Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It Gives you something to think about...something to drink about!

William Finn says on the Infinite Joy recording something to the extent of "a well made song gives me infinite joy" I think that's pretty spot on. I was listening (well I am now as well) to playbill radio last night and they played "With a Little bit of Luck." Which besides being an awesome song is clever witty crisp and perfectly fitted for the character. If you haven't read On the Street Where I Live and you're reading this blog, stop reading this blog and go find a copy of Alan Jay Lerner's autobiographical account of working on My Fair Lady, Gigi, and Camelot. He was a crazy little man who married like 5 times and was obsessed with ESP (On a clear dayyyyyyyyy) anyway it's an amazing book. And if you're still reading this which means you haven't stopped to find the book then you wont mind if I give away one of the highlight stories. So the song Gigi is nominated for best song for the Oscars. There's Alan Jay Lerner sitting in the audience and whoever they got to sing the song starts to sing and blanks on all the words. He sang, "Gigi lalala dododo lalala dodododo lalalala" For a whole verse!

Speaking of amazing forgetful moments I have three words "Leslie Ugums June" I think that's probably all you have to type into YouTube to see Leslie make one of the biggest flubs taped live.

What I really started to think about today was why I like musicals. Lots of people like lots of things. Why do I like musicals? So many people hate or have no feeling toward them at all. But what is the underlying core that makes it so appealing. Here are some of my ideas:
1) Passion. I'm sort of an emotional person and music is a very emotional experience. It takes a moment in time, a feeling, or any shared experience and extends it to it's most passionate expression.
2) History. I love the history. Maybe for the reasons above or maybe for others but there have been passionate enough to create this art form and they've been doing it for over a century. This is sort of circular, I love history when it's musicalized and I love musical history. It seems there have always been very driven gifted people who have been able to advance the musical to really reach people.
3) Storytelling. Musical Theatre is one of many forms of storytelling, but it is unique in that it songs are infectious. They convey passion but they also can be passed and taught through their lyrics. Kids learn the alphabet by singing. Sometimes we learn other things from songs, I can't help but think that there were songs that got us through times of strife that did so because in their original form they helped characters. They tell a story of people and coping and musical can heal the soul.

Anyway, that's all just musings. Nothing too important. But "To Life" just came on playbill radio and nothing could have made me happier....does that make sense?


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

To Sodomy it's Between God and Me To S&M

Today my boss asked me to look up Rent Jr and order a perusal copy. I would have looked at him quizzically but found the question so completely foreign that I decided it would be embarrassing to show him my "what the fuck are you talking about" face. However one does exist, and I wasn't entirely surprised to find this out. My first incline was to look up the license on MTI, because they have made a bundle on these junior and school editions. Sure enough they've got rent but no word on a junior or school edition. Search the web and low and behold the first page to pop up is a yahoo questions page where someone asks about the existence of such things. Apparently it does exist and there are a few high schools that will be premiering it this fall.
I'm still not entirely shocked because about two months ago I got an email announcing the impending Avenue Q Jr. edition. Thrilling but also concerning.
While the well informed high school students on the yahoo page assured us that there are no major songs cut (besides "Contact" thank god) and just small lyric changes and versus have been made to original script. I'm inclined to believe all this because I have to say that MTI's school edition of Les Mis is really well done. No major plot points cut, not even much recitative, just a verse here and there that made the original show too long anyway. It is careful and graceful in it's cuts and we all appreciate it. But Les Mis is not Rent, and Rent is no Avenue Q. And we are faced with a question.
While highly popular, can these school and junior editions of popular shows hold the interest of the kids, maintain their creative integrity, and please parents. It seems to me Rent maybe has more of a chance than Avenue Q. Rent, oddly enough, I believe with a couple of lyric changes and a little less sex onstage that would be a great thing to get the kids of today performing, so their parents can learn something....and maybe that holds true of Rent too. But Rent has become dated (Christopher Columbus seems to think it's even older that it really is) and it's about older people. And we all hope any 19 year olds in the show aren't crack whores in real life. Rent and Avenue Q are entirely different kettles of fish than Les Mis. Les Mis is tried and true and spans the generations, young and old have been so obsessed that even the premature revival is still running in New York. Rent, while ever popular is not a young and old pleaser...it's just a young please, and even those young aren't so young anymore. Spring Awakening is this generations Rent. The baby boomer generation didn't grow up with it, there is no love for it the way their is for Les Mis which they loved in the theatre and will cry when they see their kids perform it. I'm very interested to see how it all turns out. It could be really really good, for the whole theatre community, or it could push us back years...a little like High School Musical....
Avenue Q are so intense in their drama and their stressful lives that , I feel, is a whole other story. Avenue Q is satire for one....which sadly enough high schoolers can't quite get a grips of. My greatest joy was doing Once Upon A Mattress in high school, and my greatest sorrow was that nobody understood how funny it was. High schoolers eat up angsty pieces like Spring Awakening and Rent. While I know Avenue Q is popular amongst almost any young person that hears it, performing it is an entirely separate matter. 1) Puppets 2) Sex 3) Almost every song title. Having also read opinions on the matter of Avenue Q Jr. it seems that the puppets are a large concern. Yes professional puppeteers were originally cast, but all the people I know who have gotten fairly far in the callback process for the show have not been puppeteers, they aren't searching for that they willing to teach. So my opinion is that high schoolers given the challenge of puppetry would rise to the occasion, I can even see them building their own puppets with great effectiveness....it's the major themes of the show that I think will make it more difficult. There is the matter of the satire, but also the shear subject matter wouldn't get past the most lenient school district. I can't imagine how, "The Internet is For Porn," "You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want When You're Making Love," and "Special" will retain any of their original intent and become clean enough for a high school stage.
So those are my main concerns. I don't think they are of much validity seeing as I have not read a perusal, nor can one as I discovered this morning. But believe me, should I get a copy of either of those scripts in my hot little hand, I will tell all!
As a matter of high school shows in general I happened to be at my Alma Marta yesterday when my band teacher asked for suggestions for musicals. It's a small school, with a small black box space and only a small band, no full orchestra. While I went through all my suggestions (many of which I could tell they had never heard of) I felt somewhat heartened that I knew better than they what would serve the school (I'm such a snob). But then I found out today that the show everyone most wants to do is Into the Woods. So I just finished a summer of Into the Woods, and while I originally thought the Junior version was a disgrace for simply cutting the second half of the show.....after seeing the whole thing 10 times....I no longer think just doing act 1 is such a bad idea. Did you know Into the Woods is 3 hours long?! I don't know I had ever really realized that.....it's loooooooooooong, especially when you add "Our Little World" which is a really weird song. Yeah, Act 1 isn't so bad on it's own. Act 2 has some strange messages like, "sleep with another man and you'll get crushed by a giant" and I don't know if I ever really agreed with that, it scared me as a child. So Into the Woods for a high school, with little budget, 2 interested boys, and not orchestra....does that sound right to you? We'll see. They tried to tell me that Urinetown had so much difficult music that it was practically a operetta and that the book was fluff.....ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm WHAT? The music is accessible and fun and full of different styles and vocal types. The book is hysterical, witty and very intelligent. And the band is written to be small.....could they pick a better show, probably not. Will they listen to me, probably not. I'll just have to take that job someday and do something that will really showcase high school students. Maybe it will be Rent. Who knows.