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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

So, yeah, one of us was in NYC and saw musicals this weekend

We know some of you love those, so we'll tell you which ones we saw this weekend and our thoughts in brief. We wanted to see Mathilda and Pippin, but we ran out of time. Our favorite musicals include Ragtime, Les Miserables, Wicked, Rent, Next to Normal, Spring Awakening, Legally Blonde, Avenue Q, Sweeney Todd, Funny Girl, The Wild Party, Company, and Into the Woods.

We love the movie, so we were curious as to how much better the musical could be. We don't think it was better stylistically, but it was a lot funnier than the movie. We ended up liking Catherine Zeta-Jones's Velma Kelly better than the woman on Broadway now, Amra-Faye Wright. Catherine could sing and dance better, period, and Amra was perhaps getting too old for the role. That's something we hate to say, but everyone we were with thought so. Great body though, and lots of attitude.

The woman playing Roxie, Amy Spanger, stole the show by being hilarious. The guy playing Billy Flynn was Christopher Sieber. He was ok. We thought it was cool because he was on Sex and the City. Overall, Chicago wasn't impressive, mostly because the dancing (and much of the singing) wasn't nearly as good as in the movie, but it was entertaining. Grade: B

Rock of Ages
Man, no wonder the movie didn't do well. The plot of Rock of Ages is ridiculous and super sexist. The lesson seems to be "girls, don't have sex, or you'll have to become a stripper and everyone will hate you." We stupidly thought that NYC and Broadway would be a little more feminist, but...nope. Most of the shows we saw featured scantily clad, thin women. It might as well have been a gentleman's club half the time.

As annoying as all that was, we loved this show. It was fun, featured good and familiar music, and the voices were stellar. The narrator character was hilarious. The theater was perfect and the energy was rocking. We've never seen anything like it on Broadway. It's probably the only musical your middle-aged dad is going to love. People were drinking, clapping, laughing, and moving to the beat the entire time. Grade: A-

Jekyll and Hyde
We saw this one with the original cast, including Linda Eder, more than a decade ago and we still remember how those voices and the great acting made it. There are a few good songs, but the book is pretty somber and there are a few too many songs. Still, we enjoyed it. This reboot starred Constantine Mouralis from American Idol and Canadian R&B star Deborah Cox. Cox stole the show with her gorgeous voice, and Constantine held his own well, especially while belting. He has a great belt.

We were disappointed that he didn't try Confrontation the original way it was performed and pre-recorded Hyde's part instead. That seems like the director's decision, but...come on. Everyone looks forward to the manic hair flipping. Even the Hoff tried it. Everyone was impressed with Teal Wicks as Emma, but we really weren't. They took out all her high notes in In His Eyes (and a few other songs).

Maybe she was too tired to hit them? Still, it was lame. Even lamer was the rearranged Dangerous Game, which took out all the harmony. WHAT?!! And the final line of the show was changed. But let's make a few comments for people who aren't familiar with the show as it was originally delivered: There were good sets and the show moved quickly. You'll probably like it, but you won't love it. Grade: B-

The Book of Mormon
FINALLY, we saw this. We had heard the soundtrack first, and we regretted that in the middle of the show. It would have been a lot funnier if we had been hearing the songs for the first time. Still, it was fun to see the way they were staged, watch the story, and hear the dialogue. The cast was perfect. The show was shocking and hilarious. It deserved every Tony award it won. If you are easily offended by, you know, blasphemy or foul language or South Park, this one won't be for you. The musical wasn't mean spirited toward Mormons or religion in general. It didn't agree with Mormonism's teachings, but it looked on the people fondly, which was nice. Good job, South Park guys. Recommended. Grade: A

Bonus show: Les Miserables the tour
One of us saw Les Mis as it came around to our town on its tour that's going on right now. If you aren't familiar with the story or the movie, know that it's deep, spiritual, romantic, gut-wrenching, and very human. Its themes are universal and hardly ever fail to bring people to tears. There are multiple types of voices in the epic musical, working together to bring a rich and varied auditory experience to the mostly great songs.

The musical is a little long and probably should have had a few songs cut (is Drink with Me anyone's favorite? Anyone?), but it's incredibly popular for a reason. The tour gets almost everything right. The revival sets are much better than the ones in the original show. The voices were great as well. Andrew Varela is possibly the best Javert ever (and we love Phillip Quast, so it's close), especially live. Peter Lockyer's Valjean took a while to win us over, because he doesn't have the usual higher voice, but by his third song, we were blown away.

In fact, Varela and Lockyer's voices might even be too good for the material. These guys need to hit the opera. They might be the best voices we've ever heard live, and YouTube does them no justice. You have to hear them live. Stalk them if you have to. Our only complaint about the show is that it moves so fast, not pausing between songs to allow the audience to sit with the emotion and events for long enough for it all to sink in. this robs the show of some of its emotion. Grade: A

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