Trip Report: NYC and Chicago

I decided to start off 2020 right with a theatre-related trip! I went to both NYC and Chicago right at the beginning of January to catch a Broadway show before it closed and to be there for the closing of Hamilton in Chicago. Here’s a brief recap with some moments highlighted in photos.

Thursday January 2nd I flew to New York City very early. I spent the afternoon browsing the sights and shopping (Bryant Park Winter Village, Rockefeller Center, Times Square) and eating all the things (Los Tacos No 1., Baked Cheese Haus). After a quick refresh in my hotel room (with a view of Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre), I took myself to dinner at Bond 45 and headed to the Booth Theatre to see Freestyle Love Supreme! It was a great show but I’ll save the details for my recap of January shows.

On the morning of Friday January 3rd I flew to Chicago. I met some fellow patreon peeps of The Hamilcast for lunch at Revival Food Hall and took a little walk to explore the Federal Reserve of Chicago Money Museum. I did a little shopping, ordered pizza with Vicki & Jess of Design Pandemonium, and played cards with the peeps. It was a full day!

Saturday January 4th started early with a trip to Do-Rite Donuts. My friend Jenn arrived soon after and we headed out for the day. We visited the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, did a little shopping, and had lunch with Hamilton’s Sean Green. After an afternoon of relaxing, Jenn, Jess, Vicki, and I headed to dinner with the peeps before seeing the Mean Girls tour at the Nederlander Theatre.

Sunday January 5th was the main event – the closing show of Hamilton Chicago. It was special, emotionally-charged, and I’m so thrilled I made the trip for this occasion. After the show I headed to airport to get back home in time for work on Monday. It’s been a few weeks now and I’m still not over it.

If you want more details (like almost an hour long walk through), check out my youtube video of the report on this entire trip:

December Show Recap

December was full of great shows! Let’s get to the recap!

December 6th was my second Jonas Brothers concert of the year, this time with much better seats. I was right at the end of the runway that extends out from the stage, meaning close enough to make frequent eye contact with the brothers. They put on such a great show and now I’m spoiled with these seats. I’ll never buy cheap seats again as long as I can afford it; the show is so much better up close.

On December 7th we went to my school for the fall musical, Sister Act. I’ve never seen this as a musical and it was so so good. Our students are super talented and always do a great job, but this show kicked it up a notch. There were lots of opportunities for students to do great comedic character work and it was great to see them shine.

December 8th was a surprise! I won the Dear Evan Hansen lottery and got to take my mom to see the show on closing night. It’s such an emotional show, but I held it together *a little* better the second time. It’s a great show and super important in our current society, but I don’t think it’s one I need to see over and over and over. It sticks with you!

Finally we had a family outing to the Winspear Opera House at AT&T Performing Arts Center to see the national tour of Once On This Island. Jonathan and I saw the show on Broadway in the summer of 2018, so it was nice to take Aiden and to see how the show translated to touring. The set was redesigned for touring from the in-the-round set on Broadway, though some audience seats were placed onstage within the set to try to keep that intimate feel (at least for those few seats). The cast was just as talented, and in fact, several of them had come from the Broadway company. The only noticeable difference was the lack of live animals (goats and chickens) used to create the atmosphere on set. It’s a one act show at 90 minutes with no intermission, so it’s a great one to fit in your schedule even when it’s jam-packed at the holidays. Do see it if you get the chance!

Even with the busy nature of December, I still managed to see a lot of shows! Hold your hats, January is going to be wild. With theatre-related trips to Chicago and New York (including BroadwayCon), it’s sure to be an exciting recap next month!

Disneyland Trip Recap

We decided to spend half of our Thanksgiving break this year taking a family trip to the Disneyland Resort. It was over a month ago now, but with all of the holiday hustle & bustle, I’m only just now getting around to writing about it.

Day One was a Saturday and we flew to LAX, grabbed our rental car, and headed to our hotel in Anaheim. We opted to stay at Camelot Inn & Suites – a five minute walk to the parks at half of the price of the resort hotels. Rather than trying to hit the parks (it was already late afternoon), we decided to do dinner and shopping in Downtown Disney. We had amazing burgers and split a giant crazy shake at Black Tap Craft, took a few pictures, and bought a few souvenirs (rather than carry them around the parks). It’s the best way to slowly enter into a Disney vacation.

Day Two we decided to head back towards LA to explore Hollywood. We ate breakfast at Grumpy’s Donuts in Anaheim before driving to Lake Hollywood Park, where we could take beautiful pictures with the Hollywood sign. Then we explored Hollywood Blvd where we found both stars and footprints, and grabbed lunch at Los Burritos. In the afternoon we headed to Burbank for the Warner Bros Studio Tour! We were taken all over the property including a sound stage, the prop house, the backlot sets, and more. Aiden got sorted (Gryffindor) in the gift shop and chose a wand from Harry Potter (Sirius Black). After the tour we ate dinner at Bob’s Big Boy and then headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Day Three was finally a park day – we went to Disneyland! We started by heading straight to the new Galaxy’s Edge section of the park and got in line for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. Such a fun ride in such and immersive world! We tried a few treats, Aiden made his own lightsaber, and we saw all there was to see before moving on to the rest of the park. It was somewhat crowded but we managed to ride everything on our must-do list and eat some good stuff along the way too. We stayed until about 7:30pm, then went back to the hotel to rest our feet. We ended up watching the Disneyland fireworks from the hotel’s pool deck!

Day Four was the day for Disney California Adventure! We started out the day at Soarin’, then hit up Pixar Pier and Cars Land. Aiden discovered his favorite ride – Guardians of the Galaxy Mission – Breakout (we rode it twice). We took a mid-day break at the hotel after lunch and then headed back to the park for a few more rides, dinner, and the evening show, World of Color: Seasons of Light. It was a perfect Disney day!

Day Five was the end of the fun. We headed back home and got ready for Thanksgiving the next day. I could honestly ramble on and on about every detail of this trip because it was so great, but probably nobody wants to read that. I love traveling and I love Disney and this trip was basically perfect. Until next time!

November Show Recap

November didn’t contain as many theatre adventures as October, but I still managed to have a great time! Let’s go through last month’s theatre happenings and see how it all went.

November 1st was Dallas Summer Musicals’ Annual Gala, held to raise money for all of the education and community outreach programs they support. We aren’t big bucks donors, so we don’t get invited to the dinner portion, but we were able to get (cheap seat) tickets to the performance. This year’s show was hosted by Chita Rivera, featuring performances from Kelli O’hara and Amber Riley. Everyone was super talented and put on a great show. Kelli O’hara had me both laughing and crying with her stories and songs and Amber Riley has a powerhouse voice too. There are always unannounced special guests, and this year’s guests were Adam Pascal and Caissie Levy! Adam Pascal is the nicest guy (I was fortunate enough to meet him at the Something Rotten! tour stage door a few years ago) and it was awesome to see him perform the songs from Rent for which is he so well-known. Caissie Levy may be the original Elsa in Broadway’s Frozen, but I first saw her onstage at my first professional show as Maureen in the 2002 tour of Rent. It’s cool to follow someone’s career like that! It was a great night and I’m definitely sold on attending these gala events in the future!

The 2019-2020 season at Dallas Summer Musicals kicked off this month and the first show of the new season was Cats. Aiden and I went on October 16, since Jonathan is not a fan of Cats. Aiden loved it and I enjoyed it as well. Cats gets a lot of flack and I get it – it’s weird. But I love the choreography. In general, I think people who first see Cats as kids tend to like it and adults who are seeing it for the first time tend to hate it. The touring cast does an amazing job with the intricate moves and exhaustive vocal score. If you have never seen it give it a try! Just don’t take it too seriously – it’s not a thinker, it’s just for fun.

Rarely do we get two season shows in one month, but November is when it happened this time. Dear Evan Hansen came to Dallas Summer Musicals at the end of the month, and Jonathan and I went on November 29.

* Spoiler alert ahead if you haven’t seen this one.*

This show wrecked me in every way. As someone who has dealt personally and professionally with many of the situations characters face, it’s a whole lot of emotion. I’ve seen many people over the years express concerns about all the lies Evan tells and the emotional manipulation at play for him to “get the girl”. As someone who works with teenagers, it’s not neat/happy/kind, but it sure is realistic. Teens make mistakes in coping with depression, anxiety, divorce, loss, and social situations all the time – and sometimes they screw up big. Those who are living with mental illness and contemplating suicide tend to screw up even bigger. Some others express that Evan doesn’t have any consequences. I mean Evan obviously loses the girl, which is no small thing when he’d already said she was his literal only reason for living. I would wager that the creatives felt it was more important to end the show with hope, grace, and a reminder of our connectedness as humans than a punitive scene. No show can ever tell a complete story and sometimes it doesn’t need to. Plus Alex Lacamoire is an orchestral genius and can do no wrong on my book. But my face was so wet. Bring tissues – I forgot mine!

November was a great month for theatre! Looking forward to the shows December will bring!

October Show Recap

So originally when I looked at October a few months back to evaluate which shows I might see, there really wasn’t much going on. I thought I wouldn’t be seeing much of anything at all. But then I was made aware of some opportunities and the details started falling into place, and before too long October was filled with theatre! Let’s rewind through October together.

On October 4th, I headed up to Denton to see North Central Texas College’s production of Be More Chill. I just can’t get enough of this story and the music and I’m still very sad about it closing so early on Broadway. The company did an incredible job with this show and I really enjoyed it. Definitely catch this show in any format you can – it’s so, so good.

In the same weekend on October 6th, my school was hosting their fall showcase of shows. They do three one act plays back-to-back and I had students in each of the shows to support. This year’s shows were Our Country’s Good, White Buffalo, and 1984. Each show was different – redeeming, reverent, and intense. I’m always so proud of our students and I love seeing them on stage!

there wasn’t a physical program for this show, but this was the flyer used to advertise!

Because my school’s theatre department never seems to rest, I went to another of our school’s productions on October 10th. Our school teamed up with another school in our district to present Romeo & Juliet. Our school represented the cast of the Capulets and the other school represented the cast of the Montagues. They only completed three combined rehearsals before putting up the show and it was so great! I’m really proud of our theatre kids and how they always rise to new challenges.

there was a QR code to scan for a digital program this time, and this is a screenshot of the cover

Later that weekend on October 12th, we had a late-night theatre night at Oh Look Performing Arts Center to see Evil Dead the Musical. We purposely purchased seats in the splatter zone, meaning we got splattered with a heavy dose of stage blood anytime a character died or was injured onstage. The show is slapstick comedy full of adult language and lots of horror-genre appropriate gore. We left looking like we’d committed murder, but we had a great time.

October 17th was our last Hamiltunes Dallas event of 2019. It was unintentionally timed after Miguel (of Hamilton Chicago) & Kelly Cervantes lost their little girl Adelaide to complications related to epilepsy, and because we’ve worked so much with Miguel’s family in the past, we knew this was a time to act. We donated our ticket sales to CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy) and encouraged our attendees to make a donation in Adelaide’s honor as well. If you would like to make a donation, please click here.

On Saturday October 19th, I took Aiden to Artisan Center Theater to see The Hunchback of Notre Dame. One of the teachers at my school was in the show, so that was a surprise (the program showed that he was in the opposite cast than was on that day). I love shows at this theater because it’s an intimate setting and every seat is quite close to the action. It was a great performance and Aiden really enjoyed it.

So the next day on October 20th I got together with several of my friends to support our friend Gayla as Little Red in Into the Woods at the Repertory Company Theatre. Gayla was great and it was so good to see her in her element! She’d previously taken a few-years break from acting so this was the first show she’s done since we’ve been friends.

I thought that was it for October. At the very least, it was all I had planned. Then my mom told me she had an extra ticket to the national tour of Menopause the Musical due to a friend who couldn’t attend. So on October 27th, I joined my mom and another friend of hers at the show. It’s a one-act musical that explores the various ailments of menopause through parodied versions of 60s and 70s hit songs. The show is hilarious, and the cast is really talented! It’s definitely a show targeted at women, but the few men in the audience seemed to enjoy it as well.

October was a blast! November is slated to be much simpler, but I guess you never can tell. Come back next month to see how it turned out!

September Theatre/Show Recap

So here we go, another theatre recap of the previous month. But I’m making an amendment officially. In the past I’ve included things that weren’t purely theatre, like the Ben Platt concert and Hamiltunes events. I’m going to continue that pattern this month so let’s call it what it is – a show recap! So every month I’ll definitely talk about the theatre I’ve seen, but I’ll also unapologetically include all other kinds of live performance shows as well. Buckle up y’all, September was fun!

On September 8th I drove to Houston to see Renee Elise Goldsberry sing with the Houston Symphony! I met up with some other listeners of The Hamilcast podcast (aka other Hamilton nerds like myself) so we could eat lunch before going to the show together. Renee gave a beautiful performance, even singing a few songs from Hamilton and Rent! If she is singing with a symphony near you, get a ticket! The encore had me in tears – totally worth the 4.5 hour drive.

A month or so ago, I learned that Booker T Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts would be doing Bring It On the Musical in September. I usually don’t make it a point to go see high school shows where I don’t know any of the actors, but BTWHSVPA is the performing arts school that Broadway-bound Dallas teens attend. And Bring It On is a Lin-Manuel Miranda show I’ve never seen. So we got tickets as a family for September 15th and went to see the show. I was familiar with some of the music from the cast recording, but seeing it live helped with context since the plot is drastically different than the Bring It On movie. There were a couple of standout performers that I would not be surprised to see as up-and-comers in New York in the next 10 years. It was definitely a worthwhile experience!

The next event was a concert – the Jonas Brothers concert at American Airlines Center on September 25. Ok, please don’t roll your eyes at me. Yes I, a 35 year old woman, went to the Jonas Brothers and scream-sung through the entire show. I went with Susan (my college roommate and long-time friend) and her friend. We were introduced to the Jonas Brothers whilst spending many late dorm room nights watching Disney Channel (because we’re super cool, obviously) and I got us tickets to their 2009 tour for Susan’s birthday 10 years ago. Now that the band is back together, we had to go again. I remembered why I love these guys so much. Yes, there’s the poppy, fluffy “I-love-you-girl” boy band standards, but there are also some more mature songs and I’d forgotten how much they’d resonated me at certain points in life. In two days’ time, I’d bought a ticket in a much closer seat for their December 6 show when they return to Dallas. #sorrynotsorry

Our final show in September is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. Dallas Theater Center is currently hosting a regional production of In the Heights. We bought family tickets for September 29 as soon as they went on sale. My friend Rachel also grabbed a ticket for the same day, so it was good to catch up with her too. Dallas Theater Center earned a regional Tony Award in 2017 and you can take pictures with it in the lobby for a $10 donation (which I obviously did). This cast is incredible. I’ve seen a high school performance that was pretty freaking amazing, but this is the first professional cast I’ve seen and WOW. I love this show so much anyway but it really touched me hard and my face was so wet, especially in Act 2. Then after the show, the cast comes out and does a heartfelt talkback about the show and involves the audience in sharing their feelings related to the performance. This show is open through October 20, so if you are in the Dallas area, make it a priority to go see it. It will change your life at least a little. I’m hoping to see it again at least once before it closes!

Well that’s it for September! October is already shaping up to be full of shows so I can’t wait to come back and share with you how it goes.

August Theatre Recap

August was a lot like July in that theatre performances were a little sparse. School started, and my job is a mess for the first few weeks of school, so I try not to over schedule us in August. But in the end, there was an extra show that I was not anticipating, so we’ll get to that little surprise in a minute. Let’s get down to talking about it!

August started with our son Aiden finishing a week of Drama Kids theatre camp. For the end of camp show, he performed as Rocky the Space Rock Collector in Martian Mystery. It was a big part with a lot of lines – he’d only had the one week of half-day camp to learn it. He did very well, and his performance got some laughs from the audience too (which he loves – he LOVES being the funny guy). It’s always a joy to see him onstage, enjoying what he’s doing.

Aiden as Rocky the Space Rock Collector

On August 8, we had another Hamiltunes Dallas event at the Peticolas Brewery in Dallas. We had lots of new singers join us this time, which always makes things so much fun! I missed the June event because of illness, so it was nice to be among my usual Hamilton nerds, singing through my favorite show again. Here’s a few photos from the night:

On August 9, Jonathan and I went to our final touring show of the 2018-2019 season (good thing the next season starts in November!) – Fiddler on the Roof. This is one of those shows that I’ve always known about and known the songs, but I have somehow never found myself in the audience of a single production. It’s a really touching story and the music is beautiful. The highlight is really the choreography! It’s not a favorite show for me, but the performances were great and it’s definitely worth seeing sometime.

I thought Fiddler was where our theatre adventures would end in August. On August 29, I received the notification that I had won the Hamilton ticket lottery for the next day to see the Philip Tour Company again, this time in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So, on August 30, my friend Lynette and I drove up to Tulsa to see the show – my 10th Hamilton viewing – for the cost of only $10 per ticket. We had great right orchestra seats and the cast had some new actors that have joined since the tour left Dallas a few months ago. We finally got to see Joseph Morales on as Alexander Hamilton; he’s the principle in the role, but he was out of the show all 3 times I saw the show in Dallas. Warren Egypt Franklin joined the cast as the new Lafayette/Jefferson and Neil Haskell joined as King George III (though I’d seen him previously as Charles Lee in the Broadway company). We saw Desmond Ellington in Dallas as both Burr and Washington, but he’s since moved up to be the principle Mulligan/Madison, so it was cool to see him in a third role. We met a lot of people at the stage door for autographs afterwards and I took pictures with the cast members that I hadn’t met previously. Guitar player David Matos gave me a cool Hamilton guitar pick too! The whole experience was totally rad and worth the lack of sleep after arriving back home at 4:30AM.

That’s it for August! Stay tuned for our September theatre adventures – we have a few planned but August has proved that plans can change, for the better!