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Friday, November 26, 2010

I Heart ASSASSINS

First of all, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Second, I don't mean I literally love assassins -- that would be messed-up.  I mean I love the musical ASSASSINS.  It's the latest recording I've been listening to non-stop, and I wanted to share.  And, it's the holiday season, and I'm in Little Rock Arkansas with not much else going on so…

Here's the skinny:  ASSASSINS is a lesser known musical with music and lyrics by my hero, Stephen Sondheim, that takes a look at some of the more notable individuals who have attempted to take, or have taken, the life of a US President.  Debuting off-Broadway in 1990, it received a Broadway production in 2004.  I was first introduced to this gem via a staging at New Line Theatre a few years ago, and promptly bought the original cast recording.


2004 Broadway production
This black comedy of a show pokes holes in, or shoots bullets through, one of the great American myths: Anyone can grow up to be President.  Well, that's not really true is it?  For those who have found the American Dream out of their reach, perhaps a .38 Smith & Wesson is easier to come by.  This show doesn't glorify these successful and unsuccessful assassins, nor does it ask you to sympathize with them, but it does attempt to show you where they're coming from.  While they're considered enemies of society, they're also undeniably products of it as well.

Monday, November 15, 2010

SOUTH PACIFIC • The Fox

Well, now I can mark a classic off the list -- I've seen SOUTH PACIFIC in person.  I posted an entry about this show when the revival was aired on a PBS "Live from Lincoln Center" broadcast here.  Since this will be a second viewing, I guess I'll just hit the highlights, shall I?

As the "About" section on this blog suggests, thanks to my wonderful parents, classical music is really my first love, so the fact that this show is traveling with a big-ass 26 piece orchestra -- yay!  There really is some absolutely beautiful music in this show, and a gorgeous overture.  I wet my pants a little.  Sadly, some seated around me still don't realize that the overture is part of the show, which annoys me.  I may have to post a whole separate entry about that soon…

From what I've read, this show (that debuted in 1949) did its part in addressing some major social issues for its time.  Set in the South Pacific during WWI, we have a Navy Nurse, Nellie Forbush, and an Officer, Lt. Cable, who find themselves falling for people of a different race.  I did notice this time around how all of the black "seabees" were always huddled together, away from the white officers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

OLD ROCK HOUSE PREVIEW: Stew from PASSING STRANGE

It's not every day you get to see a Tony winner in a really intimate venue, but this Thursday, Stew from PASSING STRANGE will be at the Old Rock House.  Stew authored the show’s book and lyrics, composed (with Heidi Rodewald) its music, and was the lead guitarist and musical narrator too.

PASSING STRANGE, a rock ’n’ roll musical about an artist in search of himself made a big splash in 2008.  There really wasn't anything like it on Broadway at the time, and its high-spirited, passionate presentation was lauded by the critics for daring to be different -- doing its share to redefine what musical theatre is.

Drawn from Stew's experiences, this show follows a character called Youth, as he makes tracks out of his middle-class Los Angeles surroundings, and heads to the hash cafes of Amsterdam and the artists' community in Berlin.  Along this coming-of-age journey, Stew interjects insightful, wry commentary as he looks at himself as he once was.

Additional info. about Stew can be found here.

Check it out this Thursday, and enjoy this clip from their Tony Award performance!

Monday, November 8, 2010

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT • Muddy Waters Theatre

Eugene O'Neill's plays are no joke.  They tend to drift toward tragedy, where life guarantees struggle, and people born into this world are doomed.  LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, a semi autobiographical drama, is considered to be his masterpiece, and it's currently receiving a striking production from Muddy Waters Theatre.

The play takes a look at a day in the life of the Tyrone family at their Connecticut summer home, starting at around 8:30 on an August morning in 1912.  First there's James Tyrone (Robert Ashton), the patriarch of the family.  At one time he showed promise as a Shakespearean actor, but he chose to join a more lucrative touring production that travelled from city to city doing one-night stands.  Now he's a third-rate actor, and an alcoholic miser.  He has two sons, also alcoholics.  Jamie (Joshua Thomas), followed in his father's footsteps pursuing a career in theatre, but in the eyes of his dad he's little more than a "Broadway loafer", content to sponge off of the family for his drinking and whoring around.  The youngest, Edmund (Aaron Baker, representing Eugene O'Neill), is the sensitive one -- a poet with a fondness for Nietzsche, Ibsen and Baudelaire.  He also has a horrible cough -- a likely sign of consumption in those days.  Last but not least, there's the matriarch, Mary (Kari Ely).  She has recently been released from a sanatorium, put there for the treatment of her morphine addiction of many years.  After she's released, her decline doesn't take long as Edmund's cough persists, and her need to escape returns.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

MARRY ME A LITTLE • Citilites Theatre

Stephen Sondheim isn't one to shirk away from addressing complicated emotions.  In fact, he usually looks them dead in the face with an insightful honesty, tempered with humor and wit.  So many of his songs examine that human tendency toward connection, and the fact that there aren't always happy endings.

These themes run throughout Citilites' production of MARRY ME A LITTLE, directed by Seth Ward Pyatt.  This one-act musical revue uses a collection of Sondheim's “trunk songs”.  Some were cut from shows like FOLLIES, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, COMPANY and A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.  Others were written for shows that never caught on.

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