“We know that when good fortune favors two such men, it stands to reason we deserve it too!”

Fiddler on the Roof

One of those iconic musicals that most everyone has probably heard of. The soundtrack is fun (yes, that is the John Williams listed as the orchestrator; no, he did not compose the music). My high school did this musical the year before I entered. And the community theatre performed it fairly recently; my family went to see the performance because we knew the leading man. The story is set in the early twentieth century in Russia. We begin with a silhouetted fiddler playing on a roof. The story is narrated by Tevye, a Jewish peasant. He remarks that we are all like fiddlers on a roof, trying to scratch out a tune, without breaking our necks (when the high school did its production, they brought in a younger violinist; very good and easier to put on a set). The Jewish community in Anatevka is full of Traditions; each person in the family has a role to play; they know who they are and what God expects of them. The fathers are head of the house, mothers keep the house, sons learn a trade, and daughters learn from their mothers and will marry whomever their fathers decide. We also get a glimpse of their larger world; the Rabbi asks that God bless and keeps the Tsar far from them and the Jews don’t bother the Christians that live next to them and so far, the Christians don’t bother them.

tevyeAt Tevye’s home, Yente the matchmaker visits with a match for the eldest daughter, Tzeitel. Tzeitel’s next younger sisters Hodel and Chava are eager for Tzeitel to marry so they may marry next. But Tzeitel points out the consequences of Matchmaker. They are poor girls with no dowry, they’ll be lucky for any man, not necessarily the perfect match. Tevye arrives home, tired from working and ponders If I Were a Rich Man (and everyone knows the dance for that!)

Changes are coming to Anatevka; a student from Kiev has arrived, Perchik, on top of news of Jews being evicted from their village. Perchik arranges to teach Tevye’s children, in exchange for room and food and accompanies Tevye home for the Sabbath. The tailor, Motel, a childhood friend of Tzeitel’s, also joins in the Sabbath. As the family prepares, Tevye’s wife, Golde, urges her husband to speak to the butcher, Lazar Wolf, who is interested in marrying Tzeitel. Meanwhile, Tzeitel argues with Motel; he needs to ask her father for her hand now, before an arrangement is made with Lazar Wolf; the young couple are in love. Motel is frightened by Tevye and remains silent during the Sabbath prayer.

Tevye visits Lazar Wolf and there is brief confusion on the nature of their conversation; soon cleared up and Tevye eventually agrees to the match. The men celebrate, drinking To Life, “l’chaim!” (This is a fun song!) At the bar, the Jewish men encounter the Russians and there is a back-and-forth between them, melding the dances at the end. [I love this dancing. When I was young, I was part of a Ukrainian dance troupe, friends of my mother’s. At one point, my brother could do some of those moves. The leader from the dance troupe taught the dances to the high school performers and members of the troupe danced during the community’s production.]

On his way out, Tevye is stopped by his friend, the Russian Constable. He warns Tevye that there will be an “unofficial demonstration” made. Come morning, Tevye tells Tzeitel of the arrangement. She cries and begs her father; is his agreement more important than her? Tevye won’t make Tzeitel marry Lazar Wolf. Motel comes by and Tzeitel nudges him to talk to Tevye. The nervous man grows a backbone and stands up to Tevye; the young couple had made each other a pledge; they love each other. Tevye debates (“on the one hand…on the other hand”) and agrees. They are thrilled and rush off. Motel believes that this was a Miracle of Miracles, equal to Daniel walking through the lion’s den. Now, Tevye has to tell Golde. He concocts a dream (this is a weird scene) that Golde’s grandmother visits to congratulate the family on Tzeitel’s (her namesake) marriage to Motel. Golde insists it’s Lazar Wolf. But Lazar Wolf’s first wife appears and vows to kill Tzeitel shortly after the wedding if she marries Lazar Wolf. Golde accepts the dream as a sign.

Tzietel’s sisters are finding men as well. The radical student Perchik charms Hodel and opens her eyes to changes in the world. In cities, men and women dance together. A Russian Christian, Fyetka comes to the aid of Chava when other men bother her. He has noticed she likes to read and offers a book to her; they can discuss it later.

bottle dance

Motel and Tzeitel marry; her parents reminisce to Sunrise, Sunset (a musical theme that appears throughout the film). There is a dance (again, love the music) and the men even perform a bottle dance. An argument erupts from the gifts between Lazar Wolf and Tevye; Perchik breaks it up by dancing with Hodel. Tevye supports his actions and dances with Golde, as well as Motel with Tzeitel. The Rabbi even joins, though he puts a kerchief between his hand and the lady’s. The evening ends on a sour note when Russian soldiers appear and break things. The Constable puts a quick stop to things; sadly, they only turn their attention to the town and smash and burn.

The second act opens with a reprise of Tradition. Some time has passed; it is now autumn and Tevye remarks to God that Motel and Tzeitel have been married for a while. Perchik tells Hodel he must leave, to support the students in Kiev. He, in a roundabout way, asks Hodel to marry him. She agrees. They then ask Tevye for his blessing, not his permission, contrary to tradition. Tevye debates and ultimately blesses their engagement and gives his permission. Perchik gives Tevye the idea to tell Golde he is visiting a rich uncle. The couple have given Tevye a thought; they love each other, so he asks Golde, Do You Love Me? After twenty-five years, they have come to love each other.

In winter, Perchik is arrested at the rally in Kiev and writes to Hodel. She decides to join him in Siberia and bids farewell to her father; her family will always be with her, even if she is Far From the Home I Love. Some happy news comes; Motel and Tzeitel have a new arrival; a sewing machine. Oh yes, and a baby boy as well. Fyetka tries to speak to Tevye, but is dismissed. Tevye warns Chava not to speak to him anymore; some things do not change. She should be interested in marrying a young man of her faith. She resists and tells her father that she wants to marry Fyetka. Tevye refuses. We next see Golde enter the Christian church and ask for the priest. She finds Tevye afterwards and informs him Chava and Fyetka have been married. Tevye tells his wife to go home to their other children (two more daughters); Chava is dead to them. He reminisces on his Little Bird (superimposed with a ballet). Chava finds him and begs her father’s acceptance. “There is no other hand!” Tevye cannot turn his back on his people, on his faith. Chava cries “Papa!”

More bad news comes. The rumors are true; verified by the arrival of the Constable; Anatevka is to empty of Jews in three days. The same thing is happening all over Russia. Tevye argues; they have always lived in this corner of the world, why should they leave? The Constable shouts, there is trouble in the world. Orders are orders! Tevye orders him off his land. One of the villagers asks the Rabbi, would now be a good time for the Messiah? The Rabbi responds, they will have to wait for him somewhere else. The villagers sing of their Anatevka; it wasn’t great, but it was home. Tevye and his family will go to America to family in New York. They hope that Tzeitel, Motel, and their son will be able to join them. Hodel and Perchik are still in Siberia. Chava stops by with Fyetka; they will not remain while the Jews cannot. Tzeitel speaks to her sister and passes on Tevye’s wish, “God be with you.” Chava promises to write. The last scene we see is the fiddler following Tevye’s family.

The first half of the show is far happier than the second half.  When I watch the film, I focus on the first half; it holds more of the fun music.  As I already mentioned, I enjoy the dancing in the show, having a bit of experience in it.  And when you focus on the happy parts; Tevye being frustrated by his daughters choosing their own husbands, which to us is completely normal, it distracts from the historical significance of the story.  Because those bad things happened and they happened a lot (and yeah…in a few decades, get worse).  But hey, they have bottle dancing!  And Tevye makes funny sounds talking to his animals!  And three women daydream about their perfect husband!  (They kind of get what they want, learned and interesting men, but not in the way they imagined and they all have to give something up, like financial security and family).

[Historical note: the term “pogrom” appears early in the show and refers to the persecution or massacre of an ethnic or religious group, mainly Jewish. A bit of foreshadowing in the show. I learned the term during my Honors’ Holocaust class in college.]

Next Time: Another iconic musical; Annie

“Simple and sweet…and sassy as can be!”

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

This is a favorite of my mother’s (she was starting to wear the color out on the tape before we got the DVD) and has become one of my favorite musicals as well. My mother took me to Pittsburgh to see it on stage as a treat in high school. A few interesting facts: was produced by the same studio as Brigadoon and outperformed it. And there was a brief 80’s show based on the story and starred Richard Dean Anderson (original MacGyver). The film stars Howard Keel (a staple of musicals in the 1950s) and Jane Powell. Russ Tamblyn (Riff from West Side Story) is the youngest Pontipee brother, Gideon. The story is set in 1850 in the Oregon Territory.

Adam Ponitpee is the eldest of seven brothers and comes to town to trade and find himself a wife. As he looks over the ladies of the town, his deep voice belts out Bless Your Beautiful Hide and finally settles on Millie when he spies her chopping wood and serving food to half a dozen men. She agrees to the hasty wedding, happy to get away from the inn. On their way through Echo Pass to the back country, she sweetly sings Wonderful, Wonderful Day. Then she gets an unwelcome shock at the house in the form of her new husband’s six brothers. They’re all filthy and the house is a mess. The Pontipees’ parents named their children in alphabetical order with Bible names: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank (short for Frankincense, since there really wasn’t an “F” name in the Old Testament), and Gideon. Adam leaves Millie to get to work. At dinner she finds out they have deporable manners and shoves the table over: “if you’re going to act like hogs, then you can eat like hogs!” She refuses to let Adam sleep with her on their wedding night, angry that he let her carry on about her dreaming of caring for only one man and not correcting her. He decides to sleep in the tree and she takes pity on him; When You’re in Love, but Adam crashes into the bed. (Don’t worry, this isn’t the typical ‘love at first sight’ story).

The next morning, Millie starts her chores; she’s already washed the brothers’ outer clothes and demands their underwear they sleep in before they can have breakfast. They must also wash and shave. A pleasant surprise; she’s married into a handsome family of red-heads. And being without clothes means the brothers have to behave nicely in order to get food. They’re so taken with their new sister they all accompany her to town and are determined to get girls for themselves. But being backwoodsmen, they don’t know who to talk to girls, so they get into a fight with local townsmen. Millie takes them home and teaches them Goin’ Courtin’. The girls in town all have several men chasing after them, so the Pontipee brothers need to have proper manners.

barn dance

A few months have passed and the family heads back to town for a barn raising. Millie makes the brothers promise not to fight and they start pairing off with the local girls. I love the Barn Dance, with its swirling skirts, bright shirts, and acrobatic tricks [this is how real men dance]. It becomes a competition between the Pontipees and the townsmen for the girls. Frank is a superb dancer. The girls choose the Ponitpees at the end. Then it’s another competition between all the men to raise the barn. The townsmen get back at the brothers by hitting them with hammers and wood, resulting in a big fight, once Adam scolds his brothers for being too weak. However, at the end, the women tend to their townsmen.

Gideon asks his eldest brother for advice and Adam reprises When You’re in Love, but ruins the moment by telling his brother that one woman is just like all the rest. Winter descends on the farm and the brothers are pining for their girls; they’re like a Lonesome Polecat. (The scene was shot all in one shot and features Ephraim [Jacques d’Amoise, on loan from the New York City Ballet]). Adam comes to their aid with the tale of Plutarch’s Sabine Women, or Sobbin’ Women. They decide they’ll be “just like them there Merry Men,” and steal their brides, because the Sabine women were ultimately happy and if it worked for the Romans, it’ll work for the Pontipees. And that’s what they do, capture the girls from their homes and ride back to the farm. The townsmen pursue, but the girls’ screams cause an avalanche in Echo Pass and they won’t be able to get through until spring.

Millie is furious when they arrive back home. The girls are crying, missing their families. Millie orders that the girls will stay in the house and the men will stay in the barn. Even Adam. Adam won’t stay in the barn when he has a rightful wife; he’ll pass the winter at the hunting cabin. Gideon tries to get Millie to stop him, but she tells her brother-in-law, Adam has to lean that he can’t treat people like he’s done. At first, the ladies are angry with the men and play tricks on them. But they start softening as winter carries on and eye the men when they come into the house for supplies. Yet, being stuck in the house together for so long, they eventually get in a cat fight. Millie breaks it up, announcing she’s pregnant. Then the girls begin to fantasize about their own weddings and babies and you know, “oh they say when you marry in June, you’re a bride all your life.” There’s a little dance, acting out the ceremony.

All at once, it’s Spring, Spring, Spring and the women pair with the men, marveling at the baby animals that have come out. And Millie’s baby comes, a little girl. Gideon goes to Adam again, to persuade him home. Doesn’t he want to see his own daughter? He even hits his older brother. Adam sends Gideon back; he’ll be home once the pass is open. When he does come home to name his daughter Hannah, picking up where his mother left off, it means the townsmen are on their way. Adam persuades his brothers to take their girls back; they won’t marry the brothers if it comes to a fight and one of their kinfolk are hurt. But the girls don’t want to go back and hide from the brothers. That’s how they’re all found and the townsfolk are ready to hang the brothers, until they hear a baby’s cry. All of the girls claim the child is theirs, so their new sweethearts won’t be killed. The film ends happily; Adam and Millie have reconciled and the parson performs a six-way shotgun wedding. The fathers are actually standing there with their shotguns.

Millie sure is a spitfire, whipping all the Pontipee brothers into shape. She corrects Adam’s and his brothers’ misleading thoughts on women. She does the work, but she also wants to be treated properly. June Bride gave me the idea originally that I’d like to marry in June (I have since changed my daydream). The dancing is phenomenal; I especially like Frank during the Barn Dance. Overall, it’s a happy show.

Next: Another favorite in our house; White Christmas (Yes, I know it’s out of season and I usually hate that, but it fits now)

“I Used to Be a Rovin’ Lad”

Brigadoon

My senior musical, once again in the ensemble, though I had a four-word solo in a big chorus number. My mother made my costume, so I would actually look Scottish and not American colonial (seriously, the costumes came with mop caps). Overall, I was just happy we were doing a musical about Scotland, but part of me was also disappointed I didn’t actually have a part. I already knew this show going in. The film stars Gene Kelly (most famous for An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain, but a staple of musicals in the fifties and sixties) as Tommy Albright, a New Yorker, hunting in Scotland with his friend. They get lost and discover the mysterious village of Brigadoon. Gene Kelly was also the choreographer of the film and thus it features a lot of incredible dancing. The musical was written by Lerner and Loewe, just as prolific as Rodgers and Hammerstein.

As the mists clear around Brigadoon at the start of the show, a quiet chorus sings Brigadoon. The show really starts with MacConnachy Square as the town rises for the day, selling their wares. And today is a special day; the wedding of Charlie Dalrymple to Jeanie Campbell. At the Campbell home, the young women are preparing. They talk about Jeanie Packing Up (which was not included in the film) and Jeanie’s older sister, Fiona remarks that she is Waitin’ for My Dearie.

The hunters, Tommy and Jeff, enter the village square truly perplexed not only at people’s dress, but Fiona was the only friendly person. Charlie however is thrilled and invites the strangers to his wedding, for he will Go Home with Bonnie Jean (this is a fun song). Fiona stops by the square for items for the wedding and takes Tommy out to find Heather on the Hill. While she is gone, Charlie stops by the house to sign the family Bible and sings to his intended, Come to Me, Bend to Me (very romantic, and sadly not included in the film). Local flirt, Meg Brockie takes Jeff for a nap, then makes a fuss when he doesn’t want to sleep with her, for she was trying to find The Love of My Life (also cut from the film, apparently too risqué).

brigadoon dancing

Tommy is quite taken by Fiona and remarks to Jeff when they meet up, It’s Almost Like Being in Love. However, he begins to take note of people mentioning a miracle and a blessing and finds the dates in Fiona’s family Bible. She takes them to the schoolmaster, Mr. Lundie, who tells them about Mr. Forsythe, the minister, praying to God for a miracle to protect the village from witches in the eighteenth century. [Historical note: not sure the person who wrote this musical quite figured out their timelines; the Battle of Culloden (those who watch Outlander will understand the significance) happened in Scotland in April of 1746 and this miracle supposedly happened in May of 1746 and witches were not as prevalent…maybe the English trying to take over their land. Witches might be a more reasonable cause a hundred years prior]. Carrying on, God granted a miracle, that Brigadoon would disappear into the mists and appear once every hundred years; when the villagers go to bed, it’s one year, when they rise the next morning, it’s a hundred years later [don’t think about the math too much or you realize bad things]. If someone from the outside wants to stay, they must love someone enough to leave their old life. But a villager can’t leave, or the whole village will disappear forever.

And this is where Harry Beaton causes a problem. He’s in love with Jeanie Campbell, who is happily marrying Charlie Dalrymple. The clans gather for the wedding, all clad in tartan (though if you want to see true Highland garb, watch Outlander; yes, tartan breeches were a thing, a weird thing, but nonetheless, real. Oh yes, and further historical note: it was after the Battle of Culloden that wearing tartan was outlawed, thanks to the English). And it is true Scottish custom that there need not be a minister present at a wedding, as long as the two being married share mutual consent [this has popped up in Scottish romances; women cannot be married against their will]. There is a dance, including a lovely one by Jeanie. Then a sword dance (real thing, and also cut from the film, boo). Harry participates and runs off after seeing Jeanie happy, shouting he will leave Brigadoon and doom them all. Tommy joins the men in The Chase, hunting Harry Beaton down before he can ruin things. Jeff has wandered off to hunt and thinks he’s shooting at a bird. Harry is the one who falls down dead.

Meg Brockie entertains the wedding guests with the tale of My Mother’s Wedding Day, until the men return with Harry (this is all cut from the film; Fiona and Jeanie’s father tells everyone to keep quiet and not disturb the joyous occasion. Another cut song by Tommy is There But For You Go I). Tommy is ready to stay in Brigadoon, until Jeff tells him what happened. Tommy begins to doubt enough that he won’t stay. But once he returns to New York and his fiancée, he cannot concentrate. Little words will remind him of something and he ignores what is going on. Tommy breaks it off with his fiancée and drags Jeff back to Scotland. He gets a miracle of his own; the town was just starting to disappear and he can enter. As Mr. Lundie remarked, “if you love something enough, anything is possible.”

The music in this show is fun, especially the songs that were cut; upon re-watching of the film, I had never noticed that they weren’t in the film. It features, as many other musicals do, a couple falling in love at first sight; which I always argue is never a good way to start a lasting relationship, or least, not a believable one. Gene Kelly is of course, a remarkable dancer and his partner is skilled as well.

Up Next: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

“Rub Him Outta the Role Call, and Drum Him Outta Your Dreams”

South Pacific

My high school performed this Rodgers and Hammerstein show my junior year. My friend from church, Chelsea was the lead. I was once again simply in the ensemble as a nurse. The show is set on a South Pacific island during World War II (there was a remake in 2001 starring Glenn Close and Harry Connick Jr, and a special concert at Carnegie Hall starring Reba McEntire in 2005 [which was, ironically, the year my high school performed]). Marine lieutenant Joe Cable comes to go on a secret mission to spy on the nearby Japanese and wants local French planter Emile de Becque to help. Emile has also fallen in love with a Navy nurse on the island, Nellie Forbush. Local woman, known as Bloody Mary likes how handsome Cable is and decides he is right to marry her daughter, Liat.

The naval personnel stationed on the island, the “Seabees” start off singing about Bloody Mary, then remark There is Nothin’ Like a Dame (gotta say, love the deep, full tone the men’s chorus achieves.  Ironically, we sang this at a county choir performance the same year). Nellie and the other nurses run by and we find out that sailor Luther Billis runs several side jobs to help people out. This is when Bloody Mary spots Lt. Cable and tells him about Bali Ha’i. From there, we check on Emile and Nellie at Emile’s plantation. Nellie turns out to be a Cock-Eyed Optimist. Both worry that they are not right for the other, but in just a few weeks they have fallen in love. Emile is certain and remarks in Some Enchanted Evening (the most well known song from the show) “once you have found her, never let her go.” Nellie returns to base and Emile’s children come out to see their papa and sing a little French song, Dites Moi.

Lt. Cable has spoken to command and they call in Nellie to ask her questions about Emile, determining whether he is reliable to take Joe to the other island. It is on record that Emile killed a man back in France. This concerns Nellie and she remarks to her friends, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair. Unbeknownst to her, Emile has come by; she’s startled out of her dance and rinses her hair to speak to him. He has come to invite her back to his plantation for a party and to tell her more about himself. The man he killed in France was a bully, during a bar fight. Then he asks Nellie to marry him. Relieved and ecstatic, Nellie has changed her tune, I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy. But when Emile meets with command, he declines the mission, not wanting to risk his future with Nellie.

gonna wash that man right outta my hair

Frustrated, Cable lets Billis take him to Bali Ha’i. Billis observes the famous boar’s tooth ceremony and Bloody Mary introduces Joe to Liat and he instantly falls in love with the girl who is Younger Than Springtime. He sadly has to leave (after they spend some time together). And after Emile’s party, Nellie finds out about his children and runs off when she realizes he had Polynesian wife before her (I don’t quite get that thinking, but I also wasn’t around during the forties and fifties).

The second half of the show returns to Bali Ha’i and Bloody Mary explains Happy Talk and how fine of a husband Joe Cable will make for Liat. But he won’t abandon his fiancée in Philadelphia. Now Liat will have to marry an older French plantation owner. We’re cheered up a bit by the Thanksgiving show that Nellie puts on. Honey Bun is a fun number, with Luther Billis. Emile has come to see the show and sent Nellie flowers, but when he talks to her, she can’t explain why she is so upset about his previous wife and she runs off. Joe remarks to the Frenchman You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught, about racism, which he is struggling with in regards to Liat. But he’s come to the decision that he won’t leave Liat, except it’s time to go on the mission and Emile has agreed, now that Nellie has broken his heart; This Nearly Was Mine.

They land safely and get word back to base about the Japanese’s movements. Nellie finds out that Emile went and her heart decides that she does love him. Sadly, Joe dies on the island (enemy fire) and Emile gets the last news out; the Japanese are pulling out and will be the perfect target. So all the Marines and seamen and nurses gather up to leave. Nellie is with Emile’s children and listen to their reprise of Dites-Moi when Emile walks in. At least one story ended happy.

I have fairly fond memories of performing; one of my classmates asked my brother (on break from a military college) for help. I was still put in horrible costumes, but I enjoyed the group performances. Watching the movie again, the filters are horrible. Some of the music is still good, but I’m not fond of the storyline between Joe and Liat; it’s too sudden. And they know nothing about each other. So, not a favorite.

Next Time: Brigadoon (which is a favorite)

“My Heart’s Keeping Time to the Speed of Sound”

I love musicals. Some of my earliest memories are listening to Cats [we named one of our cats “Tugger” after Rum Tum Tugger] or Phantom of the Opera with my mother. (Dad was classic rock on the radio or The Beach Boys). I took dance lessons for eight years and I started singing in church choir in kindergarten; I played the piano, flute, and viola. I would create my own dances in living room to songs as a kid. At one point I wanted to be on Broadway, but I hate practicing and I realized early on that I would have to be very lucky, no matter how good I was. I was fortunate to have good music instructors; the Ellenbergers as a child in church, Dr. Barr once I got to college. I fully support singing in the shower and my favorite part about driving is singing in the car. I’ve learned most songs without ever seeing sheet music or lyrics; just repeatedly listening. I remember music (well, more singing than actually playing) better than some school subjects.  I always sing along to those “try not to sing” videos with musicals and love it when I know a song.

I was excited for high school since it meant I could be in musicals. Freshman year, I did not make it into 42nd Street, so I went on stage crew, which was fun in its own right. Sophomore year was Music Man, junior year South Pacific, and senior year was Brigadoon. I was always in the ensemble; which I was happy enough to at least be in the shows, but still stung a little, especially senior year. I joined choirs in college and wanted to get involved with the theatre, but I already had a double major (Creative Writing and History…like y’all couldn’t tell), and part of the Honors Program and after joining choir, I figured I wouldn’t have enough time to do everything.

I believe I have mentioned before that I was on cast at a local-ish (it’s an hour from my house) medieval faire one summer; and it was a blast. But I can’t always make that time commitment. I still appreciate the work the cast goes through every year. My community is lucky enough to have a volunteer chorale and theatre group, but working retail means I rarely have time to get involved. I managed to participate in the chorale for two years and then left, for reasons.  Still love musicals, always will. I will probably still dance around my room. And now I share that love with all of you.

Some classic or well known musicals that are not entirely my favorites, but I figure deserve at least a mention.

West Side Story: This is an iconic show and Steven Spielberg is actually working on a new version, possibly due out this year. Features gangs in New York City in the 1950s, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and screenplay by Ernest Lehman (he’s also done the screenplay for Hello, Dolly and Sound of Music). The film won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture and is a modern re-telling of Romeo and Juliet. I do not like Romeo and Juliet, so I’m not terribly fond of this story (it also ends really sad). But, I love the music and dancing. A lot of what the men do is a crossover between ballet and modern. America is my favorite number. As part of a choir, I have sung a medley of several numbers. Tonight is pretty, but schmaltzy, as is Somewhere (I vaguely remember singing that for high school graduation). Gee, Officer Krupke is a bit funny.

Fun note: the teacher at the dance played Gomez Addams in the 60s television series. Riff, leader of the Jets, is played by Russ Tamblyn, who we will see in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (for some reason, his character reminds me of Captain Kirk from the original series; I think it’s the hair and the fact he wears yellow). The film also famously stars Natalie Wood, and Rita Moreno (I was surprised to learn she voiced the titular Carmen Sandiego in the 90s educational cartoon Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? along with appearing in The King and I).

My Fair Lady: Julie Andrews starred in the original Broadway run of this show, but the part went to Audrey Hepburn for the film; Julie was cast in Mary Poppins instead (for which she went on to win an Academy Award). I don’t mind a couple of the songs, like With a Little Bit of Luck, but the show drags. I do imagine that it is hard for someone who has spoken proper English to spend half the show with a rough accent (maybe we should have studied this in my Historical Development of the English Language Class).

The King and I: A classic Rodgers and Hammerstein that tells the story of British (actually Welsh) Anna Leonowens traveling to Siam (present-day Thailand) as governess to the king’s many children in his effort to join the modernizing Western world. Of course, the two disagree at first, but eventually fall in love. It actually is a bittersweet ending, just when they both realize they care for each other (after avoiding each other for weeks due to an argument), the king dies. The story takes place in 1862, so mentions are made of Queen Victoria and the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln (the king wants to send elephants to aid the war effort). Slavery is brought up and the play based upon Uncle Tom’s Cabin that the one wife creates is…interesting.

shall we dance

The children are adorable. This time period also means that Anna wears large hoop skirts the entire time (a bit humorous when the Siamese ladies try to wear them). There are two songs in this production that I really like, Getting to Know You and Shall We Dance. The film stars Deborah Kerr as Anna, Yul Brynner (who created the role of the King on Broadway, along with playing Rameses in 1956’s The Ten Commandments) as King Mongkut, and Rita Moreno is back as Tuptim.

Singin’ in the Rain: As with many other musicals on this list, I don’t mind a few songs. The titular song that Gene Kelly famously dances is a great piece, but I like Moses Supposes or Make ’em Laugh better. Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds also stars in the film.

Oklahoma: A classic that, like West Side Story, I am not fond of the story; it gets creepy at the end. The only reason we own a version on DVD is because it stars Hugh Jackman.

Yankee Doodle Dandy: An old musical, from the forties, in black and white, starring James Cagney as George M. Cohen, who wrote Over There, Give My Regards to Broadway, Yankee Doodle Dandy, and You’re a Grand Old Flag; all of which appear in the musical. I’ll sometimes watch it around Independence Day.

RENT: I have never seen the show, but I do like Seasons of Love and enjoy parts of La Vie Bohem. My friend Nikki likes the show (oh, and Idina Menzel appears in the movie version).

Sweeney Todd: Saw it once, against my will on a bus trip. Nope, nope, nope. Doesn’t help that it was directed by Tim Burton (I am not a Burton fan), and stars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, and Timothy Spall (Peter Pettigrew). Stephen Sondheim wrote the music and everyone in the most recent movie did their own singing. Angela Landsbury was the first Mrs. Lovatt, and ain’t that a way to mess with your mind. In case you are unaware, a major part of the musical, which is subtitled The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is two of the main characters bake people into pies. Hence why I didn’t want to watch it in the first place, but I was outvoted (so I hid), and why I will never watch it again.

Into the Woods: One of Stephen Sondheim’s most well-known shows. I have only seen the film version from 2014. It is a star-studded production with Anna Kendrick, Daniel Huttlestone (we’ll see him in Les Mis), James Corden, Emily Blunt, Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp, and Chris Pine. I admit that Agony with Chris Pine was hilarious. I liked his character, until he turned out to be a jerk. All the performances were great, but it is a darker look on our favorite fairy tales – that’s the point, taking them back to their roots.

Wicked: I have not read the book it is based on, which tells the story of the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz (I believe I have already mentioned, not a fan of the movie). But, I saw the show in Chicago while on a college choir trip. Idina Menzel really made her name for her role as Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) and played opposite Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda. The show explains the backstory of many of the supporting roles from Wizard of Oz and really makes Elphaba sympathetic. Stephen Schwartz composed the music and I have sung a medley of the tunes in choir in high school, such as One Short Day, For Good, and of course, Defying Gravity (I do like this song and is an awesome solo to belt out). What is This Feeling and Popular are hilarious. There are rumors of making a movie out of the show.

Chicago: I like All That Jazz and Cell Block Tango; I do not like the story. The 2002 film stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Richard Gere.

Footloose: I actually prefer the newer one. The original starred Kevin Bacon (andnew footloose included music, like the title track by Kenny Loggins, who also did Danger Zone from Top Gun). Big city kid moves to small town to discover they have outlawed dancing due to an accident several years ago. He hooks up with the preacher’s daughter, Ariel, who’s acting out against her father. Everything is eventually resolved and they do hold a dance at the end. The newer version came out in 2011 and starred Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars pro) as Ariel and Kenny Wormald (a professional dancer as well) as Ren. Dennis Quaid plays the town’s preacher. It was updated from 1984 and I like the newer dance moves, though it is a very close remake. There’s a fun country song by Big and Rich, Fake ID (I can stand country music, I will not claim it as a favorite). Ok, the demeaning way his friend talks about women sometimes makes me want to slap him.

Hairspray: The 2007 film was an all-star cast with John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Allison Janney, Brittany Snow, and Zac Efron. I enjoyed it for the most part, and I still remember all the words to You Can’t Stop the Beat (the ending of the movie is a lot of fun), which I sang as a freshman in high school choir [translating to over ten years ago].

High School Musical: I was in high school when these came out. It made stars out of Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, and Zac Efron, and was directed by Kenny Ortega. The original was better than either sequel. It was a bit funny when they featured it in an episode of Suite Life of Zach and Cody with the running gag that Maddie didn’t look like Ashley Tisdale (Ashley played Maddie). When I was in Disney senior year, my friends and I joined that Pep Rally they had going on and learned the dance to We’re All in This Together (so when ABC just did their Disney Sing-Along Night; which I loved period, it was fun to see the cast reunited and doing the dance). The soundtrack is a bit nostalgic.

org hsm

Now, my experience in high school musicals was different than depicted here; a lot of my classmates were involved in the arts (our school supported students being well rounded with academics, arts, and athletics). Our marching band was over 200 strong, the lead guy senior year musical was on the football team (actually, football players had a habit of being in our musicals), track practices didn’t start until musical was done, a bunch of the kids were also in Advanced Placement courses…we were all just a bunch of overachievers. Yeah, we don’t Stick to the Status Quo. I do think this movie helped get more kids interested in musicals, making it more relevant to them.

Next: We will carry on with musicals, starting with Music Man.  Let me know what some of your favorite musicals are.

“Now You’re Hiring People Who Fail the Interview?”

Ten Inch Hero

My best friend got me to watch this movie; she has said it is the only rom com she will watch. And the reason we watch it: it stars Jensen Ackles (Dean in Supernatural) as Priestly, along with Danneel Harris (she’s now appeared as Sister Jo in Supernatural, as well as small roles in a variety of TV shows like JAG and Charmed) as Tish. Elizsabeth Harnois (the titular President’s daughter in 1998 TV movie opposite Will Friedle, she was also in an episode of Boy Meets World) is Piper, Sean Patrick Flanery (Connor in Boondock Saints; the same friend had me watch that movie. I have seen it, now I don’t have to; though that was the film that I exclaimed “it’s Dain!” at ten o’clock at night) appears as Noah, and Jordan Belfi (lead in Hallmark’s Snow Bride Christmas movie from 2013, as well as several spots in a variety of TV shows) makes an appearance.

The film takes place in Santa Cruz, California; mainly in the Beach City Grill, a sub shop (hence the title “ten inch hero,” meaning a sandwich). Piper arrives in town and applies for a job at the shop, which on its “Help Wanted” sign warns “Normal People Need Not Apply.” To prove she’s not normal, she just begins to doodle on their specials’ sign. The interview by hippie owner, Trucker involves answering whether famous people are dead or alive. She’s hired unanimously and works alongside Tish and Jen at the counter. The next day, cook Priestly makes an entrance, colored Mohawk, piercings, and odd shirts. We discover that Tish likes to flirt with guys and it drives Priestly nuts. Jen messages a guy online back and forth, Trucker likes Zo, the crystal shop lady across the road, and Piper keeps running into a father and daughter. Turns out, Piper had gotten pregnant young and had to give up her baby. She had been told that they would name the daughter Julia and the father’s name was Noah. Piper saw an article about gifted children and believes the local girl Julia is her daughter. Piper ends up becoming friends with the small family, under her middle name “Anna.”

ten-inch-hero

Cute guys (not that I’d be attracted to them) Tad and Brad come into the shop and Tish is right on them. The innuendo about their subs being ten inches comes out (this shop enjoys discussions on sex). Tad later comes back and asks Tish out. Jen now has a conumdrum, does she meet with her online friend? Her co-workers urge caution but also find out she has never slept with a guy or…experimented. Jen ultimately chooses to meet with the guy and the other two girls join her on a brief road trip in Trucker’s “cause-mobile,” gotta say, it makes a road trip look like fun. However, when they get there, Jen runs out when she discovers the guy (he was to be waiting with a white rose) is good looking. On her end, she wouldn’t mind if a guy isn’t good looking, but she figures a good looking guy wouldn’t be interested in her.

There is a hilarious scene where Priestly goes on a supply run for the shop and has to pick up tampons. He calls Tish for help, then gets to tell two teenaged boys off for laughing at the scenario, oh, he’s also wearing a kilt. He is not happy when he finds out that Jen wouldn’t meet her mystery man due to looks; she’s judging him on his looks. Tish demands an explanation; he retorts that women are so interested in the package (we sense underlying tension between Tish and Priestly).

Meanwhile, with Piper, she has gotten closer to Noah and Julia, under the name Anna. Noah asks her out and she agrees. One evening, Noah opens up about his ex-wife; she tried to kill her and Julia when Julia was a baby. He got her help and eventually left her alone with their daughter again. Then she hurt Julia a few years later. Noah divorced her and got custody. This confuses Piper a bit, because he mentioned post-partum depression. She realizes that Julia “is not my baby” and runs off.

Things are not going perfectly between Tish and Tad. Brad accompanies them on their dates a lot, then he comes in and wants to try a threesome. Tish refuses and ends up bumping her head because Tad wouldn’t let go. Tad blames her. When he comes back to the shop to pick her up, she lets him take her outside, but breaks things off with him. Then calls him out for trying to use her as a buffer between him and Brad, though Tad denies being gay. He slaps her. Priestly tackles him, but then Tad punches him. Trucker comes out and takes care of Tad. He calls everyone back to his place. Revelations come out. He knows how to fight because he was in Vietnam; he never went to Woodstock. When he came back after three tours, he got invovled with surfers and it soothed his soul; but that is why he doesn’t make a move with Zo, because how could she accept him? Jen discovers Zo in Trucker’s yearbook; while he was a senior football star, Zo was a freshman.

Noah comes back to talk to Piper and they settle things, promising honesty; he and Julia voted that they wanted Piper to fill the hole in their family. A homeless guy enters the shop (Jen is nice to them) and speaks to Jen. Then reveals himself to be her online friend. He just wants a chance. Also turns out that Priestly set them up, answering Jen’s computer after she left. The next day, a well dressed man comes into the shop to speak to Tish. It’s Priestly, but without product in his hair and no piercings and he’s dressed like a businessman. He’s a nice guy, asking her out, like Trucker wanted. She accepts, on one condition; he has to say what his first name is. Boaz. Trucker and Zo hook up and have a ceremony on the beach (why they’re naked, I’m not sure).

In the end, all turns out well. Everyone hooks up with the person they’re supposed to.

Oh, and a note about Jensen and Danneel; they had known each other before this film and hadn’t realized each other had been cast until they met on set. They fell in love on set and married in 2010.

I like this film. It’s fun, and fairly believable. Does it make me melt like some other romance scenes in other films and shows? No. But it’s good to put on if my brain needs a break. And I love Jensen’s look in this, mainly since it’s so different from how he typically looks (he did rock the dressed up look when he was on a soap opera. In Supernatural he is mainly in jeans, t-shirts, and flannel.)

There is a rather good fanfiction story about how Priestly ended up at Beach City Grill by fanfar3 entitled Born Again. I like the background on Priestly she came up with and his interaction with Trucker. The ending was a bit odd for me, but I encourage you to check it out!

So, what are some of your favorite romantic comedies?

Up Next: The beginning of the musical section, starting with Prince of Egypt (because the music is amazing)

A Little More Current

Made of Honor

Stars Patrick Dempsey (famous for Grey’s Anatomy, which I don’t watch) as Tom and features Kevin McKidd (we saw him in Last Legion and Kingdom of Heaven; he was Poseidon in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and voiced the MacGuffin clan in Brave) as Scottish Colin.

made of honorThe film opens in 1998, at Cornell University where Tom gets in bed with the wrong girl at Halloween. Ten years later, they’re best friends. Tom sleeps around, he has rules (to keep him from getting close to someone), but he and Hannah meet up once a week, joking and sharing food. Hannah has the opportunity to spend six weeks in Scotland for her art job. While Hannah is gone, Tom misses her and realizes he wants to take the next step with her. But when they meet for dinner once she is back, she announces she is engaged to Scottish Colin who rescued her during a thunderstorm. She asks Tom to be her maid of honor (she expects to be his best man when he marries).

With some encouragement from his guy friends, Tom accepts, so he can break up the wedding from inside. He’s set up to throw an embarrassing bridal shower by a jealous bridesmaid, but he does point out that due to the whirlwind nature of their courtship, Colin doesn’t know about the unique details of Hannah, that Tom knows. Overall, Tom impresses Hannah with his maid of honor duties. They fly to Scotland for the wedding, with the knowledge that Hannah plans to live there after the wedding. *sigh* I love the scenery. The film features Eilean Donan castle, near the Isle of Skye and the men participate in the Highland Games (a real thing). Colin even sings My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose, a poem written by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns (I adore the song and simply melt when I hear Welshman Bryn Terfel perform it) and plays the bagpipes. This all further cements that Hannah doesn’t truly know her fiancé (this all occurs in roughly two months).

Tom kisses Hannah during her bachelorette party, but Hannah is set to marry Colin. Tom leaves before the wedding, but soon realizes that he can’t let her go. He makes it to the church in time for the bit where the priest asks if anyone has cause for the couple to not marry “speak now or forever hold your peace.” He’s flung inside the church and admits “I love you,” to Hannah. She returns the ring to Colin, who then promptly punches Colin in the face. The film ends happily for the couple with their own wedding.

Overall, a fun, light-hearted film. I like it for the Scottish bits; I would gladly marry a man like Colin.

27 Dresses

Stars Katherine Heigl as Jane and James Marsden (Prince Edward in Enchanted and Cyclops in X-Men; he was also in Hairspray) as Kevin. Jane loves weddings and goes above and beyond for her friends as their bridesmaid. She meets Kevin, a wedding cynic while she is going between two weddings on the same night. He picks up her planner by accident, but keeps it when it gives him an idea for a story; he writes the commitment section of the newspaper, but wants a front-page story. He has met the typical “always a bridesmaid, never a bride.”

Jane happens to have a massive crush on her boss, George and bends over backwards as his assistant. Her friend calls her out on it; she really ought to say something, everyone knows it. This is interrupted when Jane’s younger sister, Tess comes to visit and hits it off with George. George ends up proposing to Tess a little while later, even though she hasn’t been completely honest with him about some aspects of her life; Jane has to witness it quietly. To top it off, Kevin is writing an article about the upcoming nuptials. He and Jane spend time together since she ends up doing a long of the planning. At her home one day, Kevin discovers a closet full of bridesmaid dresses, twenty-seven precisely. They spend a fun afternoon with her trying them on and him taking pictures. Later, they are stranded in a storm at a bar (singing Benny and the Jets together). Jane is recognized the next morning, not for that, but as the feature story, which the editor ran before Kevin could tell Jane.

Already upset, Jane discovers that her sister has cut up their mother’s wedding dress. She walks away from her sister and plans her revenge. At the rehearsal, Jane reveals the secrets Tess has been hiding, but meanly as her friend points out. George breaks off the engagement. he finally realizes that Jane has had a crush. They try kissing, but realize it does nothing. Jane leaves her job. Her father forces her to make up with Tess, her sister pointing out she is an adult now and does not need Jane to mother her any longer. Jane races off to find Kevin and reveals she has fallen in love with him.

The film ends sweetly with their wedding. George and Tess even seem willing to give their relationship another try. And all of Jane’s friends return, wearing the bridesmaid gowns from their weddings.

27-dresses

The Holiday

This is actually one of my favorite rom-coms and it certainly has a recognizable cast to it! Stars Jack Black (this is a much different role from School of Rock), Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet (Titanic, Sense and Sensibility), Jude Law (young Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts, Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes, starred in Anna Karenina, he was in Captain Marvel, the abomination that was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and voiced the bad guy in Rise of the Guardians), and Rufus Sewell (I think we’ve already covered that I adore him in period roles, such as A Knight’s Tale, Tristan and Isolde; he was in Amazing Grace and Masterpiece’s Victoria as well). Oh, and if Maggie looks familiar, she was in A Knight’s Tale as well, opposite Heath Ledger.

Both American Amanda (Cameron Diaz) and English Iris (Kate Winslet) are fed up with their love lives around Christmas and decide they need to get out of town and meet on a house exchange website. Amanda has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend and thrown him out of her house. Iris finds out that the man she has had a crush on and periodically dated for three years in engaged to another woman. Iris is thrilled by Amanda’s large L.A. home, while Amanda is a bit bored in Iris’s English cottage. At least, until Iris’s brother, Graham (Jude Law) stops by. He’s a bit drunk, she’s ready to go home in the morning, so given the circumstances, they decide it’s alright to sleep with each other. Then Amanda decides to stay and continues to meet up with Graham (he is a gentleman and does not have sex with her when she’s drunk to the point of unconsciousness)

In L.A. Iris’s ex, Jasper (Rufus Sewell) calls her for proofreading help [remember, the one that cheated on her, but they’ve stayed friends, though he’s now engaged to someone else]. She’s now a bit depressed until she spots a lost elderly man she recognizes from Amanda’s neighborhood. Turns out the man was a big time Hollywood writer back in the day. She convinces him to attend a celebration in his honor and works with him to improve his walking. She also meets Miles (Jack Black), a film composer. When he discovers that his girlfriend has started seeing someone else, he and Iris start hanging out.

the holiday

In England, Amanda and Graham are enjoying each other’s company, though Amanda wonders why Graham is getting calls from an Olivia and a Sophie. She discovers they are his daughters; he’s a widower. His daughters are utterly charming. Things are now a bit complicated, but they try to make it work. Graham admits that he has fallen in love with Amanda; she has promised she won’t fall in love with him and is frustrated by the idea of working on a long-distance relationship. We can tell she’s fallen for Graham though [and who wouldn’t fall for Jude Law?]. They part with no specific plan.

Jasper pays an unexpected visit to Iris (right after Miles’ ex calls him away). He needs her, he doesn’t want to lose her. Oh wait, he’s still engaged. Iris finally lets him have it and becomes the leading lady in her own life with a bit of gumption. She eagerly escorts her elderly friend to his celebration to a packed auditorium. Miles has left his ex and suggests he visits Iris at her home for New Year’s.

Amanda has also decided to stay for New Year’s after shedding a few tears (she hasn’t cried since her parents’ divorce when she was fifteen). The film ends with a heartwarming glimpse at a New Year’s party at Graham’s with his daughters, Iris, Amanda, and Miles.

I probably prefer these rom coms to some of the older ones, and The Holiday is really cute. Just one romantic comedy movie left, Ten Inch Hero