Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Grease 2

"There's gotta be more to life than making out... I'm tired of being someone's chick." ~ Grease 2

The little Chicago musical about teen class war became a record breaking film in 1978. Three sequels and a TV series were proposed. A script was hastily written, the film tanked, and the franchise was scrapped. Grease 2 is no gem but Michelle Pfeiffer's solo, “Cool Rider,” is a camp classic. By the end of the film she learns, unlike Danny Zuko, to appreciate her partner’s nerdy side as well as the sexy persona.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

When the film premiered in 1994 positive portrayals of gay, bisexual and transgendered characters were in short supply. Writer and director Stephan Elliott saw his low budget project become an international success. Elliott had retired by 2004 when he suffered a near fatal accident. Surviving disaster convinced him to return to work and adapt Priscilla for the stage.

Bette Midler agreed to co-produce the Broadway transfer and became a fervent spokesperson for the show. The book underwent extensive rewrites. Kylie Minogue songs were swapped for Madonna’s and the father/son subplot was expanded. The show won Tony Awards for Best Costume Design (Tim Chappel and Lizzy Gardiner) and Best Supporting Actor (Tony Sheldon).

Tim Chappel complained to the New York Times that the Broadway producers censored his designs to make them "safer for Broadway." Despite the tinkering the production ran 526 performances and had a lengthy tour. Productions of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert are currently running in France, Spain, South Africa and the United States.

Posts will be slowing down in 2017 due to other projects. I'll try to get at least one comic up a month.

Monday, November 7, 2016


Cabaret has gone through many rewrites. Bob Fosse's film brought the text closer to Christopher Ishwerwood's original stories. Revivals turned the subtext into text. But from the beginning the show turned a mirror on a hedonistic society that ignores politics at their peril.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Nightmare Before Christmas

I didn't appreciate The Nightmare Before Christmas in the theaters in 1993. The trailer had spoiled the film's best gag and Danny Elfman's moody ballads didn't appeal. Ten years later I saw the film again and was amazed by what I'd missed. The film is gorgeous with an bold design and a clever score.

The stop motion field was revitalized and continues today with the crazy geniuses at Studio Laika. However Laika, for all their artistry, has been criticized for their inability to sustain a narrative. Nightmare's story remains clever, subversive and well told. Haven't seen it in a while? It's worth another look.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Nixon in China

In 1972 U.S. President Richard Nixon flew to China to meet with Chairman Mao Zedong.

RealClearPolitics writes: "The trip would begin a new period of Chinese-American relations. Nixon's visit was a strategic maneuver made after relations between the West and the Communist East were gradually changing. China had publicly disagreed and split from the Soviet Union. Nixon used this confrontation, which was peaking in the early 1970s, to make a visit that would stun the world."

Director Peter Sellars proposed the subject of the opera to composer John Adams. Adams described the work as "part epic, part satire, part a parody of political posturing, and part serious examination of historical, philosophical, and even gender issues."

The libretto seeks to humanize the controversial leaders. The historical conversation is touched upon but the opera is more concerned with the characters inner thoughts and doubts throughout the visit. While National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger is presented as a boorish clown the Nixon's and the Mao's are treated with more kindness than general audiences may have expected.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Teddy and Alice

Irving Berlin's fictional president was immersed in a light family sitcom. Teddy and Alice puts historical figures in a light family sitcom, then dials up the creepy.

The New York Times wrote:  "Teddy sees his daughter as the reincarnation of his beloved first wife and refuses to share her with others - never mind that such monopolistic practices are in violation of the newly passed Sherman antitrust act. A happy ending can arrive only when Alice's mother returns from the grave to encourage Teddy to give up the ghost. This exorcism, unfortunately, takes considerably longer to accomplish than the charge up San Juan Hill."

Only in the theater folks. Only in the theater.

Monday, October 24, 2016

First Lady Suite

Michael John LaChiusa remains committed to writing challenging musicals with complex scores. Audiences may not flock to them but they gather committed fan bases. First Lady Suite and the sequel First Daughter Suite each present four vignettes about women who've lived in the White House. Some focus on the First Ladies themselves. Others view them through the eyes of their staff and admirers.

Variety writes: "What’s missing is any semblance of insight or revelation. A talented ensemble, under the capable guidance of Daniel Henning, instills as much pizzazz as possible into the proceedings but ultimately is defeated by LaChiusa’s convoluted, unfulfilling libretto."

The New York Times was kinder writing: "Weird, funny and wigged-out, "First Lady Suite" looks at history through frankly surrealistic glasses and extends its feminist sympathies even to a Presidential spouse as seemingly conventional as Mrs. Eisenhower. Yet, with the exception of "Eleanor Sleeps Here," the last and best developed of the three segments, Mr. LaChiusa's ambitions for his musical are more bracing than the musical itself."