Wicked Wednesday–the Best Performance

Wickeds, what was your all-time favorite performance–play, musical, opera, ballet? Tell us all about it and especially tell us why. I think this one will be impossible for Julie–or maybe incredibly easy. Top three, Julie?

Edith: I, along with my two older sisters, studied ballet from first grade through ninth. FOnteynNureyevSomewhere in the mid-sixties, my mother splurged for four tickets for us to see Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dance a ballet. My vague memory says the performance was of Romeo and Juliet, and I can’t find a historic record of the performance. Despite the vagaries of an older mind, I have a clear memory of these two master dancers’ beautiful and graceful bodies. Their physical art put to music. Their emotional interpretations of the story. I still love to see any artistic dance performed.

220px-Christmas_Carol_(Patrick_Stewart)_Broadway_PosterJulie: You’re right, this is impossible. Three that come to mind: Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol. I actually saw him do it twice. Amazing. (He was also fabulous in Macbeth at BAM, but I digress.) Another one is the Lyric Stage Company production of Nicholas Nickleby. (Here’s the cast warming up.) Two shows, which I saw on the same day. About seven hours between them. A really delightful show, with a stellar cast. My last choice is another long one. Gatz, by the Elevator Repair Service. I saw it at the ART in Cambridge. Another two shows, this time eight hours of theater all told. Gatz is a staged version of The Great Gatsby. When it first started, and the main actor (the narrator) picked up a copy of the book and started reading it aloud, I started to squirm. The setting was a 80’s era office, and I thought to myself “what have I gotten myself into?” Then other people started to say lines, and all of a sudden there was magic. I was transported. Now, I didn’t list Hamilton, or Les Miz, or . . . Nor did I list dance or opera. I am very blessed that working in the performing arts has been part of my life for over  30 years, so there is a lot to choose from.

Jessie: I love, love, love Cirque du Soleil. I have attended performances three times and all of them have been magical. I saw them in Las Vegas, Orlando and in Boston. There is something so engrossing about the experience. There was so much to see that I couldn’t decide where to look! My very favorite part of each show was the aerial silks performance. Breathtaking!

Sherry: In the mid-eighties my sister and I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov dance in Denver, Colorado. It was supposed to be an outdoor performance but the weather was bad so they moved it inside. His leaps were breathtaking. The emotion he put into his performance unforgettable. A couple of weeks after we saw him, he was injured and from what I remember he never did the high leaps again. Another favorite performance was seeing Glenn Close in Sunset Boulevard when we lived in the LA area. She was fabulous.

Liz: I really loved seeing Wicked (and I’m not just saying that because of the name!) in New York years ago when it first came out. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz and I loved learning the backstory of the Wicked Witch of the West. And the music was fab!

Michael Maloney as Prince Hal, Robert Stephens as Falstaff, Rob Edwards as Ned Poins

Barb: I struggled mightily with this one, too. Finally I decided to go with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Henry V, Part 1, which Bill and I saw in London in 1991. We both love the historicals most of all and have seen many together. I always feel when you see Shakespeare well-performed, you learn something about the contemporary world and people you know. This performance was so accessible, I felt like the actors were speaking directly to me and I was almost a part of it. Like Sherry and Edith, my second choice would be a ballet–seeing Violette Verdy with the New York City Ballet when I was a kid. She had so much charisma, you could not tear your eyes off her.

Readers: Tell us about your very favorite performance, who, what, when, where, why?

A Christmas Carol by Any Other Name

by Julie, decking the halls in Somerville

In 2010 I spent the month of December discussing versions of A Christmas Carol every day. (You can see the posts here.) As you know, my book A Christmas Peril is about a theater company deep in the weeds of a production of A Christmas Carol. One of my nieces mentioned looking forward to A Christmas Carol binge watching over Christmas break. She then asked me which version was my favorite.

I couldn’t answer her. But I can, sort of, narrow it down a bit. Here is a list of my “will watch in the next ten days” list of Christmas Carols in no particular order:

scroogeScrooge, 1970
I saw this movie on a field trip (maybe with the Girl Scouts), and the hell scene scared the heck out of me. As an adult, it is easily on my top five. It is a musical, Albert Finney is wonderful, and is fairly true to the story. It isn’t Christmas unless my family breaks into a “Thank You Very Much” chorus.

1984 Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol, 1984
George C. Scott was a sublime Scrooge. The scene where he jumps on the bed makes my heart burst. The story is dark, and sad, in many ways, and this version is that.

MuppetThe Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992
This is SUCH a great version. Michael Caine is wonderful. Having Dickens tell the story is great. It stays true to the story, and keeps most of the important parts in the movie. Kermit is a perfect Bob Cratchit,  and Fozzie as Fezziwig? Could there be more perfect casting?

scroogedScrooged, 1988
All right, part of the reason I love this version is that it is such a pop culture time capsule. The TV version of A Christmas Carol they are working on is chock full of 80’s stars that have to be explained to kids, but add another layer of humor to the show. It is also very faithful to the theme of the story, though it does take liberties. Also, Bill Murray chews the scenery, and is so much fun to watch.

PS recordingPatrick Stewart’s VersionsPS filmI love Patrick Stewart, and have been fortunate enough to see him do his one man version of A Christmas Carol twice. It is because of that experience that his filmed version falls a little short for me, though it is very good. The CD of him reading the book is much closer to his stage version, and I can’t recommend it enough.

diva ccA Diva’s Christmas Carol, 2000
Do you remember the “Behind the Music” shows on VH1? In this Christmas Carol, Vanessa Williams plays Ebony Scrooge, a singer who left her girl group in the dust, and is a nightmare to work for. A ton of fun.

magooMister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 1962
This is not at all accurate (the ghosts are out of order), but it has a lot of charm. The songs are terrific–I’m surprised there hasn’t been a stage version of this using the songs. Or maybe there has been?

simA Christmas Carol, 1951
This Alistair Sim version is a favorite of many, so I include it on the list. I like it, but am also fond of the 1938 Reginald Owen version.

There are dozens of other versions, with Scrooge being played by Cicely Tyson, Henry Winkler, Barbie, Fred Flintsone, Mickey Mouse, and others. I discussed those, and others, on my blog 8 years ago. I’m a little surprised I don’t have a more recent version to critique. The story resonates right now in so many ways.

Friends, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

A CHRISTMAS PERIL Release Day! (and giveaway!)

Cover of A Christmas Peril by J.A. HennrikusDear Readers, you have been on the publication journey for all of us Wicked Cozy Authors, and I hope you know how much your support means to us. We all talk about our books, or new series, but today I want to tell you about what a joy it is for me to hold A Christmas Peril in my hands. You see, this book was the first book I wrote and tried to sell. I got to a point where I never thought it would get published. But now it is. And the timing and publisher couldn’t be more perfect for this series.

Here are some of the bumps along my path to publication for this book.

1999-2001. I wrote the book in third person, and it was boring. I was in the middle of editing it into first person when my house was broken into, and my computer was stolen. I lost several drafts, but rather than despair, I decided to rewrite it the book, keeping the story, changing the point of view. That decision made it a much stronger book, and I finished it the next year. And yes, this has been a book for fifteen years.

The first title was The Power for Good, which was a reference to a line in A Christmas Carol when Marley and Scrooge see all of the ghosts who can’t alleviate suffering, because they lost their power for good. A Christmas Peril is about an ex-cop who is now running a theater company. The company is doing A Christmas Carol. I loved the title, but it wasn’t selling the book. Sherry Harris and I were standing in line at the New England Crime Bake, practicing our pitches to agents and editors. I told her that someone had suggested I change the title, and she came up with A Christmas Peril on the spot.

This book was a labor of love. Like many pre-published authors, I didn’t appreciate the long, slow pace of rewriting and editing without contractual deadlines. But I always knew I loved the world I was writing about. At the time of its inception, I was working at a concert hall, and my theater life was more as an audience member. But I’ve always loved theater (I work in theater now, running a service organization called StageSource), and felt comfortable writing about that world.

I sent this book out to agents and editors, and got lovely rejections. Then I got the opportunity to write the Clock Shop Series as Julianne Holmes, and I jumped at it. What a gift that was–jumping onto the path of being a published author, and learning what that meant. Were A Christmas Peril my first time working with a professional editor, I would have been much more resistant to the process. But, I was able to work with my editor, and tear Just Killing Time apart because it made it a better book.  Going through edits on this book was much easier because I’d been through it three times before. Also, I was able to rework the text because I had a better sense of what needed to be done.

The final part of my path happened last fall. My agent and I were talking about my writing life,  and we decided to send A Christmas Peril to an editor from Midnight Ink. Edith published her Quaker Midwife series with them, and spoke very highly of her experience. At Bouchercon I saw the editor and she said that she was looking forward to reading the proposal. By the New England Crime Bake, I had a contract.  Even more amazingly, they had space in the Fall 2017 publishing schedule, and since A Christmas Peril was done (though it needed editing), it would get moved onto the schedule. Things don’t move that fast in publishing, but they did this time.

Holding a book I wrote in my hands is always a thrill. This time, it’s a dream come true. I hope you all enjoy A Christmas Peril. Know that I am floating on air today.

To celebrate publication day, I am going to send a copy to a commenter of the blog. I’ll pick a winner Sunday at noon.

Wicked Wednesday: A Christmas Carol

Cover of A Christmas Peril by J.A. HennrikusWickeds, today we are celebrating the Friday, September 8 release of A Christmas Peril by J.A. Hennrikus. It is the first in a new series about an ex-cop, Sully Sullivan, who runs a theater company in Massachusetts. Friday’s post will be more about the book. and the series.

In A Christmas Peril, the theater company Sully runs is doing A Christmas Carol, and chaos ensues. So today’s question–what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol?

Barb: Wow. I’m tempted to say Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, which is the one I grew up with, or the Muppets, which is the one my kids did. As I was thinking about this answer, I realized how embedded this story is in our lives, from books (I always put a few editions out at Christmas) to movies to TV. I was even in the play as Mrs. Cratchit when I was in high school. Without it we’d never have the expression, “Bah, humbug,” or call someone a Scrooge. Some people think it popularized the saying, “Merry Christmas,” itself. Anyway, Julie, congratulations on becoming a part of this rich canon. I can’t wait to read it!

Liz: Julie, congratulations!! So excited for you and this book. I love A Christmas Carol – for movie versions, the Patrick Stewart is my favorite. I’ve also been lucky enough to see the production twice at The Hartford Stage, and they put on a wonderful version.

Sherry: I’m so excited to read A Christmas Peril and I’m so happy for you, Julie! Like Barb the Mr. Magoo version loomed large in my life as a kid and it scared me! But my favorite version is the 1970 movie Scrooge with Albert Finney. I confess I had to do a search to find it. I knew I’d seen it with my family and remember it being a visual feast along with the wonderful story. I haven’t seen it in years, but now hope I can track it down. I’m amazed how many versions of A Christmas Carol there are!

Edith: Congratulations, dear Julie! I can’t wait to read this book, and am so glad you’ve joined the Midnight Ink family. I haven’t seen A Christmas Carol in so long I have no idea what my favorite version is, but I do love the Muppets, so that one would probably win.

Julie: There is no Mr. Magoo shame in my world–that is my mother’s favorite version. And Sherry, I have Scrooge on DVD. A perfect excuse to get together around the holidays. We can all sing the songs. I do love the Muppet version, and George C. Scott, and . . . I own over twenty different versions on DVD, so lots to chose from. Thank you for your best wishes dear Wickeds! I am so excited about this book seeing the light of day, and will blog more about that on Friday!

Jessie: The Muppet version is my favorite, Barb! I love the way it sticks to the backbone of the story while bringing its own personality and twist. Just as I am sure you will do with your addition to the story! I couldn’t be happier for you, Julie!

Readers, what is your favorite version of A Christmas Carol? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

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