Book Review – ‘Noteworthy’ by Riley Redgate

Drag of a different note…

Noteworthy Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: Y/A, Contemporary, GLBT

No. of pages: 404

From Goodreads:

A cappella just got a makeover.

Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.

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 This was a fun book to read. Once I picked it up, I could not put it down until I reached the last page.

For the most part I enjoyed protagonist Jordan, I felt she was a fun and adventurous. I also liked how she thought about trespassing on other minority group’s territory; I.e. transgender men, gay men, and feeling like an impostor and essentially wondering if the act of disguising herself as a guy was itself was discrimination. Not as gender expression, but for a chance to join a singing troop. It can certainly be viewed that way, but in another light completely harmless. It’s all about perspective.

I enjoyed how you didn’t get a sense this had a love story in it, but I knew Jordan was going to meet a man from reading the blurb, and it was fun trying to sleuth out which person it would be. I like that is wasn’t clear until the near of the novel, because different people’s reactions played out in realistic and organic ways.

I was horrified about a certain elevator scene – I get the point of gender roles being reversed and it not being made such a big deal of – but in the aftermath (and reveal) I wondered if her fellow Sharpshooter Isaac who was in the elevator with her and listened to her drunken ramblings, then went around exposing Jordan, how nothing was brought up about that altercation. It didn’t play to bolster Isaac’s character at all.

This is so full of drama and angst I was glued to the page.

I liked the social commentary on gender, gender roles, gender identity, and sexuality. It is such a big jumbled mix and really hammers home that we are all simply human – in all different shades.

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The boys of Raven (The Sharpshooters) each had their own distinct personality, and really added colour and complexity to the world of Kensington-Blaine’s College Campus (and a great example of fantastic writing and character development.)

I’m not a big fan of poetry or song lyrics in novels – they lose their context and meaning in this medium, and I ended up skimming past the lyrics to get back into the narrative. But it’s a personal preference, some readers may enjoy the cadence. I have to admit, I learnt a lot about music and a capella just from the language used and descriptions of the group trying to pull a number together for a performance. So intricate – it really helped paint a picture in my head of how they actually sounded: which is a phenomenal task creating an imaginative aural sound from a sentence written on a page.

I think the ending was oversimplified (maybe a little trite,) but to be fair, if it wasn’t executed in this manner the book would have dragged out another couple of hundred pages. It was a cute tale. Tones of ‘A Mid-Summer Nights Dream,’ ‘Milly Willy,’ and ‘She’s the Man…’ playing with gender roles can be fun. But with such a heavy subject matter like identity and gender roles, ‘Noteworthy’ was wrapped up too quickly and too nicely. I found myself wanting a more resounding conclusion. But what a fantastic writing style. I remember the first few sentences and how expressive they were in setting a great tone for the novel.

It is predictable in that it wouldn’t be a story without Jordan getting found out – so that part was easily foreseen: but the things Jordan went through was waaay more out of the box than I had guessed. I’d expected some hijinks, but this was visceral and poignant. A great social commentary.

Overall feeling: Ay Caramba.

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Noteworthy Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

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© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Caught up in your craft …by Casey Carlisle.

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Sometimes when you’re so involved in your work, the reaction from the viewing public is like a slap in the face.

If you have been following my blog, you know I am a cancer survivor, and having gone through the recovery process twice, I know how important it is to support the community and people involved in treating the disease… and keep a sense of humour about the whole thing! One of my proudest endeavours in giving back, was a fundraiser event in the form of a self-produced Theatrical Show, including all of the antics and headaches that happened behind the scenes. (There will be more about the creation of the show in a later blog, but for now I’m going to share with you the amusements from the dressing room the centre stage that had my eyes watering from both despair and laughter.)

Our show was the Grand re-opening of the Perth Town Hall after extensive renovations, and culminated months of preparation in choreography, rehearsals, designing and sewing costumes, creating a lighting design and turning over a few cast members.  Our poke in the eye at American-styled Beauty Pageants had each of us performing comedic spot numbers, hilariously scripted interviews, a swimsuit parade with the most outrageous styles we could think of, and ball gowns that put Lady Ga-Ga to shame. The only serious numbers were our Las Vegas Showgirl inspired group numbers, an Acrobat act, and my rendition of a Broadway ballad.

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The excitement, and butterflies assaulting my stomach when the curtain rose at the Premier, kept me energised for the entire night. I needed it to plough through my 47 costume changes, two of which were executed in 30 seconds side of stage – only because the giant headdresses and butterfly wings couldn’t fit through the door backstage. The challenge for the night, especially while twirling across stage in our massive feathered backpacks – not to fall off the edge or face-plant into the floorboards  – which was exacerbated by the fact the floor pitched forward. The Perth Town Hall, being a Heritage Building, constructed around the initial settlement of the city, had levelled audience seating arrangements, not tiered like a regular theatre. Therefore reconstruction to alleviate this problem was strictly outlawed, and we had to adapt. But what the hey – we were professionals!

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The Perth Town Hall, shot from the lighting and sound booth as I discuss the tech-run with a cast member.

The worst thing to happen on stage, though not a pitch over the edge of the tilted stage, but a singular delayed cue for ‘curtain up,’ leaving Chaise (a seductress cast member doing a cabaret number) stranded on the wrong side of the curtain. I imagined her diving underneath the heavy red velvet fabric (as would completely be in her character) but thankfully we were saved from the sight of her bony arse disappearing underneath the heavy fringe by a frantic stagehand.

Backstage was a flurry of diamantes, feather and wigs, as we each raced to change into the next outfit. Our Diva-in-training, executed a stumble down the back stairs, landing legs-in-the-air, buried waist deep in a large clothes bin. Moments later, having recovered from her dunking, managed to mix her next outfit with another dancer, resulting in her prancing back on stage in a way-too-tight leotard, while a dancer nearly lost her pants…  it only added to the comedy and delighted the crowd.

I had become so focused on the creative process of developing the show and enjoying the experience with my friends and cast mates, that I was completely unprepared for the audiences reaction – my big solo spot, singing ‘And I am Telling You’ from Dreamgirls, had people (and my bestie working the spotlight) shedding a quiet tear. Probably due to the context of the song and my well publicised battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When the number drew to an end, it felt like the longest awkward pause, before an unexpected roar with patrons rising from their seats in appreciative applause. But what really fuelled the night was the congregation’s continual laughter from the comedic tone we had woven throughout the entire performance.

Our night ended on a high having a dose of celebrity afterwards with the majority of the public and a small press gallery waiting for photos and autographs and the red carpet. And was it all worth it? Hell yes! Not only did we raise $40,000 for a great cause, everyone involved, be it member of the production, or audience member, had a ball and brought us closer together through giggles and glitter.

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Our spacious dressing rooms, chock-full of costumes ready for the Gala performance.

© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

That woman sings like a goat! By Casey Carlisle

ImageImageTo be in show business you need to embrace an amount of humor and narcissism. Being able to embody the sexiness of a Las Vegas Showgirl when your three-foot high feather headdress is caught in the lighting rig is a talent in itself. Never mind needing to smile, kick-ball-change and stay in formation on top of that. But, even though the work was sporadic and intense, I do miss the comradery and the adrenaline rush from performing.

The best parts were the laughs and antics we would get up to on the final night of a production run. A cabaret that I had a hand in producing, on the last evening of it’s six week term, and showing to a packed house – we were well known for doing something special in the closing performance – and this time there was a little something that no-one expected, not even the cast members.

Previously, we’d added in new comedy sketches;  saucy dance routines; guest performances; randomly switched characters; swapped costumes, so the guys were in skimpy leotards, fishnets and wigs, and the girls in tails and mustaches;  or played with the speed of backing tracks, belting out tracks sounding like we were drunk. The crowd would roar with laughter louder than the music.

Struck with a Machiavellian streak, and deciding to get payback on one of our performers who was a massive (but adorable) prankster backstage… we rearranged her numbers through the show out of sequence. The result: she’d be racing on stage half in her costume, (modestly of course) to begin her number thinking it to be the extent of our goof for the night. Surprise! On cue, every time she was due to sing, we’d cut in a goat bleating, a fart noise, or a squeak! People were rolling in the aisles! A massive hook would then drag her off stage before the song could proceed. It was the running joke of the production. She never got to sing one note, and was cued randomly throughout the night. The expression on her face the first time she opened her mouth to hear a warbling blat was beyond priceless!

My hat off to her though – she is an incredibly great sport and was owning it by the time the red curtain dropped for the finale. Nobody escaped falling victim to the closing performance capers, not even me (but their stories for later blog). What a wonderful collection of talented and colourful people, able to pull through any situation with grace, poise and an incontrovertible sense of humor. Cheers to the woman with the voice of a goat!

© Casey Carlisle 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.