Ludmila Belousova passed away today at the age of 81. With her husband and skating partner, she won two Olympic gold medals and four World Championships in the 1960’s. They were the first Soviet or Russian pair to win the Olympics, starting the longest streak in Olympic history, in any sport. (Soviet or Russian pairs won every Olympic gold from 1964 through 2006.)
Known for their balletic lines and creativity, the Protopopovs invented variations on the death spiral. Their influence is seen in the sport to this day, although the perfection of their unison is unrivaled, even now.
The Protopopovs eventually defected to Switzerland and became Swiss citizens. They split their time between Switzerland and Lake Placid, New York.
A true inspiration for ageing gracefully and never giving up on your passions, the Protopopovs continued to perform in shows until quite recently, always retaining their beautiful lines and elegance. Every pair competing today could learn a lot about basic skills and presentation from these amazing legends. Their marriage of nearly 60 years is an inspiration to all.
Ludmila’s beauty and grace will be missed, and my thoughts and prayers are with Oleg.
A lovely tribute, including an old interview, can be found here.
Reading: Besides the real-time read of A Discovery of Witches, and I’m enjoying Good Sam (a mystery about someone doing something good for others rather than a murder mystery) and Webs of Power by Darlene Quinn, a novel about the cut throat world of the department store industry in the 1980’s. Even though it’s set in LA and not San Francisco, it makes me miss shopping at the Emporium. Macy’s is just boring by comparison to all the wonderful regional stores, each with their own character, that we lost. I do enjoy Bloomingdales, but even that isn’t the same. I still have a few vintage hats with the old store labels (spent most of the weekend wearing one from Bullocks Wilshire, and I have a leopard print hat from I. Magnin that was my grandmother’s).
Watching: Dancing with the Stars has been fantastic so far. I’m really rooting for Victoria and Val and I’m excited to see what they come up with going forward. Victoria’s story is so amazing and dramatic that, if someone put it into a novel, it would need to be toned down to be “believable.”
Listening: Nothing all that interesting. Should I discontinue this “listening” section? Maybe…
Doing: I just attended the Southern California Writer’s Conference (LA/Irvine 15) over the weekend. It was fantastic.
Planning: A reading of my short story, “Zolota,” from the anthology It’s All in the Story: California. On October 24th, I will be reading the short story at Lit Up Orange County: A Conversation with Readers and Writers.
Writing: Making some changes to On Thin Ice (and its query letter) based on suggestions I got at the conference. I’m also adding a scene to The Lion and the Eagle.
Obsessing Over: Evgenia Medvedeva’s new programs. I’m so excited for the Olympics!
A few weeks ago, I posted the review for Act I here. Just like last time, I will be providing my opinions about the musical with a special focus on historical accuracy.
The opening of Act II is very exciting, and gives a fast and fun introduction to Paris in the 1920’s, complete with cameos from Josephine Baker and Isadora Duncan, among others. I found myself wishing that Josephine Baker was wearing her bananas, and Isadora’s presence threw me a bit (she died about a year before this takes place). Coco Chanel seems a bit too old in her cameo, like a post-war Mademoiselle Chanel rather than a woman in her mid 40s, as she should be here. And yes, I know I’m nitpicking. In fact., this is probably my favorite part of the entire musical, and I wish they had just made a 1920’s musical set in Paris without
Anya’s hair, which I complained about in Act I, is much better here. Very accurate and appropriate for the time period. However, when she is sitting in bed, it is straight again, when in fact women back then did not wash and redo their hair daily. Also, why hasn’t she bobbed her hair in Paris? Either way, long, straight hair worn down isn’t historically accurate.
One major inaccuracy of this act is that the real Dowager Empress never sought out the fakers, in part because she always denied that there was an assassination/execution in the first place. It also makes no sense that she is called “Comrade Maria.” She would still have had all of her titles as a Danish royal, AND her court in exile consider her to still be entitled to the use of her Russian titles, as well. Either way, Empress Marie never gave up thinking her son and grandchildren were alive, but she also never entertained the pretenders who came out of the woodwork to scam the family. And that was definitely for the best. The family angle is actually the worst aspect of what these pretenders did, at least to me. They attempted to play evil tricks on people who had lost so much of their family, constantly targeting surviving members of the Imperial family in an bid to gain fame and wealth.
In real life, the Dowager Empress would be dead by the end of 1928. While she funded Sokolov’s investigation, she did not end up meeting with him, and seeing those claiming to be surviving grandchildren were not her first priority. There was no reward, but a surviving Imperial child would have had rights to the money in the Swiss banks. Reward money is a convenient substitute rather than explaining all that, I suppose. I do find it strange that the Dowager Empress only searches for Anastasia instead of all of the Tsar’s children. Of course, the meta reason behind all that HAS to be the Anna Anderson case, but it still seems thematically odd.
The song “Land of Yesterday” features a nightclub that caters to emigres, called the Neva Club. This song is new for the musical and actually one of the better songs — the newer songs tend to feel fresh, while the ones from the film feel very ’90s in terms of the background music. Next up: a small bugaboo — Lily makes the sign of the cross the Western way (left shoulder first).
Evil Gleb shows up. He makes fun of the emigres for clinging to the “remnants of what they were.” Accurate, yes, but of course, his father put them in that position in the first place.
“The Countess and the Common Man”, another new song, is fantasic and really shows a lot of character development.
The nightmare scene works well to REALLY start hinting that Anya is Anastasia. It is very well done. The next scene, featuring the song “I Never Should Have Let Them Dance,” is beautiful, and the set pieces remind me of the recent Mariinsky Ballet staging of Cinderella.
Anya goes to the ballet, and this scene is very beautiful but strikes me as a bit odd. I wish they had focused more on the music for Swan Lake, without blending in “Once Upon a December” — the two pieces don’t mesh together very well, at least not for me. The medley strikes me as very Tara Lipinski meets Oksana Baiul. Anya’s red dress is beautiful, but it isn’t very 1920’s. It actually feels like a post-New Look sort of gown, like the ones Queen Elizabeth II wore in the ’50s. On a happy note, the blue dress from the film made it into the Broadway production, after being replaced with a pink redesign in the Hartford production.
The gentlemen of the Paris press look very historically accurate, and, like many reporters, they aren’t gentlemen.
The climax with Gleb is much more satisfying that the false villain of Rasputin from the animated film. This is a moment where one fo the Romanovs can confront someone who is very much pro-revolution. She has the opportunity to humanize her family and demonize Gleb’s. This is what the film SHOULD have been, IMO, and it is my absolute favorite change from the original. The ghostly images of the Imperial Family look on as Anastasia confronts Gleb with her identity, even as he threatens her with a gun. Appearance-wise, Empress Alexandra seems particularly well-cast in this scene. Gleb relents. However, I find myself wishing that she had found the gun somehow and shot him instead.
The ending, on the other hand, is odd. At least the film had Anya promise to return one day, but this version just seems sad. Anastasia and her grandmother were barely reunited before she deserted her grandmother to elope, and this ending ultimately leaves me wanting more closure.
Overall, though, I do prefer the Broadway version to the film. Much more historically accurate, and the set pieces are amazing!
Reading: Charade by Sandra Brown. It’s a re-release of one of her thrillers from the ’90s, and she has definitely grown as a writer since then. It’s still very riveting, however, and is about a heart transplant recipient who is the target of a murderer. I just finished Libba Bray’s The Diviners, which was fantastic. I’ll be reading the sequel soon to get ready for the final book next month. I’m also doing the real-time read of A Discovery of Witches, and I’m picking up a lot of the foreshadowing the second time around. This real-time read is really a master class in how to execute foreshadowing.
Watching: America’s Got Talent. I’m dreading the results show tonight because there are so many amazing acts that I would love to see win, and of course only one million dollar contract to be awarded. Dancing with the Stars also just started up for their 25th season (goodness, that makes me feel old, even when I remind myself that they do two a year), and I am enjoying this season’s cast. This time around, no one seems to have a decided advantage over the rest, and I can’t wait to see how they grow as dancers over the course of the season.
Listening: The usual stuff on the radio — nothing too exciting.
Doing: Getting ready for the Southern California Writer’s Conference this weekend. Printing stuff out like crazy, prepping my laptop bag, all that good stuff.
Planning: I have all my workshops, etc, all mapped out, and I’m excited for the conference. Outfit planning as well, of course.
Writing: Editing The Lion and the Eagle, querying On Thin Ice. Writing sales letters for the anthology (California: It’s All in the Story).
Obsessing Over: The fan theory that Jay Gatsby is really Jack from Titanic. My husband’s theory? He sold the Heart of the Ocean and stole it back, then willed it to Rose. My theory — if that’s true, then she lied about it all those years. Hubby says that’s why she had to throw the diamond overboard. I think she lied about Jack’s death, if this is all true, making her the most unreliable narrator in the history of mankind. 😛