Category Archives: Review

2017: A Look Back

As the curtain closes on 2017 I thought I’d take a look back on the year and reflect.  Not gonna lie… it was a pretty good year.

I thought I’d dig into my blog analytics and see which blog posts seemed to resonate most with my audience.  Some were surprising… and a few I expected.

2017: A Look Back

A Dad’s Album Review: Taylor Swift’s Reputation – Being the Dad of two teenage daughters, whenever Taylor puts out new music I’m going to have to listen to it… so I figured I might as well review it.

Memory Monday – Missing Tom Petty –  We lost many great musicians this year.  Tom Petty was one of them.  In this post, I share about the time I almost got to see him in concert.

Review: Scott Bradlee’s Post Modern Jukebox 2017 Tour, Hoyt Sherman, Des Moines – My wife and I enjoyed many great date nights in 2017.  This was one of my favorites.

Lesson Learned From A Lukewarm Shower – A little reminder to tackle the little annoyances in your life before they become big.

27 Low Or No Cost Things You Can Do To Be Nice – I’m glad this one showed up as one of the most read of the year.  The world needs more nice people.

A Sense Of Community – In small towns, you come together to celebrate when you can.  We celebrated the success of our girl’s basketball team.

20 Foods I Want To Try – This is one of the more recent posts… but it sparked a great conversation on Facebook and gave me something to shoot for in 2018.

Tony Tries It: Grilled Frozen Pizza – I love to grill, I love pizza, and I love to experiment.  This seemed like the perfect thing to try.

Whiskey Stones: Do They Work? – A science experiment that ended with me sipping whiskey… sign me up!

Easy Grilled Cauliflower – I did several cooking videos this year. This one was the first.

Review: Something Rotten! At Des Moines Performing Arts – My wife and I saw many outstanding shows at the Civic Center in Des Moines.  This one had us laughing so hard we had tears.

Those are a few of my favorites from 2017… if I overlooked one of your favorite posts of mine be sure and leave a comment. Happy New Year! Bring on 2018!

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Review: Waitress At Des Moines Performing Arts

I became aware of Waitress the musical a few summers ago.  We were at dance nationals and my oldest daughter took a Master Class where they used one of its’ songs.  My daughter, wife, and I instantly became big fans of that song.  It’s what put Waitress on our radar.

So when I got the invite to attend the December 5, 2017, opening night performance at Des Moines Performing Arts I was excited to be able to go… but knew I had two ladies at home who would really want to be my “plus one”.

In the end, I took my wife and we had a great date night.  Waitress was perfect for that but would also be great for a girls night out too.  It’s all about, Jenna, a waitress and expert pie baker, dealing with an unloving and abusive marriage, and how she finds the courage to deal with the difficulties in her life.

To me, Waitress is all about relationships; good ones, bad ones, unexpected ones, forbidden ones, and even quirky ones.  They all fit together nicely in a roughly 2 hour and 15 minute performance that I’d describe as a sitcom, inside a drama, inside a musical.

The comedic timing was impeccable, the characters well developed, and the acting was some of the best that I’ve seen in any Des Moines Performing Arts show.  There was one point without any dialogue that drew many laughs.  So much was being said through body language, breathing, and facial expressions that words weren’t needed. Makes me smile thinking about it now.

The music is what I was really looking forward to in this performance and I wasn’t disappointed.  Everyone on stage is a gifted vocalist and uses their talent well.  The orchestra pit was empty for this show and the band actually slid on and off the stage in a way that I felt added to the performance.

If your only experience with musicals is Oklahoma or South Pacific know that the music in Waitress isn’t anything like those shows at all.  The music and lyrics were written by Sara Bareilles, giving it a very contemporary feel and sound.

There are many great songs in Waitress.  Some are hysterical, some are touching, and some are just plain emotional.  I got goosebumps when Desi Oakley, playing the role of Jenna, broke into She Used To Be Mine.  That was the song that originally got me interested in this show.

One other cool thing that I enjoyed about this performance is how they cast 2 young, local girls to trade off playing a small part in the show.  5-year-old Eliana Mann from Urbandale played the part of Lulu in the opening night performance and she was great.

The sold-out out crowd was invested in the performance from the unexpected and funny reminder to mute your phone to the final curtain call.  There were cheers, applause, and reactions (in a good way) in places that I wonder if they caught some of the actors off guard a little bit.  I also wonder if the cast was surprised at how quick they were rewarded with a standing ovation.

Hopefully, Des Moines is getting a reputation as a theatre-loving town!  After the show as we walked back to our car my wife said, “I think that is one of the best shows we’ve seen!”  I was quick to agree.

Waitress runs through December 10, 2017 at Des Moines Performing Arts.  You can learn more about the show and get tickets here.

***Disclaimer – I was provided with free press night tickets.  All opinions are my own.

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A Dad’s Album Review: Taylor Swift’s Reputation

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you know that my daughters (and me) are big Taylor Swift fans.  We’ve seen her in concert several times and one of my favorite “Dad” moments was getting a picture of Taylor, my daughters, and me.

I reviewed her 1989 album from a Dad’s perspective so I knew I wanted to use the same lens to tackle her Reputation album.

Of course, my daughters were excited about the album.  They had me waiting outside the Target nearest my office on release day to get both Target exclusive editions.

With two copies of Taylor Swift’s Reputation album in our house… I was able to snag one to listen to and review.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure of what to make of the album after hearing it the first time. I bordered on wanting to like it and thinking I should like it just because my daughters were in love with it.

The thing is… the more I listened to it… the more I began to love it.  It’s kind of like a pair of shoes that at first, you regret buying, but then becomes your favorite pair.

After several listens to this album I felt like every song is both “fresh” and “new” but also has a familiar feel.  Several times I caught myself trying to figure out what a particular part of a song reminded me of only to come up short.  Like I said… it’s familiar… but it’s new!

Taylor Swift’s Reputation album is definitely not country.  It’s a mixture of dance, electronica, hip-hop, and pop.  It’s the most mature album she’s done… which makes sense.  Taylor isn’t a child star anymore.  She’s a woman and sings about grown-up themes; love, loss, lust, hurt, betrayal, confusion, clarity, and personal awareness.

Even though there are adult topics covered on the album, Tayor writes her lyrics in such a way that I feel are “safe” for all ages.  There’s an “S bomb” and a “damn” in the album but that’s about it for lyrics that some parents might find questionable

It’s obvious that this is Taylor’s most personal album yet… and I think that’s probably why her biggest fans (like my daughters) will say that Reputation is their favorite Taylor Swift album to date.

Of the 15 songs on the album… here are a few of my favorites:

Are You Ready For It –  The album kicks off with a bang.  The beat, effects, and production of this song rock.

Look What You Made Me Do – The only thing more fun than this song is its’ video.  I love how Taylor was able to make fun of herself (and her critics) at the end.

Gorgeous – The thing I noticed first about this song and what I love the most is the use of the triangle in it. It’s a simple instrument addition to a very slickly produced track

Dress – A co-worker described this song as “sexy and seductive”.  She was right.  That describes this song perfectly.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things – I included this one because it’s one of my oldest’s favorites on the album.

New Year’s Day – This is my favorite song on the album.  It’s the most stripped down, simple song of the 15 tracks and is the perfect way to close out the album.  Even though she declared that “the old Taylor is dead” in Look What You Made Me Do… it’s obvious to me in this song that the old Taylor might not be dead… but just in a coma.

Have you heard Taylor Swift’s Reputation album? What are your thoughts? What are your favorite songs on it?

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