Wednesday, February 11, 2015

NC Theatre: Billy Elliot featuring NC Star Talent!

Last night was opening night in Raleigh for the NC Theatre's production of Billy Elliot at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. The show runs through this Sunday, February 15th and you can get tickets now from the NC Theatre website. The Raleigh cast includes some outstanding North Carolina star power. Ira David Wood III and Ira David Wood IV are cast as Billy's father and older brother. They both do an excellent job in conveying the anger and frustration of this historically tumultuous and violent time in the Northern England coal fields in the 1980's.  Margaret Thatcher was opposed to the National Union of Mineworkers and was determined to shut down the unions. The strike lasted a year, with the unions ultimately broken down and the industry virtually dismantled.

In the midst of all this, Billy Elliot (played by Sam Faulkner), the youngest child of his family, accidentally stumbles on ballet and dance and discovers he has a true rare talent as a dancer. Trying to pursue his newly discovered passion is almost impossible as it conflicts with his responsibility to his family in the middle of very trying times in his family and community as a whole. He tries to keep his new found passion a secret but in the end, his true desire to follow his dreams wins out.

The show deals with serious themes, but they manage to interject several funny and heartfelt moments, especially from Ira David Wood III. I brought my 15 year old daughter who is passionate herself about dance and theater. She loved the show as well. However, I would not recommend bringing kids much younger than her due to strong adult language used often.

Another NC talent, the young Sam Faulkner does an amazingly great job as Billy Elliot. Sam is from Charlotte and is truly a rising star.  He is engaging to watch and several of the dance numbers are magical. The group numbers are fantastic. The changing of sets on stage is creative and well done. All the cast members do a great job in their performances, including the dance instructor, Mrs Wilkinson, played by Janet Dickinson, mixing serious moments, with lighthearted fun.

I appreciated the opportunity to get to see this show, especially to take my daughter along with me. Thank you to NC Theatre and to Leigh Hines and her new #OutAboutNC community. North Carolina has so much to offer and you can share and follow along by using the hashtag #OutAboutNC on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Get out and support your local performing arts and see this show packed with North Carolina star talent! It's a great idea for Valentine's Day!

Below I've included some amazing pictures from last night's show taken by Curtis Brown Photography.


Ira David Wood III and Sam Faulkner

Sam Faulkner and the ballet girls

Sam Faulkner and Maximilien Baud
Janet Dickinson and Sam Faulkner

Sam Faulkner and Maximilien Baud

Sam Faulkner

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Instagram Travel Thursday: Venice, Italy

Before our trip to Italy this past Summer, I couldn't even imagine what the city of Venice would be like. I had heard good and was dirty, it was expensive, it was crowded, it was like Disneyland. 

We arrived by train and literally stepped directly into the heart of Venice from the train station. We were immediately taken in by this stunning city, as if we had traveled back in time or stepped out of a page in a history book. We gathered our bags and walked to our hotel a fair distance away, unnoticed as we were all swept up in taking in the sights and sounds of this ancient and magical Italian city.

We stayed at The Boscolo Venezia which had a surprisingly large, beautiful and mysterious garden in the back. We spent our time in Venice walking the streets and getting lost in the alleyways (you have to prepare yourself that you WILL get lost and its okay!), peering into shops, touring churches, sipping coffee and doing the usual touristy things. We did not ride a gondola which is quite pricey but we enjoyed seeing them everywhere and taking plenty of pictures. We walked a lot!

We had some fantastic meals off the beaten path. We loved strolling the city at dusk.  We took the tour of the Grand Canal which is worth doing to get a real sense of the city's famous waterways (there are NO CARS!). Piazza San Marco
was packed with summer tourists and pigeons, but we soaked it all in and enjoyed every minute of it. We had a fantastic dinner and bottle of wine at a quiet little restaurant with the friendliest host.  We watched the World Cup finals with the Italians at a local bar and even found some of the best craft beer in Europe!

I'm so glad we spent time in Venice. I will enjoy the memories we made of our Summer days and nights spent in Venice and how magical and beautiful it was to me.

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Friday, January 23, 2015

RHDC Works in Progress Part 3 of 3: The Lewis-Smith House 515 N. Blount St.

My three part series of historical downtown Raleigh locations comes to a conclusion with the Lewis-Smith House at 515 N. Blount Street. After featuring the Nehi Bottling Co. building, and the commercial building H.J. Brown Coffin House/Raleigh Industrial Bank at 200  S. Salisbury we end with the residential Lewis-Smith House.

This residence, originally built in 1855 (!) existed for many years on North Wilmington Street. The home was moved in the 1970's to prevent it from being demolished. The interesting thing about this part of Blount street is that there are several historic homes here (including the Merrimon-Wynne),  none of which ever originally existed on this street! The home is currently undergoing restoration for future office space.

The house features a Greek Revival style with it's grand columns and portico in front. The house previously belonged to well known families Lewis and Smith back in the day. Once the house was relocated it was used for state offices. The house sits on a lot with a large new apartment complex currently being built directly behind it.

As we toured the home, the original fireplaces in each room and beautiful staircase railings remind you of older days. Bathrooms are being added to each level and there is no closet space in any of the rooms. There is a large basement being updated as well.

The herringbone pattern wood floor is stunning. The grand Ionic columns on the outside upstairs patio are beautiful (also features Doric style columns on the ground level entrance).

This home is one of the very few homes in Raleigh left from the Antebellum/Civil War Period (1831-1865).

Thank you for taking a few minutes and letting my inner Architect geek highlight some Historic Raleigh locations. There was a great crowd of people walking through the self-guided and free RHDC historic tour and I hope there are more of these tours in the future. I also hope the city of Raleigh continues to prioritize and protect these  buildings and homes and that we do not lose site of Raleigh's significant past as it continues to  grow and evolve into a fantastic place to live.

Front facade of the home featuring Greek Revival style

Lots of interested people touring the home

Original fireplaces

Merrimon-Wynne house across the street

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

RHDC Works in Progress Part 2 of 3: H.J. Brown Coffin House/Raleigh Industrial Bank 200. S. Salisbury St.

200 S. Salisbury Street
Continuing the short series of three historical buildings in Raleigh that we recently toured, organized by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission we got a chance to step inside the newest venture by prestigious Raleigh Chef, Ashley Christensen.

Located at 200 South Salisbury Street in Downtown Raleigh,  this building built in 1910 has a very interesting past. Finished in 1920, the building's former life included serving as a funeral home and bank before being purchased by James Goodnight and is currently undergoing renovation. On the tour we learned that this building is "the most haunted building in all of the Triangle"! There were stories of visitors and workers hearing voices and people walking around when no one was there.  Even a rep from the Triangle Paranormal Society was overwhelmed upon entering the space!

The building was a bank for many years after serving as a funeral home and the outside exterior was covered in concrete panels to try to modernize it in 1972. Goodnight has gone to great effort to remove these panels and restore the building back to its original stone exterior. Currently the building is in the process of being turned into the restaurant perfectly named Death & Taxes, a wood-fire oven restaurant on the main floor with a wine bar in the basement in the original old bank vault.  The second and third floors will feature a private event space called the Bridge Club with a small rooftop patio.  Her food prep teams from all the restaurants will be consolidated in the large kitchen space called Aux Kitchen where her food teams for all the AC restaurants can work and train and is not a public space.

Below are some photos of the building's interior as we toured it in early January. There is also a cool mural on the exterior back wall of the building painted by local Raleigh artist, Luke Buchanan.

More details here from Triangle Business Journal article. 
Check out photos @RaleighWhatsUp on Storehouse

Read more here:
Street level interior for future restaurant

Bridge Club Private Event space

Original old bank vault

Future basement wine bar
Mural by Raleigh Artist Luke Buchanan