“In sleep he sang to me/ in dreams he came/ that voice which calls to me/ and speaks my name”

The Phantom of the Opera

The longest running musical in history; it premiered in 1986 and celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011, only one year after Les Mis.  The most well known Andrew Lloyd Webber production, it is based on a French novel which has undergone numerous other iterations, including a black and white film from the twenties.  Michael Crawford was the first Phantom, chosen by Webber, though he originally thought Webber meant him for Raoul (I know someone who insisted that Colm Wilkinson was the best Phantom; I say let Colm have Les Mis and allow Michael Phantom), and Sarah Brightman was the first Christine (and married to Webber at the time; the part was essentially written for her…considering she is one of the few women to hit those high notes).  I knew the music of this show long before I fully knew the show or saw a rendition of it.  My mother is a fan of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and played them for my brother and I at a very young age.  I can recall hearing an instrumental version of Music of the Night playing in the background at the school library in fifth grade, and knowing it.  I did get the Original Cast recording, which includes a libretto and I learned the storyline that way.  In high school, my friend planned an impromptu party and took me to see the movie after a break-up.  It was actually perfect, since I already loved the show, though I have not seen it on stage.

A film was made of the famous stage show in 2004.  Gerard Butler was cast as the Phantom (not the best casting choice), Emmy Rossum (a child opera performer with the Metropolitan Opera) was Christine, Patrick Wilson was Raoul, Miranda Richardson (Rita Skeeter in Harry Potter) was Madame Giry, Ciaran Hinds (Aberforth Dumbledore, Amazing Grace, and Macne Rayder in Game of Thrones) was Firmin, Simon Callow (the Duke of Sandringham in Outlander, Shakespeare in Love, Charles Dickens in Doctor Who, and would later appear in The Man Who Invented Christmas) was Andre, and Kevin McNally (Mr. Gibbs in Pirates of the Caribbean) was Buquet.

The opening of the film appears in black and white; an auction at an old Parisian opera house in 1919.  An old gentleman bids on a monkey music box.  Then lot 666 (rather ominous) is next, a repaired chandelier which featured into the famous “Phantom disaster;” a mystery never fully explained.  As the chandelier rises, the iconic organ blares and the film moves into color as lights flicker on.  We are taken back to the same opera house in Paris in 1870.  Everyone is preparing backstage at the opera house, rehearsing a production on Hannibal.  Carlotta is the star soprano.  Rehearsal stops for a moment when the two new owners are introduced; the previous owner is retiring.  They also have a Vicomte as their patron.  One of the ballet dancers recognizes the Victomte as her childhood friend, Raoul.  Carlotta is a true diva; she stops production again and threatens to leave when the owners take more notice of the dancers than her, including young Christine Daae, the orphaned daughter of a well-known violinist.  Her friend, Meg’s mother is Madame Giry, in charge of the dancers.  The owners quickly learn to grovel to Carlotta.  She will sing the aria Think of Me.  Then a backdrop nearly falls on her.  The cast blames the accident on the mysterious Phantom of the Opera.  This time, she’s leaving.  Madame Giry recommends Christine can perform the role; “let her sing for you, monsieur; she has been well taught.”  And she indeed has a lovely singing voice.  She is transformed from chorus girl to the star of the show.

The Vicomte now sees her and recognizes his friend; she certainly has changed. (I have always considered Think of Me as Christine singing to Raoul: “We never said/ our love was evergreen/ or as unchanging as the sea/ but please promise me/ that sometimes/ you will think of me.”)  Christine earns a standing ovation and a deep, unseen voice also congratulates her.  Meg looks for her later amongst the celebrations.  She finds her friend in the chapel and inquires where Christine learned to sing.  Christine calls him her Angel of Music, promised to her by her father.  Really, she believes that it is her father’s spirit, though she is a bit frightened by him.  Raoul visits later and wants to take Christine to dinner to celebrate, but her Angel is very strict.  A mysterious black-gloved hand locks her door.  Then she hears music and a figure in the mirror.  She is drawn forward.  Raoul hears the voice through the door, but cannot enter.

original phantomThus begins the titular Phantom of the Opera (and most famous track of the entire show).  The Phantom, Christine’s Angel of Music, draws her down below the opera house to an underground lake.  He poles a boat across to his quarters, where there is a shrine to Christine.  But she is still transfixed, the Phantom’s “power over you/ grows stronger yet.”  The Phantom asks Christine to sing and she progresses higher and higher (eventually hitting an E two octaves above middle C).  The Phantom further seduces Christine with his voice in the darkly romantic Music of the Night [my favorite piece].  As an adult, you realize how creepy the Phantom truly is, declaring that young Christine belongs to him.  “Close your eyes/ and surrender/ to your darkest dreams/ purge your thoughts/ of the life/ you knew before.”  He shows her a mannequin of herself, decked out in a wedding dress.  She faints and the Phantom lays her on his bed; reminder, she is in her undergarments and a robe.

Above ground, Meg looks for her friend and even finds the passage, but her mother stops her.  Madame Giry also stops Buquet from telling the cast a scary story about the magical lasso.  She warns to keep your hand at the level of your eye.  Christine does awake and takes the mask off the Phantom.  He keeps a hand over his face and yells at Christine; now she cannot ever be free.  This whole experience is Stranger Than You Dreamt It.  The Phantom feels he is a gargoyle who burns in hell, yet secretly yearns for heaven.  He urges Christine that fear can turn to love (yep, really creepy).  She returns the mask and the Phantom returns her.

The following morning, Firmin and Andre discuss the previous evening; Firmin is certain that any publicity is good and will earn them money, “gossip’s worth its’ weight in gold.”  Andre is more cautious.  And they both have notes from the mysterious Phantom, demanding a salary and giving critique on the performance.  Raoul enters with a note as well, telling him to stay away from Christine.  Carlotta enters as well with a note warning her against replacing Christine; she figures Raoul sent it, obviously Christine is sleeping with him.  Madame Giry reports that Christine is home, sleeping.  And another note; the Phantom instructs Christine to play the lead in the next production and Carlotta will play the silent role.  Carlotta is upset and the owners are wondering why they are constantly hearing about Christine now.  The characters all sing over each other, and the owners now have to grovel to the Prima Donna again, insisting that her public needs her.  Carlotta is the definition of a diva.  And everyone knows it.

The next performance features Carlotta in her lead and Christine as the secondary role.   During the show, Buquet spot the Phantom and goes to investigate.  The Phantom’s deep voice echoes throughout the entire theatre demanding that Box Five was to be kept open for him.  Christine on stage says she knows it’s the Phantom.  Carlotta snidely remarks “your part is silent, you little toad.”  That gives the Phantom an idea.  During their pick-up of Poor Fool Carlotta begins croaking (we did see her voice spray bottles switched earlier; in the show that does not happen; the Phantom has magical powers).  She runs off in terror and the owners declare Christine will take on the role after a short break.  For now, a distraction, the ballet from Act Three.  Buquet continues to chase the Phantom, until he is chased by the masked man.  A noose is wrapped around his neck and he drops to the stage, dead.  Girls scream and Christine finds Raoul, claiming the roof will be safe.  She is now truly frightened of the Phantom; he has proven he will kill.  Raoul vows to protect her.  All I Ask of You, Christine says, is for Raoul to love her.  “All I want is freedom/ a world with no more night/ and you, always beside me/ to hold me and to hide me.”  The couple kisses.  But the Phantom is hidden and overhears everything.  He is angry that Christine is refusing him and seeking another man.  He shouts, “you will curse the day you did not do/ all that the Phantom asked of you!”  In the show, we return to the stage and the Phantom drops the chandelier at Christine’s feet.  In the movie, the couple simply exit the roof.

masquerade pair (2)The second half of the performance begins with a Masquerade.  The cast celebrates several months of relief and peace from the Phantom.  In the movie they are dressed in black and white, though they are in colorful garb in the show.  Christine and Raoul have secretly gotten engaged.  But the Phantom appears to ruin their fun.  Why So Silent, did you think I had left for good?  He has written a new opera, Don Juan Triumphant, along with more notes.  Carlotta must be taught to act, Piangi must lose some weight, and Christine must return to him for further instruction.  He hisses to her that she belongs to him and steals her ring.  Raoul follows the Phantom through a trap door, armed with a sword, but disoriented by a ring of mirrors.  Madame Giry rescues Raoul and takes him to her room to reveal the truth of the Phantom.  Years ago, when she was studying to be a ballerina, there was a traveling fair.  One of their exhibits with the “Demon’s Child,” a young boy who usually wore a bag over his head in a cage.  Until he was beaten and the bag removed, showing a disfigured face.  Giry felt bad for the boy, so even after she sees him strangle his tormentor, she helps him escape and leads him underneath the opera house.  And that is where he has stayed.  She claims he is a genius.  Raoul argues it has turned to madness.

Raoul has taken to sleeping outside Christine’s door, but she sneaks past him to visit her father’s grave.  The driver is hit over the head and replaced, but he comes to in time to tell Raoul where the young woman has gone.  Christine pleads Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again, desiring guidance from her father.  Then the doors of the mausoleum begin to open and a voice calls to her, “come to me angel of music.”  Raoul warns that is not her father.  The Phantom leaps out and duels Raoul with a sword [where did he learn to do that?].  The Phantom gets a strike in, but Raoul beats him back.  Christine stops him from killing the other man; “not like this.”  [Not the smartest idea; would save yourself a whole lot of trouble if you just let him.]  The Phantom curses, “now let it be war upon you both!”  (There’s a difference in order between the movie and the show and this part happens a little later in the show)

Raoul has a plan.  It involves using Christine as bait, but he will have the opera house filled with arm police and they will be armed.  They will apprehend the Phantom and all will be well.  Christine is frightened and does not want to do it; worried that the Phantom will take her and she will never be free.  Twisted Every Way, should she risk her life in order to win the chance to live?  Can she betray the man who did inspire her voice?  But she cannot refuse him now, even if she wants to.  Don Juan Triumphant begins, dark and syncopated.  The Phantom takes over Piangi’s role and sings to Christine.  She realizes who it is and signals Raoul with her eyes.  They’ve come Past the Point of No Return.  Christine plays along with the Phantom, rather convincingly because Raoul has tears in his eyes, fearing that his love has actually given into the villain.  The Phantom is certainly trying to seduce Christine, but she wakes up and tears off his mask [okay, in the movie, his disfigurement isn’t that bad; it’s most likely played up on stage].  The Phantom is furious and drops the chandelier into the stage, starting a fire while he makes off with Christine through a trap door, Down Once More.  Carlotta finds Piagni dead.  Raoul, followed by Madame Giry take off after the Phantom.  The rest of the cast bands together to Track Down This Murderer.

Madame Giry leads Raoul so far, but she cannot go further.  Her final advice is to keep his hand at the level of his eyes.  Raoul removes his coat and vest and continues.  He drops into a pool and bars begin to descend.  He manages to open the release valve and pushes forward.  Meanwhile, Christine has changed into the wedding gown for the Phantom and asks if he will enjoy the pleasure of the flesh now.  He agrees that he had been denied that all his live, along with most human compassion.  His face has poisoned her love, he declares.  She retorts the distortion lies in his soul, not his face.  Raoul is captured and demands the Phantom show compassion to Christine (note that the men’s costumes are very similar; the Phantom is most likely attempting to appeal to Christine by mimicking Raoul).  As he ties Raoul to the bars, the Phantom tells him he will not harm Christine; he loves her.  He offers Christine a deal; if Christine agrees to remain with the Phantom, he will let Raoul free.  If she denies him, Raoul dies.  Christine is angry now; any tears she had for the Phantom’s predicament have turned to hate.  The Phantom places a noose around Raoul’s neck.  Really, who does he expect her to choose?  The man who is closer to her age and a childhood friend?  Or the older guy who is very possessive, has murdered at least three people that we know of, has pretended to be her father and wants to sleep with her?  Christine finally comes forward and kisses the Phantom.  He cries.  Then lets Raoul go and orders them to leave; they can hear the mob approaching.  Christine does reappear to the Phantom for another moment to give him the engagement ring (which he stole from her, then gave back in order to marry her, so I’m not sure why she’s giving it to him, since Raoul bought it).  The Phantom smashes the mirrors; one of which reveals another secret passage.  A curtain drops to hide it once he’s gone.  Meg does find his mask; but no Phantom.

The film ends back in 1919 with Raoul placing the monkey music box on Christine’s grave; showing she died two years previous.  Also on the grave is a rose with a black ribbon and the ring.  A pop of color as the rose turns red.

This is another intense musical; it is primarily sung and since it features sopranos, there are several really high notes.  I am not fond of Gerard Butler as the Phantom, not after listening to Michael Crawford all my life.  Emmy is sweet, but doesn’t quite have the full quality in her voice that Sarah Brightman has.  Sarah can still pull off the airy tones, thirty years later.  Patrick Wilson as Raoul is very cute; good casting!  The church I grew up in has a magnificent pipe organ and I have wanted us to perform at least a concert of Phantom of the Opera for years; it would sound incredible!  And if I could have any role, I’d want Christine…aside from those high notes.  Think of Me is a sweet song, but few pieces can ever match the power of Phantom of the OperaMusic of the Night is seductive and Josh Groban performed it when Andrew Lloyd Webber was honored by the Kennedy Center…I simply melt.  I did help with a rehearsal of Prima Donna when the church did another cabaret presentation of Phantom of the Opera, as Carlotta, meaning I did manage to hit some of those high notes.  It was exhilarating.  I just have to be really warmed up.  For that performance, I did Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again; and I made people cry (in a good way!)  That was also wonderful to hear.  I love singing.  I love singing this music.  Which I can enjoy in the comfort of my car, or shower, or room (and if I miss a note, no one will know!)

All I Ask of You is a lovely duet and Masquerade is just plain fun.  I adore Christine’s and Raoul’s costumes in that scene.  As I’ve gotten older, I have new respect for the tone of Past the Point of No Return.

Up Next: Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

 

“I know that there’s a place for us/ for we are glorious”

Greatest Showman

A more recent film based “loosely” on the life of P.T. Barnum. It’s actually not the first musical to be created about Barnum; there is a show entitled “Barnum” that had circus performers outside the door on Broadway. The film version starred a young Michael Crawford. The new 2017 movie stars Hugh Jackman (X-Men, Australia) as Phineas Taylor Barnum, Zac Efron (High School Musical) as his eventual partner, Phillip Carlyle, and Zendaya (Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home, after she was on the Disney shows K.C. Undercover and Shake it Up). It features Rebecca Ferguson (Elizabeth Woodville in The White Queen) as Jenny Lind [her singing was dubbed for the film since her singing chops were not quite what was needed]. Oh, and Charity’s father, Mr. Hallett is played by Frederic Lehne (Azazel/ The Yellow-Eyed Demon in Supernatural, and he was in the episode “Heart of Gold” in Firefly…so no one ever nice).

The film opens with The Greatest Show, Barnum in the middle of a circus ring, but it fades away to reveal the scene was a daydream; a young Phineas is standing in front of a red coat, waiting for his father. He accompanies his father to a large mansion outside of New York City where he makes a young Charity Hallett laugh. Her father reprimands him, but he quickly befriends Charity later, after she sneaks out. They explore an abandoned mansion, dreaming about the world they’re going to make with A Million Dreams. Through the song, life happens. Phineas’s father sickens and dies, Charity is sent to boarding school. Phineas is out on the street and has to steal to survive; he’s caught, but a malformed woman shows him kindness. The two children send letters to each other; but Phineas eventually leaves to make his fortune working the railroad. He returns when they’re grown to marry Charity. She eagerly accepts, but her father warns Phineas that she’ll return home; Phineas will fail and she’ll leave him. The duet dancing between Phineas and Charity is lovely. Phineas wants to give Charity a lavish life, but struggles to hold a job. They have a small apartment that leaks and he is dismissed from an accounting firm when it declares bankruptcy when its fleet of trading vessels all sink.

The Barnums have two adorable daughters, Caroline and Helen. Charity joins in their make-believe adventures. Phineas quickly cobbles together a “wishing machine,” a spinning lantern for his daughter’s birthday and the girls reprise A Million Dreams, which gives him an idea. He uses the document on the shipping vessels as collateral at the bank to buy a museum of oddities. It’s a rough start, until Helen and Caroline suggest he needs something “alive.” Phineas begins gathering acts, like the dwarf Tom Thumb, and the bearded lady, Lettie. There are the trapeze siblings, W.D. and Anne Wheeler, a tattooed man, a fat man, a giant, a “dog boy.” Phineas plays up their oddities to make them “sensational.” “They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to love you.” Patrons start pouring in, “dreaming with your eyes wide open,” and the show starts to Come Alive. Phineas dons his red coat. The show transforms from a museum to a circus, the word courtesy of a critic.

greatest show

The profits allow Phineas to purchase the old mansion he and Charity explored and gift Caroline with her dream ballet slippers. Young girls can be harsh, and look down on Caroline for her father’s business. She wants to quit. Phineas also wants to attract a higher clientele for his show and approaches young Phillip Carlyle. Phillip has the name and reputation amongst the upper-crust, but drinks to forget his horribly produced plays. Phineas takes the young man to a bar to offer him a job on the Other Side and a life of freedom. “But you would finally live a little/ finally laugh a little/ just let me give you the freedom to dream a little.” Phillip eventually agrees and will gain ten percent of the profits. He considers himself a junior partner; Phineas calls him an overcompensated apprentice. And Phillip is instantly taken by Anne.

With the success of his circus, protestors gather. Those who gleefully pointed out the freaks for Phineas now demand they get off the stage. Phillip counteracts this by getting the circus an audience with Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace. There, Phineas meets Jenny Lind, a world-famous opera singer. Still aiming high and hoping for even more renown, he convinces her to tour America. She stuns crowds with Never Enough. Though with the upper-crust about, Phineas doesn’t want his circus family visible; he shuns them to the back standing room for the performance. Phillip briefly takes Anne’s hand, until he is spotted. Anne walks away. And Charity sees the awe that her husband stares at Miss Lind with. After the show, he refuses to let the performers enter the reception, after he’s embarrassed himself with Charity’s parents.

Instead of taking the back way out to the street, the circus family lets themselves be seen by the fancy patrons, declaring This is Me. They deserve love just like everyone else. But Barnum sees none of it. He decides to take Jenny on tour, despite the fortune it will cost, and leaves Phillip in charge of the circus. Phillip tries to make up his faux pas to Anne by taking her to the theatre. Then his parents spot him and try to shame him for being seen with a dark-skinned woman. If that is his place, to shun her, he wants none of it he tells his parents. He catches Anne readying to practice her trapeze act and declares they should Rewrite the Stars; “nothing can keep us apart.” But Anne knows what it will be like for them, the looks and derision they will have to endure and at the end, walks away.

While her husband tours with Jenny, Charity wonders if anything will ever be enough for Phineas. She warns Phineas that he doesn’t need everyone to love him; just a few good people. She muses she’s walking a Tightrope and we see how everyone tries to get along without Phineas as he lives the high life. Charity still plays with Caroline and Helen; Caroline continues her dance lessons. Phillip tries to take center stage, but has already told Phineas that the audience comes for his craziness. And Phineas has finally reached the top; public acclaim. And now, there is nothing holding him to Jenny Lind. He wants to leave the circuit and return home. Jenny threatens to quit; it won’t hurt her reputation if she leaves, but it will leave Phineas in financial ruin. “If you’re careless with other people, it will bring ruin on yourself.” She cries a bit during her performance of Never Enough and at the end, kisses Phineas on stage, cameras flashing. It’s her goodbye.

At the circus, the protestors are back and refuse to leave. W.D. backs Phillip and a fight breaks out; the whole circus crew facing off against the protestors. One throws a lantern backstage and starts a fire. Phineas arrives to greet his girls and sees the fire engines race to the circus. Phillip is trying to get everyone out, but no one has seen Anne. He races back into the flames. Anne runs out from around back. Phineas runs in after Phillip and the roof collapses. For one horrifying minute we fear the worst. Then Phineas emerges with Phillip in his arm; the young man is taken to the hospital. Anne follows and murmurs the refrain from Rewrite the Stars.

Sitting in the ashes, the critic admits to Phineas that the people loved his show, even though it was not to his taste. And sadly has to inform Phineas of Jenny officially quitting the show, and the scandalous kiss on the front page. At home, Charity is returning to her parents; the bank forecloses on their house. She’s not even terribly upset about Jenny; it’s the fact that Phineas didn’t make the decision with her. The circus family joins Phineas at the bar and urge him to not give up on them. He brought them out of the shadow and gave them a place, gave them a family, a home. They want that home back. From Now On, Phineas will be different; he won’t take what he has for granted. He returns to the Hallett’s mansion to face his father-in-law, who once again tries to keep the showman from his daughter. But Caroline and Helen helpfully point out that Charity is at the beach. The couple reconciles; all Charity has ever wanted is the man she fell in love with. She doesn’t want or need the fancy life Phineas envisioned. Phillip also wakes up in the hospital, slightly surprised to find Anne sitting at his bedside. But she happily kisses him. In front of the whole room.

Unfortunately, the bank will not loan Phineas money to rebuild. But, Phillip was wise and kept track of his earnings and will lend Phineas the money. Except now they are full 50/50 partners. Even though he no longer has a claim or inheritance, he has joy and love in his life and work he adores. Instead of buying more real estate, Phineas figures they just need land, and a tent. The Greatest Show is back! During a quick break, Phineas hands his top hat off to Phillip. The young man is in charge now; Phineas will be watching his girls grown up. Phillip eagerly enters the ring and Phineas rides an elephant (always has to make an entrance) to his daughters’ recital (Helen is a tree while Caroline is the star). Phillip ends the show by kissing Anne.

The show, as is the norm with Hollywood, is not historically accurate. Phineas Taylor Barnum was not really a champion for outcasts. And quite honestly, he was a conman. But we don’t want to see that. Actually, from the trailer, I imagined a bit of a different storyline; I thought they would show Phineas championing for the outcasts. There are times I want to smack him in this story; mainly for his actions with Jenny Lind. He has a wonderful, supportive wife at home, and two girls who adore him and he leaves them. I was annoyed at first by the romance storyline between Phillip and Anne, but I’ve come to see that it’s a nice counterpoint to Phineas’s actions. Phillip tries to hold things together. And yes, he makes a few missteps, but he really wants to have a relationship with Anne despite society’s views.

And I absolutely adore the music for this film. I listen to the soundtrack and I want to choreograph a performance (I have ten years’ dance experience, but no real choreography experience, aside from what I fool around with in the privacy of my room). Greatest Show is an upbeat and fun introduction and conclusion. A Million Dreams is sweet within the show. Come Alive is another upbeat song. I love The Other Side with its underlying rhythm and how it was choreographed involving tables and chairs. Never Enough has its place, though I object that they had it dubbed. There are plenty of talented actresses who could have sung that part. And for an “opera singer,” the style is definitely not opera. Which I get, goes with their aesthetic to use more popular styles of music.

oscars this is me

This is Me is just about the best song ever. Keala Settle is amazing. She originally did not want to play the role for the film, figuring they could hire someone else and she would help with rehearsals. But Hugh convinced her. Check out the behind the scenes videos of the first run through. And her performance on The Graham Norton Show. And the Oscars (seriously, this song should have won; they got robbed). It’s become an anthem for those who don’t feel like they fit in with society. “I am who I’m meant to be/ this is me.” (I have felt like that). I want to perform this song.

I’ve never been a huge Zac Efron fan, but I liked his performance in this film. Rewrite the Stars is a wonderful duet and the trapeze elements were beautiful. And Piano Guys do a beautiful cover featuring cello and violin; the violinist being Steve Nelson’s wife, Julie. They also do a piano cover of Million Dreams (watch the videos; they’re heartwarming). Tightrope is alright. And I like the chorus of From Now On and the dance that starts up. It’s performers having a good time.

I have read several fanfiction stories and the general consensus is to make the circus, the Barnums, and Phillip one big family; I am a sucker for family stories. And we like to pick on Phillip. There aren’t any that I specifically recommend; I think the fandom is new enough that nothing truly serious has developed yet. But they’re worth checking out.

Up Next: Les Mis

“Life’s a martini, and you’re the shaker!”

Down with Love

Not actually a musical, though it features a couple songs. But since Ewan McGregor does sing, I sort of associate it with Moulin Rouge, hence its placement. I was about fourteen when this film came out and I remember my friend asking my mother if I could watch the movie due to the innuendos throughout the film. It stars Ewan McGregor as Catcher Block, Renee Zellweger (she’ll reunite a few years later with Ewan for Miss Potter) as Barbara Novak, Sarah Paulson (she did appear in Serenity) as Vikki Hiller, David Hyde Pierce (well known for Fraiser) as Peter MacMannus, Rachel Dratch (a comedian who appears on Saturday Night Live) as Gladys, Timothy Omundson (Cain in Supernatural) appears as R.J., and Jeri Ryan as Gwendolyn (ironic because she is now Gwendolyn Hayes, MacGyver’s aunt in the new series; also was Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager, and now on the Picard series).

The film opens with a version of Down with Love, in a very Rat Pack sound; the film is set in 1962 New York City. Barbara Novak arrives in New York City, to Banner Publishing where she meets with her editor, Vikki to promote her book, Down with Love. As she explains to the male dominated creative team, women will never be fully equal to men until they are equal in the work force and in order to do that, women need to forget the notion of love and not connect love with sex anymore. They should have sex like men do, a la carte. To aid in this, chocolate helps, as it stimulates the brain in the same way as sex. But the men don’t buy it. Except Vikki has an idea; Catcher Block, star journalist of the KNOW magazine for men will do a cover story on Barbara. But Catcher, a ladies’ man, keeps hooking up with other women and canceling his meetings; until Barbara is fed up and refuses to meet with him in return. They come up with another promotion idea: have Judy Garland sing Down with Love on the Ed Sullivan Show. Sales skyrocket around the world; even in communists countries.

Over at KNOW, owner Peter continually attempts to convince Catcher to do the article; Peter is interested in Vikki. When Barbara denounced Catcher on television as the worst sort of man, Catch is really in trouble. Now he wants to write an expose and ruin Barbara. But to do that, he can’t be himself. He runs into Barbara on purpose at a dry cleaner and adopts the persona, Zip Martin, an astronaut who has no idea Barbara has written a book. They go on lots of dates and Catch plays to be the sort of man who does not have sex.

down with love

There is a split screen scene that is hilarious and full of innuendos. Followed by a crazy sequence where Catch pretends that Peter’s apartment is his so he can impress Barbara; and Peter can use his bachelor pad to impress Vikki. Catch is on the verge of losing Barbara until “Zip” agrees to sleep with her. They both unknowingly attend a party thrown by Peter in Catch’s apartment and the whole enterprise is almost blown. It does get blown on their next date, when Catch starts to secretly record Barbara admitting she loves Catch and wants to marry him. And Gwendolyn the stewardess stops by and exposes Zip as Catch.

Except Barbara already knew that. A year previous, she had been Catch’s secretary and fallen in love; but she wanted more than meaningless sex. So she changed her name and wrote a book and correctly predicted what Catch would do. That way, she got lots of dates and Catch ended up falling in love with her. And everything is almost right; until Barbara now realizes she cannot be a typical woman anymore; she is an inspiration. Meaning, she can’t marry Catch [honestly, by this point I’m confused].

And Catch has fallen in love with Barbara. So when she starts her own magazine, after Vikki has been fired for showing up the men, Catch applies for a job, knowing that Barbara will have to interview him. Except it still seems like they won’t get back together. Until Barbara meets Catch in the elevator, a red head now and agrees to marry him. But they will retain their careers. And in the background, the same goes for Vikki and Peter (ironically, both actors come out as gay a few years later; Vikki hinted that Peter was gay in the film).

The closing credits are my favorite because of the duet between Ewan and Renee; Here’s to Love. Their characters have written a new book by that title; obviously showing how they’re managing to have the best of both worlds. It’s a fun song that shows off the talent of the leads. The film is a light-hearted comedy that I really ought to remember I have when the need arises.  Now that I’m older, the innuendos are hilarious.  Ewan as Catcher is adorable, especially when he pretends to be Zip Martin. The whole plotline around Barbara knowing what she knows and her plan gets a little confusing; but it all works out, and the coincidences are very coincidental. Her breaking the relationship off with Catcher right before the end confuses me as well; when characters realize they love each other and it’s mutual – get together for goodness’ sake!

Next Time: Newsies

“So exciting, the audience will stop and cheer. So delighting, it will run for fifty years.”

Moulin Rouge

I did not watch this until I was in college, because I was uneasy on the subject matter. The film stars Ewan McGregor (voice of Lumiere in the live-action Beauty and the Beast, Down with Love, Miss Potter, Obi-Wan Kenobi) as Christian, Nicole Kidman (Australia) as Satine, and Jim Broadbent (Professor Slughorn, Professor Diggroy in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Archmaester Ebrose in Game of Thrones) as Harold Zidler. It’s directed by Baz Luhrmann, which is the reason for some of the odd visuals I believe. The story is set at the turn of the twentieth century in Paris, in the Moulin Rouge district. Christian is an English writer who has come to live the Bohemian lifestyle and write about truth, beauty, freedom, and above all, love. His neighbors, who literally crash into his room, are also Bohemians and are producing a play. They ask Christian to fill in since their lead is a narcoleptic Argentinean and Christian manages to help their production by suggesting “the hills are alive, with the sound of music.” (I was shocked this appeared when I first watched the movie; until I realized it was the whole premise of the movie; incorporating modern songs). The rest of the cast loves it and the current writer leaves. But, to put on their play, they need to convince the owner of the Moulin Rouge, Harry Zidler; and to do that, they have arranged for Christian to privately meet the star of the Moulin Rouge, Satine.

What the Bohemians don’t know is that Zidler has arranged for a wealthy Duke to privately “meet” with Satine so he will invest and help turn the Moulin Rouge into a proper theatre, and Satine can become a proper actress. The dancers perform Lady Marmalade (which I enjoy, aside from the creepy older men; but that was the point of the Moulin Rouge) and a Can Can, then Satine descends for Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend (with a chorus from Material Girl). Zidler is telling Satine about the Duke, but Christian’s friend Toulouse gets mixed in and Satine believes that Christian is the Duke and takes him back to her room for a “private poetry reading.” Christian tries to recite his poetry, and Satine believes she should be getting riled up…it’s a bit of an awkward, but funny scene, well acted. Then Christian just belts out, “my gift is my song,” and continues with Elton’s John Your Song. Satine is impressed. Then the truth comes out that Christian is not the Duke; in fact, the Duke is waiting outside the door for Satine. So she must distract the Duke while hiding Christian and trying to coax him out; she starts singing Christian’s song. And claims it is from a new show, “Spectacular, Spectacular.”  If the Duke will invest in the new show, Satine will sleep with him, but not until opening night.

spectacular

The Duke leaves, and Satine faints (she’s already fainted once before). Christian attempts to awkwardly put her to bed and the Duke inconveniently walks in. Satine comes to in time to save Christian and with the help of his Bohemian friends and Zidler, they spitball the storyline of the play while singing Spectacular, Spectacular; a courtesan falls in love with a penniless sitar player, but is pursued by an evil maharajah (hmm, sounds like the storyline of the movie; the Duke is not the brightest man). They convince the Duke; “no words in the vernacular/ can describe this great event/ you’ll be dumb with wonderment,” everyone sells.  A little later that night, Christian returns and discusses love with Satine; she is more practical, due to her profession. There is a wonderful medley of love songs, including All You Need is Love by the Beatles, Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong, and ends in a kiss.

Trouble begins to brew with the Duke; he wants Satine exclusive to him: “I don’t like other people touching my things!” And extra insurance for his investment; he will hold the deed to the Moulin Rouge. The play goes into production. The Duke attends rehearsal as a part of “artistic influence;” but Satine keeps stalling him, or making up excuses for Christian to be around. Satine is still sick at times and Zidler is told she is dying. And he has discovered her dalliance with Christian and tells her to break it off. She collapses again and Zidler has to cover with the Duke. Which leads to an awkward interlude of Like a Virgin.

Satine does talk about the arrangement with the Duke to Christian and he promises not to get jealous. He suggests they include another song in the show, symbolizing that they love each other; Come What May. But one of the other dancers is jealous and hints to the Duke about Satine and Christian. He insists they change the ending; the maharajah will win. Satine sides with the Duke to pacify him and the rest of the performers must wait while she seduces the Duke. Christian does not remain impartial and the Argentinean advises that one should not fall in love with a woman who sells herself; El Tango de Roxanne and the room is filled with the Argentinean tango (love this part). The Duke sees Christian approach and turns on Satine; he comes very close to forcing himself on her, but one of the large men from the show has snuck over and hits the Duke over the head before it goes too far. Satine seeks comfort with Christian and they decide to leave Paris.

The Duke informs Zidler that Satine must break it off with Christian and come to him after the first show; or he will kill Christian. Zidler warns Satine and when that is not enough, informs her that she is dying. If she loves Christian, she must break his heart, to save him. The Show Must Go On they all intone. Christian doesn’t believe Satine and tries to see her again, only to be thrown out in the rain. His friends attempt to comfort him, but once opening night begins, he sneaks back into the theatre. Narcolepsy hits the Argentinean again and Christian takes his costume, intent on paying Satine. They end up on stage and the audience believes it is part of the show. Christian throws the money and walks away. Satine begins Come What May, calling Christian back. The Duke is furious and mouths to his bodyguard to kill Christian. The rest of the cast figures it out and help knock the gun away. The audience still has no clue what is real and what is show and Toulouse shouts out the theme of the movie: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.” The show ends on a high note, the Duke leaves. As the curtain drops, Satine collapses again. She gets a few final words with Christian and dies. (The talented Ewan McGregor breaks all of our hearts with his sobs).

The film wraps back to the beginning, a depressed Christian in his room, typing out Satine’s story. With his story, their love will live forever. The end.

Some parts of the show are funny, like Spectacular, Spectacular. I find the Can Can fun; I remember the older girls performing once during a dance recital when I was young.  Now every time I hear Your Song, I think of this film.  Come What May is heartwarming and I still cry at the end every time. This show does not end happily, like typical musicals, thus not really a favorite of mine. There are awkward moments, as already stated, the Like a Virgin. Some people probably like it or find it funny…I’m not one of them. I did like that they used more modern music and wove it in to the story; it attracted a modern audience. The leads were excellent and I was shocked at Ewan’s singing voice; since I knew him first from Star Wars.

Up Next: Another Ewan McGregor film, Down with Love

“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)