Monday, March 26, 2012

I'm Alive ... No, Really!

Hello, friends.

I bet you thought I'd dropped off the face of the earth. At times over the course of the past couple weeks, it has certainly felt that way. For the past several weeks, I've pretty much lived at work. After spending a full day teaching America's youth to love literature (or at least fake it well enough on the test), I would then turn around and spend several more hours directing our spring musical, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. To say that it was an incredible experience would be an understatement.

The show is a bit of a monster to launch. We had a cast of roughly 25 kids (and ended up with another 20 or so more working backstage in some capacity), a beast of a set that included building working elevator doors (thank God for my amazing student technical director who designed the doors, put in countless hours to make them work, and, oh, yeah, also played the freakin' lead in the show -- a part that, more than once, I feared might be the end of this poor kid), tons of music and dance, and pushed a lot of my kids to their absolute limits. There were many nights driving home at 10 or 11 where I thought to myself, "What the heck have I done?" There were times when I worried I was asking too much of all of us. There were times when I thought maybe the time had finally come when it WOULDN'T all come together.

But you know what? It did. As we went into tech week, I found myself sitting in our auditorium watching magic happen and thinking, once again, that I have the best damn job in the world. I get to spend hours with these amazing kids who are so funny and smart and passionate, kids who repeatedly go above and beyond in their dedication. I get a front row seat to see them find a confidence and poise that elude others their age. I get to know these kids in a way their other teachers never do. I see them at their best and, yes, I see them at their worst. We laugh together, cry together, even every now and then yell at each other, but it all comes together in the service of this art form that unifies us all. As happy as I am when a show comes to an end (those 15-hour days take their toll on you when you hit 40!), there is also a depression that sets in as I yearn for those late nights, those "a-ha" moments, and those times working with these kids who, for some reason, seem to respect me even after seeing me in the throes of exhaustion so extreme that it takes me five minutes to answer a simple question.

And so forgive me for letting my Idol commentary lapse. I've been dealing with my OWN idols -- kids who are in it NOT for the fame or the glory or the chance to bask in a little Glow by J.Lo, and the transition to post-show life has taken a little longer than I thought. Fear not, friends. I'll be back in the saddle again this week, ready to roll my eyes and make snarky comments, but a part of me will wish I was still at World Wide Wickets if only for a little while longer.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Idol Quickie

Crazy busy day as tech week for our spring musical looms, so I don't have time to sit and dissect last night's performance. Obviously, there were some killer performances -- Jessica and Phillip in particular, although I can't leave out Skylar and Colton -- and some performances that made me want to kill -- Shannon. I like the change up for tonight with the lowest boy and lowest girl facing off and the judges deciding their fate (someone spent the fall watching episodes of The X-Factor, no?). While my sis thinks the judges will likely send a boy home to create balance, I'm not sure which boy was bad enough to merit going home while there were several girls who were quite disappointing, including one of my favorites, Elise Testone. I thought Shannon and Erika gave the weakest performances of the night and are definite candidates for elimination. As for the lowest guy? I would say that honor probably goes to Jeremy Rosado who's really only in the competition by the grace of JLo and who has yet to give a singing performance as compelling as his emotional breakdown last week when he was staring elimination in the face. Between Shannon, Erika, and Jeremy, I would argue that Shannon should be the one sent home since she failed to nail a single one of the big moments in "I Have Nothing."

PS -- Dear Idol, can you please stop dressing these girls like pageant contestants? Between Shannon's hideous white number in the semi-final and Erika's nasty red thing last night, I'm beginning to wonder if you've hired one of those Toddlers and Tiaras moms to be your stylist this season. YIKES.

PPS -- Mary J. Blige, I love you. My sis and I would like a little pocket Mary J. who will bounce joyfully for us whenever we do something good. (It's also nice to see that someone worthy inherited Whitney's shoulder bounce move. I guess Bobbi Kristina didn't get the ENTIRE Houston estate.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ladies Night

I have a crazy busy day, but I wanted to post a little something about last night's Idol, which was pretty darn disappointing. It felt more like some B-level county fair pageant than a nationally-televised talent competition with millions of dollars at stake. By the time Shannon Magrane came out in her floor length white gown singing some song about lighting candles (putting American Idol in danger of becoming Christian Idol), I was just about ready to check out.

Thank God for Brett Butler-doppleganger Elise Testone who came out and closed the night with a mighty rendition of Adele's "One and Only" and proved that there is something to be said for letting ADULTS enter this competition. The poise and control that Elise showed put the teenaged girls to shame. Look at the power of Elise's performance and then check out the wild, angry flailing trying to pass itself off as passion in little Skylar Laine's "Stay With Me." Night and freakin' day!

(BTW -- Does anyone else think Adele is the Whitney Houston of the 21st Century -- the diva that every girl worships and wants to emulate but whose music should really not be put in the hands of amateur voices?)

The sad thing is that five of these chicks are guaranteed to make the cut -- even though coming up with the five is tough. This means that some guys from the night before (who, despite my complaints of how dated it was, was significantly stronger than the nasally pitch fest we endured last night) will not move on while, say, Hollie Cavanaugh could.

For real.

So who do I think will make it? Well.....

1. Elise Testone This is the no-brainer of the night. Not only did she give the absolute best performance of the night, but she also had the pimp spot. Voters' memories are slim. My bet is the most of the five who move on will be from the second hour of the show.
2. Jessica Sanchez Yeah, Jessica had some issues here and there with her rendition of "Love You I Do," but she showed a lot of spunk and was honestly second only to Elise in terms of powerful performances. She lacks Elise's control, but spending a little time with the Idol vocal coaches could turn Jessica into a really terrific performer.
3. Skylar Laine You have to have a country girl in the Idol finals. It's kind of the law of the land. Look it up. Of the country girls who performed last night, Skylar was hands down the best. I'm not sure why she sings every song as if she's so freakin' angry at it that she is about to go all Chris Brown on it, but there is definitely something sort of entertaining about that energy she has. (Idol producers really screwed poor little Baylie Brown by making her go after Skylar. Anyone would look anemic after Skylar's pummeling of "Stay With Me," but then to have it be the wimpy "Amazed"? Baylie is DOOMED!)
4. Hallie Day These last two spots are tough. I thought Hallie's "Feelin' Good" started out beautifully and ended beautifully, and the producers gave her some gorgeous close-ups. She has great stage presence. Sure, there were some wonky notes in the middle, but the end and the beginning may be enough to make up for it.
5. Hollie Cavanaugh I'm not sure I'm a huge fan of waif-like little Hollie, but she had some lovely moments in her "Reflection" that may be enough to save her. Maybe....

Wild Cards: I would guess at least one judge will give a wild card spot to one of the girls if only to protect the show from charges that women don't stand a chance in the competition anymore. I would guess that the leading contenders would likely be Jen Hirsch (who had the misfortune of going early in the night AND doing the same song as Elise Testone) or maybe Shannon Magrane (and seriously...I CANNOT take a season of treacly Christian ballads. If that's the direction this show goes, Idol and I are done ... and this time, I mean it!!)