Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Fair Lady a Rainy Day Treat

Thanks to my favourite entertainment venue, the John Labatt Centre, and their Broadway in London series, I had the chance to attend the one-night-only performance of the classic “My Fair Lady” in the highly coveted position of JLC Reviewer. Those who know me well know there are two things I love: live musical theatre and free date nights. Needless to say, next Wednesday evening will not be nearly as fun as this one was!

I will admit that going into this show, I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never seen My Fair Lady, nor had I yet experienced a “Broadway in London” performance, however I was pleasantly surprised by both.

First, the theatre – how the staff of the JLC is able to take a hockey rink and transform it into an intimate live theatre venue is nothing short of remarkable, but by George, they did it. It seemed like every seat would be a great one, and other than the side boards, the jerseys hanging from the rafters, and the patrons enjoying plastic cups of beer, I could have imagined myself sitting at the Grand. It was charming to see the typical ‘theatre crowd’ all dolled up and ready to take in a dose of culture as well...not what I expected, but adorable to witness.

As for the play – I will admit I have become a bit of a theatre snob, spoiled by big, modern, flashy musicals with grandiose sets, people flying across the stage and stars who are household names, so I had to put all that aside for this production. Once I did that, and was able to focus on the talent in front of me, I realized that for a cast that spends each night on a different stage in a different city, this group was incredibly talented. I have been told by others that if you’re a fan of the movie version of this show, featuring Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, this production paled in comparison. If, however, you were experiencing it for the first time like I was, it was a perfectly ‘loverly’ show.

Many of the cast are relative newcomers to the live stage (some recent college grads) according to the program, but they clearly were far from amateur caliber. I couldn’t imagine being on the road away from friends and family for weeks and months of the year, but the strain of that certainly didn’t show on stage. The voices were well trained, the lines committed to memory and the orchestra in fine form.

The story was a love story of sorts, which I'll leave you to read about on Wikipedia as I did prior to the show, however, I will suggest that in modern times I think you would be hard pressed to find a woman willing to endure what I would describe as a mildly abusive relationship. I am, however, a princess, so perhaps I just have a lower tolerance level for being yelled at constantly?

Once again, the John Labatt Centre has proven itself as a versatile venue catering to all Londoners. While it was strange sitting in the audience without a cowboy hat on for yet another A1 country concert experience, I would not hesitate to take in another Broadway in London performance at the fabulous RBC Theatre. And ‘with a lil’ bit of luck’, perhaps I will again soon!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

"Getting Closer" to Keith

On Monday, I was fortunate enough to be chosen by the John Labatt Centre to take in the Keith Urban “Getting Closer” tour as an official concert reviewer. How cool is that?! Not only did I get to see one of my favourite performers live and in person, but I got to do it from the cozy comfort of a private suite high above the crowds. Anyone who knows me will tell you there are two things I adore – country music and being treated like a princess - so needless to say, I was in heaven. Of course, my +1 was my dear husband Ron who has also decided that suites are the only way to go from now on. Nothing better than caviar taste on a tuna budget :)

We were joined by co-JLC reviewer Jen and her husband Bryan who seemed equally excited to be taking in the big show – very nice couple, and in typical London fashion, it took no time at all to realize we have mutual friends in common. Six degrees of separation tends to translate into one or two degrees in the Forest City it seems.

The show was opened by family trio The Band Perry who Ron and I saw in concert recently when they opened for Tim McGraw at the JLC. They’re a young group (in age and experience) with a ton of energy and a clear love for London. Lead singer Kimberly Perry made a point of mentioning their previous visit to London only a couple of short months ago, and shared with the crowd that the very first time they heard their latest single on the radio was as they were driving into our city. Their set was upbeat, rockin’ and LOUD – playing recognizable hits and newer tunes that are sure to gain ground with country radio – and I wouldn’t doubt that they gained a few new fans that night.

But it was clear from the immense chatter that began the moment The Band Perry left the stage, this crowd was there to see Keith Urban. After a stage turnover and sound check that mostly involved a crew member calling out numbers into the microphone (at one point I actually thought I was missing a BINGO game), the lowering of the lights signalled that the time had come. Keith was about to take the stage and he was about to receive one of the loudest and most enthusiastic welcomes I have seen at a JLC concert in a long time.

From the first notes of “Put You in a Song”, it was clear that every ounce of energy Keith had would be left on the stage, even seeming out of breath at times as he ran from one side of the arena to the other making sure all his fans had an equal chance to drool over him see him.

All the hits made an appearance – from the energizing “Sweet Thing” and “Somebody Like You” to my personal favourite ballads like “Making Memories of Us” and “You’ll Think of Me” – there was no question why Keith Urban continues to dominate charts and sell out arenas around the world. I didn’t realize until this concert how incredible his guitar skills are, and if I was more of a music aficionado, this is the part where I would compare him to some of the greats...but since I’m not, I’ll just tell you to think of your favourite kick-ass guitarist, and I’m sure whoever that person is, Keith could give them a run for their money.

What I wasn’t expecting, and was most impressed by, was the amount of audience interaction there was throughout the concert. The most memorable moment of the night came as Keith was reading signs being held up in the audience, and spotted one that clearly appealed to him (I think it read: I’d like to get closer to you). Pointing the excited young sign holder out to security guards nearby, she was soon onstage with her mom, looking like she could pass out at any moment. We came to learn she was Jocelyn from Strathroy and it was obvious that both she and her mom were smitten with this Australian charmer. After some photos together, a few hugs and a little chit chat, Jocelyn worked up the courage to ask Keith for what she really wanted....a kiss. Only too happy to oblige, the sweet peck was followed up by the cutest words of the night from Jocelyn “you just made my life”.

There were a couple of other audience participation segments, and plenty of strolls through the over-enthusiastic crowd, making it appear that security had their hands full and then some trying – not always successfully - to keep the singer from being mauled.

As the set closed – almost 3 hours after it began – there was no pretend ‘ok the show is over’ BS that you often get from performers who want to hear you scream for 15 minutes before they show back up again for the encore. I would guess Keith and the band had enough time to throw back some water and maybe wipe a little dripping sweat off before heading back onto the stage for encore numbers “Tonight I Want to Cry” and “Better Life” which ended in a shower of confetti and streamers covering the crowd, and the words “we love you London” echoing through the building.

All in all, I can say this was one of the best live shows I have seen (at the risk of being banned from the fan club, I dare say he was even better than ‘my’ Tim McGraw...shhhhhh!) and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy tickets next time his tour rolls into London.

As for my stint as a JLC Reviewer, I hope this review helps give you a glimpse into yet another of the FABULOUS shows London is fortunate to get thanks to the John Labatt Centre, and I thank the JLC for treating me like a princess in exchange for doing what I love to do most...share my opinion :)

Things I learned from this experience:

1. I can still rock a cowboy hat

2. Beer tastes better when it’s free

3. Singing along without as many people surrounding you means those who are nearby can hear you way better – sorry Jen and Bryan!

4.. All women – young and old – get weak in the knees when they realize that not only did they TOUCH Keith Urban, but that his sweat is still on their hands

5. London really IS the place to be for first-class entertainment

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Things I Wish More People Knew About Me

Wow! It’s been over a year since I last blogged. Where did that year go?? I will admit the lack of blogging has been intentional, and that’s because my decision to change the blog from a personal introspective narrative to a “Ron and Kathy Weight Loss Blog” left me no choice but to stop blogging when the white ‘I can’t do this anymore’ flag was raised. What was I to talk about – my pure hatred of the gym? Our decision to cancel our gym membership and use the money to get a housekeeper instead? (incidentally the best move I think we’ve ever made) Maybe I could have blogged about our top 10 foods that we shouldn’t have been eating, but still were.

No, I had no intention of continuing on with something that I knew in my heart wasn’t going to work for us. We were strong for a short time, and I’m proud of the effort we made, but ultimately, we’re just not ready to make the changes we need to on a permanent basis yet, and regardless of my aversion to disappointing those who were rooting us on – some on a daily basis – we are who we are, a chubby couple who like foods that are bad for us, hate exercise, and who have more excuses for not sticking to a healthy lifestyle than anyone you'll ever meet. I would like to thank that cheering squad we had though, because I feel certain we would never have made it as long as we did without outside reinforcement and support – so for the pounds we DID lose, and HAVE kept off...thank you!

So what to do with this site now? Well, up until recently I was willing to let it fade away into internet oblivion, because I really didn’t know what to talk about (enter "Kathy, speechless?" jokes here). Not sure I really do now either, but I recently read a blog that has inspired me to at least give it another go. This was an ongoing blog which, until then, I had never read, but one entry in particular challenged the reader to create their own blog on this topic – Things I Wish More People Knew About Me - this challenge had been tweeted by someone I follow and sounded intriguing. As I read things I didn’t know about an author who...well...I didn’t know...I found myself putting together my own ‘Things’ blog in my head which I thought was a good indication that I had a place to start again. So, for those of you who were regular readers in the past (689 hits on previous!), or for those of you checking this out for the first time, here are some things I would like you to know about me. Once you’ve read them, if they stir anything in you, feel free to write your own list and send it to me...I’d love to learn more about you too!

I am a listener by nature...

...always have been...and I am honoured when others place their trust in me by sharing things they can’t share with others. I first realized this wasn’t everyone’s nature, and that maybe I was a little different, when: teachers started sharing frustrations about my classmates and other teachers with me – even in elementary school, my co-op boss in high school chose me to confide she was having suicidal thoughts to (I was 17 incidentally and thankfully smart enough to tell someone who could actually do something to help her) and friends shared stories of abuse and dysfunction in their families with me that no one else knew. I will never begrudge this personality trait of mine, and think that it’s very much at the heart of what makes me, me.

I hate failing... anything! I hate making mistakes, can’t fathom not doing a good job at something and beat myself up over stupid little things I could have done better. I try to work on this aspect of myself – and sometimes repeat Ron’s mantra “Remember, it’s OK to be a D student. D stands for Diploma” it won’t make a difference, but at least makes me smile long enough to breathe. (And yes folks, he does work in the education system :) )

I love nice people...

...whether I know them or not, it doesn’t matter. When I see someone perform an act of kindness, when I meet someone who genuinely has a good heart, when I hear about someone whose motivation in life is to make the world a better place in their own little heart smiles. Life comes with so many challenges, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own, but I truly believe that if everyone was just a little more selfless and focused on being the kindest person they can, this world would be such a different place, and all those petty problems we all think we have wouldn’t seem nearly so important.

I have thin skin...

...and don’t take criticism well. Thankfully I don’t face a lot of criticism, and maybe that’s partly because I try to surround myself with non-critical people, but when met with ways I can improve I get defensive. I do. It’s a flaw. I think it’s a big part of the reason I didn’t pursue acting as a career – constant rejection would kill me, and I knew it. I remember my first ever ‘real’ non-high school audition. It was for London Community Players and it was for the play “Joey” based on the book “Flowers for Algernon”. I had read the book twice prior to auditioning and knew there was a part in there for me. I knew the tone of the story. I knew the monologue I was performing to a tee. I was ready. When my moment in the spotlight was over, from the dark auditorium I heard “thank you, next” in a voice that was so monotone I thought it could have been a robot speaking. My big moment was given a rousing ‘blah’ and I was devastated. I didn’t sit by the phone waiting for a call...I knew it wasn’t coming...if this was acting, no thank you.

I adore the water...

...the beach, the ocean, backyard ponds, sparkling swimming pools, beautiful fountains. I love it all. I have vowed that one day I will live by the water, and I fully intend to realize that dream someday. I love being on a cruise ship, surrounded by nothing but open water, listening to it splash against the sides, watching the waves roll by. The most ironic part of this passion for all things aquatic? I can’t swim. And by that I mean if placed in a body of water that is deeper than I am from nose to toes, I will drown. Period. Some people say they can’t swim and mean they can’t swim well, but can at least float and maybe doggy paddle enough to cause some movement in the water. I am not one of those people. I sink, and I sink hard.

I will never feel financially comfortable...

...I could win the lottery tomorrow and still stress that it’s not quite enough to get me through the rest of my life. Why the stress? It’s not like Ron and I are hurting, and we certainly have more than enough creature comforts to say that we are living well. So what’s the issue? I grew up without money. I also grew up in an environment where money was spent as soon as it was received. That’s a hard habit to get out of, even when your logical side constantly reminds you that you can break the cycle at any time. We have made financial mistakes (18 months seems so far away when you’re buying that ‘no interest, no payments’ furniture!), and have had our share of tough times when we were existing on one non-profit salary and a little OSAP, rejoicing when Kraft dinner went on sale, and thankfully we’re past those times now. But that little nagging voice at the back of my brain still reminds me constantly that we’re not as comfortable as we could or should be, and that one catastrophic event could sink us.

I love people, but I love my alone time too...

...sometimes you just need time on your own to think, to relax or just to enjoy the quiet that surrounds you. I am far from being an introvert, and have no problem being around people most of the time, but once in a while I feel the need to get away from everything and just enjoy the quiet solitude.

I’m wordy... do I know this? Because this blog is already 1522 words long! So on that note, I’ll end this entry here, and will look forward to hearing all about you - who you are, what you wish more people knew about you, why you are who you are. This entire blog was created to share insights into me and how I think, so you can expect to learn more about me as I grow and learn more about myself. Life is a journey, and you never know where it might lead next. I look forward to being part of yours, and bringing you along on mine.

Until next time –

Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.” ~James Dean~