Bleh with Barry

Random with a cynical twist of lime.

Posts Tagged ‘J. Robert Spencer

Somethings that Make Me Tear Up Everytime

leave a comment »

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.

Advertisements

Better Than Before (*Spoiler Alert*)

with one comment

So, I think I’ve already talked about this in some capacity, but I am going to rehash it now…so, yeah…The musical Next to Normal is brilliant. A friend and I were discussing it into the wee hours of the morning a couple of weeks back, and we both agreed that it would probably be on our respective iPods for many, many months to come. If you know us, this would make more sense. You see there are musicals and artists that go in and out of vogue for us as the mood strikes. Right now, I’m in a Les Miserables mood with a touch of 90’s music on the side.

The song from this show that I am recently infatuated with is actually two songs. However, I consider them one because they bleed into each other so perfectly. “Better than Before” and “Aftershocks” would be these two songs.  The song “Better than Before” is a happy melodic piece until the very end. The family is talking about how after Diana’s electro-shock therapy they will be better than they were. However, the end of the song hits very minor chords and harmonies which indicate that everything isn’t okay.

This idea is then expounded by the song “Aftershocks” which shows that everything is not okay. Gabe, the dead son/hallucination, sings that although he may be gone for now he can never be completely gone. This is the genius of the musical. It builds complex ideas and imagery into the chord construction and structure of the songs themselves. It’s quite beautiful and shows a lot of thought on the part of the composer and lyricist.

It just goes to show that creativity and interesting ideas are still out there. Like I said, this musical will be on my iPod for many months to come. I believe it should be on yours too.

Written by barryr22

May 11, 2010 at 10:48 pm

“I’ve Been”

with 2 comments

A song from the musical Next to Normal taking place after (SPOILER ALERT!!!!) Dan’s wife tries to commit suicide. It is very poignant and gives the audience a peek into Dan’s psyche which is interesting. However, it also pertains to anyone who has ever been in a relationship whether it be friendship or otherwise. It speaks to the inner parts of us as humans because we “could never be alone.”

Dan:
Standing in this room,
Well I wonder what comes now.
I know I have to help her,
But hell if I know how.
And all the times that I’ve been told
The way her illness goes.
The truth of it is no one really knows.
And every day this act we act gets more and more absurd.
And all my fears just sit inside me, screaming to be heard.
I know they won’t, though, not a single word.
I was here at her side
When she called, when she cried.
How could she leave me on my own?
Will it work, this cure?
There’s no way to be sure.
But I’m weary to the bone
And whenever she goes flying
I keep my feet right on the ground.
Oh now I need a lift
And there’s no one around.

Hey!

Gabe:
Hey!

Dan and Gabe:
Ohhh

(Together)
Dan:
Ahhh oooh
No

Gabe:
Ahh oooh
No

Dan:
And I’ve never had to face the world without her at my side.
Now I’m strolling right beside her as the black hole opens wide.
Mine is just a slower suicide.
I’ve been her for the show,
Every high, every low.
But it’s the worst we’ve ever known.
She’s been hurt, and how?
But I can’t give up now.
‘Cause I’ve never been alone.
I could never be alone.

It expresses the fears of someone who is about to embark on a new part of life whether it be forced or no, and the fears that they feel as a result. It speaks to the inner parts of all people…Also, it is just a beautiful song sung by the incredible J. Robert Spencer. Enjoy the song…and the meaning behind it.

Written by barryr22

May 1, 2010 at 11:50 pm

I Miss the Mountains: Spoiler Alert

with 4 comments

In the show Next to Normal (N2N), Alice Ripley’s character Diana sings a song called “I Miss the Mountains” in which she talks about missing the pain that she had when she wasn’t in a drug induced stupor. She talks about when she was younger and how she misses the woman that she used to be. Yesterday, while at dinner with some of my friends, we were discussing N2N and this song came up. I was saying that I enjoyed the songs that Diana sings because 1: they’re beautiful and 2: they’re in my range if I sing them in lower octaves (I’m a baritone and the men in the show are all pretty tenortastic).

One of my friends who is familiar with the musical as well, we actually saw it as a group in NYC, made the comment that the song doesn’t fit with the overarching musical feel of the show. It is a rock opera, and this number feels very much like a power ballad…not very rock opera-y.  It doesn’t rely on the drum set or the electric guitar to convey the emotion…it mainly uses Alice Ripley’s voice and a few softer toned instruments like the piano and strings. It is a beautiful piece that shows that she has hope for herself to feel again (however derogatory this may be for her health and wellness). The imagery used in the song paints a wonderful picture of someone struggling emotionally against themselves and the medicine that is keeping them “balanced and on an even keel”. While “everything is perfect, nothing’s real” for them. Finally at the end of the song, she decides that she will risk it without medicine so that she can feel again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2CXMXEIPI0

But going back to the idea of the song not fitting, I agree with my friend. It is a beautiful song, yet it does seem out of place in the musical. With musical form, it is the odd ball. However, I will say that in my mind it does fit. The reason being that the song itself is a moment of clarity for Diana in the cacophony of the life that she lives in…of the musical that she resides it. It allows us a brief peek into the  calm that Diana is feeling and the fact that it doesn’t feel “normal” or real to her…it is outside the realm of reality that she has been living in…the song itself represents the drug induced stupor that Diana is in…it is calm and seemingly wonderful, but in reality, it is not what she is used to…it is not what makes her come alive. The fact that the music change is symbolic of the change that has occurred to her between this song and “My Psychopharmacologist and I”…it’s actually quite brilliant within the framework of the musical.

My other reason for the song is that I believe every musical writer writes with some idea in mind of having a stand alone song and “I Miss the Mountains” is this. If you watched it performed anywhere, you can get a feel for the song without having to have the overarch of the story. Honestly, I believe that it is good for any musical that is going to try to drum up publicity with concerts to have at least one number like that, and this one does just that. It gives enough of a hint at the story to be intriguing and has its own meaning and structural support as a solo piece.

So, yeah, I think it’s quite obvious at this point that I am enamoured with N2N…It’s a wonderful show that I would suggest everyone seeing if they get the chance. If not, I recommend getting the soundtrack and listening to it on repeat so that you can begin to fall in love with a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize Winning masterpiece.

Written by barryr22

April 13, 2010 at 11:59 am

Forethought in Art

leave a comment »

I really enjoy forethought in the construction of a musical’s score/lyrics to add tension to the overall feel of the show. Why do I even reference? It’s because recently I have fallen deeply in love with the musical Next to Normal which is a musical/story which is all about forethought. Now, I know some of you are probably saying that every composition is about thinking ahead, but this musical is just brilliant in its usage of this device.

The songs that I happen to be referencing “Better Than Before” and “Aftershocks”.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWWGrptSpvg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t8GnpG_bE88

The first song blends into the second seamlessly (you need to hear it without the break)…why does it do this? It’s because they’re wanting to build the ominous tone to make Gabe seem like he’s up to something. This is coming right after “Better Than Before” where the family is finally getting back to normality after Diana’s (the mom’s) stint in a mental facility…They’re trying to tell you that everything isn’t peachy. While this may seem hokey or overdone to some, I love the amount of planning that this must have taken on behalf of the composer and the lyricist. It builds complexity into the score of any show…or any musical piece because there are some classical pieces like this such as Haydn’s Symphony 94: the “Surprise” Symphony.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLjwkamp3lI

Overall, I just like good forethought on an artist’s part whether they be composer, novelist, painter, etc. It’s nice to know that they had a definite plan for themselves as they performed their artistry. Michelangelo had to have his golden vision of the Sistine Chapel in his head before the first brush stroke. If not, the place might have looked like crap…

Next to Normal

with one comment

 

Next to Normal is a stunning, fairly new musical on Broadway in New York City. I had the privilege recently of going to NYC and seeing it for myself. Now, I’m not one to divulge a lot about a musical just in case people reading this plan to see it. I don’t want to ruin any beautiful moment of it. However, I will say that I give it 5 stars (out of 5) because it intrigues me and because its story made me cry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPfxUGMKgLA

In the show, you are introduced to a seemingly average family. Yet, this facade is not long lived as we find out that the mother Diana (played by Alice Ripley) has a history of mental illness. The show gives insight into how families deal with psychological disease and how they cope. N2N is grounded in amazing visuals and tight harmonies with the cast of six providing all the vocals for every song that is sung from “Just Another Day” till the finale “Light”. All the actors I saw played their parts wonderfully. Alice Ripley played the part of Diana superbly, belting out the “You Don’t Know” and bringing it down for more intimate numbers like ” I Miss the Mountains”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZQM7ELKrRA

J. Robert Spencer (playing Dan, the Dad), Adam Chanler-Berat (Henry), and Louis Hobson (Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine) performed to top-notch standard. They all left me feeling connected to their characters at various times during the show. However, the two standouts of the cast I saw were Kyle Dean Massey (Gabe) and Meghann Fahy (Natalie). These two play the children of Dan and Diana. I didn’t know if I was going to like Massey because I had heard him from recordings on youtube. I didn’t know if he was going to stand up to Aaron Tveit’s original performance; however, he blew me away because I thought him to have more poise and better pitch than Tveit (in live recording’s Tveit sometimes has sketchy pitch). Massey was wonderful. Fahy, who is in fact the understudy for the part of Natalie, did a better job in my opinion than Jennifer Damiano because she was less screechy and whiny on the top notes than Damiano is. This fact speaks wonders to me because I like to have a smoother sound in the tight harmonies. Sometimes, Damiano’s voice just seems to clash with the others (although the notes are there).

If you haven’t seen Next to Normal and you live in NYC or are visiting, I would suggest going to see this gem. Staged in the Booth Theater between 45th and Broadway, it boasts amazing sets and spectacle to keep anyone on their toes. The music and story will thrill you, chill you, and leave you sobbing yet hopeful.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wN6KXFeMK8A&feature=fvw