When was the last time I uploaded something? Yeah, sorry about that... But, I have no excuse. So, I will try my best to upload more frequently, and deliver what you want. Well, that's that. This is short, I know. Be on the look out for more posts.
Mosquitoland is David Arnold's debut novel. It is a contemporary novel centering around Mary Iris Malone, dubbed Mim, on a long road-trip expedition back to Cleveland, Ohio to see her mom again after her parents going through a divorce. Along the way, Mim recounts her life and all the chapters and moments in between her birth and now. Until she discovers some shattering truths, Mim roams the streets back to Cleveland, not only in search of her mother, but of herself.
Okay, that's my fancy summary. Now my review. All right, kids, get comfy. Because I'm gonna talk about why I loved and disliked this book. Okay, best friends, this book started out so strongly. Like, she just grabs her stuff and hops on a bus! WHOA! What a bad-donkey! She then gets on the bus, and meets a cast of characters, including everybody's favorite old lady, ARLENE!!! I really loved Arlene's character, because she was just so charming. Then we meet Beck, Walter, and a few other characters that I really, really LOVED. Except for Penny Loafer Guy. I hated him. This book had such a strong concept, such strong and FUNNY characters (I absolutely LOVED Mim's voice), and the writing wasn't SUPER elegant, but that just embodied Mim even more. So applause, David, applause. However, the plot fell flat. There were a whole ton of unnecessary adventures (these were fun to read, but all in all, unnecessary) in the middle to the near end that didn't hold so much significance to the story like the baseball game. Conflict arises from the question: what is our protagonist fighting for? Mim wasn't really fighting for much. And when I mean fighting for, I mean normally, there should be a struggle. Mim was in good conditions to hop on a bus or plane to Cleveland. In other words, there was no struggle. She was still fighting, but the battle was easily won. That ending... It just sorta came out of nowhere. Like what with her mom and the thing with Kathy. It felt awkward, and out of place, underdeveloped, and not at all shocking or breathtaking. It just felt... kinda weird. To wrap it up, I enjoyed the start of this book, but then after a while it began to lose its magic over me. However, if you decide to read Mosquitoland, I hope you enjoy it! Or I hope you agree with my opinion, because who doesn't love it when someone agrees with you?? Thanks for reading! :)
- Alexander Lilly
Alright, everyone, I'll be honest here, I am obsessed with New York. This is gonna be a long one. Okay, kids, now huddle around Grandma, close to the warm fire, and get ready for some STORYTIME!
My obsession for New York started when I went on a NY trip during Summer 2016, where my family and I saw Les Misérables (the actors were not as amazing as they should have been), Finding Neverland (which I absolutely loved), School of Rock (which was an absolute waste of time and money, just to watch kids, yes, who could play instruments, but had no acting experience whatsoever), and Chicago (which was amazing; all the actors were triple threats). It was a great trip! We stayed at a luxurious hotel, Marriott Marquis, and really had fun! We also visited the Guggenheim museum, which had beautiful paintings, and wonderful architecture. After that trip, I was hungry for more, and so was everyone else.
We had decided to go back during Thanksgiving Break, but this time, we'd go to Brooklyn! We were considering moving, and decided to start there, where there is more residence area than in Manhattan. One of the main reasons for wanting to live there was that my sister and I loved performing, and it's been our lifelong dream to perform. We had looked at a couple of houses in one neighborhood, and we continued looking around a bit. That break, we, once again, drove over the bridge into Manhattan, and we saw Waitress, Kinky Boots, and Fiddler On The Roof. I loved them all, but Waitress rose to the top for me. In second place, Kinky Boots, and in third, Fiddler On The Roof. Waitress was such a meaningful story that was so real and current, and the world needed this to break free of our chains and past. I loved it! Kinky Boots sent the message of being who you are inside, even if it's different, and that you don't have to live by the rules. Many people believe that if you take a different path, you don't succeed. You do, only in a different way. It was a great and entertaining show! Fiddler On The Roof, which closed in December, was not what I had in mind. Having been my first time seeing that show, the bar was set high. It wasn't what I got. The actors were not amazing, and it really lacked of energy and enthusiasm to put on this whirlwind of a show. Having said that, we had completely decided that we were moving to Brooklyn soon.
After the Thanksgiving trip, my sister and I developed a love for Waitress, and learned all about it. We also learned that every now and then, the show hosts Cast Album Karaoke, an event where names are pulled at random to sing onstage. That time, it was even going to be hosted by Sara Bareilles, the composer of Waitress! We couldn't say no, and eventually we went to New York for three days! The original plan for that break, Christmas Break, was that we'd go up to see our relatives in New England. We decided that, a few days after Cast Album Karaoke, we'd do a road trip up to our family. That day, we flew in and saw the show in the evening. It was SPECTACULAR, as always. Then, they began to tell everyone where the sign-up girls were. We went and gave them our names, and they put the paper in a bucket, to be drawn at random. We went a second time after already five people performed, and the girl, this time, took the paper, and put the paper on the staircase next to her. We realized it wasn't a good thing after four more people went up. Once the fourth girl left the stage, my Mom came up with the brilliant idea to call attention to Sara, and tell her what happened. The girl in the green velvet dress left the stage and as Sara was keeping the audience tame, I took my chance! I was at the front corner of the stage and put my hand up. I told her that the girl took my paper, and I thought she threw it away. Sara asked me if I thought it was my turn to sing, and I said YES. I invited my sister up onstage, and we sang She Used To Be Mine together. It was a wonderful night; we left with a tingling feeling in our knees! I know that I just wrote 11 lines about Cast Album Karaoke, but I'll make sure to post a detailed blog post about it. During the Thanksgiving Break, we wanted to see a show titled Natasha, Pierre, & The Great Comet of 1812, which became sold out the minute we got to the box office. Instead, we saw Fiddler. But, we had two extra days left in New York, and we decided to go to the box office early and snag our tickets to The Great Comet. And, we did. And, it was a total ripoff. I know many people who have seen the show will hate my review here, but this is all my opinion. The music wasn't very wonderful. The notes, in my opinion, were very clashy, and it all generally sounded bad as a song. When you think the song is over, it isn't! NOPE! During a song that even I also thought was over, the man next to me started clapping lightly, and then the song continued dramatically. The stage was in an odd, but very cool, formation and had no room for furniture. Ultimately, the songs narrated the scenes. EVERY SINGLE SCENE. My memory may be fuzzy, but I believe I remember a song that said, "I sit down on the couch, and I sob. *PAUSE* She sits down on the couch and she sobs." The music and notes written were not creative, and ditto for the lyrics. The acting was.. mild. Josh Groban was not phenomenal, in my opinion, but was excellent. Not phenomenal, but excellent. Denée Benton was not as good as I expected she would be; her facial expression always seemed either innocent or blank. When her role was happy and excited for love, she would interpret it wrong. She also overacted quite a bit. The plot was not much. She falls in love with another man while she is engaged, but another man in the town loves her as well. It is very boring. No real conflict. Nothing that changes. The only thing that I liked about this show was the interaction between the cast and the audience. There are aisles paved out in the middle of the mezzanine or orchestra where the cast will run through, and dance in, right next to you! I sat in the front row of the mezzanine, and there was not a front row of the mezzanine. They took out the chairs so that the cast could also dance and walk through that aisle as well. But, there's more! There is a big staircase leading up to the mezzanine from the stage, where the actors come in. There is also onstage seating! The stage is elevated, and on each step, there is another row of seats on the left and right. These seats are designed like they are in a booth at a restaurant: they are cushion-y and have a table in front on them. There is a space in the center where the actors, basically, act. On the flat part of the stage, which is downstage, there are a few pits hollowed out. One where Josh Groban spends most of his time in, one for the orchestra, and a few where the audience can sit, also with seats designed with cushions and tables. Overall, this show is not very creative, except for the fact that there is a whole lot of interaction. After the show, we drove up to our family for Christmas!
By now, you might be thinking, "Woah. Another paragraph? Seriously? This guy has been to New York way too many times." Yes, I know that, and I am proud. Anyway, I was browsing Playbill.com, and found that they would be auditioning young boys (who were my age) for the part of Young Harry Potter in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway! I was flabbergasted! They barely ever want kids on Broadway! We had go, and when I say go, we had to go. We went to New York, me, my sister, and my Dad, on a Sunday. I really had a hankering deep down in my heart to see Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, and I begged my Dad to secure tickets for that night, but it was too late (It's Too Late is actually a Carole King hit, ohhhh, the puns!). Anywho, the next day, we had the audition. It was an Equity audition (Equity equals the people who have been on Broadway), Non-Equity (people who haven't been on Broadway yet; it was obvious, haven't you caught on yet?) could still go and wait and see if the Casting Directors had time for Non-Equity. We arrived that Monday. We woke up at around 4:50 a.m. and had Starbucks for breakfast. We arrived at Pearl Studios (the location for the auditions) at around 6:00 a.m. to find the joy of a huge line that stretched around the corner! SURPRISE! After waiting outside for about 45 minutes, we finally got inside, and waited in the lobby for another 40 minutes just to get onto the elevator. ANOTHER SURPRISE! We entered the packed Holding Room, and nobody could stop stepping on other human beings. It was extremely cramped, and had no room. We waited about two hours in that stupid Holding Room, eating our leftover Starbucks (which were crumbs), and running lines. 10:00 a.m. is when the audition officially started. The audition man walked into the room, and ten minutes later, announced, "After thinking about it, and seeing how many Equity members signed up, we decided we will not be seeing Non-Equity today." SURPRISE! It was horrible. When all the Non-Equity people had started leaving the building a few minutes later, we wouldn't give up yet. We stormed up to the man (an exaggeration) and said, "If we came back at the end, could the Directors take five more minutes to audition us? It will not take long at all. It's our dream, and we came all the way from Texa-". He cut us off with, "I'm sorry, but I can't do anything about it. Come back tomorrow, and cross your fingers." SURPRISE! Our flight was "tomorrow". SURPRISE! We weren't giving up that easily. SURPRISE! We rescheduled the flight to Wednesday. That trip was not meant to include a Broadway show, but I had a real hankering deep down in my heart to see one. Normally, Broadway shows do not have performances on Mondays. But, there are exceptions. And Wicked was one of them. We went to the Gershwin Theatre that night. TO SEE WICKED. We saw it. 8/10. The music wasn't creative (No, it wasn't written by the composer of The Great Comet). The opening song was just completely flat, and had no texture and enthusiasm. The actors had enthusiasm, but not the song. The only song that stood out was Defying Gravity, and we all knew it was going to happen. The actors were amazing, and the effects were even better! The script was average. Not bad, not phenomenal. Overall, it was a great show. Not the best on Broadway, but it was very good. The next day, Tuesday, we arrived at the audition and went through the same process as Monday. We woke up at 4:30 a.m. this time, and left at 5:15 a.m., heading to Starbucks. We arrived at Pearl Studios at 5:30 a.m., and MAN! 30 minutes can do a lot... We arrived to a short line, and waited for 15 minutes to get in. Then, another 15 minutes for the elevator. At 6:00 a.m., we got into the Holding Room and snagged a seat. We waited four hours, and heard a miracle: "We will be seeing as many Non-Equity as possible today." Of course, Equity was treated first. Beautiful had a show that night. I found out about Rush Tickets, where you stand in line outside at the Box Office, and can snag cheap Orchestra tickets to a show. I told my Dad that he had to go. At 9:00 a.m., he did, and told us he'd be back at around 10:15 a.m., so we waited. My sister and I were outside of the Holding Room in that floor's lobby, and we made conversation with a woman who was waiting for her audition. She was Equity. I thought Equity members would be HUGE snobs, but she was really sweet! She told us that next door, they would be hosting "Ragtime" auditions, and my sister and I would fit these two parts perfectly! We obviously wanted to take this chance! Our Dad arrived at 10:00-ish, and told my sister and I he'd received a call from Mom telling him it was a bad idea to leave us at the audition alone, even with 300 people there. She told him to go back to Pearl Studios immediately. The best part was that he had received this call right before it was his turn. No Beautiful tickets. I was sad, but my sister wanted this "Ragtime" opportunity. We looked it up, and it was true! Two hours passed, and the "auditioners" were dismissed for their Lunch Break. We got lunch, and looked into this "Ragtime" thing. I had a weird feeling about it; I don't know why. After our quick lunch, we arrived at the "Ragtime" audition, and signed up. They started calling a few of the 10 people in the room. 5 minutes later, I realized the bad vibe I got from that audition was pure luck. The "Ragtime" audition was in that building, but we had signed up in the wrong audition. The thing we signed up for wasn't actually going to have performances in New York. I found out all rehearsals and performances would take place in Ohio. OHIO!! As for the REAL "Ragtime", I looked into that information closer, and, yes, the auditions would take place in New York. But, all rehearsals and performances would take place in Vermont. VERMONT!! Not just Vermont, but in the middle of the woods in Vermont. THE WOODS IN VERMONT!! We dashed back to Pearl Studios right as Lunch Break had finished, and saw a huge crowd of people trying to get on the elevators. There were literally 150 people trying to leave Pearl Studios. WHAT HAPPENED?! You have the chance to be on Broadway, and you're leaving?! My parents thought hard, and realized that if we want to get on Broadway, we need to live in Manhattan, not Brooklyn. So, my Dad had to leave right that second to go to an appointment to see an apartment. My COOL AUNT, who lived in New York, would look after us for the time being. She came five minutes after my Dad left, mostly because of all the people on the elevators trying to leave. We talked to her, and my sister and I decided to ask the audition man if he had any idea when the Casting Directors would be seeing Non-Equity. He told us, "Oh, you didn't hear? We dismissed Non-Equity a while ago. Come back tomorrow." That explained all the people leaving. AND, WHAT?!? EXCUSE ME?!? THIS IS MY DREAM ON THE LINE, BUT NO! WE'RE NOT SEEING NON-EQUITY TODAY!!!!!!! It was... disappointing. We quickly called our Dad to come back, and pick us up, because we weren't going to wait another hour in that place. He picked us up, late for the apartment meeting. We said goodbye to our COOL AUNT, and hopped aboard the Uber train. We were 45 minutes late to the appointment for the apartment, but WHO CARED? The chicken tenders we ate the night before? Yeah, them... It was a nice apartment... We left, and I asked my Dad if he could get tickets for Beautiful, since we were free that night. SURPRISE! We weren't free. My Dad had a business demo, and it ran from 5:30 to 7:00 (when Beautiful starts), which is quoting him. We arrived at the hotel at around 5:00, in enough time for my Dad to set up his computer. The universe was in my favor that night, because my Dad had received an email that day saying the customers had to reschedule the demo to Friday, because something came up. My dad replied saying, "That's okay. You actually just made my son's day!" We purchased tickets, and watched Food Network to pass the hour and a half. I had a grin on my face the entire time. Beautiful is a wonderful show all about Carole King's life, and the hope she found in songwriting with her husband, Gerry Goffin, and the obstacles she had to face, and the world that did not go her way. She had to climb out of it, and face the truth. 9.3/10. It was wonderful. I loved how the songs were not written by a composer, but they were just Carole King's hits! The actors were amazing, and truly embodied the show very well. The script included many funny moments, and it was a wonderful show in general. There was so much energy, and you were really there. Anyway, we woke up early in the morning. No, not for the audition, but our flight. That day was the final day of auditions, and we left New York City with a lot of regret. That day was also my little brother's birthday, and we couldn't afford to miss it. We learned a lot from that experience, especially people make mistakes, you will not be accepted into an audition the minute you stroll in there, and you must be open to rejection. When a door closes, another opens.
I have not been to New York since February, the whole audition trip. But, I did sell baked goods in my neighborhood door-to-door, trying to gain $5,000 to see Jessie Mueller in Waitress before she left. She probably wouldn't be doing a show for the next year or two, and she does like to mentor children. I really thought that she could help find us an agent, or connections could bring my sister and I to Broadway, and we could just be her best friend. I wouldn't give up on that idea, until the day finally came where she left Waitress, and I knew there would be no going to New York at all. It was crazy, trying to make $5,000 from baked goods, but I'm an optimist. Although, I did make a good $80. I was proud of my hard work, but wasn't going to bring up the baked goods idea again, especially if I wanted to make a lot of money. It wasn't a bad idea...
I am on Spring Break this week, and will soon post a funny video on YouTube in hopes that it'll become viral. My babysitter has 1,000 followers on Twitter, and could possibly help pass it on. If enough people watch it (enough = 1,500,000), I could get enough money to go to New York this week. If I do go, I will write all about it in another blog post. If not, I'll still write about it in another blog post. So, I'll write about it in another blog post regardless of if I go or not. Well, this is the end. I've spent a week writing this, and it's sad to let go. But, when a door closes, another opens, right? So, goodbye! You've just spent maybe 20 minutes or longer reading this, and I hope you really enjoyed those 20 minutes or longer. When you have a break, go to New York! You'll have the time of your life. I am glad you spent some of your life reading this, and I'm glad I spent some of my life writing this! Well, I hope you liked this, and learned about New York, and my experiences with it!! In conclusion, have a good life. Always find a lesson and learn from your mistakes. Enjoy this world as much as you can, like I have with New York!
I have decided that my "Book of the Month" blog posts will be less frequent because I have drifted closer to Broadway and such... I mean, I haven't announced it before, but, come on, everyone, it's been like this for the past few months, so, this is not a big surprise! Well, that was a short post, but, there are longer ones in the works. Prepare yourself. :)
I promised that I would write a post about this, so here goes..
Cast Album Karaoke is something that Broadway's Waitress does. It is an event where, if you sign up, name are pulled from a hat, and whoever's name is pulled (there are more than one karaoke-ers) get to go up onstage with the host (he/she varies from time to time), and sing part of a song from Waitress in front of the audience after the show. If you are interested in doing this, check on the Waitress social media everyday to find out when the next Cast Album Karaoke is; they are not every night, just on certain chosen dates.
While scrolling through the Waitress Twitter page last December, my sister and I came upon a Cast Album Karaoke notification. We were skeptical, and had no idea what it was. We looked it up, and looked through past Cast Album Karaoke articles to find out what it was, and we did. We were super excited, and really really wanted to go. Soon enough, we bought tickets for that night. We watched Jessie Mueller slay, as always. The show ended way too quickly, mostly because I was terribly nervous.
The voice over announced Cast Album Karaoke would be starting shortly, and I felt my heart pounding in my chest. Five minutes later, Sara Bareilles walked onstage in front of a thousand screaming fans. She gave a little introduction, and then, everybody was screaming that she pick them. I was participating in this screaming, as well, but I didn't scream too crazily. I didn't want to ruin my voice, and I was already sick (Did I mention that I was sick? I don't think so, but now you know. It was a small cold, nothing too bad..)! Sara chose the first contestant, and then said she wouldn't choose anybody else for it was too much pressure. She told us there was a corner just to the right of the stage where there were two girls signing people up to sing. Of course nobody went immediately, since we all thought she would choose somebody again. After two participants performed, we all realized the jig was up. Everybody rushed to the right of the stage to sign up. One of the sign-up girls said, "Oh, you two (indicating my sister and I) should sing together; your chances will be higher!" Although we both planned on singing different songs, we came to the choice to sing the ballad "She Used to Be Mine" together.
After about another five minutes of not being picked, we went back to the sign-up area to sign up again. This time, we were helped by one of the actors in the show. We complimented him, and he was really, really sweet. While we're talking to him, there's a note card in his hand (which we thought could have been our sign-up card), and he's placing it on a step on the staircase that is right next to him. If it is our sign-up card, either he was taking our name out of the cards so that we don't get a chance to sing, or he is taking our card to show that he "drew our card" and we'd be singing next. We don't know what happened, but two more contestants went by, and we weren't singing.
Time was RUNNING OUT, and when I say running out, I mean RUNNING OUT. We needed to sing; it was our dream to sing on that stage! We realized that at the sign-up area, there was a door right behind it. A door leading to BACKSTAGE. A door that was not guarded. A door to slip through when someone's entering to sing, and a door that would help us stay backstage. My mom sent my sister to slip through with someone, and pretend she was with them. When that someone left the stage though, three girls backstage were yelling at my sister, saying, "You can't be here!", "Get out!", "No way!", so I'm calling them the Mean Girls. My sister didn't have very much luck backstage dealing with the Mean Girls, so my mom told me to grab Sara's attention. Just like she told me to, I stood at the foot of the stage, and when a girl in a cute velvet dress walked off, my hand shot up. She sang a teensy little tune, "Cast Album Karaoke...", but then saw my hand. "Yes?" WOAH. HOLY MOLE. C'mon Alex, this is the moment of truth. OPEN YO' MOUTH!!! I'm choking up at this point for some undecided reason, and say, "Um, when we were signing up, they, um, took my card, and placed it on the stair next to me, and I, um, I think they took it." It was really disconnected, and I sounded like a constipated goat-pig taking a dump. I don't know if I even said exactly that, but I tried to say something like that.
"So you think it's your turn to sing?" Sara asked. Okay, okay, okay. Normally, Alex (me, duh) would pretend to be modest and say "No, but I mean..." and trail off into awkward modesty. I quickly examined my options, and asked myself, Wait. Hold up, do you think it's your turn to sing? Like actually, do you? Why, yes, Alex, we've been through so much trouble, so I do think it's my turn to sing. I turn to Sara and say, "Nah, fam, it's a'ight." Then, we leave, and eat ice cream. THE END! Nope, that's not what happened. I wish, though... Do you, Alex, do you really wish? No, I don't.
I nod, and she motions for me to hop up onto the stage. I say, "Oh, I'm singing with my sister, Isadora." MEANWHILE, Izzy is backstage dealing with dem MEAN GIRLS. She's literally yelling at them, "That's my brother on stage!" REGINA GEOERGE: "No, honey, stop lying." ALEX: "Um, I'm singing with my sister, Isadora." SARA: "Isadora? Isadora? Where are you? Isadora?" IZZY: "That's me! That's my name! They're calling MY NAME! See?! I told you!" GRETCHEN: "Ugh, whatever. This karaoke thing isn't even FETCH, anyway."
Oh, Izzy, I hope you never get cast in Waitress and have to deal with them MEAN GIRLS, 'cause, whoopdidoo, wouldn't that just be awkward??
We get on stage and talk to Sara a wee bit, and hug her, and we sing She Used To Be Mine. And dang, I think we did a pretty good job at it.
To be honest, that was one of the most surreal nights of my life. I felt like I was floating, and the joy and ecstasy would never end. Sara later then complimented us, and she was so sweet, and it was amazing we even got on stage. But we really wanted it, and we didn't stop believing in ourselves, even to the point where we defeated Regina. Or at least, Izzy did.
She gave us #1 Prize Pies (we couldn't keep them, because they were props in the show), and said, "Now that's what we wait for at Cast Album Karaoke." She ended the show with us! We went offstage, and some of the cast was in the wings and congratulated us. Drew Gehling, who played Dr. Pomatter (and is absotootly amazing) invited us to stay backstage to watch Sara sing the final number of the night, one of her bestselling hits, "Brave," which is a LEGENDARY song. Then, Drew walked off for a minute, and the MEAN GIRLS kicked us out! Ah, dagnab, they had the last laugh!
Cast Album Karaoke was an amazing night; solid 10/10, Mean Girls and all, just because they added some SPICE and FLAVOR to the night. I hope everyone in the world has at least one crazy night of complete bliss and magic, just like I did.
- Alexander Lilly
P.S. I would put the link to the live stream of that night's cast Album Karaoke RIGHT HERE, but guess what's so DANDY? They deleted it! *insert sigh*
P.P.S. Welp, thanks for reading!!
P.P.P.S. And thanks for hanging around 'til the P.S.s (how to make that plural, I don't know)!