Friday, June 28, 2019

The Friday 5: Pride: 5 Favorite LGBTQ Broadway Songs

As we head into the final weekend of Pride 2019, I thought it appropriate to take a brief look at some Broadway songs that I turn to when I'm feeling alone or any emotional time in my life. I feel so fortunate to be out of the closet and living my true life. But it isn't perfect, even after all these years. It continues to be a struggle some days. The Broadway musical has long been a refuge for me, as I am sure it is for many of you. Thankfully, there is a huge Broadway family ready to embrace all of us. As Sondheim says, "No one is alone."

Friday Five: Five Six LGBTQ Broadway Songs

1. Sexual Awakening: "Ring of Keys" from Fun Home
Everyone has the one moment when you realize who you are. For me, it was when I was nine or ten, and when I saw the life guard at our community pool and felt butterflies in my stomach. My ring of keys was his whistle dangling down his chest on a red cord.

"Can you feel my heart saying 'hi'?" - Sydney Lucas and Michael Cerveris - Fun Home

2. Just Out of The Closet: "You Walk with Me" from The Full Monty
I know this song has a little bit of a different context in the show, but it is all about making sure that someone knows they have your complete support and love. No one needs to know that more than when they are first out.

Jason Danieley and Romain Frugé - The Full Monty

3. Parental Acceptance: "You Could Never Shame Me" from Kiss of the Spider Woman 
This song always gets me. I feel so envious of Molina. My parents are not supportive at all.

Merle Louise - Kiss of the Spider Woman

4. An Ally: "If You Were Gay" from Avenue Q 
It is so simple, really. To love and care for someone for who they are. How fortunate I am to have straight allies who believe in that unconditionally.

Nicky, Rick Lyon, Rod and John Tartaglia - Avenue Q

5. LTR: "Song on the Sand" from La Cage aux Folles
It is wonderful to see and feel the joy of having found a life partner. And to hear it sung between two men gives me so much hope for the future.

Kelsey Grammer and Douglas Hodge - 2010 Broadway Revival of La Cage aux Folles

6. Community: "Unruly Heart" from The Prom
No matter if it is a group of friends, the LGBTQ community in your hometown, or, these days, an online community, there is a a ton of love and support out there.

"Unruly Heart" - The Prom Company

Bonus : Paul's monologue from A Chorus Line
Not a note is sung, but this groundbreaking speech from this classic show always brings the audience to tears and a huge hand at its conclusion. It had a profound effect on me then, and it still does today.

Robert LuPone and Sammy Williams - A Chorus Line

We hope all of you had a happy Pride. No matter where you are in your life, may you know and feel the support of our community. Pride is all year long.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

#TBT: CD Review: OBCR The Full Monty

From the zippy, jazzy and unrelated overture to the catchy "Let It Go" finale, David Yazbek's freshman Broadway score for The Full Monty is fun and funny from start to finish. The show itself is one of my favorites, and the score is a large part of why. It had a healthy run starting back in the fall of 2000, but was overshadowed by the juggernaut that was Mel Brook's The Producers. That show was more a triumph of casting over real quality (as evidenced by the steep drop in sales following the departure of its principle cast), and this smaller, but, IMHO, funnier show full of heart got lost in the shuffle. Still, a 700+ performance run is respectable. It all reminds me of Hamilton and Waitress.

Thank goodness this cast was preserved - it had many of today's Broadway favorites, including Patrick Wilson, John Ellison Conlee, Annie Golden, Emily Skinner, Jason Danieley and newly minted Tony-winner, André De Shields. It also captured the final role of the late, great Kathleen Freeman and her showstopper, "Jeanette's Showbiz Number."

André De Shields and Kathleen Freeman
This score is full of what are now Yazbek standards - the risque/down-right-dirty lyrics, the pefectly built-in jokes. It actually resembles his most recent effort, though Monty is full of the one thing that Tootsie is largely missing. Heart. Of course, that heart is shown with a lot of humor - it is a musical comedy - but also with a good bit of honesty. These songs sound like the characters singing them; the voice is clear. And the love these people have for each other, spouses, fathers/sons, ex-wives... new found lovers, also comes across simply by listening to this cast recording. This made me fall in love with Yazbek's work. Well, most of it, anyway.

Danieley, Conlee and Wilson
Highlights include the opening number, "Scrap," which is the perfect metaphor for how these steel workers feel about themselves, the act one closer, "Michael Jordan's Ball," where you can hear the moment these guys get their acts together. Then there's the men-are-pigs ode to self-pity, "Man," which offers Wilson and Conlee a chance to show off their comic buddy vibe. And De Shields is comic gold in "Big Black Man." And the women get their chance to keep things balanced - "It's a Woman's World" lets us men in on what goes on when the ladies go to the powder room in groups. And the vocal fireworks of Skinner's "Life with Harold" makes me love her even more.

Remember how I said there was plenty of heart? Well it pervades most every song, but there are a few songs that are bursting with it, and they are lovely to boot: "You Rule My World" (and its reprise) are all about marital support, and both "Breeze Off the River" and "You Walk With Me" bring tears to my eyes.

But mostly, this cast recording is an hour of catchy show tunes, belly laughs and awesome word play. If it isn't already a part of your collection, I highly recommend you add it.

Grade: A+

The Ladies of The Full Monty

"Let It Go"


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

LOGOS: Moulin Rouge!

It's a new season, and it looks like things are going to start with a scorching summer on Broadway. And I don't just mean the city heat. We saw this season's first musical last summer in Boston and loved it; now, we can't wait to see it again. Moulin Rouge!, starts previews on Friday. They've revamped the show logo, and we bet they've made improvements to the show for Broadway, too.

First, let's take a look at the logo from the Boston run - what they kept, what they got rid of. They got rid of the moody blue-gray background and the Paris cityscape. They also got rid of the marquee lettering with the burnt out and missing bulbs. In short, they got rid of a lot of imagery that hues very close to the film upon which the show is based. I mean, I get why they used it. What better way to draw in the movie's fans? But, and I think this is a great idea, by getting rid of those things, it allows the show some distance from its origins. It was a little too spot on, and the show is not a replica of the film.

The Pre-Broadway Logo

What they did keep is also wise, I think. Keeping the four tenets of the artists in the story - Truth. Beauty. Freedom. Love. - as a tagline is perfect. It sets up the themes of the show and is reminder of the film without a visual expectation. And here, by getting of most of of the ornate scrolling, you can actually read it - heck, even see it. They also kept the signifier - that subtly (all things being relative) pays tribute to its creator, Baz Luhrmann, with the great play on words, using "revolutionary." Yes, the film was revolutionary in rejuvenating the movie musical, while tipping its hat to the Bohemian revolution the main characters are trying to achieve. 

The bigger changes are also for the better. A stark black background really makes the red and gold of the logo stand out. And a streamlining of the lettering also really works in the context of the stage version. It is very red, though not much of the show reflects the old lettering with burnt out bulbs. The font, though less ornate, is striking. The absolutely best addition/change to the logo, though. is the huge exclamation mark, with the windmill as the dot. I love that. I hope they have t-shirts with just that on them.

As much as I loved the original pre-Broadway artwork, I love this version even more. It bodes well for growth in the show itself.

Side note: In researching images for this article, I came across pictures of the actual Moulin Rouge in France. I love how the act two show curtain (in Boston, anyway) used the same letter style!

Check out the neon on the right and the windmill on the roof - looks a lot like the one on the !

This logo is a keeper!


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

300 Shows: Awesome Design

After some 36 years of seeing Broadway shows, I have to admit it takes a lot to impress me. But I can guarantee that if everyone on the creative team is on the same page, and everything about the show supports the story, I will be transported. I've been through the excess of the 80's mega-musical, the minimalism that is a constant thread throughout, and now the age of projections as scenery. All I can say is that I don't need expensive sets, lights and costumes to feel I've gotten my money's worth. I've often said that if a show is any good, it can be done effectively on a bare stage, enough light to see, and the actors sitting on stools in nothing but black. (I'm still waiting for the "Concept by Jeff Kyler" credit, Chicago!) These days, a surprise or two, that really fits the show, earns bonus points with me. I'm looking at you, design team for Hadestown.

At any rate, after 300 different Broadway shows, these 20 plays, musicals and revivals are the ones whose designs have really stuck with me. Did i miss any of your favorites?

A Chorus Line (1975):
Sets: Robin Wagner; Costumes: Theoni V. Aldredge;
Lighting: Tharon Musser; Sound: Abe Jacob
The intermission-less show is on a bare stage, the main characters stand on a line in street clothes, and the only time it goes "Broadway" is the sparkly finale, and even then every costume is exactly the same. And yet, it is a mesmerizing masterpiece. Those street clothes - which you have nearly two hours to look at - are so detailed and character-driven. And that finale look is iconic. And the lighting? Wow.

An Inspector Calls (1994):
Sets and Costumes: Ian MacNeil; Lighting: Rick Fisher;
Sound: T. Richard Fitzgerald
This thriller was as thrilling to look at as it was a thrilling to watch. A silent chorus of citizens observe on a wet cobblestone floor - wet from a near constant misty rain. Add creepy lighting, lavish costumes and a creepy dollhouse set, and you've got a visual feast.

Beauty and the Beast (1994):
Sets: Stan Meyer; Costumes: Ann Hould-Ward;
Lighting: Natasha Katz; Sound: T. Richard Fitzgerald
I loved the movie, but I loved the stage production even more. It was watching the Disney fantasy come to life. They spared no expense, and it was worth every penny. I will never forget the Beast's transformation. Ever.

Brief Encounter (2010):
Sets and Costumes: Neil Murray; Lighting: Malcolm Rippeth;
Sound: Simon Baker; Projections: Gemma Carrington and Jon Driscoll
This was one CRAZY play. People swinging from chandeliers proclaiming their love, zany musical interludes. But what about those amazing projections? The ones that encompassed the entire stage. The ones that actors would disappear into and miraculously reappear in the projections. Amazing.

Cats (1982):
Sets and Costumes: John Napier; Wigs: Paul Huntley Productions, Inc.;
Make-Up: Candace Carrel; Lighting: David Hersey; Sound: Martin Levan
It's cool these days to mock Cats, but the truth is, it was (and still is) an amazing, immersive experience. The lighting effects, costumes, make-up and set combined to make it a sensory event. 

City of Angels (1989):
Sets: Robin Wagner; Costumes: Florence Klotz;
Lighting: Paul Gallo; Sound: Peter Fitzgerald and Bernard Fox
A show that is screaming "revive me!", this hilarious show with a brilliant score also had a brilliant design concept: "real life" was in color, and the "movie" was in black and white. And it really looked black and white, too. Lavish, but not excessive, perfection.

Fun Home (2015):
Sets and Costumes: David Zinn; Lighting: Ben Stanton;
Sound: Kai Harada
I've seen it on a traditional proscenium stage, and it works. But there was something really cool about being able to observe this house of horrors from all sides. The lighting, the trap doors, and the spot on furniture created the perfect setting for this emotional roller coaster. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two (2018):
Sets: Christine Jones; Costumes: Katrina Lindsay;
Lighting: Neil Austin; Sound: Gareth Fry; Video: Finn Ross and Ash Woodward;
Illusions and Magic: Jamie Harrison
I fear I may give something away, so I'll just say this: all of the theatrical elements combine to make an all-encompassing trip to another world. It is literally magical. But the best part is that for all of its enormity (it fills the cavernous Lyric Theatre), it still manages to be amazingly intimate when it needs to be.

Matilda: The Musical (2013):
Sets and Costumes: Rob Howell; Lighting: Hugh Vanstone;
Sound: Simon Baker
Speaking of magical, the world of Matilda is as wondrous as the little girl at the center of the story. From the Scrabble-like letter tiles, to the kaleidoscope of costumes and lights, everything about this show appealed to the little maggot in me.

Once Once On This Island (2017):
Sets: Dane Laffery; Costumes: Clint Ramos;
Wigs and Make-Up: Cookie Jordan; Lighting: Peggy Eisenhauer and Jules Fisher;
Sound: Peter Hylenski
Socially conscious is not a term you'd think would be associated with the fairy tale that this show is - but it was. And that didn't stop it from being thoroughly magical. It's amazing how a pile of sand and a bunch of recycled/re-purposed trash can be!

Shogun: The Musical (1990):
Sets: Loren Sherman; Costumes: Patricia Zipprodt;
Lighting: Natasha Katz; Sound: Tony Meola
Sure this American attempt at the mega musical was a flop, but I Loved it. Capital "L." Sure it had its tacky moments - I mean, come on, a song about the ancient Japanese art of masturbation? But it was Epic. Capital "E." It had horses, snow, ninjas and a floor that erupted in flames and smoke during an earthquake that you could Feel. Capital "F."

South Pacific (2008):
Sets: Michael Yeargan; Costumes: Catherine Zuber;
Lighting: Donald Holder; Sound: Scott Lehrer
The floor opened to reveal a gigantic orchestra. There was a cast of thousands, and a life-sized airplane. All that, and a Rogers and Hammerstein score? Epic.

Starlight Express (1987):
Sets and Costumes: John Napier; Wigs: Paul Huntley Productions, Inc.;
Lighting: David Hersey; Sound: Martin Levan
I couldn't find any pictures of the Broadway set that did it any real justice. But dang! Those costumes! Even Napier's costume sketches are amazing.

Sunset Boulevard (1994):
Sets: John Napier; Costumes: Anthony Powell;
Lighting: Andrew Bridge; Sound: Martin Levan
Speaking of Napier, even his set models are unreal. Let's face it, the first time that mansion glided into view, the collective gasp of the audience should have sucked Norma's turban right off of her head.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (2014):
Sets and Costumes: Bunny Christie; Lighting: Paul Constable;
Sound: Autograph and Ian Dickinson; Video: Finn Ross
I imagine that this set (and lighting and projections) are exactly what mind of someone as special and brilliant as Christopher looks like. Everything about this entire production was exhilarating.

The King and I (1996):
Sets: Brian Thomson; Costumes: Roger Kirk;
Lighting: Nigel Levings; Sound: Lewis Mead and Tony Meola
Red and gold. That is what I remember about this revival of this classic. It was lavish and vibrant without overpowering the story. Not that anything could have overpowered the palpable chemistry between Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips. Seriously, though, it was gorgeous to look at. An way better than the last revival.

The Lion King (1997):
Sets: Richard Hudson; Costumes: Julie Taymor;
Mask and Puppet Design: Michael Curry and Julie Taymor;
Hair and Make-Up: Michael Ward; Lighting: Donald Holder;
Sound: Tony Meola; Projections: Geoff Puckett
Whole books have been written about this production. What could I possibly add? Brilliant.

The Phantom of the Opera (1988):
Sets and Costumes: Maria Bjornson; Lighting: Andrew Bridge;
Sound: Martin Levan
I'll be honest. This probably wouldn't have made this list if I hadn't seen it recently. It's not my favorite show by a long stretch. And that chandelier? Zzzzz. But the rest of the physical production is truly stunning. The late Maria Bjornson did timeless work.

The Who’s Tommy (1993):
Sets: John Arnone; Costumes: David C. Woolard;
Lighting: Chris Parry; Sound: Steve Canyon Kennedy;
Projections: Wendall K. Harrington; Video: Batwin + Robin Productions, Inc.
It was a live music video on steroids. Loud and colorful, and with a "new thing," projections! And they were so cool! Still, for me, the gold standard of rock musicals.

The Will Rogers Follies (1991):
Sets: Tony Walton; Costumes: Willa Kim;  
Lighting: Jules Fisher; Sound: Peter Fitzgerald
Lavish and old-school, heart-warming and modern, this extravaganza was unbelievable. Just when you thought they couldn't top themselves, the design team came up with yet another topper. I'd be happy just to see that multicolored, ever-changing staircase one more time.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...