Theatre Thursdays: The Last Five Years Film Ready for Release

The Last Five Years Movie PosterJason Robert Brown’s musical The Last Five Years never had a particularly long run in its off-Broadway productions, but it has proven immensely popular through the years. The story is simple: a young couple meets, marries, and divorces, but there’s a small twist that makes the show unique. The characters, Cathy and Jamie, each tell the story of their relationship in episodes. While Jamie’s go from start to finish, Cathy’s begin at the relationship’s demise and go back in time to their first meeting.

A movie adaptation of the musical was announced in early 2013, starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan; however, with the exception of releasing the poster, there was almost no news concerning the production. Few photos were released, no premiere date was announced, and I started to question whether the movie was still on track. Happily, the film premiered at the Toronto Film Festival this month and is scheduled for commercial release Valentine’s Day, 2015.

With the movie finally ready to be released, I have begun doing what every fan does when a book/TV show/play is announced for a film adaptation: wondering how the magic of the original will translate to the big screen. There are a lot of aspects of the musical which make it difficult for a film adaptation. With the exception of one scene, the two characters never dialogue; there isn’t really a narrative thread to the show, and the back and forth structure of the storytelling can be confusing.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Fun Home

Fun Home is a new musical based on the book of the same name. The book, described by author Alison Bechdel as “a family tragicomic”, is a graphic memoir of the author’s young life, particularly her relationship with her father. Their relationship is complicated by the fact that he was a closeted homosexual and she is unsure of what her true feelings are for him and what his true feelings were towards her and the rest of their family.

"My father and I grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town, and he was gay, and I was gay, and he killed himself, and I became a lesbian cartoonist"

“My dad and I both grew up in the same small Pennsylvania town, and he was gay and I was gay, and he killed himself and I became a lesbian cartoonist.”

I read Bechdel’s memoir on a whim when I was working at my college’s bookstore because it looked interesting, and while I wouldn’t say I was enthralled, I did find it to be more than worth my time. The author sorts through her memories and tries to understand who her father was. While reading, the thought “This would make a great musical” never once entered my mind, but here we are, with the musical running off-Broadway and getting pretty good buzz.

As always, I’m interested in musicals, and if they’re based on something with which I’m already familiar, I’m even more inclined to check them out. Just because I wouldn’t put this particular one at the top of my list for books I’d like to see as musicals doesn’t mean I won’t like it, so I was interested when I saw that this was happening. When I saw that Michael Cerveris would be playing the father, I was even more encouraged because I will never forget the very real terror I felt watching his Sweeney Todd, and believe that he can bring complex characters to life with stunning clarity.

Based on the preview, I really like the look of the musical. The costumes and sets have a quality to them that seems somehow real yet imaginative at the same time. The design isn’t too conceptual, but it also resists being mundane or straightforward. It reminds me of the illustrations in the memoir, which are by no means fanciful, but do more than simply create literal depictions of events or places.

Fun HomeThe music doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but I don’t dislike it. With such a short selection in the trailer, I will reserve judgment on that aspect until I can see/hear more, though. I like it more each time I listen to it, so I can imagine I’ll like it more when heard in full.

I’m very much interested in seeing where this musical goes. Its run has been extended at the Public Theater, and with such good reviews, it’s very likely that the show will continue on. It may not make the jump to Broadway, where stakes are higher and success stories for quirky, unique musicals are few and far between, but it can’t be ruled out just yet. Hopefully I can see this show or at least get a cast recording if/when one is made.

Theatre Thursdays: Halloween-y Musicals

I think by now it’s pretty obvious that I love both Halloween and musicals. As such I have a few musicals that I like to watch or listen to around this time of year that I thought I’d share with all of you. Some of them are directly related to Halloween or horror while others just employ some of the themes of the season (and I’ll be honest, some are a bit of a stretch).

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Theatre Thursdays: ‘Carrie’ Premiere Cast Recording


Scared you, didn’t I?

Well get used to it because in honor of October I’m going to be doing solely horror/supernatural-type posts every week and what better way to start that off than by reviewing the premiere cast recording of Carrie which dropped a couple weeks ago?

I know, I know, you’ve all heard enough from me about Carrie, but I love it so I’m gonna keep talking about it. Plus I’m a little limited as far as theatrical horror goes, so…

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Theatre Thursdays: Introduction

That’s right, we’re starting a new weekly theme and it’s Theatre Thursday! Now every day of the week has a theme and I think we deserve a round of applause!




Well, anyway, Theatre Thursday will consist of various articles related to the world of theatre, including reviews, previews of new shows, general thoughts on the importance and relevance of theatre, fanning over various people involved with theatre, and anything else we can think of related to the topic! I must be honest though, for my part my posts will be related almost entirely to musical theatre and at that, primarily American musical theatre. I don’t mean to imply that musical theatre is more important or relevant than legitimate theatre; it’s just that it’s my preference and American musicals are the ones I’m most familiar with and exposed to.

Before I launch into my first post I’ll cover some terms I may throw around in the future (NOTE: Some of these are official definitions, some are just my working definitions):

Broadway: The pinnacle of live theatre, particularly musical theatre, located in New York City.

Off-Broadway: Also located in New York City, smaller theaters in which it is cheaper to run a show, shows here tend to be more experimental than Broadway shows as the expense (and therefore risk) in producing is less great.

West End: The English version of Broadway, located in London.

National Tour/Touring Production: Productions of musicals whose casts and sets travel from city to city, performing limited runs in local theaters.

Non-Eq Tour: Non-Equity tours are the same as the above productions except the performers are not members of Actors Equity, the Union for working actors in the US, and are typically less experienced and cheaper.

Sit-Down Production: Open-ended run of a show performed continuously in one location for as long as ticket sales hold up.

Regional Production: Professional production of a show in a particular city, not related to any other production, often performed mostly by local actors, but frequently employs Equity performers.

Out-of-Town Tryout: A production of a show which runs in a smaller city to gauge audience and critical response before attempting a New York run.

Community Theatre Production: Local cast and crew putting on a show without pay.

Revival: A new production of a piece of theatre which has already had an official opening and closing.

Replica Production: A production using the original creative team’s work including costumes, lighting, sets, wigs, etc. with few to no significant changes. Most tours, international transfers, and sit-downs are replica productions.

Non-Replica Production: A production which uses new creative direction either from the same creative team revisiting their work or a new creative team tackling the piece. Most revivals, regional, and community theatre productions are non-replica productions.

Stage-Dooring: Fans like me waiting at the Stage Door of a theater to congratulate the cast and/or get their autographs. Kind of awkward but so thrilling.

Theatre: The abstract concept of performing arts, most often referring to plays and musicals, but as with any term related to art the meaning is flexible.

Theater: The physical building in which theatre typically occurs.

Tonys: The Antoinette Perry Awards. The equivalent of the Oscars for Broadway theatre.

Olivier Awards: The equivalent of the Tonys for West End.

I think I’ll leave it at that for today. I wrote a bit of a post about the new Broadway Revival of Evita but this intro ended up being longer than I originally intended so I’ll save it for next week!

Carrie: 2012 Off-Broadway Revival

This past Tuesday I got to see one of the last preview performances of the much-anticipated revival of Carrie at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. I had been looking forward to it for a long time and after getting lost on the way to the theater and fearing that I may miss my chance I finally got to take my seat and experience the show.

Carrie White- Molly Ranson
Margaret White- Marin Mazzie
Sue Snell- Christy Altomare
Tommy Ross- Derek Klena
Chris Hargensen- Jeanna de Waal
Billy Nolan- Ben Thompson
Miss Gardner- Carmen Cusack
Mr. Stephens- Wayne Alan Wilcox

This was only my second time seeing an Off-Broadway show and the theater was the smallest I’ve ever seen so despite our seats being in the second-to-last row of the orchestra we were very close to the stage and got to see every facial expression and drop of sweat from the performers. The show began with Sue Snell in a single spotlight being interrogated by police regarding the “alleged” events of the prom night disaster. I like this idea. It was used in the made-for-tv movie version of Carrie and relates to the way Stephen King wrote the novel with occasional references to fictional studies on Carrie and the disaster. There were some problems I had with this device though. For one thing it occasionally disrupted the flow of the narrative by suddenly stopping the story to have Sue answering more questions and thereby setting up the next scene, rather than the story progresing organically. The other problem I had with it was that it started making Sue the protagonist of the story. She seemed to be given more development and more reason for the audience to sympathize with her than Carrie.

Sue’s dialogue leads into the opening number “In” which I loved in the original production and was unsure how I felt about the re-write but I loved it. The song, originally a jazzy workout routine performed by the girls in gym class is now a more angsty number performed by all the teens but it still works the same and sets the idea that there is a desperate need in these students to fit in and a near-paralyzing fear of being the outcast, perfectly setting up for the entrance of our title character who feels the same as her classmates, but has never managed to make her way “In”.


Carrie is played well by Molly Ranson though she seems stronger and more aggressive than bullied and brow-beaten. Still there’s a distinct wounded aspect to her portrayal which is appropriate. She sings the title song with much more ferocity than Linzi Hately did in the original but I wish the song had been more re-written or removed entirely. It’s never really spoken to me and just seems silly from the very first screamed line of “That’s not my naaaaame!” in response to the students’ taunts of “Scary White”.

Marin Mazzie’s portrayal of Margaret White is very gentle and toned-down. Rather than constant fire-and-brimstone condemnation she instead has bi-polar swings of serenity and ferocity. While I appreciate the attempt to humanize her because I hate to see Christians portrayed as caricatures and stereotypes rather than characters, I think this character in this story really needs that rigidness. Again, the audience’s sympathy is taken away from Carrie and given to another character instead who is getting more characterization. Her first number “Open Your Heart” is no longer a solo but is sung with a choir in a radio sermon she’s listening to when Carrie comes home and it’s a beautiful way to handle the song which I really liked. Unfortunately “And Eve Was Weak” lacked the punch that it should have. The sparse band can’t convey the power that the full orchestra could in the original production and Mazzie, though a phenomenal singer, doesn’t do the song its justice. Her acting is intense and frightening but her voice just doesn’t seem to fit the number.

As we see more of the students we see some of the improvements over the original. The teenagers are much more realistic (no spandex bodysuits for one thing!) and though some of their dialogue still seems a bit out of touch with modern teens and the bully’s taunts still seem more like middle school playground antics than cutting high school jabs, there is much more to like now among the high schoolers. Derek Klena plays Tommy Ross wonderfully with a youthful charm and easy friendliness that make it easy to believe him as the kind of guy everyone likes in high school. Christy Altomare does well with Sue and the two make a really sweet couple. Their new duet “You Shine” is a very nice number that gives their relationship some grounding. Jeanna de Waal and Ben Thompson are great as the bullies Chris and Billy, especially Ben who looks to be taking delicious joy in his cruelty. The standout for me in the ensemble was Blair Goldberg as Norma who was able to grab my attention in all of the company scenes and had some funny lines.

The production has one real problem though, and that is being so afraid of approaching the campiness of the original. The show is so dreadfully serious and somber in tone that despite the occasional laughs (sometimes unintentional) and scares it feels a bit lifeless. In fear of ever going over the top the show never really rises up, staying simple and plain from start to finish. It may sound like I’m changing my tune since my post about the original flop claimed that its problem was going too far from reality but this production going all the way to the other extreme doesn’t right that wrong; it shows that the story needs a grounding in reality but spikes of true drama and suspense.

This problem is most strongly evident in the Prom scene. The iconic, dramatic, cathartic pig’s blood scene is dry, oddly non-literal, and leads to a confusing destruction scene. The blood-dumping is done entirely through projections. The sillhouette of the bucket tips and blood pours out. At the moment the spillage raches Carrie’s head the whole stage is covered in a projection of a tidal wave of blood sloshing and splashing and sound effects of crashing water pound through the speakers. When the music begins Carrie stands bathed in red lights, sings some repeated lines like in the original, and the company begins going through some choreographed slow-motion agony. Suddenly projections of fire spread across the stage, the suffering becomes less choreographed, then Carrie exits the stage as the students die.

This is really a disappointing scene, unfortunately. It seems more or less like a lateral move from the original as it still has the same problems, just handled differently. Whereas in the original the blood-dumping caused problems because they were worried about damaging Carrie’s mic and making a sloppy, dangerous stage for the cast and was handled by using a small amount of very thick blood that Linzi was pretty much responsible for spreading on her own face, this time the effect is no more convincing as Carrie is clearly dry and simply tinted red by lights. In the original the fire was represented by lasers and flashpots which added some excitement but felt pretty empty. In the original though there was at least some reason for the fire at the prom, as Carrie demonstrates pyrokinetic abilities at least twice in the show prior to the destruction scene which upset some fans since her abilities were only supposed to be telekinetic as in the book and film. In this production her abilities are only telekinetic once again, so where does the fire come from at the prom? The original had better orchestrations and created a better sense of being trapped by dropping a safety curtain which really boxed in the company onstage and had Sue on the outside trying to reach the students within. The revival wins in making the audience care about the people who are dying though, which is a marked improvement and deserves credit.

The show ends with Carrie returning home (when she enters the stage again she is soaked in blood) and going to her mother for comfort. Margaret sings a beautiful little lullaby to Carrie before plunging a knife into her back, hoping to return Carrie to God before Satan can claim her soul.


In a fit of fear Carrie uses her powers to stop her mother’s heart and this is illustrated much clearer than in the original as she holds out her hand, stops Margaret in her tracks, and slowly clenches her fist as the sound effect of a heartbeat slows and chokes out and Margaret falls dead. Immediately after, however, Carrie screams and in the first instance of sympathy I felt for the character she agonizes over losing control and killing the only person she loved. Sue finds Carrie (having followed the trail of destruction, according to her police interview) and tries to comfort her. Carrie dies in Sue’s arms and she lays her down before a single spotlight focuses on Sue and we hear the police asking Sue for her name as they did in the opening interview before the blackout.

The show has made some great improvements over its source. While there were some aspects I thought were better in the original and the revival still isn’t really great, it has gotten closer to greatness than the 1988 production. I definitely recommend seeing the show if you get a chance. It’s interesting, has some good music, and just being able to say you saw Carrie, even though it’s not the infamous flop production, is worth the trip 🙂

Carrie Updates

The show’s Revival (or as some have called it, Revisal) has officially begun previews and news of the production is slowly accumulating! No reviews yet, as critics don’t review shows until the preview stage is over (unless it’s Spiderman and has SEVEN MONTHS of previews and continually postpones the opening date), but some video footage and press photos have been released in various articles and I’m getting very excited! Some changes I’m a little unsure of (the way “In” has changed for one. I think I’m one of the only people who thought it was a great song and only needed some lyric tweaks to improve). But overall this looks to be a worthy revival with a passionate cast and creative team.

BroadwayWorldTV’s coverage of the first preview. Features snippets of “In” and “Evening Prayers” (which looks absolutely beautiful) sandwiching about twelve minutes of interviews with the creative team and Piper Laurie (Margaret White in the original film)’s offering on some of the show’s history, including some great photos of the original run!

The New York Times giving their take on the idea of a revival as well as some photos of the original Broadway run and new Off-Broadway Revival.

“In Rehearsal” interviews

Just for reference, here’s what “In” used to be:

Video from Stratford-Upon Avon, audio from Broadway.

The song was, in my opinion, a fantastic opening number which set the tone of the show, had phenomenal energy, and illustrated Carrie’s world and how she doesn’t fit in. The song has also become an integral part of my workout playlist! But I can see that it really doesn’t fit the new show and I’m glad it’s not gone entirely, which says to me that the creative team also believed in it but saw it needed to change to work.