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Entries in Stephen Sondheim (24)

Wednesday
Jun072017

Soundtracking: "Best Worst Thing..."

Soundtracking is our newest wekly series, with Chris Feil talking music in the movies! The Tony Awards are this weekend, so here is a documentary on a Broadway flop...

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened charts the making and failing of Stephen Sondheim / Hal Prince collaboration Merrily We Roll Along. The musical charts the decades-spanning friendship of three showbiz types, but told in reverse and with teenagers playing the roles. It was high concept and it was a notorious bomb - but with one brilliant and emotionally involving score.

If you’re unfamiliar with the musical and its complicated backwards plotting, Best Worst Thing does a pretty snappy job of quickly explaining the show’s concept before focusing on the cast left out in the cold by Merrily’s failure. What sounds rather niche for a documentary subject is actually quite moving and emotionally accessible, and still touches on some hefty themes. The film, directed by original cast member Lonny Price, is personal but not cloying. It’s a documentary about the hard truths of growing up into a world that isn’t all you were promised, - and it consistently finds deeper context for the music.

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Friday
Feb102017

What's Next for Gyllenhaalics?

Remember the ol' internet nickname for Gyllenhaal fans circa 2004-2006, "Gyllenhaalics"? We never stopped using the term because it never became irrelevant for us. Both Jake and Maggie have continued to do amazing work well past their initial breakthroughs in the early to mid Aughts. Let's check in with what the wonder siblings are up to after the jump...

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Monday
Dec192016

Jake Comes Back Singing

by Eric Blume

Playbill recently announced that one of our very favorite Oscar nominees/hunks/great actors, Jake Gyllenhaal, will reprise his four-day stint from October as French painter George Seurat in Steven Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George for an official ten-week Broadway run.  Previews begin February 11th.

I was able to catch Jake in the initial staged-concert run of the show, and he’s a sight to behold...

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Sunday
Nov272016

Five Teensy Reviews: Moana, Miss Sloane, Rules Don't Apply, Etc...

by Nathaniel R

Presented to assuage Nathaniel's guilt from not having properly reviewed them -- all five are now playing in theaters.

Moana (Clements, Hall, Musker & Williams)
Story: A chieftain's daughter sails the ocean to right an ancient wrong and save her people
Review: The episodic plot is ungainly and repetitive but the rest, from animal sidekick, to magical animation, to the heroine's self awakening and theme song ("How Far I'll Go") sure is dazzling. Disney's most resonant and hypnotic climax in forever and ever. "This is not who you are..."
Grade: B/B+
Oscar Chances: A nomination seems certain but Zootopia will be a tough film to dismount from this year's throne. It's worth noting that composer Lin-Manuel Miranda will complete his EGOT if he wins the Oscar.

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Monday
Oct172016

Beauty vs Beast: Which of the Woods

Jason from MNPP here seizing the moment with this week's edition of "Beauty vs Beast" -- well, seizing one of many moments, but not only moments, because if life were only moments then we'd never know we had one. You know how it goes. Anyway this moment, this one of many not only, is the birthday of the director Rob Marshall, who makes magical movies that, uh... defy description. Like Into the Woods, perhaps? Yes, we are in the right story.

PREVIOUSLY Here it is a week later and I'm still pretty shocked it took me over 125 editions of this series to get to my favorite movie Rosemary's Baby - but who won? Well you guys sided with the Devil, just like the Oscars did, and gave the prize to Ruth Gordon's Minnie Castavet and her eternally chalky undertaste - said Marsha Mason:

"I think Ruth had the greater acting accomplishment. Mia was good at being afraid, but Ruth pulled off "loud old NYC lady in league with Satan," succeeding in making her both hilarious, outspoken and very creepy. She reminds me of Barbara Bush that way."

Wednesday
Oct052016

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.