Last summer I saw the 25th Anniversary production of Les Misérables on stage. I started reviewing it, but never finished. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I figured it was time to rescue this from the draft folder before writing my thoughts on the film.

For the 25th anniversary of the show, the staging has been completely redone (in part to get rid of the rotating stage). The songs have been adjusted again, and long-standing direction, costume design and characterization has been allowed to change.

Overall I like the new staging. It’s not a stripped-down production at all – in fact, most of the sets are more elaborate than the original, which basically relied on the rotating floor, lighting, two jumbles of boxes, and a bridge. Fortunately they didn’t go overboard: they let the songs carry the show, which leads to an interesting mix of elaborate sets for ensemble numbers and empty stages for the solos.

Continue reading →

Hard to believe it, but this is the 2,000th post on this blog. Yeah, I know — crazy.

In celebration of this milestone, here’s looking back at…

The Year 2000

I was a recent college graduate, while Katie was finishing up her last year at UCI. We’d been dating for a little over a year. I’d started working as a web designer just before Y2K, only to be thrust into the role of sysadmin when our previous sysadmin pulled up stakes and moved to the other side of the country.


Cypress Point Lookout.In March, Katie and I took a trip to the San Francisco Bay Area to check out UC Berkeley as a potential grad school and visit San Francisco and Monterey. (I’ve got one photo from that trip online.) In August we went north again to attend a friend’s wedding near Santa Rosa, and a few weeks later, Katie was a bridesmaid in our friends Stacy and Jim’s wedding.

Hike in the Angeles National Forest.We went camping with UCI’s Campuswide Honors Program that April in the Angeles National Forest (in the mountains north of Los Angeles) — you can check out funny quotes from that trip. We may have hit the Renaissance Faire that spring (we definitely went in 1999 and 2001). In July we went with Katie’s family to the San Diego Zoo, and met up with a bunch of friends at Disneyland in November.

Sometime that summer I went on a company trip to do whitewater rafting on the south fork of the American River. It was a lot of fun…even though I fell out of the raft on a Class III rapid with the cheerful name of Satan’s Cesspool. It happened to be the spot where the rafting company set up their camera, so somewhere I have a series of pictures of our raft heading through the rapid while I lean farther and farther out until all you can see is a hand. (I was fine — I just swallowed some river water and rode the rapid like it was a water slide, and they picked me up when the water calmed down.)

Katie dressed as a Centauri.I definitely went to Comic-Con International that summer, and we both went to LosCon in November. That was the year Katie dressed up as a Centauri (Babylon 5), and we have quotes from LosCon as well!

Cyberspace (Yeah, people still called it that)

I bought the domain name in January and had my entire website moved off of the UCI Artslab servers by February. That included Flash: Those Who Ride the Lightning, nearly four years old at the time, and Les Misérables: The Complete Multilingual Libretto…which, after nearly five years online, netted my my first (and so far only) takedown notice just one month after I moved it from .edu to .org. I still think there has to have been a connection.

Meanwhile, Katie moved her website from GeoCities to Xoom…which shortly thereafter became NBCi, then disappeared entirely, and she set up shop on

Living Situation

Lake Forest ApartmentIn June, after about a year living with my parents post-graduation, I took my saved-up money and moved into an apartment in Lake Forest, where I never quite finished unpacking. (I never picked up a couch, either, just folding borrowed chairs.) When Katie graduated, she moved out of student housing and back in with her parents, and I racked up a lot of miles on my car driving back and forth to Downey.

In December, Katie moved into my apartment for a few weeks while she looked for a job, and we looked for a larger apartment. We officially moved in together during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. During a December heat wave, naturally.

Update (August 2009): I’ve been cleaning up the Twitter digests, and ended up just deleting some that were redundant. So technically, this is no longer the 2,000th item in the archive, though it was at the time it was posted.

I ordered tickets for an upcoming production of The Phantom of the Opera (the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical) and something occurred to me: In all likelihood it’s going to be an exact replica of the 22-year-old London production (with a few concessions to the realities of touring). When did this start happening?

MasqueradeMost of the time when someone puts on a play that’s been done before, they take the script and do their own thing with the sets, costumes, and performances. This is generally true with older musicals as well; people generally aren’t worried about seeing the original staging of, say, The Sound of Music. But these days, when a big show goes on tour, audiences expect the same experience they’d get on Broadway or in the West End.

Les Miserables opened in London in 1985, went through some tweaks on the way to Broadway, and then every production worldwide for the next 10 years was identical save for cast and translations. They retooled the show for the 10th anniversary, and those changes stuck around until they decided to cut it so that they wouldn’t have to pay the orchestra overtime.

Same with Miss Saigon: opened in London, tweaked as it went to Broadway, then frozen until 2003, when it was retooled to make touring simpler (fewer sets on palettes, using a projection of a helicopter instead of a model on a boom, etc. And let me tell you, watching a show about the Vietnam War during the week leading up to the Iraq War was an odd experience.)

It’s probably been 10 years since I saw Phantom (not counting the movie, about which the less said, the better), but I’ll be surprised if it’s much different (aside from cast) than the last time. I’m sure that’s what the rest of the audience is looking for, after all.