"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.
In 1975, CBS aired the half hour animated special "Really Rosie" with story and lyrics by Maurice Sendak (based on five of his children's books) and with music composed and performed by Carole King. Many have fond memories of the broadcast ("Chicken Soup with Rice" is a particular childhood earworm), and though it has yet to make it to DVD, you can watch it in full on YouTube. The special was later turned into an Off-Broadway production in 1980 and continues to be performed by kids across the country.
A full hour-long musical based on Breaking Bad and inspired by Andrew Lloyd Webber, as performed last month at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater in Los Angeles: Walter White And The Amazing Blue Crytal Meth.
French film Amélie (2001) is going to be adapted into a Broadway musical by American composer Dan Messe (Hem), who will be creating new music for the score. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet is disgusted by these plans, but sold the rights anyway to support a charity.
Theatre and film composer and GLAAD award winner Damon Intrabartolo has died at the age of 39. Intrabartolo is best known for the cult off-Broadway musical bare: a pop opera, the modern day Romeo and Juliet story of two boys who fall in love at a Catholic high school. [more inside]
You! The Musical! is a group of professional actors and musical theatre writers in New York who will literally write a musical about your loved one for their big day.
Who needs to wait a week for the Final Eight when instead one can just watch Breaking Bad: The Middle School Musical? [more inside]
The mad doctor is (temporarily) out. Five years ago this week, Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog went live, in three separate acts. Since then, there has been confirmation of plans for a sequel dating back to April 2009 -- and July 2011 -- but something always seems to come up... though Mr. Wheadon did have time to perform live, singing commentary on his project, which led to the recording of "Commentary" in 2010, reuniting the cast. Felicia Day, Jed Whedon, and even Nathan Fillion seem a little bit less busy, however... welding kid-toting robots and preparing for the zombie apocalypse.
What happens when the executive director of your lobbyist organization is hosting the national conference with a technical theater degree burning a hole in his pocket? A bewildering and Christopher Guestian piece of musical theater called "I'm In Payroll."
Tripod are an Australian comedy trio primarily known for the parodic humor, amusing lyrics, and musical talent displayed in their many performances on TV and at festivals. In 2010, Scod, Yon, and Gatesy teamed up with jazz singer Elana Stone to perform their greatest work yet: a two hour musical set in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
Awesome rendition of Jimi Hendrix' Voodoo Chile played on a gayageum, a Korean stringed instrument | Scuttle Buttin on the gayageum rocks as well | Joe Satriani's Starry Night, the gayageum version | Luna Lee's YouTube channel. A little about the gayageum.
For Your Consideration - Anne Hathaway (Emma Fitzpatrick) reminds the Academy to think of her on Oscar night via the magic of song.
Want to watch a film based on a musical by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil? No, for that one you'll have to wait until Christmas. Until then: Martin Guerre: A Musical Journey.
Professor Oak and Jigglypuff sing "A Whole New World" from Aladdin. [SLYT] CAUTION: amateur voice acting, general silliness ahead