So, our latest musical this year was Anastasia.  The story revolves around a couple of cons trying to pass off a young girl as the rumored possible survivor of the massacre of the Romanov family in the hopes of getting a reward for delivering her to the Dowager Empress in Paris (with the added benefit that it would get them out of St. Petersburg/Leningrad).  And oh, of course, the girl they ultimately decide to train as Anastasia has amnesia, doesn’t remember her past, and indeed, might actually be the real Anastasia that they’re trying to pass her off.  And naturally there’s some element of danger involved, because the Bolsheviks have heard the rumor, and needless to say aren’t happy with the idea that Anastasia might have survived.

The whole musical is fairly formulaic, and by the time the second act starts most people can probably make a pretty reasonable guess on how events are going to play out.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is something of a feel that someone putting this together had a checklist of “Things That Must Be In a Musical” that they were working from.  

I kinda feel that for this performance, a number of the supporting cast really helped prop up the show.  I didn’t personally find either of the two main leads (either Anya/Anastasia or Dmitry) to be all that strong, although I’ll waffle on that somewhat with Anya.  I thought the Bolshevik Gleb and the Countess Lily were high points in the cast.  The ensemble cast was pretty decent, and shined during a section where Swan Lake is performed.

The set design I thought was very good.  It made extensive use of projection for background images but framed things in a way that it wasn’t necessarily being thrown in your face as projection.  Many of the background images had a fair amount of depth to them, making it even less obvious that it was projection.  It’s worth noting that the Broadway production won a couple of awards for Outstanding Projection Design.

There’s also a memorable scene (really one of the few memorable scenes in my opinion) shortly before the end of the first act that takes place on a train car, and involves a set piece that’s made from a frame of the train car that reorients itself as the action takes place (with the background projection taking on an appropriate viewpoint too). 

Overall it’s an ok musical.  It’s not likely to stand out as anyone’s favorite, but it’s probably not going to be the worst one you ever see either (I’ve certainly got a few candidates that I’d put in that category).  It’s a bit uneven in places, and at times the plot seems to have problems making up its mind where it’s really going and probably rambles on a little longer than it really should.  Having seen it once, I doubt I’d go out of my way to see it again, but if the right situation came up I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing it again either.

Wharton Center show reviews

Ok, the last year or two my wife and I have been subscribing to the Broadway series at the Wharton Center on campus to go to some of the shows.  This year I’ve decided that I’d post my thoughts on what we see, in the unlikely event that anyone out there cares what I think about the shows.

For this year, we have the following shows on slate:

  • School of Rock
  • Love Never Dies
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Anastasia
  • Miss Saigon
  • Hamilton

On top of that, we picked up the following other shows for this season:

  • Dustbowl Revival
  • Broadways Next Hit Musical
  • Soweto Gospel Choir
  • Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain

Of those, a couple are shows I won’t attend, my wife is going with other people – Hamilton and Soweto Gospel Choir.  Neither of them particular interested me (I know, I’m probably the only person on the planet that doesn’t want to see Hamilton, but I have a couple of reasons why, not the least of which is that I’m not particularly a fan of spoken word as an art form, and what little I’ve seen makes me think I’d go nuts listening to a whole show of it).

None of these are shows that I’ve seen before, with the somewhat exception of Fiddler on the Roof.  For that, I’ve seen the movie version of it, sorta.  I’m pretty convinced that I’ve never seen more than the first two thirds of it.  So, it’ll be interesting to see how these turn out.


Next, the receiver gets added.  I was starting to have problems finding a good spot to put things, so I decided that this would go on the bottom.  Not necessarily ideal, especially if I fly from somewhere where the grass is wet.  The feet on the legs do help lift it off the ground some though.  The antenna I routed up along the side of the fuselage to stick straight up.  I ended up using a cable-tie and some shrink wrap tubing to give it some rigidity, and then zip-tied it in place to the top plate of the quad.


Stacking the boards

Time for more assembly.  The power distribution board had already been mounted in a previous step, so next I mount the led power distribution board.


More stand-offs on top of that, and then the flight controller board.


The wires from the various esc’s are plugged into the board into the above photo.  What you can’t see is that one of them is wired backwards, something I don’t figure out until later.

Finally, apply some power, and wow are those leds bright.



The next step was to add some led’s to the quad.  I bought this set of leds from  They included a power distribution board, 4 sets of boards designed to be mounted on the arms that each have 4 leds on them, and a panel for the back of the quad with a 3×3 array of led’s.  The back panel also has the logic in it to allow for programming color sequences into the led’s.  That panel required soldering another set of pin headers onto it (which didn’t go that smoothly).  And then the wires from the power distribution boards to the arm leds all had to be soldered in place, 4 wires at each end.  These wires were a real pain in the neck to get soldered properly.  The wires are very fine, and the solder pads that you have to connect them to are small and close together.  Even with my fine tip soldering iron I had all sorts of trouble getting this done without screwing things up.  Unfortunately, my pictures of this phase pretty much turned out to be pretty blurry.  This is the best of the lot, showing the arm panels wired to the distribution board, but even it’s pretty blurry.


Vertical support posts

If you’ll recall, I mentioned that the directions weren’t real clear on which pieces would go through both of the bottom panels and which wouldn’t.  I next went to add the vertical posts that the top plate mounts to and realized that the screws for these only go through the top layer of the bottom.  If you tried to run it through both, the screws would be too short, and you’d actually put some bending pressure on the bottom plates which wouldn’t be good.  So, had to remove the bottom layer of the bottom (and all the arms), and then mount the posts and put everything back together again.


Beginning frame assembly

Now that the electronics are largely sorted out, it’s time to start putting everything together.  For the frame, I purchased a 250 sized carbon fiber frame off of amazon.  It’s probably a clone of the various QAV250 models.  Price was really good, and from what I can tell the components all look to be pretty decent.  The one thing lacking?  The instructions.  To say they were lacking would be somewhat charitable.  There was one page that had some somewhat english instructions on one side, and the other in what was probably chinese.  The real issue was that the diagram wasn’t real clear on exactly which pieces went through multiple layers and which didn’t.

First, we start off with the bottom, and mount the M3 sized nylon standoffs through.  It’s important to do this part first, because at least in my case, these standoffs only go through the first layer of the bottom, and the nuts aren’t very accessible after the bottom is completely assembled.  


Next, the arms for the motors are mounted between the top bottom panel and the bottom bottom panel. 


Then we can install the power distribution board, and the motors can be mounted to the arms.  Another set of M3 standoffs go on top of the power distribution board to be ready for the next board.


Flashing the BLHeli_S firmware to the esc’s


Ok, so first I installed the BL Heli Suite software on the computer, and then with all the esc’s connected to the flight controller, connected the software to the quad.  As you can see, when I read the setup it found all 4 of the esc units, which is good.


This is where things were starting to get confusing.  My esc’s are ZTW Polaris 25A BLHeli_S Esc’s.  From what I could determine, these esc’s use the A-H-20 firmware.  By default, it wasn’t matching the A-H-20 when it was giving me a list of firmwares to select, and I had to turn off auto-matching.  Then, once I selected the correct firmware, I got this error message that was somewhat ominous.  After doing some more research, I was pretty confident that I was going in the right direction, so I hit ignore.  Which yielded an even more ominous warning:


So that made me go back digging through all I could find as a reference.  However, I was still positive that I had the right firmware selected, so ultimately ended up flashing with the A-H-20 firmware.  Everything went well with that, and I was able to eventually configure the motor directions (which I apparently have no photos of), and then test that they would spin up.  So while it turned out to be a scary step with all the warnings, ultimately it worked out.