Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

If you know absolutely nothing about Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and you just listen to the recording without understanding the tone behind this, it could be a disaster for you. What I need you to understand is that it's a comedy and that it does NOT take itself seriously. If you think it is taking itself seriously, you won't like it.

I know its an interpretation of historical events, so not everything played out exactly like it does in this musical, but holy god did I learn a lot about Andrew Jackson and what a monster he was. 

But, let's put the actual history aside and talk about the PLAY, because we have to. Andrew is hilarious and ridiculous. I wish so much that I could play this role. He is a fucking badass. He is a whiny baby. He loves his wife like crazy. He loves the common man. He loves killing people. I watched a bootleg of BBAJ a long time ago and I went from laughing and saying, "oh man, this is so dumb" (in a good way) to "Ohhhh shit. This musical is getting really HEAVY!" It's really, really good.

The songs are, across the board, fantastic. The only problem with them is that they're all so short! I think the runtime of the cast recording is less than 30 minutes with 13 songs. They're slightly stretched out in the musical, as scenes tend to happen in the middle of several of them, but still. This music is actually REALLY good -- I wish there was more of it.

BBAJ is a great example of a contemporary musical. Rock or traditional, original or established, things should be written like this. We live in the world we live in. BBAJ acknowledges that and uses it. It's authentically cool and smart and funny without taking itself too seriously. 

My favorite song is "I'm So That Guy", in case you were wondering. I listened to it at the gym once on repeat and it made me run so fast that I ran 3 miles in 25 minutes (I normally run a 9 minute mile).

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
Music and Lyrics by Michael Friedman
Book by Alex Timbers

Blood Brothers

I can't understand why Blood Brothers has been as successful as its been. Granted, it's hard to tell when the cast recording is so over-produced with such stupid, unnecessary sound effects on the vocals (this is a fucking cast recording, why are you trying to make it sound like a pop album from the early 1980s??????) that it made me ANGRY while listening to it. However, from what I can gather, I hated everything.

The lyrics were predictable and I hated them. They were also slightly disturbing. There was nothing interesting going on musically and the STORY... oh, jesus. WHY. I don't feel for this woman. Just STOP having these children! Why did you need seven kids before your twins that you had to separate at birth because you could only afford ONE more??? HUH???? WTF. "Help. I have seven kids already and I'm pregnant with twins. I can afford only one more child." I just don't understand this. No one needs seven kids to begin with!

If I hear another singer with unnecessary echo on a UK cast recording, I'm going to lose my mind.

Blood Brothers
Music, Lyrics, Book by Willy Russell

Billy Elliot

OMG, I LOVED Billy Elliot! THIS is what I wish Aida would have sounded like. It is so much more TRUE Elton John -- the music that made him famous -- not some sterilized bullshit.

I watched a bootleg of BE online because I was working on the Dead Mum role for a class I was taking. I had always ruled this musical out as far as shows that I can be in, because I assumed everyone danced as much as the children. Luckily, most of the adults don't. This is also one of the few musicals that came out of the UK that isn't a complete DISASTER. England gave us so many wonderful, incredible things... but like 70% of their musicals are horrific.

I loved everything about Billy Elliot, although I obviously have a soft spot now for the song "The Letter" because it's so heartbreaking I cried on the subway platform the first time I listened to it. Those boys who played Billy deserved their Tony Award and this show deserves every award it won.

Billy Elliot is funny and smart and sad and amazing. Do yourself the favour (ooooh -- British spelling!!!) and find out why.

Billy Elliot
Music by Elton John
Book and Lyrics by Lee Hal

Big River

I did not like Big River. The only things I liked about it were the songs sung by Jim. I don't know if they're better songs, or he sings them better or what.

I have no other comments on this musical.

Big River
Music and Lyrics by Roger Miller
Book by William Hauptman

Big Fish

I know Big Fish didn't do too well on Broadway, but I really enjoyed it. It has two huge things going for it: the fact that the story will MURDER YOUR EMOTIONS and, also, Norbert Leo Butz.

I don't even really like Lippa, but I did enjoy basically all the music from this.

I only saw the movie Big Fish once. Or, maybe, I only saw part of it once. There is even the possibility that I only saw the END of the movie. Whatever it is that I saw, I know that I cried and cried and cried. I haven't watched it again, even though I really liked it, because I have been unable to emotional prepare myself for that, again.

I'm sad I missed this on Broadway.

Big Fish
Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa
Book by John August

Monday, October 12, 2015

Big: the musical

I was SO excited for Big. I thought, for some reason, that it would be so much better. That movie is great. I really want to watch it, now. (Luckily it's the future and I can watch whatever I want whenever I want!)

My main problem with Big is that it doesn't sound like it's of the time the movie came out OR the time the musical premiered. It sounds like it's trying to be a classical musical, played contemporarily.... and WHY? I mean, there's already nothing worse than taking a classical musical and "updating" the orchestrations to sound more contemporary... if you're a musical set in the 80s and created in the 90s, why would you sound like you were written in the 50s (except, of course, for the poor attempt at rapping in the middle)? I think, for the most part, that most modern musical theatre composers have stopped doing that: we're living in the time we are living in, and they are, for the most part, writing music for that time. Unless you're Stephen Sondheim, who lives outside all music writing boundaries, it seems like you should write songs that either sound like the world we're in today, the world that the play is set it OR that are around a specific theme (even though I didn't enjoy Barnun AT ALL, at least it sounded like a circus the entire time, rather that sounding like an early 80s dance party).

That was my main problem. Other problems involved uninteresting melodies and uncreative lyrics (which seems to be a very common beef I have with musicals).

HOWEVER, the mom's song in Act 2, "Stop, Time" actually made me cry on my subway platform, and I have absolutely no idea why. I have no children. I think in general Act 2 is better than Act 1, and that's something that almost never happens in a musical.

Also, I can see why someone would WANT to make a musical based on such a good movie, but with few exceptions (mainly Heathers and a few others), I do not like musicals based on movies.

Big: the musical
Music by David Shire
Lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr.
Book by John Weidman

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

I didn't expect to like this (I thought it would be like Nunsense -- popular, but I couldn't understand why) and I definitely didn't expect to like it as much as I did.

Granted, there were several moments when The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas made me suuuuuper uncomfortable (most of the moments with the men singing about their excitement to go there or whatever), but I listened to this several times because I really liked it. At first it was like listening to the music that plays in the background of the Frontier area of Cedar Point, but... better. Because it hooked me in the first 20 seconds.

The music is interesting and sometimes, like, fucking AWESOME ("Twenty-Four Hours of Love"), and even list songs have a good, unexpected melody. Some of the songs are really heartbreaking. There is such a great mix of 70s funk and country. You wouldn't think they'd go so well together.

Why do I feel for these women? Because they've made them real. I really want to see this, because I'm sure it's hilarious, as well as everything else.

I mean, it ran for almost 1600 performances on Broadway and is produced ALL the time, so obviously people like it. And there's no reason not to.

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Music and Lyrics by Carol Hall
Book by Larry L. King, Peter Masterson

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Ben Franklin in Paris

I LOVE Ben Franklin. The character and the actual man. The #1 repeated character I play in improv scenes is Ben Franklin. (My "Ben Franklin" is nothing like the actual Ben Franklin, he just talks a lot about the things he's invented. Also, in case you were wondering, some of my other Hit Characters include "Rick from the Motorcycle Academy" (the Motorcycle Academy is a satellite branch of Harvard); J.R.R. Tolkien (who is similar to Franklin, because he only talks about WWI and hobbits); and the easiest one, Valley Girl Who Occasionally Says Something Really Deep.)

I had heard of this musical, but knew absolutely nothing about it (other than the obvious idea that it was about Benjamin Franklin when he went to Paris). The weirdest thing about it is that it was a few years after The Music Man, and Robert Preston (original, and quintessential, Harold Hill) is playing Ben Franklin.... so it just sounds like Harold Hill is going to Paris. It's not his fault. It's just the way he sounds. But they're really similar.

But who am I to talk, when MY Ben Franklin is so similar to my J.R.R. Tolkien??

I didn't really enjoy any of the songs, and I wanted to SO badly. I tried listening to this repeatedly to see if it would help, but it didn't. I am really learning that a musical has like 20 seconds, and if there isn't anything in those first 20 seconds that pulls me in, it's not going to at ALL. I still give them a chance, but there have been few exceptions to this.

Ben Franklin in Paris
Music by Mark Sandrich Jr. (one song by Jerry Herman)
Book and Lyrics by Sydney Michaels

Bells are Ringing

This is another musical I've known half the songs from basically my entire life, but never listened to the entire recording. We used to have this Broadway music channel on whatever version of music on demand with our cable provider we had in the late 90s. "Just in Time" would pop up frequently, as well as "Long Before I Knew You."

Basically, every song I had heard before (the main characters' songs), are great... the secondary characters' songs and ensemble songs are weird. And yes, it's a dated musical (the plot for BaR revolves around a woman who works for a telephone answering service. So, pre-voicemail, pre-caller ID, pre-home answering machine, etc), so it may be hard for the youngest theatre-goers to understand... but I don't think that means it should be unproduce-able (I may have just made that word up). There's plenty of things the youngest theatre-goers have a hard time understanding but we don't say THEY should never be performed again.

Anyway, Bells are Ringing is generally clever and funny, and it's a star vehicle for a female character actor, so it should be performed ALL the time. Amy Poehler would be an amazing Ella Peterson.

Bells are Ringing
Music by Jule Styne
Book and Lyrics by Betty Comden, Adolf Green