The Costumes Of Downton Abbey

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I don’t know about you, but I am a big fan of period films or mini series.
One of my favorite is Downton Abbey. I have watched every episode
for the last four seasons and am patiently waiting for season five to
start in January of 2015 in the United States.
That is why I just returned from a trip to Delaware, just outside of Wilmington, in the beautiful Brandywine Valley, where I was lucky enough
to see a very special costume exhibit on the fashions of Downton Abbey,
at the Winterthur Mansion and Museum, former home of Henry DuPont.

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This exhibit includes 40 outfits on display and is the only U.S. exhibit
to feature costumes from the renowned series, which is a Golden Globe
Award winner for Best Miniseries and 7 Emmy Awards.
So let’s step into the world of Downton Abbey, upstairs and downstairs,
and view some of the fashions worn by our favorite characters in this
highly successful series.

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Gwen, a downstairs maid, would wear this as a day uniform.
Thomas, a footman and also a underbutler, wears this polished black
uniform with the gold buttons.
Mrs Hudges, deceptively simple uniform has lovely elements and
embellishments that one would imagine on a cocktail dress.

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Mrs Patmore and Daisy would work together in the kitchen to perhaps
make a mousse for the family.

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Part of the exhibit was looking at the mauve and violet colors of
“light mourning” clothes that are worn when someone passes on.
Cora and Mary would wear these dresses at the funeral of the beloved
Sybil.

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Suit worn by Lady Mary. Matthew would wear this classic sweater and
pants to play Cricket.

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Remember the episode when Sybil would break through the fashion
barriers and wear this scandalous Blue Harmen Pant Dress.

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O’Brien and Cora in the bedroom having a conversation. Hmmm, could
there be some scheming going on.

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The wedding dress that Edith would wear when she was jilted at the
alter.

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The dresses worn by the three dames of Downton Abbey.
Isobel, Violet, Countess Grantham, and Martha, Cora’s mother.

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This beautiful embellished cocktail dress, worn by Cora for dinner.

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This display was probably my favorite. The coats of Downton Abbey.

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The gloves of Downton Abbey. The ladies would wear these every
night for dinner and once seated would remove the gloves very carefully
and lay across their laps.

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Who can forget the episode when Matthew purposes to Mary. This
was a very dramatic part of the exhibit. They have recreated that scene
when Matthew proposes to Mary. The burgundy dress, the formal tuxedo,
and the snow falling on a holiday evening.

This exhibit was outstanding. It far exceeded my expectations and would
please any fan of this show. If anything, you would only want to see more.
The clothes were exquisite and the presentation perfection.
In talking with the Winterthur guides, we were told that this would be the
only time this exhibit would be shown in the United States. What an honor
and privilege this museum has been awarded to present the only exhibit
of its kind.

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The Downton Abbey exhibit is pure genius. Winterthur is the perfect
location, as Winterthur does everything with great historical accuracy
and a great sense of style and hospitality. The guides were very well
informed on the exhibit and seemed to be just as excited as us visitors.
The exhibit runs through January 4, 2015 and any Downton Abbey fan
would know it is well worth a visit.

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My 10 Top Places to See on My Bucket List

When did this obsession of a Bucket List come about?
Sure most of us have always had a mental or written list of things we
wanted to do, places we wanted to go, or accomplishments we wanted to
achieve before we left this earth, but it became a phenomena when the
movie, The Bucket List, came out in January of 2008 with Jack Nicholson
and Morgan Freeman. This movie would change all our conversations.
It would now be, “Do you have a Bucket List?” or “So what’s on your
Bucket List?” There would be people who would look strangely at you,
not knowing what you were talking about. Then there would be people
like me, that immediately started a list and I haven’t stopped since.

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I thought I would share with you a few things that are on my ever growing
Bucket List. Not in any particular order.

1. Prague – Eastern Europe
I really want to visit Prague, along with Eastern Europe. I want to
spend at least a good four to five days there, thoroughly exploring
this glorious city, then travel through the rest of Eastern Europe.

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2. See Greece Again
I went on a Mediterranean Cruise in 2008 and stopped for maybe 6 or
7 hours in Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos. It has always been my
dream to see Greece and I absolutely fell in love with it, but it certainly
wasn’t enough time on the Islands. I want to go back and spend 4 or
5 days on each island to thoroughly enjoy and soak in its beauty. Why
I have never done that in all these years, I really don’t know. Now it
is very-very high on the list.

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3. Ireland
I have always wanted to see Ireland. I want to start in Dublin and work
my way around the country. I want to stop in Cork, Waterford, Wicklow,
Killarney and continue up to Northern Ireland. I have decided I will
take a 2 week tour next year.

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4. China
I have always wanted to see China and The Great Wall. Beijing would
be so beautiful to see, The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Temple
of Heaven, The Summer Palace, and so much more. To be able to
experience the culture would be so fascinating.

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5. Portofino, Italy
First of all, the name alone is so intriguing, Portofino. It sounds so
romantic and lovely. I recently saw a concert with Andrea Bocelli and
David Foster in Portofino, and between the wonderful music and the
setting, that beautiful place is now high on my list,

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6. MT. Rushmore, the Badlands, and Crazy Horse, SD.
Very high on my list. I have wanted to see Mt. Rushmore for years and
never have taken the time to go. So the plan is, I am going with friends
in early June next year.

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7. The Lavender and Sunflower Fields of France
This one is a BIG dream of mine. I want to stand along the lavender
fields and just take in the beautiful aroma surrounding me. I want to walk
through the sunflower fields and just admire the beauty of this intriguing
flower. To gently touch its petals and know that this is what beauty and
dreams are about. I almost feel this would be a sacred experience for
me. Not sure why, but I need to find out soon.

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8. Austria
I have always loved the movie, The Sound of Music, who hasn’t. I want
to see Salzburg and the surrounding area with its fairytale buildings and
scenery.

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9. Take a Train through the Canadian Rockies
I want to take a train to the Canadian Rockies and see Banff National
Park and Lake Louise. There is the beautiful Fairmont Chateau In Lake
Louise on the lakes shore facing the most gorgeous view of the mountains
and lake. Wouldn’t it be perfect to stay a few nights in this hotel with
a killing view. Also, perhaps stay in Whistler a few days. Canada is
a great place to vacation.

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10. The American Southwest
I have only been to a handful of Western States, so I would like to
perhaps do a road trip to New Mexico then work my way up to see
Utah, Montana, more of Colorado, see Monument Valley and just take
in all the sights of that part of the United States. I want to go to Wyoming
and see the National Parks of that entire area.

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These were just 10 things on my Bucket List. I don’t know if I will ever
get it all done or see all the places I want to see, but I will always have that
hope, desire and determination. Sometimes life gets in the way and
you have to change course occasionally, but keep the dream and good
things will happen.

As Stephen King said; “You can, You should, and if your brave
enough to start, You will”.

The Colors of Burano, Italy

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Burano is a picturesque island in the Venetian Lagoon, about a half
hour Vaporetto ride from Venice. With it’s brightly colored painted
houses and pretty canals, it is a photographers paradise. It is much
quieter than Venice and has a way of taking you into another world
of color, beauty, and sereneness.

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Many international magazines include Burano among the top 10
Most Colorful Places in the World. Although, many
think it should be the number 1 Most Colorful Places in the
World.
I totally agree. Walking around this island, you
cannot help feeling intrigued by the many colors of houses that are
reflected into the green waters surrounding you. It is said, according
to an ancient legend, that the Fisherman painted their houses to see
them from long distances when they were far away fishing.

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Walking the back streets of Burano gives you insight on how one lives
in this small colorful island of about 2,800 people. Each house has its
own personality and color assigned by an official of Burano. To change
a color, one must submit a request and according to strict rules, only
certain colors are permitted. I love walking these streets and seeing
ones laundry hanging outside the houses to dry in the beautiful sunshine.
What is it about being in these beautiful European cities or towns and
thinking, how wonderful it would be to be able to go back to the old days
and do as our mothers did before electric dryers and hang our laundry
outdoors. Would I do it, no, I know I wouldn’t, but being here, life is
different and it can become contagious.

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The typical Burano houses are mainly square-shaped and are divided
into two or three floors. At street level is the kitchen, breakfast nook
and toilet. The next floors are the bedrooms.

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The lovely colorful Window Sills of Burano.

As we walked the little streets and over bridges, we came upon Galuppi
Square. Here is where the town will meet, where neighborly ladies,
invite the most curious visitors to come into their shops to admire their
lace making. It is quite interesting to see these women doing such
intricate hand work on the beautiful lace table clothes, dresses, and
shawls, amongst many other beautiful pieces.

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Galuppi Square is a place to refresh yourself with many “trattoria buranella”
where you can eat very fresh and good fish. We chose Trattoria
Da Romano for our lunch. We all ordered something different from
fish soup, the catch of the day, and seafood pasta, all with a great salad
and a glass of wine. Of course there would always be room for dessert.

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It would be time now to leave this enchanting island of Burano and head
back to Venice, where we would spend our last night. I cannot tell you
enough how much we enjoyed this day. Anyone, going to Venice must
take some time and visit Burano, not on a tour, but on your own.
You need to linger its streets and bridges and bask in its beauty.
Maybe next time I will stay on the island for a night or two. There are
no big hotels but a few smaller ones that would be just fine.
But now it’s back to Venice and the Hotel Metropole, where my last
Bellini is waiting for me. Arrivederci Burano, till we meet again.

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Venice in Pictures

“In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths
you took, but how many moments took your breath away”
Shing Xiong

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Stepping out of the Santa Lucia Train Station in Venice, is for me like
stepping into a colorful fairy tale, a fairy tale on water.
I fell in love with Venice many years ago, and it always amazes me each
time I return, it literally, takes my breath away.

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The Grand Canal is the Main Street of Venice. Lined with 170 ornate
Byzantine-Style Palazzos belonging to wealthy families, it is a festival
of color and beauty.

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Our water taxi would take us to the wonderful Hotel Metropole, that
overlooks the lagoon. It is a 5 star hotel that is of museum quality
filled with over 2000 antiques and treasures. The moment we walked
in the lobby, we were seduced by the beautiful and serene atmosphere.
Our room was lovely and spacious enough to accommodate the three
of us. We would be here for three nights and it truly was a fantastic
experience.

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No matter where you walk to in Venice or perhaps ride a gondola
this is what you see, the colors and the richness of the city.

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San Giorgio Maggiore viewed from the main island.

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Saint Marks Basilica. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and
one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture. It is
located in Saint Marks Square.

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The Bridge of Sighs. The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last
view of Venice that convicts would see before imprisonment.

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The colorful life of Venice.

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The famous Gondolas of Venice where you can sit back and listen to
the romantic italian songs and gaze at the beautiful landscape of Venice
that surrounds you.

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The back Canals of Venice

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After walking the back streets of Venice, and yes, getting lost a time or
two, we would head back to the Hotel Metropole and the three of us
would sit in this lovely room adjacent to a small elegant restaurant,
and drink our peach bellini. They were the best I have ever had.
That is one of my favorite memories of Venice and this lovely hotel.

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One of my favorite movies is Summertime, with Katherine Hepburn
and Rossano Brazzi. It is a love story of a spinster that travels to
Venice and falls in love. The red goblets are an important part of the
movie and when I saw this movie for the first time, I knew if I ever went
to Venice, I would look for those goblets. I was able to find them and
purchased these three in these exact sizes. They are amongst my
favorite possessions and I cherish them.

It would be time to leave Venice soon. We had a wonderful three days
seeing the sights of Venice, visiting a few museums and the beautiful
Basilicas of this magnificent city. We walked the back streets of Venice
where the locals live and was able to totally immerse ourselves in the
sights and sounds of life here. We interacted with the people and
enjoyed the wonderful food of Italy. It had been a perfect three days
and we would laugh, because for those three days, we would live like
Princess’s at the Hotel Metropole.

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Arrivederci Beautiful Venice, till we meet again.

An Oasis in the City

Have you ever been in a big busy city, either in the states or overseas,
dodging traffic, trying to maneuver through the crowds, a buzzing in
your head from the noise, and gasping for some fresh air, when
suddenly you come upon an oasis of calm and beauty in the form
of a garden or park – a refuge of quietness and nature, where people
could escape the commotion of a downtown area. When you find
this spot of serene calmness, you can hear yourself saying, “I can’t
believe this is here”.

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It was on one of my trips to Paris that I would be walking down Boulevard
Saint-Michel, in the area of the Sorbonne, just enjoying my walk in
the streets of Paris, when suddenly I heard a screech of brakes and
screaming, “help me, help me”, I turned around to see a man laying
under a delivery truck. It seemed he had crossed the street behind the
truck and the truck backed over him. People came running from all
over to help, sirens were blasting and it turned into total chaos. I
remember standing there shaking from all that was going on, and
knowing this poor man was hurt in this way made me want to escape
this awful accident. Knowing the man was being taken care of, I turned
and continue walking aimlessly, trying to calm down. Suddenly in
front of me was Luxembourg Gardens. I entered the park and within
seconds I knew this was my oasis. Sinking quietly in a chair beside
a fountain-fed pond, I could only hear silence with few people, no cars,
no noise, and no sirens. Instead it was fountains, statues, flowers,
and the beautiful sunshine. I sat there a very long time and eventually
a calmness came upon me, and I knew I had found, in this beautiful
park, My Oasis in Paris.
Although this was not a pleasant story, it happened to me and I truly can
say Luxembourg Garden’s beauty and serenity was just what I needed.

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Hyde Park is one of London’s Royal Parks. It is centrally located in the
busy city and once inside the park it is definitely an escape from the
sights and sounds of the city. It has beautiful gardens, statues, ducks
and swans in the pond, biking and walking trails, and a Princess Diana
Memorial Fountain. It’s a beautiful and serene park to walk through
and get away from all the noise of the city. I try to visit this park each
time I come to London, as there is always something different to see.
Hyde Park is definitely a beautiful and quiet Oasis in the City of London.

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Schloss Nymphenburg in Munich is just a short tram ride away from the
busy city of Munich. The Palace is certainly beautiful and definitely worth
a visit, but it’s the park and gardens surrounding it, that is so serene. It’s
a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of Munich, maybe
sit on a bench, maybe read, people watch or just admire the flowers,
the statues, the fountains, and just enjoy this wonderful serene Oasis in
the City of Munich.

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The National Gardens in Athens, Greece. This public park is right in
the middle of Athens, behind the Parliament Building. The gardens
contains ancient ruins, Corinthian Columns,and Orange and Cyprus trees
scattered throughout the park. There is a bridge over the pond and
waterfalls which is very serene and peaceful. It was Henry Miller in 1939
that said; “It remains in my memory like no other park I have
known. It is the quintessence of a park, the thing
one feels sometimes in looking at a canvas or
dreaming of a place one would like to be in and
never finds”.

Athens is by far, a very busy and noisy city. Spending time in this park
will definitely calm the craziness of this wonderful city and you will know
immediately that the National Gardens, near Syntagma Square, is The
Oasis in the City of Athens.

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Boston is a beautiful city with so much to see and do. It’s a walkable city
that overflows with American history. The North End is the busy Italian
part of the city with great restaurants and wonderful bakeries. On my
last visit there, after a full day of walking the busy city, I came across the
Public Gardens right in the middle of Boston. The park is beautiful,
filled with statues throughout, and the plants and flowers were stunning.
The Swan Boats in the pond was filled with people pedaling in the quietness
of the serene setting. Sitting on a bench just watching and listening to
the quiet of this tranquil park, was to me, an Oasis in the City of Boston.

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Anyone who has been to New York City knows Central Park. It is a
sprawling urban park in the borough of Manhattan. It is a 843 acre
park that is the most visited urban park in the United States. With the
excitement and craziness of New York City, stepping into the park
becomes another world. It is like stepping out of the city into a serene
and calming place that is a planet of its own. It has Carriage Rides,
Boating, Ice Skating and Swimming, Rock climbing, Horseback Riding,
a Central Zoo, Restaurants, and the list goes on. It is filled with nature
beautiful flowers, plants, statues and Strawberry Fields. As large and
busy as this park is, it is absolutely the Oasis in Manhattan, City of
New York.

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Chicago has more than one oasis in my opinion. It was many years
ago when I was there and first came upon Oak Street Beach. I was
amazed that in this sophisticated, fast pace, beautiful city, suddenly
out of nowhere, is this waterfront and beach area with tall majestic
skyscrapers framing it. Oak Street Beach is located on the northeast
end of North Michigan Avenue. It has a large promenade area used
by walkers and bikers. It is just steps away from the sophisticated
Drake Hotel and Michigan Avenue. For me, it was immediately what
I felt, an Oasis in the City of Chicago.

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Grant Park in Chicago is definitely an escape from the busy streets of
this wonderful urban city. It is 319 acres in the loop area of Chicago,
located in the central business district. The park is famous for its most notable features, Millennium Park and Buckingham Fountain. It is often
referred to as Chicago’s front yard. Walking through the park you will
pass fountains, gardens, artwork, sculptures, and sporting and harbor
facilities. It is a definite Oasis in the City of Chicago.

I love the hustle bustle of big cities. The energy is contiguous and
gives me a sort of travel high that I completely welcome. But every
once in a while, you need to step away from the craziness and find
that special place that will give you the quietness that we all need while
traveling the world, an Oasis in The City.

Jersey Boys, A Movie About Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons

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If you love the music of The Four Seasons then you must see this
movie “Jersey Boys”, directed by Clint Eastwood.
It is a musical biography of the Four Seasons, the rise, the tough
times, personal clashes and the ultimate triumph of a group of friends
whose music became symbolic of a generation, my generation.

It takes place in 1951 in Belleville, New Jersey, with Tommy DeVito,
played by Vincent Piazzo, narrating the story, introducing himself,
his brother, and Nick Massi, played by Michael Lomenda, as the
Variety Trio. After a botched robbery, Tommy goes to jail for six
months, gets out and reunites the group, with different players
It’s now Tommy, Nick, and their friend, from the neighborhood, a
short guy with a big voice, Frank Valli, played by John Lloyd Young.
Tommy realizes that a three guy group was not sellable, they needed to
find a fourth player. In comes another street friend, Joe Pesci, yes
the actor, who grew up with these guys in Belleville and would be
responsible for introducing Bob Gaudio, played by Erich Bergen,
who would join the group and would go on to write the music and lyrics
of the songs that would shoot them to super stardom.
With a new name and their first hit “Sherry”, followed by “Big Girls
Don’t Cry”, “Walk like a Man” and “Dawn”, the rest is history.

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The basis of the movie portrays the good, the bad, and the ugly of the
rise to fame and the ultimate break up of the group. With almost a
million dollars owed to a loan shark and back taxes, due to Tommy’s
mistakes and poor choices, the group breaks up and Frankie and
Bob Gaudio remains together. Frankie works for many years to pay
off that debt. The story also portrays Frankie’s marriage, divorce, and
death of his young daughter, Francine.

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The movie ends in 1990, where the original Four Seasons are inducted
to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The group has not seen each other
or performed in 20 years, and for the first time would get on stage and
sing “Rag Doll” at the Hall of Fame Induction.

It was a heartfelt ending that leaves the audience spellbound. The
performances were outstanding and the music made you want to
sing along with every song, but you couldn’t, because you would be mesmerized by the performance.

This is the second time I have seen the movie and each time I have
enjoyed it even more. But then again, I saw the play three times,
perhaps I am partial.