Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Star Is Born

The 1954 remake of A Star is Born features one fantastic song: Gershwin and Arlen's "The Man That Got Away." I assumed it would be the grand finale but it turns out to be Judy Garland's first number. She sings it in a bar when James Mason stumbles in. It's the moment that draws him to her and establishes their unhealthy dynamic.

That song is the only thing I really enjoy about the film. The other music is forgettable and the story is dour. Streisand and Gaga's remakes somehow feel even bleaker. The story is interested in the leading man's fall but the audience wants to see the leading lady shine. She does, in moments, and those moments are what people take away from each remake. I don't need to watch the 2018 film again but I'm sure I'll see the scene where Gaga performs "Shallow" many times to come.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Teen Beach Movie

Disney's Beach Party movies were a hit in the 1960's. Disney's High School Musical was a hit in 2006. Would these two great tastes go together in 2013? Critical reviews were mixed but ratings were high enough to merit a sequel. Afterwards co-stars Garrett Clayton and Ross Lynch would graduate to racier projects, which would renew interest in their musical theater beginnings.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

High School Musical

How did a low budget TV movie launch a franchise and a film career? Today's high school themed musicals are loaded with snark and angst. High School Musical has a mean girl and with a coded-gay brother but the overarching tone is earnest.

Quick. What's the hit song from High School Musical? I'm not sure either... but it has four compelling lead players who Disney was able to contractually secure for two sequels.

Oh and my favorite song? I like "Bet On It", Efron's campy nervous breakdown in part 2.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Light in the Piazza

Critics described this show as a delicate romance. I found it to be overwrought camp. I was in the minority when I saw it live and had to stifle my guffaws. Then I saw the Forbidden Broadway parody and learned I wasn't alone. Your mileage may vary.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Bloomer Girl and South Pacific

Bloomer Girl. Music by Harold Arlen. Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg. Book by Sig Herzig and Fred Saidy. 1944 Broadway.

South Pacific. Music by Richard Rodgers. Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. Book by Oscar Hammerstein and Joshua Logan. 1949 Broadway.

One of these shows is better known than the other but both concern race relations in war time. Both were considered progressive for the 1940's and both feature artists from the original production of Oklahoma!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Finian's Rainbow

Earlier this summer I wrote about Were The World Mine, a musical in which the homophobic jocks are magically transformed from straight to gay. In Finian's Rainbow a spell transforms the racist Senator from white to black. The Senator tries to undo his cruel policies but as a black man his staff will no longer listen to him. The leprechaun has to restore him to white to save the Sharecroppers. Pretty cutting social commentary for 1947.

A white actor put on blackface makeup on Broadway in 1947 and on film in 1968. When the show was revived in 2009 the switch was made with two actors. Critics praised the production but it only ran 15 weeks. 40's satire wasn't commercial in the 00's.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Glory Days

High school friends Nick Blaemire and James Gardiner wrote the show after their own graduation.  Blaemire called the show "a commemoration of our friendship and the friends we've had and lost between high school and college — and what happens when you're a kid, and then you realize that you're not anymore."

Glory Days premiered at the Signature Theatre in Virginia. It transferred to Broadway where it opened and closed on the same night: May 6, 2008. Blaemire and Gardiner spent some time apart, then re-united to write another show for a smaller venue.

The cast album reveals a spirited cast and a lovely ballad, Open Road, in which Jack comes out to his friends. Shows about angsty teenagers are big in 2018, with Heathers, Mean Girls, Dear Evan Hansen and Be More Chill inspiring passionate fan bases. I hope some of them will give Glory Days another look.