Promise me, Violet … Violet on Broadway

that's a shot of a marquee, right? with that Hello Kitty thingy and umbrellas photo-bombing...

that’s a shot of a marquee, right? with that Hello Kitty thingy and umbrellas photo-bombing…

What I saw was the fourth preview as far as I remember, so the following only shows an early view on what happens on stage. They actually might have changed things. This post is based on the preview of March 30th 2014.

I love most of the music of Violet, “On My Way” has this very special drive to it and it has this vibe of hope and motivation and more often than not I immediately feel better as soon as I listen to it. Plus I really like these sort-of-coming-of-age-stories – although Violet isn’t a typical adolescent character it’s about growing and leaving old paths behind. Something in this stories gives me the feeling that it is about growing stronger and opening up.

I like shows without intermission – I don’t exactly know why, but I guess there’s something about them what gives me a feeling of not being interrupted. Anything between 90 and 110 minutes is okay to sit through – althought it’s on the longer side. (back at Einstein on the Beach I sat through 5 hours!)

Can you imagine how excited I was to see Sutton Foster on stage? I mean, she’s probably one of the funniest actresses I have ever witnessed – I loved her funny Fiona on the Shrek DVD and her Michelle on Bunheads. To be honest she was probably the main reason to get interested in this piece in the first place when I read about this one night only concert they did of Violet. (which is the basis to this production as far as I know)

Sutton Foster and the rest of the cast (especially Joshua Henry as Flick and Emerson Steele as Young Violet – if you ask me) we absolutely gorgeous, their performance was highly energetic and they literally took us along with them on the bus ride – not only the ‘real’ one between Violet’s getting on and getting off the bus again, but also a ride through Violet’s life.

This production is – as you may have already figured out from my rambling about no intermission – a one act production of this piece, they actually created a new version of the piece how it was performed as the Off Broadway production back in the 90ies. They have shortened here and there, cut somethings, but also added a new song for Monty. It still has this charming vibe you can sense from just listening to the music – I think for the most parts it is easy to like, but…

BUT (and this is actually a huge BUT) for me there was a little something missing. Ultimatively it’s about love, loving yourself and being loved and love other people (in a way, that’s actually what the directing suggests) – but all this falling in love, falling out of love and in love again with another person happened too fast, almost casually. I really was surprised when the ending came around and suddenly there’s this big love between Violet and Flick (or maybe it’s not that big, but at least it’s big enough to change them) – and this impression stuck with me and still is sticking and it kind of bothers me.

I remember reading about how many people complained about Violet not having an actual scar across her face (I always imagine Phantom without the mask, something like Beauty’s beast without that much hair…) back in the 90ies and my sister, too, said: I thought it was weird that she didn’t have a real scar!

I think that Violet really isn’t so much about the scar, about something actually deforming your (or: Violet’s) face, but about the feeling of not being pretty, not being the same as everyone else, being different, not fitting in. I remember having a moment of shock when I saw Ms. Foster’s face in the light for the first time right after a short (and lovely) moment when both Violets stand and just touch their faces along what’s supposed to be the scar and obviously a finger nail cut in her face or something because there was a small red line on her face which I – in the first second – interpreted as the scar and “They did it!”.

I actually love not being shown things, just leaving the scar to the audience’s imagination surely was the right decision – while I really would have loved to see more of why the characters are feeling what they are feeling.

If this makes sense.

Just from reading this: Are you pro and anti showing the scar?

Have you ever seen something on stage you wish you hadn’t?

Or the other way round: Have you ever had the feeling of something had to be shown in stage but wasn’t?

 

One Revival More! … Les Miserables on Broadway (again)

Playbill and ticket because I forgot to take a pick of the outside of the theatre and I only realized it back in Berlin.

Playbill and ticket because I forgot to take a pick of the outside of the theatre and I only realized it back in Berlin.

Can you imagine some musical theatre girl not having seen Les Miserables (not even the movie) in her 10 years of obsession and dedicated work? No? Me neither, but it happened – to me. I was that girl. So, when the latest revival came around and I happenend to be in NYC I knew I wanted to see it. (and my sister kind of is a girl for the more classical stuff, so – yeah)

When I was saying I never have seen Les Miserables I actually mean seen – while I know most of the music by heart (comfortably) and I guess this is one of the two pieces I own the most recordings of. The other one is Michael Kunze/Sylvester Levay’s Elisabeth. Of course I know the plot, too. So the only thing I was really lacking was the “seeing”-part of it.

If was the evening of the day when we saw If/Then in the theatre next door – so we kind of were familiar with the enthusiastic entrance applause for stars (Idina Menzel getting one after the best opening lines – but more on that in a special If/Then post…). So Les Miserables started and the rowing on this working-prison-ship happenend and then Ramin Karimloo entered and the crowd went wild! We sat all the way back in the second to last row of orchestra (because as I stated when we booked the tickets: LesMiz isn’t really about detailed acting, is it?) and we just were wondering if we missed something or if the people in the front are just very enthusiastic.

Anyway…they sang and moved around the stage, all this drama was happening, dying and lying and caring and not carin for children and then everyone was grown up and fighting and shooting and marching and singing. Then, again, everyone was dying and lying and more people died and then Andy Mientus beautifully sang “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables” (but everytime I am listening to this I have to think about one of the weirdest translation in the history of translating) and in the end there was this dying-getting-into-heaven-metaphor which you always imagine to be there.

And in a way – I was not moved. Of course everyone sang beautifully and it was made well in a very technical way of making things look good and of course I know that this music is hard to sing (while it seems to be very easy and that’s why it’s overdone and many people fail singing it) and of course you can see the effort everyone (stage hands and stage managers and set designers and wardrobe department and wigs and everything) did in order to bring this revival to life, but somehow I wasn’t moved.

It was only right  before Javert’s suicide that I remembered: Right, he’s doing it because he’s obsessed with the idea of bringing Valjean down, of showing the world how evil he is. Before he only was the guy who’d come out from time to time sing something rather angry and then leave.

When I continued to think about my experience seeing Les Miserables now – well 10 years into my continuous learning and reading (and later on working with) about musical theatre – it kind of came to my mind, that ultimatively productions and plays that are presented in such an old fashioned way probably aren’t for me. I am almost always looking for new narratives or at least old narratives presented in a new way. At home, I don’t go and see some production at Deutsche Oper from 1982 looking as if it had been around right when Puccini composed it. I am all in for newer, more contemporary interpretations.

In the end this Les Miserables revivals looks exactly the way I used to imagine it in my head back when I was 14 – now I’m 23 and I’ve grown and so have theatrical conventions, while this production looks like it has already been around back then and back when Boublil and Schönberg wrote it and probably even when Victor Huge wrote the novel. Well…maybe with a little bit more glamour and the great things video projections provide us with nowadays.

This may sound a little bit provocative and disrespectful, but actually that’s what it is and I am pretty sure that there are more than enough people around who (will) love this production, because it looks like that.

I am just saying that it’s not the best thing for me to see – but actually I am glad I did and that I now can cross that off my bucket list.

Have you seen this revival?

Have you ever seen Les Miserables or are you a LesMiz-virgin like I used to be?

Do you like productions which look like ‘back in the old days‘?

Let me know!

You’ve got to get up every morning … Beautiful – The Carole King Musical on Broadway

no Beautiful-specific shot this time, because the facade of the Stephen Sondheim theatre is so beautiful and special, a shot of this has to do. ;)

no Beautiful-specific shot this time, because the facade of the Stephen Sondheim theatre is so beautiful and special, a shot of this has to do. ;)

When I was born, the Carole King party had been over quite a while already, but for a couple of years I had been familiar with one of her songs without knowing. (You make me feel like a) Natural Woman, which is included in a Aretha Franklin triple CD edition, has been very present as a song in my life.

In the first production videos of Beautiful Jessie Mueller stood there, singing this song and I was all like: Wait? I thought that was Aretha’s song.

And then I learned that Beautiful would play at the Stephen Sondheim theatre and I so needed to see this – because I have a crush on this theatre building ever since Tim, our BroadwayUpClose tourguide (read what that is over here!), told us that only the front was old and while the theatre was brand new and actually downstairs. You basically enter the building and for everything that’s not the mezzanine you go downstairs.

Now on to the show itself! We get to know Carole King when she’s around 16 and then she follow her career as a song-writer and her marriage with her collaborator and everything. While we do so, we hear a lot of her tunes – sometimes they’d be introduced like “Oh, I have an idea!” and they play two or three harmonies on the piano and suddenly there’s a fully staged number (in gorgeous costumes!) going on. It’s easy to say that Beautiful is kind of a regular jukebox-musical, which people mostly see because I know and love the songs at least that’s what I heard from people going into and leaving the theatre (and in the hotel elevator: “Oh, Tapestry was the first ever CD I bought! And we’d store our dope in the booklet later on!”).

Just here this post could be finished if it wasn’t for Jessie Mueller. I mean she is the really bright spot of this show (without really shining most of the time if that makes sense). I’ve read a lot about her in the show beforehand and I already knew I liked her voice – but what I saw right there in the theatre was a complete surprise. With most of the performances I see I can say that in case I can’t say anythings (or at least: not much) about the acting is must be good in a certain way. Regarding Jessie Mueller in Beautiful I am almost 100% sure that I haven’t seen something like this in a show like this in musical theatre. Ever. Saying she IS Carole King would be wrong (at least for me), because nobody is Carole King with the exeption of Carole King herself. But Jessie Mueller makes us believe she was Carole King. In every not outgoing characteristic King is known for. She is so unglamorous, so not confident and insecure – and she lets others take the stage. For example Anika Larsen as Cynthia Weil with the amazing voice she shows in her rendition of “Happy Days Are Here Again” and all this funny things she gets to say to Jarrod Spector as Barry Man (while Jessie Mueller as Carole only gets to struggle with Gerry Goffin/Jake Epstein). Mueller seems to be the calm spot holding everything together. From where I sat I could see that basically everytime she stands up after she sat for a while she’d pull up her pants in a kind of awkward manner and somehow this made her character real in a very “Behind the scenes of a TV show”-kind of way.

To conclude: I loved Jessie Mueller, her acting and her singing, I liked all the leads and the overall singing, while I wasn’t that much into the book and the ‘plot’ – I mean it was nice to watch and everything, but it was nothing special. But then again, Jessie Mueller’s performance was so special it’s worth everything.

Music Monday … Louder Than Words

The last couple of days I thought a lot about politics and politicality of theatre – basically that’s what I think about most of the times, but somehow it became an issue over the last days, not only but also because I found out that a conference called “Dance and Politics” which will be taking place in early May is not so much about dance and politics (like: political issues, discourse and stuff), but about dance and cultural policy (!). This misunderstanding was probably caused by me misunderstanding the German word “Politik” als politics and not so much as policy. Anyway, thinking about politics and theatre and why we do what we do, made me stop my continous listening to snippets of the recording of The Bridges of Madison County and return to Louder Than Words from Jonathan Larson’s show tick, tick…Boom!

Because: Action speaks louder than words.

(while for me it’s more like: words, words, words.)

What are listening to today?

My Week #30, Apr 7th – 13th

what I saw
Martin Nachbar’s reconstruction-reenactment-lecture-performance-mash-up Urheben Aufheben at Sophiensaele – including a pre-show lecture held by the woman who graded my BA thesis last year…

the last performance of Xerxes at Komische Oper Berlin (at least for this and the next season) – although it was marked as sold out we scored great tickets at the box office rush.

She She Pop’s latest performance Frühlingsopfer in which they are performing with their mothers.

what I read    
not as much as I would have liked to be reading, but I bought books I need for my admission exam in May.

what I listened to
the concept recording of Frank Wildhorn’s Artus – Excalibur which I’m going to see in St. Gallen next month, the Beautiful OBCR (especially You’ve Got a Friend, I Feel the Earth Move and Beautiful) and when I found a website where you could get sneak peeks of the gorgeous recording of The Bridges of Madison County – and that was actually the end of a weekend not listening to music. ;)

what I did
I brought home not only the things I bought in NYC and a bunch of playbills, but also a cold – so once the cold got started I was mostly hanging around listening to music. I also took a placement exam for an English class at university and then applied to said class and got into “Advanced English for Academic Professionals 1a” – weird name, but it starts next week and I’m excited, because I kind of enjoy taking language classes with high levels (I really don’t seem to enjoy beginners’ classes – I remember failing miserably in learning Russian….). For the weekend my loveliest of all former co-workers (from university) came to Berlin for a visit. We had a ball seeing Xerxes together! Plus I spend the Saturday with two other very dear friends. (note: as soon as my cold wore off I had a rather good time.)

 

What did you do?

Are you curious and can’t wait for my posts to see what I thoughts of the shows I saw? On the Theaterkind facebook page I posted pics of the ticket stubs with small thoughts for every show I saw – head over there and check it out!

Have a great new week starting tomorrow!

Favourite Friday: Seeing the Joy

During Beautiful (both, the show AND the song!) I was lucky enough to be able to see both Jessie Mueller in her long blue dress at the grand piano AND the conductor Jason Howland. I could also see that the piano wasn’t so much of a piano, it was pretty much castrated (what would the Girl of Once say to that? ;) ) – but I guess still mostly everyone agrees on Jessie Mueller doing an amazing job mimicking playing the piano.

Anyways, during this impressive piano-part towards the end of the song – I was able to see the joy of making music and the joy of acting as if one is creating music and, most of all, the love for music.

And this, my friends, is an important part of the theatre communities across the globe: We (mostly) love what we do and with some people you are lucky enough to see that!

You can get a sense of Ms. Mueller’s part of loving the music in this video!

What do you love?

Are you able to do what you love most?

Commenting … Piracy

I don’t really know how I ended up on this blogpost by Jason Robert Brown from 2010, but I did and I read it and then I clicked some links (like the one to Georgia Stitt’s blog and also this post over here. I also read some comments from people stating that illegally trading sheet music online is not so much of a crime, but basically everyone should be happy about this trading, because basically it is free promotion of work. An important point to these comments was also the assumption of the changings a society is going through because of the internet.

And yes, of course – the internet (and our non-stop of using it) pretty much gives us an impression of unlimited information being accessable ALL THE TIME and basically for free. I mean – who actually goes ahead donating something to Wikipedia like they suggest each time you read an article over there?

I am critical about just streaming stuff online (although, of course, I’ve done that – I’m a German girl with very limited access to British/American TV shows in their original form – but I remeber streaming being not as illegal as downloading, although it still is sharing of something you don’t own. Today I’m not comfortable with that anymore, especially since the iTunes store and things like Watchever (a kind of German Netflix) and other streaming concepts you pay for changed the situation so much) – right now I’m in the very blessed position to be able to pay for any kind of intellectual property (of others) I want to have a part of.

I adore most of the people making art, creating something and I don’t know why I shouldn’t pay them. I know, that one day when I might create something to my make living with day, I definetely will hope that people want to pay for what I created – because otherwise I just could go home and be sad and eat the books and CDs I own.

Coming from Europe copyright issues and intellectual property used to be a crucial thing to think about a few years back. When a somewhat new political party, the “Piraten” (pirates), suddenly appeared and made its way into four communal governments (Berlin, my city and my county, being one of them), everyone was buzzing about paying for stuff on the internet issue. What the Piraten wanted was basically: Everything on the internet (in terms of information, media, etc) should be free. Back then I identified much more with the idea of being a writer than I do today and I was shocked about how people could ever have ideas like that in the first place. There are artists who (partly) are making a living off their intellectual properties, the things I created – and most of them aren’t like “Let’s make ALL the money!”.

During my studies and writing essays and papers about performances I’ve asked a number of artists if they were able to give a video or a certain picture to me. They were all terribly helpful and they’d gladly send the things I requested to me. I actually once contacted a publishing house/agency/licensing company for theatre plays and musical theatre librettos, because I wanted to write a concept for an admission exam of one of the things they have the rights for. I explained myself and asked for the German piano score – and they actually send me the piano score and the libretto in both German and English and a CD (I had to give it back after I finished working with it). What I want to say by telling these stories: People are helpful. While so many pro-trading-people state “But that’s the only way we can get things we can’t buy!”, I have to say: We can ask. Most of the times. And if the creators don’t want us to have certain things, we should respect them – we want their stuff, because we like and respect* them as artists in the first place, right?

While I was reading through all these comments and articles about piracy and intellectual property (again, most of them from 2010 – which mostly is for me something like: not that long ago….when I started my undergrad studies….but then it’s like: dang! four years ago!) – Playbill.com shared a news on their twitter that the Dramatists Guild’s anti-piracy commitee will host a first anti-piracy awareness event. For me as not being a part of the cultural environment of US theatre/music artists that name might sound weird (like cancer awareness day….only that people can die of cancer, while online piracy is “just” a crime and totally rude), but I am glad that people and artists stand up for their rights against a front of economists and internet-ideologists and this “everything for free”-mentality.

 

* A little thing off topic regarding the mentioning of respect. On a German musical theatre message board I just had a fight about respect because I critized an (ex)record producer living in New York who writes about Broadway shows for a German musical magazine. Me and him are not on the same page regarding many – to me – crucial points like Gender, emanzipation and directing of theatrical performances (as far as I can tell from his writing in that magazine, which is the only way I can know and critize “him”). Anyway, the fact that I was criticizing him kind of created a (very small, but still) kind of shit-storm on me about how I (as the the prococious 23 year old I am) on earth could even thing about critizing him who is not only is more than 50 years older (and therefore wiser) than I am, but also knows Broadway – basically I was lacking respect. This part of the discussion was the nicer one, this morning I woke up to a post about me being part of “Generation hubris” and thinking of me as THE musical theatre pro because I’ve been to NYC twice now in my life. And when I was like: Wait, you’re telling me I should pay respect to this critic (which I do for everything, but not for his journalism….I simply don’t agree with the kind of journalism he does – which should be no problem, right?), but what are you doing here? Do you even know me outside of the 88 comments I posted on this message board? I guess not. When I addressed these things, all I got was: Yes, and this hyper-sensitivity is also a big part of this generation!

And I’m like: Respect people! Aren’t we all one community? Aren’t we all theatre people?

I also wanted to state that (for me) respect is actually very different from criticizing. I can respect someone and still criticize him/her, because that’s how each and everyone of us can become a better person. No-one will ever respond to criticizm expressed in a disrespectful manner.