Two weeks ago, workers announced the highly publicized formation of Stardust Family United under the Industrial Workers of the World, which is supported by over 70 employees of Ellen's Stardust Diner, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan recently profiled for by the New York Times. Ken Sturm, owner, then fired six long-time employees in retaliation for their efforts to form a union to protect and improve their working conditions. Ellen's, a diner which primarily employs Broadway and off-Broadway singers, has been a mainstay source of income for many since 1995.
The bizarre rise and fall and resurgence of tiki bars and cocktails is an interesting history that starts with two men, Donn Beach and Victor Bergeron, who traveled to the South Pacific and brought back some "island culture" to the United States with them in the 1930s, continuing on with the craze really booming after WWII vets returned from tours overseas. With the ebbs and flows of popularity, the cultural appropriation in "Tiki culture" has often been overlooked, as to the Māori mythology and meaning behind Tiki carvings and imagery and Hawiian culture of leis and luaus. Let's talk Tiki bars: harmless fun or exploitation. [Soundtrack: Les Baxter's Ritual Of The Savage ( 1951) and Martin Denny's Exotica (1957)] [more inside]
Todrick Hall has been here before, but he recently released Straight Outta Oz as an ambitious visual album on YouTube. It's a Wizard of Oz allegory about his life growing up as a gay black teenager and his rise to stardom. It also features some great singing and dancing, and he's touring with a live version now. [more inside]
At his final Ham4Ham show (for now – we can always hope), Lin-Manuel reads a 1780 letter from Alexander to Eliza. Miranda leaves Hamilton this weekend. Here's what's next for him. [more inside]
Twenty years after Jonathan Larson’s posthumous triumph arrived on Broadway, the cast and creative team relive the rise of a musical that changed theater.
Your long wait is over. Public service announcement: as of Tuesday, you can finally own Cop Rock on a triple DVD box. NYT: Sometimes “worst” is a misnomer for “ahead of its time.” On Tuesday Shout! Factory releases “Cop Rock: The Complete Series,” a three-disc package that provides a chance to revisit this TV curiosity. Watching the 11 episodes — the original 16-episode order was truncated when the show didn’t generate ratings — is fascinating, and not always in a train wreck way. When “Cop Rock” worked, though that was only intermittently, it worked quite well. Previously.
In “ ‘Hamilton’ Aside, Where the Real Tony Competition Lies' ", one of your theater critics, Charles Isherwood, says of “Hamilton”: “I do find it slightly puzzling that it was nominated in the book of a musical category, since the show is almost sung-through.” [more inside]
Cats, the popular musical composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber (based on the poetry of T.S. Eliot), will be adapted as a movie, to be directed by Tom Hooper. Noted for its longevity, Cats ran continuously on Broadway for 18 years, and on London's West End for 21 years. The show will return to Broadway in August, after a 16-year hiatus. Mee wow!
Hamilton is awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, making it the ninth musical to receive this award. The Pulitzer Prize for Drama is given "For a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life." [more inside]
Stephen Sondheim talks to Rufus Norris about his career, and his views on current musical theatre trends. (SLYT, 42 minutes)
We asked @jimmyfallon to join us for tonight's #Ham4Ham show to do impressions while singing "You'll Be Back."
Off-Broadway's "Daddy Long Legs" musical (based on the novel that inspired the 1955 movie) is livestreaming tonight's 8 pm ET New York performance right now. [more inside]
Indie auteur Richard Linklater pleasantly surprised audiences with his charming 2003 comedy School of Rock, in which a struggling musician (High Fidelity co-star and Tenacious D frontman Jack Black) hijacks a 4th grade prep school class and inspires them to become a killer rock band. Buoyed by likeable characters, a great soundtrack, remarkably talented kid musicians, and Black's lengthy, irrepressible, almost improvisational classroom scenes, the film earned rave reviews and inspired scads of copycat programs around the world (as featured in the '05 documentary and reality series Rock School). But while the cast kicked ass at their ten-year reunion concert in 2013, plans for a sequel fell through. Everyone loves an encore, though. And so this weekend saw the Broadway debut of the Andrew Lloyd Webber stage musical starring Alex Brightman, with a TV adaptation to air on Nickelodeon next year. Because there's no way you can stop... the School of Rock. [more inside]
After a successful kickstarter campaign, Muzzled the Musical has released it's promised three episodes (season one): episode 1, episode 2, episode 3. An epic saga of mean girl princesses and bloody musical warfare, starring Ashly Burch (of HAWP) and created by Matthew Mercer.
"This is musical theater made by someone who knows rap to be all our cultural lingua franca, whose sense of humor is legible to people like us. It is songwriting done within rap's regulations and limitations. It's a work of historical fiction that honors the sentiments of rap, a play off collective memory that feels overwhelming personal." NPR is now streaming the Cast Recording of the hit broadway play Hamilton (previously).
After reading a "nicer" ending for the musical Hamilton proposed by a young fan, Lin-Manuel Miranda (as Alexander Hamilton) and Leslie Odom Jr (as Aaron Burr) decided to give it a shot. Written by and starring Tony-award winner Miranda and based on the Ron Chernow biography, Hamilton is a hip-hop musical about the life and times of the first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton starts previews soon on Broadway after an acclaimed and sold-out run at the Public. [more inside]
Once upon a time there was a family that lived in a pub. Starstruck is an Australian musical released in 1982, directed by Gillian Armstrong, which was her second major film after 'My Brilliant Career'. [more inside]
In 2004, GrooveLily ("just your typical violin/piano/drums power-pop trio") debuted Striking 12, a musical set on New Year's Eve. The story weaves between the performers putting on the show; a modern-day grumpy guy who doesn't want to go out on New Year's Eve; and "The Little Match Girl," by Hans Christian Andersen. You can listen to the entire thing on Bandcamp. [more inside]
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg turned 50 this year. The movie in full. Or here: Part 1 Part 2. (These are not tears. There's a draft in the room making my eyes water.) Reviews: Songs in the Key of Everyday Life/Jonathan Rosenbaum/Chicago Reader, Slant, Ebert. [more inside]
"My next favorite film version of 'A Christmas Carol,' right after the Alastair Sim movie, is this one from 1970. Finney received the 1970 Golden Globe Award for best actor in musical or comedy. The film was also nominated for Academy Awards for art direction/ set decoration, costume designer, best song ('Thank You Very Much') and best song score/ adaptation. A musical retelling with memorable songs and dances, (the song 'December the 25th' is a favorite) and a lively cast, this film ranks high on my list of 'must watch' DVDs during the holiday season. Filmed in such a way as to suggest that the only light is ambient sources on the set, it adds a look to the production that is simultaneously realistic and dream-like." An affectionate look at director Ronald Neame's musical adaptation, Scrooge. [more inside]
Director Mel Brooks spent a lot of money on white handkerchiefs while making his 1974 tour de farce, Young Frankenstein. "I gave everybody in the crew a white handkerchief," said the 88-year-old comedy legend during a recent phone interview. "I said, 'When you feel like laughing, put this in your mouth.' Every once in a while, I'd turn around and see a sea of white handkerchiefs, and I said, 'I got a hit.'"An interview with Mel Brooks on the 40th anniversary of Young Frankenstein, with an overview of the events that lead to what Mel Brooks calls 'by far the best movie I ever made.' [more inside]
Young Frankenstein was more than a hit. It is a comic masterpiece.
Ridley Scott's new film Exodus: Gods and Kings recasts the myth of Moses in typically grimdark swords-and-sandals fashion. It... ain't so good. Want something more artful? Look no further than The Prince of Egypt [alt], an underrated masterpiece of DreamWorks' traditional animation era. Directed by Brenda Chapman (a first for women in animation), scored to spectacular effect by Hans Zimmer and Stephen Schwartz, and voiced by, among others, Voldemort, Batman, and Professor X, the ambitious film features gorgeous, striking visuals and tastefully integrated CGI in nearly every scene. It also manages the improbable feat of maturing beyond cartoon clichés while humanizing the prophet's journey from carefree scion to noble (and remorseful) liberator without offending half the planet -- while still being quite a fun ride. Already seen it? Catch the making-of documentary, or click inside for more. [more inside]
"One day early in 1954, Mary Martin and her husband, Richard Halliday, were driving on the Merritt Parkway, near their home in Norwalk, Connecticut. On the car radio came Frank Sinatra’s new hit, “Young at Heart.” It was perfect! That is, the song had the exact sentiment and feel they wanted for the pet project they’d long been planning, a musical version of J.M. Barrie’s 1904 play Peter Pan (original subtitle: “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”). Right on the spot, they decided they’d hire whoever had written the song to compose the score for their production." [more inside]
With the all-star Into the Woods movie coming this Christmas, it's good to take a look at some versions with more modest production values.
In early March of this year, the New York City Philharmonic staged what initially seemed like a restrained concert of Stephen Sondheim's musical “Sweeney Todd.” Per the New York Times review : "The director, Lonny Price, started the evening with a wink toward the formalities of classical concertizing, as the cast of principals lined up in front of music stands at the lip of the stage, clad in tuxedos and staid dresses, binders in hand, as if they were about to sing a little Schubert. Oh dear." But then . . . [more inside]
Just in time for Halloween, the original 2003 Toronto production of Evil Dead: The Musical is online, in a glorious multi-cam VHS YouTube transcription. You can Do The Necromonicon and doubt your holiday weekend companions while singing out a strong broadway melody, and do it all without having to get stage blood on your outfit.
A controversial player follows up a disappointing NBA career with a major success in the Chinese Basketball Association, including two national titles with the Beijing Ducks (yes, they're named after the delicious Peking Duck dish). Now, he's Starring in a musical about himself in Beijing.(NYT)
The Light-Blue Puppy is a visually extraordinary India Ink-animated Soviet musical children's cartoon made in 1976, only recently translated into English. It tells the tale of a small, sad puppy who has been rejected by his peers for his unusual color, but nevertheless manages to find his way in the world (with some help from a few other colorful characters, of course). On its surface it appears to be a cute, cleverly-animated story with a simple message of tolerance. [more inside]
SF/F legend Connie Willis pours a preview of a near-future version of the story of backstage back-stabbing, " All About Eve" with "All About Emily" for Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine.
Neil Patrick Harris is getting glowing reviews for his turn in the title role in Hedwig And The Angry Inch, now playing on Broadway. But wait, why is "internationally ignored song stylist" Hedwig even playing Broadway in the first place? Because the Belasco Theater was suddenly available because Hurt Locker: The Musical opened and closed on the same night. In fact, the floor of the theater is found to be littered with discarded Playbill magazines for the failed production. [more inside]
Sooner Or Later is a torch song written by Broadway idol Stephen Sondheim for the 1990 film Dick Tracey, Here's it performed by Bernadette Peters for the RuPaul show in 1997. Oscar performance by Madonna. Album version. Film version .
"To Celebrate the Phenomenal Music of Disney's Frozen, Cast Members took to the Stage to Treat a Small Audience to a Live Performance." Kristen Bell took it one step further, by performing her song, Do You Want to Build a Snowman with each stanza done as the main character Anna at a different age.
Written for the dedication of The John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in 1971, Leonard Bernstein created MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers as a memoriam for John F Kennedy and as a thoroughly modern theater musical piece to reflect both its current times and universal questions of faith and existence. A recasting of the Tridentine Mass (in Latin), featuring additional lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a brilliant lyric quatrain from Paul Simon, the full staging requires multiple choruses, a full stage performance company (including ballet cast), a marching band, a rock band, and many others. The 2012 BBC Proms featured a concert performance [1h56m, including introduction sequences]. MASS has had very few full theatrical stagings since its premiere, although now, over 50 years after its creation, it is beginning to find new acclaim and appreciation. [more inside]
Since the taxonomical work of Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs* in the early twentieth century, organologists have classified musical instruments into four major categories, each distinguished by its primary sound-producing mechanism: idiophones (vibrating body), membranophones (vibrating membrane), chordophones (vibrating strings) and aerophones (vibrating air columns). Beyond these basic divisions, scholars have proposed such logically consistent additions as electrophones (for electronic instruments) and corpophones (for the human body as a source of sound). We propose a seventh category: fictophones, for imaginary musical instruments. Existing as diagrams, drawings or written descriptions, these devices never produce a sound. Yet they are no less a part of musical culture for that. Indeed, fictophones represent an essential if hitherto unrecognized domain of musical thought and activity, and it is in order to catalog these conceptual artifacts that we have established the first institution of its kind: The Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments.
Disney's FROZEN: How one simple suggestion broke the ice on the Snow Queen's decades-long story problem
Back in 08', filmcow.com, the people behind Charlie The Unicorn and other such Internet nonsense, released a darling little video about adorable singing ferrets signing about the things they love, "Make Me Smile!"
Is Saving Mr. Banks, Disney's retelling of the events surrounding the adaptation of Mary Poppins a corporate, borderline-sexist spoonful of lies which throws author P. L. Travers under the bus?
Fun Home: Is America Ready for a Musical About a Butch Lesbian?
Q&A from Alison Bechdel
Watching Sondheim Watch Fun Home
Q&A from Alison Bechdel
Watching Sondheim Watch Fun Home
Anatomy of a Song (1976) is a half hour documentary (part two here) about Stephen Sondheim's song Someone in a Tree, from the musical Pacific Overtures. Sondheim talks about the challenges and thought processes behind what he calls his favourite of his own songs. See the original 1976 show in full here. Also see this earlier post on the same song.