Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Concert Review: Josh Gracin at Maryland Live! Casino

Image found here.
In honor of Armed Forces Day, Josh Gracin from American Idol performed at Rams Head Center Stage at Maryland Live! Casino. It was a free concert, and I like his music, so of course I wanted to go!

Before Gracin performed, the USO Show Troupe from New York (three women, one man) came on stage and sang a few patriotic songs. Along with "America the Beautiful" and songs like that, they also sang "Where the Stars & Stripes & Eagle Fly." I love that song, but their version was not very good. I almost wish they hadn't sang that song; if they hadn't, I bet Gracin would have performed it and would have done a better job!

Here's the original version by Aaron Tippin:

After that, Gracin came on. I think it was obvious to everyone how much weight he's put on; I guess that's what divorce and suicidal thoughts will do to you...Anyway! I was just as distracted by his androgynous guitar player, who had extra long hair and made a funny pug face the whole time. Gracin played a lot of his newer stuff that I didn't recognize, but the Maroon 5 medley he did was really cool!

Here are some of my favorite Josh Gracin songs:

Stay with Me (Brass Bed)

Nothin' to Lose
I Want to Live

But for such a fun evening, the place wasn't even half full. It was such a shame, since this concert was a tribute to our veterans and their families. When a show is free, people have no reason to actually stick to their plans and go see it. The casino should have charged even just $10, which could have been refunded in chips or something, just to hold people accountable to actually show up. 

The highlight of the night was when my raffle number was called and I won $500! That could make any concert worthwhile!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Play Review: Man in the Iron Mask

Image found here.
I enjoy going to plays at the Synetic Theater; they always put their own twist on things (usually in a dark way), and the focus on movement is really unique. The latest show I saw there was The Man in the Iron Mask, which I knew nothing about except what I learned from the Leonardo DiCaprio movie.
The whole show revolves around this building on set, which turned to show the exterior or interior of the building.
In general, I thought the play was pretty similar to the movie as far as plot goes. Essentially there are four musketeers (yes, four, not three) who all used to be friends and are now reunited for this adventure. What's their mission? To kidnap a masked prisoner whom they suspect is the twin brother of King Louis. France is a mess, and no one likes the self-centered king, so they want to replace him with his identical brother, Phillippe. So the story is all about capturing Phillippe, trying to train him to act like King Louis, and then disposing of the king himself to make their plan work.

My favorite parts of the play were the dance/fight sequences and the comedic relief. There were dances both at the palace and in the tavern. The latter felt a bit like a scene from another DiCaprio movie, Titanic. Like this:

Some of the fight scenes were a little silly, like the bar brawl, but I especially liked the battle scene at the Barbary Coast. To balance out the great movement, there was also fun dialogue. The prison guards and Colbert, King Louis' "butler," were very funny (Nathan Weinberger, who played Colbert, reminded me of Toby Jones and his character from the film Ever After.).

I liked how the musketeers moved to pretend they were riding horses.
I thought Alex Mills did a great job playing both King Louis and Phillippe, and all of the musketeers were very good (Ben Cunis, Ryan Sellers, Nicklas Aliff [the funny one], and Shu-nan Chu). I was very impressed by the acting and thought they all were awesome!

Alex Mills played both a pompous King Louis and an innocent Phillippe.
While watching, I couldn't help but notice some differences between the play and the film. I should note that both the movie and the play are based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, which I have not read. So I can't say which is "right," but these are the things I noted. For one, the love interest of King Louis is named Louise in the play, but Christine in the movie. The movie also doesn't mention Constance, who in the play is a woman that D'artagnan loved (In the movie, D'artagnan is in love with the queen.). The play also says that King Louis beat the masked prisoner every Sunday, while I don't believe this was the case in the film; King Louis attacks his mother with the mask in the play, but that never happens in the movie. I know it is unfair to compare the two, since they are both different works of art. But when I know the movie so well (it's one of my favorites), I couldn't help but see these differences!

AND full disclosure: I slept through most of the second act. It seemed like mostly dancing and fighting, which I felt I had seen enough of anyway. Also, I'm simply not a night owl, and sitting in a dark, cold room at nighttime in an uncomfortable seat makes me want to go to sleep. When you're asleep, you forget  your discomfort and the fact that you very well may have hypothermia because the theater is so cold. I much prefer their shorter plays that don't have intermissions!

The play runs until June 19, so there's still time to see it if you'd like. Click below for a video preview:

Here are my reviews of the other plays I have seen at Synetic:

A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Alice in Wonderland

Romeo and Juliet

Monday, May 16, 2016

Concert Review: Jo Dee Messina

Image found here.
I am not a spontaneous person. But last night on a whim I went to see Jo Dee Messina perform at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis. I loved her music growing up, and I always thought she should have become more famous than she did. Let me say this: she is great live! She sounds just like she does on her albums! She has such an amazing voice, and I loved seeing her in person. Here are the songs she performed:

Heads Carolina, Tails California

Bring on the Rain (Love this video, by the way)

Bye Bye

I'm Alright

Masquerade (One of her newer songs. It is the fraternal twin on Evanescence's "Everybody's Fool." They're not identical, but honestly, it's hard to tell the difference between them.)

You're Not in Kansas Anymore

My Give a Damn's Busted

Stand Beside Me (I LOVE this song! 100% how I feel about what I want in a relationship.)

Lesson in Leavin'

That's God (She didn't sing the whole thing, but she talked about the inspiration for the song.)

She performed some of my favorite songs of hers, so I was pleased with that. But she left out some of her other hits: Burn, That's the Way, Was That My Life, Because You Love Me, Downtime. Looking back at this list, she really did sing a lot of songs. But at the time, the concert felt so short! She only performed for an hour and a half, and even then, I'd say half of that time was spent with her talking to the crowd! She is quite funny, joking with everybody. She took questions from the audience, and when someone asked who her favorite artist is, she said, "Me!" Later she said she respected Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift as performers. She took one man's jacket when he wasn't in the room, and when he came back he saw that she was wearing it! I liked her interaction with the crowd, and she is very down to earth. BUT I did go there to see her sing, so I wish she would have sung all of her hits.

I think the main thing I didn't like about the concert was, at the end, she essentially gave a sermon and sang a very repetitive song about Jesus, which seemed the last forever. She joked that it was a Sunday, so that's why she was singing it. But if I wanted to go to church, I would have gone to church, not to a concert. I was annoyed that my ticket price included this bit that I didn't even really want to see. And it was too bad that this was the last song of the concert, because it sort of took away from the joy I had been feeling earlier listening to the songs that I love.

I'm glad I went to this concert, and I still think Jo Dee Messina is a talented singer. But I wish I had not paid $60 for this. It was worth maybe $40. Live and learn!

Fun Fact: Jo Dee Messina said she is named after her uncle Joseph Dunlop. He went by "Joe D." so that's how her name came about!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Met Gala: Best and Worst Dressed

Anyone interested in fashion looks forward to the annual Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (or the Met Gala for short). This year's theme was "Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology." As technology grows and progresses exponentially right before our eyes, I understand why this theme would be a popular one. However, I was quite disappointed in the lack of creativity when it came to the actual outfits that celebrities wore. Everyone wore metallics, which is the most obvious way to translate "technology" to fashion. No one could think of anything else? But still, there were some who wore it better than others.

Best Dressed
I'm not sure if this outfit has anything to do with technology, but at least it looks new and fresh. Plus, Alicia Vikander is the face of this theme, starring in the incredible film Ex Machina (The film stuck with me for weeks! Click here to read my blog post about the movie.).

Again, I don't know if this dress really fits the theme, but Bee Shaffer looks amazing in this gown (which is quite reminiscent of what she wore last year. See it here on my blog post from 2015.)

Kendall Jenner looks HOT! I wish my body looked like that! She looks stunning and stole the show (for me, at least).
Although, Karlie Kloss gave Kendall a run for her money! Whew, cut-outs are where it's at!
Mackenzie Davis looks like she should star in The Great Gatsby! I like the idea of bringing the past to the future (art deco meets circuit board). I just wish she'd smile: she'd look so much prettier!

Naomi Campbell followed suit with a similar art deco-inspired, beaded gown. She always looks great!
Poppy Delevingne's dress was also quite unique, and there's so much to look at! Let's call it "Gypsy Fringe" maybe?
Karolina Kurkova looks like a floral ballerina! So pretty!
Alessandra Ambrosio's dress is definitely a piece of art. I just wish this knitted/crochet outfit didn't look so heavy.

Nicole Kidman looks like a moon goddess! Stunning!
Almost there...

Emma Watson looks beautiful, but the pants under the skirt really threw me off!
A little too simple for my taste, but Chloë Grace Moretz still looked very pretty.

My first reaction to Kate Bosworth's dress was, "Wow, that's weird." But, I appreciate the creativity, and this dress really does look like a piece of art.

Lupita Nyong'o is usually always on the "best dressed" list, but her alien hair-do drops her down here.

  I love emerald green for formal affairs, but the heavy necklace and poorly-placed cut-outs kill Hailee Steinfeld's look.     This ensemble was half-way to the "best dressed" list!

And here are all the looks that are nice, but they are so cliche in the interpretation of "technology" : "shiny silver."
Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik look good, but a robotic arm? Really?
Joan Smalls
Naomi Watts
Kylie Jenner and her big sister Kim Kardashian  wore matching metallic gowns.

Jourdan Dunn
Cindy Crawford
I don't like Kate Upton, but I have to admit that she looks pretty good in this Topshop gown.

Huma Abedin wore a beautiful dress, but how embarrassing that Jessica Chastain wore the same gown almost a month earlier!If it were one-of-a-kind, perhaps I'd have put it under "best dressed."

Worst Dressed
While some stars didn't really think about the event's theme that much, Julie Macklowe went overboard.
This look on FKA twigs is just a mess. I'm not sure what's going on (especially with that nose ring chain), but whatever it is, it's bad. (I'll admit, I didn't even know who she was until I looked her up.)

I think Juno Temple stole Rapunzel's nightgown...
OMG. It's Destiny's Child all over again. (Plus, I don't even know who the Haim sisters are.)
Michelle Williams looks like an angry teenager from the '90s. Sort of the opposite of futuristic...
Poor Grimes. What was she thinking? She didn't look any better last year, either (Refer to last year's blog post here.).
Selena Gomez: Little House on the Prairie meets Dominatrix.
Tavi Gevinson was right there on the prairie with Selena.
 Sarah Jessica Parker also went back in time, looking like a colonialist. But, maybe she's being really deep with her interpretation of the theme: technology will lead us to conquering and colonizing new lands, like Mars?
I don't know who Jemima Kirke is, but this grandma dress mixed with the pink eye shadow is not a good combination.
EEK! Solange Knowles is wearing the yellow fabric version of her outfit last year! And clear heels!
Is Sofia Richie wearing a carpet or curtains? (BTW, she's "Nicole Richie's sister." She's so under the radar that she doesn't even have her own Wikipedia page.)

Saoirse Ronan is wearing something I'd expect to see from Betty White, not a young woman.
There's a right and a wrong way to do florals. Elizabeth Cordry, this is the wrong way.

Ok, this is a costume event, but it's not Halloween...Zoë Kravitz looks like an evil fairy.
Florence Welch found a life-size version of the cheapest Barbie doll dress you owned. Yeah, the crinkly one.

There are no words. Stacy Martin's dress is just UGLY.

Now, I love Taylor Swift. I love her music, I respect that she writes a lot of her own songs, she's a great role model for young girls...But this outfit is a total miss. This goth python look is not doing it for me. She looks like Lady Gaga on any regular day.

Speaking of Lady Gaga, this outfit is less "technology" and more Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Several stars wore dresses that look like they made them at home for a school project. Dakota Johnson, Kate Hudson, Michelle Monaghan, and Kate Mara: shame on you.

                    Unlike her fellow Victoria's Secret model Karlie Kloss, Lily Aldridge, did not pull off these cut-outs.                  And I'm not sure why she bleached her eyebrows...

I respect Diane von Furstenberg as a fashion icon, but those butterflies have got to go.

Demi Lovato wore a dress that is only a slightly-better version of what Katy Perry wore last year.

As for Katy Perry, I think her outfit this year is more interesting, but it's just as scary.

Katie Holmes is channeling her inner druggie hippie.
WTF is going on with Maria Sharapova's earring? And is it just me, or does she look weird in anything but tennis clothes?
Madonna and Nicki Minaj dressed as they usually do at these events. As usual, they did not end up on the "best dressed" list. And you can't tell, but Madonna is wearing a thong, so you can see her butt cheeks through her sheer lace skirt.
What do you think? Who do you think wore it best?