Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beautiful Chord Progressions Kick Ass

Okay so, I was listening to THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA a couple of days ago, and had forgotten how much I love "The Music of the Night".

What?

Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman
© Really Useful Group
I'm not sure why so many people hate this show.  Maybe it's backlash against the success the show has had.  Maybe people just don't care for Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Maybe it's a prejudice against specters.  Maybe the hate comes from the women who have actually had to sing this stuff.  But again, I love spectacle.  A subterranean lake with tons of dry ice, elaborate costumes and a crashing chandelier?  I'm in.  The music is big with a butt-load of strings and french horns, which I also love.  I'm sure many consider it just a bunch of style over substance -- I can understand that, but whatev.  That's the great thing about theatre -- there's room for everything, right?  Did I mention the subterranean lake and lush orchestrations?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

MASTER CLASS • Stray Dog Theatre

Stray Dog Theatre is kicking off its 8th season with MASTER CLASS, a 1995 Tony Award winning play by Terrence McNally, here under the careful direction of Gary F. Bell.  It was inspired by a series of master classes given at the Juilliard School of Music in the early 70's by Maria Callas, one of the greatest opera singers of the 20th century.

From what I've read, in addition to being a solid operatic actress with great depth of feeling and an impressive vocal range that was instantly recognizable, she was also reportedly a temperamental diva who was at the center of controversy and scandal later in her career.  As a result of her possibly reaching too far too fast, taking on vocally demanding roles, and not having the benefit of early formal training, her career was cut short by the age of around 40 when her voice began to decline.  It's around this time when McNally's fictional account takes place.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yay Stephen Sondheim Theatre!

Today marks a very special day in my book.  It's the day when the marquee of the newly dedicated Stephen Sondheim Theatre is unveiled and lighted at a 6:30 PM ceremony at 124 W. 43rd Street in Manhattan's Theatre district.

Stephen Sondheim is a huge part of why I love musical theatre.  He also has a lot to do with why some popular contemporary music has become oftentimes as boring as a box of rocks to me.  After listening to Sondheim shows filled with unpredictable melodies, brilliant lyrics and beautifully layered orchestrations (love to Jonathan Tunick),  I have become one of those people who listens to NPR or musicals in the car.  Yeah.  I'm one of those.  

Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics for ROAD SHOW, PASSION, ASSASSINS, INTO THE WOODS, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE, MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, SWEENEY TODD, PACIFIC OVERTURES, THE FROGS, A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, FOLLIES, COMPANY, ANYONE CAN WHISTLE and A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, as well as the lyrics for WEST SIDE STORY, GYPSY and DO I HEAR A WALTZ?  I'm sure I'm leaving a few out, but regardless, he's the bomb.  And no, I'm not really sure why I always feel the need to capitalize the names of shows.  Adds gravitas maybe…

Monday, September 13, 2010

SHREK THE MUSICAL • The Fox

I was doubtful.  I mean, I truly believe that there's room for everything when it comes to theatre, but sometimes things can get lost in screen-to-stage musical adaptations -- particularly when you're dealing with animated movies.  Character development and plot can give way to overdone gags and spectacle, which may be fine for the kids, but may leave the adults wanting a little more substance over theme park.  Then I remembered that hey, I kinda liked the movie when I saw it years ago.  Not only that, but I have no problem admitting that I love stagecraft.  Bring it -- smoke machines, gigantic set pieces, witches on cherry pickers -- I'll sit there with my mouth hangin' half open for minutes on end.

Luckily, in The Fabulous Fox Theatre's season opener, there was not only a fair bit of stagecraft, but a relatively decent plot behind DreamWorks' first musical venture, SHREK THE MUSICAL (music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire).  The tale is one that is quite familiar -- "You can't always read a book by its cover", "It's what's inside that counts", "What makes you different makes you special"… you know.  But this show was able to deliver these lessons with sincerity, as opposed to assaulting you with a ton of eye-candy to distract you from the fact that there's really nothing else going on at the core.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

EQUUS • HotCity Theatre

Giddyup psychodrama!

If anyone has any doubts about the variety and quality of theatre we have here in the Lou, they should make tracks to the Kranzberg Arts Center to check out HotCity Theatre's production of EQUUS.  I saw this last night with a couple of friends and I.  Loved.  It.

The play, written in 1973 by Peter Shaffer, was recently revived in NYC with Harry Pott… I mean Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths.  Here in St. Louis, it's admirably directed by Doug Finlayson.  The play centers on Alan Strang, a young English stable boy who has blinded six horses with a metal spike, and his psychiatrist Martin Dysart, who is talked into taking him on as a patient.  Buckle up, right?

What would drive a 17 year old boy to commit such a violent act against animals he loved -- animals he'd come to worship as deities?  As Dysart tries to find the answer to this question, and the details of Alan's life are revealed in a series of therapy sessions and flashbacks, we learn about both characters.  We learn about Alan, and how apparently, living with a mother who's a religious zealot and a father who's a restrained atheist can really mess with your head.  And we learn about Dr. Dysart, the man trying to figure him out.  In the process of dissecting his patient, slowly winning his trust, Dysart uncovers not only how the combination of societal, religious and sexual influences (with a little shame thrown in) have affected the mind of this kid, but the doctor also comes to realize that "curing" him would be in a sense, for him, breaking Alan's spirit -- a spirit and passion the doctor feels he has never known.  Does "normal and well-adjusted" = "happy and fulfilled"?  It's kinda heavy, dude.

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