Truth like a blazing fire: Musicals update!


Sorry I've been so negligent of my duties as a blogger who loves musicals. I recently went to see Phantom of the Opera at the Paramount. It was my second time to see it live, but I went with complete newbies who hadn't even seen the movie! The singing was superb, but I think all of us would have benefited from a libretto in our laps during the songs when everyone sings over everyone else (I'm looking at you "Notes.../ Prima Donna"). There's so much to learn and appreciate from the lyrics but it's impossible when it all sounds like gobbilty-gook. The Phantom was terrifying and sexy, and Christine was appropriately sweet and stubborn. "The Point of No Return" still tingles my spine like no other: "When will the blood begin to race/the sleeping bud burst into bloom/when will the flames at last consume us?"

Yesterday I saw the filmed last Broadway performance of RENT at my local movie theater. I have only seen the movie and listened to the OBC recording, so it was great to see songs that were missing from the film. So much of the show is sung rather than spoken, which I really prefer to the lyrics-turned-dialog of the film. It was a treat to see Tracie Thoms re-creating her film role of Joann onstage--though it made me miss the original cast that made it into the movie. I was blown away by the actors who played Mimi and Maureen--I soon forgot that their roles didn't originate with them and felt no need for comparisons.

The only less-than-perfect moment was the same moment that I dislike in the film: the end. Not the end-end, I love "Finale B", but the end when Mimi's dying, Roger sings "Your Eyes" and then she wakes up and talks about seeing Angel. First of all, I think "Your Eyes" might be the worst song in the entire show, so why it's at the end, I'm not sure. I would have preferred a reprise of "Without You" or "Goodbye Love", though I realize that the point is Roger writing a new song for her. And the way that she wakes up and starts talking about Angel seems almost laughable, and therefore inappropriate. And then Maureen is like, "Her fever's breaking" and it feels so unrealistic and cheap considering how we lost Angel--a song didn't save him. I can't get back into the story and get back "in it" until "Finale B" starts. I'm sad that the show has left Broadway, but it has yet to be retired--they're going to tour and be here in June. I'm curious about what a revival would look like--what would they update or change or re-imagine in the characters, scenery, choreography, etc.?

I also watched In the Good Old Summertime, an adorable Van Johnson/Judy Garland movie from 1949. Highly recommended, even though it isn't going to be one of my favorites. I'd only seen Van in Brigadoon, where he plays the cynical hunting partner of Gene Kelly. When he was the romantic lead in this film he sounded an awful lot like Jimmy Stewart, which is interesting considering Jimmy starred in his role in the original film with the same story-line, Shop Around the Corner (1940), nine years earlier.

And finally, I cannot stop listening to the Jane Eyre musical soundtrack. I've listened to it over and over and over again for hours daily but I have yet to get sick of it. I know that day will come, but for now it's wonderful to be so immersed in it and the story. With musical soundtracks, there's this point that I reach--and I think other people reach it too--where you've listened to it so much and poured over it and 'figured out' the songs to the point that it becomes a part of you--those songs fuse into your brain in a way that time and distance can't touch. I remember sun-bathing in my parent's backyard after seeing Phantom for the first time, and going through the songs with libretto, memorizing them and playing my favorite songs over and over on my disc man. Or when I ordered the RENT OBC soundtrack from my library and listened to the whole show while shelving books in the stacks, blown away by what I was hearing. And sure enough, when I revisited these scores again in the last week, I remembered almost every line, and waited breathlessly when I anticipated the joy I would experience as one of my favorite bits was about to be sung. And now it's happening with Jane Eyre--I want these songs to become a part of me, eager to share them with others. I just hope I get to see a stage version or movie of it someday!


Spiro said...

good call about "Your Eyes"... and, adam kantor?

Maryann said...

I liked him too, definitely.

Allie said...

I saw "Phantom" last night. It was pretty bomb diggity. But my experience was impaired by the half bottle of wine I downed beforehand. Daaaang iiiiiit.

Maryann said...

Ah, see I think my experience would have been improved by half a bottle of wine!

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