Flower Crowns and Revolutionaries

2018 in Review

2018 was an insane year for me. The first eight months were spent in London. I saw so many shows and spent six months doing my dream internship at the Donmar Warehouse while also finishing my Master's degree and doing my dissertation. I went to Paris and to Disneyland Paris, in addition to Scotland and some English towns and also had family and friends visit me in London.

In September, I moved back to the States and spent a month at home before moving to New York in October. In perfect honesty, things have been a bit of a struggle since moving to New York as I haven't had the easiest time adjusting. But there have still been some fun times spent with friends and I've seen a couple of amazing shows, in addition to some great time spent back home in North Carolina over Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I'm so excited to see what 2019 will hold, but it's hard to see how anything (ever?) could top the first eight months of 2018. x

I started out the year at home trying to finish my essays for the term while battling a horrendous virus. But then I got a little more time at home once I was feeling better because my flight had to be moved because of snow! Once I was back in London, my cousin Kristi came to visit for a week. And on January 22 (yes, I found the exact date), I started an internship in the Development Department at the Donmar Warehouse (and saw Belleville and met James Norton that night!!). 

In February, my wonderful friend Stefanie came to visit and we had so much fun traipsing around London and out to Warwick Castle and Oxford. In February, I was really finding my feet at the Donmar and was so excited to be a part of everything going on with The York Realist, undoubtedly one of the best plays I've ever seen. February 23 was the fateful day that I went to see The Grinning Man (with Rhiannon) for the first time. And if you follow me on social media or on here, you may know I ended up seeing it six times!

March was full of high and lows. After having been gone for much of February traveling in Europe, my best friend Corinne stayed with me for a few days before moving back to Australia. I can honestly say that saying goodbye to her was one of the hardest things I did this past year. But then, I went to Paris for my spring break with my friend Patrizia which was amazing. I got to see so many sites I've wanted to go to for a long time, like Victor Hugo's house and Voltaire's tomb. 

April was such an exciting month. I went to my first concert by myself and while sit-down small gigs are much more my thing, it was so fun to see dodie perform live. I also got to attend the press launch for the revival of Company and met Patti LuPone and Marianne Elliot which was incredible. Most excitingly, I attended the Oliviers to do social media coverage for BroadwayWorld UK and even though it was chaotic and rainy, it was so amazing to be on the red carpet and in the press room. I met everyone from Imelda Staunton to Carrie Hope Fletcher! Finally April was rounded off with a visit home which definitely refreshed me. 

In May, I went to the final closing performance of The Grinning Man and cried my eyes out. I also went to Louise Pentland's book signing and discovered that a quote from my review (here! on this blog!) was chosen to be amongst the review quotes in the paperback edition. I will never forget the moment that after spending the most fun day with Rhiannon at the Tower of London, we discovered that a quote from my review for Red had gone up on the Wyndham Theatre. May was truly the time that it sunk in that I was a proper writer. 

In June, I saw all three of RADA's summer shows and spent a lot of time there (my best friend Rhiannon studies stage management at RADA; I'm not just a massive groupie). I also got to attend West End Live for the first time which was so amazing especially because Killian Donnelly did a surprise performance with the Barricade Boys. June was also the month of Tartuffe posters everyone...with my quote at the top! 

In July, I traveled up to Scotland to visit my friend Julie who was there for awhile over the summer and we had the best time. Back in England, I fulfilled my dream of seeing Anne Boleyn's childhood home, Hever Castle, thanks to Rhiannon's parents driving us there. (I also spent the nicest weekend at her house.) Perhaps most incredibly, I got to meet my favorite actress Lily James after attending a charity screening of Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again. Sadly, my time at the Donmar ended but my family came for a visit which kind of made up for it. 

After an amazing visit with my family, I left for Disneyland Paris with Rhiannon. I've wanted to go there for so long and we had the best time! Then I came back to attend Summer in the City, the big YouTube convention in London, for the first time which was amazing. (My now roommate) Kimmy came to visit me for a week and a half and we had some great adventures. In August, I also finished and turned in my dissertation! 

After seeing Jeremy Jordan in concert and getting to be at the first night of Heathers in their West End transfer to the Haymarket, I moved home to North Carolina. Luckily, my dad came to help because it was quite the ordeal to get everything all packed up. I got to spend some amazing time at home before going up to New York to apartment hunt. 

I got to attend my first film festival, Film Fest 919, in North Carolina where I saw The Favourite and Boy Erased. Mid-month, with the help of my whole family, I packed up everything and moved to New York City. Much of the later part of the month was spent job hunting and trying to adjust to the city. 

I started working a part-time job selling merchandise at a handful of theatres. After lots more job hunting, I had a couple of successful interviews and was finally offered a job. I spent my last full day of unemployment at the Met Museum. After going home for Thanksgiving, I started my job at Spektrix, a theatre software company. 

In December, my most-anticipated film of the year Mary Queen of Scots (directed by the Donmar Warehouse's artistic director Josie Rourke) was released. I've already seen it not once, but twice. In theatre news, I went to see Clueless the Musical, which I found rather charming, and even got to meet Dove Cameron at the stage door after. Before long it was time to go home for Christmas and we had wonderful celebrations. 

What were the highlights of your 2018? x

Top Ten Books I Read in 2018

I didn't quite meet my reading goal of 25 books in 2018, but I did get through 21 so I'm not too upset. I read some authors for the first time, discovered a couple of new favorites, and read several biographies and memoirs. I also read some books for a new segment of the podcast I'm on called "Next Best Adaptation," which looks at books that have upcoming films versions coming out.

Just like last year's post, I wanted to share my top ten books I read in 2018 in no particular order.

Venus in Fur by David Ives
I started the year by reading the script of one of my favorite plays that I saw in 2017. (I saw it...four times, in fact.) It's a fascinating read especially because it's full of witty lines that I feel like can sometimes go by so fast onstage. Venus in Fur is a really interesting story that raises many questions about gender power dynamics but also the power struggle between a director and an actor. I'd like to try to read more plays in 2019, both of things that I have and haven't seen.

Unmasked: A Memoir by Andrew Lloyd Webber 
I read Andrew Lloyd Webber's memoir to review for BroadwayWorld UK and I was shocked by how much I enjoyed it. It's a massive book (especially considering it only covers up until the opening of Phantom), but if you have any interest in his life or work, it can give you incredible insight. I'm ready for his Part 2 any day now.

Boy Erased by Garrad Conley
From the first few chapters of this memoir, I knew it was something special. Garrard Conley tells about his time attending gay conversion therapy as a young man, but he also gives the story of how he came out -- first to himself and then to his parents -- in thoughtful detail. I cried many times while watching this and it really showed me how far we still have to go in this country alone. I was also very impressed by the stunning film starring Lucas Hedges, Russell Crowe, and Nicole Kidman that was released this year and highly recommend both the book and movie.

When the Curtain Falls by Carrie Hope Fletcher
Carrie Hope Fletcher is perhaps the person who inspires me the most and I've always enjoyed her whimsical novels. However, her latest book combines two of my favorite things: the theatre and ghosts. You can read my full review here, but I was absolutely enchanted about this double timeline romance and ghost story which filled me with both joy and despair.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Don't tell my teachers, but I had never actually read a full Charles Dickens book before last year. After I started volunteering at the Charles Dickens Museum in London, I realized that had to change so I went out and bought A Tale of Two Cities (it wasn't mammoth-sized like some of Dickens's books and I love the French Revolution) and I was shocked by how much I loved it. I fell in love with all the characters, found the story very engaging, and was surprised at the humor in the novel. I've since bought a few more Dickens novels to read in 2019. 

Young and Damned and Fair by Gareth Russell
I've been an Anne Boleyn fangirl from a young age and have admittedly never given much thought to Henry VIII's other wives (except Anne of Cleves, who I think is fascinating). However, I couldn't resist this well-titled biography of Catherine Howard which I learned so much from. It's a really beautiful depiction of life in Tudor court and holds a wealth of information about the young girl often written off as foolish or even slutty. Perhaps Catherine was one of those things, or even both, but Russell's biography shows that there's more to her story.

Wilde About the Girl by Louise Pentland
I adored Louise Pentland's first novel, Wilde Like Me, so I was thrilled for its sequel to be released. All of your favorite characters from the first novel are back, but with new adventures. I don't read much contemporary fiction but Louise manages to write characters who are relatable but whose problems don't feel trivial or silly. I hope Louise turns the Robin Wilde books into a whole series because I want more!

Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico 
I read this little novella because my friend, Rhiannon, kindly lent me her vintage copy. If you're a fan of British theatre, you might know that there was a musical adaptation of the book staged this past year in Chichester which my best friend worked on hence my reading the original novel. It's a charming story with an almost fairytale-esque air to it that will leave you grinning.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
It's not every year that you read something and it immediately goes into your top five books of all time. But after we fell head over heels for the movie adaptation starring Lily James that was released this year, my friend Rhiannon and I decided we had to read the novel. And I read it within only a few days!

It's a gorgeous story, told through letters, about a young writer named Juliet in post-WWII London who ends up traveling to Guernsey and learning about its occupation by the Nazis during the war. It has romance and friendship and literary references and everything I could ever want.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens 
Finally, I ended the year by reading this classic Christmas tale that I had somehow never read in full before. I was shocked by how legitimately funny I found it, but it's also somehow rather chilling even this long after it was first published. It might sound odd, but I'm rather impressed by Charles Dickens. Having volunteered at his former house for a year, I feel much more connected to Dickens the Man than Dickens the Writer, but he really blew me away with this one.

What were your favorite books you've read this year? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter. x

Top Ten Shows I Saw in 2018

I can't believe that I saw eighty-three shows this past year. Six of those were in New York, one was a US tour (Bright Star!), and seventy-six were in London. I saw a lot of them through being a reviewer for BroadwayWorld UK and took advantage of London's inexpensive deals for many of the others. I wanted to share my top ten and while it was super hard to pick, I finally narrowed it down to five musicals and five plays.

I didn't include things that I'd seen the same production of in 2017 like some of my all-time favorites The Woman in White, Les Miserables, or Kinky Boots. Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my top ten shows of 2018!

The Grinning Man - Review, Video
If I had to pick a show to be number one on this list, I would likely pick The Grinning Man if for no other reason than that I saw it a crazy six times. This musical based on the Victor Hugo novel, The Man Who Laughs, is a blend of Great Comet, Phantom of the Opera, and War Horse. I don't think I've fallen in love with a show so swiftly and so completely since I first fell in love with Les Mis as a teenager. From its insanely talented cast to the impeccable design to the atmosphere like no other I've ever witnessed, this show truly took me on a journey and was exactly what I needed it to be. (Now can I get a Broadway production, please?)

Red - Review
Who knew that a 90 minute play could pack such a punch? This astounding revival directed by Michael Grandage saw Alfred Molina return to the role of Mark Rothko with Alfred Enoch as his assistant. It made me reconsider some of my thoughts on the purpose of art and what art truly means. The moment in which they paint the canvas (those who saw it will know exactly what I mean) was one of the most thrilling things I witnessed in a theatre the whole year.

Heathers - Review, Video
In 2018, I was lucky enough to see cult favorite Heathers both at The Other Palace and at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. It was the last show that I saw before moving back to the States and I couldn't have picked a better one. Not only is it both hilarious and very touching, but getting to see Carrie Hope Fletcher in the role of Veronica was like a dream come true. Seeing Carrie, a woman with a similar body type to my own, shown as sexy onstage did wonderful things for my self-confidence.

The York Realist
While my first show while working at the Donmar Warehouse was Belleville, The York Realist was the first that I felt a part of. Now only was I around the cast while they were rehearsing in the building, but I got to attend the first preview and the press night. The York Realist is a beautiful LGBT romance and the performances by Ben Batt and Jonathan Bailey will likely stay with me for the rest of my life. (The development team were so lovely and gave me a poster signed by the cast when I left and it's now proudly hanging on the wall of my room here in New York!)

Broken Wings - Review
I fell head over heels with this new musical about the life of Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran by Nadim Naaman and Dana Al Fardan. I loved the concept album but after interviewing Nadim, I couldn't wait for its short run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. And it actually exceeded my expectations! I was so happy that it's one of the shows that my family saw together when they visited. We need more diverse stories onstage, in addition to diverse casting, and something like Broken Wings is an amazing example of Middle Eastern representation.

Emilia was one of those plays where you feel like you've had an experience by the end, if you know what I mean. It's more than a show somehow. On the surface, it's a play about a female writer who was a contemporary of Shakespeare, performed by a diverse company of women at the Globe. But somehow, it deals with so many ways that women are both oppressed and uplifted. Not only was I crying by the end, but my friend Kimmy who I'd never seen cry before was shedding tears. I'm so excited that it's getting a West End transfer in 2019.

Titanic (UK Tour) - Video
I've loved Titanic since I first saw it performed at my college, Elon University, but getting to see the UK tour production was such a treat. It's a gorgeous show with soaring music by Maury Yeston and I think something special to say about the human condition as illuminated by a tragedy one night in April of 1912. The tour cast was absolutely outstanding and it was so lovely to get to see Niall Sheehy as Barrett after having missed him when he played the role before.

Lieutenant of Inishmore - Review
I rarely fall head over heels for a comedy so it makes sense that the only one featured on this list is a dark comedy about Irish terrorism. I ended up seeing The Lieutenant of Inishmore three times and I can't remember a time I ever laughed so much in a theatre. Aidan Turner was absolutely stunning as the lead and I wanted to move right into the set. I hope this gets revived on Broadway in the next few years as I think it's such a great show.

The Ferryman (Broadway)
The first of the two Broadway shows that I've included on this list is the recent West End transfer of The Ferryman. This is actually kind of cheating because The Ferryman made my 2017 list for its West End production, but I couldn't leave it out because it's the best play I've ever seen on Broadway. This Irish drama is both a family story and a political one and though I've seen it three times now, it still feels fresh and exciting. The cast currently on Broadway are absolutely incredible and I look forward to this hopefully sweeping the 2019 Tony Awards.

Anastasia (Broadway) - Review
Anastasia was one of my favorite films growing up. It was the first movie I ever saw in the theatre and Dmitri was probably my first crush. So I had high expectations for this show, especially after how much I loved the cast album, and it didn't disappoint in the slightest. I love the changes that were made to the original movie to bring it closer to the historic truth of what occurred (it thrills my history-major heart) and the cast is really something special. Christy Altomare, in particular, is everything that you could ever want from the woman playing Anya.

What were your favorite shows that you saw in 2018? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter. x

My Goals for 2019

Now that I've updated how I did with my goals for 2018, it's time to share my goals for 2019! I don't believe in resolutions because they're not always achievable. I like for my goals to be easily measured and something that can be checked off on my list throughout the year. I find that way it's much easier to actually stick to them!

One. Write at least one blog post a week. 
I was very good at blogging consistently while I lived in London, but since moving to New York, I've been very off schedule. I want to commit to writing at least one blog post a week this year, but hopefully I'll write even more. 

Two. Reach 450 subscribers on YouTube.
As of right now, I have 391 subscribers on YouTube so if I start making more content, it seems reasonable that I could reach 450 subscribers this year which would be a huge milestone for me. 

Three. Visit five new historic sites. 
One thing I loved doing in 2018 was visiting historic sites I'd never been to before. There certainly aren't as many around here in New York as there were easily accessible in London, but I want to make an effort to go to some of them like Teddy Roosevelt's Birthplace and the Hamilton Grange. 

Four. Watch 100 movies. 
Now that I'm becoming very involved with the film website and podcast that I'm a part of, I want to dedicate myself to watching more films. So I'm hoping to watch one hundred films that I've never seen before, which should be doable because it's only two movies a week. 

Five. Watch and rank all of Lily James's films. 
One of my friends from the podcast, Michael, and I have a new project in which we are going to watch all of Lily James's movies and rank her performances in them. We've bent the rules a little by deciding that movies where she has a tiny part don't count, but instead including the War and Peace BBC miniseries. All in all, it's just twelve films (including the two that come out in the first six months of 2019) so it should be rather fun. 

Six. See 30 shows. 
Last year, I saw eighty-three shows but I don't expect to come anywhere near that this year as New York theatre tickets are much more expensive and I'm no longer getting press tickets. However, I want to make sure that I'm going to the theatre some. I already have tickets to two shows in New York and two shows in London in January! 

Seven. Read 20 books. 
I didn't make my 2018 goal of reading twenty-five books, so I've decided to take this year's goal down to twenty. However, some of the books I'm planning on reading are rather long so it'll still be impressive if I reach it. 

Eight. Read War and Peace
Speaking of long books...I've decided that this is the year I read War and Peace. With a rewatch of the BBC mini-series already planned, it feels like the right timing. 

Nine. Finish reading all of Jane Austen's novels. 
I only have two Jane Austen books left (Persuasion and Mansfield Park) before I will have read all six of her completed published novels. This is one of my 30 Before 30 goals that I'd like to accomplish this year. 

Ten. Cook a proper meal in my apartment. 
I have cooked very little since moving to New York, partially because I'm a little intimidated by our kitchen. (The oven still baffles me and my roommates.) However, I want to make sure that I make at least one meal from a recipe from scratch this year. Baby steps, right? 

What are you hoping to achieve this year? Let me know your goals or resolutions in the comments below. x

An Update on My 2018 Goals

Before I share my goals for 2019 in a few days, I wanted to share an update on my 2018 goals. I, for one, am always curious about how people's goals are influenced by what they did or didn't achieve the year before.

I didn't check off all of them, but I made significant progress on quite a few. 2018 was quite a year for me. The nine months I spent in London and the month I spent at home were some of the best of my life, but I've had a bit of a struggle since moving to New York. But more on all of that in upcoming year in review post!

One: Go to an exercise class. 
I went to a yoga class at my gym in London in February. While I enjoyed it a bit, it wasn't exactly my thing.

Two: Read twenty-five books. 
There are still a few days left in the year and I'm hoping to bring my count for the year up to twenty, but there's no way I'm reaching twenty-five. I think I underestimated how busy I would be when I set this goal.

Three: Learn to use my DSLR. 
I definitely know how to use it passably well, though I want to do more photography. I'm very comfortable with using it for video after filming many YouTube videos of my own and videos for BroadwayWorld.

Four: Visit three historic sites I haven't been to before. 
I actually managed to check this off in February, thanks to lots of exploring while my friend Stefanie visited. We went to Oxford University and Warwick Castle and then I went to Strawberry Hill House with my friend Patrizia.

Five: Reach 350 subscribers on YouTube. 
I couldn't believe when I hit this in September because I kind of thought it was a goal I wouldn't reach. I'm now nearing 400 which probably doesn't sound like a lot, but it means a lot to me.

Six: Get a job post-graduation. 
I'm happy to be able to say that I'm now settled into my job at Spektrix, being at the end of my fifth week working there. After a bit of a painful job search, it's such a relief.

Seven: See 50 shows. 
I actually saw 83 shows this year, which is incredible to me. Six of them were in New York, one was a US tour, and 76 were in London. I'm willing to bet 2018 will forever hold my record for most shows seen as London prices are much lower and I was also writing reviews for BroadwayWorld UK. (I also saw The Grinning Man...six times.)

Eight: Practice French or German at least two times a week. 
I admittedly gave up on this goal. By a few months into the year, it just was no longer a priority to me and I had other things I would rather work on with my time. I do want to work more on keeping up my French in 2019, though I think I have to admit that German may not be my thing.

Nine: Meet new people. 
I certainly did this! In addition to becoming very close to some people I already was befriending at the beginning of the year, I made lots of new friends too. I got very good at actually making plans with people from going to the pub with my Dickens Museum coworkers to eating lunch with RADA friends outside the British Museum. I do feel like I need to renew these efforts in New York.

Ten: Be vegetarian/pescatarian for one week every month. 
Okay...I did this successfully until about mid-year when I gave it up. It wasn't that terrible, but it certainly was inconvenient at times and I realized that (like above) it's simply not a priority for me right now.

How did you do in upholding your goals and resolutions for 2018? I'll be back soon with my goals for 2019.

Top Ten Non-Christmas Christmas Movies

Sometimes you're in the mood for a Christmas-y movie, but not a Christmas movie, you know? Don't get me wrong; I love Christmas movies. I have Love Actually and White Christmas practically on repeat for all of November and December. But I also have non-Christmas movies that I love to watch during Christmastime.

Some of these are holiday movies because they feature Christmas in them while some came out in late December and thus are tied to it in my mind. And all of them are ones that I love to watch during the holidays...and all year round.

Meet Me in St Louis 
This 1944 classic is actually my favorite movie musical of all time. Not only is it a heartwarming story of a family of all girls growing up in turn-of-the-century America, it also features my favorite Christmas song of all time: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as sung by Judy Garland. (And yes, it should always be sung by Judy Garland and no, I don't approve of anyone who uses the "hang a shining star upon the highest bough" line.)

When Harry Met Sally
In all fairness, When Harry Met Sally is actually my favorite New Year's Eve movie. Has any movie ever had a more iconic NYE scene than the one at the end of this film? It also happens to be my favorite film of all time and every time I see a Christmas tree stand on the streets of New York, I think of Meg Ryan dragging a tree along the sidewalk.

This movie came out late November in 2013 so I kind of associate it with Christmastime. I unashamedly love Frozen (though I will fight anyone who says it's superior to Tangled) and it's such a great movie to watch with the family that doesn't require too much brain power.

This is a very underrated rom-com with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale being brought together by fate. And it takes place during Christmastime in New York City. This is one of those movies that veers on being a Christmas movie, but I think it has enough of a plot apart from the holiday that it counts for this list.

Samantha: An American Girl Holiday 
As you would expect of any young American woman who loves period dramas, I grew up obsessed with American Girl dolls. Samantha was always my favorite and her movie is an absolute delight, even now at the age of twenty-four. A turn-of-the-century movie about a beautiful rich girl who fights for a better life for her young orphaned friends? Throw in some wonderful performances by Anna Sophia Robb and Mia Farrow and a lovely Christmassy ending and you've got yourself a great film.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Speaking of children's movie's, I always associate the first Harry Potter film with the holiday season. Maybe it's because the scene in which Ron chooses to stay at Hogwarts with Harry for Christmas was always so poignant to me or maybe it's brainwashing by ABC Family. Either way, it's a great one to watch in December.

While You Were Sleeping 
While You Were Sleeping is another extremely underrated rom-com that takes place around the holiday season though this one is set in Chicago and features Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. Something about this movie just feels cozy to me and I love that it's not your traditional rom-com in the slightest.

Felicity: An American Girl Adventure
I'm not even mad that I'm featuring two American Girl movies on this list. How could I be when this one gives me a great performance by a tiny Shailene Woodley and a colonial Christmas ball? Add in some plots about rescuing a horse and navigating friendship as war threatens to break out and I'm hooked.

You've Got Mail
This movie is the reason that I used to dream about seeing New York during the holiday season. I think it shows NYC to its best advantage in all seasons but there's something dreamy about the winter part. Plus, it's the rom-com dream team of Nora Ephron, Tom Hanks, and Meg Ryan. Could it get any better than that?

Little Women 
I think what writing this post revealed to me is that my favorite Christmassy films are all period ones. Little Women is an absolute beauty of a film and features one of my favorite ensembles of all time. While the film is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, the holiday section is heartwarming.

What are your favorite Christmassy non-Christmas movies? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. x

Review: American Son, Booth Theatre

Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, and Jeremy Jordan in American Son
RATING: ★★★★

It's hard to imagine a play more relevant to today's political and social circumstances than American Son. This show, written by Christopher Demos-Brown and deftly directed by Kenny Leon, examines what it means to be the mother of a black son in modern America. Kerry Washington leads the cast brilliantly, but each member is perfect for their role. The show isn't easy to watch -- and it shouldn't be -- as it causes every audience member to actually reflect on life in America today.

The show opens onto a Florida police station in the early hours of the morning as Kendra (Kerry Washington) tries to get information from Officer Paul Larkin (Jeremy Jordan) about what they know about her missing eighteen-year-old son. Larkin's questioning soon reveals his racial bias, but it's laid plain when he proves much more helpful to Kendra's white husband Scott (Steven Pasquale). However, little information is available and Kendra and Scott's frustration escalates as they deal with Lieutenant John Stokes (Eugene Lee).

Kendra and Scott begin to argue not just over how they've raised their son but also about what caused their own separation as things start to unravel. The question of whether or not their son is in police custody or injured hangs in the air for almost the entirety of the show. The show is a succinct eighty-five minutes long but doesn't feel short. In fact, by the time it ended, I felt like I couldn't handle any more stress.

Steven Pasquale and Kerry Washington in American Son
Kerry Washington is stunning as the concerned mother Kendra who is eager to demand answers about her son's whereabouts. Unlike Kerry's character on Scandal, Kendra has little tact or patience in dealing with the men. She spends the show in one outfit with her hair slicked back into a ponytail. It's not a glamorous role -- and all the more powerful for it. It's a powerful portrayal and feels heartbreakingly authentic especially as Kendra starts to fall apart towards the end.

Steven Pasquale is equally well cast as Kendra's husband Scott. He perfectly portrays a charisma that covers his true personality until he begins to criticize Kendra for the way she has raised their son since their separation. This duality makes him feel all the more real.

Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, and Eugene Lee in American Son
Officer Paul Larkin is a very different role than the ones we're used to seeing Jeremy Jordan in, showing off his versatility as an actor. Though it's not a large role (Kerry Washington is very obviously the lead of this cast), he manages to make it very memorable. Similarly, Eugene Lee does a splendid job as Lieutenant John Stokes and the conversation between him and Kendra is one of the parts that has stuck with me most since I saw the show.

The show's set, by Derek McLane, is so realistic and thorough it almost seems more like a movie or television set. The whole show takes place on the one set with continual action but they make great use of the rather large space. 

Kerry Washington and Steven Pasquale in American Son
The show has a chilling message about the truth of raising a black son in America. It's impressive how the character of the son permeates the show despite never appearing onstage. I would recommend that everyone who can should go see this play, but especially anyone who liked the recent film The Hate U Give as it deals with some of the same issues of racism and police violence. It's a powerful piece that demands attention -- and that I wouldn't be surprised to see at this year's Tony Awards. 

American Son is playing at the Booth Theatre until January 27. 
Photo Credit: Peter Cunningham 

Review: Anastasia, Broadhurst Theatre

Christy Altomare and Zach Adkins in Anastasia the Musical
RATING: ★★★★

When my family moved me to New York a few weeks ago, there was only one show that we all really wanted to see on Broadway: Anastasia. The animated film was actually the first one that I ever saw in a cinema and I've adored it ever since. When the cast album released last year, I was thrilled to find that they'd managed to capture the essence of the original while making some changes that thrilled my history-major heart. (Thank you, thank you, thank you for acknowledging that St Petersburg was Leningrad at the time this musical is set.)

I'm pleased to report that the show is absolutely gorgeous. The cast are brilliant and while the book is not perfect, the design is lovely. Under Darko Tresnjak's direction, the worlds of Soviet Russia and 1920s Paris take shape. The musical retained the charm of the film while also developing its darker side, by replacing Rasputin with the Soviet officer Gleb. New songs have been added to the show including some gorgeous solos for Anya that I actually prefer to the original ones.

Christy Altomare is perfectly cast. She captures the fairytale princess Anastasia and the scrappy street urchin Anya equally well. She has lovely chemistry with every person in the cast somehow and is able to portray Anya's struggle to remember who she is with surprising nuance. I feel so lucky that I got to see the show with her still a part of it.

Zach Adkins and John Bolton in Anastasia the Musical 
Sadly I didn't get to see Zach Adkins as Dmitry, but I did get to see the incredible understudy Kyle Brown. He absolutely never missed a beat. I have high standards for Dmitry, as the character was probably my first crush as a little girl, but Kyle actually exceeded them. His "My Petersburg" was definitely one of the highlights of the show.

My favorite member of the cast was definitely John Bolton as Vlad, Dmitry's accomplice. It's rare to see a performer with that much energy through his whole performance. He's one of those actors that's a joy to watch simply because he seems like he's having a great time. I love that the musical fleshed out the role of a Vlad a bit more from the film and John makes the most of it.

I was curious what I would think of Max Von Essen as the new antagonist Gleb. While I adore Ramin Karimloo's voice on the cast album, I wasn't sure that his interpretation of the character made sense to me within the plot. Max's Gleb is very different and worked much better for me within the context of the show. His voice is gorgeous (making "The Neva Flows" and "Still" splendid) and watching his internal struggle throughout the show was fascinating. He reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite screen actors, Jeremy Northam.

Max Von Essen and Christy Altomare in Anastasia the Musical
I was so excited to see Judy Kaye as the Dowager Empress and her voice is still so gorgeous. Vicki Lewis is delightful as the Countess Lily and the physical comedy she and John Bolton have in "The Countess and the Common Man" is hilarious. The whole ensemble were lovely, especially the ballet dancers.

One of the things that I loved the most was actually the design of the show. It's the best use of projections (designed by Aaron Rhyne) that I've seen in a theatre in a long time as they create many different backdrops. I love how they staged the scenes on the train and I thought that Anya's flashbacks were done very well. The costumes, designed by Linda Cho, are stunning especially in the pre-revolution Russian scenes and the Paris section of the show.

Christy Altomare in Anastasia the Musical
It's no secret that I cry in a lot of musicals, but not many can make me cry multiple times in the first act. (If anyone else misses their grandmother, just...be ready.) Getting to see one of my favorite childhood films come to life on stage with a great cast and beautiful design, with added elements of historical accuracy and a darker undertone, honestly felt like a dream come true. This is definitely a show that I'll be returning to, as soon as possible.

Anastasia the Musical is selling tickets on Broadway through June 2019. 
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy 

Interview: LUCIE PANKHURST, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

A former dancer herself, Lucie Pankhurst has choreographed and movement directed for television, theatre, commercials, and film. The films she has worked on include Florence Foster Jenkins starring Meryl Streep, Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie, and Snow White and the Huntsman starring Kristin Stewart.

More recently, she was the choreographer for one of my favorite films of the year, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. You can check out my video review of the book and the film here. I was thrilled to have the chance to chat with her about what it's like to choreograph for film and her work on the Guernsey movie.

Lucie Pankhurst
How did you first become interested in choreography? 
I fell in love with music first and by the time I could toddle, I was wigglin'! Music evoked stories and feelings in me that I could live out and exorcise through dancing. My parents were supportive of this development, for which I'll always be grateful, so I started doing creative movement classes before committing to the absurdly short life of a professional dancer.

I understood how short it was going to be, so prioritised performing while I could and learned from some of the most gifted and successful choreographers at that time, but I'd been steadily working as a choreographer all along. For me, choreography, the making of the dance, was part of being a dancer...and, in truth, when you've been doing it for all of your conscious life, your default setting is to see and experience life in terms of movement and dance.

Glen Powell and Lily James
What's the process of choreographing for a film like? 
It depends on the requirement, on how much the dance has its own significance within the narrative. So, Florence Foster Jenkins had an uncut sequence of dance, because that character was taking the floor and dancing, as part of his story. That lead to three months of tutoring, as well as the choreography of the sequence itself. With Snow White, the movement on screen was incidental, used in this case to show Snow White and her Little People getting more comfortable with each other and having a moment of enjoyment while on a dangerous quest.

In any case, the script is first to contextualise the movement, followed by the music for me to prepare for the first meeting with the director, who'll describe what they want the scene(s) to serve. Then, communications with the 2nd A.D. to schedule sufficient rehearsals, which will be filmed and shared with the director, producers, costume department and talent in question to practice and refine before shooting.

How would you say choreographing for the screen is different from choreographing for live dance or theatre? 
With live dance or theatre, you have to put emphasis on links and continuum in a way that is eradicated by the editing process of television or film.

The choreography in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is beautiful. Was there anything in particular that inspired you? 
Thank you! My inspiration was easily found. I love jazz music of pretty much any era with a fervent passion, so the scene in the jazz club was dreamy for me. As usual, I research and check that I'm historically accurate - a process that is inspiring enough in itself. Lily James has a dance background, so could pick up choreography pretty much through osmosis and Glen Powell committed his efforts and attention to the task with an energy that was an utter credit to him!

From the Guernsey movie
How does choreographing something set in a historical period like the Guernsey movie or Florence Foster Jenkins differ from something like Maleficent?
If I'm working on a scene that demands historical dance, it really is my duty to all who have gone before to research as thoroughly as possible. Maleficent, although set in a fairie tale, was an approximately medieval fairie tale, so I researched medieval dance and the special interest groups that keep this alive.

Do you have to take the costumes the actors will be wearing into account while choreographing? 
The ladies and gents of the costume department are often wonderfully a few steps ahead of me and insert crafty elasticated gussets and splits into skirts...!!

How do you work with lead actors like Lil James and Glen Powell who might come in with varying levels of dance experience and need to be worked into dance numbers? 
I work as required and as rehearsal and availability render possible. Often, the actor in question will proactively request what they feel they need.

What was your favorite part of working on the Guernsey film? 
This isn't a great answer, but all of it. It was a joy working with the director, Mike Newell, who also had a great appreciation of the impact of well-captured dance in a scene. Lily James and Glen Powell couldn't have been more gratifying to work with and to top it off, I had wonderful dancers!

Is there anything that you're working on now that you're excited about?
I've just finished filming the Horrible Histories Movie, which was a fairly relentless series of joys...so I'm pretty excited to see how that comes out!

You can find out more about Lucie Pankhurst from her website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Photos taken from Lucie Pankhurst's website or from the Guernsey trailer. 

LIFE UPDATE: I Moved to New York!

As is usually the case when this blog suddenly goes silent, I've been going through a big life change in the past couple of months. In early September, I left my beloved London and moved back to the United States. It was incredibly bittersweet: I was thrilled to be reunited with my family, to meet my newest baby cousin, and to get to live at home for a few weeks but I was also heartbroken to leave London.

At City University
Going to London might be the single greatest, most wonderful, best thing I've done in my entire life. I feel that I returned to the United States a very different person. I'm more confident, my resume is much more impressive, and my friend circle now extends across the globe. I saw hundreds (!!) of shows, forged a great career as a writer, discovered my love for fundraising, got to work at my dream company, volunteered at an important historical site, and made friends that I know will last for a lifetime.
It took my dad and many, many suitcases to move me back!

I spent a blissful few weeks at home in North Carolina relaxing, hanging out with my sister and my puppy, and adjusting back to the Eastern US time zone. I got to celebrate my baby cousin's birthday, go to Chicago to see my dad's family and meet my cousin's (now) fiancé, and visit my alma mater to see a friend. But mostly I spent my time unpacking, going through my things, and repacking for the next big step.
With my beloved Bella on my birthday

Last weekend, my family drove a U-Haul trailer from North Carolina to New York and moved me into my new apartment. I've moved into a place in upper Manhattan with two of my best friends from college, Kimmy and Andrew, and Andrew's adorable puppy, Charlie. While my family was here, we went to see Anastasia which I had been dying to see and it was every bit as good as I'd hoped (review hopefully coming very soon).
My first Broadway show after moving here!

I know the question on everyone's mind next is: where are you working? The truth is that I haven't found a job yet. I'm applying to museums, theatre companies, and entertainment agencies across the city so if you know of any job openings, please do let me know.
My room before we arranged everything
Today I also applied to two historic sites as a volunteer and I'm hoping to get this blog and my YouTube channel back up and running as soon as possible. Otherwise, I'm trying to learn to sleep through the noise, use the subway, and find cute coffeeshops to do job applications in.
All moved in!
If anyone has any New York tips or things to do (I love a good historic site or museum!), please do let me know in the comments or on Twitter. And of course, keep an eye on my Instagram and Twitter for an announcement when I do land a job. x
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