Friday, September 30, 2011

A Freak Like Me! (Musical Review)

Ok, let’s continue typing out the reviews (yes I procrastinate!). The musical I will be reviewing today is one probably everyone knows about. This infamous musical (no, it’s not phantom of the opera) had several accidents and more than one opening night (I believe they holds the record for opening nights). However, let’s ignore the accidents for right now (I’ll talk about it later), so I can review the Musical known as Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark!

Again, I would like to do a shout out to the theater I saw it in. The setting was, as I considered at the time, “greek-ish” with its gold leaf columns which were very flashy. This theater didn’t speak to me the second I got there (like the Lunt-Fontanne did) to make me think “boy, this is a perfect theater for Spider-man!” I mean it feels like this very rich theater, but having Spider-man at it (which is this Rock Musical) was very strange for me. It was only later when we were able to get to our seats that I realized why this theater was chosen for the location of Spider-man. It didn’t have that much of a stage (I would say that it is smaller than Lunt-Fontanne), but the in-between space above the audience and in front of the balcony seats was very vast in neutral space. This space was perfect for Spiderman or the Green Goblin to swing around).

Last time I commented how close we were to the action, this time was no different. We got seats in the second row of the balcony (row D seats 7, 9, and 11). We had chosen this balcony spot mainly because it was above the flyway (the place where Spider-man would fall—I mean fly). That way, if he did fall, we could say we were there, but not have the doctor bills to prove it.

Why I Chose This Musical
One of the reasons you would expect me to say is that I wanted to go to this one, so I could say I did. That’s partly true. Even before hearing about the disasters, I was fascinated by the mention of Julie Taymor. She had previous done a beautiful job on costumes for Lion King (from what I have seen in pictures) and her movie “Across the Universe” was wonderful, so I was interested to see what she would do for this musical. I must also mention that I am a lover of Comic books. I’m not really a Marvel fan, of course, but I have enjoyed the shows and movies.

Comments on the Actual Musical
When I think of a musical, I think of Guys n’ Dolls. I think of a red curtain, a kick line and jazz hands. Now, I could have been describing Addams Family because that was what that musical was like, but trust me when I say Spider-man did not have any jazz hands. Spider-man was like no other musical I had seen before or sense (and I’ve seen a production of Caberet, so I’ve seen a lot of strange musicals). I consider Spider-man a Rock-musical, which makes sense given who the creators are.

The lyrics and the music was created by Bono and the Edge (who were formally known for their band U2 before this musical had some disasters). Now, I didn’t expect songs from Guys and Dolls or Cats, but I this rock music was not what I expected. There were lots of flashing lights at several points which were sort of annoying, but it fit some of the songs. They are actually pretty cool. I haven’t memorized any of them, but I know I will knowing me and stuff.

The cast is wonderful. What I really want to mention which I found most fasinating was that there were 9 spidermen doing all the acrobatics, flying, flipping, and so much. This is in addition to the main actor, Matthew James Thomas, who only flew in the last bow scene.

References to The Comics
I must admit I am a fan of comics (well…maybe not of Marvel Comics, but Comics in general) as some of you guys already know (reference to The Poet), so I have to examine some of the references I recorded:
  • When Mary Jane Watson (played then by Jennifer Damiano) mentions they are going to perform the musical The Fantastiks, Peter Parker (aka Spiderman played that night by Matthew James Thomas) asked if it was about the Fantastic Four, who are also Marvel characters
  • One of the “gangsters” (as described in the cast list) who Spider-man first fights bares resemblance to the spider-man rogue Hammerhead
  • The bullies Flash and Kong (played by Matt Caplan and Luther Creek) are references to Flash Thomson and Kong from the Spiderman comics
  • The Secret Six and its members (Carnage, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, The lizard, Swarm) are all comic characters with the exception Swiss Miss, who is an original character
  • The reporter character “Robertson” (played by Dwayne Clark) is a reference to Robbie Robertson, who was the editor-in-chief of the Daily Bugle
  • When Peter Parker showed J. Jonah Jameson (the chief editor and publisher of the Daily Bugle, played by Michael Mulheren) the pictures of Spider-man he had taken, JJ demanded who had let him in his office. Parker said, “Your secretary, Ms. Brant.” Betty Brant is another Comic book character. She only appeared in mention a few times
  • When asked why he chose the Daily Bugle over other Newspapers, Parker said simply, “The Bugle has the best comics,” which I would assume is a reference either to the regular comic books, or to his appearences in the comic strip by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber

Differences from The Comics
As one might expect from any adaptation (movie, musical or otherwise), there were some differences from the original source materal (aka Comics), such as:
  • Mary Jane already knows that Parker is Spider-man, without him having to tell her
  • The Green goblin usually rides the Goblin Glider, but there is no appearance of this in the musical. He does fly around, however, with the help of wings
  • Emily Osborn (played then by Jessica Leigh Brown) did appear in the comics, but she died a year after her son Harry (who did not make an appearance, though Gobblin refered to Spider-man as his son) was born
  • There is no appearance of the Burgler who killed Peter Parker’s uncle Ben (played by Dwayne Clark). This limits Parker’s anger because he does not regret letting the burgler get away
The biggest change might be the way the secret Six originated. Most had a different origin story. However, due to the length of the show their stories had to be explained simply as them being mutated by the green Goblin, who had captured them all. See, they had been all scientists under Norman Osborn. However, due to a funding shortage, all six of the scientists left. When Norman became the Green Goblin, he decided he shouldn’t be alone in his freakyness (where the title comes from…a song!), so he captures his former collegues and mutates them. Here are the differences in their origins:
  • Carnage (played by Collin Baja) actually came from the symbiote known as Venom. However as Venom does not appear here, the origin was changed so the character is just a disturbed individual.
  • Electro (played by Emmanuel Brown) actually got his powers from a bolt of lightening, but here he is a mutant
  • Kraven the Hunter (played by Brandon Rubendall) was just a hunter obsessed with hunting
  •  The Lizard (played by Sean Samuels) is perhaps the one who’s origin didn’t change that drasticly. He was a scientist who mutated his DNA with reptile DNA and became the Lizard
  •  Swiss Miss was original as stated before
The Green Goblin
Ok, well, as much as liked the peter parker moments, the part I loved the most about the whole musical was The Green Goblin. He was my favorite character of the whole musical. This adaptation of Norman Osborn, portrayed by Patrick Page, is really entertaining. I mean, sure the story has been slightly changed so he’s now a scientist who created the spider that made Spider-man who he is today. He really was a brilliant man with a brilliant wife. However, when funding for his project was cut and everyone else left him, he was persuaded by the evil group known as Viper (which surprisingly has not appeared in comics) to continue his research. All he needed was a test subject. Finally, the obvious solution is decided upon: test it on himself. He reasons that, “why be human, when you could be better?” And thus, the Green Goblin was created.

The Green goblin has some great songs in the musical, but my favorite part is his humor. At the beginning of the second act, Gobby was explaining what he was going to do to his former Scientist collegues he had captured in between acts when some people who were obviously late in finding their seats came in. Now, normally, this would be either ignored if they were a good actor or they would mess up if they were a bad one, but Mr. Page was different. He had a quick sense of humor, so he tells the late comers, “Oh, hello [its best to picture a guy in a freaky green outfit with this deep voice], I was just explaining what I do to late comers.”

That is why I love the Green Goblin in this musical.

This is definitely a different musical from anything seen or done before, even against RENT the musical this is different. Sure it has had some problems, but that doesn’t mean everyone should focus on those. Anyway, if you want a regular musical, then this should not be your first choice, but if you want something a little different then this is perfect.

Reminder: I don't own Spiderman; that would be Marvel who owns him...

And now, a sample of Goblin and company invading Letterman’s show:

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In the arms of a Squid! (Musical Review)

A month ago, I went to New York City and saw four different musicals; the first of which is reviewed here in this post. The Addams Family were first seen in Charles Addams’ comic strip in The New Yorker, though they were popularized by the television show (which ran from 1964 to 1966). They’ve always been enjoyable (whether they were in a comic, a cartoon, on television or even in the movies) and that’s why Addams Family the Musical was very entertaining!

Whenever you see a movie or a TV show, the location of where you see it doesn’t matter. However, I have always found that when watching a theatrical performance the setting is very important. The Lunt-Fontanne theatre really fit the atmosphere of what Addams family is like. It’s a slightly older theatre and whose front room (where you can buy t-shirts and stuff) is decerated by a golden trim. When I walked up the stair case to that front room I knew this was the perfect theatre for an Addams. There was a shandlerr and several black and white pictures of people (contributors to the theatre I guess), which made the place slightly older feeling and almost spooky.

Our seats were really great! We got sat in row F seats 2, 4, and 6, which were just four rows away from the stage! If Brook Shields (who played Morticia) spat we would be in firing range!

Notes (written after the performance)
The Musical really was led by Fester [played by Brad Oscar], who sort of narrated the show, sometimes breaking the fourth wall.  He really stole the show. His comedic timing was perfect and very amusing.
The Plot was driven by Wednesday [played by the wonderful Rachel Potter]. She’s nearly grown up (she’s close to 18 I believe) and in love with a normal guy from Ohio. At this time she’s lost and her personality changes from the depressed normal Addams style to the sweet girl who makes Mortica and Gomez [played by the great Roger Rees] fear they’ve done something wrong somehow in bringing her up.

Pugsly fears he’ll be left behind and not tortured. Best part of the musical was when Wednesday was singing, “Pulled” where she addresses the changes in her head and how she is getting “Pulled in a New Direction”, while litteraly pulling a switch to pull Pugsly in four different Directions. Needless to say, this is very entertaining.

Another subplot is that Mortica realizes she is getting older and wonders if she has wasted her life. Gomez tries to confort her, but being Gomez, he screws up and Mortica turns her anger to him.

The parents of Wednesday’s boyfriend [Lucas Beineke, then played by Mo Brady] are also having marital problems. You see, not too much is happeing in the bedroom [if you know what you mean]. It seems the husband [Mal Beineke played by Adam Grupper] was too focused on work to see his wife [Alice Beineke played by Heidi Blickenstaff].  This was easily solved when Mal was stragled by a squid (where the title of the review comes from) and he realized what was really important (aquariums and his wife, but maybe not in that order). That was the funniest song (“In the Arms of a Squid” that is).

Another great scene was where Grandmama [played by the brilliant and surprisingly young Jackie Hoffman], Gomez and Fester (who is in love with the moon) sing “Lets not talk about anything else but Love”, which was sort of a hat and cane sort of dance.

Thing (the hand) made an appearance once or twice pulling back on of the curtainsm, which was very amusing to see. It was also interesting to see cousin Itt have a small cameo in which he falls in love with one of the decorative cut off curtain rope tails. Now that was interesting…Nice tribute to the original comics and the show!

The scenery made the whole thing even more wonderful. They had stairs, walls doors even windows whose placement cold be changed to suit any given scene.

The Inside Story: Of Jokes and Grandmas
I don’t usually watch Jimmy Fallon, but when I heard Brooke Shields was going to be on I recorded it. It was totally worth it. What I found the most interesting about the interview was that I learned that every night Grandma would try to say something which would get Shields to smile (something which is out of character). The first time she did it, she managed to slide into her lines, “nothing gets between me and my calvins” (a reference to Shields’ work at the spokes model for Calvin Clins whose motto she always had to say was that very line). That night, Jackie Hoffman (Grandma) said something like, “bite me”. Whatever she said, Shields had to turn away from the audience to hid her smile. Third to Festor and Gomez, Hoffman was my favorite. She made all these refrences to 60’s stuff. Such as she sang “Puff the Magic Dragon”, which in it self was very amusing given her acent and old appearance. She also said she woke up at Woodstock beside John Lenin, who couldn’t think of what to write. She said it was easy, “all you need is LOVE,” which started Gomez, Festor and herself singing, “lets not talk about anyting else but love”.

At the performance, I got a t-shirt quite similar to that of Lurch’s [who was played by Zachary James, who was also great], which really looks quite dashing on me if I do say so myself. After getting out of there, we saw a crowd gatering outside the theatre so we joined them. Turns out, we could see the stars coming out. Got pictures of most of them (even a fuzzy picture of Brooke Shields before her agent began to tell people not to and shining a light at the cameras of pesistant people). I got the signatures of Gomez and Wednesday aka Roger Rees and Rachel Potter.

This was a great musical. I first heard about it on Letterman and I really was sad I wouldn’t get to see it given that it was only showing in New york…but turns out I got to see it anyway. It was a great musical to be the first musical I have seen on Broadway. Definitely not the last!

Reminder: I do not own the Addams Family. That honor goes to the Charles Addams Foundation, I believe.

I leave you with the song I have already memorized: the opening song “when you’re an Addams” done here on Letterman by the original Cast: