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They stopped just before the BEST part!

2.26.2010



Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel perform "Confrontation" from Les Miserables. Further reason why poor Josh Radnor tends to be almost invisible next to his other male co-stars on How I Met Your Mother.

"You really don't care, do you? Or maybe you just don't see."



I am freaking IN AWE and in love with Linda Hunt's performance as Billy in The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).




'What then must we do?' We must give with love, to whoever God has placed in our path.

This is me BEFORE I saw Chicago on stage

2.23.2010



This post is slightly premature, since I won't be seeing Chicago until March, but I've made a promise to you, dear reader, that for every CAN'T YOU SEE THE CONDITION MY HUMAN CONDITION IS IN post, I give you one that has nothing to do with my personal life! Or at least a post not written past 10pm or under the influence of alcohol! Ain't I good to you? I just like to look out for you, that's all.

So I'm setting up how I'll feel before seeing Chicago on stage for the first time. First, I should tell you (if you don't already know) that I LOVE Bob Fosse. And I HEART Kander & Ebb. And I seriously respect and admire Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera (though I ADORE Liza Minnelli, who took over for Verdon in the original 1975 run when she needed throat surgery and/or she swallowed a feather. Mixed stories). When I saw Cabaret on stage, I was worried that my familiarity with the movie would ruin the stage show. Fortunately that production knocked my socks off (even if their Sally Bowles didn't. Someone said that when Liza Minnelli became Sally Bowles, Sally Bowles became Liza Minnelli, and I wholeheartedly agree.)

This instance is switched. This time, I'm hoping that the stage show will blow the film out of the water. Because as you may know, a Chicago (2002) fan, I ain't. What I wrote about it in May 2008:


A huge tragedy: Hugh Jackman was considered for the role of Billy Flynn. And they gave it to Richard Gere. Moment of silence, please. If only Richard could give us more than a moment. Perhaps the biggest tragedy: When the film rights were originally bought by producer Martin Richards in the 1970s, Bob Fosse was to be involved with the film project, and Goldie Hawn, Liza Minnelli, and Frank Sinatra were announced as the stars; but Fosse's death in 1987 ended that attempt at a film version. Oh, what could have been... I honestly think Fosse's version would have been even better.


UGH. It still stings. LIZA AND SINATRA. With Fosse. And who do we get instead? Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, and Rob Marshall. Catherine Zeta-Jones receives a get-of-jail-free-card because she did all that dancing after recently having a baby (or she was pregnant. Again, mixed stories).

Here's the thing. To copy from Cabaret, Marshall had all the musical numbers take place in a stage-setting, juxtaposed with the 'real life' happenings in the plot (with a few exceptions that I'll get to). Perhaps this is even how it's done in the Broadway production of Chicago, but that's fine, because it's actually taking place on a stage. I honestly believe it works for Cabaret because the Kit Kat Club is in itself, an actual setting in the show, and it's MC is our narrator. The lines are already blurred between Sally actually performing there as her job, so for all her musical numbers to take place in a performance-in-the-club manner make SENSE.

Ahem. Chicago (2002) opens just fine, with Velma Kelly actually performing on a stage to an audience. But when Roxie starts singing "Funny Honey," she's imagining herself on a stage with a piano singing to an audience, while we keep cutting back to her husband being interviewed by the police. Then we he starts saying the wrong thing, stage-Roxie starts acting pissed at back-at-home Amos. Soon he's on stage as well, and when the song ends what's happening on stage segues straight into 'real life.' For me, this cuts out the heart of a musical: that people are singing about their desires and feelings right in the moment they are having them, not out in a fantasy stage. I want to see Roxie singing "Funny Honey" in her apartment as her husband is interviewed. Otherwise, it's just a music-movie (i.e. Purple Rain). Sure the song is about what's happening, but it's not taking place in the moment.

I like that "Cellblock Tango" and "I Can't Do It Alone" take place in the actual jail, and "Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag" are performed from an actual stage. I think that the reason this movie is acceptable for non-musical lovers is that very tactic: to remove the people bursting into song as they experience life, and to put those 'awkward' moments into a performance. That way there's none of the need to transition from story to song. They're just kept apart! And as a musicals lover, this leaves me cold. It's not easy to make the transition from dialog to song, but when it's done right, it's like nothing else.

I wish that was my only complaint (and I bet you do too). But it's not. Chicago is a dancing musical. "But Maryann!" you might say. "Isn't there dancing in all musicals?" Or you'd say, "Duh." The point is, musicals like My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Annie Get Your Gun, Funny Girl, Meet Me in St. Louis, South Pacific, etc. do not rely on the actors' abilities to dance. Sure, they might contain some light choreography here or there, or a troupe of dancers to fill out big numbers, but the lovers will not be falling in love as they dance together. A dancing musical is West Side Story. Or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Or An American in Paris. So when you cast non-dancers in a dancing musical, we've got a problem. A problem that Hollywood has dealt with in varying ways.

First, there's the Oklahoma!/Singin' in the Rain approach. You hire someone else entirely to do the dancing for the main characters, and hope that it doesn't ruin it for the audience. Oklahoma!, bless it's heart, failed at this for me. I HATED the ballet scene in Oklahoma! for "Out of My Dreams." WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? Why aren't Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae dancing?



Oh, it's Bambi Lynn and James Mitchell. I always cast other people in my fantasies too. What the what. I understand that they'd either have to compromise the singing/acting or the dancing if they'd done otherwise, but it's still too weird. The best choice would have been to send Hugh Jackman back in time to the 50s. At least that's my solution:



The Singin' in the Rain team decided on a slight alteration. According to Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly had no choice in who his leading lady was--Louie B. Mayer had picked her and that was that, so he'd have to teach her how to dance. And she did! (Dick van Dyke had no dancing training before Mary Poppins and look at what he did!) So that's one option--actually teach your leads to dance--but clearly Gene was able to take a little liberty for his fantasy sequence, or rather, the end of the Dueling Cavalier (as if anyone believes that would actually be the end of that movie). He called in then non-star Cyd Charisse to be his dancing partner for the long dream sequence about the Broadway hoofer. Which is a DOUBLE toss-over, because he had the choice between Debbie, or his actual leading lady in the Dueling Cavalier, Lina Lamont (played by Jean Hagen), and still chose Cyd! Fortunately, I think it worked. Yes, it was confusing to me as a child, but the fantasy is so far removed from the actual story, I knew it existed purely as a showcase for Gene and Cyd's dancing, rather than some way of furthering the plot.



I would like to note that there are only 10 cuts in total for the dancing you see here. ONLY TEN. Why is that of note? Chicago (2002) not only serves to the non-musicals loving public by cutting between 'real life' and the stage, it also serves its non-dancing stars. Richard Gere is not a tap dancer. During "A Tap Dance" they try to hide it by showing 2 and 3 second shots of him dancing at a time, often of his upper body (useless), and it's not satisfying. It's boring.

These two people did this dance in ONE TAKE:



Granted, these two people are Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire. But if you can't handle the dancing, get out of the dancing musical, I say!

And don't even get me started on "Hot Honey Rag." There are more cuts during this scene than I can keep track of. I realize that's the current fad in editing for musical content, but come the eff on. This is a dancing musical. Why couldn't you hire dancers? Or if you believe that you did, LET US SEE THEM DANCE for longer than 5 seconds! (Another way of dealing with non-dancers is the Seven Brides for Seven Brothers approach, where you just have the non-dancers sit out--see Benjamin during "Goin' Courtin").

Finally, the nitty-grittiness of Cabaret was apparent on stage, and especially on film for me. For a story about criminals in the 20s, Chicago (2002) feels neither dirty nor dark. It feels wealthy and shiny and star-studded. Oh, and worst of all, it feels choreographed by Rob Marshall, not Bob Fosse. For the love, touring U.S. production, please be of the Fosse.

"My favorite song of all time. Richard Rodgers, by the way...thought that was his finest work."

2.20.2010

- Shirley Jones



(Even with all its misogyny, Carousel hits me so much emotionally harder than South Pacific. Stellar.)

Kathryn Grayson, 1922 - 2010

2.18.2010

My favorite Kathryn Grayson scene is from a film I've never seen. It's called It Happened In Brooklyn (1947), and she co-stars with Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, and Peter Lawford. I know it's nothing new to say 'when they start singing together in this public space, it's so romantic' becuase, duh, it's a musical. But seriously. They have so much singing chemistry, it kills me. If you only want to watch a small part, watch 1:28 to...to...



My God, isn't that the most charming thing you've ever seen? He's so earnest, she's so sassy. And poor Peter Lawford, always the jilted lover.

In order of preference, I like Kathryn best with Frank, Gene Kelly, or Howard Keel. I know she and Mario Lanza were always paired together, but I've never been very interested in that outside of this little number that I always loved featured in That's Entertainment, "Be My Love" from The Toast of New Orleans:



Her face is classic when he jumps up and joins her, not to mention David Niven's.

To be fair, Gene had her first in 1943's musical military revue, Thousands Cheer. Here she sings "Let There Be Music" to him, and I'll be damned if he's not one of the best 'listeners' during other actors' solo numbers. The way he looks at Debbie Reynolds or Judy Garland when they're singing to him? You're his whole world.



Then Frank joined the couple for Anchors Aweigh (1945), one of my all-time favorites. Here they were in a love triangle together. In this scene Kathryn's character finally breaks into the movies with a screen test with Jose Iturbi:



It's ridiculous how cute her face (especially mouth) is.

Feel free to skip right over The Kissing Bandit with Frank, and head straight to the arms and mustache of Howard Keel. Kathryn and Howard first starred together in the remake of Showboat (1951). Watch them sing "You Are Love" (though I'd prefer to show you "Make Believe" if only I could find it...):



Can we just take a second here to appreciate that Howard Keel's character's name is Gaylord Ravenal? Ok. In Keel she found her second leading man who could match the power of her pipes (Lanza being the first).

My favorite of her roles is when she turned her Pollyanna-Sweetheart typecast on its head as Kate in Kiss Me Kate (1953), one of MGM's finest EVER. Some say she didn't have enough bite for the role, but I thought she really stepped up. There's so many scenes I'd love to post from this movie, but I'll give it all to you in the trailer:



Kathryn, you were a marvelous actress and singer, and will be missed.

And this is me AFTER I saw South Pacific

In an ideal world, we would take the songs of South Pacifc, the good ones, and place them in a revue. (Thank you, people of 1993.) Because as musical plots and love stories go, it's no surprise this was the first (U.S.) revival since the show's original run. I'm not sure how closely this production was kept true to the first, but it felt way too sincere for such a shallow story. I needed a lot more tongue-in-cheek camp for this kind of content. And it looked like it was staged in a Tommy Bahama store. And the actress playing Liat looked 12, which does not help an already skeezy 'love' story.

But let me tell you what I liked. I liked Luther Billis, and "Nothing Like A Dame" was by far the favorite song of the night. Lt. Cable was believable, a solid singer, and his "Carefully Taught" was stirring. Emile was...loud. And Nellie was funny, but mostly silly, but not in a way that endeared me to her. Bloody Mary was a mixed bag. Great voice, sometimes funny delivery, but overall the character is offensive.

The main theme of the musical seems to be in praise of youth. Emile in "Twin Soliloquies": this is what I've longed for, someone young and smiling; Lt. Cable's "Younger Than Springtime" (self-explanatory), and the cruel send-up of Bloody Mary with her skin as tender as 'DiMaggio's glove.' Get it? Cause she's OLD.

Oops--what I liked...what I liked... I liked the 1940s swimsuits. I liked the classic ding-dong I ate at intermission. I think that about sums up what I liked. Let's get into it, shall we?

So, Emile. You're ok with telling Nellie right off that you killed a man as you hold up your hands in front of her and say, "with my own hands" (!). Is that supposed to be sexy? No. No, no, no. But you feel like keeping the fact that you have two kids from a former marriage with a now-dead (who knows how?) Polynesian woman. But then you're surprised when you finally tell Nellie about them, and she's upset? YOU kept them from her! Clearly you've got your own issues of shame!

And then you sing "This Nearly Was Mine" when she leaves you:

One dream in my heart,
One love to be livin' for,
One love to be livin' for
This nearly was mine.

One girl for my dream,
One partner in paradise,
This promise of paradise
This nearly was mine.

Ok...so what exactly do you love about Nellie? The fact that she was a) a girl, and b) she was on the island, and c) she loved you? This is basically you just bitching that you're alone, not that you missed out on someone awesome. And what about your Polynesian wife? She wasn't the partner you were dreaming of? Oh, and when Nellie leaves you, you decide you're ready to go risk your life for a suicide mission, because what have you got to lose? I can think of two people: YOUR CHILDREN. Nellie even says she went to your house and yours kids didn't know where you were. Did you even say goodbye to them before you went off to die? Sir, you're rich and have a pretty accent, but that's about all you've got going for you.

But even worse offenders? Bloody Mary and Lt. Cable. Bloody Mary just throws her daughter at him, he takes her, and after we presume they have sex, the sweet pillow talk is him saying, "You're just a kid!" Nice. Way to actually look at someone before you take off their clothes and have your way with them, Mr. I'm-Entitled! And then Bloody Mary starts throwing money at him so he'll marry Liat. And why, pray tell does he love Liat? Because she's uber-submissive, spending most of the musical dancing for him or kneeling between his legs? How romantic. Give me Miss Saigon any day over this tripe.

The whole second Act was a snooze-fest, with our second reprise of "Some Enchanted Evening" (way to overdo it), and an immediate expectation to be interested and concerned about the 'serious' side of war when we've just been dished up a ton of cheesy fluff. I do think it's possible to make musicals that take place during times of heartache and hardship that can hold in both hands the darkness and the light (Cabaret, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Saigon, Les Miserables, Chess, Evita, and many, many others), but South Pacific, in my opinion, isn't one of them. Its attempt to 'take on' racism couldn't get off the ground because of its own stereotypes.

This is me BEFORE I saw South Pacific

2.17.2010

I think these are the lowest expectations I've ever had going into a professional touring production of a musical. I highly anticipate and look forward to the company I'll be keeping (Jennifer! Kelsey! Britta! Others!), but the show itself has never had much of a draw for me. I know, I know, it's Rodgers and Hammerstein. Arguably the greatest musicals duo of all time (Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, that 'arguably' was for you). And if you read this blog, you know the sincere life-long love affair I have with The Sound of Music, my lovey-dovey feelings for The King and I, my childhood adoration of Cinderella, and, well, my great appreciation of Hugh Jackman in that one production of Oklahoma! from a few years ago. (Don't get me started on Carousel.)

I'm not sure what it is. When my sister and I watched South Pacific as kids (once, and then once again as adults), we were not fans. The color-changing, the non-Gene-Kelly-esque sailors, the overly perky and indecisive blond, and her boring foreign boyfriend who already had kids.* Not to mention the jerky young guy who hooks up with a native girl who can't communicate with him. Not exactly our thing. Give us governesses who bring music to stubborn-but-ultimately-golden-hearted men! Or princesses whose princes fall for them before they know their names! Or even cowboys.

I wish I could blame it on Mitzi Gaynor, but she's ok in Les Girls. And Rossano Brazzi, I loved him in Summertime. What gives? I'll admit there are some cute songs, but nothing I'll want to do in my someday one-woman show. But maybe I've just been in the wrong place when I've seen the movie. Or maybe I didn't give the songs enough of a chance. So tonight when the lights go down and the curtain goes up, I'll try to be swept away to Bali Ha'i.

(*I just realized Captain von Trapp and The King of Siam already had kids too. Rodgers and Hammerstein, way to make yours the Yours, Mine, And Ours of musicals. But it didn't work for me in South Pacific.)

There's this:


Wow. Just check out all the hot chemistry. It's really exciting. Thank God these two kids got together, or... zzzzz....

And then there's THIS:



I AM BORN ANEW IN MERELY THE PLACEMENT OF HIS THUMB ON HER NECK.

your whole life waiting on the ring to prove you're not alone

2.10.2010



I loved Pink's song "Glitter In The Air" when it first came out on her Funhouse album, but her Grammy performance blew me away. My main reaction to the song is how Joni-Mitchellesque she is in her songwriting, how personal she let's it be, even as a major pop artist and not some coffee-shop folk singer (who I love, of course).

I know that people in the audience were probably blown away by her performance because of its originality and awe-inspiring choreography, but I think they were also humbled that she would sing such a vulnerable song at the Grammy's, especially with how public she was about her divorce with her husband (they're back together).

I've always liked Pink's music (GREAT for in the car), but of course I've got love her because she has short bleached hair, which I miss (the bleached part--obviously my hair's still pretty short).

Holy shiz.

2.05.2010



My review? I must see this again, and again, and again.

Mister* in his bachelor pad.

2.02.2010

I bought this bed for Oz on Etsy (where else?) and I love the retro look it gives my apartment, and he loves it too (thank God, because otherwise it would have become a serving platter).

Jus' sittin' here, waitin' fur da ladeez.

Sometimes I wrassle ma 'breathies.'

I'm so over you.

*a nickname Amber and I always had for Lenny that has stuck with me for all male cats.

My kind of New Year's Resolution.

The Smiths Project.