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The Genie (Major Attaway) from the lamp sings his own praises. Photo Credit: Johan Persson

My ticket for Aladdin

{Note: None of the performance images are mine, I have used media photos provided.}

When we’re talking about live shows, performance and production can be words to describe the same thing. I recently saw two shows and for one I declared “That was a production!” and for the other, I was moved by the performance. They were equally wonderful and nothing alike. I’ll try to explain.

Tara, my 21-year-old-offspring, loves all things Disney and Broadway. Thus, tickets to Aladdin were an obvious choice for a Christmas present. I did not know anything about the show and did not take the time to look it up.

Consequently, I was totally blown away on Thursday when I saw this show. The creators pulled out all the stops for entertainment. This was the sparkliest, loudest, flashiest, most-colorful, most frequently jaw-dropping, silliest, gaudiest show I have ever seen. The costume changes were constant, and every costume was layered in mesmerizing colours and more rhinestones and sequins than I thought possible to fit on fabric. There were scarves and bangles and turbans and feathers and every single, every single male character wore pointed shoes. At one point, cannons shot metallic glistening streamers over the audience and we sat transfixed, watching them spiral down onto us.

Leaping, turbaned dancers

Golden cave of treasures, where Aladdin (Clinton Greenspan) finds the lamp.

Back up dancers and singers, male and female, supported nearly every scene, and these were the fittest performers I’ve seen in a Broadway show. I could tell because most of them were only about 50% covered in clothing. It was nice to see men objectified for a change. All those glistening six-packs….sigh. They leapt, spun in the air, spun on the ground, flipped and skidded and cartwheeled back and forth.

Aladdin as the Prince, with Jasmine (in Portland played by Lissa deGuzman)

The sets were incredible, in the literal definition of the word. At one point the whole back of the theatre dropped away into a convincing starry night sky…WITH a legit flying carpet that Aladdin and Jasmine sat on and sang A Whole New World to us. The scene inside the cave of treasures, where Aladdin found the lamp, looked like it was made of solid gold. Indeed, every surface shone like metal. This made it particularly splendiferous when the fireworks went off. YES!! Real fireworks inside the theatre!

Genie explains to Aladdin how the three wishes work.

Genie was hilarious, Jasmine was convincingly strong, Aladdin convincingly vulnerable, and Jafar sufficiently evil. We were all glad to see him change from one costume to another in a blink before our eyes like magic, and then just as quickly disappear leaving only a lamp behind, when Jafar foolishly wished to be an all-powerful genie (and therefore had to live in a lamp).

What. A. Show. What a production!!

The set for Tiny Beautiful Things was a cross-section view into a beautiful home that is clearly lived in. (Left to Right: Lisa Renee Pitts, Brian Michael Smith, Dana Green, and Leif Norby)

My ticket for Tiny Beautiful Things

Storytelling took center stage in Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things. This play is based on the book, which is about an advice columnist named Sugar, and the letter-writers who contact her and sometimes get responses.

The set was great!! So perfect and beautiful. I wish we were allowed to take photos during performances, so I could have captured just one shot that showed the whole thing. Multiple times during the show I thought how nice it would be to live there. If you look at the kitchen shot above, imagine a small dining table to the right, with a door off stage on the right to the laundry room. On the far left of the photo, you can see two steps leading to a playroom in the back. Imagine that farther to the left, there is a living room with a couch and table, and behind the couch is the front door leading off stage on the left, and at the very back a staircase upstairs, and a door to the basement? beneath the stairs.

Sugar “listens to” one of her letter-writers.

We watched Sugar, a busy mom, as she carried her laptop with her around the house, answering mail (outloud) all day long as she does the laundry, folds clothes, picks up toys, straightens the living room. We also watch as three other actors perform the words of the letter-writers, who are children, people with cancer, or people who are pregnant. Letter writers told their secrets, exposed their fantasies, regretted their choices. Gender, age, and background aren’t visually reflected by the actors, so we had to listen carefully to the words to find out who was speaking.

Sugar didn’t answer everyone. She wore yoga pants and a cardigan, and at one point pulled her long hair back into a sloppy bun while she read the letters. One writer kept submitting the same letter over and over, that said, “WTF. WTF. WTF?” She didn’t answer that one, obviously. Until…. the end.

The way Sugar answered the questions was to tell a story from her own life (taken from true stories of Strayed’s actual life) filled with pain and tragedy, joy and fear and bravery and hope. She connected to the letter-writers by telling what got her through her own similar challenges, and recommended that we be more compassionate, kind, and generous – particularly to ourselves. It was thirty stories told, hers and theirs, linked by the advice column, and a thousand stories told, linked by all the people laughing and crying in the audience. Proof that we were all feeling these stories as our own.

Sugar answers a letter at night, after the day’s chores are done.

Sugar dispenses advice to a letter-writer.

Sugar would usually speak to her laptop as she answered letters, even while the letter-writer was sitting beside her on the couch, speaking to his phone as he typed his question. But when the topic or the connection got more intense, they would turn and face each other, and have a conversation. During one wonderful scene, she brought all the letter-writers into the kitchen with her to help pack school lunches for her kids while she answered a letter.

Live performances get to me more than TV or the movies (and all of these actors have been on TV or in the movies). This show was deeply personal, designed to make the audience reflect, or identify, or consider. Ultimately, this play took up all the parts of us that are dark, acknowledged them, and then made us feel good anyway. It is wonderfully done.

During our vacation in Disneyland I came to believe that it was the persistent attention to detail that made it so wonderful a place to visit. I took photos of things that caught my eye.

Coccoons dangle above pathways. I imagine these are lights, but I didn't come through A Bug's Land at night.

Coccoons dangle above pathways. I imagine these are lights, but I didn’t come through A Bug’s Land at night to see it.

Close up of the coccoons.

Close up of the coccoons.

A boat in Pixie Hollow.

A boat in Pixie Hollow.

 

 

 

 

 

Inside a shop in Condor Flats. Look at the tools hung on the wall behind the cashier.

Inside a shop in Condor Flats. Look at the tools hung on the wall behind the cashier.

More stuff on the walls in the shop above.

More stuff on the walls in the shop above. It really felt like being in a garage.

Inside Mickey Mouse's house in Toon Town.

Inside Mickey Mouse’s house in Toon Town.

These stone towers and wooden door are beautiful, and yet high above the crowds below, so no one can even go up there and see it. We can only admire from afar.

These stone towers and wooden door are beautiful, and yet high above the crowds below, so no one can even go up there and see it. We can only admire from afar.

Shops are built in the design of the area, to keep the atmosphere consistent.

Shops are built in the design of the area, to keep the atmosphere consistent.

A view along Disneyland's Main Street.

A view along Disneyland’s Main Street.

Zoomed in shot of the view above.

Zoomed in shot of the view above.

In A Bug's Land, the landscape had overlarge items to make one feel bug-sized.

In A Bug’s Land, the landscape had overlarge items to make one feel bug-sized.

Teeth over the doorway, eyeballs on the posts, even a tallbike behind the lampost. The boy is looking warily at Randall in the window.

Teeth over the doorway, eyeballs on the posts, even a tallbike behind the lampost. The boy is looking warily at Randall in the window.

Decorations in a shop.

Decorations in a shop.

Mickey's garden shed.

Mickey’s garden shed.

This is where they make the laughs.

This is where they make the laughs.

Looking at the rock cliffs from the downtown Radiator Springs community.

Looking at the rock cliffs from the downtown Radiator Springs community.

I really enjoy the Pixar/Disney movie Cars, and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. One awesome thing about being a parent these days is that kid movies are made just as much for parents as for the kids.

When I was growing up, my mom was firmly opposed to all “cartoons,” as she called them. Any animated TV show or movie was dumb in her mind and she refused to watch any of them with us, and generally would not give us permission to even see an animated movie at a theatre, believing them to be devoid of any educational benefit to kids, and certainly not capable of providing entertainment to an adult. When Tara was a toddler, it was with a big show of tolerance that Mom begrudgingly allowed herself to be coaxed into watching Toy Story with us. Mom was surprised to find herself caught up in the story, announcing at the end that it was better than she had expected.

So, it’s along those lines that I recommend the movie Cars. If you haven’t been watching animated movies for the last 15 years, you are in for a treat!

If you have seen the movie, you might be able to imagine our delight at finding in Disney California Adventure park a re-creation of the little city of Radiator Springs, on an abandoned section of Route 66, and thus trapped back in time a little, as the modern world has been slow to influence the town and it’s citizens.

A coworker told me to make sure to see it at night, and he was absolutely right!

A coworker told me to make sure to see it at night, and he was absolutely right!

Cozy Cone motel hosts a cafe. You can see the shadow of Mater there in front of the office.

Cozy Cone motel hosts a cafe in the back. You can see the shadow of Mater there in front of the office.

Luigi's tire shop looks exactly like it does in the movie, including the leaning town of tires.

Luigi’s tire shop looks exactly like it does in the movie, including the leaning tower of tires.

Miguel with the monument to Stanley, the town's founder

Miguel with the monument to Stanley, the town’s founder

So much realism makes it easy to lose oneself into make-believe.

So much realism makes it easy to lose oneself into make-believe.

neon signs

neon signs

blinking yellow light

blinking yellow light

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flo's Cafe welcomed all hungry visitors

Flo’s Cafe welcomed all hungry visitors

Here is Flo's in the daylight

Here is Flo’s in the daylight

Attention the detail included uniforms that suited each section of the park.

Attention the detail included uniforms that suited each section of the park.

I couldn't get enough of the neon

I couldn’t get enough of the neon signs that lit up the main street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All buildings

Buildings in town all matched the theme.

The entrance

The entrance to Luigi’s Flying Tires was through the tire store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We rode our giant tires like pucks on an air hockey table.

We rode our giant tires like pucks on an air hockey table.

The kids shared a tire.

The kids shared a tire.

Radiator Springs Racers was one of our favourite rides.

Radiator Springs Racers was one of our favourite rides.

The scenery was unbelievable.

The scenery was unbelievable.

Cave paintings of old cars inside the Radiator Springs Racers ride.

Cave paintings of old cars inside the Radiator Springs Racers ride.

View of Radiator Springs from the Ferris wheel at Paradise Pier.

View of Radiator Springs from the Ferris wheel at Paradise Pier.

Mickey joins a group of paperboys to talk about the headlines and about Walt's dream of going to California to make it big.

Mickey joins a group of paperboys to sing about the headlines and about Walt’s dream of going to California to make it big.

One person was at pains to point out to me that these are not actual celebrities, but people in costume. I am not one easily discouraged out of my delight in magical make-believe. Trust me, I have been asked to act more like a grown-up for a couple of decades, and no one has succeeded yet. Leave your logic at the door! This was a week packed with the who’s who of our favourite characters on the screen, and you can’t tell me otherwise.

Only succuming to the joy of fantasy role-playing allows the kind of happiness seen here.

Only succumbing to the joy of fantasy role-playing allows the kind of happiness seen here. Too adorable.

Storm Troopers in Tomorrowland. Selfie in progress, there in the background.

Storm Troopers in Tomorrowland. Selfie in progress, there in the background.

We caught the Aladdin show, and saw Jasimine, Jafar, and Aladdin himself there on an elephant in the audience.

We caught the Aladdin show, and saw Jasmine, Jafar (seen on stage), and Aladdin himself there on an elephant in the audience. Genie stole the show, however.

Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!

Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!

Pooh gets some love.

Pooh gets some love.

All of these characters were mobbed the instant they were spotted. I mean, all of them. A storm trooper passed me, and I asked if I could take a photo, but he waved and kept going because if he stopped, there would have been an instant crowd. Instead I followed him to a gathering point, where multiple storm troopers were getting ready to put on a show. (ha ha, isn’t that a hilarious thought)

People mobbed them for photos and autographs. Yes, we were so excited to get autographs from Disney (or Disney-bought) characters. We were willing to stand in line for it. But we had our limits. Princesses Anna and Elsa, from Frozen, were there, but the wait was from two to three hours for an autograph and photo. Though Tara wanted to meet them almost more than anyone else, she was not willing to squander precious park time standing in line that long.

Miss T's fave stop was probably Pixie Hollow. She confessed to me later, "I was expecting a person playing Tink, but she was the real Tinkerbell! She was perfect!"

Miss T’s fave stop was probably Pixie Hollow. She confessed to me later, “I was expecting a person playing Tink, but she was the real Tinkerbell! She was perfect!”

C3PO was on duty at Star Tours and kept us entertained while waiting in line.

C3PO was on duty at Star Tours and kept us entertained while waiting in line.

This is one of those trouble-makers that was messing with Mack when he fell asleep driving.

This is one of those trouble-makers that was messing with Mack when he fell asleep driving.

R2D2 was also entertaining us at Star Tours, doing maintenance and beeping.

R2D2 was also entertaining us at Star Tours, doing maintenance and beeping.

And who is to say these celebrities did not win their fame in the exact same way as most of the ones we idolize? What makes a person famous: the fact that we’ve heard of them or seen them so often that they are familiar. How is that any different from Donald Duck or Mater?

We asked for an autograph from our amazing skipper on the Jungle Cruise in Adventureland. Taylor was so much fun she became a celebrity on the spot.

My very favourite character to meet was Mater, but he drove by so fast I couldn't get a sharp image at night.

My very favourite character to meet was Mater, but he drove by so fast I couldn’t get a sharp image at night.

My second favourite was this big blue monster. I was literally squealing "Hi Sully!"

My second favourite was this big blue monster. I was literally squealing “Hi Sully!”

Princess Merida

Princess Merida

Lightning McQueen

Lightning McQueen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Russell

Russell

Donald Duck

Donald Duck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tara met Mickey in his studio, after walking through his amazing house

Tara met Mickey in his studio, after walking through his amazing house

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