Friday, February 1, 2013

Changing...

We're working on something new. Stay Tuned!

Here's a bit of bootleg Dreamgirls with Jennifer Hudson's quintessential performance of "Changing"



Until then, follow us on Facebook for a daily bit of the trivial that is the musical theatre.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Night That Goldman Spoke in Union Square

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So I spoke to my parents last month, they had recently seen a regional production of Ahren’s and Flaherty’s Ragtime at the Arvada Center for the Arts in the suburb of Denver. They hadn’t seen it before. They liked it a lot. My dad mentioned seeing parallels to what’s been happening in the country as of late. My mom hoped that Colehouse would make it out of the library. If you don’t know the show, check out the synopsis at Wikipedia. The show opened for the first time on Broadway in January 1998 in a mammoth production helmed by Frank Galati and produced by Frank Drabinsky’s infamous Livent Entertainment.

Ragtime is based on the postmodern masterwork of the same name by novelist E.L. Doctorow. It’s a story of anti-heroes. History and fiction are mixed in a miraculous manner that leaves it to the reader the determination of what is record and what is made up. Everyone’s given fair treatment, and law breakers get their punishment. But it’s clear by the curtain, which characters are on the right side of history.

Yesterday, I took a stroll to Union Square at 3:00 PM to see what the goings-on were with Occupy Wall Street and their day of action (just to warm myself was all). The peaceful protest ended up being largely about tuition increases and student debt (luxury problems, you might say---but the direct result of capitalism in the private university system and tax cuts in the public university system).

It’s not quite winter, but I couldn’t help but begin to hum “The Night That Goldman Spoke at Union Square”. I loved this song immensely from my first hearing of the score and it’s remained one of my favorite book-integrated songs of all time.  Paired with its act two completion “He Wanted to Say” the song gives us Mother’s Younger Brother as the perfect lens for contemporary audiences to view the show. Younger Brother experiences a transformation and takes action. We are disgusted by his choices, but not his reasoning.

In 2001 I saw the tour production of the show, for which “He Wanted to Say” was cut. The tambour of the show had changed completely-because the show is surprising Younger Brother’s show. It was a dud. The Kennedy Center’s 2009 revival production never succeeded in feeling like more than well-produced college production—but it thankfully reinstated “He Wanted to Stay”. This entire production seemed to make clearer than ever that this was Younger Brother’s story.  Bobby Steggart’s Tony-nominated performance brought a truth and turmoil that highlighted his arc. Recently a seven-track disc of this production was released. Skip it.

The times that we are living in are not the same as the turn of the 20th century that Ragtime presents. Children aren’t working at mills. African Americans have justice, at least on paper. Unions are still in existence if not as strong as they fought so desperately to be. But if you have a read, a listen or a viewing of Ragtime today, you can’t help but see that the historical injustices presented in the show have direct corollaries today.

Occupy Wall Street is a righteous endeavor. Just as in the second act of Ragtime: they occupy.

I really don’t understand how anyone can be moved by Ragtime, but sit idly by as fellow Americans struggle to ensure, in the best way they can, that injustices are addressed by elected officials.


Friday, October 7, 2011

Michael John LaChiusa & Cats

So Playbill.com has given us a sneak peak at Michael John LaChiusa's new musical Queen of the Mist. Performances begin October 18th, presented by the Transport Group. Yep, that Transport Group. The company that brought us See Rock City, the soon-to-be transferred Lysistrata Jones and the recent beautiful revival of LaChiusa's Hello Again. This new musical is being directed by Jack Cummings III (who also helmed See Rock City & Hello Again). It's being staged at the same space as the Jones.

The Transport Group's materials say that Queen of the Mist is based on an astounding and outrageous true story of Anna Edson Taylor, who, in 1901 at the age of 63, set out to be the first woman to shoot Niagara Falls in a barrel of her own design. Navigating both the treacherous Falls and a fickle public with a ravenous appetite for sensationalism, this unconventional heroine vies for her legacy in a world clamoring with swindling managers, assassins, revolutionaries, moralizing family, anarchists and activists. Convinced that there is greatness in her and determined not to live as ordinary, she sets out to battle her fear and tempt her fate.

Why watch the video? Well, there's a one-minute excerpt of some of the most commercially-appealing music LaChiusa has ever written. Check it out around 1:15. And what lyric..."I am not an easy thing to be"---not since "Take Caroline away, I can't afford her".

I couldn't be more excited.

I'm on record as saying "I am there for anything Director Jack Cummings III has to offer" read

I'm also on record as saying "Still, I'd still rather sit in a room of the fragments of Michael John LaChiusa's ideas than in a myriad of many other show composer's completed works." read

In addition---get this! It's starring Mary Testa to whom I dedicated an entire entry "I Love Mary Testa" read

Also of note...Cats opened on Broadway this day in 1982.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Come Look at the Freaks!

So I'm super excited. I just got tickets to a little production of Side Show at Secret Theatre out in Long Island City.  The production is being mounted by Sweet & Tart Productions, in association with Art of Warr Productions and is directed by Brad Craswell. It plays through September 10. Complete details are available here.

With music by Henry Krieger (of Dreamgirls perfection) and lyrics & book by Bill Russell (Elegies for Angels, Punks, and Raging Queens) Side Show opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on  October 16, 1997, and ran for 91 performances. The show really catapulted the careers of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner as a pair of singing and dancing siamese twins (the two received a joint nomination for Best Actress in a Musical). It may not have been a hit, but it's got some good stuff and culty campy quality that makes it worth knowing.

PHAMALY's production of Side Show
The last time I saw Side Show was in 2008 as produced by PHAMALY in Denver, Colorado. The Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League (PHAMALY) produces professional quality live theatre with performers who are physically and/or developmentally challenged, empowering them to acquire new and improve upon existing acting skills. Daisy and Violet were in a wheelchair. One of them was blind. It was truly transcendent. I mean, imagine "Who Will Love Me As I Am" in these further heightened circumstances.

I suppose I'll have to settle for non-physically handicapped actors this time, but I couldn't be more ecstatic to be getting ready to experience that uncomfortable place between laughter and sadness that "Leave Me Alone", "I Will Never Leave You" and "Say Goodbye to the Freak Show" provide.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Come on Union: Get Hot!

There's no shortage of labor references in musicals, from The Cradle Will Rock to Ragtime. The Pajama Game, based on Richard Bissel's novel 7½ Cents is perhaps the most celebrated.

Workers demand a simple seven-and-a-half cents raise at a pajama factory and the story unfolds. Love knows no sides as romance begins from both sides of the negotiating table.

This show had music by Richard Adler & Jerry Ross and choreography by Bob Fosse.

Act 2 opens with at Union meeting and 'Steam Heat' is offered up as entertainment: "Come on Union: Get Hot!"

 

  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene: I'm Always Chasing Rainbows

Irene (1973 Broadway Revival Cast)
As Hurricane Irene's arrival is inevitable, why not take a look at the musical of the same name? Download it to your iPod now, so you have something to listen to when the power goes. Like the hurricane on it's way Irene was "always chasing rainbows".

Irene originally opened on November 18, 1919 and ran for 675 performances. Making it the longest running musical ever on Broadway at the time.  There was a brief revival in 1923 and it enjoyed two movie incarnations. It had a major revival in 1973 starring Debbie Reynolds. Many songs were interpolated into this productions including "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows" and "You Made Me Love You". The show didn't open with the former but it was recorded for the original cast recording.

 Judy Garland performing "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows".
  

 Debbie Reynolds performing "You Made Me Love You" from Irene.
 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sniff Swig Puff

I Love My Wife: A Musical (1977 Original Broadway Cast)Having had a pretty good time at Hello, My Name is Billy at FringeNYC last weekend, my iTunes has drawn me to other musicals that highlight or revel in drug use.

I could find no better example than Cy Coleman and Michael Stewart's surprise hit I Love My Wife. The show concerned two married couples from New Jersey who find themselves naked in bed together one Christmas Eve. It celebrates and satirizes the sexual revolution.

Directed by Gene Saks, the Broadway production opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre on April 17, 1977. It ran 857 performances and 7 previews. The cast included James Naughton, Joanna Gleason, Lenny Baker (who took the Tony), and Ilene Graff. There was also an onstage band, which for the first time took part in the action and arguably steals the show. I'd say John Doyle owes a great deal to I Love My Wife for the concept that has made him famous.

Though there's truly not much remarkable about I Love My Wife. The score is positively Cy Coleman full of jazzy rags including the Act two opener "Hey There, Good Times," a number for the band with a title that seems a little familiar. Michael Stewart never wrote smarter lyrics (just have a listen to "Ev'rybody Today Is Turning On below).

Bea Arthur & Rock Hudson perform "Ev'rybody Today Is Turning On" on her 1980 television special:



The original cast of I Love My Wife performs excerpts from the show:


Monday, August 15, 2011

Hello My, My Name Is Billy - FringeNYC 2011

On Saturday I saw the first performance of No Hope production's new musical Hello, My Name Is Billy presented as part of FringeNYC. It's playing at Le Poisson Rouge, a space (and festival) that lends itself more to concert-like staging rather than full. That's what's on offer here. But it's a good concert.

The show bills itself as "the story of one man’s enduring romance with drugs –a filthy, unapologetic musical joyride through an all-American landscape littered with crack pipes, booty bumps and hot bodies. A sardonic look at one gay man’s pursuit of the ultimate high, Billy reminds us that ‘Life’s rife with addiction!”

The musical was written by Tim Aumiller and Scott Schneider who also serve as director and performer, respectively. I make assumptions that the material is semi-autobiographical, but I was left wondering what the verdict of the show had for recovery. Nonetheless, the music is original and hummable. The tone playful and coy.

There's something here that's worth seeing. Five performers portray all of the characters and also play variety of musical instruments. These five are all quality with particular attention due to show-stealer Dayna Jarae Dantzler---she is a dynamo and rises to all of the eccentric personas thrown her way. Her scenes as an over-the-top drag performer at the now-closed Roxy, Betsy Ross, are laugh out loud.

The musical is divided into five 'chapters' and an epilogue. In each chapter Billy 'qualifies' for a different 12-step meeting about his experience with various drugs from inhalants to pot to meth to pills. Of particular trumph are the musical numbers "9:22" and the amusingly staged "Razor Blade".

The show is billed as sardonic and it delivers. It features a musicalization of the infamous 12-Step slogan "Just for Today" which seems knowingly reminscent of Rent's 'Will I lose my Dignity". There appear to be moments of heart, but they are immediately replaced with more sarcasm. During the epilogue Billy sings something like--with drugs life is a horror...without them my life is a snorer. It's followed by an audience clap-along. I didn't clap along. The show has four more performances. Check it out.

I also saw Hush-The Musical also playing as part of FringeNYC at Le Poisson Rouge. All that I have to say is Hush, please, hush. It is one-note and it's not a note that makes any sense. Though, I'd be remiss not to point to the presence of Madelyn Schwartz as a reason you might want to see this musical monstrosity. She is divine. She possesses a disarming beauty and a well-controlled vibrato executed to marvelous effect. It doesn't hurt that as the Stewardess she's given the show's best material. In truth, everyone on stage is quite good, it's the material that needs to hush.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Somewhere That's Greene

So this new musical Betwixt has announced a small extension of it's run in London's West End. With the announcement of the extension came word that it's star Ellen Greene would not be extending with it. I can only imagine this came down from money.

Nonetheless, reading the article on Playbill.com made me seek out a peek at her performance.

Boy, am I glad I did. I have been slightly obsessed with the clip since. It's brilliant on so many levels. I enjoy the song. It's lyric is deceptively simple ("it's the 'from' and not 'where to'").

Her performance here has given me reason to take her seriously. I had before now considered her a one-trick pony. She's more and I'd be happy to go anywhere that's Greene.




Monday, August 8, 2011

I Love Mary Testa

So comps came my way for Tricks the Devil Taught Me. Mary Testa gets top billing in this little beast playing the Minetta Lane. That got my attention.

Somehow, I've gone my entire life without seeing her on stage. This production remedied that fact, even if two of the Tricks the Devil Taught writer and director Tony Georges were playwriting and directing.  The drama surrounding this show has much more to do with Tony Georges(see the link) than it does with anything that happens on stage.


When I saw the show,  it ran over three hours. Over the course of these three hours, I'd be lying if I said I didn't laugh for lots of the right reasons, but I'd also be lying if I didn't say that I laughed way more for the wrong ones. It's dreck. Mary Testa, though, was sublime.

She's always sublime. Here's some of the reasons why:

William Finn's "Set Those Sails" from In Trousers is quintessential Mary Testa. Here's a recent performance:



Here's a nice video of Mary reminiscing her stepping into Kander & Ebb's The Rink and performing a snippet of the show's gem "Colored Lights":



Hear her original performance in Michael John LacChiusa's "There Will Be A Miracle" from his masterpiece See What I Wanna See is a must hear.