Friday, October 21, 2022

Broadway in Tucson Review: "Cats"

"Cats" is musical comfort food. What it lacks in coherence and structure it makes up for in energy and a "wow" factor.

Andrew Lloyd Weber's madcap exploration into the plight of mankind through the lens of anthropomorphic felines is a Rorschach test. You can peer into its glittery soul and extract different impressions no matter how many times you see it.

Acrobatic choreography, remarkable synchronicity with a playful orchestra and solos given to improvisational flourishes punctuate the show. 

The touring cast -- laden with dancers clawing at the door of the Broadway big time -- pulses with standouts. Most impressive were the boisterous John Anker Bow as Bostopher Jones, Gus and Peter, silk-smooth Allyson Duarte as Jellylorum and bellowing Hank Santos as Rum Tum Tugger.

Ibn Snell cuts a wily figure as Mistoffelees, Taryn Smithson crafts a playful Rumpleteazer and John Zamborsky is a scene-stealer as Skimbleshanks.

Peppered with moments of absurd comedy, lingering insight and you'll-never-see-that-again spectacles, "Cats" is a mesmerizing experience that pounces on your senses with effortless grace. Even as it manages to furrow your brow in constant confusion, it plasters a smile on your face and sends tingles down your spine.

"Cats" plays through Sunday at Centennial Hall. Buy tickets here. 

First Impressions: My Favorite Things About the iPhone 14 Pro Max

In my 10 days with the iPhone Pro Max, I've put the device through the paces for personal and business use. As expected, the device continues the steady path of upgrades that Apple has been known for.

-Wideband 5G access. I didn't even know this existed, but it's a game-changer from my previous 5G experience. Downloads are faster, videos almost never buffer and apps stall less. You'll need to make sure your carrier provides the service, or else you won't benefit. Xfinity Mobile didn't even tack on an extra monthly fee for the upgrade.

-The move to eSIM. The hassle of having to swap out SIM cards for new devices is gone. It's just a matter of verifying your identity and service, and then you're good to go. Hopefully other manufacturers follow the trend.

-The 48MP camera. Always a leader in the camera department, Apple once again leads the way with its new camera system. Taking gorgeous, crisp shots -- even in adverse conditions -- the camera system can make selfies and snapshots look as though they were taken by a pro. There are all sorts of presets available to help you optimize your shooting based on the conditions in which you find yourself.

-The battery life. Through a combination of a more robust battery and a slew of clever hacks that reduce battery usage throughout the day -- such as strategic screen-dimming and background app usage prioritization -- it's remarkable how long the device can go in between recharges. Whether the battery manages to maintain this sort of stamina over the long haul remains to be seen, but it's off to a remarkable start.

-The "Dynamic Island" interface. The new UI breaks down the barriers between the software and the internal functionality, giving you adaptive responses that emphasize important alerts and downplay those you tend to dismiss. This sort of thing is a long time coming, and it's impressive how much time and effort it manages to save you.

-The display. Working in concert with the advancements of iOS 16, the always-on display helps you keep an eye on things passively while getting things done. I tend to plop my phone on an induction charger as I work -- the need to do that is decidedly small with a device that packs battery life on this level -- and maintain it in my peripheral vision as I focus on my task at hand. Without the cumbersome need to unlock it, I can keep track of crucial notifications without averting my eyes.

-The gaming and streaming ability. I tended in the past to shy away from mobile gaming because of the way it torches my battery life. Likewise, I winced at the thought of watching an entire NFL game on my phone while out and about. Thanks to a combination of technology, interface maneuvering and execution of synergy among all working parts, the 14 Pro Max is something I can game on and watch video nearly ad infinitum. 

Those are my first impressions, and I look forward to providing more of my experiences going forward. Will check back in periodically as my iPhone 14 journey continues.

Apple sent loaner unit.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Phil on Film: "Rosaline"

 For my full review, click here.

Broadway in Tucson Review: "Six"

There would be a heck of a lot more history majors if "Six" replaced textbooks and documentaries in class.

A wild, joyous and bouncy exploration of the lives and fates of King Henry VIII's six wives, the production blends the brainy lyrics of "Hamilton" with the crowd interaction and musicality of "Jersey Boys." 

Since bursting on the theater scene in the West End in 2017, making its way to Broadway and a national tour, "Six" has dazzled audiences with an energetic concert experience.

A show like this lives and dies by its performers' charisma and their chemistry. Saucy, tightly interlocking choreography and personalized improvisation coalesce into inspired numbers that get the audience tapping their feet and clapping their hands.

If one cog is weak, the whole thing would stop ticking. But that wasn't a problem with this production.

Gerianne Perez belts out feminist ballads as Gerianne Perez. Zan Berube brings a table-dancing groupie flair as Anne Boleyn. Amina Faye brings her booming voice to Jane Seymour. And Aline Mayagoitia elevates the oft-dismissed Katherine Howard as a tragicomic diva with Ariana Grande-style panache.

A nonstop succession of brilliant numbers -- bolstered by an enthusiasm backup band -- culminates in a boisterous finale and roof-raising encore. 

"Six" is a fascinating dive into what otherwise might be a dry history lesson. It's nothing short of a ten.

"Six" plays at Centennial Hall through Sunday. To buy tickets, click here.

OnePlus 10T 5G carves out spot near top of T-Mobile totem pole

The OnePlus smartphone line has long proven that you don't need the iPhone or Galaxy brand names to toe around a top-tier device. The 10T 5G is more than an incremental improvement on past offerings, smoothing over past shortcomings to come together in a spirited, sleek product that looks as good as it runs.

Geared for those who long for upper-crust performance at middle-of-the-road pricing, the $650 device juggles the most taxing games, videos and apps with ease, functioning with suaveness for both the business-minded and entertainment-focused user.

The performance has greatly improved over the last OnePlus device I looked at, the 8T. Designed to be a lower-cost, streamlined version of its predecessor, the OnePlus 10 Pro, it packs a whopping Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor and boasts a shimmering 6.7-inch display witha  1080x2412 resolution humming at up to 120 frames pe second.

Its cameras may lack the bells and whistles of the Google Pixel line, but manages to work impressively in both fast-moving and dim conditions to capture rockstar-level stills and videos. The lack of zoom quality does rear its head if you try to tinker as you shoot. Functionality-wise, the camera system fits the bill of a mid-to-low-high end spot in the smartphone camera pantheon.

In an era in which most phones come with only a cord, the device comes with a bulky, admirably powerful 150-watt charger that is among the fastest I have seen on the market.

On the downside, the rapid charging is a must because the device's brilliant display and loaded processor tends to burn through battery life, particularly when you are multitasking or mowing down videos and games without WiFi.

Its OxygenOS OIS minimizes the shovelware and gear-grinding slowdown that some other setups dictate, offering a manageable and customizable interface that lets you embrace the features you like and disregard the unnecessary.

With positives far outweighing minuses, the OnePlus 10T is more of a destination smartphone than a stepping stone. A capable and fluid effort, the device puts just about all the capabilities of a higher-end phone in your pocket, while failing to burn through as much cash that you've got in there.

T-Mobile sent review unit.

Friday, October 07, 2022

Book Report: "Beyond the Tiara: Disney Princess"

Bursting at the seams with more than 200 illustrations in 192 pages of concept art, posters and relics from Disney history, "Beyond the Tiara" delves into the cash cow that is the Disney Princess phenomenon.

Delving into the DNA of what brought each animated character into existence, the work of author Emily Zemler pulls back the curtain on the insight, character development, voice performances and historical influence that went into each character.

Included on the roster are Moana, Merida, Rapunzel, Tiana, Mulan, Pocahontas, Jasmine, Belle, Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella and Snow White.

The foreword is by Jodi Benson, the voice actor behind Ariel. There are also interviews with composer Alan Menken and Lea Salonga, who voiced princess songs in "Mulan" and "Aladdin."

The book seems geared to younger fans, with nods to historians who can take the rose-colored view with a grain of salt. It would have been interesting to have included some feminist voices on the evolution of the Disney Princess concept throughout the eras, as well as some comparisons with non-Disney female animated figures throughout correlating times.

Still, the book stands as a gorgeous and informative coffee table tome that pays heartfelt tribute to the aspirational figures in the Disney realm.

Publisher sent review copy.