Posted in music, Reviews

Memphis the Musical: A review


Thanks to Nicole Barrett and radio station KLIF, I won two tickets to opening night of the Dallas Summer Musical performance of the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Memphis.  It’s always great to get out to a show, and the free-er, the better!   I’m sure that’s what the people in front of me thought when they got the free peepshow of my panties.  I got my dress caught on a theater seat and somehow managed to yank both it and my slip up over my hips.  Sorry, people!  At least you weren’t charged for the view.

I enjoy musical theater.  I have no problem with people bursting into song at odd moments, full orchestras invisibly swelling behind people who are suddenly dancing and singing.  I mean, except for the musicians, I do that all the time.  Why shouldn’t everyone else?  And, since my latest guilty pleasure is SMASH!, I was very excited to go see Memphis.

Sadly, I was disappointed.

First, though, the highlights.  Felicia Boswell, who played Felicia Farrell, was fantastic.  Her vocals were wonderful, and I would sit and listen to her sing all night.  She also cut a smashing figure in her costumes, and moved beautifully.  She’s got some amazing arms.

The choreography was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed watching the dancing.  Made me wish I could move like that.

The costuming was great.

About half of the numbers were truly enjoyable.  The other half?

So, when you leave a good musical, you should be humming a song, or at least have an earworm.  Even after the first episode of Smash!, I was humming “Let Me Be Your Star” without realizing it.  A good musical should have at least one number that you want to stop, rewind, and play again.  Memphis didn’t have any of these for me.  I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the music–in fact, there were a couple of songs Boswell sang that made me wish I could replay the stylings she gave them, but that was everything to do with her, and nothing to do with Memphis.  I walked out and couldn’t have sung you a bar from any of the songs they performed, and given my Mockingbird like recall for music, that’s saying something really sad.

Several of the actors seemed to be having trouble with their mics.  At least, I’m going to give them that benefit of the doubt, otherwise I can’t see why they would have been cast.  Dialogue was garbled and unintelligible in places, with Boswell and a trio of supporting actors being the only characters I could completely understand.  The star of the show, Bryan Fenkart, who plays Huey Calhoun (the fictionalized version of Dewey Phillips, upon whom the story is built) was just not good at all.

Most of the time, Fenkart couldn’t be understood at all.  He, and the rest of the cast, adopt what passes for a Tennessee accent (if you have never been to Tennessee) and on top of his hick twang, he has added a version of Steve Martin’s wild and crazy guy hiccoughing affectation.  I could catch two or three words of every sentence.  Having no knowledge of the musical beforehand, when his character first appeared, I thought he was playing the stereotypical Southern Mentally Challenged trope.  That’s how affected his speech was.  It took a couple of scenes before I realized he was the star, and quit waiting for him to meet some end like Mercutio.  His vocals were marginal and his dancing made me think he’d been cast for his vocals.

The story was all right.  I feel like the subject matter could have been handled much better, but that would have required taking the focus from Huey and putting it on Felicia–rewriting the show entirely.  I was very uncomfortable with some of the language.  Racial epitaphs are a part of my family’s conversational history that I have worked hard to distance from, and it was actually painful to sit through listening to dialogue that sounded like it had been tape-recorded off my Granny’s back porch.  Yes, it was historically accurate, but also yes, the seriousness, danger and sadness of the era were completely glossed over in lieu of using a few slurs to set a tone.  It made too light of the violence and hate that were rampant in those days, relegating the truth of the matter to two offhand comments and one short scene in the matter of 2.5 hours.  If you’re going to do a show about racism in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, you’ve got to commit.  People died.

I wasn’t engrossed, and there was a massive shift in Huey’s character after intermission surprised me.  Though, I think I was supposed to infer that he had become a drunk because he drank from a flask twice in the 6-8 year span of time the last half of the play covered.  His speech and movement never changed, so who knows?  I just know he started behaving differently toward Felicia.

I liked the parts revolving around Felicia, and wished there was more to her story, her brother’s story, and the people around her, and less about the herp-derp DJ.  I appreciated that Felicia was a strong-willed, independent woman, and was glad for how she ended up.  I guess I liked everything about her.

So…I’d give it 2 out of 5 stars.  It wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t great.  It was somewhere short of average for me.  I loved having the night out, though, and do really appreciate the free tickets!

Posted in 2the9s, Advice, Explaining the Strange Behavior, Howling Sea Lane, music, parenting

Do You Think I’m Sexy?


You know I can’t resist a challenge, so when Mommyfriend posted about the Nickelodeon ParentsConnect Sexy Mama Month, I had to step up to collect my (hopefully well-earned) badge, and nominate a few ladies whose sexiness is undeniable.  But first, in the interest of feminism and my own temper, let’s talk about sexy.

I was actually thinking about “sexy” this morning: what constitutes it, what it isn’t, why it is such hard word to use.  The latter was the easiest for me to answer.  Our society pushes the Virgin/Whore dichotomy on women from the earliest ages.  It’s adorable to dress your daughter in Prostitot Chic, but even while she’s bouncing her buttons off to Rhianna’s latest ode to getting the booty, she must be sure to blow the most innocent of kisses, lest you focus on her bare midriff and get the wrong idea.  As a society, we can’t decide if we want women to be independently minded regarding their sexuality, or if we want them to conform to patriarchal  ideals of chastity.  To paraphrase Tom Jones (and you should absolutely do this in any situation even remotely apropos) the ideal is someone you’d like to flaunt AND take to dinner.  Or, to quote Nikki Sixx (all my role models are rock stars),  “A woman should be a lady on your arm and whore behind the door.”

Do you have any idea how exhausting it is to attempt to fill all those roles?  And at the right times?  Lord above.  Sexy is a hard word to use because it is a major bitch to fulfill!  Now I won’t win my badge because I cursed.  But according to AskMen.com, men find dirty mouths really sexy, so maybe I’m still in!

What isn’t sexy is a trick question because there is an audience for everything.  Just watch a season of Secret Diary of a Call Girl and you’ll get filled in on folks who fancy sploshing, pony play, toilet bowl licking, and all manner of things you’d need to be either very desperate, or very bored to even imagine in the first place.  Even the star of the show, Billie Piper, is a big question mark.  I know men who find her luscious, and men who find her completely unbelievable as a sex symbol.

What we are told is not sexy is anything that does not conform to the Playboy ideal of big hair, big boobs, and a big Photoshop brush.  If it is obviously over 30 years of age, 130lbs, and/or has hips, throw it back.  We are told that sexy is young, tight, sleek, slightly moist, and ready to say yes to you, and no to everyone else.

What is actually sexy is entirely relative, and is absolutely why I will never try to fight you for your husband.  I find my husband absolutely attractive and very sexy, and I’m so blinded by all things Bryan that no one else even registers–that’s actually true, and possibly embarrassing in its schoolgirl crushiness.  But as Salt-n-Pepa said, “He keeps me on Cloud Nine just like the Temps; He’s not a fake wannabe tryin’ to be a pimp; He dresses like a dapper don, but even in jeans; He’s a God-sent original, the man of my dreams.”*

Sexy is difficult to pin down because it means so many different things to so many different people.  So while some might find the ParentsConnect Sexy Mamas Month icon picture of a thin, mostly naked woman, jumping on a bed sexy, I find the angle of her legs alarming  because that’s not going to be a pretty landing.  I also find it insulting because it insinuates that this is what a “Sexy Mama” looks like.  And while some Sexy Mamas might look like this or better, there are hosts of brilliant and beautiful women who do not find representation here.

But I should get to the question portion of the blog, shouldn’t I?  ParentsConnect asks:

  • What makes you feel sexy?
  • Who’s your sexy mama role model?
  • What’s your best tip to help other moms feel super-confident and sexy?
And The Outside Lane answers:
  1. I feel sexy all damned day long (that’s more dirty talk for the male audience.)  You know why?  Because I feel sexy when I feel powerful, and I feel powerful because of my intelligence, my wit, and my strong legs.  I feel sexy because when I walk, my posture tells you that I am force to be reckoned with, the world is my catwalk, and my theme song is The Imperial March.  When I am strutting across the office, that’s what is playing in my head.  The only times I don’t feel sexy are when I am feeling stupid over a mistake I’ve made, or when I’m bent over the backseat trying to scrub baby vomit out of the floorboard, but even then I’m aware that for some people (like the aforementioned husband) my backside is a major selling point.
  2. My imaginary sexy mama role model is Judy Dench as M in the James Bond series.  She is strong.  She is powerful.  She is a snappy dresser, and she doesn’t have to resort to flirtation to get her way. My reality sexy mama role model is Hilary Clinton.  Our politics differ, but she is strong, she is powerful, she is a snappy dresser, and she doesn’t have to resort to flirtation to get her way.
  3. My best tip to help other mothers feel sexy and confident is this:  Find your strengths and play to them.  Find your weaknesses and make peace with them.  Get yourself a theme song, and then strut because the world is your catwalk, too.
ParentsConnect also wanted to know if there were other Sexy Mamas we wanted to nominate, and why.  Here are a few of mine:
  • Jamie of A Dash of Domestic, who is strong, powerful, a snappy dresser, and who makes managing a home economy look easy.  She is huge-hearted, giving, and does her utmost to mentor her fellow women into more successful lifestyles.  Sharing is sexy.
  • Krista of One & Four, who is strong, powerful, a snappy dresser, and who is one of the best graphic artists I know.  She has battled just about everything life can throw at you with bravery and grace, and is making the world a better place for four very lucky men.
  • Arwen, of ArwenBicknell.com, who is strong, powerful, a snappy dresser, and who makes Having It All look like a piece of cake, even when she’s stuck in traffic for eight hours in a snowstorm.  Actually, Arwen is probably my real Sexy Mama role model.  If I weren’t so lazy, I might have a shot at molding myself in her image, alas.
  • Gina, who doesn’t have an open blog yet, but who should because she is strong, powerful, a snappy dresser, and an example of how Single Parenting is not only just okay, but can produce excellence, intelligence, and massive contribution to society.
  • Irene, who also needs an open blog, though the world might not be ready to laugh that hard.  She is also strong, powerful, and a snappy dresser.
  • As are June, Amy, JulieAnne, Emily (who might just become Thor’s Sexy Mama-in-Law one day) and a score of other women who haven’t taken to the internets yet.
Sexy, to quote Fun Boy Three, ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.  And that’s what gets results.

So, ParentsConnect, I humbly submit myblogself for your perusal, not unlike one of Littlefinger’s girls in his King’s Landing brothel.  Check me out.  Judge the straightness of my teeth, the curve of my lips, the heft of my–well, let’s not get too close.  We’ve only just met.  But let me know, as Rod Stewart so prophetically asked, “Do ya think I’m sexy?”

*I would have chosen the lyrics in verse 4, but my dad reads this.

Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Inside Lane, music, Thor

Colorful Muzak


Thor and I were on the way to meet Granddaddy for lunch today, and a song came on NPR that I remembered from my childhood Friday afternoons spent in the breakroom of Mom’s bank branch.  See, she worked until 7pm on Fridays, and I was far too young (and stupid–major candidate for the Darwin Awards, this one) to be at home alone from 3 until 7, so the bus driver would drop me off at her bank on Fridays.  I would check in with her, walk down the strip mall to the Pancake House, have a bowl of chicken noodle soup and more crackers than are healthy for a person, and stare at a print of God making shame fingers out of a cloud at a small boy whose kite had become tangled in a tree.  From there, it was back to the bank and straight into the breakroom, where I would entertain myself with homework, the funny papers, comics, and cleaning up the supply room until it was time to go home.

As you can imagine, I heard a lot of Muzak.  Hours and hours of Muzak styled in the 70s, based on the Top 40 of the 50s and 60s, with some Disco thrown in for good measure.  Mom would tell me the names of songs, when she’d come back to check on me, and tell me how popular they were.

I want you to know, I felt SO SORRY for her!  None of her songs had any words, and they all sounded almost exactly alike.  It was years before I discovered that Georgie Girl had lyrics other than the ones made up for the Kissing Barbie, Barbie Doll (whose lips you would color with a stamper, and whose in-back button you would push to make her head tilt into a kiss, leaving a perfectly shaped Barbie lip stain on whatever her rosy mouth met.  “Hey there, Barbie Girl, wearing cherry lipstick…”)

That made me remember sitting in our house in Colorado (so, somewhere between ages 2 and 4) and wondering when my mother had turned into color, since she was black and white in her own childhood.

Weren't all of the 40s black and white?

 

I wonder what Thor will misconstrue?

What he has not misunderstood is which is the better:  In or Out of school.

Yesterday, Aunt Jamie asked him if he was excited to go back into school tomorrow.  He said yes, then followed up with the caveat, “But I’m more excited to get out.”

Posted in holiday guest blog, music

Days of Christmas: Have to Listen–Favorite Holiday Songs


I love this Paul McCartney ode to the Christmas spirit–and maybe love it all the more because it sounds like space aliens are adding their hoopy frood grooves to it.  It’s like Charlie Brown and Ford Prefect were in charge of the music.

 

Any version of the Carol of the Bells works for me, but I really do like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s.  And this one by the Celtic Women.  Although, I could do without the earnest staging.

 

Annie Lennox can do no wrong, and her version of The Holly and the Ivy is goosebump gorgeous.  So is she.  That woman is stunning.

 

Of the serious carols, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is my deepest favorite.

 

And of the not-so-serious, I prefer to put on yarmulke and celebrate Hanukkah.  With Bowser from Sha-na-na and Arthur Fonzarelli.

 

The Christmas song that makes me the happiest, and always inspire me to squeal up to my highest vocal heights?  Oh, my Mimi!  All I Want for Christmas is You!  (Chair dancing and humming along as I type this. Happy!)

 

What’s your favorite?

 

 

 

Posted in Friends of Mine, holiday guest blog, music

Days of Christmas: Holiday Have to Hear–Transistor Tramps


As I said the other day, I have the pleasure of knowing some very creative, talented people.  Among those people is David Sebrind, the synths and programming mastermind behind Transistor Tramps, a post punk, new wave quintet from Dallas.  Transistor Tramps is releasing their first CD this month.

I love it when my friends find success!

I’ve known David since high school, and though we fell out of contact during the college years, I was thrilled to see him on a mutual friend’s Facebook, and reconnect and rediscover his amazing talent.  He has lent his musical creativity and skill to several local bands over the years, coming to gel with Transistor Tramps after working with two of the other founding members on the soundtrack for an indie film  in 2008.

With Elle Hurley on vocals, the music evokes early Berlin for me, but darker and more slickly produced, with an Industrial feel.  Think if John Crawford and Trent Reznor had a baby girl using Terri Nunn as a surrogate, then got Matt Johnson to nanny for them.  That is Transistor Tramps–and someone I want to have drinks with.  This is definitely a project that should get attention for its cohesiveness, originality, and style.  I could absolutely hear it as soundtrack to a modern Bad Influence–the so bad it’s good movie (who wants to see young James Spader playing a good guy?  peh.)  that turned me on to Front 242 and Skinny Puppy.

So check it out and “like” Transistor Tramps on Facebook to keep up with the band.  After they go bigtime, you can brag that you “knew them when.”

Release Party promo.