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Janelle Monae's Breakout Year

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Entries in musicals (354)

Friday
Jun102016

Alexander the Great and Judy the Greatest

On this day in history as it relates to the movies...

323 BC Alexander the Great dies of an unknown illness. Colin Farrell plays him in a movie centuries and centuries later and it's suggested that it's a combo of Typhus, Bad Wigs, and Loving Jared Leto that does him in. Who could survive that combo? (Remember when Baz Luhrmann was going to make an Alexander movie, too, but Oliver Stone beat him to it? We wish it had been the other way around.)
38 AD Julia Drusilla dies in Rome. In the infamous Bob Guccione movie Caligula (1979) her brother Caligula (Malcom McDowell) is shown licking her corpse. Somehow that's not remotely the most perverted thing in the movie!
1692 Bridget Bishop is executed for "Detestable Arts called Witchcraft & Sorceries." She's the first victim of the notorious Salem Witch Trials that will claim many lives and inspire many works of art including The Crucible and The VVitch and so on. 

1889 Sessue Hayakawa is born in Japan, becomes an international silent screen superstar. Later Oscar nominated for The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
1895 Hattie McDaniel is born. Becomes a major studio player in Hollywood, the first black actor to win an Oscar, and appears in many classic films albeit as The Help. We only wish Monique were ambitious about her film career and would work on that biopic that was suggested. It'd be so rich.
1901 Frederick Loewe is born. Meets Alan Jay Lerner 41 years later and the rest is movie and stage musical history: My Fair Lady, Brigadoon, Gigi, Camelot, etcetera... 
1922  Frances Ethel Gumm is born. Becomes Judy Garland, "The World's Greatest Entertainer" and one of the greatest movie stars of all time. (Easy top ten for me. How about you?) We hope you're enjoying Anne-Marie's current series "Judy by the Numbers". 
1936 Soyuzmultfilm, influential animation studio of the former Soviet Union, is founded
1963 Sex god Tony Ward is born. Becomes super model, Madonna plaything ("Justify My Love" / "Sex"), and Bruce La Bruce's Hustler White (1996)
1974 Dustin Lance Black is born. Later wins the Oscar for writing Milk (2008) but, weirdly, no one threatens to take the statue back when he writes J Edgar (2011)

1985 Claus von Bulow is acquitted on attempted murder charges of his heiress wife. Jeremy Irons wins an Oscar playing him in Reversal of Fortune just five years later while the heiress wife (Glenn Close) narrates the morbid proceedings. Quibblers, including me, suggest that the Oscar was in part for that awful Dead Ringers (1988) snub two years prior.
1988 Big Business opens starring two Lily Tomlins and two Bette Midlers. Double the pleasure
2003 Wicked opens on Broadway. It goes on to gross billions. Still no movie in sight and it'll already be old hat by the time we get one. (sigh)
2007 The final episode of The Sopranos cuts to black. Do you ever think about that show now? 

Thursday
Jun092016

From the Vaults: Meryl Streep in "A Prairie Home Companion"

Since today marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Robert Altman's swan song A Prairie Home Companion (2006), a gem excavated from that year's Oscar blogging for those who were not around in 2006. Though I know I've cooled on Meryl in the years since I wrote this (2006 was a major peak for Meryl but too many performances that didn't thrill followed and were automatically exalted and Oscar nominated anyway) I consider her past decade a valley rather than a downward trend. All performers have their peaks and valleys. I'm waiting for the next transcendent performance -- Impatiently, but I promise I'm hopeful.

It didn't take Meryl Streep long. By 1987 at the very latest, just ten years into her career, we knew that she could do everything. We'd already heard the accents, seen the funny, witnessed the sexy, fallen in love, had our hearts broken and heard the magnificent singing voice. If she were less endearing and emotionally attentive as a performer her technical range would be just hateful, a thing to curse as she popped up again and again in films. But this woman has it all. She is, put simply, the most consistent versatile actor in the movies.

So what is there left for Meryl Streep to do? It turns out quite a lot...

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Jun082016

Judy by the Numbers: "A Great Lady Has An Interview"

Anne Marie is tracking Judy Garland's career through musical numbers...

Our time travelling comes to an end this week with a movie that was filmed before The Harvey Girls but, due to expensive reshoots, wasn't released until months later. Ziegfeld Follies (not to be confused with Ziegfeld Girl) is a plotless series of excuses for MGM to throw its considerable stable of talent into a series of comic and musical sketches tailor made to show off the stars - and the studio - at their finest.
 
The Movie:
 Ziegfeld Follies (1946)
The Songwriters: Kay Thompson (lyrics), Roger Edens (music)
The Players: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, William Powell, Esther Williams, directed by Vincente Minnelli 

The Story: According to rumor, originally this enjoyable little slip of a number was designed for Greer Garson. However, when Garson backed out, it became a number about Garson, lampooning her accent, image, and Oscar-bait dramatic roles. However, the satire was all in good fun, in large part due to the lyrics by Kay Thompson.

Though this was Thompson's first credit on a Judy Garland performance, she had been working with Garland since befriending the young starlet on a radio show in 1939. On top of a successful nightclub career, Thompson would become MGM's top vocal arranger and vocal coach, working with Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, June Allyson, and more. But more than Thompson's vocal control rubbed off on Judy. Watch this clip with Audrey Hepburn, and compare the physicality - from poses to gestures, between Kay and Judy.

While Kay Thompson would remain close friends with Judy Garland, eventually even lending Liza a hand, her own movie career never took off. Instead, Thompson would become world famous for another career: as the creator and writer of the children's series Eloise.

Monday
Jun062016

Stage Door: Steve Martin & Edie Brickell's "Bright Star"

In Stage Door we talk theater, usually making some form of movie connection because that's how we do things...

I don't know anything about Bluegrass music but I wouldn't have connected it to the Melodrama form. If I tried to tell you the plot of Steve Martin's Broadway show "Bright Star," you wouldn't even believe it, so I shan't. Let's just say that if the plot were a movie it would be a silent film with wild eyed pantomiming it's so BIG with oversized emotional rug-pulling. I was just crazy about the music but the book not so much. (On the night I attended it was all worth it because Steve Martin made a surprise appearance. There he was as the curtain raised for Act 2, playing on his banjo. He was loving it and so was the very very appreciative crowd. How lucky that he picked our night to show up!)

Aside from the Original Score which just won the Drama Desk Award, the show's MVP is its Tony nominated lead actress Carmen Cusack who plays her character, beautifully, at two separate ages as a gangly uninhibited teenager and a much stiffer heartbroken woman in her 30s; when she fuses their temperaments at the end into the same woman, it's divine. Her voice can soar gorgeously and crash down to earth with equal potency. The Original Cast Recording is now available which might be the best way to experience the otherwise uneven night of theater. The highlight of this particular lucky night out on Broadway was the surprise appearance of Steve Martin playing his banjo as Act 2 began. He was loving it and so were his appreciative surprised fans in the theater that night. I was lucky enough to be among them. 

Bright Star is up for 5 Tonys: Musical, Book of a Musical, Score, Actress, and Orchestrations. 

More Theater
54 Below Molly Pope is doing a one night show in July based on A Star is Born. She's a stunning live performer -it's pricey but I have to be there
NY Times An ode to Broadway replacements Heather Headley & Marin Mazzie
NY Post Michael Riedel predicts a mini Hamilton backlash at the Tonys. It will lose in at least a few categories 
Theater Mania Once frequent Oscar nominee Marsha Mason is directing a production of Steel Magnolias in Pennsylvania (now running through June 18th). Jessica Walter is playing Ouiser which is great casting, don't you think? 
Broadway Blog Cheyenne Jackson has a new album out "Renaissance"

 

 

P.S. Jason and I also caught American Psycho again the day before it closed and during intermission, while chatting with Pushing Daisies / Hannibal TV genius Bryan Fuller (who also enjoyed the show) we all met a crazy fan who was wearing an American Psycho dress . A second time through I'm even more convinced of its brilliance. The Tonys really stiffed it but at least it picked up 3 well deserved Drama Desk Awards (Lighting, Projections, Design) 

Wednesday
Jun012016

"Mary Poppins Returns" and "In the Heights"

Broadway's Hamilton fever has caught up with mainstream Hollywood. The Tony winning writer/director/actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose Hamilton is the easy frontrunner going into the Tony Awards a week from Sunday (I'm finally seeing it, too, wheeee, albeit a few days after the Tony Awards - thanks Rory!) has two big movies brewing now.... and that's before anyone gets around to trying to get Hamilton on the big screen. He exits Hamilton on July 9th so he'll have plenty of time to chase these Hollywood opportunities.  

Mary Poppins Returns
We've heard rumors of a Mary Poppins remake for ages but it looks like we're getting a sequel instead with the delightfully versatile Emily Blunt as the magical nanny (the iconic Julie Andrews part) and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a new character but I'd still expect a jolly-holiday sort of partner in magical highjinks for Mary. He's described as a "lamplighter" which isn't that far off of chimney sweep in civic duties, don'cha know. The score will be written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman who wrote most of the best songs for Smash as well as Broadway's terrific Hairspray. So all of that is very good news. Plus an ORIGINAL movie musical. That is a rarest of things since forever outside of Disney's Little Mermaid era!

But... the film is to be directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago, Into the Woods, Nine).

The choice of Marshall is wholly expected since Hollywood doesn't seem to believe it can make musicals without him. That's a pity. Nothing against Marshall but he's not consistent enough to be anywhere close to a "must get". We wish they'd realize that the genre needs and deserves new Vincente Minnellis, Stanley Donens, and Bob Fosses, not someone who can just get the job done and hope for the best about the final result. I am confident that those people exist but remain untapped. The film is due on Christmas Day in 2018. The original Disney classic was nominated for 13 Oscars, winning 5. (It's still Disney's only live action Best Picture nominee... though there Touchstone wing has been nominated before) Good luck measuring up! 

In the Heights
The Weinstein Company is also getting into the Miranda business with a film version of In the Heights, his musical from 2008 about three days in the lives of characters in the Washington Heights neighborhood of NYC (which is largely Hispanic). A previously announced production by Universal failed to materialize. The film won 5 Tonys including Best Musical. No casting or director announced for this one but they want it to be bare bones and "scrappy." No release date yet announced but sometimes stage to screen versions take decades. ("Wicked"? What's that?)

Any suggestions for the director's chair?