Saturday, July 3, 2010

Best of the Decade: The Guilty Pleasures

The shows on this list represent a wide variety.  Some are pure comedy; others are dramatic and emotional; still others are a mix.  A few are new; others are long-running blockbusters.  All of them have two things in common: they all have mixed to negative critical responses and all of them are a heck of a lot of fun.  I love them no matter what anyone else thinks.  And I'm sure that if you areading this, you have a few "guilty pleasures" of your own.

After completing this list and looking at the pictures again, I realized I am a sucker for a romantic musical comedy!

10.  Come Fly AwayIf recent box office trends are any indication, this Twyla Tharp concoction isn't long for this world.  And we can argue til the moon explodes about whether or not it has a story (it does!).  But with or without a story, the characters are interesting, sexy and dangerous - I'll admit that in real life, I'd probably stay away from them, but the voyuer in me loves to watch them.  All of them.  Haven't left the theatre this excited about dancing since Movin' Out!

9.  The Addams FamilyTo quote another show I love - a fast flop, but definitely a guilty pleasure, Anyone Can Whistle- "Everybody Says Don't"  Yes, the show everyone loves to hate, openly and with abandon, is one of my new favorites.  Gomez, Moticia, Wednesday and the gang kill!  And I don't believe everyone hates it as much as they say, either.  It is just cool to beat up on this one.  But they will have the last laugh.  To quote another guilty pleasure... "Money Money Money"!

8.  American IdiotIt now makes sense that three of this season's shows end up on this list.  Mediocrity in general, makes the various creams rise to the top.  And American Idiot, whether it makes money or not, will never be a critical darling.  But the music moves Broadway to the 21st Century, and I'm betting that history will bear this one out as historically ground-breaking, much like its close relatives, Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar.  But for now it is one wild ride, and a hell of a lot of fun.  "Holiday" and "21 Guns" are two of the best "showtunes" ever!  :-)

7.  Mary PoppinsOK, so this one is a money-maker, an extravaganza, and, gasp!, a Disney Show!  But it will never have the clout of The Lion King.  It is too conventional.  But its score, scenery, effects, and damn fine Marys makes this one gorgeous guilty pleasure.  Long may you run, Ms. Poppins!  (Confession:  The Bird Lady, those creepy giant toys, and the nanny from hell, Ms. Andrews, still pop up in my nightmares!)

6.  Little Women:  Yes, this made another list - best flops - which to my mind makes it an even guiltier pleasure!  It made this grown man cry.  And I want to be Laurie in the worst way!  I love how his story twists and I love to belt out his song, "Take a Chance on Me" (no relation to the ABBA song) in the shower!  (I'll bet you thought I'd say "Astonishing," didn't you!?)

5.  Tarzan:  The first real flop of the Disney Theatricals empire, despite running for more than a year, this show has a lot more going for it than the critics said.  First, Phil Collins' score is awesome.  The leads were perfect - Josh Strickland proves that you can be super good-looking and be a triple threat, and Jenn Gambatese is one actress I'll see in anything she does.  And you have to admit the first 15 minutes of the show are probably the most spectacular ever... so it was not much to look at, and the "ape" design was just wrong, ut was there any other way to do the vine thing?

4.  The Wedding Singer:  I am a child of the 80's.  I was in high school and college during the best decade ever, so I got every single reference the show made, and I thought the score nailed the sound perfectly.  Again, two great leads - I thought Laura Benanti was terrific - with chemistry to spare, plus a host of awesome supporting characters (I <3 Amy Spanger!)  The story is even good for a movie turned musical.  And it is 100 times better than that other 80's show that uses old songs and defies logic by still taking up a decent theatre...

3.  Xanadu:  Imagine my surprise when I actually saw the show in previews and LOVED it - me and a sold-out crowd that cheered every line, song and roller disco move.  I, like most of that audience, went early because we wanted in on the biggest turkey of the new millennium.  Boy, were we wrong!  I saw it 5 or 6 more times, twice from on stage, which was a very cool experience, which I recommend should the opportunity ever arise again.  It made me a fan of Kerry Butler, more of a fan of Cheyenne Jackson, and a stalker an adoring fan of Curtis Holbrook, who was an awesome stand-in for Cheyenne.  I missed James Carpinello by like 3 performances, but that's ok.  He is one of the three decent things about that other 80's show.

2.  Legally BlondeI loved this show from the minute it started.  I loved every single thing about it - the cast, the sets, the lighting, the dancing, and especially the score, which really nailed the characters and plot.  I am probably in the minority here, but I like it even better than the film, which is one of my all-time favorites.  I've pretty much worn out my MTV DVR copy.  But the score is one that hasn't left my CD player since the day it came out.  Go, Elle!

1.  Mamma Mia!:  Whatelse could it be?  The critics hate it.  The audiences love it.  With a story as old as the Greek comedy it is based on (which no one will admit to) and as charming as its movie cousin, Three Coins in the Fountain, this fun fun fun show rocks from start to finish.  You'd have to be a real GRINCH not to laugh and sing along with "Dancing Queen," or to not be moved by the entire "Sophie gets ready for her wedding" sequence.  There is a reaon this show is still on the boards, packing them in, and it isn't just the scantily clad guys in scuba fins.  The show has a heart as big as its Broadway billboard, and it is just good, old-fashoned fun.  Life is too serious these days, and Mamma Mia! is the sure cure for whatever ails you.

Comments?  Leave one here or email me at  (Share your guilty pleasure!)

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