Thursday, April 7, 2016

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I mean, I listened to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I had no feelings about it because nothing got me interested. I didn't grow up with the original movie, so there wasn't even a tie-in to my emotions there.

The Sherman brothers (look them up) wrote some classic tunes, most of which were for Disney. The songs all sound the same, and although in small doses, that's fine, and even often joyous, in a musical, it's just repetitive.

Also, this show makes no sense. The car is alive? It's a miracle? What is it??

When I was a child I used to have a reoccurring nightmare that I was in a car alone and it would drive off by itself. I think this is a COMMON childhood nightmare. I just can't see ever wanting to see a show where my nightmare essentially came true.

Trivia: the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car is the most expensive prop ever created for the stage!

Chris, who did grow up with the movie, told me this scene with the wonderful Dick Van Dyke, was worth watching, and I agree, so here's a video.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Music and Lyrics by Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Book by Jerry Sams

Children of Eden

Of all the shows I've been in, Children of Eden is the one I talk about the least. I mean, it's fine, our production was fine, but it's long, and only parts of it are really worth talking about. And I have a lot of questions after revisiting it.

Even some people who are religious often agree that many parts of the old testament were stories, written to teach lessons. Think of the bible as a BOOK to be interpreted, not as a history (I know that if you already don't do this, ASKING to you do this in my musical theatre blog will do nothing). People have always blamed Eve for eating that apple and getting mankind kicked out of Eden. People  are like... still angry about it (as if it actually happened). Then the REALLY hardcore people are in turn mad at ALL women, because they believe that all women are Eve and it's our fault they're not in Eden (forgetting, of course, that if they believe that, that they, too, are descended from Eve, and should be mad at themselves).

This of course makes no sense, but it's even talked about in the Chronicles of Narnia, so it's not like I'm making it up. People are weird. But people should be HAPPY that she ate the apple. Even in this silly musical, Adam or "Father" or whoever asks Eve if she could take back what she did, would she do it... and she says that even though she hates being able to feel pain, she would not take it back. She can see clearly. She is able to gain insight and knowledge.

There is no way to have a perfect life. If you're "in Eden" you're basically living in denial about everything else. You can do that and be happy... but it's not a true happiness, based on experiences and knowledge.

So, whatever, that's my take on this story. I do think the original story set a precedence for women who want answers, though. We are a very curious sex.

So, while listening to Children of Eden you basically have to just hang on until you get to the few good songs. Those are, "Spark of Creation," "Lost in the Wilderness," "Stranger to the Rain," and "Ain't it Good?" (sometimes including "In Whatever Time We Have" if you're feeling sentimental and "Wasteland" is kind of interesting, too). There isn't too much interesting about the rest of the musical, most of which is sung through.

You can REALLY hear Stephen Schwartz in this show. He wrote it, so... duh... I guess.. but you can really hear everything he did and everything that was yet to come in the music.

In conclusion, Children of Eden would probably get a C-.

Children of Eden
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz
Book by John Caird


As you read from my entry on the musical about cats, Chicago has a perfect overture. It is one of the best overtures of all time. It makes you want to dance and unless you have no soul, it awakens all your senses (even your sense of SMELL)! Luckily, the overture is not the only good thing about Chicago, because this musical is pretty much perfect.

I was just getting in to musical theatre when the revival of Chicago opened on Broadway (and it's still running today, 20+ years later). I played that CD for hours, not knowing at the time that singing along in my room or car was the closest I would ever get to being in the actual show. I am sadly not a dancer (except in musical improv where I am an incredible dancer) and therefore, this is a show I can never be in. Well, until I am Mama Morton type. And yeah, that'll be FINE, but I'm not looking forward to it.

I would LOVE to play Roxie. I would be so good as Roxie (if I could dance it). I would also be so good at Velma (if I could dance it). If I could dance it, I would be so good as ANY of the "Cellblock Tango" girls.

Sigh. Oh, well. But, look: Chris and I have to move and buy a car soon, so you can catch one of my performances there. I also performed the shit out of "All That Jazz" in my bathroom recently.

I had the revival cast recording growing up, which is great, as is the original cast recording (and I can't BELIEVE the original didn't do better. Stupid audiences of the 70s not knowing what was good). Chita Rivera, who as you know by now, is a GIFT, is the best Velma ever (even though Bebe Neuwirth gives a solid, A+ performance -- Chita is just a better singer). With Roxie, the verdict is more split: Ann Reinking is a better singer, but god almighty, that monologue before the song "Roxie" is delivered with perfection by Gwen Verdon. I like both Jerry Orbach and James Naughton as Billy Flynn. Joel Grey, in my opinion, is the better Amos.

I love so much about Chicago. The music, obviously, is great. The choreography, by the master, Bob Fosse, is great. The book and story are funny and dark (but not TOO dark), and there's no message*, which is GREAT. I tend to like things with a message more, but when you've got a show as good as Chicago, who the F cares?

Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse

To see the brilliance of every part of Chicago in one scene, watch this clip from the revival.

*Ok, there's a little bit of a message (you know, about the media and making a show out of people's lives, lawyers who spin things, etc)


So many people I talk to hate Chess. I've never seen it, and honestly, if I did, I would probably hate it too, but it was one of the first musicals I bought myself (I don't know why) and it was the FIRST musical where I found out that a mezzo-soprano could be the female lead... or even the ONLY voice part for women. That was a big thing to a girl who was being forced by her first voice teacher to learn classical soprano but was, and wanted to be, a belter.

There are several recording of Chess and you'll get a different experience by listening to any of them because the play has changed so many times. As we know from the musicals that proceeded this, any time you have to revise the book every time a new production is put on, you know it has a weak book. I grew up with the Broadway cast (starring Judy Kuhn, who is so great, as Florence). I have tried to work all the female songs from Chess into my repertoire at some point but no one ever supports this decision. I think "Nobody's Side" is SUCH a great pop song and the "Mountain Duet"/"Terrace Duet" has these killer harmonies... I don't even mind how overly dramatic the music is to this show.

The London recording, which came first, is surprisingly the better recording (something I'll probably never say again). Elaine Paige is INCREDIBLE as Florence, and, for once in my life, I don't even mind the fact that Murray Head's vocals have so many effects on them. (But HOW does that work in the actual theater??) My favorite part of the entire recording is the guitar solo* at the end of "Pity the Child" -- PLEASE let that have happened on stage! Oh my God, this guy plays the craziest solo in theatre history and it's SO GOOD and all I'm imagining is what could be happening on stage while this solo is happening. I hope it wan't just for the recording, and that they did do the solo during the show, and that there was just highly stylized chess playing happening.

There is a 2009 concert version of Chess that I urge you to never listen to. It's the most complete recording as far as I can tell and it is hilariously bad. I don't know what they were doing. It's full of A+ talent, and yet, somehow, it's just awful.

So, look, if you like legitimate rock music, which I obviously do, you might like some parts of Chess.   It was written by the ABBA guys, so, it's relatively legitimate. I like rock AND I like ABBA, so there was basically no way for me to not like Chess. It's not the best, but at least it was an original story, and I do think it is underrated.

Music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus
Lyrics by Tim Rice and Björn Ulvaeus
Book by Tim Rice or Richard Nelson

*listen to this crazy guitar solo. I love it so much.