing sentimental fwuff like this makes everyone uncomfortable, so I'll leave it at that. ;D

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Aladdin Original Broadway Cast [2014]

Salaam, and good evening to you worthy friends. Welcome to the fabled city of Agrabah! Home of flying carpets, soaring heroes, famous love ballads, and more glitz and glamour than any other fictional city in the world!
-Genie [Act I, Arabian Nights]

Okay, this musical is way better than I thought it would be. I mean, the music is great, the characters are fairly decent (Jasmine is a bit cliché, but everyone else is fine), and it's got hilarious comedy.
I know I said earlier that I like my musicals serious and devoid of dancing, but I uh, revoke that statement. I still don't like endless dance numbers (*cough*cats*cough*), but if the rest of the musical is good, then it'll be worth putting up with dancing.
So anyhoo, there's a bit changed from the movie, you know, to make it easier to tell the story on stage. Aladdin has three useless (but funny) friends called Babkak, Omar, and Kassim, instead of his monkey Abu. I saw the Prince Ali clip on the internet, and I love the way they did Genie. I was a little afraid they'd try to paint the actor blue, but I was pleasantly surprised there.

Aladdin- Adam Jacobs
Genie- James Monroe Iglehart
Jasmine- Courtney Reed
Jafar- Jonathan Freeman
The Sultan- Clifton Davis
Iago- Don Darryl Rivera
Babkak- Brian Gonzales
Omar- Jonathan Schwartz
Kassim- Brandon O'Neil

The added songs are actually really good. I mean, they could have sounded like filler, but they didn't. I especially like Proud of Your Boy, These Palace Walls, and Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim. Most of the original songs were extended, too. Especially Friend Like Me. That's the only song that I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, it's very funny, and filled with energy. Maybe too much energy though, because the whole thing feels a little disjointed and frenzied. So when it comes to that song, I like the movie version a little better.
A Whole New World on the other hand; I was never seriously attached to that song, but this version made me like so much more! The instrumentals are gorgeous (my sister says that the into sounds like On My Own from Les Miserables), and the actors for Aladdin and Jasmine are terrific!
Oh, and Genie. He is awesome. His actor had a great voice, great acting, and energy to spare. I heard that James Monroe Iglehart actually won an award for his performance, too!
I don't want to oversell this, but Aladdin is a very funny musical. There are a few songs that are more on the serious side (Proud of Your Boy, in a slightly jarring way. What happened to Aladdin's parents that made him idolize them and act all guilty? Poor guy!), but overall it's hilarious! Of course, everyone has a different sense of humor, so maybe it's just me. ;D

The Verdict: B+
I'm hovering around B+ and A-. I really like it, despite the fact that it's probably not all that deep, and the characters aren't the most developed or whatever. But hey, it makes me laugh, which keeps me from pitying myself when things go wrong, so maybe that's why I don't mind the bits that are kind of cheesy. :)
Favorite Song: Prince Ali! :D
Runners Up: A Whole New World, One Jump Ahead, & Arabian Nights. But I liked all the songs!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Cast of Storage Room!

Allright, it's time to hold my breath, close my eyes, and leeeeeaaaaap... and finally publish this post.
I've started a new comic strip (with my own characters, not based on real life happenings) to have some fun with, and I just finished drawing out all the characters. Storage Room is going to be about a bunch of friends who hang out in the cramped storage room behind one of their uncle's dive-y restaurant. The main character is Timothy (But he prefers Timmy, and never just Tim, because that would make him sound like a Dickensian orphan), and the comic basically follows the goofy shenanigans of him and his friends.

Here's everyone, and now, because I'm weird and obsessive about my chibis, I'll introduce them all. :)

Timothy- Timmy here is the aforementioned main character. He likes Hockey (I project my own emotions onto my characters :P) and runs Track and Field at his community college. He has a rather abrasive (and sometimes abusive) sense of humor, but his friends know that most of the time it's all in good fun. Most of the time. Despite the fact that Timmy is quite confident, he gets insecure about the weirdest things. The only person he isn't that mean to is his girlfriend, Mireille, and other ladies (except for members of NOW), because Timmy believes in chivalry. (Again, me projecting onto the characters.)

Rene- Okay, I sort of lied when I said these characters weren't based off of anyone. Because I totally based Rene off of those pretentious, rich kid hipster types I bumped into when I went to college for a day with my friend. Anyhoo, Rene (as his foreign, high-class name suggests) comes from a filthy rich family (Descended from the Scandinavian kings of old!), and is honest to the point of being rude. He's often petulant and sullen, and spends an awful lot of time reading about conspiracy theories. F-for laughs, of course. ;) Like Gru, Rene has a phobia of dating.

Alexander- The most successful, academically, of all of them. But you could probably tell that just by looking at his nerdy glasses and argyle vest. Sigh... stereotypes. Alex likes to read, especially those really, really long books that are about 700+ pages long. Because he listens to his common sense the most, Alex often gets labeled as 'the wimp', but he has plenty of opportunities to say "I told you so!" when the others are suffereing the consequences of their impulsiveness. But because he's nice, he only says that sometimes. He also plays Cello. :D

Mireille- Fashion expert and pink enthusiast. But despite the fact that she loves tiny animals, sparkly things, and pretty nail polish, Mireille isn't all sugar 'n spice. She might be kind of an airhead, but when Mireille sets her mind to something, she does it. She's very playful, and maybe a little flirty, but unlike Ado Annie, Mireille can say no, and often does, because she's very faithful to her sweetheart, Timmy. Oh, and forgive the random Oklahoma! reference. Just listened to the CD, feeling a little brainwashed...

Shelly- Mireille's best friend. Unlike her BFF though, Shelly is actually more interested in being smart than being current, and wants to be a dentist when she graduates from college. Unfortunately, he ambition to be what is basically a torturer kind of scares the others, though she's trying to convince everyone that dentist does not equal evil. When she's not studying, Shelly likes to go out and have fun at the beach, or pool.

Malcolm- Malcolm longs to be a lumberjack, despite the fact that his parents want him to take up the family business, which is Dairy Farming. Everyone finds Malcolm's destructive tendencies a little disturbing, but his ladyfriend, Shelly, finds then endearing and manly (Shelly refuses to date men who aren't manly).

Frankie- Timmy's shy and timid roommate, and probably the youngest of the gang. Timmy has taken it upon himself to 'show Frankie the world', but Frankie obviously would rather stay home and read, or work with animals. He has kind of a crush on Alice, the mayor's sporty and vivacious daughter. But of course, he can never seize the opportunity to talk to her.

Denise- The black-wearing Barista who works in the restaurant (which is more like a café that also serves full meals, now I think about it) to pay her college tuition. Denise is exceedingly snarky and sarcastic, and this (despite her best efforts) actually endears her to the others. She has a tendency to be jealous and self-pitying, and holds lifelong grudges against people for the smallest offences.

Rene's Uncle- The owner of Café de le Palourde Claquer. Or just 'The Cafe'. Rene's uncle is actually Alexander from a timeline where he and Timmy went back in time to change something, and Alexander got left behind by accident. So The Other Alex accepted his fate of being stuck fifteen years in the past, and got married to a lovely blonde woman who was actually Rene's aunt. The others however (even Alexander) don't know his true identity, so they just call him Rene's Uncle. Because he's just another Alexander, his personality is basically the same, except that being a bartender, he's not afraid of using force and 'being mean'. Oh yeah, and I guess I neglected to mention before that Time-Travel is possible in this universe. :D

Colette- I haven't done much with her yet, so I'm not sure of her fully personality. But for starters, Colette is a sweet, slightly timid, girl taking art classes so that she can get a Degree in Design.

Holly- Okay, we're getting into tertiary characters. Holly is Timmy's three year old sister (he has five sisters, but Holly is the only one who ever actually shows up in the comics) who absolutely adores him.

Mr. Howard- Timmy's godfather, and his dad's best friend. Mr. Howard is happily married, and just so happens to run the rival café. He and Rene's Uncle still get along, though.

Jiminy- Yeah, minor characters now. XD Jiminy is rather paranoid and hypochondriac, and is also trying to get a degree in art, like his little sister Colette.

Andrew- A drunken fratboy who is here because I can think of a few things to do with him, but I still don't know if I want to keep him in. :P It's always nice to have some extras around, though.

Alice- The mayor's perky daughter who is in Frankie's Algebra class. Whenever Frankie gets the opportunity to talk to her, he panics and makes a fool of himself.

Okay this post is getting waaaaaaay too long, so here's the bottom row (and the row we just went through :P) that is just alternate outfits for the characters.
I um... hope you like them! I hope to have some comics up.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Les Miserables Original London Cast [1985]

I have too much time on my hands! :D
So anyway, we went library-hopping* a few weeks ago, and I came out of it with a stack of musical CDs. And The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide. But anyway, one of the many, many (okay, four) CDs I found was the Original Cast Recording of Les Miserables, which is pretty cool, I've never heard it before.
This recording is so different from recent versions of the musical, and that's what made it fun to listen to. The most obvious differences are that Cosette has a different solo (!!!), Stars is before Look Down/Paris, and Little People is... I wish I could forget. So! Let's get down to business, give me a sec to track down all the cast members names, then we can get started! (Wait, who's 'we'?)

Jean Valjean- Colm Wilkinson
Javert- Roger Allam
Fantine- Patti LuPone
Cosette- Rebecca Caine
Marius- Michael Ball
Eponine- Frances Ruffelle
Monsier Thenarider- Alun Armstrong
Madame Thenarider- Susan Jane Tanner
Enjolras- David Burt
Gavroche- Ian Tucker

Originally, I was going to go through this track by track, but that would have taken a super long time. So I'm just going to ramble. :P
The instrumentals are really synth-based, kind of like the Complete Symphonic Recording, but even more so. This didn't really bug me, except in Stars. The synth instruments sounded really obvious and kind of bad there. Which is too bad, because Stars is awesome... staaaaaaarrrzzzz!!!
As mentioned above, there are two songs that were changed/replaced later. In this one, Cosette has a really nice solo called I Saw Him Once. The tune is beautiful, and so are the lyrics. It's really too bad that they cut this from the musical! The extended Little People on the other hand... I'm so glad it's gone. Because that song is irritating as a bamboo shoot being shoved under your fingernails.
Grr, anyway, the performances. I wasn't too blown away with most of the singing and acting, if I had to pick a favorite performance I might actually pick Cosette, because her voice is amazing. Her high notes are very clear and sweet sounding, and I wish there had been more of her on this album!
Jean Valjean's actor was allright. There were things I liked and things I didn't, but overall I preferred him in the 10th Anniversary Concert. Javert was pretty good, I mostly liked him. Mostly, I just wasn't too fond of his super growly voice. That's just me being picky, though. :)
I wasn't too thrilled with Eponine, either. I know, I know, wistful quietness and stuff. Nothing wrong with playing Eponine that way, but for the love of heaven! Don't make her character so whiny sounding! She's the only Eponine that strikes me as being self-pitying, and that's... not good. And then there's Fantine. No acting, whatsoever. Listen, I'm not a fan of actors sobbing their way through their lines. But there is this little thing called acting, and it's where you put inflection and emotion into your role, and it's a good way of making people care about the character you're playing! Or, you know, being completely bland is good too. Enjolras was also excessively bland too, but I won't get into that, because this review is sounding so negative! Well, Marius was really good sounding! Michael Ball plays him here (Yet again), and he does a very fine job with the character.
The Verdict: B-
I'm not reviewing the musical as a whole, I'm just focusing on this particular recording. Because I'm a nerd. The thing is that this recording sounds very low-key and well, calm! Even the bits that should be passionate and loud (such as Look Down/Paris) aren't that passionate and loud. That, and the iffy performances, left me with kind of a 'meh' impression of this album. I did really like Rebecca Caine as Cosette and Michael Ball as Marius. I thought Grantaire sounded really good too.
Oh, and all the cockney in this album made me think of Henry Higgins. Why can't the English... ;)
Favorite Song: I Saw Him Once
Runners Up: ... Pass!

*Library Hopping! Like Bar Hopping, but with less benders and more piles of books that you'll never have read in time for their return dates.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Mini Reviews: Animal Books!

Le sigh... have you ever read some of your old posts, notice how bad the spelling is, then realize what
people must have thought of your poor spelling, then suddenly want to give up on blogging? But I digress, because this post is actually Mini-Reviews! And by Mini-Reviews, I mean tiny reviews of books that I'm too lazy to give full reviews to. :P

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide [Translated to English in 2014]
We found this book at the library, and picked it up because it looked intriguing, and the gushy praise that they always stick on the back cover sounded promising. Well... it was kind of a mixed bag. The story is about a husband and wife who are tenants living in a small house that's actually owned by the neighbors next door. The husband and wife (the husband narrates the story, but neither of them actually are named) befriend the neighbor's cat, and philosophical poeticallness commences. There were a lot of things I liked about the book, though my final impression of it was pretty much 'meh'. What I liked about it was that the writing is beautiful. I don't have the book at hand now, since I gave it to Mom to read, but there's a bit about how a moment felt serene and calm, and it was almost like it was dreamed up by the room. It's very hard to explain. ;)
The cat was also named Chibi. Which was highly amusing to me, since you all know what I like to draw. :D
Unfortunately, there was also a lot that I didn't get. See, the characters in the book get very emotional about this cat, to the point that it's the center of their lives. I'm not really an animal person. I mean, I like animals, I have nothing against animals, but for whatever reason, I guess I don't 'get' it when people get so incredibly attached to their pets. That having been said, I'm quite attached to my friend's dog. But, y'know. He's my friend's dog, not my dog.
So yeah. I didn't really 'get' a lot about this book. But it was fast paced (Not like there's much of a plot. It's more of a thought book than an action book.), I finished it in under and hour, and it was a nice look at another culture, so... The End.
The Verdict: C

Babe The Gallant Pig by Dick King Smith [1983]
Here's a sweet little book. Overall, I like the book Charlotte's Web better than this book, but I like the movie adaptation of Babe better than both of them!
I think here we have a rare case of the movie being better than the book, but this is still a very good read. Babe has a simple plot, and nice, vivid characters, the only reason I think that the movie is better is because the movie kind of expands upon the story and brings everything to life in a beautiful way. Just the way an adaptation should. :)
The Verdict: B+

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White [1952]
Serious mixed feelings about this book. I like this book a little better than Babe the Gallant Pig, but only because this book has gorgeous prose, whereas Babe is a little drab feeling, if you get my drift.
However, Babe himself is a better character than Wilbur. Seriously. Wilbur is irritating, whiny, and none of the things Charlotte writes about him are true! He's not terrific, he's not radiant, and no. I don't think that he's humble, either. He's self-pitying, and that's a thing that looks similar but isn't the same thing. I can attest to that, a self-pitying person myself.
... anyway, Charlotte herself is actually a very good character, and that last paragraph  in the chapter where she dies is absolutely heartbreaking! That's kind of what redeemed this book for me, at least. I just can't say no to pretty imagery in writing. :)
The Verdict: B+

So yeah! Animal books, won't you?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July. God Bless America, and may He lead her down the right and true path.
I know in my heart that man is good, what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.
-Ronald Wilson Reagan

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Picture of Dorian Gray [1891]

[DISCLAIMER: This review is going to have a bit of philosophical rambling, and while I have a basic grasp on the philosophies brought up, I am by no means a expert. If you happen to be one of those smart people who know a lot about philosophy, feel free to correct me, as long as you're polite about it.]
I've got a confession to make, though you've probably already noticed. I like creepy things. I like weird things. Stories like Coraline, Odd Thomas, or Pan's Labyrinth are kind of my thing. Make of that what you will. This attraction to the macabre is what led me to read this book, and let me say that it didn't let me down in that area. But it's going to take more than some creepy goings on to make a book a favorite of mine. My major issue with this book was, I suppose, the philosophy and characters.
I'm not sure that Oscar Wilde was trying to promote this philosophy or show what was wrong with it (as authors frequently did with their writing, back then). The most prominent philosophy in this book is Individualism, which I don't know that much about aside from what I've hastily researched and read in this book, and it kind of got on my nerves after a while. Individualism focuses on the importance of the individual, and while the individual is important, this philosophy bends a little too much towards Hedonism, for me.
This book seems to show the consequences of living by such a philosophy, and if that's the case, great. I have no problem with different points of view being discussed, except that no other alternative to Individualism is presented. I feel like if you're going to make a successful critique of a certain lifestyle, you should provide examples of different ones. Just my two cents, you don't have to agree with 'em.
Anyway... the story! Which is probably more important anyway. This book is well written (Nice, descriptive language) and fast paced; I was able to read through it in just a day and a half. It did hold my attention, which is always nice. Of all the characters, only one was really likeable. And he dies. And horrible things happen to him, even after he's dead. ._.
I'm not sure how I feel about books with next to no likeable characters. It's hard to be moved by or care about what happens in a story when the characters don't even resonate with you. Stories filled with horrid people can be interesting because of the satire that is usually in them, but they aren't usually every enjoyable books. You know, they're the books you read because they're interesting and important *cough*1984*cough*, but you don't really enjoy them. And because I myself am kind of hedonistic at heart, (Je suis une hypocrite) I like to actually enjoy the books I read.

EDIT: I was reading Peter Kreeft's The Philosophy of Tolkien, and I found a good reason why for a story to be great it has to have likeable characters you can identify with.

"[...] A great story must also have great characters or at least one great character (greatly drawn, at least) for readers to identify with, to find their identity in. We become the characters- in spirit and imagination. No story is great unless it sucks us in, takes us up out of our bodies, and gives us an out-of-body-experience, an ek-statis, standing outside yourself in another. Great stories give us the grace of a mystical experience, on the level of the imagination."

A story like this, or like 1984 may have some points that are worth making, but in the end, the stories we remember and love are the ones that suck us in. So there. ;)

The Verdict: C-
This book is certainly interesting, and who knows, someday when I'm older and less stubborn maybe I'll read it again and come out with a more favorable opinion. But until then... yeah. I'll shut up now and stick my nose back into The Two Towers. :)