2

Fun and Foodsicals

It might have been because I fell asleep listening to Showtunes on Pandora, or maybe because I was hungry, but I woke up singing the lyrics from Wicked, only it was more like “it’s time to try, deep-frying gravity…”

Image result for defying gravity wicked

Which gave me an idea…a new game where you change the lyrics of musicals to talk about food instead, aka Foodsicals. And if you’re “Food, Glorious Food” from Oliver!, you can’t play this game.

My initial thoughts?

Chicago“Give ’em the old, sizzle sazzle…”

Image result for razzle dazzle chicago

Beauty and the Beast“Certain as the sun, rising in the yeast…”

Image result for beauty and the beast

That’s all I’ve thought of for now, but if you can think of any other good ones, post them in the comments.

Oh, and I got my 38000th RevolverMap hit the other day from Hilo, Hawaii, USA!

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6

A Meditation on Malfoy

So, I’m not the most humongous Harry Potter fan out there, but I do like it, and now I like it even more after my discovery last night of A Very Potter Musical.

I had just completed the 750-piece puzzle I bought last week that actually turned out to be a 748-piece puzzle because two pieces seem to be missing. While I was looking around for them, and scrolling through some YouTube links, I came across “Going Back to Hogwarts,” the opening number from the show. I played it, expecting it to be subpar, but it was surprisingly catchy, almost Billy Joel-like in its rhythm and lyrics. It’s also really funny; Cho Chang has a Southern accent, and quite obviously from the voice, Draco Malfoy was sung by a female actor.

Then, today, I looked for more on YouTube and sure enough, StarKid Productions uploaded it, in about twenty parts.

And I watched them all.

And it was totally awesome.

All the actors really shone. I actually couldn’t tell that Harry Potter was played by Darren Criss, who I find annoying in real life, but not bad as an unrecognizable Harry. The actors playing Ron, Ginny, and Snape kind of camped it up a bit, but I really liked Voldemort, Dumbledore, Hermione, and most surprisingly…Draco Malfoy.

I’m not the type of person who jumps at the evil characters. In fact, quite the opposite; I’ve always felt oddly drawn to Gryffindor, even though it’s kind of turned into the House for overachieving losers. Slytherin’s where all the cool kids are, and despite a lot of my Harry Potter-loving friends singing the praises of that house, I guess I’m just such a fan of playing by the rules that Gryffindor seems to be the house for me. Many who read the books found Harry Potter to be annoying, but I rooted for him most of the time, and definitely against the Slytherins, because when you have that much power, why waste your time being mean and petty when there are bigger fish to fry? Anyway, Draco Malfoy always seemed to me like a Wizard version of Harry’s cousin Dudley Dursley; rich, spoiled, overweight, and generally a nuisance, even though he seemed to redeem himself in the later books.

But in AVPM, Malfoy is totally the opposite.

Whereas most of the characters are played straight, brilliant actress Lauren Lopez accentuates all the quirks of Malfoy from the books and stretches them to the max, whether she’s drawing out words in a posh accent or seemingly forgetting how to walk and rolling around the stage for no apparent reason. Combined with the bad wig, the glazed expression, and the bitchy scowl, this interpretation of Draco Malfoy makes him turn from evil to downright adorable.

See for yourself:

And that’s how I spent the majority of this beautiful day in May.

0

One Island, Two Musicals

And so it begins…

Not just the semester, but the laziness, the over-tiredness, the slacking on blogging that comes with settling back into the Madison groove.

Before I go back and edit my last Charlottetown travelogue post, here’s a review of the two main-stage shows I saw when I was there.

“It’s your garlic press.” Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/steffid3

First up, Bittergirl, the story of three women in various stages of relationships – one dating (Marisa MacIntyre), one co-habiting (Steffi DiDomenicantonio – try fitting that on the back of a baseball uniform), and one married (Kathy Auerbach) – with one man (played by Jay Davis) representing all three of their partners. At the beginning, each of their respective partners breaks it off, and together and separately, they go through the motions of how to deal with the breakup through classic girl-group songs of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and through it all, come out on top. It was performed cabaret-style, with the actresses sometimes walking around the audience, seated at tables. I saw it on Saturday night at the Mack. For $35, I got lucky enough to be seated front-row center with a lovely family from Boston. Together, we laughed at the jokes and I hummed along to such re-interpreted favorites as “He’s A Rebel,”  “I Hear A Symphony,” “Tell Him,” “Be My Baby,” and the finale number, “Too Many Fish in the Sea,” during which Kathy Auerbach came offstage and gave me a hug while she was singing!

Overall, an evening full of oldies and fun. The only weak spot was probably Jay Davis as The Man. Reasonably attractive, but no match for the three ladies, especially DiDomenicantonio, a combination of Anne Hathaway and Liza Minnelli who arguably was the star of the show. Davis’s vocals weren’t as on point, and I often found myself bored during his songs, but maybe that’s because I was just so entertained by the other three.

Two nights later, at the Confederation Centre for the Arts, it was time for Canada’s longest-running musical, Anne of Green Gables. The house was packed, but $50 got me a reasonably good seat house right, seated with three generations of women from Miramichi, New Brunswick – the town I woke up in without knowing where I was – who’d made this a yearly tradition. Of course, it was well worth it, and well-rehearsed. The strongest actors were those who played Anne, Matthew, Marilla, and Diana; very impressive. The plot followed the books pretty well, but left out a few key points, especially one of my favorite incidents, the one about Anne lying about Marilla’s brooch to make her feel better. The costumes and lighting were spot on, but the sets looked a little on the rickety side. On the downside, the songs were cute but not the most inspired, and the second act kind of veered away from Anne, until the pageant scene. Overall, it’s a show that was magical on Prince Edward Island, but probably would fall a little flat elsewhere.

2

Masterpiece YouTube: Donald O’Connor, Applied Mathematics

Today was a horribly cold and blustery day, the first of the year. Let’s hope this doesn’t mean six more weeks of winter for Madison. I actually had a nice day, though: lunch with 12 friends at Great Dane, and I also got to the gym, which was just about empty, thanks to the Superbowl and the weather. I’ve got a lot on my mind, so to give you a more accurate picture of what it looks like and because I don’t have the wherewithal at the moment to think of something interesting and new, here’s an updated episode of MYT from last September that I’ve been meaning to fix.

Just watch.

That’s So Jacob Presents:

Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 14: Donald O’Connor, Applied Mathematics, Are You With It? (1948)

This, my friends, is talent. No offense to the silver screen stars of today (does anyone even use that phrase anymore?) but Donald O’Connor’s feet have more talent in them than the majority of this year’s Oscar nominees. It’s even more striking in black and white. And yeah, it’s not really about math, but it’s fun to watch and pretend that it’s your math homework.

Donald O’Connor was part of an amazing generation of performers. And when I say performers, I mean performers – people who could sing, dance, act, and had personalities and energies that were just electric. People like Ann Miller, Betty Garrett, Vera-Ellen, Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly. There’s a reason why Singin’ In The Rain is one of the best American movies of all time; it’s because the viewer is drawn into the story and its characters. These days, I feel like popular movies are all pretty much the same animal; remake of a remake of a remake, sci-fi aliens/dinosaurs/warriors, romantic comedy, or screwball comedy. Not to say that they aren’t good, there’s just a certain magic that goes into a musical film; as the characters go through their changes through song, so do you. I think the only major movie that would fit this category is Pitch Perfect, and even that’s pushing it.

Speaking of remakes, I think it’s high time for Are You With It? to mount a comeback. From what I understand, the plot is about a math teacher who joins a traveling carnival. In today’s economy and the worrisome job market, this might be just the thing to inspire people, or at least entertain them.

Or you could just watch Donald O’Connor dance some more.

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube has been brought to you by the Rachel Sweet Pandora Radio channel, which I’ve been rocking out to for the last half-hour while I wrote this.

In other news, I hope that y’all come back and visit even though the January Blogging Odyssey is over. I’ve had a pretty good day though, with five continents reporting in, all but Africa: North America (Canada and USA), South America (Peru), Europe (UK, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Italy, and Liechtenstein), Asia (Israel, India, UAE, and the Philippines) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). Tell your friends?

2

On Colorblindness in the Theatre

Today, one of my friends posted this as his status on Facebook:

You know what really grinds my gears? When all white high schools put on black shows like Aida and The Wiz.

I’m not usually that person who goes there with someone’s Facebook status, but I found this to be somewhat offensive and felt the urge to say something.

So I did a little research, and responded, saying something along the lines of:

I don’t think that this is a fair statement. MTI, the company that holds the rights to Aida and is very strict about their rules, suggests that ethnic actors would be good for the show, but does not say that the director must cast actors of color; that would be discriminatory. Plus, if it’s high school, it’s for educational purposes, and some rules may not apply.

By the time I pressed the comment button, several other of his friends, black and white, commented similarly, saying that The Wiz was based on The Wizard of Oz, Quvenzhane Wallis is going to be the next Annie, Broadway had an all-black Hello, Dolly!, that not all schools have black students (or enough interested in the arts to cast the show), etc. I was not alone.

His response to me?

Jacob, when did I say MUST? You’re the only one talking about licensing; I’m just saying that they shouldn’t be putting on shows about my people. White people telling the stories of colored people is wack.

My response?

Maybe directors at these schools choose those shows because they like the beauty of the story, not to mention the music and the message. Aida and The Wiz are just as much part of the American musical theatre canon as My Fair LadySouth Pacific, et cetera. They have all the rights in the world to put on whatever show they like; you don’t have any control over that.

His response?

Seriously?

Over that?

A little background: this friend, whom I’ll call Kevin, is an African-American guy I met at the 2006 APO nationals, and again at the 2008 nationals. When I met him, I thought he was funny and nice. I haven’t seen him for a long time, but we’ve remained friends on Facebook. His posts are, one could say, inconsistent. One day, he’ll post something about how black stereotypes are wrong, and the next day, he’ll post something that is a complete stereotype (one of the hard things about Facebook: detecting sarcasm), something like “Oh honeychile’ there is some fake weaves in this here bar.” I always thought that if you’re a person who hates stereotypes, don’t go slinging them around, and then get offended when someone calls you out on it.

The topic of colorblindness in show selection and casting is something I’ve wanted to write my thoughts on for a long time, and I guess now is as good a time as ever.

Since Kevin started us off with high school, let’s rewind to the early 2000s, aka my high school days, where I was so involved in theatre that I actually got a little plaque about it. 100% of the students in my school were Jewish, and 98% of the school was, you could say, white. That didn’t stop us from putting on shows with nonwhite characters. I mean, what are we supposed to do…Fiddler on the Roof every year? Sure, we did some very white-bread shows (Hello, Dolly! and Bye Bye Birdie come to mind), but we also did West Side Story and South Pacific, despite having very few students of color in the school. We didn’t do Aida or The Wiz, but I don’t think anyone would have stopped us had we done them. The two shows Kevin chose, actually, are particularly bad examples…Dreamgirls and Hairspray would’ve been harder to pull off, owing to the racial nature of the plot, but apart from blackface, I don’t see a problem with a school that is entirely or predominantly white putting on Aida or The Wiz.

Kevin, you are a well-educated and well-spoken person, but this is not the 1990s and you’re not Lauryn Hill (who, by the way, apologized for her remarks about white people). If high school theatre went by your logic, does that mean that high schools that don’t have any Asian students shouldn’t put on Flower Drum Song or The King and I? Or that a predominantly black school shouldn’t do My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music?

Sheesh Louise.

Back to my high school days. In my freshman year, we did both West Side Story and South Pacific. Our West Side Story, in particular is a great example of exactly why casting should be talent based, and not looks-based. Two of the main characters, Maria and Anita, are quite clearly Hispanic. We only had one girl with a Hispanic background in the whole school, and even though she auditioned, she didn’t get either part. The part of Maria went to a white girl, who I think did a pretty good job of playing Maria. She was not wearing any sort of makeup other than stage makeup, and she didn’t speak with a Puerto Rican accent, but she got the job done. Anita, on the other hand, was played by one of the only other non-white girls in school; a girl of East Asian descent who happened to be a very talented dancer. Though the character of Anita does a lot of dancing, she also sings. The girl who got the part did not. In fact, she refused to sing, period. For “America,” another Shark girl took her role, and for “Tonight,” Anita sat onstage while the other Shark girls sang around her, as if she was getting ready for a party. I can’t remember what they did for “I Have A Love,” – that number might have been cut for time – but she didn’t sing a note. It was a shame; even though she is a very talented dancer and looked beautiful in the part, she was not cut out for Anita at all. Several of the other girls could have done that role even better, and would have loved to have Anita’s singing lines all to herself. For South Pacific, the girl who played Anita didn’t get Bloody Mary or Liat, roles she probably wouldn’t have liked anyway, instead, she danced in one number while other non-Asian girls played those parts. In contrast, when we did Bye Bye Birdie, the Hispanic girl I was talking about was a front-runner for the role of Kim McAfee, arguably one of the most white-bread roles in the American theatre, and when I’m talking front-runner, I mean that out of all the girls who auditioned, she got called back and was probably in the top four of the director’s choices for the role.

Moving right along, you also say that ever-so-problematic phrase “my people.” Okay, so you’re saying that these are the stories of “your ancestors,” like the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow? Let’s look at the facts. Part of the beauty of The Wiz is the inventive music, which makes it different from The Wizard of Oz but does not make it exclusively for one race. And funny you should bring up Aida, a story from Africa with music and lyrics by “your people”…Tim Rice and Elton John. The original Aida is about as black as a lightly toasted pizza crust; it was a story created in Italy. Furthermore, the story is about Ancient Egypt, and even though Aida was Ethiopian, the other characters may or may not have been dark-skinned. Traditionally, Cleopatra is thought of as “black” or “African,” but even though she was born in Africa and lived there, she had Macedonian and Greek ancestry through Ptolemy. She was most likely olive-skinned if not white, and possibly had green or blue eyes and blond hair. In all likelihood, she probably looked more like Jennifer Aniston than Cicely Tyson.

Now, I don’t know your actual ethnic background, but I do know that you were born in America, and that were you to go to Jamaica or Ghana or Kenya and proclaim them to be “your people,” they’d probably all either laugh at you, or think that you were weird without saying anything to your face about it. The Wiz is as much your story as The Wizard of Oz is my story; basically, not really. All the people in these shows are fictional characters who have been and will be portrayed by actors of many ethnicities, and even mixed ethnicities. I think that’s as far as I’m willing to go in this post about defining ethnicity/race, so let’s move on to another topic.

Before I left Houston, my friend Monica and I were having lunch and talking about musical theatre. Monica is a singer and actress, and I was working on Fiddler on the Roof in Baytown. She also happens to be African-American. When Fiddler entered the conversation, she said something along the lines of how she wouldn’t fit into that show; if you put her in villager clothes, she’d probably look like a slave, which might be true. I agreed with her, saying that even though she could sing and act Golde, it would be tough for her to pull it off. In hindsight, I think I was wrong. In fact, I think she’d make an awesome Golde, regardless of whether Tevye or anyone else in the cast was black. In fact, we did have a black girl in the chorus; granted, she was very tiny and hardly noticeable onstage, but she was there and dressed like a villager. Furthermore, when The Crucible was done at U of H, there were many black actors among the citizens of Salem, and not just Tituba; in fact, the girl who was initially cast as Elizabeth was not only black but of Caribbean descent, and race is very much an issue in that show. Had she stayed, she would have made a wonderful Elizabeth.

If an actor can do the part well, they should indeed, regardless of color. And if a mostly or all white high school wants to do The Wiz, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that.

Oh, and Kevin? Good job showing your true colors; defriending someone who disagrees with you on something in a very nice way without getting riled up about it is obviously a sign of maturity.

That was sarcasm.

And I probably didn’t want to be friends with you anyway.

0

Care (Igan) for a Glass of (Lowder) Milk?

Today, for the first time, I looked upon these two faces through my computer screen, although I have been listening to what they’ve had to say for years.

So just who are this cheeky couple?

These are Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk. Most likely wonderfully fabulous alone, as a duo they are the stick of dynamite, the force that is…Kerrigan & Lowdermilk. (Oh, and by the way, Kerrigan’s on the right and Lowdermilk’s on the left. In case you were confused.

What do they do?

They write songs. Good songs. Great songs. Wonderful songs. Amazing songs.

Every generation has its pure pop songwriter duo. For my grandparents’ generation, it was Betty Comden and Adolph Green who set the trend from the musical theater angle, coming up with the music and lyrics for one of America’s most beloved musical films, Singin’ In The Rain, and one of the most underrated, On the Town. The sixties and seventies launched Gerry Goffin and Carole King, who are responsible for “(You Make Me Feel Like A) Natural Woman” and other songs whose original versions are solid gold classics, and are probably known to most of my generation as the songs most butchered by contestants on American Idol. And before you say that pure pop classics written by boy/girl songwriting are so last century, look who just won an Oscar: Kristen Anderson-Lopez and her partner/husband/newest EGOT-club member Robert Lopez, whose “Let it Go” from the popular Disney film Frozen beat out U2, Karen O, and Pharrell Williams for the coveted Best Original Song. Which brings me back around to my original topic.

I first became aware of the Kerrigan-Lowdermilk songbook in Israel, when a friend of mine decided to sing a song from a little musical called Henry and Mudge entitled “My Party Dress.” The fact that my friend was perfect for the role notwithstanding, the song was intriguing in its music and hilarious in it’s lyrics. I haven’t found a version on YouTube that I like, but basically it’s about a girl who talks and talks and talks, with unintentional humor, so much so that you often forget what the song is about (hint: it’s in the title). Of course, I set about memorizing the lyrics, which I still know, four years later; in fact, I performed it one night to some friends just for fun.

Then I realized…could there be more where this came from?

And the answer: yes.

K & L have not only written musicals about awkward children’s books I barely remember, but also original musicals for contemporary audiences, with songs that could easily top the Billboard charts if given to someone like Demi Lovato or Lorde or Michael Buble as a single. There’s The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown, which I don’t know that much about other than its basic plot structure, but that I realize I need to learn more of, as one song from it keeps coming back into my mind: “Say the Word.” It’s a lovely ballad that is just as easy to understand out of context as in, and also works great for either gender and really just about any age. I wouldn’t put it in its own Masterpiece YouTube segment or anything, because there’s not really a music video for it, but you should hear it any way.

If I didn’t have a million things due by tomorrow, I would walk you through their website, their karaoke page, or their YouTube channel. But you should do that, and then leave a comment on this page telling me which song or theirs is your favorite, or which one makes you smile, or simply which one gives you the feels. Because, undoubtedly, one of them will.

Do it. Do it right now.

Then come back and tell me how it was, so the next time my head is not full of papers-cake-dinner-proposals-dramaturgy-life, we can share the magic together.