New York

#MusicMonday … Throwback edition

Nachdem ich letzte Woche (trotz eines freien Montags, aber wegen einer sehr ausgedehnten Premierenfeier am Vorabend…) der #MusicMonday hier auf dem Blog ausgefallen ist – immerhin gab es eine Pseudovariante auf der Facebookseite – sind wir heute mit einer Throwback-Edition zurück!

Normalerweise versuche ich ja mehr oder weniger erfolgreich und/oder offensichtlich meinen Beruf und den Blog zu trennen (deshalb habe ich zum Beispiel auch nichts zu Jesus Christ Superstar am Hessischen Staatstheater Wiesbaden geschrieben, wo ich letzte Woche in der Premiere war, weil…es ist schon irgendwie “mein” Haus), aber heute muss es mal sein.

Als ich nämlich gestern ENDLICH mal wieder den ausgelatschten Pfad von Glöckner und The Great Comet verlassen hab musiktechnisch, bin ich irgendwie bei Jasper in Deadland gelandet. Und dann ist mir aufgefallen, dass es ein inzwischen fast ZWEI JAHRE ALTES Video gibt, was sehr lustig ist (und unglaubliche 1000 Views auf Youtube hat…#ironie). Was sind wir alle klein und was hat Lisanne am Anfang für einen peinlichen Auftritt (ohne Mikro für Sänger kein Lied, Lisanne!) – es ist zum Brüllen komisch, finde ich, und immer wieder eine schöne Erinnerung.

In diesem Sinne: Lach, wenn du nicht mehr lebst! #lol

 

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#YAYHAMLET

Why the Hamilton PR Team Makes Me Want to Look Into Social Media Marking

I think not many people know that, but my very first ever internship right after 18 year-old me graduated from high school was in the PR department of Komische Oper Berlin. Before I continue here, give me a moment to wrap my mind around the 6 (SIX!) years having passed since then.

Anyways….back then I was more of an idealistic theatre girl all the way in for the arts and low-budget and I kind of percieved marketing as something commercial people would SO NEED, but ‘real art’ wouldn’t, because few people attending it would make it extra special and something. (Cut me some slack, I was 18!)
So these three months taught me another side of making theatre happen – the more “It didn’t happen as long as not enough people attend”-kind of side.

More recent, in the last season I looked more into social media as a marketing tool, a little bit of a trending topic in German (theatre) marketing, talked about e.g. at the 3rd annual Theater und Netz conference. There’s still SO MUCH talk about, especially since German theatres doesn’t seem to be very proficient in social media marketing, more often than not it’s nothing more than the occational tweet/post “Another performance of [opera/play/performance-title] tonight! Still tickets left!” – well, at least there’s some consciousness about the need to change.

So – as with so many things – we have to look over, across the pond to what seems my Mekka of musical theatre once again.

One tweet I’ve cited so many times in real life was saying something like “Welcome to America – where it’s easier to get a gun than a ticket to see Hamilton” (although I’m in love with this tweet I cannot for the life of me find it right now to link it properly! Sorry) and I think this is a good point to start talking social media marketing for Hamilton, which finally opened last week.

Even though I’d never think of saying the show wasn’t as good as everyone says it is (sadly, I cannot say myself…because I’m living FAR FAR FAR away), I’m sure it wouldn’t be buzzed about so much with that very intellegent (social media) marketing.

With Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s composer, writer and leading actor (!), being very active on twitter, they soon took social media by storm. You could say it all started with the celebrity selfies Miranda took backstage after the performances back at the Public Theatre and published on twitter; so night after night (or for me: morning after morning) we could look at all the celebs who had attended the show – with exception of Madonna, who earned the show some more publicity when she got called out for bad audience etiquette – and wonder if we would ever get the opportunity (to buy a ticket) to see this show.

What really caught my attention was the 21st century appropriate marking when it came to the Broadway transfer. One quality of the show – at least according to what people say – is it is a game changer when it comes to musical language, (“interracial”) casting and the way history can be handled on stages. To that, please add time appropriate online marketing. I’ve never seen so many hashtags evolve around just one show – with #HamiltonPublic from “back when” and #HamiltonBroadway being the most conventional ones.

I mean, the 10$ lottery and the pre-show show before the drawing of the winners has its own hashtag! #ham4ham (referring to Alexander Hamilton being on the 10$ note, so you pay an “Alexander Hamilton” to see Hamilton….) keeps you up to date with the masses of people attending the lottery every show plus the rap/sing/dance-acts the cast puts on to entertain the waiting masses (I’m not exaggerate here, people, there are literal masses!).

But the best – and classic! – hashtag by far is #YayHamlet, which I already expressed my obsession with in my July favourites. It originates from a story/tweet Miranda posted back when Hamilton was still #HamiltonPublic and everyone hoped for #HamiltonBroadway.

That lady’s (what I suppose was a) enthusiastic linguistic mishap/mix-up soon became the signature hashtag when talking about Hamilton and when we are honest on that one: What could have been more appropriate for a show everyone was so enthusiastic about???? – Playbill.com just recently published an article about the #YayHamlet phenomenon, read it here: What’s the story behind the hashtag?

And while so many hashtags make it to t-shits these days (#yolo and #swag for some, #kale and #selfie for others…), Hamilton took advantage of its own hashtag with a cult status. Yes, they REALLY made a shirt with #YAYHAMLET printed on it – which, by the way I need in my life.

In a way Hamilton’s marketing team (and Lin-Manuel Miranda as one of Broadway’s twitter-gods!) accomplished something every theatre enthusiast from the 21st century was secretly hoping for. Theatre entered what could be considered a more pop-cultural sphere by using popular communication-tools. And by that also combine more conventional things like apparel as souvenir with the 21st century pop-cultural ‘tool’, the hashtag.

Aside from that they rock the more conventional marketing tools as well. Full page ads in the NYtimes and they have pretty much all of this newspaper all over them, I mean – how beautiful is this article: Why ‘Hamilton’ Has Heat.

What I mean to say with this somewhat rambly post is: Hamilton isn’t only a theatrical game changer, but we should also acknowledge its game changer-potential when it comes of theatre marketing online.

Yes, the production was lucky to be buzzed about and that it “just” had to jump onto the already moving train, but the marketing people did – and by doing so they gave me (and I’m sure so many other people as well) a ton of fun on twitter.

And if we are honest – the random “Still tickets left”-tweet just wouldn’t be very….well….suitable for Hamilton on Broadway. Because there aren’t.

Is it okay if I touch you? … The Bridges of Madison County

first time I went to see it, I was excited anyways, and then THIS happened!

first time I went to see it, I was excited anyways, and then THIS happened! JRB himself conducting!

 

the Bridges marquee at Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

the Bridges marquee at Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

Well…writing about The Bridges of Madison County so long after it’s closed and even after Jason Robert Brown winning two of his Tony Awards for it seems so wrong and anachronistic, but sometimes I’m a little slow with things and that’s why I really want to do it (because – as I have expressed multiple times already – I loved this show and I love the score so much!) and now is the time I finally get to it. So: Yeah.

First of all – I’m not the biggest fan of romance and romancy types of stuff. Novels, movies, TV shows – as long as it is pure romance there are only very fews ways to get me interested. And many people would put Bridges in the “pure romance” category – just briefly seen it’s just the story of a man and a woman falling in love and ‘finding the love of their lives’ and then need to ‘break up’ because she is married. And of course, cheating is a very sensitive topic to touch and the married one being the woman is even more complicated because woman (still) are expected to give most of what they have for their husband and kids, to their family. The German theatre performance group She She Pop even created a whole evening of theatrical performance about the sacrifices (their) mothers had to make in order to make their family work. Anyway.

Looking deeper into the show itself I find that there are so many ‘paintings’ layered on top of each other. Not only the music is layered in a way you can listen to it a million times and still finding things you never had heard before – I kid you not, I had a situation where I was listening to it non stop and suddenly was like: “Wait. Did that cello just play this? Had it played it before? No way it has – I would have had heard that earlier!” and then, of course, the cello always had played that way because it’s a recording. On a CD. And they don’t tend to change.

When I remember the two performances I was lucky enough to see on Broadway (and I even was lucky enough to have Jason Robert Brown conduct both of them…) I really like to think about it as a layered painting as well. Not only was the biggest part of the set, the backround, a somewhat old-school-ish painted backround. There was the Iowa-ian sky and fields. On that painting the lights painted emotions and day and night and day again. And eventually Francesca and Robert told their story and while telling it they painted pictures of all the other people: Of her husband Bud and her kids, of Marian, Robert’s former wife, of those who live close by Francesca and of her past in Italy and how she first came to America. Not only the script and the music tells everything through them but Kelli O’Hara (why didn’t she win the Tony?? Why didn’t she win ANY of the awards she was nominated for? WHY?) and Steven Pasquale actually spun this story in between their bodies and voices and their pure performances. Seeing it live on stage actually was like agreeing to it and committing to it in the first moments, following this solo cello along on this journey. This sounds very cheesy, but I swear there are theatre experiences like that, you agree, follow along and there’s no way out for you before the curtain call and for me Bridges definitely was one of those. And whenever they stuck to the story as told through Robert and Francesca it worked best for me. I’m still not very sure about the part the elderly couple next door plays in this story (of course they are more like the Bouffo-couple, the ones mirroring and foreshadowing in Francesca’s Iowian life) – they could work as ‘told’ by Francesca as well, actually, but then they do stuff and help her after she couldn’t bring herself to leave along with Robert.
I remember my family having slight problems with the song “When I’m gone” because somehow, if you don’t listen closely (maybe because of language problems, maybe because you are not fully paying attention…) it’s easy to miss that both of the man – Bud and Charlie die over the years. And I think it also might be because of the sudden change of narrator: Suddenly the husbands are telling the (their) story not – but only for one song, because afterwards: They are dead. And afterwards the old narration is re-established, Franscesca and Robert are kind of finishing their painting of their lives.

When I think about that show as a painting, of imagining things together and putting pieces into their places the directing was just that – it made people put together things on stage, building a home (see what I did here?) and a bigger picture.

I have a really bad feeling raving about the mode Bridges is written in and was shown in, and I definitely see some weak spots in the book like so many others pointed out – but I also have the feeling that so many people hard-core loved the show and so many people just thought it was boring and maybe got offended by the story of a woman cheating on her husband.

In the ‘About me’-section of this blog I quote Jennifer Ashley Tepper from her book “The Untold Stories of Broadway”. In this book she talks about Merrily We Roll Along and how much she loves it and how much she wishes she could have seen the original production (so do I after reading about it!) – and thinking about Bridges I feel it could be my Merrily. Only that I was fortunate enough to have seen it.

I found a new baby … Bullets Over Broadway

doesn't that look glorious? Some lightened glamour at St. James.

doesn’t that look glorious? Some lightened glamour at St. James.

When did Bullets over Broadway open again on Broadway? Well…let’s just say it was some time ago and I saw it when it still was in previews. And I didn’t get to write about it until know. Because…stuff kept happening – but last week I got the recording in the mail and this gave me the opportunity to revisit the show at least audio-wise. So I did and it finally made me write about it (and a six hour train ride to and from a destination within two days).

I remember that I wore me pretty 20ies hat to see that show and that I was rather excited for the show because a) the 1920ies and b) Betsy Wolfe. Plus I have always know myself as someone who enjoys a Woody Allen movie although I’m not all “I need to see this” on them.

There were actually a lot of elderly women dressed up to their best in the audience which I thought was adorable and quite different from most of the other shows I’ve seen on Broadway – somehow the dressed up elderly people is something I only picture in German theatres.

But now – let’s just turn to the story or the production itself. I didn’t know the story beforehand except for the fact that gansters were involved and a theatre writer – I still can’t tell, but it probably follows the plot of the movie quite closely, I really should watch the movie because overall I enjoyed the story as something very funny in a Woody Allen kind of way. While I usually am not very fond of comedy.

Something I was very interested in regarding the show was was the score, which consists of authentic songs from the era. I kept wondering how they’d fit into the story which does not seem to be very musical-theatre-y itself. I can’t remember feeling as uncomfortable as many shows using pre-existing songs to put into pre-existing stories make me feel.

While re-visiting the show in my imagination I was also able to remember all these excessive and yet, very charming images and all this amazing tap dance going on.

Director and choreographer of the show, Susan Stroman, had two shows opening on Broadway this past season and I was fortunate enough to see both of them – Big Fish and…yes…Bullets. She’s definetely a “Go big or go home”-kind of director and as far as I am able to judge she was all into the 20ies for this one. There is a train-model and a moving old timer car and tap choreographies and tap dancing on said train model and show costumes – so basically it is a show of a show. And while showing off it’s so ironic and funny – I very clearly remember laughing very hard during some scenes because they were so Woody Allen-ish over the top I could not really take it anymore.

We actually didn’t get to see Zachary Braff, but his understudy and he was amazing Andy Jones and it probably was his first time going on and he was hilarious and as ‘helpless’/clumsy as his character seems to be. He just enters this strudle of events and writing and getting produced and the gasters intervening. My personal highlights were Heléne Yorke and (of course) Betsy Wolfe and Nick Cordero. They did carrie this show so much and their characters contribute so much to all these demanding events that happen to the character of David.

Overall I had fun, yes I did, it was funny and I had a good time. But when I listened to the recording with my mom the other night she was: “I like the music, but funnily enough – this is the only one of the shows we saw I don’t see scenes in my head while listening!”

And maybe she’s right.

Don’t You Know the World Is Water? … Jasper in Deadland

the programme/playbill of Jasper in Deadland at West End Theatre in 86th Street.

the programme/playbill of Jasper in Deadland at West End Theatre in 86th Street.

If you know me a little, you know that I’m always all in for original (musical) theatre and smaller scale productions. Because smaller productions mean a smaller buget and that sometimes (can) mean(s) more creativity regarding the creativity of the production.

(Does this even make sense?)

I was excited to get to see Jasper in Deadland during its Off Broadway run which ended April 13th. (as you can read in the picture…) Parly because I love the recording of Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35mm and partly because of the reason I stated right in the beginning.

Beforehand I read basically everyone’s rave reviews on that show, and I’ve listened to Living Dead a couple of times. Anyway, I wasn’t prepared for this energetic kick this show would have. I wasn’t prepared of the beauty of the song Stroke by Stroke and of water, on stage, shown by blue fabric (although I am sure I’ve seen that before – but this one was the most artistic and three-dimensional one…) – and in a way I wasn’t prepared to be taken in by that sweet, adolescent love-friendship story.

I had seen The Bridges of Madison County only two days before and frequent readers of this blog know how much I loved Bridges, but in a way rather different from the way Bridges does most of the music of Jasper in Deadland finds its way directly into your body while you are listening. As I mentioned in my Music Monday post on the song Stroke by Stroke is really is like swimming – or for me: like running. Or basically like any kind of sport you have to push yourself to put one foot/arm/hand in front of the other. (which brings me to a whole new song and musical…) – anyway, I’m stopping the random rambling here and now.

So, for those of you who don’t know: Jasper in Deadland is a kind of Orpheus and Eurydice story. Girl/Woman dies, best friend/husband follow her into Hades to bring her back. On his way to find Agnes, his best friend, Jasper has to face a number of riddles and dangers until he eventually finds her, makes up his mind regarding some important questions and brings her back up to the living world. Orpheus fails because he doesn’t really trust Eurydice or maybe himself, but still – he turns and only sees her going back down to Hades. However Jasper succeeds and eventually brings her back up with him right after finding out that he indeed loves her. This sounds so cheesy and does not do the show justice.

During the show the two main characters – Jasper and Agnes/Gretchen – are given the opportunity to discover themselves. They are in this adolescent ‘I kinda know who I am, but I’m not sure’-age and Agnes/Gretchen has the very literal opportunity to learn (again) who she is, because apparently being dead and drinking water in deadland makes to lose your memory, while Jasper struggles in his living life (as we learn in the first song of the show) and then comes into this new Deadland-environment, where he is the ‘living boy in Deadland’, kind of a superstar, and needs to find his position and his motivation for his actions down there as well.
In a way Jasper in Deadland can be seen as a very clever high school allegorie with songs and without a high school, but with a (normally) somewhat more permanent destination.

In my opinion this is the probably the big strength of the show – it opens up a very closed world, the world of the dead with normally no oportunity of escape.
Besides that it offers a lot of somewhat comedy elements and an amazing three headed dog (I have a very soft spot for puppets of any kind – so basically I was sold when the dog “entered”), but all of that only seems to provide a home for this coming of age story and realizing who matters in life.

And as far as I can remember I cried.

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?

 

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.

Keep On Standing … Rocky on Broadway

the Rocky marquee on Broadway. I took the pic later on the day I saw the show on our way back to the hotel from 54below.

the Rocky marquee on Broadway. I took the pic later on the day I saw the show on our way back to the hotel from 54below.

I’m not into boxing.

As I said to the woman in the seat next to me: I’m not into sports in which you are the most successfull the more you hurt your opponend.
(I know that kind of isn’t the case, but from my perspective…yes, it is!)

I’ve never seen the movie, or more like: the movies. And I really hadn’t any idea of what goes on on stage during Rocky.

Back in 2012 they announced that there would be a German production (kind of as the out of town try-out before the Broadway production), in Hamburg. I was more than sceptical, because (jump back to the beginning) I’m not into sports that include hurting each other – and since I love (musical) theatre so much (as we all know) I basically thought a musical about boxing was a terrible idea. I listened to the German cast recording and I was so embarrassed I really could not take it anymore. In my opinion the German lyrics are just horrible for the most part and that made my listening experience so uncomfortable I really wasn’t able to to listen to the actual music. – I’m not saying the German production itself is horrible, but I am saying that it doesn’t attract me enough to justify a trip north.

Anyway, fast forward to September 2013, New York City. I went to see the first of six concerts for Lynn Ahrens‘ and Stephen Flaherty‘s anniversary of their collaboration. About halt way through the concert (and a sip into my second glass of Grüner Veltliner) Liz Callaway sung “Raining” from the show. And I have to admit, even in German it is one of the stronger songs, but when she sung it, it suddenly clicked. A combination of the wine and the great location and the great guys we shared our table with and the English lyrics made me think: This is actually GENIUS!

Once more fast forward to March 2014, Theaterkind is preparing her trip to NYC. I’ve planned most of the show visits, but suddenly realize that there are Wednesday matinees happening on Broadway. I realize I have an open slot.

Wednesday, April 2nd, New York City. I really want to see Rocky (although Audra McDonald’s new show went up for 50% discount on TKTS that day) so I decide I want to take a chance at the lottery. 35$ tickets, Golden Circle, which means first and second row of the orchestra, centre. Turns out the lottery was not really packed with entries so everyone of us gets tickets. I am sitting right behind the conductor, front row centre next to incredibly nice people! (and I learn about their dog right before curtain. I get to see pics. Super sweet dog, also. And basically these small things are what makes theatrical experiences in New York so much different from what I experience here.)

Basically I spend the next two and a half hours right in front of the working, moving and rattling set, men who are – more often than not – bare chested and with muscles (oh BOY!) and a lot of pure (muscular) energy. And to be honest, it took me until “My Nose Ain’t Broken” (the second number) to get sucked in and from then on I literally forced to follow the plot. I just couldn’t keep myself from watching. In a way the set is like a huge machine from one of that movies dealing with the ‘fear’ of automated working – the set eats you, you can’t escape (at least that was the case where I sat). It is raw, very similar to the way Rocky is a raw character (on the outside) and boxing is a raw sport and it also made me feel like I was in one of these huge abandoned factory building taking photographs of rusty pipes and things like that.

Andy Karl as Rocky is (not only optical) a phenomenon – at one point he sings while doing a pull-up. (I can’t even do a pull-up, not to mention singing while doing one): He invites us to come along on his journey through the character of Rocky, we kind of get to know him, the slightly raw, not very smart guy he is, talking to his turtles – in a way naturally morphing into a song when he isn’t capable of expressing the things he wants/needs to express only by using spoken words (the most obvious example is his talk to Adrian through her closed bedroom door convincing her of going on a date with him.).

Having seen Violet just days before Adrian was the second female character on a musical theatre stage struggeling with her appearance (she is actually told by one of her friends, that she needs to wear a little make up, make something of herself! – the feminist was like “WHAT!?” for a second and thinking about it, I still am, but if she hadn’t been told that and if she hadn’t been somewhat seeing herself as ugly her character just wouldn’t make sense. At all.), but during the show she gains confidence (apparently through Rocky’s love for her – because that’s what happens to women, they are loved and then become a different person, again, the feminist comments: WHAT?!) that she stands up to her abusing brother, telling him not to spoil her and Rocky’s Christmas Eve and to go home. For me Margo Seibert in this moment plus her solo “I’m done” right after that is the strongest, most impressive moments of the show (you heard it, even the final fight can’t keep up with that).

Later that show we (those with the Golden Circle tickets) went on stage – right, me being one of the least ‘I’m gonna go up on stage!’-persons ever, on stage, at Winter Garden Theatre to watch a box fight? It happened anyway and it was very exciting, to step on that stage, sitting down on these metal benches, watching the ring (and feeling us) being moved towards the seats that had been ours. The fight was basically a continuous flow of clapping, cheering (how do cheer of people (pretending to be) hitting and hurting each other?), reminding myself that this is theatre, it’s staged, no need to worry, cheering again (for whom am I cherring anyway?) and the most amazing thing: Seeing other audience members from the rest of the orchestra assembling on the aisles, around the ring, to watch it. Just as you imagine a real box fight. For me it’s always the most delighting thing to see/feel the audience being involved in what they see.
Back to fight: It’s amazingly choreographed, just as with puppets taking the stage you forget that they are not REALLY hitting and hurting each other, you take it for one of the most energetic, ‘realistic’ moments of theatre. (you could definetely argue about ‘realism’ in theatre and if that even makes sense at all, but this is a whole other story.) And in a way it’s a joy watching it, the heat and the excitement. And yes, it shouldn’t sound as creepy as that sounds, but….well….it is just the way it is, right?

P., the lady sitting right next to me, told be by the end of the performance: I actually liked it more than I expected!

And yes, same here. Out of all shows I saw on Broadway this spring it was definetely the most surprising one.

Have you seen a production of Rocky – either the German or New York production?

What did you think?

I’d be delighted to read about your experiences!