Thursday, February 13, 2014

Broadway on TV: A Gentleman's Guide... and Beautiful

I thought that before the spring onslaught of new Broadway shows really hits that I'd take the next couple of days to talk about the TV spots for the shows that survived the fall and cranked up this winter. Today, I'll look at A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  Tomorrow, Valentine's Day, I'll devote to the romance of The Bridges of Madison County.

A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder

This little spot manages to do a lot, hitting all the buttons it needs to push to get people in the seats at the Walter Kerr Theatre.  It certainly celebrates all of those things that make the show both unique and traditional.  It shows, successfully, I think, the zany qualities of the show, and it reveals the gorgeous costuming and multitudes of settings.  It manages to show singing, dancing and funny staging, while playing a sample from the score.  I think they made a wise choice in not highlighting the music per se, though, because the entire score benefits from being heard entirely in context of the book and the situations at hand.  And it really hammers home both the "they-don't-write-'em-like-that-anymore" idea and that the show is critically-acclaimed.  Oh, and it is "HILARIOUS!"  Believe it or not, I think they were smart to recognize that not every musical, and this one specifically, is not for everyone - the thick British accent of the narrator (if not actually Jane Carr, than a vocal doppelganger at least) lets you know up front that this show is "veddy dee dah." Grade: A-

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

Despite my weariness over this sub-genre of musical, and my "meh" reaction to this show, I have to admit that they've come up with is a very good commercial.  Visually and in terms of the soundtrack, it makes the show look like a spectacle - they wisely intertwine the acts that benefited from Carole King's work (and very popular songs that they sang) and scenes from the life of Ms. King (ending with 2 of her signature songs as a soloist - "Natural Woman" and "Beautiful."  The overlay of critical quotes celebrate the show as a must-see and identify the biggest asset of the show, Jessie Mueller.  In the old days, this alone would have made her an overnight national sensation.  But those days are gone, and her name is not mentioned by the voice-over.  A wise move on two counts: one, they can use the ad, and take off the quote when she has long-departed and/or when the show inevitably tours; and two: the producers are smart not to closely identify the show with its star, never a good idea with a show that could become a brand.  Ask Mamma Mia, and remember The Producers.  Grade: A

Let me know what you think...


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