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Entries in musicals (340)


Review: "Rocky Horror" Loses Its Edge

by Eric Blume

Last night, Fox TV gave us a remake/update of the cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show, a staple of midnight movie screenings for decades.  This update, with the tag "Let’s Do The Time Warp Again," aired at the family hour of 8pm, which pretty much sums up everything that’s wrong with it.   

The original 1975 film is the definition of “lightning in a bottle.” There had been nothing quite like it at the time. It was genuinely transgressive, and featured one of the all-time out-there performances by Tim Curry as Frank-n-Furter, everyone’s favorite "sweet transvestite".  While it’s easy to romanticize the original and ignore its weaknesses, the film does deliver as a warm-heated parody of sci-fi and horror movies as intended. What's more it's actually kinky, sexy, unsettling, and fun...

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“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” S1 in Ten Songs

With Crazy Ex Girlfriend returning Friday evening for Season 2, here's new contributor Jorge Molina surveying season 1's songs

Season 2 premieres Fri 10/21 at 9 pm on The CWMaking a Top 10 Best [blank] is pretty much impossible. Top 10s are never final, accurate, or objective. 

So I decided not to do one. 

After all, how could I rank and, even worse, decide on the best musical numbers of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s amazing first season? They all represent a different aspect of the show, and it would be unfair to compare them on equal terms.  So I instead came up with a compilation of what are not necessarily the ten better numbers, but the ones that best showcase the show’s style, tone, and humor. What would be in a “Crazy XGF 101” course.


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Judy by the Numbers: "Just Imagine"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

By episode 6, The Judy Garland Show was in trouble and it hadn’t even aired yet. CBS, still spooked by the Bonanza’s killer ratings, wanted The Judy Garland Show to be more, well, everything: More Hollywood glamour, more slapstick, more music, more ratings. With that in mind, after Tony Bennett fizzled and a planned episode with Nat King Cole fell through, the network fired most of the writers and producers by Episode 6. TV wunderkind Norman Jewison – who’d directed the original special – was brought on to save the show before it even got a chance to fail. Jewison’s first directives: More guests, more duets, and let’s knock Judy off that Hollywood high horse...

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Judy by the Numbers: "Lena Horne Medley"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

If you watch the full Judy Garland Show from start to finish in the order in which it was filmed rather than the order in which it was broadcast - which is what we're doing in miniature - a few patterns emerge early on. First, there is the legendary talent that crowds the first episodes: besides Judy herself, we've seen Garland reunited with Mickey Rooney, swinging with Count Basie, introducing her daughter Liza, and now she's belting Lena Horne numbers to Lena Horne herself. For any midcentury music geek, this show is the gift that keeps on giving. However, if you push past the fabulous talent to watch the format itself, you'll notice something else: for a variety programme, The Judy Garland Show doesn't have much variety.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 4
The Songwriters: Various, arranged by Mel Torme
The Cast: Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Terry-Thomas, directed by Bill Hobin

The Story: Only four episodes in, The Judy Garland Show had already fallen into something of a rut. The basic format never wavered - Judy sang first and introduced the guest(s), the guest(s) performed, star and guest(s) chatted, star and guest(s) performed, then Judy wrapped everything up with "Born in a Trunk." CBS execs had noticed - as had Judy Garland. By episode 4 her bad behavior had resurfaced, causing Lena Horne to reportedly lose her cool after Judy missed every rehearsal day.

Despite that conflict - or maybe because of it - Lena performs sparklingly on the show. In variety and expression, she even outperforms Judy. (Lena's references to Louis Armstrong during "Meet Me In St Louis" especially charm.) Nonetheless, missed rehearsals or no Judy Garland can carry a number, and the overall musical montage works well, even when a beat or two is missed. Unfortunately, the next week's show would not be so kind.

previously on Judy by the Numbers


George Sidney Centennial: "Kiss Me Kate"

by Tim Brayton

Our centennial tribute to MGM mainstay George Sidney continues with the director's 1953 musical Kiss Me Kate, and such a curious beast it is. Adapted with a slightly free hand from Cole Porter's hit 1948 musical, it's a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew that's also a backstage comedy about the staging of a musical version of The Taming of the Shrew, in which the actors playing Kate and Petruchio are recently feuding exes.

Don't let the plot worry you, though. Since this is a 1950s MGM musical the focus is obviously one one thing first and foremost, and that's big, heaving SPECTACLE.

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Judy by the Numbers: "Together Wherever We Go"

Anne Marie has been chronicling Judy Garland's career chronologically through musical numbers...

Episode 3 of The Judy Garland Show (which would eventually air in its eighth week) was an episode of personal importance for Judy. Her oldest daughter, Liza Minnelli, was joining her for a family-themed show. Liza was only 16 at the time, but she'd already begun building an entertainment resume. While in high school (or rather, while skipping high school) Liza appeared on a Gene Kelly TV special, The Jack Paar Program, Talent Scouts, her mother's London Palladium concert, and was in rehearsals for her Off-Broadway debut in Best Foot Forward. However, young Liza somehow found time in her every-busier schedule to put on a family act.

The Show: The Judy Garland Show Episode 3
The Songwriters: Jule Styne (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)
The Cast: Judy Garland, Liza Minnelli, directed by Bill Hobin

The Story: Two observations stand out watching this clip: 1) These are two talented women who love to perform and 2) These are two talented women who love to perform together. There's something delightfully meta-textual about their decision to sing a song from Broadway's most dysfunctionally overbearing stage mom. As Judy watches Liza, Garland exudes nothing but pride and excitement to share the stage with her daughter. Likewise, teenage Liza - not yet fully confident in her own overwhelming talent - takes her cue from her mother.

Though they're both polished and skilled performers, this song does not come off as a professional production number. Every improvised forehead touch, handhold, or giggle renders a public performance into a personal mother/daughter moment, exposing that vein of reckless vulnerability that made both women incomparable performers. Anyone who grew up in a musical household will recognize this kind of musical intimacy. This is a mother and a daughter goofing off around the piano at home, or belting showtunes in the car on the way to school. Liza and Judy sing together with real affection and private joy. It just happens a TV camera caught it on tape.


Still Blissing Out Over "La La Land"

Over the weekend I wrote up an Oscar preview for Towleroad - which you can consider a companion to our current Best Picture Chart and updated Oscar predictions. Here's what I wrote about La La Land, which I realize I didn't capsule review for you at TIFF: 

This musical from the young writer/director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash) won the coveted "Audience Award" at Toronto. That prize nearly always aligns with a Best Picture nomination in January. But the nomination will be the least of it - it has "winner" written all over it. La La Land is a total bliss-out, a colorful two hour romance with song and dance numbers about an aspiring actress and her jazz musician boyfriend. This is the third movie to co-star Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and their onscreen chemistry is even better this go around and it was tremendous to begin with in Crazy Stupid Love five years back.

Here's a shocking statistic for trivia buffs: If La La Land is nominated for Best Picture it will be the first original live-action musical to do so since All That Jazz (1979). The musical nominees inbetween them were either animated  (Beauty & The Beast), adaptations of pre-existing shows (Chicago) or used pre-existing music for their songs (Moulin Rouge!). If La La Land wins it will be the first original movie musical to win the Oscar since Gigi (1958).

In addition to these general notes here are a few slighter more specific ones...

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