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Masterpiece YouTube: Team StarKid, “The Trail to Oregon!”

Happy July 4th, y’all! I haven’t shared a fun YouTube in almost a whole year (September 30th, 2015), so I figured I’d share one of the most American things of all time (or what should be): musical theatre mixed with American history, so…here’s the full cast recording of Hamilton!

Just kidding, and yes, I am sick of hearing people obsess over it, it’s kind of like…have you ever seen a musical before? Ever? Anyway, here’s another fun musical.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 22: Team Starkid, “The Trail to Oregon!” (2015)

Any true American who grew up in the 1990s played Oregon Trail, the original educational, low-graphics game designed to teach kids about Manifest Destiny but mostly ended up teaching kids how to shoot a buffalo, die of dysentery, and an excuse to make up obscene family names.

I remember I was scared of the game when I first encountered it in fourth grade, because the trend was to name your characters after your family members and friends, and I got it in my head that if you died in the game, that meant you died for real, or were going to die soon, which led to many, many nightmares about my family members being buried in the Wyoming wilderness or eaten by wolves. Eventually, though, I got over that silly fear and joined everyone else in making sure that Jelly Head, Pantyhose Nose, Donkey, and Princess Bunny make it to the Willamette Valley. And if they didn’t, oh well, at least you could write a dirty epitaph on their 8-bit tombstone.

But enough about nostalgia, back to the video. Team StarKid, the University of Michigan-based student acting troupe behind A Very Potter Musical and its sequels came up with The Trail to Oregon!, a brilliant choose-your-own musical adventure that eventually made it off-Broadway. Five characters play the basic family members your game gives you: the dimwitted Father (Jeff Blim), the stressed-out Mother (Rachael Soglin), obnoxious Son (Lauren Lopez, AKA Draco Malfoy from AVPM), easily-distracted Daughter (Jamie-Lyn Beatty, AKA Ginny Weasley from AVPM), and stereotypical oldster Grandpa (Corey Dorris), who doubles as Cletus Jones. The remainder of the parts, including a deformed ox, a fast-talking general store owner, and a horny bandit, are played by Joey Richter, AKA Ron Weasley from AVPM.

If you have two hours, or even if you don’t, it’s worth a watch for all the witty lyrics and low-budget fun. You even get to pick who dies at the end: I’ve only clicked on the Mother one and the Daughter one, but eventually I’ll watch the other three.

My favorite numbers are the two that open the show, “Gone to Oregon,” especially with all the bad rhyming, and “Independence,” a perfect selection for July 4th, especially with the “YMCA” tribute towards the end. Even though the talk of it being a “family vacation” is a little cringey – it was actually a complete lifestyle change, it’s not as if they were going to take tacky tourist photos and then turn back around and head back to Illinois, although that would be an interesting twist. The only part where it sagged for me was the story line with the Daughter and the bandit, I felt it was too melodramatic and one-note for the rest of the production despite Beatty’s brilliant acting and singing. “It Pays to Be an Animal” and “Speedrun” are also fun numbers. Anyway, enjoy!

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube was brought to you by AMERICA.

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2

Masterpiece YouTube: Donald O’Connor, Applied Mathematics

Today was a horribly cold and blustery day, the first of the year. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean six more weeks of winter for Madison. I actually had a nice day, though: lunch with 12 friends at Great Dane, and I also got to the gym, which was just about empty, thanks to the Superbowl and the weather. I’ve got a lot on my mind, so to give you a more accurate picture of what it looks like and because I don’t have the wherewithal at the moment to think of something interesting and new, here’s an updated episode of MYT from last September that I’ve been meaning to fix.

Just watch.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 14: Donald O’Connor, Applied Mathematics, Are You With It? (1948)

This, my friends, is talent. No offense to the silver screen stars of today (does anyone even use that phrase anymore?) but Donald O’Connor’s feet have more talent in them than the majority of this year’s Oscar nominees. It’s even more striking in black and white. And yeah, it’s not really about math, but it’s fun to watch and pretend that it’s your math homework.

Donald O’Connor was part of an amazing generation of performers. And when I say performers, I mean performers – people who could sing, dance, act, and had personalities and energies that were just electric. People like Ann Miller, Betty Garrett, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly. There’s a reason why Singin’ In The Rain is one of the best American movies of all time; it’s because the viewer is drawn into the story and its characters. These days, I feel like popular movies are all pretty much the same animal; remake of a remake of a remake, sci-fi aliens/dinosaurs/warriors, romantic comedy, or screwball comedy. Not to say that they aren’t good, there’s just a certain magic that goes into a musical film; as the characters go through their changes through song, so do you. I think the only major movie that would fit this category is Pitch Perfect, and even that’s pushing it.

Speaking of remakes, I think it’s high time for Are You With It? to mount a comeback. From what I understand, the plot is about a math teacher who joins a traveling carnival. In today’s economy and the worrisome job market, this might be just the thing to inspire people, or at least entertain them.

Or you could just watch Donald O’Connor dance some more.

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube has been brought to you by the Rachel Sweet Pandora Radio channel, which I’ve been rocking out to for the last half-hour while I wrote this.

In other news, I hope that y’all come back and visit even though the January Blogging Odyssey is over. I’ve had a pretty good day though, with five continents reporting in, all but Africa: North America (Canada and USA), South America (Peru), Europe (UK, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Italy, and Liechtenstein), Asia (Israel, India, UAE, and the Philippines) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). Tell your friends?

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So SO Much Better

VIVIAN: Elle, this isn’t some little sorority thing –

ELLE: Oh, I know, this is a big sorority thing.

This morning, I woke up to some of the most pleasing and surprising news I’ve heard in weeks.

The 2014 Nobel Peace Prize winners were announced: First, 60-year-old Indian child protection activist Kailash Satyarthi

Then…

Wait for it…

Pakistani education, childrens’, and human rights activist, terror attack survivor, and all-around hardcore take-no-prisoners chick

Malala Yousafzai. 

At age 17, she is the youngest Nobel Laureate ever.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Malala Yousafzai and Elle Woods together in the same sentence? Actually…looking at what I just typed, it is kind of weird. Kind of like that comic strip panel with the bikini girl and the burqa-clad woman passing each other on the beach. One is very real and one is very fictional, but both women stand up for their rights. Both represent the underdog, and fight tooth and nail with their words to get what they wanted. And what they got was more than they ever expected. They defied the odds and are indeed “so much better” than before.

I don’t want to share too many details of what happened to me this week that deterred me from posting too much, but suffice it to say that this victory for man(and woman)kind makes me put the petty issues going on in my own life into perspective. There are people out there – some real, some on our stages and our cinema screens – who deal with problems that involve more people than just themselves, or their immediate friends and family. There are problems out there that affect communities, cities, ethnicities, and even entire countries, yet living in the microcosm that we inhabit, we tend to ignore the seismic issues going on around us in favor of the unimportant phantom tremors of crap that make us roll our eyes, grit our teeth, and stamp our feet. As humans, we should all look out for one another, not as friends, not as relatives, but as members of the same species that deserve a chance at life, at love, and at happiness. We do not know how much longer we will be on this Earth, but we’re fucked if we continue to spend what time we have remaining using warfare to tear each other down, whether it be physical, virtual, verbal, or psychological. Genuineness and truth of the heart are values that our society suppresses, yet without our hearts we would not be able to function.

Literally. We would be dead.

So let’s learn from Malala, and Elle, and what the hell, Kailash Satyarthi too. Look at all they have accomplished, in less than 100 years of life, collectively. If we really put our hearts, minds, and spirits to it, think of it – we could live three times the lives we have, it terms of quality and output. We, too, could achieve greatness, reach our own goals, whatever they may be. Let’s spend our time wisely, loving, caring, and looking out for one another, opening our hearts to a greater good.

It is kind of a cool ironic twist. Just last year, I posted an entry with my thoughts on Malala and my hopes that she would win the Nobel Peace Prize. And now that it has indeed happened, that’s one more door opened, one more light turned on, one more ray of sunshine beaming down on the planet we call home.

Dear Malala: I don’t know what you’re doing right now, but I hope it looks (and feels) something like this:

(PS: Welcome, first visitor from Fiji. And yes, I did make that last gif myself, thankyouverymuch.

0

Care (Igan) for a Glass of (Lowder) Milk?

Today, for the first time, I looked upon these two faces through my computer screen, although I have been listening to what they’ve had to say for years.

So just who are this cheeky couple?

These are Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. Most likely wonderfully fabulous alone, as a duo they are the stick of dynamite, the force that is…Kerrigan & Lowdermilk. (Oh, and by the way, Kerrigan’s on the right and Lowdermilk’s on the left. In case you were confused.

What do they do?

They write songs. Good songs. Great songs. Wonderful songs. Amazing songs.

Every generation has its pure pop songwriter duo. For my grandparents’ generation, it was Betty Comden and Adolph Green who set the trend from the musical theater angle, coming up with the music and lyrics for one of America’s most beloved musical films, Singin’ In The Rain, and one of the most underrated, On the Town. The sixties and seventies launched Gerry Goffin and Carole King, who are responsible for “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” and other songs whose original versions are solid gold classics, and are probably known to most of my generation as the songs most butchered by contestants on American Idol. And before you say that pure pop classics written by boy/girl songwriting are so last century, look who just won an Oscar: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her partner/husband/newest EGOT-club member Robert Lopez, whose “Let it Go” from the popular Disney film Frozen beat out U2, Karen O, and Pharrell Williams for the coveted Best Original Song. Which brings me back around to my original topic.

I first became aware of the Kerrigan-Lowdermilk songbook in Israel, when a friend of mine decided to sing a song from a little musical called Henry and Mudge entitled “My Party Dress.” The fact that my friend was perfect for the role notwithstanding, the song was intriguing in its music and hilarious in it’s lyrics. I haven’t found a version on YouTube that I like, but basically it’s about a girl who talks and talks and talks, with unintentional humor, so much so that you often forget what the song is about (hint: it’s in the title). Of course, I set about memorizing the lyrics, which I still know, four years later; in fact, I performed it one night to some friends just for fun.

Then I realized…could there be more where this came from?

And the answer: yes.

K & L have not only written musicals about awkward children’s books I barely remember, but also original musicals for contemporary audiences, with songs that could easily top the Billboard charts if given to someone like Demi Lovato or Lorde or Michael Buble as a single. There’s The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown, which I don’t know that much about other than its basic plot structure, but that I realize I need to learn more of, as one song from it keeps coming back into my mind: “Say the Word.” It’s a lovely ballad that is just as easy to understand out of context as in, and also works great for either gender and really just about any age. I wouldn’t put it in its own Masterpiece YouTube segment or anything, because there’s not really a music video for it, but you should hear it any way.

If I didn’t have a million things due by tomorrow, I would walk you through their website, their karaoke page, or their YouTube channel. But you should do that, and then leave a comment on this page telling me which song or theirs is your favorite, or which one makes you smile, or simply which one gives you the feels. Because, undoubtedly, one of them will.

Do it. Do it right now.

Then come back and tell me how it was, so the next time my head is not full of papers-cake-dinner-proposals-dramaturgy-life, we can share the magic together.