Posts tagged musicals
Posts tagged musicals
What can I say about the MCC production of Carrie: The Musical? It’s still a flawed show, but this production made great strides to make it a powerful musical and I believe they succeeded. It’s very small-scale and I’d like to see it expanded, because I really do think it’s a very terrific piece of theater that suffers from the original production team’s complete incompetent staging and design. What I think is most indicative of the show’s success was the audience filled with old theater queens who were eagerly awaiting the chance to either see the show again or for the first time. They cheered with delight throughout the whole show. I thought it looked great and was exactly what I expected, and I have to admit that the destruction scene kind of blew me away. And Molly Ranson is so fantastic in the lead role. For someone so young and with a limited resume, she’s worked with some of the biggest talents (Tracy Letts, Anna Shapiro, Amy Morton, Mark Rylance, and now Marin Mazzie). I hope this production gets good notices, and I hope Ranson receives the attention she deserves.
My mother is coming to town next weekend and we are seeing The Phantom of the Opera. Finally all of my childhood fantasies are coming soon. I can’t wait to tell my mother that her cassette tape of the highlights from this musical is what made me gay. She will love it!
7. “Excuse me if I’m off track / But if you’re so wise, then tell me / why do you need smack?”
6. “Yes, this body provides a comfortable home / for the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.”
5. “Mucho masturbation.”
4. “That boy could use some Prozac! / Or heavy drugs! / Or group hugs!”
3. “Come on, sir, moo with me!”
2. “Touché. Take your AZT.”
1. “Rent, rent, rent, rent, rent / We’re not gonna pay rent!”
On Monday night, three couples from the Broadway community – Follies star Terri White and jewelry designer Donna Barnett, actor Ryan Dietz and playwright Josh Levine, and stage doorman John Raymond Barker and usher Jared Pike – were married on stage following a performance of Hair, now in a limited engagement at the St. James Theater. The ceremony, officiated by Scottsboro Boys cast member Colman Domingo, was organized by Broadway Impact, an activist group co-founded by Rory O’Malley (Tony nominee for The Book of Mormon) and Gavin Creel (Tony nominee for the 2009 revival of Hair).
While hosting a same-sex wedding ceremony in conjunction with the New York stop of the Hair tour could have been gimmicky and schlocky, especially given the convenient timing of the new law, the ceremony was actually quite lovely and heartfelt. Given Hair’s political themes, the celebration seemed appropriate. The same could not be said for the team behind the New World Stages current production of Avenue Q, the Tony-winning musical featuring foul-mouthed puppets learning life lessons about emotional maturity. Cast members celebrated the historic bill’s passing by staging their own same-sex wedding – between puppets Rod and Ricky.
For those who haven’t yet seen Avenue Q (I’ll refrain from asking why – it’s been almost ten years, everyone!), Rod is the uptight Bert-inspired character that comes out of the closet in the show. When it’s clear that his straight yet compassionate roommate Nicky has no interest in switching teams to be in a homosexual relationship, he finds Rod (uh, spoiler alert), seemingly inspired by the construction worker from the Village People.
Now, one can’t be too up in arms over the gay stereotypes at play in Avenue Q, especially when the show also features an Asian character who speaks (and sings) in broken English, casually mixing up her Ls and Rs. There’s also the character of Gary Coleman, typically played by an African-American woman. Like any great satire, the show is both offensive and sincere. Songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” are perfect at skewering political correctness and racial stereotypes at the same time. It’s not a groundbreaking comedic device (not even when the show premiered on Broadway in 2003), but it’s still effective.
Transferring that sort of sentiment from the stage to outside the confines of the theater, however, is a bit problematic, and also turns it into a statement. While the cast and crew probably had good intentions (and, yes, having the “lead” Kate Monster in a gown as Maid of Honor is a nice touch), it somewhat belittles struggle that so many people – especially those within the theater community – fought for. The connotation of Avenue Q, and the cheap insincerity of having two puppets participate in a funny, fake wedding within the proximity of actual same-sex weddings, turns what was representative as a dignified celebration of equal rights into tacky and disrespectful joke.
It is interesting to compare Hair and Avenue Q in this context. The former is an extremely dated musical about a specific time period in our country’s history, and it barely lends itself to timelessness. The latter is a much more contemporary show that pokes fun of an educational institution that has – and continues – to serve as an important piece of popular culture across the world. Hair’s earnestness can, at times, seem too saccharine, and the revival’s affections for the ‘60s generation from which the show was spawned are a little too masturbatory. Avenue Q, on the other hand, was so groundbreaking because it brought irony to a stuffy industry for the first time in decades. But when it comes to actual levity and appreciation for the causes which both of these musicals seem, at their very base, to purport, perhaps it is Hair that comes out as the most meaningful, whereas Avenue Q seems like just a bunch of dirty-minded puppets presenting little substance.
I reviewed The People in the Picture for thirteen.org! I thought the Internet needed to read another review of this really bad musical.
As you all know (ha ha ha), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was nominated for three Tony Awards yesterday, including one for my boo Laura Benanti, who is up against Patti LuPone for the same award (they will both lose to the gal in the Mormon musical). It’s also up for Best Original Score, which I think it absolutely deserves.
I’m definitely intrigued by musicals based on popular films. It’s quite a challenge to adapt Pedro Almodóvar’s 1988 film for the stage, but it’s not so outlandish. The biggest problem, however, is that the film’s plot (which incorporates many story lines and characters) is too much for a musical comedy that runs two and a half hours. Furthermore, the creative team expanded two of the characters including that of Lucia (played by LuPone), which only muddles the plot a little more. And the production itself was very sloppy: the staging was so weird!
But what I really love about this show is the music and lyrics by David Yazbek. There’s a trend in musical theatre right now in which shows are moving toward a pop sensibility. This is not really a new trend (you had to remember that any new show that resembles an old-fashioned score is actually resembling what was considered “pop” fifty to sixty years ago). What’s so marvelous about the music in this show is that the songs effectively work as pop music and showtunes. Yazbek has a rock-music background, having produced albums by XTC and Spacehog (making it even more surprising for him to move into musical comedy scores).
This song is one of the best examples of what he was getting at: bridging a gap between a pop song and a showtune. It starts out as a pop song played on a record player, with Patti LuPone chiming in with her drawn-out phrases and strange pronunciation. And then there’s a weird musical bridge there, a beautiful soliloquy that makes you remember that you’re listening to a piece from a musical rather than a fun, silly throwback to a ’60s love song with Latin touches. Most importantly, it tells a story, which is vital for a showtune, but it does so in a sneaky way; this song tricks you into thinking it’s a pop song.
While The Book of Mormon will certainly sweep (and deservedly so - it might be one of the best shows I’ve ever seen), I hope Women on the Verge has a chance to take home the award for its score, which may more likely have more of a legacy than Mormon’s collection of funny, parodic songs.
While I’d definitely be up for a live performance of Mary J. Blige’s “Not Gon’ Cry” while a Mercedes is set ablaze on stage, might I also suggest new tunes like “A White Woman (Can Have You)” and “Remember to Breathe”?
I came up with five pitches for new musicals based on movies from the ’90s. This may be one of my favorite things I have ever written. Please check it out!
I’ve been a little bit in love with Laura Benanti ever since I saw her perform “Model Behavior” in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown a few months ago. I watched this video of her and Seth Rudetsky talking about stereotypically bad musical theatre auditions yesterday and she’s rather brilliant! I basically want to be her best friend.
I hate musicals because I hate when people explode into song. It’s like unexpected slam poetry. It’s so aggressive. The fact that all of this was SUPPOSED to be onstage and stuff made it easier for me to digest as a hater of musicals. I knew it was coming and that made it better.
I think this sentiment is FASCINATING because it’s the complete opposite of how I feel about musicals. Maybe because I like them? And I think staging movie musicals in this context is catering to people who don’t like musicals, which is sort of against the whole construct of the musical in the first place?
I talked to my friend Annelise about this today. OUR GCHAT:
me: it’s one of those musicals that places all of the musical numbers “on stage,” which is a COP OUT to appeal to people who hate musicals. if you hate musicals so much, don’t go see them!
Annelise: agreed! the WHOLE POINT of the convention of musical theatre is that bursting out
Annelise: that when things get so heightened that you can’t speak normally about them, you start speaking in poetry or verse. and when that’s not enough, you start singing!
Annelise: and when THAT’S not enough, you start fucking dancing! that is what makes it the art form it is! not taking a total discrete break in the action to say, “were we boring you? we can also tap-dance, maybe you’ll like that better.”
me: “look out, i am going to sing. and i am going to do it in an unconventional place, like the grocery store. because this is a movie.”