Archives for March 2014

Book Review: When the Cypress Whispers



Recently I received a copy of When the Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon and was asked to share who I might hear should the “Cypress Whispers” bring back voices from past generations in my own life. My father comes to mind with his reminders to never push our food with our fingers and to eat with our mouths shut, despite breaking both rules himself in the most endearing ways. Of course, the constant grammar corrections still ring in my head.

In this book, I am reminded how important it is to remember our past and those who made such a difference in our lives in our formative years and to remind my children to appreciate their elders. What a beautiful story Yvette tells here with the glorious backdrop of Greece and the rich historical tie-in. It’s fascinating and I look forward to many more from this author.


On a beautiful Greek island, myths, magic, and a colorful cast of characters come together in When the Cypress Whispers, Yvette Manessis Corporon’s lushly atmospheric story about past and present, family and fate, love and dreams that poignantly captures the deep bond between an American woman and her Greek grandmother.

The daughter of Greek immigrants, Daphne aspires to the American Dream, yet feels as if she’s been sleepwalking through life. Caught between her family’s old-world traditions and the demands of a modern career, she cannot seem to find her place.

Only her beloved grandmother on Erikousa, a magical island off the coast of Greece, knows her heart. Daphne’s fondest memories are of times spent in the kitchen with Yia-yia, cooking and learning about the ancient myths. It was the thought of Yia-yia that consoled Daphne in the wake of her husband’s unexpected death.


Yvette Manessis Corporon is an Emmy Award winning writer, producer and author. She is currently a Senior Producer with the syndicated entertainment news show, EXTRA. With degrees in Classical Civilizations and Journalism from NYU, this daughter of Greek immigrants studied both of her passions. Now, Yvette’s love for her heritage and her writing have come together again in her debut novel, WHEN THE CYPRESS WHISPERS.

In addition to her Emmy Award, Yvette has received several Emmy nominations, a Silurian Award for Excellence in Journalism and The New York City Comptroller and City Council’s Award for Greek Heritage and Culture. Yvette is married to award winning photojournalist, David Corporon. They have 2 children and live in New York. She spends her spare time running, cooking and teaching her children the occasional naughty Greek word in an effort to get them to speak the language.

BUY THE BOOK in Hardback or Kindle on Amazon: When the Cypress Whispers



Backstage at The Academy of Music with Julia Udine (Christine Daae) and Edward Staudenmayer (Monsieur Andre) of The Phantom of the Opera

Phantom of the Opera Chandelier

The new chandelier from the stage.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Julia Udine, a local Philadelphia area native (from Voorhees, NJ) who will be touring as Christine Daae of The Phantom of the Opera in a new production by Cameron MacKintosh. Edward Staudenmayer (Monsieur Andre) also joined us on the exclusive behind-the-scenes tour.

UPDATE: After seeing the show opening night (which took our breath away), Ed took us on another quick back-stage tour to allow my daughter to see the props. We were both in complete awe of all the pieces created for this new production, which was simply amazing itself. My take (and you can quote me): The new Phantom of the Opera majestically updates a classic tale without missing a beat of the original. Simply phenomenal.

Tickets for The Phantom of the Opera at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia (March 19-April 12) can be purchased through the website or by calling the box office at 215-731-3333.

Phantom BackStage Tour

Julia Udine, [Me], Ed Staudenmayer

Here is my interview with Julia and some of the behind-the-scenes photos. I told Julia that a big focus of my writing comes from my own experience with teens and helping my kids follow their dreams and we talked about what she had done to follow her dreams which you can read below.

Julia: I started dancing when I was three years old. I started with ballet and then I ended up taking voice lessons when I was 9 or 10 years old and every week until now. Then, I went to high school and I graduated high school and went to Penn State for one semester for musical theater.  I ended up leaving Penn State and moving to New York during winter break of my freshman year and kinda building my own curriculum and my own classes based on the studios I was most challenged by and loved the most. From there, I got an agent and now I am here.

Me: Is your family still in the Philadelphia-NJ area?

Julia: Yes, I am from Voorhees, NJ so my whole family lives there and they are so supportive and I am so grateful.

Me: Are they coming to the show this week?

Julia: I have people coming to every single show. Actually, today —  this afternoon show, I have 200 students from my middle school taking a field trip to come here and then my voice teacher, the high school that she teaches at, is bringing quite a few students.

Me: [So I hear] you are booked for the next three years?

Julia: We are – those dates aren’t announced yet but we are on tour for quite a bit. I am only signed on for one year so far so after a year I can see if they want to keep me around or see what happens.(*humble giggles*) …. Kinda taking it day by day.

Me: On that note, what are some of the biggest stressors you find during a production like this?

Julia:  You know, it’s always a challenge in the beginning of each city because it’s a new house and a new crew and that’s always a challenge; but it’s actually really exciting because you are teaching new people the show and moving new audiences. … and it’s awesome – I really enjoy it.

Me: When you are getting your start, there are always productions you do early on (high school, college) that you wish you could go back and do better. What was that for you?

Julia: Yes – West Side Story. It’s so funny that you say that because I say it all the time to my friends and family – “I wish I could just be Maria.” I did it in high school. I was at a community theater in Haddonfield actually and was in West Side Story as a senior and all I ever said was, again now, it’s definitely a dream role of mine.

Me: Had you seen this production [Phantom of the Opera] earlier in life?

Julia: Yes, I saw the original Broadway production when I was a lot younger and absolutely loved it and what’s really cool about being a part of this production is that it’s a new take on old characters.

Me: Is it a rewrite?

Julia: No, it’s not a rewrite, it’s the same story, the same music everything .. [but] new staging, new set, new lighting, new creative team. So, we are discovering different nuances in the characters. It’s very dark and very edgy and you see a lot of the story through Christine’s eyes which is really exciting for me. It’s cool because I don’t have any previous things affecting my performance now. … I am able to see the script for the first time and discover the character for the first time which is really exciting.

Me: What made you go out for the role?

Julia: I called my agent and I said I would love to audition. … She [Christine Daae] is a dancer and I really connect with that because I am also a dancer and have been dancing my whole life. It brings all my training together which is really great. In a lot of musicals, you don’t really see the soprano leading with a big, acting emotional journey and this show has such an emotional journey. There is so much going on in her life and every night I find new things in her character and so that’s kinda what drew me to her – that she has such an intense inner life.

Me: What do you draw on to find that [intensity]?

Julia: That’s what the rehearsal process if for. We were really fortunate in our rehearsal process with our director Laurence Connor. It was such a collaboration between actor and director and so we were able to find things to connect with and relate to the theme and build them and find what it really is about her that is so relatable. We did that with a lot of the characters. They are going through some real life things and really, really traumatic experiences. It’s a process you want the public and the audience to relate to. That was our challenge but also what we are doing.

Me: Have you ever done film or wanted to do film?

Julia: Yes, I have totally been open to film. I did a Law & Order SVU [Special Victim’s Unit] TV episode this past year and a couple episodes of All My Children … (that’s a web series now) so I am totally up into TV and film.

Me: But, do you prefer live?

I was trained in dancing and theater so that’s where I get my satisfaction. There is something really special about  a live production, doing things in one take. That’s definitely where I get my artistic satisfaction.

Me: It feeds your soul.

Julia: Exactly, it feeds my soul.

Me: [Finally] if there was one leading man you would like to be opposite, who would that be?

Julia: Well,…. Actually there is Ramin Karimloo playing Jean Valjean that I would absolutely die to work with. I think he’s an extremely talented man. That would be really great. He has no idea who I am but … that would be really great.

ME: Thank you, Julia for your time and the interview!


Ed Staudenmayer

Lindsey with Ed Staudenmayer (Monsieur Andre) on backstage tour.

Phantom of the Opera Costumes

Christine Daae’s heavy skirt


Phantom Chandelier

Julia Udine (Christine) & Edward Staudenmayer (Monsieur Andre)

Phantom of the Opera organ

Phantom of the Opera organ


Here is a trailer of the Phantom of the Opera 2014 North American Tour.  This trailer has different performers than the one I met but it gives you the gist of the new set.


The Little Rascals Save The Day in Digital HD

Little Rascals BluRay
The Little Rascals Save the Day is now available in Digital HD & Blu-Ray with Gag Reel Animatics and special deleted scenes.

Movies like this one bring film history to the modern generation with all the adorable classic characters and madcap schemes. I loved watching reruns of the original series when I was growing up and I know that  a new generation will enjoy this updated version that’s available to watch at home or take on the go.


The most adorable rabble-rousers in film history return in
The Little Rascals Save the Day, a fun-filled, all-new adventure featuring Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Darla, Petey the Dog and all their friends. Written and directed by Alex Zamm (Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2), THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack including Blu-ray, DVD, & DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet on April 1, 2014, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film, from Universal Home Entertainment, will also be available on DIGITAL HD two weeks early on March 18, 2014.

THE LITTLE RASCALS SAVE THE DAY is a charming, pro-family movie featuring creative children whose highly imaginative approach to the world around them is exemplified in a remarkable talent show, and sophisticated Rube Goldberg-style clubhouse, treehouse and other inventive gadgets and contraptions. Christian families, always searching for clean, wholesome entertainment that instills traditional values, are appreciating the film because of the joy, innocence and classic American goodness of its story and characters.

Buy it now at  The Little Rascals Save the Day or at your local retailer.

See the trailer below:


GIVEAWAY: Son of God Movie Tickets, Soundtrack & Inspired By Album


Curious about the new film about the life of Christ called Son of God?

I am giving away:

  • TWO movie tickets,
  • ONE Inspired By Album, and
  • ONE Soundtrack

Comment here for a chance to win.

Contest Ends March 21, 2014.


This major motion picture event is an experience created to be shared among families and communities across the U.S. It brings the story of Jesus’ life to audiences through compelling cinematic storytelling that is both powerful and inspirational. Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, the film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score. The film spans from Jesus’ humble birth through his teachings, crucifixion and ultimate resurrection.


SON of GOD (Music Inspired by the Epic Motion Picture)

Courtesy of Word Entertainment. The biggest names in Christian Music collaborate to accompany the story of Jesus through song.  ‘Son of God: Inspired by the Epic Motion’ features exclusive songs by Francesca Battistelli and Chris August plus hits from for KING & COUNTRY, Big Daddy Weave, Sidewalk Prophets and more.

Also, experience the feature film Son of God live in your town this March featuring Francesca Battistelli, Sidewalk Prophets, Natalie Grant and more on the Bible: Son of God Tour 2014!  More information at



Son of God film comes to a theater near you

Son of God movie

me, my daughter Lindsey, Roma Downey, Diogo Morgado

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in a roundtable with two of the main stars of the film Son of God, Roma Downey (who portrayed Mary, Jesus’s mother) and Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado (who had the honor of title role — Jesus).

Son of God, the movie, is a two-hour film adaptation of the life of Christ that was developed after the mini-series “The Bible” aired on the History Channel last year and was met with rave reviews. “The Bible” was also executive-produced by Downey and her husband, Mark Burnett,  and also starred Morgado as Jesus. Son of God is the first major motion picture on the complete life of Jesus Christ in almost 50 years.

Time for our interview was short but we could easily see the passion pouring from both Morgado and Downey about the movie, its meaning and their parts in the film. Morgado shared that he had never seen a Jesus portrayed in the movies in a way that resembled who he knew Christ to be and he wanted to bring a Jesus that people could relate to.

“I never actually saw a  portraying of Jesus according to what I believe in terms of  someone that I can actually connect [with] in terms of proximity – someone being really close  . . . like someone from my family, resembling someone in a good an positive way. So, that was one of my rational aspects of aiming for where I wanted to go – a vague intention. Putting it into action is a completely different thing,” said Morgado, who followed by telling about his visit to Jerusalem to research the places where Jesus walked and what a profound experience it was for him. Upon seeing a father and child praying, he realized what an impact this movie would make on this child’s life and lives around the world. Having the whole life of Jesus on screen for the first time in fifty years would touch this child even more than his father.

“I would need to be a channel of love and connect with the story as it is . . .  a story of love from God to us, Jesus to us,” adds Morgado when discussing how he drew his inspiration for the movie.

Downey shared several things about the movie as a producer as well as actor. In answering a question about prescreening it with others around the country, Roma says, “To be able to watch it in community,  to see this sweeping cinematic presentation, this larger than life story on the big screen — it’s very powerful and people have been obviously moved. The end credits roll with the CeeLo Green version of ‘Mary, Did You Know?’ playing over them and it’s not often an audience stays in their seat through the credits and I think people are taking a moment to breathe and process what they’ve just experienced.”

“On one hand, the movie is a big epic sweeping story that just draws you in. Part of our desire was to present it in a gritty and authentic way that would show you the political context of the time, the historical context of the time so that it’s dark and dangerous. It plays out a little bit like a political thriller with the Romans led by Pontius Pilate and the temple authorities led by Ciaphus and the disciples led by Jesus and they all collide in Jerusalem with just a few days to Passover. You will notice as the movie progresses that the editing speed picks up as the intensity [does] and there’s a moment where you are aware of this sort of dry brush they are just about to light a match to  and the whole thing goes up in flames. It is this big epic movie and [yet] it’s this deeply personal story that still very intimate and you get an opportunity to know Jesus and fall in love with Jesus.”

Downey also shared their hopes that this movie would make it easy for others to invite friends and introduce them to the Bible, possibly for the first time. They got the PG-13 rating so families would come. Since The Bible series aired and the prescreenings of Son of God occurred around the country, they are already seeing that these efforts are the beginning of a bigger conversation about faith and the place of God in our lives, about our relationship with Jesus. The best part about this country is that if someone has questions, there’s not far you have to go with churches on every corner.

After the interview, when we were gathering for the picture, Downey shared with me as a “mom-blogger” what an incredible experience it had been to play the mother of Jesus.

The film was released in theaters Friday, February 28 at which time Christian organizations around the country bought out entire multi-plex theaters and showed the movie on every screen for a night. Bible study material has been created to use the movie to share the gospel of Christ and to follow a series studying the word of God with movie clips and discussion materials to enhance each presentation.

Here in the trailer you can see some of the action for yourself: