Tag Archives: theatre thursday

Theatre Thursday :: our thoughts on Fun Home

18 Aug

So we saw this a couple of weeks ago, oops, we’ve just been busy and flighty and forgetful. But it was so lovely! If you’ll remember, I did read Fun Home last year, and found it meaningful and interesting and all that, but being a musical nerd I did mostly pick it up because, in addition to admiring the author, I wanted to be prepared for whenever the musical was eventually available to me.

I will preface this by saying that I was disappointed that by virtue of seeing it at the Fifth Avenue, the staging had to be altered from the way it was staged in the videos I’ve seen of the Broadway production, all in the round and fluid and all. It was still very well-executed, set pieces and walls moving in and out as needed, being utilized in unique and versatile ways, but I love weird staging. Oh well. Touring casts just don’t get weird staging most of the time.

That said, it was a very solid show, with a truly excellent and well-rounded cast. I was delighted to notice that the young-man-in-several-roles was one of my original cast Spring Awakening babies, Robi now Robert Hager; I don’t have any particular memories of him because he was a swing and I never actually saw him in any other capacity but he was part of that time so I smiled. Kate Shindle, as Adult Alison, was so very solid (hers is a name I’ve heard for years but never had a terrible lot of context for, so it was nice to finally be introduced). The kids were all fantastic, too. Everyone was just very good, and everyone had moments to shine. That was nice.

But more than the quality of the performances, the experience of the production was fascinating, much in the same way that the Tegan and Sara concert last fall or the Hayley Kiyoko concert this spring were fascinating. Maybe it’s just that there are so few cultural experiences that are so obviously Sapphic-coded, so few things that are so clearly For Girls Who Like Girls, but there’s always this weird charge in the air when the audience is comprised of not just Girls Who Like Girls. Hayley mostly had those, and Tegan and Sara had a lot of them, but at the same time you could pretty much spot the Uncomfortable Heteros, the ones who somehow didn’t realize that they were walking into a bunch of songs about ladyqueerness. At least one couple at Fun Home flat-out got up and walked out of the theater after the sex scene (and honestly, it was heavy petting at most, minimal nudity, no pornographic noises, not even any visible humping), and every time there was Gay Content there was a feeling of tangible awkwardness from at least part of the crowd.

It’s tricky, because as a ladyqueer person myself part of me wants to normalize Sapphic stories in the mainstream of culture, wants to make it so this weirdness evaporates. But part of me also wants to be able to experience these few singularly Girls Who Like Girls-themed things surrounded by only Girls Who Like Girls, to avoid even the threat of weirdness. Either way, I guess the hypothetical end result is the same, no weirdness, but I’m going to stick it out and support ladyqueer content no matter what.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Theatre Thursday :: a cursory unbiased view of the 2017 Tony nominees for Best Musical

8 Jun

By “cursory unbiased” I mean… based entirely on having listened to each of the cast recordings one time on YouTube.

I really wanted to like them, I really, really did. And maybe the Tony performances, which I do intend to watch this year, will change my mind. But I… am cynical and hardened and a modernist but also not into pretentiousness and nothing hit me correctly. Maybe it’s time and place or maybe after the last couple years of things that actually somewhat interested me my standards were up. Or maybe I just have very specific taste.

But here we go.

Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812… well, I went into this one a little biased, maybe, because I have friends who saw this and did not give a great review. I wanted to give it a chance anyway, though. And I’ll admit that of the four albums, it did leave the most distinctive impression, which is to say I’ve found bits (very small bits, like one or two sentences’ worth) of some of the songs lingering in my mind and it didn’t immediately make me scream “derivative.” But it doesn’t know what it wants to be, aside from sort of smug. More than any other musical I can think of off the top of my head, it has its head stuck up its own ass; it’s desperate to prove to you how clever it is. “It’s a complicated Russian novel! Everybody has nine names!” and etc. It fluctuates between vaguely baroque and modern electronica-fusion, old-fashioned language and modern slang, in a way that isn’t wholly consistent. And it has an annoying habit of randomly deciding that in the middle of a song, the characters are going to suddenly start singing their stage directions. All of which is to say, I could also definitely hear how, when I was younger and more pretentious myself, I could have probably gotten into this. But I’m past that stage at this point.

Dear Evan Hansen was one I’d heard nothing but good about. A musical about a kid with anxiety! Celebrities keep going to it and posting pictures on Instagram. Dear Evan Hansen de-ameliorated itself to me before the opening number was even over, though, because… we already have Next to Normal. We didn’t need this, too. The opening song, in my read, is virtually the same as Next to Normal‘s “Just Another Day” – “I am a mother and I am singing about my stressful family situation with my children and nobody’s happy and everybody’s nervous and oh, look drugs!” I also legitimately did not realize that it was two different women singing for a while; I thought Evan Hansen must have an older brother. Nope. Evan Hansen has peripheral friends, who are roped into a plan I had to Wikipedia to make sense of because I genuinely also thought for a second that maybe he was anxious because he was gay and in the closet. Nope. Evan Hansen is anxious because he is, but then he does something horrible, with the intention of being… inspirational? Important? Whatever it was, once I got the plot summary I was actually horrified. And that pretty well killed my enjoyment.

I wasn’t expecting to love Groundhog Day, because I had a feeling that it was going to be the other kind of smug: not pretentious, but “musicals for straight men.” Smirky and tongue-in-cheek and based on a movie that’s about dudes so it’s accessible. And it’s totally straight, you guys. It was exactly what I expected. It’s a vibe that traces back to things like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which I don’t dislike (but that’s a lot of it due to Norbert and Sherie on the album), and it strikes me as just really… mediocre. It’s not trying to be anything more than sort of funny and ironic. It’s filling a niche that didn’t need filled. Also, the protagonist is a thoroughly unlikable person. What happened to musicals about people we actually liked?

Then Come From Away, which I’d heard the least about. It’s based on the true story of a tiny town in Newfoundland that housed 38 planes that got diverted on 9/11. It’s an ~ensemble piece~ and a ~quaint small town musical~ and even though it’s Newfoundland and not England like a lot of the other ones (Billy Elliot, Kinky Boots, etc.) it’s got pretty much the same feeling. Except there’s also the fact of it in my honest opinion being too soon to make a musical about 9/11, especially a true story. It capitalizes on the sentiment evoked by the tragedy, which, okay, I’m sure that’s cathartic for someone but it felt weird to me. Also like an excuse for people to do various folksy accents and regionalisms and to trot out a few scenes for stock characters. (The gay men, Kevin and Kevin – hilaaaaaarious. No. Really not.) The tunes aren’t particularly original, to my ears, but they weren’t offensive. It just felt like I’d pretty much dealt with it before.

Maybe they prove me wrong on the Tonys, though. Anyone. Please, prove me wrong.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Theatre Thursday :: the 2017 Tony nominees

4 May

Or: I am woefully out of the damn loop.

I saw earlier this week that the theatre people I follow on Instagram were posting about nominations going up and I got excited. It’s that time of year again! But then I realized, I know virtually nothing right now. I have friends who saw Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 and didn’t have stellar things to say. I know who of the theatre people I follow was in what or what their friends were in. I know who I know is good from prior audience experience.

I think I’m going to have to set aside time to listen to everything this year. I think I’m just going to have to.

I’ll report back.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Theatre Thursday :: our thoughts on Waitress

23 Dec

Hi friends! We’ve been busy again. Sorry about that. This review is a couple weeks delayed, but it’s here now.

I (drift partner) had never been to a real Broadway show in New York before this, so this was very exciting. It was an ideal first show, I think – I knew the basic plot and most of the music from the show, since I was familiar with both the movie and Sara Bareilles’ preview album that she released last year. But there was enough that was new and different from the movie that I was never bored, and I think most of the changes they made were for the better. (With a quick aside: I sort of forgot both the movie and show are kind of weirdly ableist about Becky’s invalid husband, who seems to largely depend on her for care and who she is mostly dismissive of and a little condescending about. That bothered me a little, and I wish they’d changed or at least downplayed that.)

As has been publicized, this was in fact the first Broadway musical to have an all-female creative team (director, writers, various designers and such). This is another thing it has in common with the film, which was helmed famously by director/writer/actress Adrienne Shelley and released right around the time of her unfortunate death. This is cool in a hypothetical sense, but it’s also cool in the sense of honestly, it does show. This is definitely a show by women for women about women, featuring a whole lot of women supporting each other and working together. And, let’s be real, spending more than a little time dragging the men in their lives. It’s sort of “men are mostly awful, the musical” and that’s so refreshing. This is still an overtly heterosexual musical, of course; it’s still got plenty of boy-girl kissy-kissy. But the big “love duet” in the piece is aptly titled “Bad Idea” and the actual love song is sung by the main character to her baby daughter. So.

So I think the two most significant differences from movie to show is in regards to Dr. Pomatter and Becky. Dr. Pomatter in the movie is played by Nathan Fillion, and if I remember correctly he is written as sort of a nervous dude, but Nathan Fillion is sort of only good at playing Nathan Fillion anymore so it came across as just sort of Nathan Fillion-y, which is fine. But Drew Gehling, who is playing the role on Broadway, is a tall beanpole sort of dude who has a much more fitting look for this character. So when he got all nervous and stuttery, I actually believed it. As far as Becky goes, they cast Charity Angél Dawson, who is black, and I suspect the role was specifically written as black (it veered a little close to Sassy Black Woman for my liking but I think the character does have more depth than that). In the movie, Becky was played by Cheryl Hines, who is fine, but very white. I did appreciate that the show was obviously trying a bit harder to be inclusive, although I guess there’s only so much you can do when your show is meant to be set in Insert Small Southern Town Here. (I would be interested in seeing how the other roles would look if racebent, but I don’t have high hopes for that.) Becky also gets her own solo, and I seem to recall the movie not allowing her and fellow other waitress Dawn (who in our production was played by Caitlin Houlahan, late of a bit appearance in the travesty that was Peter Pan Live, but was originated by Kimiko Glenn, late of the touring cast of Spring Awakening and also Orange is the New Black; the former was very cute and charming, but having seen the latter as nerdbaby Thea I would have absolutely loved to see her as nerdbaby Dawn) to get a ton of screentime, so this did flesh them out a little more.

Anyway. It’s a very charming score, too, and while I’ll admit that back at that Sara Bareilles concert we went to I had a slight pang of fear when she said “I’m writing a Broadway musical” because that can be dangerous and scary I was immediately assuaged by (her belting out “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop of Horrors and) her performance of the big ol’ eleven o’clock number “She Used to Be Mine.” Which, I don’t often cry but I spent about from that song through the end of the show getting periodically misty-eyed and then chastising myself. (Tears of complicated emotions about that song? Okay. Tears of sentimentality about an old guy waving? More than I was prepared to give. This is a compliment, but I was still mad at myself.) Having suffered through more than my fair share of touring jukebox musicals, my assumption lately has been “pop musicals are often dangerous.” This honestly felt equal parts pop and Broadway to me, though. It was a musical written by a pop star who grew up on musicals. Most of Sara Bareilles’ songs sound halfway like showtunes anyway, with the piano and declarative intention, so it worked. Works. It’s charming. And while I love her album of the songs, it was so cool hearing them with different voices, harmonies, etcetera.

As mentioned above, this is a show about terrible men. Our protagonist Jenna has an abusive husband who she ultimately kicks to the curb in a moment of pure triumph; she also has an affair with the above-mentioned doctor, who himself is having an affair. The diner’s owner, while sweet to Jenna, is cantankerous at best; the diner’s cook is almost stereotypically foul. And then there is Ogie, played for us by Christopher Fitzgerald, late of the original cast of Wicked where he played Boq who in the stage version at least is… essentially the same dude. (I just started rereading this book and was reminded what different creatures show and book Boq are from each other, but that’s neither here nor there.) This is the one part of the show/movie that I (drift partner) really dislike (let’s be real, we both dislike it), because the progression of events goes like this: Dawn is sad and wants to find a date, so she sets up an online profile. She goes on a date, but the guy turns out to be kind of a weirdo who’s obsessed with her and comes to her workplace to try and wheedle her into another date. She tells him to go away, but he doesn’t go away, he just keeps coming back to tell her he loves her. This is a nightmare scenario for most (all?) women, but eventually she decides his incessant attentions are…charming, I guess? And then they fall in love. This is the plot of many bad romance novels or romcoms and it is also a terrible story that everybody should stop telling forever, because it encourages dudes who think if they can just ask a girl in the right way, or enough times, she’ll go out with him. Ew, ew, ew. So he gets a song in the musical, which is kind of funny I guess if you ignore the context? Fitzgerald was certainly having a good time, and he gets a tapdancing solo which is fun. Our audience was eating this up. But it is still a bad concept and a bad subplot and I don’t like it. (The only good thing about this subplot, in my opinion, is the joke about how both characters do Revolutionary War reenactments and bond over this… sexually. But that’s a good joke because it’s funny and it doesn’t have to involve the rest of the subplot. It could just be two nerds who bonded over that without the baggage, if you want to ignore the rest of it.)

The set was also pretty neat, because the stage was initially bare and everything was on wheels. They worked the sets into the choreography, so actors would push them on and offstage while entering and exiting. I don’t know that I know of too many other shows that do something like that, so that was pretty neat to watch. I know for a lot of Broadway shows the set is sort of supposed to be a character by itself, so I think for this show that setup worked really well.

I enjoyed myself immensely and am probably going to check out the OBC when I have an opportunity. I hope this goes on tour because I’d definitely see it again.

–your fangirl heroines.

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Theatre Thursday :: this is a pages-long liveblogging of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on Fox

20 Oct

Well,this is how it’s done in the stage show, so that makes sense! I like her tights.

I’m not sure who this girl is, but it’s working just fine.

Also holy shit this guy has costume designed everything.

HOLY FUCKING SHIT I FORGOT IT WAS KENNY ORTEGA SOMEHOW

I didn’t know! And I hope a bunch of kids who loved High School Musical are watching lol.

Okay, but I think I need to take a minute to tell you all, in case you don’t recall any of the previous allusions to this I’ve made, Rocky Horror was my A+ #1 special interest in eighth grade. I know this piece of work more intimately than I probably should.

This also begs a question: if Janet is such a good friend of Betty’s how come she wasn’t a bridesmaid?

I know every single stupid line of dialogue. Good grief.

Ooohhh I like the mourners who are the other cast members of course echoing the nonsensical portrayal of American Gothic in the church. Also that grave is for Mary Shelley I had no idea that she lived in the middle of nowhere in Texas.

I would also like to take this moment to share with everyone the seminal classic “Take a Hint,” which is the only context I have for Victoria Justice who is playing Janet.

OH YEAH. She’s a former Nickelodeon kid, and Brad’s actor is a former Disney kid, apparently.

I’ll mention further cast references as they come up because I am a big dork.

I like that I can tell they have not changed the script to this NEARLY as much as they did to Grease. Or, possibly at all.

I’m also amused by the including the audience participating. That’s a neat way to film it. This isn’t nearly as rowdy as real life AP stuff lol. Because in my heart, AP stood for audience participation long before it stood for advanced placement, like in school.

Oh my god HEPL I’M DYING AHAHHAHA

Reeve Carney is of course from Penny Dreadful, where he plays Dorian Gray (a character, incidentally, not unlike Dr. Frank-N-Furter in some ways, though he’s playing Riff-Raff, heretofore typed by me as Riff because I have nicknames for some of these goddamn people, in this).

Also, apparently he was a childhood friend of Mara Wilson! I have learned this via Twitter.

Costumes holy shit holy shit costumes I’m geeking out so fucking hard.

Oh my god Columbia Columbia’s fucking costume I’m dead I need it yesterday.

“You’re wet.” “Yes, it’s… raining.” This is one of my favorite jokes of all time, by the way.

I like that that bannister is designed for sliding down. And she didn’t even slide. That’s funny.

THE IDLE DUSTING OF THE COFFIN CLOCK OH MY GOD THE ATTENTION TO DETAIL

They just entered through a fireplace that’s incredible.

Christina Milian, who is playing Magenta, has been a pop star and in some like, low-popularity films.

I like the pride flag.

I also like that they finally made Magenta’s hair magenta.

Also her skirt is all Pride-y too!

Her skirt and hair are both highly bisexual. Because she is highly bisexual.

(You guys. Columbia is my girl. I love her. To a ridiculous degree.)

ALSO what they said about how blue is earth people and red/warm colors are Transylvania is interesting because Columbia’s got a little of both. Because the point of Columbia is, bless her heart, that she’s an Earth girl who got dragged into these Transylvania shenanigans.

ALSO I like these random-ass Doo-Wop Girls. That’s one of the only things this was missing.

Goddamn Laverne Cox is killing it.

And I fucking love her spiderweb tights.

Yeah, I’m actually way more into this look than the original Tim Curry costume.

Oh, yeah. This one is a lot more decadent tbh. The Tim Curry one was probably scandalous… in 1975. But this is more interesting. Also I appreciate that they brought up color theory.

The fucking beatnik snaps.

I will say that I wish the lipsyncing wasn’t so obvious, but oh well.

Oh my god Janet that shy little giggle

Columbia’s fucking lollipop

Annaleigh Ashford, Columbia, has incidentally been in many Broadway productions including Wicked, Legally Blonde, and Kinky Boots.

Oh, I heard about the board shorts on the internet. Interesting.

Staz Nair, Rocky, was recently one of the Dothraki!

That is certainly a name.

But consider this: being a fully grown baby and waking up to a bunch of people blowing confetti at you and sexually objectifying you. That must be pretty weird.

Also, Columbia is a little troll.

Sometimes I look back on this and go “what was it that brought me here”? Not in a bad way per se but sometimes I just wonder. This is so fucking weird.

Okay. so Eddie came through the window, not from the fridge. That changes the implications of some fanon theories I remember from my days in this fandom. Which, at least – god – thirteen years ago, was plenty alive.

Awww Brad and Janet try to dance. That’s charming. They’re square.

Okay, but that sexual tension is still present. Between Eddie and Frank.

I don’t give much of a shit about Adam Lambert but he’s serviceable here.

Yeah, also he died and that’s funny.

Magenta bringing Columbia another lollipop and petting her shoulder while she’s traumatized bless. Columbia and Magenta were my entree into wlw fandom, I should clarify.

Oh Brad. Looks like your sweetie is tired of your vanilla and she didn’t even know it.

This, with being able to see faces, is outstandingly gay.

Riff and Mags are also trolls. There have been a variety of fanon theories about why they let Rocky out, but. I don’t actually remember most of them.

Brad does definitely have a Disney face.

“I’m Torgo. I take care of the place while the Master is away.”

That looked like a hall in Professor Xavier’s mansion.

I would like to take this time to inform you all that I did once go to Disneyland and pay to get “Columbia” written on a pair of mouse ears.

I wish someone had told her to sing less pretty in this song, but it’s not bad.

No! Objectively she is still a better singer than Susan Sarandon, probably.

Yeah, but I don’t really believe she wants to bone him either lol.

Well, no, me either. But y’know.

“Congratulations, Janet.”

Also, I have seen Ben Vereen live, playing the Wizard in Wicked.

I’ve always been amused by the eleventh-hour plot development in this story.

JANET DOCTOR SCOTT JANET BRAD ROCKY /look. That’s also my favorite joke.

I’m also amused that Magenta has had literally twenty different accents it’s appropriate.

This is the most passive-aggressive dinner party I’ve ever seen and I love it. Always have.

Also, Columbia being a screamer is probably what initially drew me to her.

I just have a lot of stupid feelings about Columbia, you guys.

Also “what’s it say! What’s it say!” is another joke I do hold dear.

I like that they made Janet’s shoes glittery too.

“You’re as sensual as a pencil” is probably my favorite insult in this entire script.

“A mental mind game” you’re so cute trying to make this TV-safe.

Look at Mags’ emotional confusion about doing the thing to Columbia though

I like that they changed Frank’s pronouns!

These floorshow costumes are fun though! I like that they’re all different.

Also that bathrobe looks painful to wear but it’s highly aesthetic.

I just really enjoy the Floorshow a lot.

Drive-by transphobia from my mother. I’m glad she didn’t join me lol.

Your mother should never partake of this.

Holy shit these space outfits are amazing

Columbia looks so disappointed and betrayed her girlfriend did a bad

Victoria Justice just reminded me of Amy Acker???

Omg I love her gloves

Aw li’l Columbia feeling her feelings

And li’l Columbia hamming up her death scene. Bless. This girl is clearly a stage actress.

Wherein Riff-Raff is Loki?

EL BOW SEX EL BOW SEX EL BOW SEX

So these guys are selling “Super Heroes” way more than the original people did. Which is probably why it got cut from the theatrical release of the original movie.

Well! I’m a noob, I’ve only seen the original twice, and I liked this just fine.

Coming from someone who’s seen the original at least… fifteen times that number, this worked out just fine indeed!

–your fangirl heroines.

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Theatre Thursday :: have I really never done the Spring Awakening talk?

22 Sep

I am having a hard time trying to find books to read this month for my reading list topic of “suicide.” I think this is because typical adult fare doesn’t appeal in this topic, I don’t want to read sad things about queer kids, and I don’t want to read about sad heteros either.

But the other weekend I was listening to Spring Awakening very loudly on my noise-cancelling headphones to drown out my dad blasting yet another Dead and Company concert he found on the internet and it occurred to me. I haven’t actually ever sat down with y’all and given an elaborate expository narrative about my relationship with this musical, though I’ve hinted.

So it’s junior year of high school. In high school all I did musically was ask for the cast recording to every musical that remotely appealed to me, and Spring Awakening was a fairly new release. As you know, I was big into Rent (am still very fond), so “oh cool a new rock musical.” I was in love by the first time I finished the album, the kind of love where you evangelize to all your friends and make sure they all have the album too. We were a bunch of theatre nerds, so this was pretty much par for the course.

Over the course of the next year I swandove into this musical as a special interest. I got the sheet music and learned how to play it, I wrote more than one melancholy-but-optimistic story about the characters (for the sakes of my three best friends at the time), I read the original play and in fact wrote my AP English Literature essay on it (it was a prompt about something about childhood, or innocence, or something – I couldn’t resist! Plus, they say “use direct quotes” but don’t let you bring books, but conveniently I had memorized lines from the play) and also did my final theatre class monologue from it (the play version of Ilse in the woods, complete with fake wildflowers I toted around all day). Said three best friends, along with two boys (one friend, one boyfriend) and my parents, did Spring Awakening for Halloween that year, at the same time I was learning how to Photoshop, and this resulted in an honest-to-goodness photo shoot in my living room that I then edited all to hell. I present the evidence, because what do I have to lose?

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(The girl [as Anna] whose face is blurred out is someone I haven’t spoken to in years, really; the boys are the boys [in this picture Hanschen and Melchior, though the Hanschen played Moritz for most of the shoot. The blonde [as Martha] is the one who once dressed as Captain Shortpants for a Can’t Stop the Serenity trip with us Years ago and the redhead [as Wendla], of course, is my Inara-Penny-Buffy cosplay friend of old. The adults are… my parents. I, as I’ve mentioned before, am Ilse.)

This was a project. My parents rented their costumes, sort of last-minute on a whim; the Wendla costume (which funnily enough is the one that won the official costume contest the show held that year, though my friends took the entire album with them and showed us all off to the cast, something I’m still proud of) is actually, if I recall, jammie shorts and a maternity swimsuit cover-up, and the boys’ costumes are button-ups, socks, and pants that my mother cut and hemmed, but our Martha made her own costume and my mom was completely responsible for the Anna and Ilse dresses. You’ll see also the chalkboard in this picture, imitating the one on the set; it was a green sheet we hung up in front of a bookshelf and wrote on with chalk both to cover distractions and, well, imitate the set. The stage set in this photograph, though, is completely computer-rendered, because I was just that kind of dork and I wanted to see if I could.

We took pictures. We took every possible picture we could think of to take. There’s us girls all lined up on the table pretending to be in the middle of “My Junk” even though I was Ilse instead of Thea (we couldn’t find a Thea and just did without), there’s our Wendla standing on a chair, there’s our Moritz practically headbanging, there’s all of us jumping around in rebellion. As I’ve said, these did get shown to the original cast, which is still something I am proud of even if it’s silly, because we cared.

We were eventually going to turn the little stories I’d written into a movie. (We never did this.) Our Anna rewrote lyrics, I wrote a script based on my vignettes; it was about the girls, in the aftermath of the deaths and horrors, vowing to run away from this place forever but together this time, away from hurtful adults. They were naive, but they were together and that was kind of the point. There were also, of course, requisite ghost cameos. It was all very spiritual; to quote Hanschen, I was “such a sentimentalist.”

In the following months, I would see the show four times: twice in New York (once in the front row, once in the onstage seating) and twice on tour, the latter time of which I actually burst into big sloppy tears and bawled all through the finale. I saw it again about a year ago at a local college and in a very Pavlovian fashion did exactly the same thing, and I know that’s how it will be forever now. I’ve made my peace with it. It’s heavy for me.

This damn musical, though. The thing is, none of us were going through exactly what the musical is about in high school. Religion was present in our lives to varying degrees, but not so strictly; none of us had parents reigning over us so hard, none of us were having contraband teenage sex. But the general feelings of youthful hope and rage… I’m eight years older now than I was at the time and the album still gives me chills. I’ve never actually performed the show, because nobody should put me in musicals that people have to watch probably, but I know all of the harmonies and still sing them in the car. Etcetera.

And yeah, I relate to pretty much everyone. Questioning authority like Melchior? Yeah, I’ve done that. Being naive and absolutely hating it like Wendla? Yup. Consistently. Beating myself up over failures like Moritz? I’ve never done it as intensely as him, I’ve never actually thought about suicide, but I don’t take anti-depressant drugs just for kicks. Being the artistic loner like Ilse, carrying around a great hurt like her and Martha? Not the same kind of artistic loner and definitely not the same kind of great hurt, but “The Dark I Know Well” completely destroys me every time, to this day, because it hits me, as they say, in the feels. Like Hanschen and Ernst, I can be very queer. Like Georg, I like music and boobs. And like Anna? Well, although I’m not going to have children barring an accidental baby acquisition, “when I have children, I’ll let them be free, and they’ll grow strong and tall.”

There is so much truth in this anachronistic rock musical about repressed German schoolchildren. So many feelings that still ring so true to me. But I think the thing that makes me bawl my eyes out at “The Song of Purple Summer” is – well, it’s the same reason I love Sailor Moon, honestly. I love this world and the good things in it, and I can get very much in touch with my inner darkness but I want more than anything to believe in an earth that will wave with corn, a day so white so warm, a mare that will neigh with stallions that they’ve mated and foals they’ve borne. I want to believe in something beautiful, somewhere, somehow.

–your fangirl heroine.

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Theatre Thursday :: on the Fox production of Grease

4 Feb

As I think I’ve mentioned before, actually, almost know with a certainty, I… really do not like Grease.  I saw the movie a bunch of times when I was younger and it was always like “oh okay fun a movie this is stupid and goofy can we watch Rocky Horror now” but when I first saw the stage show on tour I realized I… just really don’t like the material.  (And Taylor Hicks as the “Teen” Angel didn’t help matters.)

I will fully admit Grease is awful because it really is. I’ve never seen the stage show, but my mom showed me the movie in high school because of course she did (to be fair, my mom and I like cheesy musicals almost as much as actual good ones) and she ended up getting the soundtrack through some weird circumstances (I feel like it was some school program? for my private Christian high school?). So we play it on road trips sometimes, and the movie makes me laugh, mostly because it’s so bad. I don’t think I would feel so fondly towards it if my mom didn’t enjoy it mostly unironically.

So that’s where we were both coming in to the Fox production of Grease.  Combined with assuming that, in the style of the NBC productions of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan (because I’m a terrible person and didn’t remember to record The Wiz and have had a hard time finding it legally but I hear it’s great and good for you everyone!), it would be terrible.  Hilarious, alcohol-y terrible.

It… kind of wasn’t, though?  For Grease.  The fact that they actually cast the T-Birds and Pink Ladies with not just white kids helped (although honestly, they really should have used Doody’s name from the film instead of calling him Doody, given that he was a brown kid).  Also Aaron Tveit is gold and Vanessa Hudgens was excellent.

Alright, cards on the table, I was super into High School Musical from about age 14-16. (In case you’re wondering what aggressively sheltering Christian kids does, this is what it does. It ensures they’re still watching Disney Channel in middle school.) And one of my favorite things about it was Vanessa Hudgens (back then she was using her middle name too). Now, of course, I see that was my tiny queer self fixating on the pretty dark-haired girl because that’s what I’ve done pretty much all my life, but back then I just thought I related to Gabriella because she was shy and nerdy. HAH! But anyway, I listened to that album about 2000 times and also ripped a bunch of tracks off of Vanessa’s debut album and listened to those a lot too, and somewhere along the line I just sort of forgot about her, as you do. She also did a bunch of shit I had absolutely no interest in, and I had honestly not thought about her in years when the announcement came that she would play Rizzo in this new production. Huh, I thought, good for her, now I have a reason to watch and probably enjoy parts of it. She looks like this and lemme tell you, if my fourteen-year-old self had seen that, I might’ve figured out some stuff about myself a lot sooner. Also she was easily the most interesting female performer, and her rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was perfect. Twitter told me during the broadcast that her father had just died the day before, and especially considering that, she kicked ass. I’m weirdly proud of her, considering I haven’t thought of her in a long time.

And, actually, I’m gonna talk about Aaron Tveit a little more.  He’s how I roped my parents into watching this, because we’ve seen Aaron a few times live and we adore him, and he didn’t disappoint.  He managed to play Danny Zuko in this way like he was playing him completely sincerely but also with complete awareness of the inherent disgustingness of him.  Because Danny Zuko is  big old jerk and that’s just a fact.  But normally he’s a big old jerk that I don’t find funny, and I found Aaron funny, and also he was easily the sharpest dancer (“Greased Lightning” was almost hilarious to me just because of that).

As for the rest of the cast: Carly Rae Jepsen was adorable, although that song they wrote for her was…well, boring is the kindest word. A friend of mine is a pretty big fan of hers, and gave me one of her older albums, and I think she has a lot of really fun energy and joy and there wasn’t any of that in that scene, which was odd. She and Sandy should probably have gotten together at the end, though. Keke Palmer was adorable also and I would like to see her in something where she actually got to do more than sing one nonsensical song about having a sugar daddy and throw shade on Mario Lopez.  Kether Donahue who played Jan was… exactly what Jan should always be, which is to say dorky and kind of fun.  The other boys were essentially only distinguishable by a single identifier (owns the car, plays the guitar) or which girl they were talking to, but they’re never really more than that.

And then there’s the matter of Julianne Hough. I admit I was coming into this apprehensive about her, and having seen one of my friends tweet about how Taylor Swift would’ve been amazing didn’t really help. The thing is, I don’t have any concrete criticism of Hough – I just don’t have a lot of positive things to say either. She was kind of just aggressively beige, and not in the way that Sandy is supposed to be. My mom said, when she came out in the sexy outfit at the end, “Nope. I don’t believe this.” I have to agree. Her voice is fine, her dancing is pretty good, but she just didn’t do much for me, especially in comparison to Aaron Tveit who was hamming it up pretty well. The meta jokes were funny at first but after a while… less so, also.  And the nonsensical “Sandy shows Patty Simcox up at cheerleading tryouts” bit served virtually no purpose.

It’s weird saying that I’m actually the tiniest bit disappointed that it was a technically solid production.  I don’t go to the actual theatre thinking like that.  But it’s a little bit true.  I didn’t laugh uproariously or anything, and I think that just means that I had to adjust my expectations.  It was definitely not a trainwreck, though!  It was solid, though not flawless, and everyone kept up.  So maybe the pattern is just going to be that some of these are hilarious and some of them are good and you just have to wait and find out which is which.

–your fangirl heroines.

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