Saturday, January 6, 2018
Month Upon A Time is a song cycle written by Jeff Blumenkrantz; the actor/composer/lyricist/bon vivant who is best known, well, from today's Musical Theater Therapy, probably. Month Upon A Time is a set of original songs, each one related to a month of the year (as opposed to a month of the week, I guess). As Jeff explains at the beginning of the clip... you know what, I'll let you listen for yourself.
Julia Murney has been on Broadway as the 15th Elphaba and the 43rd Elphaba and the 47th Elphaba, and toured, starring as Elphaba in the second touring company of Wicked and starring as Elphaba in the Royal Caribbean Cruises production of Wicked. She also did voice over work for the Spice channel.
Today's song is "Welcome To My Apartment," the October-inspired song from Jeff Blumenkrantz's Month Upon A Time song cycle. Today's lesson: Cocktober isn't a month, it's a state of mind.
Friday, January 5, 2018
Musical Theater Therapy reminds you that, for an authentic look at the Black experience in America from the end of the 19th century up to the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s, you can't skimp on Jews for your creative team. Some shows tried to provide an authentic depiction of the experiences of Black America with no Jews involved in the book or music. Those shows closed before they got to Boston.
Some shows tried to do this with a single measly Jew. Unless that Jew is Marvin Hamlisch, you're not going to provide the authenticity a sophisticated Broadway audience expects. Two Jews? Almost insultingly light on Jews, even with 2.
It took 4 of the biggest (Jewish) names in Broadway history to create Hallelujah, Baby!--"a chronicle of the African American struggle for equality during the 20th century"--and that show only won 5 of its 9 Tony nominations. If Jule Styne (nee Julius Kerwin Stein), Arthur Laurents (nee Levine), Adolph Green, and Betty Comden (nee Basya Cohen) can't convey that struggle, who can? Their upper west side temple is blocks from Harlem!!! (Like 16 blocks.)
The show was written for Lena Horne but instead starred Leslie Uggams. You know how all those performers look alike, so the first time anyone probably noticed was when they announced the Tony award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical and the presenter was confused at the misspelling of Lena's name.
The show made a star of Uggams (which must be true since both the show's and her Wikipedia entries state this), and she is still a star today. She stars in one of the most hotly anticipated movies of 2018: Untitled Deadpool Sequel 2018.
We are fortunate to have Ed Sullivan to introduce today's song ("Being Good Isn't Good Enough"); not because his Irish heritage means he probably wasn't Jewish, just because it's nice to have someone else set up the song. He doesn't set up Tip and Tap who appear in the second part of the performance. I won't either. Watch it and figure it out for yourself.
Today's lesson: don't skimp on Jews if you want to convey the struggles of the Black American.
Thursday, January 4, 2018
Among the current/recent crop of television shows playing in the musical milieu, Nashville is certainly one of them. It begins its sixth, and final, season tonight (the timing on this is perfect only through luck) on CMT (note that CMT once stood for Country Music Television, but, like Music Television, Video Hits One, Cartoon Network and Game Show Network, the channel's executives realized they had more programming flexibility by using the initials and abandoning the idea that they were ever exclusively focused on a certain type of programming... that MTV still has the Video Music Awards, which requires videos to be played on MTV in order to be eligible to be nominated for/win a VMA and then doesn't play videos is one of the great Catch-22s of our time).
Musical Theater Therapy salutes the show's endurance: ABC cancelled the show after the fourth season, but the cast was able to rally viewers to support the save the show with the not-at-all clever #BringBackNashville hashtag (we find the idea that hashtags actually accomplish anything to be #AdorablyLaughable but sure, go ahead and tell Boko Haram to #BringBackOurGirls because, as terrorists, they care a lot about what's trending on Twitter), and thanks to a syndication deal with Hulu they added 2 more seasons to the show.
We cynically wondered whether or not the Hayden Planetarium, which is part of The Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Center for Earth and Space (based on the novel Push by Sapphire) was doing its own singing. Then we were told that 1) the planetarium was not in the show, it was Hayden Panettiere who is not only an actress, but also a model and singer and a Grammy nominee and far more talented than anyone here at MTT World HQ, so we will stop being so cynical (no we won't).
Today's song is "Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again"--a poignant ballad that is, thus far, the show's only song nominated for the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Music and Lyrics. It lost to one of the wonderfully gay songs from the Tony Awards (probably).
Today's lesson is to tune in to the beginning of the final season of Nashville on January 4th and also not to expect Boko Haram to be very responsive to your hashtag campaign... despite the success of Nashville.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018
Musical Theater Therapy considers the question "what's more important than being popular?"
Not having a house land on you, for one.
We were about to add something about not needing to fake your own death, but then we realized that is basically tied in to being popular. Popular people do not have to fake their own deaths. In our experience anyway...
Today's song is "Popular" from the hit musical Wicked based on Gregory Maguire's Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West which is based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum which is, as you might expect, based on the novel Push by Sapphire.
Is it an allegory about the difficulties one encounters when one isn't an able-bodied straight white heterosexual dude, often at the hands of able-bodied straight white heterosexual dudes? I don't know, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is it?
In 2016 Hillary Clinton won which vote again? It wasn't the Electoral College it was the ______ vote.
Wicked has been running on Broadway since Fall 2003. It's on track to become the 7th longest running show in Broadway history (it will pass Oh! Calcutta! in early 2018). It's one of very few shows to pass a billion dollars in ticket sales and is second behind the Lion King as Broadway's highest grossing show of all time. And in all that time did Hillary Clinton see it even once?
Today's song is "Popular" from Wicked. Today's lesson is that the popular vote isn't worth shit if you don't campaign seriously in the rust belt. And today's lesson is you can't take minority voters for granted. And today's lesson is you can't take progressive voters for granted. And today's lesson is also not to use a private email server no matter what bullshit reason you think is going to fool us.
Monday, January 1, 2018
We here at Musical Theater Therapy were torn as to whether we gave 2017 its kiss off on the last day of 2017, or if that would end up cursing us by presuming things couldn't get worse in the last 18 hours of the year (or possibly of human existence). We're not superstitious like that, but c'mon, why tempt fate?!
Also when you factor in the largely forgettable nature of the past week of songs, you'll agree that we need to kick of 2018 with some solid music, and up first is "Mein Herr" from the movie version of Cabaret.
When Bob Fosse directed the movie version of Cabaret (1972), some substantial changes from the stage production were made: the older couple were out, replaced by sexy young characters; all of the non-diegetic songs were excised (when anyone's singing everyone within the show can hear and see it happening, it's not some imagined monologue for the audience to better understand someone's motivations)--everything is performed in the Kit Kat Klub except for one song performed by Future Nazis of America (or whatever) in a bier garden, a precursor to white dudes in khakis carrying tiki torches in Charlottesville; Sally is talented (she is not in the original staging) and American, while Cliff is super gay, I mean British (the nationalities reversed).
Cabaret holds the record for the most Oscars (8) won by a movie that didn't win Best Picture (it lost that and Best Adapted Screenplay to The Godfather). Bob Fosse's Oscar, plus his 2 Emmys for Liza with a Z, plus 2 Tonys he won for Pippin in the same year make Fosse the answer to the question that gets you aboard the secret Republican gay cruise on American Dad. Cabaret is the 9th live action movie musical preserved by the National Film Registry, and while it's not a feel-good movie, it's a damn good movie.
"Mein Herr" is one of 2 new songs written for the movie ("Maybe This Time" was already written and added to the movie)--all 3 songs have been added to the stage productions that followed. We dedicate the song to the shitty year 2017. It's our way of breaking up with the year (even though we couldn't have stayed together if we tried).
2016 was a brutal year and some people were optimistic that 2017 would be better. Those people were wrong: 2017 was horrible. Today's lesson: don't expect anything except misery--you'll never be disappointed!