Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Emerson Colonial Theatre

Last time, I wrote about how fandoms converge and how weird that is. It almost feels serendipitous. I have a lot to say overall about my weekend in Boston--because Boston when it's summer and sunny and you are over drinking age with a credit card is very different from trudging through Boston in two feet of snow in the biting cold in college.

But though Boston and I have changed in the eight years since I was last up there, I have to say that my on-foot knowledge of downtown Boston has served me in good stead--I'll cover more of what my friends and I did and saw in Boston in subsequent posts.

But first! Moulin Rouge. We were greeted with it from the second we got off Amtrak at South Station and we kept seeing ads for it all over Boston, which was exciting.

Although the Colonial Theatre was smack in the middle of my college "campus," I never went inside or had classes in the building. I remember sitting in the Tufte Performance and Production Center, which goes behind the Colonial Theatre and has big windows and seeing the touring cast of Spamalot wave because we could see them running up and down the stairs to get to their dressing rooms one night.

Emerson College, my alma mater, bought the Colonial and there were rumors for a while that the College was going to tear the theatre down or make it into another dorm (like a lot of smaller urban colleges, Emerson's dorm space is tight). But instead, they renovated it and like the Cutler Majestic and the Paramount Theaters, there are professional productions up at each place. Moulin Rouge is the first production up at the Colonial since its renovation and reopening.

You can learn more about the Emerson Colonial Theatre here.

It's gorgeous in the theater, by the way. "They're going for a Versailles thing, huh?" I said to my friend Nali at one point as we were waiting for the auditorium doors to open.

Ceiling shot

"Especially with all the mirrors," she replied.

Then we went up to the mezzanine to our seats and we were stunned at the set.

Look at that set.

The windmill moved, guys. There's an elephant sticking out of the balcony. We had to take pictures of it from our perches in the back mezz. As other audience members walked by to be seated, we could hear them react to the set as well.

There was also some VIP seating at the very foot of the stage with tables. We wondered if they would keep that when the show transfers to New York.

The movie came out in 2001 and it's based on archetypal operatic tragic love stories--the musical hews closely to the movie's plot. The characters are pretty much the same and all of that translates well to the stage. It has that musical plot already from the film and it absolutely works.

The music is different though. They've added pop songs that were not in the movie to the stage version. Moulin Rouge is kind of the ultimate jukebox musical, right? I mean, the movie was that and the audience would know to expect that style. Some of the song choices were unexpected. My friend Nali and I were punching each other whenever a song we'd liked was sung on stage. For the most part, the songs worked in moving the story along and expressing character and feelings'n'shit. They were just...unexpected in some places and in some choices.

After we were all back at our hotel, I was like, "Did I just see a musical or was I just at a concert?"

This being the first out-of-town tryout any of us have ever attended, we're not sure how much the show will change between their Boston run and their upcoming-sometime-in-the-next-season Broadway run. We're looking forward to seeing it at home and to see what, if anything, the production tweaks. We doubt the music will change very much though because of music rights and licensing and whatnot. But the presentation may change.

The two big numbers from the movie, in my mind, are "Come What May" and "Roxanne."(Or am I just saying that because those are the songs Virtue and Moir used in their free dance?) "Come What May" was glorious. The combination of Karen Olivo's powerful belt and Aaron Tveit's earnest and strong vocals gave me goosebumps. They sound amazing together, holy shit.

And "Roxanne." Woo. "Roxanne" is a Dark Moment song in the plot so there's angst and jealousy and anger. And no shit, but Aaron Tveit was fucking growling "Roxxxx-annnnnneee." It took me a second to realize that he was the one singing it and singing it that way, which is so different to his usual vocal style. I think I turned to my friends during that number and I know Jess was as open-mouthed as I was.

There was also a big Acting Moment for Aaron's character at one point--it's directly from the movie, so everyone there probably knew it was coming, but people gasped and reacted like "Omg, no!" which is a testament to the emotions in the show and to the actors.

I cannot wait for the show to come to Broadway, but it was incredibly special to be able to see it in Boston. My friends and I felt that we leveled up in our mutual theater geekdom by seeing an out-of-town tryout run and a world premiere, to boot.

Friday, July 20, 2018

When Your Worlds Converge: Moulin Rouge!

You know how sometimes you're interested in or are a fan of various seemingly unrelated things? And then somehow, those things converge and it's awesome but kinda weird, too?

1) The movie Moulin Rouge! This bizarre, colorful, dramatic musical with famous pop songs, telling the story of a poor English poet named Christian and his love story with the star of Montmarte's Moulin Rouge club, Satine, came out in 2001. I don't remember when I first saw it, but it was probably in college. I loved it. I was all about the garret-living consumptive Parisian writing lifestyle when I was 18.

2) I like theater. I went to a college with a large theater program. I came out of college and back home to New York City... where Broadway is. Meaning that I've been lucky enough to be in close proximity to some truly amazing shows with amazing performers.

3) An amazing Broadway performer I've not been lucky enough to see in a Broadway show, ironically enough, is Aaron Tveit. The first time I saw him was in the 2013 film version of Les Miserables.

He then got added to my roster of Men I Google-Stalked. My friend Jess and I saw him perform live as part of the one Elsie Fest we've been to. (Jess has seen Aaron on Broadway, several years ago). We also saw him perform in a solo concert on Long Island. To which I reacted, "When is he coming back to Broadway?!"

4) Back to the Moulin Rouge thing: In February, during the Winter Olympic Games, my mom and I were watching figure skating when I heard the distinct notes of what I recognized as the Moulin Rouge version of "Roxanne." It was Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada.

"Roxanne" went into "Come What May" and Virtue and Moir skated the hell out of the routine and I was hooked. I was sooo happy when they won the team gold medal for figure skating and then a gold medal of their own for ice dancing. 

I then re-watched Moulin Rouge for the first time in forever. 

And then I've spent a lot of time shipping Virtue and Moir, but that's another story. 

5) Then I heard that Moulin Rouge was being made into a stage musical and it was being workshopped with Aaron Tveit as Christian. Whatreallywowcool. And just as I'd rewatched the movie for the first time in years and was watching Virtue and Moir's Moulin Rouge routine on YouTube and the soundtrack was fresh again! Funny how that works.

6) Oh, that theater workshop production of Moulin Rouge is going to be staged? Cool. In Boston. Nice. At the Emerson Colonial Theatre? Wait, the theater that was in the middle of that city block that my college existed on? And Aaron Tveit is still attached to the project? Wow, small world. And it's coming to Broadway next season? Yay! 

7) My friend Jess: "I really want to go up to Boston to see Aaron Tveit in Moulin Rouge."

8) So my two besties and I are doing just that this weekend.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Obligatory Downton Abbey movie post

Four days ago, the Downton Abbey Twitter posted this:

You may have seen me squealing about it somewhere on the social media.

Anyway, I didn't think they'd get to a Downton Abbey movie this soon--the show hasn't been off the air that long.

I expect the production to be pretty tight-lipped about plot and whatnot, but:

-The series finale ended on New Year's Day, 1926. So is it picking up from there? Is it skipping time? 
-How many of the cast will be back? It's a huge cast. 
-Seriously, the Dowager Countess is still alive? Isn't she like 140 years old by now?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

On Pseudonyms

I've started writing a creative nonfiction project which I hope can be self-published by the autumn. But I've decided already that I'll be publishing it under a completely different pseudonym, for reasons.

As many of you know, the name I write under--Michelle Athy--isn't my legal name. Michelle is my middle name. Athy is my real last name. I write under that name for a few reasons. I don't like my real first name, it's too distinctive. The name is part of my real name but different enough that it wouldn't cause issues in Real Life.

I know a lot of romance authors use pseudonyms: Courtney Milan, for instance. And some authors use different pen names for different genres.

I'm hardly an established author by any means, but I have written stories in different genres already and they all used my author name--and most of the things I'm working will be published under Author Name, whenever that may be.

But not this particular memoir/creative nonfiction thing. I haven't decided what the name will be, but it is an interesting thing--like, do I have to have an email under that name? What about social media? How do I promote the thing without linking Michelle Athy me--which admittedly is pretty easily connected to Real Me if you know where to look--to the thing?

Frankly, the idea of having yet another email and twitter for a pen name I'll probably only use the once sounds exhausting.

Do you use a pen name? How did you come up with it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

IWSG July 3rd!

It's time for the Insecure Writers Support Group post, one day earlier than usual because the first Wednesday this month is the day us Americans eat too much and shoot explode-y things off in the air. 

Getting on to the July IWSG question: 

What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time?

Well. How haven't my writing goals changed over time? I've referred to myself as a "recovering writing major" a few times because at least at my college, the Writing program was very focused on literary fiction. And while I knew I didn't fit in to that whole thing--there was no way in hell I was MFA-bound--I did still have that weird fog of wanting to write the Great American Novel. 

That's gone now. 

I always wanted to write novels and I was always a bit frustrated in workshop classes because we only ever wrote short stories. Well, I still want to write novels, but I seem to be writing short stories these days and I'm totally cool with that. Short stories come easier to me. Now, I'm a little frustrated that I can't seem to sustain a plot long enough for a full-length book.

Knowing that, I'm taking my time writing a first draft/outline for a full-length book. It's not the Great American Novel--it's a contemporary romance--but I know my weak spots in writing. I know they always have to do with plot and structure.

So my primary goal with this first draft/outline has been to nail the structure and the plot. I want to make sure that the conflicts are strong enough, the stakes feel appropriate, and that the story isn't repetitive. The ultimate goal is to have a book that doesn't fall apart at some point in the middle.

My ultimate writing goals: a book-length plot, novels that entertain and inform, novels that show diversity as natural and a strength no matter the time period they take place in.