Wednesday, February 08, 2017

BroadwayCon Year Two: Less Snow, Bigger Venue

Last year, a major snowstorm shut down Broadway theaters, but the first ever Broadway fan convention went on as scheduled. And it ended up being a lot of fun. This year brought about some changes for BroadwayCon--no weather interference and a much larger venue (it moved from the New York Hilton Midtown to the massive Javits Convention Center). Aside from the distance from any subways, it proved to be a smart move.

The large rooms for panels and the huge BroadwayCon mainstage meant that it usually wasn't necessary to wait in line and you could walk into pretty much any panel and get a seat. The only time I saw a long line was for BroadwayCon First Look--performances from upcoming Broadway shows--on Sunday, and that's only because they cleared out the mainstage and then let people back in. There was also plenty of room to walk around without getting trampled on, even in the marketplace--the area for vendors, exhibitors, autographs, and photos.

My con experience started on Friday (the convention lasted from January 27 to the 29th) with the In Trousers reunion panel. In Trousers premiered at Playwrights Horizons in 1979 and is the first in William Finn's trilogy about Marvin (the other two are March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland, which make up Falsettos). Moderated by Jennifer Ashley Tepper, the panel included Finn, producer Ira Weitzman, and original cast members Alison Fraser, Chip Zien, and Mary Testa. It was a fascinating and honest discussion. We learned that everything was sped up on the recording so that all the songs could fit on a vinyl record and that's why it sounds a lot faster than the way it was actually sung. We learned that Mary Testa got her first Broadway show and had to make the painful decision to leave March of the Falsettos, which is why her character didn't end up being in the show. "It was besheret. Is that what you Jews say?" she said. But perhaps the best moment was when Zien admitted that he didn't know Marvin was gay. He wondered, "But where is he going?" about the song "Whizzer Going Down." He thought maybe he was going to Florida or something. Unfortunately, they didn't perform, but there was a lot of other singing the rest of the weekend (from professionals and fans).

I missed the opening ceremony because I was volunteering at the Show-Score booth (I'm one of the editors), asking people what shows they'd like to see in 2017. A highlight of the weekend was meeting theater fans from around the world. I especially enjoyed seeing parents sharing their kids' excitement.
My favorite post-it on the Show-Score wall of what people want to see in 2017 (and no, I didn't write this).
After the marketplace shut down at 6, the only thing open was the mainstage. Since my main goal for Friday was to see "Don't Quit Your Night Job" at 9, I ended up getting to the BroadwayCon mainstage during "Twenty Years on Pride Rock" and staying for the BroadwayCon Cabaret and the Annie 40 year reunion panel. Not a bad way to pass the time, especially since composer Charles Strouse. director Martin Charnin, and Annie herself, Andrea McArdle, were there.

"Night Job," the brainchild of Steve Rosen, Sarah Saltzberg, and David Rossmer, is a delightful combination of improv and musical theater, but they don't do it too often anymore, so I hope they at least make it a BroadwayCon tradition. They had plenty of special guests, including Santino Fontana, who sang a musical Mad Libs version of "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful" from Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella.

The weekend was made up of many joyous moments like that one, but BroadwayCon wasn't a complete bubble away from everything happening in the country (this was the same weekend that Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States). Many speakers took the opportunity to get political. Paula Vogel was at BroadwayCon First Look to get people excited about Indecent (I already am, having seen it Off-Broadway. Get your tickets.), but she also spoke about how important it is for playwrights to write at this time, saying, "It's the most important gift you can give the country right now." Before "Hamilton: The Next Administration," the cast recording played, and many were singing along, but everyone screamed along to the line, "Immigrants, we get the job done." The cast members also spoke at the panel about how this and other lines have been getting an even stronger response than usual.

The politics also extended to within theater. I praised BroadwayCon for this last year as well. It celebrates Broadway while also looking at the ways it needs to improve. During "Someone in a Tree: a Frank Discussion of Asian Americans on Broadway" moderated by Erin Quill with Kelvin Moon Loh, Manu Narayan, B.D. Wong, and Amy Hill, they called out specific productions, like Roundabout's The Mystery of Edwin Drood, for using yellowface. Wong spoke about Jonathan Pryce's casting as the Engineer in Miss Saigon. When it happened in London, he thought they do things like that there, but it couldn't happen on Broadway, and he was shocked when Pryce remained with the show here. But he and the others who protested were able to at least get the production to get rid of the makeup and make the role more ethnically ambiguous. They also set a precedent so the role would be played by an Asian from then on (in the upcoming Broadway revival, Jon Jon Briones plays the engineer). Although they didn't get the exact results they wanted the first time, they got the conversation started.

Wong also said that we can have panels until we're blue in the face, but by the time you talk about casting, it's almost too late. It needs to start with writers. Even if writers would give some characters Asian-sounding last names, they'd be more likely to be cast with Asian actors. Hill started writing to empower herself, saying, "You have to work so hard when you're an actor of color. You have to act, you have to write, you have to produce."

This idea of having to write for yourself also came up in the "Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability on Stage," moderated by Howard Sherman with Sarah Folkins, Matt Fraser, Tony Lopez, and Alexandria Wailes.

They spoke about how traditionally, roles for actors with disabilities are written by people who don't know anything about the reality. Or they write "inspiration porn." The panelists want to see narratives where they are full-fledged human beings. Fraser said a way forward is for writers to collaborate with disabled actors. I wish I could just write down a transcript of the whole conversation, but I hope the right people (producers) were listening. Also, I learned about the Graeae Theatre Company where Fraser got his training because at the time he couldn't get into any theater schools, and just wanted to include that in case anyone else wanted to read up on it.

So, BroadwayCon is a place for honest discussions. It's also a great place for shows (and even movies) to advertise and sell tickets. I certainly don't begrudge them that. And in most cases they did it in smart ways.

The Speech & Debate panel was moderated by Darren Criss and I could tell by the screams that a lot of people were there for him, but all those people who probably never saw the play are now excited about the movie. We saw the trailer (see below). I have mixed feelings about it. I am a huge fan of this play and haven't missed a Stephen Karam play since, but it seems like they are trying really hard to make it look like a fun teen comedy with the bright colors and pop music. It's a very funny show, but also a dark one. I guess whatever sells tickets. And I could have done without the Hamilton. Not everything has to include a Hamilton reference. That said, I can't wait to see Sarah Steele play Diwata again.


During the panel, they encouraged people to use hashtags for the movie and they did the same thing during BroadwayCon First Look. Again, good way to spread the word about your show and advertise to those at the convention and beyond. The musicals performed songs and Come From Away was a particular standout with Jenn Colella singing "Me and the Sky." It was interesting to see how the plays approached the event, since not even the Tonys ever seem to get it right. But I thought they did a nice job, especially Significant Other, which had Gideon Glick perform a monologue. I would love to know which shows sold the most tickets as a result of BroadwayCon, but I guess there's no way to find that out.

There are a ton of panels and workshops and performances that I didn't see, but I'm pretty happy with the choices I made. And that's another positive about the convention--the variety of programming for both casual and obsessive fans. I look forward to seeing what they come up with for year three.






Thursday, October 27, 2016

Kate Baldwin at 54 Below: We're Not in Glocca Morra Anymore

Kate Baldwin is upfront right off the bat: She isn't at 54 Below to sing musical theater songs. She grew up loving pop music and her concert, "Extraordinary Machine," directed by Robbie Rozelle and music directed by Kris Kukul, is a journey through some of her favorite songs. And it's wonderful. If you didn't know it before, here is the proof that she can sing anything.

Sporting an amazing red jumpsuit that few people could pull off, she is just as comfortable singing Erasure as she is Loretta Lynn. In between numbers, we get to know her through anecdotes about her childhood and family, including an adorable story about how her relationship with her future husband blossomed over AIM.

For those who do want to hear some show tunes, don't worry, she does throw in some musical theater: "Wicked Little Town" (in a beautiful medley with Rufus Wainwright's "Oh What A World," sung by special guest Matt Doyle), "Breeze Off The River" from The Full Monty (to my delight), and "Ribbons Down My Back" from her next Broadway show, Hello, Dolly!

Remaining performances are tonight, Friday, and Sunday (October 27-29) at 7 p.m.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Q&A: Fringe Encore Series

There are so many shows at the New York International Fringe Festival that it can be hard/impossible to see everything. So, one thing I love about the Fringe Encore Series is that you get a second chance to see shows you missed. Not only that, but you can see shows from Edinburgh Fringe Festival--the world's largest arts festival--without even buying a plane ticket to Scotland.
Poster art for Homo Sapiens Interruptus, one of the shows in the Fringe Encore Series.

The series, which is happening now through October 30 at SoHo Playhouse, was founded by Britt Lafield. He and one of his producing partners, John Pinckard, were discussing how many great Fringe shows disappear after the festival, never to be heard from again. It can be difficult to move a show after a successful Fringe run, especially for younger companies, so they thought a "best of" festival would get those productions more exposure and help facilitate the next step. "We wanted to help bring more attention and notoriety to the productions we thought deserved it and try to help educate those productions about what the next step could be. I had seen so many great shows get mutilated by 'professional' producers who just took over the productions from the company in an effort to make a quick buck," Lafield says. "That was so against what I thought the festival and really theater should be about that I wanted to help change it in some way."

Darren Lee Cole, artistic director of SoHo Playhouse, got involved in the second year, when Lafield approached him about hosting the series. "Not only have I known Darren Lee Cole for years, I also know of his passion for new works and new types of theater. He and the SoHo seemed a perfect fit for the Series, especially given the amazing history of the theater itself stretching back to the late Edward Albee and his VanDam Collective in the '60s and '70s and the first productions of some of the world's most famous playwrights like Christopher Durang and Tracy Letts," Lafield says.

Read on for what the two of them had to say about how shows are chosen and more and click here for a list of participating shows and schedule.

Q: What does being a producer of a festival encore series entail?
Britt Lafield: Producing the Series starts with getting like-minded theatrical professionals to go out and scope out the shows during the New York Fringe and then spending lots and lots of time in theaters seeing everything you can. We look at reviews and audience attendance, but also talk to other audience members about what they have seen and like. Word of mouth is a very strong tool at any fringe and you just need to know what to listen for. Once the shows are identified and approached, hopefully they accept our offer to be a part of the Series. The Series works as a ticket split between the production, the Series, and the theater, so there is no out of pocket expenses for the show. We take care of all the staffing and advertising for the Series as a whole. And once it starts, we try to focus on the productions themselves and making sure they are comfortable and offer them help in any areas they might need it. Whether it is outreach to audience members for their show in particular or just feedback of the production itself. It is a lot of work, but worth it to see the productions use what they have learned to improve their show.
Darren Lee Cole: My emphasis has been on searching for the top shows that represent the best of the amazing new talent out there. Basically, it entails going to a lot of theatre and meeting a lot artists. Both things I have a passion for.

Q: Why do you include shows from Edinburgh in addition to New York?
Lafield: After a number of years just doing the "best of" Fringe NYC, we saw great opportunity in expanding the Series to try and be a true world-wide Fringe Encore Series. Edinburgh, being the oldest and most famous fringe festival, seemed like the logical choice to start with. We are hoping to add shows from the World Fringe Alliance every couple of years.
Cole: Three years ago, I went to Edinburgh with three shows I directed. Once there, I began telling people about the encore series that I was a part of back in NYC. Frankly, they flipped out and kept asking me when I was going to expand and bring shows from the Edinburgh Fringe. So I called Britt and invited four shows that year to join us. The word got out and I have gone to Ed Fringe each of the last three years searching for the best there to bring to the New York audience.

Q: What other factors are involved in deciding which shows will be included?
Lafield: We try to see every show we can that wants to be eligible for the Series. Darren travels to Edinburgh to look at shows there while my team and I work on all the production here in New York. We look at reviews, attendance, word of mouth, and just the artistic value of the production itself. The show doesn't have to be a runaway hit to be included. We love to find the great show no one has heard of or that was just getting noticed. Because at the end of the day, a great show is a great show. And with all the competition for audience in any fringe, the loudest show is not necessarily the best.
Cole: It is tough because there is no way to see all of the shows in Edinburgh; there are over 3,000. However, as artistic director of the playhouse and having produced and directed plays for the past 35 years, I now have many associates and friends that help point me in the right direction.

Q: Are there any shows in particular that you are excited about it or that you want to call attention to?
Lafield: What I love most of all is the diversity that we have in the Series this year. From incredibly quirky shows like ChipandGus to the amazing physical theater work of the production Flight. There really is something for everybody. I myself really enjoy the a cappella musical The Extraordinary Fall of the Four-Legged Woman and the ingenious performance of Dominique Salerno in her amazing one-woman The Box Show.
Cole: This year, I really love two shows that are at the tail end of the festival. Yokes Night from Edinburgh and Homo Sapiens Interruptus from New York. I love Homo Sapiens Interruptus so much I am directing the encore production.

Q: Is there anything that you've learned from past years of the series that has been helpful this year?
Lafield: We learn something new about the Series every year. But we never get to rest on our laurels because with every new year comes an entirely new set of shows and theatrical professionals. And every show is different, so we learn what types of productions play best at what time slots. What days of the week or holidays are best to avoid. But most of all, we just learn what the next generation of theater people are passionate about. And that is what make it important.
Cole: Never give up on theatre! There are always amazing new emerging artists at these festivals. I've learned that we can really make a difference in helping them move forward artistically and professionally.

Q: The fall is a pretty busy time for theater in New York (busier than the summer, when Fringe is going on). How do you stand out from the crowd?
Lafield: It very difficult to stand out, but we believe that people want to come see good theater and that there is an audience for every show. We aren't trying to compete with Broadway or other cultural events. That's a losing battle. We are competing for the audience that wants to see the next big thing and where tomorrow's Broadway shows will be coming from. That is what we try and offer.
Cole: New York is a big place with a healthy appetite for theatre. The Fringe can be overwhelming. So many theatergoers are interested in "the best of two fest" idea we put forward. There's lot of competition, but nothing quite like what we do.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Q&A with The Lion's Benjamin Scheuer

The album Songs From The Lion, released in June, is the official cast recording for Benjamin Scheuer's autobiographical one-man show. But if you saw the show, which deals with his father's death and his struggle with cancer, at Manhattan Theatre Club, the Lynn Redgrave Theatre at the Culture Project, or on tour, you will notice some differences--new arrangements, added musicians, backing vocals, and an altered order of the songs. "You don't only have to play the show top to bottom in a recording studio. Doing that is to me making a record only for the people who've seen your show. And I'd rather make a record for everybody, people who have seen my show and maybe people who haven't," Scheuer says. "There are plenty of people in the world who are never going to get to see The Lion, but if I can make a record that they dig, then that's just as exciting for me."

He has also been reaching people with his music in other ways. The video for "The Cure" premiered on the The New York Times' Well Blog. His next video, for "Golden Castle Town," will be out in mid-October. I spoke to Scheuer over the phone before his first performance of The Lion in San Diego, where he will be through October 30, about the album and the future of The Lion.

Q: I had interviewed you before and the album hadn't come out yet, but you said you wanted it to be different from the show, that you don't think recordings should be exactly the same as what's on stage. I think you really accomplished that. Why was that important to you?
A: On stage, the theater director, Sean Daniels, helped me take my material and realize the best version of it for the stage. And for a record, I did the same thing. Meaning, I asked record producer Geoff Kraley to do the same job on the record that a director does in the theater, which is take the material and make sure it works best in the chosen medium. In the theater, you come in and you sit down and you hear all the songs all the way through with stories in between. On a record, you don't have costumes, you don't have lights, you don't have sets, you don't have talking, and you don't have the promise that they audience is going to listen to it all the way through. You do have a lot of other things. You have the opportunity to work with whatever sound you can imagine and whichever musicians you can call.

Let me give you an example. In the show The Lion, during "St. Rick," my character Ben is an angry 16 year old and is imaging he has the band Nine Inch Nails in his head when they play the song. For the record, Geoff Kraley and I thought, why don't we just get actual Nine Inch Nails to play on the record. We called Josh Freese who plays drums in Nine Inch Nails and he came and played on the track. So, suddenly the record sounds the way my character hears things in his head in the show.

We changed words, we changed arrangements, we changed the order of the songs to make a record that stands up on its own. We'd like to get this record, which is an official cast recording, nominated for a Grammy for best musical theater album, to simply show that there is a different way that musical theater records can be made.

Q: As you said, on the record, you can listen to it all the way through or you can listen to each song individually, so what was the thought process behind the order of the songs?
A: The play is one act, meaning there is no intermission, but it is structured in three acts with a coda. A record is two acts. A record is side A and side B. And a record doesn't have any talking, so we thought about tempos, we thought about keys of songs, we thought about the flow of the record.

The song "The Lion" is the last song in the show. I didn't want to put "The Lion" last on the record Songs from The Lion, so we put it third. The song "White Underwear," where dad dies, is the fifth song in the show. I didn't want to put that song fifth on the record before the song "The Lion." "The Lion" is a much more fun song. The song "Golden Castle Town" is a much more fun song. I wanted to open the record in a way that captured a positive energy and I didn't want all the positivity to be at the end, whereas in a piece of theater you want to end on a joyful and high note.

We end with "Three Little Cubs" which is actually a nod to the song "Her Majesty," which ends the record Abbey Road. Geoff Kraley and I played with different orders until we came up with one that felt like a nice journey for people who had never seen the show. It felt like it had good ebbs and flows--the pacing, the timing, the content of the lyrics. For the show, you pick the best order for the songs and for the record, you pick what you hope is the best order for the songs and if people want to put it in a different order, that's what iTunes is for.
Photo credit: Shervin Lainez
Q: You're getting ready to open in San Diego and then Los Angeles. I remember reading that you were looking for someone else to take over so the show can continue when you leave. Are you still looking?
A: We're still looking. I'm looking for a guitar player first. Any age, any gender, any race. The way you audition is you learn the song "Cookie Tin Banjo" and send a video of yourself playing it to us, so I look forward to seeing what people share. I'm excited.

Q: Do you think it will be weird for you to have somebody else perform it, since it's such a personal story?
A: Probably. That's ok, though. I'd like to see if it works as a piece of theater without me in it. And it very well might. It also might not at all. It might need the autobiographical elements to work. I'm not sure, so as a playwright, I'm interested to see how much of The Lion is a play and how much of it is very much a coffee shop gig and the differences there. I'm eager and curious.

Q: You've been performing the show for a couple of years now. After performing it for so long, are you still finding new things in it?
A: Well, doing it in the round is really fascinating because here in San Diego we restaged the entire show. Because we are doing it in the round, I think there are 14 microphones on stage now and it feels very much like a recording studio. And I feel very comfortable in a recording studio, a room with microphones everywhere, so that feels really fun, and it feels pretty different, so that keeps it fresh for me.

Q: Are there any other cast recordings that you like?
A: Hamilton. Questlove, who produced that record, did an amazing job. It sounds like a contemporary pop record. It sounds like a record that can exist outside of a theater. And I look forward to hearing what new musical theater artists do when they now record their cast albums. When they think how can we keep allowing this wonderful genre to grow. Musical theater is not a genre. Musical theater is a methodology. And so, how can that methodology continue to evolve and captivate new audiences?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Q&A with Kit Goldstein Grant

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a small, private reading of a musical called The Wrong Box. The dark comedy about a race for a family inheritance is continuing its development with a staged reading on Monday October 3 at 1 and 7 p.m. at the National Opera Center. Tickets are available here. Composer/lyricist Kit Goldstein Grant adapted the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson and Lloyd Osbourne. Here's what she had to say about why she chose that source material, how she got into musical theater composition, and more.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? When did you first start writing musicals? How did you realize you had that talent?
A: I wrote my first musical when I was 13, and a group of friends and I started a theatre company to produce it when I was 14. I had picked up a book by Alan Jay Lerner at a used book shop, realized that everything I liked was a musical, and thought I'd try writing one myself. Nobody's been able to stop me since.

Q: What was the first piece of music you ever wrote?
A: The first piece I remember notating was a song about going to the fair and eating cotton candy. The scansion was terrible, but I was probably around eight, so I'm going to cut myself a little slack on that.

Q: Who would you say are your influences?
A: Lerner and Loewe, Bock and Harnick, Kander and Ebb, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Frank Loesser, Cole Porter--all the classics.
Kit Goldstein Grant

Q: Why did you choose to adapt this novel? What was your first exposure to it?
A: My sister always gave me all the good books to read. She gave me The Wrong Box, too, and mentioned she thought it would make a good musical. I read it and agreed. I wrote the first draft while I was in college during a spring break.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
A: Outdoors, in a big park, on a sunny day.

Q: What can audiences expect and why should they see the reading?
A: The Wrong Box is a really fun show with a lot of surprises. Sometime even I still get surprised by plot twists. Audiences can expect dry Victorian humor, larger than life characters, inconvenient dead bodies, and memorable songs. We've got a terrific cast [Joe Harkins, Raul Hernandez, Melissa Rose Hirsch, Andrew Holder, Robin Cameron Lounsbury, Evan Mayer, Angelo McDonough, Christopher Michaels, Chris Collins Pisano, Daniel Plimpton, Adrian Rifat, Jordan Silver, Morgan Smith, Kasey Yeargain, and Frank Vlastnik] assembled with actors from Broadway and national tours, and the cast alone is reason enough to come.

Q: What are your goals for after the reading?
A: We're looking at different possibilities to bring the show to more audiences in New York City and elsewhere. One thing we'd love to do is partner with a regional theatre to continue with development of the show, so if you run a regional theatre, don't forget to call!

Q: And finally, how far would you go to get a family inheritance?
A: Halfway around the world! (Either direction.)

Friday, August 26, 2016

FRINGE: Treya's Last Dance

A quick note before we get into the review. My other Fringe reviews are on Theatre is Easy--American Strippers is here and Colorblind'd is here. Theatre is Easy reviews every single Fringe show, so if you're trying to figure out what to see during the final weekend of the festival, definitely check that out.
Shyam Bhatt in Treya's Last Dance. Photo credit: Abhishekharee Parthasarathy
Watching someone speed date turns out to be a lot more entertaining than participating in it. In the British one-woman show Treya's Last Dance, written and performed by Shyam Bhatt, we hear about Treya's life through the answers she gives to banal questions at a speed-dating event, which she attends at her parents' insistence. (Why would anyone go on speed dating other than to please their parents?) This proves to be a smart structure for a solo show, as it requires that she tells her stories in short intervals, before moving onto a question from the next suitor.

The tone starts off light, but turns sad as the show continues (not unlike real dating). As she reveals more about herself, she is forced to confront a recent tragedy. (Speed dating works as therapy too. Who knew?) Bhatt is able to balance the humor and pain and is gifted at transforming into the different people she impersonates. She even does a spot-on American accent. On top of all that, she gives insights into being the child of immigrants and how the Indian community deals with LGBTQ issues--a topic not often explored in the theater.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Don't Fuck With The Babysitter

The Disney Channel Original Movie, or DCOM. There have been some hits (Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, Brink) and some misses (Dadnapped, Hatching Pete). Tonight, the 100th DCOM, Adventures in Babysitting, airs. It's a little bit of a cheat to call it a Disney Channel Original Movie, since it's a remake of a 1987 film starring Elisabeth Shue. Tiffany Paulsen wrote the new script and the plot is significantly altered from the original by David Simkins, so I guess it counts. I watched the 2016 version and then watched the original, which I had never seen. Why didn't anyone tell me I should watch it earlier? I have been missing out all these years. In order to see how they compare, I stacked them up against each other in a not-at-all scientific way using five categories that I made up.


The Casts

In true DCOM fashion, the 2016 version stars some familiar Disney Channel faces, Sabrina Carpenter (Girl Meets World) as Jenny and Sofia Carson (Descendants) as Lola. They are competing for an internship and after an accidental cell phone switch off of the DCOM plot device checklist, Lola accepts a babysitting job offer that Jenny turned down, since she was already sitting for another family. Carpenter and Carson are on the likable side of the new crop of Disney Channel stars and the kids are not as annoying as the children in other DCOMS. But in addition to Shue as Chris, the original has a very young Anthony Rapp as obnoxious, sex-obsessed Daryl and Bradley Whitford plays her asshole boyfriend, Mike, so it automatically has the edge.

Winner: 1987

The Characters

Chris only had to watch two kids and the tag-along friend. Jenny and Lola have a total of five. There are some nice additions--future Master Chef Junior Bobby (Jet Jurgensmeyer) and rebellious Emily Cooper (Nikki Hahn)--but because there are so many, you don't get a chance to know them as well as in the original. Less is more. Plus, the 1987 version has the hilarious Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller), who runs away from home and needs Chris to pick her up, the inciting incident for the adventures. Her storyline was probably too dark for Disney, but the movie isn't the same without her.

Winner: 1987

Rap Battle Versus Blues Singing

Most of the ads I've seen for the 2016 version (and because I've been watching a lot of the old DCOMS as part of the marathon, I've seen A LOT of commercials for it), advertise the rap battle between Jenny and Lola. It's not that great, as far as rap battles go. They find themselves on stage in a club and have to perform before they can leave, so it is an update of the original in which they find themselves in a blues club. The blues song has better lyrics and more emotion. Rapp even performs in it.

Winner: 1987

Thor Versus Roller Derby

In the original, the youngest kid, Sara (Maia Brewton) is infatuated with Thor. She rides around on roller skates wearing a Thor helmet. In the update, AJ (Madison Horcher) rides skates too, but it's because she's obsessed with the roller derby. It's odd that Disney wouldn't take advantage of the obvious Marvel tie-in and keep the Thor stuff in there. I appreciate that a young girl in 2016 would have roller derby as a hobby, but I also like that a young girl in the '80s liked comics before it was trendy.

Winner: 1987

The Dialogue

The line, "Don't fuck with the babysitter," was changed to, "Don't mess with the babysitters," to make it kid-friendly. Likewise, all the curse words and talk of Playboys is gone and with them, a lot of the humor. There was a questionable line about rape that I'm happy to see gone, but overall, the 2016 version is so watered down that I wonder who at Disney saw the original and thought, "Yeah, that's in keeping with our brand."

Winner: 1987


The original Adventures in Babysitting is the clear winner here. The DCOM is not without its charms. The song "Wildside" is pretty catchy (though it's no "Supernova Girl") and Carpenter always elevates the material she's given (I'm looking at you, Girl Meets World). If you're a Disney Channel fan, you won't be sorry you watched it, but if you're going to, do yourself a favor and watch the original too. It's available on Netflix streaming.