Tag Archives: musicals

Misfit Musicals

Despite having the singing skills of a potato, I want nothing more than to live in the world of a musical. Imagine being at the DMV or something and being overcome with the need to sing about the wait. Then the bored workers join you for the chorus, completely nailing the complex choreography. Am I the only person who thinks that’d be totally awesome?  Even though I absolutely love musicals, I realize they exist in a weird world. You can suspend all your disbeliefs and musicals can still get really weird sometimes (did you know there’s a sequel to The Phantom of the Opera?). I scratched the strange surface and spotted these four in our collection.

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
sgtpepI’m someone who holds The Beatles sacred, so I think I’m more critical of this movie than any other on this list. After catching the ear of a big-time Hollywood record producer, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band leave behind their small hometown of Heartland, USA (seriously), quickly becoming stars while experiencing the splendor and sleaze of the music industry. There’s also a plot to destroy their hometown thrown in because bad covers of Beatles songs can only last so long. I know that Across the Universe, another musical using Beatles songs has its detractors, but it looks like Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story and The Sound of Music combined in comparison. Did I mention this stars, among others, the BeeGees? Watching them strut around with more hair on their face than I have on my entire body while “singing” Beatles songs was certainly jarring and seeing George Burns talk-sing through a lethargic rendition of “Fixing a Hole” was cute and sad, like how seeing a turtle trudge through tar is cute, but also sad. The movie also features blasphemous covers by Alice Cooper before he was shilling Apple Watches and Aerosmith before Steven Tyler looked like a jack-o-lantern left outside two weeks after Halloween. If you’re a fan of musicals or a hardcore Beatles fan, I’d recommend checking it out just so you can say you experienced the insanity. If you value your mental facilities, watch literally other film on this list, like …

Streets of Fire
streetsAs this film opens a title card informs us that what we’re about to see takes place in “another time” and “another place…” Billed as a “rock & roll fable”, Streets of Fire opens with a motorcycle gang, led by Willem Dafoe, kidnapping a famous singer, played by Diane Lane. To rescure her, her agent, played by Rick Moranis contracts her ex-lover, played by Michael Pare (who?), a soldier-for-hire who happens to be passing through town.  The ragtag group hijacks a doo-wop group’s bus and eventually track the singer down. This is the movie that actually inspired my journey into the world of weird musicals and it’s objectively a terrible movie. The acting is wooden, the dialogue is stilted but I unapologetically love it. Everyone plays their parts so straight that it just makes it seem like a ridiculous fever dream of the Regan years. It looks like it takes place in the alternate 1985 from Back to the Future Part II and I’m pretty sure every major scene took place under a bridge or in a tunnel. Do you want to know how much of a relic this is from the 1980s? Dafoe—in only his fourth film role—gets billed after Rick Moranis and Amy Madigan, but before Bill Paxton. Not to mention that the songs sound like the lovechild of Meat Loaf and Bonnie Tyler. The only thing that could have made this movie more awesome would have been to have Dafoe sing a show-stopping ballad while riding a motorcycle. But I guess if 1984 was exposed to that the world would have probably imploded under the weight of this movie’s awesome terribleness.

Phantom of the Paradise
phantomThis and the next film are both from 1974 and they’re both a trip. What was happening in the early-1970s that inspired these kinds of films? Apparently director Brian De Palma was inspired to make this after hearing a muzak cover of “A Day in the Life”. This is essentially a rock opera remake of The Phantom of the Opera, with a little Faust and The Picture of Dorian Gray thrown in. A record producer (played by one-half of the team that wrote “Rainbow Connection”) is opening a club—The Paradise—and needs new music to accompany the opening. When he hears the music from an obscure composer, he steals it and frames the composer for drug dealing. In an attempt to avoid capture, the composer gets horribly disfigured. Later, he escapes prison and hides out in The Paradise, waiting for the perfect moment to exact revenge on the producer. Also, The Phantom’s lover is in danger, or something. I guess there’s a message in the movie about how the business and corporate side of things can destroy art, not unlike Sgt. Pepper, but Phantom of the Paradise is just so weird you might forget that there’s even a message to be had. When it was released, it flopped but has since gained a cult following.

The Little Prince
princeSadly, this is not a Purple Rain prequel or some kind of Prince: Origins movie, may he rest in power. Based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and with music and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe—the songwriting team behind An American in Paris, Brigadoon and My Fair Lady—I imagine this movie is what being on all the drugs in the early 1970s was like. It opens with a pilot played by Richard Kiley making an emergency landing in the Sahara Desert. As he spares no expense trying to fix his plane, the titular Prince appears. The Little Prince has been on Earth for a while, after a perilous and low-tech journey through the solar system. He recounts his tales to the pilot, giving special attention to his encounters with the Fox (played by Gene Wilder, trying to out-Gene Wilder himself) and the Snake (played by Bob Fosse, who you may have never heard of, but we’ll come back to him in a minute). I’ve never read the original novella, but this movie is cute and creepy, like the movie version of a banded piglet squid. Seeing Wilder and Fosse dance and sing around this poor kid gives the film a really weird vibe. And speaking of weird, remember Fosse, the man who won eight Tony awards for choreography throughout his career? Okay, so maybe you’ve never heard of him, but his dance moves probably look more than a little familiar. Take a look:

Nothing is original and everything is a remake of a remake. While we’re on that subject, a gorgeous-looking computer-animated remake of The Little Prince was supposed to come out in March, but a week before its release date, Paramount dropped the film. The good news is that Netflix picked it up.

9uM53zbuMLGCGu3ZcZW52nDyW02

“Netflix and chill?”
Source

Is your favorite musical a bit on the weird side? Let us know in the comments below.

–Ross

2 Comments

Filed under Movie, Uncategorized

I only know three musicals.

My dad is a creature of habit. Every Easter he watches Jesus Christ Superstar. Every Fourth of July he watches 1776. And when I was a little Amy, he made me watch A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum over and over and over again (it was either that or Blazing Saddles).

As a result of his bizarre-though-benign parenting, I ended up memorizing most (if not all) of these three musicals. I am still not sure if this is a good thing or not.


Jesus Christ Superstar(movie, score, assorted recordings, libretto) Personally, I prefer Original Album Deep Purple Jesus to Wimpy Movie Jesus, but the movie does have tanks. And Disco Judas. (Tanks first appear at :31.)


1776 – (movie, score, assorted recordings, libretto)  Thanks to this movie, I am sometimes tempted to sing “Will someone shut that man up?” during lengthy meetings, though I have managed to resist so far. (That line is at 4:18.)


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum(movie, score, assorted recordings, libretto) I suppose I can credit this one for fostering my early love of Roman history and teaching me that there at least seven geese in a gaggle. (Skip to 2:23 for geese, but the whole clip is great.)


– Amy, who was raised with sarcasm, bad puns, and  history

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

To Be or Not To Be…Prepared for Your Audition

Are you a serious actor? Want to be one? Want to try out for your high school musical this year?

Any role in a theatrical performance starts with an audition. The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is your first place to go for almost everything you will need.

You can look at just how much material we have in the catalog on the subject Acting Vocational Guidance. Here are a few to get you started:

Mike Fenton’s Actors Workshop [DVD] – a video seminar on how to go about starting a career in acting, including a section on headshots and resumes.

6 Steps to a Successful Acting Career [DVD] – about getting started, skills you need, and self-promotion.

The Acting Bible: The Complete Resource for Aspiring Actors by Michael Powell. Everything you didn’t know that you didn’t know. Advice on both the art and business sides of acting.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

The Ultimate Young Actors Guide: Getting the Role and Making it Shine by Cindy Marcus. This book is in our Teen Department. It’s about how to prepare for an audition and how to get into character.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

How to Sell Yourself as an Actor – 6th ed.  This book is in JCEC (Job & Career Education Center). It is a frequently updated volume for the aspiring actor of today (like you!).


You will need a good monologue, something that fits both you and the role you are trying out for. We have tons of choices! We have monologues for teens, men, women, from the contemporary stage, from classic literature, and of course from Shakespeare.

You can try using the ultra-broad approach by clicking the subject heading Monologues, or you can narrow your choices by using a keyword search like “monologues and teen.”

I like this one:

All Gall : Malicious Monologues & Ruthless Recitations  adapted from the French by Norman R. Shapiro ; illustrated by David Schorr.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


An audition for a musical role will also require you to prepare a song. We have song books. Hundreds – no, thousands. The Music Department has piano/vocal scores by musical, movie, voice type, age group (teens, kids), gender, and even song type such as for belters or the ingénue.

You might try The 16-Bar Theatre Audition: 100 Songs Excerpted for Successful Auditions (different editions for different voice types). You can search for the specific show you want or you can even search for a specific song. Put quotations around the song title in an advanced keyword search, and choose Music Score under Material Type. Here is an example: “I’ll never fall in love again.” If you need help choosing or finding a song, the expert staff in the Music Department can help you.

Here are a few books to help you ace the musical audition:

The Enraged Accompanist’s Guide to the Perfect Audition by Andrew Gerle.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Rock the Audition: How to Prepare For and Get Cast in Rock Musicals by Sheri Sanders.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………


Once you get the role, you might have to learn how to speak English a little differently than the way you do now. We have just the thing:

Acting With an Accent is a series of books on CD that you can listen to and practice with.


Finally, here are a few links to local theater groups. You can find the best match for the type of acting you want to do:

Theaters and Theater Companies in Pittsburgh from the library’s resource guides.

Another list of regional Pittsburgh Theater Companies

-Joelle

By the way, if you want to stage a production, we have librettos, scripts, full vocal scores, and information about licensing agencies.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Fabulous Fashion of the Movie Roberta

In Gunn’s Golden Rules, Tim Gunn lists what he thinks are “The Five Best Movies About Fashion.”  Though I disagree with Gunn (and many others) that Antonioni’s 1966 film Blow-up is engaging, I was pleased that Gunn and I share enthusiasm for The September Issue (2009).  Anyway, Gunn’s list got me thinking about other movies that are either about fashion or at least prominently feature fashion.  Of course, every movie involves clothing and costuming characters, but some films seem almost an excuse to show off some designer’s work.

A perfect example of a movie partly made just to flaunt fashion is the 1935 musical Roberta starring Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Randolph Scott.  Scott’s character comes to Paris and inherits a fancy clothing boutique which means, of course, that not only will Dunne and Rogers be splendidly outfitted but that the plot will have to include a fashion show.  And what a show it is!  Costume designer Bernard Newman was brought to RKO Pictures upon the recommendation of Dunne and designed the large number of gowns for the movie.  The studio claimed he had spent $250,000 on the costumes and as David Chierichetti writes in Hollywood Costume Design, “Whatever they cost, the fashions were stupendous.”  (Also see W. Robert LaVine’s In a Glamorous Fashion: The Fabulous Years of Hollywood Costume Design for more on Newman and Roberta.)

Here’s what Ginger Rogers had to say about Roberta in her memoir:

With handsome clothes by my favorite designer, Bernard Newman, and beautiful songs to dance to, I had the time of my life playing this role. (p. 135)

Bernard Newman’s clothes in Roberta for me and for Irene Dunne were exceptionally clever and handsome.  The gold lamé dress I wore for the “I Won’t Dance” number was a dress I had bought while in New York as part of my trousseau.  That was the first time I ever wore a personal dress in a motion picture, and it was probably because Bernard Newman had designed it.  For the “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” number [sung by Dunne], he created a long black satin dress, with a wonderful piece of faux jewelry on the chest.  Men always commented on that gown; indeed, I never met a man who didn’t like that dress. (pp. 135-136)

In the same chapter about his own favorite films and books, Gunn justifiably gripes about students who claim to lack inspiration and exclaims: “Look around you!  Look out the window.  Go for a walk.  Go to a movie.  Go to a museum.  Go see a show.  Read a book.  Go to the library…” (p.75-76)  And he advises, “Any genre, any film, any book can be the jumping-off point for amazing creative work.” (p. 84) 

Roberta and the costumes of Bernard Newman should surely be an inspiration for any artist and a thrill for any movie viewer.  If he hasn’t seen it already, I hope Tim Gunn watches it too.

— Tim

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Something Wicked this way comes

I am excited to see the upcoming stage production of Wicked at the Benedum Center. To prepare myself for the event, I checked out the CD and looked at the vocal selections.  And did you know that the composer Stephen Schwartz was a CMU grad?

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Wicked is based on the Gregory Maguire novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, a very clever retelling of The Wizard of Oz from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

There are two sequels to this novel. Son of a Witch,

 and A Lion Among Men

There is a  fourth book in the series,

Out of Oz, which (witch?) is coming soon.
……………………………

……………………………………………………………………………………

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, one of our culture’s favorite myths, was written in the year 1900 by L. Frank Baum. There are so many adaptations and permutations and derivatives of derivatives that, when looking up the title in our catalog, Baum’s original appears way down on the list.  Baum wrote thirteen other novels about the Land of Oz.…………..

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….

There are other musical plays based on this tale (you knew this). The seminal 1939 film The Wizard of Oz itself has been revived as a play in London by Andrew Lloyd Webber. It includes all of the beloved old songs and a few new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice. The CD of the production is also on its way to our shelves.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Another is The Wiz (we have the movie, the CD, another CD, and vocal selections) which (witch?) happens to be the very first show I ever saw on Broadway or anywhere.  My grandparents took my sister and me to see it when I was 10. The thing I remember most about this show was that the woman playing Dorothy seemed a little too meek and soft-spoken for the seats we had, way way up in the cheapo section.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

It just so happens that the last show that I went to see was an adaptation of another popular tale.  I dragged my husband to see Spamalot (CDvocal selections) based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, based on the Arthurian legends.
……

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………

There is of course another popular musical based on this tale, Camelot (movie, CDvocal score, vocal selections). And while The Wizard of Oz goes back a mere 100 years or so, King Arthur and his associated legends have been making a splash since the late 5th and early 6th centuries.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Tallys in our catalog:

Based on Wizard of Oz = 250

Keywords “King Arthur” = 428

Keyword “Merlin” = 435

The Music Department has the vocal scores, vocal selections or both to most any musical you can think of, even some very obscure ones. We pride ourselves on this. We have revivals and revised editions as well. We have a large selection of musicals on CD, including London productions, Broadway original casts, and movies—sometimes three or four versions of the same show from different places.

Do you have a favorite modern myth that you would like to see as a musical?  (Star Wars, anyone? Batman? Conan?)

-Joelle

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Of Stage, Page, and Other Doorways: Les Misérables

A friend who works at CLP East Liberty is rereading all of Victor Hugo’s novels this year. Her praise for Julie Rose’s 2008 translation of Les Misérables moved me to track down a copy, and it is a formidable translation indeed:  1300 pages, and thicker than bricks.

A book that size demands your complete attention. You can’t really read it comfortably at the dinner table, or on the bus (at least, not if the seat next to you is occupied).  Oh no:  the size and heft, as well as the small font that delivers the content, demand your undistracted gaze, from the first lines of the introduction to the final footnote.

On the bright side, walking around with 1300 pages of French literature tucked under your arm is, apparently, better than a firearm when it comes to warding off unwanted attention; I’m not sure if people worry I’ll hit them with it or start quoting from it, but either way, all but the most literarily obsessed give a wide berth when Julie Rose and I walk by.  Especially if my nose is buried in the text, and I’m not looking where I’m going.

Why reread a classic when there are so many new and exciting works of literature waiting to be devoured?  I’d like to be able to say that, like our intern Shannon, I have a penchant for serious books.  The truth of the matter, though, is that Hugo bored me to tears when I was fifteen, reading him for the first time in French class (sorry Madame Soubre – il n étais pas votre faute).  I didn’t fall in love with Les Misérables until my college chamber choir tackled excerpts from Boublil and Schönberg’s musical score ; one rehearsal of “The Confrontation” and I fled for the library to take another stab at what I had so clearly missed in the novel the first time.

Ideally, textual interpretations feed into each other.  Music can lead you to books, perhaps by way of a graphic novel detour.  While the experience of reading a text is very different from watching a film, say, or listening to an audiobook narrated by Orson Welles (mmmm), the ideas themselves do not change.  Though the packaging may alter to accommodate different learning styles, the substance of Hugo’s moral and philosophical inquiries remains constant.

And what grand concerns they are.  As Jean Valjean struggles to overcome his criminal past, he is confronted at every turn with issues that are as troubling to a twenty-first century American as they might have been to a nineteenth-century French citizen.  What is social justice?  Is the ultimate goal of law to punish or rehabilitate?  What can / should be done to ameliorate class warfare?  What do we mean when we speak of ethics, honor, patriotism, faith, love?  And, perhaps most importantly, is there an absolute morality, as represented by Inspector Javert?  Or can we be redeemed by grace and mercy, as embodied by the Bishop of Digne?

I suppose the Javerts of the literary world might take me to task for coming to the book in a roundabout fashion, instead of appreciating it for what it was from the start.  As for me, I prefer the idea that there are many doorways into a text, and that it is no insult to the great books if we are not ready for them just yet.  They will remain, quietly shining on the shelves in their greatness, waiting patiently for us to stumble across the path, or through the doorway, that will ultimately lead us to the eternal lessons they have to teach.

Leigh Anne
(who would like to thank her teachers for not giving up on her during her “sit in the back of the class reading Stephen King” phase)

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Upset at the Oscars? This Film Could Do It!

The Oscars are just around the corner and most of the nominees have already been reviewed, analyzed, examined and pored over in every conceivable way. But be on the lookout for one new upstart, just released last week, that could steal the show in the Short Film Category.
 
A recently released “biopic” of the Music Department at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is already garnering rave reviews. From Haydn to Hip Hop: Music at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Directed by David M. King, © 2009, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh is sweeping the YouTube (and library) nation. Although not released in time for Sundance, the clever pacing, witty humor and cast of characters give this compelling film a good chance at a win.

First-time director David King is a natural storyteller. In just over nine minutes he manages to convey the entire story of two souls who turn to the library and discover a world of wonders. Wide-eyed Bonnie seems to marvel at every new discovery while sensible Wes already “had the scoop” on what libraries offer. Interspersing live musicians with the collection, King manages to both point out the connection that the library can make to the real world of music and musicians, but also the variety of resources this library offers.

This reviewer’s favorites include the “barcoded” opera singer and Tim the “whiz kid” librarian/drummer. Personalized information help is not lost, it seems to say, and don’t discount that librarian vs. the Internet!

In these days of economic troubles, it is a real service to remind the public of all the wonderful things made possible with “just” a library card. Would that we could encourage all people to get a card, to use it wisely, and to support an institution that really lives up to the idea of a social contract. Where else can you try out opera, rap, folk and jazz—as well as read up on the history of the blues? Or take up a new instrument? Or find the perfect song and arrangement for your special occasion?

This video reminds us of what libraries are all about—now go get your card today!

Rating: ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪

–Beth

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized