Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: Cabaret

Image found here
I saw the movie Cabaret for the first time this year during the Washington Jewish Film Festival, so when I found out that the musical was coming to the Kennedy Center, I immediately asked my friend (who watched the film with me) if she wanted to see the show live. We both thought it would be really fun to compare the movie to the live performance.

Image found here
The set was simple but very effective. There were two levels, and the orchestra was seated upstairs, so you could actually see them. What was neat was that they were all in costume! It was like they were part of the Kit Kat Club. At one point many of the musicians fit themselves in the frame (like in the picture above) and performed music from the different songs, which was so cool! I think that might have been my favorite part of the show. You never see the orchestra highlighted like that!

Jon Peterson, who played the Emcee/Master of Ceremonies, was not quite as creepy as the film's Joel Grey, but he was just as silly, and sometimes his French accent sounded just like Grey's. Peterson even did some audience participation, bringing people on stage and making lurid jokes, so that was very funny.

And the music and dancing of the Roundabout Theatre Company were great! I think some songs were added for the musical, but several were the same from the movie:

Wilkommen

Mein Herr

If You Could See Her


Sally's a blonde, BLANK is quite masculine, and the lady landlord is a main character. What? Image found here.
There were some bits that threw me off, though. Leigh Ann Larkin, who played Sally Bowles, was a blonde; Liza Minnelli's dark widow's peak haircut is so iconic, so I'm not sure why the play strayed from that. The musical also focused a lot more on the landlord, her love life, and the prostitute neighbor, which I don't remember as a big part of the film at all. And there was a song about a pineapple...
Those aren't two ladies... Image found here.
Also, during the song "Two Ladies," one of the ladies was a man! While it was very funny, that choice in casting doesn't really make sense with the title of the song (clearly). See below for the original from the movie:


 Another song that was different was that Sally did not perform the song "Money" like in the film:


I was very surprised that there was no love triangle in the musical. I thought that was such a big part in the movie, but it was completely left out of this show. We find out that Clifford Bradshaw (Brian Roberts in the film; this time played by Benjamin Eakeley, who is much more masculine than the film's Michael York) has homosexual tendencies way earlier than we do in the film, but we only hear about what he's done in the past. He doesn't seem to act on those feelings during the play itself. Another difference was that in the live show, Sally insists on moving in with Clifford, whereas in the movie, she seems like a pretty independent woman, and he actually spends more time at her place.

The second act of the play was very dark. It focused on the World War II theme, which was an undercurrent in the film, but not a main focus. Clifford wants to get away from the anti-Semitic feelings in Berlin and insists that he and Sally move to the U.S., even though he hasn't even asked her what she wants. She says she wants to go back to work at the Kit Kat Club, which he is completely against; she goes back anyway, and performs the song "Cabaret" with her mascara streaming from crying, which is very different from the positive energy from the movie:


The play ends with the Emcee dressed like a Holocaust victim, acting as if he's been shot multiple times before falling to the ground. Talk about morbid! I understand the importance of including these messages in the play, but it was kind of a let-down to end such a fun evening on a dark note...

In writing this blog post, I did some research and saw that both the play and movie are based on the book Cabaret by Christopher Isherwood; it's somewhat autobiographical, because Isherwood did spend time in Berlin and admitted to exploring its "sexual underworld." Then the first Broadway production came out in 1966, and the film was released in 1972. Now I need to read the book to see which one is most like the original story!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Jackson Browne and Willie Nelson in Concert


My friend invited me to the 50th Anniversary Concert of Merriweather Post Pavilion, and it was so much fun! I will admit that I slept in and out of the concert (We were laying on a picnic blanket! I couldn't help it!), but I really did enjoy myself. Here are some of the artists and songs we heard:


Grace Potter - She was the Emcee of the night. I only knew who she was because she performs the duets "Wild Child" and "You and Tequila" with Kenny Chesney. But she can hold her own; she has an amazing voice! She only performed a few songs, but my favorite one was "Stars." See the video below (I actually think it sounds better live!).


Father John Misty - He was the opener, and he was the one I really slept through...so I can't even tell you which songs he sang! But he has a pretty good voice; I liked his music (what I heard of it in my sleepy state). But here are some songs I found online that he may or may not have played...Several of them are about his relationship with his wife, so that's romantic and sweet.

I Went to the Store One Day


Holy Shit
Pure Comedy


Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings


Willie Nelson - He was the act I was most excited to see. Although I consider myself a country music fan, I'm ashamed to say I actually don't know his music very well. The only thing that comes to mind is his duet "Beer for My Horses" with Tobey Keith. But I did end up recognizing some of the songs. I really liked hearing him live!

On the Road Again

It's All Going to Pot

Always on My Mind

Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys


Georgia on My Mind

Jackson Browne - Here's another artist that I didn't know, even though I realize he's been around for a long time and has some famous hits. I thought he put on a really great show!

Stay (I just thought this was a song from Dirty Dancing!)


Take It Easy (This song was first recorded by the Eagles, but Browne helped write it.)


Because this was the 50th anniversary of the venue, I wanted to learn a bit more about its history. Its Wikipedia page is pretty interesting! Here are some fun facts:
  • It was originally intended to be a summer home for the National Symphony Orchestra.
  • It opened in the summer of 1967 during a torrential downpour that flooded the orchestra to its knees.
  • In 1980, President Jimmy Carter attended a Willie Nelson concert and took the stage to sing a duet of "Georgia on My Mind." He did not attend this past performance, though!
  • As of 2005, Jimmy Buffett had performed at Merriweather Post Pavilion 42 times, the most by any act.
  •  In August 2014, the site made national news when 2 patrons died and 20 others were hospitalized from drug overdoses after a Mad Decent concert. I never heard about this!
  • Three tracks from Jackson Browne's Running on Empty were recorded at the pavilion on August 27, 1977.
  • Animal Collective's critically acclaimed 2009 album Merriweather Post Pavilion is named in tribute to the pavilion, though the band did not actually perform there until 2011.
 I love this as a summer venue. Who doesn't like listening to live music while picnicking?!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Recipe: Fruit of the Forest Pie


While I was on vacation for the 4th of July, my friend and I discovered that her parents had a blackberry bush in their front yard! So every day we picked as many ripe berries as we could, collecting and saving them until we had enough to make a pie.

We definitely had enough blackberries, but we decided to make a "fruit of the forest" pie, which is a European thing; pretty much it means a berry pie. We ended up adding raspberries and fresh cherries to ours. Here's the transformation:






We sort of winged the recipe, but we based it off of this one from Epicurious:

Ingredients
·         Pastry dough
·         6 cups blackberries (1 3/4 lb)
·         1 to 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
·         1/4 cup cornstarch
·         2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
·         2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
·         2 tablespoons water
·         1 tablespoon quick-cooking tapioca
·         1 egg white, lightly beaten
·         1 tablespoon sanding (coarse) or granulated sugar

Directions
1. Make pastry dough.

2. Place a baking sheet in lower third of oven and preheat to 400°F.

3. Toss together berries, granulated sugar to taste, cornstarch, butter, lemon juice, water, and tapioca. Let stand, tossing occasionally, 20 minutes.

4. Roll out 1 piece of dough into a 14-inch round and fit into a 9-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity). Trim edge, leaving a 1/2-inch overhang. Chill shell while rolling out top.

5. Roll out remaining piece of dough into a roughly 16- by 11-inch rectangle. Cut crosswise into 11 (1 1/4-inch-wide) strips with a fluted pastry wheel or a knife.

6. Stir berry mixture, then spoon evenly into shell. Arrange strips in a tight lattice pattern on top of filling and trim strips close to edge of pan. Roll up and crimp edge. Brush top and edge with egg white and sprinkle all over with sugar.

7. Bake on hot baking sheet until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes. (Check pie after 45 minutes: If edge of crust is browning too quickly, cover edge with foil or a pie crust shield and continue baking.) Cool completely on a rack before serving.

First of all, I did not bother to make my own pie crust. While I think homemade crust probably would have made this pie taste a bit yummier, it just saves time and effort to use the Pillsbury pie crusts. Also, we probably used twice as much cornstarch; berry pies can be very wet, so the cornstarch helps to solidify things so you don't have pie soup. We didn't bother with the tapioca or butter, and we only used 2/3 or 3/4 cup of sugar (berries are already naturally sweet!). We did add a little bit of cinnamon, just for taste. And clearly we decided to make our own design on top for Independence Day.

Even with all these changes, I think this pie came out really nicely!

Monday, July 10, 2017

My 4th of July Vacation

I always try to get away from the city and do something fun for the 4th of July. In 2013 I was on the Eastern Shore with my parents and a sorority sister, 2014 I was in New Hampshire, 2015 was in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and last year I was in Seattle. So of course this year had to be just as fun!

Not the fireworks from this year, but you get the idea. Image found here
I started my trip the Friday before the holiday, when a friend and I went to see the fireworks at Fort Meade. They were SO good! We sat right up front; we could lay on the grass and just look up to watch the show. There were so many fireworks: different colors, varied designs, and they were loud! I don't know how much money they spent to put on that show, but it was awesome!

As for the trip part of my holiday, I was originally going to visit a friend in Columbia, South Carolina, because she is down there for school. But then she said she was planning to spend a lot of the summer at her parents' lake house in Wisconsin. She invited me up there instead, and I thought, "I'm not going to turn down a lake house!" So I flew into Chicago super-early on July 1, she picked me up, and we made our way up to Hustisford (Ever heard of it? Nope, neither had I).

Our view of the lake. Amazing!
We started our vacation right away. As soon as we arrived, we changed into our bikinis and sunbathed for an hour. I'm glad we did that first thing, because it ended up raining that day! But we didn't let the rain ruin our day. We still walked around the nature trails near the house (it goes around the whole island in a circle, so you can't get lost), and picked blackberries for a pie (recipe here). Each night we had some down time to read, enjoy huge dinners, drink LOTS of wine, and see fireworks on the lake! And on two of the mornings, I woke up pretty early to beautiful sunshine on the lake, so I practiced yoga out on the dock. Glorious!

But we didn't just stay at home: we wanted to explore! We visited the Willow Creek cheese factory (owned by Union Star Cheese), where I tried cheese curds and quark for the first time (Quark is a dairy-based dip, but the one we had was lemon, so it was sweet! Great with animal crackers, FYI).

A little sketchy looking, but the owner is really nice! Image found here
After that, we visited two wineries. Pine River Winery is in a man's basement, which was a little weird, but he had such a variety of wines, and lots of flavored ones, too! I didn't really like the wines, but I did buy a "Raven's Cache" wine glass as my souvenir.

So pretty! Image found here
Then we visited Vines & Rushes Winery, which is a more traditional winery. The space is beautiful, and big! Again, the wines were not all that, but we each bought a glass so we could sit outside with our picnic of cheese (bought that day), crackers, and fruit salad.

Monday was our trip to Milwaukee. We started the day visiting the Boerner Botanical Gardens, where I took a million pictures! Here are just a few:

Such a pretty entrance!
I have never seen a plant that had such obvious male and female flowers! Notice how different the middles of the flower are!
This tree had a knob that eerily looked like a sideways baby head...

The rose gardens are amazing!
There was a waterfall in the park.
They are on-point with their succulents!
This cone flower is a bit out of proportion...
Then we went to a baseball game, because the Orioles just happened to be playing the Brewers (just like they just happened to be playing the Mariners when I went to Seattle last year. Very weird!). The woman attending the parking lot gave us a free pass to park closer to the gate, so that was awesome!
We enjoyed our hotdogs, but after six innings of losing, we left early (thank goodness, because the score didn't change after that!). But I was glad I could wear my patriotic O's shirt again.




The Domes!
After we slipped out of the game, we went to Mitchell Park Conservatory (i.e. "The Domes"), which had been under construction the last time my friend was in town. They were really neat! They are three glass domes that each have a different plant theme: a tropical one, a desert one, and then the "show dome," which had a purple theme to it (I think it changes regularly). Again, many photos:




Both of the botanical gardens had koi fish.
These plants were given water dyed with food coloring. You can see the different colors of the plants, and the white ones have not received the colored water.
This bird sat quite still, so I could get a few good shots of him!
Yes, that's the real name of this plant.
Our actual fourth of July was pretty low-key. We stayed at home, reading, watching movies, and petting the two cats and dogs that my friend's parents brought with them (so cute and friendly). We actually saw the fewest fireworks on our real Independence Day. But we did have a beautiful moon that night!

Such a great vacation! I would love to visit again. Hard to beat having so much fun!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Recipe: Angeletti


I was going to go to a friend's place for a Bachelorette girls night, and I didn't want to come over empty-handed. So I looked up "unique cookie recipes," and I found this recipe for Angeletti on Real Simple. I'm sure there's some history as to why these sprinkle cookies are called that, but let's just say they're fit for angels.


Ingredients

Cookies:
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for rolling the dough
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Glaze:
1⅓ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons multicolored nonpareil sprinkles, for decoration (optional)


Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375° F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and eggs until blended. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just combined (do not over-mix).
  3. With floured hands, roll level tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 2 inches apart. Bake until puffed and the bottoms are pale golden, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  4. Make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons water, and the vanilla until the mixture forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more water if necessary).
  5. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, rounded side up, on a rack set over a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle with non-pareils, if using. Allow the glaze to set, about 20 minutes. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.
These cookies are quite yummy! I didn't bother flouring my hands when rolling the dough; it's pretty easy to make roughly-shaped round balls for the cookies. And I will say that I had to add A LOT more water to make the glaze even somewhat of a liquid, but I did end up with some extra icing, so...not sure I got quite the right balance.

I'm not sure why the recipe says the sprinkles are optional: those are what make these cookies!