Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's A Christmas Miracle

I exaggerate a little about the miracle part, but Norbert Leo Butz and Raul Esparza are going to be on the same Broadway stage. Sadly, neither of them will be singing, but I'll take what I can get. Jeremy Piven had to leave Speed-the-Plow due to illness and Butz is now taking over. Speed-the-Plow was one of my favorite shows of the year, but this will undoubtedly make it even better. I must get back to the Ethel Barrymore Theatre and hope for a technical difficulty.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

My Year in Lists

I have no idea where the year went, but I do know that I lasted a year in New York City. Here are some of my favorites of 2008.

Top 5 Movies:
1) Wall-E: Pixar consistently makes the best and most original movies today. Wall-E is visually stunning and told a very sweet story. Plus, Wall-E and Eve are just so darn adorable.
2) Iron Man: I know Dark Knight was the superhero movie this summer, but Iron Man was more enjoyable. Robert Downey Jr. is my kind of superhero.
3) Milk: Not a weak link in the cast (I was especially impressed by James Franco) and very timely.
4) Prince Caspian: Though not as good as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it remains faithful to the series, except for that ridiculous Susan/Caspian romance.
5) Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist: Though the book was better, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, which is that rare teenage film where most of the teenagers are not annoying, yet still realistic.

Top 5 Albums:
1) 5to Piso, Ricardo Arjona: He's one of the few artists that I can buy a new album without hearing any of the songs and know I won't be disappointed, and so far, I haven't been. He's a brilliant storyteller as well as musician.
2) goddammed, Jay Brannan: His lyrics range from clever and biting to poignant, sometimes all in one song.
3) Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, The New Broadway Cast: Just because a show is great, doesn't necessarily mean the cast album will hold up, but this is one of the most well-done cast albums I own, perfectly capturing the magnificent orchestra and cast.
4) Hold On Now, Youngster..., Los Campesinos!: So much fun. And still better than We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, also released this year. The title of this blog post is taken from a song off this album.
5) Volume One, She & Him: I've loved Zooey Deschanel since Elf, and now I love M. Ward too.

Top 5 Concerts:
1) Ray Davies, Hammerstein Ballroom, Dec. 12: I actually saw him for the first time on March 29 at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, but this concert slightly topped that one because I was closer to the stage and he played three songs from The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, as well as "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," "Apeman," and "Father Christmas."
2) The Swell Season, Rumsey Playfield, Sept. 18: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova seem to love playing together and for an audience. Were it not for the strict rules in Central Park, they might have played all night.
3) REM with The National and Modest Mouse, Madison Square Garden, June 19: Not one, but two good opening acts, plus REM. Good deal. Although I would have liked a bit more variation in the set list from the 2004 show I saw, also at MSG.
4) Jay Brannan, Highline Ballroom, July 16: I wasn't too familiar with his work beforehand, but I loved everything he played. Plus, he had good stage banter, which I always enjoyed. After seeing him live, I bought his album, which as you can see, made my top album list as well.
5) A Spring Awakening Holiday Concert to Benefit SafePlace, Joe's Pub, December 15: I was debating whether to include this since I already come across enough as a Broadway fangirl without admitting that I went to this, but it really was amazing, especially the arrangements of classic Christmas songs done by Spring Awakening vocal arranger Ann Marie Milazzo. I loved the haunting harmonies in the big group numbers, but the highlight was this number (even though it's more of a Passover song), which showcased two ensemble members of the current cast, Morgan Karr and Zach Reiner-Harris:

Top 5 Broadway:
To narrow it down, I took this list from shows that opened this calendar year (not Broadway season) and am therefore excluding shows that I saw this year that opened last year, such as Xanadu and August: Osage County.
1) Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific: Beautiful production. A full orchestra. Perfect cast. Amazing score. This is the only show in recent memory for which I paid full price, and it was worth every penny.
2) Gypsy: Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines, and Laura Benanti deserved their Tony's. I know it's all about Lupone, but Benanti's transformation during the show is incredible to watch. It's really a shame that it's selling so poorly and will be closing in January (along with everything else on Broadway).
3) In The Heights: Although the book isn't perfect, the innovative rap/hip-hop infused score and dancing make up for it. Extra points for the best YouTube channel ever, usnavi.
4) Boeing Boeing: One of the funniest shows I've ever seen, thanks in large part to Mark Rylance, and I don't usually like farce.
5) Speed-the-Plow: It's hard to narrow down my favorites to 5. Maybe I should have included The Seagull instead or even [title of show], but I love Mamet, especially this one, and if Raul Esparza doesn't finally get a Tony, there is no justice.

Top 5 Off-Broadway:
Same rules as above, which is why I'm not including Speech and Debate.
1) Hair at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park: If you didn't know I was going to pick this, you haven't been paying attention, as this was one of my favorite productions ever. I just hope the Broadway production is able to capture at least some of what was created in the park last summer.
2) Black Watch at St. Anne's Warehouse: Didn't think it could live up to the hype, but it did.
3) The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island at The Vineyard: Talk about an original musical. The story was weird and the sets were made up of Ben Katchor's animation. I wish more people would have seen this or that there would have been a recording of some kind.
4) On The Town at New York City Centers: I'd never seen a City Center's Encores! production, but even from my awful seats, I loved it. I'm a sucker for big orchestras, dancing, Bernstein, and Tony Yazbeck.
5) Fifty Words at MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre: Norbert Leo Butz and Elizabeth Marvel gave two of the best and most realistic performances of the year in this two-person show about marriage.

Top 5 Books:
I have to cheat on this one because I don't know if I even read 5 books that came out this year, so I'm going to choose from the books I read this year. I'm currently reading What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell and The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, which are both very good, but since I haven't finished them, won't make the list.
1) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Although Dickens is my favorite author, I hadn't read it yet, but I'm glad I finally got around to it. I hadn't read Dickens in a while and he had the ability to write descriptions and characters like nobody else.
2) Attack of The Theatre People by Marc Acito: The sequel to How I Paid For College and just as funny. I don't think you'd need to be a theatre nerd to enjoy the crazy situations Edward Zanni gets himself into, though you'd probably miss some of the references.
3) Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan: For such a short book, it's pretty substantive, and Cohn and Levithan do an excellent job of getting into the mind of a teen.
4) Unaccostumed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri: I usually prefer novels to short stories, but these stories were so well-crafted and each one fit together to form a larger picture.
5) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: O.K. I've since become disenchanted with the series and the fans kind of scare me, but when I read the first one, I was totally engrossed in the love story. Meyer is a repetitive writer, but she can weave a nice fairy tale.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Razzle Dazzle Episode of Pushing Daisies

Pushing Daisies's writers apparently love the underappreciated 1977 Disney movie Pete's Dragon as much as I do. Wednesday's episode, "The Legend of Merle McQuoddy," featured numerous references to the movie. At first I thought maybe it was just a coincidence that the lighthouse keeper's name was Nora like in the movie and her last name McQuoddy which sounds a lot like the town name Passamaquoddy. But then her son's name was Elliot, as in the name of the dragon. Plus they wore the same cute yellow raincoats and hats and then there was that a capella rendition of "Candle on the Water." Awesome. I'm glad I watched the movie when I was home over Thanksgiving, or I'd be really in the mood to watch it now.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Is New Line Thinking?

Playbill reports that New Line bought the screen rights to Rock of Ages, an off-Broadway musical playing at the New World Stages. I'm not in the film business, but this doesn't seem like a great idea, especially in these troubled times. This musical has a fan base, but it is by no means a well-known hit. It's also not very good, a weak and unoriginal story that's basically filler to showcase '80s songs. The audience members that enjoyed the show when I saw it seemed to be more into the alcohol (which can be ordered during the show right to your seat) than anything else. It's also a show that encourages audience participation, so I can't see how these aspects will be brought to the big screen.