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Entries in Stephen Sondheim (9)

Thursday
Sep042014

"Happy now and happy hence and happy ever after"?

Manuel here, to discuss some news that got lost in the shuffle last week -in an interview with EW last week, Rob Marshall confirmed that that new Stephen Sondheim-penned number for Into The Woods was cut. [Gay gasp!] Yes, that song which Meryl was so effusive about last year and which Sondheim had penned just for her (seemingly in response to certain plot strands that were left dangling by, well, Disneyfied cuts to the fairy tale musical) has found itself on the cutting room floor. In Marshall's words,

“It was beautiful and spectacular, but it was very clear, as good as the song was, that [the movie] was stronger without.”
Rumblings on the web lead me to believe there's more to the story (isn't there always?) but rather than give credence to the rumor mill, we'll at least have something to look forward to in the film's DVD/Blu-Ray bonus features (they still have those, right? I feel as though I've been streaming so many films lately, I haven't sought out or outright explored these behind the scenes featurettes unless they become viral sensations). 

 

But rather than ask that obvious question ("will the song still be featured in some way in the film and thus be eligible for the Best Original Song?") I thought I'd open it up to a more interesting, if obscure, conversation. Writing new songs for existing musicals as they make their way to the silver screen is nothing new. Written either as an Oscar-grab or as a way to solve cinematic problems when adapting stage-primed material, these songs have been just as often outright hits as they've been unmistakable misses. For every serviceable number such as "Suddenly" (Les Mis) there is a head-scratcher like "Cinema Italiano" (Nine). For every tacked on song like "Hopelessly Devoted to You" (Grease) that nevertheless finds life outside of the musical film therein, there is "Mein Herr" which is now integral to stage mountings of Cabaret

I know I'm talking to the theatre queens in the audience, but I'm sure there's plenty of you out there: If you could choose one such number to nix it from a musical film adaptation, which one would it be? Or, conversely, which numbers written specifically for the screen do you think have captured the spirit of the show and made significant contributions to its sensibility? 

Thursday
Jul172014

Elaine Stritch (1925-2014)

When Colleen Donaghy died on 30 Rock in the episode "My Whole Life is Thunder" I tried to think of it as tragicomic rehearsal. A chance to acknowledge that death was coming for the beloved theater great but to laugh at it or at least about its absurd finality.

Elaine Stritch herself wouldn't have approved of my wussiness. She might've said something like "it's me who's dying, not you!" (albeit in a much funnier manner) because she had a tart tongue and was quite a truth teller. In the documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (reviewed) released early this year she references her impending death more than a little as she prepares to move back home (Detroit) and retire finally, in her late eighties, for good.

But even this documentary didn't quite convince me that she was leaving us.

I saw Elaine Stritch’s famous one woman Broadway show “At Liberty” in early 2002 a couple of years after moving to New York. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was nothing short of spiritual ecstasy but then showbiz is my religion and actresses are my only gods. 

 I had mythologized her, you can see in that excerpt of that intro to my review of that documentary. How could Death conquer such a life force?

It wasn't until after the special screening here in NYC that Stritch (or as I like to call her "Stritchieeeeeeeee!" imitating her imitation of an angry director in At Liberty) was wheeled out to greet us that it finally sunk in. She looked undeniably more like a feeble old woman than the  giant of the theater in white shirt and black tights that I was accustomed to looking up at with awe.

The last time I'd seen Stritchieeee in the flesh before that she was also in a wheelchair. It was late 2010 when she took over for Angela Lansbury in the Broadway Revival of "A Little Night Music." She sings her big number "Liaisons" from a wheelchair. But that was just acting. More rehearsal.

When Elaine set out to do something she worked her ass off until she did it right. 

So here's to the girls on the go--
Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Everybody rise!
Rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!
Rise!

And this Tony and Emmy winning legend did it right. A final round of thunderous applause please because this time there's no more encores. 

Monday
Jun232014

anything can happen in the woods... ♪ can i link you? 

LA Curbed Character actress extraordinaire Agnes Moorehead's was apparently a wealthy gal. Her former home is going for $19 million. Whoa!
Empire new stills from The Imitation Game which I'm hearing very positive buzz on
HuffPo remembers Batman (1989) with pictures from the original premiere. Such a blast from the past. Remember when Robert Downey Jr and Sarah Jessica Parker were a couple!? Glenn Close looks so young. Anybody know the unnamed woman with Tim Burton?
In Contention Kris Tapley also paid tribute to the film which he says he owes... a lot

Movie Mezzanine Lars von Trier was making movies about "rape culture" before it had a name. Discussion of Dogville & Breaking the Waves
/Film Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience (2009) is becoming a TV series. Lodge Kerrigan who made the disturbing indie Clean, Shaven (1993) and the actress Amy Seimetz are writing and directing.
VF Hollywood Katey Rich on Gary Oldman's angry comments defending Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin's language
Vulture Hollywood's leading men arranged by height with Kevin Hart and Daniel Radcliffe as the tiniest though weirdly they skip the very tallest ones like Hugh Jackman (6'2") and Chris Hemsworth (nearly 6'3") 
Buzzfeed Daniel Radcliffe sorts celebrities into Hogwarts houses. Streep for Gryffindor ("because she's awesome"), Jon Hamm for Hufflepuff, Benedict Cumberbatch for Ravenclaw, etcetera  
In Contention composer Alexandre Desplat to head the Venice Film Festival jury
Sir Ian McKellen he's now "Doctor" Sir Ian McKellen 

Corrections or Damage Control?
Stephen Sondheim has issued a clarifying statement about Into the Woods after all the negative reaction to the changes he said Disney made. Time has passed since he made the comment...

...I had not yet seen a full rough cut of the movie. Coincidentally, I saw it immediately after leaving the meeting and, having now seen it a couple of times, I can happily report that it is not only a faithful adaptation of the show, it is a first-rate movie.

And for those who care, as the teachers did, the Prince's dalliance is still in the movie, and so is "Any Moment."

I'm not sure I trust Sondheim to judge a movie. He also approved damaging changes to the film version of Sweeney Todd and just because you're a genius in one medium, doesn't mean you know what's best or even good in another.

Two Tweets
Yeah, yeah, I'm quoting myself but for those of you who aren't on twitter I'd thought you'd enjoy/relate...

 

 

 

And my favorite Tweet of the day because it's good lolz

 

 

Tuesday
Nov262013

Sondheim to Streep "Don't F*** It Up!"

I am normally loathe to share soundbyte interviews from TV  -- especially when I have full delicious ones to offer with a whole slew of actors (soon, darlings, soon) -- but this little bit with Meryl Streep explaining what it's like to play Violet Weston is choice. The 'shiv in her hair' reference is perfect. But mostly I dug her enthusiasm about Into the Woods. Hey I'd squeal too if Sondheim wrote a new song for me!

He only asks that Meryl not fuck it up. (That's all we ask too) Which delights her. Because Meryl is delightful. 

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Sep042012

Top Ten: Song Titles That Should Be Movies

This week's top ten list is dedicated to James T, one of my fav readers and twitterers, who asked me some time ago to "pick song titles that you'd have liked to be the titles of movies that should exist." I couldn't resist the odd wildly random challenge and given that I recently hosted a karaoke party (don't ask) I'm in the mood. So here goes...This list was actually hard to make because so many songs -- even great ones -- have totally generic titles.  

TEN SONGS TITLES THAT I TOTALLY WISH WERE MOVIES

Next year can we have Fiona Apple title all the movies that come out?

Runners up: ""Extraordinary Machine, Hot Knife" or any of her album titles -Fiona Apple... and can we talk her into trying acting?, "Please Don't Make Me Too Happy" - Christine Lavin, "Backwoods Barbie" - Dolly Parton cuz she loves to write about herself so why not a fun biopic?

10 "Do You Wanna Funk" -Sylvester
And can it be a serious yet fun movie about discos and clubbing in the 1970s?  54 was so lame.

09 "Call Me Maybe" - Carly Rae Jepsen
But only if it's a romantic comedy that comes out in 2013 (like, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun would be a stupid title for a movie now but it was just right back in 1985!) . And yes I sang this at karaoke. Don't judge.

MORE AFTER THE JUMP

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan122012

Cast This! Rob Marshall and "Into the Woods"

As frightening... as bewildering... as wrong as it is to say after a decade of breakthroughs (Moulin Rouge!), critical triumphs (Dancer in the Dark, Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and box office hits (Chicago, Dreamgirls, Hairspray) and problematic but Oscar nominated efforts (Nine, Sweeney Todd, Phantom of the Opera) ... the movie musical is still in trouble. It probably will be until another Vincente Minnelli or Bob Fosse arrives on the scene, someone who understands and breathes and trusts the very cinematic language of the musical. Until then we'll get bored directors detouring or novices who think it might be "fun" to try one... or Rob Marshall.

Will no young director challenge Rob Marshall as King of the Musicals?

Stage turned film director Rob Marshall was initially seen as something of a savior of the form when Chicago (2002) became a smash hit and Best Picture winner. It had been 34 years since a movie musical had had that honor. But his musical follow up Nine (2009) proved a massive flop and a target of critical derision. Though I thought it was better than it got credit for being (how could it not be given the vitriol?) in tandem with Chicago it revealed too little range and an inherent distrust of the form he had been handed, without competition, to rule; the music in both films emerged on sound stages as hallucinations or performative fantasy. His two subsequent non-musicals (Memoirs of a Geisha and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) were much worse, with listless dramatics and overstuffed weightless business for plot. Nevertheless, Hollywood logic prevails. Disney, looking at the colossal gross of On Stranger Tides, has obviously forgiven Marshall for Nine's red ink and rewarded him with the reigns of the film version of a bonafide masterpiece, Stephen Sondheim's twisted fairy tale classic Into the Woods. Never mind that I could have directed On Stranger Tides (it would have been all about the mermaids and they would have drowned Captain Jack in the first half hour) and it would still have been a top grosser. In Hollywood you get credit for blockbuster grosses even if you are obviously replaceable since anyone helming a long running franchise will produce a similar size hit. Audiences are lemmings when it comes to those big franchises. 

So though I weep that Into the Woods isn't getting a world class auteur, and I shudder most of all to think of those glorious songs sung by people who can't handle the intricacies of the music -- Marshall casts for stardom first even if they can't sing and Sondheim obviously writes only for great singers who can act -- we should try and stay positive. Let's play...

Bernadette Peters leads the cast of the original INTO THE WOODS (1987)

CAST THIS!

Click to read more ...