Ghost and Mrs. Manwaring

Last night I saw a dress rehearsal for Ghost – The Musical, which opens this week at Centre Stage in downtown Greenville, SC.

Since this was technically still a rehearsal, it wouldn’t be fair to write a full review. But I can report that some wonderful performances anchor the production and that the audience absolutely loved it.

Paige Manwaring and David Bean head the ensemble as Molly and Sam (played in the original movie by Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze). I loved their chemistry, their emotion, and their strong, evocative voices. Honestly, they are two of my favorite local performers and they instantly won over this audience, as well. I also loved Gisele Gathings as Oda Mae Brown (the Whoopi Goldberg part) and loved to hate Joshua Thomason as Carl. Because this isn’t a real review, I’ll also share how much I enjoyed seeing Kristofer Parker in the ensemble. I worked with Kristofer in Hairspray years ago (Paige Manwaring was also in that production of Hairspray and she was the PERFECT Amber Von Tussle). I always admire the precision and energy in Kristofer’s dancing, and he demonstrated that again last night.

Last week BroadwayWorld published my interview with Ghost – The Musical‘s director, Glenda Manwaring. In it, she shares her hope that audiences “feel the joy, sadness and uplifting ‘spirits’ in our production and be glad that they came.”

Judging from last night’s performance, audiences are going to be very glad indeed.

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Lisa’s Book

One of the best things social media – and particularly Twitter – did for me was introduce me to Lisa Bonchek Adams. She was funny and snarky and wise.

She began most days by sending out this message:

Find a bit of beauty in the world today.
Share it.
If you can’t find it, create it.
Some days this may be hard to do.
Persevere.

When I met her, she was already a breast cancer survivor. She used her website as well as her presence on Twitter to raise awareness of metastatic breast cancer and help people work through grief.  She was tremendously helpful to me when my own father died.

In 2012, she learned her cancer had returned and she chronicled her journey -its highs and lows – for all of us. In 2015, she died.

Last month, her brother and her mother put out a book of Lisa’s writings. It is “a guide for patients, families, friends and caregivers, written in Lisa’s unique writing style—part poetry, journal and memoir.”

A wonderful tribute to a wonderful person, someone I still think about all the time even though, sadly, we never met in person.

Sometimes social media seems to be hastening the rise of hatred and division. But it can also introduce us to people who touch our lives in ways we never could have anticipated.

Happier Song

For a few years now, I’ve been using an app called Happier, and it’s actually helped make me, well, happier. I wrote about Happier on my old blog (and again here) and I am such a fan that a few years ago I wrote a song about it. Eventually, I turned it into a video by soliciting pictures from some of my Happier friends. I am, of course, biased, but I really love the song.

I wrote it, sang it, and played the ukulele on it. My brother, Cash Shurley, produced it. I’m really proud of it.

Interview with author Kristina Riggle

I can’t remember how I came across Kristina Riggle on Twitter. Do any of us really remember how we stumbled across the people we follow?

We bonded over our children’s love of Star Wars and, in particular, the Wilhelm Scream. I’ve enjoyed her tweets as an insight into both her personal life and her writing life. Naturally, then, I’ve always rooted for her as an author.

So I was particularly delighted when she recently reported that an old novel of hers, Things We Didn’t Say, had seen a sales bump and was suddenly a USA Today Bestseller.

I enjoyed her most recent novel, Vivian in Red, which takes place in Broadway’s tin pan alley days. It tells the story of Milo Short, a producer who, nearing the end of his life, is haunted by a woman he hasn’t seen since the 1930’s. It’s up to Milo’s misfit granddaughter, Eleanor, to piece together the fragments of the mystery woman’s life and finally tell the real story behind Milo’s greatest song.

When the novel came out in paperback earlier this year, I published an interview with Kristina Riggle on BroadwayWorld.

South Pole Station

I went through a long period of fascination with Antarctica, especially the doomed Scott expedition. I don’t know how much of that was spurred by the 20th Century Vole motion picture and how much might have been just a natural progression from the general cuteness of penguins. In high school, I wanted to mount a production of Terra Nova, but our drama teacher just laughed at me. In the nineties, I filled out an application to join Antarctic Support Associates and become a south pole worker.

 

I recently finished listening to a very entertaining novel called South Pole Station by Ashley Shelby and when it was done I was glad I’d never actually mailed that application.

The book gives an insider look at pole life while also offering sharp characters and some interesting discussions of science. I had some visceral reactions (which, for good or ill, I tweeted to the author) and generally found myself eager to return to the audiobook as often as I could. I loved it.

Wonder Woman ’75 – A Musical Treasure

I’m not immune to Wonder Woman mania. But as much as I enjoyed the movie, my summer of Wonder Woman centered around a brand new 3-CD release of music from the classic 1970’s TV show. I loved the release so much, I asked Film Score Monthly magazine if they’d be interested in an interview with the set’s producer (and my friend) Neil S. Bulk.

The piece was published in the June 2017 issue (subscription required to read the full article). Here are a couple of excerpts.

In the role of journalist, I know I should be strictly impartial, but I’ll admit right up front that I can’t stop listening to the music from the classic television series Wonder Woman. There’s just something about La-La Land Records’ recent 3-CD set that hits everything I love about soundtracks—catchy riffs, clever rhythms and a heavy dose of nostalgia.

I recently spoke to producer Neil S. Bulk about putting together the collection and discovered another good reason for me to love the set: There was one track that Bulk included with specifically me in mind!


Neil Shurley: How did you get involved with this project?

Neil S. Bulk: This was just a La-La Land assignment. I’d been watching the show. I hadn’t watched it in many years—I grew up with the reruns—but it sort of faded away for a while and I rediscovered it on MeTV. And so I was watching it, and as I was watching it, I was sort of paying attention to the music. I think I started watching on MeTV when it was on season three, and I thought—because you just sort of file things in the back of your mind—“Oh, this is Angela Morley. Oh, there’s a blaster beam. If this ever happens, I’d love to be part of it.” So when they asked me, I said, great, and then I sort of knew in what direction I wanted to go. Their initial want list, which I agreed with, was that it would be three CDs, a disc per season. And then we started searching Warner Bros. and discovering that we couldn’t find much from season one. We scoured the entire inventory and turned up nothing, just the pilot, which we couldn’t even find right away. I was going through the inventory and went, “Oh, wait a minute—what are these nine reels right here?” We called them in and it was the pilot score, so we did find that. And that’s how it all started.

NS: But you couldn’t ever find anything else from season one.

NSB: No, we couldn’t.

NS: Does it feel like there’s a lot missing, that there was a lot of good stuff you were hoping to get to while you were watching?

NSB: It’s been a while now, I’d have to look back at my notes for that. It would have been nice to have some of the World War II stuff on there, because it’s an important part, but we do have the pilot, which was critical.

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