Brazil Day and Broadway| NYC 2017

(Previously, on NYC 2017, we were reunited with Ben’s college friends over dinner, board games, and a night out. After some rainy dollar pizza, we went to sleep ready for our first full day in the city for the weekend.)

(Apologies about the lack of photos in this post. I’m discovering that I seem to have lost some data from this day specifically? Best case scenario is that I deleted the photos when I was clearing out the junk from when I accidentally had my camera on burst mode. At worst, the card got corrupted. ☹️)

The next morning, after sleeping in a little bit, we got up for lunch at Xi’an Famous Foods (review), my first time finally trying any location of this famous northwestern Chinese eatery. I majorly regretted ordering a noodle dish for Ben and myself, as we really should’ve split one along with the cumin lamb burger I ordered. Having leftovers while traveling in New York just doesn’t make a lot of sense, and yet we had way a lot of noodles in our hotel mini fridge until the morning of checkout. Oops, that was definitely my bad, I didn’t communicate what we were ordering very well. Err on the side of ordering less, you won’t go hungry!

[ all photos from Xi’an Famous Foods are MIA, hopefully the video isn’t corrupted and I can put together some vlogs for you guys in a few years 😛 ]

From there, we started walking towards Times Square. At this point in our lives, we avoid Times Square because it is not as fun as the flashing lights would have you believe. (It’s hard to believe how recently I made sure to visit Times Square with every visit. I still wind up there almost every year, but not nearly as enthusiastically.) But we wanted to see what tkts had to offer for shows that Sunday, so off we went. The Sunday before Labor Day was actually Brazil Day in Manhattan, so we caught glimpses of a live Brazilian concert and stall after stall of food. It was a freaking bumpin’ time in the middle of the island and I got pretty swept up!

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At tkts, we spotted Anastasia tickets on sale for 50% off, which was amazing and incredibly exciting because I have been DESPERATELY wanting to see this show. (Fun fact: I saw Anastasia in theaters and on ice. The movie is very near and dear to my heart, especially as a December baby.) Unfortunately, there were only individual seats left, and the point of me and Ben seeing a show together is to be together. So we opted to see Groundhog Day in the last days of its run, which ended on September 17. Before leaving Times Square, I checked out the art installation “Once Upon a Place” by Aman Mojadidi. Consisting of repurposed phone booths, visitors are invited to step in, close the door to the hustle and bustle of the literal center of Times Square, and pick up the phone to listen to real immigrant stories from real New Yorkers. It was a lovely quiet reprieve to step into another experience.

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We ran a few quick errands, picking up bits and bobs for our flight to Paris and walking through some of the stalls that were up for Brazil Day, and dropped off our things at the hotel after a quick bubble tea stop. (The 3 Guys is so tasty! One of my first boba orders in the city and it is always a go-to when I stop by CoCo.)

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Not sure of what to do for dinner, we wandered through almost all of the food stalls still open for Brazil Day, which was winding down, as we made our way back to Broadway to watch Groundhog Day (review). I’ll admit, I was not that excited to go see this show when we got the tickets or even when I walked to the theater. But by the time I sat down in my seats, I got that tingly anticipatory feeling I get when I’m facing a stage and taking in the pre-show vibrations of the theater.  I haven’t seen the original Bill Murray movie but the show was incredible, with some super dark humor I wasn’t expecting and a great second act opening number that featured the girl who is an object of sexual desire singing about her role in life (and more specifically this show). I laughed, I cried, I loved this show.

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Ben and I both knew exactly what we wanted to do after the show: hit up Halal Guys (review), one of the few spots that we visit every single time we come back to the city. They’ve since (FINALLY) opened a brick and mortar location closer to home, but nothing beats the fresh food from the carts, so we enjoyed our short walk over without a torrential downpour. I wasn’t feeling hungry, so we split a single platter, which was a mistake as that delicious plate of food really triggered my appetite! We’re thinking that this may be our last time waiting in line for the original cart, as we learned that cart charges more! So you are paying more for the exact same food (we saw guys prepping meat and rice at a stand down the street and bringing it over) when there is another cart LITERALLY across the street. Yep, that means there are no fewer than 3 official Halal Guys stations going on at the corner of 53rd and 6th, with 2 of them serving platters and one of them with a long line. The line moves fast but we’re starting to feel awfully silly standing in it. Bellies full of good food, we closed out the evening watching Slumdog Millionaire and dancing to “Jai Ho”.

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Here’s just a handful of seconds from this day, even fewer than the previous one!

What’s the last great musical you saw? I hope I get to see Anastasia sometime soon and, of course, I still gotta see Hamilton!!!

What are your favorite simple meals in the city? Ben and I really truly love going to the Halal Guys cart every single time we come to the city. I’m glad we finally got to visit Xi’an Famous, too, and I get the hype even though I don’t like cumin! That’s part of what I love about New York’s food scene, is the simple meals that don’t break the bank and are really reliably good.

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Summer 2015 Recap

According to some folks, summer is officially over.

Goodbye Summer Hello AutumnThis summer, like many summers, did seem to fly by at times. But there were many days (weeks, even) where I could have sworn the heat had slowed the passing of time, leaving me there to melt. DC set several heat records this year, including a record of 51 days above 90°F in 2015, and we’re still not safe from more heat to come. (I haven’t forgotten that freakish 80° day the first December I moved down from New Jersey.)

At some point towards the end of July, I realized my blogging game for the summer was not there. I began editing a “Summer Favorites” post to make up for all the monthly favorites I had missed, like how the post was originally titled “July” favorites when I realized I hadn’t even done June. (or May or April…)

Originally, I was going to push forward and try to get some individual event recaps posted, but here’s my new plan: give you a broad overview of what my summer has been like and then retroactively do those individual recaps. They are already delayed anyway, so what’s another few weeks, I guess? Versus having a more timely summer recap?

So, let me tell you about a few things I did this summer, with more detailed available on asterisked* ones. (Don’t hold your breath if you’d like to see those, but do let me know and I’ll put extra effort in pushing those out even though they won’t be timely anymore.)

In MAY…

May 2015
… I started a new job with a DC startup. After spending a decent amount of time doing part-time work, it was nice to settle back into a full-time role, regularly spend time in DC, and be around other people. Plus, I was excited to work with a small team versus where I was last summer, as I felt I got really lost in corporate America with my job then.

… I attended my friends’ – Alex and Cindy’s – wedding*. This was big because not only do I rarely get to go to weddings, but this was a XANGA WEDDING. I met Alex through that good ol’ blogging platform, and his wedding turned into a bit of a Xanga reunion for a lot of his friends. I was able to meet some folks that I have only ever interacted with online, as well as see some of my other Xanga friends who I haven’t seen in years. Xanga forever! Blog friends are real friends!

Our reception table with the bride & groom (in the center to my left) (I’m the one in the green dress — I KNOW I only wear green once a year but Cindy loved that dress)

In JUNE…


… I spent most of my time with my new job, trying to settle into my role and juggling start-up hours. But I was still able to find time for fun!

… I went to the Kennedy Center to watch NSO Pops: Let’s Be Frank, a Frank Sinatra tribute medley show. I adore Sinatra, so getting to see Broadway stars sing some of his best hits alongside the National Symphony Orchestra was a lot of fun. Frank would have been pleased, I think. Plus, afterwards, we were able to stick around at the My Way Soirée, where there was more music and fun to be had.

Let's Be Frank
Quick photo op at the Kennedy Center with some Sinatra-inspired props and hats

… I went to the Baltimore Yelper Party, aka Yelp’s Secret Agent Soirée at Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino. I busted out my prom dress for the first time since high school in accordance with the formal dress code and Ben busted out his tux. This was the first Yelper party that I was attending and not working at, because I had to rush there from work in DC.

Guys. I love photobooths and I am a BEAST at the silly picture. Here’s me and Ben channeling our inner secret agents.

… I moved out of my apartment, as my lease came to an end on the 30th. It was rough trying to pack and move with my hours getting longer and longer, but I somehow was able to manage thanks to my dad and boyfriend helping me a lot on the last day with getting furniture into a Uhaul! My parents were also getting ready to sell their house at this point, so I was simultaneously going back to their place to pack and move there as well.

Empty room
My comfy bed and dresser full of clothes and other junk used to be right there…

In JULY…


… I left that new job, as I quickly realized that it just wasn’t a good fit for me because of what the role demanded of me. I learned a lot and met a lot of great people during my short time, and it was a really valuable experience, but it simply wasn’t for me and that’s okay. In addition to the job not being a great fit for me, I needed to leave because of upcoming full-time opportunities.

… I participated in my first-ever hackathon*. Hacking Journalism was held at the Washington Post and had the goal of engineering solutions to better utilizing data in the journalism industry. While I’m not in journalism, I do think that it’s an important industry as I feel very invested in the news and how people consume the news. Also, I love data. This was a really fun way for me to learn about how hackathons work in a lower-stress environment than a standard one, and I was able to make some new friends along the way! Bonus: I wasn’t as useless as I thought I’d be, given that I am not a developer or a data scientist at a data science development hackathon. Score!

I’m embarrassingly easy to spot in our group selfie gif…

… I worked at the MD Burbs Yelper Party, aka Yelp’s Celebrity Affair at the Bowlmor in Rockville. People had great celebrity costumes and the food was kind of INCREDIBLE. Easily some of the best food provided by vendors of any Yelper party I’ve been to, because sometimes vendors bring food that you’re just not that excited about. Every vendor nailed it at this one, from the whole roasted pig near the entrance to the Filipino spread in the back. Even though I bled to set up, it was really worth it to see everyone have as much fun as they did.

Our costume contest winners were Miley Cyrus, Diana Ross, and……. Magic Mike

In AUGUST…


… my family kicked off the month with a yard sale. I realized that yard sales actually give me major anxiety, as I really don’t like selling things, much less personal belongings. Plus, we had people coming in and out of the house looking at furniture, people started showing up at 6:30 AM (the listed start time was 9 AM………), and we had a really steady stream of people the entire time. BUT our neighbors across the street had a really adorable lemonade stand, and that honestly made things so much better.

… I went to my friend Annie‘s 30th birthday party*, which was this incredible Harry Potter-themed affair. Seriously, Annie and her crew put in SO much work and it paid off big time. It was the best Harry Potter party I have ever been to, from the decorations to the photo booth to the food to the costumes. It ended with some fun in the pool and watching some Harry Potter movies, of course.

“Look tough, look gangsta!” – Hogwarts or BUST (birthday girl rocking the Marauder’s Map dress)

… it was back to the Kennedy Center to see see the musical Once. I remember when “Falling Slowly” won an Oscar back in 2008 and falling in love with the song. (Oh yes, there were covers recorded with friends, impromptu performances in parks…) I never saw the movie, so being able to see the full story play out was a magical experience. It’s a simple but really emotional story, and the stage performance was so fun. I highly recommend seeing Once if it comes to a theater near you.

… my one year chip-free anniversary came and went. I can now eat chips without crying (too much). Some harmony has been restored to my life.

… I went to my first-ever county fair*, the Montgomery County Fair (even though I don’t live in Montgomery County). I rode the Ferris wheel in time to see golden hour, pet a bunny, watched my friends play a bunch of games, ate a footlong corndog, and had an overall blast.

Our gorgeous view from the top of the Ferris wheel

… I took my brother and his friends to a welcome back dinner at Fogo de Chão because it was DC Restaurant Week and they had just returned from spending the summer in San Francisco. There was a lot of food and I was able to get to know my brother and his roommates a little bit better. Also, we spent the evening walking about to see the monuments at night, which I am never able to do so I was extra grateful for that opportunity.

… I worked at the DC Yelper Party, aka Yelpchella at the Embassy Row Hotel. This is one of the coolest places in DC, design-wise, and I got to finally wear the flower crown I made with my friend a year ago, eat a lot of delicious food, dance the night away, and get a shot at Arabic Internet fame! (Shoutout to the ladies who didn’t speak English but have photos of me on each of their iPads, and to one of these ladies who has a husband who has video of me dancing on his phone.)

Me, trying in vain to get the folks who were recording videos of me to join me in the dance circle

… I attended Diner en Blanc*, an internationally-held outdoor white party. This involved a lot of hunting for an all-white outfit, putting together the meal, and hauling of furniture for what can easily be summed up as an incredible Instagram op. But it was a lot of fun sharing that experience with all those strangers and seeing some previous coworkers again! (This post is nearly finished, so keep an eye out for it. Read about it here!)

My view while setting up our tables — a sea of DCers donned in white on a hot summer’s day

It was an eventful summer, and I’m sorry I haven’t been sharing it in a more timely manner here on the blog. Please tell me which of these you want to hear more about. There is for sure a Diner en Blanc post coming, but everything else that is asterisked will likely just get shelved because I don’t think anyone wants to hear about them this late. Do let me know if I’m wrong!

What were some of the highlights of your summer?
What are you looking forward to for the fall?

{See also: Summer 2015 Favorites}

Anything Goes! [review]

Last week, I went back to the Warner Theatre to see Anything Goes!, courtesy of Yelp NoVa. (Thanks Gretchen!)

My program from the evening

 

Oh man, it was so wonderful. As fun as the 50 Shades musical parody was, I was so happy to return to traditional musical theater, complete with long dance numbers.

TL;DR: I really loved this show, so much. It’s a bit old fashioned (Cole Porter wrote the songs, after all), but it was so much fun, I had a smile on my face the whole time.

I’ll keep this review short but let’s go through a few bullets:

  • Cole Porter’s songs are so fun
  • The cast members of this touring production were great
    • Emma Stratton was phenomenal  as Reno Sweeney. I got this amazing Marilyn Monroe vibe from her performance, and she carried the entire show on her shoulders with her strong voice, impeccable comedic timing, and fabulous dance numbers. Sh’s the star of the show and didn’t let us down.
  • Yes, there are 2 “chinamen” characters in the show, but it is an old show and they could have easily just had an all-white cast. That being said, as racist as the portrayals of Chinese people was in this show, they still managed to make it really fun and funny.
  • The character dynamics in this show are so great and hilarious, from the foolishly proper Lord Oakleigh to the status-upholding Mrs. Harcourt to the too-old-to-care Eli Whitney.
  • The show is on the longer side but every minute is worth it, I promise you this.
    • Especially if you love tapdancing
  • Extraordinary work by stage crew, lighting folks, sound folks
  • IF YOU’RE NOT SINGING THE SONGS AS YOU LEAVE THE THEATER, YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG

Oh man, I just… see a musical at the theater if you can. Catch Anything Goes! if you can.

You won’t regret it.

Here, Sutton Foster performs. I preferred Emma Stratton’s effortless, subtle, sultry performance a bit but, of course, Sutton is amazing.

50 Shades! The Musical Parody [review]

I really never thought this would happen. If you hadn’t seen my Tumblr pre-Lenten hiatus, I am quite anti-Fifty Shades of Grey, especially the book. I don’t need to tell you why, you already know.

My friend Annie got free tickets to go see 50 Shades! The Musical Parody. I knew it was going to be a parody, but at the same time, I mean… this was going to be a raunchy show, ya know? I wasn’t really feeling it, but somehow even though I was very unenthusiastic when Annie invited me, I heard myself answering “Yah?” when she asked if I was going to go with her.

Oops, I guess I’m now watching a Fifty Shades musical parody at the Warner Theatre?

Well, first we went to the grand opening of Melt Shop, a new grilled cheese joint in Farragut. Everything was 50% off on grand opening night, but I didn’t know that we were going to have dinner beforehand so I had already eaten.

Also I don’t like cheese, much less grilled cheese. So I just got myself a loaded tater tots (minus the cheese) and an Oreo milkshake. (You know what grinds my gears? Thick milkshakes that are served with standard aka small straws. Especially when said thick milkshakes also have Oreo chunks in them. It was tasty but dang, my cheeks hurt from trying to get it through that tiny straw!) The tots were good but the restaurant is teeny so I mostly ate my food standing up.

Anyway, onto the show.

In short, it was really hilarious and well done. Are you surprised? I sure was. I mean, I went into this eyes rolled, fully prepared for a total suckfest. But it was basically the perfect musical parody of this crazy phenomenon.

Inner goddess with repressed housewife Carol

A narrator starts us off, informing us that the show lasts 69 minutes including intermission heh heh heh. (Eye roll.) We opened with 3 character we don’t see in the books or movie: 3 housewives holding a book club. This story device sets the tone for the rest of the show pretty well. Each act starts with slapping and moaning sounds that just turns out to be the housewives doing random housework when the lights come up. There’s a lonely housewife who has been left with her five cats by her husband, just wants to read Martha Stewart’s Soup for One for book club and is, of course, tragically vanilla in the bedroom department. These ladies work as the story within which FSOG is the inner story. (They are the doughnut, if you will, and FSOG is the doughnut hole.)

From the original New York cast

Casting for Christian Grey was spot-on. Instead of a certified hottie-tottie, we had a…….. rounder man. And I loved that! Because Christian Grey’s actions and words are really bizarre and creepy, but I guess they seem more excusable when a hot guy says them? NAH our Christian exposed Christian Grey for being the complete and utter weirdo that he is. And it was perfect. He was pretty great onstage, although his voice wasn’t too strong, and I laughed my butt off.

Don’t fret, eye candy seekers. We had plenty to look at on stage. In the background were 2 ab-licious dudes and a bodacious babe in fishnets. One of the ab-licious dudes played Elliot Grey, Christian’s brother? He was pretty scrumptious. I really liked their involvement in the show because they were really fun, added a lot of great musical theater flair to the whole production (they had more of the complex choreography) and they added this extra meta-awareness of how we objectify the human body. At one point, each of them carried a painting over their faces and rotated around to mimic Anastasia walking down a long hallway. It was a silly scene but I liked it a lot.

In-house eyecandy (Photo from @mattgalexander, he’s the fella on the right)

Also, can I say I loved the character of Jose so much? I can’t say too much more except that he was easily THE most fun character of the entire show. Hilarious without becoming a caricature.

I think that what this musical did really well, besides accurately lampooning the ridiculousness that is FSOG, was give each character depth without resorting to stereotypes. The closest was our repressed housewife who, of course, had 5 cats and came roaring out from her vanilla bedroom ideals. Still, she was genuinely funny.

I thought I was going to hate this but I actually loved it. I highly recommend it, even if you hate FSOG as I do.
But don’t go see it with your parents.

Into the Woods (2014)

Last night, I got to watch an early screening of Disney’s Into the Woods, the adaptation of the Tony-award winning musical by Steven Sondheim.

First of all, I do need to say that I watched the original Broadway run of Into the Woods in class back in middle school. It was a long time ago, so all it really means is that I am familiar with the story and the songs. I would not call myself a die-hard fan but it does remain one of my favorite musicals.

That being said, I thought the movie was a pretty faithful adaptation of the stage version! It wasn’t going to be perfect, by any means, especially because Disney adapted it. As most musicals go, there are some less-than-G-rated moments in Into the Woods. During development, we heard a lot of rumors of songs getting cut for being too Disney-inappropriate, like “Hello, Little Girl” and “Any Moment”, but those songs both made it into the movie. There were a few plot changes, which I’ll go over in the spoilers section below the trailer.

For my spoiler-free portion of this, I do highly recommend you see this if:

  • You like the original musical
  • You like musicals in general
  • You like fairy tales
  • You like fairy tale crossovers
  • You like after ever-after fairy tale stories
  • You like any of the cast members
  • You like laughter

Even though Into the Woods can get a little dark a times, it is a really funny show, so expect to laugh. A lot. Comedic timing was done REALLY well, it definitely translated very well to screen. That was key for me, because I mostly remember laughing along with this show and I laughed a lot during the movie.

I do need to say things about this movie that bothered me a little:

  1. Maybe it was because of how close I was to the screen for this viewing, but the sound seemed a bit off. Some of the sound was WAY too loud but the rest of it was normal so I don’t know what went on. Let’s just say I definitely would not nominate them for a Best Sound Mixing Academy Award if that’s how they’re going to release the film.
  2. Some of the camera work was distracting. Tracking a character shouldn’t be something noticeable but I noticed and it distracted me. If you can’t track your actors properly then don’t do such a tight shot. Zoom out so that they have more freedom to move about the frame. I usually don’t notice things like that but I did here and that’s kind of the problem. (I did appreciate a lot of their framing, though.)

Some [spoiler-free] casting notes:

  • Johnny Depp as the Wolf was pretty perfect. What can I say, he’s really good at playing creepy dudes. (See Pirates of the CaribbeanWilly Wonka, etc.) Even though his screentime was tragically limited (I am so not used to him not being the star of his films, I realize), he really made the most of it. The Wolf is a fun character and adding Johnny Depp’s special flavor of fun to the Wolf’s fun was pretty perfect. He has this great command of the screen when he appears, and easily his few minutes were some of the best minutes of the entire movie. Just because we are used to him playing these interesting characters does NOT mean it does not require great talent for him to do so. I don’t know, I am talking a lot about an actor who is on-screen for less than 10 minutes but everything is SO deliberate about his performance. Every movement, every look, every note he sings. It’s all extremely deliberate and intentional and really perfect for this role.
    Johnny Depp as The Wolf
  • Meryl Streep can do no wrong, so obviously she was a fantastic Witch. There’s not much else I can say because we all know she’s awesome and amazing. The Witch is one of the MOST key characters in Into the Woods, and obviously Meryl made carrying a film look effortless. And you know, even though I don’t naturally think of Meryl for musicals, she does have a really expressive voice. “Stay With Me” was done so so well.
    Meryl Streep as The Witch
  • Chris Pine did great as Cinderella’s Prince, although I’ll admit that it doesn’t seem to be much of a challenge for him to play charming-to-a-fault types. (See Princess Diaries 2 and his Kirk in the Star Trek films.) But charming-to-a-fault is exactly what this role calls for and he delivers what he delivers best. Also, I didn’t know he was much of a singer until he was cast in this role and found out via this interview that he has a lovely singing voice. Pine Nuts, go crazy, this is Chris Pine gold.
    Chris Pine as Cinderella's Prince (also known as
  • To be totally honest, I thought that Anna Kendrick wasn’t really able to shine in her role as Cinderella. I absolutely adore her as an actress and as a person (I mean, have you seen her Twitter?) but this role felt so stifling in my opinion. It fell a bit flat for me. Even her songs just didn’t have that oomph that I was expecting from her. Most of all, I felt that she just wasn’t very expressive in this film. Both her face and her voice are very expressive but I didn’t get much of that in this movie.Anna Kendrick as Cinderella
  • Just have to share that I love that Lucy Punch plays a stepsister in this because she ALSO plays one of the stepsisters in Ella Enchanted. Apparently, it is the role she was destined to play. She’s great. Again, not much screentime, but she makes the most of it.
    Left: Lucy Punch (center) as Hattie in Ella Enchanted
    Right: Lucy Punch (left) as Lucinda in Into the Woods

    Also, the stepmother and stepsisters had AMAZING outfits for the ball. Ohmygosh, where can I get a black and gold gown like those?

  • Daniel Huttlestone is really making a name for himself in these musical film-adaptations. You might know him as Gavroche from Les Miserables and he plays Jack (of beanstalk-fame) here. Really good voice on this one, and I love what he does with his facial expressions. Looking forward to seeing more of him.
    Daniel Huttlestone as Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk)
  • I liked James Corden in his role as the Baker. It reminds me of his Doctor Who role as Craig in that he’s this sincere but kind of clueless guy with a baby. (Stormageddon, Dark Lord of All!) While I remember Chip Zien as this kind of scrawny guy playing the Baker, it makes sense to have a guy like James Corden play him.

(Character posters courtesy of International Business Times)

One thing to note about casting is that, for the stage version, there is a lot more dramatic irony with double casting of characters. For example, the Prince and the Wolf are played by the same actor, which makes their behavior make more sense when you realize it is essentially the same. These things get lost in the movie. Just like how we lost our Narrator and the Mystery Man. BUT of course, when you translate to film, you take advantage of talent wherever you can and you simplify things.

Overall, really solid and good movie, perfect for the holiday season. I’d give it 4.5/5 stars.

Here’s the trailer for Into the Woods, in theaters on December 25th. Definitely catch it when you can!

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