Tuesday, September 30, 2014
"Take it from one who saw it, Drat! The Cat!, which ran a week at the Martin Beck in 1965, was a very funny (if very silly) show. It was full of inventive Joe Layton staging, and its leads, Lesley Ann Warren and Elliott Gould, gave performances so wonderful that one could only assume that one would be seeing them in show after show." ~ Kevin Mandelbaum
"Yes, Drat! The Cat! a musical comedy about a cat burglar plundering 1890's New York society, opened on October 10, 1965 -- and closed on its first weekend. And that's a bigger crime than ever The Cat ever pulled." ~ Peter Filichia
"With its bizarre plotting and outlandish resolution, Drat! the Cat! wins no prizes for logic or depth, but it may well have been the breeziest musical comedy of 1965." ~ Marc Miller
Monday, September 29, 2014
I was thrilled to catch the Broadcast of Sweeney Todd at the NY Philharmonic starring Emma Thompson, Audra MacDonald and Christian Borle. I was less thrilled by the one note performance of Bryn Terfel as Sweeney though part of that is my personal bias against the traditional opera performance style.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
My video game series concludes (for now) with Pokémon Live! featuring Andrew Rannells, the Tony winning star of The Book of Mormon. A musical based on a cartoon based on a video game franchise in which children train cute animals to combat in battle arenas.
The show is online and as camp as can be with a non-canon straight romance to balance out all the subtext. I wonder what parents thought of the whole thing?
Edit: On September 15, 2016 the writer of Pokemon Live gave a fascinating interview with Game Informer magazine.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
A ballet based on a video game? It exists and is currently online.
I lack the vocabulary to comment on the dance, though I’ve sat through enough Nutrcracker’s to know you can stage an exciting sword fight. Adding a Barbarian woman to the heroes team helps balance out the distressed damsels. I was really hoping the Dragon Lord would turn into a giant dragon puppet. (Spoiler: He doesn’t).
The most successful element of the project appears to be Koichi Sugiyama’s score. He’s composed gorgeous video game music since the 1980's and it lends itself well to the stage.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
And now for something completely different.
I recently watched the documentary “Gaming in Color” which explores the intersections between the gaming and LGBTQ communities.
I saw parallels between the growing pains of the gaming industry and those of commercial musical theater. Both industries have found that quickly rising production costs and producers pushing for escapist entertainment have left creators fighting for art.
I’ve loved theater and video games for most of my life but rarely have the two worlds intersected. My small pile of video game design ideas includes an adventure game where you play a stage manager rushing to solve the technical and emotional problems backstage at a show before opening night.
I’ve decided to draw some comics this week that look at cultural intersections between musical theatre and gaming, from game characters portrayed on stage to in-game villains performing fabulous musical numbers. First up, THE PROTOMEN! A rock opera inspired by the Megaman games. The games started on the NES and followed a series of battling candy colored robots and their human creators. The rock opera reimagines the backstory for the anti-hero supporting character Protoman.
I’m not sure if there’s an audience for this topic beyond me. If you find these interesting, let me know in the comments.
Monday, September 22, 2014
And now for the other musical based on The Odyssey. It threw in The Illiad and The Judgement of Paris for good measure.
If The Golden Apple was so brilliant, why didn't it run longer on Broadway? There were those who maintained that it was somewhat lacking in emotional involvement, but emotion is there in the music for Penelope and Ulysses, and the sheer theatrical imagination of the piece provides sufficient excitement to make up for any lack of feeling... Most of the shows in this book failed their audiences; it was the audience that failed The Golden Apple. ~ Ken Mandelbaum, Not Since Carrie.
Latouche... conceived the work as a satiric illustration of America's change from a rural culture to an urban one, dotted with a few jabs at the militaristic mentality. But his funniest material is more literary than political, depending for laughs on the audience's familiarity with Homer's epics--a sure way to please the cognoscenti, but no guaranteed ticket to wide popularity. ~ Albert Williams. Chicago Reader.
Check the blog tomorrow for something completely different.
Friday, September 19, 2014
Mitch Leigh and Joan Deiner never re-captured the success of Man of La Mancha but that didn't stop them from trying. Home Sweet Homer only lasted one performance on Broadway but before that the team suffered through a monstrous tour. Yul Brynner swiftly returned to revivals of The King and I.
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Our palaces are gaudier,
Our alley ways are bawdier,
Our princes more autocratic here,
Our beggars more distinctly aromatic here!
I love the score to Kismet! The original production was a success and Dolores Gray brings the fun in an uneven film, but the show's parade of sexy stereotypes make it a tougher sell than Disney's Aladdin to a modern audience.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Broadway jackals suspicious of Ms. Gifford’s bona fides were surely hoping for an epoch-making turkey in time for Thanksgiving. Sorry, guys. “Scandalous” isn’t so much scandalously bad as it is generic and dull. ~ Charles Isherwood. New York Times.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Whoa, alas, I'm a poor person living in the streets, and can belt high H. ~ Broadway Abridged.
Regrettably, "Brooklyn" feels less like the next "Rent" than a soot-and-sugar revue bound for Vegas, where it might fit comfortably amid the simulated big-city authenticity of the New York-New York Hotel. ~ Ben Brantley, New York Times.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Act one of Goodtime Charley reads like Once Upon a Mattress; full of innuendo and burlesque. Act two reads like Game of Thrones; building to a scene where a vengeful Charley runs a sword through his General, feeds his Archbishop to the Inquisition, and tosses his treacherous mother down a flight of stairs. The New York Times described the show thus:
“The tone of the book is uncertain. It tries to be both flippant and serious, but it really succeeds in being neither. The story of a little guy’s being made into a king is not a bad idea at all – but although Mr. Grey is the star, the story rests on Joan. This is a conflict of narrative interest that Mr. Michaels never resolves. Whose story is this? We never find out.” ~Clive Barnes. New York Times. 1975.
Friday, September 12, 2014
All this talent and labor has been squandered on a conventional Western story written by Leonard Gershe and based on a story by Max Brand. There are times when it seems to be a cartoon on the Western stencil. It seems to be poking fun at itself, hoping to have its cake and eat it also. ~ Brooks Atkinson. New York Times.
Destry Rides Again is a comedy and could easily be played for full blown camp, ala Blazing Saddles. Still Deputy Destry and the two unfortunate sheriffs carry a kernel of drama. Jimmy Stewart’s Destry refused to carry a gun… until he did… in the 1939 film. Andy Griffith’s Destry tricks the villain into betraying his henchmen, who take swift revenge.
While Destry drives the plot the redemptive arc goes to Frenchy. Legend has it that the diva-tastic Dolores Gray’s temper kept her from achieving full stardom. In Destry Rides Again she got a dandy vehicle that featured her in nine songs. Marlene Dietrich died in Stewart’s arms but Gray got to walk with him into the sunset.
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Lili has her sorrows and romantic frustrations. They do not seem to be deep, but when she grows up at the end, “Carnival!” achieves an effect of honest emotion. That is quite an achievement for any musical. ~ Howard Taubman. New York Times. 1961.
Lili may be the most unworldly heroine ever in a Broadway musical, dangerously blurring the lines between innocence and mental deficiency… But there were glimmers of a more cynical attitude in ''Carnival,'' anticipating the self-hating, self-worshiping portraits of theater folk by Bob Fosse. ~ Ben Brantley. New York Times. 2002.
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
How much can an anti-hero get away with in a financially successful musical? The onstage Harry Bogen was guilted out of his worst act in the source novel but his victims were more sympathetic than those of J. P. Finch or Pal Joey.
Regardless, Harry Bogen is not the one folks remember from Wholesale today:
The evening’s find is Barbara Streisand, a girl with an oafish expression, a loud irascible voice and an arpeggiated laugh. Miss Streisand is a natural comedienne, and Mr. Rome has given her a brash, amusing song, “Miss Marmelstein,” to lament her secretarial fate.
~ Howard Taubman. New York Times.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
“Mame is also the most basic of sixties titles, in a form invented in this decade, which I call the Big Lady Show. This is a star vehicle that doesn’t wait for you to be enthralled by the star: it vigorously informs you that the star is enthralling - in writing and direction that make her almost absurdly conspicuous." ~ Ethan Mordden.
Mame and Hello Dolly were big successes that featured a wide range of stars, though both suffered from miscast film versions. Dear World's source material defied adaptation to the formula and suffered despite a fantastic lead performance.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Marriage vs. Career is a common theme in musical theater. While the leading ladies in my last post had to compromise their ambitions to keep their partners, the leading men in The Will Rogers Follies, Barnum and Stop the World; I Want To Get Off ignore their marriages till death puts a sudden end to them.
Barnum and Littlechap tell their stories in a Circus Ring while Will Rogers performs his in a heavenly Ziegfeld Follies. I almost included Pippin here. His life is presented as a play (and a circus in the 2013 revival) and he contemplates committing suicide rather than settling down with Catherine. Still his quest for meaning takes him many other directions in the first act and his quick foray into a career is quickly abandoned.
Will Rogers and Betty Blake have the least combative marriage of the three couples, though his career leaves her singing "There's No Man Left for Me." Barnum and Cherry's squabbling has a friendly nature to it but Littlechap and Evie turn genuinely sour, not reconciling till late in their lives.