Month: April 2014

Music Monday … Not A Day Goes By

Okay, from time to time I really don’t notice Monday coming around – so I went on a special Music Monday song hunt today. I found Merrily We Roll Along‘s Not A Day Goes By which probably – and very superficial – is my favourite song from the show (at least on this 2012 concert recording I own). Betsy Wolfe’s voice never ceases to amaze me anyways, so I guess this one is a hit! (do you see what I’ve done here, Merrily-fans?)

So, please lean back on this very sunny, summery (at least in Berlin) Monday and listen to her singing!

My Week #34, Apr 21st – 27th

what I saw

two (dance/movement) performances during the IN ZUCHT Festival by HZT Berlin. And tonight I’m gonna see a third one as well as Gob Squad’s Western Society at HAU 2.

what I read    

Shakespeare’s Hamlet and the first three interviews from Lyn Cramer’s book Creating Musical Theatre: Conversations with Broadway Directors and Choreographers.

what I listened to
The recording of The Bridges of Madison County – what else?

what I did

not too much exciting things. Met a couple of friends and spend the Monday after Easter Day on a bike ride with my Mom.

And I finally had another Krimidinner performance to manage yesterday. Yay!

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!

The Thing That Changed My Life

A little disclaimer beforehand: This is a personal post. Probably the most personal one I’ve posted yet, but I think it shows my love for theatre in a very raw way and that’s why I have a feeling that it needs to be here. If you think this post is too pathetic or tacky, you are very welcome to do so – because in the end we all feel what we feel. Also, this is not written by a musical theorist. I love music, I can read sheet music and I know basic things about harmonies and I have had quite some practice in listening to music (I actually know what I’m hearing and I am paying attention to what happens harmonies-wise), but after all I am still a theatre scholar writing and talking about music. 

Plus: I know I haven’t written down my thoughts about Bridges yet, I’m saving it for last….

Now that I have spend an unreasonable amount of time with the recording of The Bridges of Madison County, I came to a conclusion that already had dawned on me when I saw that piece back in March/April in New York.

I am in love with this score. – Well, this might not be a HUGE surprise given the fact that I have been a fan of Jason Robert Brown’s work for a number of years now (probably something like eight or nine years) and that loving the score of Bridges is not a very uncommon thing – at least among theatre enthusiasts (expressing themselves on the internet). But I actually remember sitting in this seat at Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre and listening to the first notes, this cello playing them. I remember loving it in this very second, because I fell in love again with cellos and it made me instantly feel the vibe of the show. In a way, Bridges is very much like my idea of a cello. And then Francesca sings to us about landing in America – and the music happening around the word ‘America’ makes us feel like Francesca who is missing Italy and then, suddenly the music makes the picture brighter again when she arrives in Iowa. To this point, the music – and the music alone – paints pictures, changing the light and the intensities of colours in a matter of seconds, maybe half a minute.

Actually this colouring and changing of light happens – literally again – when Robert is taking pictures of the bridge and the light shifts and he gets so excited. This is actually another one of my very favourite moments because not only the music draws a picture of what everything looks like, but also the lyrics pay attention and respect to that very moment something happens and you are so over the moon with that. This moment when you are finally able to show something to someone you wanted to show them so badly is a very important thing for me as well – I included a variation of this in my letters of motivation going with the essays I’ve written for college applications earlier this year. This is pretty much the reason why I want to become what I want to become.

Anyway, back to the music. This very moment of shifting light makes me crack up everytime over and over again. And so is It All Fades Away (to which I remember me – again – sitting in my seat in the theatre and sobbing uncontrolably – I couln’t stop and in a way I didn’t even want to). And Love is Always Better. But I guess, in a way, this light-shift in The World Inside a Frame and the re-occuring cello solo ismaking this score so special to me. It cracks me open every single time I listen and it leaves me there, totally exposed to the music.

The thing is, that you keep discovering new things about the music – every time I give it my full attention listening I’m like: Wow – what’s happening with the women in these bars – and Francesca – and – and – and?

Thinking about it I had a very similiar (but not that intense) experience when I saw Hans Neuenfels’ production of Aribert Reimann’s opera Lear from the 1960ies. This music affected me emotionally in a way that swiped me off my feet and all I could do is listen and listen and listen and come and watch the production over and over again. (the last time they brougth it back I missed only one performance, because I knew it would be the last they this production’d be shown and I needed to hear this music with these singers’ voices) I brought a couple of people with me and somehow, sadly none of them was as impressed by it as I was. Just as Bridges, Lear includes themes and musical arrangements and melodies that crack you open in a very non-rational way (while, of course, you can and HAVE to approach both compositions rationally once you want to work with them) and keeps you open once you agreed to come along on the road through the score, once you promised to listen.

Because I loved what I saw (and heard) on stage in New York I read the novel back home – it was one of the fluffiest reading experienced I had probably since I was 15 – and I started to think about the story again and suddenly it hit me: Probably I love music (theatrical music, with narratives, I love narratives – be they vocal or instrumental only) as much as and in a way that Robert loves Francesca and she loves him.

Well, that does sound pathetic and over-dramatic. And yes, it probably is, but at the same time it’s very, very true. In a way the score showed me very clearly that I will never be able to love a person as much as I love my work, theatre, music and story-telling (in every possible way).

This score has changed my life in a way theatre scholars have been wondering about for ages – this change sticks with me long after I have left the theatre and even the city I saw the production in.

Thank you for that, Mr. Brown.

Now that I have this off my chest I feel great, actually. Have you ever witnessed something in a theatre that made you think “I am changing! I am changing in this very moment!”?

I will be happy, if you cared to share! 

If … Then what? … If/Then on Broadway

the If/Then marquee at Richard Rodgers featuring umbrellas because it was pouring!

the If/Then marquee at Richard Rodgers featuring umbrellas because it was pouring!

From when I was about 14 on I knew Rent and I’ve loved Rent and I’ve loved Anthony Rapp in Rent. And then I got the audio version of his book “Without You” and I listened to it and I’d spend hours of crying my eyes out listening to him talk about the death of Jonathan Larson.

So seeing Anthony Rapp in a Broadway show always was a dream of mine and when it was announced that he (and Idina Menzel) was cast in If/Then it was kind of a no-brainer. I needed to see it. End of discussion.

Plus I love Next to Normal and the same creative team was doing something new? Hello?

That’s a big chunk of why I ended up in rear orchestra in the second to last preview of If/Then.

With this show – as we say in German – ist der Name Programm (the title says it all). It covers two versions of one life, kicked off by a If…then-construction.
If I go with person a, then this will happen.
If I go with person b, then that will happen. Just like one of these childrens’ books you can choose the storyline by going to certain pages.

The scenes change with various speeds, only details marking the ‘other’ side of a character (two nickname variations of Idina Menzel’s character’s name Elizabeth and glasses) – the most exciting one probably being the birthday-party/not-party-scene towards the end of the first act.

In this concept the show is very interesting and I got excited just looking at them gliding from scene to scene, from storyline to storyline. I read many comments about Idina Menzel really pulling this show together and keeping it alive for the while being, but I actually think that the rest of the cast is doing the ‘work’ of keeping it tight and creating the scenes while the character ofr Elizabeth more of less stumbles, runs through her live – that’s not meant to express anything bad, but to say: That is – to an extent – the idea of the show (to me). Seeing how our lives change with the people you are with and the decisions you make because of them – and because the character of Liz/Beth stays the same (it’s the same actress after all…) the others NEED to work more.

(Does this even make sense at all? To other people than me?)

In a way they a telling two different stories throughout the show and around the middle of act two this – in my opinion – becomes a little bit of a problem. According to some drama theories the dramatic climax is supposed to be somewhat around the beginning of the last third of a play/show/story. If you have two stories, you need to have two dramatic climaxes, right? These two stories are supposed to be very parallel to each other, and basically happening both at the same time – but on stage they can’t happen at the same time because actors only can be in one scene at a time. That’s why you need to tell them scene after scene after scene alternating between the two stories (at least that’s what’s happening) – as a result of this problem with this solution you have 20, 25 minutes of endless drama in two different ways during act two. And especially since the first dramatic climax is so sad and dramatic the second one really loses its intensity – which is sad as well, but in another way.

Having sad this I really need to state that I liked how contemporary it was. It was very right now and non-fantasy-effect-y and I liked that very much – I guess it’s something I don’t really see that often in musical theatre. Regarding the music I can’t really say that much but that I am very happy the album is already recorded and to be released in early June.

I really don’t want to say too much about the actors except for the fact that I had a blast watching them – especially LaChanze and Anthony Rapp who both play the more determined characters of the show.

Have you seen the show? What did you think?

Or what do you think about more ‘realistic’ contemporary shows in which the plot basically takes place here and now?

Do you like them? Or not? And why?

 

Music Monday … The Temple

Well…given the Christian holiday most of us – those of us living in a Christian country, being socialized to be Christian in any way – celebrate(d) over the last couple of days this choice isn’t a surprise, right?

But: I am not a huge Webber fan, I don’t really like Cats and Evita and such, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the rockier songs of Jesus Christ Superstar. While I was revisiting one of the recordings I own I realized how much I’ve always like ‘The Temple’. I mean, the difference between all these voice layered on top of each other and basically ‘screaming’ for attention, then Jesus enters, screaming oven louder and more and higher and then suddenly everything’s quiet and for a moment it seems like a totally new song is going to start.

I really just like that.

And the thought of making people go away.

What are you listening to today?

Did you have a nice holiday weekend?

 

My Week #33, Apr 14th – 20th

what I saw

Common Ground by Yael Ronen and Company at Maxim Gorki. The 30th show/performance I’ve seen this year! Common Ground is – in my opinion – this strongest of the three company-productions I’ve seen under the ‘supervision’ of Yael Ronen.

Sarg Niemals Nie – a rather German performance of contemporary musical theatre. It is funny, a very German sense of humour and I had fun although I had some trouble with my ticket beforehand and I was hungry and had a headache (all these cliché girls stuff…)

what I read    
I actually read the novel The Bridges of Madison County and – oh boy! – weird. But a quick and easy read on a Sunday….

Heiner Müller’s Hamletmaschine which I’ll read again after I read the original Shakespeare Hamlet once again.

what I listened to
The recording of The Bridges of Madison County was released digitally last Tuesday and that was it. I’m literally glued to everything that actually plays music, it’s playing non stop. (exept for working and workign out in fitness classes and stuff) Just for a mere 20 minutes or so it was interrupted by the Beautiful recording.

what I did
I met a lovely friend whom I haven’t seen in a while and we had extravagant hot chocolate and a great talk about (musical) theatre and Germany.

Actually I had a pretty great time with other people in general – I tend to enjoy the company of others more in springtime.

 

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!

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?