Category Archives: Reviews

A Visual Feast of Joy in Hello Dolly

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "Hello Dolly". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Betty Buckley (“Dolly Levi”)

I’m always down for a night out at the Straz Center. I love the theater, and it has sooooo many memories for me. I performed there many times during my childhood, and have such respect for the people who make their living performing on stage.

Straz is by far one of my favorite places in Tampa Bay. Perhaps that is the real reason I jump at any opportunity to review a musical or performance there. So, it’s probably no surprise that when I was offered tickets in exchange for a review of Hello Dolly, I could not help myself. I had to say yes!

Want to know how I felt about the show overall? Keep reading…

Hello Dolly – What Straz Said About It

Winner of four Tony Awards® including Best Musical Revival, Broadway’s most beloved musical is back where it belongs! Directed by Tony winner Jerry Zaks and featuring choreography by Tony winner Warren Carlyle, HELLO, DOLLY! is “the best show of the year” (NPR).

Breaking box office records week after week and receiving thunderous critical raves on Broadway, this “gorgeous” new production (Vogue) pays tribute to the original work of legendary director/choreographer Gower Champion – hailed both then and now as one of the greatest stagings in musical theater history. Rolling Stone calls it “a must-see event. A musical comedy dream. If you’re lucky enough to score a ticket, you’ll be seeing something historic. Wow, wow, wow indeed!”

Hello Dolly – My Review

At the opening of the show I was giddy with excitement. I loved the backdrop of the large train, and the hustle and bustle of the station. Then, there was Dolly. When Betty Buckley stepped onto the stage as Dolly, the crown erupted into applause.

As Buckley, er I mean Dolly began talking, I immediately felt connected to her. Why? Because like her, I’ve had many jobs. I’ve always enjoyed doing odd jobs to help people. And, I felt connected because her character’s meddling in other people’s affairs reminded me of a family member of mine I won’t mention lol!

Another thing that struck me was the costumes. They were all so intricate, and fun. Some of them popping with bright colors, and others just as vintage as could be. I instantly understood why Buckley refers to the show as a “visual feast of joy” in the Herald Tribune’s story about the show.

The show progressed through a series of wild scenes – ones that made me bowl over with laughter as I enjoyed the absurdity of so much of what was occurring. Then, there were some scenes that made me feel almost nervous as I anxiously awaited the conclusion of them.

All in all, I felt a bunch of emotions throughout the performance, but not one of them was one of sadness. That’s something you can’t always say about a show, but you can certainly say that about Hello Dolly! It’s a feel good show – something I wish we could say about more of the entertainment available these days.

At intermission I looked at my friend Karen who accompanied me to the show and I literally said, “Have you ever felt like you stepped into a Disney movie?” Because that is EXACTLY how I felt about the show.

I also secretly giggled to myself during many portions of the show as I was thinking about the law of attraction, and the displays of attracting your dreams that played out on the stage. I won’t give away anymore of the show because I know I’ve probably said enough spoilers as it is. However, I really loved the fact that the show is proof positive that your wildest dreams can come true. That along with many other aspects of the show have left me with good feels about Hello Dolly over all.

 

Bottom line – If you’re into colorful costumes, and feeling like you have stepped into a Disney movie, I say go watch this show!

I would recommend this musical to anyone who loves older costumes, fun musical numbers, a lot of dancing, and is a fan of Betty Buckley. But, most importantly, I’d recommend this show to anyone who enjoys a happy ending, and likes watching things work out for the good of everyone involved in the story. 

Hello Dolly is playing at The Straz Center now through December 9, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

 

Let’s Get Elfed Up! An Ugly Christmas Sweater Review

For all your Ugly Christmas Sweater needs, I recommend uglychristmassweater.com

I was given a free Ugly Christmas Sweater from UglyChristmasSweater.com in exchange for this post and social media love. While the sweater was free, it has not impacted my review. All opinions below are my own. I also could receive a small commission should you choose to purchase via my links in the post at no cost to you. Thanks in advance for your support!

I love me some Ugly Christmas Sweaters y’all. Like A LOT! And so, I jumped for joy when UglyChristmasSweater.com reached out and offered me a free sweater. Now, my first instinct was to grab this one because of my love and adoration for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation:

Grab your Ugly Christmas Sweater by clicking through this image today!

BUT, because I want to wear it in public and not have everyone frowning at me for wearing something with a bad word on it, I chose this one:

Grab your Elfed Up Ugly Christmas Sweater by clicking through this image today!

GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I just love this sweater sooooooo much. And, the model from the website is way cuter than me, so I posted an image of her in it instead of me. You’re welcome. LOL! BUT – if you want to see the live version of the sweater – head over to check out my Instagram story of me opening the package it came in. I was soooo giddy to receive it. Heck, I’m still giddy that I have it now. Can not WAIT for the cold weather to don this gay apparel.

I Highly Recommend UglyChristmasSweater.com

For all your Ugly Christmas Sweater needs, I happily and wholeheartedly recommend UglyChristmasSweater.com. This site is awesome! They have men’s sweaters, women’s sweaters, and naughty ones. You can also create a custom sweater if you’re feeling creative.

Oh, and get this! They have…wait for it…

This needs more build up because it’s so damn cool…

okay… they have….

3 D Sweaters!!! What?!? I KNOW!!! How cool is that?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that having a 3D sweater is insanely impractical. You can’t comfortably sit in the car, let alone on the couch with it on, but it looks really awesome…from the side. hahaha! Check out what I mean:

Grab your Ugly Christmas Sweater today! Just click through the image to the online store Grab your Ugly Christmas Sweater today! Just click through the image to the store

I think this is one of the funniest ideas of ever! Imagine rolling up to your in laws, or the company Christmas party wearing one of these. Ha!

And, if you haven’t gotten enough of the Ugly Christmas fill…they have pajamas too! I’m sorry…let me take that back. They aren’t just pajamas. Oh no! They’re pajama jumpsuits! You can even score the bunny jumpsuit from A Christmas Story . Check this out:

Get your Christmas Story jumpsuit by clicking through the image

Oh yeah – you know you want this suit! I know I do.

So, get your cute booty over to UglyChristmasSweater.com today, and order something nice for yourself. Get mom and dad a nice sweater too. Everyone needs an Ugly Christmas Sweater! They are so much fun. The website is even offering free shipping for orders over $60. Don’t wait! Get yours today!

I love me some Ugly Christmas Sweaters y'all. Like A LOT! And so, I jumped for joy when UglyChristmasSweater.com reached out and offered me a free sweater.

It’s Morphin Time! Why You Should Consider TV Store Online for Halloween Costumes

I was given a free Halloween costume from TV Store Online in exchange for this post and social media love. While the costume was free, it has not impacted my review. All opinions below are my own. I also could receive a small commission should you choose to purchase via my links in the post at no cost to you.

I love Halloween. A lot! Dare I say it’s one of my two favorite holidays – second only to Christmas.

One thing that I looooove about Halloween is dressing up in fun costumes. Unfortunately though, when I worked at many of my day jobs, we weren’t allowed to dress up. I wish that TV Store Online had been around back then because I could have celebrated despite the rules with their costumes that aren’t really costumes.

Case in point – my new Power Rangers jacket that doubles as a Power Rangers costume. Oh yes… Check out this gloriousness:

Yep- it’s a hoodie…but it’s ALSO a costume. WHAT?!? Mind blown! I’m so in love with this thing it’s kind of ridiculous. But,  I don’t care that’s ridiculous because it makes me sooo happy.

Had I owned something like this – I could have secretly dressed up all the days at work, and no one would have been the wiser unless they looked at me and said, “Hey Ashley! It’s Morphin Time!” And, I totes would have zipped this bad boy up and been like, “Yes! Yes it IS Morphin Time!”

Okay, other than this badASH hoodie/costume – why should YOU consider TV Store Online for your Halloween costumes?

I’m so glad you asked! They sell all the things! Men’s costumes, women’s costumes, even group costumes!

Wanna be the shark from Super Bowl XLIX when Katy Perry performed? You can do that!

Prefer to dress up like Forrest Gump? You can do that too!

Your group can even dress up like the Average Joe’s team from Dodgeball. If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball! BOOM!

TV Store Online has so many fun costumes to choose from. Yes, even kids costumes!

 

What if your boss is a jerk and won’t let you dress up?

Again, TV Store Online has you covered there too! They have t-shirts in the following themes:

  • M&Ms Candy Characters
  • Power Rangers
  • Thing 1 & Thing 2
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Crayola
  • and many others
TV Store Online has a sweet offer if you buy through one of these sexy red links – FREE shipping on U.S. orders over $50.

Yes! You can get all your Halloween costumes shipped directly to your house for FREE! And, the prices of the costumes aren’t too bad. Like, at the time of this writing there was a Spider Man t-shirt that could totes double as your costume for just $5!

And they have costume accessories that are between $3 and $20 that you could easily create a costume of your own with. I’m looking at you $9 feather boa- pair that with a red dress and fishnet stockings and a fake microphone from Dollar Tree and you’re an instant lounge singer for Halloween. You can take that idea if you want – you’re welcome.

The website makes it super simple to find your perfect costume too – they break them down by movies, TV shows, comics, music and games. Or, you can search by gender, product type, or size. Not gonna lie though – my favorite feature is that you can order all your Halloween goods and have them delivered to your door. Everyone knows how much I love not having to put on pants!

So, if you’re stuck for a Halloween costume idea, or can’t wear a costume but want to be themed anyway – head over to TV Store Online and check out all the awesome options they have to offer. Who knows? You might even find t-shirts and accessories you want all year round! I know I did!

The Straz Was Alive with The Sound of Music

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "The Sound of Music". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria Rainer and the von Trapp children. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Have you seen the Sound of Music Musical? I had the amazing opportunity last night to watch it at Straz Center. It did not disappoint!

The Sound of MusicWhat Straz Said About it

The hills are alive! The brand new production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC is returning to Tampa. The beloved musical story of Maria and the von Trapp Family will once again thrill audiences with its Tony®, Grammy® and Academy Award®-winning Best Score, including “My Favorite Things,” “Edelweiss” and the title song.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC enjoyed extraordinary success as a live television production when The Sound of Music Live! aired on NBC in December 2013 and was seen by over 44 million people. 2015 marked the 50TH anniversary of the film version, which continues to be the most successful movie musical in history.

The Sound of Music – My Review (Spoilers ahead!)

Even though I’ve never seen the movie (Gasp! I know!), I knew almost all the songs from my days in chorus, and therefore enjoyed every bit of it that much more. I even sang one of the songs in my second grade talent show! I’ll give you a hint as to which one:

Raindrops on roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings….

Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria Rainer. Photo by Matthew Murphy

The sets were not extravagant, but in truth they didn’t need to be. The wow factor truly was within the music itself. The way that the cast members were able to hit those high notes, and even the low ones, they gripped you, and entertained you, and simply left you wanting more. The STAGE was alive with the Sound of Music!!!

Personally for me, I couldn’t keep myself from singing along to some. And I was amused by how many others in the crowd suffered the same issue. LoL

The story itself began innocently enough. A tale of a girl, Maria, trying to find her way, and a widowed man, Captain von Trapp, with several children looking for a new mother to raise them. He’s courting a pretentious gal that only cares about money, and is willing to sell her soul to keep her life of luxury.

Maria comes to be the governess caring for the von Trapp children, and she is contemplating becoming a nun. She can’t help but sing every chance see gets. Music has been with her all her life, and she finds that it is music that helps her connect with the children, and helps her to feel alive.

Then, the Captain and Maria find love in the most unexpected place – with each other. All the while throughout the show we have the background story of the Nazis trying to take over Austria. The story culminates with the decision the von Trapp family must make to avoid living under Nazi rule.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

Mike McLean as Captain von Trapp and Jill-Christine Wiley as Maria. Photo by Matthew Murphy

I’m so glad I attended the show. Despite the sadness of a family leaving their possessions and everything they know behind to ensure their freedom, it was ultimately a feel good tale of people finding love, and then doing all they must to protect those they care most about.

I would HIGHLY recommend this show to everyone.  It’s family-friendly, and a wonderful production. Now, I’m off to find a copy of the movie! 

The Sound of Music is playing at The Straz Center now through June 10, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

Check out two more of my recent posts:

Tampa Bay Margarita Festival Review and Why VIP is the ONLY Way to Party

 

Thanks to BigCityEvents FL I was given two sponsor tickets to the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival in exchange for this review and social media love. Though my tickets were free, this has not impacted this review. All opinions below are my own.


VIP is the ONLY Way to Party at the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival

Once you’ve been VIP, it’s hard to ever imagine general admission ever again. You see, when VIP tickets are done right you typically receive better drinks, more drinks, better seating options, and shorter lines for bathrooms and beverages for one all-inclusive price.

All this and more is exactly what I experienced during my day at the festival. Not only was there a separate entrance allowing my date and I to get in faster, we had:

– comfy couches to lounge on
– a large tent to protect from the elements (hugely beneficial due to the fact the day and time I was there it is was raining buckets!)
– short lines at the bar with premium liquor for our margaritas
– swag to take home including a shirt and margarita shaker (pictured above)
– our own set of restrooms (so pretty much no lines when we had to go)
– plenty of water to drink between cocktails to stay hydrated and
– all the margaritas we could have ever wanted to enjoy

Now. I fully understand why people debate about the cost of VIP, but here’s the thing – the time savings and comfort are HUGE factors that make it worth the added cost to me. I’m the type of person who gets frustrated waiting in a long line, and I want somewhere to sit after I have my drink in hand. This isn’t as easy to achieve in general admission at ANY festival in Tampa, or probably any event anywhere.

And when you consider the fact that the drinks are going to be $6-$7 a piece and require standing in what will likely be a long line each time you want another you’re wasting valuable festival resources. Besides, if I’m being a little TMI in the honesty department….for me, the bathroom line alone makes VIP worth every additional penny!!!

Weather be Damned in VIP

Okay, so let’s talk about the elephant in in the room. There was a pesky rainstorm raining on our margaritas parade Saturday. Welp, that didn’t bother me much because we had a large tent protecting us in VIP.

In fact, I loved being in the VIP tent while the rain was coming down because it was soothing and comfy. I know some people were bothered by the weather, but I rather liked it. Am I the only one who enjoys sitting outside with a covered lounge area when it’s raining? Leave me a comment and tell me if you like this too!

Sure, walking to and from the festival was a little wet, and walking to and from the bathrooms was also a little wet. But, I wore clothes that weren’t going to melt from the weather, brought ponchos and an umbrella, and was just fine with how the day turned out. Had I been in general admission, sure I might be singing a different tune. BUT, this just speaks even more to why I HIGHLY recommend VIP over general admission to any and all events when possible. Perhaps this makes me sound snobby, but according to my money mentor it actually means I just know what I want, and prefer to go for it. Go big or go home!

On another note…You won’t catch me complaining about the cancellation Sunday because
#1 that wasn’t their call. It was the city’s decision
#2 BigCityEvents has been nothing but professional in my opinion in terms of how they about are handling refunds.

I feel awful BigCityEvents had to cancel Sunday, and I’m personally sending the employees/staff and vendors all the positive vibes!!! I’m very anxious for their next event, and if I do get the chance to attend, I hope it’s VIP again!

All in all, I had a wonderful day at the Tampa Bay Margarita Festival. Did I get a little damp? Yep! Did I have a fabulous time while I was there anyway? You bet! Remember folks- life is 10% what happens, and 90% how you react to it. So, choose to make every day as amazing as humanly possible. Thanks for reading! Until next time…may your days be filled with joy, and your hearts filled with love!

Sugar Butter and Flour Makes for a Sweet Musical in Waitress

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "Waitress The Musical". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Desi Oakley and Bryan Fenkart in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo Credit Joan Marcus
Desi Oakley (Jenna) and Bryan Fenkart (Dr. Pomatter) in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

A couple of nights ago I watched a show about

  • passion
  • dreams
  • love
  • sex
  • betrayal
  • pursuing happiness
  • sadness
  • heartbreak
  • defeat
  • excitement, and
  • desire.

In other words, I feel like I watched a show about life. Oh yeah, and there were pies. Of course, by now you probably know I’m talking about Waitress the Musical. What gave it away? The post title or the pies comment? (I crack myself up) 

This production gave me a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed. I cried. I got mad. I got excited. I had a whole host of emotions y’all –  basically I experienced most if not all of the emotions one has in life.

Want to know more about my feelings towards the show overall? Keep reading…

Desi Oakley in Waitress
Desi Oakley as Jenna in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

Waitress The MusicalWhat Straz Said About it (spoilers ahead)

Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, this irresistible new hit features original music and lyrics by five-time Grammy® nominee Sara Bareilles (“Brave,” “Love Song”), a book by acclaimed screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and direction by Tony Award® winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland). “It’s an empowering musical of the highest order!” raves the Chicago Tribune.

Inspired by Adrienne Shelly’s beloved film, WAITRESS tells the story of Jenna – a waitress and expert pie maker, Jenna dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. A baking contest in a nearby county and the town’s new doctor may offer her a chance at a fresh start, while her fellow waitresses offer their own recipes for happiness. But Jenna must summon the strength and courage to rebuild her own life.

“WAITRESS is a little slice of heaven!” says Entertainment Weekly and “a monumental contribution to Broadway!” according to Marie Claire. Don’t miss this uplifting musical celebrating friendship, motherhood and the magic of a well-made pie.

Waitress The Musical – My Review (again spoilers ahead! Sorry not sorry)

When the show opened, I didn’t fully know what to expect. The only thing I did know is that I was in for a romantic comedy based on a book that turned into a movie, that then turned into a musical, with great music and a happy ending.

At least, that’s was what I heard. And, Waitress totally served up all of that and more.

Though the plot wasn’t exactly surprising, and the outcome wasn’t shocking either, it was it’s simplicity that made it so easy to follow. But, what made it exceptionally sweet was the characters, the dialogue and that music!!!

By intermission I knew that I had to have the soundtrack. Oh, and that I couldn’t wait to find out the conclusion of the show. Hurry up and get to the happy ending already!!!

From left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Credit Joan Marcus
From left: Charity Angel Dawson, Desi Oakley and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

One of my favorite things about the musical over all, was that I got to enjoy it with my mother by my side. She and I have been through a lot over the years, and many of the elements of the plot hit a little too close to home for us.

Watching everything work out in the end was very inspirational for us. I think that’s what makes this production such a feel-good show. It’s a depiction of a life completely turned upside down, with twists and turns, that ends up being okay.

There were several songs in the show I just loved, but one particular song that got me thinking was I Didn’t Plan It. Becky sings it to Jenna, and the following lines in it really struck me:

“I needed saving
And a good mistake needed making
Maybe you need the same thing

Something to feel
To race through your blood
And remind you you’re here
To open your eyes and look around
And see the sky when you’re underground

I didn’t plan it
But that’s life
And I’m finally feeling alive”

I’ve been pondering those lyrics today, and I feel it speaks to why people do things they know they might later regret. Whether it’s risking a business move, getting up the courage to ask for a divorce, quitting a job, or having an affair- we all just want to feel alive.

Life may not always go as planned, or even be planned out at all, but really living life (mistakes and all) is better than just letting it pass us by.

We all have secrets, and many of us do dumb or silly things, but it’s all part of life. In many cases, we didn’t plan it, but sometimes we have to make mistakes to save ourselves.

Not to get too deep here, but I think the biggest mistakes are the ones we make but don’t learn anything from. For me, I often have to do something all the wrong ways to learn how to do it right.

Can you relate? I’ll bet you can, at least on some level. Perhaps that’s why I ultimately loved the show. Jenna does all the wrong things to finally figure out how to do life right – for her.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of WAITRESS – Photo Credit Joan Marcus
Desi Oakley, Charity Angel Dawson and Lenne Klingaman in the National Tour of Waitress. Photo credit – Joan Marcus

I highly recommend you buy tickets to the show while it’s playing at the Straz Center here in Tampa! You won’t be disappointed. And, you probably won’t be able to get the soundtrack out of your head either. 

Cue the SUGAR – BUTTER – FLOUR melody that I can’t quite shake. 

Waitress The Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 29, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

And, fair warning – Waitress The Musical contains some adult language, and mature situations.

I’m personally gonna be watching the movie this weekend, and I’ve got to get that soundtrack too! Click the images to grab your own copy of each. And yes, these are affiliate links so that I can grab some pie to go with my watching experience!

waitress movie image

Waitress - Original Broadway Cast Recording

 

Check out two more of my recent posts:

Book Recommendation – The Suitcase Entrepreneur by Natalie Sisson

Need a FABULOUS book to read? I highly recommend The Suitcase Entrepreneur by Natalie Sisson. Y’all, I’m not just blowing smoke when I say this, but this book FUNDAMENTALLY changed the course of my career when I first picked up the 2014 edition of the book on March 12, 2014.

I knew I was happy working for myself, but this book made me commit full force to not working a 9 to 5 ever again. Sure, I had a stint where I had to take a full time gig temporarily, but this book showed me that I could have a business that I run anywhere with WiFi.

Anti 9 to 5 , all about the WiFi

Although anywhere with WiFi for me usually means I’m at home in yoga pants and a t-shirt, the point is that this book gave me a glimpse into what is possible. The year I bought this book I not only quit that 9 to 5 stint for good, but I went to Thailand & got more clients than I’d ever had before as a freelance writer.

Have there been ups and downs along the way? Yes, of course. However, I’d choose to be my version of a suitcase entrepreneur over a rat in a race any day! I love knowing that I have a business that I can run from nearly anywhere in the world. .

I’m not where I want to be in my career (YET!), but without the tools and information in this amazing book, it would have taken me sooooooooo much longer. I’m so incredibly grateful I stumbled upon this book 4 years ago. I can’t say enough about how good it is.

Thinking about a business? You NEED this book!

If you are thinking about starting a freedom based business, you simply HAVE to get a copy of it. Natalie has updated it, and there’s a bunch more fabulous information just waiting for you to unlock. Grab a copy HERE.

I am definitely a freedomist for life, and I have a feeling after you read this book – you will be too. Do you want to “create freedom in business and adventure in life?” Then, you MUST snap up a copy of this killer book today.


And, check out Natalie’s website. She has some of the best podcast episodes that will teach you even more. Never stop learning my friends!

Do you have a book you want me to read, a drink you want me to try or a product you want me to review? 

Contact me HERE! I’m PR friendly 😉

This post contains links to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

A Beautiful Musical – er I Mean a Review of Beautiful the Musical

 

Thanks to my membership in the Tampa Bay Bloggers and their partnership with the Straz Center, I received two complimentary tickets for the purposes of review to "Beautiful - The Carole King Musical". This has not impacted my review and all opinions below are my own.
Carnegie Hall. Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”)
Carnegie Hall. Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”)

I was thrilled when the opportunity to watch Beautiful: The Carole King Musical was offered to me. Although I admit, I wasn’t completely familiar with the Carole King story, I recognized many of the songs that were listed in the production’s descriptions. I had also heard so many wonderful things about the show, and I’m a sucker for good music and acting performed live on a stage. Something about knowing  that they can’t yell “CUT!” and/or “take it from the top,” just gives me an excitement like no other form of entertainment ever has. Can you relate?

Knowing that my mom would want to hear those songs of yesteryear once more, performed live, I invited her to be my date, and I’m so glad I did. One of my favorite moments in the middle of the show was when she lit up at the song Loco Motion. She leaned over and told me that her and a friend had choreographed a dance to that song while they were growing up. It was so fun watching her re-live happy times from childhood. Want to know how I felt about the show overall? Keep reading…

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – What Straz Said About it (spoilers ahead)

Long before she was Carole King, chart-topping music legend, she was Carol Klein, Brooklyn girl with passion and chutzpah. She fought her way into the record business as a teenager and, by the time she reached her twenties, had the husband of her dreams and a flourishing career writing hits for the biggest acts in rock ‘n’ roll. But it wasn’t until her personal life began to crack that she finally managed to find her true voice.

BEAUTIFUL – The Carole King Musical tells the inspiring true story of King’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she made more than beautiful music, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation.

Featuring a stunning array of beloved songs written by Gerry Goffin/Carole King and Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, including “I Feel The Earth Move,” “One Fine Day,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “You’ve Got A Friend” and the title song, BEAUTIFUL has a book by Tony Award® nominee and Academy Award®-nominated writer Douglas McGrath, direction by Marc Bruni, choreography by Josh Prince and took home two 2014 Tony Awards® and the 2015 Grammy® for Best Musical Theater Album. BEAUTIFUL is currently playing to sold out crowds at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway.

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical – My Review

When the show opened, I was met with a vibrant red head sitting at a piano confessing she never planned to be a singer. Then, the audience is brought back in time to how she ended up at that piano singing for a crowd. We learn about her desire to be a songwriter, and the way she met her first husband and long time writing partner Gerry Goffin. This marriage and the songs they would go on to create are the ultimate focus of the production.

Fast forward a little bit and Carole and Gerry have a baby, are married, are finally working as full time song writers, but you can see throughout all of it that Gerry has itchy feet. I was getting angry as this was all taking place because I knew what was coming. There was trouble in paradise, and I just wanted to focus on the happiness that was the music.

I also got antsy as I watched the characters of Barry Man and Cynthia Weil in their competitive nature with Gerry and Carole. Two teams of songwriters and musicians constantly trying to out-do each other on the Billboard music charts. I can’t even imagine how stressful that would be. But the couples were friends nonetheless, and I loved them and was rooting for everyone to succeed.

As I watched though, I couldn’t help but reflect on how good songwriters have to be going through all the feels so that they can put amazing lyrics and music on the page, and ultimately on the record.  I confess, it was even exciting to watch the super high-highs, and the troubling lows of excited love, wild success, depressing defeats, and so on…

Four Friends - Beautiful the Carole King Musical
Four Friends. (l to r) James Clow (“Don Kirshner”), Andrew Brewer (“Gerry Goffin”), Sarah Bockel (“Carole King”), Jacob Heimer (“Barry Mann”) and Sarah Goeke (“Cynthia Weil”).

By intermission I knew that Carol and Gerry would be divorcing, but I still didn’t like that this was confirmed by all the spoiler laden conversations going on in the line for the ladies restroom. Am I the only one who didn’t know the end of this show? Haha! It seemed like everyone that was there had either watched it before or at least knew the story. (side note: to me a testament to how good a musical is, is how many repeat watchers are in attendance. I encountered people who were seeing it for the second, third, and fourth time.)

I was amused in that same restroom line when a lady that was older than me, asked if someone as young as I am could possibly even be enjoying the show so far. I replied, absolutely! And, we shared a chuckle when I said I was diggin’ it, and that the songs were neato, and really swell.

Ensemble from Beautiful - The Carole King Musical
Ensemble from Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

One of my favorite things about the musical over all, was watching how these songs that began as “simple” words and notes on a page seemed to magically transform into hits thanks to the musical acts that performed them. How exciting it must have been for these writers to witness their work coming to life in that way for all to enjoy and be entertained by.

I also particularly loved the costumes, and how they along with the sets and props made you really feel like you were stepping back in time to the era in which all of those amazing songs were created.

My favorite part is that after all of the crap with Gerry,  we’re presented at the end with Carole King coming out on top. She is the amazing powerhouse that drives this entire show. She pulls you in, giving you a raw look into the good, the bad and the ugly of the music industry.

Grant it, we didn’t see the knock-down, drag-out ugly one might expect if this had been about the music business today. But, that’s what makes the show that much nicer to watch. Even though there’s heartache in the production, it truly made me yearn for a feeling of what may have been a simpler time.

Bottom line – I say go watch this show!

I would  recommend this musical to anyone who loves those songs from yesteryear. I would also recommend it to enthusiasts of the entertainment industry. I would recommend it to people who crave a simpler time. To put it simply, I would recommend it to anyone who wants to witness an overall feel good story come to life on stage. All in, this production was in fact, a beautiful musical. 

Beautiful – The Carole King Musical is playing at The Straz Center now through April 1, 2018. To see all the shows playing at the Straz, click HERE!

And, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical contains some adult language, and mature situations.

 

So Many Things to See and Do at the Florida State Fair!

Thanks to Cox Media Group Tampa I was given a family four pack to the Florida State Fair in exchange for this post and social media love. Although my tickets, some meals and rides were free, this has not affected my review. All opinions are my own.

Every year I look forward to The Florida State Fair. The food, the rides, the people watching. It’s something my husband and I thoroughly enjoy going to. There are so many things to do at the fair, and this year we decided to enjoy some of our favorite activities AND check out a few of the things we’ve never done before.

Our old faithfuls at The Florida State Fair

  • The food – We always end up with a corn dog upon arrival, and the past couple of years we end with a cheeseburger. Hubby always goes for the traditional barbecue bacon burger, and I either get the doughnut burger or the mac and cheese burger from Carousel Foods. Such yumminess! And seriously – you have to try the doughnut burger once in your life. I think you will be as surprised as I was at how delicious this darn thing actually is!
  • The arts – We LOVE seeing the entries in the arts and crafts contest held every year at the fair. The paintings and the sculptures, and the photos – this year they were just over the top. And, I was exceptionally giddy because I actually recognized some of the names of the winners in the art contests. I’ve decided next year I want to add a contribution of my own. I’ll share what I’m entering when it comes time.
  • The people watching – Dude! This is far and away my FAVORITE thing to do at the fair. You never know what outfits you will see, who you will bump into or what fun you will witness.  One of the crazy things we witnessed this year while people watching was a cell phone FLYING off of a ride. That was nuts. It almost hit someone!! Funny and scary all at the same time. And the craziest part? Their cell phone protector actually protected it. NO DAMAGE! Not even a single crack. That’s crazy right?!?
  • The Sky Ride – I love this because it takes you from one end of the fair to the other and gives you incredible views along the way. Resting our feet while getting a bird’s eye view? Winning!
  • The Ferris Wheel – it’s tradition. We always ride the Ferris Wheel. What was extra exciting about this year’s ride though was the wheel was bigger and we rode at sunset. We got some of the most epic views from the top. Seriously. Check this out:

The new things we saw/did in 2018 at the fair:

  • We went and visited with the drivers of the mini monster trucks. I had no idea this was a thing for kids! Youngins driving mini trucks?!? WOWZA! Pretty wild seeing these littles with those big trucks.
  • We also checked out the Farm to School Fun arcade hosted by The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). There were free games, educational opportunities, and we got to try some roasted peanuts from the Florida farmers that grow them. I also learned a lot about vegetables, bees, spiders, butterflies, and fish in this room.
  • For a few moments as we took a rest from the sun we stopped in and watched some baton twirling competitors. That was so cool and made me realize JUST how uncoordinated I really am. haha! We also darted over in the same hall and checked out the arts and crafts vendors selling their goods. It is truly amazing how talented some people are. While they we also got our fill of fudge, more peanuts, dip samples and more. So much deliciousness!!!
  • One thing we did that we’ve never done was juice our own oranges in the agriculture area. This covered areas also had some chickens in it which prompted a humorous conversation between me and the hubs about why we need to own chickens when we get a house.

Things we skipped or missed that I wish we’d seen:

  • We missed the Extreme Illusions & Escapes show, the BMX/FMX Freestyle Madness displays, Circus Hollywood, and the Laser Light shows. Mind you we didn’t skip them because we wanted to. We should have made the fair visit a multi-day event because we just didn’t have time for everything. The timing was off for us to see things at their scheduled hours, and/or we weren’t in the area when it was happening.
  • We skipped Cracker Country this year. Forgive me y’all, but I just wasn’t excited about this – perhaps because we’ve seen it sooooooooo many times over the years. I do regret not going over at least long enough to get some kettle corn though. It’s never better anywhere than it is there IMHO.
  • We missed events that were only happening on specific days. For example, we’ll miss the demolition derby because another trip to the fair before they close this year probably won’t be feasible with our work schedules.  Same for the Trashy Flashy Fashion Show. We were there the day after this occurred. I have to say I was super bummed about missing this because I LOVE trashy fashion shows. The way the artists can turn garbage into wearable art never ceases to amaze me.

Our 2018 fair visit was a success in my book

All in all, I loved my day at the fair, and sincerely hope that in 2019 I can afford more time to be there. I’d like to go multiple days and check out more events and things I haven’t seen yet, or that I’ve not seen in awhile. I will say that for the cost of the fair ticket, there is certainly a LOT of entertainment and enjoyment to be had. It’s not JUST about the rides and the food. I can’t wait to visit again. In the meantime, I’m hoping to check out many other events our fair city has to offer. <- see what I did there? LOL! I crack me up!

Check out all the images I snapped at The Florida State Fair this year –

Thirsty Thursdays – Summer Spiked PJ with Touch Vodka

Touch Vodka did send me a few bottles of their vodka for the purposes of review. While the vodka was free, this did not affect my review. All opinions are my own.

Summer is here, and with it, refreshing drinks are all the rage. Today I thought I’d share a yummy one that just tastes like summer in a glass. Perfect for those hot days by the pool! Or, ya know, on the patio after a rough day’s work. This is the Summer Spiked PJ and it’s damn tasty! Enjoy!!

Summer Spiked PJ

Ingredients:

Prep:

Super simple, super refreshing – I’ll have another please! Stay tuned for additional drink recipes with Touch Vodka 🙂

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