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
Blogger Template Created by pipdig