Monday, November 30, 2009

Thanksgiving Leftovers

- Donna Lynne Champlin has taken it upon herself to release a solo CD on a shoestring budget of $1,000. When she broke her ankle in September she found herself with six weeks to spare and got to work. The CD is now out, and the Sweeney Todd star celebrated with a release party performance at the Laurie Beechman Theatre last evening. I was supposed to be there until asthma got in the way; however, I've went ahead and purchased a copy of the CD, for which I have to confess I'm very excited. DLC has been blogging the experience from the beginning, with considerable humor and blunt honesty. Anyone interested in how a recording is made will find her blog an educational tool, as she gets into warts and bolts of what goes into every aspect of both creative and business aspects. I always applaud a grassroots effort and am looking forward to hearing the new disc.

- A Little Night Music has returned to Broadway for the first time since the original production closed in 1974. The revival is yet another in a long line of transfers from the West End, specifically the Menier Chocolate Factory. Naturally, I was at the first preview. I won't go into too much detail about performances and such, as it's in its first week and there is work to be done (though I think a certain someone might be getting Tony #6...). There were some issues with the orchestra. Namely there were points where I couldn't hear it from my vantage point far house left, and during dance sequences found the shoes and dresses hitting the stage louder than the band. It reminded me of the ballet scene from the film version of Amadeus where the dancers continue after the music has been cut. Between this orchestration and that for the Menier Sunday in the Park with George it's becoming quite clear that Jason Carr hates the French horn.

One other quibble - Madame Armfeldt would NEVER allow a formal dinner at her house to be held as a picnic on her lawn. It would be far too gauche for someone of her status, especially considering that in the first scene of the second act she is mortified at the prospect of guests finding them "squatting on the ground like bohemians." It's completely incongruous to the character - it's Madame Armfeldt's house and she wouldn't allow it. Period. But oh, that book and score. So sublime, and always so lovely to see it onstage.

- While I blogged at length about the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, I neglected to mention that another iconic 1959 musical celebrated its golden anniversary this month. Only one week after the final Rodgers and Hammerstein musical opened at the Lunt-Fontanne, Bock & Harnick's Fiorello! opened at the Broadhurst Theatre. The musical about Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia was a big hit, running 795 performances, winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama. Star Tom Bosley won the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical as the charismatic "Little Flower." And for the only time in Tony history, there was a tie in the Best Musical category with The Sound of Music and Fiorello! sharing the honors.

It's interesting to note that as far as musical theatre is concerned, both fall short of a third nominee that came up empty handed at the Tonys in 1960, Gypsy - which is the most artistically successful of the three. SOM got the smash hit film version, but that improves on the muddled stage libretto but brings in audiences based on their experiences with Julie Andrews. Fiorello! contains a beautiful score, but is perhaps too topical for today's audiences who consider LaGuardia an airport and a high school. It was the first-ever musical staged by City Center Encores! but seems unlikely for a Broadway revival unless one of the non-profits were to do it.

- Oleanna and Superior Donuts have announced their closing notices. Both are productions worth seeing. The former doesn't surprise me as much, the subject matter is difficult and that in itself would make it a hard sell. However, I would have expected Donuts to remain open through the Tonys. I highly recommend seeing both before they close on January 3, especially the latter for the breakthrough performance of Jon Michael Hill. You will one day want to be able to say you saw him when. Other shows haven't posted notices but seem to be having some trouble. That Bye Bye Birdie is succeeding where Ragtime and Finian's Rainbow are struggling suggests to me that perhaps there is no God. Or at least serves as a reminder that life is far from fair.

- Yet another Thanksgiving has come and gone. Stopping briefly to be reflective, I find myself looking back on the year and the reasons for which I am thankful. I'm thankful for my general good health, shelter overhead and food. (Cue "We Gather Together...") But getting past the obvious I'm grateful for every opportunity I have had to see and experience theatre. (Yes, even the bad...) I'm also so fortunate to have such a group of eclectic and diverse friends. I'm especially grateful that I get to go to the theatre with these folks, and consider so many of them personal friends. To think it all started because I decided to blog on this site; I am sincerely humbled that you even care what I think let alone that you read what I write. Also, I must mention the new friends who I have met through Twitter and Facebook, one of the most positive aspects of new media and social networking. I look forward to continuing the fun times and conversation with all of you.

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