Friday, March 23, 2007

Quest for the Holy Grail!

Spamalot. April 6th.

I'm desperately trying to contain my excitement.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Yar, Matey!

My friend secured Orchestra Seats for The Pirate Queen next week! So expect a review probably Thursday or so. But yay! :D

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Of Sequels and Little Mermaids

Down Once More...!

Almost a week ago, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced that he would, indeed, be writing a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, currently the longest running musical on Broadway. (On his website he said he was 99.9% sure... I don't know if that number has since changed, but we'll go with that.) It is to be called The Phantom of Manhattan... so that should tell you the Phantom's new locale. Anyway, it's a story he developed with Frederick Forsyth and when it was dropped in 1999, Forsyth decided, "Why waste the plotline?" and turned it into a book. The basic story is Erik flees to NYC, becomes rich, builds and opera house, and tries to lure Christine there. It doesn't seem like Christine's role will be big but what do I know? I haven't read the book.

Now, there is no doubt that Andrew Lloyd Webber has produced some very popular and well-received musicals. The top two longest-running musicals are owned by him: Phantom and Cats. He also wrote Evita and Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat. And many more. That is an impressive resume. However, I don't know how I feel about a Phantom sequel.

One person I know who absolutely LOVES The Phantom of the Opera has a theory that ALW is kinda losing it. Now, I love Gerard Butler. He is an excellent actor and an extremely good looking man. HOWEVER. He did not fit the part. He's supposed to be this amazing musical genius and the "Angel of Music" and Gerard simply did not have the voice for it. Oh and Emmy Rossum... good God. Anyone who thinks she's had "training" is clearly in the wrong. It is VERY clear by the way she phrases things, pronounces words, and scoops and slides (which is most definitely a no-no in a musical like Phantom) that she has had little experience singing outside of her shower. She doesn't have a bad voice, per se, but Christine Daae, she is not. They lowered the keys of the songs for her. I'm listening to her sing and finding all the scenes where everyone SUDDENLY STOPS to listen to her completely unbelievable.

I could go on about that movie for ages, but the real point here is that if I were ALW, I wouldn't have let them bastardize my work of genius like that. But he did. So, I look at this sequel with skeptism, though I'm sure there will be many memorable songs akin to "Music of the Night" and "Point of No Return." And for all my skeptism, when it comes out, I will most probably watch it.

Monty Strikes Again
After his smash hit, Spamalot, you can hardly blame Eric Idle for tempting the fates once more and adapting another popular Monty film into a musical... this time, he's adapting The Life of Brian in a musical called Not the Messiah. I haven't seen Spamalot, but I adore the soundtrack. (And God willing, I will see it soon!) I love the movie. I haven't seen The Life of Brian either, but I'll admit this news has me very excited. Idle promises that it'll be funnier than Handel's Messiah although probably not as good. I'm sure that's simply relative.

Part of Your World
As you may or may not know, Beauty and the Beast will be taking its final bow in July to make way for a NEW Disney musical... this time an adaption of The Little Mermaid. At first I was kind of put off by it, but now I really can't wait. They've announced some of the casting and it sounds really promising. The cast includes Sherie Rene Scott (Ursula), Norm Lewis (King Triton), and Sierra Boggess (Ariel).

It'll be interesting, of course, to see how they adapt the underwater world for the stage. Costuming and staging should be really great for this musical. I can't wait!

You can click here to listen to a (really) short clip of Sierra (I assume) singing "Part of Your World". For more info on The Little Mermaid and workshop demo music, go here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Do You Hear the People Sing?

Show: Les Miserables
Venue: Broadhurst Theater
Date: March 6, 2007

Officially, this is my second time seeing the show, though this time I had a different seat altogether. I remember wanting to see it again after my first round because besides just loving the show, I really was not too keen on the casting of Daphne Rubin-Vega as Fantine. In fact, I'm still scratching my head. I don't particularily like her, though she was fine as Mimi on the RENT OBC recording. Honestly, even if someone is talented you can't just stick them in any role and expect them to do well.

What really pushed me to seeing it again was the casting of Lea Salonga. God. When my friend told me about it, I absolutely freaked out. And I'm still kinda geeking out. I constantly tell people (both those who are savvy and those who are not), "I SAW LEA SALONGA," and I either get extremely jealous responses or blank stares.

But anyway, the show. Seeing it a second time from a different perspective was interesting. Last time I was really close (Row C) but had a terrible view (partial view, orchestra). It was an experience though. Like, Aaron Lazar walked right by me and if I had reached out I could have touched him. (Okay, not that close.) From the mezzanine level though, I definitely had a better view of the entire stage. I could actually, um... see everything. And that was nice. I picked up some small details that I actually didn't notice beforehand. Like the scene where Valjean is just standing in the corner watching as Cosette and Marius reprise "A Heart Full of Love." Wow, was that heartbreaking.

Before the show even started, I was already kind of upset. The board announcing the changes in the casting had indicated that an understudy was performing in the role of Enjolras. Aaron Lazar really wowed me in his interpretation of the character, and, I felt, really added a streak of passion that's needed in the character. But apparently, he was sick with the flu. (Pft.) His understudy (forgive me, I don't remember his name) did just fine but he didn't seem to fit the role as well. I guess, to me, Aaron (because we're totally on a first name basis) simply embodies what Enjolras should be. My friends and I agree that besides a good Valjean, a good Enjolras is integral to the show. When Enjolras first entered the show the first time I saw him, there's a part where he walks stage left and climbs up a ladder. This happened to be right in front of where my friend and I were sitting. When he did passed by, my friend asked me, "So do you think Enjolras is hot?" At the time, I shrugged and said, "He's okay." But after he sang in "Red and Black" I was completely won over. The scene where it transitions to "Do You Hear the People Sing?" was so powerful because it felt like everyone was holding their breath as Enjolras stood on top of the table, waiting to hear what he said. Aaron Lazar is Enjolras reborn... if fictional characters can be reborn. Also, I saw clips of him as Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza and WOW. I love the cast recording, but he is absolutely amazing!

All right, enough about someone who wasn't even in the show. As I said, his understudy performed just fine, though I found stupid things to nitpick at. Like the fact he was shorter than Adam Jacobs, who played Marius. Or that his vibrato was kinda weird.

Speaking of Adam Jacobs, I really took to his performance the second time around. He actually made me like Marius, and that's saying a lot. I identify more with Eponine (I'd say most girls do) and am more sympathetic toward her, and Marius is desperately in love with Cosette who generally annoys me. I kinda see Eponine and Cosette like this: Cosette has that fairy tale princess story. Cinderella, almost. In a way, she's the girl everyone wants to be but can't and that's why practically everyone hates her. That and her role is pretty one-dimensional. I thought Ali Ewoldt did a good job - I was definitely less annoyed with Cosette, but there's only so much to work with. Even in the novel, Hugo makes Cosette a bit of an airhead. Eponine, on the other hand, is the girl everyone relates to. Who hasn't felt the bitter taste of rejection? That's part of why "On My Own" is such a popular song. You know, that and it is an amazing work of melody and lyrics. Oh, and Eponine definitely can hold her own. I think in a wrestling match between Cosette and Eponine, Eponine would definitely win.

But I digress. Adam Jacobs is a really good Marius. I definitely was biased against the character because I read the book before I saw the play, and in the book Marius is a bit of an idiot. Not really his fault... more of society's constraints but I found him an idiot regardless. The musical's portrayal is definitely more sympathetic, but I felt Adam really brought out the different facets of Marius's character both from the musical intepretation and (I'm guessing) his from Hugo's novel. It was good. His "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" was heartbreaking. (Funny off-topic story: One of my classmates and I were talking about shows and Les Mis came up and he said the only song he knew from the show was "Broken Chairs at Broken Tables." This is what I get for going to a business school.) I like Adam... and it helps that he's from the Bay Area and went to NYU. He's like me!!! ... except you know, a lot more talented. Oh, and a guy.

Alexander Gemignani does not cease to amaze me. First of all, his vocals are amazing. Boy can he sing. And he's what? 28? That's completely and utterly insane. It shouldn't even be allowed. He's probably one of the youngest Valjeans ever. I remember when my friend and I first saw him, we both commented he was definitely a younger Valjean, but neither of us knew exactly HOW YOUNG he really was. He pulls off old man pretty good if you ask me.

And then, there was Lea. Oh, Lea. I came to see the show again mostly for her, you know. I must say, there were a LOT of Filipinos in the crowd. Surprise much? Anyway, she was wonderful as Fantine. I actually think her voice suits the role of Fantine much better than Eponine. Lea does have this thing where she e-nun-ci-ates everything very clearly and at times it is mildly distracting but she is very much talented and her voice is absolutely beautiful. Every note crystal clear and her portrayal of the poor destitute mother who becomes a prostitute (hehe... it rhymes) was touching. I guess it helps that Lea recently became a mother herself. I almost started crying in her death scene. Fantine is perhaps the most tragic character in Les Mis. The backstory on her in the musical is a bit rushed and only given a few lines of song. The book definitely explores Fantine's character more, and I know Lea read that part to play Fantine and I felt it was pretty apparent from the way she sang "I Dreamed a Dream." I didn't know that after Fantine's death, part of the Fantine track is to be in the ensemble. Who knew?! It's weird to think that Lea was running around the barricades and stuff. I always wondered what the person playing Fantine did between her death and her return in the end. Take a nap? Get a cup of coffee? Knit a sweater? Well, now I know. Hm. I wish there was more to say about her performance, but the role of Fantine, while important, is brief. Lea was great. She rocked. End of story.

Other quick notes: I like Norm Lewis. He has a good voice, but his Javert is particularily cold and distant. Intentional? Perhaps, but as much as I love the sound of his voice, I thought he played it a little too distant. The suicide scene, though was terrific. Drew Sarich is hilarious as Grantaire, James Chip Leonard (cover) was wonderful as Thenardier, and Jenny Galloway was too, as his partner in crime. And is it just me or does EVERY young Cosette sound exactly the same? Gavroche is absolutely adorable. I love him. I could eat him up. All the boys playing Gavroche are just adorable. If I were a ten-year-old girl, I'd totally have a crush on him. One of my favorite students is the guy who sings, "The blood of the martyrs will water the meadows of France!" (Total tongue twister, if I've ever seen one.) WHO IS HE? If there's one thing this show does poorly, it's differentiate between students. I have no idea who is who.

All in all, another enjoyable experience at the Broadhurst. I adore this show. And it's nice to see so many Asians (or part-Asians) on the stage, being Asian myself. The cast is so diverse, and I love it. I admit, I raised an eyebrow when I first saw that Norm Lewis was playing Javert, but after a while, you hardly notice.

I've heard people say it's "terrible" - at least, compared to the original run. Granted, I didn't see it, but I still thought this was very good and can't imagine how anyone could think it was terrible. (That must mean the original run was just that amazing!)

Les Mis, quite honestly, is just an experience, and if you haven't seen it before, go. Really. As an added bonus, Lea Salonga's in it... so how bad could it be?