Monday, April 25, 2011

Patter Songs Kick Ass • "Model Behavior" from WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

Okay so, this week I got my OBCR of WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN in the mail.  I posted a blog about it when I saw it in the Big Apple, and at the time I wasn't completely sold on David Yazbek's music and lyrics.  Well, after listening to the recording (a few times), I like it much more than I did.  It's grown on me -- you know how that happens sometimes.  It was assumed that there wouldn't be a cast recording at all -- closing early and everything -- but the powers that be decided to go for it.  Luckily.  But the song that left one of the biggest impressions in NYC is still my favorite -- a fantastic little patter song called "Model Behavior".
In this number, Pepa (Sherie Rene Scott), who's just been through a painful break-up, has come home to an answering machine bursting with messages from her best friend Candela (Laura Benanti), a fashion model.  See, she is desperately trying to reach Pepa because not only is Candela in love…  again…  but is afraid her newest boyfriend may be a terrorist.

Laura Benanti (Candela)
WOMEN ON THE VERGE
OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN

It's a great tune with some interesting music and orchestrations.  I would suggest listening with earphones.  I know I know, but seriously -- you can hear the bassline better.  This song confirms my belief that patter songs are a lovely thing, and Laura Benanti is a goddess…

Enjoy!



BONUS TRACK!!
I just think this number, "On The Verge" is cool too.  That's all.  More bassline love, and the harmonies, and that subtle string action in the background around 1 min. and 48 sec. --  love…  Enjoy this, too!



Saturday, April 23, 2011

AWAKE AND SING! • New Jewish Theatre

This Clifford Odets play debuted in NYC at the Belasco Theatre in 1935.  To me, it's a little "slice of life" kind of action, where you're dropped into the world of this lower-middle-class Depression-era Jewish family, and you get to be a fly on the wall of their lives over the course of a year or so.

Welcome to the Bronx and the Berger family.  In the 1930's, America didn't seem to live up to its reputation of being the land of opportunity.  For this family, it's a land where making ends meet is a daily struggle.  Their cramped tenement apartment houses three generations.  First there's the matriarch, Bessie (Elizabeth Townsend), a domineering selfish mother who manipulates the lives of everyone in the place, willing to do whatever it takes to ensure a future for the family, regardless of the cost to her children's aspirations.  Her submissive husband Myron (Gary Wayne Barker) is content to do what his wife wants, enduring her insults and is frankly hilarious in delivering his timid lines.  Hilarious, but kind of sad too.  There's also their children Hennie (Julie Layton), whose hopes for a better life are dashed with an unwanted pregnancy, and Ralph (Aaron Orion Baker), desperately trying to escape his family's economic misfortunes, hanging his hopes on a girl he's completely smitten with.  To him, she's "like French words."  Grandpa Jacob (Bobby Miller), a Marxist and retired barber also lives in the apartment, and urges his grandson to aspire to be something.  To fight, so "life shouldn’t be printed on dollar bills.”  The Bergers have also taken in a boarder, Moe Axelrod (Jason Cannon), a cynical veteran who lost his leg in WWI.  He's got a little thing for Hennie, but you'd never know it given his incredibly misogynistic tendencies.  His antagonistic relationship with Hennie is fun to watch.  At one point, Hennie tells Moe, "For two cents, I'd spit in your eye!"  There's also Bessie's successful but swarmy brother Morty (Jerry Vogel) who drops by every now and then, and Hennie's eventual immigrant husband Sam (Jordan Reinwald).  Over the course of this play, we're witness to how the hard times have effected this family and how they each, in their own way, battle for a better life -- by hook or by crook.

Monday, April 18, 2011

TILL WE HAVE FACES • Mustard Seed Theatre

TILL WE HAVE FACES is a novel by C.S. Lewis that retells the myth of Cupid and Psyche.  There are variations of this myth, but (very) basically, it goes something like this:  The goddess Venus becomes jealous of Psyche's astounding mortal beauty.  She orders her son Cupid to fly to her and with the aid of his golden arrows, cause her to fall in love with a beast (or not to fall in love at all), but upon seeing her, Cupid falls in love with Psyche, and has her carried away to his palace.  Cupid visits her each night for a little, you know, but asks that she never try to see his face, or discover his true form.  After the prodding of Psyche's jealous sisters, who convince her that she may well have been sleeping with a monster, she does succeed in seeing his face one night, and discovers his identity and falls even more deeply in love with him.  In the process though, Cupid wakes up and sees that Psyche has defied his order, and banishes her from his palace.  Psyche seeks atonement and Venus gives her four impossible tasks that Psyche completes, and she and Cupid live happily ever after.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

NEXT TO NORMAL • The Fox

So, I'm not even sure where to begin.

Those who know me are well aware of the fact that I fell in love with this musical a couple of years ago when I saw it in NYC (twice), and I was euphoric when I found out that it would be included in this year's Fox Theatre season.  Not only could my friends finally see what all the fuss was about, but they would get to see it with my girlfriend, I mean, the 2009 Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award winner (winning for this very role), Alice Ripley.

I was very curious to see the reaction from St. Louis audiences to this show.  I distinctly remember last March when AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY was here and proved too much for some to handle, with many unfortunate walk-outs at intermission.  Although there is a good amount of humor in NEXT TO NORMAL, like AUGUST…, this show deals with some major shit -- bipolar disorder, pharmaceutical "treatments", grief, suicidal impulses -- and it does so with a relentless honesty.  Really grabs you by the throat.  But unlike AUGUST…, this is a musical -- a contemporary musical with its style drifting more towards SPRING AWAKENING rather than your Rodgers and Hammerstein type fare.  I didn't think I would like it initially because I knew there weren't going to be any french horns or anything, but those preconceptions were quickly forgotten once I was sucked in to this bold roller coaster ride of a show.  The New York Times called it not a feel-good musical, but a "feel-everything musical" when it debuted on Broadway in April of 2009.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

THE DEATH OF ATAHUALPA • Upstream Theater

I had no idea what to expect seeing this show.  See, this story is one that has been orally handed down through generations in the Andes Mountains in the language of the Incas -- Quechua.  It's receiving its world debut in English here in St. Louis, and chronicles the story of, that's right, you guessed it, the death of Atahualpa, the last of the lords of the Inca.  Spanish conquistadors captured him, took him for ransom, and killed him in 1533, spurring the decline of the Incan Empire.

A wonderfully fitting tone is set as you walk into the theatre, as members of the Latin band, Son de America, play Andean music and cast members engage with each other on the Kranzberg's sparse black set.  What unfolds in the next hour is a unique theatrical presentation of this age old folkloric tale.

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