Music Monday … Boy with Dreams

This Music Monday is brought to you by the inspiration of a friend of mine. He brought my attention to the Pasek and Paul song cycle Edges which I’ve heard about but never really listened to it. A terrible mistake.

As you probably could have figured by now I love me a (rocky) uptempo song for a tenor voice. I was sent a link. I clicked on it. And I was sold.

In addition to the more formal things that immediately sold me to that song, it’s a very playful, original song which takes us through a growing-up/coming-of-age process – so it’s definitely worth a listen!

Check out this duett-version with some staging…

or a solo, slightly rockier and very playful version:

And: Have a great new week!

What are you listening to today?

Moses – Die 10 Gebote

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Moses was the last show I saw during my stay in St. Gallen and as I my articles about the other to nights (Anything Goes and Artus Excalibur) already suggested – for my the quality of the shows went downwards from Anything Goes on.
(funny how I don’t even try to be polite on this topic)

Years ago Michael Kunze, to book writer and lyricist of German (hit) musicals like Elisabeth, Mozart and Marie Antoinette had paired up with Dieter Falk, a pop music producer and song-writer, to write a pop oratory about the 10 commandments, which premiere in a huge soccer stadium with a choir consisting of thousands of people and a big orchestra and all that jazz. The music and the lyrics were quite ‘heavy’ taking into account that so many voices singing make the words hard to understand, so the words had to be streched and sung very slowly. Anyway, this oratory was okay to watch, it told the story of Moses and the 10 commandments and up to today it is produced/shown primarily by churches and religious organizations having choirs.

Apparently a couple of years later they were asked (or wanted) to write a musical of this oratory – and this was how Moses – Die 10 Gebote was written. Do you remember when I wrote about Artus and said that the material didn’t appear to be all that bad, but the directing just didn’t give a whole lot of f*cks? Well with Moses it was the other way ’round! The directing actually was quite neat, sweet, sometimes a little too ‘funny’ (in a “Look! I can do funny!”-kind of way). The performers were good, they sung well and danced well for the most parts.

But outside of the pure watching-experiences (me, sitting there and watching what happens on stage, directing-wise, acting-wise…) I had some serious WTF?!-moments with the material. The songs mostly were like someone made the singers sing bible verses in pop music (like Britney Spears 90ies…), sometimes then suddenly bursting out into Gospel-inspired songs, dancing and singing and clapping – while a mere three minutes ago they’d told us that Moses’ people were slaves and had to work even harder than before because of Moses’ magic. There were scenes in front of the curtain, with two characters talking about a matter on of them wasn’t really concerned with (from a character-in-the-story-point of view) and which just had nothing to do with what happened before, it came out of the blue and obviously it had to be there because the set needed to be changed.

Right now I feel I don’t even want to write anything more about that experiences because I could go on and on about how weird I felt watching this as ‘musical theatre’ or how I think that these kinds of shows/productions are the reason why people in Germany think musicals are superficial, everyone looks great in them and from time to time someone randomly bursts into a song.

Usually I try not to write such short and negative things about theatre, but this needed to be done. Simply.

Music Monday … Man in the Mirror

This isn’t a typical Music Monday this week. No show tunes, not at all. But: a video filmed at 54below and Matt Doyle whom I’ve seen in Jasper in Deadland this past spring. And I’ve simply been obsessed with his version of Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror, as I’ve already expressed on my twitter account.

So, to start off this new week – the last week of August – let’s all just take a minute and apprechiate this one, okay?

What are you listening to today?And: Have a great week!

 

My Week #43, Aug 18th – 24th

what I saw
as far as theatre is concerned I saw three performances during the Tanz im August festival:
Michael Clark Company: animal/vegetable/mineral which was quite nice to watch but wasn’t a very ‘occupying’ thing if you know what I mean
La Veronal: Siena which left me with quite a few questions because so many things just came along as “Why? THAT’S WHY!” sort of elements.
and lastly Rosas & Ictus: Vortex Temporum which I enjoyed the most of those three. Actually, I liked it quite a bit.

And then I binge-watched the first season of The Paradise which a friend wanted me to watch. It took a bit until I was hooked, but I liked it – although it’s not as shiny and the people are not as pretty as in Mr. Selfridge – which is a horribly superficial thing to say. ;)

what I read

I read two essays in a journal/magazine called Studies in Musical Theatre, as well as another essay by Hannah Arendt about politics and Saša Stanišić’s Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert, which another friend recommended.

what I listened to
pretty much the same things as I did last week. Summer-listens.

what I did
nothing all too exciting. Sadly. But there are quite some exciting things to come up soon.

What did you do?

The Theaterkind facebook page is only 5 away from 100 likes! Can we make it? That’d be AWESOME. :)

Have a great new week starting tomorrow!

Thoughts on ‘Artus Excalibur’

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“Artus Excalibur” – a musical by Frank Wildhorn, Ivan Menchell and Robin Lerner, directed by Francesca Zambello

I have to say – I was rather excited to see Artus – Excalibur in St. Gallen and being honest with you guys this probably was the show which made me want to go to St. Gallen in the first place (and I’m still glad about it, because of the first night we spend at Theater St. Gallen!)

Anyway, you don’t always get to see a brand new show in German speakign countries (they keep coming nowadays, but it’s still unusual to have a bigger scale production of a brand new musical). And you don’t always get to see a brand new show written by Frank Wildhorn. I am not the biggest fan of his work, actually I think quite some of his work is a little dull (while I LOVE the score of Bonnie & Clyde I remeber being bored to death by his Count of Monte Christo), I was never drawn to his work because of how great the music is – with the exception of Bonnie & Clyde. When the thought of having to see it found its way into my mind it was more a ‘Gotta catch’em all’-moment than a “Wow…I’m interested in THAT”-thing. In addition to that St. Gallen’s theatre had an amazing moment of star-casting. They cast pretty much the most popular musical theatre actors in Germany/the German speaking countries as the principles – which not only garanteed them an exessive amount of press, but also kept the fans coming (and who doesn’t like that?).

A kind of concept album was released shortly after the premiere, with a number of songs (by far not all, but a decent number…) which gave me the opportunity to have a listen before I went to see it. From the recording alone I wasn’t stunned by any means, but it wasn’t too bad either. It was – once a again – decent music, a little folk-y, a little middle-age-y, a little ‘over the hills of Britannia’-y. As one would expect (from a post of mine over at newmusicaltheatre.com…) I had my issues with the German words which made me wonder what the English original lyrics were like (and I haven’t found out yet, and I think it’ll be a while before I will…) – but over all it kept me excited to see it.

I then saw it on May 30th and to get it out of the way: I wasn’t very fond of it. To be honest it was a moment of “I’m so angry I stayed awake until 2am and woke up at 7am”. By the time intermission came around I knew what was wrong with this show and after a night of thinking-sleeping I’m pretty sure that really was the problem. It wasn’t the music or the way the show was written – while it wasn’t the most mind-blowing thing ever, it wasn’t all too bad. It wasn’t the cast, although each and every one of them played a part in why it just wasn’t good from my point of view. It was the directing.

I usually try to stay away from all too harsh judgements (because: it’s the internet!), but even with all the time since I saw Artus I can’t make it more pleasing.

When I wrote that the problem was the directing I more of less ment: the absence of directing. It was not like “Ooh….what is this supposed to mean?”, it was more like “Eh…did somebody tell the actors what to do?”. Most of the leads I had seen before a number of times, like some of them, then was a little disappointed by them on the next occasion, just as the theatre-wheel goes round and round. One of them, Sabrina Weckerlin, I have been seeing numerous times since she was 19 years old and on stage as Constance in 3 Musketiere in Berlin, I saw her maturing and delivering a superb performance as Natalie Godman in Next to Normal last fall. Because I saw her perform so many times I think I know what she can do acting-wise (once more: Next to Normal) and I think I am able to tell when a director just was doing it wrong. She played evil Morgana (who was given a potencially heart-breaking backstory here) and she was doing just fine during her songs, but when she wasn’t singing it was like she was posing and saying her lines and gesticulating exessively – just as if someone (a director?) had told her: Just do whatever you fancy doing! It was the same with Patrick Stanke, who played Artus and seems to be a kind of go-to-tenor when it comes to heroic young men in German musical theatre. Just doing what he fancied…I could go on and on but I think you get the point, right?

While I wasn’t bored (it was too short to be bored with so much story told, 2.5 hours including intermission), I felt a little insulted soon after intermission when I was able to tell that what happened in the first act just wasn’t a matter of ‘getting started’. It felt so ‘American’ in a way we Europeans tend to say it when something is just scratching the surface of a problem and in a way musical as a genre is seen by so many people in Germany (a fact I’m complaining about in almost each and every post of mine on the newmusicaltheatre.com-blog) and it is just not doing the genre any justice, while people will go and see Artus and those who like ‘musicals’ are gonna keep on liking it while those who have massive prejudices keep having these. But I am so sure that this show (read: this production) would flop on Broadway big times and it so assures me in my thought that ‘American’ and ‘American’ are two different things: While we, and I of course include myself here, sometimes use this adjective to describe a superficial production of a musical (usually like “Oh, this is SO American!” and we mean “Oh, this is so not good!”), real American musical theatre often is SO MUCH BETTER!

Anyway, do these thoughts even make sense?

Have you seen it?

What do YOU think about it?

I’d love to hear!

Music Monday … This World Will Remember Us

I admit, the intro is a bit cut, but this amazing jazzy version of Bonnie and Clyde’s ‘partnering up in crime’-song (literally!) from Frank Wildhorn’s Bonnie & Clyde (which is, as I will keep expressing later on this week probably my favourite score written by Wildhorn) is well worth it. I mean: Really.

This world will remember us is the finale of act I and I always see it as a song, that really structures the story of the musical, as well as the story of Bonnie and Clyde (outside of the musical as well?): it sums up what we’ve learned so far and foreshadows what we will be learning about them later on in the show (or: what we already know about them, because their case is kinda known….). In addition to that both Bonnie and Clyde get to reprise their motivation from the first song of the show when their younger selfs sing about their (childhood)dreams and get to stress their points as strong narrators of the show.  And all this in one song.

My thoughts on this song could be so utterly wrong, because I’ve never seen the show – but I will, in September – the European premiere of it in…Bielefeld.

And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the original version and want more of a cast recording vibe, then check out this version:

 

What are you listening to today?

My Week #42, Aug 11th – 17th

what I saw
nothing all too exciting. Youtube, as always, and iTunes keeps uploading one episode of the 2nd season of Mr. Selfridge at a time. So I’m rewatching these. (we’re almost finished though, this past Friday s2ep8 rolled around…)

what I read
I once more had a week ‘locked up’ at the library. Although I took some time to do some work-stuff (my freelance-stuff as well as some assigned work from my job at uni), my reading added up once more.

I finished Christa Wolf’s Ein Tag im Jahr im neuen Jahrhundert in which she describes the 27th’s of each September between 2001 and 2011.
Then I read her last novel (which was published before she dies in 2011) Die Stadt der Engel oder: The Overcoat of Dr. Freud which is set during her time as a scholar of an arts centre in Los Angeles. And then I finally read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem which I meant to read since the Hannah Arendt-biopic came to the movie theatres in early 2013. Now I finally did it!

what I listened to
Oldies but Goldies. In the Heights, If/Then, Bridges of Madison County.

what I did
A lot of reading (as you might have been able to tell already), working, working out (I ran 16k on Wednesday!) and I went to a Breakfast market with my sister today.

What did you do?

The Theaterkind facebook page is only 5 away from 100 likes! Can we make it? That’d be AWESOME. :)

Have a great new week starting tomorrow!

My Week #41,Aug 4th – 10th

what I saw
I went to see the Jersey Boys movie. And I spend one night knitting and (re)watching an episode of House of Cards. (very summer appropriate)

what I read
As I spend most of my time in the library I read quite a lot (it added up to more than 1000 pages):
Hannah Arendt: Über das Böse. (“Some Questions of Moral Philosophy”)
Hannah Arendt: Macht und Gewalt. (“On Violence”)
Christa Wolf: Kindheitsmuster.

And I started to read Christa Wolf’s Ein Tag im Jahr im neuen Jahrhundert.

what I listened to
In the Heights. All the way through the week. It’s summery, isn’t it?

what I did
Reading (a lot), writing (too little), knitting (how on earth?! It’s summer!), meeting people, having my friend F. over for a nerdy Saturday afternoon reading session and spending my Sunday afternoon on a joined birthday party of two friends/colleagues where I met old and new friends and had a good time.

What did you do?

The Theaterkind facebook page is only 5 away from 100 likes! Can we make it? That’d be AWESOME. :)

Have a great new week starting tomorrow!

Anything Goes – Literally

IMG_2174After I have posted all my Broadway-thoughts and my thoughts on Sarg Niemals Nie I can (finally) move on to the three musicals I have seen in St. Gallen, Switzerland, in the end of May when the theatre of St. Gallen showed all three of their currently running musicals in a row. I went there by train with my mother and we had a great time (her first time in Switzerland), after three nights in St. Gallen we went to Zurich and stayed another two nights (which is so expensive the two nights there did cost roughly the same as the three nights in St. Gallen – and the hotel wasn’t that good, actually). Anyways…right now we’re here to talk productions.

I used to be not that much into old musicals, I’m all for innovation and new stuff (hence my contributing to the Greenroom-blog over on newmusicaltheatre.com) – so I was the least excited about the first show of the three which was Anything Goes. When we were sitting in the theatre’s lobby (which is lovely and quite special architectural) after our over-night-travel and my mom was flipping through the pages of the programme she was like: “Oh…it’s one of these comedies in which someone is mistaken for someone and it’s supposed to be funny. I’m not really up to this right now!”

A couple of minutes later a woman joined us where we sat (apparently she is reviewing shows for German musical news-page thatsmusical.de) and she was all like: “I don’t know what this is about and frankly I don’t care. I am tired and I only bought it because it was cheap, more by accident. I really only wanted to see actor X this afternoon! And look, I’ve seen show Y in Stuttgart 40 times!” Sorry if I’m offending some people know, but this attitude pisses me off. Like really! Then my mother repeated her statement before I said: “Well – let’s try to see it this way. If you really don’t want to see something because you don’t feel in the mood and in the end you happen to have enjoyed yourself and it finds its way to your heart, that’d make the production amazing, right?”

Later, when the lights went on for intermission, my mom turned to me, beaming and said: “It was exactly like you said before! It totally found its way to my heart!” And for myself I can definetely say that this evening was not only when I fell in love with Cole Porter’s music (am I late to the party?), but also with this kind of old-ish musical where the narrated story is kind of draped around hit-songs, not in the hideous compilation-musical-Mamma-Mia-kind-of-way (or for more German reference: Hinterm Horizont and its brothers and sisters…), but in a slightly better working one. And eventually: Bettina Mönch.

Let’s start in reverse order. I have the feeling that in almost every post with thoughts on a German production of anything which I remotly liked I state that one of the performers has given a great performance, the “best performance on a German stage I’ve seen in a long while when it comes to musicals”. But after Pia Douwes’ performance as Diana in Next to Normal last fall Bettina Mönch gives a very different (of course, because they are playing different characters) but equally amazing performance as Reno Sweeney. She is tall which stresses her being different from the others just because she is so much taller than all the other (female and even most of the male) actors on that stage and has a very captivating appearance on stage. And boy, she is a dancer! And she can sing. And act. Basically she is this tripple threat we always are talking about, but as I feel not getting to see that much on German (speaking) stages. She owns the stage as Reno’s got to own it.

The thing with Anything Goes seems to be: anything goes. The title already gives a hit of what I think was quite ‘ahead of its time back then’, throughout the story the women – especially Reno, but eventually all the other female characters, too – are winners. They own the (their) men and in the end everyone of them gets what she wants. For me worshipping the female narrative that’s quite a nice thing to have. I remember talking about it when I went to my admission interview in Leipzig only a couple of days after we’d returned from our trip – I just didn’t really expect a female narrative to happen in a musical from the 1930ies. Written by men.

The directing by Josef E. Köpplinger is sometimes very, very silly (the opening of the show, is almost embarrassingly silly), but then it somewhat ‘returns’ to the narrative and gives it a fitting vibe – full of doors opening and closing at the right time. Most of the times it comes to terms very charmingly with the good ol’ Staatstheater-situation: having people that can’t (and don’t have to) dance in big scenes, because they are members of the opera choir – I have seen a lot more embarrassing situations on this department.

In my latest post over on newmusicaltheatre.com I adressed the translating-issue we are faced in German speaking countries when producing shows originally written in another language, mostly English. In this production of Anything Goes they decided to have the dialogue in German and the songs sung in English – which is a weird feeling. Directing-wise you don’t only have to justify your characters breaking into a song, but also breaking into a song in a language different from the one they just spoke – and I can’t deny that it cracks up the narrative. And it causes more than one awkward moment – with only very few songs you can really tell when it starts, there are mixutres of talking and singing, changing from phrase to phrase. Where do you draw the line? But then, I was really glad they didn’t force awkward German translations of these very English (down to their DNA if lyrics had one) lyrics on us – although I’m pretty sure not everybody in the audience was able to understand these (beautiful and if nor beautiful at least funny) lyrics, which is sad.

What I have been trying to tell you in more than 1000 words by now: If you have the opportunity to go or just really want to get to know Anything Goes as a musical or have been thinking about it, but never quite made the decision – I encourage you to do so. You (probably) won’t regret it.

(for more information you can either visit musicalzentrale.de or the theatre’s website)