Review: Aladdin the Musical at Crown Theatre

Over a month ago in late June, I was browsing Ticketmaster and saw the Aladdin stage production upcoming. Tickets, I had to get. 

It had been a long time since I had attended a musical. The last had been Fiddler on the Roof, featuring original cast member Topol playing the lead, Tevye. That would have been going back a number of years—actually, I’ve Googled it: 2007 the show was in town. Has time flown or has time flown.

This quote by CS Lewis comes to mind:

Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different.

Clive had that right. Everything is different. 

But I digress.

We saw Aladdin on the Saturday in the week just past. The posters all over the place at the moment give nothing away. The set, the cast, the costumes, the performance are far more fantastical and fabulous than you’d imagine! 

I’d booked us almost-centre seats in row D. They were right up near the stage, and we had a great view. This was the first time I’d been close enough to the stage to see—and therein fully appreciate (read: sit there bedazzled by all that glitter and all those Swarovski crystals)—the expressions of the performers and intricacies of the set. The proximity from the stage made a massive difference. 

I had to applaud the incredible effort to bring Aladdin to the stage. From the musicality, the performances, the energy of the performers, the polished transitions between acts, costumes, and sets, and the spectacular outfits, the entire two hours delivered a full-throttle stageshow as colourful and as busy as the streets of Agrabah. 

The Australian cast were excellent. Gareth Jacobs nailed his role as the Genie. He brought the Genie to life with sass and high intensity performances. Jacobs had the X Factor. He was a natural at working in his own stamp on the role, while at all times remaining true to the iconic character, made famous by Robin Williams. 

I loved the Broadway-born production’s localisation of Aladdin for the Aussie crowd. This was mainly through humourous quips from Jacobs, who succeeded at seemlessly incorporating Tim-Tams, Vegemite, and at one point Kwinana, into the Genie’s dialogue.

Ainsley Melham showed his versatility and prowess as a performer playing the role of Aladdin. He brought to the role a sense of believability and realness. Melham drew us in from the outset, leading us to suspend reality and immerse ourselves into the world of Aladdin.

In many of his performances, seasoned ex-Hi 5 professional Melham seemed to take the back seat to the roles of his co-stars, though not for want of enthusiasm or energy. Rather, it seemed to be a creative direction to give the other performers time in the spotlight. I initially questioned whether Melham was completely encompassing his leading man role—was he being overshadowed? I then realised that this was great positioning of the audience. It worked brilliantly.

As a viewer, it assisted with the characterisation of Aladdin as a pretty average guy. Aladdin was content being out of the spotlight. With his reputation as a street rat, perhaps he was even trying to avoid it. He wasn’t out for the gold or glitter. He hadn’t been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His crime was falling for a princess. 

While there were plenty of elaborate scenes and visually stunning sets, there were also reeled back moments. With the bells and whistles dropped and the extravagance toned down, it was the magic of the timeless tale that captured our attention. This played on the very human desires for freedom, acceptance, and love. Desires we can all identify with.

Clever framing of the performances, showed us that Melham’s Aladdin wasn’t royalty in every scene he was in; he was simply another cast member. We saw that Aladdin wasn’t after fame or fortune. He was humble. His motivations were pure. He wanted to make his late mother proud. It wasn’t Princess Jasmine he’d fallen for, but Jasmine. Echoing the words of Jafar and Iago, the naivety and rawness Melham depicted confirmed to us that Aladdin was indeed a ‘diamond in the rough’. Humility and truth, and love conquering all, flowed through Melham’s performances.

Shrubshri Kandiah impressed with her portrayal of Jasmine. From Kandiah, we saw that having riches doesn’t equate to a life of freedom and happiness. Kandiah’s Jasmine was fiesty, confident and frustrated with her lack of agency in a clearly patriarchal society. Kandiah’s performance gave us a strong sense of Jasmine as an empowered, modern woman, unafraid to stand for her beliefs, and willing to break tradition. Outspoken and opinionated, she rejected the princess stereotype. Her appearances instead wove in themes of equity and change. She asked us to question cultural norms, the validity of law, and to have courage not to accept the status-quo. The laws of the land being changed, decried as outdated as a result of Jasmine’s refusal to bend to tradition, was vindication that change was possible. 

The weakest moment was unfortunately the song that should have been the apogee of the show: Aladdin and Jasmine’s duet ‘A Whole New World’. The singing sounded a little off key, the ‘magic carpet’ paled in comparison to what we’d already seen, and the build up to the moment fell short. The song lacked the richness in voice, feeling and chemistry of the original. While they had rubbed us the wrong way with this one, they hadn’t ruined the emphatic Aladdin classic.

Overall, it was a fantastic show and a very enjoyable night. I would highly​ recommend it just for the experience. It was totally worth the dollarydoos. 

My biggest take-away was the joy the cast displayed throughout the show. These talented ladies and gents seemed so genuinely happy it was infectious! To be able to entertain, to make people happy, to do that for a living, I don’t think many things would compare.

Now I just need to find that magic lamp.

Baking: Choc-Mint Slice

I have a confession​ to make: I messed up. I got my dates all mixed up. I’ve gone and done something that’s almost criminal. 

I let July 21 pass without the moment of reverence it deserved.

I missed National Lamington Day. I know. It is with an unopened pack of dessicated coconut against my heart that I say ‘Lamington proponents of the day, I acknowledge your right to get the pitchforks out’.

Early last week (I lie: coming on two now) I was up late researching Lamington recipes of all types—traditional, filled, flavoured, banana bread Lamingtons even. I feel like that last one might fail the bona fide Lamington test if there were such a thing. An unAustralian Lamington or a very Australian Lamington? I wonder what Captain Cook would have thought. Would he have shipped the banana bread Lamington pairing? I have a feeling he might just have flagged both as delicious.

Lamingtons had, by all accounts, been in mind. I had sorted through all the must-know tips for sorting National​ Lamington Day (I was amazed: there are articles on this). I had the date set in my mind. During the week, I had done a Woolies shop for Lamington supplies, and had even remembered to bring my reusable Woolworths Macro Jute bag like a good little Woolies customer. I had bought my two types of coconut for the pantry: shredded and dessicated. Yes, they are different, and no, that wasn’t impressed upon my mind until said research into Lamingtons. I had got a new half-kilo butter block for the fridge. I had stocktaked my chocolate stash to ensure the adequacy of supplies: two full tins of dutch cocoa powder, one of Nestlé’s cooking cocoa, and three blocks of chocolate. Ostensibly satisfactory to most minds, but I always get a niggling feeling that more I could do with.

Then things got in the way. Enthusiasm waned. Lost in a sea of distractions, the arbitrary passing of time, somewhere between four sunrises and sunsets, Lamington Day dropped off my radar. 

Four days later I instead did up a choc-mint slice.

Because I felt like mint. 

I’ve resolved to postpone Lamingtons until such time that I can do them justice. Lamington Day Atonement Day is in the pipeline. Lamingtons on hold…

Here’s the recipe for the choc-mint slice

Ingredients:
150g butter
1 egg
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup SR flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup desiccated coconut, plus extra

Mix butter and sugar. Mix through egg. Add extracts, cocoa powder and stir through flours. Bake in a lined slice tin at 150°C for 20-30min until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool while preparing icing.

Icing:
2 cups icing sugar 
50 g butter
2 tbps water
1-2 tsp peppermint extract
1 drop green food colouring

Cream butter and sugar. Add water and extract. Add colour. Mix well.

Spread on top of cooled slice. I didn’t let mine cool, they were just out of the oven and onto the board—definitely made it fiddly to ice and cut. 

Ever since discovering Nestlé’s Peppermint Crisps this year, I’ve been digging minty flavours. It’s like it flicked on a switch allowing me to appreciate mint-flavoured things rather than have them remind me of toothpaste. 

These mint slices are light as, and very easy to eat your way through. They won’t do your wallet in. 

For an absolutely mint version of these, I’d add:
• to the topping, a sprinkling of crushed Nestlé Peppermint Crisps and chopped up Nestlé Mint Patties. Replace the icing with melted dark chocolate. Add a tablespoon or two of peppermint schnapps to keep things cool as a cucumber.
• to the base, a good chunk of a block of melted Lindt Dark Intense Mint from their Excellence range. This stuff is velvety and simply mint.

I am going to have to do the decadent version of these. I’ll add it to the list of things I’ve mint to do but haven’t.

Sicilian Toastie and Margherita Pizza, The Italian Corner, William Street

I spend way too much on lunch.

Every day I consider going on a diet of Vegemite sangers and Robert Timm’s instant coffee. I also promptly tergiversate on the idea when faced with lunch break and ever-present possibility of happiness being just around the corner.

I also spend way too much on coffees.

I once had a particularly bad streak of buying coffee each morning. I then decided, pledging to make better decisions, that I should probably put a stop to the daylight robberies. 

The first day without my morning coffee, I gained a full appreciation of this quote, commonly but mistakenly attributed to Michael​ Jordan: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ It was 100% a difficult morning. Sans magical concoction, the withdrawal symptoms began. Said symptoms were notoriously mild, in the scheme of things and given the substance in question: I ate a Cherry Ripe—an unwise choice of appetite suppressant that at best satisfied the wrong craving—following which, I made up a sachet of Moccona’s Peppermint Choc Bliss—which, admittedly, proved to be a substitute relative in deliciousness and enjoyment.

Taking things out of context, the sporting origin of this quote has me wondering about the existence of possible deeper meanings behind it. Dope, just unintended double-entendre. 

Here’s what I had for lunch on Thursday and Friday this week. I decided I’d frequent the new, well fairly new, place The Italian Corner.

I went for the Sicilian Toastie, ‘prosciutto, fresh tomato, bocconcini’, $7.50 and the Margherita Pizza ‘mozarella, semi-mature cheese, fresh basil’, also $7.50. How good do they look?

The toastie had a lot going for it. 

It had melty, stringy cheesiness, which I ate all the while mindful of the ease with which I might grow a cheese beard. It had saltiness from the prosciutto and freshness from the self-described ‘fresh’ tomato. It had sufficient crustiness and grillege, an imaginary word which here seems proper and conducive to communicating the requisite grilledness this toasty exhibited. As my one-thirty pm late lunch, it was a well-primed and served lunchbox of happiness.

The pizza, too, was a satisfactory option. The pizza featured a non-floury base of mid-range thickness, with a profusely gooey cheese sitting amidst a moderate backing of tomato sauce that had the slightest detection of onion. It was a stroll through the park on a day with the sun shining and the smell of spring in the air. The limited topping of spinach acted as a garnish on the already-satisactory pizza. I enjoyed it.

Which reigns supreme: the toastie or the pizza? I conclude the result of this cheesy conundrum a confused ‘currently inconclusive’. A determination will demand further visitations.

As an observation, pizzas, coffees and ice-cream earn you a punch on the loyalty card. No love for the toastie.

Taste verdict Classic lunchtime fare. I’m a great fan of cheesy things.

⭐⭐⭐

Discovery in the Blogosphere: the Liebster Award

A slightly different post, but I had fun with this so maybe more like this in future. Three-ish days ago I got a super nice comment from a fellow blogger who tagged me in this. Here goes!

The Liebster Award is all about welcoming new bloggers and learning something about the blogger behind the blog. Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Display the award on your post.
  3. Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blogging
  4. Provide 10 random facts about yourself
  5. Answer the questions given to you
  6. Nominate 5-11 other blogs for this award
  7. Ask them creative and unique questions of your own
  8. List the rules and inform your nominees of the award

1, 2, 8. Shoutout and thanks to How to be an okay person for the tag! 

3. I’ve a lot to say on this one, and I’ll expand on this prompt. Bear with me, or skip to the end.

I love the idea of creating original content and my blog is one outlet for creativity. I crave more of that creative aspect in my life. I want to write my truth as I am now, as I am at this point of my life. 

My blogs through the years have been things I’ve started, then failed on consistency, and then abandoned. There was always a reason these blogs of the past decade were not good enough.

My blogging has always been a personal outlet. From time to time, I go back to writings of the past—thoughts, stray observations, short stories. 

I used to read back at some of my thought posts with some level of disdain—mainly because the writing of past me lacks authenticity. I know because at that time it was impossible to be myself. Even on my own personal blog that I’d created for myself to read, which is ridiculous. I was scared future me would judge my actual thoughts at that time. It is a cruel irony: the very thing I was scared of writing is the very thing I regret. I know this because that was me then.

I look back now through lens of acceptance. I suppose growing up teaches you that you don’t need to constantly validate (or invalidate) your thoughts against or based on some construct of what they should be. Thoughts just are. In hindsight, I see how this aspect controlled who I was to the world. My identity. My projected identity and hugely the way I interacted with the world. I cannot stress how important it is not to compromise on identity. 

Who you are to you is critical. Who you are to make you happy is critical. If you cannot be authentic with yourself, then how can you ever feel free in any sense? Being true to yourself. Being the authentic version of you is where happiness starts and ends. 

It was the beginning of 2016 that I started to write down my thoughts with some consistency. I was curious to know what I might think of myself in years to come. It’s one thing to remember a time of your life; it’s another thing to be able to read about it from you. I also wanted to improve the fluency of my writing, and to get better at writing you need to write—about anything.

Come mid-2017, I decided to extend my blogging to creative areas beyond that personal space. 

This year, and particularly from May onwards, I’ve looked to exploring content in ways I haven’t before. Original content that is real, that represents exactly that, is content that makes me happy. 

4. If I have to isolate ten facts about myself, how can they be random facts? I will try to honour randomness. 

One – I was born with ten toes.
Two – The last meal I had was a Four ‘n’ Twenty beer flavoured pie.
Three – I would be a tomato sauce goes in the fridge not the cupboard person if I ate tomato sauce on a more regular basis.
Four – As stated in my profile, I am an under-100 year old.
Five – I wear glasses on occasion.
Seven – Based on this list, I clearly can’t count.
Six – Midnight is when my thoughts are clearest.
Eight – I love wrapping presents.
Nine – I do not have a shortcrust pastry recipe yet on my site.
Ten – The sky is usually blue wherever I am. Coincidence?

5. 10 Questions 
1) What would the official soundtrack of your life be?
This is a hard one it would be a very eclectic mix of things making up the soundtrack. Here are a few things that would be on my multi-CD soundtrack:
Sun

– some pop/prog-rock: Genesis
– some pop: Richard Marx, Miley, 1D and their individual spin-offs haha, Linkin Park, Evanescence, Elton John
– some classical: Jacqui Evancho, Martina McBride, Celtic Woman, Martina Prior
– some popera: Il Volo, Collabro
– some Norwegian stuff: Sveinung Hølmebakk, Sigvart Dagsland
– some random bits and pieces: Joker Xue, Samantha Barks, Westlife, Susan Boyle, Deuter.

2) Describe the ideal superhero in the real world.
The ideal superhero would be a fund that takes my super and multiplies it! My ideal superhero is a hero who is someone who does what a superhero is supposed to do: save the day. Be there. Be the hero. And be super at it.

3) What would the motto and the crest of your family be?
I would go for a dragon or lion’s head or maybe a unicorn. A beast of sorts. The motto would need to be simple. I would be okay with getting forever lols from something like ‘beast mode 4 lyf’.

4) What is your most/least favourite English word?
I can’t decide! The worst would be a least favourite person’s name. 😎 The most…I can’t decide.

5) If you had the chance to turn back time, how different would the decisions in your life be, knowing what you now know?
Knowing what I know now in the past, my life would be very different. My decisions would be very different. I would have more belief in my decisions.

6) Describe your most prominent memory anytime it rained?
Not my most prominent moment but an abstract moment that held significance. 

She stood in the shower and turned up the hot water. The running of the hot water against her skin was immediately calming. The wind had been howling all day and the rain had been heavy. On and off, hail and drizzles. Wintery and terrible. It was heavy rain again. Tomorrow’s forecast, too.

The dips in the streets would fill with little pools of water. Cars would look extra clean. Cheeks would be dewy. The trains would be holding free umbrella day.

There would be the inevitable dripping of water from the hole in the ceiling, to the bed post, to her pillow tonight if the rain continued. The roof knew where best to spring a leak. It was great at playing raindrop dominoes. 

The rain had been making it difficult to go anywhere this week. Water everywhere. If only it would drown out her thoughts.

The hot water against her felt like relief. The shampoo, apple infused, had been a good choice. It lathered well and the scent was pleasant. 

The long shower came to a reluctant end. Feeling fresher, she hopped into bed and pulled the covers close. What a day. What a week.

Droplets began to pelt the pillowcase. 

The rain outside had stopped.

It looked like the cloud had moved inside.

7) What one mythical creature would you like to turn into and why?
I’d turn into a fairy because every fairy’s story has to come with a fairy tale ending.

8) Who is one person, dead or alive, you would love to spend 24 hours with?
The who they are includes their kindness, their care, the joy they bring, and their expressive eyes which speak more than words can ever say.

9) If you could have a tattoo (or another one, if you’ve already gotten some), what would it be and why?
I would get a tattoo of a rainbow unicorn. A reminder that there is bliss to be had if you look hard enough.

10) How much chocolate is too much chocolate?
Never enough. Can you ever have too much chocolate? I eat chocolate everyday.

6. I tag these blogs for the Liebster Award because they have cool content (and look forward to their replies to my list of questions below, should they decide to participate😎).

TrkingmomoeCooking for HumansRewarded with WordsThank you GB Bake OffChef Keith, Simple Gourmet CookingVegan BajanRachael HakimJourney from a Polish KitchenThe Hungry Food MonstersMaking a Long Story ShortOh Yes They Did

7. My questions
1) How would you describe yourself?
2) What’s the most extreme thing you have done?
3) If you could spend a day with someone who would that someone be?
4) What is one piece of advice you’d give on a 21st birthday?
5) What/who is on your playlist?
6) Describe a moment that made you happy.
7) Describe your favourite breakfast, lunch, dinner, and/or dessert?
8) How’s your day looking tomorrow?
9) If you could gain one superpower what would you choose and why?
10) Answer a question that’s not on this list that you’d like to answer or that would make this more fun!

No expectations, but I’d love to read yours back if you (or any bloggers/commenters old, new, and inbetween) do participate.

😊
Cheerio

– enchirist

Trio of Cheeses at Toastface Grillah, Wellington St

To be honest before I ended up making a visit to this place for lunch, it was a ‘skip over’ place in my head. 

**

Hear me out. Toastface is in an alleyway. With bins—skip bins at that and from that I take that they should be skipped​ over, if you’ll pardon the pun. With graffiti on the walls. 

Thoughts of the most pleasant things aren’t exactly what come to mind. 

As a twenty-something female living in a first world country, in one of the safest cities, who’s fortunate to never have met with the nefarious or had an encounter with the untoward, I can’t explain it. Feelings are irrational. Logic and reasoning often don’t factor in—and when they do, no amount of explaining makes it better.

Alleyways are a subset of the fear basket the subconscious flags as ‘avoid’. Alleys together with unlit passageways, confronting-looking faces, creepy things, and things that emanate a vibe that something’s off, get thrown into this pile. 

Because the possibility of a threat is something to  avoid. Heck, people devote their lives to becoming experts on risk avoidance and risk management. It is pretty much the work of unoptimistic psychics: they predict what could happen in the future and then they put life plans in place to avoid possible unfavorable darkness.

There are plenty of examples. Release of convicted criminals into the community may depend on the outcomes of an assessment of risk, recidivism, and their ability to meet tightly controlled conditions of release. Scissors are banned from being carried in hand luggage. The content of scary movies is ninety percent foreshadowing, suspense-building, and false alarms, and avoidance of the threat—and ten percent actual interactions with the threat, if that. It’s a win for movie-goers and -makers. The idea that a blue steak might have unkilled bacteria has a great deal of people avoiding anything under a medium. Perceived and possible threats can be as impactful as actual threats.

My point is that alleyways are an example of how the feeling of safety can be impinged upon by things that aren’t obvious. It is like a rug: one that doesn’t have the weight of furniture to stop it slipping, a rug that can be pulled out from under at any moment. Everything can be fine then something—a thought, a thing that becomes noticed—can threaten the sense of safety in a space. It need not be of the severity of a bomb threat. It may just be in a need-to-be-extra-vigilant kind of way. Both are impacts; both somewhere on the spectrum.

Safety and fear I would suggest are highly individual feelings. We live in a world that is analogous to a great, big videogame. Although perhaps that’s too self-referential to work as an analogy, more like the other way around—videogamesmitate life. We are each brought to life endowed with certain attibutes—strength, dexterity, health, wisdom, personality, conscientiousness, and so forth. The list of pre-determined characteristics and  predispositions goes on.

We each experience life as ‘player one’ in the game. Uniqueness of the individual journey is true in every sense: no two lives are exactly the same, and we react and respond to our immediate environment. And in my case, that includes sometimes bypassing places like this for no other reason than because they’re sorted into some basket, as autonomously as the whites, and the greys and blues, go into different laundry baskets. 

I guess all that came to mind when I had this toasty. Huh.

**

Anyhoo, on to Toastface. 

Like any good joint the venue is greasy; the type of greasiness that comes with the greasy smell that gets absorbed into clothing. Beware sitting for extended periods right outside the grill window.

The toasties clearly keep it simple and the one I had was great. 

I watched the dude go about the making of the toasty. I will now reveal the secrets of achieving the toasty: 

  1. Generously butter both sides of normal, supermarket white bread. By generously, I mean go crazy with the butter. No wonder it tasted so good.
  2. From the relevant box of Tupperware, grab a big dollop of whatever filling is ordered. 
  3. Spread on insides of the bread.
  4. Put together the slices and whack it on the grill. 
  5. Grill until it’s a proper brown.

Ta da! There was one other thing. I’m not sure which step it comes under. It has to do with the rosemary-ness, herbiness of the outerside of the bread. They must either use a herby butter or roll the buttered bread in a herb mix. Either way, it gives the bread this unique flavour. Yum.

Taste verdict This was great tasting stuff. It is seriously artery-clogging material.

⭐⭐3/4