Sunday, August 29, 2010

Touhill Preview: THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

First of all, let me just start off by saying that you can get some pretty interesting looks when you're listening to cast recordings in the car with the windows down.  "Yeah, I'm listening to some GREY GARDENS!  You gotta problem with that?!?"  Geez…

Anyway, THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS has recently popped up on the radar (C.S. Lewis' novel adapted for the stage by Jeffrey Fiske and Max McLean).  This play is enjoying an open run in NYC and stars Max McLean as Screwtape -- McLean will take a short break from the New York production to perform the role in St. Louis -- and I'm really kind of annoyed that I'm not going to be able to go.  I've got an HRC Dinner Gala to go to that night.  <--- Ah… see that's where I reveal a bit more about myself.  Now there's like a little bond between us!  There will be two showings -- 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. for one day only -- September 25.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fox Preview: SOUTH PACIFIC

Last week PBS aired a "Live from Lincoln Center" broadcast of SOUTH PACIFIC.  This show with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and book by Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, debuted in 1949 and is considered by many to be one of the greatest musicals of all time.   

It was revived on Broadway in 2008 and was initially supposed to be a limited run, but ended up going for two years -- it closed a couple of days ago, on August 22.  The revival won seven Tony Awards when it opened and the original production won ten as well as the Pulitzer Prize.  I watched the broadcast to see what was up, honestly thinking I would be kinda bored, regardless of the number of songs from it that have become classics like "Bali Ha'i", "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair", "Some Enchanted Evening", "There is Nothing Like a Dame" and "Happy Talk".  Well, I was really charmed by it.  I was also unaware of the fact that this show dealt with racism as much as it did.  Pretty ballsy for a musical from the late 40's.

As you may have guessed, the setting is an island in the South Pacific during World War II.  A young Navy nurse, Nellie Forbush, falls for an older Frenchman named Emile de Becque.  I love how in musicals people can fall in love during the course of a two and a half minute song.  Then there's the handsome Lieutenant Cable who arrives on the island to head a mission to try to spy on the Japanese.  He's set up with Liat, the daughter of a Tonkinese "entrepreneur" called "Bloody Mary".  Things go sour though when Nellie finds out that Emile has two children by his Polynesian wife who has since passed.  Then those Little Rock roots come out and she starts to have second thoughts -- just as Lt. Cable has second thoughts about bringing a Tonkinese girl home.  There's a song called "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught" where Cable explains to Emile that prejudice is not something you're born with -- it's something you have to learn.  That song may seem a bit ordinary nowadays, but again, ballsy for its time.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

MAN OF LA MANCHA • Insight Theatre Company

8.20.2010

Tonight after a lovely dinner with my favorite Jew, Amy Fenster Brown, we headed to Heagney Theatre to check out Insight Theatre Company's production of MAN OF LA MANCHA (book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh).  Heagney Theatre at Nerinx Hall in Webster Groves is a nice little space with around 350 seats.  Not really a bad seat in there.  I'd never been in there before, nor had I seen this show, that debuted in 1965.

So, it's Spanish Inquisition time and our protagonist Miguel de Cervantes -- poet, playwright, actor and tax collector -- has been thrown into the slammer for foreclosing on a church that failed to pay its taxes.  A Catholic church.  Not the best move during the Inquisition.  Upon arrival, the other prisoners inform Cervantes and his attendant that before he faces the Inquisition, he must face a mock trial by his fellow inmates.  If they find him guilty, they get all of his belongings.  In an effort to save his stuff, most importantly his cherished manuscript, he agrees and offers as his defense, a play.  The prisoners agree -- I mean, who cold turn down a little entertainment when you're awaiting the Inquisition -- and with them joining in, the play within the play begins.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Heart EVITA

So, I'm a little obsessed with EVITA (Thank you, New Line Theatre).  Yes, I know -- I'm quite late to the party.  I know this thing has been around for forever, but this happens every now and again (okay, it happens a lot) when I see a show that I've never seen before, and fall in love with the music and/or the story. In this case I fell for both.

I got the Original Broadway Cast Recording in the mail a few days ago, and have been listening to the piss out of it.  With very little dialogue, this rock opera has such a mix of styles I never get bored.

Okay, bear with me -- one of the first songs in the show, “Requiem for Evita/Oh, What a Circus”, is a great example.  In this song, Che (our cynical narrator) begins by reflecting on the hysterics that ensue in Argentina after the announcement of Eva Perón’s passing.
Okay, here we go...

- After the opening "Requiem", which is very requiemy... requiemesque... requiemish...? you hear for the first time the most recognizable leitmotif in the show at 3min. 03sec.
- Later, it goes into this kind of contemporary rock thing (well, contemporary for the 70's) at 5min. 22sec.  Che is angry...
- That goes right into this beautiful choral action a minute later at 6min. 22sec.
- And my favorite, they bust out into some orchestral splendor after which I immediately get chills at 7min 08sec. Yay tympani!!
- Oh yeah, and then Patti LuPone sings right around 8min., repeating the musical theme we hear Che sing at the beginning that's carried through that orchestral part.

The musical themes are so distinct that after a short while, when you hear them you immediately feel a sense of familiarity.  Like Les Miz or Sweeney Todd.  You know what those themes are connected to, and that always pulls me deeper into the story.  Love...  Not only that, but the show really seems to do justice to the weight of Eva's life, instead of relying on some cliche ending to bring it all together at the end -- like the unfortunate PIRATE QUEEN.

*sigh*  THE PIRATE QUEEN...  Oh well, that's another post.

Thanks for reading!   Until next time...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Soundtracks vs. Recordings and Other Ramblings

Yeah, those serious theatre folks can really get their panties in a knot about referring to cast recordings as soundtracks.  "Soundtracks accompany films. Cast Recordings refer to the recording of a stage show's songs.  The phrase 'Broadway Soundtrack' is a contradiction!  If live theatre had a soundtrack, it wouldn't be live theatre!  YOU MORON!!"  Yep, that's what they say...

So anyhoo, I recently bought the original Broadway cast recording of THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  I was actually looking for the soundtrack but they didn't have it.  I was a little apprehensive because the soundtrack was so strongly seared into my brain I was afraid I might be a little let down.  As mentioned a couple of posts ago, the realization that there would be no marionettes in the stage version was a bitter pill.  I got the cd anyway, thinking it would be nice to have the lesser listened-to 1959 original.

Did it sound different?  Sure.  But I really like it.  I mean you know, for the most part.  I'm still a little partial to Julie Andrews over Mary Martin, the tempos are a little slower and I miss the extra music breaks and kids singing along more during "The Lonely Goatherd", but whatever.  There are always little variations here and there that make listening to different versions interesting.  The songs still make me happy and there's such a nice full orchestra.
... ... ...

Aw hell, who am I kidding?  I'll probably order the soundtrack before the week is out.
:)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

EVITA • New Line Theatre

7.31.2010

Last night -- EVITA (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice), presented by New Line Theatre, the "Bad Boy" of musical theatre here in the Lou.

Now first off, I can't tell you how wonderful it was, after seeing a couple of things recently at the Muny with its 11,000 seats, to be back in the intimate 210 seat Washington University South Campus Theatre.  There's something about small venues I'm tellin' ya.  To me, theatre is all about getting your visceral experience on.  I think a degree of that tends to get lost in huge houses, but those smaller theatres where it's right in your face?  Love...  Also, at the start of the second act as the lights were dimming, I could hear a couple of audience members politely shushing their neighbors.  I like that.  In other words, STFU.

It had been awhile since I'd seen a New Line show, and I was once again reminded of how great their productions are, no matter how downsized they might be.  I'd also never seen EVITA before and this company did not disappoint.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC • The Muny

7.30.2010

It’s been a Muny kind of week!

Last night, I saw THE SOUND OF MUSIC under the stars at, once again, the Muny.  A musical about the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany?  Why not?!

Of course it’s about much more than just that.  This Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that opened on Broadway in 1959 focuses on Maria Rainer, a postulant turned governess to the seven children of a military man.  In the process of finding out whether or not she is ready for the monastic life, Maria wins over the kids, reintroduces music back into the family and melts the heart of their father, Baron von Trapp.  Aww…

CATS • The Muny

7.25.2010

Hey, it’s my first post!

So, I saw CATS this weekend at the Muny.  I’ve had my issues with the Muny.  Sure, it’s the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor theatre and has a long and established history.  No question, St. Louis is lucky to have it, but all forms of theatre etiquette seem to go bye-bye when you’re outdoors.  I went anyway with a couple good friends of mine for two reasons:

1. CATS, (composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber) was one of the first musicals I’d ever seen so I have a little soft spot for it.

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