Bleh with Barry

Random with a cynical twist of lime.

Archive for the ‘Plays’ Category

Why Watching an Anniversary Concert DVD Does not Make You an Expert

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By Photo: Andreas Praefcke (own photograph) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As all of you know, I am a kind of a YouTube fanatic, but moreover, you all know that the comments / reviews on performance, literary, or artistic items unnerve me when they do certain things (“Commenting on Things: What You Should and Should Not Do“). However, most recently, I have been watching clips from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s Les Miserables from varying performances. In the comment sections, I have found people attacking other performers based upon their watching of the 25th Anniversary Cast DVDs of both musicals and think that they are the quintessential casts and performances. While I don’t necessarily have a problem with either cast (besides that Jonas kid as Marius… because he’s wimpy compared to the rest of the cast), I think that it is entirely unfair to demonize another performance based upon the ideology that you liked another performer better, but moreover, I also think that it’s terrible to attack a performer simply because you say they’re terrible… Tell us why they’re terrible for heaven’s sake.

The biggest example of this comes when people are comparing Lea Salonga’s performance of Fantine (25th Anniversary of Les Mis) or Eponine  (10th Anniversary) to the others that have played these roles and simply saying that they suck in comparison to her.  While I have no objections to Lea Salonga per say,  I do think that there are things that she does that are technically wrong. For instance, she spreads every vowel to the point that tight vowels are distorted by the overall stretched position of her mouth. (If you notice, I pointed out a flaw that is easily detectable… not just “Fuck no Lea Salonga is Fucking awfel”… spelling errors added for emphasis). However, I still believe that Lea Salonga is a good performer in her own right. Still, I don’t necessarily think that she’s the best performer for particular roles (Fantine is one thing that I just am not a fan of her in because her voice doesn’t convey the emotion that I think it should… to me it comes off as I’m trying to be sad and emotional but never really arrives at either).  Ms. Salonga is good in many things, but I just don’t think that this is the best performance of her (I like her better as Eponine).

This brings me to the main point of this post. I understand that people love the anniversary concerts of both franchises. Honestly, the 25th Anniversary Phantom might be my favorite filmed musical production. I also like a lot about the Les Mis 25th Anniversary (Ramin Karimloo and Hadley Fraser are awesome… and so is Samantha Banks… others are too). However, I think that you create a flawed perception for yourself if you think that a DVD cast is the end all be all and don’t give anyone else another chance at all. I find nothing wrong with valuing one person’s performance over another. My biggest qualm lies with those that attack other people and other performances simply because they think that one person is better. This is why I say that watching that 25th Anniversary does not make you the expert on the whole of the musical or anything else for that matter. Believe me. There are others out there that know a lot more than you about whatever it is that you’re writing about, and most of them will allow you to have a valid point in an argument as long as it doesn’t turn into the “Nuh-uh she sucks!” type of statement.

Also, (this is connected to the previous paragraph, but I wanted to break here), don’t spread slander about an actor / actress / performer / writer just to do it.  For example, this comment came from a Les Mis video with Ruthie Henshall:

“This DOMESTIC STARLET CAREERLESS HAS-BEEN (thank you, Arch) is terribly miscast for this role. She has the ugliest voice ever of any Fantine, she can’t hit the notes, and she can’t act. The overarated Ruthie Henshall should not be cast in anything!”

Why was this necessary? Additionally, I have seen the “Domestic Starlet Careerless Has-Been” quoted often and wonder who said it first. This does not make you appear knowledgeable… it just makes you look ignorant and hateful (also without citing your source, it makes you look like a plagiarist or that you’re ashamed of your source… all I’m saying). Additionally, please don’t mark everything as SPAM if it doesn’t agree with your opinion. That’s even more childish than the “Nuh-Uh” comments in my opinion. If you can’t have a rationale and civil debate, don’t hide what others say… GAH!!!

Sorry… I’m done with my rant now… I feel a little better about life, and hopefully, others who do these rude things simply because they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet can take something from this… So in closing, I leave you with a few of the videos that started this rant. If you want more examples of the comments that people make, just look in the comment sections on these vids… So yeah…

The first is the Ruthie Henshall version from the 10th Anniversary concert of Les Mis. Personally, this is my favorite and is the one that started the purpose of this post… I feel like she shows a great deal of emotion in the song and performance, which is limited by the concert setting mind you. Enjoy!

The second is the Lea Salonga video that also caused this post. While I’m not a huge fan of Salonga’s Fantine, I think that there are some things that are wonderful about her performance as well. I just watch her and feel that her technique is flawed because of the vowel spreading… I also think that she doesn’t sound like a woman who has been through all that Fantine has… (and she’s had it hard).

The third is form the original West End performer of the role Patti Lupone. While it’s in a concert setting (because the original show was in a time before bootlegging shows in the theater was more difficult… think of the 80s video cameras…), I think that it’s obvious why a lot of individuals believe her to be pretty awesome (I love Patti…).

I’m even including Susan Boyle’s version of the song, which many persons may know… Although I am impressed by her vocal ability as a relative unknown flying into stardom and her raw talent, I also think that it’s unfair to compare her to the Broadway and West End greats that have performed this song. She’s good, but she has a lot of little flaws throughout the performance (timing, vowel sound, counting) that make it weaker to me. Good performance overall.

Matter of factly, even Glee has done it with Idina Menzel and Lea Michelle performing. Auto-tuned performances aside because of the nature of television, it’s pretty good overall… just not my cup of tea.

I could give you more and more of these performance, but I’m going to end here. But my PSA of the day would be that you (and I know that I’m writing toward a niche) should give other performances and artistry a chance before you judge something as terrible simply because it’s not what you’re familiar with or what you fell in love with to begin with… There you go.

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The Last Five Years: Goodbye Until Tomorrow / I Could Never Rescue You

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As most of my readers know, my posts are kind of scatter shot at time because I like many, many things. One of them is musicals, and lately, I’ve been listening to one of my favorites that I come back to on regular occasion: The Last Five Years.

Now, I don’t know how many of you have heard of this musical. It’s written by Jason Robert Brown (he’s amazing) and the original cast recording with Norbert Leo Butz (just won a second Tony for “Catch Me if You Can”) and Sherie Rene Scott (love her!). Anyway, the musical is the story of a couple who falls in love, gets married, and then divorced. However, there’s a narrative twist of sorts in this musical. She is living the process from the divorce to first meeting him while he is experiencing it from the beginning to the end. Below is her first song called “Still Hurting” which is tearful and sad…

The next video is one of two duets of the show. This particular one takes place at the end where Kathy is seeing Jaime go for the first time while he is leaving her forever….it’s called “Goodbye Until Tomorrow / I Could Never Rescue You.” Moreover, this song is probably the most heartbreaking of the show, but it’s beautiful.

I recommend this musical to any and everyone who does not know if they are interested in the genre. It’s beautiful and simplistic…however, the simple is beautiful and complex in this instance. It deals with the human condition, which may be the reason that I come back to it so often.

The Acting Itch

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So, the other night, I watched one of my closest friends in The Miss Firecracker Contest (She was wonderful in it by the way). However, watching her, I realized that I miss it. I miss the feeling of being up on the stage and having the rush  caused by the crowd. Yeah…I am a bit of an attention whore at times (most of the time unintentionally while I’m just being me).

Honestly, I’ve been acting since I was in 8th grade, and it’s become a part of me that likes to come out at times…I’m hoping that I can audition for something soon…maybe a musical…hmmm…Random.

Written by barryr22

May 17, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Somethings that Make Me Tear Up Everytime

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So, I’ll be honest with you. I’m a person who is pretty dead when it comes to being emotional in front of people. Part of this may be due to my raising because in the south boys aren’t supposed to cry. Part of it may also because I am just a person who understands that there is a time and a place for emotions. For example, I don’t think that everyone should share the dirty laundry of their break up with people that they might at best consider acquaintances. It’s just a thing. Perhaps, I suffer alone without rhyme or reason. I don’t know. However, I will continue to do such because it’s ingrained in my nature now.

There are a couple of things that get me every time though. Both of them are musicals. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, music is the great emotional manipulator in my mind. Why? It mixes the strong emotions of the world with music.

 I am a sucker for music. It is a great love of mine. I love music from classical to contemporary because it hits on so many levels within my psyche. It manipulates me like no person will ever be able to. I am a wimp when it comes to musical manipulation or surprises (don’t get me started on this…the end of Atonement , a movie, and Next to Normal, a musical).

The main things that get me are musicals. It’s because of the music. It’s the one thing that will get me time after time. It breaks down all the barriers and makes me feel at ease before it shatters the barriers that I put up to contain my emotional baggage.

Recently, there have been two musicals that have done this to me. Next to Normal and Les Miserables cause me much grief as I listen to the beautiful heartache that is contained within the melodies and harmonies of each. They each have a great overarching story that makes me sad (what with a bipolar mother and the effects on the family and the French Revolution). However, each of them presents their sad tale in the form of a musical drama. This is the worst/best part for me. I love the music of each musical (matter-of-factly, N2N is brilliant across the board musically).

They set me at ease and then take me into the depths of despair. They each leave me with hope and allow me to face emotions that I would never think about pouring myself into. They make me think which is pretty phenomenal for anything that is supposed to be as superficial and candied as a musical. I find myself starting to get into the action and feel with the characters every time with these two musicals. Quite frankly, I suggest that if you haven’t heard/seen them that you do so as soon as possible because they are an experience not to be trifled with.

Lucia di Lammermoor

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So, I am intrigued by an opera which probably comes as no surprise to my friends reading. It’s called Lucia di Lammermoor. Honestly, I do not know anything about it other than what the wikipedia page says. It revolves around the character of Lucia who over the course of the opera falls in love with a man who her family doesn’t approve of (a blood feud sort of thing). However, it ends badly for both of them…it is a tragic opera after all…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucie_de_Lammermoor#Lucie_de_Lammermoor

Why was I turned onto this opera one might ask? It appears in the movie The Fifth Element. Diva Plavalaguna, the blue alien chick, performs an aria called “Il dolce suono” or “The Sweet Sound”from it  in her diva dance scene. Sang by Albanian soprano Inva Mula-Tchako, it has quite an impact on the feel of the movie and excites musical people like myself (I am guilty of watching that section of the movie just to see the song).

It is a beautiful piece of music and is both technically and vocally challenging. If done right, it is a striking piece of music that compliments the lead soprano’s voice and range. I have to say that I like the version by Natalie Dessay (who I know nothing about).

Maybe I can find a good DVD version of the show.

Standing Ovation for Mediocrity: Oh No!

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Recently, due to the  number of theater productions and concerts that I attend, I have noticed a trend that is slightly disturbing to me. People giving standing ovations for mediocrity or for something that is terrible. Why does this bother me one might ask? Well, to be quite honest with you, it’s because of the idea behind the thing. You rise to your feet because you thought the performance was so moving that it was worthy to stand. It gives motion (other than the polite or uproarious clapping) to your appreciation of the work.

I am stingy with my standing ovations. I will be the first to admit it because I do not think that it is my duty as an audience member to molly coddle the performers. If I thought the performance was okay, I will clap. If I thought someone did a particularly good job, I will clap louder for them. Honestly, I have been to professional quality shows and sat in my seat as the remainder of the audience quickly rose to show their appreciation. It’s just one of those things. I have to stand my ground.

Partially, I think this whole not giving standing o’s thing is because I am a performer myself. I do not expect them. If the company gets them, I do have a sense of pride because of it. However, I also know that sometimes people give them just to be polite. So, I’m just going to say it to people who may not know.

It is not polite theater etiquette to stand up at the end of anything that you see…that is unless you throughly enjoyed it. Clap if you feel so inclined but don’t necessarily feel led to stand. Also, you don’t have to follow the herd mentality. If the guy beside you does it, you don’t have to do it.

So, there…I’ve spilled my ideas onto the page….one might say that it is a pet peeve of mine…along with talking loudly during performances…or sleeping (you paid for the tickets. Did you really need a $70 nap?)….Anyway, I digress. Maybe I’m a terrible person…who knows? Are there any other faux pas that should be addressed? Hmmmm….

Written by barryr22

May 22, 2010 at 9:55 pm

Play Productions and the Great Blue Yonder

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So, I am a self-proclaimed act-whore…you may be wondering what this term means, so let me break it down for you. I act in every theatrical production that is going on around me if at all possible. Just this year, I have appeared in three different shows at the college I work at and am about to do my fourth. Now, these works have ranged from Shakespeare’s The Tempest to The Laramie Project to a collection of scenes from various shows. Each one of them has brought new experiences into my life. I am constantly having my acting abilities tested by each new venture I undertake. However, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Each production and each new director I work under brings new nuances to my performances. I am by no means saying that I am an amazing actor…I just feel like I get a little better everytime…and seeing that I’ve worked under 7 directors, I believe that each of them has impacted me in some way.

One of them gave us little tidbits of his experience before we would go onto stage each night, and the one that stuck with me was the fact that theater is ephemeral which struck me as odd. Why do we work so hard to put together something that will be gone before we know it? And I came to the conclusion that it’s because each of actor brings a love of the craft to the table. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t continue to do it without getting paid…and most of us if we could get paid for it would have our dream job built for us.

I may be an act-whore, but even when I have a disconnect from a show or a hard time with someone I’m acting/working with, I know that it helps me come alive. It’s one of the things that really helps me express myself in a world where people are medicated every which way because they’re dealing with their issues. I deal with my issues on the stage. It keeps me sane.

I leave you with a simple quote from a t-shirt (thought it was going to be some big actor or something didn’t you)…Thespians do it onstage and in public…

Written by barryr22

April 10, 2010 at 4:33 pm