Wednesday, 30 May 2012

An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical (30th May 2012)

After getting a quick bite for dinner at The Star Cafe Court, we headed to Sydney Lyric Theatre to find our seats in time for the 8pm show start of An Officer and a Gentleman: The Musical. Cost us $233.25 for 2 seats in the stalls - we were pretty much right in the middle and only about 6 rows away from the stage. For a mid-week show, the theatre was quite empty. The dress and upper circles were literally deserted, and the stalls half-filled with a majority of the audiences aged 50 and above. I wondered why the musical would attract an older crowd and then the thought occurred to me that the movie (of the same title which the musical was based on) was made famous back in the 80s when these older folk were in their heydays. Though I was less than 2 years old when the movie was released, I have seen the movie in later years and distinctively recall the main character of the drama film was Richard Gere playing a US navy aviation candidate. Oh, and not forgetting its Academy Award winning theme song "Up Where We Belong" - an image of Richard Gere picking up his love interest in the final scene of the movie comes to mind whenever I hear it. One of the great things about living in a big city like Sydney is that there is so much going on - festivals, musicals, theatre, gigs, etc. We are very fortunate to be the city to premiere this new musical and I'm very glad I could be a part of supporting its early goings! 

The show began with a scene from the back streets of Manila, neon lights illuminated in the dark and hookers beckoning sailors to their lair. Young Zack Mayo, whose mother had committed suicide, arrives in this city to live with his father Bryon (played by 
Bartholomew John)
a US Navy boatswain's mate (and quite the womanizer - two women in bed at the same time!). The city's harsh conditions and his father's upbringing made Zack grow up pretty quickly and learned his way to get ahead in life. Wanting to change the course of his life's path and inspired by a navy officer who once came to his aid when he was robbed, the older Zack Mayo (played by Ben Mingay) signs up for the Navy Aviator Office Candidate School. In his 80s-style mullet and biker attire, Zack and his other fellow OCs went in to report for their first day, receiving a 'friendly welcome' by drill officer Sergeant Emil Foley (played by Bert LaBonte) whose life mission seemed to be to break the new recruits by putting them through a rigorous 12-week programme which aims to eliminate those who were not strong enough physically and mentally to survive through the challenges presented. The stage was set up to resemble a navy base with clever use of the turntable stage to make it look as if the cast had to walk very far to get from place to place. The transition of scenes moved smoothly and there were some pretty good vocals from the cast singing several group and solo rock-pop numbers.

A change of scene from the navy base and the audience is introduced to the girls, Paula Pokrifki (played by Amanda Harrison), a bright young woman who works her days in a cardboard factory to pay for her night classes so she can become a nurse, and Paula's co-worker and good friend Lynette Pomeroy (played by Kate Kendall), who infinitely aspires to be a navy officer's wife and constantly looking for the next officer-to-be who might just be THE Mr. Right, whisking her away from her mundane life. Lynette persuaded Paula to accompany over to the navy base to check out the new recruits and when Zack played wingman for Sid at the local dance, it was obvious that Sid was 'hooked' by Lynette, and Zack and Paula too developed a romantic relationship. Some of the bedroom scenes were quite raunchy, a topless Lynette (her back was towards the audience so maybe she wasn't fully topless) 'riding' Sid to ecstasy in a dingy motel room, and Zack wearing nothing but his white boxers, taunting the audience with his chiselled body. I wondered how these scenes went down with the older folk...Definitely lots of eye candy for both sexes, and for those of you who gets the thrill of seeing hot guys flex some muscles, you are in for a treat - the athletic cast not only had to act, sing and dance but many of their drill scenes require physical activity. Ah-ha, I see you have some saliva trailing from the side of your opened mouth :P

Over time, the romance of the two couples progressed. Back at the navy base, one by one the weaker cadets DORed (DOR stands for "Drop On Request"), sounding the foghorn when they could no longer put up with the programme. Foley strongly believes Zack lacks motivation and is not a team player - in this scene, Zack defied orders of his team leader in a fire simulation to save himself. Foley sang an
 amazing tenor solo "I'll Be Damned" reprimanding his recruits, and with the song concluded Act I of the show. 

"That wasn't much of an applause," I commented to Jono, hearing the rather unenthusiastic response of the crowd just as we break for half-time. I've read several negative reviews of the musical beforehand but I wasn't going to let it deter me from checking out the musical myself. Frankly, I thought the show was good so far and its stage adaptation done well - it was exactly how I remembered the movie to be. Perhaps the older crowd were expecting something more 'traditional'...

About 20 minutes later, the audience were back for Act II which opened with a scene at the bar, the remaining recruits singing "Halfway" and dancing salsa which was an interesting change to the rock-pop tunes we've heard in Act I. Zack and Paula were falling in love with one another but as they both agreed they were only in it for a good time, both refrained from putting themselves in a vulnerable position of being in love. Meanwhile, Zack has been winning favours with the other recruits with his 
sideline business selling pre-shined shoes and buckles, and pressed uniforms to the others, to the point he was hiding his stash at a special secluded location that Paula previously revealed to him in confidence. Nothing can go past Foley unnoticed and when he discovered Zack's side business, he severely punishes Zack in an attempt to make him DOR but Zack refuses to give in. When Foley told Zack he will have him thrown out, Zack finally breaks into tears saying he had no where to go. In that moment of utter despair, Zack's friends Sid, Lynette and Paula appeared by the gates of the base, shouting out a chant of encouragement to Zack not to DOR, and to everyone's surprised, pulling their pants down and baring their asses - the crowd squealed with laughter at the sight! Some of the comic scenes and smart one-liners were slotted throughout the show, adding a bit of comedy into the mix. Zack stays on in the programme and ever since then he has worked his way to become one of the top recruits towards the final weeks, even showing leadership by abandoning his attempt to break the obstacle course record by coaching fellow recruit Taniya Seeger (played by Zahra Newman) to overcome the wall climb.

On one of Lynette and Sid's make out sessions, Lynette drops the bomb informing Sid that she was pregnant. Shocked and confused with the news, Sid suffered a sudden panic attack in the water chamber simulation. Realising that he signed up for the programme out of obligation to his family, Sid DORed on week 11. He heads over to Lynette's and proposes only to be told that there was no baby and all she wanted was to marry a naval aviator (and he will never be one now). Despondent, Sid checks himself into the motel and commits suicide. When Zack and Paula discovered Sid, it was too late. Filled with grief and rage, Zack lashes out at Paula, believing she was no different to Lynette and stormed out, ending their relationship there and then. Zack decides to DOR himself but Foley wouldn't allow it - the two men fought it out in an unofficial fight as the rest of the recruits watched on, Foley eventually winning by kicking Zack in the groin and told Zack he can quit if he wanted to.

On graduation day, Zack shows up and together with the rest of his fellow recruits, was sworn into the Navy. Each recruit received a salute from Foley in exchange for a silver US dollar (this is Naval tradition). There were only two naval aviation positions available for each graduating class but Foley made an exception, recommending Zack as a special third graduate to join the naval aviators. For a moment, there was a glimpse of Foley letting his guard down and wanting to embrace Zack but instead gave him the perfect salute and went to 'welcome' the next batch of recruits. 
I'm sure those of you who remembered the movie well knows what comes next! Zack rushes to the factory to find Paula, kisses her passionately and picks her up, walking out with her in his arms while her colleagues applauded and cheered - this was the big ending where the famous theme song "Up Where We Belong" was sung.

For a new musical, both Jono and I thought it was very good. There may be parts that can be tweaked to perfection (at times, I couldn't quite relate to the emotions some of the characters were portraying) but generally a good heart-warming show. Sydneysiders, I urge that you give this musical your support so that it will continue to gain reputation and become an establish musical like others that have opened in Sydney. Plus we want to encourage new musicals to open in Sydney - isn't it great to be the first city to see a new production? I definitely think so!

Flying Fish & Chips, Pyrmont (30th May 2012)

Keen musical fans that we are, Jono and I bought tickets to a musical at Sydney Lyric Theatre this evening so caught up after work around 6.45pm at The Star to grab a bite before the show. We needed someplace that serves food fairly quickly - Flying Fish & Chips located in the Cafe Court was the place we chose this evening. Inspired by Flying Fish, one of Sydney's premier seafood restaurants, Flying Fish & Chips serves its seafood to cater for all taste - from sushi and sashimi to fresh oysters, classic battered fish & chips to grilled or poached fish, there is a dish for everyone. I went for the Flying Fish & Chips while Jono got the special of the day, Grilled John Dory Fillet, as well as a bottle of Singha beer each. Cost $33.40 all up and this was after applying the 1-for-1 main voucher from the Entertainment Book. We were given a buzzer so went to the dining area to find ourselves a table. Surprisingly the dining area was quite busy on a Wednesday. "They are probably like us, getting a quick bite before the show," said Jono. True, and it is probably more convenient to find food near the theatre anyway.

Flying Fish & Chips in The Star's Cafe Court

Some 10 minutes later, the buzzer sounded and Jono went to collect our food. It turned out that our beers were the same two bottles we saw earlier at the counter (the bar staff had popped two bottles open when we paid for our food). In other words, our beers have been left at the counter the whole time while our food was being prepared! Not at all impressed >( The food itself was alright though nothing particularly outstanding or unique. I had ordered the Flying Fish & Chips thinking it would most likely be their signature dish given it has the same name as the shop - Jono's Grilled John Dory Fillets turned out much nicer than my meal and came with some salad too (looked way healthier than my dinner). It was very expensive for such a classic dish and definitely not worth paying $20 for battered fish and a side of chips (then again, we are eating at The Star so paying a premium price for food is to be expected). 

Flying Fish & Chips ($20)

Grilled John Dory Fillet ($18)

Flying Fish and Chips Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

I think I would rather go for Din Tai Fung than Flying Fish & Chips next time - least it gives me more bang for my buck!

The Naughty Chef, Sydney (30th May 2012)

Su Wei and I caught up for lunch today, this time heading to The Naughty Chef located in Hunter Arcade, accessible via the underground walkway from Wynyard Station. I didn't even know this underground pass existed! I guess that's down to the fact I work in North Sydney and not in the CBD like Su Wei - I wouldn't have known of this diner if Su Wei hadn't brought me here!

At 12.30pm, the place was packed with lunchtime customers from the offices around the area. "I'm going to stick to my usual Pho Ga," I thought to myself as I reviewed the menu listed on the wall - pho, rice dishes, salad, rice rolls and food from the smorgasbord 
were among the choices available. We joined in the queue to place our orders - there was hardly any wait as the staff behind the counter were quick to take orders and collect money (cost me $10 for the pho ga). We were given a number and chatted while we waited to collect our food. One would have thought this place only does takeaways since the shop didn't have any tables for dining in but I was informed by Su Wei that the dining area was actually a shop away. Hmm, interesting that the diner is separated by another shop...

I couldn't help but felt slightly stressed out being in the shop that was filled with customers, everyone 'dancing' around one another as more came in to place their order or collect their tray of food. The noodle soups were served in large bowls and broth filled to the brim making it a hazard especially if someone accidentally bumps into the person carrying the tray of hot soup (you really don't want it spilled on you!). Su Wei collected our cutlery while I tried my best to avoid hungry patrons coming into the shop and made my way with our tray with two bowls of noodle soup to the dining area. Phew, what a mission!

The dining area was a lot bigger though only a few tables were available. Seemed to me this place is very popular...We found ourselves an empty table and settled in to enjoy our lunch. With the temperatures dropping as we move into winter, a nice hot noodle soup was just what I needed to warm up. We added to our soups a lemon wedge, some cut chillies and fried shallots as well as took a small disposable container with some Hoisin and chilli sauces each, all of which were available for self-service at the collection area. Unlike most places that serves Vietnamese chicken noodle soup (aka pho ga), The Naughty Chef uses normal mint leaves rather than Asian basil. The broth tasted more home-made (as compared to the one served in Pasteur on George St which has a much tastier broth, perhaps enhanced with the use of MSG) and it was good in general however nothing really to rave about. Perhaps they do better in rice dishes? I guess I'll have to come back to find out!

At the order/pick-up counter

Chicken noodle soup ($10)

The Naughty Chef located in Hunter Arcade

The Naughty Chef Pho Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

It's always great catching up with Su Wei and now that she has agreed to be my chief bridesmaid, I feel so much at ease when talking about my wedding plans (I don't like to 'drown' people in my wedding-related matters). Looking for a wedding dress is next on my to-do list and I'll definitely be needing a second opinion and company when hunting down my dream dress!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Bio-Signature assessment (29th May 2012)

The Elizabeth Plaza Fitness First was again promoting free health and fitness assessments and this week, members can book in for a Bio-Signature assessment. Yes, you've guessed it - I signed myself up :) All it took was a quick filling of a form at the reception desk and I was shortly contacted by my Bio-Signature assessor, David, to set up an appointment to meet at the gym later that week for my assessment.

So what is a Bio-Signature? This concept was developed by
Charles Poliquin (those of you who take supplements to aid your workouts will be familiar with the Poliquin brand) where skin fold data is gathered to determine a clients' hormonal imbalances - with this information, the assessor is able to help refine their clients' exercise, nutrition and supplement intake to achieve rapid results in fat loss. I met up with David (he turned out to be one of the personal trainers at the gym) around 12pm at reception. He took down my personal details then gave me a brief of what the Bio-Signature is about and how the assessment was conducted. He even showed me his special pair of skinfold caliper that came in its own wooden casing which he would be using to measure my body fat. The caliper looked like a huge medical forcep with a clock-like measuring dial attached to it - looked quite intimidating, I must say!

Down at the training room on the lower ground level of the gym, we proceeded with the assessment. My weight and height measurements were taken and this was followed by David marking the 12 major body fat sites he needed to measure using a black kohl pencil - my cheek, chin, pectoral region, triceps, umbilical (belly button), supra iliac (hip), subscapular (shoulder blade), mid axillary, quadriceps, hamstrings, knee and calf all had a visible black stroke. I felt rather like a kid being the subject of a prank and getting drawn on. "And now I get to pinch you," David said jokingly, opening and closing the caliper at me. Eek! 

Jono would tell you that I'm a very ticklish person and part of me did wonder how I would react when the assessor had to touch and pinch spots around my tummy (my most sensitive area that often when touched gets me in giggles). Surprisingly, I didn't flinch and David was able to work his way pinching all 12 sites with no dramas. There are certain sites that hurt a little when pinched, such as my knee. Did I mention that he had to pinch all the sites again just to be sure he had taken down the correct measurements? Great to get the measurements right though I suspiciously think he finds sheer enjoyment 'torturing' his clients with the pinching...:P 

The whole process took about 15 minutes and the results of the measurements were available straightaway. I have 20.6% of body fat which was within the normal body fat percentages for women (20 - 21%) though David suggested this could be further reduced to about 18% with refinements in my training programme and diet. The results were better than I expected (I thought it would be closer to 25%) but definitely room for improvement. My hamstring, umbilical and supra iliac were the areas that didn't do so well, areas that according to David, were generally where women store more fat. "You should also cut down on carbs," he said, suggesting that I cut out all breads and eat rice only twice a week. Right, the rice part is probably going to be quite difficult for me when I'm Asian, a born and bred 'rice bucket'...hmm...I was also told that I should try to reduce my stress levels as the umbilical skin fold is a direct reflection of cortisol output (stress hormone). Because I already have my own personal trainer, David did not discuss in detail on how I was to reduce my fat percentage but instead sent a copy of the results to Alison (my personal trainer) for her to work on with me. Slightly disappointing as I would have liked to know the answers right there and then but I can understand where he was coming from - it would not be ethical to pinch another personal trainer's client when both are working under the same roof. 

I would highly recommend getting a Bio-Signature done if it's available at your gym. Like any health and fitness assessment, it gives a clear benchmark of where your health and fitness is at and where you need to get to to achieve your desired results. A few tips before going to your assessment - do NOT wear moisturiser before coming in. It makes it really difficult for the assessor to pinch you and the ends of the caliper slips off your skin easily. Also, wear a sports bra and shorts. This allows the assessor to get to your skin for a more accurate measurement (David was happy to pinch me with my shirt on but that would have skewed the results slightly). I was the perfect candidate turning up with no moisturiser and wore shorts and sports bra under my T-shirt :) Oh, and don't forget to rub off the markings before you leave the gym!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Bibaps, North Sydney (24th May 2012)

In my bid to find healthier lunch options, I decided to try out a ssam at Bibaps (located in Berry Square food court) instead of my usual tofu bibimbap. Ssam, literally meaning 'wrapped', is a Korean dish where a leafy vegetable is used to wrap a piece of meat, and often served with the Korean condiment ssamjang. There are many varieties of ssam these days and the type that Bibaps sell is very similar to Vietnamese rice paper rolls but with a Korean twist (I believe the name for this type of ssam is wollamssam).

A pack of
ssam cost $5.50 and consists of two thick rolls pre-wrapped with vegetables and cooked meats (choice of either prawn, chicken or beef). I couldn't help myself staring at the fat succulent prawns and picked up a prawn ssam pack and a miso soup to go (a cup of miso costs only $1 if you buy a lunch item from Bibaps). I can so picture Jono shaking his head in disapproval because I've been naughty again, eating prawns (I've a mild allergy to crustaceans)...but there are only 6! Refraining from crustaceans is SO hard when I love eating them!

Back at my work desk and it was time to 'dissect' the wollamssam hehe...Each roll consisted of three chillied prawns and was filled with plenty of shredded mixed leaf lettuce, a strip of cucumber and capsicum each, as well as a few strands of alfalfa sprouts. The ssam pack came with a small bottle of dipping sauce for the rolls - I put a few drops onto my roll and on first bite, I didn't think it was at all spicy so added a lot more on my ssam before taking a second bite. Woah, that really gave quite a kick! The dipping sauce had a nice sweetish zing and an explosive spiciness when it hits your mouth, making it a great compliment to the simple and plain ssam. Hmm, might be a new regular for me...Photos taken of my yummy lunch:

My takeaway lunch of prawn ssam ($5.50) and 
miso soup ($1 with purchase of a lunch item)

Lots of vegetables!

Bibaps Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato