Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Out, Damn Spot(s)!

Several years ago my sisters gave me a fierce Marc Jacobs clutch. Just barely 21, I did not have many nice designer bags (come to think of it, my only other designer bag was a small black Coach shoulder bag, also from my sisters) and I cherished this stylish gift.

The fall after I graduated college I attended my first function as an alumni. As anyone who has ever attended an alumni event (or seen a movie about people going to one) knows, it is imperative that you look your best. After a great deal of deliberation I decided on a black, off-the-shoulder Nicole Miller dress, black boots and my awesome MJ clutch for a pop of color (see right, but do not judge the hair, seriously, I only mastered the blowout a few months ago).

Besides judging, the other major thing that goes on at these functions is the consumption of food and (alcoholic) beverages. The next morning I awoke to find stains on the front and left side of the bag (inside, outside, and on the back, not really sure how I managed this). I can only assume that these had something to do with what I ate/drank (Captain Morgan strikes again?). Upon returning home I stuck the clutch in it's dust bag and planned to take it to the dry cleaners to see what they could do.

That never happened. But a few months ago I was couch shopping (I swear, there's a connection here) and the saleswoman was telling me how I could get the small dark spot out of the back of a cream linen couch I was interested in (will I never learn with these light fabrics?) with a baby wipe. Honestly, I only brought up the mark on the couch to see if I could get an additional discount, but her remark got me thinking of the Marc Jacobs clutch. Tonight (over 8 years after the spill) I figured I'd give the baby wipe stain remover test a shot and guess what - IT WORKED!

So here's a Pic Stitch collage of the bag throughout the process. The top left is while I was wiping the back of the bag with the baby wipe (I only though to do a before and after once I'd already started, I blame the excitement), the top right is the inside left while it was drying and the bottom pic is the front after it had totally dried.
All I did was wipe at the stains with the baby wipe. I wiped with the grain of the fabric and against it (the woman at the furniture store didn't mention anything about technique) and really saturated the area and then just watched in amazement as the stains disappeared. Full disclosure: I have NO idea why this worked and I do not care, but I felt that I had to share this incredible stain remover with whoever stumbles upon my blog.

Also, Wahoo!!! I cannot wait to wear this bag again (and drink clear beverages)!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EVITA on Broadway

Last night I took my mom and my godmother to see EVITA on Broadway. Unfortunately, the show is closing on the 26th because Ricky Martin can’t stay on and they don’t want to recast Che (can’t say I blame them, but more on how fantastic he is later), but I’m glad we went before the show ended its run.

The Latin vibe and intricate choreography combine to make a lively show. The ensemble does an excellent job and the sets are impressive. Personally, I like to sit front mezz because I’m short and, depending on the layout of the stage, there have been times when I can’t see what’s going on (like the time I bought obstructed view seats for Rent, oops). We sat 2 rows back, dead center in the front mezzanine and I thought that was perfect, although I do think it was one of the few shows where it would have been great to sit in the orchestra as well.

Growing up my mother had us listen to the soundtrack of a show before we went to see it because it makes it easier to follow along; I highly recommend this, especially for this show. Thankfully Madonna repopularized this soundtrack when I was in High School (way back in 1997) by portraying Evita on the big screen (oh, Madge, I do hope you saw the irony of the Material Girl playing so I was ahead of the game. Now for some highlights:

Star Quality: My apologies to Elena Roger, who played the title character, but anyone who has seen the show would absolutely agree that Ricky Martin has more “star quality” in his grin than the entire cast has in their collective dancing feet (and they’re pretty great). He sings, he dances, he's as handsome as ever - and he makes it all look completely effortless! To top it all of, he seemed genuinely humbled when the crowd went nuts for him during the curtain call; he gave this sort of awkward/adorable double thumbs up that I could see myself doing if I was ever on some sort of stage (not that I've ever thought about what I'd do in such a sitaution, nope... moving on...).

A Mixed Review: It is very cool that Elena Roger is Argentinean considering the role (I mean, she really means it when she says “I am Argentina”) and her acting is impressive; the hyper movements of her tiny, little dancing doll body combined with her strong and confident projection really make her a convincing Evita. However, there are moments when her fast-talking ways make it difficult to understand her and her voice comes across as shrill when she’s in the higher register (thankfully she doesn’t spend much time up there). Other than that, her costumes are fabulous, hair and make-up transforms her and her body is in tip top shape (her arms could give FLOTUS’ a run for the money).

Scene Stealer: Rachel Potter plays Perón’s mistress and, while she only has one song, she makes it count. “Another Suitcase in Another Hall” is beautiful and as the mistress collects the clothes that Evita has thrown from the balcony and Che narrates the scene, you half hope Potter will run away with Ricky Martin and start their own show.

The show ended kind of abruptly (SPOILER ALERT); she dies (also, the Titanic sinks and Bruce Willis’ character in The 6th Sense is dead) and they cover the bed with the Argentinean flag to make it look like a coffin and the final lines are Che speaking about how they built a monument to her, but before they finished the pedestal her body was stolen and it wasn’t recovered for 17 years. THE END. Ummm, okay, way to open a can of worms and split. This is a Broadway musical, so obviously you’re not going to get into the whole military coup and Perón peace-ing out because he was overthrown and that’s why her body was left unattended, but I’m not a big fan of having to Wikipedia strings of plot that were left hanging after I walk out of the theater either, so I’d prefer they just left that part out if they weren’t going to add an entire 3rd act.

All in all, great production, excellent cast, and I’m glad I saw it. Now what’s next at the Marquis theater?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Outfit Post

Tuesday night I went to see The Airborne Toxic Event at Webster Hall. This is the 2nd time I’ve been there this year and both nights were rainy and gross, but both concerts were great, so the latter cancels out the former. You’re familiar with my no jeans in the rain policy, so I went with black jeggings (and to think there was a time when I was firmly anti-jegging!) and a light (in color and weight) hi-lo sweater that would be cozy, but cute. The necklace is from Century 21 many moons ago, but it’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s hard to tell, but the crystals are various shades of blue. Combat boots are my footwear of choice for most GA (general admission, not Georgia) concerts because they’re comfortable, but it won’t hurt if someone accidentally stomps on you’re foot while they’re lost in the moment, and they add an edginess as well as a bit of height (in a GA setting people who are vertically challenged typically don’t have the best view). There’s no coat check at Webster Hall, so I chose a hooded leather jacket that’s lined with t-shirt material (not pictured) to top off the look.

Specs: Sweater – Barney’s New York, Tank – Vince, Jeggings – American Eagle, Boots – Trouve, Necklace - Swarovski

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Houston Hall

Of the many, many email lists I belong to, Urban Daddy is the only one that I read religiously. Not only is the writing clever, but they have yet to steer me wrong with any of their suggestions (granted I'm ignoring that ones that are gender-specific, I get that it's supposed to be a site for dudes). So when I read their email about a new beer hall opening in the Village, I knew that I wanted to check it out ASAP.

Friday night was rainy and gross and all I wanted was some comfort food and a real beer (translation: not a Coors Light), so I suggested Houston Hall since their food menu is really just snacks and fancy grilled cheese sandwiches (which is exactly what I wanted). Houston Hall is a great space; the distressed walls and exposed beams in the ceiling of this former garage give it a really cool vibe. UD describes it as "ginormous," but let's face it - there isn't a space in New York that seems huge when it's getting rave reviews, so the joint was packed.

2 of us arrived at the same time and navigated our still-dripping bodies through the dense crowd, which was no easy feat. Props to the bartenders for maintaining a positive attitude despite the pushy and thirsty masses. After about 20 minutes, and just before the 3rd member of our party arrived; we scored some seats at the end of a table. Warning: they are communal, as they tend to be at these beer halls, so bring your manners and your smile.

What I ate:

The Classic with a Twist - It's definitely not the grilled cheese you made with Kraft Singles in college, but those are really 2 different animals, so we'll call this what it is: fancy yumminess. My sandwich was delicious, but not too heavy and at the end of a stressful Friday it was just what the doctor ordered. Also, there were pickles and I firmly believe that the pickle is an underutilized way to pep up a sandwich.

What I washed it down with:

John's Dunkle (yup, still sounds dirty) - I had 3 glasses of this malty goodness and I'd definitely go back for more. In a bit of poor planning I ordered a large beer, which is 14oz, shortly before we were leaving. Sadly the chaos was just too much for one member of our party and we decided to take it elsewhere. While I'd rather savor than chug good beer, I figure it's better than wasting it, so I downed the remains and off we went.

So, until next time, Houston Hall. I look forward to visiting you again.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Outfit Post

Friday night was rainy and miserable, but I had plans to meet friends at Houston Hall (review on that to follow) so one way or another I had to get dressed. Since there is nothing worse than wet jeans, I opted for opaque tights and a lacy skirt (a decision based primarily on drying time) paired with a black sweater and booties. It's hard to tell from the pic, but the sweater has this really cool treatment that makes it look like leather (or snakeskin as my friend Bill said).  The skirt is one of those items that I tend to forget about, but fall in love with all over again when I wear it. It makes me feel like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, I just want to dance around with a big, floppy bow in my hair and matching lace gloves; the rest of my party is probably glad I resisted this urge.

 Specs: Sweater - H&M, Skirt - Forever 21, Booties - Rosegold, Tights - Hue

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Les Misérables

Last night my mother and I went to see Les Misérables. Having seen the stage production 3 times on Broadway, it’s my favorite musical, I know it well, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up for the movie. All in all I think it was a solid performance by the entire cast.

Warning: Spoiler alert and über long post, because I’m obsessed.


• Legitimate Stage Actors – When this movie was announced there was so much buzz about celebrating casting that you could barely find any other information related to it. Taylor Swift and Lea Michelle were considered for Eponine (had either of those ladies been cast I would have been forced to boycott the film entirely, stage background or not in LM’s case) and Amy Adams and Jessica Biel were considered for Fantine (the former I could see, the latter makes me question the validity of IMDB’s sources). Thankfully the skill of legitimate stage actors in roles both big and small (actual West End actors were used as extras) carried this movie home.

o Eponine - While every female in the cast was pretty terrific, Samantha Barks is just leaps and bounds ahead. Barks makes the leap from the stage to the big screen with ease. Having played Eponine in the West End as well as in the 25th anniversary concert, she obviously knows the character inside out, so I found myself wondering if it was liberating for her to be able to deliver her lines more softly than one needs to on the stage (not quite as much projection required when the camera can focus in on you for key lines). Since she’s relatively unknown, she really was the character for me and I found my heart breaking for her in all the right ways, well played, Ms. Barks.

Side note: props to wardrobe for giving her the tiniest waist I have ever seen. Seriously, I think Dita von Teese could take a lesson on cinching in the waist from whoever dressed Eponine.

o Enjolras – For the first half of the movie I could not place where I knew him from. In the back of my head I kept thinking, ‘Gossip Girl, he looks like one of Serena’s (many) love interests, but, he’s so good, that can’t be it, I have to know him from something else!’ Finally I realized that I was indeed correct, Aaron Tveit had played Nate’s cousin Trip van der Bilt on the show – how had the Vulture Les Misérables Advent Calendar not given me the heads up on this? After doing my research (translation: IMDB search) I found that Tveit has been acting on stage and screen since ’08 (Catch Me if You Can and Next to Normal, and as a replacement in Wicked and Hairspray). During “Red and Black” when Marius is singing, “had you been there tonight” I could help but think, ‘had he been there tonight, he might have given you a little run for your money with Cosette.’

o Gavroche – This character is always a fan favorite, but whoever cast Daniel Huttlestone in the movie deserves the gold star that Javert pins on Huttlestone’s character post-mortem. Apparently, although not surprisingly, he was in Oliver in the West End. My biggest regret about my 3 week trip to London (it was for a grad-school program, so there had to be a work/play balance) is that I did not see Les Misérables in the West End. I’ve heard it’s the best production – ever.

• The Thenadiers – Was there anyone who thought that Sascha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter weren’t going to kill it as this clever criminal couple? Yeah, I didn’t think so. The subtle delivery of their comedic asides was brilliant every time, they never missed an opportunity.

• Clarity – This is going to be difficult to articulate, but there are some aspects of the play that are a bit abstract (Javert’s suicide, the symbolism of the candlesticks Valjean receives from the Bishop of Digne at the beginning, the relationship between Valjean and Cosette) that the movie seems to expand on and, in most cases, I think it was a wise decision. In the stage version Javert just sort of jumps from darkness and you “hear” him fall and splash, but it’s definitely more blunt in the movie (slight drawback mentioned in the Cons below) and there is no doubt as to how he meets his demise. As for the candlesticks, the ability to zoom in on them does an awful lot for their significance. In the play they are highlighted in the beginning and I’m sure they’re there throughout, but the movie was able to call attention to them briefly throughout and remind the audience of how far Valjean has come and why.

• Eddie Redmayne – Before seeing this movie I didn’t really get what was so attractive about him and, even now when I see a still shot of him I just think ‘eh,’ but to see this man in motion it’s like the freckles and the bone structure and the metro-sexual hair combine and you have to submit. He's damn good. Androgynous, maybe, but damn good.

• Hugh Jackman's fake teeth - I get that they were going for authenticity and all, but I think his regular teeth would’ve been less distracting since the prosthetics made him look like he was singing through the effects of Novocain. At certain points it was like I could hear the spit pooling in his mouth. To be honest, I was kind of disappointed in his performance on the whole, but that is probably just because I have come to expect so much from him.

• Russel Crow’s singing voice – This may seem like a bit of an obvious complaint, but ignoring skill level, he wasn’t even in the right vocal range. Javert is supposed to be this really rich baritone and Crow sings through his nose and often seems like he’s straining. His singing performance actually reminded me of Jim Broadbent’s portrayal of Zidler in Moulin Rouge, but not in a good way (sorry, Jim). His acting was pretty solid, but with all of the media hype it was truly difficult to stop seeing him as Russel Crow the celebrity and see him as Javert.

• Set design - In my not-at-all-professional opinion, the production designer took too much of a Sweeney Todd approach; panning out over 19th century Paris looked more like a video game than anything. I get that you're not going to actually recreate an entire city, but it seems like all of these cool new things are happening in film - we've got 3D and Peter Jackson using projection technology in The Hobbit, can't someone come up with a less cartoon-ish way of making a fake city? I half expect the actors to come into the scene looking like Grand Theft Auto avatars. That being said, I did like the physical sets that they used.

• "A Little Fall of Rain," radio edit - For whatever reason this song is seriously under-rated by the general public. One night at a piano bar in NYC my friend Laura and I requested it and were told something along the lines of, "no one's going to know it, but okay..." (much to the pianist's chagrin, everyone in the place joined in with no problem, know your audience, lady). Apparently the soundtrack advisor/consultant or whoever was in charge felt similarly to that pianist because they cut what I consider to the be the best part of the song, "the rain that brings you here is heaven blessed/the skies begin to clear and I'm at rest/a breath away from where you are/I've come home/from so far..." Sure, cut the singing from the one of the most talented members of the cast, that makes sense.

Random Snarky Commentary:

• Cosette’s dress in the marketplace scene where Marius first lays eyes on her would not make any man go ga-ga. She seems to wear something exactly like this in the other productions I’ve seen, but that doesn’t mean that I like it any more than I did any other time I’ve seen it. Those enormous rounded black shoulders are beyond unflattering and when designers tried to bring back that shape at the Fall 2011 shows, I just had to hope that they wouldn't succeed. Thankfully that revolution didn't do so well either.

• After Fontine has fallen and Javert comes to arrest her for attacking a John she’s wearing a red dress that looks brand new - what kind of money do these hoes make?! The funny part is that it looks an awful lot like a dress Helena Bonham Carter might wear during the upcoming awards season; HBC might even style her hair the same way.

• When Thenadier and his band of riffraff go to rob Valjean, but Valjean thinks it’s Javert coming to arrest him, so he tells Cosette they have to flee, Jackman comes out in this split neck undershirt/suspenders combo with his hair all curly and puffy and I swear he looks just like Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie. I seriously wanted Amanda Seyfried to start calling him “Pa.” It took me a solid 15 minutes to shake that image.

• Whenever Javert walked on the edge of a ledge I wanted to scream ‘We get it! Stop focusing on his feet, you’re making me nauseas’

• The way that Hugh Jackman chose to play up Valjean’s feelings for Cosette hovers somewhere between creepy uncle and devoted husband to a child bride (think Doc Golightly and Lula Mae Barns, aka “Holly,” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – sweet, in a way, but still totally weird). Maybe I’m used to a more religious-Daddy-Warbucks kind of portrayal, but the whole thing just seemed a bit off. Thankfully he’s not weird with Marius, so it doesn’t ruin “Bring Him Home” or anything like that, and as their relationship builds (who wouldn’t be brought closer together by carrying another man’s limp body through excrement? Kudos to the make-up artists and prop masters for that one, I swear I could actually smell the shit in the theater during that scene) the relationship between Valjean and Cosette seems normal again. We have stasis.

• There needed to be a “doof” sound when Javert off the bridge to his death at the end. He falls so hard into whatever cement structure the water is rushing over beneath the bridge that it actually looks like you can see his back break. Sitting in the back of the theater I saw at least half of the audience physically recoil at this moment.

Final verdict: I still prefer the stage version, but I still found myself getting really into it (so did the people in the theater behind me, I heard a woman tell her husband, "look, she's mouthing the words.").

Monday, January 7, 2013

Obligatory New Year's Post

One week into the new year and I'm doing a decent job of keeping up with all of the traditional resolutions; I'm working out regularly (hello, new love of spinning), I've instituted a one month shopping ban (apartment items not included since my place still isn't quite furnished) and I'm also doing a television cleanse because, in the words of Mrs. Sturak (AKA the Babysitter in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead), "TV rots your brains."

This is not to say that I will stop watching television altogether, that would just be crazy talk, but I do want to focus on interesting and/or educational programming and cut out 90% of the reality TV that I had been watching. Recently when I started watching Homeland, I thought, I missed the first two seasons of this because I was watching spoiled rich women bitch eachother out?

So, unless they involve a challenge or a talent, I'm banned from watching reality TV shows. No more housewives, mobwives, or sisters starting with the letter K (in my defense I never really watched the Kardashians, but I would leave them on for background noise from time to time and, honestly, I'd be better off listening to feral cats whine).  Right now I'm only allowing myself to watch The Biggest Loser, which started last night, because I find it to be motivational. I've even given up on Project Runway since Michael Kors decided to take the season off (sorry, Zac Posen).

Sure, most of these "resolutions" are just continuations of good habits from last year, but that doesn't change my resolve about them. Like the great Anne Shirley (or L.M. Montgomery, if you want to go with the author instead of the fictional character) once said, "Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it."