Sunday, January 20, 2013

Musical Review: "Memphis"

I am a lucky lady. Last week, one of my former teachers called me (High school English/Theater teacher. She's one of my sister's best friends, still), and asked if I'd like a pair of tickets to the musical "Memphis" at Omaha's Orpheum Theatre. I love a musical, so accepting the tickets was a no-brainer (sadly, she and her husband were unable to make it). I called up my work out buddy, Emily, who said she'd be thrilled to go.

It is loosely based on Memphis disc jockey Dewey Phillips,[1] one of the first white DJs to play black music in the 1950s.

I gotta say, the main character, Huey Calhoun, I thought was a bit of a doofus. He was fun, and props to him for making something of himself via radio and television, but he was an extremely flawed character. He was in love with the heroine, Felicia Farrell, ever since he heard her sing in the opening scene. It took a bit more for her to open up to her feelings for him (he got her on the radio, and gave her a musical start). I still don't see what she saw in him. Over the course of four years, he became a big fish in a little pond, and wanted to marry Felicia, which was against the law back then (He was white, she was black). 

I thought the music and performances were fantastic. The actor playing Huey owned it (and I mean OWNED!), and the actress playing Felicia had a gorgeous voice. She was wonderful. I have to say, though, I'm not a huge fan of this type of play. I thought the story was a little slow, and didn't really find Huey that likable (I don't care for stupid comedies, either. *shrugs*). The music and dancing was really where the true stars were. Absolutely wonderful.

If you remember from my last trek to the Orpheum, I had pretty good seats. Here's where I was this time:

The Loge, House Left

I love how I manage to luck out at the Orpheum. I've never been disappointed with my seats. I'm also an eternal optimist who's just happy to be there. Seriously. When I saw Beauty and the Beast back in 2001, and The Phantom of the Opera at the Kansas City Music Hall in 2010, I was in the back row at the top of the house. (I honestly think I could touch the ceiling in that place), but I just enjoyed the music and I could see the whole stage, which was great for bigger numbers.

I just love shows. I feel like I grew up in the Orpheum (though, I've probably only spent about a week's worth of time there in my 27 years), and I'd be happy seeing ANYTHING there.

My next goal is to see The Lion King in March-April when it's in town. I REALLY want to see that one!


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Paranormals (Jenny Pox, Tommy Nightmare, Alexander Death, Jenny Plague-Bringer) Reviews

Jenny Pox (The Paranormals, #1)Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book infuriated me. And enthralled me. I was completely mesmerized by so many different things in this book that I recommended it to three different people before I even finished.

First up, I have to say, Ashleigh as the main villain infuriated me the most (that's what villains are supposed to do, right?). As a Christian and a conservative (well, libertarian, but I digress), people like her make me so angry. She was manipulative, vindictive, creepy, condescending, two-faced *goes to find a thesaurus* vicious, vile, offensive, pernicious. You get the idea. She was genius at working things through to work out in her own favor, from manipulating her principal's words on the Abstinance is Power agenda, to getting the entire town to turn on Jenny and Seth. What scared me about her is how much power she was able to hold in her perfectly manicured claws. There was nothing forgiving about her. She was probably the perfect villain, joining the ranks of Mandy Moore's character in "Saved" and Amanda Bynes' character in "Easy A." People like Ashleigh Goodling (ironic last name) give real Christians who love God and people more than Napoleonic agendas (Ashleigh even sympathized with Napoleon while studying!) a bad name!

That said, this seems like a cautionary tale of what happens when you allow other people to do your thinking for you. Granted, the people of Fallen Oak were under Ashleigh's spell, so they couldn't do much about it, but in the real world, we're able to think for ourselves, educate ourselves, make our own decisions. I'm seriously looking forward to reading book two to see where life takes Jenny and Seth!

View all my reviews Tommy Nightmare (The Paranormals, #2)Tommy Nightmare by J.L. Bryan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I loved the first book in this series, "Jenny Pox." I was riveted from the first chapter and couldn't put it down. This book, while also interesting and riveting, seemed a lot shorter, and like many middle books in trilogy (though, I see a fourth is out now), it had a cliffhanger.

There are so many unanswered questions that this book left me with. Who is Alexander? Are Jenny and Seth soul mates? Will Esmerelda get her life back from Ashleigh? What about Tommy? Will that semblance of a conscience return in "Alexander Death?"

Suffice it to say, my next payday, I'll be getting book 3. I won't wait so long to get it (I finished "Jenny Pox" last spring).

For what it's worth, I enjoyed this book. It was a really quick read, I loved hearing more about their world, and how insane large crowds of people can get.

I did feel it was too short, and things happened a bit too quickly, but I still enjoyed it. JL Bryan has a way with story telling. He's so good at it. He's painted this world that is vivid (and it might be the cover of "Jenny Pox" talking, but also sepia-toned) and rich. I'll probably start to turn to him when I need to get sucked into a book. This is two books that have sucked me in and not let me go.

View all my reviews Alexander Death (The Paranormals, #3)Alexander Death by J.L. Bryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't know who classified this series as YA, but whoever did is wrong. Just because it happens to 18-year-olds doesn't mean that it's appropriate to a younger audience. Maybe I'm just prudish. Yeah, that's probably it.

Despite the ill-advised label, I really enjoyed this book and this series. I like the fact that Jenny has spent her time discovering who she is, and Alexander had me fooled through most of the book (okay, not really, but who are we kidding?). He is charismatic and charming so long as he gets what he wants. For about twenty minutes, I honestly believed that he cared about Jenny, but I knew it wouldn't last. I knew that Seth wouldn't let her go so easily.

What I wasn't really expecting was Alexander and Ashleigh joining forces, or the fact that they wouldn't make it. I'm still waiting for them to come back. Someone as vindictive as Ashleigh Goodling doesn't just keel over and die (again). I'm in the fourth book of the series and I fully believe that she will come back to rain terror over the world, and especially Jenny and Seth.

I am sad that there wasn't more of Tommy. He's not exactly having a change of heart, but he knows that he's been had. I only wish he could've done something more to Ashley without hurting Esmerelda. But now that Esmerelda has her own body back, we can only hope they join forces with Jenny and Seth. Doubtful, but I'd like to see more of them. Especially Esmerelda. I think there's more to her power than just seeing the dead's lives.

I really did enjoy this book, just not as much as Jenny Pox.

View all my reviews Jenny Plague-Bringer (The Paranormals, #4)Jenny Plague-Bringer by J.L. Bryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this series. I was with Jenny from the start and I stayed with her until the end. I thought she was relatable, amusing, and fierce (especially after book three).

This book had me teetering through a lot of it, though. It jumped back and forth between Jenny and Seth's current life, and the parallels with the life they lived back in the 1930's when Hitler was rising to power in Germany. There was a lot of information about eugenics and creating a superior race of beings (all blonde-haired and blue-eyed, too. Can you say "Village of the Damned?"). I'm fascinated by the study of eugenics, not to actually do it myself, but the mindset that they believe that people should be bred like animals.

Nazies were sick people.

The idea in this story is to breed paranormals with other paranormals. Ashleigh Goodling, the blonde princess of power from books one, two and three, returns, but only in the past as Alise, a German girl who is one of the higher ups in the Reich that do the studies. She's not the so-called good girl she was made out to be in book one. She was a little tramp. She was trying to do her part to create her own little Nazis with other paranormals. And she used her touch of love to get the others into it too.

Have I mentioned in these reviews that I find A (Her name ALWAYS starts with an A) extremely creepy?

The book starts with Jenny and Seth living in Paris. Jenny now recalls their past lives, and tells Seth about them. They're happy, doing what they do, just relaxing in the fact that no one knows them. However, they are kidnapped, along with their new friend and additional paranormal, Mariella, by Ward Kilpatrick, Mariella's opposite (She can see the future, he sees people's pasts), and put back into the same place where Nazis ran tests on them. This time, they're all prisoners, including Tommy, who sets fear into the minds of everyone he touches (though he doesn't realize he's also a prisoner), and Esmeralda, who can speak to the dead.

After Mariella and Seth are able to remember their past lives (It involves getting high on mushrooms. Don't ask), the stories start to intertwine, and if there hadn't been subtle name changes (Jenny=Juliana, Seth=Sebastian, Mariella=Mia, etc), it would be hard to depict what was happening in what lifetime.

I did think the ending got a little long (there were some SERIOUSLY long chases in there!), but overall, I really enjoyed the story and the journey and was very satisfied with the ending.

View all my reviews