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Puppet Kaos - where Kelvin Kao plays with puppets and tell random stories

Jingle Bells! Merry Christmas!

Here’s a little “Merry Christmas” video from me. Enjoy!

Oh what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh, hey! 😀

PS. And this is the first high definition video I’ve posted publicly. I am very happy with how well it turned out!

Puppet Caroling

A few weeks ago, a friend had this idea of doing some Christmas caroling with puppets. We met and picked a few songs. And last weekend, we did a bit of puppet caroling at the Scholl Canyon Estates Retirement Community.

We were scheduled at noon, but there were some delays so we ended up doing it during lunch instead. We brought a smile to most of their faces. A minority of them were not showing much facial expression on their faces. They either weren’t quite capable of doing so, or were genuinely annoyed. But either way, we enjoyed doing it and most of them enjoyed it, as far as I can tell. It’s always nice to bring some joy into somebody’s life.


The songs we performed:
We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Silent Night
Deck The Halls
Let It Snow
Jingle Bells
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Dreidel Dreidel

Les Miserables: International Trailer and Preview Clips

I am watching these clips obsessively and feel like I should write down my thoughts before I see the actual film, which comes out on Christmas.

International Trailer

Mostly stuff we’ve already seen in the other trailers, but there are a few new things. We get to hear part of the iconic “One Day More”. A few more observations just from the really short clips in the montage:

1) There was this part where Marius asked “Who was that girl?” and Eponine answered “Cosette.” Hm, then it wouldn’t make sense when Marius sang “Oh god, for shame, I do not even know your name” to Cosette later. I wonder how they’ve changed this part for the movie.

2) The part where Javert (played by Russell Crowe) had a sword and Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) had a piece of wood, and they looked like they were ready to fight is most likely from “Confrontation“. It’s interesting to see these small differences because in the current stage production the two fought with the handcuffs that Javert was going to use on Valjean.

3) The barricade scenes sure are much bigger than on stage (of course). This is going to look great!

4) There’s this part where Javert was walking away and Valjean fired a shot behind him. This is most likely the part where Valjean released Javert but fired a shot pretending to have executed the prisoner. In the stage production, Valjean didn’t fire a shot into the sky until Javert left the stage. This would have more impact, as we can visibly see Javert’s reaction.

A Heart Full of Love

Amanda Seyfried (as Cosette) was not bad, although I felt like her high notes were a little shaky, as in, she could hit them, but I am not quite sure if she could hold them. On the other hand, Eddie Redmayne (as Marius) was excellent. The performance was good, overall. Hm, Marius did sing “Oh God, for shame, I do not even know your name” again. Either he didn’t hear Eponine earlier because she was mumbling under her breath, or Marius was one sly dog. Real smooth, Marius, real smooth.

Who Am I

A little more talkier than I am used to, and at the end of the clip, he just said (instead of sang) “I am Jean Valjean” instead of belting it out. It was probably because this version was more introspective and he was in his study. On stage, he turned around and he was suddenly in the court house (stage magic, yay!). But he better still belt out that “24601” at the end of the song. Either way it would still be good. I just have that much faith in Hugh Jackman’s ability to make things awesome. In terms of just listening to the song though, my favorite version is still John Owen-Jones’ version from the 21st Anniversary BBC radio special.

On My Own

In terms of singing alone, this is my favorite clip in this batch. Samantha Barks simply had the character down after performing the character like eight shows a week for a year. I realized that when I listen to soundtracks of a musical that has many adaptations, I tend to prefer the live performance version (if there is one), over the studio soundtrack of a stage cast, over the movie soundtrack. This is probably because the performance for the stage is more about the sound and the movements, while the performance for film is more about the face. I loved her singing, but if you watch other clips closely, you can see that the professional film actors do more little things with their faces. Oh, another thing. I saw a comment on Youtube that said her arms hung weird in the beginning. I was wondering if it was a habit carried over from stage since her costume had a coat and she had her hands in the pockets.

Javert Releases Prisoner 24601 on Parole

It is kind of amusing to me that Valjean seem to be doing a different manual labor in every single production. But I guess this would be the most faithful one to the book since movies are not limited by set pieces and props. (I haven’t read the book yet.) Anyway, when I was just listening to it, I felt like Russell Crowe was underwhelming. It was not like he couldn’t sing, but his singing style just didn’t seem to fit the genre and the rhythm was a little off. (I am thinking it’s because he let his voice trail off at the end of a phrase, which made it less classical sounding.) But when I was watching (instead of just listening to) the clip, it didn’t seem as out of place. I guess this is because there’s visual information as well, and I need to look at everything as one piece. The stage actors, due to the audience might not be able to see faces well in the back, tend to pack more into their voices and be a little more over the top. The scene looked great as a whole, though. These are two good actors playing off of each other. Also there are some line changes to actually explain what that piece of paper is before the two talked about “the meaning of the law”. I think it would help clear things up for some audience members.

At the End of the Day

Hm, you know what? I found nothing to pick on. Anne Hathaway as Fantine was perfect in this clip. Give her the Oscar now.

As critical as I might sound, I am really looking forward to seeing this film, or I wouldn’t be staring at it with such attention. Though I love the stage version, I do not expect it to be (or want it to be) just like the stage version. I want to see some different interpretations that play to the strength of the film medium.

Now I am just hoping that the world doesn’t actually end four days before the movie comes out.

Michael Earl Benefit

On November 2, we had another benefit show for our friend, puppetry teacher, and the original Mr. Snuffleupagus, Michael Earl, who had been diagnosed with colon cancer. The organizer, Kristy Pace, turned the ReDiscover Center into an intimate theater space. Puppeteers Karin Tucker, Janine Pibal, Kevin Noonchester, Sarah Ho, and I provided entertaining puppet acts. Musicians James McKenna and Juliana Joya shared their great music with us.

Sarah and I performed a sketch about how puppets can make every sad and horrific movie scene better. The three we picked on were the scenes in which Rose let go of Jack in Titanic, in which Rhett walked away from Scarlett in Gone with the Wind (the “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” scene), and in which the movie producer discovered a horse head in his bed in Godfather. Here’s a picture taken during the performance. This is most likely the Titanic scene.


The audience loved it. It’s been a little while since I last performed a piece I wrote in front of a live audience (been mostly doing projects other people wrote), so it was good to see that reception. I also enjoyed working with Sarah, whom I’ve been friends with but haven’t gotten the chance to perform with. It was also nice to have friends Randy and Alvin (both computer programmers turned actor, for some reason) in the audience, as I haven’t seen them for some time as well.


It was also nice to finally meet Karin. She also trained at Puppet School and we have many mutual friends, so I knew we would meet sooner than later. (This isn’t exactly the biggest circle, you know.) More collaborations to come.

This is a small, intimate performance, so I doubt that we actually raised a big amount of money with the event. But I think what’s more important is the positive energy we are sending over. We all wrote notes that were sent to Michael. And he knew that he is inspiring all these puppeteers to come together, share stories, and use what he taught.

This is all very positive stuff, good for the mind and soul. I procrastinated on writing about this, so he’s already gone through his first chemo therapy by now. I’ve been told that all the encouraging messages that everyone has been sending him really helped him to be in better spirit. I was glad to hear that.

(Photos by Kristy Pace)