Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kennedy Center Honors

Last night, CBS aired the Kennedy Center Honors, and among the honorees were two Broadway greats: Bill T. Jones (who choreographed Spring Awakening and Fela) and Jerry Herman (composer of Hello Dolly, La Cage aux Folles, and other hits).

The awards ceremony was fun to watch, and also interesting, giving an in-depth look into each of the honorees lives and accomplishments. Each honoree was also treated to a star-studded performance featuring their work. I loved both Jerry Herman's and Bill T. Jones's. Jones's featured an amazing performance from the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. It was absolutely mesmerizing. Jones is able to express ideas and concepts through dance that you never thought would be possible. It's so interesting to watch his choreography - no words can describe the effect it leaves on you.

Jerry Herman's tribute was wonderful, too. It featured Matthew Morrison, who gave a great rendition of It's Today from Mame. He also showed off some amazing dancing, which surprised me, since I never knew what a good dancer he is! There was also a rendition of Hello, Dolly (changed around to be Hello, Jerry) performed by the original Dolly, Carol Channing. Many of his other great songs were worked in, and it all ended with a peppy version of The Best of Time from La Cage.

And even though he's not associated with theatre, I loved Paul McCartney's tribute. It began with an amusing introduction by Alec Baldwin, and continued with breath-taking renditions of some of the best songs that he's written, such as Hey Jude, Penny Lane, Let It Be, and The End, which was performed by Aerosmith legend, Stephen Tyler.

I'm glad to see these people who have done such great work in the theatre and the arts in general honored. Here's hoping next year's honorees and ceremony will be just as great!


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spider-Man: The Safety Hazard

I'm sure by now everyone knows about the stunt-gone-wrong in Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark that happened earlier this week. After all, the story of stunt man Christopher Tierney, who took a gigantic plunge leaving him with serious injuries after his flying equipment failed, was everywhere from theatre websites to Good Morning America, and even to video game website I was on. You certainly didn't have to be a theatre fanatic to learn of this unfortunate incident.

So what does this mean for the fate of this troubled musical? Personally, besides added safety precautions, I don't think much. If anything, I think this sudden spike of media coverage will make people want to see this show. It gives the show a bit more controversy to it and an added sense of danger.

But what do I think should happen? I really don't think this show should go on, and not because I think that it's not a good musical. I don't have any real opinion on the show itself, since I haven't seen it or even heard any of its music, but if a show is a danger to the actors in it, then it shouldn't be allowed to continue. I understand that accidents happen, but there have been other incidents too, namely Natalie Mendoza's concussion. And not to undermine a concussion, but Tierney's situation was much more serious. He could have broken his neck, done damage to his spine, or even have died. He was lucky to fall in a way that prevented anything too serious from happening.

Maybe millions of dollars have been put into this show, and I'm sure that the director, Julie Taymour, would hate to see such a huge, controversial musical like this flop, but the safety of actors needs to be the top priority in any show. Unless serious changes are made to ensure safety, I'm not sure if I can agree with this show continuing. We don't need the next line about this musical to read "Spider-Man Actor Dead."

Very off-topic PS: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Submissions Only

Ever wanted a show like Glee, but with more maturity, less high school drama, and without all the butchering of popular songs and show tunes? Then look no further; a new series on youtube has just the thing for you, and it goes by the name Submissions Only.

Submissions Only is a great new web series that theatre people will love. It follows the story of Tim, a casting director for such projects as Snuggie: The Musical and The Human Centipede Wears Prada, and his best friend Penny, who's an emerging actress in the New York theatre scene. Only two episodes are up so far, but a lot has happened. Tim and his recent ex-boyfriend Steve have had a bit of a mix-up (I won't give anything away, but it's classic!), and Penny's love interest from college, Eric, is in the city auditioning for the same show as her. All this happens as they try to deal with the stress of auditions and breaking into show business.

This series does an awesome job at catering to theatre fanatics. There's a lot of jokes that will make people who know what it's like to be involved with theatre chuckle. Although this may limit the audience for the series, I love it, since it's easy to relate to and understand where they're coming from. The characters are interesting, too. Even though there are only two episodes so far, I feel like I'm getting to know them well and that they're developing into real, true people.

If you haven't seen Submissions Only, check it out and subscribe to its channel on youtube! No theatre person should miss it!

Episode 1, part 1:

Saturday, December 11, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different: Top 8 Favorite Bands and Non-Theatre Singers

I love theatre, that's for certain, and even though I may be extremely interested in it, it's not my only interest. So why not blog about something that isn't theatre-related every once in awhile? That's exactly what I'm doing today. I'm starting a new feature on my blog titled "And Now For Something Completely Different" (lovingly ripped off from Monty Python's Flying Circus). I'm contemplating doing one of these off-topic blogs once a month or so.

Today, I present you with my top 8 favorite bands and non-theatre singers. While 50% or more of the music I own is show tunes, I do enjoy other types of music too, so let's delve in!

#8 - Pink Floyd

Ah, Pink Floyd. Their music is so interesting, so surreal. A lot of times their albums are more like art than a plain old recording. Take Dark Side of the Moon for example. It's such an experience if you sit there in the dark, pop your headphones in, and just listen. Many of their other albums are like this too. I can never put a finger on exactly what's so special about their music. It just is.

#7 - Liz Phair

Liz Phair got her start in the 90's and is still going strong today. Her voice may not be the most amazing in the world, but it's her lyrics that are stunning. They're very truthful and raw, especially on her first album, Exile in Guyville. She doesn't try to disguise anything; she just comes out and tells everything like it is. Even though she doesn't use your traditional poetic language, her songs are definitely poetic. She may have gone more mainstream in recent years (although I've heard Funstyle is very good and not as mainstream, so I'm going to have to check it out), but she's still an extraordinary artist.

#6 - Elton John

Elton John is a music legend. If you don't know who he is and at least one of his songs, then you're probably living under a rock. I've never heard a song of his that I didn't like, and his music tackles a variety of subjects. There's Your Song, one of my favorite love songs of all time, and then you've got more upbeat tracks that just make you want to move around like The Bitch is Back. Not to mention his piano skills. Just watching him play is mesmerizing! He's definitely one of the most talented musicians alive today.

#5 - Billy Joel

Of course the piano man had to make the list! Billy Joel's songs remind me of show tunes (so it's no surprise that they made a jukebox musical out of them). Many of them tell stories, such as Scenes from and Italian Restaurant and his most famous song where he got his nickname from, Piano Man. Every time I hear one of them, the writer in me starts to think up stories I could write inspired by the lyrics. Like Elton John, Billy Joel has amazing technique that's fascinating to watch. If you've ever seen him play Angry Young Man with his hands jumping up and down at a furious pace, you know what I'm talking about. 

#4 - Jethro Tull

There is no other band quite like Jethro Tull. Headed by flutist Ian Anderson, this band is amazing. Just imagine a rock band with flute, and that's what you've got. Being a flutist myself, I find Anderson's fluting awesome to watch. He dances around on the stage while rocking out with flute solos no one else could ever match. The band's songs are interesting and beautifully crafted. While they may not be the most famous band in the world, Jethro Tull is worth checking out. You'll never be able to hear a rock-type flute solo again without thinking of them.

#3 - Queen

With many famous songs and one of the most extraordinary singers of all time, Freddy Mercury, Queen is one of the best bands of all time. They have so many iconic songs, from We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions that has now become a sports anthem, to everyone's favorite, Bohemian Rhapsody. Even their work that isn't quite as famous as some of their other stuff is great. Freddy Mercury had an amazing voice that no one will ever forget - just listening to some of his performances sends chills surging down my spine! Queen is one of those bands that will have a legacy that will live on forever.

#2 - The Beatles

I wanted to put The Beatles at #1, but I felt like that would be a little too obvious. But even at spot two on this list, they're the most inspirational band of all time. Even though they broke up years ago, they still sell a crazy amount of recordings each year. Some of their songs are poetic, while others like I am the Walrus make no sense, but are still fun to listen to. Their songs are everywhere, from TV commercials to movies to churches, and no matter how many times you hear them, you can never get sick of them. The Beatles have made such an impact on music. I've never met a music fan who didn't like them.

#1 (The London) Suede

Suede (or The London Suede as they're known as in the US) is my absolute favorite band of all time. They're not very well known since they didn't last long, but the songs that they did record in those years are amazing. Headed by their lead singer Brett Anderson, who has one of the strangest yet most complex voices I've ever heard, the bands songs are usually about drugs and sex, but these topics that people usually frown upon in mainstream music are addressed in such a different, almost poetic way. You have to really listen to their songs to get the true meanings behind them. If you're looking for an introduction to this band, check out the song Animal Nitrate. It was how I found out about Suede, and you won't be able to stop listening to it for days, if not weeks!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Little Night Music Cast Album

I've had the original cast album for A Little Night Music kicking around on my Ipod for awhile, but never really got to listen to it. That was until last week. I sat down, threw my earbuds in, and decided to take a listen to the music from this classic Sondheim musical.

After the overture, the album starts out with Now- Later - Soon. When I first realized that this song was over 10 minutes long, I got a bit concerned. Songs with this length are either amazing or they're extremely repetitive and boring.  This song turned out to be the former. It gives you a good sense of what's going on with the characters and provides a nice introduction that makes you want to listen to the rest of the music.

The album continues on with The Glamorous Life, one of my favorite songs from this musical, and goes onto even more memorable Sondheim tunes, including The Miller's Son, an interesting look at one of the main characters, the famous Send in the Clowns, and another one of my favorites, You Must Meet My Wife. Now, there are some boring tracks on this album, but the good songs outnumber the less interesting ones.

So what would I give this cast album? I'd say an 8 out of 10.  Even if there are a few boring songs scattered throughout, this is one of those recordings that I'll definitely go back and listen to over and over again. If you're a musical theatre fan or a Sondheim fan, go and take a listen!