Newsies: The Musical

I don’t know how many times I watched this with my older sister growing up it was one of her favorite movies and she watched it so many times that the audio track was off, or so we thought. It turns out that the audio track had been re-dubbed in some parts of the movie. So when the news that it was being made into a stage musical came out I was sure to get here the Cast Recording and the next time I saw her she had listened to it and could go through and say what all was changed. So when the announcement that Newsies was coming to the National Theater in DC we put it on our calendars and noted that we had to go see it.

So the time had come and we finally went to see it and while it was thoroughly enjoyable and is a big youth empowerment musical and is about the Newsboys’ strike of 1899 and is mostly  true story about when they effectively shut down the World and Journal as Pulitzer and Hearst refused to reduced prices for the newsboy bundle back to the 50 cents for 100 papers as it was before the Spanish American War. Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t arrive at the nick of time to save the day and it wasn’t led by Jack Kelly but by Kid Blink who was from Brooklyn. The story ends with a rather draw as the price doesn’t get lowered from 60 cents but Hearst and Pulitzer agree to buy back any unsold papers.

In the musical there were some things that I really liked and other things that I didn’t. In this part there will be spoilers so please read with some caution. I am a huge fan of the set that they used it as it could be twisted and moved and they had a great use of projections, from which we had some cool moments. As for the adaptation from screen to stage there were things that changed for the better and some that seemed completely unnecessary. A big improvement is the character of Medda Larkin is scaled back and the most annoying songs in the movie has been replaced with a new one. The other big change is making the reporter a young female and merging both the reporter and Les and Davey’s sister into one individual, this new character Katherine Plummer is the new love interest as well. Katherine ends up being the daughter of Joseph Pulitzer which just seems like they were shoehorning the character in the story as well as the romance between Katherine and Jack. Of the things that really didn’t change was Davey, he isn’t that great of a character in the movie or the stage version, and that is completely the fault of the book as I am sure they could have made him more likeable. I was joking with my sister before we saw it that they should end it just like the movie with a boy, I think it’s Les, jump up into the air and they freeze it until the credits are all over and then he falls on the ground. That would have been really funny, but holding in the air like that would be impossible in real life.

If you get a chance to go see this musical it is worth the time and money even if you aren’t that big of a fan of the movie as the audience consisted of a bunch of families with young children. This is a nice musical to take your son to see even perhaps as their first stage musical, as are most Disney musicals.  If you are a part of the cult following of the film then you are seeing the stage version no matter what as it was created for them after all their demands for a stage version of the film were heard.

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News Roundup

Lincoln Assassination: I am sure we are all well aware that Lincoln died 150 years ago while he was seeing a play a Ford’s Theatre. The play “Our American Cousin” is rarely performed today but it was a farce of it’s day. However to mark the anniversary the play is being preformed in Richmond, VA, Pittsburgh, PA and Springfield, IL shedding some new light on the play today. It would have been really cool if Ford’s Theatre mounted a production but that was not in the cards. I mean I would want to go see it just for the novelty of saying that I sat through it. The whole assassination brings up a big question of if they continued the play or if it just stopped after Lincoln was shot and Booth jumped\fell to the stage shouting “Sic semper tyrannis”.

Beer: More and more Craft brewers are turning to canning their beer instead of bottling them.This is a smart move as cans are easier to transport and help keep the beer at the fresher compared to glass bottle which allows in some UV light cans do not. Some individuals say that beer in cans taste metallic but in all honest it just boils down to what you are drinking. If you want a good beer you’ve got to get something that tastes good, go to like  Total Wine or Trader Joe’s or some other place with a selection of local beer many grocery stores have started selling local beers as well. Get something local and drink it, and if you don’t have an active craft brew scene in your area try other regional beers.You could also go hyper local and start brewing for yourself all the grains, yeast and hops you need are like around $20 for a five gallon recipe, but if you go this route you need to be patient.

Playoffs: The NHL Playoffs begin tonight with four games (Caps/Islanders, Flames/Canucks, Blackhawks/Predators, and Sens/Canadians). This year five Canadian teams made it to the playoffs unfortunately at least two of them will be gone after the first round since they are playing each other in both the east and the west. The NBA Playoffs begin on Saturday night, this year will be the first time in a long while that the Miami Heat are not in the playoffs. All eyes are on the Spurs and if they can once again reach the finals again. More on this later.

Arts Education in High School

So I got a post on Facebook alerting me that my old high school is thinking of making the theatre arts teacher a part time position at the school, which seems like a stupid idea  I find it a shame that whenever money need to be found the first place they look for it is in the arts, even though for most of those programs are self sufficient through the fundraising of the students and ads sold in programs. I’m not sure why they want to cut theatre back or anything like that, but this is an important issue so if you’ve got some time and want to support the arts please sign the petition.

Here is why I signed:
Everyone it seems has already touched on the development of well rounded individuals. However there is more to it than that as theatre arts helps develop confidence, empathy, stage presence and other things that are essential in the real world. For many student involved this is their only chance to be on stage and by cutting the program it would be a detriment to society. In the broadest of strokes we all act every single day on the job to neighbors and friends, even sometime to our families as Paul Lawrence Dunbar wrote in his poem “We wear the Mask”. Theater programs help us to become better people by helping us recognize the myriad of masks that we put on.. I understand how schools are stressing Math and Sciences but the Arts, all of the Arts are important and it is a shame to hear that this is an actual idea in one of the richest school districts in the nation. I was involved in both on the stage and in the classroom and after spending over hundreds of hours working on shows and in classes with roughly the same people over four years they became more than friends they are family.

The Last Five Years

I have been a fan of The Last Five Years for it seems ages, I own the Off-Broadway Cast Recording with Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott  and it was my first introduction to Jason Robert Brown. So when I heard they were making a film version I was excited. The Last Five Years tells the story of a relationship forwards (Jamie, the male) and backwards (Cathy, the female) at the same time, some people have said this is confusing but I don’t understand this argument. The show was inspired by Jason Robert Brown’s own failed marriage. Over on Unequally Yoked there is a nice post and there is also one at Monique Ocampo Writes. Spoiler to follow so please be careful if you read anymore.

In the film we have Anna Kendrick as Cathy and Jeremy Jordan as Jamie and we get to see a bunch of other characters, on stage it is just the two of them singing songs. The film begins with Cathy at the end of the relationship belting about how she is hurting from everything Jamie has done to her and their divorce. Then the mood changes and we are five year in the past and watching Jamie laments that he is disappointing his mother for finding a shiksa and he claims that Cathy is someone that he thinks he can be in love with. The story then moves back to Cathy we are in Ohio at Summer Stock and she and Jamie are having a fight since he has can only spend one day with Cathy. Jamie is an author on the rise he gets a call and people like his book and want to publish it and he decides to get a place with Cathy. Back with Cathy we hear about Jamie is basically gone writing his book and attending functions  but she still loves his smile and believes that she’s a part of his success. Cathy and Jamie celebrate their first Christmas together and Jamie tells Cathy a story basically saying that he will support her acting career as long as she want to be an actress.  Cathy is in Ohio and she is telling Jamie about how disappointing her summer has been without him. This is followed by the one time in the show when the timelines intersect Jamie and Cathy’s wedding.  After the wedding Jamie isn’t excited since there seems to be a never ending stream of women who now find him interesting since he is unavailable. Cathy goes to an audition and tries to land an acting job, she comes home disappointed and she realizes that she doesn’t want Jamie to be the only one to find success. Jamie accuses Cathy of not supporting him because acting hasn’t panned out well for her, but adds that he is still supportive of her choice.  Cathy tells Jamie about a friend from high school and says that she can do better than them and they move in together. Jamie is in and out of bed with other women and blames this on Cathy somehow and tells the other women that he could be in love with someone like them. We reach the end of the loop Cathy sings a farewell after their first date “Goodbye until tomorrow” and Jamie leaves  he’s packed his bags and closes the bank account their five year relationship is over.   That’s about as simple of a plot outline you can get with this show.

The relationship in this musical is a very modern relationship there is a spark at the beginning and over the years it starts to fade. One of the thing about the musical is that it is hard to pick a winner between the two who has the upper hand at the beginning you really feel sorry for Cathy with Jamie cheating on her but then towards the middle you begin to fall for Jamie and see that he does love Cathy, only to be disappointed when we reach the end. Cathy on the other hand goes from devastated from the divorce to sort of disappearing in the middle bits to complete joy at meeting Jamie. One of the big questions that I leave with is do Cathy and Jamie even love each other before they get married  Cathy says that she doesn’t need any lifetime commitment and Jamie says “I think I could be in love with someone like you”  both of these are early on in the relationship as well.  Is this a one sided relationship, purely based on looks or is there more to their relationship? This is one of the biggest questions that we all face today what makes a relationship and hopefully it is more than a swipe on Tinder or a brief hook up. This  seems to be the extent of Cathy and Jamie’s love it is shallow and it doesn’t go anywhere, like many modern relationships.

Now we’ve come to the should I go see it section, if you haven’t noticed I basically say you should go see all the movies that I talk about. I liked the movie and this makes it two good movie musical since December, although I doubt that this will make Hollywood jump on the musical bandwagon again. The Last Five Years is available on iTunes, streaming and in a small number of theaters, if it is not showing near you rent it or buy it from iTunes or streaming. If you are a fan of the musical, go it is a faithful adaptation and sort of expands the universe. If you like musicals you are bound to have a fun time watching it since it is a good movie musical and fans of romances should enjoy it as well.

 

News Round Up

Sports: As per usual the off season is just starting  and the Washington Redskins have made a huge splash, and are once again looking to take home the off season banner once again. This is a brilliant development and the fans in Washington are sure to be thrilled with the upcoming announcement. The Redskins will have a GM, and one who is actually pretty good as well. Scot McColoughan it is said will be announced as the Redskins new GM. McColoughan was a pivotal figure in building the 49ers and Seahawks into what they are today, so will any luck he can do the same thing here in Washington, The Redskins have been without a good GM for a good long time, maybe all of Synder’s tenure as owner. This move signals hope for the future and there will be ever more good news coming soon as it has been reported that the Redskins are interviewing for new Defensive Coordinators.

Theatre: There was an interesting article up about High School Theater and Censorship. I found it to be an compelling read as I was involved in the drama program in high school and we did a wide variety of shows from the popular (Music Man and Our Town) to the lesser known (Once in a Lifetime and A Chorus Line), but time have changed. Sure when I did A Chorus Line, we toned it down a bit it wasn’t Tits and Ass but rather This and That, but the adult nature of the show was intact. My niece in now in high school and involved in the drama program as well and it seems at least with the musicals to have moved to a more younger appeal (Wizard of Oz, Once Upon a Mattress, Beauty and the Beast) it’s all cotton candy shows. There is hardly any deep though needed for these types of shows. Sure there could be some compelling musical done this year but it’s bound to be some other family friendly sugar coated look at the world. The article goes on about how censoring shows at the high school level is and perhaps always been done, but it seems to have gotten out of hand lately with the easy access to stories about censorship hitting the internet. They go on to wonder how we will be able to get new challenging works that will win Pulitzers.

Movies: The Ant-Man Trailer is out and I couldn’t tell you the first thing about Ant Man, but it look like it could be a good movie. I mean Marvel has made a bunch of decent movies lately and there haven’t been many stinkers, but who knows. This is the end of Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and there is bound to be some connection in the New Avengers movie. Which just so happens to have a new trailer coming out on Monday night during the National Championship Game between the Ducks and Buckeyes.

2014 Tony Awards

The other award show that I watch was on last night and it was an interesting ride. Sure the Tony Awards honor the best of Broadway but having theater on broadcast television even for one night may be the extent of theatre for some people.  Hugh Jackman hosted for the fourth time and he got off to a hopping start. This year’s show was packed full of performances with about 14 large scale performances. We had the ten nominees for Best Musical and Best Revival of a Musical along with two first looks at new musicals (Last Ship a musical by Sting and Finding Neverland based on the film) which are heading to Broadway and a number from Wicked as it has been running 10 years. I think this helped the show move along faster. I think my favorite moment was the Rock Island rap with LL Cool J, T.I., and Hugh Jackman.

On to the awards there were many people who won their first Tony Award last night including Bryan Cranston, Neil Patrick Harris and Jessie Mueller. On the other end of the spectrum Audra McDonald won her sixth Tony award for her marvelous performance as Billie Holiday and she became the first individual to win all the performance awards Lead Actress in a Play and Musical as well as Featured Actress in Play and Musical. There were several big winners of the night. Hedwig and the Angry Inch took home four awards: Best Revival as well as Best Actor and Featured Actress along with some technical award. A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder also took four awards home: Best Musical as well as Direction, Book and Costume Design. Jason Robert Brown took home to most individual awards winning for Score and Orchestration for The Bridges of Madison County. Over on the Play side A Raisin in the Sun took home three, Best Revival, Direction and Best Featured Actress (Sophie Okonedo).

It doesn’t matter if you have to ability to go see a show up on Broadway or even catch a touring production. There is bound to be some production done at the high school level next year that you can go see for next to nothing and there are bound to be some local theatre group which does something. Whatever it is and however you get it the Dramatic arts are a pivotal part of life and should be treasured more.

Much Ado About Nothing

I have seen and read about twenty of Shakespeare’s plays from the classics (R+J,Hamlet) to the rarely heard of(Timon/ Coriolanus). However I had not see Much Ado About Nothing until last night, and I was missing out on a wonderful play. I finally got to see it thanks in part to Joss Whedon’s film from 2012. Please be advised there will be spoilers below (even though the play has been around for about 400 years).

Whedon’s film is a nice change from what we see in movies today it is a quite little film. It was filmed over the course of like two week at Joss Whedon’s house during a mandatory break from The Avengers. It’s a nice adaptation as not much is really changed other than the time period, and there isn’t a decadent soundtrack like in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. It would be wonderful if there were more Shakespeare play directly adapted into films today.

Much Ado About Nothing is one of Shakespeare’s Comedies so we know that it will be ending with a wedding. The play is set in Messina, Sicily at the home of the governor Leonato.  Leonato lives there with his daughter, Hero and his niece, Beatrice. The Prince of Arragon Don Pedro and his officers, Benedick and Claudio, have returned from a successful battle and agree to stay with Leonato for a month. Benedick and Beatrice are long time adversaries and Claudio has an eye for Hero, and shortly after they arrive Claudio announces his intentions to wed Hero. Benedick doesn’t like this news and states his intentions to be a bachelor forever.

After Claudio and Hero are engaged, they all Claudio, Hero, Don Pedro and his men all agree to try to trick Beatrice and Benedick to fall in love but telling them that the other person is deeply in love with them. Don John, Pedro’s brother, wants nothing of any of this and tries to ruin Claudio and Hero by suggesting that Pedro is wooing Hero for himself and then when Pedro it is explained away by convincing Claudio that Hero has been unfaithful. At the wedding Claudio drops this bombshell and shames Hero who faints. This leads to a great finish where it seems everyone has their day. The villian is apprehended the lovers are reunited and everyone lives happily ever after.

This is a must see for fans of Shakespeare as it is a nice faithful adaptation. If you aren’t a big fan of The Bard you can still appreciate the film If you like Whedon’s other works. It is a fun watch as the cast is made of an assortment of people who Whedon had previously worked with. This has made me interested in Billie Joe Armstrong’s Much Ado project at Yale. It was called These Paper Bullets! and was stylized a modish ripoff of Much Ado About Nothing and Armstrong provided music. Has anyone seen it, was it any good and does anyone thing it will see any life after Yale?

 

Ramblings

So I really wasn’t sure what all to write about today, not wanting to do the Lesser Known Saint yet and I can’t really cover TV upfronts as they have not all have happened yet (CW goes today) expect a recap of television in 2014/15 on like Saturday.

It’s kind of weird it’s been 11 years since I graduated high school and by the chance I ran in to a couple of friend from the drama program at a production of The Wizard of Oz at my alma mater. The show itself was decent, most of my problems with the show came on the production side (lighting, choreography, using a projector yet again). I went to support my niece who has been bitten by the theatre bug in her first high school production. So it was nice to run into a couple of people from those day but it really makes you feel old, being a decade removed from preforming on that stage.It was fun to see these people and perhaps it would have been better if it could have lasted longer. Earlier this year\late last year my class tried several times to get out 10 year reunion to happen. It eventually turned into an 11 year reunion and it turned out to be a small thing, I didn’t go but from the photos on Facebook I didn’t miss much. I guess I might as well go to whatever the next reunion is to see and catch up with more of these individuals as well.

Another big story recently is the statement that Pope Francis made about Martians. In his homily on Monday he said that if a martian came to earth and asked to be baptized that he would perform the rite, even though I think the Diocese of where ever the craft leaves from is the official diocese for outer space. This is a major statement coming from the Catholic Church as it posits the existence of some other terrestrial life out in the galaxy. Pope Francis by offering baptism is showing what being catholic really mean universial. There is always room at the table and the catholic church welcomes all to the feast. Now I am not sure about the official Church position on alien lifeforms, but i  think this is the point that was trying to be made is that Christ welcomes everyone to join not just a select few, like some other religions. As that one hymn goes all are welcome in this place. This brings us a step closer to having a Space Pope, now we just need to develop better rockets and a way to go near the speed of light.

Peter and the Starcatcher

This past weekend I went to see the show based on the Dave Barry/Ridley Pearson book Peter and the Starcatchers. The Starcatcher series is sort of a prequel for the Peter Pan stories telling us how Peter Pan became Peter Pan, however it is non-canonical as there are a few difference between these books and Barrie’s series.  I’ve never read either series so I can not elaborate on this aspect. As per usual please be advised that there will be some spoilers below.

In Peter and the Starcatcher we begin with an empty stage and the actors tell us to use our imaginations. This is the clever framework for the show and with only a bit of rope the whole world is created. We meet Molly Aster and he father Lord Aster on a port where there are two trunks on containing sand and the other precious cargo for the Queen, these trunks are place on two boats (one fast the other slow) and the set sail for Rundoon. Molly is on the slow boat and Lord Aster on the fast boat.  At the port the Queen treasure is loaded onto the wrong boat as the captain wants the treasure for himself. The fast boat gets the trunk of sand and as soon as they are sailing away pirates reveal themselves as taking over the boat. The pirate captain is known as Black Stache for his black mustache and he is looking for someone to be a hero to his villian and when he opens to trunk to discover it is only sand he decided to go after the slow boat and get the other trunk.

On the other boat Molly has been locked in the depths of the boat and after a sailor leaves the door open Molly explores the boat finding three orphans in the bowels of the ship. We also learn that the queen’s treasure is star stuff that will make anyone’s wish come true, and Molly is learning to be a Starcatcher like her father. As the ships get closer and closer the weather get crazy and the slow boat crashes on an Island. On the Island we meet some natives who dislike people from England and their pet crocodile Mr Grin.  Along with a whole slew of mermaids. Chaos ensues and people get trapped and lost and even a hand gets chopped off.

It is a great ensemble show as a dozen actors play over 100 characters in a very uptempo show. The cast is very strong but out of the whole cast I think the best character has to be Black Stache as he is prone to malapropism, anachronistic jokes and general scenery chewing. Another unique aspect to the play is there are a handful of song in it. The show is highly enjoyable and if you get a chance to see it go.

Shrek the Musical

When I first heard of this back when it debuted in 2008 I thought it look cute. Sure I enjoyed the movie Shrek but I was in my 20s and thought it would be childish to want to see it or something like that. From what I saw of it from the Tony Awards would be enough. As the year went by I stumbled back on upon it listening to Pandora on day, and lo and behold I actually liked the music so I got the cast recording and enjoyed it, thanks in part to Sutton Foster who plays Princess Fiona. Brian d’Arcy James plays Shrek and does a good job as well.

Again the years passed and it became 2014 and Netflix adds Shrek the Musical to the instant library, so I thought I might as well watch it. Since it is that time before television comes back for the winter why not.

The musical and movie are very similar but I do enjoy the beginning of the musical much better as it gives some background to the whole situation. This may be in the book but I’ve never read it, so the musical begins with Shrek being told to leave his home by his parents on his seventh birthday and Fiona being lead away to the castle tower to wait. From this we skip forward several years and the event of the movie pick up. Shrek is angry that all the fairy tale character are living in his swamp and goes to Duloc to right this wrong. The musical tend to stick fairly close to the movie with a bit more about Lord Farquaad’s parents.

The music is great and there are a couple of songs that stick out, Fiona’s first song “I know it’s Today” sung by Fiona at ages 7, 14, 23 with some unique transitions during the song. There are a couple others that I really like the finale of Act I “Who I’d be” after Donkey asks Shrek what he’d be if he wasn’t an ogre and Shrek’s “When Words Fail” while he is struggling to find the right words to tell Fiona that he likes her.

If you liked Shrek animated it seems reasonable that you will enjoy the musical version as well. As there are complete scene directly from the movie on stage. The actors are so great and you don’t even miss the movie cast at all. There is nothing really special added to the story but I think that the song help emphasize the emotions of the characters a bit better.