Writing

Cut Song: “Bring Me Home” from SUMMER’S CHILD

by Amanda DeLalla

HOLLY:

BRING ME HOME

KEEP ME AT YOUR SIDE AND THEN

BRING ME HOME

SO I CAN FEEL ALIVE AGAIN

SO WHEN THE SUN WILL RISE

AT EVERY DAWN’S BRIGHT CRACK

YOU CAN LOOK INTO MY EYES

AND I’LL BE LOOKING BACK

OH, WHAT GOOD IS A MEMORY

IF IT ONLY BRINGS YOU PAIN?

IF I LOSE THE PAST, SET MY SOUL FREE

ALL MY STRENGTH I CAN REGAIN

I’VE NO ENERGY LEFT TO ROAM

SO OH, OH, OH BRING ME HOME

YOU AND ME COULDA BEEN A GOOD FIT

 

DEXTER:

DON’T YOU WASTE ANOTHER MINUTE

 

BOTH:

STEP ON INTO YOUR FUTURE

AND SEE WHAT COULD BE

DON’T LET YOUR FEAR OF ONE OR TWO

KEEP YOU FROM DOOR NUMBER THREE

 

DEXTER:

BRING ME HOME

DON’T SAY ANOTHER WORD

BRING ME HOME

IT’S ALL YOU, OR HAVEN’T YOU HEARD?

BRING ME HOME

 

HOLLY:

BRING ME HOME

 

DEXTER:

BRING ME HOME

 

HOLLY:

BRING ME HOME

 

BOTH:

REWRITE THIS FATE

LET GO OF MY HATE

IF YOU’LL GAIN WHEN YOU LOSE

 

HOLLY:

THEN I KNOW WHAT I SHALL CHOOSE

 

BOTH:

AND BRING ME HOME

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(Source: Christopher Clark)

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Theatre

Critically Thinking- Spring Awakening and Sex in Art

I have never been a fan of the popular musical Spring Awakening.

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Granted, the recent Deaf West Broadway production had a fascinating angle and I was curious to catch it. As a whole, though, am I missing something?

Let’s leave the subject matter out of it for a second: strictly music and lyric-wise, Spring Awakening is a fairly mediocre piece. Unless I’m really dense, which is entirely possible…the lyrics are a bit nonsensical. “My Junk” is all over the place, while words like “oh, I’m gonna be your bruise” feel very forced. Not to mention the Act 1 finale is literally made up of 10 words repeated over and over. How this score managed to beat Grey Gardens for the Tony that year is beyond me.

Look, I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the internal rhymes and insightful syntax of Sondheim. And various styles speak to everyone differently. Who am I to judge what is great art?

Okay, moving onto the book and characterization. I get it; Spring Awakening is about generation gaps and emotional repression and the struggles of growing up. But I blame the OBP’s marketing team for people thinking that its content is “teenagers having sex.” Because that’s what they emphasize in like half the promotional material. As we all know, sex sells. Perhaps if more emphasis had been placed on the show’s underlying themes, folks like me wouldn’t make that assumption.

But at the same time, I’m brought to my other point. I almost feel as though the direction of the piece (or at least the OBP) decided to milk those teenagers having sex. Did we really need to see Lea Michele’s bare chest, Jonathan Groff’s ass, or Hanschen’s “self-loving” out in the open to understand the action and its implications? It appears to be gratuity for the sake of gratuitousness. Basically: if you want to tell a meaningful, compelling story, focus on that and not how graphic you can get onstage.

Well, that’s all I can think of right now. Feel free to challenge me on any of my opinions here. In conclusion, though, I want to add that I don’t think the entirety of Spring Awakening is a lost cause. There’s some good stuff to work with here- I just don’t think it was executed correctly. As occurs frequently to artists when they try to create a game-changer. Ain’t life a bitch?

Writing

“The Fools Who Love”

by Amanda DeLalla

Here’s to the fools who love.
To the red-nosed reindeer,
And finger-less glove.
To the dandelions called a weed,
Who may get what they want,
But not what they need.
Here’s to the fools who desire.
For a better world, some inner peace,
And more hearts afire.
Those who just want to know what’s true.
I don’t think they’re stupid to try;
Do you?
Here’s to the fools who dream.
Who believe that goodness
Is more alive than it seems.
The ones who trust in some greater plan,
Those who leave a legacy
Because they believe they can.
We reach and cry but will still be kind,
From oceans below to skies above.
All in a quest to simply find
Another one of the fools who loves.

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Music

The Music of Disney- Take the Poll!

Theatre

Spotlight: Sing Prima Donna, once more!

The upcoming Broadway season is filled to the brim with new musicals. And now that Hamilton is an incumbent show, the Tony Awards will actually be suspenseful this year. What makes this even more of a banner year- like last year was a banner year for ethnic diversity- many of the upcoming shows feature terrific ladies in lead roles.

While it can be argued that women remain underrepresented in the world of theatre, particularly in the creative jobs…we’re making great strides. It seems to have kicked off with Waitress last year, which featured Broadway’s first all-female creative team. For those of you who don’t know, that means the songwriter(s), director, librettist, and choreographer.

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“The day starts like the rest we’ve seen, another carbon copy of an old routine…”

The first show coming our way, although it doesn’t really count, is Kristin Chenoweth: My Love Letter to Broadway. The reason it doesn’t count is because it’s a very limited run and more of a concert than a Broadway production. Still, it plays next month at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, undoubtedly a testament to K-Chen’s masterful career. The event will, I’ve heard, feature different songs/special guests each night.

Next up are the new Broadway revivals of Miss Saigon and Hello Dolly! which feature two of the greatest musical roles ever written for women. The two pieces themselves couldn’t be more different: Victorian-era Yonkers vs. Vietnam War, anyone? But the fact remains that newcomer Eva Noblezada and superstar Bette Midler (as the respective titular characters) are sure to give powerhouse performances and perhaps even snag some Tony Awards. We shall see.

After that comes Anastasia, a theatrical mashup of two Hollywood films (one of them animated) about the biggest Romanov family urban legend. Featuring a tunefully beautiful score by the dynamite Ahrens and Flaherty, the show stars Christy Altomare as Anya, reprising her acclaimed performance from Goodspeed, CT. She will be joined by stage veterans Ramin Karimloo and Mary Beth Peil.

Finally, it’s the ultimate diva smackdown with War Paint, a new musical about makeup mavens Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. And who better to play these larger-than-life personalities than Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole, respectively?! This show was the biggest hit ever for the Chicago house where it premiered. Performances begin at the Nederlander Theatre on April 6th, 2017.

Which leading lady-driven musical are you most looking forward to this season? Do you have far-too-early Tony predictions? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Film and Television

Film Challenge 3: THE PEANUTS MOVIE (2015)

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Promo materials for The Peanuts Movie bill Violet as being “the original Mean Girl,” and I think that’s brilliant. As an aside, I’d like to apologize for how dark this blog has gotten over the past few weeks. So many heavy emotions. But never fear, my dear dilettantes- I’m making a point of staying optimistic and being hopeful for the future. With any luck, you won’t be seeing any cathartic poems on here for a while.

But back to that round-headed kid and his friends. If I’m correct, The Peanuts Movie represents the first major Hollywood adaptation of Charles Schultz’s comic strip since its debut in the 60s. What I liked most about the movie was that the filmmakers CLEARLY had a true love and respect for the source material. They included nods to Schultz’s comic and the old TV specials wherever they could. In addition, a friend of mine told me that his son played a major role in the film’s production, which probably helped with this!

The plot is fairly simple: Charlie Brown is trying to win the heart of the new kid in school, known only as “The Little Red-Haired Girl.” (I was hoping they’d use her given name, Heather, at some point.) Along the way, he goes on misadventures with his friends and learns some valuable lessons. A sub-plot of the movie surrounds his beagle, Snoopy, writing a book about the World War I Flying Ace; actually, the line between Snoopy’s novel and reality gets quite blurred.

All your favorite characters are here including lesser-known ones like Frieda and Franklin. In keeping with the spirit of the piece, they purposely cast voice actors that sounded very similar to the folks from the original TV specials. For Snoopy, they even used old sound bytes of Bill Melendez, who voiced man’s best friend way back in the 1970s. The musical score was done by Christophe Beck of Frozen fame, but they also included the original compositions, providing a very nostalgic feel. There’s one great song written just for the film, “Better When I’m Dancing,” sung by Meghan Trainor.

The bottom line? Having grown up with both the comic strip and the holiday programs, I grinned like an idiot for the entirety of The Peanuts Movie. Despite the throwbacks, the piece still managed to feel fresh and funny, taking on a life of its own. I laughed out loud several times, especially for Snoopy and Peppermint Patty…and even got teary-eyed once or twice. I highly recommend this little gem for people looking for wholesome, feel-good entertainment…and for anyone who was once a kid, when flying kites and kicking a football were your biggest problems.

Theatre

For Your Consideration: a review of Broadway’s WAITRESS

“It’s amazing what baking can do,” sings Jessie Mueller as Jenna the waitress in one of just two non-Hamilton shows surviving from last season. (The other is School of Rock.) And if “baking,” she also means “the theatre,” then she’s absolutely correct. Seeing Waitress on Broadway this week for my birthday affirmed that.

In short: Jenna is a small-town waitress who happens to have a gift for baking pies. The trouble is that she’s stuck in an abusive marriage and unexpectedly pregnant…until a baking competition offers a $20,000 prize and the potential for a new life. Along the way, she is aided by her friends at the diner (Kimiko Glenn, Keala Settle) as well as the new doctor in town (Drew Gehling). Actually, she and the doctor wind up having an affair. The show is based on a 2007 motion picture.

Famously, the score was entirely done by pop singer Sara Bareilles, who received a Tony Award nomination for her work. Her involvement with the show has been a staple of their marketing campaign, and she makes vocal cameos (pre-recorded) at a few points in the musical. I am in love with Bareilles’s music for Waitress; in fact, it’s a big part of why I wanted to see the show onstage. It’s fresh, it’s catchy, and each number is carefully crafted to reflect the personality of its characters. My favorite songs are “Opening Up” and “Bad Idea,” the opener and closer of Act I, respectively. There is also the 11 o’clock song, “She Used to Be Mine,” but I’ll talk about that at the end.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is how the ensemble is used: they fill lots of minor roles, but they also serve as a Greek chorus of sorts for the action. The effect works surprisingly well. As for the leading players, they were all perfectly suited to their roles and got great audience reception; at my performance, Kimiko Glenn’s understudy was on, but she did a great job. Another thing Waitress knows how to do is find a balance between comedic and serious moments. You have the ludicrous awkwardness of Ogie (Christopher Fitzgerald) and Becky’s take-no-prisoners attitude…and then a scene later, you see Jenna get hit by her husband (Nick Cordero).

Speaking of which, Jessie Mueller gives another electric performance as the main character. She brings such raw emotion and sincerity that I cried at three different times in Act II. “She Used to Be Mine” spoke to me on a profound level as I thought about my own trials and tribulations. Like Jenna, the girl I once was didn’t ask for bad things to happen to her…and both of them escape (and still do) by immersing themselves in their passions.

With any luck, someday I too can achieve my ultimate happiness- and the ones I care about will be right there with me. Waitress was not only a delightful birthday gift, but a reminder of just how spellbinding the arts are for the soul. They don’t even have to be fundamentally perfect; as I’ve heard, “it only takes a taste.”

Theatre

Spotlight: My Big Fat Nomination Evaluation

Hi friends! Some of you may have noticed that I recently posted a poll on Puccini’s Chronicles. I think I’ll be doing this every month. Why? Just so I know what my readers/visitors like! And, of course, to generate discussion. P.S. This is the first entry I’m writing from my brand-new laptop.

So, what better way to break in a new laptop than to write a long discourse about some non-Hamilton-locked Tony Award categories? Okay, so that’s not 100% true. Half of the prizes I break down WILL involve actors from Hamilton. How could they not? That said, the awards for Best Musical, Score, and Book aren’t even a contest this year. But the show may very well win 3/4 acting categories as well…especially considering they are represented by multiple nominees. But we’ll get to that.

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~LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Who will probably win: Cynthia Erivo as Celie in The Color Purple (pictured).

  • Erivo’s Broadway debut as the triumphant literary heroine has been lauded by critics and fans alike as nothing short of revelatory. Should she win, Celie will be one of the few roles in history to earn a Tony Award twice (the first was from LaChanze in the original Broadway production).

Potential upset: Carmen Cusack as Alice in Bright Star

  • Ironically ALSO making her Broadway debut, I think Cusack is the only nominee who will give Erivo competition. Although this show is getting mixed reviews, her performance is being universally acclaimed. Point of contention- if Bright Star were to close before the ceremony, the award is Erivo’s to lose.

~REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL

What will probably win: She Loves Me

  • If recent victories for The King and I and Pippin are any indication, this category has a tendency to favor “classic” musicals. That, combined with this production’s good writeups and devoted fanbase, could give it the edge.

Potential upset: The Color Purple

  • On the flip side, what John Doyle did for this show is super fresh, and his cast is terrific. Stranger things have happened, but I’d also like to note that for both the aforementioned Pippin and King and I, their leading ladies ALSO won in those years! Could we see a repeat with Erivo and Purple?

~FEATURED ACTRESS IN A PLAY

Who will probably win: Jayne Houdyshell in The Humans

  • The Humans is being referred to as one of the best new plays in recent memory, and Jayne Houdyshell has been in the business for quite some time. She’s due for a win, and there aren’t roles much meatier than this one to get her there.

Potential upset: Megan Hilty in Noises Off

  • In a bizarrely similar vein, this is Broadway sweetheart Hilty’s first Tony Award nomination. However, she is one of the most popular “belting sopranos” in the biz. The Featured Performer categories are notoriously unpredictable too; do you recall Annaleigh Ashford’s win last year?

~FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

Who will probably win: Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica in Hamilton

  • Goldsberry has been favorited to win this nugget since her show opened. Viewers have cited the brilliant acting she brings to the brilliantly-written song “Satisfied.” But this is not the one-way ticket to victory- remember how Sydney Lucas’s astounding “Ring of Keys” last year…wound up in a loss for her?

Potential upset: Jennifer Simard as Sister Mary in Disaster!

  • I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this is the most unlikely of my upsets, and with good reason. Her show has already shut its doors. However, even people that absolutely despised Disaster! fell in love with Simard’s portrayal of a gambling nun. The phenomenon even inspired a Twitter hashtag, Put Simard On, trying to earn her a bit performance in the ceremony.

~LEADING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Who will probably win: Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr in Hamilton

  • The real Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton dueled to the death, and the same thing could go down here! Both men are giving tour-de-force performances, but I think Odom’s is getting some more attention. Personally, I think Lin Manuel-Miranda will earn his trophies for the show’s book and music.

Potential upset: Danny Burstein as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof

  • And we close with the classic “Kelli O’Hara problem” that only ended last year. Danny Burstein is among performers who have the most Tony Award nominations without a single win. He is clearly pouring his heart and soul into the iconic part of Tevye the Milkman, but he wound up in a really bad year to do so. There IS a small chance that his loss record combined with the beloved Fiddler results in “a staircase just for show.”
Theatre

What is It with These Broadway Kids Today?

Listen well, my younger readers. One of the most important pieces of advice I can give you if you’re searching for your place in the industry is to BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS. Look beyond the Tveit. Peer through the Emerald Curtain. Swap the Newsies cap for a turn-of-the-century hat, complete with feathers. And really explore the world you long to see beyond the barricade.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m concerned that I’m reading stuff from you kids about the same ten shows/actors all the time. Spring Awakening, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera, Laura Osnes, Sierra Boggess, Aaron Tveit, Idina Menzel, etc. Now I totally get that different shows speak to you in different ways; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with loving any of the shows you love. But you cannot fairly praise them as the best thing since sliced bread if they’re the only shows you’ve really heard. Take a chance and listen to that obscure show that ran for less than 10 performances on Broadway (*cough* Anyone Can Whistle *cough*) and you just may find some brilliant music there. And that’s another way a piece of art will have done its job in touching your heart.

Or you may find a new performer that blows you away with their interpretation of this new music. And then hopefully we’ll see some appreciation posts of them on your social media channels! And then more people will see them and want to learn about them! And so it continues infinitely! Okay, I’m getting a little too enthusiastic. But you get my drift. Here are some performers and shows I think you guys will love based on the current trends I’m seeing on various blog tags:

  • If you like Wicked…try Into the WoodsPippin, and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
  • If you like Hamilton…try Pacific Overtures and An American in Paris.
  • If you like Les Miserables or Phantom…try Carousel and Miss Saigon.
  • If you like First Date…try Company and She Loves Me.
  • If you like Laura Osnes or Sierra Boggess…check out Barbara Cook, Victoria Mallory, and Julie Andrews.

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Pictured: Victoria Mallory’s daughter, Ramona, in the same role her mom once played on Broadway! What are your favorite “lesser-known-but-still-amazing” stars of the stage and screen?

Theatre

Two Minutes with…SPECIAL EDITION

So tomorrow, Nikki M. James and Andrew Rannells (in a weird Book of Mormon reunion) will announce the nominations for this year’s Tony Awards at 8:30am. At that time, I’ll very likely be riding a bus to work…but that’s why we have Google!

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In any case, this year’s ceremony will be a little different. Instead of being “which shows will win what,” it’s gonna be “how many awards can Hamilton garner.” Of course I’m saying this facetiously, but we could witness a record-breaking amount of wins for the monster musical (this record is currently held by Mel Brooks’ The Producers). In this special TWO MINUTES  post, a dear friend of mine (and aficionado in her own right) exchanges words with me about what can go down. We’ll call her “Eyar.”

Eyar: With multiple actors being nominated in the leading actor category (2–Lin Manuel Miranda & Leslie Odom Junior) and featured actor category (3–Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, & Christopher Jackson) along with single nominations in leading actress and featured actress, Hamilton could reach 16 nominations, the most any show has ever received. Cynthia Erivo is going to win for The Color Purple and Spring Awakening is my front runner for Best Musical Revival.

DeLalla: Personally, I think Groff could be left out in the cold. Leading Actor will probably be a tight contest between Odom and Danny Burstein (which could result in the O’Hara/Mueller result of yesteryear but I’m not sure). The only one who’ll give Erivo serious competition is Carmen Cusack from Bright Star. People are saying nothing but outstanding things about her, too.

Eyar: Erivo is going to take it. And Miranda will also be in Leading Actor which he’ll probably win too.

DeLalla: Also, Spring Awakening could theoretically sneak in for a Best Revival nod, but it’ll be hard (remember what happened to Side Show).

Eyar: Also Cusack is in a mixed review show; they rarely let someone in a so-so show win an award. And Spring Awakening was successful and an original limited engagement that extended. Side Show closed early due to bad sales.

DeLalla: I think Miranda’s wins will be for the show’s writing. Odom has a better chance of getting the acting prize.

Eyar: Miranda could win actor, book, score, and musical. I can see that happening.

DeLallaIn a way, it’s sad. This could have been a REALLY interesting year- Waitress, School of Rock, Bright Star, and American Psycho have all been praised for at least one element of their show. It would’ve been cool to see them all duke it out. Don’t get me wrong, GREAT for Hamilton, but they just kind of threw a wrench in a lot of the fun.

Pictured above is Carmen Cusack in-character. Watch the nominations announcement in real-time here.