There is only one type of musical I watch once a year. Those belong to Christmas musicals, which get watched over the Holidays. I have seen a couple of them.
I was an usher for the Children’s Theater Fall of 2014. That resulted in being able to see the musical version of A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Story- The Musical
2018 was the year I saw the MOST musicals- a year of 5 shows. At first, I had no interest in seeing this musical. After graduating from Gardner Webb, I decided to join Club Blume, the young adult club of Blumenthal Performing Arts. Their first Informance was for A Christmas Story—–so why not? After hearing that those who wrote the music for A Christmas Story also did Greatest Showman, I decided to see it.
A Christmas Story is funny and emotional (not emotional in the sad way). For several years, I thought the only dog for musicals was Sandy. But A Christmas Story added a couple more- those dogs were funny on stage.
This is the must-watch film for Christmas. Hard to say why, but one I really love. It centers on two veterans and what they will do for their general when they come to a Vermont hotel.
A Netflix Original; creative and inventive. The dancing is similar to the dance in Greatest Showman. It is almost as if we are watching that movie, but set over Christmas. Journey is a character you can easily fall in love with- her spirit and personality make her lovable. Even non-human characters are incredible- I am referring to Buddy the Robot here.
Blumenthal Performing Arts is home to about seven theaters. Their main theater is Belk Theater. At Belk, you can see operas, musicals, symphonies, and ballet. I saw Sound of Music, Miss Saigon, Aladdin, Lion King, Newsies, Pippin, Rent, Come From Away, Mamma Mia, Porgy and Bess, and La Cage at Belk. As for operas and ballet, saw La Bohème and Nutcracker there.
Despite Belk being the main theater, it isn’t even the largest. That really surprised me when I learned that Ovens is actually bigger- Belk may have more levels, but Ovens is wider and deeper. If Ovens didn’t exist, there is a good chance many musicals never would have made it to Charlotte. Ovens is able to host musicals when something is happening at Belk. So Ovens allows for a lot more availability.
While I did not see many musicals at Ovens—–I am glad that Ovens does exist or else none of them might have made it to Blumenthal. I saw Addams Family, A Christmas Story-The Musical, Les Mis, and Wicked at Ovens. Whenever I think of Ovens, I think of Wicked: I was able to catch that musical three times on tour. The latest time I saw Wicked, I was watching it with my school. When I saw Les Mis at Ovens, it was a date with my mom: that was our 2nd date to Les Mis: the 1st was in London.
I did not like ALL the Blumenthal shows I saw, but defiantly liked most. Addams Family, Porgy and Bess, and La Cage were musicals I did not even like.
We heard the concept of quality and the concept of quantity. Quantity is how many things we do and quality is the meaning. However, what is stronger- quality is stronger. What is stronger for a musical theatre year? Quality or Quantity. I will use 2018 and 2015 to explain.
I am in 2018, and it was the year I graduated from college. My mom did tell me I was seeing Lion King. Lion King so far was going to be the only musical I would be in 2018. Little did I know, the number of musicals I would see this year.
For whatever reason, I decided to look up the musicals for Central Piedmont Community College, the place where I started my college journey. I ended up seeing three musicals there: Oklahoma, Grease, and Newsies. I knew how well-done CPCC can do their shows. Oklahoma was my 5th date with mom, Grease was a date with my sister and one of our friends, and Newsies was a date with one of my best friends. Below are reviews for those three musicals.
Yes, I already saw three community college shows, but I felt like I was about to see my 4th professional show. Lion King was my first show with Blumenthal. It was a girl’s night out. I saw it with my mom and sister. Our seats were perfect- at the orchestra in the aisle. Review below. So, loved all four shows. I thought Lion King was the last musical of 2018- it was the only musical I wanted to see with Blumenthal in 2018. No musical in the 2018-2019 that came in 2018 was something I actually wanted to see.
Boy, I was wrong. Lion King wouldn’t be the last musical. I would see a 5th musical. One of the musicals I knew was coming was A Christmas Story. I went to the informance of it with Club Blume. The moment I learned that the same guys who wrote this musical also wrote The Greatest Showman, a musical I love, I decided I will watch A Christmas Story. I actually liked A Christmas Story- it was a funny and amazing start to the Holidays, and I cannot believe that dogs on stage can make you laugh.
Yes, 2018 was the record hold of musicals- 5 musicals was the record of musicals, but did that make 2018 the best year of musicals? Let me take you to 2015, which had only one less musical.
Music Man- This musical started the year of musicals. It was the most light-hearted of all four of them. It was one of the inexperienced of them. I knew some songs and knew a bit of the plot. I watched it at Dover Theatre at Gardner Webb University. This was the semester I transferred to GWU- Spring 2015. I knew I was seeing Music Man that year. Well- I fell in love with Music Man by a college production. Little did I know, how much I would love that year of musicals or how many musicals I would see that year.
Pippin- This show was the main musical I wanted to see with Blumenthal during their 2014-2015 season. There seemed to be no sign of seeing Pippin. This show was more inexperienced than Music Man- I only knew one song- all I knew about the plot was coming from “Corner of the Sky”. I saw a preview- that was how I knew it was going to filled with spectacle. Well, one week before Pippin, my mom decided to buy tickets for Pippin- there was only one day left with seats together. So Pippin ALMOST didn’t happen. Pippin was actually darker than Music Man- I could tell from the first number. By intermission, I already wanted the album, and that is saying something because how do you already know you will love the other songs? Pippin was the FINAL inexperienced musical.
Les Mis- I actually knew I was going to see a musical in the West End. The question was WHAT MUSICAL? I first found that I was seeing a musical in the West End December 2014- right away I wanted to know what musical. All Spring 2015, I wanted to know what musical. It needed to be Les Mis- it was my dream to see Les Mis in the West End. June 2015- my mom texted me French Flag Emojis and Musical Note Emojis, and that didn’t make sense, and then I was told to check my email. The moment I saw Les Misérables on my email, I ran up to my mom crying. I couldn’t believe it- I was seeing Les Mis in The West End. I still had to wait a month- after all, my family wasn’t leaving the US until July 28th- Les Mis was happening July 30th.
July 30th- when I saw The Queen’s Theatre, I thought I was pretending. Nothing felt real. Even buying the souvenirs- t-shirt, poster, playbill (that was a culture shock-buying it). Sitting down- noticing how close we were, and looking at the set. Nothing felt real- I thought I was dreaming. Then I heard it- the first note or maybe notes of the orchestra- then it hit me- I was living the dream. How is it that just hearing a few notes tell you that it is going to be more than expected? I ended up having an understudy as Jean Valjean. I was right- it was more than expected. I ended up crying sooner than I thought- I thought that reaction would begin at “I Dreamed a Dream”- it started after Valjean was released. It was like winning a lottery- seeing Les Mis in London.
After Les Mis, I thought Les Mis was the FINAL musical. It wasn’t the FINAL musical. I would end in my childhood. How do you end in your childhood? That means ending in a childhood musical? Sound of Music was my final musical. I felt like a child watching a musical- that is something that non-childhood musicals can never achieve. Les Mis did make me a emotional wreck- but it wasn’t the only musical that made me cry. Sound of Music did that to me as well. It was during Edelweiss, my favorite song of the musical. Ben Davis, my Captain Von Trapp, took a slight pause (which was between the time he stopped singing and when the children joined in). His nonverbal allowed sadness to enter the picture- I started crying- I was like- that emotion was never in the musical. I think it was a combo of nostalgia, the nonverbal, and the nature of the song itself.
What year do you think was better- 2018 or 2015? You might think it was 2018 because it had more musicals- quantity, but what what about 2015 where it had more quality, but a little less quantity. I will say my answer-
It was 2015-it wasn’t because it had LESS musicals than 2018. It is because it had MORE quality than 2018. I loved all four musicals- for one thing, the first two musicals were two new musicals that I fell in love with. I found it interesting that they were the first two since they were the most inexperienced. Then you get to the last two musicals- they had the most experience- only one of those I never saw live. Where is the MORE quality of 2015? It comes from Les Mis- I wasn’t seeing Les Mis at community college like 2013 or on tour like 2017. I saw it in the West End- that was my DREAM-that is like seeing more than one musical or winning the lottery.
2018 was been a very exciting year for me. Parts of it were tough. Parts of it were unexpected. It is time to talk about highlights in 2018.
Spring 2018 semester was my final semester at Gardner Webb. I knew it was going to be tough- I was stuck in Western Civilization II (one of the hardest General Ed. classes at Gardner Webb).
Birthday Celebrations- one of the things I love about the opening of each year is that it celebrates my birthday. I had two birthday celebrations- one was with my family, and the other was with my suitemates. With my suitemates, we went out to lunch, and while we were out, their boyfriends decorated my room. Later that day, we watched the live Beauty and the Beast movie. My suitemates gave me a present- a snowglobe, which has a picture of all three of us in it.
Snow Day- There was a snow day in January. There were no sleds in the suite, so one of my best friends (Sydney) decided to use the cushions in our suite. We covered them with a grocery bag and used them as a sled. After sledding, we made snow creme. The next day, I made a mini snow man.
Big E- The Big E is in Gaffney, SC. At 11:00, they close it off to Gardner Webb students. Students can choose from a number of movies to watch and I choose Greatest Showman. I ended up falling love with the movie musical.
Candy and Critters- Every year around Valentine’s Day at Gardner Webb, there is an event called Candy and Critters. You make a stuffed animal and make a box of candy. This time, when I was a stuffed animal, I planned to name the stuffed animal after a musical character, but here’s the catch, the stuffed animal had to resemble a musical character plus it had to be a musical character I love.
I ended up making two stuffed animal. Someone at student activities said if we stayed long enough, and if there was enough animals left, we could make another one. My first stuffed animal was Eponine, who was named after Eponine from Les Mis: the bear had a brown color scheme with heart-shaped patches that had stitch marks around the patches- which to me resembled the character. The other bear was named Tiedye. Eponine means a lot more to me- those who know me know about my obsession with Les Mis and my love for Eponine.
Eleemosynary- This was the first play I saw in the Spring 2018 semester. It only consisted of three actresses.
Spring Break- I went to Ponte Vedra, Florida. I ended up visiting the Guana Preserve, and went to the movies to see “A Wrinkle in Time”.
Asheville- One of the things that happened in March (but unexpectedly), two of my friends and I went to Asheville after class. We drove part of the trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and walked a little bit in Downtown Asheville. It seems crazy that a determined college student would literally go for a little adventure like that (after all Asheville is an hour away from Campus).
Big E- This had another Big E event. This name I choose to watch “I Only Imagine”. Most students picked horror movies, but I choose “I Only Imagine”, which is about how that song got written. There were only about 15 of us who went to that movie.
Peter and the Starcatcher- this was the last show I saw at Gardner Webb. I wasn’t expecting this, but I was asked to usher. Turns out they didn’t have enough ushers, so I was asked to usher. This was one of my favorite shows they did.
Spring Formal- this was a real highlight. The theme was Casino night. It is always nice to have Spring Formal as a break from studying for finals.
Graduation- for a good chunk of the semester, it almost seemed as if Graduation was not going to happen. It was all because of Western Civilization II. There were times when it seemed like I wasn’t going to pass the class- but I managed to pass that class in order to graduate.
Other Gardner Webb 2018 Memories
Skate Night- I participated in Skate Night this semester
The Gathering- Almost every Tuesday, I made sure to attend the Gathering, Gardner Webb’s student-led worship service.
Oklahoma- My first musical of the year. It was a date with my mom. It felt nice going back to Central Piedmont Community College. After all, it was the beginning of the college journey. I already knew what to expect from CPCC’s musicals- I had in the year’s 2012 and 2013 seen Godspell and Les Mis- so I knew just how strong their musicals can be. When I went to see Oklahoma, I wondered would I see any of the actors or actresses I had seen previously at CPCC. Turns out I did see two of the actors previously (those who played Laurey and Will Parker (they both were in Godspell and the one who played Laurey was also in the Les Mis ensemble). They used a minimal set, and it was the actors who moved the set pieces, and the show moved smoothly, and like excepted- it felt way more than a community college production.
Sugar Mountain- my family went to Sugar Mountain for a few days. It is near Banner Elk, Boone, and Grandfather Mountain. Part of the trip was exploring nearby towns and a little bit of hiking.
Grease- I saw my 2nd musical this month. I ended up seeing it with my sister and one our friends. I had seen the movie, but never seen the stage show. I did not know how different the stage show would be. When the show started, I realized how different it was- there were songs that are not in the movie. CPCC got special permission to use four songs not originally in the stage show.
Pops Symphonies- every June in Charlotte, there are outdoor Symphonies. I went to two. The first one was Broadway-themed and the second was Celebrate America. I took one of my best friends (Sydney) to the Broadway one).
Newsies- My 3rd and final CPCC production. This was the most UNEXPECTED musical. I wanted to see it at CPCC so badly this year- I saw Newsies on tour two years ago- I mainly wanted to see how CPCC could handle the dance element. I kept on convincing my mom to buy tickets, and she never seemed to buy tickets (even during the week of production). After Friday, I accepted the fact that Newsies wasn’t going to happen (or was that true).
Saturday- earlier in the day, my mom was having me try on dresses to look for job applications. She was not letting me take the last one off. My best friend, Sydney, showed up (I didn’t know she was coming). She asked me do you know what we are doing (I said I have no idea). I told her we could go to the mall. I did not find it strange that she was getting dressed into something different in the car. I soon said all I wanted to do this week was see Newsies at CPCC. When I realized we were close, she was asking me to direct her to CPCC- she was telling me I want to see the Campus. The next thing I knew we were heading towards the theater. The next thing, she said was I want to see the theater- I said only those seeing Newsies can see the theater- we were in will call line at that point- I was telling her ask an usher to see the theater- guess what, we were in will call line for her to pick up tickets for Newsies- it was her graduation present to me- my family (including my sister), and Sydney kept that a secret for me from me for a month. I was 100% convinced Newsies wasn’t happening- so there’s that- my 3rd musical for the year. My Jack Kelly of this production was also Curly from Oklahoma.
Lake Hartwall- I ended up spending some time with my third cousins. Yes, I have third cousins. I ended up helping bake a blueberry pie. I did not spend much time on the lake. I only was the on the lake once
July or August
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again- I don’t remember when I saw it in July or August. Usually I don’t think musicals should do sequels. Usually musicals struggle as a sequel. But this one is an exception in so many ways- a number of sequels just don’t work.
I do not know if I have anything exciting that happened in August or not
Kanuga- after a two year break from not being at Kanuga, I finally got to go back. Kanuga is an Episcopalian Conference Center in Hendersonville, NC. Every year, my church has a Parish Weekend at Kanuga. Kanuga is where I began to believe in God. It is where I found my enjoyment of hiking. It is one of my “happy places”. I have missed that place, and was glad I was able to go back- my church went over Labor Day. It consisted of singing, some alcohol ink art, hiking, square dancing, and fellowship, etc.
Lion King- after CPCC, I finally saw my first tour. This would make it my fourth musical. You would think Lion King would be my first “professional” musical. To tell you the truth, CPCC’s musicals do feel “professional”. So technically, Lion King is the fourth “professional” musical I saw- but by definition Lion King was my first professional production. The reason why I wanted to see Lion King was because I don’t remember seeing it my first time. This was a girl’s night out- that meant it was my mom, sister, and I. At Belk Theater, all three of us were in the orchestra at the aisle.
Sugar Mountain- I went back to Sugar Mountain, the same place to went to over the summer. We hiked two trails: the Viaduct and Linville Falls.
Halloween- Obviously October is Halloween. I wasn’t planning to dress up. Last October, I was Rizzo for Homecoming (which was Broadway-themed), and for Octoberfest. I still had the Jacket I made for Rizzo, so I decided that day to be Rizzo for Halloween.
“A Christmas Story, The Musical” Informance- during the summer, I joined Club Blume, a young adult group for those interested in theatre. When I saw “A Christmas Story” on the shows coming to Charlotte for the 2018-2019 season, I wasn’t interested in the show- the only ones that interested me was Miss Saigon and Aladdin (nothing else). I still decided to go the informance to start getting involved in Club Blume. I was kinda of aware of the movie. The moment I heard that those who wrote the music for Greatest Showman also wrote the music for A Christmas Story, I was interested in seeing this musical. I picked up a voucher after the show- in order to get the discount rate on the tickets.
Church Services- there were two special church services that happened this month. Evensong and the Installation of our new rector. Evensong is very special to me- whenever I go to Evensong, I am reminded of Bristol so Evensong is connected directly to the Bristol Pilgrimage.
Thanksgiving- my family and I went to Burlington to have Thanksgiving with my grandpa and his sister.
A Christmas Story, The Musical- This ended up being my 5th and final of my year. 2018 ended up being my record of number of musicals in one year. The average tends to be 1-2 musicals a year- not over 3 musicals. After Lion King, I was 100% I wouldn’t see another musical. Don’t forget, I wasn’t convinced I would see A Christmas Story. I would go to a pre-party- which was basically appetizers and drinks- that was due to going with Club Blume. The musical is a good musical- funny and has energetic and emotional songs- emotional (not as in sad emotional, but a different type of emotional).
Putting up Christmas Lights- my dad and I putting up the outdoor lights on the bushes and the trees.
Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindewald- love this movie. After seeing the first movie, I wanted to know what was going to happen to the characters especially Newt. Love the series a lot.
Hay Ride- we went on a hay where we did some carols
10:45 Candlelight Service (December 24)- This service is my favorite service all year. All year, you only hear the organ, but at this service, you hear the organ with string with a trumpet with an oboe. You are given a candle. You is a very beautiful. The candle is used for Silent Night- the lights are off, and the candles are lit. It is hard to beautiful how beautiful it is.
Christmas- despite going to bed late, still going to bed early. I grabbed my stocking at 6:00. Then went to bed and woke at 6:30- stayed up then. I decided to open my stocking at 7:00- I secretly hoped there was going to be a musical ticket in my stocking. In my stocking, there was some chocolate, time turner necklace, block that said “when something bad happens you can let it define you, let it happen, let it destroy you or let it strengthen you”, and 3 tickets to Miss Saigon- the other 2 tickets were for my mom and dad. Some other presents I got (that were not in my stocking) were a book of Christmas Classic, Creating Characters book, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them DVD, and Mamma Mia: Here to Find Them DVD, etc. 24- that is a lot of people, but Christmas Dinner worked out.
One of the things I want to add is that I finally started to write my first book- over the summer. The reason why it doesn’t belong in a single month is because I worked on it in a number of months. Summer was basically my first draft. I made it through my second draft. Part of my time was spent trying to figure out what my characters look like.
It was crazy in the fact that during the first half of the year that I was still a college student, and in the second half I was no longer a college student.
The first highlight of December was seeing “A Christmas Story, The Musical”. I saw it with Club Blume, the young adult club I am a member of. Many people know of the movie, “A Christmas Story”. What I saw is a musical of the movie. It was a good musical. When the 2018-2019 season first came out, I had no interest in seeing this musical, but now I am glad I went. It was funny, and enjoyed the songs. There were moments that were not found in the songs that made me laugh such as the dogs.
Part of December was spent decorating the house for Christmas. My dad and I for multiple days took care of the outside lights. Our trees are weird- leaves just keep on falling- so my dad and I also had to rake those leaves for more than one day as well. So my dad and I had to take care of some outside days for part of December.
Lessons and Carols- this is one of my favorite church services. The service is basically what it says. It consists of a bunch of lessons, and it has more songs than a typical service.
Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald: I finally got to see the second movie in the series. I loved the first movie- I fell in love with Newt and all of the beasts. I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen next. My family went to see it. Before seeing it, my sister and I ended up watching the entire Harry Potter series and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them before this movie.
Hay Ride: I participated in a Hay Ride through my neighborhood singing Christmas Carols.
10:45 Candlelight Service: This happened Christmas Eve. The prelude began at 10:15, and the service started at 10:45. It is a very beautiful service. It combines the organ with a string section with the trumpet. We get a candle at the beginning.
Christmas Day- I love Christmas Day. I love being able to open the stocking, and seeing what is in there. I also love opening the other presents. Ranging from tickets to Miss Saigon to a book of Christmas Classics to a Time Turner necklace to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them DVD, etc. It ended with Christmas dinner- there were 24 people in one house- friends and family.