27 January 2010

My New Favorite Thing

Dropbox is the best thing the internet has provided for me in a long time.  It's devilishly simple: Register for an account and download the program to every computer you frequently use--at home, work, etc.  It creates a "My Dropbox" folder.  Store all the documents you frequently need to access and update in that folder.  BAM!  You have the SAME up to date file on every computer you use, automatically updated whever you have the program downloaded.  You can also access the files at any other computer via the interwebz.  Even better, you can SHARE ENTIRE FOLDERS.  3 people working on a spreadsheet, share the folder and any time 1 of you updates it, EVERYONE has the updated version.  It's like google docs, only with real documents.  It has changed my life (for the better).  Click on this link and get started.

23 January 2010

Homework: Guilty Pleasure

One of my long-time guilty pleasures has been HEARTBEATS, a sort of jukebox musical of Amanda "The Rose" McBroom's cabaret songs (plus a few presumably written for the show).  The thin story focuses on a woman turning 40 and wondering what went wrong with her marriage.  For some reason, the show and its 90s lite pop score really resonated with me when I was in the 7th grade.  I got the cast recording.  The L.A. cast recording.  I don't know how one got the L.A. cast recording of HEARTBEATS 40 minutes west of Cleveland in 1996, but by gum, I found a way. 

My favorite song had always been "Putting Things Away", a song which finds parallels in putting away groceries and dreams.  The lyric is a bit on the nose and the music cheesey, but I love this song:

  Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io 

In trying to find some mention of it on the internet, I found this most peculiar item--an assignment for an ESL class at the National Taiwan University.  Most of the assignment is about identifying the many household items and activities mentioned in the song--it really is a esl vocab paradise.  But the last study question--"What explanation in the second part of the song does the singer give for not liking to put things away? How do the last things she says in the song affect the interpretation of the rest of the song?"--would actually be difficult for me to answer.  How DOES the end of the song affect your interpretation of the beginning.  Because you don't want to play the ending of the song, but yet...and I remember why I got out of performing.  

One last tidbit: whilst at amazon looking for a jpeg of the cast recording I found this review I wrote while a Jr. in High School (I wrote a lot of amazon reviews back then).

14 January 2010

Late Night Nonsense

I don't have a whole lot to weigh in on the current situation going on with respect to NBC's late night programming, other than to say, in my opinion, the ball was dropped in the mid-90s, when Jay Leno took over The Tonight Show instead of Letterman.  Fact: David Letterman is far funnier than Jay Leno.  I suppose there is something simple and non-threatening about Leno that appeases "those people" in America (the same "those people" who are afraid of Thai food and homosexuals and fans of Sarah Palin).  But as these past seven months have proven, "those people" have happily accepted Letterman as their late night leader.  Though Leno was the habitual "winner" in the ratings throughout his "competition" against Letterman, it was a competition NBC made for themselves by not giving Letterman the show in the first place.  I sincerely doubt Leno would have had the chutzpah to move to CBS (or any other network) against Letterman had Letterman been crowned Carson's successor, and NBC would have continued its unrestricted dominion over late night TV.  As it stands, NBC may have very well killed the Tonight Show, leaving Letterman the lone player on the field.  Watch the following clip and show me a Leno clip that is even remotely as funny.  It's a dare.

09 January 2010

Norbert Leo Butz

If you aren't obsessed with Norbert Leo Butz, you either hate musicals or don't have ears.

An audio only of him singing One Song Glory in '98.  I believe he was the 1st Roger replacement.  The recording is okay...aside from a few moments of technical difficulty.  Norbert is perfection.

Here he playing Mark to Adam Pascall's Roger (I guess Norbert was a swing as well).  Why was this recorded in the first place?  Thank god RENT inspired the rabid fandom it did, prompting fans to record and collect live performances.  I'm curious as to what else exists out there...

Here he is in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDREL (the show for which he won a Tony).  I really enjoyed this show--a legitimately funny musical comedy is a hard thing to pull off.

in Cabaret

Here he is in LAST 5 YEARS.  I chose this particular one because he is shirtless.  But pretty much all of the original production can be found here

As Fieryo in WICKED.  He basically outsings Idina here.  He was an interesting short for the romantic lead--i mean, he's shorter than Elphaba--but probably the smartest decision WICKED made.

05 January 2010

South Pacific and Avatar: When is it okay to look away?

I don't think many people seen an inherent link between SOUTH PACIFIC and AVATAR.  But, at least for me, there are a few similiarties: I saw both at Lincoln Center in the first week of 2010, both are over 2.5 hours, both deal with warfare in tropical locales and troubled relations with "natives", but are absolutely stunning, stunning enough to negate some substantial flaws.

 When I say South Pacific is flawed, I do not mean to dismiss its substantial merit.  The score is gorgeous, tuneful, and memorable.  The characters are unlike any others in the music theater cannon, and the situations it deals likewise break any sort of mold that has existed before or since.  But things get confusing when the 2nd act becomes a bunch of guys in khaki barking and listening to the radio, someone gets MALARIA, but that turns out not to be so big a deal and he goes on a top secret mission (which, for some reason, requires the aid of a random French plantation owner).  The mission itself--as well as its consequences--is vague and confusing.  Oh, and that malaria victim falls in love (even though he has a girlfriend) with a local girl just because she's hot.  But she is so hot that he realizes he's racist for not wanting to marry her, even though there are many legitimate reasons not to marry her, like his girlfriend lack of knowledge about anything north of her lady parts.  And I'm not even going to start on the first scene ending with our heroine saying (forgive me for paraphrasing) "You tell me you've killed a man, but yet I can tell that it's okay."

With the amateur productions I've seen, these dramaturgical quibbles were enough to seriously taint the experience, but the production at Lincoln center was so stunningly designed, acted and sung that most of the more bizarre elements of the book didn't reveal themselves until I allowed myself the think about them afterwards.  Even those tedious "listen to the exciting stuff happen off stage" scenes were styling enough to hold my interest.

 Despite it's flaws, SOUTH PACIFIC is still unquestionably a masterpiece, deserving of it's Pulitzer prize.  The Lincoln Center production merely shook the cobwebs off and gave it what I can imagine to be an emotional punch similar to what audiences felt in the 1940s.  AVATAR is a remarkable technical achievement, manipulative and predictable.  It is, in fact, exactly the sort of movie I have spent 26 years avoiding.  But it was visually stunning, even moving at times, with many unforgettable moments.  In short, it was "worth it".

So at what point is it okay to ignore flaws and relish in the abundant resources of a production?  Is it somehow "cheating" or "quitting" to allow a movie like AVATAR wow us with razzle dazzle, even if it was somewhat (though not entirely) lacking in substance?  Another example: I loved FINNIAN'S RAINBOW.  A friend of mine hated it.  He loved the score, but couldn't get over the lack of conflict in the book, or the underdeveloped characters, or the hastily created romance.  I, for one, didn't care how hasty the romance was, since it created an excuse for me to hear the delightful "If This Isn't Love".  Sure, the character development was fairly crude compared to that of, say, A CATERED AFFAIR, but the richness and joy in FINNIAN'S score made it the more satisfying evening.  And really, most everything can be picked apart if held up to close enough scrutiny; the whole is almost always greater than the sum of its parts.  It's a fine fine line indeed.

04 January 2010

Whatever Happened to Her?

Martine McCutcheon is probably best known on this side of the pawn for her role as Hugh Grant (as England's Prime Minister)'s secretary in LOVE ACTUALLY (the cutest movie ever made).  But she had previously had considerable success as a television actress, pop singer, and won a slew of awards as Eliza Doolittle in Trevor Nunn's acclaimed MY FAIR LADY.  The wikipedia article on her indicates she's something of a hot mess with her most recent work being in the public appearance/spokesperson realm, but the her surpsingly satisfying rendition of "Don't Rain on My Parade" (even if the last phrase is not quite thrilling enough) indicates that a return to the musical theater stage (were that she were Charlotte in the Night Music revival!) is necessary.