What is it about the woods?

Anna Kendrick (and her cheekbones) as Cinderella

This has been a big 24 hours for “Disney’s Into the Woods” updates. A series of 10 still photos AND the first official trailer (and not the fake “teaser” that has infuriatingly been passed around for months) have been released. Taken together, they don’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. But after months filled with nothing but concerns about cut scenes and songs (which might not be cut in the first place/second place)–and during which the bizarre ANNIE remake has gotten TWO trailers–I’m willing to savor the potato caught by the slotted spoon and not worry about how little soup is there. Continue reading

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Scene in Pittsburgh: CATS

Elizabeth Stanley (Grizabella)
& Ken T. Prymus (Old Deuteronomy)

Over the weekend, my bf, a friend, and I drove to Pittsburgh to see Elizabeth Stanley (whom I worked with on a revival of Hello Again a few years back) play Grizabella in CATS at the Pittsburgh CLO.  If a friend of yours is playing Grizabella a scant two hours away, how can you NOT see it? And, as I have posted before, I have a certain nostalgic fondness for CATS.

So I viewed the production in Pittsburgh through a series of filters. I saw it as a nostalgic (and clearly neurotic) 12 year old, as a more season (and perhaps cynical) reformed theater professional, and as the supportive friend of a cast member. I also saw it  through the eyes of my friends, who basically only know CATS as the show that surrounds “Memory”. Continue reading

A “Memory” of CATS

not the actual poster from my memories…OR IS IT?

CATS was the first show I ever saw on Broad-WAY. I was in 7th grade and saw it as part of a trip to NYC with my local choir (we were singing at Carnegie Hall, thank you very much). I don’t have many specific memories of the production, and the most special part of that evening had little to do with the musical itself.

As part of the production’s efforts to raise money for Broadway Cares (though I’m not sure it was called that in 1996), they sold the a show poster signed by the cast. But instead of selling them in the lobby after the show, as is fairly standard fundraising practice now, they sold them ON THE STAGE OF THE WINTERGARDEN THEATER DURING INTERMISSION. Continue reading

Cast Recording Response: First Date

The public library system here in Cleveland is fantastic, with a great many new cast recordings at my disposal between my library’s well curated stock and what I can find through inter-library loan. Every few weeks I drop off a collection of CDs and pick up a new one. The Cast Recording Response contains my thoughts on my latest returns.

First Date
first dateInstinct (as well as critical and commercial response) told me I wouldn’t like this score. It’s certainly admirable for a group of producers to bring an “original” musical comedy by unknown writers to Broadway. And there are a few nice ballads as well as fine performances by the leads (who will hopefully star in future, more deserving, musicals). But while the best the score ever gets is “pleasant”, at it’s worst its patently offensive and clueless. The “techno”-styled voicemails left by a gay best friend are inexcusably stereotypical (did no one on the creative staff know an actual gay person?). The number in which the protagonists imagine their respective parents’ disapproval of a Christian going on a date with a Jew is just…forget knowing an actual gay person, did anyone on the creative staff ever meet an actual person?

Hawks Test Report Card: Not a single song would qualify a “great”. Many are terrible. The worst is repeated THREE TIMES.

Cast Recording Response: Aladdin

The public library system here in Cleveland is fantastic, with a great many new cast recordings at my disposal between my library’s well curated stock and what I can find through inter-library loan. Every few weeks I drop off a collection of CDs and pick up a new one. The Cast Recording Response contains my thoughts on my latest returns.

Aladdin
aladdinOne of the biggest problems with Disney’s stage adaptations of their popular films is how to make an evening length musical out of a 70-minute movie with a handful of songs. The Lion King has been the most successful with the challenge, complementing Julie Taymor’s concept of telling the familiar story through her version of native theatrical traditions by filling the evening with wonderful music evocative of “the pride land”. The concept behind Broadway’s Aladdin seems to be “show biz razzamataz” and the score is filled with, well, filler. While some of the new ballads are pleasant enough, they are almost uniformly inferior to what’s in the movie and frequently feel redundant. Only the earnest “Proud of Your Boy” brings added dimension to the story. The added Musical Comedy(!) numbers are perhaps effective in the theater, but come off as asinine on disk. Even great opportunities–an “I want” song for Jasmine, a villain’s manifesto–seem squandered when the results pale in comparison to their analogs in the Disney song catalog. On the bright side, the songs that are good sound great with lush orchestrations and a capable cast.

Hawks Test Report Card: While there a many great numbers, there are quite a few clunkers in the new material that, for me, prevent this incarnation score from truly succeeding.

Cast Recording Response: Fun Home

The public library system here in Cleveland is fantastic, with a great many new cast recordings at my disposal between my library’s well curated stock and what I can find through inter-library loan. Every few weeks I drop off a collection of CDs and pick up a new one. The Cast Recording Response contains my thoughts on my latest returns.

Fun Home
fun homeBefore listening, I had concerns about being able to appreciate the score (or follow the story) without benefit of seeing the production. Fortunately Jeanine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s score is tuneful and the emotional underpinnings resonant. The score manages the trick of writing very specifically for the characters and situations and, in doing so, reveals themes and feelings that are universal. “Ring of Keys” marks Young Alison’s transformative experience of meeting her first “butch”, but it’s joy and wonder can be appreciated by anyone who discovers a community in which they belong after previously feeling singular and alone. Continue reading

The Hawks Test

HowardHawks

Hawks (according to Wikipedia)

As I begin to talk about cast recordings I’ve listened to, or movies I’ve seen, I plan on using “The Hawks Test” as a foundation for discussion. But before I can do that, I think I should define my understanding of how the “test” works.

Celebrated film director Howard Hawks had a famous criteria for what makes a “good movie”: Three great scenes, and no bad ones.

I was probably ten years old when I first heard this rubric mentioned on an episode of Siskel & Ebert & the Movies (I think in reference to True Lies or something like that), and have always loved it’s simplicity. It wasn’t long before I started mentally applying a similar grading system to musical scores: three great songs and no bad ones. Continue reading

There’s a bright golden haze…

r&hI recently purchased the Rodgers & Hammerstein Collection on Blu-Ray. This is the first Blu-Ray I have ever owned. (Fitting, since The Sound of Music was the first DVD I ever bought). I don’t have a blu ray player, but my gentleman friend does, so when the collection was on sale as an Amazon “Gold Box” deal, I couldn’t resist the temptation to buy it. The collection has come under some user-generate criticism for the uneven quality of the restoration/color correction. Two films (The Sound of Music and South Pacific) had been received top-notch restorations  individual releases prior to the creation of this collection. Carousel, The King and I, and State Fair have been “color corrected” with what appears to be questionable success (I have not yet look at them).  Oklahoma! is given two releases. One, a “Road Show” version, is taken from the 70mm Todd-AO print, while the other is based on the Cinemascope print.  I, along with my patient gentleman friend, watched the Todd-AO print, which one reviewer dubbed “the jewel of the collection.” (Click here for information on why the film exists in these two formats.) Continue reading

“Here we are again…”

Some of you out there in the internet may follow me on twitter. Or tumblr. (or instagram, or goodreads, but NEVER linkedin.) Heck, a precious few may even remember the days when I was at BlogSpot. Even fewer may remember a few other blogs that came and went in the mid-aughts (dondheim anyone?). You may find yourself asking why I’m starting YET ANOTHER one, instead of maintaining what I already have. (And with a custom domain name that costs actual dollars. Every year. Possibly “forever”, which is maybe the most horrifying word I’ve ever heard.) Here are a few reasons:

  • My position at work has changed and now I’m spending most of the day behind a desk and often need a little project to pick-at to keep me sane.
  • During aforementioned downtime I’ve been reading a lot of commentary about TV and movies and have an appetite for writing about that sort of thing.
  • I had initially stepped away from my blogger account because I didn’t feel so self important to pontificate in long text posts and preferred the media sharing options of tumblr. But now I’m in a place can’t really tumbl most of the day, and maybe I’m feeling self-important again.

So what can you expect to find? As Jonathan Larson once wrote, “we’ll see, boys”. Things that immediately come to mind include:

  • I will most certainly post reactions to things I see and hear. This would include cast recordings, movies, tv shows, etc. And possibly also other articles from the interwebz, podcasts, etc. I probably won’t consider what I post to be a “review”. I certainly won’t consider it to be a “think piece”. But maybe you will. And if you’re reading it, what do I really have to complain about?
  • Recipes? I mean, why the hell not? I’ve got a few choice ones that might be worth sharing.
  • Bulleted lists. But probably (hopefully) not “listacles”.  

The only thing I can be sure of is that my posting will be irregular and entertaining (to me). And full of musical theater references and puns.

Away we go!