Monday, January 15, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Please Mr. Kennedy"



Today's Musical Theater Therapy teams Poe Dameron with Kylo Ren and Justin Timberlake with one of the original songs from Inside Llewyn Davis. The 2013 Coen Brothers movie is loosely based on Dave Van Ronk, a folk singer who was such a mainstay of the Greenwich Village music scene that he was called the Mayor of MacDougal Street (MacDougal Street being in Greenwich Village or the whole thing makes no sense, amirite?).

The songs are diegetic, and performances were captured live either as characters were writing/rehearsing, recording or performing on stage. In this scene, Oscar Isaac (ace pilot for the Resistance Poe Dameron), Adam Driver (Darth Vader's grandson Kyle Ron, err, Rylo Ken doll, err, Kylo Ren), and Justin Timberlake (Sean Parker, founder of Napster [entirely different movie]) write and record "Please Mr. Kennedy," an homage to the novelty song "Mr. Custer."

The movie picked up Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Cinematography from the National Society of Film Critics, and won a few other accolades. It was nominated for a slew of awards, often losing to Gravity, Her, 12 Years a Slave, or American Hustle. Never saw it, but it seems like it would be good.

Today's song is "Please Mr. Kennedy" and today's lesson is that the power of music can bring even Resistance and First Order together in harmony.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Poor Unfortunate Souls"



Musical Theater Therapy still isn't sure what all the fuss is about with respect to "Poor Unfortunate Souls." We love The Little Mermaid, well, we love much of The Little Mermaid.

We love much of The Little Mermaid's music.

Hmmm, we might want to quit while we're ahead...

"Poor Unfortunate Souls" is from Disney's The Little Mermaid, based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Little Mermaid based on the novel Push by Sapphire. It's the clearest articulation of the recurring Disney motif that girls are nothing without a man, and the best way to get a man is to be pretty and stay out of his way (here it is literally to shut up and be pretty).

None of the boys' cartoons features a man who has to get the girl (they get the girl, to be clear, but that's just a lesser story line to them saving the village; or discovering their role as the true leader of Pride Rock; or to be a mofo (we edited our language) car, racing a bunch of other mofo cars, repeat as needed.

Surprisingly few Disney films pass the Bechdel Test. Those that do often involve "partial credit" or a liberal interpretation of the guidelines. When they pass cleanly it's because the villain is female.

All that being said, Rebel Wilson as Ursula in concert=awesome casting. Ursula is the only Disney character whose inspiration is a member of the opposite sex. Fun fact: Ursula is based on Winston Churchill*.

Today's song is "Poor Unfortunate Souls" and today's lesson is maybe limit the number of Disney movies you let your daughters watch. The patriarchy isn't going to destroy itself... although it's confusing as to what that's the case considering how inept and lecherous the patriarchy is. Seriously Matt Lauer, a remote door lock button under your desk?

Grab them by the pussy? That sounded like a 5th grader who had not actually had sex education yet.

That's the patriarchy, and it's not yet exploded in a burst of stupidity or slipped on a pool of urine from when everyone missed the toilet?

* No, Ursula is based on Divine who is, in turn, based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Be Our Guest"



Musical Theater Therapy salutes the man of the year, Jerry Orbach (in the Chinese zodiac it's the year of the dog; for the musical theater zodiac it's the year of the Jerry Orbach), with his performance during the 1992 Academy Awards. The song, "Be Our Guest," is from the 1991 animated musical Beauty and the Beast, based on Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's mid-18th century adaptation of Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve's early 18th century fairy tale which is, ultimately, based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

It was the first animated film nominated for Best Picture and earned Alan Menken 2 of his 8 Academy Awards (3 of them were deserved). It accounts for 4 of his 19 Oscar nominations. And now I've just updated Alan Menken's Wikipedia entry to show "Belle" as a song from a Disney film for which he was nominated for an Oscar but didn't win, and removed "Colors of the Wind" since he did actually win an Oscar for that (one of his 8, 3 deserved).

Between Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury, Beauty and the Beast had 2 magnificently talented Broadway performers who also appeared in many episodes of Murder She Wrote (I am just learning of the attempt to launch a spin-off of M,SW starring Orbach and Barbara Babcock--one wonders if they weren't cast because of their rhyming surnames--The Law & Harry McGraw). Given CBS's propensity for launching spin-offs, it's a surprise that TL&HM didn't last. They probably should have added a city name or some initials after the title.

Today's song is "Be Our Guest" and today's lesson is not to overlook the talent on your television. It might be a Broadway legend.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life"



Musical Theater Therapy congratulates Harry and Meghan (kinda, but not really, we were holding out hope Harry would come around and start seeing us again—he's royal but not inbred, and a ginger, 2 things his brother can't claim—but ultimately we knew it wouldn't work with grandma around. Their royal wedding is May 19th.

Meanwhile we've got a Royal Wedding today. The 1951 movie musical, directed by the charming and talented Stanley Donen, starred Fred Astaire and Jane Powell who is adorable here. Why didn't she star in The Fairer Sex?!

While she didn't get that role, she did get this role from June Allyson who proved so inept there. Powell in uninept... quite ept indeed.

Today's song is "How Could You Believe Me When I Said I Love You When You Know I've Been a Liar All My Life" which, much like Prince Harry, is more than a mouthful.

Today's lesson is that compulsive liars tell little lies, often due to low self-esteem, that are mostly harmless; pathological liars, on the other hand, live in an alternative reality of their own creation, lying brazenly and getting defensive when their lies are pointed out... "fake news!" they declare, even when no one else is in the room, which is often the case because, you know, they're so awful.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Yes, Yes"



Pennies From Heaven, the 1981 movie musical, is based on Pennies From Heaven, the 1977 BBC television series that introduced the world to Bob Hoskins and, to a lesser extent, to Cheryl Campbell. The BBC series is based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

The 1981 movie was Steve Martin's follow-up to The Jerk and as Pennies From Heaven was an homage to depression-era movie musicals and NOT a comedy, it was confusing and disappointing to the Steve Martin fans that actually showed up to see it. Per Martin: "I don't know what to blame, other than it's me and not a comedy."

Critics loved the movie (its Rotten Tomatoes score is 84% fresh) with Pauline Kael basically orgasming on to the newsprint calling it the most emotional musical she'd ever seen: "The dance numbers are funny, amazing, and beautiful all at once; several of them are just about perfection."

Fred Astaire, who objected to the movies use of footage of him from Follow The Fleet, said "every scene was cheap and vulgar."

The movie was a flop, earning (in today's dollars) $23 million on a budget of $64 million. The Jerk, from 2 years earlier, earned about $240 million in today's dollars.

It managed 3 Oscar nominations including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound, and Best Costume Design for Bob Mackie. Mackie might not have been a shoe-in, but his costumes, or those for Reds or Ragtime, were probably superior to the winner for Chariots of Fire (although I haven't actually seen that movie so who can say).

Today's song is the Tin Pan Alley song "Yes Yes" by Sam Browne and the Carlyle Cousin from the movie Pennies From Heaven. Today's lesson is that you can't change your milieu radically and still expect your audience to follow.

Song of the Day: "You Broke Up With Me"

You got bro in my country. You got country in my bro.



Song: "You Broke Up With Me"
Artist: Walker Hayes

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "My Favorite Things"



For 15 seconds we were considering using a version of "My Favorite Things" from Dancer in the Dark, Lars Van Trier's dark as fuck musical movie that earned the Golden Palm and Best Actress for Björk at the Cannes Film Festival. Then we re-read the plot and decided that there was no way. We here at Musical Theater Therapy like the occasional dark or realistic musical, but holy shit, not that dark. It's so dark that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association considered the musical a Drama (as opposed to a Musical/Comedy) for purposes of nominations.

So today's "My Favorite Things" comes from exactly the place you'd expect it to come from, the Oscar-winning 1965 movie version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's The Sound of Music, based on the hit Broadway musical The Sound of Music, based on The Story of the Von Trapp Family Singers by Maria Von Trapp (nee Maria Augusta Kutschera), based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

Some call The Sound of Music the fourth greatest movie musical of all time. We assume Grease is the first. (We are just kidding about Grease.)

We also assume you've seen it. And if not the Julie Andrews classic, then you've at least seen the Carrie Underwood mess that NBC produced a few years ago. And if you haven't, 1) ask your parents why you were deprived as a child, and B) Netflix that shit now! Or OnDemand or Amazon Video or iTunes. It's worth the $4. At the very least keep an eye out for it on TCM.

Today's song is "My Favorite Things" and today's lesson is that Lars Von Trier is a clear limit to how dark we will accept musicals here at Musical Theater Therapy.

Song of the Day: "Obsession"

Okay, OK GO, go.



Song: "Obsession"
Artist: OK Go

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Gold"



Is Linda Eder America's version of Sarah Brightman? Don't be silly, Sarah Brightman moves tote bags during PBS pledge drives; Eder merely answers their phones.

Still while Brightman was muse for Andrew Lloyd Webber (still a monster), Eder was muse for Frank Wildhorn's musical Camille Claudel. Or maybe she wasn't, except you probably wouldn't know either way so she was.

Her and Liza Minnelli. They were co-muses.

Fun fact: composer/lyricist Frank Wildhorn also created the show from which Sunday's Musical Theater Therapy session was drawn (oh shit, we were supposed to reduce the amount of forgettable music for a bit, will need to overcompensate for a bit after this).

Funner fact: Camille Claudel was a human person who did things, but you wouldn't know about them (if you even do) if she hasn't slept with a man who was famous. If you don't know, the man was Fred from The Scooby-Doo Mysteries.

Funnest fact: Linda Eder has been nominated for 3 not-a-Tony awards, the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the Theater World Award. Rosie O'Donnell and Regis Philbin both said she was robbed of a Tony nomination, but I'm thinking it wasn't at gun-point.

Today's song is "Gold" from the musical Claudel Colbertte (or is it). Today's lesson is something about how we're not always putting a lot of thought into these sessions so perhaps you should have a second resource for counseling.

Song of the Day: "Juice"

Chromeo is playing Coachella in April, you going?



Song: "Juice"
Artist: Chromeo

Monday, January 8, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Talk To The Animals"



Doctor Dolittle—the 1967 movie musical adapted from the Dr. Doolittle children's books, which were loosely based on the novel Push by Sapphire—is a case study in the myriad ways a film can fail. It is also a lesson in how enough money can buy a crappy movie a slew of Oscar nominations (and even a couple wins).

Musical Theater Therapy celebrates (kinda) the 50th anniversary (almost, it's actually in April) of the time a movie with a 32% fresh rating managed to keep Cool Hand Luke, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Camelot, Barefoot in the Park, The Dirty Dozen, In Cold Blood, hell, even Two For The Road, from a Best Picture nomination.

The movie starred Rex Harrison when he was in full diva mode after winning an Oscar for My Fair Lady. Harrison anchored his private yacht in one of the shots as a way to extort additional money from the studio. The studio brought Christopher Plummer in to the location to replace Harrison and Rex took the hint and behaved. Still, is it any wonder white guys today wander around with a sense of entitlement when you've got the "anchored your private yacht in the shot to extort more money from the studio" shit as part of our recent history?

A wise person once said "never work with animals or children"–that person was the accountant at 20th Century Fox, and no one listened to him (UPDATE: or her, hash tag check your sexism). Dr. Dolittle was filled with both. Apparently the logistics of wrangling a large variety of animals are difficult to estimate (or are very easy to underestimate). The studio lost about half of the $17 million budget (which was increased from $6 million originally); the loss is equal to about $60 million today.

The loss of studio money on Dr. Dolittle merchandise ended the studio's appetite for future deals. As such, just a few years later 20th Century Fox ceded its interest in merchandising for a little film called Star Wars to its director. George Lucas is worth about $5 billion today, at least in part, because Dr. Dolittle was such a disaster.

What do you do with a musical whose "music is not exceptional" (NY Times), and that Leonard Maltin called a "colossal dud" (though to his credit Maltin recommends the movie to parents with unruly kids as a non-narcotic sleep aid)? A movie released a mere 2 months after the widely acclaimed adaptation of The Jungle Book and a year after The Sound of Music? Why you double down with the first mega campaign for Oscar (Behind the Oscar called the campaign unparalleled). You gotta spend money if you want a crap movie to get nominated.

Today's song is "Talk to the Animals" which is the only marginally redeeming song from the film, and is Leslie Bricusse's only Academy Award (and I literally had to add it to his Wikipedia entry–finally, a chance to upgrade someone instead of acting as a buzzkill) from his 9 nominations (he's responsible for some of the most forgettable Oscar nominated songs of the last 50 years, like that song from Hook and that song from The Godfather III). The song beat "The Look of Love" and "The Bare Necessities" (and 2 other reasonable contenders) for Oscar.

Today's lesson: where talent or merit or quality fail, cash succeeds.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "The Honor Of Your Name"



The Civil War is a musical based on the American Civil War (the "civil" one), also known as the War for States' Rights, also known as the War of Northern Aggression, also known as The Night They Drove Ol' Dixie Down Over and Over and Over. It's based on the novel Push by Sapphire.

No one even remembers why there was a war*, but everyone agrees that there were good people on both sides**.

The musical is more of a song cycle with limited plot and dialogue. Reviews were generally negative: "generic...without plot and essentially without character" is relatively tame. So naturally the show only picked up 2 Tony nominations, including Best Musical. The 1998/99 season was pretty weak; the show, a revue called It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues, and the unfortunately titled Parade all lost the Fosse, a revue featuring the life's work of Dian Fossey, the primatologist and conservationist***.

The show's been performed in a variety of non-Broadway settings like Ford's Theater (that seems tacky to us here at Musical Theater Therapy), and in Gettysburg (also tacky, surely that place had seen enough carnage). Its cast members included both Larry Gatlin and John Schneider, and a Winans or two.

And my close, personal friend Trisha Yearwood sang a song on the concept album, and it goes a little something like this...

Today's song is "The Honor of Your Name" and today's lesson is that how you describe the American Civil War says a lot about you as a person. And as a racist. And as a person.

* Slavery.
** Not really; that idea is a way for some to try to avoid being called racist when they act in a racist way or support a racist act.
*** We think it was about her.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Welcome To My Apartment"



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.

It.

Is.

Worth.

It.

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: "Being Good"



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

Musical Theater Therapy: "Nothing In This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again"



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: "Popular"



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?

Apparently not.

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.

Song of the Day: "Walk on Water"

Eminem and Beyonce, Beyonce and Eminem... here we go.



Song: "Walk on Water"
Artist: Eminem/Beyonce

Monday, January 1, 2018

Musical Theater Therapy: "Mein Herr"



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!