As I said in the first post of this series, one of my goals was to leave people with a greater appreciation for musical theatre. Hopefully I've succeeded. For this last post I just want to share with you some of my favorite performers and composers, to give you—in the event that you'd like to know more about musicals—a place to start.
One theme that comes up over and over again in conversations about the State of Musical Theater Today is the tragic lack of original musicals on Broadway. The way everything is an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation. No one's having new and creative ideas anymore!
Well, to be blunt, I kind of think this is bullshit.
Abusive parents are a real problem in the real world. I know more than a few people who upon seeing this movie connected Goethel's behavior with that of their own parents, and took it as a cue to reassess their relationships. And because of that I think that this film, despite its flaws, has accomplished something good. It represented a real issue in a way that doesn't soft-pedal it, which is more than a lot of children's media dare to do. So hats off to Tangled, a fitting coda to an impressive media legacy.
For those who don't follow theatre news (so...quite possibly a lot of you), one story is currently dominating coverage, and it's got a number of complicated aspects to it. I am referring, of course, to the kerfuffle over Diane Paulus' mounting of Porgy & Bess at Boston's American Repertory Theatre. What I'm finding fascinating are the general questions raised by this scenario. Namely, what are our obligations to a work of art? When is it and when is it not appropriate to change things?
Like many fairy tales, at least in the retellings we recognize today, a very strong theme of Into the Woods is morality—actions that are right and actions that are wrong; rewards for the former and punishment for the latter. What's interesting, though, and what I want to look at today, is what kinds of actions are punished.
I am going to be talking about something that pretty much everyone I know has struggled with: feeling like a bad feminist/activist/organizer/person because you like a piece of media that has really problematic elements. Lord knows this is an internal battle I've fought, and continue to fight.
I like Nine. I like it for its score, and I like it for the traits an observer can impart to the women. There are many female characters, and the silver lining to their being incredibly underdeveloped is that it is simple to impose one's own headcanon, to imagine their internal lives. The point is, though, that I shouldn't have to do that. When solely relying on the text, removing Guido destroys the motivation for every action any other character takes, and that is a bad sign.
Alright, so, we are now halfway through my stint blogging here at Bitch, which, by and large, has been wonderful. But there is an important aspect to writing about live theater, one I mentioned briefly in my opening post, that I think I need to expand upon.
Thoroughly Modern Millie has all the makings of what could be an incredibly charming, silly film: it has tap-dancing in elevators, inexplicably well-choreographed impromptu dances, and Carol Channing making what may be the greatest entrance in movie history. However, what it also features is a staggeringly racist plotline. Millie is rotten to the core, and I don't see a way to solve that problem without making an entirely different show.
Perhaps no show serves as a better celebration of the older actress than Follies. The show is set at a reunion of former Follies showgirls in the theater they once performed, which is about to be torn down. The core cast features numerous older women "recreating" the numbers that, in the context of the story, they once performed when young. The breadth of roles for older actresses in this show is wonderful, and a sign of one way, at least, in which live theater pulls ahead of screen work most of the time.