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

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

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.

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.