Scene in Cleveland: Newsies, Les Miserables, Alton Brown Live!

There’s been a bit of a delay in the posting of my Disney Newsies the Musical response. That’s in part because I had so many other theatrical ventures that week, all of which will be recounted in this “Scene in Cleveland” Omnibus Edition! Continue reading

Broadway Series Preview: Newsies

group-2On Tuesday I will see the second show of the Playhouse Square Broadway Series, Newsies (or, rather, “Disney Newsies the Musical“). This is the only show of the season that I have seen before, having caught the original cast of the Broadway production. I’ve always been a huge fan of the movie, ever since I saw it IN THEATERS and bought the soundtrack, at the Disney store, packaged in a CARDBOARD LONG BOX. I’ve attended Brooklyn-hipster-sing-along nights. For years (and kinda still today) Newsies was my primary reference point of Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, and Ann Margret. And I know that the movie is about 30 minutes of awesome (all of which involves singing and dancing and shirtless men whose ages we will never ever discuss) surrounded by about two hours of really boring movie.

Disney Newsies the Musical was as big of a surprise hit as anything leading off with “Disney” can be. It started at Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey and originally came to Broadway under the guise of a “limited run” that would then launch a national tour. But then the “limited run” ran for over two years, fueled by enthusiastic singing and dancing of a corps of muscular, obviously-over-18-but-under-25, men. Harvey Fierstein wrote a new book that streamlined the story, balanced the pacing, and generally greatly improved upon the screenplay. It even took home Tonys for its score (Alan Menkin and Jack Feldman) and choreography (Christopher Gattelli).

So why didn’t I like it nearly as much as I (desperately) wanted to? Continue reading

Scene in Cleveland: Motown the Musical

motownAs I walked down Euclid Avenue after seeing Motown the musical, I was confronted by a series of vertical digital screens staggered along the sidewalk with ever changing displays promoting current and future performances, selling the mere idea of going out (a quartet of white-haired ladies with martini glasses is captioned “It’s Never Too Late for a Girl’s Night”), and dizzying collage of Motown-related tweets with the hashtag #DancingInTheSeats, culled from the previous weekend (and no doubt updated through it’s run.) Even though my show tweets were limited to an instagram of my souvenir magnet (see image to the left) and murderous rage and the audience members behind me, I will confess I too was frequently inspired to boogie in the confines of red velour. I was also frequently inspired to wish I had worn a watch, or that there was enough light to check the program to see how much time I had until intermission/the end. Continue reading

The King and me2ism: The Film’s Recordings

The King and I (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

kandisoundtrackI recently discussed the faithful and visually opulent 1956 film version of The King and I, with it’s unforgettable (and Oscar-winning) performance from Yul Brynner and equally memorable (and similarly Academy Award-winning) sets and costumes. But the film boasted two other equally lauded and awarded assets:Carlton W. Faulkner’s sound recording and Alfred Newman’s adaptation of the score. With it’s lush cinematic orchestrations, more assessable (i.e. lower) keys and smooth vocals (most of which were dubbed), the original motion picture soundtrack was always a worthy (if incomplete) alternative to those who found Gertrude Lawrence’s vocals on the OBCR an acquired taste. Continue reading

Scene in Cleveland: Hair

hair13

Jessie Cope Miller (center) as Sheila with the company. Miller also served admirably as the evening’s choreographer.

This past weekend I saw Blank Canvas Theatre’s production of Hair. The score by Galt MacDermot, Gerome Ragni, and James Rando follows no conventional rules of musical theater and is all the better for it. The story is almost nonexistent and spottily told, but the last ten minutes are deeply moving and haunting. I was pleased to see two ensemble members from Cain Park’s recent production of The Frogs have more showcased roles roles here, and the cast contained many other performers who I hope again to see in future area productions. So it’s unfortunate that I walked away thinking less about them and more about the evening’s many sound-related issues. Continue reading

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

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