Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Sunday, September 9, 2018

#19 UCF Knights Keep Rolling, Blank SC State

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:41

The #19 UCF Knights (2-0; 1-0 AAC) soundly defeated SC State (0-2; 0-0 MEAC) 38-0 on Saturday night in front of a packed Spectrum Stadium. The Knights now move on to face ACC opponent UNC (0-2; 0-0 ACC) on Saturday in Chapel Hill, Hurricane Florence allowing.

Adrian Killins Jr. ran for 89 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 19 UCF rout South Carolina State 38-0 on Saturday night for its 15th straight victory, tying the American Athletic Conference record. Killins Jr. scored on runs of 3 and 24 yards in the first quarter. Greg McCrae rushed for 62 yards and a touchdown, and Otis Anderson added 42 yards and a touchdowns as UCF (2-0) racked up 315 rushing yards.

McKenzie Milton threw three interceptions in the first half. He was 21 of 39 for 243 yards with a touchdown pass to Gabriel Davis in the third quarter. UCF held South Carolina State (0-2) to 80 yards passing and 257 total yards. South Carolina State quarterback Tyrece Nick was 5 of 12 for 54 yards and an interception. Backup Dewann Ford threw two interceptions.

Check out video highlights of the game, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network, below:

Friday, August 31, 2018

UCF Knights Start Season by Crushing UCONN

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:58

The UCF Knights (1-0; 1-0 AAC) started the 2018 football season off with a bang, crushing the UCONN Huskies (0-1; 0-1 AAC) 56-17:

AP: McKenzie Milton threw for 346 yards and five touchdowns and No. 21 UCF topped UConn 56-17 on Thursday night to extend the longest winning streak in the nation to 14 games. The reigning American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year completed 24 of 32 passes and ran for another 50 yards. Sophomore receiver Tre Nixon, a transfer from Mississippi, caught five passes, scoring on plays of 34 and 11 yards.  Backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr. came on in the fourth quarter and broke a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline, making him the team’s leading rusher.

UConn quarterback David Pindell was a bright spot for the Huskies, throwing for 266 yards and a touchdown and running for another 157 yards and a score. New coach Josh Heupel’s fast-paced offense is as advertised, putting up 652 yards and scoring eight touchdowns on 11 drives, with each scoring drive taking less than 3 minutes off the clock. The Huskies seem to have found their quarterback in Pindell. In addition to completing 27 of 41 passes and running 22 times, he had another 50-yard touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty. The Knights head back to Orlando for their home opener next Saturday against South Carolina State. The Huskies face another ranked team when they travel to Idaho to take on No. 22 Boise State on the blue turf.

Check out highlights of UCF’s victory of the UCONN Huskies below, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference Digital Network:

Friday, August 3, 2018

Theater Review: LOVE NEVER DIES

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:44

Almost ten years ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies, his sequel to his beloved The Phantom of the Opera, premiered in London’s West End. While the original production was headlined by Broadway and West End megastars Ramin Karimloo (as the Phantom) and Sierra Boggess (as Christine), it was instantly panned by critics and failed to hold ground, earning the negative nickname “The Paint Never Dries.” But that wasn’t entirely Webber’s fault. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the same time the show began previews. Because he was battling cancer, he wasn’t able to devote the time necessary to make the changes the show needed to become a success. After the London production shuttered, Webber was determined to give Love Never Dies the justice it so desperately deserved.

He determined the next stop for the show would be Australia, where he brought in a new director and an entirely new production team of artists to redesign major elements of the musical, making it vastly different than the staging in London. The result was beyond efficacious. Critics and audiences lauded the Australian version of show. It become a huge success and ran for seven months at the Regent Theater in Melbourne. The Australian production gave breath to the show Webber absolutely loved. It had been resuscitated and given a new life as an absolute musical masterpiece that appropriately reflected Webber’s musical genius. He would even claim that Love Never Diesis the best score he’s ever composed, second only to EVITAand is something he is, “very, very proud of.”

With this new and well-received production settled, there were plans to bring it to Broadway. But brand new revivals of Sunset BoulevardandCATSjoined the long-running School of Rockandoriginal Phantomto give Webber a record-breaking 4 shows running at once. This resulted in shifting resources for Love Never Dies, that would instead, be toured around North America in a beautiful production that very closely mirrors the Australian version of the show.

I have been able to see this touring production four times now, twice early in its embarking in Orlando and most recently in Dallas. It was quickly evident from the start of the tour that this show was going to be something truly magical. And as the tour has progressed, the cast’s chemistry has meshed incredibly well, resulting in what should be a genuinely respected and admired piece of musical theater.

Love Never Diesis set ten years after the original. After his destruction of the opera house in Paris, the Phantom has escaped to the shores of Coney Island, where he has founded one of the world’s first carnivalistic amusement parks with the help of his long-time friend Meg Giry, and her daughter, Meg. Despite his new life in America, he is unable to forget his love for Christine Daaé, who is now an international operatic superstar. He concocts a scheme to get close to her by outbidding Oscar Hammerstein for her American debut performance, which would take place in his concert hall. Other major players in the show include Daaé’s now-husband (and drunken gambler) Raoul, son Gustave, and sideshow performers that provide a cohesive attachment to the carnival-like atmosphere that serves as the story’s backdrop.

All of the actors in this production are absolutely phenomenal. Not a single one is anything less than stellar. Bronson Norris Murphy brings the Phantom to life and possesses some of the strongest and best vocals I have ever heard in the theater. He is incredibly talented and has a solid grasp of the necessary dynamics of the role; and he is able to extend his vocal nuances to the gorgeous songs of Love Never Dieswith perfection. He brings down the house with the opening number Til I Hear You Singand is given an early opportunity to not only demonstrate his chops but also his expert breathing and spacing techniques.

He is matched by the equally talented Meghan Picerno, who meshes entirely with Murphy in strikingly beautiful and soaring numbers like Beneath a Moonless Skyand Once Upon Another Time.The performance by Karen Mason as Madame Giry is also incredibly strong. She articulates the duplicitous nature of her character exceedingly well, and brings the house down in the final number of Act I. Mary Michael Patterson plays Giry’s daughter Meg, who gets several numbers that allow her to showcase her immense talent and vocal abilities. Sean Thompson (fresh from the Broadway revival of Sunset Boulevard) portrays a very unlikeable Raoul and fulfills the role exquisitely.

Due to his age, the actor playing Gustave varies. Jake Heston Miller played the role in both performances I saw in Dallas and was marvelous, although assisted with some backtracking in The Beauty Underneaththat largely escaped the audience’s notice. This number is his duet with the Phantom at the end of Act One, which has been reworked for the touring production. While the number is still outstanding, it is not as good as the version of the song as heard in the Australian and London productions. Fleck (Katrina Kemp), Richard Koons (Squelch), and Stephen Petrovich (Gangle) also give strong performances as the Phantom’s henchman. Their characters help interweave scenes and set changes while interjecting some comedic relief and adding to the mysterious air of the story.

The sets (supervised by Edward Pierce, the Broadway set designer of countless Broadway shows, including Wicked and Bright Star) work flawlessly, utilizing a turntable that centers and shifts much of the action. This is joined oftentimes with large left and right stage pieces that, along with some amazing lighting (by Nick Schlieper), create an ultimately dark and incredibly appropriate setting. The costumes (designed by Gabriella Tylesova, also responsible for the show’s scenic design) are also magnificent and couldn’t be any more (at times) beautiful, opulent, and seamless.

Spectacular performances punctuated with truly phenomenal singing combine with a gorgeously beautiful and lush score, perfectly implemented sets, costume, and lighting to produce what is simply put, one of the best pieces of musical theater to ever grace the stage. It will be truly a travesty if Love Never Diesis unable to make it to Broadway, where it rightly belongs. But of course, to make that happen, millions of dollars are needed. And in an ever-increasingly competitive landscape, getting a show to a Broadway stage takes an incredible amount of risk, even for Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, who has probably the best track record of success of any Broadway composer in history.

So—don’t risk waiting for Love Never Diesto make its way to NYC. Find out where the tour is stopping near you and GO SEE IT!It far eclipses most of the current showson Broadway and achieves the rare feat of surpassing its predecessor. Andrew Lloyd Webber and his creative team have created a masterpiece that here, has been placed in the hands of performers who have ensured it is executed with absolute sheer perfection.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Commemorating the 45th Anniversary of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire

Filed under: GLBT Social Issues and Civil Rights — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:21

Before same-sex couples could marry, before the AIDS epidemic devastated the gay community, and before American society began to change its perception of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, a devastating act of violence was committed against the LGBT community in New Orleans, LA that lead to the deaths of 32 people. On Gay Pride Weekend, Sunday, June 24th, 1973, an arsonist set fire to the Up Stairs Lounge, a small gay bar in the French Quarter that served as not only a local watering hole for gay men, but a sanctuary where they could be themselves in a world that did nothing but denounce them.

The Upstairs Lounge, was, at the time, one of New Orleans’ only social outlets for its LGBT residents. And on the night of the fire, it was packed with gay men who were members of the New Orleans Chapter of the Metropolitan Community Church, who were holding a “Beer Bust” event to raise money for a local children’s hospital. One patron named Roger Dale Nunez, who was known as a trouble maker, started a fight with the bar’s main bartender and manager, Buddy Rasmussen. After Buddy forcefully ejected Nunez from the bar, he threatened revenge by fire, a threat heard by several survivors of the tragedy. Around 20 minutes later, a patron was directed by Buddy to respond to an incessant ringing of the doorbell downstairs. Once the door opened, a backdraft from the engulfed staircase leading up to the lounge shot a massive flame through the bar, instantly setting it ablaze.

31 men and 1 woman (who was at the bar with her two gay sons, who also lost their lives) horrifically burned to their deaths trying to escape from the bar, which had an endless number of draperies, wooden furniture, and other materials that served as accelerants which made that attempt nearly impossible. Although questioned by police and marked as the lead suspect, due to a lack of evidence, Nunez was never formally charged with the crime and would commit suicide shortly thereafter. The local reaction from the police, fire department, and community were deemed despicable to many. “Let the faggots burn” one fireman was heard saying after realizing the fire ladders weren’t long enough to reach the windows to save victims. The local Catholic Archdiocese refused to acknowledge those who perished. Local leaders did everything they could to sweep the incident under the rug as to not harm New Orleans’ precious tourism industry. And radio personalities mocked the incident, saying the dead should be buried in “fruit jars.”

But simultaneously, a community was waking up to their oppression. The violent act triggered many gay men and lesbians to come out and no longer hide their identities, despite the financial and personal consequences such an act could provide in 1973. Out of the ashes rose the New Orleans LGBT Community’s liberation movement, which rippled across the United States and beyond.

Below are some photographs from the Up Stairs Lounge during the tragedy and today. Please take a moment today to say a prayer for the 32 lives lost that horrific night. And remember, the fight for freedom and equality is one that was paved by the souls of many LGBT persons who came before you.

 

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The side exterior of the site of the Upstairs Lounge today. Scars from the fire remain visible under the building’s painted surface.

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Compare the first photo to this horrendous photo of the aftermath, which serves only for comparison. One victim, Reverend Bill Larson of the New Orleans parish of the Metropolitan Community Church, can be seen clinging to the middle of the second window in his failed attempt to flee. Larson had just performed a service for the bar’s patrons a few hours before the fire (being gay, the men were otherwise shunned from any of New Orleans’ churches and had to hold their worship services at the Upstairs Lounge).

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A shot of the front exterior of the site of the Upstairs Lounge today. Scars from the fire remain visible under the building’s painted surface

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The entrance door to the Upstairs Lounge today. Patrons would ring a doorbell for access, which would be granted by the bartender upstairs. On the night of the fire, the arsonist lit the wooden stairs of the stairwell on fire with an accelerant and rang the doorbell incessantly. Thinking it was a taxi driver picking up a patron, the door was opened. The resulting oxygen drift that entered the bar caused an explosion which quickly engulfed the entire bar.

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The Upstairs Lounge memorial plaque, which is set in the sidewalk directly in-front of the entrance to what once was the Upstairs Lounge. The names of the victims along with three unidentified males are etched into the plaque.

A great book about the tragedy is Let The Faggots Burn (2011) by Johnny Townsend. The title comes from a fireman who made that shocking quote (above) when a horrified onlooker realized their ladders weren’t long enough to reach the bars’ windows and that they weren’t going to be able bring any of the victims to safety.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Ranking the 2018 Tony Nominated Musicals

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 02:12

With the 2018 Tony Awards just around the corner (the show airs next Sunday on CBS), it’s time to rank the nominees for the coveted prize for Best Musical:

#4: SpongeBob Squarepants: The Musical

How exactly this musical made it as a nominee is a bit perplexing. The show itself isn’t very good. The book is overall thin; and the production is largely completely stripped of the veiled mature humor that makes the cartoon so incredibly loved by adults. What’s left is a mess of a score, which is reflected by the show’s myriad of composers and lyricists, embedded in what amounts to a tedious and unenjoyable theatrical experience. What makes this nomination even more puzzling is the fact that the show has really struggled at the box office, dipping as low as almost 50% capacity in its cavernous home at the Palace Theatre during multiple weeks of its run. The performances are quite good, especially Ethan Slater, who is rightly nominated for the Tony for his portrayal of the title character. But overall, the show is a sluggish and boring journey that is devoid of so many of the elements that makes its source material so incredibly fun and good. I’ll be scratching my head long and hard to determine what appeal this show has to critics (it received mostly positive reviews) and the nominating committee for the Tonys.

#3: Frozen

Like it not (mostly not), Disney has had a stranglehold on Broadway for quite some time now. And while some of their shows have truly broken ground in musical theater (the innovative puppetry in The Lion King, for example) and have been translated exquisitely from screen to stage (Beauty and the Beast, AIDA), others have been downright horrendous (Aladdin). Frozen falls somewhere in the middle. The production itself is at times breath-taking. It is laden with special effects and lighting designs that weave a wonderful and magical tapestry that bedazzle the audience with delight. And the lead (Cassie Levy as Elsa) is just as powerful in her role here as she was as Molly in GHOST. The first act is also strong and well developed. But as the show enters its second phase, it begins to turn to slush. The book unravels into a repetitious mess, with a handful of numbers added in simply as filler and fluff. Even still, unlike SpongeBobFrozen remains quite fun. And the costumes (I couldn’t keep my eyes off of Sven every time he was on stage), lighting, and special effects make it a respectable, albeit undeserving, nominee.

#2: The Band’s Visit

The Band’s Visit is more than likely the frontrunner for the Tony Award for Best Musical this year. It is incredibly unique, employing the whole “musicians as performing actors on the stage” made famous by Tony-winner Once. Based off a film of the same title, The Band’s Visit tells the true story of the Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra’s accidental stop in the wrong town and the ensuing connection the band members make with the town’s residents. The music is rich and unmistakably Arabic.  The main actors, who give downright incredible performances, are light in their non-singing musicianship, surrounded by lesser characters who make-up the show’s orchestra. Tony Shalhoub will undoubtedly take home the Tony for his Broadway debut (and rightly so) while Katrina Lenk is the favorite for Best Actress in a Musical (again, deservedly so). The story is spectacularly moving; and the show leaves the audience with a rather heavy impact. Unfortunately, that impact isn’t quite what it could’ve been. In what I believe was a major misstep, the creative team followed the trend of some recent productions (The Visit, Boys in the Band, for example) and narrowed the show’s incredibly thick, engaging, and gripping plot to a one act wonder. Expanding the show over a traditional Act I and Act II with a standard intermission would’ve justified the complex character development that was really necessary to bridge the gaps that limit the production.

#1: Mean Girls

Not since my initial viewing of The Book of Mormon (okay, Something Rotten! too) have I left a theater with such a sore face from laughing like I recently  did with Mean Girls. This fantastic new musical is based on the film that starred Tina Fey, who here, alongside with her composer husband, makes her first (and monumentally successful) stab at bringing a stage musical to life. Although I never saw the movie on which it is based, Mean Girls is filled from start to finish with hilarious quips, bitterness, and bitchiness intertwined with a pop score that soars and showcases the chops of its stars, several of which are also Tony nominated. Ultimately, the laughter culminates in to plot elements that are strongly relevant today and that teach the moral that bullying behaviors and reliance on superficiality rarely result in happiness. And the ride leading up to that point is so delicious and enjoyable. Every character, with his or her every flaw, is lovable and fabulous. The sets, which rely on changing digital projections (originated with Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark) are joined by traditional staging elements to create what feels like am immersive atmosphere that punctuates each setting. Mean Girls is by far the most deserving of all the Tony nominees. It will more than likely lose to The Band’s Visit. But if somehow, it’s able to pull off the impossible, you’ll hear a cry of joy all the way from Florida for this top-notch show that is so irresistible that even the most hardened theater critic will leave with a laugh-scarred face and a warm heart from the show’s sweeter and more familiar elements that leave an enduring impression.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Top 5 Films of 2017

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 03:35

With the 2018 Annual Academy Awards right around the corner (and the invites to the official 2018 Blackwell-San Oscar Party sent last week), it’s time to rank the top 5 films of 2017! The list is topped by two absolutely extraordinary musicals and includes a sci-fi meets romance creature film, a heartbreakingly beautiful coming-of age movie about discovering one’s sexuality, and a very moving and well done tear-jerker about the true story of heroic firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice in their service to others. So, here are the Best Films of 2017, at least according to Dr. Blackwell!

#5: The Shape of Water

With the most Oscar nominations of any 2017 film, The Shape of Water spins a tale of an unlikely romantic relationship that forms between a mysterious creature that is being “studied” within a military-contracted research facility and a deaf woman who works at the facility as a janitor. While the story seems a little “out there,” it’s this precise mesh of oddity that creates an incredibly well paralleled storyline in which the love the woman develops for the creature and the way in which the creature is treated mirrors the timeframe of the American 1960’s during which the story is set. Being different, the creature is of course seen as an object rather than living being; and his cruel mistreatment is eerily similar to American society’s same disposable sentiments towards women, Blacks, and gay men. Three of the actors from the movie give absolutely phenomenal performances and bring the realism of their plight as being African American (Octavia Spencer), closeted homosexual (Richard Jenkins), and differently abled (Sally Hawkins) to the film’s incredibly dark, yet moving setting. The Shape of Water is nominated for 13 Academy Awards, including Best Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Guillermo del Toro), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Sally Hawkins), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Richard Jenkins), Best Original Score (Alexandre Desplat), Best Original Screenplay (del Toro and Vanessa Taylor), Best Achievement in Cinematography (Dan Laustsen), Best Achievement in Costume Design (Luis Sequira), Best Achievement in Sound Editing (Nathan Robataille and Nelson Ferreira) and Mixing (Christian T. Coke, Glen Gauthier, and Brad Zoern), Best Achievement in Film Editing (Sidney Wolinski), and Best Achievement in Production Design (Paul D. Austerberry, Shane Vieau, and Jeffrey A. Melvin).

#4 Call Me By Your Name

 

With 4 Oscar nominations, Call Me By Your Name is set in Northern Italy in 1983. Seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father’s research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape. The two main leads, including Best Actor nominee Timothee Chalamet, who plays Elio, and Armie Hammer, who plays his eventual love interest (I emphasize eventual because the story takes its time developing), give incredibly inspiring performances and bring the nuances of their characters to life perfectly. The story is at times frustrating, at other times incredibly sweet, and ultimately, tragically sad, and brings the audience through a journey with the gorgeous landscape of Italy in the background. Director Luca Guadagnino expertly crafts a picture that conveys the almost tangible and emotional impact the two young men have on one another. But the story also accentuates the culture of the conservative 1980’s, during which homosexuality was anything but approved of and the toll that takes on a burgeoning love between the two main characters. Call Me By Your Name is nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Adapted Screenplay (James Ivory), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Timothee Chalamet), and Best Original Score (Sufjan Stevens).

#3 Only The Brave

While failing to garner a single Oscar nomination, Only The Brave tells the remarkable true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire. While the cast is chuck-full of eye candy, the top notch acting genius of Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges and Jennifer Connelly leads the movie well beyond anything titular. In addition to the grit of the setting and ferocious physical tests the fireman are put to on a daily basis, the bonds they develop and the unique brotherhood they form is also given a chance to flourish thanks to the wise direction of Joseph Kosinski, who understood that the truly moving aspect of the film is the real life people it’s based on rather than the often romanticized action they take. With this in mind, much of the screen time is devoted to their individual stories, including one’s main quest for redemption. In the end, Only The Brave serves as a reminder that heroes everyday surround us that may make an incredible sacrifice to us, but often want nothing to show for it.

#2 Hello Again

From the mind of a well-established Broadway talent (musical extraordinaire Michael John LaChuisa) comes one of the best stage-to-screen adaptations I have ever seen. Hello Again is an outstanding musical motion picture based on LaChuisa’s off-Broadway play by the same name that focuses on the significance and insignificance men and women place on love, sex, and emotional attachments that develop from the interconnectedness of those three elements. The story unfolds across time during some historic and non-historic events and depicts an evolving exploration of love’s bittersweet embrace among characters that meet again throughout time, but in varying ways. The music is beautiful with an oftentimes simple yet multidimensional score; and the performers, most of whom come right from the stages of Broadway (including Audra McDonald, TR Knight, Martha Pimpton, Sam Underwood, Rumer Willis, and Tyler Blackburn, to name a few) lend their angelic voices and expert acting to weave an intricate and gorgeous story that transcends love, sex, and time. Hello Again was given a very brief theatrical run and was deemed ineligible for consideration for the 2018 Academy Awards.

#1 The Greatest Showman

While the Golden Globes rightfully showered 2017’s best picture with praise, nominating it for Best Picture and its leading star Hugh Jackman for Best Actor, the Oscars weren’t as kind, recognizing the film solely for its incredibly uplifting and empowering song, “This is Me,” which is nominated in the Best Song category. Despite its unbelievably horrific snubbing by the Academy, the movie is so amazingly good, it is downright difficult to convey that in words on a Blog. In a nutshell, the movie celebrates the birth of show business, and tells of a visionary by the name of PT Barnum, who rose from crippling poverty to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation. That, however, is only the superficial aspects of the film. Deeper down is a commanding message of acceptance, tolerance, and equality along with a poignant warning about the consequences of ego and the failure to recognize the importance and value of those who contribute to our lives and successes everyday, including those who are deemed “lesser thans” by a cruel and non-empathetic society. This alone would make for a great movie. But, place this story into a score and give it life through the lyrics of a soaring and gorgeous musical in the context of breath-taking visuals, costumes, makeup, cinematography, and expertly-mixed sound, and you’ve got the recipe for a film that will remain a classic long-past the time when whatever film wins Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards has been forgotten. The Greatest Showman is an absolutely phenomenal example of filmmaking. High Jackman, who worked tirelessly to bring the movie to life, director Michael Gracey who translates the material flawlessly to the screen, and composers and lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul should all be lauded for their accomplishment. And the supporting cast of choreographers, sound mixers, and cinematographers deserve the highest praises as well. The Greatest Showman is nominated for one Academy Award for Best Original Song, “This is Me.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

After Peach Bowl Win, UCF Knights Finish Season at #6, Receive 4 #1 AP Votes

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 17:08

The UCF Knights (13-0; 8-0 AAC) defeated the Auburn Tigers on January 1st in the Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl, 34-27, capping a perfect, undefeated season. In addition to the State of Florida and numerous major national publications declaring UCF as National Champions, four of the voters in the Associated Press selected the Knights as #1 in the final AP Top 25 season poll. Coverage and highlights from UCF’s victory against the Auburn Tigers in the Peach Bowl appear below, courtesy of the American Athletic Conference:

ATLANTA — McKenzie Milton threw two touchdown passes and ran for 116 yards with another touchdown, leading No. 10 UCF to a 34-27 Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl win over No. 7 Auburn on Monday that capped the Knights’ perfect season. UCF led 34-20 before having to stop a late Auburn comeback. Antwan Collier’s interception in the end zone with 24 seconds remaining clinched the win.

After Auburn took a 20-13 lead in the third quarter on a 4-yard run by Kerryon Johnson, Milton threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Otis Anderson to tie the game. Milton, under pressure, zipped an 8-yard scoring pass to Dredrick Snelson early in the fourth to give the Knights the lead. Chequan Burkett’s 45-yard interception return for a touchdown pushed the lead to 14 points.

UCF (13-0) won in its final game with coach Scott Frost, who stayed with the team through the bowl game after accepting an offer to become the new coach at Nebraska, his alma mater. The Knights thought they deserved a higher ranking after winning the American Athletic Conference and leading the nation in scoring, and they made a strong statement by beating Auburn (10-4). The Knights sacked Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham six times. Auburn had only one sack.

UCF led 13-6 at halftime despite behind held under 14 points at the break for the first time this season. With 6:58 remaining, Auburn’s Derrick Brown blocked a 25-yard field goal by Matthew Wright that would have given UCF a 10-point lead. Auburn couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to tie the game. After the interception return by Burkett gave UCF a 34-20 lead, Auburn’s Eli Stove had a 7-yard scoring run with about four minutes remaining. By that time, many Auburn fans in the sellout crowd of 71,109 already had left the stadium.

With 2:18 remaining, UCF’s Matthew Wright missed a 38-yard field goal, giving the Tigers an opening for their last-gasp drive, which ended with the interception. The Knights, who lead the nation with 49.4 points per game, continued their streak of scoring more than 30 points in every game this season. The Knights passed every test, including on the line of scrimmage, as they proved they could match speed and strength with the Tigers. Milton overcame a slow start after completing only 3 of 17 passes for 30 yards in the first half. He completed 16 of 35 passes for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

The Tigers couldn’t maintain momentum after opening the second half with two touchdowns for a 20-13 lead. Auburn insisted motivation would not be a problem after the crushing loss in the SEC championship game, but the Tigers had no answer when the Knights regained momentum. Stidham completed 28 of 43 passes for 331 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. The Knights will begin a new era with coach Josh Heupel, the former Missouri offensive coordinator.

 

Monday, December 4, 2017

UCF Knights Defeat Memphis to Win AAC Championship, Head to Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl, Finish Season Undefeated

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 00:27

The UCF Knights (12-0; 8-0 AAC) ended their season undefeated on Saturday and earned the title of 2017 American Athletic Conference Champions as they beat the Memphis Tigers (10-2; 6-2 AAC) in-front of a sold-out electrically-charged Spectrum Stadium crowd of close to 46,000! The Knights learned Sunday they would end the season ranked #12 in the CFP Rankings and will earn the coveted G5 slot in the Chick Fil-A Peach Bowl in Atlanta on January 1st. As reported by the AAC:

UCF for the second straight week prevailed in a shootout on its home field. The 12th-ranked Knights captured the American Athletic Conference championship on Saturday as they defeated No. 16 Memphis 62-55 in double overtime. It is the Knights’ third American crown in the past five years. They won the East Division last Friday with a 49-42 win over USF. It was a wild game. The top two scoring teams in the country combined for 117 points and 1,479 yards. It was tied at 48 at the end of regulation.

UCF had the ball first in the second overtime and scored on a 1-yard run by Otis Anderson. Memphis got as far as the UCF 9 on their possession but Riley Ferguson’s pass on second-and-goal was intercepted by Tre Neal as the Knights (12-0, CFP No. 15) secured a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl.The teams exchanged touchdowns in the first overtime. Memphis got the ball first and scored when Ferguson connected with Anthony Miller from 15 yards. UCF answered on a 2-yard run by Adrian Killins.

The Knights led 48-34 early in the fourth quarter but the Tigers (10-2, CFP No. 20) rallied to tie with 4:13 remaining on Ferguson’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Miller. Memphis had a chance to win it in reghttps://youtu.be/8hGtlqWKDuQulation but Riley Patterson’s 51-yard field-goal attempt with 28 seconds remaining was wide left. McKenzie Milton threw for 494 yards (28 of 40) and five touchdowns as he was named the game’s most outstanding player.

Dredrick Snelson and Tre’Quan Smith caught two touchdown passes apiece.

Milton also rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown. Otis Anderson rushed for 117 yards on 16 carries.

Memphis’ Riley Ferguson was 30 of 42 for 471 yards and four touchdowns. Miller had 14 receptions for 195 yards and three touchdowns. Darrell Hanederson (15 carries, 109 yards) and Patrick Taylor (17 carries, 108 yards) each ran for over 100 yards and had a touchdown.

The Chick Fil A Peach Bowl will be nationally-televised on ESPN with a New Years Day kickoff set for 12:30pm. Watch the AAC Championship Trophy Presentation, courtesy of the AAC, below:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

#12 UCF Knights Defeat Rival USF in Exhilarating Black Friday Matchup, Remain Undefeated, Crowned AAC East Division Champions, Host AAC Conference Championship Game on Saturday

Filed under: UCF Sports — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:40

The UCF Knights (11-0; 8-0 AAC) handed their rival USF Bulls (9-2; 6-2 AAC) a loss on Black Friday in front of a sold-out, loud, and raucous crowd of almost 48,000 fans at Spectrum Stadium. The contest, nationally televised on ABC, was one of dramatic highs and lows, with the lead exchanging several times. The game had major implications for both teams’ seasons–the winner would go on to host the AAC Conference Championship game; that game’s victor will then earn a coveted spot in a NY6 Bowl (the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, GA). As reported by the AAC:

Mike Hughes 95-yard kickoff return with 1:28 remaining was the difference as No. 12 UCF completed the first unbeaten regular season in program history with a wild 49-42 victory over No. 19 USF on Friday to clinch the American Athletic Conference’s East Division title. The Knights (11-0, 8-0 AAC, CFP No. 15) will host Memphis in the conference title game on Dec. 2.

Hughes’ touchdown capped a crazy 53-second span where the Knights took an eight-point lead, South Florida tied it and then the Knights took the lead for good. The Bulls (9-2, 6-2) tied it at 42 when Quinton Flowers connected with Darnel Salomon for an 83-yard touchdown, and then found D’Ernest Johnson for a 2-point play. Flowers finished with 605 yards of total offense. On the ensuing kickoff, Hughes found an opening on the right side and scored.

South Florida drove to midfield late, but Mitchell Wilcox fumbled and it was recovered by Chequan Burkett. McKenzie Milton was 29 of 44 for 373 yards and four touchdowns. UCF led 21-7 late in the first quarter but South Florida took a 34-28 lead with 3:41 remaining in the game on Flowers’ 24-yard touchdown run, which marked the first time this season that the Knights had trailed in the second half.

UCF has scored 30 points or more in every game this season, which is the longest streak in the nation. Flowers threw for a career-high 503 yards (24 of 45, four touchdowns) and ran for 102. He had 348 yards alone in the first half with five completions of 30 yards or more. Tryre McCants had already set a USF single-game receiving record with 6 minutes remaining in the first half. The junior had 227 yards on nine receptions, including a 55-yard touchdown. The previous record was 191 yards by Andre Davis in a 2012 game at Nevada. McCants previous career high was 105 yards against SMU last season.

The Knights will now host the AAC Conference Championship game on Saturday at Bright House Networks Stadium. Kickoff is set for Noon and the game will be nationally televised on ABC. Check out video highlights of UCF’s win over South Florida courtesy of the American Digital Network below:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Theater Review: Love Never Dies

Filed under: Performing Arts — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 03:13

The extraordinary musical Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s sequel to his phenomenon The Phantom of the Opera, opened Tuesday night at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. The show has had a long and winding road to its current carnation, opening first in London to scathing reviews. In Webber’s defense, the musical genius was diagnosed with prostate cancer and started battling the disease early into the West End production’s previews and was unable to help improve it before its formal opening.  After shuttering in the UK, Webber spent a considerable amount of time reworking the show, bringing a new version to Australia, where it was met with raves and became a mega-hit. After its success Down Under, Webber vowed to take the show across the globe before hopefully finally bringing it to Broadway. And thus, the current tour, based on the Australian version directed by Broadway veteran Simon Phillips (Priscilla: Queen of the Desert), finds its way to Orlando.

So how exactly does the story from Phantom continue? Well, without giving too many plot elements away, the show takes place 10 years after its predecessor. Madame Giry and her daughter Meg have joined the Phantom in Coney Island, NY, where the trio have worked tirelessly in creating an amusement park that showcases the bizarre and musically-punctuated world one would expect from the Phantom. Meg is the park’s main talent and star attraction; but that changes when Christine Daae, her husband Raoul, and their son Gustave are lured to Coney Island, where Christine is set to perform an aria in Roger Hammerstein’s new theater.

There’s a LOT to love about Love Never Dies. While the actors Gardar Thor Cortes (The Phantom), Meghan Picerno (Christine), Karen Mason (Madame Giry), Sean Thompson (Raoul), and Mary Michael Patterson (Meg Giry) all give performances of their careers, the real star of the show is its music. Webber’s incredibly lush and melodic score, which is at times beautiful and soaring and then dark and foreboding, is perhaps one of the most beautiful scores he’s ever composed. The music is also, while reminiscent of some very occult threads from Phantom, fresh and unique for this show.

So don’t expect to hear that loud and familiar Phantom theme here. Its absence is as glaring as the crashing chandelier (although if you really want to hear that trademark theme from the original, stick around and take a listen to the exit music from the orchestra [which you should do anyway] as the theme appears there). The staging and costuming (both courtesy of an incredibly talented Aussie design team) are brilliantly dark and appropriate to the setting. The scene in Act II where Christine performs the title song (in show-stopping and breathtaking style by Picerno) is absolutely gorgeous. The performer is dressed in a jaw-dropping gown that seems to almost melts into the stage; and the pain, love, and tragedy conveyed in the song are palpable.

The only minor criticism the show deserves is in its blocking and choreographed sequences where the actors are forced to be somewhat over the top in their motions to convey their character. These characters are known to audiences; so histrionic movements and over-emphasized traits are both unnecessary and distracting. Orlando is only the second stop for the tour (it officially opened in Detroit on October 25th), so there’s plenty of time for the actors to smooth out these small kinks before winding down in Charolette, NC in September of 2018. Unfortunately, if you want to see Love Never Dies, you just may have to see it elsewhere. The ENTIRE Orlando run is sold out! Hopefully this translates to massive profits for the life of the touring show, which allows producers to not only recoup but also invest in a Broadway run in 2019. Some individual tickets remain and can be purchased through the Dr. Phillips Center Web Site (https://www.drphillipscenter.org/events/tickets/2017/love-never-dies/) . Check out  the trailer for Love Never Dies below:

 

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