Archive for musicals


Catching up with Hamilton

Now that I’ve finished the movie portion of my Marvel catch-up project, I’ve turned to other things I need to catch up on, and last weekend I finally caught up with the rest of the world and watched Hamilton.

It’s a little odd that I haven’t seen it yet or even heard the cast album, given that I’m a big musical theater fan. I used to have season tickets to the touring production series, and I usually try to see a show on every trip to New York. I grew up listening to cast albums of shows I hadn’t seen. But I haven’t had the budget for live theater for the past few years, so I haven’t had those season tickets in ages, and I haven’t been to New York in a long time (not that I’d have been able to get tickets to that show). I think I was also wary of the hype, and I had a mistaken impression of what the show was. I tend to like the semi-operatic shows (Les Miserables is my favorite), and I thought this was more of a very modern hip-hop/rap thing.

But the show’s on Disney+, and I figured I needed to see it to have any musical theater nerd credibility — and I learned that I’ve been totally wrong about the show. It actually reminds me more of Les Mis than just about any other show. There are rap and hip-hop elements, but they mostly seem to function in the same way the recitative bits in Les Mis (or other semi-operatic, sung-through shows) do, as a replacement for dialogue. The staging reminds me a lot of Les Mis, with the fairly bare stage with some architecture that serves a variety of functions, then there’s the turntable, comic relief numbers mixed in with the serious dramatic monologue type songs, a basis in history, and an ending that’s tragic but with a hopeful spin.

I absolutely loved this show. I’m going to have to watch it again with subtitles to catch all the clever wordplay. The words come fast and furious at times, packing so much information in and doing it somehow with rhyme and meter. The cast album is on Prime Music, so I listened to it the next day. Supposedly, it would be my background music for housework, but I ended up just standing there and listening.

Oddly enough, of all the big, dramatic songs that I loved, the one that’s stuck in my head on a loop is King George’s song. I’m walking around the house singing that one to myself.

Anyway, I love that they have a staged version of the original cast on film like this. I wish we could have had this sort of thing for the original cast of Les Mis. Some of these shows work better in the more abstract world of the stage than they do in a more “realistic” framework as most movies are done.

So, I’m late to the game, but I did eventually make it, and it reminds me of how much I love musical theater. It may be a while before I can go to live shows (they are expensive), and it’s nice to be able to get the experience at home.


Lockdown Theater

I actually got some work done the past few days, re-reading and doing some revising on the last book I wrote. It’s still going to need work. I can tell just about where the world started getting weird as I was drafting because my writing changed. The ending is going to have to be fleshed out more, but right now I can’t seem to do anything with it. There’s a big difference between wanting to be at home and being stuck at home (and worrying, during allergy season, that each cough could be something serious), and that’s messing with my frame of mind.

Fortunately, a lot of talented people are doing what they can to help those of us stuck at home. I’ve been enjoying John Krasinski’s (from The Office and Jack Ryan) “Some Good News” newscasts. In his latest one, he had a fun surprise for a little girl who was missing out on seeing Hamilton for her birthday. (That link goes to just the song, but the whole newscast is fun viewing.)

Then there was this very clever and creative family doing a lockdown version of “One Day More” from Les Mis.

On a more serious note, some former Les Mis cast members did this absolutely lovely version of “Bring Him Home” as a tribute to the health workers. (Having had to record myself singing to a track to have it edited into a piece for choir for Easter, I have new respect for what these guys did here.)

I may not try to make myself write much. I’ll keep posting my serial, and I may do some research, brainstorming, and planning. If I feel like writing, then I’ll go for it, but the main thing right now is to stay safe, stay healthy, and stay sane.


The Hills Are Alive

This weekend I finally got to something I’d had sitting on my DVR for months: The PBS airing of the “live” (in the UK, we got it years later) TV production of The Sound of Music — the one they did in the UK, not the US one that I understand was pretty painful.

I have to confess that I’m a huge Sound of Music fan. We had the original cast recording of the stage version when I was a kid, and then I got to see the movie on the big screen when they must have done either a revival showing or a special event (it was at an old theater downtown, as I recall, so it may have been a special event), and I was blown away. When we lived in Germany, one of our summer vacations included going to Salzburg and seeing a lot of the settings for both the movie and the real story. In seventh grade, one of the options for our social studies semester project was reading Maria von Trapp’s autobiography and putting together a presentation using a pie chart about it.

Plus, the music is lovely and catchy and fun to sing, and most of the songs are the sort of thing that are good when you’re feeling down and want to make yourself feel better.

Being in a production of this show was one of my dreams as I was growing up. For the longest time, I desperately wanted to play Liesl and do the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” number. Then I aged out of that and figured I could do Maria. And then I aged out of that and thought doing the Baroness would be fun (she gets a lot more to do in the stage version than in the movie). Now I figure I might make it as one of the nuns.

I may even have killed my chances of being a Rhodes Scholar over this show. I made the cut to be interviewed as one of the candidates from my university, and I’d mentioned musical theater as one of my interests. They asked me my favorite show and when I said this one, they all got that look on their faces, and I knew I’d bombed it. Later, I realized I should have explained about having read the real history and visited the real place, but I was just kind of frozen at the time. There’s that popular perception of the show as being sickeningly sweet, and maybe the movie is, but if you really pay attention to it, there’s some weight to it, since one of the central issues is whether or not to collaborate with Nazis, and they end up leaving everything behind rather than go along (though their escape wasn’t nearly as dramatic in real life. Climbing over the mountain wouldn’t have done them much good because it would have just sent them into Germany. They took a train in real life).

I have to say, I loved this TV production, maybe even more than the movie (aside from the scenery because it’s fun to spot places I’ve been). It’s a film of the more recent stage version, not a remake of the movie, so there are different songs and some of the songs are in different places. The issue of whether or not to collaborate is much bigger. And it fixes one of my main issues with the movie: the costumes. Even though the story is pinned to a specific time, everything else about it is basically the early 1960, especially the hair and costumes. In this version, it looks like the 1930s. The sets even look like pictures I’ve seen of the actual house, and they look like the 1930s (the events depicted in the musical actually happened during the 1920s, and they’d been married for a while and had a couple of kids before they left Austria, but that’s another issue). Plus, Maria’s songs are set for an alto, which is what the real Maria von Trapp was (I think that’s also the case for the original stage version. It was just changed for soprano Julie Andrews in the movie).

Alas, I haven’t seen where any local theaters are planning to do productions of this anytime soon, so I can’t go cross this one off the bucket list by playing a background nun.


Sequels that Do Not Exist

One of the reasons I seldom actually take vacations is that I get most of my pleasure from the planning part, and then I no longer really want to take the trip. I guess it’s like that visualization thing I mentioned earlier from that book I read, where if you visualize something, your brain decides you’ve already done it, so you’re no longer motivated to do it. While researching possibilities, I imagine rather vividly exactly how it would be, and it’s almost as good as going on the actual trip.

And sometimes, all the overpreparing and research pays off in helping me decide what to do and what not to do. As I mentioned earlier, I spent a lot of the weekend researching a possible birthday trip, and one of the factors was that there was a show at the performance hall. Since the tickets were very expensive and it wasn’t something I was familiar with, I checked Amazon Prime Music to see if they had the soundtrack so I could decide if seeing it was worth it.

And, boy, was I glad I did. The show I was considering was Love Never Dies, the sequel to Phantom of the Opera. I didn’t even get through the entire first act. It was so very not good. The story was even worse when I looked up a plot summary. Basically, it’s your classic rationalizing the choice of the bad boy fan fiction, the kind of thing people write when in the actual story the heroine doesn’t end up with the murderer but the fans think the murderer is so sexy and misunderstood and the good guy the heroine does end up with is boring. In the fan versions, the good guy turns out to actually be terrible, so the heroine ends up with the misunderstood villain.

I was very Team Raoul, since I like the childhood sweethearts finding each other again story, plus the Phantom was a creepy, manipulative stalker and murderer. The sequel reveals that Christine and the Phantom actually slept together while she was in his lair, and so the son she has after she marries Raoul is actually the Phantom’s. Meanwhile, Raoul has drunk and gambled away all their money.

So, yeah, let’s ruin all the characters. And the music wasn’t even good enough to paper over the terrible story.

Which means I will not be factoring this show into my birthday plans. Maybe I’ll do the spa trip to the other hotel, after all. I can do a trip to see something at the performance hall some other time.

And this is going on the list of Sequels That Do Not Exist, like any Alien movie after Aliens.