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Archive for February, 2009

Office, Where Are You?

So, uh, anyone know if The Office will ever be new again? Maybe I’m just spoiled because of how Lost is aired but seriously, this is ridiculous. You give people too much time away from a show and you make it hard for them to come back. 😦

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Same for How I Met Your Mother.

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This past Saturday night in New York City, sitting in the front row of the Booth Theater watching the second to last performance of the new musical The Story of My Life, I learned a very valuable lesson: sometimes, the critics get it wrong. Unfortunately for this marvelous and moving musical, the critics’ mistake shut down the show. But more on that later.

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Right now, I want to sing the praises of this beautiful piece of work. I loved The Story of My Life, every single minute of the buck thirty, one-act musical. It could have gone on another hour and I still would have adored it. The Story of My Life is a two-man show with a bare minimum set, no costume changes, and extremely narrow focus on the nature of friendship and loss. But this is why it was so good. For the record, I love me some Wicked and Spamalot and Les Miserables but if you are looking for dramatic theater, a play set to music that reaches into the depths of male bonding, love, friendship, and ownership, The Story of My Life was that piece. With the two actors on stage the entire time, it is indeed the story of their friendship, its demise, and its redemption that leaves you buzzing, not the flying car or the spinning turntable or the falling chandelier. Sans cheap tricks, it was the story, the acting, the music, and the emotion that made this show spectacular.

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The premise was fairly simple. Thomas and Alvin were best friends since childhood who grew apart, for reasons revealed throughout the show, as they got older. When Alvin dies, Thomas makes good on a promise the two made to each other as kids to deliver each other’s eulogies (“But how would that work?”). As a famous and successful writer, Thomas should be able to write a beautiful tribute to his friend but finds himself at a loss for what to say as it was Alvin that had always been the source for his stories. Through the spirit of the deceased yet still eccentric Alvin, the play relives those small moments in the life of their friendship that ended up changing both of their lives.

It’s a show about friendship, about being true to yourself, about life and death and grieving and moving on and valuing what you have when you have it. Needless to say, a very emotional show while still managing to have a few good laughs sprinkled throughout so that you aren’t depressed through the whole thing. Only for parts. 🙂

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The Story of My Life is mostly sung-through, a few bits of book here and there. While I will agree with some reviews that the music was not necessarily innovative and the lyrics were good but not great, both left me badly wanting a cast recording of the show, a wish that is probably foolish at this point. But to me, a good show-tune has to move me in various ways emotionally which these most certainly did so the idea that the music wasn’t too different from a lot of other musicals or composers’ styles doesn’t bother me much at all. If it isn’t broke, why are you fixing it? It was very pretty music and some of the lyrics were a bit Sondheimy so the effort was there to bring the show to the next level. I thought they succeeded but apparently a lot of critics did not.

All of this brings me to the real treasure of this show which was the amazing talent of the two actors. The Story of My Life would not have been as good, as memorable, or as touching if it weren’t for the spectacular performances by Will Chase (Thomas) and especially Malcom Gets (Alvin). As we were in the front row, we not only got to see every detail of these two gentleman’s performances, we got to feel their energy and be completely swept away by both.

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Mr. Chase should be a bigger star than he already is, no question about it. He’s the full package. He has intensity, stage presence, amazing acting chops that flow through every part of him and not just his face, a heavenly voice and he’s not bad to look at either. To put it in more formal terms, Will Chase is fucking hot! From his gorgeous eyes that are not able to hide behind his character’s adorable glasses to his very nice body, it was pleasurable to say the least to sit so close to that stage with him on it. His costume – just a dark suit – made his butt way too grab-able. 🙂 I restrained myself but it wasn’t easy. In all seriousness though, Mr. Chase was fantastic, really driving home Thomas’ inability to face up to the betrayal of his friend. You want to hate him but he becomes so vulnerable and lost that you can’t help but sympathize. His standout song would have to be “The Butterfly.” Mr. Brantley of the New York Times, you do know what a metaphor is, right?

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There’s not much more I can say about Mr. Gets that you fans don’t know already. With him, what you get is a performance so heartbreakingly moving that you want to give him a big hug and make sure that he is just acting and not really breaking down in front of you. The great thing with him is, and Will Chase did this too but not to the same extent, that when he isn’t the focus of the moment or when it isn’t even his song, he’s still there. His expressions, especially those big soulful eyes of his, point out the hurt and the pain of his character losing his closest friend and these subtleties create the story of his character without it ever needing to be said outright. And while his sad stares are as much a part of the book as the dialogue, it is Mr. Gets’ exuberance that leaves you with goosebumps and the lasting impression. While he doesn’t have the powerhouse voice that Mr. Chase does, his voice is so full of character that it doesn’t even matter. He’s most definitely a performer you’ll want to drop everything for to see. Standout song for Mr. Gets would be “People Carry On” in which he sings about his deceased mother and how all he remembers are the details and not her. Believe me, that got me sobbing. So true.

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When I came home from New York this past Sunday, I went online as normal but I purposely saved checking any of the theater news sites till very last because I knew the news would not be good. I hate it when I’m right. After only 5 performances, plus a week or two of previews, the producers decided to close The Story of My Life after the Sunday matinee. Bad (wrong) reviews plus names that are only well known to theater folk plus an original story not based on anything that the common tourist would be drawn to meant that this wonderful, beautiful, moving, heartbreaking, fantastic show closed way before it should have. I’m incredibly glad I got to see the show and incredibly sad I don’t get to see it again. One thing I’m sure about though is that both of these actors will have long careers on the stage and we will see them again soon.

But for The Story of My Life, as Alvin so delicately puts it, “this is it.”

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Stay Tuned

Busy day today but please come back at some point as I will be posting a review of The Story of My Life around lunch. It will be bittersweet to say the least.

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Oscars!

That will go down as the best opening for the Oscars ever. Wow.

9:40pm: Ok, the Ben Stiller bit had me laughing so hard that it hurt. That was just too good. I like that the show this year feels a little bit looser, not quite as formal and uptight. Usually I would want that but it is going well. Still want Jackman shirtless but the night is young.

9:56pm: As a musical fan, I love this musical montage!!!!!!!

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Better. Much better. Answer to making your heroine sympathetic? Spend as much of the episode focused on her surroundings instead of her as you can.  Duplicate Giles is a cool character. I like him and FBI man (I obviously do not know names yet).

Still having some problems with some of the undertones of the show. Can we please have an episode where Echo doesn’t have to whore herself out to these creeps? Please?

I really like ED but she runs like a girl. And it is very difficult to see her play soft. She’s still Faith to me. Science guy is still annoying and we badly need more Amy Acker.

But again, it was better than last week’s. I enjoyed this one.

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I’m a little nervous about giving a full review of Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage as it could get me into trouble. So what I’ll do instead is list the ways in which this show could have been better and then I’ll let you guys decide for yourself whether to see it or not.

It all comes down to three things. Do these three things and you won’t mind sitting in that sweltering theater for two hours and 45 minutes.

  1. More live music, particularly from the one male vocal lead who has one of the more incredible voices I’ve heard on stage. He gets two songs in Act Two – “In the Still of the Night” (showstopper) and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” – and it isn’t enough. Give him more to do in Act One. You can fit him in by…
  2. Cutting out all of the non-essential side characters that no one cares about to begin with. I’m going to watch Baby and Johnny fall in love and dance, that’s what I want to see. I don’t care about the parents, I don’t care about the other resort guests, I don’t care about the little girls jumping rope, I care about these two characters. The actors have great chemistry with each other and even though Johnny really has a terrible American accent (let him just be Australian!) they make for very enjoyable scenes.
  3. Make Johnny go shirtless during the entire show. I don’t need to explain that one, just trust me. He could drop the boxers a bit during that one bed scene as well.

That’s it. Maybe add some higher energy live numbers into Act One, shave off about 30 minutes (I’m looking at you boring civil rights subplot) and have Johnny 6-pack show off. Would make for a much better evening.

I was really disappointed with the show, I have to say. I had seen a bunch of my favorite scenes from the movie already on stage from working it but the show as a whole is tedious, dull and adds very little to the experience of watching the movie for cheaper in the privacy of your own home. Worse than that, it fails to capture much of the charm of the movie, even though it copies word for word the script from it. I’m glad audiences are seeming to love it. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood or something. But please don’t tell me that I don’t appreciate a fluff musical because I do. I don’t appreciate bad musicals. I said that with Legally Blonde and I’ll say it with this one.

🙂 Is that gonna get me in trouble?

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Or should I say happy day off? 🙂 I’m in desperate need of this day off. My apartment is a mess, the laundry basket is overflowing, there is this blog project I’m supposed to be working on (more on that later), and my finances could use a thorough going over. How much of all this gets done today is anyone’s guess.

I usually don’t pay much attention to this holiday but I have the History Channel on in the background and they are doing quick overviews of the presidents. I turned it on in time to see Millard Fillmore and we just got through Lincoln. Very interesting stuff, especially about Lincoln. I should read up on him, haven’t had a history lesson on Lincoln since high school.

One thing about our current president that continues to amaze me is just how big a superstar he is. Women are walking around carrying Obama handbags. There is a store here in Arlington that has two gigantic Obama banners hanging in their front windows. All you need for proof is to watch these town hall meetings and see these people go absolutely nuts when the guy enters the room, as if Robert Pattinson had just walked into a Twilight convention. It’s kind of cool, isn’t it? To enjoy your president for a change. I sincerely pray that feeling doesn’t fade over four years or that anything happens to make us all not feel that way. Fingers crossed.

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