Suddenly Surprise!

Good afternoon, my wonderful readers! I’m just writing a quick note to say that, because I have a special post planned for next week, today’s will consist of some favorite musical-themed GIFs. (None of these were created by me.)

We now return to your regularly-scheduled Puccini’s Chronicles programming.

Songs You Probably Didn’t Realize Are About Dark Things

Mind=blown.

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The clock at Grand Central Terminal waits for nobody.

“Blown Away,” Carrie Underwood. What it’s about: In this song from Underwood’s album of the same name, the story centers around a girl with a dead mother and an abusive, alcoholic father. When a tornado hits their Oklahoma home, the girl leaves her passed-out father as she locks herself in the storm shelter. We can assume that he is destroyed when the twister rips through the house. Ouch!

“Unworthy of Your Love,” Stephen Sondheim. What it’s about: At first glance, this number from the Broadway show Assassins sounds like a standard, beautiful love ballad. But it takes on an entirely different tone when you realize it’s being sung by Squeaky Fromme and John Hinckley- a wannabe Manson follower and Jodie Foster’s stalker, respectively. These two also attempted to assassinate U.S. Presidents in an effort to win their beloved’s attention. Now that’s what I call tainted love!

“I Don’t Like Mondays,” The Boomtown Rats. What it’s about: This staple rock song is deceptively catchy for such dark lyrical inspiration. The title comes from a quote by Brenda Ann Spencer, a troubled teen who was asked why she sniped ten people in a playground (two died). Though composer Bob Geldof received some flack for allegedly “exploiting a tragedy,” which he denies, the record became the Boomtown Rats’ biggest hit.

“Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster the People. What it’s about: In a similar vein, the earworm-worthy hook of this band’s debut single masks some morbid subject matter. When closely listening to the lyrics, it becomes clear that the song is about a school shooter, in the vein of Columbine. “Pumped up kicks” refer to the designer shoes worn by the narrator’s intended victims. The lead singer, Mark Foster, said that he wrote the piece to raise awareness for teen mental illness.

“Sweet Painted Lady,” Elton John. What it’s about: A majority of the tracks from Elton John’s smash Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album manage to be incredibly fun while telling some grim tales. In this slow, sea-soaked jam, a sailor sings of the prostitute he’s hired for the night and wonders how she feels about the life she leads. With its thoughtful lyrics by Bernie Taupin, the song achieves a certain poignancy.

“At the Ballet,” Marvin Hamlisch. What it’s about: This number from A Chorus Line is a semi-torch song for a trio of women. Typically sung by soubrettes, it conveys three distinct dramas that have something in common: their heroines all found relief when they went to the ballet. Sheila’s parents had a loveless marriage, Bebe’s mother made her feel unattractive, and Maggie’s father was absent entirely. Audiences who get lost in the glitter of the show tend to forget the inherent sadness of this scene.

It Ain’t Festivus, but I’m Airing Some Grievances

  1. The Broadway.com Awards are the epitome of why “the public” can’t be allowed to vote for anything in the entertainment industry. Why? Because “the public” voting on their smartphones is mostly comprised of close-minded teenagers who are just getting exposed to the theatrical world. Disclaimer: There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Hell, my first “gateway show” was Wicked. Everyone’s got to start somewhere. But unless voters adequately acquire the breadth of knowledge required to judge performances…awards turn into a popularity contest. Which is fine, but then it should be touted as such. Call the category “Favorite Working Actress” instead of “Best Performance by an Actress,” so that when Idina Menzel or Laura Osnes win for shows that close in less than 6 months, it’ll make sense.
  2. On that note, the notion of “parody” adaptations being protected from copyright suits is starting to bother me. You make a mockery out of someone else’s work, and it’s totally fine. You lovingly adapt someone else’s work because you respect the material and want to see it anew, and suddenly you’re cutting legal red tape. It hardly seems fair…but as a friend pointed out to me, it’s also hardly about the art when dollar bills start falling into people’s laps.

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…So to speak.

Okay, my rant’s over.

A Tale of Two Show Boats

One of my favorite musicals ever is the groundbreaking Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein piece called Show Boat. Although I have never seen it live, I did watch the Papermill Playhouse production that PBS recorded…it was during my high school Musical Theatre class. I remember being blown away by the grand set designs, the gorgeous music, and the heartbreaking story that also managed to be very hopeful.

Anyway, when I was a teenager, I acquired a CD of the 1965 Lincoln Center Show Boat, which starred Barbara Cook, Constance Towers, and William Warfield. I loved this recording because everyone was in fine voice and the orchestra was amazing. I was also annoyed at this recording because it didn’t include the complete score of this phenomenal show. But it was all I had.

And because it was all I had, fast-forward to the premiere BroadwayCon in 2016. There, I got an autograph from Rebecca Luker, who played Magnolia Hawks in the 1994 Broadway staging of the piece. (Magnolia is one of my bucket list roles, incidentally.) Since I only had the Barbara Cook production, I asked her to sign that, which she happily did. So, I have the wrong recording of Show Boat signed by Rebecca Luker.

Picture it: Midtown Manhattan, the last day of February, 2017. I’m on lunch break and decide to stop by the secondhand electronics/bookstore. I browse through the music section and choose the Almost Famous soundtrack for my boyfriend; it’s one of his favorite movies. A few minutes later, I find- wait for it- the 1994 Broadway cast CD of Show Boat, starring…Rebecca Luker!

Both discs cost $5, and you really can’t ask for a better deal than that. So I headed for the cashier, two items in hand and a silly grin on my face. The moral of the story: now I just need this album signed by Barbara Cook and I’ll be in business!

I don’t know…were you able to follow this story? Or are y’all feeling a bit like the secretary in Cagney right now?

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(Thanks to BroadwayBox for creating this magical thing.)

When Bad Lyrics Happen to Good Songs

Disclaimer: Light snark ahead. However, all of the songs on this list are on my iPad. That means I quite like them and enjoy listening to them! Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean they are without flaws. These are musical theatre pieces containing a painful lyric that baffles me when I hear it.

“In your kidney-shaped pool.” (“SMASH!,” SMASH) I know Smash technically is a television show, but some of the original songs have very poor lyrics in them. This is one of them. The word “kidney” does not belong in a song (much like “thrice” and “intrauterine”…brownie points to whoever gets that reference) let alone an entire lyric referring to the shape of a swimming pool.

“Join us, leave your cheese to sour.” (“Magic to Do,” Pippin) Ugh! This is such a wonderful opening number, which makes it all the more painful that Stephen Schwartz couldn’t think of a better lyric than this one. It’s really silly. Who is so worried about souring cheese that they must be persuaded to leave it and come watch the show?

“I believe in looking like my time on Earth is cooking.” (“My Strongest Suit,” AIDA) “My time on Earth is cooking?” What in the world does that even mean? Tim Rice is the mastermind behind “Circle of Life” and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” so a lyric like this from him is just unacceptable. Giuseppe Verdi would be turning in his grave if he knew that Amneris was singing this.

“The grass is always greener on some new Technicolor stage.” (“Cut, Print… Moving On,” SMASH) Yet another doozy from NBC’s nod to Broadway. Like the AIDA lyric, this is just nonsensical. How could the grass even figuratively be greener on a stage? Even more egregiously, the stage has to be described as “Technicolor.” Add that to the list of words that don’t belong in songs unless you’re talking about Joseph’s Dreamcoat.

“Like a seed dropped by a skybird in a distant wood.” (“For Good,” Wicked) And we close out with some more Stephen Schwartz as well. The imagery associated with this lyric is just not good, no pun intended. Furthermore, if I compared my friendship with someone to being like a seed dropped in the forest, I think they’d be weirded out. “That’s how you describe our meeting each other?” they may wonder. It’s a simile that is too out-of-left-field to work.

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Daily Prompt: Fortune

~MUSICAL THEATRE FORTUNE COOKIES~

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“She with large hair, who racially integrates television, will be blessed with good ch’i.”

“He who cuts throats for meat pies may end up with a throat cut himself.”

“Wise is the one who climbs ev’ry mountain to freedom.”

“He who gives vanilla ice cream to his beloved will find good favor in her heart.”

“Beware of the masked men who drop chandeliers from the ceiling.”

“She who greenly defies gravity, defies expectations of herself.”

“One must not fail to identify one’s father in a Greek taverna on their wedding day.”

“That which does not render us shaky as a fiddler on the roof, makes us value tradition.”

“She who glows and goes strong will always be welcomed back where she belongs.”

“That which fails to see itself with one look, may be gone by Sunset.”

“Even a flying machine can mean the difference between life and death in Saigon.”

“He who finishes the hat in seclusion shuts out his children as well as the art.”

“If one throws away their shot- ah, screw it, like we need another Hamilton reference!”

Snags, Sondheim, and the Senate

Election Day is next week…

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Pretty much…

All joking aside, I know it’s not like me to post again so soon, especially after an entry as thorough as that Lincoln Center Manual. But hey, I’m anxious and wanna blow off some steam. Verbally. I could do worse.

Firstly, my film-reviewing challenge has hit a snag. Two of the movies I had planned to watch were on my DVR, which got mysteriously wiped out last month. So- I will try to come up with replacements. Unless somebody wants to make a suggestion?

I haven’t started any of my Christmas shopping yet. Which is crazy, since November just started, but hey it’s November! Where did this year go? It was a…strange one, to say the least. Stuff happened that I never thought could, or would, ever. For better and for worse. But I am particularly excited for the holidays this year. I’m not sure why, but I have a hunch that the last two months of 2016 will be extra-festive. This, in turn, should indicate that 2017 will start on a high note…right?!

Speaking of which, remember when I mentioned that I had a surprise? One that involved Sondheim and a one-woman show. Well, guess what, readers…that woman is me! (Follies pun not intended.) This February, I will be performing my solo version of Into the Woods at Feinstein’s/54 Below for autism advocacy. Tickets are on sale NOW, and I can promise more details as the date approaches!

Daily Prompt: Argument (or, accidental Dear Journal…)

I am, by nature, not a confrontational person. I never talk about politics or religion in public forums (and that includes social media). Why? Well, part of it is because my group of friends is so polarized that anything I say will upset half of them. I like to refer to my stance as “Switzerland.” The only thing I do reveal on a regular basis is my belief in God. But my lips are wholly sealed.

The other half of it is that I simply hate to argue. I don’t like discord; it makes me anxious and upset. I wish everyone could just live harmoniously. Because I know it can be done, if only we all recognized our common humanity. We all, at our cores, want the same things. Does this train of thought make me naive? I don’t know. Maybe. But I prefer to believe that it is a special part of my personality- it’s just another way I filter the world. Unfortunately, such a lens (ironically) sometimes ends up creating strain between my family members and me. They have a very different outlook on things. Of course we fight about it, and of course it’s to no avail. I don’t let it bother me anymore.

On a lighter note, I am really looking forward to Lady Gaga’s new album, Joanne. What I’ve heard from it so far is already better than 3/4 of Artpop. Do you know where this new title comes from? It’s her real name! Gaga has said that this new CD will represent a turning point for her; she’s stripping down the theatrics and gaudiness in favor of a truer self. At least, that’s what I got from her statement. In my opinion, it’s beautiful, and something I occasionally need to be reminded of. Particularly during those moments of argument. As Shakespeare wrote: “To thine own self be true.”

I leave you with this little factoid, my dear readers…the “Azura dance” songs from Fire Emblem Fates have been stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, Nintendo.

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Tuneful Pokemon- Take the Poll!