MUSICAL REVIEW: Movin’ Out


Way back on May 13, Carol and I got the grandparents to babysit so that we could see a production of the traveling show of the Broadway musical, Movin’ Out, featuring the music of Billy Joel, and choreography by Twila Tharp. We saw the production at the historic Proctor’s Theater in downtown Schenectady. Prior to the show, our real estate agent, who had secured us discounted tickets, also provided his coterie of associates with a complimentary pre-performance buffet featuring a musician who sang pop songs that I knew well.

The trick about Movin’ Out is that it helps a lot if you read the program, particularly the plot synopsis. I did; my wife did not. On paper, the plot seemed, well, paper-thin. My wife, conversely, was quite confused about whether there was actually a plot to this story. Is this merely a dance revue? It felt like that since the dancers would dance to the song, and then people would applaud, at least for the first 3-4 tunes. But as the plot thickened as the threat of war, specifically the Vietnam war, came over the story, there was a much more discernable story arc. So for me, it was much more enjoyable in that second part of the first act and the segued 4-song cycle that began the second act, ending with “Big Man on Mulberry Street,” a song I remember fondly from an episode of the television show Moonlighting.

I must say the musicians and singers were outstanding and the dancers were very good, although the choreography among the males early on seemed a little repetitive, and the songs, though familiar, took on a new energy. So I loved the parts, but I wasn’t always sure then, or even now, how I felt about the whole.

ROG

MUSICAL REVIEW: The Drowsy Chaperone

When I was away visiting my mother in Charlotte this month, my parents-in-law came up to Albany over the weekend to help paint Lydia’s (still unoccupied) bedroom. I came back that Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Then Wednesday, they took Lydia to their house in Oneonta, and Carol and I were able to go to the rapidly-expanding Proctor’s Theater in Schenectady to see The Drowsy Chaperone.

One of the reasons I watch the Tonys every year is to see what’s on Broadway, because I’d otherwise have little idea. Unless it’s a retread from anotheer medium (The Producers, Mamma Mia), it doesn’t get that much coverage. Here’s the
broadcast segment for TDS, a little scratchy, I’m afraid:

It was entertaining enough for us to want to see it when it came to town.

I agree with most aspects of this local review, except that I would have picked Show Off, the song in the above segment, as the highlight. In fact, unlike some of the songs that wouldn’t cut it on their own if it wasn’t part of the farcical faux musical, it would stand up on its own in any production.

Still, as the review suggests, the success of the production is largely on the shoulders of the Man in Chair, the narrator of the piece. The role was originated by Bob Martin, and he was replaced by Jonathan Crombie, who played the role in Schenectady. The Broadway role, interrupted by a now-resolved strike, is now being played by Bob Saget – yeah, the guy from Full House and 1 Vs. 100; I’m having difficulty imagining him in the role. Though not entirely comparable, I think of the Man in Chair as pivotal as the Stage Manager in Thorton Wilder’s play Our Town.

Another performer reprising her role from Broadway was Georgia Engel, probably best known as Ted Baxter’s wife on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. She talks about going on the road here:

I really like the truthiness of this commercial that suggests that we’re not likely to be swayed by the testimonials of “real people”:

So, when I saw THIS one, I laughed out loud:

I don’t know why this winner of five Tonys was was not very successful in its London run; a different sensibility, I suppose. All I know is that The Drowsy Chaperone made me laugh out loud many times. The best recommendation for a musical comedy I can think of.
ROG

MOVIE REVIEW: Once


I don’t recall any recent movie that was as critically acclaimed as Once. Last I checked, it had a 97% positive rating on the movie site Rotten Tomatoes. It’s been billed, correctly, I think, as a musical for those who like music but hate musicals. I mean, there’s no Ewan McGregor from Moulin Rouge, merry murderers from Chicago or even Jennifer Hudson from Dreamgirls, all of which I’ve seen, by the way, breaking into song to advance the plot. All the music comes from their “real” situations, and works, perhaps, because musicians who could act were cast, rather than actors who could sing.

Carol and I got a babysitter and went to see Once last month at the Spectrum in Albany, when it was down to two shows a day, as it turns out the week before it closed. It’s the story of a Guy (Glen Hansard) in Ireland who is a busker with a guitar, an aspiring singer/songwriter and vacuum cleaner repairman who meets a Girl (Marketa Irglova), who’s also a singer/songwriter as well as a pianist. They end up making beautiful music together in an “organic” way. But it doesn’t play out exactly how you might think.

Incidentally, I capitalized Guy and Girl, because that’s how the characters are billed; likewise Guy’s Dad (Bill Hodnett) and Girl’s Mother (Danuse Ktrestova).

I really don’t know how to describe this any further without giving out key plot points, except to say that we too were charmed and captivated by Once. It has a running time of 85 minutes, and it’s rated R, almost certainly for the substantial use of the F-word. In fact, much of the scene before the credits even pop up is laced with that word; it lessens considerably after that, but you may want to watch this with other adults.
***
Gay Prof says something snarky about the impeding departure of Karl Rove so I don’t have to.

ROG

Some Enchanted Evening

I posted on all thing musical yesterday and I forgot South Pacific. There’s already been one week of the Rodgers and Hamerstein work offered up at the Park Playhouse in Albany’s Washington Park, and the production will run Tuesdays through Sundays until August 14. It has reviewed well.

It includes I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair (a variation of which was made into a shampoo commercial some years ago), the title of this piece, and one of the most important songs in all of musical theater history, You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught.