|The official countdown clock in Trafalgar Square, July 2011|
This weekend has been full of excitement, beginning Friday night with the Opening Ceremonies of the London Olympics.
Like everyone else, I love the Olympics, and have been looking forward to the Summer Games all year. I’m reminded of March Madness in a way: any time I turn on my TV, there’s an exciting event to watch! It’s always fun to watch my favorite sports–tennis, track and field, gymnastics, and swimming, among others–and discovering new ones, like handball. But before all of the games can get underway, we must first enjoy the extravagant Opening Ceremonies. And London certainly gave us some interesting acts and sights that will be talked about for months.
Before I go any further, it’s important to note that the British sense of humor is quite different from the American. That’s by no means a bad thing; I happen to understand, appreciate, and downright love British humor. It’s quirky, witty, and loaded with slapstick, which is a rare combination on this side of the pond. While there were some parts of the Ceremonies that I really wasn’t sure I liked, overall, I found them enjoyable, entertaining, and nothing short of dazzling.
The Ceremonies were packed with British stars of all fame, from Kenneth Branagh to Rowan Atkinson, and from J.K. Rowling to Sir Paul McCartney. I laughed out loud when I saw Atkinson, aka Mr. Bean, seated behind the keyboard with the London Symphony Orchestra. Who would have guessed that?
One of my first thoughts as I sat on my couch to watch the Ceremonies was if there would be any Harry Potter references made, and how they’d be done. As soon as the segment featuring British children’s literature began, I knew it was only a matter of time. And then J.K. Rowling appeared. And then suddenly there was a giant Voldemort, alongside the Queen of Hearts and Captain Hook. And then they were all defeated, not by hundreds of Harry Potters flying in on broomsticks, but by hundreds of Mary Poppins floating in on umbrellas. What a great display of British entertainment: not what spectators would have expected in the least. I guess a spoonful of sugar helps the Voldemort go down, too!
Now the games are in full swing, with the U.S. already claiming eight medals (three gold, three silver, two bronze, as of today). I spent most of this afternoon watching the tennis matches; it’s like Wimbledon, part two! Of course I’d like to see the American men do well, I think it would be great for Andy Murray of Britain to take home the gold in men’s tennis. He came so close at Wimbledon earlier this month. You can bet he’ll be playing the best tennis of his life here! I was super impressed with swimmer Ryan Lochte’s performance in the 400 IM on the first night. Misty May-Treanor and Kerry Walsh-Jennings are already on fire, taking out Australian pair Natalie Cook and Tamsin Hinchley in beach volleyball. They are amazing to watch, too! What I look forward to the most, though, are gymnastics and track and field. The American women’s gymnastics team is absolutely explosive this year, and I can’t wait to see them in action. Track and field completely engages me, especially pole-vaulting and the high jump.
All I can say now is, GO TEAM USA!
Switching gears completely… my family is very into theater and plays, especially musicals. We’ve seen oodles of Broadway plays on tour over the years, including Phantom of the Opera, Grease, 42nd Street, Hairspray, Wicked, and several others. One of our favorites is Beauty and the Beast. We saw it in Chattanooga when I was in elementary school, and when we heard it would be making a stop in Hershey, we got tickets for this past Saturday’s matinee.
As it turns out, Hershey is a much easier trip than Philly, even though Philly is a little closer. The drive is easier, and we don’t have to park in a sketchy parking garage and walk down crowded city streets. The Hershey Theater reminds me a lot of the Fox Theater in Atlanta. It’s small, but beautiful and comfortable.
I loved Beauty and the Beast when I was younger, and Saturday’s show was no different. The costuming is so well done; Lumiere really looked like a candlestick! My favorite characters were Gaston and LeFou, by far. Gaston is an interesting and complex character with such an egotistical personality…it takes quite a talented actor to play him, and do it well. The actor we saw did just that. He was perfect, and he played off LeFou so well.
My favorite scenes and songs are, in order: “If I Can’t Love Her,” “Human Again,” and of course “Be Our Guest.” That’s not to say I don’t like the other numbers…I just like these the most. “If I Can’t Love Her” is just so touching and beautiful; I may or may not have sniffled a little as the Beast realized he truly loved Belle, but she would never love him. “Human Again” was finally added to the Disney movie the last time it was remastered and re-released, which made me very happy. And who doesn’t love “Be Our Guest”? It’s such a fun scene!
Speaking of fun scenes, the “Gaston” number has a new dance addition since I last saw this play in Chattanooga. It’s really neat: Gaston, LeFou, and the ensemble do a routine involving clanking their beer cans in rhythm with the music and choreography. It’s hard to describe, except it was so cool!
Between the Opening Ceremonies and Beauty and the Beast, it’s been an entertaining weekend. Go Team USA! Up right now: Jen Kessy and April Ross in beach volleyball!