Thursday, April 22, 2010


Back in 1978, my Dad took my friends and I to see the movie Grease. Little did I know that I would never be the same. I'm not kidding, my friends and I fell in love with this movie. I wanted to be like Olivia Newton-John. While I looked nothing like her (I wasn't blonde, beautiful, couldn't sing, plus I was only seven years old!), my friends and I pretended to be the Pink Ladies, and argued over who got to be Sandy. When we played Grease, we would break into song like the characters in the movie. We played the soundtrack over and over again until it was scratched. We debated over whether we liked the "old" Sandy or the "new" Sandy better. My bedroom was wallpapered with Grease posters. When the sequel Grease 2 was released a few years later, it was a colossal flop at the box office, but we loved it! Yes, Grease was the word.

Fast forward to April 2010. Thirty-two years after I first saw the movie, I went to see the stage production of Grease at the Canon Theatre in Toronto. The 2010 version of Grease is the second revival for the Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey musical, which was first performed back in 1971. I never saw the original stage production, but I understand it was different from the film. So, I expected this production to be different. I wasn't quite prepared, however, for exactly how different the musical would be.

The play attempted to combine aspects from both the original play and the film, but failed to effectively connect the pieces. Four songs from the film were woven into the 2010 musical: "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "Sandy," "You're the One That I Want," and the title song. The stage production took big liberties. Many details of the plot were changed - they kept Sandy at home during the big dance-off (a pivotal plot point for the movie), changed characters' names, and sang "Look At Me I'm Sandra Dee" at the bleachers with the T-Birds, rather than at the slumber party. It just felt strange and didn't work.

Most of all, the play failed to properly create a relationship between Danny and Sandy. As an audience member, I didn't empathize with the characters, and didn't see why they belonged together. There was little, if any, back story. It was almost as if it was expected that the audience would already be familiar with the story. Josh Franklin, who played Danny, was good at showing Danny's vulnerable side, but the tough guy T-Bird that John Travolta played was missing from this production. Sandy was played by Lauren Ashley Zakrin. Her performance was OK, but she just didn't quite pull it off.

The play did have some entertaining moments, and after a slow and disappointing first Act, the second half picked up. American Idol winner Taylor Hicks was cast as the Teen Angel. He was the star of the show, and did a good job with his song "Beauty School Drop Out," though his performance was a little campy for my taste. Frankie Avalon he wasn't, though he was fun. Hicks' harmonica added a great touch to the song. He also performed a song from his new CD after the show, and I really enjoyed the impromptu concert.

While Grease lacked in plot and character development, its strength was in the music. The songs sound just as great now as they did back in 1978. The dance-off scene was memorable, mainly because of Vince Fontaine, played by Dominic Fortuna. Fortuna also warmed up the crowd before the show, and gave the play a much-needed boost of energy. Franklin's rendition of "Sandy" was great also, and one of the best numbers of the play.

I left the Canon Theatre that night feeling a little lukewarm about the whole experience. Grease wasn't horrible, but it certainly disappointed. Oh well, I have my DVD to watch if I ever want to go back to 1978. ;)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Dear Diary ...

It was a beautiful morning. The sun was shining, and as I sat on my new balcony for the first time, I wanted to jump for joy that spring is here. From the balcony, which overlooks a beautiful park, and has a gorgeous south-facing view of the Toronto skyline, the world looked happy. Dogs danced, jumped, and played in the park as their owners leisurely strolled nearby - a big contrast from the dog owners who shivered as their dogs quickly did their business and headed home only a short time ago. The cutest little West Highland white terrier wagged his tail vigorously, excited that his owner was going to throw a ball for him to catch, as another dog tried to join in the fun. Birds chirped, and a little bit of green peeked out from the trees. Life was good.

I grabbed my coffee and notebook, sat down at the patio table, and began to write in my journal. Ah, my journal. My friend and confidante for more years than I'd like to admit. Since I was about 12 years old, my journal has been the dumping ground for all the emotions, life stories, and daily events that I have needed to purge over the years. My journal was there in moments of crisis, through sleepless nights when my mind was too full to sleep, when I needed someone to talk to, but couldn't call anyone because it was too late.

My journal is my essential life tool. It helps me to focus, clear out the clutter in my mind, and set goals. It helps to unlock the creative mind, and gets me writing. In her book The Artist's Way, which I'll be blogging more about in future posts, author Julia Cameron talks about writing three pages of stream of consciousness each morning called "The Morning Pages." The purpose of the morning pages is to get rid of all the junk, negativity, and trivialities in your mind, so that the mind and creativity are opened. My morning pages are more like weekend rather than daily pages, but over the last several years, my journaling has taken on this three-page form. It has evolved from me spilling my problems as a teenager and young adult to almost a spiritual practice of setting goals and putting them out into the universe by writing about them. My journal is also my place to focus on my blessings, and write about my gratitude.

It's funny that something that used to house my negativity is now primarily a vehicle for positive energy and change. Don't get me wrong - I still whine and purge in my journal when I need to - but I am proud that it has become so much more than that.

In honour of journaling, I did a google search to research its benefits. Here are 100 Benefits of Journaling. As the website states, benefits of journal writing include stress reduction, an increase in self-awareness, emotional healing, and healthier relationships. Quite a bargain for the price of a pen and notebook!

I was comfy and content as I sipped my coffee and wrote on my balcony, taking in the beautiful weather, but the busy day ahead was calling. Before I went back inside, I took one last look at the park. I smiled at the springtime activity below me, grabbed my journal, and hugged it tight to my chest before returning it to its special place in my home, grateful for the beautiful way that I was able to start my day. Life is good.