Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Musical That Rocks

There seems to be a new trend in Broadway musicals: take a themed set of songs, create a storyline around those songs, and poof! a new musical! We've seen it already with Abba (Mama Mia!), the Four Tops (Jersey Boys), Billy Joel (Movin' Out), Peter Allen (Boy from Oz) and now there is a musical that combines some of the best rock songs of the 80's: Rock of Ages.

From the press description:

New Line Records just hammered the in-store release of the Original Broadway Cast Recording of five-time Tony Award nominated "ROCK OF AGES." For those of you not in the know, Rock of Ages is the new Broadway musical starring American Idol finalist Constantine Maroulis. Set in 1987 in a legendary Sunset Strip rock club, a small-town girl meets a big-city dreamer and they fall in love to the greatest metal songs of the 80's. The musical is an arena-rock love story told through the mind-blowing, face-melting hits of Journey, Bon Jovi, Styx, Reo Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Poison, Asia, Whitesnake and more.

I received the CD for review, and based on that description alone, I couldn't wait to listen to it. I love 80's rock music, and still miss some of those classic rock ballads that we don't seem to hear anymore.

So what did I think? Overall, I liked it. The vocalists were strong, especially Constantine Maroulis, who I always thought was destined for musical theatre when I saw him on Idol. From what I could tell about the storyline, the songs fit well into the plot, with some songs actually being mash-ups of two or three different songs to produce the needed effect. Combining I Hate Myself For Loving You and Heat Of The Moment produced a brilliant, moving tune. Most of the songs stayed true to their rock roots, too.

On the downside, I wish I could see the performance in person. Soundtracks to Broadway musicals always lose a lot of the details, leaving you wondering what's going on in the plot in that particular moment. I found myself occasionally wondering what I was missing between songs. And while most songs were reproduced well, some were over-musicalized (yep, I created a word there) for the show. The Final Countdown was a little too showtune-y (as if it wasn't enough before?) and Hit Me With Your Best Shot was nothing better than a tragedy.

The one thing I loved the most about this album is it reminded me of so many 80's rock songs that I had completely forgotten about. Yet once I heard them, the lyrics and the tune came back to me almost instantly.

If you like 80's rock, and you like musicals, I think you'll enjoy Rock of Ages. If either one of those isn't your thing, best avoid this CD. Thankfully, I can't live without my 80's rock or showtunes, and while I'll admit I never saw a marriage of these two styles happening, I'm happy enough with the results to keep this show in my iTunes. Because there's no limit to how many times you can listen to Don't Stop Believin'.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

BlogHer 09: The Recap

So I shared a few moments of BlogHer on my personal blog, but there were a lot of items I couldn't fully address due to issues with my advertising. I'm not allowed to discuss anything on that blog that I have been given for free, so specific swag, promotions, or sponsorships are out of the question. Instead, I thought I'd sum it all up right here and let you know what I thought of each sponsor that made an impression with me.

First off: getting to BlogHer 09

We drove to Chicago thanks to the GM Chevy Carpool. My group had the honor of driving the new Chevy Traverse, a crossover vehicle that seats seven.

Pros: It drove smoothly once you got used to the size. (I drive a much smaller car normally.) Visibility was great, the rear camera when backing up was extremely useful, and the front seats were amazingly comfortable and adjustable. Not only were there heated seats, but you could also have cooled seats - I cooled my butt for most of the drive into Chicago.

The XM radio is fun, and the OnStar service is easy to use. (We received a call during the drive, but sadly, there was no Gary with us in the car.) The car also has great acceleration and very sensitive brakes - I always felt safe while driving the Traverse.

Cons: While it seats seven, you'd better hope those seven people pack light. With five of us in the car, finding room for all of the luggage was a struggle. We also had a toddler on the drive, and while the Traverse has LATCH, we could only find one LATCH hook in the entire rear bench, so we had to settle for the seatbelt carseat installation instead.

The middle seats have a lever you pull to move them out of the way when getting people in and out of the back row, but that lever is a little too high-powered. My head was slightly in angle when pulling it once, and I got thwapped in the head so hard by the seat that I saw stars.

Overall: The Chevy Traverse is an easy car to drive, perfect for larger families to use on an everyday basis. For large families who like to travel, I might suggest a rooftop luggage carrier for extra storage. The extra features on this car put it above others I've seen in this class of vehicle.

What To Wear

I felt like a star going to the Oscars thanks to some amazing sponsorships I received for my BlogHer clothing. I was just waiting for Ryan Seacrest to pop out from the crowd and ask, "So, who are you wearing tonight?"

Lane Bryant gave me (along with several other bloggers) a $100 gift card and a $50 coupon to help outfit me for BlogHer this year. They understood that it's often harder to find nice clothing for those of us in the size 14 and up club. I've always considered their clothing to be some of the best "plus-size" fashion out there, and they didn't disappoint me this year. There were so many options, many of which I modeled in the dressing room. I love that their pants always fit like a dream, thanks to an understanding that women have smaller waists than hips. And while I often complain that many of the tops at Lane Bryant are made for bustier women, I still found several that worked for me.

On Friday I wore the Lane Bryant outfit I selected from several options: brown capris, a royal blue top with a ruffle down the center, and a bra that performed a miracle levitation act on my boobs. I felt comfortable and confident all day long in that outfit. Thank you, Lane Bryant, for making it a little eaiser to find something to wear to BlogHer.

(Photo of my LB outfit & Yummie Tummie courtesy of CityMama)

Also, that same day I wore my first Yummie Tummie. (Which I'm flashing in the photo above.) I was selected to be a "brand ambassador" for Yummie Tummie this year, getting the chance to try out their product at BlogHer and tell the world what I thought of it.

Now, I've been I loyal Spanx user for a couple of years. Other shapewear has attempted to lure me away before, but never performed to the level I expected. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Yummie Tummie - first off, this shapewear is like a tank top, not like underwear. There are no worries about how to go to the bathroom in it, and it doesn't flatten your boobs like other products out there.

When I noticed how long it is, I worried that it would roll up and create a big lump around my hips, making them look even larger. But it didn't - it stayed in place all day, with no rolling, no creeping. It doesn't hold me in as tight as Spanx, but instead provides gentle smoothing all around, creating a sleeker line along my midsection. But I could have the wrong size, too - I was between sizes when I measured myself, so maybe I'll pick the smaller of the two sizes next time.

Overall, I'm in love with Yummie Tummie and have already worn my two shapewear tops again since getting home from BlogHer! (Want one for yourself? A little birdie told me that you can get 30% off a Yummie Tummie if you use the code BLOGHER30 between now and 8/7.)

Some of you also remember JCPenney sending me that amazing green dress I drooled over on Twitter. I wore it on Thursday night, and it was a hit - so many people came up to tell me how good I looked in it, and what an amazing dress it was.

I was an idiot, of course, and didn't take any photos of me in the dress. All I can find are photos of just the top half - so if anyone has a pic of me wearing that dress, let me know!

(Photo courtesy of Stimey)

More to come in the weeks ahead, but I wanted to make sure I gave a big thank you to those companies who took the time and effort to reach out to this blogger. While a lot of the weekend was spent arguing about too much swag, sponsored bloggers who were too pushy, and overall bad behavior, I appreciated the relationships I started with these companies and feel that they got it right. I can only hope I got it right for them as well.