2017: Shows You Might Have Missed

Hello fellow theater lovers! I thought it would be a good idea to start an annual tradition here. I have to set SOME kind of blogging standard for myself.

If you’ve never watched Extra Credits, it’s a website that makes YouTube videos about video game design, and once a year they put out a video called “Games You Might Not Have Tried” where they talk about interesting games that might not have received a lot of press but are worth playing. I want to do something similar, but about musicals. Not necessarily Broadway musicals, but all are at least available for listen on Spotify. Also, since this is the first year I’m even blogging and I can’t exactly go back in time, this list is going to expand beyond 2017. So while everyone else is stuck on Anastasia, Dear Evan Hanson, or still has Hamilton on repeat, let’s delve a little deeper into what Spotify has to offer:

  1. Anais Mitchell – Composer

Okay, this first one is already a cheat. I was initially going to say Hadestown, because the Canadian premier of that show DID come out in 2017. However, when I looked it up on Wikipedia, I discovered that the composer of this show, Anais Mitchell, is someone that I had never heard of, and she has more discography than just this show, so just go check out all of her work! I already made a Spotify playlist, and that’s exactly where I’m heading as soon as I’m finished typing this.

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But yeah, Hadestown is AWESOME. Apparently, the show was originally Off-Broadway in 2010 and was just revived this year, but I had never heard of it. If you enjoy Greek mythology put to a folk-opera style show, you will adore this cast recording! Now, I am the kind of person who could listen to the story of Orpheus and Eurydice a thousand different ways and still enjoy it because it one of the most classic Greek tragedies. But this show has the most groovy, bluesy style that is positively addicting to listen to, and I guarantee that you will be toe tapping as soon as the opening song begins. Check it out! (Then go listen to my Anais Mitchell playlist.)

 

  1. Otherbody by Ryan Scott Oliver

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From the man that brought you 35MM and Jasper in Deadland (another Orpheus and Eurydice tale, oddly enough) comes the haunting allegorical musical based on H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “The Outsider.” Ryan Scott Oliver keeps pushing the norms with his original scores. They’re always a perfect blend of eerie and funny and heartfelt. Although this one doesn’t have much comedy in it, like his other shows, Otherbody is one that you can listen to over and over again before you pick up on all of the musical nuances and the symbolism. It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard, and that’s a hard statement to make when it comes to modern day musicals.

**As a side note, keep an eye out for Oliver’s newest show, We Foxes. I haven’t heard anything from it yet, and I’m hoping it will hit Spotify soon.

  1. Rooms: A Rock Romance by Paul Scott Goodman and Miriam Gordon

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We’re taking it back to 2009 with this one. Yeah, I’m a little behind, but in all fairness, I did discover this show a few weeks ago. It’s a classic love story of two people from very different backgrounds brought together by music, but it’s sung in wonderfully charming Scottish accents. Monica and Ian start a punk rock band and gain unexpected fame, but their different personalities and goals start to cause problems as their popularity gets out of hand. You’ve heard the story before, but that doesn’t make this show any less charming, and I wouldn’t even call it cliche, to be honest. The music is unique and the characters of Monica and Ian have depth and relatability. It’s also a two-person show, so you get to spend the whole time with just these two, and you love them both by the end.

  1. 54 Below

This is not a single show so much as it is a search suggestion. If you’re looking for a showcase for some of your favorite Broadway voices, look no further than 54 Below’s collection of recordings. They have one-night only shows from Sierra Boggess, Aaron Tveit, Laura Benanti, Norbert Leo Butz, and many more. Plus, they’re always having shows there, so it’s good to keep checking Spotify for new recordings in the future. My number one suggestion is Laura Benanti’s “In Constant Search of the Right Kind of Attention” because Laura Benanti is hilarious in addition to being such a talented singer.

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  1. BwayTunes

Finally, I have a website/newsletter suggestion. I don’t buy music from BwayTunes (because I’m cheap and rarely buy music), but I do sign up for their weekly newsletter because they always have great suggestions. My BwayTunes emails are the first place I look when I need to find a new album to listen to. It was the first (and only) place I saw the 2017 recording of Hadestown. Their newsletter consists of new and upcoming recordings from individual Broadway stars, under-the-radar shows, concept albums, upcoming projects, you name it. And, like me, they tell you what’s on Spotify. They’re website is pretty gaudy, but hey, it’s showbiz. Check ‘em out!

 

Well, that’s my list of suggestions for the year. I guess it’s a little slim, but it’s been a busy year, and I actually haven’t kept up with Broadway as much as I usually do. If you just want to look through wide range of Broadway playlists, check out my Spotify account BroadwayBrokenDown. I’m always adding and updating, but if you have any suggestions, leave a comment! Don’t worry, I’ll read it. I promise. . . It’s not like I have a ton to read. . . ALSO, if you have any suggestions of musicals that are underrated that I might not have heard of, let me know. Have a sparklejollytwinklejingley Christmas!

 

It’s an Elf the Musical reference, by the way.

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Multitudes of Andys

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In the wake of the 2017 Tonys—-Scratch that, it’s been like 5 months. Redo:

At the end of 2017, with musicals like Mean Girls, Roman Holiday, The Devil Wears Prada, and King Kong (whaaat????) on the way, can we stop for a moment and discuss the lack of originality that has overtaken the Broadway stage? That lack of originality being mainly: Movies. First, let’s examine a list of well-known musicals that are great and started out as being movies first: Hairspray!, Passion, Ragtime, Grand Hotel, The Light in the Piazza, Shrek–okay, actually lets stop because the list never ends. There are sooooo many musicals that started out as just being movies, and they turned out good. So why do I feel like these newer endeavors like Rocky and Groundhog Day are just artistic cop-outs?

Since the early 2000’s movies have just taken over Broadway. These days, films-turned-musical take up half of the new shows on Broadway. Why? I can understand when Anastasia and Frozen take the stage because those are already musicals, and they are sure to sell tickets because parents will want to take their kids, but how does a show like Groundhog Day sell tickets? Is it because when you think of Groundhog Day, you think “Bill Murray’s magnum opus? Why don’t I go watch Andy Karl attempt that? He was fabulous in Rocky: The Musical because THAT was a great idea.” Oh, wait, you didn’t think that either?

Seriously though, I’ve only seen the segment of the show performed in the Tony’s, and I have to say they picked the most boring song in the show to perform. The rest of the soundtrack is upbeat and kind of funny, but no, lets sing the slow and uplifting finale which only works if you’ve spent two hours relating to and feeling sympathetic towards the main characters.

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When Rocky on Broadway came out, I thought that surely it was just a fluke and we would soon learn that making musicals out of extremely non-musical movies was a grave mistake. But no! We keep doing it! And Andy Karl keeps signing up to play the main roles! And Amelie, the one title that was actually a whimsical, daydreamy, quirky film that should have made a good musical had a worse outcome than Groundhog Day… (I agree with the reviews. The cast recording for Amelie was lame and Phillipa Soo couldn’t save it.) 

*sigh* I don’t really know what I’m getting at here. This has been my rant for the past few months, and I just never got around to posting about it. The cast album for Freaky Friday is pretty good. At least they changed all of the characters…

Well as they say in [title of show], “Oh wow, so movies make good musicals??” “Well, they make musicals.” **Cue the song “Original Musical” from [title of show]. Aaaaannnd scene.

Always on the Outside

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There are some shows in the Broadway-verse that never really took off. Actually, there are hundreds that don’t take off, but there are some that every musical lover is at least aware of. These shows that get remembered–and sometimes even revived–typically have cult followings due to the redeeming qualities of their cast albums left behind. Examples include Bat Boy, The Civil War, and Side Show. While Bat Boy is one of my personal favorites and I may write about that another day, I want to really take a look a Side Show. Here is a musical that ran for 3 months when it first opened in 1997, was revived in 2014 with great reviews, and then still closed a second time after only 2 months. But any musical nerd you talk to knows Side Show. Everyone wants to perform the famous Skinner and Ripley duet “I Will Never Leave You.” Why does it still fail?

My opinion? It probably shouldn’t be a musical…

Is that too much? Did I commit musical theater sacrilege? Maybe I just mean that it should be less of a musical. I mean, this show really strives for the Les Miz level of constant singing, but the quality of the songs suffer because of it. Violet and Daisy are given way too many songs, and the cost is that their personalities end up feeling only two dimensional. This show has so many beautiful emotional moments that fall short because of boring, repetitive songs that drag on like “Feelings You’ve Got to Hide” and “Marry Me, Terry.” Musical songs in general tend to repeat themselves over and over, but this story is so intense that it deserves fleshed out characters and scenes that are actual arguments and breakdowns instead of repeating choruses.

I will say that the show also has great numbers that shouldn’t be overlooked. “Come Look at the Freaks” and “The Devil You Know” are both fantastic numbers that don’t even include Daisy and Violet.

As a SIDE-note, can we also all acknowledge that Terry’s character is soooo douchey? He admits to liking Daisy way too soon, and then jokes with Buddy about never having had a “twosome” before… It immediately ruins his likability.

All in all, I think Side Show would have a chance if the songs were trimmed and Terry saved his love-for-Daisy confession until later. Do you agree? Let me know!

Things Are Impossibly Lyrical

I’m a lyric person. Before I really “discovered” musicals, my favorite band was–and still is, I guess–Relient K. They are a pop-punk christian band that are known for their witty and silly lyrics. After being spoiled by listening to their perfect rhymes for years, it always irritated me when I heard lazy rhyming. I can handle made-up words or odd placement of phrases if the context is reasonable for it. For example, I think “Somthing Sort of Grandish” from Finian’s Rainbow is a masterfully crafted song. But when you start trying to rhyme words like “idea” with “here,” it just grates on my ears.

IMG_0004_2So naturally, after I started listening to cast albums, one composer in particular quickly rose above all the rest as being the Songwriter Supreme: Stephen Sondheim. Never with Sondheim will you hear a wasted line or a stray consonant sound at the end of a phrase that has no pair. I can listen to all of his shows over and over, always finding a new favorite verse, and without fear of false rhyme jerking me back into the imperfect reality.

Every year, my favorite Sondheim show changes, so I couldn’t possibly begin to pick the “best” one. I usually say that my favorite song is “Now/Later/Soon” from A Little Night Music, but I think that is partially because it’s three songs in one, and I couldn’t possible pick only one song. I also have a weakness for trios and quartets.

I did not think that there would ever be any other lyricist who could compare to Sondheim’s skill. That is, until 2014 when I heard the full score of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. (I have seen this show in full, by the way, curtesy of YouTube.)1423x593_showpg_GGL&Mlogo

As the show opens with the charmingly hilarious “You’re a D’Ysquith,” I already thought it was going to be fantastic, but it wasn’t until “Poison in My Pocket” that I realized that Sondheim may actually be facing some competition with Robert L. Freedman and Steven Lutvak who both worked on the show. Just take a look at the opening verse:

I am standing here with poison in my pocket,
Standing on this frozen little dock.-
It seems that I’ve just let them skate my opportunity away.
If I had the poise to put the poison
In a pot of tea or else a shot of gin,
I would be back amid the noise of London by the end of day.

Each line is so strategically crafted to fit in as much information, humor, and rhyme in as possible. And it isn’t only these two songs. The ENTIRE show is like this! I wouldn’t have been surprised if Sondheim himself had been listed as a cowriter.

I was so proud that Gentleman’s Guide won best musical in 2014, because it truly deserved it. Unlike so many new shows these days that are based on films or are revivals of old shows, Gentleman’s Guide was based on a book. Not a popular book either, but something no one has ever heard of: Israel Rank: The Autobiography of a Criminal by Roy Horniman. And the show didn’t try to sound overly catchy or pop like new shows today. It has an entirely unique sound, and the score is so challenging that you have to pay attention, but it keeps you so enamored that you don’t want to miss a word. If you have an hour or so and still have not heard the amazing cast recording of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, please give it a listen. If you’re a lyric obsessed Sondheim enthusiast, you will not be disappointed. Let me know if there are any other Sondheim rivals I should know about, or if you don’t agree with my take!

Getting to Know Me

Hello, fellow theater nerds! My name is Lydia, and welcome to my blog. Before I get into telling you all of my Broadway opinions, I thought it only fair to forewarn you about why my opinions don’t matter.

First of all, I live in Louisiana. Far, far, FAAAARR away from the Great White Way. I’ve seen a total of 4 shows on Broadway: The Phantom of the Opera, Rain: A Beatles Tribute, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, and Something Rotten! That isn’t to say that I haven’t also seen several touring shows, live broadcasts, YouTube recordings, and my fair share of community theater. Just that I’m usually pretty late on seeing new shows, and my opinions are sometimes based on the cast recording alone. That being said, I will always make it clear what the extent of my familiarity is with any show I may be reviewing.

The second reason why you shouldn’t trust my opinion is because I am an Accountant.4267a-20140515_035957

Aside from the voice and acting classes that I took in college for easy A’s, I really have very little theater experience when compared to the average theater nerd you find out in the wild.

And finally, you shouldn’t care what I say because I’m 24, so what do I know?

Well, that’s an intro to me! Let’s get on with the blog, shall we?