Sunday, January 15, 2012

Tell Me on a Sunday: Let me Entertain you

People have their preferences for everything in their life.  There are preferences on how you like your food, you laundry folded and how to drive you car.  Theatre is no exception and peoples preferences are as varied as there are people. 

There are some people that only like "happy theatre.  They want to go to be entertained, but they don't want to see anything too sad.  Musicals and comedic plays usually fit this bill.  
Some people only like theatre that is dark and edgy.  They want to see something that defines the "art" of theatre.  Something that pushes the envelope, gives them something to think about and possibly makes people squirm in their seats.

Personally, I like all theatre.  There are things that if I could, I would choose to partake in very occasionally, like any kind of existentialism.  Or anything with an actor chat back immediately following.  My comfort zones are musicals...mainly because there is so much going on.  I can focus on the performances bu I can look at the lighting, the dancing, the costumes and the orchestra.  Do you not watch an orchestra?  You should, sometimes they are one of the BEST things in a show.  

I made myself a promise two years ago that any theatre ticket I could get I had to attend, barring a really good reason to not go.  This way I am trying to stretch outside my own comfort zones.  Because of this I have seen some theatre that I loved and never would have attended- Riverdance comes to mind in this. It was really amazing and held my attention the entire time.  There are some things I've seen where I had to ask myself "What the hell am I watching?" - Peer Gynt comes to mind.  Sometimes, the shows that I think I will love, I have hated.  Yet everything I have seen has been something that was absolutely worth seeing.

 We all go to the theatre to be entertained, but we all have different ideas on what that means. So tell me: do you only like to go to something that may have a happy ending?  Do you like going to shows that might end on a down note?  What are your preferences?  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Makes me want to weep for America

So occasionally when I want something interesting to read, I will go to the local college bookstore.   I know that is odd, but some of the best and most re-read books in my library are books from my college classes.

As I wandered the aisles in came a young lady who walked up to the clerk stocking the shelves with her book list in hand.  After squinting at it for a moment she looked up at him and asked in all seriousness," I need some book called Hamlet, do you have it?"

To quote the Ghost in Act V of Hamlet, I found this exchange "O horrible, O horrible, most horrible!" 

 I live in an area with really good schools, so there is no reason that she should have never heard of Hamlet before.  At least she would have heard of William Shakespeare, who when discussed, usually has his other writings make some sort of appearance. Especially Hamlet, since it's one of his most famous and oft performed and adapted  plays.

Sure, I get that the arts are being cut in our schools. Are they being cut this much?  I know it has been a while since I was in high school, maybe I don't know what they cover anymore.  Am I expecting too much from students who have graduated from high school to have heard of Hamlet?  Not to have read it, not to have seen any of the movie versions, just heard of it?

For goodness sake there are 9 comic book versions that I find with a quick Google search, not to mention a Hamlet for Kids (claims it is good for ages 7-12).  Side note, that seems young for a play that deals in revenge, incest, madness, treachery and moral corruption.  But like I said, it's been a while since I've been in school.  Maybe 7 year olds are ready for these themes these days?

Possibly I'm overreacting and this is not the fault of the educational system.  Maybe this girl is an exception and truly has never heard of Hamlet.  Even in that case, I don't think I'm being overdramatic to say that if you can graduate from high school and not even have heard of this play in some reference or another, then that is the true definition of tragedy.

Even sadder, this might be the first thing that pops into mind when someone says " Prince Hamlet".

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tell Me on a Sunday: Swift Kick in the Pants

So they are making a movie of this musical called Les Miserables....maybe you’ve heard of it?

While I (think) I have made my feelings clear on this particular musical, I wanted to broach it about the casting of this movie. Now, clearly, I do not have (any) emotional investment in this musical or who is portraying any character. There are some amazing songs that I do love to hear (outside of the musical, I won’t pay a gajillion $ to wait for hours to hear a few songs), so I do care about who is singing, but not that much.

Casting news has trickled out and here is what is known so far:

Hugh Jackman - Jean Valjean
Russel Crowe - Javert
Anne Hathaway - Fantine
Sacha Baron Cohen - Thenardier
Helena Bonham Carter - Madame Thenardier
Amanda Seyfried - Cosette
Taylor Swift - Eponine

If I give you a moment to look over the list again, can you guess which person is causing the uber fans to have panic attacks and sling vicious vitriol across the Internet?

If you answered Amanda Sayfried, I would understand, because Mamma Mia did no one in that film any favors. But apparently she is opera trained, and from what (little) I saw of the last musical, she has a pretty voice.

But if you answered Taylor Swift, win (your prize is being right, ta da!)

The reaction has been amazing to me. People have been FREAKING THE F*CK OUT over this.

So, I decided to compile some of the most oft given reasons for the overreaction and add my own opinions to them. Who would have guessed that theatre fans are overdramatic?

Reason #1 - This role should have gone to Lea Michele
Lea has an amazing voice. She is a fantastic theatrical/musically trained actress. I own many an album that she is singing on, and most of them are Glee soundtracks.
She also makes the worst singing faces on the planet and while that is ok on the stage (where you're far away) and on Glee (where standards, continuity and plot are things that are not necessary...sorry thats a different post), I think this might not work on the big screen (see New Years Eve for more proof) for three hours at a time. Plus, she’s kind of busy taking over everything else in the world. She’s probably tired...

Reason #2 - Taylor can’t sing
Whether you like her or hate her, Taylor Swift is a superstar performer and singer who has won a bajillion awards in the last few years, including Billboard’s 2011 Woman of the Year and according to 2010 Nielsen SoundScan is the most successful digital artist in music history with over 34.3 million digital tracks sold. Clearly, some people are listening to her...

I grant the haters out there that she has never attempted something the magnitude of Eponine, but here’s her chance! The song is written as it’s written, it’s not like she’s going to turn it into a country song.

Reason #3 - Taylor can’t act and can’t bring the depth needed to the role
Valentine’s Day is referenced a lot in this reasoning, but I think she played the role of a bubbly, head over heels, slightly obnoxious teen in love pretty well...cause that's the role. That's how she was directed and that's a subject matter she knows.

Some country songs and hers more specifically, are filled with girls in love, over romanticizing everything, wanting people they can’t have, and living in an imaginary world where their love conquers all.

Which is sad, because Eponine is ....all of that. Eponine is in her late teens, in love with a man who doesn’t love her, imagines her world as something it’s not when thinking of him and is over dramatic to the end. Huh...maybe this is something Taylor could do. It seems to be in her wheelhouse, yes?

I promise that my complete and utter hatred of this musical is not the reason I defend her. I defend her because I think these reasons are ridiculous. If you vow not to see this musical because she is in it, then fine, that's your call. Even with my hatred of this musical, I will see this movie. It is bound to be an interesting and unique adaption of the show. Much like how Daniel Day Lewis was different  than Antonio Banderas’ portrayal of the main character in Nine, so will Taylor be different than any of the actresses that have played Eponine on stage.

To be clear, this is not a defense of Taylor in the role.  It's more to point out that she's not the worst choice in the world.  If she happens to bring a fraction of her music fans with her to the movie, is that so bad?  A few thousand more people giving money to a musical film that, if popular, may convince the studios to make more movie musicals?

If she's terrible everyone gets to say "I told you so", but until then can we give her and the project itself, the benefit of the doubt?   And in the end, many people auditioned for this role, Taylor got it. Get over it. This movie is directed by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) I think the guy knows how to make a movie.

What do you think?