Saturday, November 11, 2017

Be More Chill

The musical Be More Chill had a short run but the cast album has inspired a rabid fan base. I was introduced to it by the shows breakout song "Michael in the Bathroom." The premise reminds me of Little Shop of Horrors. Each features a self-loathing protagonist goaded by a malevolent force into harming others for the sake of his crush. Audrey II wants to eat the world. The Squip wants to control it. The Squip in the novel could be cruel but it has been upgraded to full super villain in the musical. Seymour wants Audrey. Jeremy wants the underwritten Christine. She takes a back seat to Michael, the leading man's mistreated best friend. They get the duet and the arc. Hence the fan base (and the fan artists) focus on the bro-mance.

There's a lot of tonal whiplash on the album. I'm curious to see how a live production balances the black comedy with the uglier themes of depression and sexual assault. Particularly after watching season 3 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend balance these so well.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Zombie Prom

I don't have much to say about this one.Grease without the sex. Little Shop of Horrors without the horror. It occupies a bland middle ground. The antagonist, Miss Strict, gets a fun song but they didn't let RuPaul sing it in the abridged film version. I'm running out of Halloween themed shows.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Addams Family

So producers ask you to write an Addams Family musical. What story do you tell? The films contrasted the Addam's with "normal" criminals who wanted to harm them. The stage show introduces a fiancee and conservative in-laws. The device has fueled many comedies including You Can't Take It With You, Auntie Mame and La Cage Aux Folles. So that's your spine. But what do you do with the details?

Who are the Addams's? Are they undead? If so are they zombies, ghosts or vampires? Are they just unusually morbid mortals? How much of their BDSM leanings can you mention in a family show? If you put them onstage do you use the personalities from the comics, cartoons, TV sitcom or films?

The stage show went through multiple rewrites before and after the Broadway engagement. The squid was cut for the tour. She certainly isn't in the school version. But the song about squid molestation was in the Chicago tryout and made it to Broadway.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Fan

Lauren Bacall started a new chapter of her career by starring in the musical Applause. She followed this up with two less successful musical projects. The Fan opened a few months after the opening of Lauren's next musical, Woman of the Year. Unfortunately it also opened after the murder of John Lennon. The grim ending was quickly re-written and re-filmed. A happy ending and an award bait song weren't enough. The film was a box office bomb.

Lauren Bacall's musicals cast her as fairly passive figures. Margo Channing, Tess Harding and Sally Ross start off with thriving careers. The active supporting characters harm that success and leave them reeling. We watch them cope with the loss rather than strive to recover.

A similar plot would have more success in the 1992 film The Bodyguard... which has just been made into another terrible musical.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

300 Comics. 900 Panels.

Somewhere along the way I've passed 300 comics. The 2 in 1 posts make it hard to pinpoint the spot but my counter says it's happened.

So why do I do this? Why obscure (and sometimes not so obscure) musicals? I fell in love with my grandmothers' vinyl cast album collection at a young age. Soon my noisy toddler self was singing Jerry Herman, Lerner and Lowe, Frank Loesser and some inappropriate lyrics from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. 

Since then I've studied, attended, performed in musicals. Reading the behind the scenes books of Ken Mandelbaum and Ethan Mordden taught me that every musical, hit or flop, took a great deal of blood, sweat, tears and cash to create. High schools are still producing shows that succeeded 60 years ago. Other shows opened to bad reviews and quickly shuttered. The musicals without cast albums have all but vanished. That so much time and effort would be put into a work of art only for it to vanish in days is tragic. Even the worst shows can still bring pleasure to people but it's up to the super fans to record the history, retell the stories and keep the memories alive.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Bring It On: The Musical

Lin-Manuel Miranda: I'm sorry I haven't gotten the chance to see Bombshell but I hear the tourists love it.
Christian Borle: Thanks. I tried to see Bring It On but it closed so fast I didn't get the chance.
~ Smash, episode 2.15

Bring It On: The Musical does not retell the plot of the 2000 film. Instead they mix plot points from the direct-to-DVD sequels with subplots from Hairspray and All About Eve. With 12 principal characters the show could have been a mess. Instead we get a well a perfectly serviceable pop musical. The plot is more teen friendly than Lysistrata JonesLysistrata's cheerleaders wanted their peers to learn the importance of competition... and sex. Bring It On’s ruthless cheerleaders need to learn the importance of friendship.The Broadway run was short but the show toured well and was quickly licensed to high schools.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Lysistrata Jones

It's not a war. It's a basketball game. Stakes are low. Why exactly do the men want to play basketball if they're choosing to throw the games? Why do the gay players care about the cheerleader sex strike? Don't overthink it. Lysistrata Jones wants to be an old fashioned tired businessman musical with lotsa jokes and legs. There will always be an audience for that, though not always at Broadway prices.