Saturday, September 10, 2016

Belated Comic Con Post (Plus Leslie Odom Jr!)

Hey friends! I meant to get this posted earlier, but it was not to be. Life has been busy with school starting up!

My friend Melinda had a free Thursday pass, so I brought my boyfriend with me to his first ever Comic Con. We went through all of Artist’s Alley because ORIGINAL ART IS SO COOL. I can't get over all the different styles, topics, and mashups. Mashups are my jam. I got really excited when I saw the Pop Culture Cats booth was back, as Jenny Parks has been absent from the last two cons here and I love her. We excited Artist's Alley with a Bioshock poster for me and  Cat! BB-8 poster for me. :) 

Next we wandered about through the endless rows of merchandise. Nerd bazaar. I’m glad we came on Thursday instead of Saturday when everything is crowded beyond all belief. While we didn't go to any panels on Thursday, we made the rounds through the stuff a couple times, although I never feel confident in saying that I've seen everything. Another walk through of Artist's Alley, hen we took trax back to Murray. Taking trax on the way to the convention was entertaining; it was the first day of Utah football and so everyone was either a mass of red or cosplaying. Truly, the ultimate clash of jocks and nerds. On the way back we finally got to sit (I forget how tiring being on your feet for long periods of time is) and were across from an adorable baby who kept being like :0 everytime the train moved. Then we got delicious Jamba Juice. I consider that a success.


I was at the con from ten to six, as I had the day off of work. For the first time possibly ever I didn't have a rehearsal or performance on Friday night, so I was free to stay as late as I wished. The first panel I went to was Arthur Darvill. Rory is my second or third favorite Doctor Who companion, and Arthur was delightful. I love how British people say things like, “tax” instead of “taxes” and “rubbish.” He likes running in Utah because once a tumbleweed blew past him. “In London it’s just crisp wrappers.”

After that panel I had several hours to wander. I debated about getting autographs from some of the attending celebrities, but didn’t feel the same giddiness I’ve received from even the thought of meeting people like Carrie Fisher or Tom Felton. Instead I gave myself permission to spend that money on art. I bought eleven pieces from Ben Byrd, whose style is very cute and whimsical. He does Pokemon, Harry Potter, Disney, and assorted nerdom. I also got a Belle as Jedi one and two postcards that say, “Obi-Done Kenobi” with Obi-Wan sipping a margarita wearing sunglasses. I’m kind of obsessed with them.

After my art excursion, I went in to the last half of Henry Winkler’s panel. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen him in anything except Arrested Development, but he was hilarious. Bubbling with energy. The best was when someone asked about how the Fonz would snap his fingers and women would appear. Henry Winkler said, “I’m going to give you a tip. This is just for the men in the audience.” He paused, and then said, “DO NOT SNAP YOUR FINGERS AT WOMEN. It only works on television! If you dare do it in real life, they will break all of your fingers!” I will admit I was a little nervous when he started that answer, but my applause was real and vigorous. 

The next panel was Evanna Lynch. I’m actually in that minority who’s not hugely into Luna as a character (like she's fine, I just don't love her), but I still wanted to see her. Evanna is very Luna in real life, and obsessed with cats. She said that growing up her family had ten cats, which was her idea of heaven. "I think the acting is just to finance my cat habit." 

Later in the panel the cutest little girl asked Evanna, “My name is Ruby. How much cats do you have?” AHHHHHHH THE CUTENESS ALMOST KILLED ME HOW ARE KIDS SO CUTE. Evanna said, “Not enough, Ruby. Not enough.”

Kids cosplaying absolutely slay me—Justin and I saw an Emperor’s New Groove family on Thursday where the little boy was Kuzco and ahhh. I saw many little Captain Americas and Reys; I can’t wait to dress up my kids.

The family that Pikachus together stays together.

After that was the panel for Millie Bobby Brown. If you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, stop whatever you're doing and go watch Stranger Things. It’s the kind of show you can’t stop watching; it's exactly the right mix of suspense, humor, and heartwarming. What was rather unusual for me is that I   very much enjoyed the performances of all the child actors. I'm not always a huge fan of child actors. There are four main kids (well, five, but one of them is on camera a lot less than the others), and they’re all very talented. Millie Bobby Brown as Eleven was especially powerful. Without giving any spoilers, her character is very intense and serious and I want her to be happy.

Millie Bobby Brown is a twelve year old girl from the UK who differs from her character by being bubbly and talkative and happy. It’s odd to see someone so young in the spotlight. I’ll be interested to see what projects she does next, and if she continues to have the same open persona she does now. She has the same reaction to adorable children as I do, which is to completely melt. One man told her she was “Meryl Streep good”, and then sat at the end of my row taking notes on everything she said. Facing that level of scrutiny from twelve—I just can't imagine it.

The next panel was my most anticipated of every convention: Twisted Toonz. Iconic voice actors reading a parody movie script as different characters is honestly one of the funniest things I have ever seen. One of the things I love about the Twisted Toonz guys is how much they LOVE Salt Lake City. They consistently tell us that we have the best convention in the world, and that they always look forward to coming to Salt Lake City to party with us. This year they read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Jess Harnell is the rock star of the bunch, and one of these days I am going to go talk to him at his table. Troy Baker was new to the panel this year; he was hilarious. We had a couple guest stars show up, and Troy was passive-aggressively like, “No, take my seat, it’s fine.” Favorite impressions this year: Johnny Depp, Ronald Reagan, Snoop Dog, and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

After I walked out of the ballroom from Twisted Toonz I was in the convention hall for maybe two minutes when I realized I had forgotten my bag of art under my chair in the ballroom. I freaked out and immediately wormed my way back in by pushing my way against the crowd and was gratified to find my bag undisturbed. I picked up one more piece of art before leaving for the day. It was a long, full day and I loved it.
Jon Snow seeks to take his rightful place on the Iron Throne.


I woke up feeling exhausted. Conventions really take it out of me! I didn’t go in till about noon. With all my shopping completed (not for lack of want, but I need some money left over to live life with) I was content to wander around taking in the sights for another year. I saw so many great cosplayers: tumblr, Charizard, missionary Deadpool. (So many different Deadpools-- my favorite was Pirate Deadpool.)

I stopped in at the Hillywood show panel, although I’m more of a fan of their older stuff. The Harry Potter parody is hilarious and I still sing the Hunger Games one. It was fun to see them interact with their fans; they are tiny and good. Also Osric Chan from Supernatural showed up so that was cool.

I went to Ian Somerhalder’s panel mostly to get a rest, but became intrigued when what was scheduled to be a fifty minute panel was half an hour overdue. The host was trying to stall the crowd, and I wondered what the outcome would be. Would it come to the end of the appointed hour and Chris (the host) would just go, “Well, I guess he’s not coming, ummm sorry bye”? The hall was full of thousands of people, and I doubted all of them were as ambivalent to Ian as I was.

Apparently he had been overbooked for photos, and was still taking them with fans, but was on his way. They ended up shuffling the panels around so that he could be there for the full hour. Crisis averted, no mob justice was enacted.

He was an interesting guy; anti-violence to the point he feels slightly guilty for putting Vampire Diaries into the world, as it is extremely violent. A twelve-year-old boy asked him a question about whether he enjoyed playing good guys or bad guys more, and he gesticulated about the morals of today’s society before asking the kid if he was jaded to violence yet. I’m not one of his fans in regards to his film work, but he seems like the kind of person you want to sit down and have a conversation over dinner with.

One last lap around the convention hall, and then it was goodbye to Salt Lake Comic Con for another year. I was sad to miss the cosplay contest that ends off the con every year, but it was for a very worthy cause: LESLIE ODOM JR’S CONCERT IN PROVO

In case you’ve somehow missed my raving about it, I’m obsessed with the musical Hamilton. Leslie played Aaron Burr opposite Lin-Manuel Miranda as the title character. Among the eleven Tonys awarded to Hamilton, one had Leslie’s name on it for Best Actor. He is an incredible talent and I can’t believe that he came to Utah!

Last time I attended a concert at BYU it was 2011 when I came to see Brian Stokes Mitchell at the Marriott Center. The concert was incredible, but it took me two hours to find the right parking lot afterwards. This concert was in the Harris Fine Arts Center, which is much smaller, and spoiler alert: I found my car afterward.

That being said, the concert was INCREDIBLE. Leslie walked out onstage and all of us just lost it. He’s a beautiful human with a voice like melted chocolate over velvet and I never wanted him to stop singing. His band is incredibly talented as well—he sang several songs from his new jazz album and MMMMMMMMMMm. Then he said, “I was in a show called Hamilton” and it was like a wall of sound. We were all screaming. It was exactly like being at Comic Con. Hamil-Con, as my friend who was also there dubbed it. Leslie teased us by singing another jazz song (don’t get me wrong, it was drop dead gorgeous but he knew what we wanted). Then he said, “All right, so Hamilton.”

I never thought I would get to hear Leslie Odom Jr sing “Wait For It” or “Room Where It Happened” live, but I am happily wrong. I honestly wanted to clap until my hands fell off. HE WAS SO GOOD. He was so charming and smooth and TALENTED. While the pianist (who was incredible) was doing his jazz scat intermission things Leslie would turn to watch him and completely give him his attention. I loved him.

He also sang, “Dear Theodosia” and I almost cried. He told us how Lin offered him the part of Aaron Burr in an email with the subject line “Octo-Burr Fest.” Lin no you were supposed to be above these silly puns. After he finished “Wait For It” someone yelled, “Sing it again!” and the pianist started the introduction. Regrettably he didn’t sing it again, but it was such a wonderful, exhilarating experience.

He also said wise things. My favorite Leslie Odom Jr quotes:

“Singing is an oral tradition. It’s passed down from singer to singer.”
“Everything ends. You feel it in you when it’s time to let something go, even if people around you think there’s a little more left in the race.”
“Artists spend their whole lives trying to get back to the feeling of the first show that opened their hearts.”  --- This one is so true. For him it’s Rent, for me it was Into the Woods.
“When I first heard the music of Hamilton, something within me was rearranged.”
“No one likes ‘Cheer Up, Charlie’ because after Charlie leaves the mom just kind of sings it to the laundry. ‘Sit here, I’m going to sing you a song!’” (Okay, maybe that one's not quite as wise, but I love it anyway.) 

He sang, “Without You” from Rent and it was positively exquisite. Then he sang a couple more songs from the album and said goodnight. We gave him a standing ovation even before he finished the show. He was so good, and we needed to show him appreciation. He sang an acapella encore, and then said he would be in the lobby to say hello to people.

There was no way that I wasn’t going to wait in line for as long as they would let me. The line snaked around the lobby and initially moved at a snail’s pace. I was so afraid. The ushers told us the cutoff point was ten thirty, an hour and a half away. What if I didn’t make it? I was determined to wait until ten thirty and hope to goodness I was lucky. Eventually the ushers informed us Leslie would only be signing cds, but still taking pictures with people, and that sped things up considerably.

I couldn’t believe I might have the chance to have my picture taken with TONY AWARD WINNER LESLIE ODOM JR. The original Aaron Burr. A person who used to hang out with Lin-Manuel Miranda eight times a week. What. As I rounded the final corner towards him, there were fifteen minutes left on the countdown. It was going to be close. But as we edged closer, it became clear that I WAS GOING TO MEET HIM.

I shakily handed my phone and purse to an usher, who would take the picture. Leslie GAVE ME A HUG and then put his arm around me for the picture. I thanked him for coming to Utah and he said, “Hey, thanks for coming out.” I love him. There are now three pictures on my phone of me with Leslie Odom Jr, and I shook all the way home I was so excited.

It was the most beautiful way to end a day, a week, or a convention. That concert was honestly transcendent. His riffs speak to my heart. So I guess you could say September started out pretty okay. ;) 

I know that feel, Cinderella.

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