Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On the Radio: Isn't That Song in a Broadway Show? #2

A couple weeks ago, I talked about that song by The Madden Brothers, "We Are Done," and how it sounded like it could have been in Hair or Promises, Promises.  The past few weeks, I haven't been able to get a pair of songs out of my head.  Unless you have no access to radio or earbuds, you must have heard these two songs, Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass," and Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off."

Well, I've been thinking... 21st century lyrical anachronisms aside, wouldn't they both fit nicely into Hairspray??!!  I'm sure Tony-winners Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman could fix those 21st century anachronisms - Tracy Turnblad wouldn't know what "photoshopping" is, would she?

Here's how "All About That Bass" might work in Hairspray:  In a final televised plea for integration and for Miss Hairspray votes, Tracy sings the song to Corny Collins and "the Nicest Kids in Town."  Eventually, Tracy, Penny and Link (plus a few of the Council Members who secretly agree) go into a full blown dance with it, and the phones ring off the hook.  At the same time, we can see The Dyn-o-Mites, Motormouth Maybelle and all the kids at her record shop watching this on TV, and Edna and Wilbur are home watching it, too.  They all join in until it becomes a huge production number.

Seaweed and the detention kids don't have enough to do, right?  So, earlier in the show (than the above), when Tracy thinks Link only has eyes for Amber after they leave for the show without her, Seaweed and the kids tell her to "Shake It Off."  The song gets a reprise after Little Inez becomes Miss Hairspray and Amber goes ballistic.  Eventually, everyone but Amber and her mother shake it off, though they join in - plotting - with the "Haters gonna hate, hate, hate..."

The commute has been hell lately, so I've had way too much time to think about this!  I can think of at least two more scenarios for these songs in that show.  Ah, well... gotta get to work!


Monday, September 29, 2014

LOGOS: The Last Ship

The next musical of the season, The Last Ship, begins previews tonight at the Neil Simon Theatre.  Will the marquee entice passersby to stop, take a look, and purchase tickets?  That remains to be seen, of course.  I think the logo, like the show - at least based on the out of town tryout gossip and critical response - will be polarizing.  Some will love it, others not so much.  Well, readers, if you know me at all by now, you can probably guess where I stand.

From a musical theater enthusiast's point of view, I am intrigued by the artistry of the design; as a lover of the more challenging works, I am hopeful that the darker, more serious tone of the logo will parallel the actual performance.  I am either going to be fully satisfied, or at least challenged, or sorely disappointed.  But I could say that about any show, right?

The white background will certainly catch the eye, and the stark circular logo should also draw some attention.  The lone bright color, a dash of red, might just make you stop for a second or two, and the simple title design, a stark, simple font will make reading it easy, even from some distance.

When a potential ticket buyer pauses to read it, the title is certainly thought-provoking, though it doesn't necessarily scream, "musical!" does it?  But the icon could.  An artistic swirl of dark grey topped with what, at closer look, is a rendering of a big ship's bow.  But wait! That ship - the last ship - is headed down that ominous whirlpool!  Very dramatic!  And not completely musical, either.

I like the logo, probably the most artful Broadway logo in several seasons.  I love the design and the implications of a more serious dramatic piece.  And I love the multiple meanings of "last" in this context.  Something this artistic is right up my Sondheim-Guettel-LaChuisa loving alley!

But the fun-loving-musical crowd will probably find this not so appealing.  And the occasional theatre-goer may not want to plunk down big bucks to see a serious show with no movie stars to justify their purchase.  This will be a show that they will wait for the reviews to see, I think.  And they better be great.

What I just don't get is why the marquee downplays the most obvious pre-opening draw, composer Sting, who is well-known and even beloved by people old enough to know who he is and have the dough to spend on it.  Maybe they are afraid people will think he's in it, and leave when they find out he isn't.  And why are they using the Chicago tryout money quote - which includes his name - where most people won't even see it?  You'd have to be looking out the window of a car (and NOT looking at the more famous Jersey Boys) or standing on the other side of the street to even see it.  Who's going to stop the car or dart across 52nd Street to get to the box office after reading it?

Grade: If the logo were just part of the art form that musicals are, I'd give it an A+.  But as advertising, I'll have to give it a C+ - artistic, yes, big Broadway musical draw, no.  Maybe they are hoping it'll become as recognizable as those icons for Cats or Phantom.  And those, and Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, too, are very serious musicals, so maybe I'm wrong, and years from now, the masses will be wearing Last Ship t-shirts.  But those four shows all came to Broadway as established events, not a Chicago birth and PBS special.

I really hope I am wrong.  I don't want the show to sink. (Sorry, I had to...)


Friday, September 26, 2014

Broadway Ladies: Ms. September 2014: Alysha Umphress

Ms. September 2014
Alysha Umphress

WHY SHE'S MS. BROADWAY: I picked this month's Ms. Broadway because she really fits what I initially intended these recognitions to be: a celebration of an established, but on-the-rise actor/actress.  I've been fortunate enough to have seen Ms. September in every show she's done on Broadway.  I will never forget her debut in American Idiot and marveling at her presence.  I couldn't take my eyes off of her - quite an accomplishment considering the sensory overload of that production!  And I joined the roar of cheers and applause at her sassy, scene-stealing moment in "Too Much Too Soon."  Since then, it's been fun to watch her work in On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, and in her replacement turn in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.  Now, I am excited to see how terrific Alysha Umphress will be as she steps up to a major role in the new revival of On the Town.



with Cristin Milioti

with our friend, Cody Williams

with Michael Esper

REGIONAL (Funked Up Fairy Tales, Beaches: The Musical)

Funked Up Fairy Tales

Beaches in rehearsal

Beaches in performance

ON BROADWAY (American Idiot, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Bring It On, On the Town)

American Idiot

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

On a Clear Day...

Can't see her? She was an unseen soloist
in the song "Legendary" from Bring It On

On the Town 
(photos from the Barrington pre-Broadway run, and Broadway rehearsals)


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Broadway Boys: Mr. September 2014: Tony Yazbeck

Mr. September 2014
Tony Yazbeck

WHY HE'S MR. BROADWAY: Well, he's a true triple-threat as evidenced in his entire Broadway career to date.  Sing-dancer-actor in Gypsy, A Chorus Line, White Christmas and Chicago.  But it goes way beyond that, with a wide variety of roles in regional theatres, too.  Serious drama in Sycamore Trees, song and dance man in My One and Only, and zany antics in Animal Crackers, just to name a few.  Then, too, there's his charity work, including Broadway Backwards.  He's worked his way up through the ranks from childhood (a was in Gypsy as a Newsboy with Tyne Daly in the early 90's) to understudy to ensemble member to featured roles and as a star, currently headlining On the Town.  And that's why Tony Yazbeck is Mr. Broadway!


(Left) with Smash co-star, Ann Harada
(Right) with wife (and A Chorus Line co-star) Jessica Lee Goldyn


"A Boy Like That" (with Arron Lazar)

"Buddy, Beware"

REGIONAL SHOWS (My One and Only, Anthony and Cleopatra, Sycamore Trees)

My One and Only

Anthony and Cleopatra

Sycamore Trees

BROADWAY (Gypsy, A Chorus Line, White Christmas, Chicago, On the Town)

He's a Newsboy in Gypsy!

He's Tulsa in Gypsy!

A Chorus Line - "Sing!" 
and backstage with the boys

ACL's opening night, with
the original "Al"

Chicago - "Razzle Dazzle" and
celebrating with the girls

Irving Berlin's White Christmas

On the Town
(Barrington Stage production photos)


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