The Sound of My Childhood Being Destroyed

Since “better late than never” is how I roll, I will belatedly jump into the fray of discussion on the recent NBC Live version of The Sound of Music. Not that my two cents is worth more than any of the other hundreds of dollars worth of opinion already out there, but…

First, the background: I love this musical. It is definitely a love based off of the movie, but I did not stop there. There was a copy of the stage musical with photos in my junior high school library. It was clearly a volume that predated the film. I checked it out three times in my junior high tenure. The last time it had been checked out was in 1972. And then there was the slightly less old, but still well before my time copy of the book on the actual, real life Von Trapp Family Singers. That one I very nearly stole from the library—and the only other person to have checked it out was my sixth grade English teacher—when she was in junior high. Add to this that I stopped counting the number of times I have watched the movie at 84. That was well over fifteen years ago. I assure you, we are talking well over 100 times I have seen this film. Possibly close to 200.

So was I going to watch Carrie Underwood take on the role of Maria in what was almost certain to be a car wreck? Hell, yes. Read the rest of this entry »

One Review More

By now if you have any interest in the new movie version of the musical Les Miserables, you’ve read a bunch of reviews already on much more legitimate websites than this one. And you’ve probably seen it for yourself already. So I really have no idea why you’d want to read another review, and yet, I feel compelled to write one. It’s not so much a review as it is my spontaneous thoughts on the movie.

First of all, you have to understand my relationship with Les Miserables. My parents took us to see a touring production of the stage musical when I was nine. That production was what made me fall in love with musicals. I was crushing on them pretty hard after seeing Cats the year before. But Cats just had a lot of awesome dancing and some catchy music. What little storyline there is, eight-year-old me didn’t understand at all. Les Mis is a whole other thing. It’s about love and (in)justice and social issues… I think my weakness for revolutionaries probably started with Enjolras. Twenty-three years later, minute details of the staging are still etched in my brain—it made that much of an impression.

Second of all, you have to understand how long I’ve been waiting for this. When I saw the musical in February of 1990 there was a blurb in the program announcing that in 1992 “She’s coming to the cinema”. It stated that a film version of the musical was in the works. Before anyone asks, no, I’m not talking about the 1998 non-musical film. In fact, when that one came out, I read an article about it stating that the movie version of the musical was still “waiting in the wings.” So for me this movie is over twenty years late.

Les Mis is simultaneously my first love and an old friend. I’m sure there was a lot of it nine year-old me didn’t get at all. Over the years, listening to the sound track over and over, I still notice new little things. Not things I was unaware of before, but I will suddenly notice how awesome something is. I know the show isn’t perfect, but I don’t want to think about its flaws. I’m blinded by love and nostalgia.

I’m aware enough of the power of that nostalgia that I was a little wary going into the film. As excited as I was, I knew I was going to have to let go of a lot. There would have been no point in making this big budget movie if it was just a video of the stage production. And while I would love to be able to watch the stage production any time I want, I didn’t honestly want the movie to be that. A quick glance at the running time reveals that a lot has been cut. And while I totally understand why that was necessary, the part of me that has listened to the three-CD soundtrack over and over didn’t want anything to be cut. Because every second is so amazing, how could you cut any of it? On the other hand, I was super excited about the cast, and forced myself to be open-minded about everything else.

The verdict: I love it.

To be more specific: Read the rest of this entry »

Coffee with Bernadette Peters

Would we drink coffee with Bernadette Peters?

Kristy: For context, she’s this week’s choice because tomorrow is her birthday and because I just rewatched the recording of the original Broadway Cast of Into the Woods. Hmm… I guess so. I have reservations because as much as I’ve enjoyed a lot of her work, I really have no clue what she is like in real life. But I guess the whole point of “Coffee with…” is to find out what people are really like (even if it’s all hypothetical) so why not? In addition to actually getting to meet her, you figure she’s got to have some great behind the scenes stories. Besides a respectable number of Broadway shows she worked on the movie version of Annie, Animaniacs, and Ugly Betty (just to give you an idea of the random assortment). You just know she has random bits of info on other famous people, trivia about this and that. I should prove to be interesting if nothing else.

 

*Speaking of random trivia: A woman behind the counter at a bagel shop once insisted she couldn’t comprehend my order (which I had given three times) because she was distracted by how much I looked like Bernadette Peters. This is amusing to anyone who knows me on account of the fact that I really don’t look anything like Bernadette Peters.

 

Cammy: Given that Bernadette Peters has done such a wide variety of cool stuff (ANIMANIACS!!!), I assume that she would be the kind of cool person you could have coffee with.  But, like Kristy, I know little about her other than her work in Animaniacs, Annie and Into the Woods.  And, on top of that, I’m Broadway Ignorant for the most part.  So there’s a definite intimidation and uncertainty factor here.  I think I’m in for at least buying her coffee as a salute for her work that I’ve enjoyed, but I’m totally prepared to scoot off to the other side of the Spacial Anomaly in the event that she’s not up to providing trivia and chatting.

Colorful Casting

I have a very crappy memory about some of the strange mental exercises Kristy and I collaborate on.  Thankfully, Kristy is more inclined to recall our more creative moments (and save documents) than I am, so she was able to dredge up our attempt to a dream cast for the musical Into the Woods.  We had a few minor holes to plug in tonight, but we managed to figure out those final few  (the Steward, for example) to bring you the cast that we’d assemble if we could.  This list involved a lot of thought–weighing Willie Nelson against members of ZZ Top, evaluating what artist would be most likely to be the embodiment of a tree, splitting roles to accommodate just the right people.   And here we have it:

Witch–Anne Hathaway
Narrator–Dule Hill
Cinderella — Andrea Corr
Baker – Neil Patrick Harris
Baker’s Wife–Zooey Deschanel
Jack–Eric Millegan
Jack’s Mother–Mary McDonnell
Little Red Ridinghood–Amber Riley*
Cinderella’s Stepmother–Allison Janey
Florinda–Tricia Helfer
Lucinda–Kristen Bell
Cinderella’s Father — Nathan Fillion
Cinderella’s Mother — Emmylou Harris
Mysterious Man –Willie Nelson
Wolf–Antonio Banderas
Rapunzel–Kristen Chenowith
Rapunzel’s Prince–James Roday
Grandmother–Reba**
Cinderella’s Prince–Hugh Jackman
Steward — TJ Thyne
Giant’s Wife — Patricia Belcher***
Snow White — Michaela Conklin
Sleeping Beauty — Maggie Lawson
Baker’s Baby — Ardilla Voladora****
*Originally we had Lindsay Lohan cast here, but this was before her most recent bout of drinking, drugs and flaunting judicial orders.  Much as we know that she once had the talent to rock the part, until she can sober the fuck up, she is off the list.
** We realize that some people might have a time with a black Red Riding Hood who has a painfully white, red-headed grandma but A) we embrace diverse families because we both have them and B) if Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington could be brothers in Much Ado About Nothing, this is just as plausible.
***If Reba really doesn’t work as Grandma in workshop, we’ll swap Patricia Belcher in and make Reba the Giantess.
****Ardilla Voladora is a story for another post.

Movie Review: Enchanted

Director: Kevin Lima

Writer: Bill Kelly

Things I liked: It’s a musical. I love musicals. And the songs were fun. Also, pretty costumes. As someone who’s worn a hoopskirt on more than one occasion I loved that they showed the absurd difficulties of getting around in on. Speaking of absurdities, I also enjoyed the way the film points out how irritating charming little moments in fiction would be in real life; making dresses out of curtains, for example. Also, Angela Montenegro sighting at the end!

Things I didn’t like: You cast Idina Menzel in a musical and don’t have her sing? Let me ask that again, you cast Idina Menzel in a musical and don’t have her sing? Tell me there was a song that was cut from this. I actually rather liked her character, and so I guess I’m glad she got a happy ending, but I would have liked to see more of her. Over all, I felt like the film was saying that even modern, independent women are waiting for a prince to come sweep us off our feet. I’m not saying that doesn’t have more truth to it than I’d care to admit, but I’m not sure I cared for it.

Over all: A fun little bit of fluff to watch while cleaning my room, but I’m glad I didn’t spend money on it. Two and a half out of five jars of peanut butter.

The Sound of Missing Tracks

I am a big, big, big fan of The Sound of Music.  The kind of fan who has seen the film over 87 times (I stopped counting when I was about 14…).  A fact that, Kristy does not seem to hold against me, to her extreme credit.

To MY credit, I didn’t go out and buy the 45th Anniversary Blu Ray edition with bells, whistles and schniztel with noodles.  I was tempted, but I hear the 50th anniversary will come with the schnitzel, the noodles, the copper kettle, the woolen mittens, and a brown paper mystery package tied up with string (I’m hoping it will contain a kitten with whiskers).  And, since I’ve already had two different VHS versions (wore one out completely, the other partially) and the 40th anniversary DVD release, I thought I could stand to wait for the big 5-0.

What I failed to realize was that they also re-released the album.

The album, that, after nearly half a century, finally has my favorite track included.

For years the album to the 1965 movie didn’t have every song.  In most cases, that’s okay, but in this case, it was my favorite that was missing.  I have long had a love for the version of “Edelweiss” that appears first in the movie–as a simple duet with Captain VonTrapp (voiced by Bill Lee–in case you still didn’t realize that wasn’t Christopher Plumber) and Liesel (who really is Charmian Carr, lest the previous parenthetical had you questioning everything)–but it was never on any of the copies I had of the album (I wore out two cassettes).  The only version there was the reprise at the Festival that has the whole fam-damily, a pit orchestra with a bell player who definitely picked up the hard mallets, and half the population of Austria.  The song’s still good, but it’s not the intimate little take that I love from the earlier scene.

When I first got my DVD of the film several years back, I kept saying I would go in and rip that track to an Mp3 for myself so I could finally over-indulge in the good version.  Of course I never got around to that.

But lo, what should appear in the Amazon $5 offering list today?  Is that a different cover to the album I spy?  And, ZOMG, NEW TRACK LISTING?

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  And he likes the good version of “Edelweiss,” too.

But there’s more!  In addition to that, we also get the music to the “Laendler” and the expanded version of the “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” reprise–with the opening that I never knew existed until the DVD special features–and the music from the interlude…..

Christmas came early for me this year and the hills are definitely alive with the sound of the tracks I’ve been missing….

Bi-Species Road Trip

If, for some really sad reason, you check this blog desperately every Monday evening waiting to see who we’re going to have coffee with, you didn’t see it this Monday.  That’s because I posted on Tuesday and changed the dates.  Why?  Because Monday I was too exhausted from driving 11.5 hours with Wash.  Yes, I drove cross country with a cat who is barely a year old.  Why?  Well clearly I’m insane.

Traveling with a cat is an adventure.  To be fair, I think Wash is fairly well behaved compared to other cats I’ve heard about.  I give him some homeopathic stuff to keep him calm and generally after I let him out of his carrier he makes one round of the car and curls up somewhere.  On our first trip together he settled in my lap which meant that I was stiff and sore by the end, but worked well over all.  This time he was a lot less cooperative.

This time he insisted on sitting on the floor at my feet.  You know, in that area where the pedals are?  Yeah… not so good.  On the first leg of the trip he kept wanting to put his head under the brake pedal.  Which meant I had to nudge him with my foot while continuing to drive the car.   Clearly that wasn’t going to work.  So on the next leg I created a barricade with my purse which meant I had to drive with my right ankle resting on my purse.  My left foot I kept under the brake to keep anyone else from going under it.  Yeah… not sure that was completely safe.  And it definitely wasn’t comfortable.

The other thing about driving with a cat, especially when it’s super hot, is that it changes your views on breaks.  Because, of course, they aren’t chances to stretch my legs and rest from the road.  They times when I have to run in and pee as quick as possible because I’m worried about my baby in the hot car.  And eating is a big problem since Wash wanted to share everything.  The upside is that I made it the whole way without purchasing any food and the only beverage I bought was a cup of coffee.

I decided at some point earlier this year that musicals make the best road trip music.  I’m not sure Wash liked my rendition of Ragtime based on his response, but he seemed less displeased with my Evita.  By the time I got to Miss Saigon he was too tired to react and I think he just completely slept through Chess.  Such a critic.

Coffee with Evita

Would we drink coffee with Eva Peron?

Kristy: So I’ve been doing a lot of driving lately (with more to come tomorrow).  I’ve found that musicals are the best thing for me to listen to on long car trips because they keep me most alert (I pick parts and sing along) and they make the time pass quickly.  So I’m going to admit right now this was totally inspired by listening to Evita on the way to and from Cammy’s.

But the answer for me is definitely yes.  Much like the musical, I’m not completely sure what I think about Eva Duarte de Peron.  She was a terrible actress and a corrupt politician, but who was she?  As a person.  Sources seem very divided.  I have to admire her ability to climb up from the dregs like she did in the only way available to a woman in her time and place.  So basically, having read and seen so much about her I’d like to have coffee with her just to see what the hell she was really like in person.  I’m just curious.  I honestly don’t see us getting along very well, but I’m sure she knows plenty of ways to gracefully end a coffee date early.

Cammy: I’ll come along, but I can’t say I’m very eager.  I’m mostly tagging along to see if I can see what some of the big deal is….because I’m still not sure I get how it is that the woman is up there with a saint.  It’s one of those things that I’ve been scratching my head over for years.  Might as well see if a one-on-one encounter will shed any light on the situation.  I’m with Kristy on the not getting along well.  I know she and I would be on different pages politically (though it might be interesting to probe the depth of her political beliefs), and I’m  sure not the fashion plate she is.  I think this is one of those coffee get togethers that I’ll be eager to see the end of, if only so Kristy and I can go off and gossip about it later.

Awards Night!

Most embarrassing vocal performance in a motion picture

To paraphrase Tolstoy, good vocal performances are all alike.  Every bad vocal performance is bad in its own way.  Most of them can fall into a couple of larger groups:

1.  Those that don’t know how bad they are.
2.  Those who know that they’re bad, but simply hope you won’t figure it out.
3.  Those who know they’re bad and therefore make it into a gag.

The third group is the least offensive and embarrassing; we don’t mind you not having talent as long as you know you don’t have talent.  The first variety makes you look stupid.  The second makes it look like you think we’re stupid.  Tonight’s winner falls into the second category.

We give this award for “Most Embarrassing Vocal Performance in a Motion Picture” to Pierce Brosnan for his humiliating vocal performance in Mama Mia!

Now let’s be honest, that movie (which I love, don’t get me wrong) was clearly cast based on acting ability, name recognition, and looks.  Vocal ability wasn’t much of a consideration, I’d guess.  Which I don’t necessarily like, but I can live with.  But there is such a thing as vocal dubbing.  What happened to the days when they just let Marni Nixon sing for everyone?  (Okay, she might not have been a great choice here).  Most of the singing in this film is less than great.

But something about Mr. Brosnan’s performance just makes me really uncomfortable.  Because you can see in his face that he knows it’s not good and he’s just trying to get through without too much of his soul dying.  And outside of the singing, I thought he was good in this film.  But… This man was James Bond, for Pete’s sake.  And the motion picture industry already put him through costarring with Talent Free Denise Richards, was this indignity necessary?

So Pierce Brosnan, we love you, but we have to give you this award.  At least something can now come of that embarrassing performance.