Sunday, June 07, 2009

Broadway: What A Way To Make A Livin'

While I usually reserve this blog for all things related to pop and contemporary music, there is one particular genre of the music world that could be labeled contemporary but is often overlooked. That, of course, is musical theatre. Since a very young age, I've been an ardent fan of Broadway and musicals -- longer than I can even tell you.

However, it truly began back in 1999, when I was 12 years old, during my first visit to New York City. That was when I saw my first real Broadway show -- it was at the Marquis Theatre right in Times Square to see Bernadette Peters and Tom Wopat in the country-fried Irving Berlin classic "Annie Get Your Gun" in its third Broadway adaptation (the original ran on Broadway in the late 1940's, and the first revival was in the 1960's). Ever since that day, I was a bonafide theatre geek.

I'm quite priviledged to say that I've seen a lot of shows, whether on Broadway itself or its touring counterparts. My alltime favorite is a tossup between Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story", and Stephen Sondheim's "Into the Woods". Both have their feel good moments, but are ultimately quite dark and dramatic -- but have incredible songs, which is the most important thing to a musical.

I mention this because tonight is the night of the Tony Awards, otherwise known as Broadway's Oscars -- a celebration of the year's "best" Broadway shows. Like many theatre buffs, the recent selection on the Great White Way is both incredible and infuriating. While we have revivals of classics like "Guys & Dolls" and my aforementioned "West Side Story", more and more Broadway is seeing film adaptations being turned into glitzy Broadway musicals. While I find the fact that some producer decided to turn "Shrek" into a musical frustrating, it bothers me even more as a theatregoer that they are attempting to turn the "Spiderman" franchise into one.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for big cheesy glitz. "Hairspray" was a lot more fun on stage than it was in the movie (in my opinion), and there is no doubt that "Mamma Mia" was meant to be on Broadway (for the ABBA music, not necessarily for the plot). Heck, I even enjoyed the "Legally Blonde" adaptation. But "Spiderman" is pushing it: its clearly sending the message that musical theatre slowly becoming no longer its own artform, but an adapation of someone else's.

On Friday night, one of my closest friends and I went to see '9 to 5', the new musical adapation of the 1980 non-musical film starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. We chose that particular show because 1) my friend had never seen a Broadway show and only tended to like the big, over-the-top, cheesy musicals and 2) it had the cheapest same day tickets. However, we both were pleasantly surprised at how funny the show was. That was mostly a product of its strong trio of leading ladies: TV's Alison Janney in Tomlin's role, and Broadway heavyweights Stephanie J. Block in Fonda's role (what a voice!) and Megan Hilty in Dolly's role (adorable!).

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but the musical was side-splitting funny, and very clever. I've never seen the movie (maybe that's why I enjoyed it so much?) but the musical made me want to rent it. And the best part? The musical was housed in the old Marquis Theatre -- back to where I started from. My one real complaint is the majority of the music (all of which was written by Dolly Parton herself) didn't really stand out. The only song you left the theatre humming was the song that helped make the movie so famous -- "9 to 5" -- which earned Dolly an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Original Song. You can check out some clips from the musical here:

We shall see how the Tony's play out tonight -- I will be attending another show this upcoming weekend. It will be the cheese-fest that is "Rock of Ages", which features a soundtrack of all classic 1980's rock songs. Can't wait!

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