Sunday, November 21, 2010

Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert

Wednesday night, I took a trip to the local movie theatre to see the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert. Les Miz has always had a special place in my heart. It was one of the first musicals I ever discovered, and while I think the story could be fledged out a bit more and the characters are flat for the most part, I've always loved the music, so I know I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see this. And I'm so glad that I decided to go - it was amazing.

Almost all the performers were wonderful. Lea Salogna played Fantine perfectly. Her facial expressions and on-cue crying added to all those emotional moments that the character has to go through. Ramin Karmiloo shined as Enjolras, and Matt Lucas made a hilarious Thenardier. I also loved Jamie Davies as Gavroche. He made the character so cunning, cute, and interesting all at the same time. He's definitely one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite Gavroche I've ever seen or heard.

The new orchestrations enhanced the score, making it more lush and beautiful than ever. Hearing it in surround sound made the experience even better. There were also some 'bonus songs' at the end of the concert, including a quartet of Valjeans from the different productions over the years singing "Bring Him Home". It was so amazing, so breathtaking, that words can't describe it.

There was one problem I had with the concert, though, and that was Nick Jonas as Marius. He seemed very weak next to all the other performers. It was as though they had a bunch of professionally trained, experienced actors, and then he was just thrown into the mix. His singing was alright, but his acting was laughable. I actually had to stop myself from laughing at how bad he was at some points, especially at the part where he first meets Cosette. Not to mention, he also brought in loads of fangirls who wouldn't stop giggling and freaking out over him during the whole thing. But I will admit, Cameron Macintosh was smart with this decision. Sure, Nick wasn't very good, but he did bring a new audience to Les Miserables who may not have been interested in the musical beforehand.

If you didn't get a chance to see the concert in person or in theatres, rent or buy a copy of it as soon as it comes out on DVD. You'll be in for a three-hour-long musical treat.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Perfect Comedy

Who doesn't love comedy? Everyone loves to laugh, and watching characters in a play or musical say and do funny things just seems to take all of our troubles away. When you leave the theatre after seeing a comedic show, you feel so happy, and on the way back home, you're quoting all the memorable lines with the friends you brought along. More dramatic plays and musical can be awesome too, but there's nothing quite like a comedy.

What sets apart an average comedy from an amazing one, though? There's three things. The first two, great jokes and funny situations, are obvious, but the last one, great characters, may not be. 

For a comedy to be truly amazing, you can't just have a bunch of gags. This is the problem with many of them. You walk away thinking that the show was amusing, but do you remember anything other than those few comedic lines? Probably not. Do you find any of the characters memorable? Not if they were just cardboard cut-outs there for the sole purpose of making jokes, and that means in a week or two, the show will fade away into the back of your memory. 

The comedies that really stand out are the ones with great characters. Take for example, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. This show is great - it has great music, is hilarious, and has very human, very interesting characters. Freddy is a bumbling, want-to-be con-artist who is looking to get rich quick. He's creative, but he's also gullible and a bit stupid. His rival, Lawrence, is the exact opposite. He's charming, smooth, and cunning, but he also has an emotional side that comes out later on in the play. Along with the side-splitting moments in the show, like the Ruprecht scene and the Oklahoma? song, there's parts, especially toward the end (don't worry, I won't give anything way), that are very emotional. We get to know the characters like their our friends, and even though I saw the show a few months ago, Freddy Benson, Lawrence Jamison, and their adventures have still stayed in my mind.

The Producers, one of the most successful comedies in musical theatre, also has the advantage of great characters. A lot of the characters are stereotypes, but Max and Leo, the two main characters, are very real. From what I've seen, most people who like this show like it because they can relate to one or both of them. Max is always looking to get rich. He's a bit depressed by his failures, and can be a bit lazy, but he always finds some avenue that will get him his way. The audience also sees during the 'Til Him scene that he can have a bit of a sentimental side. Leo, on the other hand, is shy and timid. He's neurotic and always fearful, but he dreams of life as a big, successful Broadway producer, even though he's afraid to pursue this career at first. I'm sure everyone who wants to work in theatre has had some sort of daydream similar to the one he has during I Wanna Be A Producer. These two characters help this musical stay in our minds long after the final curtain has fallen, since it's easy for audience members to find ways to relate to them.

Sure, a comedy needs to be funny. That's a given. But for a comedy to be truly amazing and memorable, it can't just make us laugh. It has to have some great characters for us to remember as well, or else it will become "just another show" instead of being one of those shows that you never forget.

- Marina

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Return of Rent?

Last Friday, I found this article claiming that one of the most famous musicals of our time, RENT, could be having a revival off-Broadway.

And the moment I saw the article, even if it is just from a theatre gossip column, all I could think was, it's too soon.

It wasn't too long ago that this show closed on Broadway. It's only been a few years at the most, and for the die-hard fans who still want to be able to see a live performance of it, it's certainly not impossible. Ever since the rights came out for the show to be performed in community theatres, it seems like every single one out there is taking it on. The majority of community theatres in my area have either done it or are planning on doing it, including the one I volunteer at.

Another thing - I don't think RENT is as great a show as it's cracked up to be. Even when I was doing tech on the show, and I was having an awesome time because of the great cast, techies, and the amazing reactions from the audiences, I thought this. Parts of the plot just don't make sense (I'm supposed to believe Roger and Mimi fell in love, broke up, and the fell in love again in just a week?) and the message that artists can do whatever they want is pathetic, especially when a lot of fans I've seen actually take that message to heart. I found myself on Benny's side while watching the show from backstage - he just wants his long overdue rent! Is that too much to ask? I will admit that I like a lot of the songs, but that's about it.

I know that RENT has a huge following of fans, and tickets for a revival of it, even if it's off-Broadway, would probably sell well, but it's too early for this show to come back, and not to mention, it's not very good and makes people in the creative arts look like lazy bums. Call me what you will, but we don't need another over-hyped show like this one.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adaptation Overload: Is it Good or Bad?

          If you were to take a survey asking fans of musical theatre if they think that theatre nowadays is lacking originality, nine out of ten would probably say yes. It seems like we’re always complaining about the number of jukebox musicals and adaptations we see every year. Nearly every hit on Broadway now is an adaptation. The only exception that comes to mind is Next to Normal. But is the lack of originality in theatre really as bad as we all make it out to be?

Personally, I think it’s a blessing and a curse.

First, the blessing part. There have been some great musicals that have been adaptations. In fact, my favorite musical of all time, The Producers, was adapted from a movie. There are some stories that just seem great for the stage, and have proved that they’re even better when they have song and dance blended into them.

But at the same time, this trend is also a curse. For every great adaptation, for every story that was made better by becoming a musical comedy, you have the shows that are just terrible and were only created because the people behind them knew they would turn a huge profit. That’s why we have shows like Mama Mia and Legally Blonde. They’re mediocre at best, but because they carry familiar names of movies and 80’s pop groups, they sell. People go toward what they’re familiar with, so adaptations of blockbuster movies and jukebox musicals consisting of the music of famous bands and musicians usually become hits. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it didn’t mean that original, creative musicals don’t get as much attention as they deserve.

Sadly, it looks like this is a pattern that is going to continue. As I said, these adaptations sell well, so producers are going to produce them. It’s only natural that we see more of them than we see musicals such as [Title of Show].

So what can theatre fans do instead of sitting around and complaining about the lack of originality on Broadway? We could go see more original shows that don’t seem to be getting much attention, see some of the new shows looking for their big break Off-Broadway, and attend more regional theatre shows. If you look around, you’ll be surprised by the amount of wacky and creative shows are out there.

The trend of jukebox and adaptation musicals probably isn’t going to end anytime soon. After all, these types of shows are making producers millions of dollars because of their successes. But don’t be afraid to give some of them a chance because some end up being great, and remember, originality in theatre isn’t completely dead – sometimes it’s just harder to find those gems out there.