Friday, March 20, 2015

TV

I've been watching quite a bit of good TV lately:

1.  Vikings.

2.  Broadchurch, Season 2.

3.  Outlander, Season 1.

4.  Game of Thrones, Season 4.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

My February Reading

This is a little late, but here's what I read in February.

1.  Song of the Vikings:  Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths by Nancy Marie Brown.  

Snorri Sturluson was an Icelander who lived in the middle ages (13th century) and wrote down many of the Norse myth stories that are the basis of what we know today about Scandinavian mythology, including the stories on which Wagner's Ring Cycle is based as well as "The Lord of the Rings".  This is a biography, in a general sense of the word, of Snorri that also gives a lot of information about what Iceland in the medieval times was like.  The biography of the author says she keeps an Icelandic sheepdog, which I had to Google. I'm a bit of a geek when it comes to these things so I enjoyed reading this book, but even I had a hard time keeping track of the tangled family tree of Snorri.  A chart would have helped. This book took me a while to get through so I didn't read as much this month as I might normally.

2.  The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne.

Yes, that A.A. Milne, of Winnie the Pooh fame.  The amateur detective in this mystery at times reminded me of Christopher Robin, all grown up and surrounded by bears of very little intellect.  The mystery was pretty standard British country house fare of the type published in the 1920's.  I happen to like that genre of mystery so I enjoyed it.

3.   I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley ( a  Flavia de Luce Mystery).  In this volume, Bradley opens up the home of the somewhat reclusive de Luce family to a film company.  Of course, murder ensues and Flavia is helpful in solving it, to the amusement and chagrin of Detective Inspector Hewitt.  Although time moves on in these mysteries, it moves very slowly so Flavia hasn't aged much and she is still at war with her two older sisters (although perhaps there is hope of a truce).

4.  Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I loved this novel.  Adichie is a Nigerian author who spent much time in the United States and her main character, Ifemelu, experiences being a black person in the United States who is not African American. Ifemelu is born in Nigeria and spends her formative years there where she meets and falls in love with Obinze.  Ifemelu leaves to attend college in the United States, where her Aunt and cousin live.  Obinze cannot get a visa and ends up an undocumented alien in London.  Eventually both return to Nigeria.  The ending was a little too "love story" for me but the rest of the novel was a knock out.  Ifemelu says: "I came from a country where race was not an issue; I did not think of myself as black and I only became black when I came to America."   Adichie is also capable of writing beautiful description:  "In London, night came too soon, it hung in the morning air like a threat, and then in the afternoon a blue-gray dusk descended, and the Victorian buildings all wore a mournful air."  Parts of the novel required the suspension of disbelief (specifically that she could be so financially successful as a blogger) but the story hung together and I couldn't put it down.




Friday, February 13, 2015

Bernadette Peters in Concert

Last weekend Bernadette Peters was in town to perform for one night.  Well, not really in town.  She was in St. Charles at Lindenwood University's J. Scheiddegger Center for the Arts.  This was my first visit to this facility, and I was impressed.

I've seen Bernadette Peters in concert a few times and she was, as usual, highly entertaining.  Wearing a signature slinky gown, backed by a full orchestra, she strutted onto the stage to perform Let Me Entertain You, a song from the musical Gypsy, which she starred in a few years ago on Broadway.  That wasn't one of the songs she sang in that show but it was the type of song that Peters loves to sell. She followed that up with No One is Alone from Into the Woods, another show she starred in on Broadway and another song she didn't perform in the original production. From there she went on to There is Nothing Like a Dame, from Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific.  This number is usually performed by a chorus of men dressed as sailors but Peters vamped it in high style. 

The nice thing about a concert is that the performer can perform Broadway Musical songs that she would be the wrong age, or sex, or even size to perform in the actual Broadway show. And Peters took advantage of that, performing Some Enchanted Evening, again from South Pacific, and Johanna from Sweeney Todd.  She did When I Marry Mr. Snow from Carousel, a song she would now be far to old to perform in the show itself.

In between numbers she chatted to the audience, although I had heard much of her schtick about having a house in Florida to sell before.  Although she must be in her mid-60's she looks great and can still pull off the sexy pout when singing the Peggy Lee classic, Fever, on top of a piano.

But my favorite part of the show was the two songs from Follies that she sang.  These were songs she sang herself in the show a couple of years ago:  In Buddy's Eyes and Am I Losing My Mind.  Peters can take a lyric and deliver it in a way that makes you hear it for the first time.  I would have predicted that I didn't need to hear Send in the Clowns ever again in my life, but she made it fresh.

Her high notes are not always as bell-like as they have been in the past, but she can still deliver. And she is probably the world's leading interpreter of the songs of Stephen Sondheim.   One of my favorite songs that she performs is Sondheim's You Could Drive a Person Crazy.

Her final song was Sondheim's Being Alive, and she gave it her all.  For an encore she performed a song that she wrote herself to support her favorite charity, Broadway Barks. 

It was a wonderful evening of show tunes by a Broadway legend.