“How to Train Your Dragon” Live Spectacular – Review

Credit: dreamworksdragonslive.com

One of my favorite computer animated films of all time finally became somewhat of a reality, taking flight in the form of live-sized dragons! Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon” Live Spectacular retells the story of Hiccup, Toothless, and the entire Viking clan as they fight and struggle to live in a world filled with countless dragons. They tread a fine line between friend and foe but ultimately discover the importance of living together and relying on each other.   Continue reading

Valitar – The World Premiere

(Photo Credit: facebook.com/ValitarShow)

Valitar, one of the largest horse shows ever produced, is debuting to the public tonight at the Del Mar Fairgrounds – Del Mar, CA. I was able to score a couple of tickets to the exclusive preview show on Wednesday night.  The venue is an enormous 45,000 square foot red tent erected in the parking lot to the left of the fairgrounds entrance — exactly in the spot where Cirque du Soleil previously set up their tent for Totem.

About Valitar™ – Experience the Undiscovered.
From the Latin word, Validus, meaning strong, mighty, and powerful, Valitar™ promises riveting interactions between 40 horses and 25 humans, while combining advanced technology and high-energy rock-style edginess. Valitar’s™ ethereal, mystical moments will immerse the crowd in a spectacular event. For more information, log on to http://www.valitar.net

Review:
I didn’t really know what to expect coming in to the show but was pleasantly surprised. Passing through the security check, I encountered the red tent with two giant black horse silhouettes. The entrance however, veered to the right into a small circular area that housed both the concessions and merchandise. Within the concessions area, there were monitors displaying various scenes from the show and practice sessions. I quickly reviewed the merchandise, which was pretty pricey — There were plenty of shirts, hats, and very cool letter openers cast in the shape of the Valitar sword. Programs could also be bought at the merchandise area and contained information about the cast and horses, accompanied with stunning photographs. We made our way to our seats, anxiously waiting for the show to start. I won’t go into much detail because I don’t want to spoil the show for you but here are some things I’d like to point out: 

1) The cast was amazing, you could tell a lot of time was invested in this show and with training the horses. There were plenty of tricks that I have never seen before and will definitely keep you entertained. 

2) The scenery had the makings of Hollywood theatrics, complete with projection screens and smoke machines. I really did enjoy the backdrop, and at times it reminded me of a video game set in the medieval era.

3) The music score was phenomenal and one of my favorite parts about the show. The musicians, especially the vocalist (Kate St.Pierrre), demonstrated command of their material. I do however want to make note that they also used a lot of pre-recorded soundtracks that at one point skipped several times. However, that didn’t bother me the least bit — It’s usual to have a couple hiccups during a premiere, especially with a show that is so intricately produced as this one.

4) Blocking at some times could have been better. The entrances and exits of the characters didn’t quite coincide with the spotlights but that also is an easy fix.

5) There is one 20 minute intermission where you can head back to the concessions and merchandise area. The food was moderately priced and they had quite a selection of drinks. The entire staff, from the security to the cashiers, were friendly and greeted you with a smile. — I’m all about having great customer service and they get two thumbs up for that!

At one point during the show, one of the horses slid and fell with a performer on it. The show had a brief halt as the performers tried to calm the horse down and resume their performance. Once accomplished, this was greeted with audience applause. — As with any animal show, these things may sometimes happen and I commend the performers for handling the unexpected incident as smoothly as they did. 

Overall, I enjoyed my time watching Valitar. It’s funny that there would be two horse shows occurring in such close proximity to each other, Valitar at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Cavalia (which I have yet to see) at Petco Park. From my experience with event planning, ticket sales for both would suffer because of the competition. There was a special discount for 25% off Valitar tickets by Nov.16 going on but I’m not quite sure if that offer still stands today.

Show Dates: This show will be going through the month of November.
Tickets: Can be bought at Ticketmaster. Prices range from $45 to $185, so book soon!
Parking: $9 cash
Find more details at Valitar.net

(Photo Credit: Valitar.net)

“Allegiance – A New American Musical”

Photo Credit: www.allegiancemusical.com

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of seeing the world premiere of a new musical at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park – San Diego. “Allegiance” has been advertised all over the city as a “New American Musical” covering the lives of Japanese-Americans during World War II, with particular emphasis on their life in the internment camps and how it effected their relationships with family, friends, and ultimately their ‘allegiance’ to their country.

Going into this performance I must admit that I didn’t do any further research on the musical but I learned a great deal of the history that inspired it while I was at the park. A community organization erected a temporary exhibit in an adjacent building to the Old Globe that housed various antiques left over from the WWII era. Many of the items came from local areas in San Diego that had Japanese-American residents effected by the government ordinance. What stood out most to me was the map of San Diego’s Gaslamp District from the 1940’s. There were approximately 40 Japanese owned businesses in the downtown area prior to internment and today NONE have survived. I wonder how different life in downtown would be today if even some of those businesses were still standing. The community never really recovered from that time.

(Us standing outside the Old Globe before the musical.)

Review: I don’t want to spoil the story for you, so I won’t go too much into detail. “Allegiance” is the first American musical to have a predominantly asian cast, starring celebrities such as George Takei (best known for his role as Sulu in Star Trek), Lea Solanga (a fantastic actress / singer who provided the singing voices of Disney Princesses Jasmin and Mulan), Telly Leung (part of the Warblers on GLEE) , and Paolo Montalban (played the Prince in ABC’s version of Cinderella). All their characters were well portrayed and you could see the level of commitment they had to telling this story. Lea as Kei Kimura, blew me away with her voice; she sounded exactly like her recordings and really carried the musical as the maternal character. Another favorite character of mine was George as the grandpa of young Sam Kimura; he provided the comic relief with his witty commentary during serious moments. The set design was more modern than I expected with projectors and moving panels but had very smooth transitions from scene to scene. I enjoyed how some the the props were able to be transformed into something else for another scene, such as the netting from the war scene that was made into the garden grid in the internment camp. The songs that were most memorable for me were the ones that starred Lea, there’s just something about her voice and musicality that draws in the audience and makes a lasting impression; overall, all the music was pretty good.

It was interesting to see how “Allegiance” portrayed this dark chapter in American history. The story took you into the lives of people in the internment camps, giving you a different perspective as to how those people felt and perceived their country. Differing opinions tore the bonds of family and friends, and you couldn’t help but sympathize for the characters in their situation. I thoroughly enjoyed this musical and foresee it going to Broadway in the future! 🙂 

Tip: Under 30 Deal for $20 — The Old Globe has a special deal on most musicals and plays at their venue for people under the age of 30. Those who qualify my purchase limited tickets for a discounted price, usually $20. Reservations may be made online but calling the box office seems to be more effective. On the day of your event, simply bring your confirmation code and valid ID that clearly states your date of birth to the box office.

Tickets:  Allegiance is playing at the Old Globe from Sept. 7 – Oct. 28. See it soon!

Thanks for reading,
AJ

A Tale as Old as Time

I watched “Beauty and the Beast” the musical yesterday afternoon at the Pantages theater in Los Angeles. The musical was very close to the storyline of the classical Disney movie, including all of the well-known songs such as “Belle”, “Be Our Guest”, & “Beauty and the Beast”.  The broadway cast performances certainly lived up to my expectations, especially the part of Belle (Liz Shivener), whose voice perfectly matched that of the cartoon character in both dialogue and song.

This was one of the most entertaining musicals I’ve seen so far. It’s also a great one to bring your kids to and get them interested in musicals.

~AJ