Court Records

It's like a play, but with MUSIC!
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Author:  General Luigi [ Sun Mar 02, 2014 2:29 am ]
Post subject:  It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

I looked over the Borscht Bowl Club (it's only eight pages), and I saw no threads dealing specifically with opera, ballet, and musical theater. Generally speaking, if it's an individual work, performed on stage, revolves heavily (if not exclusively) around music, and isn't just one song, it's appropriate for discussion here (as long as it doesn't break any of the forum rules, of course).

I'll go ahead and try to start things off (and probably fail miserably) by bringing up a performance of Prince Igor by the Metropolitan Opera. They broadcasted it to several movie theaters worldwide, and I saw the performance in one such theater. I've already listened to a recording of the Mariinsky Theater's performance, so I was familiar with the music already. Generally speaking, it was a good performance. The singers were quite competent both as singers and as actors. As for the scenery and costumes, both were fabulous. I was also quite pleased to see that one of my favorite singers, Vladimir Ognovenko (transliterations of that last name vary, but that's the most common one I've seen), was singing the role of Skula. My only real criticism is of the director's approach to the opera. I was fine with it being set in the Late Imperial-Early Soviet era as opposed to the original Late Kievan era; other than the occasional mention of arrows as weapons, they managed that part just fine. My main issue was with the effort to reinterpret Igor's suffering as regretting his campaign as a whole rather than simply his defeat. If they had rewritten the libretto to address that, I wouldn't have had as much of an issue with it, but when you show one thing and say another, people are going to notice.

I decided to see if I could find a performance that was more true to the original online. Surprise, surprise, the Mariinsky Theater did a performance. I'm not all the way into it, and the recording quality isn't anything impressive compared to what I saw at the movie theater, but I'm already appreciating what appear to be the director's efforts to preserve Borodin's original intentions.

Maybe my own experience is the exception rather than the rule, but I've often come across and read about opera performances that change the setting or attempt to reinterpret major aspects of the story. Is this kind of thing common with musicals, too, or do directors prefer to stay true to the composer's original idea with musicals? I haven't bothered much with musical theater, so I can't claim to speak from experience there. It's not an inherently bad thing, mind you. For example, I saw a performance of Carmen that changed the setting to during the Spanish Civil War, and I thought it worked quite well. However, this kind of "experimentation" can rather easily result in a performance that can leave audiences thinking, "What the [censored] did I just see?" when done wrong.

Author:  Pierre [ Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

While sadly I can't quite claim as high tastes as the General I do adore musicals.

Blood Brothers especially but Footloose and Avenue Q were also great live. Though Avenue Q could be quite uncomfortable to watch at times...
Last years performance of the Lion King was also something incredible to witness, the stage set ups to create the events of the movie were somewhat breathtaking, especially the Wildebeast scene. They had giant 'constructs' of Elephants and Rhinos walking through the crowd for the circle of life, was really magical.
Man I need to get back to the theatre again.

Author:  Anthony [ Thu Mar 27, 2014 11:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

The only thing I can think of is Metalocalypse The Doomstar Requiem that was aired on Adult Swim.

Author:  Sir Duke [ Fri Mar 28, 2014 12:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

I saw The Addams Family: The Musical a few years back, I found it enjoyable.

Author:  WaitingforGodot [ Mon Jun 30, 2014 8:37 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

Oh, how I love visting the opera! The opera really is the place to be (for me); dressing up, ordering an overprized glass of champagne and cry at the beautiful music. The last opera I went to was Die Zauberflöte (I'm glad I know German pretty well because the screens with the translations were far away and I hadn't gotten my glasses yet). Not the most serious and high-brow of operas, perhaps, the story is a little wishy-washy, but the music is gorgeous. Alles fühlt der Liebe Freuden... aah. And the aria of the Queen of the Night... and Papagena and Papageno in general - adorable!

I've seen my fair share of musicals as well - I like tragedies. When Les Misérables played in my home town I saw it five times (I love the book, it's a fucking soap opera with beautiful language so it's a great guilty pleasure, and the same goes with the musical, which is... well almost even more soapy, but I love the grand, dramatical music and yes, the characters destinies touch me and yes, I cried almost every time - the movie version was extremely "meh", though, Hollywood and boring voices, no shouting, just whispering) because it really was something special - very artsy, very beautiful, totally different from what one can expect from a stage version of Les Misérables. (And I'm an epoch fetishist so I don't know how many of the actors I had the hots for.)

During a trip to London with my mother, grandparents and one of my siblings we saw The Phantom of the opera with my fellow Swede Peter Jöback as the title role. Which was very nice.

When I just moved to my home town Jekyll and Hyde played at the opera and I went on a whim. I don't remember much more than 1.) I loved the confrontation-song 2.) the guy who played Jekyll and Hyde was hot damn and 3.) had a great voice.

My sibling is very interested in music, rock history and so on, and loves the 27-club, so as a birthday present I gave them a ticked to a play called 27 - it was a theatre concert, so the story was told with song lyrics and acting and it was effin' splendid. I don't know much about rock history, but I'll be damned if I didn't get almost as touched as my sibling. (And I happened to have a huge boner for one of the actors, so I thought; well, if the play isn't for me I'll just look at him.) But I loved it. Innovative, and it was fun that, for example, a woman played Kurt Cobain and a man played Amy Winehouse.

One of the best musicals (or well, this is an rock opera) I ever saw was a modern, quite pshychological and, to my joy, homoerotic version of Jesus Christ Superstar, it was just a few months ago. Me and my sibling were awestruck: both by the show and the hotness of Judas.

...I seem to really like men and women with theatre make-up etc.

Author:  General Luigi [ Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:44 am ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

A while ago, I mentioned being present for a performance of a revival (and revision) of a musical adaptation of Disney's film adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Pierre asked me to post a review, but until now, I never really got around to doing it. Having a program handy now helps matters (my parents and sister saw a later performance and brought home a program). Admittedly, one thing that might take some getting used to is the fact that as a staged production, a lot of things that were done in the movie have to be portrayed differently here. There's also the matter of how it was directed; it's entirely possible that things will be done differently when and if the production reaches Broadway (it's on its way to the Paper Mill Playhouse now). The direction and scenery have been described as "minimalistic" by critics, and I can definitely understand why such a word was used; the backdrop is never changed and several set pieces are recycled to serve different purposes in different scenes.

Here is some footage of various bits of the performance that the La Jolla Playhouse's YouTube channel has put up. The clips show, in order:
Spoiler: clips
  • Bells of Notre Dame (end of number). Some melodies and lyrics from the movie remain, some parts were omitted, many new parts were added.
  • Spoken part shortly after the aforementioned number.
  • Topsy Turvy, Part 1 (Phoebus's entrance). Some melodies and lyrics from the movie remain, some parts were omitted, many new parts were added.
  • Dance of the Tambourine. New song in which Esmeralda sings and dances during the Feast of Fools.
  • Topsy Turvy, Part 1 (crowd scene).
  • Topsy Turvy, Part 1 (Clopin's entrance).
  • Topsy Turvy, Part 1 (crowd scene).
  • Rest and Recreation (Phoebus arrests an accused pickpocket). New song serving as an introduction to Phoebus's character during the Feast of Fools.
  • Hellfire. Largely unchanged, though a small spoken part was omitted.
  • Rest and Recreation (Phoebus flirts with various women).
  • Tavern Song. New song consisting primarily of a dance number and a crowd scene.
  • Tavern Song.
  • Top of the World. New song in which Esmeralda admires the view from atop the cathedral alongside Quasimodo.
  • Act I Finale (Phoebus leading the search). New song in which Frollo sends the Cathedral Guard to hunt down Esmeralda.
  • In a Place of Miracles. The original song was cut from the movie. This version retains some of the lyrics and melodies, though there are changes, too.
  • Act I Finale (immediately after Esmeralda escapes).
  • Kyrie Eleison (Quasimodo about to pour hot lead down from the cathedral). Uses parts of the movie score, but incorporates many new elements, as well.
  • The Court of Miracles. Some melodies and lyrics from the movie remain, some parts were omitted, many new parts were added.
  • Bells of Notre Dame (end of number).
  • Made of Stone (end of number). New song near the end in which Quasimodo lashes out at his stone companions after everything has gone downhill.

Quasimodo is played by Michael Arden. His voice and acting skills were fabulous, though his gait didn't quite match the way an actual hunchback would walk (as someone who had kyphosis until an operation in high school, I am speaking from experience here). Some makeup and a fake hump had to be employed to better portray his character's deformities (understandable, considering the difficulty of singing well when your back is bent as much as that of an actual hunchback). Both his spoken and singing voice differed noticeably from the film. His approach to speaking helped better portray Quasimodo as deformed, in my opinion, as his voice in the film was much more pleasant-sounding. As for his singing voice, it would have probably been out-of-place in the film, but in the musical, it suited his role very well. It was at times a bit strange for him to shift from sounding mentally ill when he spoke to sounding like your typical male lead when he sang, though.

Claude Frollo is played by Patrick Page. As with Mr. Arden, Mr. Page performed admirably in both the acting and the voice department. I actually found a recording of "Hellfire" from the film and noted the contrast. Frollo's character is noticeably changed from in the movie. In the musical, he starts off quite sympathetic and could even be thought of as a protagonist, though he gradually descends into madness and is a clear antagonist by the end. Even then, though, he remains a character for whom the audience can retain some degree of sympathy, as he is portrayed as more misguided than outright evil.

Esmeralda is played by Ciara Renée. Ms. Renée did a good job of capturing Esmeralda's character and showing the full range of emotions she deals with over the course of the musical. Her voice was quite well-suited to the fiery Dance of the Tambourine, yet she also managed a more passionate tone for God Help the Outcasts, as well as a lighter tone for Top of the World. Her character is largely unchanged from the movie, though the things she goes through in the musical are slightly different.

Phoebus de Martin is played by Andrew Samonsky. Admittedly, I don't recall much about Phoebus as he was portrayed in the movie. Perhaps he just wasn't a memorable character then. In the musical, however, Mr. Samonsky handled his character quite well. My only complaint is that his breaths were quite audible, meaning that between each phrase, it was common to hear a very quick breath. I was able to admire Phoebus's development from a selfish dandy to someone fighting for something greater than himself. I regret that I don't recall how well that development was portrayed in the movie.

Clopin Trouillefou is played by Erik Liberman. Out of all the major characters, Clopin gets the least amount of time as the center of attention. I recall even less about Clopin in the movie than I do about Phoebus. I loved how Mr. Liberman managed the role, though. In Topsy Turvy, his silly demeanor coupled with his craftiness shines through quite nicely, while he manages a very menacing tone in The Court of Miracles. His voice never struck me as one that was well-suited to such a tone, so I was pleasantly surprised.

The main chorus consists of twelve people. They change roles as the situation dictates, including seven minor characters:

  • Jehan Frollo, Claude's younger brother, played by Lucas Coleman.
  • Florika, a Romani with whom Jehan eloped, played by Samantha Massell.
  • Father Dupin, one of Notre Dame's clergymen when Frollo was younger, played by William Michals.
  • Frederic Charlus, a lieutenant and friend to Phoebus, played by Ian Patrick Gibb.
  • King Louis XI, the King of France at the time the story takes place, played by Richard Ruiz.
  • The Madam of a brothel, played by Beth Kirkpatrick.
  • An apparition of St. Aphrodisius, a saint whose story is referenced a few times in the musical, played by Neal Mayer.

The remaining five main chorus members are William Thomas Hodgson, Nora Menken, Anise Ritchie, Vincent Rodriguez III, and Brian Smolin. Oftentimes, the people in the main chorus would change roles quite suddenly--sometimes even onstage. For example, the gargoyles and other beings of stone with which Quasimodo interacted were portrayed simply through the chorus members wearing grey cowls over their previous costumes. In addition to the main chorus, there was an auxiliary chorus consisting of singers from SACRA/PROFANA, a local singing group, in addition to many temporary members of the group recruited for the purposes of the musical (myself included). The auxiliary chorus was always positioned in the background, similar to a church choir, always clad in grey robes and cowls (you can make us out from time to time in the video I linked to). I suspect they will recruit local singers for performances elsewhere, too, as I don't think it would be easy for them to get rid of the auxiliary chorus without making massive changes to the score.

As you may have inferred from some of the minor characters, the musical remains truer to the plot of Hugo's novel than the movie did--though it also takes some liberties with the plot, such as Quasimodo being Jehan's half-Romani son (and thus Frollo's nephew) and Jehan dying from illness when Quasimodo is just a few months old. Maybe it's because I was involved in the production, but I definitely preferred it over the musical adaptation of The Lion King. I really hope this show makes it to Broadway. If it looks as good from the front as it did from the back, it will get there. I'd also love for them to release a recording at some point, though that probably won't be for a while.

Author:  Pierre [ Mon Jan 05, 2015 9:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

Sounds like it was quite the spectacle, glad to hear it's still going and you enjoyed it so well. Though I think from the film I remember Phoebus not being a spoiled dandy at all and being the pretty stand up (albeit one-dimensional) good-guy-soldier.

Though I'm curious, you said they made Frollo more sympathetic? I get that the film implies a bit of that slightly what with "Hellfire" indicating his inner turmoil in that he knows he's doing wrong. Still didn't take that line of character too far in the film and Frollo is pretty reprehensible by the end of the film. How did they make him sympathetic enough to almost seem like a protagonist at the start?

Author:  General Luigi [ Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:29 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

The opening number ("Bells of Notre Dame") focuses primarily on Frollo. He and his brother, Jehan, were orphans taken in by the clergy at Notre Dame. Frollo grew attached to the Church, but Jehan was drawn to more hedonistic pursuits. Though Frollo (can I just point out how weird it is using his last name, but referring to his brother by his first name?) cared deeply for Jehan and hoped to lead him away from such a lifestyle, he was unable to. Jehan, on the other hand, hoped to help Frollo "live a little" (my own words), even sneaking Florika into the cathedral as a "birthday present" for him (Frollo rejected the "present," naturally). That created a rift between them, though, when Father Dupin interrupted them. Jehan hid Florika, but Frollo revealed her hiding place. Father Dupin expelled Jehan from Notre Dame despite Frollo's protests. It's implied that Frollo would have kept the secret had he known that Jehan would be expelled.

Frollo is reunited with Jehan several years later after the former has become Archdeacon; Jehan contacted him, as he was dying from illness. Frollo hoped to bring Jehan back to Notre Dame and nurse him back to health, but Jehan refused, saying it was too late for him (it was). It's at this point that Jehan begs Frollo to take in the former's son (Florika died offstage from the pox three months prior). Frollo interprets the baby's deformities as God's judgment on Jehan. Jehan dies soon afterwards. Frollo, distraught by his brother's death (and his failure to save him), panics and almost murders the baby, but stops after a "reminder from God." To quote the musical,

"And the saints regarded Frollo from their stone façade,
And he felt their gaze as though it were the eyes of God."

Frollo resolves to raise the baby, believing it a test from God so he could make up for his failure to save his brother. Believing the baby would be mistreated by the public if they saw him, Frollo chooses to keep Quasimodo hidden away. He hopes to teach Quasimodo to be a righteous man, much as he felt the clergy taught him when he was younger. Throughout the musical, though Quasimodo addresses him as "Master" rather than "Uncle" (let alone "Father" or any derivatives thereof), Frollo comes off as legitimately caring about Quasimodo, even stating later in the musical that "there are times [he] almost [thinks] of [him] as [his] son." My take on their relationship is that Frollo's "love" for Quasimodo is that of a strict father (though admittedly more strict than I think a father should be toward his child). I didn't see any sort of desire on his part to simply "use" Quasimodo.

His hostility toward Romanies (they're almost always called gypsies in the musical; I'm just being politically correct) remains, though, and is implied to stem from Jehan's elopement with one (and eventual death). I'm inclined to believe that he partially blames the Romanies for Jehan's "temptation" and death. Flawed reasoning, to be sure, but it's preferable to him simply hating them because he's evil. There's also the simple fact that there are laws restricting their movements, although whether he enforces them out of racism or because he's following the law is left vague.

Frollo's lust for Esmeralda is what ultimately drives him toward madness, as he is, as in the movie, unable to cope with his feelings. His hope to kill her if she is unwilling to "be his" came off to me as being more a desire to be rid of the temptation than anything else. Essentially, he'd give in to the temptation given the opportunity, but if the opportunity can't present itself, he will do everything in his power to rid himself of the temptation and just get on with his life. He ends up becoming an antagonist due to circumstances, in my opinion, rather than just being evil. Though I readily acknowledge that he did horrible things and was not the paragon of righteousness he believed himself to be, I still ended up feeling a degree of pity toward him.

Author:  WaitingforGodot [ Fri Mar 06, 2015 12:39 am ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

Oh, oh, oh. That sounds amazing. :acro:

Author:  General Luigi [ Sun Aug 23, 2015 7:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

It's come to my attention that the musical adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame is getting a cast recording (set to come out later this year). Still no word of it going to Broadway, but the cast recording's a welcome announcement for anyone who wants to listen to a recording without breaking the law (I wouldn't be the slightest bit surprised if there was an illegal recording somewhere on the Internet, but I'm not about to start looking for it).

I also came across this video review. It had a few jokes I didn't care for (a common result of trying to be a reviewer while also applying a unique "style" to your reviews), but it still made a pretty serious effort to review the show properly.

Author:  Pierre [ Sun Aug 23, 2015 7:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

Neat I'll need to check that out when I get home. My brother is going down to London to watch a showing of Wicked. I've heard really good things about that from friends so I'll see what he thinks of it.

I wanted to take my girlfriend to see something tomorrow when she comes up but the pickings at local places are slim. Avenue Q is on at a time we won't be able o make (though we've both seen it live before anyhow) .

Author:  cyanoscarlet [ Sat Feb 13, 2016 1:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: It's like a play, but with MUSIC!

Senpais! There's actually a thread for this, but at the Wright and co. forum. :)

I was considering starting a thread, too, but glad I'd searched first. Posted all my thoughts there.

Ahh one more musical I forgot to mention was Repo the Genetic Opera. It was a bit freaky, but daaaamn the concept was interesting. (The same friend who lent me Elisabeth introduced me to this.) And Sarah Brightman. That is all.

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