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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

‘Les Miserables’ never lives up to its name (and that’s a good thing)

Whenever I’m asked what my favorite movie or album or musical is, I usually answer with something along the lines that it changes all the time, but my favorite of the week is…However, once I really got to thinking about it, if there is one musical that could be categorized as a favorite, one that I know all the words and have loved for a very long time, it would have to be the legendary “Les Miserables.”

While the story is quite complex, it can be told in a few simple sentences (at least, that is what I will try to attempt). It focuses on Jean Valjean, a man who spent 19 years in jail (five for stealing bread, 14 for trying to escape) he struggles with becoming a good man when the world around him refuses to give him the chance. Eventually he becomes the mayor of a small town and aids a woman named Fantine, who has been reduced to selling herself on the streets to support her daughter. Valjean ends up taking care of the daughter, Cosette while trying to stay ahead of his past in the form of Inspector Javert. Cosette falls in love with a young revolutionary, Marius, just before the Paris Uprising of 1892 (there is more to the story, but that would give it all away).

My earliest memory of this musical was my ninth grade French class, when we took a field trip to see a production of it. I don’t remember much of the actual performance, but I do remember falling in love with the story and the characters. And soon after that I was a proud owner of the VHS of the 10th anniversary concert staring some of the 1985 original cast, including Colm Wilkinson as Jean Valjean and Michael Ball as Marius. Looking back, Philip Quast stood out the most as Inspector Javert. I remember rewinding his solos to watch them over and over again. I was obsessed with it for a time and then, as most do, it faded to the background as more exciting and shiny things took my interest.

It wasn’t until the other week, when PBS aired the 25th anniversary concert that I remember how much I loved this musical and realized that it could be called my absolute favorite. This time around the lead role of Jean Valjean was played by relative newcomer Alfie Boe and Javert by Norm Lewis (who I loved at King Triton in “The Little Mermaid” musical). In a surprising casting choice, Nick Jonas was cast as Marius, opposite Ramin Karimloo as Enjrolas, the leader of the revolution and Katie Hall as Cossette. Samatha Banks also shone as Eponine, the girl who is unashamedly in love with Marius and the role that Lea Salonga (Fantine in this production) portrayed 15 years ago.

The entire cast was perfection; every song was filled with emotion and Alfie Boe certainly cemented his place as one of the best Valjeans ever to perform. The choice to cast the youngest Jonas brother has been hotly debated and while he was the weakest singer in the cast, that is no poor compliment. Given time and training, however, he could be a great Broadway performer.

The highlight of the entire concert came at the end, when the original cast came onstage and sung an encore of the rousing first act closer, “One Day More,” followed by a quartet version of “Let Him Live,” sung by Boe, John Owen-Jones from the 25th Anniversary touring production, Simon Bowman from the current London cast. You could see on every face on stage that this was truly a momentous occasion, not only for them but for every person in that stadium.

I believe the reason this musical has lasted so long is because it speaks to something inside of all of us, the part that wants us to make our own destinies instead of accepting what government or society thrusts upon this. And it is that theme of freedom from oppression that is even more so relevant in today’s world where countries are toppling leaders and actually living the words.

Everything about this concert has made it the new standard of “Les Miserables” performances and I cannot wait to see what happens at the next milestone concert.

Mumford & Sons remind listeners what music is supposed to be

It seems to me that anytime a new artist breaks onto the music scene, they’re usually followed by some hype that they’ve either changed the face of music or they’ve brought a fresh sound to an established genre. Sometimes the hype is backed up by talent, most of the time the artist becomes big because our society is programmed to make a superstar out of anyone. However, for the first time in a while, I think I’ve found a band that is truly revolutionary: Mumford & Sons.

Okay, well I didn’t exactly discover them and I actually first heard their music when I saw the video on -gasp- VH1. You know, the reality show channel that, like MTV, was once a channel devoted to all things music and is now devoted to all things ridiculous? Anyway, according to Wikipedia.org the fold rock band has been together since 2007, their debut album “Sigh No More” was released in the UK 2009 and in the United States in 2010 and are up for two Grammy awards; one for Best New Artist and the other for Best Rock song for their single “Little Lion Man,” so I’m not exactly the first person to ever have heard of them. But I do think more people could benefit from listening to said debut album.

While the English band is categorized as folk rock or indie folk, there’s just something otherworldly and timeless about their sound. It has a sense of history; of a time when music was a few instruments and voices, not auto-tuned vocals and heavy beats backing up nonsensical lyrics. It sounds like what music is, what it should be. I realize this makes me sound like a music snob, so I feel I should state that I love contemporary music as much as the next person (I’ve had Katy Perry’s “Firework” stuck in my head for about a month and have loved every single minute of it) but it’s refreshing to hear a band like Mumford & Sons and realize music can be simple without being dated. “Sigh No More” is contemporary while reminding us of the past and the modern audience should not turn away from it because of its folk label.

The proof of this band’s talent is clear from the very first track of their album and carries through until the very last. This isn’t one of those albums that you find a few songs you like, especially the singles, and then skip the rest. Every single lyric has a meaning and an emotion; every song has its own unique quality that makes it enjoyable. The main theme that runs through the album is that of love both lost and found, yet there isn’t a bitterness to the failed love songs or a naive happiness to the new love ones. They all have a reality to it, as though a group of friends just got together to sing about their heartaches.

This group isn’t for everyone, but I think that anyone who enjoys music and comes to this album with an open mind is going to find themselves pleasantly surprised.

More information on Mumford & Sons and their upcoming events can be found at their official website mumfordandsons.com

Weekly Preview – 10/25/2010

No, wait, I’ll say it for you. We suck – we totally suck. Our poor neglected blogverse. All I can say is we’re sorry and we’ll try hard not to do it again. In a week, NaNoWriMo starts and you’ll be even more amused/frustrated by us. And if you don’t know what that is, google it peeps.

If it’s any consolation, I spent the day being yelled at by residents who can’t seem to figure out their water bills, went straight from work to the liquor store, to Starbuck’s, came straight in and sat down to write this. So it’s technically the first thing I’ve done since I got home. In any event, let’s get to pre-Halloween programming shall we?

Monday – Taylor Swift‘s new album, Speak Now, drops today. I love her and I don’t care what anyone else thinks so 😛 Ahem…if you’re more into hot boys and sunshine, check out Hawaii Five-0 tonight, which welcomes guest star Kevin Sorbo (aka Hercules for those of you playing the home game) to it’s shores tonight.

Kurt as Riff Raff

Tuesday – Get ready to bring your knees in tight and get ready to do the time warp with the cast of Glee as they take on Rocky Horror. As with all things Glee these days, it could either be awesomely bad or just bad so let’s hope they got the awesome memo. In preparation, watch the movie and then watch Tim Curry‘s guest spot on Psych…mostly because it’s hilarious and I’m watching it now.

Wednesday – You should have a standing appointment with ABC’s Modern Family, but in case you’re on the fence, the Dunphy’s take on the tradition of the haunted house and Cameron hates Halloween because of a traumatic childhood experience…which seems fitting because he dresses up all the other days of the year so he’s earned a day off.

Thursday – The Vampire Diaries has been on fire this season with twist after heart wrenching, jaw dropping twist. Given that this weeks episode is set in the midst of a masquerade ball, the roller coaster is sure to continue.

Friday – So I’ve managed to maintain my boycott of a Smallville without Michael Rosenbaum…until this season reeled it’s super head and I rediscovered its wondrous charm, even if it is a Chloe-less charm. After you watch Tess try to find a cure for her rapidly aging little clone boy, Alexander, keep watching for Supernatural, where supposedly we will finally get some answers as to what the hell is wrong with Sam. He’s just not right…

Ok, back to my Psych marathon I go. New season starts next month so I’m getting…aw, hell, psyched. Chocolate pudding here I come!

Week in Review – 9/25/2010

Ok, so there must be balance in the universe, thus a late Week in Review…all right, all right, I was tired, I have visitors and the blog has a had a lonely, neglected week. But better late than never right?

*I have decided that Jonathan Rhys Myers has the opposite problem of Orlando Bloom – he is a much better actor when he keeps his own accent. That being said, watch From Paris With Love anyway because John Travolta is a total badass in it.

*If you didn’t watch last week’s Hawaii Five-0, you totally missed out. Catch up on Hulu tonight and watch episode 2 tomorrow. You can check out my review in an earlier post if you need more nudging.

*I hate to admit it, but I think I might be getting sucked back into Gossip Girl – despite the epic Chuck/Blair moment in last week’s episode note being all that epic. I’m still a sucker for Chuck Bass though.

*One Tree Hill may be on the verge of jumping the shark with this whole Ghost-esque Clay/Quinn storyline. I can’t watch Clay wander around the hospital pining for another two episodes. On another note, Jamie is the most adorable kid ever and they need to give Brook and Julian a kid before this season is over. Anyone want to put money down now as to whether they’ll be able to get CMM to come back for the finale?

*I’m so happy I can do the Glee dance on Tuesdays again. It just makes my day better knowing that it’s Glee day.

*Modern Family is still the best comedy on TV right now. Can’t get enough Mitch and Cameron.


Season 2

*I remember how much I hate Thursday nights again. I’m STILL trying to catch up on all the premieres. Here are the cliffsnotes – Grey’s was lame and predictable; Private Practice had its moments, though still just a meh episode; Bones was better than I thought, but I still hate what they’re doing to Booth and Brennan; The Mentalist was worth watching just for the few solid Jane/Brisbon moments that were epic; The Office was actually funny again and worth watching just for the random music video ad in the first five minutes; and The Vampire Diaries still continues to be awesome this season with all the heartbreaking Damon moments…is it wrong to want to punch Elena?

*Supernatural finally premiered this  week after what felt like the longest summer break ever…and I have to say it was kind of anticlimactic. Their grandfather and creepy cousins are uber shady and something just isn’t right about Sam.  I did enjoy Bobby’s reaction to Dean showing up on his doorstep and that Lisa called Dean an idiot. The show is still crazy well-written and Jared and Jensen still have chemistry that can’t be bought. I just hope Sera Gamble and pick up the pace. On a semi-related note, I hate when they show things in the preview that don’t end up being in the actual episode.

All right, all. Have agreat week and buy the Glee version of Billionaire on iTunes. I love the new kid. If I were a twelve year old girl, he would so be my type again.

Mel

Week in Review…Early Again – 9/18/2010

Dean Winchester

Image via Wikipedia

So I may or may not be leaving the state for a much needed mini-vacay, but I didn’t want to leave the blog hanging, so the review is a day early again this week.

*I am definitely going to need an iTunes budget with all the upcoming new music, plus Glee. For those of you who missed it, iTunes posted all the Glee Season 1 tracks on their service, including some that were previously unavailable like Accafella’s riveting version of “I Want to Sex You Up.”

*I made the best discovery ever this week. Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester from Supernatural for those of you playing the home game) can totally sing. Simply because I can, enjoy his cover of The Band’s “The Weight” below.

*While I’m not sure One Tree Hill came back with a bang, it certainly came back with a bite. Given that this season picks up right after the finale last season, it seems awfully miraculous that every female character has a completely different hair color. The Clay/Quinn thing was completely contrived and predictable, yet still managed to make me yell at my TV when Nathan walked away from the house. Favorite line of the night came from Julian when he told Brooke’s mom to “Get Alexander’s dingo out of your wallaby and fix this!”

*I can already see Life Unexpected is going to frustrate me this season since we now know that Ryan has a dirty little secret named Julia tucked away in his past. And once again, Baze gets screwed…granted if he would start thinking with his brain instead of his libido, he may also get to win occasionally.

*The Vampire Diaries is still amazing. The writers are showing no mercy this season to any character. I enjoyed the scene between Damon and Jeremy and hope that they explore that dynamic as the season goes on. I am also loving Caroline the vampire. Not that we need more Stefan’s in the world, but I don’t want Matt to get his heart broken again.

*While I’m not sure how riveted I am by Nikita herself, I am completely fascinated by Lindsey Fonseca’s character, Alex. Hopefully, they’ll keep pushing her out there more. And for the record, I disagree with the critics’ assessment of Shane West’s performance as stiff. I think he’s just warming up.

All right, I’m outtie. Everyone go see The Easy A and watch Ghost Adventures tonight. They’re in Gettysburg so it should be interesting.

Peace!

Melissa

Check out Tyler Hilton’s awesome cover of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” to jump start your weekend 🙂

VMAs 2010 – Or how MTV got her groove back for exactly one evening

Leave it to Chelsea Handler, brilliant woman that she is, to find and maintain the funny at the VMAs this year. As the first woman to ever host in its 16 year history, she called MTV out on the farce that the VMAs are and then MTV managed to put on a pretty good show. Shall we hit the highlights?

*Eminem is still a badass, no matter what anyone says. And though I don’t understand the outfit, I love that Rihanna came out and killed it.

*No one is laughing, Lindsey. Too soon, dumbass. Too soon.

*Still laughing at “the big black elephant in the room.” Oh, Chelsea.

Love or hate the new Jared 'do?

*I love that 30 seconds to Mars won best rock video. What I dont’ love is that terrible new blond ‘do Jared was rockin’. I miss the shag, dude.

*Your love for Justin Beiber isn’t just creepy in the eyes of the law, Kim.

*And then little Justin proved boys can lip sync too.

*Yep, definitely don’t get the whole Usher thing anymore…

*Like most Taylor Swift songs, I’m sure I’ll get this one late, but right now I don’t understand…

*Is it just me or is Justin Timberlake aging backwards?And white again…

*I just heard this song Airplanes the other day for the first time and I LOVE it. It’s such an ear worm and I just don’t care.

*Raise your hand if you are surprised Justin Beiber won Best New Artist. Bueller? Beuller?

*The verdict is still out on the new Linkin Park song for me, but the performance was pretty bad ass.

*Still love me some Cher. Vintage or otherwise…

*Oh Kanye, why won’t you go away? Not even if we ask nicely?

All right, that’s pretty much everything.  I’ll go back to hating MTV tomorrow for bringing Snooki and Speidi into this world, but for now, I’m kind of okay with them being ironically named.

~Mel

Week in Review – 9/11/2010

The time is finally upon us, my little tv addicts, the fall season is finally upon us. Breathe it in, really enjoy the salty sweetness of time well wasted. Let’s begin shall we…

Josh Gorban - Illuminations drops November 2010

*Josh Groban‘s new album, Illuminations, drops in November. If you happen to stumble onto his website, you might just be able to download his new single, “Hidden Away”, for free. I’m just saying…

*Avatar in 3D IMAX = best 14.50 ever spent. The Deathly Hallows trailer in IMAX also worth the 14.50.

*Casting lesson #30,978: Katherine Heigl and Ashton Kutcher are better in theory than in practice.

*After a long, impatient summer, Sons of Anarchy came back with a vengeance, quite literally. I am continually amazed at Kurt Sutter‘s genius way of balance raw human emotion with the violence of a life spent serving Samcro. I can’t handle week after week of this emo, numb Jax. Hopefully, his outburst in the final moments of the premiere will lead to less brooding and more doing.

*Vampire Diaries is back! Vampire Diaries is back! Did I mention Vampire Diaries is back? I don’t think I have ever said “oh my God” so many times during a television show before. Kevin Williamson is showing a Joss Whedon-esque lack of fear in his execution of this new season of TVD. Ruthless is the word that best describes the premiere. I love that Stefan remembered he was a vampire over the summer. And Damon continues to be heartbreaking as ever. The man just needs a hug and probably some kind of vampire valum. Someone has to love him best…The true winner of the night is Nina Dobrev who proved she was more than just a pretty face by channeling her inner sadistic bitch. Katherine is a force to be reckoned with and I imagine she shall be all season long if we’re lucky.

*Nikita is worth a watch. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before and it certainly isn’t going to blow anybody’s mind, but it has potential. And for a CW show, that’s really all you can ask for.

*The CW finally released a real trailer for the upcoming season of Supernatural, which I have watched approximately 3,219 times. Check it out below and watch the Season 6 premiere of SPN September 24.

*Jane Lynch made the best cameo ever as Sam’s crazy deadbeat mother on iCarly tonight. If there ever was a time to watch Nickelodeon, now would be that time.

*Why are Spencer and Heidi still news?

*Holy crap, Psych! If you haven’t seen the summer finale yet, I’ll just say this, DO NOT MISS THE LAST FIVE MINUTES! You were warned…

*Ditto for White Collar.

*Ditto for Drop Dead Diva – apparently this is the summer of the cliff hanger.

All right, back to my Merlin induced stupor. I should have known I’d get sucked into this show from the jump…Is that my goodnight’s sleep disappearing into Camelot?

And because I can – the new Glee Season 2 promo:

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