Sunday, May 29, 2016

American Psycho

American Psycho is closing before the summer tourists get a chance to see it. The reviews and think pieces have raised many questions.

Moralistic satire or misogynistic porn? Wildly theatrical or un-adaptable? Does the ending blame Patrick or society? Can the 1980's materialism depicted be applied to America today? Should it have opened off-Broadway? Or with a movie star? Will it have a life in regional theater? Will we get a Broadway cast album?

And finally what does Patrick Bateman want? Sweeney wants revenge. Seymour wants love. J.P. Finch wants a material success. Patrick already "has it all" but feels nothing. Does he want to "feel?"

Selling Out
You Are What You Wear
A Girl Before
Backstage vlogs
London Cast Album at Entertainment Weekly
*** And some fun backstage gossip on 

Nominated for 2 Tony Awards.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Shuffle Along

This is not a revival of the 1921 musical Shuffle Along. Rather it's a story about the rise and fall of Shuffle Along's creators. Critics praised the dances but criticized the libretto for an over-reliance on first person narration.  

"The dramaturgical tactic is vaguely Jersey Boys meets 42nd Street." ~ Time Out

As with Hamilton we are left with a question of who remembers you and who tells your story.

Nominated for 10 Tony Awards.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Little Shop of Horrors

I've touched on Little Shop twice before, but wanted to give it a full post.

Reviews of the recent American Psycho musical have said there's no way to make the murderous protagonist sympathetic. This got me thinking about Seymour Krelborn. I mock (and lust after) Patrick Bateman. I pity Sweeney Todd. I genuinely like Seymour. From the moment I hear the song "Skid Row" I'm on his side. How does he do it?

Well, like Sweeney, he has a loathsome antagonist and a seductive accomplice. Like Sweeney he also does some truly awful things in Act Two. Unlike Sweeney he holds on to the possibility of redemption. *** spoiler? *** The movie gave him a happy ending, but it left a sour aftertaste. We may want him to get away with it but understand when he doesn't. ***

So why did this popular show flop when it opened on Broadway in 2003? Some said the stage was too big, the performances too arch, the material too dated. An Encores concert in 2015 showed that the show still works if the larger-than-life characters are played with honesty.

*** EDIT: Seeing the show again I realize that Seymour and Audrey's fatal flaw is their crippling self-loathing. It's not greed as they don't really take advantage of their new found income. They're given several opportunities to escape their fate but keep making poor choices from a place of low self-worth.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bright Star

Bright Star is inspired by a true story, but sharing that story would spoil the ending of Steve Martin’s bluegrass melodrama.  I will say that, like Waitress, a potentially sunny rom-com is given stakes by a cruel antagonist. While the book and score have drawn lukewarm reviews the critics have high praise for leading lady Carmen Cusack. 

Performance Clips: 

Nominated for 5 Tony Awards.

Today's comic is inspired by the work of Max Fleischer.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Producers

As Hamilton gets ready to sweep the Tony's it's worth looking back at a previous cultural phenomena. The Producers was the right production at the right time and conquered Broadway in the 2001-2002 season. Replacement cast troubles and an unlucky film have tarnished the shows image. I had the good fortune to see the original Broadway cast. Last night I saw a terrific small scale production and learned two important things:

  1. The material doesn't play itself. Mel Brooks' one joke songs require charm, personality and a healthy dose of shtick. 
  2. The cast must be balanced. Max can carry the show. Roger can steal the show. But they need an honest Leo and Carmen to play off of. I've since learned that Leo can carry the show too. The parts have enough Roxy/Velma equality that "Till Him" can be the emotional climax if "Betrayed" underwhelms.

I think Hamilton will have a longer cultural footprint than The Producers but it's nice to see that the show can still dazzle in the right hands.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I'm experimenting with a digital pen and tablet.

Critics have divided the 2016 musicals into serious and light categories. However even the light shows have some darkness in them. Jenna may surround herself with kooky co-workers and whimsical pies but she's still got a cruel husband waiting at home.

Performance Clips:
What's Inside
Bad Idea
She Used to Be Mine

Nominated for 4 Tony Awards.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Next to Normal

Yorkey and Kitt’s “Next to Normal” has a fantastic first act. The characters and stakes are quickly established and the plot has several surprises. Act two runs out of steam. The writers seem to shrug their shoulders and say “Sheesh. Doctors. Amirite?” The show went through extensive rewrites and the final version feels like a compromise. Still it’s exciting to see this subject matter treated with a modicum of respect. Diana’s treatment is as complex as her disorder and the limits of America’s mental health care system are laid bare.

I love the big numbers for Natalie and Gabe but wish Diana had a proper 11 o’clock number. Her angrier songs are constantly undercut by her husband’s counter melodies. It speaks to the dynamic of their marriage but denies her a proper "Rose's Turn" moment. The catharsis instead goes to her husband Dan. His (plot spoiling) reprise of I Am the One reduces me to a sobbing puddle every time I hear it.

EDIT: August 28, 2016

Here's a revised version that gets the leading man into the third frame.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


When the money keeps rollin in
what's a girl to do?
Cream a little off the top
for expenses wouldn't you?
Never been accounts in
the name of Eva Peron
~ Evita

Don't recognize that lyric? Well it isn't in the movie version. I wondered why Antonio Banderas was so angry at Madonna. Her Eva Peron didn't seem to accomplish much of anything, good or bad. Turns out the film cut several references to the Peron's crimes, settling for ambiguous montages. The film doesn't even bother to tell us what she's dying of.

The stage musical presented Eva as a ruthless opportunist. The New York Times has described it thus:

Some of the musical detractors have objected to ''Evita's'' glamorization of a fascinating, albeit Fascist, figure. The show has even been compared with ''Springtime for Hitler,'' the parody in the film ''The Producers.'' This is sheer nonsense. ''Evita'' is about media manipulation, the power of ''hype,'' the gullibility of the masses and, perhaps most of all, the arbitrariness of stardom.

However Madonna's turn seems to present her as a feminist icon. In an interview with Roger Ebert she said:

And then there were the people who thought she was a saint. They thought only Mother Teresa could portray her in a movie. Then there were other people who thought she was a sinner, and they didn't want a tribute being made to her. So it got very confusing.... The stage version of the musical portrays a very one-dimensional version of her. It doesn't show her in a very humane way; it doesn't show any vulnerability, it doesn't explain her past. Alan Parker had the chance to do that in a movie

Madonna took some flak for lowering Webber's keys, but even Patti LuPone admits the original score is a bear to sing:

"I was always in danger, from the first D, which was at 20 minutes into the show," says LuPone.

The dependence on a star with a range of E3-G5 makes Evita challenging to revive. Elena Roger won praise in London but when she transferred to Broadway in 2012 she drew mixed reviews. Some suggested the role had simply overtaxed her voice after years of performing. Despite the song, Eva is a role that will make a singer cry.

Monday, May 9, 2016

More on If/Then

***The following post contains spoilers.***

Revisiting Rent got me thinking about the musical If/ThenThe shows shared directors, stars and several plot points, making If/Then a spiritual successor.

As Elizabeth looks back on key moments in her life the show flips between multiple paths she could have taken. Liz pursues Love under red lights while wearing glasses. Beth pursues a Business career under blue lights with no glasses.The songs are stacked in loves favor. Liz only gets half of a song about her job. Still the book tries to remain balanced, suggesting that each path involves some unsatisfying compromise.

Audiences got confused, despite the visual cues. Here I've attempted to chart out Elizabeth's key act one choices.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Two Year Anniversary

Today is the two year anniversary of Three Panel Musicals. It snuck up on me.
Thank you to everyone for reading!

Most viewed comics:

Favorite comics from year one: 
I wanted to draw more. I picked a project that would force me to draw each week. Looking back at early posts they're... pretty rough. But here are some of my favorites.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Who wins the chess tournament?
What happens to Florence's father?
Who sings "One Night in Bangkok?"
Well... it depends.

The book of Chess has been rewritten for each major production. While the 2008 concert at Royal Albert Hall has been declared canon by Tim Rice, the site TV tropes lays out five possible endings for the show.

Still the big songs and the political themes remain. At the end of the day we're all pawns.