Category: Review

What to Expect at Walt Disney World

It’s known worldwide as “the happiest place on Earth” but what should you really expect from Disney World? I love Disney just as much as the next millennial but after working at an Australian theme park for over two years I definitely wondered how magical I would really find the famed parks in Orlando, Florida.

IMG_6538

IMG_1085

Well, first of all – it’s busy.
You’re probably thinking: “Well obviously Katie, are you daft?” But don’t worry, I absolutely expected it to be busy. I just didn’t expect it to be THAT busy. There is a level of busy that one cannot understand until they experience it. That, my friends, is Disney Busy.

My top tip for surviving the hustle and bustle would be to book your breakfast, lunch, and dinner as soon as you possibly can. The group I travelled with didn’t wish to book any food times – and that’s fine, some people prefer to not be locked into any time constraints – but the one night we did book? We walked in, sat down, ate our food, walked out. That easy, that simple. I enjoyed that meal the most. Most other nights I didn’t eat very well nor did I eat very much. The days were spent lining up for 30 minutes to an hour or more for one waffle or hotdog. I have vowed that if I ever return to Disney I will book food times religiously. Katie has to eat well to be chirpy, I’ll tell you that much!

Another awesome tip: get there first! Even if it’s an hour before the park opens, I recommend you get there first. You will be able to do SO much more in those early hours than any other time and you will be grateful you did it.

You will gain a new talent: Queueing.
If you are not from the United States, let me tell you a thing: Americans are VERY good at lining up for stuff. You too will become very good at queueing once you have had your Disney adventure. Lines are meticulously crafted by the Disney gods to get you to the front of and back out of every character viewing, food stand, ride, show, and shop. This does not mean they are any faster… it just means you don’t need to constantly say “Oh sorry, we were actually next” to every person you see.

My top tip for getting through queues without ripping your hair out is go in a group so one of you can get food/hold your spot while you pee/talk to you to pass time. At the VERY least bring an external battery because if you are a solo traveller you may use every bar of your phone battery trying to pass the time. I make it sound terrible, I know, but it really is quite bearable. The only time I really truly noticed the wait was when we stood in line for TWO hours to meet Mickey Mouse for five minutes. But it is true that if someone can pop out and get food for you all no one will accuse them of jumping the line when they try to get back in. Everyone understands how hard it is to stand there for so long and they will let your friend join you again. We spent way too long worrying that people would think we were pushing in when we should’ve just realised that everyone was doing it and, to be perfectly honest, it really is a great time to eat.

Disney can’t be done in a day.
I’m sure this goes without saying, but just in case: it CANNOT be done in a day. You will probably find that even one park can’t be done in a day. Disney World is made up of four parks, two water parks, a bunch of resorts, Disney Springs and Downtown Disney. If you put Disney World on a map it would cover the entire city of San Francisco. Disney is GIANT. During our winter visit the water parks were closed so we only really had to worry about the four main parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. I can honestly say that I didn’t completely see all of any one park.

The best tip here would just be do your homework and make some plans. The reality is that you probably won’t get to see everything unless you’re planning to spend a couple of weeks at Disney. So just be prepared to miss out on a few things. Be extra-thoughtful about what attractions, characters and rides you really want to see and do and make sure you see and do them. Disney requires monumental levels of organisation and as long as you’re prepared you will feel fulfilled.

But with those points out of the way, let’s talk about 5 things I loved at Disney!

  1. Disney is okay with outside food and drink! So you don’t have to queue all day!
  2. FastPass+ is awesome! You get three FastPasses in advance for every day you’re at Disney. Use them to skip the queues on the most popular rides! Just be mindful to book them early as the spots can fill up up to three months in advance for the really popular rides (Avatar’s Flight of Passage…).
  3. Adults can still ride even if the kids can’t! Take advantage of the parent swap option so you don’t miss out on your favourite rides just because your little ones are a little too little.
  4. The characters are great. Disney has a superior standard of characters when it comes to theme parks. They know everything there is to know about the character they’re playing, so go ahead: ask Ariel how Flounder is doing, ask Alice about the cheshire cat, and ask Gaston how many times Belle has decline his marriage proposal. Just don’t tell Woody that Andy is coming… he knows he’s gone to college.
  5. World isn’t just the name – you are literally stepping into a Whole New World (pun intended). Disney World is full of incredible architecture and magical sceneries. You will realise exactly how big this Disney phenomenon is just by looking at everything that surrounds you. You will be blown away time and time again by the way you are transported to different countries and different times. That, to me, is by far the most awe inducing part of the Disney experience.

Les Miserables | REVIEW

Les Miserables has been showing at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney since March and I’ve only just been to see it! Since it is now in it’s final week I decided it was better late than never and booked myself a ticket! (I actually bought two tickets because there was a 2-4-$60.01 deal which I thought was hilariously genius! But unfortunately I was unable to find someone to take the second ticket, so I just went On My Own – pun very much intended.)

Les Mis is one of my favourite musicals but before today I had never seen it live! The only way I had gotten to see the story come together, even after loving the songs for years, was when the movie came out with Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. I was super excited to have my first theatrical experience with Les Mis and it just so happened to be the Australian cast’s 500th show!

I hurried in with only 10 minutes to spare before the show started due to my dawdling around the theatre foyer. The Capitol Theatre is my favourite theatre so I always enjoy walking through it and around it whenever I get a chance. I had seats in Row E of the dress circle and I was very happy with my selection. I have only ever had tickets in the dress circle though, so hopefully the next show I see I can find some good seats down in the stalls. This visit was only my 5th time at the Capitol, having seen both The Addams Family and Wicked twice previously.

The orchestra was FLAWLESS. I wish I could rave more about them. The opening sequence had my body covered in goosebumps! They had the most incredible sound and it was all SO spot on. I unfortunately didn’t buy a program, so I can’t be sure exactly who I saw in each role onstage. I plan to head back in this week to the theatre just to pick a program up – I never see a show without buying one.

I thought all of the main and supporting characters were brilliant. I particularly loved Fantine and Eponine (and of course the Thenardiers!). I found Cosette to be a very different vocal tone to what I had imagined and at first it distracted me a little but I fell in love with her after A Heart Full of Love. Eponine, I have finally decided, is my dream role out of the choice of characters in Les Mis. I always thought it would be Cosette because I am that kind of soprano, but I was weeping every time Eponine sang and it just cemented the fact that I identify with her character so much more. A Little Fall of Rain had me crying my eyes out, and I LOVE that about theatre!

I thought Valjean, Javert and Marius were all very strong and their vocals suited what I had expected, so I liked that a lot. Valjean is my favourite character because Bring Him Home thoroughly touches the very depths of my heart. I have never heard the song performed and not cried – and I have heard Bring Him Home performed quite a number of times now… it is the pinnacle of the show for me personally, and I thought our Aussie cast absolutely did it justice. The simplicity in the movement was perfect. It was exactly what I wanted from that piece and I was so relieved.

Unfortunately the entire row in front of me was made up of bouncing lively children and the entire row behind me was made up of chatty British tourists… normally this would be no problem, but in a show like Les Mis, with all the quiet touching moments that you just want to let yourself feel it is frustrating to have everyone behind you coughing and whispering about how cold they are and everyone in front of you jumping up and down and standing up and talking to each other… but I guess that’s what you get by going to a matinee! Oops, my bad.

All in all it was an enjoyable show and some parts of it really hit the spot… but it’s just no flying Elphaba! Now that was a theatrical moment that had me crying into my hands and believing that my sole purpose in life was to work in music theatre… It’d be good to have another one of those moments some time soon, but since Wicked has just been released for amateur societies to do I think we can kiss that blissful experience goodbye for a while.

Quick, go get your tickets before Les Miserables leaves for Brisbane (or if you live in Brisbane, book those tickets!) – you won’t regret seeing this show.

Rugby League the Musical | REVIEW

Maybe I shouldn’t have put myself in the position of being a Queenslander in this audience the day before the all Queensland NRL Grand Final… Regardless, it was a hilarious show and I would highly recommend it for any people who enjoy sportsball (even if I did have to get up and bang coconuts together as the ‘QLD Percussion Section’).

Tonight was my first trip to the Sydney Fringe Festival for this year which is terrible since it finishes up tomorrow night. I chose to see Denis Carnahan’s Rugby League the Musical in appreciation of the fact the the NRL Grand Final is happening tomorrow, and both of my teams are playing! Hawthorn had just won it’s third straight premiership in the AFL and I thought the only way to deal with that disappointment was to book a last minute ticket to something that would remind that no matter what happens in tomorrows Grand Final, I win!

It was very clever and awfully entertaining. Carnahan took on many different roles from players, to referees, to the businessmen behind the league. The songs were all original parodies, and many involved catchy choruses that were easy to remember which had the audience singing along in delight. There was one part involving audience participation. When he asked for the Queenslanders to come up to the stage, I stayed put as I was worried for what was to come. However, I was ratted out by a lady sitting two rows behind me who must’ve paid attention when earlier in the show he had asked who was a Queensland fan and I raised my hand. I had to stand at the front of the stage and bang coconuts together with two other guys who were equally as afraid. Turns out we were just the percussion section and nothing else, so the Queensland shaming didn’t last for too long! (Of course, it was all in good fun – no Queenslanders were harmed in the making of this show! Let’s be honest though – if we come up with slogans like “Seven in Heaven” and “Eight Straight” to promote our Origin wins, it’s safe to say we like to be the centre of attention… so Carnahan really just did us a favour!)

His final song was a reprise of his claim to fame ditty, ‘That’s in Queensland’ – originally a satirical number about the process of how players are selected for State of Origin. For this finale he changed the lyrics to create a 2015 Grand Final Prediction. I will leave you with his parting lyrics –

“Where’s Brisbane? That’s in Queensland. Where’s Townsville? That’s in Queensland. Where’s the premiership? Not in New South Wales.”

The Bear Pack | REVIEW

Made up of Steen Raskopoulos (Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Barry Award Nominee 2015, National Theatresports Champion) and Carlo Ritchie (One Man Yarns), The Bear Pack is an outstanding comedy improv duo. Now there are a lot of things in life that I really enjoy and speak highly of, but The Bear Pack are on a level where I can’t even figure out praise high enough to worship them with.

I have been attending The Bear Pack’s performances since their debut show at The Giant Dwarf Theatre which happened on February 26th last year. I was taken there on a date and it was marvellous. After that, I went to almost every single show they performed, only missing a couple this year (which was super unfortunate and now that I’m leaving I am full of regret about).

This photo was taken during their first show at The Giant Dwarf. Before the Bear Pack performed, a few other improv comedians got up and played in a format called The Pitch which was developed by Steen. This photo was when the brilliant Pat Magee instructed us all to ‘lift up our dream spoons’. I remember the night so clearly! That’s me, right there at the beginning of the second row. I remember laughing and laughing this particular night. One of the best dates I’ve ever been on!

Growing up I did a lot of drama both at school and extracurricular and I absolutely loved improv and theatresports. However, the Sydney improv scene gave me a deeper love for it. I had no idea how many things were possible just because of improvisational talent! I began my Sydney improv education with the weekly Full Body Contact No Love Tennis shows at The Roxbury in Glebe. That was where I first had the privilege of watching both Steen and Carlo (and many of the other actors and comedians I now look up to and massively respect).

A quick lowdown of what to expect at a Bear Pack show: During the first half there is always some kind of show made up of other brilliant improvisers. Last night was an edition of the Improv Theatre Sydney Soap Opera which is an improv’d (and improved if you ask me) version of shows like The Bold and The Beautiful. It’s some very funny stuff! Last night’s fantastic cast was made up of Will Erimya, Jon Williams, Bridie Connell, Cale Bain, Tom Walker, Jack Scott and Jane Watt. There is then a quick interval.

The second half is the main event! Steen and Carlo start by asking the audience for a location suggestion – they’ve used a graveyard, a supermarket, an abattoir, etc. Last night was on Candy Mountain! Then they ask a question to which the answer will be an object – last night’s question: “What is something you buy in a bag?”, the chosen answer was a chicken. They usually choose the first answer they hear clearly. They then perform a 55-minute improv called a ‘yarn’ that takes place in the location that was suggested and somewhere within the 55 minutes they weave the suggested object into the story. These guys are pure genius! Focused, clever, and completely in sync with each other. They also always have a highly talented musician improv along with them. Last night’s musical accompanist was Heather Lloyd on strings.

I wish I had the eloquence to put together a paragraph that truly did this duo justice. But since I don’t and can’t imagine even trying, please, if you live in Sydney or if you’re ever passing through, do yourself a favour and look these guys up and see if they’ve got a show on. You will never be disappointed by them. In my humble opinion, a Bear Pack show is the #1 must do activity in Sydney (apparently also in the Sydney Morning Herald’s humble opinion!)

Tonight I attended what I thought would be my last Bear Pack show, but to my delight they have another show on in two weeks time, 10 days before I leave! It will be one of the things I miss most when I leave Sydney, and I hope that this reaches at least one new person who can enjoy them as much as I have! They are now so popular that people are turned away if they haven’t bought a ticket online – so please book in advance!

You can like their pages on Facebook to keep up with any new shows they may have happening!

Click on each name below for the link:

The Bear PackSteen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie.

Again, I cannot stress enough how worth it these guys are. I just can’t recommend them enough.

Disclaimer: all photos used in this post have been taken either by me or from The Bear Pack facebook page. No copyright infringements intended.