Category Archives: Music

Defying Gravity

Today is a huge day. It’s a day I’ve been waiting for since early November of last year. The tickets have been bought, the dress has been selected, and my date arrived last evening.


Today, I get to see my first off-Broadway play.


Today, I get to see “Wicked.”

This is my “OHMYGODI’MSOEXCITED” face.



I was a senior in college when Wicked first hit the stage. Like all successful musicals, the Broadway stars made their rounds to all the daytime talk shows, to promote the show. I watched Kristin Chenoweth sing her brains out on the Rosie O’Donnell show. I saw both Kristin and Idina Menzel belt out “Defying Gravity” on award shows and late night talk shows. I vowed to see it on Broadway, in New York City, before it ended.


Last fall, Brian and I were watching Jeopardy, eating our dinner, and minding our own business when a commercial, announcing Wicked was coming to the North Charleston Performing Arts Center, came on the screen. I squealed. I cried. I jumped up and down. And I begged Brian to take me.


We bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale.


I’ve been patiently counting down the days on my Donnie Wahlberg calendar while harmonizing with Kristin on “Popular.” And the day has finally arrived.


About 2 months ago, Brian made it plain that he wasn’t interested in going to see the show. (He’s not into musicals. I know, he’s a crazy person.) His response to my excitement? “I’ll go if you can’t find anyone else who wants to go.”


So I offered the ticket to the one person in the whole wide world who I knew would be just as jazzed as I was by all the jazz hands. Brian’s Aunt Tina.


The first time I met Tina, we all climbed into my car to go out somewhere. My huge CD book (remember those?) was in the backseat. As we drove through the little town of Boone, headed toward our destination, Tina flipped through, checking out my taste in music. Suddenly, she exclaimed, “You have the soundtracks from Little Shop of Horrors, AnnieAND Oklahoma!!?!! You’re the ONLY PERSON IN THE WORLD that I’ve ever met who has all three. Well…except for me.”



We’ve been thick as thieves ever since that moment.


And so, tonight we will pretty ourselves up. We will brave the traffic and drive to the coliseum. We will be there earlier than anyone else, and we will stand in line singing “Popular” and “Defying Gravity” and “I’m Not That Girl.” We will bounce up and down in our seats until the house lights go down. We will take in every single aspect of the production, from lighting to costumes to staging to props. At intermission we will giggle like school girls and relive all the wonderful moments we’ve just witnessed. We will race back inside the theater as soon as the bell dings to signal the end of intermission. We will sing along with all our favorite songs. We will cry when Fiyero dies, and when Elfie takes to her broom, and when Glinda mourns the loss of her friend. 


And when it’s all said and done, we’ll get in our car, drive back home, and talk about the show for the next 3 weeks to anyone who will listen, and to some who won’t.


Today is a huge day.

Today, I see Wicked.


Why Brian Really Needs Ear Plugs Around The House Lately

My life has recently been overtaken by Broadway.

Does that mean I’ve been walking around singing show tunes at the top of my voice, breaking into tap dances at inopportune moments, and overuse of jazz hands?


Yes, in fact, that is exactly what it means.

There are two very big reasons why Brian now has to suffer through my very bad vibrato…and I’m here to share them with you today.

Reason #1: Smash
If you’ve ever been remotely interested in theater life, this show on NBC will rock your socks. For a woman who was once a little girl who dreamed of becoming Little Orphan Annie so I could bring down the house with my rendition of “Tomorrow,”  this show isn’t just another television show. It’s like musical theater crack.

Every single episode is filled to the brim with intrigue, scandal, and artistry. The cast (Katharine McPhee! Megan Hilty! Debra Messing! Jack Davenport! Anjelica Houston!!!!) is fantastic. The music (all totally Broadway inspired numbers about Marilyn Monroe’s life) is fantastic. The story line (sex, intrigue, dream-chasing, infidelity, competition, all culminating in typical theater fashion) is fantastic.

Guys. Are you hearing me? This Show Is Fantastic.

For me, the key to a FANTASTIC musical show, be it in the theater or on screen, is that you walk away from it singing the songs. And I’ve been humming the songs from Smash now since it started  8 weeks ago.

Seriously. I don’t even know half of the lyrics and I’m still belting out “History is Made At Night” in my shower on a daily basis.

 

SO GOOD!!!

I can only make it so clear, people. Let me just say that I’ve already gone back and watched the entire season again On Demand. And I loved every single bit of it the second time through. I’ve already cleared a space on my DVD shelf for this series when it comes out on DVD. And as soon as NBC releases the songs from Season 1 on iTunes…I will be listening to it All. The. Time.

For now I have to wait until Monday nights at 10 o’clock on NBC to find out what happens next. In the meantime, I’m going to keep singing the lyrics I know, and humming the lyrics I don’t. Loudly. And Badly.

Reason #2: Wicked
This famous musical about the Wicked Witch of the West, based on the book written by Gregory McGuire, is one that most people have heard of already. It made its debut on the Broadway stage WAAAAY BAAAACK in 2003, and the music and characters are easily recognizable by most.

In fact, the original Glinda (Kristin Chenoweth) and Elphaba (Idina Menzel) have been featured characters on GLEE. Several of the songs from the soundtrack have also been belted out by Rachel, or Kurt, on the show as well. You can’t get any more famous than that, am I right?

So why am I so currently obsessed with all things Wicked?

Because the traveling Broadway show is coming to Charleston in April. And guess who has tickets?!?!?!?!?!?!

(That would be me.)

I’ve wanted to see Wicked since it first became nationally known, and to finally have the chance to go and see it on a big stage, LIVE…well, I’m just really excited about it. If you can’t already tell.

My new life’s theme song is “Defying Gravity.” It is my new ring tone. And when I’m not singing songs from Smash, I’m belting it out on a regular basis. Sigh. I cry every time I hear it. So powerful!

Also, I want to be Kristin Chenoweth when I grow up. Just sayin’.

I simply CANNOT WAIT to see the show in its entirety next month. And so, in preparation, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack practically endlessly. So, I will be ready to sing the songs all the way to the theater, all the way through the show, and all the way back home again.

What? That’s totally normal.

I can’t think of a conclusion to this blog that is witty and funny, and so I’m just going to be completely honest. I’m going to go spend hours on You Tube now, looking for videos from my two new favorite musicals. Have a nice day. Bye now.

Are Ya’ll Ready For This?

Before there was this version of Abby:

There was this version of Abby:

In case you are squinting at your computer, wondering who the adorably precocious child in fringe may be, let me just tell you. That’s an eleven-year-old me. And I used to be a clogger.

“What’s that? A clogger, you say?”

Yes. A clogger. For those who don’t know what clogging is, let me tell you.

Clogging is a traditional type of percussive folk dance which is common in the Appalachian Region of the United States, associated with the predecessor to bluegrass – old time music which is based on Irish and Scots-Irish fiddle tunes.
 
Thanks, Webster.
So you see, when I say I was a clogger, I mean I danced in tap shoes. Not wooden shoes.

To tell ya the truth, I was pretty dang good little clogger, ya’ll. I was a dancer with the Tri-City Express Cloggers from Kingsport, Tennessee, and we didn’t just dance at weekend festivals and nursing homes. Oh no. We also competed. (Hence the trophies in the picture above.)

My dancin’ feet took me travellin’, in contests and competitions state wide. One of the more memorable experiences was at Dollywood–a brand spankin’ new theme park in Pigeon Forge. We’d practiced, and practiced HARD, for weeks leading up to the Dollywood competition. It was our first time competing in such a large venue, and we had no idea what we were up against.

(PS: Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that you’re probably laughing at me right now. You know it, I know it. It’s totally ok. Let’s move on.)

This competition at Dollywood wasn’t a 3 hour affair. Oh, no. It was a weekend-long competition. And so our entire troupe–all 8 of us–brought our sequins and our hairspray and our tappy shoes and filled up a small corner of the giant auditorium. We each had our own entourage–parents, siblings, grandparents, friends–and the excitement was palpable.

I vaguely remember a guy wearing all denim and cowboy boots taking the mic and making a brief speech, and then, the competition finally began. We settled into our seats to watch as the first team clacked out onto the wooden stage. There were at least 30 of them, and they were all wearing matching red jumpsuits. Not just any red jumpsuits, but SEQUINED red jumpsuits.

A collective “WOW” could be heard on our 2 rows as we took in the spectacle. We’d never seen a clogging team like this before.

And THAT’S when the music started.

The bass pumped through the huge speakers, the synthesizer loud enough to make our already-big  hair stand up even taller. And like a perfectly-oiled machine, the dance troupe on stage began their choreography to the song that would haunt us for the rest of the weekend. You might remember it–a little diddy called “Are You Ready For This?”

 

(We’re going to pause again right here so you can laugh about the awfulness awesomeness of that video. then we’re going to move on. Ready? Ok.)

As the red-bedazzled team tippity-tapped their way into the judges’ hearts, we just sat there in awe. Where was the blue grass? Or the Garth Brooks? Who were these sophisticates from the big city? How could we begin to compete with our modest costumes and our small numbers? And they were dancing to music so cool and hip, we’d never heard it before! We were doomed.

Twenty minutes and 3 teams later, we were beginning to feel the nerves. Another team, this one decked out in green ruffles, took their places beneath the spotlights. And we sat watching, hearts in hand.

The now-familiar strains of  “Are Ya’ll Ready For This?” played over the loud speakers.

My Dad was sitting behind me, and I remember hearing him say, “Really? Again?”

We sat through another 4 minute routine, the unfamiliar song pulsing in our brains. And when the next team danced to the exact same song, I could see the adults in our group begin to cringe.

By 6 pm Saturday night, we’d heard the song approximately eleven-hundred-and-forty-seven times.

(What? So I might be rounding up a little. Big deal.)

After our performances were done, we began packing up our little group to head back to the cabins for the night. To say that we were ready to get out of that auditorium—and away from that song in particular—was understatement of the year. As the last team took to the stage, none of us were surprised to hear that fateful question asked of us again.

“ARE YA’LL READY FOR THIS?”

Without rehearsal and in perfect unison, my Dad and 2 other dads stood up and answered with a resounding “NO!”


And our merry little band of cloggers made our way to the exit, laughing all the way.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *

Fast-forward to spring of 1994. I was in the eighth grade, and a proud JV Cheerleader. As we jogged out into the middle of the basketball court to perform our first halftime show, my years as a clogger were the last thing on my mind. My parents sat proudly in the stands, and I took one last second to look up and smile before taking my position.

When I looked back up again, the strains of Jock Jams playing loudly in the background, I nearly tripped over my pom poms. Because when the guy yelled “Are Ya’ll Ready For This?” both my parents reflexively shouted the word, “NO!”

We now equate that reaction to PTCPD. Post-traumatic clogging parent disorder.

I’m sharing my love of techno music today with my favorite
Blogging Community–Yeah Write. (You totally
thought I was going to say Clogging Community, didn’t you?
That’s okay. We forgive you.
Especially if you stop by on Wednesday and vote for your 3 faves.

An Opera Singer I Am Not

My husband is an evil, evil man.

Last night, as we readied for bed, he “song bombed” me.

Song bombed? What does that mean? Well, dear reader, let me explain.

There I’ll be, minding my own business, brushing my teeth/folding laundry/checking my email, when, from another room, I’ll hear my husband singing a song. Not just any song, mind you, but a song he KNOWS will get stuck in my head for the next three years days.

Sometimes it’s a romantic gesture…a song he serenades me with in his silly, soft falsetto.

Other times it may be a theme song for one of our favorite shows—one that we’ll both walk around humming under our breath. Or one that has a catchy chorus.

But most of the time, dear reader, it is one of those annoying commercial songs that have a habit of getting so lodged in your brain, it seems to take a stick of dynamite to knock it loose.

You know the kind of commercials I’m talking about, right? The most notorious one in our house—the JG Wentworth opera commercial.


I. Hate. This. Commercial.

Not because of the company, or whatever it is that they do. But because of the insanely addicting, fake opera song. All it takes is the first few bars, and the song is inevitable stuck somewhere in my cerebral cortex for days on end. I literally sing/hum/whistle it ALL DAY LONG. Seriously. See?

 

Please make it stop.

My Personal Soundtrack

The time: steamy summer of 1997.

The place: lying on the floor of my high school sweetheart’s bedroom, in a pool of sunshine.

The soundtrack: Edwin McCain’s Misguided Roses.

I fell in love that summer–with a boy who’s eyes were the color of melted chocolate. With the idea of “true love.” And with a songwriter whose words were heartbreakingly beautiful.

That first romance bloomed, and eventually died on the vine.

I traveled the road of True Love, and Broken Heart, and Never Love Again.

And that songwriter traveled with me, from high school to college to real life.

He was with me during those first moments of falling in love with my husband. He was there when we shared our first dance as husband and wife. He was there to hold me up when Brian was diagnosed with cancer last year. And he’s still with me today.

When you find a songwriter like this, whose voice reaches deep down inside and moves your soul, you tend to grab hold and hang on for dear life.

Songwriters like that can be your therapy. They can share your moments of triumph. They can buoy you up in your moments of defeat. They can make you laugh, and dance, and groove. They can make you cry, and think, and feel. They can be such a permanent fixture in your life that everyone who knows you has been touched by that songwriter, too.

Edwin McCain is that songwriter for me.

The day I met Edwin, in fall of 2006.

Each and every time Edwin releases a new album, it is a day of celebration in our house. And Brian was up extra-early this morning to ensure he had enough time to download Edwin’s latest album, Mercy Bound, for his long commute to work.

On this album is a song that will break your heart and have you jumping out of your seat at the same time. It’s called “Boom.” Edwin wrote it about his mother, who was diagnosed with cancer in May of 2010. (Video shared below for your listening pleasure.)

 

As you can imagine, it really hits home with us.

And as usual, my songwriter has released an album I know I’ll listen to for many years to come.

Some days I think I should write Edwin a letter and describe to him just how he’s affected my life. How his music, his story telling, his words have worked their way into the very facet of my person. I often wonder how I would articulate that to him in a way that he would understand. His music is the soundtrack of my life.

Maybe I’ll just send him a link to this blog.

If you are visiting, Edwin, I can only think of one thing to say. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.

The Sound Track Of My Life

I recently had an encounter with a customer who’s first name is “Cleavon.”

No I’m not making it up. And he was a really nice guy.
However, anytime his name comes up–in conversation, in paperwork, in person–I immediately hear Steven Tyler in my head.
Except, instead of “Dream on, Dream on” he’s wailing “Clea-von, Clea-von…”

I can’t for sure how often this has happened, but I noticed myself humming “Dream On” again this morning as I placed a stamp on Cleavon’s monthly invoice. It’s probably happened every single time I’ve ever encountered the guy, but today, my brain clicked in place (it’s a rarity) and I thought, “Huh. I wonder how often I do that with other stuff.”

So I sat down and thought about it. And chuckled as more examples of what I’ll call “sound track” songs popped into my head. Songs that I’m reminded of in the most obscure, usually unrelated ways.

For instance, anytime I hear a harmonica in ANY context, I will hum Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” for the next 12 days, guaranteed.

And once this song is in my head, it’s going to stay there for a very, very, VERY long time.

I’m also assuming that any other people from my generation automatically think “Collaborate and listen,” anytime someone says the word, “Stop!”

If you were alive in 1990, and you had a radio, you know all the words to this song. Or most of them. Or at least the first verse.

Now, as a cat-mom, I know that cats make lots of different noises. “Waow,” and “meeeh” and “rawr” are those I hear most often. But every once in awhile, I’ll hear that perfectly enunciated “meow” and this pops into my head:

And as I’m walking around the house singing the little ditty, my cats (and husband) look at me as though I’ve developed some sort of mental disorder.

Out of all of these songs, though, the one I sing every day is prompted by an item listed in my Google Chrome Favorite’s Bar. Every time I open up my browser, I see this:

…and start singing this:

Except in my head it goes: “My favorite blogs….woooaaah, they’re my favorite blogs. (deep voice) Don’t You Know…”

And to answer your question before you even ask it….yes, sometimes I even do the dance moves.

I Don’t Want to Live On the Moon

When I was a child, life was in absolutes.

1) I was the most cherished child on the planet.
2) Summer evenings were slated for running through the sprinkler, helping Dad in the garden, cookouts, impromptu dance recitals, and catching lightning bugs.
3) Sesame Street came on once in the morning, again in the afternoon, and I never missed an episode. Ever.

I really didn’t watch a ton of TV as a child. My days were spent living in my imagination. Books were read (and written), elaborate alter-egos were created and lived, and my Barbie dolls had lives straight out of All My Children.

But when it came to Sesame Street, I was avid. Mom didn’t have to tell me twice that it was coming on. I was parked in front of our ginormous television, my little girl’s brain at attention and ready to learn. I soaked up the alphabet, counting, sharing, even some Spanish.

I belly-laughed at the Martians:

I shouted for the fishies with Bert and Ernie:

And I danced the boog-a-loo to all the fantastic funk songs from the 70s:

(this would make an AWESOME ring tone!!! Must investigate….)


Sesame Street wasn’t just a television show for me. I had such a vivid imagination as a child, I was totally submerged in every moment. I remember when Mr. Hooper died, and David took over the store. I remember entire songs, every single lyric, that I haven’t heard since I was 5. I remember learning to count to 10 in Spanish with Maria, singing about the people in my neighborhood with Bob, understanding what it’s like to feel green thanks to Kermit.

I even had the albums. Mom and Dad would tuck me in after story time every night, kiss me on the forehead, and turn on my “Daydreamin’ On a Rainy Day” album (David was always my favorite). I would fall asleep listening to him sing about Safaris, and the Circus, and the Rubber Band Band.

There was one Sesame Street song, on one of my many cassette tapes, that always made me (and my Mom) cry. The so-sweet sentiment combined with the simple lyrics created Sesame Street perfection.

I have always said that when I become a mother, Sesame Street will be a must for my kids. I don’t know what’s on TV these days, but I am glad to know that the institution of my favorite childhood show is still in tact….just with a bit of a face lift.

Although, I have to say, I’ll miss the funk songs the most.