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We are officially Mamma Mia! fans.

Mama Mia

Logan in front of the Broadway poster (2014)

and a few years before…

Logan at Mama Mia Nov 2007

Logan in front of Broadway Mama Mia! poster (2007)

We went to see Mama Mia! for the fifth time last night at National Theater in Washington DC. The show was  fabulous! My daughter leaned over after the third song and whispered It never gets old!”  We all agreed we liked it even better than the Mama Mia show we saw on Broadway in January 2014. In fairness, the Broadway show had just recently changed out almost all of their cast except for “Donna.” Unfortunately, the chemistry hadn’t developed yet among the new actors.

The musical is campy, funny, and you can’t help but start tapping your feet when the music begins. Mamma Mia! is based on ABBA songs. ABBA was an internationally popular Swedish pop group that started in 1972. They won Eurovision in 1974 with the song “Waterloo”   The play was written by British playwright Catherine Johnson and opened in London in 1999. It’s currently ranked as the 9th longest running Broadway show. 

Admittedly, I was not an ABBA fan before seeing the play in 2007 but there’s just something about the play that makes me smile and I can relate to most of the songs.  I’m glad John likes it too ~ makes it more fun for the whole family to enjoy.

We each have our favorite songs and mine is “Does Your Mother Know” It’s sassy and, last night, “Pepper”(P. Tucker Worley) and “Tanya” (Gabrielle Mirabella) did a great job with the song and dance. P. Tucker Worley did a back flip and some killer toe-touches.  Fun, fun, fun!

There is a sad part of the play that causes both myself and my daughter to shed a tear.  It’s the song “Slipping Through My Fingers” It goes right for the heart. Here’s a video of ABBA singing the original.

One of the best parts of the show is at the very end when everyone stands up to sing and dance along ~ it becomes a feel-good party.

I’m glad we went on the closing night or else we might have been tempted to go again before the show left town. If it comes to your town, be sure to go. You won’t regret it. Since some people consider us groupies at this point, we might have to travel down to Atlanta in September and see it there at the beautiful Fox Theater.

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The only West End Show John has begged repeatedly asked me to get tickets for is “Book of Mormon” which opened in February 2013. By the time I checked for tickets, the show was sold out through the summer with only a few very expensive seats available on third-party ticket sites. Last Tuesday, he decided to go to the box office to see if there were any same day tickets to be had. Turns out they have a lottery everyday for FRONT ROW seats. Here’s the deal: A lottery application has to be filled out at the Prince of Wales theater 2.5 hours prior to the start of the show. At 5 pm, John filled out his lottery application (photo ID is required). At 5:30pm, two hours before the show, they drew names from one of those rolling cages. It’s all very exciting as the names are called out. John went on a Tuesday, there were 21 tickets available for about 100 hopefuls and, “Hallelujah Joseph Smith”, John was the sixth person called for two tickets. The winning tickets are only £20 each. Quite a deal for any West End show but especially for this very extremely popular one.

The lottery in progress...

The lottery in progress…

John will his winning ticket

John with his winning ticket

Review (hopefully without any spoilers but I will mention a specific line and song titles)

Front row is not always considered the best seat in the house because you get a myopic view of things but I love to see the actors up close ~ sweat, spit and all. I’m in awe of those who can perform on stage night after night with such precision and energy. “Book of Mormon” did not fail in any aspect. The actors, music, energy, set were all top-notch.

The play was written by the creators of South Park and it’s a religious satirical musical with plenty of clever lyrics and catchy tunes to keep your toes tapping. My favorites are “Turn it Off” and “You and Me (but Mostly Me)” which both John and I find ourselves singing frequently around the house. But mostly John.

Having lived in an area of the US with a lot of Mormons, I caught the little detailed nuances regarding the culture and terminology  of the Mormons but it seemed everyone in the theater enjoyed the show even the older Spanish-speaking man sitting directly behind me. During the opening number of “Hello” with the Mormon Boys, it had me wondering where they found so many Mormons who could act and sing. Even their twinkling eyes had me convinced they were the real deal. There’s something about a devout Mormon and his “smiling, shining eyes”. But when the “Spooky Mormon Hell Dream” came on and those same guys came out, they looked nothing like Mormons. And it wasn’t a costume change, it was solely their attitude and great acting.

It’s sacrilegious, vulgar and I have to admit during one song I thought to myself “I’m going to have to go see “Mama Mia” so I can wash off the stench of this song.” BUT the story itself is about acknowledging and respecting everyone’s right to follow (and sometimes invent themselves) any faith they choose. It’s an all-out onslaught at Mormonism through many fun songs but it could have been any religion’s dogma. What I took away from the play was it’s easier to tolerant another person’s religion if we look at the effect it has on the practitioners and not at the religion itself. In other words, actions speak louder than words.

Having seen the show, I’m surprised several British reviews I’ve read are less than glowing. I thought they’d love the satire. Perhaps it’s the complexity of the American view of religious tolerance, no matter how extreme the religion (so long as it doesn’t physically hurt others).

I would definitely recommend “Book of Mormon” but with the caveat that they understand it’s satire. Or as my favorite line in the play states “It’s a F&&^ing metaphor, you didn’t really think there was a Salt Lake City, did you?”

(more…)

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I’ve got a good excuse for not being on facebook for a week ~ Heidi and Colin came to visit. Heidi is a good friend who I met when I moved to Germany in 2001.  Her son, Colin is 8 years old (soon to be 9) which I find hard to believe since it seems like yesterday we were visiting the Weiden Klinikum and he was one day old.

I’m very impressed how both of them dealt with the six hour time difference and jet-lag with no problem at all.  Heidi is an intrepid traveler and is passing on this wonderful trait to Colin.  Logan was in charge of making sure they felt welcomed to her room (she camped in our room for the week):

And in case they didn’t remember the time back in Texas

Hampton Court was on the schedule for Monday but since the landlord called and stated the window repairman would be coming to fix a window which has been broken since we moved in (and is very unsightly), Heidi and Colin ventured off to Hampton Court on their own.  Turns out, the repairman cancelled around 11.  I was bummed since I wanted to spend the day with my friends and I haven’t been to Hampton Court yet.

On Tuesday, we went on a “behind the scenes” tour of St Paul’s Cathedral.  I was a little disappointed as I was lead to believe we’d be going to the top of the dome (or at least higher than usual).  They even warned us about the 400 plus stairs and I wore my running shoes which I’m loathed to do in this fashion conscious group/town.  I was anticipating great views. It was not to be.  Our tour guide was informative and gushed when she spoke of Christopher Wren, the builder of the Cathedral.  I think she has a bit of a crush on him but I didn’t come away feeling I’d learned much about the history of the Cathedral that I didn’t already know (which isn’t much).  I’ll be going back for another tour soon.  There’s so much to see there and we didn’t scratch the surface.  Photos aren’t allowed in the Cathedral but you can check out beautiful photos on their website by clicking here.

After St Pauls. we walked over to the Tate Modern which is, hmmm how to I say this…. very modern.  After going through several of the exhibit rooms, Heidi and I gave each other “the look”  which we both knew meant let’s get the heck out of here.  Thankfully, Heidi and I have very similar tastes/tolerances.  Once we left the Tate Modern, we walked over the Millenium Bridge (for walkers only) to the tube station. Here’s Heidi and Colin on the bridge with the Cathedral Dome in the background.

On Wednesday, we thought Colin (being the 8 year old boy that he is) would enjoy the Guard Museum and the National Army Museum.  I hadn’t even thought of going prior to their visit since there’s so many other museums to see but I’m glad I did. I would highly recommend both of them.  The Guard museum is small enough to go through in about an hour and the Army museum is about an hour and a half or so.  And there’s a really nice gift shop at the Army Museum.

Wednesday evening, Logan and Colin stayed at the flat while John, Heidi and I went to an event with a few friends from John’s class.  It was an “American” themed evening with dinner at The Diner  (My dinner was good/Heidi’s a little too rare)

and then it was off to Rock of Ages which we really enjoyed. Although all the performers were spot on, my favorite is Simon Lipkin who plays Lonny the narrator.  He could easily interact with the audience and then drop right back in line with the story.  Very talented and can really rock the mullet hairstyle. The show is a little raunchy and a lot burlesque so if you’re in any way prudish I suggest you don’t go but if you want a good laugh and want to rock to the 80s music, give it a try.  I haven’t seen the film version but can’t imagine I’d like it  ~  it’s the live performance that made this so much fun.

After a late night at the theater, we got up at 0’dark thirty to catch the 8:30 train from Paddington station to Bath Spa.  Again no photos but this time it’s because I forgot to bring my camera.  Will have to rely on Heidi to send me her photos.  Speaking of cameras, Colin accidentally left his camera on the back of the stall door hook at the Roman Baths Museum and he/Heidi didn’t realize it until we were on the train to London.  Thankfully an honest soul turned it in to Lost Property!  Good karma for him/her.  Colin has some interesting photos on the camera and was relieved it’s not gone forever.

Bath is a World Heritage Site and truly a beautiful town.  I had fun just walking around the town spying a couple of locations I’ve seen in films such as “Persuasion” and “Vanity Fair.”  Unfortunately,  it was started to rain as we got off the train and it was VERY windy.  I lost another umbrella to the wind ~ this makes my third since moving here.  Guess that means I shouldn’t buy the cheap umbrellas and go for sturdiness.

For me, the highlight of the visit was the Roman Bath Museum ~ the self guided audio tour is interesting and the kid version was fun too. Colin clued me in when to listen to the kids version if there was something particularly funny or something “gross” like the killing of a sacrificial goat.  Sometimes it’s interesting to see life through the eyes of an 8 year old boy or, at least, try to figure out what they find entertaining.

Bath is also having their Christmas Market now.  Although Heidi and I are spoiled by having been to so many German Christmas Markets (they are the best!), we both enjoyed wandering the streets looking at all the vendors.  The vendors were selling quality items.

I’ll be going back to Bath soon with John and Logan. It’s easy to see why Bath is listed as a must see on all the travel guides and has been the number one city suggested by our British friends.

Yesterday (their last day) came way too quickly ~ they went to Hamleys (the FAO Schwartz of London) in the morning and then we went to the Wallace Collection for a student led tour.  The students were from St Vincents and are between the ages of 8 to 13.  I was impressed at their presentation of selected collection pieces.  Colin even got to try on a knight’s helmet.

For our final dinner, we went to our favorite neighborhood restaurant on the corner called “Gettis”  We’re always treated so well when we go there and this time was no exception.  The waiter picked up right away that Colin is a “meat only” kind of guy and so the waiter teased him for the entire meal that he was bringing “vegetables” for him.

…and Colin declared Getti pizza better than Pizza Express.

… and then we said farewell until next time.  Heidi and Colin stayed at a Heathrow hotel on Friday night so they wouldn’t have to get up any earlier than necessary.  Smart traveler!

Missing them lots ~ the flat is way too quiet!

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