Howdy, Theater Dogs.
I’ve been on vacation for the last week or so, but I’m back, eager to bring you interesting tidbits of theater news and reviews.
Took a roadtrip up the Oregon coast — took 101 from San Francisco to the beautiful little hamlet known as Rockaway Beach. Breathtakingly beautiful pretty much the entire way. I highly recommend it. At Rockaway, one of the most striking local attractions is called Twin Rocks, and they’re just offshore of a gorgeous expanse of white-sand beach. Here — see for yourself (it’s much prettier in person):
But now to my point. For me, road trip means one thing: a big-time show tune sing-along. I’ll spare you all the gory details (and believe me, if you’re not traveling with the right people or person, show tunes in an enclosed space can be dangerous, so please, exercise caution), but I will tell you that there were two big hits on the California-to-Oregon playlist: the cast album of Legally Blonde, the Musical and the soundtrack recording of Hairspray.
Legally Blonde, the Broadway musical version of the hit movie that had its pre-Broadway tryout in San Francisco, makes for a fun listen. People who saw the show here can give a listen to the new songs (“Positive”) and all the changes made to the versions we heard (most notably, Orfeh gets a big Broadway finish on the “Ireland” reprise). Bouncy and happy, the score is light and enjoyable, but I will say it suffers some in translation to disc. It seems sillier on disc than it does on stage, and Laura Bell Bundy as Elle, so chipper and bright onstage, doesn’t have a great voice. And some of the songs (“There! Right There!” and “Chip on My Shoulder” are good for a listen or two but are definitely not worth the space they take up on the ol’ MP3 player. Some enjoyable tunes — “What You Want,” for instance — are fun onstage, but they go on forever on disc. But if you have affection for the show, as I do, the cast album is a must.
The most enjoyable album of the summer belongs to the most enjoyable movie of the summer, which also happens to be the most enjoyable movie musical to come out since…I guess Chicago, but Hairspray is an awful lot more fun because it’s not remotely cynical.
With this soundtrack, composer Marc Shaiman (a pop-show tune genius), who co-wrote the score with the equally brilliant Scott Wittman, indulges his every fantasy to beef up the orchestrations with strings, horns and even more good humor. A song I don’t like much from the Broadway original, “Miss Baltimore Crabs,” is turned into a true event thanks to Shaiman’s witty arrangement and Michelle Pfeiffer’s fabulously pinched performance. The same is true of the title song, which is pretty forgettable, but Shaiman beefs it up, and James Marsden’s surprisingly delightful performance makes it a winner (check out his little Michael Buble moment toward the end).
As for the great songs — “Good Morning, Baltimore,” “Welcome to the ’60s,” “I Know Where I’ve Been,” “I Can Hear the Bells,” “Run and Tell That,” “Without Love” and “You Can’t Stop the Beat” — they’re better and brighter than ever. And I must say, I’m quite fond of the new songs “Ladies’ Choice,” sung by Zac Efron, and the end titles song, “Come So Far, Got So Far To Go,” sung by most of the cast. I don’t quite get the other end titles song, “Cooties,” but hey, it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.
Shaiman and company have outdone themselves on this album, which I’m playing repeatedly. Sorry, Spring Awakening, but Hairspray the movie is my new favorite thing (so sue me, I’m fickle).