I was courted to review Flashdance: The Musical at the Straz Center for their opening night on Tuesday, but other commitments kept me from attending. Rather than give up my tickets and sacrifice a review I sent volunteers, Mrs. Miranda Lessie, Mrs. Amy Eck and Bennett Eck in my place.
This is my first Guest Blog as it is written by Miranda Lessie.
Flashdance: The Musical – Straz Center for the Arts, Tampa Florida. 19 Feb 2013
Move over Las Vegas, there is a new party in town and it’s called Flashdance. Can you remember the iconic water works scene in the original movie? You won’t have to imagine it for long once you sit down for this new musical.
Flashdance The Musical
If you love the 80’s music, hair styles, dancing and most of all the legwarmers, you will be right at home with this production. Even if you don’t adore these things, you will find yourself moving to the live orchestra which sounding more like an 80’s hair band than an orchestra. Perfect for this play.
The play starts off with a running start and gets right into the story line. It was a fast start for me who prefers more of a background building and character development. Once all the characters were introduced throughout the play, the story line begun to come alive and I fell in love with each character. Kudos to the Casting director who found the perfect character for each performer whom seemed to have been born to play their particular part. The leading lady Emily Padgett was a dead ringer for the original movie character.
I found some characters had a shaky start with their first song but each ended with a bang. The singing in the play was equal to, if not better than, the dancing. All the performers were superb singers, dancers and actors.
The set and lighting was a plus for this play. I never questioned what location we were at in the play because there was a huge display at the top of the stage at every scene change. My only question about the set is “just how did they do that water dance scene?” It was so perfect.
Costumes were exquisite but not over the top. They were very believable for the time period. They were also just on the edge of being rated a little more than PG-13. The language was appropriate for this type of play and slang was kept a very minimum.
As I walked out of the playhouse, I wondered why I didn’t attend more productions. I absolutely fell in love with this medium and will be back soon. The actors made this play but the scene and music made the actors. ~ Miranda Lessie
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There are people out there that take everything in stride and just let the world unfold around them, and there are people who have decided there is so much negativity in the world it is much easier to be oblivious to everything. Either way, in my opinion, if it makes you happy, then do it. There are a few people out there, that have a passion for making the world a better place. There are those who find one cause and passionately support it, which is phenomenal, but a rare few people out there are able to spread their power of influence, courage, and passion to every cause, organization and individual in need they can. My friend Ben is one of those people.
Before I tell you about his cool “Run for Cause” fun runs, or the races he has organized and the races coming up, let me tell you about Ben Mena the runner. Ben and I met through friends from my tri-club the A-Train and some friends from the Run Progressive track workouts. I knew of him and knew he was fast, but that didn’t justify what I saw when I first ran with him. I am amazed at people who can run a marathon with 7:30 average per mile pace. This guy hammers through half-marathons in under 6-minute miles and then will turn around and bike for 20 without skipping a beat.
My favorite memory of watching Ben was actually a cycling workout. Ben was coerced into joining us and Pete (Tribute #2) let him borrow his road bike. This bike had pedal cages on it because Ben didn’t have cycling shoes or cleats and this was going to be his first ride. Well, Ben goes out in front with the “A” group and is really strong. We all thought, “OK, we will just hang back here and watch him die out and pick him up at the turnaround.” He reached the turnaround and just kept going and beat us all. First time out! A few weeks later he decides to do a duathlon in Orlando for the first time and he finishes first, overall. Ben’s VO2 max is off the charts. Maybe that is why he continues to help those in need, with a VO2 max that high, his heart is huge.
Ben organizes a monthly fun run in Brandon, Florida that gives to a different charity each month. I have been running in every one since July and I have seen no less than 50 people at any of them. He also is part of a duo with Beth Shaw (Dis-com-BOB-ulated Running), of which they have successfully completed their first race called the Shape Up for Summer 5k and now they have another one coming up called the Corporate 5k in downtown Tampa. The Shape Up for Summer 5k had well over 750 runners which is well over what they expected and as I used the race as a culmination runs for my clientele, let me just say it was one of the best organized 5k runs I had participated in. Beth and Ben did a really amazing job, so if you find a race organized by MenaShaw Races, you can be sure to have a great experience.
With that being said, Ben has another race he has organized and this one has an interesting spin on it while helping out some people that can really use it. I will let him tell you in his own words. Let me introduce, Benjamin Mena.
Benjamin (Ben) Mena
Birthdate: 8/25/83 – Virgo
Place of Birth: Virginia Beach, VA
Place growing up: Charleston SC and Bremerton, WA
High School: Cocoa Beach High
High School sports: Soccer, Cross Country, Track
College: University of Central Florida
College Sports: Cross Country, Track
Other Sports: Ummmm….. nope
I usually describe you as one of the fastest runners in the Tampa Bay area. What started you running?
I used to be the guy that would make fun of the runners and throw stuff at them. (in HS). I thought running was dumb and pointless. So after a win-less soccer season, the soccer girls tried to convince me to run cross country to prep for soccer… I said yeah right, that’s dumb… their response was just run behind us. What teenage guy can say no. after my first year running (JR year) I developed a passion for it and it quasi-took over my life.
JR year was just an introduction to the sport. Our workouts were easy as hell, but the one thing I loved my coach for (she was hot also) she taught us all how to make running fun and enjoyable. My Sr year of high school we had a new coach. She had a background as a professional runner, so she knew her stuff. She helped give me the dream of being a college athlete. At that point, I wasn’t good enough for any college team but I worked my ass off as hard as I could. I had the one gift that every coach wants in their athlete. Burning desire to make it.
The summer before college was pretty crazy. I was working 5 jobs to try to get ready for college (until my car died) then I had to drop my job at Publix [Supermarket]because it was a 20-mile bike ride each way). I would bike to my different jobs, then get home and run and then would be able to start hanging out with friends after 11 pm. During that time I would never miss a run no matter how bad I wanted to have fun.
I still to this day don’t know why coach chose me out of all the other walk-ons.. but I am thankful she did. I ran with my heart and I knew I had more to prove that everyone that came in on scholarships. (I also didn’t have a car… so I got a lot more miles in than most people. Outside all the running I was walking 5-14 miles a day to and from, and around school) By the end of the first season, I was granted an athletic scholarship and the following year I was team captain…
|Ben doing what he does best|
What and When was your first 5k time? What and when was your fastest 5k time?
Year of high school. I don’t remember the time but I was low 20s, but my fastest was 15:20 in college.
What kind of workouts did you do to get that fast?
You don’t want to know the schedule. But my favorite workout was mile repeats!
What was your average weekly mileage?
60-80 was the average. During the summer we would crank it up for base building. My highest week was 112 and 90% of those miles were done along the Appalachian Trail.
I mentioned above that you hold a monthly fun run named “Run for a Cause” at the Cork & Olive in Brandon. How did that come about?
Just had the idea while at the bar. I love hosting fun events for people… and it came about from there. our first event I was hoping for 10 people… and over 50 ended up showing up.
How many different charities have you hosted?
7 or 8 now
If someone had a cause they would like to have hosted at one of your events what is the best way to contact you? Best is through FaceBook.
The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School has devastated the country. You chose to act quickly and do something about it by hosting this Virtual Run. Can you give the details?
This is a virtual half-marathon and virtual 5K. Since it is virtual, you can complete it anywhere in the world. You can run, walk, swim, bike, anything you like, and you can complete the 13.1 miles or 5K all at once, over the course of a week, or whenever you can. Just complete all miles between now and Jan 31st. This is on the honor system – you do not have to report your miles.
The registration fee for the Half Marathon is $30.
Register Here: http://www.active.com/half-marathon/tampa-fl/sandy-hook-elementary-memorial-half-marathon-and-5k-2013
Event Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/events/186264894845690/
What gave you the Idea?
I am on the board for a few charities, and I was already researching a way to do a virtual 5k. When the devastation occurred, I couldn’t sleep, so I mulled it over for a while and by Sunday I had it up on Active.com and Facebook and 200 people already had agreed to participate. Today on Facebook there are over 1800 that have committed and a little over 250 that have actually signed up on Active.com
It grew a lot faster than I thought. It went viral. I originally thought about a few people here in Tampa to raise around 1000 dollars, but now it is well over that.
|Beth and Ben|
Do you have any other races coming up?
Beth and I have been organizing a Tampa Bay Corporate 5K.
This is an event where the runners choose one of the 4 charities that this race will give back too. Every person that registers for the race will get a vote (fill in the blank) for the charity of their choice. The charity with the most votes will receive a portion of the proceeds along with Little Things for Cancer, Cystic Fibrosis (Tampa Chapter), and Operation Helping Hand.
You can get more details on the Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/131275133693630
or on the event website: http://www.tampacorporate5k.com/
|Ben and his fiance Jennifer|
|Ben and the Goof|
The Tampa Bay Bloggers had an opportunity to see Elf the Musical on opening night and as a new member I was thrilled at the chance to take part. Now as I am a new member I am not sure of the background of my fellow bloggers, but I do have a modest amount of training and experience in theater (www.bradminus.com), so I may be just a tad more specific especially on the acting, but nevertheless I hope my review will be informative enough to help you decide whether to see it or not. Just a little foreshadowing….go see it.
Elf the Musical is based on the 2003 holiday movie Elf starring Will Farrell about a human baby who found his way into Santa’s bag during his Christmas visit to a local orphanage. Since the boy was already an orphan, Santa and his elves decided to raise the child at the north pole just as they would any elf child. The problem was Buddy, the human boy, grew to be over six feet tall. After a small slip of the tongue by one of the other elves, Buddy learns that he is indeed human and asks Santa about his parents. It is then that Buddy decides to go and find his father in the big city of New York.
NETwork Presentations LLC’s production of this family Christmas musical was alive with high energy musical numbers, colorful set pieces and smooth transitions from scene to scene. In the past decade or two, Broadway and national tours have started to move toward high tech sets and stage work which include hgh intensive set changes, creative light and sound effects, and even some pyrotechnics. Very recently I have noticed a small shift back to a more classical route where the set pieces are simple but painted well, the lighting is simple and the music and sound are achieved by a live orchestra instead of musical tracks. This musical is a perfect example. This simpler style has shifted the responsibility of the quality of productions back to the performers and less to the designers of sets, sound and lighting. In my opinion it makes for a better show, but I may be a little biased.
The play opens up with Santa (Gordon Gray) sitting in his living room fighting with his television set. He opens the fourth wall and greets the audience as if we were sitting on the floor right in his living room. After subtly turning off his cell phone, he opens a book and prepares to tell us the story of Buddy the Elf. At the point the living room is whisked away to Santa’s workshop where the elves are preparing for Christmas. Gordon’s depiction of Santa throughout the play is wonderful. His energy and boastfulness helped me to get lost in the show and actually believe I was at the north pole.
Matt Kopec’s characterization of Buddy is spot on as his high energy, child like characterization makes the audience believe this six-foot boy really does believe he is an elf and is horrified when he finds out he is actually human. Matt’s singing voice is pure musical theater and was a joy to hear every time he opened his mouth. I found myself waiting impatiently for his next number.
The real treat came from the character of Jovie (Kae Hennies), who captures Buddy’s heart the moment he sees her in the office of his biological father, Walter Hobbs (Drew Culver). Jovie has to be coaxed in to singing during the number “A Christmas Song”, but when she finally decides to sing out, her voice beautifully resonates throughout the theatre and when paired with Buddy’s the duo create pure musical brilliance for any ear.
Other notable performances were by Michael, Buddy’s half brother played by Connor Barth who even as a young actor, had a mature voice for his age. He tended to get a little pitchy in the upper registers, but because of his characterization was easily missed and forgivable. Julia Louise Hosack played Emily Hobbs, Buddy’s step mother, also had a fantastic musical voice and she was able to lead Michael into musical duets that gave me the “warm fuzzies”. The connection and chemistry between these two well trained actors allowed me to believe they were really mother and son.
The only drawback of this production that tugged me out of my holiday nirvana, was the voice of Drew Pulver whom played Walter Hobbs, Buddy’s father. His performance was not inferior, it just did not mix well the rest of the ensemble in my humble opinion. It was obvious to the audience that most of the ensemble were trained in contemporary music or musical theater When Walter sang it was clearly operatic, to a point where the words were garbled and I couldn’t make out the lyrics. Unfortunately, every time he sang it was distracting and his voice did not meld with the rest of the ensemble.
This show is classical musical theatre with simply painted sets, wonderful acting, and is sure to bring a smile to you and your family should you decide to see it. It is a true Holiday treat.
Elf the Musical is playing at
Straz Center for the Performing Arts
1010 North W.C. MacInnes Place
Tampa, Florida 33602
Wed. 7:30 p.m.
Fri. 2 and 8 p.m.
Sat. 2 and 8 p.m.
Sun. 1 and 6:30 p.m.
It’s January 9th and I have been trying to provide a base now since November 6th. I think I am doing pretty well. I couldn’t swim 600 yards without changing up strokes from freestyle to sidestroke, to breaststroke. Now I can go about 800 yards with strictly freestyle..at least in a pool. Yesterday, January 8th 2011, I ran the Disney Half-Marathon without stopping in 1:59:32. It is not great, but not that this is an excuse, but it was extremely crowded and I was in the very back of the pack. Last week I cycled 40 miles, with a 5K run at the end. I think as far as my endurance factor goes I am a little a head of the game.
Just to give the story as to why. People think I am nuts…why train for an event where you swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112 miles and then run a marathon? It started two years ago. I had been working my ass off 12 -15 hour days including weekends. I was feeling drained and I was due for a physical with a complete blood workup. Dr. Gold basically said I was in horrible shape. My cholesterol was high, my triglycerides were high, my good cholesterol was low, my sugar was high…I am sure the picture was obvious. This was only 3 years after separating for the second time from the military. I couldn’t believe I let myself get so out of shape.
Kim and I were walking around Hyde Park Village about three weeks later and we walked past Lifestyles Family Fitness. There was a poster in the window for a Boot Camp Class. We went in and contracted to use the gym, I enrolled in Boot Camp and Kim hired a personal trainer to get her started again. Well, from the first class I was hooked. They had these teasers prior to the beginning of the real class and it was an intense 35 minutes of cardio, strength training, agility, stability and core exercises. I loved it, coming from a military background where this is what we did everyday. The difference was the emphasis on form and injury reduction. Well, the instructors, Nicole Sturtze, and Zach Thompson were a hell of lot nicer than my drill sergeants. Two days a week for an hour I put 100% effort and sweat-ed profuciously and loved it. One Monday morning, my eyes popped open at 5:30am and I was wide awake. I thought, eh why not go for a run. I ran for four miles and felt like a million dollars. The next day after boot camp I saw a flyer for another class called Punch & Crunch, and thought, eh why not give it a try. Melissa Trinidad was teaching, and I knew she was one of the top trainers at the gym, not to mention she was really cute. Again, I was hooked after the first class. Boxing paired with cardio and core was awesome. Within a month of starting to work out twice a week, I had now more than doubled my workouts to 5 days a week. Monday, I ran or worked out on my own, Tuesday & Thursday was Boot Camp, Wednesday and Saturday was Punch & Crunch, Friday and Sunday I took off. Next, a friend in Boot Camp told me about this Hot Yoga down the street from the gym. I never sweated so much in my life and felt so rejuvenated afterward. Now I was at 6 days a week.
Next came the game changer – Scott Bragan, another Boot Camp friend, started mentioning the Chicago Marathon and how he was doing it for charity. The PKD foundation. Perocystic Kidney Disease. His mother-in-law had a transplant, his wife was diagnosed with it, and his daughter had a 50/50 chance of coming down with it because she carried the gene. My need to help kicked in, so I decided to talk to him about it, and before I knew it we had 10 members of Team Tampa PKD and were starting a plan to fund raise to a goal of $25,000!! With that we also trained together. Two six week sessions of boot camp, combined with Punch & Crunch, and Yoga allowed my first training run, to be 9 miles. I couldn’t believe I was starting to train for a marathon and I could already comfortably run 9 miles. I was jazzed.
Well, Scott also mentioned another activity he did…Triathlons. I had partaken in a couple of triathlons in high school and I enjoyed them, so I thought, what a great way to break up the training for the marathon by swimming and biking and participating in a couple of sprint triathlons as well. I ended up participating in two that summer, the Mease Plant Point and the Top Gun and loved them…well…except for the swim. I just wanted to get that over with.
We did end up raising the 25000 bucks and then some and everyone finished the marathon with decent times, except for me. I ended up injuring myself two weeks before with a herniated disc at L5/S1 and was in recovery during the marathon. I did go to Chicago that weekend and I did take some great pics, and cheer on my team, but I was really bummed. That was October 2009.
Since then I have been in a few more small races, 5Ks and 10Ks, a couple of half-marathons, three more triathlons and have continued to train. I have not missed a boot camp session since then and I feel I am pretty good shape. Last November a friend from a running group I have been running with, the Blue Sharks, told me she did a couple of Full Ironman Triathlons. I was really impressed. She then mentioned she was going to volunteer at the Florida Ironman and asked if I wanted to go. I thought it would be really cool to see all these elite athletes do this incredible event. I went and had an awesome time and got hooked. I was in the transition tent from the Bike to the Run and the Pro-athletes came in and they were systematic and quick. Then the age-groupers came in and some of them were the same as the pros and some of them just took there time, had a break and then continued on to the run. I was enthralled at the amount of people, and all the types of people that were going through this event. Of course the next part is what really hooked me. About 9pm we all decided to hang out at the finish line. Let me preface this by saying the race started at 7 am, so this was 14 hours after the start of the race…Four…teen…..hours! Teresa (the culprit who hooked me into this) said this was the best part of the race because this is the “regular” people finished. The people who had regular jobs, kids, responsibilities that had to fit all this training in apart from that. Coming over the finish line were women and men in excess of 280 pounds, a blind man, a disabled man, men and women in excess of 60 years old, and my favorite a 16 time age grouper that was 76. Yes, that’s right SEVENTY-SIX years old and he came over the finish line before the cut-off of 17 hours. There are those people like myself who do not look there age. There are seventy-six year olds out there whom look fifty or even 60. No…this guy looked the all of seventy-six he was. This is what got me hooked…if they could do it…I definitely could do it.
I have to mention that I really do not want to be racing for 17 hours. If I finish it in 16 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds…I will be happy that I completed it, but I really do not want to be racing for that long. I found a guy Ben Greenfield who is an awesome athlete and a very knowledgeable athlete whom has developed a plan to get average joes like me through the Ironman with an acceptable amount of training hours that might not completely infringe on my responsibilities. I also have met with a swim coach, my doctor, my chiropractor and a license massage therapist whom is also a bio-mechanics expert and a USAT Level 1 certified trainer. With all this support, I hope to conquer this quest.
At the moment I am doing my own base training right now, with an emphasis on getting comfortable in the saddle of my bike, and becoming relaxed and efficient in the water. Ben’s plan is a 36 week plan, so it does not actually start until the last week in February. I have increased my weekday workouts from an hour to two in order to get my body used to working hard longer, and continue to do boot camp.
Here is to hoping my plan works out, and no injuries or re-injuries will stop me.
Live Strong, Finish Stronger!!!