DSM Gala: Kinda Awkward, Yet Kinda Epic

After getting to interview Jane Lynch for the Dallas Observer, Dallas Summer Musicals offered me two tickets to DSM Best of Broadway Gala, which she was hosting.

Knowing the show would also feature Matthew Morrison (Mr. Scheuster on Glee) and Shoshana Bean (the first woman who dared to fill Idina Menzel’s shoes as Elphaba in Wicked, was in the original cast of Hairspray as Shelley, and has played my personal favorite, Fanny Brice in Funny Girl), I invited the person I’ve geeked out with for years over both Wicked and Glee, my sister.

We dressed up and were very excited.

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The article with the interview of Jane explains the event and its purpose better, but basically it’s a benefit show. But before the show, donors/sponsors (what word do I even use) got to go to a fancy dinner DSM hosted. To be a sponsor, you could donate anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000. These people were loaded.

The show started out with that big “WOOOAAAAAH” *BOOM* from The Greatest Showman, done by some local high school theater kids. Then, none other than Jane Lynch herself walked out in the red coat and top had and mimicked Hugh Jackman’s opening number, “The Greatest Show.”

Yeah. I saw Jane Lynch perform the opening to The Greatest Showman

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Lynch was charming, but added a couple very Sue Sylvester-y quips by yelling at the kids to get off stage, but she was mostly nice.

She introduced Shoshana Bean, who came out in the most dazzling sparkly dress ever. If I were a Broadway diva performing a set, that dress is exactly what I would wear.

She was extraordinary. Her voice had strength and texture and her range was impeccable. She sang a few jazz numbers with the band and was super fun to watch. She maybe sang two pitchy notes but she was close to flawless. I am now a big Shoshana fan. I even gushed to her on Instagram.

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16 years…Still my boo ❤️

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Then, the queen left the stage.

Here is where the technical difficulties came in.

There were some problems with the mics and a stage hand had to actually come out and unplug mics and chords right in front of Jane Lynch. Lynch, however, being a professional, pointed at him and said, “Showbusiness, everyone.”

Jane introduced Matthew Morrison, her sworn enemy for years on the show, and the two hugged onstage. It was a little weird.

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Matt did his thing. He was pretty good, he sang and danced. He was Mr. Scheuster through and through.

My sister rolled her eyes. She’s always hated his character on TV because he’s so freaking dramatic. I thought his performance was okay. He was off tempo every once in a while but no one can doubt he was born to be a performer. But it really just felt like an episode of Glee. Watch literally any scene where Will Scheuster had a fedora and that’s pretty much what we saw.

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But my eyes weren’t on Matthew Morrison. They were on the guy at the piano.

I kept poking my sister. “I think that’s Brad.” I whispered.

In Glee, every time someone sings in the choir room, there’s a random guy who always plays the piano. And he never spoke. Just, every episode, he was there. Playing the piano to back up whatever dramatic number one of the characters were performing. I think he spoke once the whole show, and they called him Brad.

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And I was right. After insisting and insisting to my sister that it was him, Matthew verified “Some of you might know Brad…” HA.

Matt was in Hairspray, and when he said “I played Link,” I said, “Of course you did.” He did a pretty impressive mashup of all the best songs from the musical, talking us through and summarizing the smash hit within a matter of minutes. It was really good. Then he walked offstage and told us to have a good night. That means he’s done, right?

Then there was a super awkward pause. Did something go wrong? Luckily, Brad kept the band playing, but it seemed like no one knew what was going on.

Then Matthew Morrison awkwardly came back onstage, and performed “Singin’ in the Rain” complete with an umbrella. I don’t know what happened. Maybe he was waiting for us to yell for an encore? Did he forget he still had another song? Super awkward. His last number was good, though.

 

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On all the ads for the event, only Jane, Matthew, and Shoshandra were shown. But they said to expect a surprise guest. Who will it be?

It was Joshua Henry, the guy who played Aaron Burr in Hamilton’s first US tour. I hadn’t heard of him, but to hear one of the first to play a huge role in one of the biggest musicals of all time was a real treat.

Also, for those who follow me on Instagram, (@isagram.98, *shameless plug*) ya’ll would know that I saw Ed Sheeran the week before. Ed did a cover of Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good,” and it was pretty good. But Henry blew it out of the water.

Joshua Henry’s voice was one of the strongest I’ve heard in my life. His cover of “Feeling Good” was 10x better than what Ed Sheeran did the week before, I’m telling you. And that’s saying a lot, because I love Ed.

Anyway.

We thought that was it, right? Two Broadway stars and a surprise Broadway star. But no.

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After a short break, Jane Lynch’s voice called out, “This is the voice of God.”

She then announced that none other than Loren Allred, the voice behind the song “Never Enough” from the greatest Showman…

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…yes, that song, was here to perform. And yes, the actress of Jenny Lind didn’t actually sing the song in the movie. I don’t know why they didn’t just get Loren to play her, but will we ever understand the movie industry?

But yes.

The stunning Loren Allred, the voice behind The Greatest Showman’s “Never Enough,” came out to belt the song and it was incredible. Flawless. Better than it was in the movie. I was dying.

*que shaky, kinda illegal video someone took that I found on Insta:

Okay, it was also kind of awkward because right as Allred came out, Jane Lynch’s mic wasn’t muted so we heard her cracking jokes offstage as the singer was about to begin. But we’ll try to forget that happened.

Then, the last song.

Four high schoolers from one of the programs we were benefiting came out and sang the first couple lines to “This is Me” from the Greatest Showman. They were actually pretty impressive. A few other high school students came out to sing and dance and they were less impressive, but I can understand being off tempo and scared when you’re not a seasoned Broadway star.

I didn’t know I needed to hear the voice of Jenny Lind, Aaron Burr from Hamilton, Elphaba from Wicked, Mr. Scheuster, and Sue Sylvester sing “This is Me” until I heard it. There were still a couple technical difficulties, but it was kinda epic.

Straight out of an episode of Glee.

(Shaky *illegal lol* video someone took that I found on Instgram)

Josh Groban Laughed at Me

Okay, fine. I made him laugh.

On my quest to conduct interesting and unique interviews, I’ve added a couple “experimental” questions. I’m trying out a couple different questions outside of the typical “how would you describe your musical evolution,” or “what’s your tour going to look like?”

I asked Josh to describe himself, which I know is a weird question to ask somebody who has been famous as long as I’ve been alive.

He laughed.

“Just in general? Well, I’m a pisces…”

The rest of his answer is in the interview article on the Observer.

 

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My First Time as an Official Concert Photographer

I had never been so nervous to go to a concert.

Last week, when I covered the Troye Sivan show, I was very confused about this whole concert photography thing. How does it even work?

My first attempt at this was during the Haim concert. The Southside Ballroom staff was super nice and gave me a photo pass, though I had no idea how to use one.

At the Box Office, once I gave them my name and publication I was there for, they gave me this nice canvas-like sticker with the Haim girls printed on it. It said “Photo” on it. They said it was my photo pass and pointed to a security guard that would show me where to go.

The only thing? I didn’t have a freakin. Camera.

The venue coordinators were very confused with me. “Did you bring your camera?”

I held up my phone like the dork that I am. “I thought I would take photos on my iPhone?”

Again, I had no idea how this worked. Clearly.

Long story short, they told me I’d probably get better iPhone photos if I just tried to get as close to the stage as possible. I ended up not using my photo pass (as it now decorates my waiter bottle), and just asked my friend for the photos she took with her phone.

When I covered Troye, I thought I could just hop on the photojournalism train for fun. The Observer had hired a photographer to shoot for my article (shoutout to my boy Mike), but I thought I could just join anyways for experience. Wrong. I found myself looking like a dufus at the media table, surrounded by 8 professional photographers who knew that they were doing, ready to go with multiple giant cameras around their necks.

So, at NEEDTOBREATHE, I got my shot at redemption.

I got handed a photo pass at the box office of Toyota Music Factory.

After explaining to the people at the metal detectors why I was bringing in a big black bag with camera equipment, I was in.

I waited at the media table tucked at the corner of the venue, getting my camera settings ready and the zoom lens on.

At 9pm, the event coordinator came to grab me and the other photographer at the table to bring us to the pit.

Toyota Music Factory hold 4,000 people in the pavilion. Not only was this a sold-out show, but they opened the back of the pavilion to a lawn that holds another 4,000.

The other photographer and I were led into the pit, about a 5-foot gap between the railing that held back the mosh pit and the stage. It was just us and the bodyguards allowed in this section.

I adjusted my camera settings, and soon enough the band came onstage.

The other photographer put in earplugs.

Why didn’t I think of earplugs?

I couldn’t hear anything for the next couple hours, but it was worth it.

8,000 people and I got the best view.

This was one of the most nerve-racking jobs I’ve ever had. I only got to shoot for the first 3 songs, that’s it. It was sheer luck that I went away with clear photos.

I was so scared everything I shot was blurry. Granted, 80% of what I shot was horrible and either too light or dark, but I was so excited with what I came away with.

I got back home close to midnight, and couldn’t sleep until I edited all my photos.

Here they are!

Doing Press on LGBTQ Icons

I was asked to interview Kim Petras a couple weeks ago. Kim is a transgender woman who was one of the youngest people to undergo the “gender confirmation process.” I was also asked to review a concert last Friday in which she opened for Troye Sivan, a Youtube star turned gay icon.

But here’s the sitch. I am a Christian and a devoted to studying and living out the Bible in the best way I can. So how does a Christian journalist handle something like this?

The same way I will handle the Christian concert I’m reviewing this Friday.

Without my biases.

I would say “without my opinion,” but heck, I’m writing concert reviews.

When I review NEEDTOBREATHE this Friday, I’m going to focus on their performance as artists. I’m going to focus on the music. They don’t get special treatment just because we both go to church on Sundays. Yes, I will say that I support them on my blog because this is my personal platform and I’m all for their message, but as a journalist submitting articles to a professional publication, I have to be a journalist and do what journalists are supposed to do.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m going to compromise on my convictions. One little example of that is that I still bleep out profanity in the interviews I conduct. That doesn’t stop my editor from adding in a cuss word or two when she writes my headlines, but I have no control over that. That’s the editor’s job. (I could expand on that, but that’ll be for another time.)

When I’m reviewing shows, I’m reviewing the performance, not the artists’ relationships with God.

As a journalist, I’ve learned that I have to be able to observe what’s happening from different perspectives and view the world from the perspectives of the people I’m writing about. If I limit myself to my point of view, I will never be able to write objectively or separate my emotions from the facts I’m writing on paper.

For Kim Petra’s interview, I sat in my room after class and got a call from her agency. A nice British man named Peter connected me to the singer, who turned out to be one of the nicest and most welcoming people I’ve ever interviewed.

Kim was lovely. She was clearly passionate about her music and excited to be on tour for the first time. She didn’t even bring up anything about gender or sexuality.

But I did.

I wanted to see things through her eyes.

Whatever my convictions are on gender and sexuality, if I were Kim Petras, what would I feel? How would I think?

She went through surgery when she was 16. She was under heavy media coverage as a young teen, and few young people had gone before her in this crazy life change. Now it’s about 10 years later and she’s chasing a dream of being a pop star.

Kim briefly mentioned doing pride shows with Troye Sivan. Here was my window.

“So, even just the fact that you two are very big pride icons, what- do you feel like you- kind of- want to have that as part of your identity?” I was tripping on my words. There are so many things I could say right now that could be wrong, and I wasn’t sure how to phrase my question. “How much do you want it to define you? Are you- I guess I’m just curious because you guys are both such big icons… are you both like, ‘yeah this is who we are!’ Or is it more like, ‘oh it’s the music first’?”

I’m here to interview Kim Petras the musician, not Kim Petras the transgender icon. So I wondered if that’s how she viewed it as well. I’m more interested in her music since that’s what she’s promoting, but I wondered if she had trouble convincing people to think that same way. To see the music before the sexuality.

“What are your thoughts on that?” I asked.

“Um, I think that sexuality and gender identity say absolutely nothing about a person,” she replied. “I think if somebody’s smart or if somebody’s kind… those are the things that matter to me.”

(For the actual article on our interview, click here!)

We ended our interview with me telling her I was going to come to her first show to cover it.

“I can’t wait to see you there! Thank you so much, have a great day! Cool! Bye!” said Kim before we hung up.

When I went to the Troye Sivan show, it was clear that Petras and Sivan had attracted many people in the LGBTQ community. It was interesting to even watch the crowd and what kind of people came to the show. The people were honestly just as interesting to watch as the show was. When his song “Heaven” came on, the crowd went wild as the back of the stage lit up in a big rainbow. As a Christian, the symbolism and lyrics of the song combined raised some interesting thoughts. But that’s a whole other conversation.

(For the article on the show, click here!)

So I don’t know. I’m still learning about these things and trying to figure out how to objectively report in a world so full of many things I do not understand. Even after I wrote the article on Kim, someone commented on it correcting my use of words when talking about her transition. I don’t know what I’m doing!

But what I love about journalism is how it pushes me out of my comfort zone and forces me to see the world from so many different sets of eyes. I believe this is what Jesus did when he was on earth. He didn’t stay safe, merely mingling with those who thought and acted like him, but he spent time with so many different people- saints, sinners, outcasts, officials. He treated everyone like a person and met them where they were at. I can only hope to have the same kind of wisdom and love that he did as he navigated this world.

Interning at a Fashion Magazine Told Through The Devil Wears Prada Gifs

So besides my two majors and a minor at SMU, I decided to be crazy and have two jobs and two internships as well.

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My newest addition to my schedule? An editorial internship with Modern Luxury Dallas Magazine.

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Fancy, right? I honestly don’t know how I got the internship. I’m very excited, but I had no idea what to expect.

I didn’t know what to wear. I didn’t know what to bring. I basically had no idea what this internship was going to look like.

Turns out, it’s amazing. They’re already having me write things for their magazines and I get a lot of independence.

How I sum it up? I’m living the Devil Wears Prada, minus evil Meryl Streep.

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Yes, coffee and cheese plate runs are included, but I’m mostly doing actual writing.

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So what else do I do but watch the Devil Wears Prada when I get home?

The first movie-life parallel: The magazine industry is like another world.

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No, Modern Luxury isn’t Vogue, but it’s the closest thing Texas has.

I walked into a tall fancy office building with a security guard and front desk and revolving doors and everything. The office is in a really nice part of town. I got up the elevator and came across glass doors.

Behind the glass doors was a little welcome area with a big sign that read MODERN LUXURY and current and past issues displayed in the most intimidating way. There was a big fur rug, some orchids, the works.

Also? The conference room was right in front of you as you walked in, so everyone could see me, the confused new intern not knowing what to do with herself.

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Luckily, the assistant editor found me and rescued me from my uncomfortable limbo. I was shown the fancy office with those low cubicles that lets you do that thing where everyone can talk about stuff over them, MTV- style.

I was given a very thorough run-down of the magazine- what we write about, our target audience, what all our issues look like, and all the other magazines we write besides Modern Luxury Dallas. 

Then I was given an assignment and left to my own devices.

I spent the day basically contacting designers for information. I felt like a dufus.

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^^^THIS WAS ME.

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I don’t know the difference between a retailer and a designer. I didn’t know if Neiman Marcus is a person or a place at this point. I just like writing stuff. I go to thrift stores for clothes.

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I felt very out of place. And underdressed. And I didn’t have Starbucks with me, I had a knock-off hydroflask I got from Walmart, filled with tap water.

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But you know what? I don’t care. Yes, I got some heels because apparently everyone at the office wears heels. Peer pressure is painful sometimes. But I’m just happy to be here, and if heels is what it takes, so be it.

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But though I feel a little in over my head, I’m passionate about my work and so up for the challenge. After all, isn’t this the dream? To write, to work hard at creating, and love doing it?

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I am so excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to see what I’ll learn through it. Hopefully I don’t have to go through the major identity crisis Andy went through in the movie.

But all in all, I’m absolutely stoked to be writing for a real-life magazine. It’s a dream come true and I’m so ready.

Backstage with my Broadway Aunt

My aunt is in the Lion King.

Okay, not technically my aunt. She’s my mom’s cousin. But with Filipino families, how could you even tell?

I got to see Yael Pineda-Hall do her thing one Tuesday night with my family, and she showed us backstage afterwards. We met many of the lead actors, as well as a dancer that had recently been in a movie you might have heard of called Black Panther.

^^ these are the only photos we were allowed to take during the tour. My favorite is the first picture, of the moment my grandma met Mufasa. It was the cutest thing ever.

The next week, my aunt got me to come back to the show to shadow the Stage Manager. I spent the whole show behind-the-scenes (sometimes even stepping onstage behind props), dodging flying props and being pecked teasingly by a friendly Zazu, and hanging out with cast members backstage.

Key funny moments were:

  • Talking to Mufasa backstage after he died, heating food in the microwave
  • Listening to the cast casually singing Hannah Montana in the back
  • Teasing a gazelle because he was almost late for a part
  • Almost having to stall the show because a woman’s wheelchair was in the way of the performers
  • Little Simba doing the wip and nae-nae next to me offstage
  • Being told exactly when to duck so I wouldn’t be hit by little Nala on a huge ostrich puppet

I wrote an article about my experience for the Observer, but sadly it didn’t get published. So here it is!

 

Disney’s The Lion King came to the Dallas Summer Musicals at Fair Park this year. From June 13 to July 7, an incredible cast brought the 6-time Tony-Award-winning musical to life Downtown,and I got the in.

Being a “shadow” to the Stage Manager included some strict rules. Wear all black, don’t touch anything, and don’t take any photos.

Right inside the stage door of a theater sits a friendly security guard to ask people why they’ve come. Once they meet a shadow, they direct him or her to the Stage Manager’s office where the shadow receives a headset. Every backstage has a bunch of different offices. The Stage Manager’s room was equipped with a couple computers, papers, and a screen that gave a live feed of the stage. There was also a little contraption in which one of the Stage Managers spoke into to give the audience their final warnings to be seated.

The Lion King- (spoiler alert!) opens with a jaw-dropping number in which the cast comes from the aisles of the theater running, dancing and singing up to the stage in full animal costume and carrying beautifully crafted puppets. They had two stage managers and shadows stand right outside the theater doors to oversee this.

A couple minutes before the opening number, the ushers of Musical Hall section off the entrance to the theater, and the crew brings out the puppets from behind a curtain. Two people get into a big paper elephant, a group of singers get adorned with paper birds, and the actor playing Zazu gets in position with his bird (which turned out to be valued at about $25,000).

Before everyone begins, the stage managers do a quick check from the back of the theater to make sure all aisles are clear. No wheelchairs in the way, no feet or purses sticking out. Then the show begins with Rafiki’s beautiful voice and that iconic first note in the “Circle of Life.”

Being backstage during a production of the Lion King is like being a fly on the wall at a really cool party. It is incredible to see the machine that is a Broadway production. Not only is every second of the musical onstage choreographed, but every movement backstage was planned to a T. Props were being brought out and then taken back and stored above the wings like clockwork. The crew knew exactly at what moment to open a curtain, to roll grass onstage, to set out blow-up cacti, and more. It seemed like everyone backstage knew every beat and every word of the musical.

The cast themselves were nothing short of wonderful. Their energy continued onstage and off, singing during intermission and dancing between every scene. There were 13 cast members “out” the day, which meant they had to substitute people for 13 roles. But to the musical’s credit, every cast member was so proficient in their craft that even with all the switches they had to do, no one missed a beat. Everyone was a professional through and through.

One had to be careful being backstage. Sometimes the shadow was asked to stand very close to the edge of the wings and one misstep could have you tumbling onstage. Sometimes one of the curtains would be let down and the Stage Managers and shadows would run onstage to help light up a shadow puppet or help little Nala and little Simba climb an ostrich puppet. Sometimes one would have to duck because Nala was sliding over with her ostrich puppet and its feathers were flying everywhere. But of course, even that was choreographed.

The singers and dancers have to go through many costume changes throughout the show. There is a place called a “bunker” right behind the stage that was basically a long line of closets. It was sectioned into different stations with all the different costumes a singer or dancer needs during the show. In a span of a few seconds, a cast member had to change from anything from a lioness to a hyena to a plant to a gazelle. There were also makeup stations backstage, a little workshop for puppet repairs, a physical therapist office, and separate changing stations for Scar and Pumba due to the amount of work assembling their costumes was.

Everywhere the Lion King goes on tour, the company creates jobs. They hire locals to be on-hand carpenters, and dressers. At this stop, dressers and carpenters were hired from Dallas and taught the ropes of the show.

One of the stage managers said she really loved being in Dallas because of the theater. Musical Hall at Fair Park was a “luxury” because of how much space the cast and crew were given backstage. The area behind the stage had so much width and depth that the company did not have to do anything on a different floor. The stage manager explained the struggle of going up and down stairs to dress the actor of Pumba, and how difficult it can be to move him around when he has to carry such a large puppet. Some theaters have been so small that the stage they bring around can’t fit, or there would be no room for the actors to move from place to place. But in Dallas, they had plenty of space to move around. So one could say, the cast and crew received nothing short of Texas hospitality.

Being backstage of the Lion King is just as much of a wonder as seeing the show is. The craftsmanship of every detail provides such a wonderful spectacle to enhance the classic story of Disney’s the Lion King.

Interviews with Kevin from Pentatonix and Kristian from Sugarland

So, quick life update for context:

I’m working an internship at a summer camp is Philadelphia. Basically I’m helping to lead a leadership training program.

But while living at a camp and working full time, for some reason I thought, sure. I can keep working Observer articles. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I recently submitted an article on my experience being backstage during a Lion King production (which will either get published soon or I will put it up on here), and then I landed two interviews. 

One Tuesday morning at camp, I took a break from my internship duties to go back to my cabin and have a phone call with both Kristian from Sugarland (the duo that just did that song “Babe” with Taylor Swift), and Kevin from Pentatonix (aka my favorite member).

Kristian was very professional and pleasant to talk to. He gave me the scoop on his partnership with Taylor Swift and everything. 

Link here for the Sugarland article!!

Kevin was calling from Cali so he had just woken up it seemed, so it was a very chill conversation. He was super nice, even trying to work with a couple technical hiccups I had. I gushed about how much I loved their show last year, and he was so excited about coming back to Dallas for Whataburger. 

Link for the Pentatonix article!!