The King and me2ism: 1956 Movie

Original_movie_poster_for_the_film_The_King_and_II had initially thought I would save watching the acclaimed 1956 movie version of The King and I for the end of my trip through this wormhole devoted to the R&H classic, but with no other activities planned last night, a bf as willing as he’d ever be to sit through it, and the blu ray tantalizingly sitting on the shelf, we hunkered down for a technicolor trip to Siam. Continue reading

The King and me2ism: The King and I (2000 London Cast Recording)

Many musical theater cognoscenti maintain that The King and I is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s overall strongest show (though Carousel is frequently regarded as leader on score and “feels” fronts). I will admit that for years its charms eluded me. Partially because my mom was never particularly fond of it (or Deborah Kerr), so the movie didn’t play a part in my childhood. The only live production I ever saw was a semi-professional affair that some friends were in that I mostly remember for its ugly unit set and length. The only cast recording at my disposal growing up was the Original Broadway Cast, and that disk vanished from my collection a decade ago (and didn’t get much play while I had it because of my distaste for Gertrude Lawrence’s singing).

kingandi_paigeA few weeks ago I was alerted to a promotion on amazon that offered a digital download of the 2000 London Cast Recording (starring Elaine Paige) for $5, and have since been bitten by a The King and I bug. Continue reading

Scene in Cleveland: Amazons and Their Men

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Clubbed Thumb’s Amazons… women: Heidi Schreck (reclined) and Rebecca Wysocki (photo Carl Skutsch)

In 2008 Clubbed Thumb, a theater company I had worked with in the past, presented a new play by Jordan Harrison called Amazons and their Men. Although I don’t have a ton of specific memories of the production, I remember being generally impressed with the production (such that I sought out work with that company the following two summers), especially the two actresses who represented half of the cast: Rebecca Wysocki brough shades of Norma Desmond to Nazi propaganda film auteur Leni Riefenstahl and Heidi Shreck made a strong impression as Riefenstahl’s sister and most versatile screen extra. Both women would win Obies that season (though Shreck was honored for a different performance). But regardless of its acclaim, the memory of a “downtown” theater production typically lives on only in production shots and the memories of those who worked on or saw its brief run. So when a friend from the North Coast Men’s Chorus texted me a few weeks with an invite to see a production here in Cleveland I was surprised and excited to have an opportunity to revisit this play. Continue reading

Just keep an open mind, and then suddenly you’ll find…

peterNBC has released a teaser pic of Allison Williams as Peter Pan to promote their holiday LIVE! presentation of the classic musical. I have to say, she looks pretty good. I think the costume is sufficiently imaginative and whimsical while also being somewhat masculine and rugged. That being said, Allison Williams is Peter Pan LIVE! strikes me as a somewhat strange–though intriguing–follow up to The Sound of Music LIVE! Continue reading

Cast Recording Response: 110 in the Shade (1999 Studio Cast)

110The gulf between the musicals that connoisseurs love and those that people pay to see is ever widening. The rapturously beautiful The Bridges of Madison County doesn’t last half a season, while the pedestrian Beautiful – The Carol King Musical continues to play to capacity, full-price-paying houses. Roundabout’s Broadway revival of Violet got among the best reviews of the season, but was consistently near the bottom of weekly box office, audience capacity, and ticket price rankings. My recent listens to the studio cast recording of 110 in the Shade (recorded in 1997, released in 1999) reminded me that this chasm is not necessarily new. Continue reading

Emmy Time!

39555_lgI’ve recently decided that, for the first time in years, I’m very interested in the Emmy Awards. Mind you there are MANY MANY top contenders that I haven’t seen this season/ever (Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Veep, Louie, and The Normal Heart are the most notable that come to mind). And the majority of the TV I do watch regularly was never in danger of being nominated (I haven’t missed an episode of the decidedly un-trendy Bones, Castle, or Criminal Minds in YEARS). But I’ve enjoyed reading the wonderful bounty of criticism about this season, and am a huge fan of The Good Wife, Fargo, OITNB, True Detective, House of Cards, etc. So what the hell, here’s my take on the upcoming Emmy nominees.
Predicted Winners will appear in bold.
My personal preferences will be italicized.
[egregiously overlooked nominees will be bracketed] Continue reading

Wunderbar

I conclude my tour through Kiss Me, Kate on screen with the best–though most truncated–version to be found. A 1958 telecast, presented by Hallmark and available thanks to the folks at Video Artists International, who have made a habit of preserving such delicacies. This adaptation runs only 78 minutes (a full hour shorter than the 2003 London taping), but you hardly notice anything is missing. Of course, a lot is missing: “Too Darn Hot”, “Were Thine that Special Face”, “Bianca”, and while a brief dance portion is all the remains of “Sing of Love”, most of the other dancing has been cut. Elsewhere dialogue is trimmed throughout (especially in the Shrew scenes), and if that means the transition from scene to song is sometimes graceless, much of the humor and all of the plot is retained and the added efficiency is welcome (especially in the Shrew scenes). But the greatest asset of this production is the presence of the original stars of the Broadway production. As Fred/Petruchio and Lilli/Kate, Alfred Drake and Patricia Morrison are peerless. Their chemistry is tangible with as much of their performance communicated through sly looks and innuendo as text or song and their obvious fondness for the material and each other is infectious. Though the staging of “Wunderbar” lacks the movie version‘s graceful choreography or the precisely crafted jokes found in the revival, Morrison and Drake’s seemingly effortless rapport make it the most genuinely engaging of the three.

 

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And we open again where?

The latest …Kate I checked out is the 2003 taping of the London production of the hit Broadway revival

kmkKiss Me, Kate seemed to spend years before its succesful revival burdened with the perception that it was in dire need of re-writing in order to be playable. In a May 1998 review of a re-issue of the Original Cast Recording, Ken Mandelbaum wrote:

“I’ve always found Kiss Me, Kate the most overrated title in the top echelon of celebrated Broadway musical classics. Study the script and note that, while the exchanges between former husband and wife Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham couldn’t be sharper, the show is vaguely conceived, its comedy far- fetched, its emotional reality shaky…That these problems are real ones is the chief reason why the show has never had a Broadway revival and why, when one was announced a few years back, it was cancelled owing to a dispute about book rewrites.”

Nearly 18 months after Mandelbaum’s assessment the first Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate opened at the Martin Beck theater as the first major hit of the season, going on to win Tonys for Revival, Director (Michael Blakemore), Actor (Brian Stokes Mitchell), Costumes and Orchestrations. Continue reading

Only hoop-de-doo songs…

kmk posterIt has been over 20 years since I’ve seen the 1953 film version of Kiss Me, Kate, and I remembered it mostly for the ways it was different than the stage version. So I was delighted to discover that–a few significant, and I do mean SIGNIFICANT, exceptions aside–the movie is actually one of the more faithful stage-to-screen adaptations, with musical numbers that are well sung and cleverly staged, sumptuous and colorful production design, and considerable wit. Continue reading

Why there’s a wench!

0000284109_500Kiss Me, Kate is a show I hold near a dear to my heart. As I junior in High School I played Bill Calhoun/Lucentio (and also got to sing “Too Darn Hot”) in a production that, by pure coincidence, happened around the time of the Broadway revival. A friend of mine went to see the show in New York and got Michael Berresse to sign a playbill “To Donald, from one Bill to another” (this was inexplicably THROWN AWAY by my ex-step dad, but I just have to move on with my life). I then got to see the national tour when it came to Cleveland.

But despite my fondness for the material, I haven’t really revisited it. Many of the songs have become standards, so I’ve heard plenty I’ve heard its greatest hits in various contexts and mash-ups throughout the years. But a dazzling concert presentation, presented as part of the BBC’s annual “Proms” concert series and streaming live on their website until the end of August, has reinvigorated by interest. Continue reading