Friday, July 27, 2018

Lively and engaging, “Seussical the Musical” delights audiences at Schoolhouse Arts Center by Elizabeth Richards

Schoolhouse Arts Center is bringing the whimsical world of Dr. Seuss to life on stage in their production of “Seussical the Musical,” and they’re doing it with a unique twist. Throughout the production, American Sign Language (ASL) is incorporated into the usual singing and dancing.

When director Zac Stearn, who is also the Artistic Director for Schoolhouse Arts, announced that ASL would be infused throughout the show, I wondered if it would be a distraction, detracting from the momentum of the show. Instead, I almost forgot it was happening, as it was beautifully intertwined into each scene, often feeling like an extension of the choreography.

Emily Paruk as JoJo and Joy Lemont as The Cat
The show, with a cast of more than 30 characters – many of whom felt like old friends, was lively and engaging, capturing the full interest of the audience; even the numerous children in attendance. It’s a perfect show to take children to see. The continuous flow from song to song keeps the action moving forward, and there are often so many different things happening on stage that it’s almost impossible to not be engaged. 

One of the things I enjoy most about shows at Schoolhouse Arts Center is how well they use the space they have, and this show was no exception. The set allowed for the cast to move freely on stage, and cast members used the sides and the center aisle as well, drawing the audience into the magical world of Seuss. With a cast that large, movement could have felt crowded and overwhelming, but it never did.

This show is all about the music. Every scene is a song that moves the plot forward. Narrated by the Cat in the Hat, the main story follows Horton the Elephant in his quest to save the miniscule Who planet. There are several other stories incorporated into the songs, which are centered on the beloved books of Dr. Seuss.

The cast began with high energy and maintained it throughout the show. There were times when it was difficult to hear soloists, but overall the cast had good projection and was able to pull me into the action. The choreography was fun, engaging, and well executed.

This musical, like the books of Dr. Seuss, manages to subtly incorporate several important messages into the show: respect for the lives of others; appreciating what you have; and the importance of embracing your own unique qualities are just a few examples. This is a feel-good show well worth the time and ticket price. 

“Seussical the Musical” is playing through July 29th on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m., and Sunday evening at 5 p.m. Tickets are $19 for adults, $17 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased at or at the door.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Book Review on “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.” Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree

Emma Straub’s first novel, “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures”, feels a little like an old-time
Hollywood movie and a little like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

The novel begins in Wisconsin in 1929 with Elsa Emerson, her family, and their backyard theatre. When she’s a teenager, a tragedy compels Elsa to leave home and pursue the acting career her deceased sister Hildy would have had. 

Soon after arriving in Hollywood, Elsa ditches her old name and becomes Laura Lamont. Soon after that, she divorces her first husband and marries the love of her life. The novel spans five decades, two marriages, three children, and a career that rises and falls. It holds all of the things a well-lived life holds: humor and loss, success and failure, birth and death, happiness and regret. 

This is the story of a small-town nobody who becomes a Hollywood icon and then a has-been. It’s about the life we leave behind in pursuit of something better, and it’s about the people we hurt even when we don’t mean to. It’s about being humbled and finding peace. It’s not a surprising, breath-stealing novel, but one with a rather quiet presence. It’s the kind of book you can escape into, the kind that carries you away.


Friday, July 13, 2018

Movie review of "Hereditary” by Emily Maier

As someone who isn’t a big fan of horror, I was initially wary about going to see “Hereditary” in theaters. I certainly didn’t expect it to be one of my favorite movies of the year, but this movie surprised me in more ways than one.

At the core of “Hereditary” is the Graham family: Annie, Steve, and their two children, Peter and Charlie. The film opens with the funeral of Annie’s mother, a secretive woman whose actions were steeped in mental illness and dysfunctional tendencies. Charlie takes the recent death of her grandmother especially hard, exhibiting behavior ranging from odd to downright disturbing. As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that the secrets being held from the Graham family are far more sinister than they ever could have imagined.

It’s difficult to reveal much more without spoiling the plot. While I enjoyed the film most when it was functioning as an analysis of grief and familial trauma, I also enjoyed the supernatural turn that it took.  

Toni Collette gives a truly Oscar-worthy performance as Annie. Whether she was depicting unbridled grief, fury, or mania, she did it with incredible mastery and authenticity. Alex Wolff did an amazing job as the frequently traumatized Peter as well. Though his crying left something to be desired – especially considering he had to do it a lot – he still handles some of the movie’s most intense scenes admirably.

The cast gave everything they had in this movie, and their portrayal of raw emotion is what makes “Hereditary” really stand out. Whether it’s overwhelming grief, guilt, rage, or terror, the film captures it all with an unflinching gaze. It refuses to let up, no matter how much the audience squirms. While watching “Hereditary”, I had the unique experience of suddenly feeling like I was not watching a movie but intruding upon someone’s life during a tragedy. This is not only a testament to the cast’s skill but something that made the movie much more spine-chilling.

I was surprised to learn that the film is the directorial debut of Ari Aster, who directed and wrote the script. It’s an incredibly strong start for the budding director, and I’ll be patiently awaiting his future work. In less surprising news, “Hereditary” is the newest film produced by A24, the same company that has brought us renowned films such as “Moonlight,” “Lady Bird,” “The Witch,” “Ex Machina,” and “Room.”

While a majority of “Hereditary” wasn’t as scary as I’d anticipated, I should note that I spent the last twenty minutes of the movie absolutely terrified. Instead of relying on traditional jump-scares, “Hereditary” uses subtle horror: things you don’t notice at first, or the things suggested but not seen. There are also a few truly graphic scenes throughout the movie that may be permanently burned into my retinas. Though not the typical horror movie, “Hereditary” is – above all – not for the faint of heart.

While “Hereditary” is by no means a perfect movie, the care both the cast and crew held for the movie is evident in every scene. I was mesmerized by the realistic acting, bold storytelling, and the unique way in which the film was shot. Keeping in mind the graphic bloodshed and the heart-wrenching plot, I’d recommend “Hereditary” to anyone who thinks they can stomach it.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Movie review of "Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom" by Stephen Signor

Run time: 128 min.

Like most everyone, I became addicted to the hype surrounding the opening of “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom”. And as in the past, I walked away with a somewhat empty feeling and disappointment.

While there was an impressive increase in prehistoric creatures over the preceding films, and even though all of them expressed themselves more often and in greater volume, I still felt there was something missing.

Three years after the destruction of the Jurassic World theme park, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) return to the island of Isla Nublar to save the remaining dinosaurs from a volcano that's about to erupt. They soon encounter terrifying new breeds of gigantic dinosaurs, while uncovering a conspiracy that threatens the entire planet.

Flashbacks of a now defunct, vacated and rundown Jurassic Park proves nostalgic but not necessarily noteworthy in the plot. Not known for work on other Jurassic films, director J.A. Bayona (“A Monster Calls”) did his best and deserves credit for at least making it believable as well as the challenge of this being first in the franchise to be shot digitally as well as in wide-screen format.

Jeff Goldblum reprises his role as Ian Malcolm after 21 years since his last appearance. Although he only appeared in two, relatively short cameo spots, the message he delivered to politicians and the world spoke volumes.

This brings me to the positive aspect I did acquire from watching this movie. This was not your average sequel. There was a subliminal message throughout about the real issue of mistreatment of animals in today's society. This film focuses more on the responsibility for these animals that were originally made as a result of greed. It’s about the darkness and worst instincts.

Screen-writer Colin Trevorrow indicated that “the dinosaurs are a parable of the treatment animals receive today: the abuse, medical experimentation, pets, having wild animals in zoos like prisons, the use the military has made of them, animals as weapons."  I think that ultimately, when people are able to watch this film and where this franchise is going, it really is about the ethical treatment of animals in the world and our responsibility to the living creatures that we share the planet with, alongside our responsibilities to the planet itself.

This being said, the overall entertainment value of “Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom”, while exceeding its predecessors, was short lived.