Category Archives: Music

Hamavdil by Eric & Happie

Last spring, I saw Eric & Happie perform at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. I really enjoyed their original music, and I also enjoyed chatting with Eric after their set. Their song Oklahoma has been on my morning playlist, and now I’ve added their new EP, Hamavdil. I like all five songs, with Modeh Ani an immediate favorite. Check it out!

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Ramin Karimloo & Seth Rudetsky at The Herbst

The Herbst: Ramin Karimloo with Seth Rudetsky

Last night I spent a terrific evening with theatre fans at the Herbst Theatre. It was my first time at this intimate venue in the War Memorial, located on Van Ness Avenue across from City Hall. I read reviews on Yelp that said the balcony was either steamy hot or downright chilly, so I dressed in layers. From my excellent seat in the second row center of the Dress Circle, everything was just right.

I arrived early and caught the last part of the ‘No One Is Above The Law’ protest in front of City Hall, just before protesters started a march to Mission Street. City Hall was all lit up in blue lights. Once I arrived in the lobby of the War Memorial, I had time to study the banners commemorating WWI. The Herbst opened at 7pm, so I spent the next half hour chatting with the folks sitting around me. I laughed with a woman in the first row who loves Phantom of the Opera but can’t stand Les Mis, because I’m the exact opposite. We were happy to agree to disagree. The nice fellow sitting on my left helped me during the concert with songs from shows I didn’t recognize. He also gave me his take on the local production of The Boy From Oz that I’m seeing next week.

I became obsessed with Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser back in 2010, when they appeared as Enjolras and Grantaire in the Les Misérables 25th Anniversary Concert, which aired here on PBS. For many months after, my blog here was taken over by West End guest posts and Les Mis/Phantom screen caps. Ultimately, blogging about West End actors from afar proved more frustrating than entertaining. Fast forward eight years, and Ramin Karimloo finally came to San Francisco. I had to be there for his first ever performance in my city, and he didn’t disappoint.

Seth Rudetsky played host, interviewer, pianist, and sparring partner. Rudetsky and Karimloo sat in chairs and chatted about Karimloo’s life story and career. They’d get up to perform a song, then sit down again for more chat. There were plenty of laughs, especially at Rudetsky’s numerous attempts to get a Valjean/Javert duet going. The women in the audience sang the Sandy part to Summer Loving (Grease), while Karimloo and Rudetsky struggled (and argued) over the lyrics to Danny’s part. Karimloo’s “She went down in the sand” was wrong but awesome.

It was fun to hear Karimloo discuss his life and career, even though I was familiar with most of his bio already. Folks down in the orchestra were calling out comments during the interview, and we couldn’t hear much of what they said from the balcony. It was the only frustrating part of the evening. Rudetsky must have thought everyone could hear, because he kept asking those folks if they were wearing microphones. I was hoping for some mention of Karimloo’s friendship with Hadley Fraser, Sheytoons (Karimloo and Fraser’s bluegrass band), and Anastasia, but they didn’t come up. Karimloo discussed his bet with a teenage friend that he’d one day play the Phantom, his admiration for and friendship with Colm Wilkinson, meeting his wife during an audition for a cruise ship, his brief stint in Sunset Boulevard, and how he was cast in Love Never Dies. He also talked about his initial reluctance to play Valjean (Les Mis).

Here’s the set list, not in strict order, since I was too busy enjoying myself to take notes:

Moving Too Fast (The First Five Years)

Summer Loving (Grease)

It All Fades Away (The Bridges of Madison County) with Ramin on guitar

Sunset Boulevard

Anthem (Chess)

The Pirate King (Pirates of Penzance)

Bring Him Home (Les Misérables)

Music of The Night (Phantom of the Opera)

Til I Hear You Sing (Love Never Dies)

Muddy Water (Big River)

Make Them Hear You (Ragtime)

Ol Man River (Show Boat) with Ramin on guitar

The Confrontation (Les Misérables) with Rudetsky singing Javert

After the concert, I went to the stage door, where a few folks with paid Meet & Greet tickets waited in line. I stayed further back and had a great time chatting to several fans. Eliza was at my Aaron Tveit concert in September, and Elena from Bath told us she was in the audience at the 25th anniversary Phantom at the Royal Albert Hall. Seth Rudetsky stopped to say hello to us. The last fellow in the Meet & Greet line showed us his photos with Karimloo, and we discovered a shared passion for Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis. I was still chatting with Eliza and Elena when Karimloo came out with several others, so we got to thank him for the show. We didn’t ask for photos and autographs; just seeing him up close was enough. When I came out of the building, Karimloo was taking photos of the blue City Hall. I told him to come back soon, then rushed off to catch my late night bus.

Okay, so now it’s time for Hadley Fraser. Come perform in San Francisco, please!

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Aaron Tveit, Neil Patrick Harris, and the Generosity of Moms

Last week, my attention was focused on the Supreme Court nomination and the hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh. Thankfully, I had two terrific events on my calendar to lift my spirits.

Thursday night I went to Marines’ Memorial Theatre to see Aaron Tveit in concert. I’ve been a fan since seeing him as Enjolras in the Les Misérables film (good performance, bad hair). I love his rendition of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, and I also enjoyed the first season of Graceland on USA. The BrainDead Partridge Family salami sex scene with Tveit and Mary Elizabeth Winstead is insanely funny. I’ve seen some of the Broadway bootlegs of Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can on YouTube, but Thursday was my first time seeing Tveit live.

The Marines’ Memorial Theatre is intimate (564 seats), with a very nice foyer that features comfy chairs and and a bar. I got there early, so I sat down and noticed that several ladies had autographed Aaron Tveit posters. I asked the two ladies nearest me where they got them. They told me their ticket package included a meet & greet earlier that night. A few moments later, the younger woman got my attention and said, “My mom wants you to have her poster.” Oohhh! I turned to her mom and told her, “That’s so nice, but you might change your mind after you see him live!” She replied, “I met him and got a hug. I’m happy.” We had a nice chat about Tveit’s work and traveling to London and Scotland.

Once the auditorium opened, I went up to my seat in the balcony with my new poster. I was in the second to the last row on the left side, but the balcony only has seven rows, so it wasn’t a bad seat. There’s not much leg room at all, but it’s still better than the Curran! The fellow on my left was nice and friendly, and the folks on my right moved as soon as the lights went down. This gave me some extra leg room, so I stretched out and relaxed.

Aaron Tveit posterThe shallow stage had a piano, a stool, a microphone stand, and a music stand. Tveit’s pianist is also his music director, and he joined in on some of the songs and the banter in between. Tveit began with In Living Color from Catch Me If You Can, followed by Fight The Dragons from Big Fish. Other songs included a Sandy/Heart and Soul mash up, I Miss The Mountains (from Next to Normal), One Song Glory (Rent) and an Italian aria from La Boheme, Shut Up And Dance, Every Breath You Take, Thunder Road (Springsteen), Dancing On My Own, Irish Girls (The Last 5 Years), and Being Alive from Company. His encore was Come What May from Moulin Rouge, his most recent stage musical. I didn’t keep notes on his set list, but that’s what I remember. The theatre has lovely acoustics and Tveit sounded great. There were lots of hardcore fans in the small audience, because many folks clapped when he asked if any of them had seen Moulin Rouge in Boston over the summer. He told us his last trip to San Francisco was in 2006, which was well before I started following his career. The concert started a little after 8pm and was finished not long after 9pm, so short but sweet and well worth the effort

& & & & & & & & &

Friday night I walked over to the JCCSF (Jewish Community Center of San Francisco) for Neil Patrick Harris at Kanbar Hall. NPH is on tour to promote The Magic Misfits: The Second Story, his second book in a series for middle grade readers. Our ticket included a pre-signed copy of the book and a raffle ticket. Five lucky winners and their plus ones were getting a VIP Meet & Greet with NPH at the end. My seat was in the front row, and on my left was an excited young woman in a vibrant red dress. We introduced ourselves, and I told Elisa that if won the raffle, she could be my plus one. Then I assured her that she didn’t have to reciprocate, since she was with her mom. She told me she was giving her mom’s copy of the book to a friend who also love NPH.

Kanbar Hall seats 460, and the event was sold out. There were kids in the audience but far more adults. Neil Patrick Harris sat on stage and answered questions from the young interviewer, then took questions from the audience. He was in the chair closer to me but angled away, so I appreciated how he regularly turned in our direction when speaking. He said his last trip to San Francisco was in 2012. Before that, he used to come up from LA often to see David Burtka when he was in The Opposite of Sex at the Magic Theatre here.

NPH is a man of many talents, but since he was promoting his book, the interviewer focused on his writing. When he asked how many in the audience hadn’t read the The Magic Misfits, lots of us raised our hands. (I’ve only read his Choose Your Own Autobiography.) There will be four books in the series, one for each suit in a deck of cards, and he’s currently busy writing the fourth one. Each book focuses on a different kid in the Misfits group. The kids do different kinds of practical magic (card tricks, illusions, sleight of hand, etc) since that’s the magic NPH is passionate and knowledgeable about. He talked about visiting a magic shop in the Albuquerque mall and watching Doug Henning’s yearly magic specials on TV when he was growing up. A friend from Theory11.com is currently helping him with card tricks, and the cards he used later were from the online shop.

For the Q&A with the audience, they had two portable microphones on either side of the auditorium. NPH asked that the lights be brought up partway so he could see out. I think he directed the staff to choose kids, which made a lot of sense as he was promoting a children’s book. No complaints from me, because the kids were cute and funny and their questions were better than mine. One boy at the beginning was given a black envelope for having such a good question, but NPH told him to hold on to it, don’t open it, and “don’t leave!” One of his longest answers was about the 2013 Tony Awards; he described rehearsing the opening number and learning the closing recap on the fly as it was written backstage throughout the show. NPH was adorable interacting with the kids, and he was funny as well.

NPH did one card trick, involving the three of hearts and the envelope he gave the boy during the Q&A. The woman sitting on my right criticized his card shuffling (“It’s not so fancy”) so she got most of the deck thrown at her, as well as a lot of grumbles and scowls.

At the end, NPH and a little boy pulled red tickets out of a fishbowl for the raffle. Elisa next to me was the fifth and final winner. The way she said “Yep” when her number was read was matter-of-fact, but I was stunned. Elisa assured me that I was her plus one, so we got red wristbands from a staff member before being led backstage. I thought all ten of us would do the meet & greet as a group, but instead we were taken in to the green room in pairs. Elisa and I got to go first, which was nice because her mom had to wait in the lobby/atrium. The green room was small and crowded, with lights and a blue background for the photos, a couch and coffee table with a cheese plate, several staff members, and of course, Neil Patrick Harris himself. A photographer was shooting us as we interacted with NPH, while another fellow took photos on our phones when we posed against the background. Elisa was the winner, so I stayed near the door and let her talk to Neil Patrick Harris first. They discussed her tattoos, and he looked genuinely interested as she described their significance.

Then NPH moved over to me. I awkwardly shook his hand, then told him I saw his Sweeney Todd with the San Francisco Symphony (summer 2001). He grinned and said he’d forgotten about that—a temporary lapse, I’m sure, not a Full Kavanaugh! I started to gush, saying back then we didn’t know he could sing and his song Not While I’m Around with PATTI…LuPone. He was looking at me with an expression that might have been “Um, yeah, I know; I was there.” I was trying to convey that his performance as Tobias stayed with me all these years, but yeah, not very coherent. I switched subjects to ask him why there were six kids on the book cover. We were on firmer ground again. He was adorably enthusiastic, explaining that the extra two were the twins Izzy and Olly. He held up the book, took off the dust jacket, and showed how the spines of the four books will have Magic Misfits spelled across them. (The Second Story has ICM.) Izzy and Olly are comic relief in the series, but they don’t get their own book. Since jokers aren’t part of the four card suits, there could be a fifth book in the series, but hey, that’s for NPH to decide!

Next, we had our photos taken with NPH. I went after Elisa; she told everyone that we’d only just met that night,Neil Patrick Harris and me probably to explain why we wanted separate pictures. After NPH put his arm around me (gently), I put mine around him (very gently) because the photo would be that much more awkward if my arm was down between us. I think Elisa and I both were pretty dazed after that, because NPH had to remind us that he’d personalize our pre-signed books. I told Elisa to have my copy signed to her friend, and I would take the one her mom had in the lobby. It was only fair, since Elisa and her mom were so generous with me. Elisa also had a playing card from the magic trick, and NPH kindly signed that as well.

When we came out of the green room, it seemed like there were more than eight people waiting to go in, but I didn’t count. A fellow with clipboard asked for our contact info and signatures to allow the JCCSF to use any of the photos taken for their social media. He also said they might send us some of the good ones, but so far that hasn’t happened. Many of the JCCSF events are available to watch online later, but I didn’t see any cameras, so I don’t think one will be shared.

So, thanks to Aaron Tveit, Neil Patrick Harris, and two generous moms and their daughters, I have a new poster, a new book, a new screensaver, and another awkward “stage door” story.

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A.C.T.’s ‘Every 28 Hours’ Black Arts Festival

Yesterday I took a friend to the first annual Every 28 Hours Black Arts Festival at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, located across the street from San Francisco’s Civic Center. We arrived to find the lobby set up with a helpful welcome table and vendors selling tee shirts, art, jewelry and other handicrafts. The festival made use of the two performance spaces (The Rueff and the Rembe Theater) as well as the lobby. Events were scheduled from 3 to 10pm, and I was impressed by how well the organizers kept to the timetable.

3pm Moving The Movement: An inter-generational workshop exploring hip-hop dance as an act of social justice, led by Sarah Crowell and Rashidi Omari

4:15pm Panel Discussion: Empower Your Platform: How can black artists, activists and innovators use our platforms to heal and uplift each other in our struggle for social change? Moderated by Chip McNeal

5:15pm Meditation Workshop: A healing workshop inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

6:15pm Musical & Movement Performances by Nyree Young, Dezi Soléy, and the Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company

6:45pm Musical Performance by Jessica Lá Rel

7pm a selection of plays from Every 28 Hours directed by Elizabeth Carter

8:30pm Group Discussions facilitated by Cheri Miller, Vanessa Ramos, Radhika Rao, Jasmin Hoo, and SK Kerastas

9:15pm Drum Circle with Nyree Young

9:30pm Closing Reception with food, drinks and a raffle

I learned about the festival by following A.C.T. on twitter. It was free, but I’m glad we registered online because the evening events were fully reserved by the time we arrived. We participated in all the events except for the meditation workshop. We were very sorry to miss that one, but we needed a dinner break!

The movement workshop in The Rueff was an excellent ice-breaker. Sarah Crowell and Rashidi Omari of Destiny Arts Center got us out of our chairs and into a large circle. We started with warm up exercises with breathing, clapping games, and introducing ourselves with our names paired with a movement. Then we teamed up with someone we didn’t know for silent role-playing exercises: have a conversation with movement only; act out a teacher and a student; role-play a police officer conversing with a young black man. I got a great partner, who I later found out is a middle grade teacher here in San Francisco. Next, we got into groups of four. Each person took a turn ‘sculpting’ the others into a tableau expressing racism, discrimination, healing and community. We added movements to link them together. Some groups chose to use sounds as well movement for the transitions. Once we had a bit of practice, we performed our creations for the rest of workshop. Finally, Sarah and Rashidi taught us a hip-hop dance sequence to some upbeat music. I tried a few steps but with my two left feet, I soon sat down and enjoyed the dancing from the back.

Freestyle hip-hop dancing from the back of the workshop

Moving The Movement Workshop

After a short break to rearrange The Rueff space, Chip McNeal led a panel discussion with Sarah Crowell, Regina Evans (Regina’s Door), Skyler Cooper, and Jack Bryson. McNeal acknowledged that they could only begin the conversation about healing and uplifting each other (Empower Your Platform). The hour went fast, but McNeal made sure all four panelists had a chance to speak about their work and their activism in the community. Sarah Crowell discussed working in collaboration with young people, striking a balance between letting them be creative while setting boundaries. Regina Evans talked about working with, and learning from, survivors of sex trafficking. Actor, filmmaker and activist Skyler Cooper described how being transgender means he’s experienced life as both a black woman and a black man. Jack Bryson became a community organizer because two of his sons were with Oscar Grant when he was killed by police. He said that the friends of Grant who witnessed his shooting were forgotten and wounded in their own way, as are many older folks from Bryson’s generation. He mentioned the many incarcerated adults who are now being released into a very different world. There wasn’t time for questions from the audience, but the discussion gave us plenty to think about.

We got Mexican food down the street for dinner, then returned to the lobby so we wouldn’t miss the dance and spoken word performances by Destiny Arts. Nyree Young played drum while Dezi Soléy danced down the stairs and around the lobby, interacting with the crowd. Then the talented Destiny Arts Youth Performance Company performed a spoken word piece on racism.

We all moved into the Rembe Theater for Alternative Soul singer Jessica Lá Rel. Her selections included Work Song (famously recorded by Nina Simone) as well as some new, unreleased material. She was supported by a keyboardist and three backup singers. Lá Rel has a beautiful voice. We very much enjoyed her performance.

Next up was the selection of 2 dozen one-minute plays from Every 28 Hours. From the program notes:

In April 2013, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement reported in Operation Ghetto Storm that during the previous year, 313 unarmed Black people were killed in the United States by police, security guards, and vigilantes. This occurred at a rate of one person of color approximately every 28 hours…

In 2015, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the One-Minute Play Festival created a project and partnership entitled Every 28 Hours, inviting American theater artists from across the country to gather in St. Louis to address the current movement for civil rights and racial justice. Participants created a compilation of 72 one-minute plays, which they cast, rehearsed, and performed as a rapid response to what was learned, heard, and experienced at the conference, with the intention of inspiring public discourse and social action.

Since that time, the Every 28 Hours plays have been presented at dozens of theaters, universities, and community spaces across the country, including A.C.T.”

The plays began with an introduction by producer Stephanie Wilborn and director Elizabeth Carter. There were about 3 dozen actors who sat at the back of the stage in two rows of chairs. They moved forward to perform, either on or in front of two platforms. The theme/title of each segment was projected onto the backdrop: Introduction, Race, Police, Community, Protest, History, Mothers, Youth, and Finale. I found many of the actors listed in the program on the current MFA student list. One of them was Micah Peoples, who we saw last weekend at A.C.T.’s play reading of Ibsen’s Ghosts. Another actor I recognized was Kavi Subramanyan from the Young Conservatory production of Homefront last summer. All the pieces were powerful. I was especially moved by Dinosaurs and Hooded Tears. For the Final Piece, the actors took turns reading the names of those killed by police in recent years, including Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and Eric Garner. The actors had a printed sheet of white paper for each name, which they raised over their heads and then dropped onto the stage.

Jasmin Hoo and the actors after the Every 28 Hours plays

After the performance, we broke up into three discussion groups. The black actors and audience members stayed in the Rembe Theater, people of color who weren’t black gathered in the lobby, and everybody else went upstairs to The Rueff. My friend was part of the lobby group, and I was in The Rueff, where facilitators Jasmin Hoo and SK Kerastas led us in a discussion on how to be effective allies. In small groups, we talked about our reactions to the Every 28 Hours plays and what we planned to do after the festival to stay involved. We were given a handout with a list of local ally organizations including surjbayarea.org and Asians4BlackLives.

We went back to the Rembe Theater for a drum circle with Nyree Young. There weren’t as many of us, but those who stayed were energized by Nyree’s music. She started on guitar with This Little Light of Mine, and when she moved to her drum, many of the performers danced in the aisles. It was awesome!

 

The closing reception was in the lobby. We had some wine and chatted briefly with Jessica Lá Rel. We didn’t stay long, but it was fun to mingle with the performers and organizers.

It was a wonderful festival, and we’re already looking forward to next year. Thank you, A.C.T. and everyone involved!

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Michael Lee Brown: Way It Used To Be (Music EP)

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of both Dear Evan Hansen and Matthew James Thomas. It’s no surprise that I’m enjoying the new EP of 3 original songs from Michael Lee Brown, currently the alternate Evan Hansen on Broadway. Matthew James Thomas is the producer, and he’s been tweeting about the project. The EP was released today, so I purchased the download from Amazon after listening to it on Soundcloud. (You can also get it at CDBaby, since it’s nice to support the independents.) Brown’s songs are acoustic and unabashedly optimistic. Give them a listen!

(Be sure to leave a review like I did!)

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My Year End Wrap Up 2017

Normally I approach my Year End Wrap Up with enthusiasm, but 2017 has been a very tough year. Most mornings I wake up with a sense of dread, almost afraid to open up the laptop to see what real-world horrors will dominate my morning news feed. The Stuff That Entertains Me is now more likely to be The Stuff That Keeps Me From Total Despair. Until recently, I used to ignore the news as much as possible; now I probably give it too much of my attention. I’m grateful that I can still turn to books, movies, TV and music to raise my spirits.

I began 2017 watching foreign soaps and making Chad Lowe collages. The year has ended with more reading, less television, and a bunch of new actors on my watch list. I started blogging again, although not as regularly as I’d hoped. There have been plenty of entertainment surprises along the way.

Best Books

The year started out slow, but then I finally got reading glasses! The two best non-fiction books I read this year were The Lost City of The Monkey God by Douglas Preston and Caesar’s Last Breath by Sam Kean. My summer LGBT reading project was fun, and the books from that post that have stayed with me the longest are Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin and Spy Stuff by Matthew J. Metzger. The best guilty pleasures this year were the Midnight Texas trilogy by Charlaine Harris and The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. My ambitious Dorothy Dunnett project— reading all 14 Lymond Chronicle/House of Niccolo books—has been a great escape for the last three months. I’m finally in the homestretch! (Whew.)

Best Movies

I had a good year for seeing movies in the cinema. I saw more than usual and there weren’t any duds. Some of them may have been less spectacular than I hoped, but nothing was truly disappointing. The loudest was Dunkirk in 70mm IMAX; I enjoyed the performances from the young cast but the scale of the evacuation seemed anemic. Their Finest was a lovely film and a good companion to Dunkirk. In the superhero category, I enjoyed Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok pretty much equally. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was less memorable, but I enjoyed Baby Groot and the music. I went into Baby Driver thinking, I don’t really care about car chases; I came out thinking, more car chases, please! Beauty and The Beast and The Greatest Showman were visually rich and very entertaining.  Older movies included Summer Magic at the Walt Disney Family Museum and Adventures in Babysitting at the Castro Theatre. The cast of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was fantastic, but I had some issues with the movie itself. I’m glad I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi before spoilers, and I love Rose, but her name bothers me. (It’s very…earthy?) Call Me By Your Name was gorgeous, and I’m now a big fan of Timothée Chalamet. I want him to be nominated for all the big awards, but I worry that winning too soon won’t be good for his career.

Best Television

This year, I was more likely to watch TV shows on DVD sets from the library. Except for Saturday Night Live, I’ve only watched one hour of network television since September. I haven’t been able to stomach the NBC Chicago Fire/PD/Med shows since they did the Ghost Ship Fire episodes without warning Bay Area folks before the broadcast. I’m still waiting for Code Black to return (what’s up with that, CBS??).

2017 was the year I finally joined the Game of Thrones craze, binge-watching the first six seasons on DVD in early summer.  I also FINALLY watched My So-called Life. The Borgias was fun, and I also enjoyed Unit One (Rejseholdet) from Denmark.

Finally, seeing the miniseries When We Rise in the cinema, with the cast, creative team, and real-life activists, was one of my best experiences of 2017.

Best DVDs

The DVD movie that had the deepest impression on me this year was The Impossible (2012). I avoided it because I don’t usually like natural disaster films, but Tom Holland was amazing. Older films I enjoyed included As It Is In Heaven (Så som i himmelen) and Saint Ralph (both from 2004). Bob Roberts (1992) is a must-see for predicting many of Trump’s campaign tactics. I ugly-cried through most of The Shack. Megan Leavey and Tanna were happy surprises. The Bronze (2016) had my favorite sex scene, and Tiffany Haddish owned Girls Trip.

Best YouTube

I’ve enjoyed the crosswalk musicals from James Corden, especially Beauty and The Beast and Hair. Broadway bootlegs have become a guilty pleasure, particularly anything with Ben Platt. Little Alfie was adorable in his brother Oliver’s coming out video.

As for my own YouTube videos, the Ed Sheeran one has gone over 1 million views. I wish I’d given it a cleaner ending, but I’m still learning to use Shotcut.

Best Tweets

My most popular tweets of 2017 were a #DuvetKnowItsChristmas photo and my Academy Award tweet about the White Helmets.

Swear Trek has given me the most belly laughs this year.

Twitter has made me angry, made me cry, made me think. I used to ‘like’ tweets to save the best ones. These days I ‘like’ tweets to show support for political opinions and causes, which means I don’t have time to go back over the whole year to find the gems. Here are some standouts from the end of the year:

Best Theatre

I went to the theatre only twice this year, to see Homefront and The Prince of Egypt. I followed Dear Evan Hansen, Ben Platt, and Matthew James Thomas from afar, and I also started reading daily newsletters from Playbill. I may not see many shows, but at least I’m better informed.

Best Music

I started listening to Ed Sheeran this year, and I also added a lot of Broadway cast albums—Kinky Boots, Matilda, Anastasia, The Band’s Visit, Bandstand, etc—to my playlist. I also listened to lots of Matthew James Thomas tracks from Britannia High and Pippin.

Biggest Time-Sucker-Upper

I’ve spent a lot of 2017 reading email news briefs from the Washington Post, the New York Times, the LA Times, and The Guardian. I’m better informed than ever before. I’m also more bitter and angry. Hopefully. 2018 will bring more activism and better ways of coping.

Entertainer of the Year

This year I was more successful than usual at keeping my interests broad and wide-ranging. I didn’t obsess too much over any one actor or entertainer. That makes it harder to choose just one Entertainer of the Year. Some of the honorable mentions: the cast of Game of Thrones, Francois Arnaud, Matthew James Thomas, Ben Platt, Jack Lowden, Sebastian Stan, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Holland, Wilson Cruz, Timothée Chalamet, Swear Trek, and Ed Sheeran. For sheer number of hours spent reading (over 6000 pages), I’m going to have to choose Dorothy Dunnett as my 2017 Entertainer of the Year. (Finally, a woman!)

Dorothy Dunnett (1923-2001)

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Ed Sheeran at 16

Most of my life, I haven’t really enjoyed mainstream music. Maybe the odd song, or a band/artist years after they stopped being popular, but rarely anybody on the charts. That’s why it always surprises me when I do like someone popular.

I really like Ed Sheeran’s mellower acoustic music. He’s pretty hard to escape these days, but I’d somehow managed it. Then he showed up on Game of Thrones, and on my Britannia High DVD behind-the-scenes documentary. But really, it was the end credits song for The Fault in Our Stars that got me listening.

Britannia High (2008) was a UK television series about a performing arts school for teens. It only lasted nine episodes before being cancelled due to poor reviews and low ratings. I bought the DVDs from the UK because I’m a fan of Matthew James Thomas (Jez in the series). Hundreds of young performers auditioned for the show in 2007, including 16 year-old Ed Sheeran. I made a YouTube video of his moments from the behind-the-scenes documentary. I’m still learning to use Shotcut, so it’s a bit rough.

Note: there are other clips from Sheeran’s audition on YouTube already, but this is clearer and has more footage than I’ve seen there.

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