“Beauty and the Beast” 2017 Film Review

Belle is a young woman who lives in a small town with her father, Maurice. When her father becomes a hostage in a enchanted castle, she takes his place. While there she becomes close to the Beast, a prince who was put under a curse along with his faithful servants. As the time passes, Belle and the Beast learn about each other and fall in love.

Based on the 1991 animated version of the same name, the new “Beauty and the Beast” is nothing short of amazing and lives up to it’s counterpart. The 2017 film includes new songs with music from the original.

The cast includes Emma Watson (“Harry Potter” and “Perks of Being a Wallflower”) as Belle, Dan Stevens (“Downtown Abbey”) as the Beast, Luke Evans (“Dracula Untold”) as Gaston, Ian McKellen as Cogsworth with Emma Thomson (“Harry Potter”  and “Nanny McPhee”) as Mrs. Potts and Kevin Kline as Maurice. The film also includes the musical talents of Audra McDonald (“Sound of Music Live”) as Madame Garderobe, Ewan McGregor (“Star Wars” and “Moulin Rouge”) as Lumiere and Josh Gad (“Frozen”) as Le Fou.

While a majority of the cast were perfect vocal and acting wise, Watson’s singing was not up to par. Her voice sounded auto-tuned during some parts and it was cringe worthy. However, she looked like Belle and did a great job portraying the famous Disney character.

Luke Evans was perfect as Gaston. He had the look, as well as the singing and speaking voice. The same goes for Ewan McGregor as Lumiere. It was great to hear the latter sing in another musical film, especially since he sang one of the biggest numbers in the movie.

Speaking of the biggest numbers, the title song is one of the most famous songs in Disney history. “Beauty and the Beast,” was originally sung by Angela Lansbury who voiced Mrs. Potts in the animated version, so naturally all ears were going to be directed at Emma Thomson in the live action remake. While no one can beat the original, Thomson did a great job. Audiences will not be disappointed.

Other impressive performances were from Tony winner, Audra McDonald, who has a phenomenal voice. Josh Gad did a great job as Le Fou and Dan Stevens was amazing as the Beast.

The remake did a fantastic job staying true to the original version. There were new scenes added that were necessary for the story, which included the characters’ past and more information about the curse. There was also more progression in Belle and the Beast’s relationship.

There was a lot of controversy on social media about Le Fou being a gay man in this version and that there would be a scene to confirm it. After watching the movie, I can honestly say the “gay scene” was no big deal. It was so short that if you blinked, you would miss it and it will go right over kids’ heads.

The movie was visually stunning. I was in awe the entire time because everything looked amazing. It really felt as if “Beauty and the Beast” was brought to life in this live action version. The music was great and the cast did a phenomenal job. It is the best Disney remake I have seen so far and people who grew up watching the original will not be disappointed.

Why I Love Musicals

Anyone who knows me personally, or via my twitter account, knows that I am a huge fan of musical theater and my dream is to one day be a critic for Broadway shows. But not everyone knows how I became interested in musicals or why I love them so much.

Growing up, I watched a ton of Disney movies, but I also watched “The Wizard of Oz,” “Annie,” “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady.” While these films were, and still are, my all time favorites, my love for musicals did not begin until I saw something that, in my opinion, was entirely different.

When I was around six-years-old my mom and stepdad (who at the time was my mom’s boyfriend), recorded the musical “CATS” when it was on television one night and my mom decided to introduce me to it. She only showed me a few scenes on the VHS tape, but that was enough to get me hooked. Next thing I knew I was watching the entire film while dancing to it, especially when Rum Tum Tugger came on the screen. Love him!

That’s right. It was not Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Carol Burnett or even Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry I danced to. It was John Partridge and his awesome shoulder shake.

I saw my first live musical with my grandparents when I was about eight. The show was “Beauty and the Beast.” I remember we were in the high seats and I had to use binoculars to see the what was happening, but I did not use them most of the time.

“Beauty and the Beast” was good, but at eight-years-old I did not really think about it or the cast. I remember wondering about the song “Human Again” because it was not in the Disney cartoon, so I was a little confused, but I went with it.

Another wonderful thing happened when I was eight-years-old. I discovered the music from “The Phantom of the Opera” on a Andrew Lloyd Webber CD in my mom’s car. There were only three songs from the musical on the album, but that is all it took for me to become obsessed with yet another one of Webber’s works. Needless to say the title song, “Music of the Night” and “All I Ask of You” were on repeat every time I was in the car. Sorry mom.

Two years later I had the opportunity to see “The Phantom of the Opera” on stage. The show was on tour and me, my mom and our family friend went to go see it. I remember the auctioneer was creepy, the cast was great and the thing that boggled my mind the most was the Phantom was the “bad guy.” You can imagine my confusion when the audience started cheering for him at curtain call. I did not fully grasp the meaning of the musical and it’s characters until I was in high school, but until that time I loved the music.

When I was 14, I got to see “The Phantom of the Opera” in New York. It was the first show I got the chance to see on Broadway and to this day I am still happy about it. This show has a special place in my heart and will always be my favorite musical.

“CATS” was not only the show that got my passion started, but when I was watching the DVD in high school I began to realize how much work was involved behind the scenes, mainly, the costumes, makeup, choreography, etc. That was when I really started to appreciate what goes into making a musical.

Fast forward. I was 19, in college and oh, my gosh! The stage recording of the “Phantom” 25th anniversary was going to be on DVD! My mom bought it for me after I asked and I spent my Valentine’s Day watching it. Who needs a date when you have “Phantom?”

Once again, I had a epiphany. Thanks to the close ups on the DVD I was able to see the orchestra and I was suddenly hit with appreciation for them, because I never gave much thought to the people who play the music. I was in awe of everything. Ramin’s “Music of the Night” made me recognize acting abilities and Sierra’s “Wishing” and “Wandering Child” made me think about vocals and range. Hadley Fraser was a joy to watch because of his facial expressions, powerful voice and charming smile.

Because of two actors who were involved in “Phantom” 25, I wanted to watch the hit musical, “Les Misérables,” which was filmed as a concert recording and had been released on DVD two years prior.

A bit of history. My mom tried to get me to listen to the “Les Misérables” soundtrack when I was at least 10. She saw it in London with my stepdad and thought I would like it. I looked it up, but it did not appeal to me and the title made it sound miserable.

Looking back now, I can honestly say I am glad I was older when I discovered the”Les Misérables.” As I was watching the 25th anniversary on DVD, I fell in love with it. The music was astonishing, the story was phenomenal and the actors, with the exception of Nick Jonas, blew me away. I also fell in love with the characters and was introduced to more actors.

I saw “Les Misérables” live for the first time in 2012 and I was very excited. It was on tour and the film version was set to be released later that year. Perfect timing! The musical was even more beautiful in person and the cast was amazing. A couple of years later I was able to see the the revival on Broadway and got the chance to meet Ramin Karimloo.

As my college years went by I saw more shows and my love for theater grew. I bought albums by actors and cast recordings. I paid attention to Broadway and touring group news, got more DVDs and read more books that musicals and plays were based on. Some were for class, others for enjoyment. My bedroom walls are now covered with posters and a few have not been framed yet.

When I started to learn more about musicals and actors in college, my family told me I should do something with my passion, but I did not know what and shrugged them off.  It was not until later I decided I wanted to be a critic.

Once I changed my major to journalism and my minor to theater, everyone I knew thought it was a better fit for me. It was a long process (or so it seemed), but I finally graduated in December of 2015.

I graduated college with a higher respect for the arts because of classes I took, productions I helped with (I was always on crew) and my love for musicals intact. I can now say I do not just appreciate theater, but rather all forms of art.

Here is a reflection of what I have learned:

Writers pour out their souls and artists make theirs visible. Photographers capture moments and must choose several perfect photos out of the hundreds they take. Musicians work hard as they continue to play, read, write music and/or sing. No matter what form it is in, the arts matter.

Why do I love musicals? Because they tell a story, they inspire people and they are a joy to watch. The cast and crew work hard and I have learned to appreciate them. I fell in love with musical theater at a young age and it just grew from there. Eventually, it was something I had a passion for and wanted to critique. It all started with “CATS” and “Phantom.”

“Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” Review



Witness the magic of J.K. Rowling’s world of “Harry Potter” once more in “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them.” The film stars Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne (“Les Misérables,” “The Theory of Everything” and “The Danish Girl”) as Newt, Katherine Waterston (“Steve Jobs”) as Tina, Alison Sudol as Queenie, Dan Fogler as Kowalski and Colin Ferrell as Graves. The movie is Rowling’s screen writing debut and was directed by David Yates.

Taking place before the events of the original “Harry Potter” stories, “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” revolves around Newt Scamander, a wizard from London who sets sail to America with a suitcase full of magical creatures. Chaos ensues when some of Newt’s animals escape and magic is on the verge of being exposed to “No-majs” (non-magical people).

Eddie Redmayne was amazing as Newt. He did a great job portraying the character as a shy and somewhat reserved man, but it was very clear how much he loved and cared about his creatures. Newt is one of the best heroes in the “Harry Potter” universe, because not only is he relatable, he has a good heart.

Dan Fogler did a great job as Jacob Kowalski, a No-maj who gets thrown into the magical world he never knew existed and becomes friends with Newt. Kowalski was a perfect new character for the “Harry Potter” universe. He is funny, smart and Fogler portrayed him wonderfully as man in awe of everything involving magic. We were all Jacob at one point, even Harry Potter himself.

Katherine Waterston and Alison Sudol were great as the two sisters Tina and Queenie. Tina was the introduction to the American wizard world and explains the laws to Newt. She is stern and obeys the wizard laws, but is also compassionate.  Queenie is Tina’s sister, who is quick to befriend Newt and Jacob and is more carefree. Waterston and Sudol did a great job playing two different characters who balance each other out.

Colin Ferrell did a good job as Graves, an Auror who is in charge of finding the magical creatures and arresting Newt for releasing them. All the while he is trying to protect wizards and the world of magic from being discovered by No-majs.

The best thing about “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” is the audience does not have to see the “Harry Potter” films or have read the books to understand what is happening. This film is it’s own separate story with a different setting and new phrases. J.K. Rowling did a great job introducing fans and non-fans to America’s world of magic.

Unlike most of my friends, I did not grow up reading “Harry Potter” or watching the films. When I finally read the first book it did not take long for me to start the second and so on. Once I finished all seven novels I watched the movies on DVD and like most people I know, I was very excited when the script for the West End production of “Cursed Child” was released in book form.

Going to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”in theaters  was a whole new experience for me because I finally understood the hype. What made it even better was I got to watch it with my best friend who loves that I became a “Harry Potter” fan.

“Fantastic Beasts” is something new that still gives the feeling that we (the fans) are watching a story from the “Harry Potter” universe. Since the setting is in America, we are learning new phrases, seeing what the American wizard world is like and are introduced to new characters. It is a great spin-off, with a phenomenal cast and I, like many others, am anxiously waiting for the sequel.

“Phantom of the Opera” 30th Anniversary Finale Performance

After hours of anticipation, “The Phantom of the Opera’s” 30th anniversary finale performance was live streamed on FaceBook on October 10, 2016. The event was live streamed so that  people from all around the world with access to the popular social media account could watch the video live on the show’s page.

The special event took place in London at Her Majesty’s Theatre after the show ended for the night. It featured current and former “Phantom” actors, as well as the creator and composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber with producer, Cameron Mackintosh.

The event started with a video of some history and former interviews. Then, two of the cast members literally unveiled Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh. The two gentlemen went on to talk about the original cast, the music and failed attempts with live animals and robotic rats. It was very easy to tell the two are close and have been friends for a long time.

After the two finished speaking, Webber went to his piano and out came Sierra cuczpkbueaarknw-jpg-smallBoggess, an actress who has played Christine several times in various productions, including the 25th Anniversary, which was filmed and released on DVD. Boggess is a current cast member of the Paris production, which has unfortunately been delayed.

Boggess gave a beautiful French rendition of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” and switched to English for the last verse. I do not speak French so I could not tell if her pronunciation was correct or not, but she sang beautifully. Her voice has definitely improved since the “Phantom” 25th anniversary release.

Just when you think it cannot get any better, former London Raoul,  Michael Ball, stepped out to sing “All I Ask of You” along with current cast members Celinde Schoenmaker (Christine) and Nadim Naaman (Raoul). Not only was the trio incredibly talented, but they were also hilarious.

Ball came in with his big, beautiful voice, all the while having fun with the song by havingcufjszyueaijeju-jpg-small a “bromance” moment with Webber, who was at the piano. Schoenmaker came in for the next verse, then Naaman and the two Raouls started playfully fighting over Christine. It ended with Ball and Naaman pushing Schoenmaker aside and fishing the last chorus while embracing. Can you say Raoul-mance?

After the most hilarious version of “All I Ask of You” I have ever seen, the title song began to play and current cast members, Celinde Schoenmaker and Ben Forster (Phantom) entered, then the members of the Paris production, Sierra Boggess (Christine) and Gardar Thor Cortes (Phantom). Joining the two duos was former Phantom, John Owen-Jones and current standby for the title role, Scott Davis.

The two Christines and four Phantoms were absolutely amazing. Cortes and Boggess were fantastic. It was nice to hear the Paris cast sing a couple of the lines in French. Schoenmaker and Forster were mesmerizing and had the best chemistry. John Owen-Jones was perfect and Davis was great. I cannot imagine a better sextet (group of six people).

The final number was a short version of “Masquerade” with the cast. Once it was over, the special guests and original cast and crew, including Michael Crawford, came out to sing “Happy Birthday” to the show.

Overall, the finale was amazing. My only complaint is that the four Phantoms did not sing the hit song, “Music of the Night,” which would have been lovely to hear in French by Cortes and we would have been able to hear the actors’ individual voices.

I loved watching the cast members perform and it was great to get a little taste of the Paris production. I feel extremely thankful to have been one of many to watch the finale live stream on FaceBook alongside many other fans. Here’s to 30 more years “Phantom.”

“Witness” movie review


When Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), a young widow, and her young son, Samuel (Lucas Haas) take a trip to Philadelphia, their lives are forever changed. After Samuel witnesses a murder scene, he must help Detective John Book (Harrison Ford) find the man.

After Book becomes wounded during a confrontation, he must stay with Rachel and Samuel’s Amish family while recovering and remain hidden to keep the boy safe. During their time together, John and Rachel fall in love.

“Witness” is a 1985 film starring Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Danny Glover and Patti LuPone. Among it’s many nominations and wins, it was nominated for eight Oscars and won two for “Best Original Screenplay” and “Best Film Editing.”

Despite it’s high praise and becoming a hit at the box office after it’s fifth week in theaters, it was not a favorite among the Amish community due inaccuracy and fear of bringing in more tourists to their location. The movie was boycotted upon its release, which caused Pennsylvania governor, Dick Thornburgh, to make an agreement to never promote Amish communities in the future.

This was Harrison Ford’s big break out of the sci-fi/fantasy genre and he was nominated for his first and only Academy Award. At the time this was a new territory for him and fans who knew him as Han Solo and/or Indiana Jones. Many people on social media have said this to be some of his best acting.

The film has some humorous moments, such as when Harrison Ford was in an Amish outfit and the first time his character milked a cow. There were more funny moments, but these are the two that stood out. It helped that Ford made hilarious facial expressions when the situation called for it.

While the movie is filled with suspense, action and romance, it shows not only what it is like to be an outsider in a community different than your own, but also when two different worlds come together. One man is an independent detective from Philadelphia who brings in and carries a gun. The other is a non-violent and VERY religious group of people who live away from the big city, do not use modern technology and work together.

As a Christian who has learned about different denominations, it was nice to see John Book’s character development. At the beginning of the movie he looks baffled and awkward the first time he sees Rachel and Samuel pray over a meal and then at the film’s climax he appears to have an understanding of the religion.

It does not take long for John and Rachel to fall for each other, however, it is forbidden because of her belief and customs. Despite their differences, they have some very cute moments. My favorite part in particular is the dancing scene, it is very sweet and shows John’s fun side. Harrison Ford can sing a bit too. Who knew?


There was one moment in the film that crossed a line for me. It was a rather intimate scene between John and Rachel as he watched her through a window while he was outside and their eyes meet. As powerful as it was meant to be, it made him look like a stalker.

The acting was phenomenal and and the story had a great buildup with powerful moments. I loved seeing Patti Lupone (original “Les Misérables” London cast) in the film almost as much as I enjoyed watching a young Harrison Ford in what is known as one of his best performances.

The ending was not what I expected, and I am usually pretty good at predicting those. It was more realistic compared to most Hollywood romance films. I would highly recommend it if you are a fan of thrillers, romance or just Harrison Ford movies in general. Catch it on Netflix while you can.

“Phantom of the Opera” 2004 v.s. 25th Anniversary

“The Phantom of the Opera” is a story about love, seduction and mystery. Over the years there have been countless film versions, including the 2004 movie based off the 1986 musical adaption. For the 25th anniversary of the stage show, the London performance was filmed at the Royal Albert Hall and released on DVD months later.

The movie is now considered below par among most “Phans” who love the stage show. Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum and Patrick Wilson starred in it and Joel Schumacher directed it.

Watching the film now, I have noticed a few things I did not a few years ago. The leads are not as impressive as I thought previously, and a few things do not make sense, one of them is the “Point of No Return” scene. It looks as if Christine is plotting her own plan, rather than being scared like in the stage show.

After years of the 2004 movie being the only source to view the musical when it was not on tour, it was a surprise when the “Phantom” team announced the 25th anniversary of the stage show would be recorded and released on DVD in 2011 for the U.K. and 2012 for the U.S.

The 25th anniversary starred Ramin Karimloo, Sierra Boggess and Hadley Fraser as the lead roles. Karimloo and Boggess had been in different productions of “Phantom” and co-stared in the “Phantom” sequel, “Love Never Dies.” Fraser was the only actor of the three who had no experience with the show.

Butler and Karimloo played the Phantom differently, however, Karimloo portrayed the role on West End and had more experience. He made the role his own and has a fantastic voice.

Butler is more of an actor than a singer, which is not good considering the role is vocally demanding and the Phantom is meant to have an angelic voice. Schumacher chose Butler because of his looks, rather than his voice and told him to “make it sexy” during filming.

The Phantom is not meant to be a physically handsome man. The character’s voice and skills as a musician are what make him beautiful. His desire for love and to have an undeformed face are what make him human and depending on who portrays the Phantom, he can be a bit childlike. While these are traits that make the audience love him, he is meant to be insane, angry and murderous, which is why people in the show fear him.

Boggess and Rossum are very different in their portrayals of Christine. Like Karimloo, Boggess had previously played her role and is considered a fan favorite. She has an incredible soprano voice and put a lot of emotion into the character.

Rossum was 16 years old at the time of filming for the 2004 movie and while she is a good actress, there was not a lot of emotion in her voice, which is an important aspect of the show. Her version of “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” is mediocre and I did not hear the sadness or desperation that the song requires when I last watched the film.

Christine is vocally and physically demanding role. The character has the most stage time; she is a ballet dancer and hits the highest note in the musical (E6). Throughout the show the audience can see her character development, as she goes from being shy and innocent to a woman who is not afraid to stand up for herself.

Stage actors, Fraser and Wilson are very different in their portrayals of Raoul. Fraser’s Raoul tended to come off as rude, angry and a bit unemotional. He is not my favorite and it did not help he was playing Javert in the stage version of “Les Misérables” at the time. However, he had the right look and he has a great voice. He would make a fantastic Phantom if he ever decided to portray the role.

Originally, Wilson auditioned for the Phantom, but was given the role of Raoul. He did a great job with the character and had a good voice to match. Unfortunately, his long and distracting wig often overshadows this.

Raoul is the anti-Phantom. He is handsome, young and his love for Christine is pure. He will risk his own life for the woman he loves and is not intimidated by the Phantom. Depending on who plays the role, Raoul is either likable or hated. It all comes down to the actor.

The biggest hit or miss for any “Phantom” film is the deformity. Why is this important?

  • It is a part of the Phantom’s appearance
  • It is part of the reason why the Phantom is bitter and angry at the world
  • It is the reason why the Phantom is insecure
  • It gives Christine a reason to fear him in the first act
  • It is a mystery to the audience until nearly the end of the musical
  • It shows the makeup artist’s talent

A “Phan’s” definition of a good deformity means the Phantom’s face has to look hideous and he must have very little hair. We saw it in the anniversary; unfortunately, we received the exact opposite in the 2004 film. The Phantom had a head full of blonde hair and the deformity looked like a sunburn.

The sets in both films are different. The movie has a more realistic set design, including a few ideas from the novel, which I love. The look for the opera house was very well done, especially for the stage. I liked the underground lair and the Phantom’s organ.

The 25th anniversary included props from the original stage show. Unfortunately, some of them had to be left out, but the cast was able to work around it. Personally, I prefer this set because it gives the audience the magic of the musical.

I grew up with the 2004 version of “Phantom,” but the 25th anniversary is my favorite. It introduced me to actors I did not know of in 2012 and it gave me a higher appreciation for people involved in theater. It is fantastic and is a must have for any fan of the stage show or movie.

“Kinky Boots” tour review


“Kinky Boots” is one of the several musicals I have gone to see without any previous knowledge of the plot, setting, music, etc. I saw the show for the first time on February 13, 2016 when it came to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and I enjoyed it.

The musical, “Kinky Boots” is based off the 2005 film of the same name. The music was written by singer/songwriter, Cyndi Lauper and won six Tony awards in 2013, including “Best Musical.” It also won “Best Musical Theater Album” at the Grammys in 2014.

Charlie Price (Adam Kaplan) has no choice but to take over his family’s shoe making business after the death of his father. As he tries to come up with ideas to save the shop, one night he stumbles upon Lola (J. Harrison Ghee), a drag queen who tells him after one of the club shows that his/her expensive heels are always breaking. After the meeting, Price conjures up the idea to make high heel boots designed for men and offers Lola a position as the designer.

As the story continues, Price and Lola form a friendship and begin to understand each other. They discover they are more alike than they thought when they speak of their childhood and fathers. Price also learns to accept not only Lola’s work that could help save his family business, but her as a person.

Adam Kaplan did a great job as Charlie Price. He had a strong and fantastic voice that seemed to suit the character. His vocal abilities really shone in the song “Soul of a Man.”

J. Harrison Ghee was phenomenal as Lola. He had a fantastic voice.One of the best songs he sang was “Hold Me in Your Heart.” The actor gave a good insight to the character and the struggles Lola went through in his life as a man who likes to cross dress. Ghee did a great job portraying Lola with the correct amount of sassiness and flair.

NOTE: Please forgive any incorrect use of “he” or “she” regarding Lola.

The entire cast did a great job and I especially loved seeing Aaron Walpole as Don. I saw Walpole while he was in “Les Misérables” on Broadway, it was great to see him playing a hilarious character with more stage time.

I thought “Kinky Boots” was pretty good and it met my expectations. It was not a show I was familiar with like I was with “The Phantom of the Opera,” “West Side Story” or “Les Miserables.” All I knew when I went into the show was that “Kinky Boots” involved drag queens. It made me laugh, and I thought the music and choreography were great. I enjoyed the message the story gave of learning to accept others who are different than you.