“This is almost touching what the beauty is.”

A thing happened this past Friday.

I saw Kelli O’Hara on stage for the first time.

It was a real thing that actually happened.

For those who don’t know, Kelli O’Hara is my favorite voice. There is something about her voice that is so clear, calming and soothing to me. On top of that, she is a talented and passionate performer and has always seemed like a genuinely good human to me. As it turns out, I was right. She went above and beyond anything I could have ever expected.

When we were walking to the venue entrance before the show, we saw what we thought was an accessible path to the stage door. We all definitely wanted to stage door after the show, so once we went inside and were settled in our seats, Shimaali went to talk to someone as to how we could do that. They told her to come talk to someone in the lobby after the show and that was that.

Please note: Our seats did not suck and I was about to burst with joy everywhere.The excitement I had, had been building for years. The concert hadn’t even started yet and I was smiling like a big goofy kid with a heart full of wonder and magic. It all just spilled over the second Kelli walked onstage.

Newsflash to nobody: When Kelli O’Hara opens her mouth, the sound of the angels fills the room. It was like we were in this cozy cocoon of music for an hour and a half. My friends and I could have stayed in those moments all night. Everything about it was perfect.

The two songs that were the biggest highlights for me were “The Light in the Piazza” (The Light in the Piazza) and “To Build a Home” (Bridges of Madison County) – All I have ever wanted was to hear her sing live from those shows. During “The Light in the Piazza” I couldn’t believe I was finally getting to hear her sing from that show. I couldn’t look away. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. On the other hand, during “To Build a Home” I had to look down and close my eyes. I couldn’t even look up and witness that this was happening in front of me. I NEVER thought I’d get to hear her sing from Bridges. I was bawling. It was stunning and transcendent. So much so that I came home and thanked Jason Robert Brown for writing music for Kelli’s voice. Seamless perfection.

The whole concert turned me into a giant ball of emotion, which is a surprise to no one. I still don’t have all the right words, the ones I’m using don’t seem like enough.

And then something completely unexpected happened…

After the show we went to pick up my walker and talk to someone in the lobby. They told us they were just going to see if it would be ok to just bring us backstage. We were cleared and a few minutes later we were in the hallway backstage with Kelli and all of her other guests.

You can guess what happened next… Yep. I cried. A lot.

I mean… I’d never seen Kelli. I don’t know her, she doesn’t know me. But sure… come on back and say hello, Kimmie and friends. What?! I still haven’t fully wrapped my brain or my heart around the fact that someone could just be that easygoing and kind.

So. I met Kelli. We all met Kelli.

There was a joke circulating between the girls that I wouldn’t remember my name. The last time I met someone who inspires me and has a piece of my heart, I couldn’t remember my name or even speak words. I’m proud to report that with the help of My Person text-chanting my name at me all the way from NY, I remembered my name. HA! Take that, overwhelming emotions!

Not only did I remember my name, I got to tell her that I’ve been trying to see her on stage since Piazza, in several shows, but for some reason or another, something always happened and it never worked out until this concert. I told her that this was the first time and it was more than I ever could have dreamed. She was grateful I was there. She asked me if I lived here and when I said yes, said she’d try to get out here more and when she does, I’d have to be there. Well yes, Kelli O’Hara, I will be there with bells on. And then I gave her a card I wrote just in case I had forgotten my words. She talked with Shimaali, Emelie and Bianca. We took photos. We laughed. She told us we collectively had the best hair she’d ever seen. We laughed more. It was all a beautiful whirlwind that I never wanted to end.

I hope this happens again. The joy I feel is filling my very weary soul. To say that I am grateful would be an understatement.

To Kelli: You are the warmest, most humble human being I have ever met in my life. Thank you for your unbelievable kindness and for sharing your time with us.  We’ll never forget this night. Those moments are everything. I will cherish them forever. I apologize if my note was a jumbled awkward mess, I had a lot of feelings.

To Shimaali: Thank you for doing the work to get our tickets and then making the night extra special for all of us. I never thought this would happen so I appreciate it more than you will ever know. I love going to things like this with you, we always have the best time.

To Emelie & Bianca: Thank you for coming with me. I’m so glad we got to share this together. It was something special.

I love all four of you.

To the VPAC house manager: You’re awesome. Thank you so much for making our night even more incredible than it already was.

(A note about the Valley Performing Arts Center: This may be one of my favorite venues I have ever been to from an accessibility standpoint. There was no fighting with stairs. EVERYTHING from the grounds outside, to the lobby, the house and the walk backstage was flat. The doors were wide. Our seats in the orchestra were incredible. And the accessible parking was right outside the front entrance. When we were leaving, I desperately wanted to walk through the whole building again filming a video with my phone to show other venues how they SHOULD be doing accessibility. Maybe it was because it was a college campus, but even still, venues like this seem to be rare and I appreciate them all the more when I can get around in them without stress or frustration. If anyone else I love ever does a show there from this point on, I may just have to make the trek to be there.)

To my friends & family: Those of you who, over the years, have made plans with me to see Kelli, those who have sat with me and made travel plans, those who have tried to get me tickets to shows, those who got tickets and then something happened for it not to work out – I thought of every single one of you on Friday night. I wished so hard that you had been there with us too. You were there in my heart. Thank you for always reminding me when I was sad that it would happen when it was the right time.  Given the state of my world, now was definitely the right time. I love all of you.

My heart needed some hope. Right now hope is all I have and I will hold onto it for as long as I possibly can. Music heals what’s broken, if you let it.

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Summer Stuff

It seems I can’t go an entire summer these last few years without losing my hearing at least once. My doctor looked at my ears two weeks ago after I told her of this issue and everything looked good. My ears are just that damn sensitive and now here I am on Labor Day weekend not able to hear anything. Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday cannot get here soon enough. So let’s do some writing about the summer, shall we? BECAUSE I CAN STILL WRITE. I’m all about being grateful for what I CAN do.

I spent December of last year all the way through the entire month of July fighting my medical insurance and ultimately I won. So this was both an uneventful summer, but it has also been a summer of getting stuff done. I have a new social worker, a new doctor, and a physical therapist now. Currently working on getting an optometrist and a dentist. My doctor has given me medication for things every other doctor I’ve ever had would not. Thanks to that, I am already feeling much better. This doctor is not messing around. I like her.

I had my physical therapy evaluation last week. I have two exercises I do at home for now and my first regular appointment is next Friday. To be honest, I am a little (ok, more than a little) afraid for my therapist to work with me. I had PT until I was three years old and my parents stopped taking me because my old therapist tore the Achilles tendon in my left foot. I may have been very small at the time, but I remember that day and that pain like it just happened yesterday. I’ve made the new therapist aware that happened so I’m going to be spending this week telling myself I’ll be safe with this person and it’s her job to help me. I’m sure it will be just fine. I am so grateful to even have this help. I’ve wanted PT my entire life and I’m so on top of it. Even though my ears are causing me to feel not so great at the moment, I’ve been doing my exercises every day. I’m so excited about all of it. And yes everyone who has said “take it slow” — I promise I’ll never overdo it. I’ve never been that person.

On the summer fun side of things, here’s a list…

 – I took a social media break and spent an entire month just writing. And reading. Mostly writing.
– If you’re a creative type, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Magic Lessons” podcast on iTunes. Trust me. Just do it.
– I’m obsessed with Inside Out because sometimes I am a child. Well done, Disney/Pixar.
– Bianca and I took the train to LA to see my Kristin get a star on the Walk of Fame. It was worth the longest, hottest day if only to hug KC on her birthday, truly. Also, Carol Burnett was one of the guest speakers and that really doesn’t suck either.
– There is now a couch in my living room. My Person is good to me and I am grateful.
– Speaking of My Person, Janice was back in LA for the month of August. We took the nieces out to play. We had our favorite tacos. We went to our favorite vegan restaurant. I was introduced to shaved ice. Basically, when Janice is home, we eat.
– My Jessica from Orlando booked her flight to come visit me for a week in November. Happy Birthday to me!
– I randomly won free tickets to see Kristian Bush and Rita Wilson in LA last week. That man’s music is soul-changing. And Rita Wilson is pretty classy too. Her new album is going to be fantastic. (Side note, B is now kicking herself for not telling Tom Hanks when we saw him that she played Woody at Disney World. I am just amused over it.)
– I am now mourning the loss of the mango black tea lemonade at Starbucks. Damn you, pumpkin spice latte… It’s barely September!
– I have the best cat on the face of the planet. Just a reminder.
– Playing House is the funniest show on television.

All is well. I need a nap.

Measure a Year: 2014

I haven’t done this since 2011. However, in a year of so much change and growth, music was the only thing that held me together, so I felt it was necessary. On New Year’s Eve, I make a playlist. One song for each month of the year. This year’s playlist is as follows:

January: Celine Dion – “New Dawn”
February: Judy Garland – “Over The Rainbow”
March: Megan Hilty – “The Heart of the Matter”
April: Cady McClain – “In The Silence”
May: Jason Robert Brown – “One Second and a Million Miles”
June: Julie Andrews – “Feed The Birds” (Damn you, Hollywood Bowl.)
July: Carole King – “Beautiful”
August: Sara Bareilles – “Hercules”
September: Kari Kimmel – “Where You Belong”
October: Laura Benanti – “Leap”
November: Kristin Chenoweth – “Little Sparrow”/ “Hard Times Come Again No More” (I couldn’t decide. Leave me alone. Go listen to both of them.)
December: Kelli O’Hara & the Darling Children – “Tender Shepherd/Only Pretend”

This list is hilarious to me because at the beginning of the year, I said I needed to step back from the theatre part of my life because I missed NYC to the point that it was painful. And look at all those big Broadway voices. …Oops.

I guess the year proved me wrong.

You can find all of these songs on iTunes. Happy New Year! Bring on 2015!

The stars keep burning. (Or: The closing of The Bridges of Madison County has me all fired up about theatre.)

I had a plan.

After I moved into my apartment and started my job and was settled into both, I was going to save every extra cent I could and get on a plane to New York City to celebrate.  Besides the fact that I miss my East Coast family something fierce and I haven’t seen most of them in six years, I miss the theatre just as fiercely.  We have theatre in LA, but I don’t have a theatre buddy, so I always seem to miss things I want to see when they are here.  So I thought, I’ll fly to New York and celebrate with The Bridges of Madison County.

Why Bridges?  I love the novel.  I am a sucker for passionate and heartbreaking romance.  Jason Robert Brown is my second favorite composer. (Georgia Stitt is #1, and something tells me JRB would be totally ok with that.)  And fun fact:  Kelli O’Hara is my absolute favorite theatre performer.  I’ve never seen her live, so to see her in Bridges felt like a no-brainer for me.  It also comes as no surprise that the Bridges score is incredible. Kelli O’Hara opens her mouth to sing those notes and it sounds like heaven.  Steven Pasquale is smooth and dreamy.  The two melt perfectly into this show and the whole cast has created something beautiful.

The Bridges of Madison County closed on May 18.

I read this really great article and interview with Kelli O’Hara in The Hollywood Reporter yesterday and it got me all fired up, even more so than I already was over this.

I am heartbroken.  Not just because I didn’t get to New York to see it, but because this show closed far before its time.  I know it’s silly to have a plan like I did when it comes to theatre, but this whole situation just makes me want to yell:  WHAT IS HAPPENING IN NEW YORK?!

This show has the most beautiful score I have ever heard in my life, which is perfectly matched with the source material.  Jason Robert Brown’s music has always been deep, intense, complex and very heavy.  All of these factors make it difficult to execute for most, but do you know what else shares those characteristics? Bridges.  This is not a light-hearted parade of sunshine and rainbows.  It was never supposed to be a show that provided you with songs you’d skip down the street singing along to.  Bridges weaved its light through its music completely intertwined in telling a story.  This show created its light from the people who transformed themselves to bring it to life.  Bridges is a thing of beauty, a true, unapologetic piece of art.

I haven’t been to New York to see a show in six years, but even then, it seemed all people wanted was spectacle — things they already knew.  I kind of see Disney and shows like Wicked as the catalysts for the metamorphosis of this art form.  Is this really what people want?  Something shiny, that they can walk into the theatre and marvel at while dancing and singing along?  Those kinds of shows are great in their own right and each has a heart, but why now should every show that comes in as a new musical fit into  that mold?  It all comes down to money and what sells and that’s sad, especially for a city that boasts of its art.  The thing about art is, it lives in a space of creativity and self-expression.  This is what art is — ANY art form.  Art connects human beings.  It takes our hearts and souls and puts them on display to teach one another how to live.  So, let’s strip away the money, the shiny and the spectacle for a second, shall we?  Art is simple, there’s no reason to complicate it.  Art is supposed to break molds and make space for new ones.

When it comes down to it — what does the theatre mean to you?

You can believe in whatever you want.  I have a very strong faith and my own set of beliefs, but I also believe in theatre.  Seeing whole worlds come to life on stage is like a religious experience for me.  Theatre is like church for me.  Stepping back and taking in that I’m watching someone else’s imagination take flight or watching their hearts beat and souls exist outside of their bodies makes me feel grateful to be alive.  I feel intimately connected to the strangers before me on stage and in the audience with me, because those moments will never come again – they will always be something special.  Seeing a show, I know there is something out there bigger than us, that guides us to painting the world to be something magnificent.

Bridges did this on its own. Bridges, in my opinion, is everything that theatre should be and seems to have lost.  Why theatregoers can’t see how vital this is, is beyond me.  Sometimes you don’t need flashy.  Sometimes you just need a story.  Sometimes you just need a connection.  Who are we as a society if we move so fast we can no longer stop to appreciate and value this concept?  Teach your children the arts, so they will know what they don’t understand.

My heart has been so achingly missing New York City, but maybe we were right in breaking up all that time ago.  When things like this happen, it makes me feel like no matter what, if I ever go back to that place,  the things that used to set my heart on fire will just leave me disappointed.  I hope one day that won’t be the case.  You are a beacon, NYC, but your far away light looks so dim from the sunlight over here.

Thank you to The Bridges of Madison County for restoring my faith in the art form that is my every reason for being.  Thank you for filling my heart to overflowing and breaking it at the same time so that I may feel my own humanity.  Thank you for being smart enough to know that something so simple can create the most sacred kind of beauty.  I am saddened that your beauty was taken for granted and was left to fade away. The rest of us who couldn’t get there will not let you go.  You did everything right.  Thank you.

There is a performance and album signing for Bridges in NYC on Friday May 23rd.  If you are in the city and are able, GO.  Go for those of us who can’t.  You can get the details here.