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.

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