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Archive for October, 2010

Last night I went to see the new musical Leap of Faith at the Ahmanson – just two days before it ends its brief introductory run here in LA and heads to Broadway.  I absolutely love musicals, but I was particularly interested to see this one because during my time working at Appleton & Associates Architects I was afforded a bit of a behind-the-scenes look into the musical in progress. Writer Janus Cercone and her husband Michael Manheim are friends with my then boss, and would often send updates on the highs and lows of the process – directors coming and going, rewrites and so on.  With the final product in place, I was curious to see how it all turned out.

I really enjoyed the show, and the songs were just fantastic.  Gospel music hits me right here (yeah, I just pointed to my heart), and the show is filled with great gospel numbers by Alan Menken and amazing voices to back them up.  The story is a bit predictable, and Brooke Shields’ voice is certainly not the best, but the whole of it is pretty darn good, and I look forward to seeing how it’s going to do on Broadway.  I think it has all the potential to be a success.

One of the main reasons it really works is Raul Esparza.  WOW.  During one song in particular, Jonas’ Soliloquy, I just watched him and thought, “I’m lucky enough to see a true theater legend in action.”  He really is THAT good. His performance in particular led me straight to YouTube when I got home so that I could keep the Esparza high going.  He takes his material to some sort of gutteral depths and rhapsodic highs and intensifies everything with a swooning quality – sort of like the unabandoned emotional swells of greats like Judy Garland (but much more masculine, of course!).   There is a natural, in-the-moment, extreme passion to Esparza – I think in a way that many of us would like to be but are just too afraid to be.  In honor of Raul, here’s one of his best roles: Robert in Company.

If this inspires you to see all things Raul, there’s plenty of good stuff on YouTube (thank God for YouTube!), including pieces from Tick Tick…BOOM, Taboo, and other performances.  Company, as well, is an amazing show by Sondheim that explores marriage and fear of commitment – there’s plenty about it on the internet, too, so check it out!  This performance in particular was directed by John Doyle so that the actors also served as the orchestra musicians.  He used the same technique for the Sweeney Todd revival that came to the Pantages a few years back (the set for that show was excellent, but very similar to the set for Spring Awakening which I think was more successful, but I digress).  😉

By the way, the sets for Leap of Faith were designed by Robin Wagner, who’s designed some top sets for productions like The Producers, Young Frankenstein and Kiss Me, Kate.  There was a spareness to it that really worked with the story.  I usually favor using levels on stage to take up both vertical and horizontal space, but for most of the show the action is kept on the bare stage floor, with low corn and a high sky as the backdrop, and it works perfectly.  He brings in levels during the revivals, and it’s a solid choice.  There’s even a surprise at the end that washes over the stage.

If you’d like to learn more about Leap of Faith, check it out here:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2010/10/theater-review-leap-of-faith-at-the-ahmanson.html

And for anyone who loves going to the theater but can’t always afford it, the Center Theatre Group often offers Hot Tickets or day-of available tickets for $20, so go see those shows!

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Why hello there.

Today, I just realized, it has been four months exactly since my last blog post.  I guess I decided to take an unplanned summer vacation from Dandee.  I’m surprised it hasn’t locked me out after showing signs of abandonment anxiety. 

It’s been an interesting summer, sort of.   I won’t bore you with details, but let’s just say I was a tad preoccupied with work-related surprises (both positive and challenging).  The good news is that, after a couple of years away from school (thanks, economy) I finally returned to continue in the Interior Architecture program at UCLA Extension. It’s only one class, but it’s a start. Yay progress! 

Interestingly, UCLA Extension’s Interior Design program has joined forces with Cal Poly Pomona’s Architecture program to create a Masters Degree Program in Interior Architecture.  So at the end of the curriculum, graduates will recieve a Masters Degree conferred by Cal Poly Pomona, though the program follows Extensions curriculum and takes place at UCLA (faculty are a combination of UCLA and Cal Poly instructors).  So you see where I’m headed?  My one class this quarter takes me one step closer to that Masters.  You heard it here first. 

Now what, do you wonder, am I going to do with the degree?  That’s up for debate.  I am committed to experience design of all types: live events, theatrical design, experience marketing, theme park design, and even restaurant and hospitality design.  I am returning to school so that I can shift from the production side of the process to the true design side.  I suppose while I’m slowly but surely moving through the program the right path will reveal itself.  I have plenty of time to figure it out.  Considering that I still need to work full time to make a living, it’s going to take a few years at least to finish the program.

So along the way I’ll keep posting about interesting experiences and design, including reviews of the best and worst of said experiences.  And I’ll sprinkle in some of my school-related goings on.  If there’s anything you’re interested in exploring here at Dandee, just say the word. 

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By the way, yesterday – as part of my class – I took two architectural tours that I would recommend to any of you.  The first was a wonderful docent-led tour of Los Angeles’ Historic Core by the Los Angeles Conservancy.  One of the many tours the Conservancy offers, the Historic Core tour covers the heart of Downtown and includes exteriors and/or interiors of some of LA’s finest early buildings including the Bradbury Building, the Central Library, and the amazing Southern California Edison Building.  I hope to check out their other tours soon, especially Art Deco and the Theater District.  You should check ’em out, too!

Southern California Edison Building (photo from latimemachines.com)

The second tour was at the Heritage Square Museum just off the 110 freeway a few miles north of Downtown.  What a gem of a place.  I honestly didn’t know much about it prior to showing up at the appointed time for the tour.  It’s tucked away at the end of a residential street, in what seems like an extension of that street but from another time long ago.  Basically, it’s a plot of land on which sit eight structures: a depot, a barn, five houses and a church – all from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  A staff-member led us to each structure and told about the history, architecture and societal rules and expectations of the time for each.  We were able to go inside about half of the buildings – some of which were very nicely restored and some of which were still in disrepair (which gave an interesting alternate view of how things were, actually).  All of the structures were rescued from other parts of Los Angeles (where they were about to be destroyed if not moved) and taken to their new home at Heritage Square.  I highly recommend the tour, and for those of you interested in all things Halloween, or death or Victorian, here’s a fun event they have scheduled for the end of October:  Halloween and Mourning Tours.

Heritage Square (photo from heritagesquare.org by Ken Johnson)

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I still have some catching up to do on posts (see my last post!), so I’ll try to get to that soon.  But it’s just nice to be back.

Oh, and my fabulous friend Kelly Thompson of 1979 Semi-Finalist is in the midst of a three-part series on women and comics (aka Ladies Comics Project).  She very nicely asked if I would participate, so my review of the latest edition of Black Widow will be featured tomorrow in her column, She Has No Head!, on Comic Book Resources’ blog.  I’ll link to it when it’s up, so please check it out!

Until then, sweet dreams….

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