p1150103-w500-h500.jpgThree hundred and fifty kilometres within the Arctic Circle, lies the city of Tromso, our furthest north destination of this Norwegian Fjords cruise to the Arctic Circle..

At about  7 AM yesterday morning the Queen Mary 2 crossed into the Arctic Circle. I  was watching the seas from my verandah. The sky was clouded and gray-blue waters stretched out to the horizon.

There was not a ship in sight, and sadly, King Neptune did not appear from the depths in person to issue his call (as written in the Daily Programme) for “all icebergs, sea lions, narwhals,  polar bears, whales, mermaids and other creatures of the frigid north to show due deference and respect to all those bluenoses crossing over into the northern reaches” of his realm. So just like crossing the equator, I had to take the crossing of “the line” on faith. Hard for an empiricist to do.

audra-w500-h500.jpgLady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
by Lanie Robertson
Directed by Lonny Price
Circle in the Square Theatre
1633 Broadway (cross Street 50th)

aupluspiano-w500-h500.jpgNew York, NY:  In an interesting thematic confluence of  New York productions, there are three shows concurrently running that focus biographically on the lives of three music legends. On my Spring New York stopover I saw Satchmo at the Waldorf, a drama about the late great jazz trumpeter and singer, Louis Armstrong set at the time of his final performances at the Waldorf Hotel in New York.

On this trip, I have just seen Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, that traces the evolution of the musical career of King, still a vibrant and active singer, pianist and songwriter who has written more than 400 song.

Continuing the music theme of my theater picks for New York 2014,  Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill stars the luminous Audra McDonald as tragic jazz great Billie Holliday, who died of cirrhosis at the too-young age of 44 .

beautiful_2647-w500-h500.jpgBeautiful: The Carole King Musical
by Doug McGrath
Music and Lyrics by Gerry Goffin & Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Director Marc Bruni
Choreographer Josh Prince
Stephen Sondheim Theater
Currently running

New York, NY.  Like the more than 25 million other fans of Carole King who bought her album Tapestry,  the songs of this album are embedded in my musical memory and I have been looking forward to seeing Beautiful: The Carole King Musical for months. But it wasn’t until I was actually in the theatre, relishing one superbly performed musical  number after another, that I realized just how many of the songs that I had danced to in high school and known only by the artists or groups that performed them, were written by King and/or Gerry Goffin, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann. And the show covered only a fraction of their works.

img_1179_-_shot_4_-_money-w500-h500.jpgCymbeline
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Anita Rochon
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 4 to Sept 17, 2014

img_1435_-_money-w500-h500.jpgVancouver, BC: Cymbeline is one of the lesser known Shakespearean dramas with many characters taking on alternate identities. It is one of the few Shakespeare plays that I have never seen performed, studied or even read until now. In Cymbeline, the plot is rather convoluted and the Bard uses many of his familiar devices and characters - the poison that simulates death, disguises that are un-believably effective, lost royal heirs that are raised in poverty, the deceitful betrayer who besmirches the reputation of the virtuous heroine - and I honestly wasn’t expecting to be riveted to the stage as I am when I watch one of his great tragedies. 

But I really loved this production. Anita Rochon’s direction was crisp and incisive and this talented group of actors were able to push the limits of the multiple role casting to provide the comedic sharpness that this play needs.

img_0607_-_money-w500-h500.jpgEquivocation
by Bill Cain
Directed by Michael Shamata
 Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival
Howard Family Stage, Douglas Campbell Theatre, Vanier Park
July 2 to Sept 19, 2014
Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean

Vancouver, BC: I really enjoy the opportunity to see a play with a Shakespearean “connection”  as the 4th play in a Bard on the Beach season. These plays such as Mark Leiren -Young's "Shylock" or Stoppard's "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern", that are not of the Shakespeare's writing yet complement the current productions, add a different dimension to the Bard on the Beach experience.

This year, Bill Cain’s "Equivocation", though not specifically related to any of the three other plays on stage,  was an excellent choice and I found the play witty and thought-provoking. Filled to the brim with allusions recognizable to the Shakespearean “in” crowd, it presents an tantalizing imagined tale of how Equivocation's Shakespeare character, Shagspeare, comes to produce one of the Shakespearean tragedies most admired and performed to this day. I'll leave it to you to find out which one.

p1140554-w500-h500.jpgPacifica Seafood Restaurant
73505 El  Paseo F-2608
Palm Desert
Ph: (760) 674-8666 or reserve online

p1140555-w500-h500.jpgWith only one evening to dine out and a plethora of fine dining options in the area to choose from, I decided to try a seafood restaurant.  Pacifica Seafood seemed to be a popular recommendation so that's where we went.

riversidets-w500-h500.jpgAlthough I travel frequently to Orange County, this was my first visit to this part of California.  A favorite winter destination for Canadian snowbirds - including many of my Vancouver friends- the average winter high temperature is around a pleasant 22 ° C.  On the other hand with an average July temperature high around 40 ° C,  one would think it would take a special reason like a convention or a festival to motivate  people to visit. Surprisingly though the hotel pool was crowded with kids as well as adults, splashing away under the blazing noon day sun.

I knew that this area was part of the Sonoran Desert, that the San Andreas Fault ran through it  and that was why there were hot springs, but that was the limit of my knowledge. Flying over miles of brown arid desert and then seeing this long swath of green valley, I realized that I needed a quick geography lesson. The introductory  information in this post is for those of you who, like me, also know little or nothing about the area of Palm Springs and Indian Wells.

p1140484-w500-h500.jpgI took the Westjet direct flight from Vancouver that leaves at 1 PM  and arrives in Palm Springs shortly before 4 PM.  The taxi ride from the airport to the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort Indian Wells  is about half an hour. Check in was quick and key in hand, I was soon on my way to my room. I have a rule that "if I can't carry it myself it can't come with me" so instead of enlisting help I lugged my own luggage down seemingly endless corridors to the room. But it was worth the effort for the room location.

p1140487-w500-h500.jpgMy room, the basic resort view room with a king bed,  was large and spacious. The view over a golf course was of lush greenery and trees, with the muted grey-blue of the mountains in the distance.
And having the resort view room rather than a room with a pool view meant it was also blissfully quiet, no music, voices or splashing from the pool area.

 

p1140519-w500-h500.jpgWith two main dining possibilities other than room service as Sirocco was closed, on my first evening at the hotel I opted to try Cava for supper. Cava is the hotel restaurant adjacent to the pool area, serving fresh California cuisine.

After some debate with myself about the carbohydrate/caloric load of a burger I ended up ordering the Greg Norman Kobe burger and fries. It came with aged cheddar cheese and caramelized onions, and a sundried tomato horseradish sauce. I only took a couple of bites of the bun but enjoyed the Kobe beef patty with the onions, lettuce and cheese. The burger was very satisfying after the foodless plane trip and I also treated myself to a glass of Wairau River New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

shrek_39a0653-w500-h500.jpgShrek: The Musical
Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and the book by William Steig
Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Directed by Sarah Rodgers
Music Director Christopher King, Choreographer Julie Tomaino
Theatre Under the Stars, Malkin Bowl, Stanley park.
July 11 to Aug 22, 2014

Vancouver, BC:  With my grandchildren (one a five year old) in town, this was a great opportunity to take them to see a Theatre Under the Stars musical at Malkin Bowl. The story of Shrek, the lonely ogre, was more age appropriate than Legally Blonde, which I had enjoyed last year. Seven of us trooped off to Stanley Park, hoping for a beautiful summer evening, and we got what we hoped for, a warm, almost cloudless summer night and good family entertainment.

 

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