Sunday, November 24, 2013

Les Miserables

I fell in love with the music of Les Miserables just out of high school, fell in love with the book after my oldest child was born, and was the proud mother of three before I actually saw it on the stage.  That was a red-letter day for me, and I thought nothing would ever compare with the joy of experiencing my favorite play at the Pioneer Theater Company.  I had low expectations last year when I went to see the film--after all, they had opted for big-name actors over experienced musicians.  I was joyfully surprised, however.  The cast of the film version not only did full justice to the grandeur of the story, but to humanity itself.  
It was with some reticence that I attended Hurricane Valley Community Theater's production of the play last night, but since TJ had a student in the production it was a labor of love.  I knew that our friend Brodie Perry, who was playing Jean Valjean, would be amazing.  He was singing with the Utah Opera while he was still in high school with me, and he hasn't wasted his time since then.  I think he could perform on Broadway if he wanted to, and as proud as we all are that he is here instead, I did not know that St. George boasted more than one or two on his professional level.  I was dead wrong.  All the leads were phenomenal, and all the chorus were extremely strong singers and actors.  
"Community theater" has always brought to my mind subpar productions funded and attended by those of us who want to "support the arts."  I have never thought of this venue being one that could hold intrinsic entertainment value.  But the professionalism HVCT showed in this production filled me with joy and hope.  St. George has a great theater company!  And why not?  It was the last thing, in my opinion, that we needed to make this town quite perfect.  
But the true joy of the evening was the fact that the cast brought more to the performance than sparkling talent and hard-earned skills.  They understood the meaning of the play and cared passionately about it. Their hearts shone through every scene of the performance.  Brodie's performance was technically impeccable to start with--his voice was flawless, powerful, and tender; his acting was consistent, heartfelt, and masterful--but most of all he put every ounce of energy into his character.  I had tears running down my cheeks as the cast took their bows, and so did they.  I had a wonderful feeling that I was watching history in the making.

Michael Buble

A few days before Mother's Day this year, I got a call from my newlywed sister, Nikki, and her husband, Derek.  They were planning a special Mother's Day surprise for mom--a hot-air balloon ride--and wanted to know if I wanted to pitch in.  Well, you have to know the Monnetts to understand just how completely unprecedented such generosity is, which is not to say Mom didn't deserve such an awesome gift.  But having already spent the allotted five bucks on Mom's present, I wasn't able to contribute.  Well, it turned out that the hot-air balloon guy would only let them buy two tickets at a time, so the ended up buying one for Grandma, as well.  Four hundred dollars later, Mom had a sweet, thoughtful present that she wasn't sure she could even accept from struggling newlyweds.  They were adamant, though, so Mom worked on getting an appointment set up with Grandma and the balloon guy.  Grandma kept stalling, and eventually decided she really didn't want to do it.  Mom was wondering what to do, when this handsome face popped up on her computer screen:
Michael Buble was coming to Salt Lake City!  She did some quick research and then called Nikki and Derek to see what they thought about Mom trading in the hot-air balloon ride for concert tickets.  Of course, knowing how much Mom loves concerts, Nikki and Derek thought that was a great idea.  They figured they could get tickets for the three of them on the ground floor, or get nose-bleed tickets and include Georgia and me.  Luckily for me, they are very generous people.  And the rest, as they say, is history.  Georgia and I farmed our kids out, mom borrowed Dad's CNG car, and we headed north.  There we met Nikki and Derek, Kendall, who had driven down from Logan, and Spencer and Kris--all at a Greek place for a special "birthday dinner" for Spencer and Ty.  Then we chilled at Spencer's place for awhile, and then headed to Energy Solutions Arena for the concert!
Buble was AWESOME!  He was funny, sweet, humble and a terrific show-off.  His voice was just as amazing as on his recordings.  He took time to try and translate a fan sign from Spanish with hilarious results. He stopped the concert and had all 10,000 people in the arena sing "Happy Birthday" to an 83-year-old woman on the front row.  He talked about the joy of being a father, and about his immense gratitude for us, his fans.  


 We had such a great time!  The lights, backgrounds, and effects were totally amazing.  My favorite part was "All You Need is Love," during which the amazing lights show was complimented by billions of tissue-paper hearts being launched into the air.  Guys with huge vacuum thingies attached to fans shot them back into the air once they reached the ground.  It was awesome!  We all took some home as souvenirs.

The band was incredible.  Several came from the Julliard School of Music.  He also had a strings section, which, as he said, "came all the way from .... Salt Lake City.  I think a few of them are even Mormons. Raise your hands if you're Mormons."  Half the strings raised their hands. "What a minute," he said, turning to the audience, "how many of YOU are Mormons?"  At least half of the hands went up.  "Oh, man," he said, "I feel so left out!"  Mom was ready: "It doesn't have to be that way," she yelled.

"Burnin' Love"

The opening act, an a capella group named
Naturally 7.

 "It's a Beautiful Day"

 After his bows, he came back and did a half-hour encore.  He invited some kids up on the stage to sing "You've Got a Friend in Me."  And my favorite part was when he took out his earpieces, ditched the mic, and sang "A Song for You."  Ten thousand people in that room and we all heard him clear as a bell.  It was amazing.

After the concert we hung with the rest of the family until way too late, talking singing and laughing.  Then Taylor, Mom, Georgia and I spent the night at Serenity's.  The following morning we had a birthday breakfast for Nikki, who turned twenty that day.  Then we headed home!  

Friday, November 22, 2013

I don't know what we did differently, but last night the dinner hour was kind of magical.  We were all tuned in, you know?  We laughed a lot.

Isaiah who is just starting to put together full (ly adorable) sentences, kept pointing to the floor and saying, "I dop my tahtoes."  I kept laughing and repeating it because I thought it was the cutest thing, and the kids joined in, imitating him.  Paul had compassion on his little brother and went and scooped up the dropped potatoes while the rest of us were still giggling.

Later in the meal, Naomi's plate full of food somehow slid straight into her lap.  "Naomi, what did you do," I said.  Without missing a beat, Ezra chimed in, "she dopped her tahtoes."  We all hooted with laughter.

Elder Uchtdorff is always urging me to live in the moment and to see my loved ones for the miracle they are. Once in awhile, just once in awhile, I'm able to do that.  Would I could always see the magic that occurs in my daily life.