Earlier this month the American Repertory Theater (ART) started previews of Jagged Little Pill, a new musical directed by Diane Paulus featuring the music of Alanis Morissette and a book by Diablo Cody. Previews are essentially try-outs. Creators work on the show as the performances go along. Some things get cleaned up and expanded on, others get cut. The one thing we can almost be certain of is this: if the show makes it beyond Cambridge (on tour or to Broadway) it will be a different creature than it was in the beginning. And this is a good thing because I saw Jagged Little Pill during the first week and while there are some interesting moments, I think this show has a lot of transformations to go through.
Taking place in modern-day suburban Connecticut, Jagged Little Pill strives to prove the timelessness of Morissette’s music by creating a story very much in the middle of today’s social complexities and challenges. If you take some time to check out the internet buzz about this show, you’ll see the word “woke” bandied about a lot. And I suppose that’s what the show’s trying to show us…that it, in itself, is “woke.” But is it really? And for that matter, is the show any good?
I know I’m late in getting on the Hamilton bandwagon. While I’m not the musical theater aficionado that Smalerie is, I do like musicals. I just rarely go to see them. I had heard good things about Hamilton and its massive popularity, but I somehow never got around to actually listening to the soundtrack. Now I have. Several times in fact, which should tell you how I felt about it.
As I did with the film Saving Mr. Banks, I became curious about how much of the musical was factual and how much was fiction. I don’t expect either musicals or movies to be documentary accurate when covering real-life events, so this isn’t a criticism of the play. I just like to know what was changed to make a better narrative and what really happened. A Wikipedia binge ensued and I discovered a treasure trove of true facts, altered facts, disputed facts, and completely omitted facts, from which I will now share highlights with you. Continue reading
The Ladies Podcast is back with a brand new episode! This month, we’re taking on love – with a twist. We’re sharing a few of the things that we love to hate – favorite ranting topics – or hate to love – the guilty pleasures.
Check out our previous episodes on our Podcast page.
Quick Note: Hey everyone! We ladies so enjoyed working together on our themed posts last month that we decided to choose a theme for this month as well. We’re taking a cue from Valentine’s Day and writing about love in all its splendid and sordid forms.
I suppose we should get into the Way-Back Machine this month to talk about where my corny romantic soul really discovered love for the first time – musicals.
In fear of aging myself, I can tell you that I remember when my father came home with a VCR for the first time. In his hands, two videos: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and the MGM classic musical Singin’ in the Rain. And now, over 30 years later, these remain two of my favorite movies. And you guessed it, they’re both musicals.
It isn’t surprising that a young Smalerie would lose her mind over a Disney movie – especially one that’s so darn pretty to look at. What is slightly more uncommon was that I would also become OBSESSED with musicals. I would watch whichever ones I could get my hands on, spending way too much time during my teen years trying to explain the difference between Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire’s dance styles, and begging my parents to gift me with Show of the Month Club tickets. Back in those days, my taste wasn’t as discerning as it is now and I’ve lost my taste for most Rogers and Hammerstein, but that doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t still swell when a character spontaneously breaks into song.
I often find it hard to explain to people why my love for this genre is so ingrained in my system. I think it has to do with how music is linked to our emotions. Things that can be hard to express in just words can now be done with music, movement or dance, and words. Feelings (good and bad) are exaggerated and heightened in a way that can often feel so much more genuine that we expect. Almost as if music helps distill them to their very essence. Sure, some musicals are simple and can feel trite or silly, but others can capture a culture or moment in time. Look, not every musical out there is any good, but if you’re open to perhaps making a new discovery, I’d be happy to point you in a toe-tapping kinda direction.
3 Musicals for People Who Might Not Like Musicals:
Little Shop of Horrors – I feel as if this musical is practically perfect in every way. It’s funny, dark, and filled with catchy tunes and clever lyrics. There’s also a lot to see in this show whether you just stick to the movie or see it live just because you want to see how they pull off the plant. This show is the reason why I loved Alan Menken and Howard Ashman before they left for the fluorescent lights of Disney. And I will always love Little Shop, original disaster ending or happy Hollywood one.
See also: Avenue Q, Bat Boy: The Musical, The Book of Mormon
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (TV Series) – A masterclass on the human condition, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is hilarious but often almost painful to watch due to its accuracy on how people treat others and themselves. I think what makes this show work is that it can often be easier to sing about your issues than actually confront them. Songs are used as internal monologues, highlight particular emotional arcs in the story, and can just be so honest and funny. People who don’t like musicals might enjoy watching this show just for how clever it is.
See also: Garfunkel and Oates (TV Show), Heathers: The Musical
Hedwig and the Angry Inch – A great rock show that’s funny, heartfelt, and heartbreaking. The film version is great, but this is one of those shows that I would love to see live at some point. The main character talks directly to the audience and in the right venue, that’s a great opportunity for the performance to feel personal and intimate. I can’t remember how I even heard about Hedwig originally, but I do remember being so charmed by the music.
See also: Tommy, Phantom of the Paradise, Rocky Horror (Picture) Show