Opera Ghosts: Not just Phantoms

Don’t forget to leave the ghost light on.

Over reading week, I was pretty productive. I finished some big school assignments, moved my fiancé across the country to be closer to me, and most importantly, I started watching The X-Files.

I’m halfway through the first season (no spoilers, please), but for some reason, I can’t get enough of Mulder’s ridiculous alien theories and obnoxious know-it-all attitude, when Scully is clearly the smart one (she’s a DOCTOR) around those parts. Let’s not forget those 1993 special effects, either. That’s the good stuff.

Binge-watching X-Files got me thinking about superstitions in theatre (related: X Files: The Musical is a thing). There are a lot of them – the theatre is a spooky place. Many theatres are very old and many are believed to be haunted and have their own ghost stories. There are many superstitions, but here’s some common things you should avoid doing when enjoying a show.

Whistling in a theatre is considered bad luck because before the days of walkie-talkies, the stage manager would whistle to the technicians. Someone whistling in the wrong spot would generally end up in them being fired.

The M-Word
The Scottish Play. Don’t do it. Saying “Macbeth” in a theatre is considered very bad luck. There are a few possible origins of this tale – involvement of witchcraft, that Shakespeare plays had lots of swordplay and people were more likely to get hurt, or that Macbeth is usually put on by struggling companies and your theatre could go bankrupt after that.

Lin-Manuel Miranda decided to dance around this rule in Hamilton – writing a letter to Angelica, he begins it:

My dearest Angelica
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from  day to day
I hope you’ll get my reference to another Scottish tragedy
Without me having to name the play

They think me Macbeth
Ambition is my folly

Miranda said on Twitter that the curse only applies to when you refer to the play, not to the character itself. Hamilton‘s success says this is true.

“Good Luck”
It is bad luck to wish good luck. That’s why “break a leg” is used in its place. It’s not wishing the opposite on the actors, though, there’s a few reasons for this phrase. When an actor puts one leg behind the other and bends in a bow, they would “break” the line of their leg. There’s also an Elizabethan-era legend of audiences throwing money on stage to actors after a good performance, then they would bend down and pick up the money, once again, “breaking” the line of their legs.



In photos: Festival du Voyageur

This year, for my journalism class, I had to go out and shoot a photo essay on Festival du Voyageur. Being on the road soon, as my last blog post states, I had but one opportunity to experience all that the largest western Canadian winter festival had to offer: its opening night. This was only my second time going, and although I speak very (read: very) little French, that didn’t stop me from loving every second. Because I’m getting married at Fort Gibraltar next year, it became a little more special to me during its most beautiful time. Though I scoped through the tents filled with warm, happy people listening to bands and enjoyed my share of maple taffy and mini donuts, please enjoy these photos of the opening ceremony. I only wish I had many layers of furs (and some Sorels) to keep me warm on this -28 C night. Festival is running now through Feb. 21 – make sure to get out and be voyageur! Hé ho!

The crowd assembles before the opening ceremony of the 47th Festival du Voyageur on February 12, 2016./DIANA CHABAI
Daniel Leclair, president of Festival du Voyageur, encourages the crowd to embrace adventure and “be voyageur!”/DIANA CHABAI
Drummers perform and sing for the Festival friendship circle dance./DIANA CHABAI
Marcel Sorin, father of the official voyageur family for 2016, reads his speech before beginning the tree ceremony./DIANA CHABAI
Marcel Sorin performs the tree ceremony, in which low branches from a small tree are removed, leaving only a tuft at the top, and then the whole tree is thrown into the fire./DIANA CHABAI
The 2016 Festival du Voyageur begins with a bang./DIANA CHABAI
The 2016 Festival du Voyageur begins with a bang./DIANA CHABAI

Ease on Down the Road Trip Mix

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Going on a road trip with me is like having an adorable singing street urchin hitch a ride on your carriage. Image courtesy Les Mis Wiki.

Reading week is about to begin and my plans – outside of cramming in as much homework as possible, of course – include a road trip with my fiancé. As everyone knows, a road trip is awful without good tunes to make the drive easier. And you can bet that my road trip playlist will have a good chunk of showtunes in it. (And Justin Timberlake for my fiancé. He can recite “Mirrors” better than I can, and I was the *NSYNC fangirl. Sorry, babe.)

He used to not like musical theatre (until I came along), but now, he tells me he listens to Hamilton out of his own free will (see? I was so right to put a ring on that). But he’s going to regret it when I make him perform Cabinet Battle #1 with me and demolish him with my sweet rhymes.

I decided to not put any Hamilton songs on my road trip playlist because let’s be real – we’re going to listen to the album in its entirety anyway. But otherwise, enjoy some highlights of what you would find me singing on our 16 hour trek. And I’m always open to suggestions (unless it’s from Cats).

The beau and I before we saw Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella last July. 

“Anything Goes” from Anything Goes, 2011
I don’t talk about classic musicals a lot, and it’s because I have admittedly very little experience with them, but Sutton Foster is incredible. Her turn as Reno Sweeney earned her the second Tony in her collection. I like to pretend I can hit the high note at the end (as with most high notes), and to be honest, I love the sound of tap dancing.

“The Bitch of Living” from Spring Awakening
Spring Awakening is one of my favourite shows that nobody has heard of, which is strange, because it won Best Musical and made waves recently when the sign language-based revival hit Broadway. This angst-filled teen anthem is the theatre equivalent of Nirvana (or whatever the kids are listening to these days) and tremendously fun to sing while imagine you’re stomping on tabletops. Not to mention, it’s all sung by men, which means it’s in my range. Nice.

“96,000” from In The Heights
I stopped myself from including Hamilton, but couldn’t leave Lin-Manuel out completely. Heights earned Lin (we’re on a first-name basis, apparently) his G and T in EGOT and began the foundation for hip hop in theatre. This song has the same intricate rhymes as Ham and is equally as fun to sing.

“Rose’s Turn” from Gypsy, 2008
The Patti LuPone version – although, I’ve had playlists where this version, the Bernadette Peters version, and the Imelda Staunton version all live together in peace. The ultimate diva anthem sung by the ultimate diva.

“I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music
Every time I watch this movie, I wish Julie Andrews was my nanny/third grandma/fairy godmother. And, quite frankly, this is one of the most underrated songs in the whole show. This song has become my mantra for when I need to build up the courage to do something I’m anxious about and it’s one of my favourite songs ever.

“And I Am Telling You” from Dreamgirls
The Broadway karaoke anthem. It needs no explanation.

What would you put on your Broadway road trip playlist? Leave me a comment and let me know!




Hopelessly Devoted: Grease & TV Musicals

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Aaron Tveit and Julianne Hough starred in Grease Live on Jan. 31. Image courtesy Vox.com.

Did I really have a choice of what I talked about this week? Of course not.

Grease Live aired last Sunday and over 12 million people watched Fox’s first-ever live musical – that’s the second-highest number for a televised musical ever (after The Sound of Music Live!).

Grease Live did some things that we haven’t seen before in NBC’s live musicals. The first, and in my opinion most important, of which is that they had a live audience. Finally, incredible numbers don’t fall flat or immediately cut to a commercial break – they get a genuine, natural reaction. Hamilton director Thomas Kail was at the helm of Rydell High and showcased flowing camerawork with long shots, like Jessie J singing “Grease (Is The Word)” while walking through the set.

The sets didn’t feel like they were set on stage. They were fully immersive, and the entire show felt more like the movie than a musical. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I haven’t decided yet.

The strongest part of Grease Live was, by far, the casting. Broadway.com boyfriend Aaron Tveit was stellar as Danny Zuko (thank you, Fox, for not stunt casting this role), complemented by Julianne Hough’s sweet Sandy. I also need to compliment how diverse this cast was, which was, unfortunately, something new to Grease. Using songs that were not in the movie (like “Freddy My Love” and “Those Magic Changes”) gave so much more depth to the otherwise cardboard Pink Ladies and T-Birds.

I need to clarify: Grease Live was a great step for televised theatre. But Grease is an awful story. The main message is “change who you are for a high school boyfriend.” That’s healthy, right?

NBC’s musical in the winter will be Hairspray, a show about a plus-sized girl in the ’60s who risks jail time to defend her black friends and ultimately ends up integrating a popular TV show, helps her mom accept herself, and gets the cute boy, all while loving her body. This has the potential to be miles ahead of Grease Live, but now, the production values have to be there. There is a new yardstick to measure by.

Let’s be real, though: as much as I dislike this story, I’m thrilled that musicals get to be in millions of homes. I’m thrilled that people will be exposed to theatre who maybe never would have been otherwise. And I will always, always watch these shows and support theatre. I hope that by getting this out of the way, it can open the door for shows with more substance.

Fox is also planning The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring Laverne Cox (!!!!) as Dr. Frank N. Furter (!!!!!), for later this year. Oh yes.

The Grease Live cast recording is available now. The show is available for digital download now and will be released on DVD March 8.