Depth, beauty surge through glorious Once

Jun 19

Depth, beauty surge through glorious <i>Once</i>

If every movie-to-musical transformation were as soulful and creative as Once the state of the Broadway musical would be in a much better place.

There would seem to be no less likely candidate for the Broadway treatment than the sweet and modest 2007 Irish indie film Once about a frustrated singer/songwriter in Dublin and the Czech immigrant who changes his life. It's a love story and not a love story, a musical and not a musical. Above all else, it's intimate and delicate, like a slice of life infused with passionate music transferred with great love to the big screen.

Fans of the movie (which nabbed a best song Oscar for songwriters/stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's "Falling Slowly") let out a collective groan when it was announced that Once would be turned into a Broadway musical.

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Porgy sings anew at the Golden Gate

Nov 14

<i>Porgy</i> sings anew at the Golden Gate

p>The music of Porgy and Bess is so pervasive in the musical landscape that actually seeing the show and how the songs fit into the story is a little startling.

I know the George Gershwin-Ira Gershwin-DuBose Heyward score not from cast recordings but from pop and jazz versions recorded by the likes of Miles Davis, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Carmen McRae, Cleo Laine and Ray Charles and Frances Faye and Mel Tormé. And then there are the countless covers of the show's songs. "Summertime" is considered one of the most recorded songs of all time, with more than 30,000 versions. This music, in other words, is part of the American cultural fabric.

Productions of Porgy and Bess don't come along very often...

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Enchanting Starcatcher has all the right star stuff

Nov 07

Enchanting <i>Starcatcher</i> has all the right star stuff

The company of Peter and the Starcatcher opens Act 2 with a rousing number involving Neverland mermaids. The Tony Award-winning play continues through Dec. 1 at the Curran Theatre as part of the SHN season. Below: Peter (Joey deBettencourt) takes a leap of faith into a golden lagoon. Photos by Jenny Anderson Is it the fantasy of flying? The lure of perpetual...

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Broadway-bound Carole King bio truly is Beautiful

Oct 09

Broadway-bound Carole King bio truly is <i>Beautiful</i>

You know that Beautiful: The Carole King Musical has worked its musical biography magic when, during the curtain calls, the extraordinary Jessie Mueller takes her bow, you feel like you're applauding an actor for her superb performance as King and you feel like you're acknowledging King herself and all of the remarkable work she has contributed over the last five decades.

King herself is nowhere to be found in the creation of this Broadway-bound enterprise except where it really counts: in the music. The story that book writer Douglas McGrath and director Marc Bruni are telling springs out of King's early start in the songwriting business and her emergence as a seminal singer-songwriter of the 1970s, but the show is really a tribute to the craft of songwriting.

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Drag, disco, divas and – surprise – delight in Priscilla

Aug 23

Drag, disco, divas and – surprise – delight in <i>Priscilla</i>

Musical theater's rush to turn every movie into a Broadway show has taught us to tread carefully and lower our expectations. For every Billy Elliot or Hairspray or The Producers there's a Cry Baby or Catch Me If Yo Can or The Little Mermaid or Shrek or Sunset Boulevard or Sister Act or Leap of Faith or Young Frankenstein and the list goes on. And on

So it's understandable to come to the splashy Broadway musical adaptation of the absolutely charming 1994 movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert with some trepidation. Banishing original music and lyrics in favor of '70s and '80s disco and pop hits further lowers the bar of expectation as the tale of two drag queens and a transsexual on a road trip through the Australian outback makes its way to the stage

The surprise, then, is that Priscilla Queen of the Desert: The Musical is actually quite fun and not devoid of charm.

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A spoonful of new songs makes Mary Poppins go down

May 09

A spoonful of new songs makes <i>Mary Poppins</i> go down

Some are Shakespeare purists. Or Chekhov purists. Or Star Wars purists. Their simple message is: don't mess with the original. I happen to be a Mary Poppins purist. Not the original P.L. Travers books – I found them harsh and far from enchanting. No, I'm a purist when it comes to the 1964 Disney film that boasted two remarkable things (and countless other simply wonderful things): the screen debut of a perfectly cast Julie Andrews in the title role and a thoroughly charming original score by brothers Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman. Andrews and the Shermans all walked away with Academy Awards and, several years later when, at 4 years old, I saw a re-release of the film in my first time out at a movie theater, it also won my lifelong devotion.

All of that personal preamble is to say that I approached the Disney/Cameron Mackintosh stage adaptation with cautious enthusiasm.

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