Saturday, June 16, 2012

Jazz Hands, Everybody!

Sometime in the next day or so, I'll go see Rock of Ages.  See the things I'm willing to do for you?  I have to admit, that's one movie that's going to have an uphill climb for me.  It might be great and if it is, I'll say so, but  I'm dreadfully afraid that it's karaoke night in Hollywood and the only category the machine is programmed for is "80s hair bands."

But that got me to thinking about musicals in general.  While Rock of Ages is a musical, it's not really the type I'm talking about, which is the kind where the songs are specifically written for the show and also serve to propel the plot forward.  Musicals are a genre that people have very strong feelings about - many people enjoy the escapism of a good show and others despise the non-realism of people suddenly bursting into song and dancing in perfect synchronization.  I get that, although I feel compelled to point out that going to the movies for realism makes about as much sense as going to an art museum to pick out upholstery.

There are some great, fun, moving musicals out there.  While not to everyone's taste (how boring a world would that be?), you might want to give the following a try - links are provided for each.  In no particular order:

1.  Chicago.  With coarse language and murderous characters, this is not one to share with the kiddies, but it is one that'll get you talking about crime as fame and the kinks of the American legal system.
2.  Evita.  I'm one of those who thinks Madonna did a great job with this role, which might hit close to home  for her with its themes of sex as power and sex appeal as the shortest way for a woman to move up the political/corporate ladder.  Catchy, complex songs and Antonio Banderas as Che, who's basically the Greek chorus.
3.  Jesus Christ Superstar.  Straight from the Gospel of St. Matthew, this early Webber/Rice collaboration has long been an Easter favorite of mine.  Carl Anderson as Judas - chills.
4.  A Chorus Line.  Not everyone can be a star, but everyone has rent to pay.  And everyone has a story.
5.  Little Shop of Horrors.  Alien plant life, a lovestruck geek, a sexy girl who wants to throw a Tupperware party, the Supremes as Greek chorus and a sadistic dentist.  Plus Levi Stubbs!
6.  The Muppets.  No way I could leave this out.  Frank Oz of Little Shop fame was Miss Piggy, after all. It's time to play the music.  It's time to light the lights.
7.  Purple Rain.  Maybe Prince can't act (and the good Lord knows Apollonia can't), but this is well worth a look.
8.  Hair.  Dated, sure, but the whole thing is worth is for the final shots of  Treat Williams.
9. The Wall. 'Nuff said.
10. Enchanted.  A charming take on Disney tales and "what if?" complete with a massive dance number in Central Park.  With Amy Adams, who was also central in The Muppets.

Lastly, don't overlook Disney.  Heck, The Lion King went from cartoon to Broadway smash.  And when you're ready, Les Miserables will be coming out around Christmas.  Shhh - don't tell anyone, but that show is a "sung-through" with serious themes and leitmotifs, which means it can just as easily be cataloged as an "opera" as it can a "musical."

I know I left a lot off - Sweeney Todd, Grease, Camelot, South Park - that's sort of my point.  There's something out there for everyone.  It's worth looking for.

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