Theatre Thursdays: Disney’s Technical Greatness

MadameAce has talked about a Disney animated feature-turned-musical (Beauty and the Beast) before in this segment, but I want to look at them more as a whole. Now, as both a performer and a tech person, I have enormous respect for the amount of work it takes to put on a musical like The Lion King or The Little Mermaid. Disney has used any number of methods to make theoretically impossible things (a cast of animals, talking furniture, setting the show underwater) happen on stage. And it’s always technically astounding.

But I have a possibly unpopular opinion: I think the amazing technicality of these productions lessens the impact of the story. Disney movies immerse you in their world conversely, when I see a Disney musical, I’m less moved by the story because I’m too busy being awed by the girl wearing a giraffe puppet on her head and wow that must be hard and it’s really impressive but it takes away from the story. (This, of course, was turned on its head for me when I saw The Little Mermaid musical, since Ariel and her story are annoying and it was more fun to just gawk at the beautiful costumes and scenery and technical magic than pay attention to the whiny sixteen-year-old who needs a sassy gay friend.)

Disney is certainly not the only producer of musicals to fall into this problem, (here’s looking at you, Seussical, Shrek, Spiderman: Turn off the Dark, et al…) but I think his failure on their part is the most tragic. Disney movies, for all that they are often problematic from a feminist perspective, are still known for telling classic stories in a way that resonates with people of all ages. The musicals don’t do it for me in the same way at all.

And this problem looks to be continuing into the future of Disney’s productions: They apparently are in talks to do a Dumbo musical (so flying AND an animal cast), an Aladdin musical (flying, talking animals, and magic), a Jungle Book musical (more talking animals), and a Hunchback of Notre Dame musical, which… might be okay, actually, except for the talking gargoyles. I’m not saying I won’t see these musicals—especially Aladdin and Hunchback are favorites of mine—but something like Dumbo? The touching and, yes, depressing as nut story behind this movie is going to be completely overshadowed by making a person who is in some magical way an elephant fly around the stage.

What are your thoughts about Disney’s musicals, readers dear?

Theatre Thursdays: Beauty and the Beast

So I finally saw the Beauty and the Beast musical for the first time about a month ago. I didn’t like it, but of course that doesn’t mean much since most of my posts are about how I don’t like things. To clarify, I love the original movie. I think it’s fantastic, but I don’t believe it translated well, and maybe it was just the performance I saw, but I thought the play lost the original tone and epicness of the movie. It didn’t feel committed to telling the story it was based off. To be fair, plot-wise, it’s exactly the same. Everything else, however, completely differed.

I know that movies and musical performances are two very different mediums and that not everything done in one can be done in another, so I was expecting it to vary on some level, but not to the extent that it did. For the most part, what I can say about the musical is that it captures the visuals of the movie very well. Seeing them actually raise the beast and transform him at the end sends chills down my spine. All the magic of the movie came across in the play, and it was awesome.

That said, nothing else came across well. Some of the criticism of the movie is that Belle suffers from Stockholm syndrome, and I personally disagree with this. I can see the argument behind it, but I never thought that was the case. Whatever the original Disney film did to avoid that did not show up in the play. Maybe that’s because in the play the Beast, who’s obviously abusive, never learns to be more respectful until after Belle starts being nice. This doesn’t happen until after he saves her from the wolves, but Belle’s reaction is to suddenly fall in love with the man holding her prisoner. Her starting to like him is what brings out his kindness, as opposed to in the movie when his slowly blooming kindness brings out her like in him.

Furthermore, while the movie seemed very aware of the precarious positions it put the characters in, the musical did not. It turned everyone but Belle into comic relief characters. Everyone. Even the Beast. Gags flew around in every scene but the very first and the very last. With those exceptions, never once did the show break from the comic relief to have a more serious moment, and instead it turned the serious moments into jokes.

In fact, because the ending didn’t have any jokes marring it like the rest of the show, it felt like a different play. Because the musical never takes any time to develop and work with any of the serious scenes, Gaston’s death didn’t fit in anymore.

Speaking of Gaston, he was probably the only character in the play to not be completely insufferable as a comic relief character, and a lot of that has to do with how he’s presented in the movie and my not liking him than it does a good decision on the play’s part.

But for everything else? The humor just wouldn’t go away. Watching the Beast whimper in pain like a kicked puppy while Belle tends his arm after the wolf attack was just degrading. I want you to understand that when I say every opportunity made a joke, I mean every opportunity.

While Beauty and the Beast may have been more family friendly as a children’s movie, that was not the case in the play. These jokes were designed very much with only small kids in mind, which confuses the overall tone when they added all the over-the-top sexual innuendos between Lumiere and Featherduster. They didn’t stop. Constantly, they were at it, suggestively telling each other what they wanted to do offstage. And maybe something like that will go over a small child’s head, but they took the extra step to make Featherduster’s outfit as provocative as possible.

So we had these two, and then we had a bunch of childish jokes. And because of all this, it wasn’t really family friendly, nor can I tell what age group they were aiming for with their audience. Obviously, there were a lot of children at the theatre, but there were just so many adult-only suggestions in the play.

I know some of this may be nitpicking, and for the most part, people Online seem to love it, so I’m possibly in a small minority of people who hated this play. The music was great, the acting with the given roles was fantastic, and it didn’t hold back from trying to capture the magic in the movie, but for the other things, I most certainly could have done without.

Trailer Tuesdays: Jack the Giant Killer

I don’t know why, but lately the movie makers have been going on a spree of interpreting old folklore. I mean, we’ve already had a retelling of things like Alice in Wonderland, and a new Snow White movie is underway. On top of those we’ve even gotten retellings of Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood, but since they ended up being cheap, unimaginative Twilight knockoffs, let’s not count them.

But what the hell, I’m not going to complain about real life adaptions of some of my favorite childhood stories—so long as they’re not based on Twilight. This movie in particular leaves me a little apprehensive. Alice in Wonderland, for example, was a terrible remake that sold itself off the fact that Johnny Depp played the Mad Hatter, and I’ve yet to see Snow White and the Huntsman, but considering that it was made by the same people, I’m more than a little worried for it, despite how promising it appears to be.

Though apprehensive, I find myself with a bit more faith in this movie. I’ve seen a couple live-action versions of Jack and the Giant Bean Stalk already, made with all the innovative ideas that the eighties and nineties brought us, so as you can guess, they weren’t very good. This newer version is brought to us by the guy behind the last X-Men movie—so I’m not sure if it should surprise anyone that the only notable girl in the trailer is a kidnapped princess—so the movie can’t be too bad.

Despite any negativity I seem to have for the film, this does look like something worth checking out, and hell, it looks like it has the potential to be a damn good movie.

Theatre Thursdays: Christina DeCicco Appreciation Post

 

As I mentioned in my Evita post Christina DeCicco is one of my favorite Broadway actresses (I almost had to correct myself and say “musical theatre actresses” but then I remembered that she finally made her Broadway debut and can be classified as a Broadway actress, yay!).

I first heard of her when she joined the Touring Production of Wicked as Glinda. Now let me say that when it comes to Glinda I have some high standards and specific things I want to see in an actress so just because she played Glinda did not mean I would instantly love her. The fact that she played Glinda with intelligence, heart, and ambition was what made me love her.

As always when I fall in love with a performer I mined for recordings of Christina in other shows and found that she had played many roles I loved and played them very well.

After Wicked Christina played Eponine at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

As per usual, she knocked it out of the park. Her Eponine was strong and capable and not so pathetic as I think the role can sometimes come off.

Her next role of note was Cindy Lou Huffington in the Off-Broadway production of The Marvelous Wonderettes, a role she took over from Victoria Matlock who played Elphaba opposite Christina’s Glinda in the Wicked tour! I know little of this show other than it was about a group of four former prom queens who made a little singing group to perform pop hits around their town and that Christina got to show off some of her amazing vocals:

(Love how cute you are, love that incredible control over your vibrato)

(Seriously. This video. Don’t tell me you aren’t impressed with the power coming out of this little lady)

Well, hopefully I’ve done Christina some justice with this post. Maybe now you’ll see why I’m so very unable to decide when to see Evita because this young woman is just such a phenom.

Please visit her official website for more info, pictures, videos, etc:

http://www.christinadecicco.com/