Friday, December 29, 2017

Song of the Day: "Evermore"

Please wake me when this boring ass song from the live action Beauty and the Beast is over.



Song: "Evermore"
Artist: I don't know, Josh Grobin?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Notes On: The Last Jedi

Spoiler alert: Rey is Ben's half sister and her mom is Captain Phasma, and Leia is the last Jedi, and Chewbacca is Han's true widow.

Now stop reading (like you needed encouragement).

So I went to see The Last Jedi, which I lovingly call "Hey There's No More Jedi" or "The Last of the Jedi" or "There's a Jedi in my House" on Twitter because someone tweeted that she calls the show Throne Games just to provoke a response and I loved the idea because, among my many roles, I am also a bratty brother.

Why?
Question: Why? Why the fuck do we have a shiny silver (girl) Storm Trooper-er at all? Not the girl part, although kinda the girl part in as much as we have not experienced a (known) girl storm trooper ever before General Fantanas Captain Phasma (really, just a captain and she gets a cape?).

Reading about the character in her Wikipedia entry (not by watching her as portrayed on screen) there's clearly potential (potential that wasn't realized, or if realized didn't appear on screen)--hell, I'm curious about Phasma's #MeToo story... stories. I'm sure you don't get the shiny silver suit without a few stories, and it's even suggested that her personal history dealing with that shit manifests itself in her particular cruelty to others, but you don't really get that from what's on screen.

Everything that happened with the casino planet and with Captain Phasma felt bloated. In Member Berry terms she's our new Boba Fett. Hash tag girl boss I guess. Why wasn't Scott Evil among the troop of Troopers? Side note: Seth Green totally needs a cameo in the next movie.

Totally.

Word.

Question: If an "imaginary" Yoda can lightning up a tree, why can't he lightning up the bridge of a star destroyer? Or a death star (Death Star? probably trademarked)?

Remember when Obi Wan said he'd be more powerful than you could possibly imagine? He really was useless.

Question: Am I the only one who expects Benicio Del Toro to be our new Billy D. Williams and return to redeem himself in 2 years?

Question: How does the wookie manage to fly the smuggler's ship that is large enough to carry the occupants of at least a few transports (or was that literally the last one) through caverns that TIE fighters can't navigate?

Question: Am I the only one who didn't realize, until this movie, that Ben Solo is named after Ben Kenobi?

Question: Is it weird to name your kid after someone that 1) is useless, and B) that only one of you actually met and even then had only known him for like a day? What if that person caused more problems than he solved?

Question: Could a protocol droid drift through the vacuum of space and the infiltrate the airlock of a star destroyer and then make its way to a tracking beam room (which, functionally, seems like it should be more like a secure server room and less like a display at a Coach store, but I guess the unattended tractor beam control set the standard for Empire/First Order technology infrastructure, so it makes sense retroactively) and then deactivate the tracker even if doing so meant sacrificing itself, a 40+ year old piece of hardware (seriously, go get an iPhone 3GS and try using that for a while), so that actual living beings could continue to live?

Question: Could a protocol droid do anything at all?

Question: Did they not realize the Laura Dern option was an option earlier? Because that moment, possibly one of the best in the history of the franchise, seemed like a pretty efficient way to do some damage. Like to a star destroyer or a death star (or a Death Star, probably trademarked) even.

Question: Do you think they wish they'd have switched endings for Dern and Carrie? In making Leia an emotional centerpiece they had her doing and saying things--things fixated on individuals lost or saved--that undermine her as a General. Generals have to focus on the big picture, because you can't have a D Day if you care about the troops as individuals... can you? That sacrifice would have been wonderfully heroic and would have preserved Dern for Episode 9: The Final $ Billion. Seems like 4 transport ships low on fuel could have saved everyone but 4 volunteers.

Question: How are they tracking the Resistance via Finn? I'm sure it's Finn just as I'm frustrated that Rose "saved" him from what would have been a truly redeeming act on his part. Maybe one Laura Dern moment was all they thought people could handle, but the death toll is just too fucking high these days, and I don't think people tally that. Even taking Alderaan out of the tally (which we shouldn't) we must be into tens of thousands of deaths explicitly shown (an exploding star destroyer here and there, those are thousands of deaths). It's exhausting. It's fatiguing. It's war. War is fucking insane and exhausting.

Good god, what is it good for?

Aside from the wealth of the galaxy's 1% on the casino planet.

Question: Could Kylo Ren have been lying about Rey's parents?

Question: Am I out of nits to pick or merely tired? (Hint: it's 12:43 a.m.)


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "The Sweetest Sounds"



Musical Theater Therapy got a little confused by today's song. We were looking for a video of "The Sweetest Sounds" from No Strings and saw a video of Brandy singing the song in the 1997 television movie version of (black) Cinderella. Confusing, right? Right.

The song's origin is No Strings. Why the producers of that production of Cinderella thought to add it to their movie is likely because it's from the same composer and because the singing couple are miscegenational. Not that you would expect that from the text of No Strings.

The show debuted on Broadway in 1962, as the civil rights movement was picking up momentum--it was the year the Supreme Court ordered the University of Mississippi to admit its first black student and John Kennedy sent US marshals to protect him; the year after the Freedom Riders and the Albany Movement, and a year before MLK's Letter From a Birmingham Jail. Amid that climate, Broadway saw the premiere of the first musical with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers (no collaborator), featuring a love story between a model and a writer.

And oh yeah, the actress playing the model was black and the actor playing the writer was white, but that thing is never ever mentioned in the text or songs. The closest thing to noting the racial difference is when she mentions growing up "north of Central Park" which is code for being black (it actually means Harlem, and Harlem means being black, duh).

Rodgers felt that casting Diahann Carroll in the role spoke for itself. I'm not sure I agree, but who can say. Carroll was well received in the role, winning a Tony for Best Actress in a Musical (she tied with Anna Maria Alberghetti who won for Carnival). No Strings won 3 of its 9 Tony nominations in Total.

It also earned Richard Rodgers (the first EGOT winner) one of his 4 competitive Tony awards and is probably the least of his award-winning efforts... oh, the show also won him his second Grammy. See how easily it's done Liza!

Regardless, here's "The Sweetest Sounds" from the musical No Strings, the story of a model and a writer that couldn't make it work because, reasons. But not race-related reasons.

Today's lesson: north of Central Park is gang code for being black.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Song of the Day: "The Star"

I saw The Last Jedi last night. Why aren't there original songs in the Star Wars movies? Aside from the one.

This song earned a Golden Globe nomination for Mariah Carey and Marc Shaiman. It's from The Star, the Biblically accurate story of a donkey named Bo, a dove named Dave and a pregnant virgin named Mary. 

Just because the song is boring as fuck doesn't mean it won't win. But I don't expect it to win (my guess is either the song from Coco or the one from The Greatest Showman).



Song: "The Star"
Artist: Mariah Carey


Musical Theater Therapy: "A Christmas Song"



Musical Theater Therapy presents a song from Elf: Buddy's Musical Christmas based on the 2010 Broadway musical Elf: The Musical, based on the 2003 movie Elf which was, in turn, based on the novel Push by Sapphire. No, that joke is still not old to us.

We saw Elf in a movie theater back in 2003, but due to a fire alarm we were made to leave the theater and given a pass to come back later but no way were we driving back down to SE 82nd to see the last 15 minutes. We assume everyone was killed in the fire that forced us to evacuate the theater and thus we assume making a musical of that is an affront to the lives of those lost in the fire.

And yet today's song is "A Christmas Song" which is probably because today is Christmas and because we are lazy.

Today's lesson: we are lazy. Just lower your expectations, not all of these sessions are about you.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Pine Cones and Holly Berries"/"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"



We here at Musical Theater Therapy don't get out much. Literally we walk dogs around the block, and from time to time venture to 7-11 or fast food or the ATM that doesn't charge a fee because our guy still doesn't take bitcoin. So imagine our surprise when we saw houses decorated for the hollyest of holy days.

It calls to mind the the act of Edgaring. Edgaring is driving around at night admiring Christmas lights, as though one was the wife of a man name Edgar and you were constantly pointing out the various houses that he was certainly too blind to see on his own. If you've shared a bathroom with a man you understand that this blindness is not to be treated lightly. We were first exposed to the term back in December 1992 by Ms. Janet DeLee, author and raconteur; and we use the term still.

Today's song is "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" along with "Pine Cones and Holly Berries" both written by Meredith Wilson of The Music Man fame. Wilson, who is not a female, wrote the musical Here's Love--sometimes called Miracle on 34th Street: The Musical and other times called It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas, and either of those is a far better title for a musical that is based on Miracle on 34th Street and that also includes the by-then classic "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" because Here's Love is so generic that it's one word different from Here Lies Love which is about Imelda Marcos--and while this recording isn't from a production either Wilson's musical or the one about Imelda Marcos, the in-the-round style presented by the Osmonds is straight from the musical.

Some quick pieces of Musical Theater Therapy trivia:

  1. Broadway Genius John, our occasional guru with respect to such things as musicals, is currently in NYC enjoying a trove of musicals and was giddy to get tickets to see Donnie & Marie who are members of the Osmonds (maybe, possibly not, you know how they are with girls)
  2. The musical was originally directed by Norman Jewison whose Wikipedia entry we took no delight in editing to remove some hype around his receiving Oscar nominations as Best Director in 3 different decades (it said it was a unique distinction, but John Ford, Woody Allen, Billy Wilder and Martin Scorcese also received nominations spread that wide... the unique aspect is that Jewison was the only one who didn't win, which seemed tacky to point out--also you can actually look this up, under editor jonesrich, it's truth)... Jewison was replaced as director, not sure why
  3. I can't remember if there was a number 3, possibly a dis at Natalie Wood who as a child was in the movie of Miracle on 34th Street and as an adult was the least of 2 major movie musical and both times had her voice dubbed by Marni Nixon but there's no reason to bring up her mediocrity here, so close to Christmas


The show ran for about 9 months from fall 1963 to early summer 1964 and garnered no Tony nominations and no sentiment sufficient for a revival.

Today's lesson: Meredith Wilson is a dude.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "12 Days 'til Christmas"



Musical Theater Therapy celebrates the holiday (just the one) with one of the superstars of Broadway. Not George Hearn, not Richard Kiley, not Brian Stokes Mitchell, nor Len Caiou, not Gregory Hines or even Jerry Orbach. No, we're talking Broadway superstarrier...

We could only mean Boyd Gaines. Boyd is, naturally, the male equivalent of Audra McDonald combined with Angela Lansbury times Patti Lupone to the power of Chita Rivera. Or maybe it's Gwen Verdon. We forget.

Boyd Gaines has 4 Tony awards. Four. He has more Tony awards than any other male actor except one and for the life of us we can't figure out who that is right now.

Frank Langella... it took longer than it should have to find that.

But Langella has only been nominated for acting in plays while Gaines was the first performer, male or female, to be nominated in all 4 performance categories for his/her gender. He blazed the trail for Audra McDonald.

Of course he only won in 3 of those, probably because Frank Langella cock blocked him.

HOLY SHIT it was Frank Langella!!! Langella (Frost/Nixon) beat Gaines (Journey's End) along with 3 other impressive actors (Brían F. O'Byrne in The Coast of Utopia; Christopher Plummer in Inherit the Wind; and Liev Schreiber in Talk Radio). What are the odds... oh, right, 100% since it already happened.

We know you first saw Boyd as the would-be rapist in that one episode of The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, and you haven't thought of him as anything but super creepy ever since. It's common, that perception.

He's so talented that he's played 4 completely different characters on Law & Order. Broadway superstar!!!

Today's song comes from his Tony winning performance in the 1993 revival of She Loves Me--that production received 9 Tony nominations, with Boyd the only winner (Leading Actor in a Musical). Coincidentally the show's other Broadway productions have received multiple Tony nominations and won exactly one, so Boyd was the winner that time. Broadway superstar!!!

She Loves Me is one of the 47 different works (plays, movies, musicals, operas, interpretive dance pieces, dioramas, shadow puppet performance art, etc.) based on Parfumerie, a 1937 play by Hungarian playwright Miklós László, which is, in turn, based on the novel Push by Sapphire. The best known of these is probably You've Got Mail but really it should be the one starring Boyd Gaines, Broadway superstar!!!

In the 19 times Gypsy has been performed on Broadway, only one actor has won a Tony award for playing Herbie. Who do you think that is? No, not Frank Langella... it's Broadway superstar Boyd Gaines!!!

Today's song is "12 Days til Christmas" and today's lesson is that if you don't plan out these songs far enough in advance you'll miss the chance to post this on December 13th. Ooops.

Song of the Day: "Woman"

Kesha is never going to get a husband with vulgar language like this.



Song: "Woman"
Artist: Kesha

Friday, December 22, 2017

Song of the Day: "Way Out West"

Marty Stuart and Mike (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers) Campbell made a record that merges retro country and halcyon California surf music. It's called Way Out West and even if you don't think about it, that's the perfect title for something like that. And here we are.



Song: "Way Out West"
Artist: Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Denton U.S.A.!"



In the annals of musical theater, the efforts to cash in on past success rarely succeed. For every Snoopy there's a Grease 2, Annie Warbucks, Bring Back Birdie, and Love Never Dies. And today's show: Shock Treatment, the 1981 movie musical following the exploits of Brad and Janet from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Only Brad was unavailable and Janet wasn't affordable: so Brad is the Brad one of the show's creators wanted before the Brad everyone knows as Brad was cast as Brad. Janet was just a much better singer than Janet. Bonus that Brad and Janet worked together before, on stage in Hair.

The show went through many changes during its evolution so is it fair to characterize this as a sequel? Yes, yes it is.

According to the movie's Wikipedia entry "Shock Treatment was a critical and commercial failure, not earning the same level of cult film status its predecessor received." Although in all fairness almost no movie ever has earned the same level of cult film status as its predecessor; they were some pretty big fuck-me pumps to try to fill.

Today's song celebrates Denton. It's "Denton USA!" The song manages to rhyme "civic duty" with "beauty" and, yes, he did say "doody."

They planned to film in Denton TX. Fun fact: my former employer had a phone room in Denton and I've visited the town several times. "Town"... the Census ranks Denton as the 200th largest city in the US (and only the 20th largest city in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, which means that the DFW area accounts for 10% of the 200 largest cities in the country).

Un-fun fact: Robert Snider is buried there.

They did not film in Denton due to a Screen Actors Guild strike.

Denton is home to the University of North Texas, whose renowned music program has seen past students nominated for more than 100 Grammys (winning more than 50). The Jazz Studies Division's One O'Clock Lab Band accounts for 7 nominations on its own.

Denton is also home to Texas Woman's University (just the one woman gets the university) which is coeducational, but the sorority to fraternity ratio is 5:2 so it's not recommended for an M.R.S. degree. Also of note is a shortage of student housing: "The housing shortage creates student wait lists and financial aid complications. Private rooms typically are not available even if a student is willing to pay significantly higher rates. Students seeking exemption from the living on campus requirement have to fill out and return paperwork."

They have to fill out AND return paperwork. Thanks Obama.

Today's song is "Denton U.S.A." from Shock Treatment. Today's lesson is that the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area accounts for 10% of the country's most populous cities.

Song of the Day: "All I Want"

'Tis the season, amirite?

Of course 'tis always one season or another. For me 'tis the season of listening to music from a shit ton of "year end" music lists so I might craft my own, only slightly derivative year end lists. It's quasi-curated for me to present to you, easy peasy. Well, easier peasy as there's still a goodly amount of searching and listening and what not.

That's how I came across this new track from Ride which is actually quite nice. Note: this is not Lush nor is it Kitchens of Distinction nor is it Slowdive who do have a 2017 album. Fun fact: I almost didn't even type this and how weirdly random would this post have been had I not mentioned the band or the song in some way?

Other seasons: season of the witch; season of the bitch; Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons; Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons"; and "Seasons of Love" from Rent.



Song: "All I Want"
Artist: Ride

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Merry Twistmas"



Musical Theater Therapy answers the question "is it still Hanukkah" with a resounding "Merry Christmas." No, wait, we mean "Merry Twistmas."

"Merry Twistmas" is one of the many Twist-able songs in the 1961 movie musical Twist Around the Clock. It was a remake of Rock Around the Clock from a few years earlier. It makes us wonder if there's a Dub Step Around the Clock or  Grunge Around the Clock that we're missing out on.

Here's the story synopsis from Twist Around the Clock's Wikipedia entry: "A struggling manager visits a hayseed town and discovers a new dance craze, 'the Twist' and hopes to turn it into an overnight nationwide sensation."

And here's what the producer had to say: "Twist Around the Clock only cost $250,000 to make, but in less than six months it grossed six million - so of course I'm gonna make more 'Twist' movies !"

Today's lesson: that lack of hesitation to do something simply to make himself some profit is what's wrong with society. It's why we can't have nice things. That sequel, Don't Knock the Twist, is one of the key reasons America's involvement in Vietnam turned into a morass. Think about that the next time you go see a Pirates of the Caribbean sequel.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Song: "Toxic"

The Bellas of Pitch Perfect, Pitch Perfect 2, and Pitch Perfect 3, cover Britney Spears.



Song: 'Toxic"
Artist: The Bellas

Friday, December 8, 2017

Song of the Day: "Doom or Destiny"

It heartens me to know 2 girl members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame teamed up for this. That Debbie Harry and Jett's average age is 66, is even more awesome since it's an effort for me to get to 7-11 and that's like 2 blocks away.



Song: "Doom or Destiny"
Artist: Blondie/Joan Jett

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Song of the Day: "Bastards"

I'm of two minds about Kesha (or Ke$ha): on the one hand she's a tough survivor finding her voice; on the other she's Kid Rock's running mate in 2028.



Song: "Bastards"
Artist: Kesha

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Love and Love Alone"



The legendary songwriting duo of Kander & Ebb created more than a dozen Broadway musicals to varying degrees of success and acclaim. The Visit, produced on Broadway in 2015, is likely to be their final new musical (Ebb died in 2004--there might be other yet un-produced works, they didn't tell me everything). It starred one of their go-to performers, Chita Rivera (both of her Tony awards are for Kander & Ebb shows: The Rink [where she beat Liza!!!] and Kiss of the Spider Woman), and tells the story of the wealthiest woman in the world's return to her impoverished hometown, looking to make a deal.

What kind of a deal? Why, the kind that happens a lot on Broadway or in episodes of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror.

The show was originally written with Angela Lansbury in mind: Murder, She Wrought.

Rivera took over the role when Lansbury withdrew due to her own illness, followed by the death of her husband. The show was scheduled to open on Broadway on Oct. 1, 2001. Then something happened a few weeks earlier and suddenly the move to Broadway was delayed... until 2015. It received warm, yet guarded, reviews from critics:
- "admirable if not consistently embraceable musical"
- "production offers much to admire"
- "Not everything works."

Still the show garnered 5 Tony nominations (not bad for a musical you've never heard of that's only 2 years old [officially]). It lost all 5, mostly to Fun Home, but also it was well past time for Kelli O'Hara to win something from the Tonys, and The King and I seems to be the show for actresses who are overdue.

Today's song is "Love and Love Alone" and today's lesson: when the ultra-wealthy want to make a deal with you, try to figure out where Angela Lansbury went.

Song of the Day: "Teenage Fever"

Drake... fucking Drake.



Song: "Teenage Fever"
Artist: Drake

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Song of the Day: "Be Careful What You Wish For"

I am amused as hell that Rolling Stone ranks Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' Who Build the Moon? tied with Liam Gallagher's As You Were at #37 on their 50 Best Albums of 2017 list.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Song of the Day: "For What It's Worth"

I am amused as hell that Rolling Stone ranks Liam Gallagher's As You Were tied with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' Who Build the Moon? at #37 on their 50 Best Albums of 2017 list.



Song: "For What It's Worth"
Artist: Liam Gallagher

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Don't Break the Rules"



Catch Me If You Can is a 2011 Broadway musical based on the 2002 movie Catch Me If You Can, based on the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire which is translated from Catch Me If You Can, Frank Abgnale's 1980 autobiography.

The 2002 movie was the beginning of a self-imposed 15-year moratorium on Steven Spielberg movies that prevented me from seeing the widely acclaimed Lincoln, but also prevented me from enduring Indiana Jones and What the Fuck is This Movie About, and that Tin Tin movie. Will I end the moratorium to see The Post, which early predictions cite as a lock on Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (it's Meryl Streep, this one is easy) and Best Actor (Tom Hanks)? Maybe.

Catch Me if You Can the musical involved Terrence McNally (our love/hate relationship is documented), Marc Shaiman (our unabashed love for him is documented), and Scott Wittman (file note found). It starred Aaron Tveit, Tom Wopat, Kerry Butler and Norbert Leo Butz. The show ran for a mere 166 performances on Broadway, winning one of its 4 Tony nominations (Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical for Butz).

Butz has become something of a go-to guy for Broadway musicals, working his way up from understudy in the original cast of Rent, to originating the role of Guy Fiyeri in Wicked, to winning his first Tony for a turn in the delightful Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He headlines the revival of My Fair Lady coming soon, and I'll just say I don't see it. I was far more impressed with Rachel York and Lucie Arnaz (the Luckinbill is silent), and to a lesser extent Jonathan Pryce in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels than with I was with Butz, and all the things I disliked then I dislike here. But decide for yourself whether this is Tony worthy.

I mean, sure, if this was Liza it would be Tony worthy, but that's just Liza.

Today's song is "Don't Break the Rules" from Catch Me if You Can. Today's lesson: fuck Norbert Leo Butz, go ahead and break some rules (so long as your breaking the rules doesn't inconvenience me--that would be wrong).

Song of the Day: "Dear Life"

Beck's return to non-somber music? Okay, I'm down.



Song: "Dear Life"
Artist: Beck

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Stay With Me"



One of the recurring motifs here at Musical Theater Therapy is the assertion that most jukebox musicals are a mess. But something is only a mess if it's a mess in the eye of the beholder*.

One of the ways to understand whether or not you see a mess or a (what's the opposite of a mess? a clean? order?) work of art, is to use a projective assessment. Let's do that now.

Watch this song--"Stay With Me" from Tonight's the Night, the 2003 jukebox musical built around the songs of Rod Stewart--and then consider this question: if this musical was a sandwich, what kind of sandwich would it be, and why? Leave your answer in the comments.

Fun fact: Rod Stewart once had 14 gallons of semen pumped from his stomach. The human stomach can only accommodate one liter of liquid, and just one gallon of semen contains 256 loads of cum (the average load of cum is one heaping tablespoon, we all learned that in freshman biology class) which means nearly 3,600 loads were consumed in rapid succession. The logistics of this are staggering.

Funner fact: this is a true story, but it's a different (non-famous) Rod Stewart.
Funnest fact: this is not a true story, but the Richard Gere story is totally true, except it was Richard Gear from LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

I am a bit crestfallen that there is not a character named Maggie May in the credits, but heartened that there is a character named Satan.

Today's song is "Stay With Me" from Tonight's the Night. Today's lesson: that one gallon of semen is 256 ejaculations (on average). You didn't know that, did you?

* Note: this is actually not true. There are things there are objectively a mess regardless of whether or not you, personally, like the taste of that particular shit sandwich. Cats is at the top of that list, although with 5 more weeks like this the Donald Trump presidency will pass it.

Song of the Day: 'Call on God"

It's sad how easily Sharon Jones gets lost among the roster of musical greats we lost in 2016. Beginning with Natalie Cole on December 31, 2015 it seemed like a month wouldn't pass without another legend passing away. Bowie, Prince, George fucking Michael was only 53. Sharon Jones passed away between Leon Russell and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake, Palmer, Powell & Cooper.

Jones recorded Soul of a Woman, her coda with the Dap-Kings, in between chemo sessions. Another artist facing mortality with art. I am awed by that. At least Jones had the comfort of faith.



Song: "Call on God"
Artist: Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

Friday, December 1, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Finishing the Hat"



When Broadway Genius John told us that Jake Gyllenhaal would be playing George in A Sunday in the Park with George, our first thought was, naturally, "will he be naked?" He sympathetically told us that no, he would not be. He was equally dejected.

At least Broadway Genius John understands where we're coming from with respect to casting decisions.

He, BGJ, enthused about Jake's singing voice (not slang for his penis, apparently), having seen him perform as Seymour in a concert production of Little Shop of Horrors ("feed me Seymour" I heard him mutter to himself). I didn't think much about it until I ran across this video (which, to be honest, I ran across months ago and never actually listened to).

Note: it's weird that the writing switches between "us"/"we" and "me"/"I" isn't it? Sorry. There's this "royal 'we'" editorial thinking that when one speaks on behalf of Musical Theater Therapy, the most esteemed resource for mental health via show tunes--that doesn't (currently) charge--one is speaking on behalf of an institution. Take that in whatever sense you'd like. I'm gonna keep switching, there's nothing meaningful to it. We apologize for any confusion.

Jake Gyllenhaal can sing! Even with his clothes on .

A Sunday in the Park with George is Stephen Sondheim & James Lapine's musical based on painter George Seurat's "A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jette" (the giant painting made up of dots of paint featured in Ferris Bueller's Day Off) which is, surprisingly, based on the novel Push by Sapphire. The characters within the painting and Seurat the painter provide a bit of a "show within a show" feel to the story of contemporary art enthusiasts and a descendant of Seraut's struggling to create his own work.

Today's song is "Finishing the Hat." It's about how art imposes isolation on its creators. Or something like that, his clothes were on and I didn't pay attention.

Fun fact: Lin-Manuel Miranda once finished a hat. His clothes were on as well.

Today's lesson: Jake Gyllenhaal isn't just a pretty face and a sexy body and acting talent. He can also sing.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Song of the Day: "Truth Hurts"

You tried to break my heart?
Oh, that breaks my heart
That you thought you ever had it
I believe Lizzo and I would be fine friends.


Song: "Truth Hurts"
Artist: Lizzo

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Song of the Day: "Remember Me"

The people who predict the Oscars far too early all predict this song will win all the Oscars (the one Oscar) for Original Song. The song was written by the Oscar winning duo behind "Let It Go" (he is the quickest EGOT winner so far).

I'm rooting for Sufjan Stevens. But then I'm usually rooting for him.



Song: |Remember Me"
Artist: a bunch of people from Coco

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Under Pressure"



Mamma Mia!, the jukebox musical of ABBA songs, makes the jukebox musical seem so fun and effortless that dozens have tried to replicate its success, and fallen far short. Musical Theater Therapy looks at one of those attempts: We Will Rock You, the musical based on the music of Queen.

The plot and characters sound an awful lot like General Inzanity, the Zentipede rock opera/laser show from "The Laser-inth" episode of Bob's Burgers.

I think they tried way too hard to force character names and literal plot points from the songs. They really should have taken the spirit of the music and had fun with it.

Here's the plot description from Wikipedia: The musical tells the story of a group of Bohemians who struggle to restore the free exchange of thought, fashion, and live music in a distant future where everyone dresses, thinks and acts the same. Musical instruments and composers are forbidden, and rock music is all but unknown.

For this song--"Under Pressure"--Galileo and Scaramouche wake up in a hospital, and realize that they are similar pariahs to society.

The show was panned by critics yet became one of the longest running shows in West End history.

Today's song is the iconic rock song "Under Pressure," retrofitted into a rock opera show tune, from We Will Rock You. Today's lesson: sometimes the critics are right.

Disappointing David Brooks Parts 516 & 517


OMG you guys, I'm worried about David Brooks, a little, kinda. Either Brooks has been suitably smacked down after a recent column where he wondered whether the current national conversation about sexual harassment (sexual harassment: it's probably wrong) might also have something to do with Donald Trump; it featured David Brooks writing the sentence "Girl I want your body." Or it was a song title: "Girl I Want Your Body."

Girl, David Brooks wants your body. Spoiler alert: your name is Taylor Swift and you are too young.

Or the computer program that wrote that column is continuing to generate confusing and non-disappointed columns on David Brooks's behalf.

How else can you explain a column that begins with this: "Not long ago, tech was the coolest industry. Everybody wanted to work at Google, Facebook and Apple. But over the past year the mood has shifted." The coolest industry. Jeepers.

The column's title--"How Evil is Tech?"--is more a statement about David Brooks's affection for Friends (he sees himself as a Chandler but really he's a Ross) than pronouncement about the Tech industry (rhetorical or not).

David Brooks loved Friends. It reflects the New York City that David Brooks loves: all white people with lots of free time, living in insanely large apartments in Manhattan, and everyone worked together, never once trying to upend the status quo.

The column maps to every good junior high school's teachings on how to write an effective term paper. There's the clear thesis statement: the tech sector is evil and on the verge of becoming social pariahs. There are exactly 3 supporting points: tech is destroying the youth of America; tech is doing it on purpose; and the biggest tech companies are basically monopolies. And then he concludes with a conclusion: the tech industry needs to stop being so bad.

The lack of disappointment from David Brooks is, well, disappointing.

And if it's a computer program then they need to check for updates.

At least with "America: The Redeemer Nation" we get the usual uniter-not-a-divider David Brooks who disdains tribalism and loves nationalism (which is not tribalism at a macro level because, reasons).

David Brooks continues to be disappointed that some Americans think about aspects of America with cultural identities or with historical perspective that David Brooks does not use as his, David Brooks's, primary point of view. Can't we all just get along? And while we're at it, can't we all just have a nice Thanksgiving? One where we think of Thanksgiving as [white male affluent] Americans, respecting its myth of pilgrims and native Americans coming together for a big meal with lots of carbs and football and sales, and no arguing about petty politics.

It's true, bad things, all vaguely referred to, may have been alluded to, but really we're Americans and Americans love a fresh start. David Brooks is disappointed that we're not starting over: no harm, no foul.

At least not to David Brooks. 

Song of the Day: "Lay It On Me"

Vance Joy's real name is James Gabriel Wanderson Keogh... that's not even close. It's like me adopting the name Aristotle Des Champagne IV... which I would have to spell every time. At least now most people can spell my name: Joan's.

This song is here to remind me of its ubiquity and quality when I do my singles list.



Song: "Lay It On Me"
Artist: Vance Joy

Monday, November 27, 2017

Song of the Day: "Die Young"

I thought for sure I posted this as a song of the day. I vividly recall watching the video in the context of posting something, but I don't see it.

Total deja vu.

This is a good album by the way.




Song: "Die Young"
Artist: Sylvan Esso

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Stick it to the Man"



Musical Theater Therapy reminds you that Andrew Lloyd Webber is a monster. Case in point: when adapting School of Rock the Musical from School of Rock the movie, Webber opted to debut the show on Broadway and not the West End to take advantage of the less stringent child labor laws in the US. Sure, some of you might be thinking that the real monster is the US for having less stringent child labor laws, and to them we say "have you met our niece? she's horrible--she deserves to work a 12 to 15 day, just to keep her the fuck away from our brother and sister-in-law."

School of Rock has been playing on Broadway for nearly 2 years. For several months of 2017 Webber had 4 musicals playing on Broadway: Phantom of the Opera, the longest running show in Broadway history now, nearly 30 years on Broadway; Cats, a prior record holder (and one of the worst musicals of ever, ever) back for a limited run; Sunset Boulevard, back for a limited run with Glenn Close (it's as if she never said goodbye to the role); and School of Rock.

The book was adapted by Julian Fellowes, the Oscar winning screenwriter of Gosford Park, and Emmy winning creator of Downton Abbey... seems like a bit of overkill for a Mike White screenplay. There wasn't even a dowager janitor in the thing (I assume, I haven't actually seen it).

The show lost all 4 of its Tony nominations. Hamilton... what are you gonna do?

Today's song is "Stick it to the Man"--it's about reaching that point in rock and roll when you have to just stick it to the man. Today's lesson: even with the patriarchy, the man might be a woman. Hash tag girl boss or something

Song of the Day: "Over and Over Again"

The Canyon is The Used's 7th album. The album is receiving much acclaim.

 I don't think I've ever heard of them.

There ya go.



Song: "Over and Over Again"
Artist: The Used

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Song of the Day: "Intrepid"

Pinegrove's Cardinal was a pleasant discovery last year. This is their first new song since then, and while it's inspired pop music, there's something about the production, which I grant is intentional, that seems too underdone.

But I will allow for it to grow on me, cause there's greatness in it, for sure.



Song: "Intrepid"
Artist: Pinegrove

Friday, November 24, 2017

Song of the Day: "Beautiful Trauma"

Fun fact: P!nk's real name is Alecia Moore.

I have long had a fondness for P!nk. Tapping Channing for the video is just gilding the lily.



Song: "Beautiful Trauma"
Artist: P!nk

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher"



Musical Theater Therapy admits to having taste that is not always aligned with the Tony awards voters. Not the times Liza Minnelli wins everything, that's just fine. No, there are a few Best Musical winners that we found tedious. Billy Elliot the Musical is one of those musicals.

Billy Elliot the Musical is a musical based on Billy Elliot, the British indie that warmed your heart in whatever the fuck year it came out (1998? 2001?). It's loosely based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Billy Elliot is the story of a boy, gender stereotypes, the UK miner's strike of the mid-80s, and ballet. The movie earned 3 Oscar nominations, including the second nomination for Julie Walters, previously nominated for Educating Rita.

Fun fact: Educating Rita would make a fucking awesome musical.

The stage musical, with music by Elton John and lyrics/book by Lee Hall (an Oscar nominee for the screenplay) was directed by Stephen Daldry (also an Oscar nominee for Best Director). It was a huge hit with critics and audiences, running for more than 1,300 performances and winning 10 Tony awards (everyone won except Elton John [and some less famous people]).

Today's song is "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher"--a faux celebratory song set during the Christmas of the miner's strike where the only silver lining is being one day closer to Thatcher's death:

Cos they're privatizing Santa
This merry Christmas time, so...
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
May God's love be with you
We all sing together in one breath
Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher
We all celebrate today
Cos it's one day closer to your death.

In 2013, before the show's performance on the West End the day she passed away, the cast and crew of the show let the audience decide whether or not they should perform the song. The audience voted overwhelmingly to keep it in. Thatcher didn't give a fuck, never did before plus that day she was dead which is a whole bunch of other stuff too.

Today's lesson? It's Thanksgiving so it's totally fine to start playing Christmas music. Duh.

Song of the Day: "Walking"

I am not sure who Steve Grand is, but something about his music calls out to me... not sure what.





Song: "Walking"
Artist: Steve Grand

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "Just a Housewife"



Working, the musical, is based on Studs Terkel's Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do which is not, despite what you may have heard, based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Steven "Oscar cock block" Schwartz wrote the music, lyrics and book. Sure, other people were involved, people like James Taylor, Mary Rodgers and Nina Faso (nee Doremi), but are they even people or just figments of Steven Schwartz's imagination?

Working played for a mere 24 productions and lost all 5 of its Tony nominations. I'm sure Steven Schwartz blames his co-nominees (dead weight).

Musical Theater Therapy considers Working, the recitative-laden look at Americans as defined by their jobs. The show frames the output of working as accomplishment, which makes the song about being a housewife (which isn't a job and what do they do all day anyway?*) particularly poignant. It's a song suffused with self doubt, rooted in the Women's Movement of the 1970s when women entered the workplace in droves--the era of Mary Richards and, to a lesser extent Rhoda and Julia. I am woman, hear me roar, and if you're not roaring at work you're succumbing to the patriarchy**.

Today's song is "Housewife" performed by Lisa Asher who is not a performer I know, but is a performer with some talent. Today's lesson: wages have stagnated since 1973, lagging productivity considerably... that's not a set up for something, that's just a fact. You're just a pawn of the man.
* Sarcasm.
** The patriarchy owns all of us.

Song of the Day: "The Gate"

It was 23 years ago that Madonna channeled her inner Björk with "Bedtime Story." Of course, Björk was one of the song's writers so Madonna had an excuse.

I'm pretty sure Enya didn't write this song from Björk's new Utopia album, so I don't know what her excuse is.

Okay, it's really only the first minute, but still...



Song: "The Gate"
Artist: Björk

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Song of the Day: "Mighty River"

It seems like just yesterday, or possibly the Tuesday before that, that the movie Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, was released with a mother fucking awesome performance from Oscar winner Mo'nique, and solid work from the other one and some other people too. John Waters calls it a comic romp.

On its quest to rack up some serious Oscar nominations (it received 6 nominations and won 2, including Best Adapted Screenplay, regarded as an upset over Up in the Air, a movie filled with white people), the movie tripped on its own petard and the original song "I Can See in Color" written by Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq, and LaNeah Menzies, and performed by Mary J. herself, was deemed ineligible for Oscar consideration due to insufficient representation in the movie (see also: that song from Brokeback Mountain that you barely hear when he's in the pick-up truck, and possibly "The Wrestler" from The Wrestler).

For the new Oscar contender Mudbound (now showing on Netflix which is how I can seem current with a movie), songwriters Mary J. Blige, Raphael Saadiq (this sounds familiar), and third writer you've never heard of (Taura Stinson)'s song "Mighty River" (performed by Mary J. Blige) is vying for Best Original Song. Will the film's producers give it ample exposure to maintain eligibility? I probably need to watch more than 10 minutes in to find out.

And like Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, Mudbound has a Best Supporting Actress contender from a non-actor: Mary J. Blige. Although, like Mo'Nique, Blige has acted in movies before, but like Mo'Nique, "actress" isn't the first profession associated with either (comedian, and goddess--you figure out which is associated with who [listen to Sam Smith's interstitial commentary on The London Sessions for help]).

I am now going back to the movie.



Song: "Mighty River"
Artist: Mary J. Blige

Musical Theater Therapy: "We're All in This Together"



Musical Theater Therapy would like to take this moment to remind you that today's surly teen listening to 21 Pilots or Kodak Black is the same kid that was bopping along to Disney's High School Musical just a few years ago. Remind them of that the next time the say something obnoxious. Maybe during Thanksgiving dinner.

High School Musical was the first of the High School Musical trilogy (other movies in the trilogy: High School Musical 2 and High School Musical 3). It was the Disney Channel's most watched movie of 2006... up until August. It was the most watched during the first 7 months of 2006 which is impressive if you're not paying attention.

HSM stars Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron and nobody else that matters. Hudgens played Rizzo in Grease: Live and Gigi in a Lincoln Center production of Gigi (one of the most fun roles and one of the most boring musicals, back to back). Efron manages to get nearly naked in every movie he's done, fulfilling his usefulness to the world.

Today's song is "We're All In This Together" from High School Musical and today's lesson is that we're actually NOT all in this together. Many of us are actively working against some of the others of us. Eventually we will all die.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Further Adventures in Antisemitism

Once upon a time I disliked Roy Moore because he refused to have a Ten Commandments monument removed despite a court order that he do so. I became especially pissed when I found out that he had the thing installed without getting permission from anyone. He just fucking authorized the thing to be installed. I mean, fuck, where were the court house office manager and maintenance people? They should have stepped up and stopped that shit.

But whatever. Moore was despicable then and remains despicable (and deplorable) and, oh yeah, he's also a pedophile (pedophiles, they can be straight as well as gay).

Of course as Republican apologists for Moore will tell you, 1) it never happened, and B) it wasn't a big deal that it did happen, and also JEWS!!!

What Jews? Imaginary Jews (the worst kind)!!!

Shades of Karl Rove's undoing of John McCain in South Carolina in 2000, robocalls carrying misinformation have been blanketing Alabama laden with insinuation and antisemitism. See if you can pick up on its subtlety:
"Hi, this is Bernie Bernstein, I’m a reporter for the Washington Post calling to find out if anyone at this address is a female between the ages of 54 to 57 years old willing to make damaging remarks about candidate Roy Moore for a reward of between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars. We will not be fully investigating these claims, however we will make a written report. I can be reached by email at albernstein@washingtonpost.com. Thank you."
Did you see it? Between $5k and $7k, that's an outrage!!! Damaging remarks of this nature are worth $15k at least. Way to imply that Jews are cheap Steve Bannon*.

But here's my question: WTF is up with the specific and limited age range of 54 to 57 years old? Everyone knows that kosher law requires you to have 10 full years when trying to fabricate a liberal hit piece on someone.

Also it never happened.

Also it's okay that it happened because, Jesus.

* There is no evidence to suggest Steve Bannon is behind these calls. But also it's totally Steven Bannon.

Disappointing David Brooks Part 515

"Just because you don't get my point doesn't
make me cluelessly misogynistic" 
In the ongoing parade of things that disappoint David Brooks, the tragedy of tribalism is the disappointing-est. Or one of the most disappointing-est.

Not a naked liberal in the John
Locke sense, which, as you
know, is a reasonable way to
frame the discussion.
Also super disappointing? That liberals don't care for other people. because they lack social, emotional and moral formations (which are...?) on account of weakened family, faith, community (which might seem like tribalism when taken in the context of this next item), and national allegiance (also tribalism, just larger so, but also NOT tribalism because in this situation it's a good thing and tribalism is bad) and, oh, sometimes when he talks about liberals he's talking about liberalism in the John Locke sense where the label can be applied to liberals and conservatives in the traditional sense--but this is perfectly valid because we all know what this means from our junior year, remember "Ethics and Economics" or "Moral Agency and Responsibility" or "Gender, Family and the Exclusion Crisis" (easy A, amirite?)--so don't get tripped up. If we don't embrace a Judeochristian (and mostly Christian) American ethic we will never take care of other people (despite evidence that atheists are actually better at taking care of others, and far less likely to commit heinous crimes claiming justification from the Bible).

These are not the naked liberals David Brooks is talking about.

According to David Brooks, freedom without covenant becomes selfishness, and I have to say I don't disagree. But also freedom with covenant becomes selfishness. I guess what I'm saying is that human beings are selfish people and when you give them the ability to gain more and more by screwing other people, they will do that because unfettered selfishness with, or without covenant is America in a nutshell. But that's just me, that's not David Brooks who would probably be disappointed that I opined my own opinion in the midst of his disappointment.

Shorter David Brooks: we must come together, in a moderately reasonable way, as a nation (which is not a very very large tribe because, reasons) and compromise or get along or be civil with each other so that we don't have the opiate epidemic or the tribalism or the racism. The only race that matters is David Brooks's race, which may or may not be the human race.

Bonus points to David Brooks for unironically titling the column "Our Elites Still Don't Get It" and double bonus points to David Brooks for this sentence: Many people my age and above seem clueless.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "I Fought Every Step of the Way"



Musical Theater Therapy is a big fan of the delightful and talented Rose Marie. While you likely know her from the Dick Van Dyke Show (Sally Rogers is one of the first females in television that isn't defined by being a wife or mother or daughter), or from Hollywood Squares, she's actually had a few careers in show business. She was a child star of vaudeville and movies, a showgirl with mob connections (she headlined the opening of the Flamingo--her opening act was Martin & Lewis), and a singer who toured with Rosemary Clooney, Helen O'Connell and Margaret Whiting as 4 Girls 4.

Her Broadway credits are surprisingly limited given her background on stage and her singing talent. Her biggest role (bigger role, she only has 2 credits) is Top Banana (biggest role so far--she could still do a run in Chicago), a Johnny Mercer musical written as a showcase for Phil Silvers. Mission accomplished there: Phil Silvers won the show's only Tony award, Best Actor in a Musical. Top Banana is loosely based on the life of Milton Berle when he hosted Texaco Star Theatre.

Fun fact: Milton Berle's penis is legendarily large.

Today's song, "I Fought Every Step of the Way", is credited to Mercer and Bill Finnigan (one of 2 songs in the show with co-credits; Finnigan was a conductor with only Top Banana to his Broadway credits). It's one of 2 solo songs in the show--a big peppy swing song--and Marie sings the shit out of it (which is a good thing, to be clear).

Today's lesson: OMG you have no idea how amazing Rose Marie is. Go see the documentary about her, Wait For Your Laugh, now playing in select cities.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "The End of the Movie"



Musical Theater Therapy wants you to know that life doesn't make narrative sense.

It doesn't.

And we know this because Josh Groban told us. Well, he sang it to us, in a song from the delightfully smart, fun, and poignant Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The show's first season was fun, and the second season avoided being too predictable for a show with this basic premise (cause it's not like there are a lot of musical comedies about women pursuing the guy they've retroactively decided was the one... it's this, Ally McBeal, and Law & Order: Special Tap Dancing Unit).

But the third season, in progress, reminds us all that the first word of the show's title is crazy--the new credits are a nice reminder of the many facets of "crazy".

The show's writers treat various manifestations of mental illness with a deft hand. That the crazy ex-girlfriend attempted suicide by over-dosing on "nerve pills" on a flight to LA (after the flight attendant told her they couldn't drop her off in Kansas City or something) was a gut punch they did not play for laughs, nor for some super-heightened "very special Blossom" melodrama. It's kinda got a Bojack Horseman feel to it (which is the highest praise I could give for anything not directly involving Liza Minnelli).

Rachel Bloom is the dynamo of talent at the heart of the show, but the ensemble is filled with great performers even if they don't all get the screen time they deserve. She started her professional life as Seth Meyers's intern at SNL and has worked behind the scenes on a few shows while her "Fuck Me Ray Bradbury" video went viral and earned her a Hugo Award nomination (Best Music Video About Having Sex With a Famous SciFi Writer--she lost to Drake's "Going Downtown With Ursula"). I suspect her myriad connections are how she attracted the wonderfully talented Josh Groban to the show, then I remembered that Groban is always eager to parody himself on camera: CSI NY; It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia; Parks and Recreation; The Muppets. If you need someone to play Josh Groban, just call--he does his own hair and make-up!!!

Here's the set-up for this scene for those of you not current on season 3 of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. At the end of the last season Rebecca gets left at the altar by the guy she moved to West Covina to, ugh, it's very complicated, things have really gone to shit and at some point she runs into a different ex's dad and ends up hooking up with him. Some people might consider this hitting rock bottom, but I say it depends on the dad.

Today's song is "The End of the Movie" from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend S3E4 "Josh's Ex-Girlfriend is Crazy." Today's lesson is that when a movie is about real life, it doesn't make narrative sense. This is why Boyhood isn't actually a good movie. Great idea for a movie, but ultimately, yawn, not.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "God Bless the Absentee"



Musical Theater Therapy jumps back 4 decades (1980) to Paul Simon's only writing credit for a theatrical release--he was among the writers for The Paul Simon TV Special and shares an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy-Variety or Music Special with Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase (so that's why he was in the "Call Me Al" video), Tom Davis, Al Franken, Charles Grodin, Lily Tomlin, and Alan Zweibel: One-Trick Pony.

What a coincidence that he got a job writing for a special where his name was in the title.

One-Trick Pony is a naturalistic musical (where people are singing because they're actually singing, and other people can hear them, and there's usually not a lot of choreography); and while it's not a great movie, it's a really good movie.
A pretty good movie.

To appreciate it, you have to contextualize it among American auteur movies of the late 70s and thus not expect anything good for the lead character. It's like what if Kramer vs. Kramer was about one Kramer constantly on the road with his band and struggling to make new music while Dustin Hoffman broods while watching the kid. Or if The Deer Hunter was a musical, except nothing at all like that.

It's a semi-autobiographical work about Simon's change from Columbia Records to Warner Bros. Records. The presence of other notable Warner Bros. recording acts like The B-52s, David Sanborn, and Lou Reed is purely coincidental... as is the fact that the film was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.

NOT! That's called synergy, and if you don't understand the importance of leveraging existing organizational assets to minimize external costs and maximize profits, then the terrorists already won.

Synergy: it's like nepotism for things. And nepotism always works out just fine.

Fun fact: it's likely that letting Paul Simon star in the movie he wrote (but did not direct) was part of the deal that Warner Bros. Records offered him to lure him away from Columbia Pictures, and thus the entire movie was probably just a planned to be charged off toward their business development activities. My best guess is the movie gave WB accountants a way to write-off 3 to 5 months worth of cocaine. Okay, that might just be a fun speculation.

Fun fact: One-Trick Pony marks the film debut of which remarkably talented "Brat Pack" member? Hint: her distinguished career includes a Tony nomination, an Oscar nomination and 2 Emmy awards. She's also a singer with the voice of an angel and does a rather charming version of "Me and Bobby McGee" sitting naked in a bath tub on the lap of Paul Simon (because it was filmed in the very late 70s let's say that Simon is also naked because, reasons).

A: Robert Downey Jr. hash tag the more you know

The band in the film if portrayed by Paul Simon's actual touring band from the same period... synergy! Also, it's clear these guys are not actors. Listen to the, um, casual nature of their dialogue over the beginning of today's song, "God Bless the Absentee." It's a sweet song from Simon's pre-Graceland oeuvre and crafts a nice mood for this scene. This album (and movie, to be honest) is a personal favorite. It's not Simon's best work, but watching it at random hours of the day or night on The Movie Channel, one of 2 premium cable channels even available to us, is one of only 3 happy memories I have from 1982.

Fun fact: The Movie Channel began as a way to promote the Warner Bros. film library... SYNERGY!

Today's lesson? Obviously it's the thing about synergy.

Musical Theater Therapy: "Stop the Show"



Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me is Martin Short's send up of Broadway's memoir movement: think Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays or Elaine Stritch at Liberty. But really it's a chance for the brilliant Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (who might be brilliant, or might just be smart enough to work near Shaiman) to be snarky and meta simultaneously.

Exhibit A: some lyrics from today's song "Stop the Show"
"Yes I have just one question
that i'll ask if I may
why the hell did they name it the great white way
cause if you want a hit
learn what Sondheim doesn't know
and let a big black lady stop the show
next the audience will stand
nobody ever dares walk out
when a big bold mama starts to wail and shout"
"Stop the Show" is *the* show stopper from Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me (based on the novel Push by Sapphire). Capathia Jenkins tears this song up (you might know her as the washing machine from Caroline or Change [and I am not even making that shit up]). I'm pretty sure she was the only person of color in the show.

MS:FBM ran for fewer than 200 performances so clearly they could have used another big bold mama (or 2).

Today's song is "Stop the Show" and today's lesson is pretty clear: put a plus-sized soul diva in your musical, always (you can't be too careful).

Musical Theater Therapy: "I Want More"



Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire is hugely popular, but not particularly good (in my never-humble opinion); and yet I found myself unable to put the book down when I read it 25 years ago. Eventually I realized it was the layout of the book that was keeping me from putting it down: the chapters way long, and paragraphs rarely ended at the bottom of a page and I just can't stop without a clean break.

Or a clean-ish break: If I'm desperate I'll take a complete sentence as the end of a page even if the paragraph continues.

Yes, I could read to the end of a sentence on the next page, but once on that page I'd need to finish it. The novel seemed to be formatted in ways that used my quasi-OCD reading rules against me (and yes, by "against me" I mean pushing me to read more in a single sitting).

IWTV was the first of The Vampire Chronicles, Ann Rice's gay gay gay (sorry, homoerotic) novels about "lost souls" who stay out until all hours and sleep through the cursed burning sunlight that also include The Queen of the Damned, Chicken Soup for the Immortal with No Soul, and Eat Pray Love Blood. The film version of IWTV took the bold move when casting the tall blond charismatic Lestat of skipping Julian Sands, David Bowie, Carrie Elwes and Tilda Swinton, and opting for the bitchiest version of Tom Cruise we've ever seen (Tom Cruise's actual height: 5' 6" is probably generous).

Or maybe that I've ever seen (and I haven't seen Jack Reacharound yet).

But this isn't about that. This is Musical Theater Therapy and today's musical is Lestat with music by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. It opened in 2006 and closed very soon after, also in 2006; its total performances (39) outnumber its previews (33), but not by much. It received 2 Tony nominations.

Today's song is "I Want More" sung by Claudia, the little girl turned into a vampire and cursed to spend eternity trapped in the body of a little girl (Roy Moore's dream). Also kids turned vampire have more demanding needs in the way of blood. Poor Claudia: she was already going to have to work twice as hard for less money and recognition, thanks to Lestat she also had to spend eternity being hit on by perverted men and had to feed a constant blood lust to boot.
Today's lesson: keep your vampires away from Broadway. I'm looking at you, Twilight.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Musical Theater Therapy: "If I Wanted"



Can't sleep, clowns will eat me. Jet lag combined with the switch off of daylight savings then got immersed in a reduction of, I don't know, too tired to make this work. But 20 minutes ago I thought of one of the darker "musicals" we might feature here and BAM, I'm driven to write about it. It's Georgia, an indie drama with music starring the woefully underappreciated Jennifer Jason Leigh and the very talented Mare Winningham. No, for real, she is super talented.

No, shut up and listen, she is.

Yes, she was the St. Elmo's Fire and gave the "best peanut butter sandwich" monologue, but I think if you look at Rob Lowe today you'll forgive that in like 2 seconds (fun fact: on a tour of the Warner Brothers Studios lot with Broadway Genius John, possibly the first weekend we met, we passed Rob Lowe, Bradley Whitford and Richard Greico [pretty sure that was the third guy] dressed for a shoot in their suits and sunglasses and OMFG Rob Lowe is handsome... well also saw Kathy Najimy eating a nectarine or plum or possibly a peach that wasn't ripe while driving a convertible because, Hollywood).

Mare has 2 Emmys, which is 2 Emmys more than Rob Lowe. She was nominated for a Tony for Casa Valentina , and was nominated for an Oscar for her work in the movie Georgia (OMG what a coincidence, we were just talking about that movie). but lost to Mra Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite which was wrong for 2 reasons: 1, Sorvino's a lead in that movie, and B) she's also not very good in that movie. You know who else isn't very good in Mighty Aphrodite? <"All the other people in it" I can hear you saying...> Michael Rapaport, which normally I wouldn't bring up except that I was planning to dub Max Perlich's performance in Georgia (the movie's weakest aspect) as eligible for the Michael Rapaport How the Fuck Am I Getting Cast in Things award. You know what they call black guys who act ten times better than Rapaport or Perlich? "Tim or Kevin, the night shift security guard working the gate" (because they can't remember which one is Tim and which one is Kevin and also because those dudes don't get cast while Rapaport and Perlich do... failing upward, the mediocre white guy way).

The story behind Georgia is so sweet that it almost undermines the gritty nature of the story in the movie (a young Jennifer Jason Leigh came home from summer camp telling her screenwriter mother, Barbara Turner [the writer of Georgia] all about her camp counselor who sang with the voice of an angel [Mare fucking Winningham bitches, pay attention]). Oh, yeah, Winningham is also a great singer.

Fun fact: in high school she performed as Maria in West Side Sound of Music (now you're not sure which show I mean) opposite Kevin (you're not a pedophile if you're gay and drunk) Spacey as Capt. Von Trapp. Kevin has 2 Oscars, no Emmys, and a growing list of people accusing him of attempted rape.

Fun fact: Mare Winningham is the second Supporting Actress nominee whose character name is also the movie title. The other was Joan Allen for playing Pat Nixon in Nixon (not really, but can you name the other? she won her year... hint, it's not Lynn Redgrave).

Today's song is "If I Wanted" a song written by Mare Winningham (OMG TALENTED) and recorded for her What Might Be album (oh yeah, she also does music). Listen to the original version (which is down at the bottom) to get a sense of what her first album was like). JJL embraces her, um, unpolished vocals for the movie (which is all about a someone growing up in the shadow of a sibling and also about the FAA's stringent footwear policy [seeing Georgia is all you needed to know James Frey's A Million Little Pieces was complete bullshit--look it up, he made Oprah mad]).

Today's lesson? Shit, grab any 2 you like (the mediocrity of Perlich and Rapaport, Spacey's history of sexual harassment, or even the surprise revelation that Richard Greico was in the West Wing) so long as one of them is that Mare Winningham is legit talented (and not merely because the rest of the St Elmo's Fire cast was just Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, and the rest--OMG let's remake Gilligan's Island using the cast of St Elmo's Fire!!!).

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Song of the Day: "Spent the Day in Bed"

Oh Moz, sweet Moz. Day 3 of his tour, cancelled. Too cold.



Song: "Spent the Day in Bed"
Artist: Morrissey

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Song of the Day: "Everyone You Meet"

Am I literally going song by song from a recent Metacritic post about new fall music?

No.

I have mixed up the order a bit.



Song: "Everyone You Meet"
Artist: The Clientele

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Song of the Day: "Over Everything"

Danger Will Robinson, danger! That Courtney Barnett is following up her auspicious breakthrough or possibly debut album with a superfluous Kurt Vile seems weird.

But for now I'll allow it. If it sucks super bad I'll say I told ya so.



Song: "Over Everything"
Artist: Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile

Monday, November 6, 2017

Song of the Day: "Younger Now"

I'm not even sure with this new Miley, but it seems like she's borrowing a bit from the Lana Del Taco Rey playbook.

And yes, that joke never gets old.

And yes, we still love the Miley.



Song: "Younger Now"
Artist: Miley Cyrus

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Song of the Day: "We Called it Love"

I don't believe people ever change, but I've changed.

Shit.

Stars are back.



Song: "We Called it Love"
Artist: Stars

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Disappointing David Brooks Part 512


Underlying every David Brooks column is a set of assumptions that are universally accepted and embraced and not even David Brooks himself could shake their veracity.

  • America is great
  • America is a Judeo-Christian nation
  • American greatness owes to many of the Judeo-Christian things that are Judeo-Christian things even if they are also things that are true of non-Judeo-Christians
  • Civility is very important
  • Civility during times when people are oppressed is better than non-civility during a time when people are asserting their own worth (David Brooks is, after all, a white guy, so it's not like anyone's going to keep David Brooks down)
  • People are allowed to disagree but only in a civil way and, possibly if we work together we can make slight changes to the political orthodoxy
  • The best way to help others is by pointing out how they're not being civil

Donald Trump is not civil.

Many Donald Trump supporters are also not civil. Despite how obvious that is, we, as a society have not yet shut that down. This is the biggest disappointment to a disappointed David Brooks.

Today's disappointed David Brooks cites the former chief rabbi of Britain (a Judeo-Christian and probably, if I know my David Brooks, also a white guy) as saying that "'All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,' would have been unintelligible to Plato or Aristotle or anybody raised in a hierarchical society." He cites this without a tinge of irony or even a modest acknowledgement that the phrase was written about white guys specifically, and that it didn't apply to girls or people of color, and super duper not about girls of color (who are both girls AND people of color because, intersectionality). David Brooks is a white guy, and everything was fine then, and would be fine now if people would be civil again.

Judeo-Christian Americans love their neighbors. Not any of the ones I know, who typically never talk to their neighbors, and often openly despise them, but in the David Brooks America they do. Non-Judeo-Christian Americans, or pagans for short, do not love their neighbors. They leave their Christmas decorations up just a bit too long or give out the wrong treats on Halloween or planted decorative annuals in the parking strip without clearance from the association.

Judeo-Christian Americans, which is to say David Brooks Americans, are still good people, they just need a leader with the character to stand up to Donald Trump and restore all the civility.

Shorter David Brooks: why can't we all just get along?!

Song of the Day: "Let Me Get There"

Hope Sandoval's voice in unmistakable; and she's unmistakably the sound of sentimental alternative music of 1993.



Song: "Let Me Get There"
Artist: Hope Sandoval/The Warm Inventions

Friday, October 27, 2017

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Song of the Day: "Los Ageless"

St. Vincent has figured out how to make music I dig.

Or I've figured out how to like St. Vincent's music.

Which version makes me sound like the bigger person?



Song: "Los Ageless"
Artist: St. Vincent

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Song of the Day: "Covered Wagon"

Dude from Pedro the Lion, who has done his own thing in the past, is doing his own thing with a with a super group (a group that watched its parents gunned down and vowed to bring justice to the city it loves) of west coast indie rockers going by the name Lo Tom.

Given 20 minutes I probably would have connected Bazan with Pedro the Lion. I don't know any of the other dudes or their respective musical provenances.

But this song rocks. And I must credit Inhumans "Something Inhuman This Way Comes" for featuring a different Lo Tom song and thus bringing them to my attention.

It doesn't mean the show isn't awful. It just means that I'm watching it regardless of that.



Song: "Covered Wagon"
Artist: Lo Tom

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Disappointing David Brooks, Parts 507–511


Wow, time flies when you are gainfully employed and not looking for things to do because you've seen all the porn. I haven't even considered David Brooks and his disappointments with various people and/or groups of people and/or the nation as a whole in at least a month. But just because I didn't look, doesn't mean Brooks's disappointment wasn't in full effect.

How have we been disappointing David Brooks of late?

He's certainly disappointed that none of the Republicans in charge (you know, the adults) have managed to stop Trumpism. He has a problem with the Trumpist idea that "Americans are being oppressed by a snobbish elite" and he writes that without even the slightest hint of irony or self-awareness.

Unless David Brooks is even more subtle than me... well played Mr. B.

"Won't somebody please explain to these stupid Trump supporters that things were better before" Brooks seems to implore. And you'll note that he did say "please."

He's disappointed, but only mildly so, that he has to explain the gun culture to us (in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas). Deep down he likes explaining things to us. Hopefully the females in David Brooks's life understand that he's not mansplaining to them, he's just David Brooks.

Guns represent America, good and bad, and we can deal with guns after we end the culture war. Interestingly enough he doesn't actually take a stand on gun rights or the prevalence of guns and gun violence during the column, but by implying that there is progress to be made, it's clear that David Brooks wants to take your guns. Try to act surprised.

He's disappointed with Taylor Swift, but not with her appearance. She is talented and beautiful, while Chance the Rapper (as opposed to Chance the Flooring Installer) is merely talented. And humble. And genuine.

David Brooks not only knows who Chance the Rapper is, he also knows who the Sex Pistols is. Are.

He also knows the Sex Pistols.

I want to dress up as this semi-non-sequitur for Halloween: "It’s been a long time since the Sex Pistols burst on the scene."

The scene.

Okay, it's very possible David Brooks doesn't actually know the Sex Pistols as much as he knows that there's a thing called a Sex Pistols and that once upon a time they burst on to one scene or another. It might have been the squash scene. Or the Southampton cocktail party scene. Or was it the TriBeCa scene? Oh TriBeCa... remember lofts? Those were crazy. Just one big room. You can't even do cocaine discreetly in a loft.

What was his point? Oh, having done the math (56/2 = 28, 28 + 7 = 35, 35 > 27), David Brooks is disappointed that the beautiful, but talented, but beautiful Taylor Swift is behaving not like a sincere Chance the Rapper, with whom David Brooks would totally be friends, if only Chance the Rapper summered in Ogunquit or one of the nearby towns or villages or hamlets. They would very likely strike up a casual conversation at some quaint coffee shop while their cars were getting serviced at the BMW place in Stratham. David Brooks and Chance the Rapper would have a lot in common, I'm certain. They're both carbon-based life forms, and both biped males; that's two things right there.

And they both drive 2015 BMW X5s, probably. Brooks's is probably pearl white with tan leather interior and a Sade CD in the center arm rest storage. Chance's would have tinted windows and "blacked out" wheels. David Brooks would call them nifty but secretly David Brooks wouldn't particularly like them.

Does Taylor Swift even know how to drive?! She's not sincere, she's a brand. And like 21 years away from being a socially acceptable partner for David Brooks.

David Brooks is also disappointed that there aren't more John McCains in the world. John McCain is laudable because he sounds like he wants things to change while ensuring the political orthodoxy remains un-upended.

David Brooks is always disappointed when the political orthodoxy is upended.

Sure McCain can be craven and petty and spiteful and just plain wrong, but at least he knows not to fuck with the status quo. Not in any meaningful way.

David Brooks wants more pretend mavericks.

And finally David Brooks is disappointed that you don't recognize how mother-fucking awesome America is. Everything IS awesome, and you should just succumb to that. Embrace the comfort of the status quo! The status quo is certainly comfortable in his Lincoln Park neighborhood—he extrapolates from that.

The awesome USA has the largest GDP per capita!!!

If you ignore the 7 countries with larger per capita GDPs, the USA has the largest GDP per capita!!! Is Luxembourg even a country? Whatev.

Brooks points out that there are "can do" people (the upswingers) and "can don't" people (the downswingers), and urges the upswingers to respect the concerns of the downswingers. Why can't the upswingers just get along with the downswingers, and to a lesser extent vice versa?

Shorter David Brooks:
  • Please start getting along, or at least pretend like you're getting along
  • Stop trying to upend the political orthodoxy
  • Why isn't Taylor Swift 35 to 38 years old!!!



Thursday, October 19, 2017

Song of the Day: "Black Rainbows"

You ever hear a song you like to much that you stop the work you're getting paid to do so you can post it as a song of the day that won't appear for like 2 more days?

Me neither.



Song: "Black Rainbows"
Artist: Cut Copy

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Song of the Day: "Cross My Heart"

I'm instantly charmed by Melody's Echo Chamber and hopefully you will be too.



Song: "Cross My Heart"
Artist: Melody's Echo Chamber

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Song of the Day: "1-800-273-8255"

Fuck this is a great idea for a song. I don't begrudge people who decide to end their own lives--I think it's selfish to call them selfish. Without knowing their pain, you can't know whether the decision was valid.

But all that is predicated  on it being the decision of an adult, someone with real context for what their life is, what it will be. Young people need to talk to someone first, and this number, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, is a good place to start.

Certainly better than calling me at 2 in the morning. I probably won't answer.



Song: "1-800-273-8255"
Artist: Logic/Alessia Cara/Khalid