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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

There ain't nothin like a musical...

Back to bickering tomorrow, tonight a sidebar instead...

We decided to try Netflix, at least give the free intro a whirl, and it looks like we will be hooked for awhile. You see, good old movies don't play often enough for my liking on the standard stations. There are entire channels that seem dedicated to re-playing made-for-TV movies. Me? I'm a Turner Classic Movies kind of a guy. Alas, TMC often plays their best movies at 2 am or later.

So we signed up! The first movie I gleefully shared with my wife was Dark Corner, a tasty film noir starring Lucille Ball in a dramatic role and giving Clifton Webb some wonderful lines like, the dialogue between his cheating wife and himself:

Hardy Cathcart: Take, uh, Tony for instance. I'd never imagine him to be interested in... Lucy Wilding, but he is.
Mari Cathcart: It's not true! He's always loathed her.
Hardy Cathcart: He loathed her rather intimately, I'm afraid.

Then we also got The Music Man. The teenaged son found himself drawn in, while the older teenaged daughter began to chafe after about an hour-and-one-half ("How long IS this?") but still found herself unable to pull away.

Probably you've seen it, Robert Preston's scene-eating performance is right on key even though he plays a tin-eared fake band leader. Shirley Jones likely couldn't find a musical she couldn't embellish wonderfully and Paul Ford is fantastic as the blubbering mayor whose vocabulary can't keep up with his vernacular. There are some wonderfully clever lyrics to the songs, little Ronny Howard makes his first big film debut after having become a TV staple, The Buffalo Bills present Barbershop at its best...ahhhhhhh!

Not that TMM is my favorite musical...that's a hard call there. South Pacific? Maybe. Probably. Musicals can be bittersweet or comical or romantic or even inspirational. So I had to write about them...

My Dad introduced me to musicals when I was a small boy. He was a big wheel in a major corporation back in the day and was hosting a party in the Presidential Suite of the Blackstone in downtown Chicago. I was awed to be in the same place guys named Roosevelt and Eisenhower had inhabited. I was annoyed to have a valet assigned to me (You mean some guy is going to watch me take off my pants and hang them up for me!? Yechhhh!).

Anyway, Dad took me out on a night on the town, with Mom back home in Michigan. We went out to eat and I had escargot for an appetizer. Then he offered me the choice of going to see a burlesque show or a front of the cab driver! Well, no way was I going to admit, as a single-digit midget, that I might want to see a naked girl! It was a setup, since my Dad already had tickets to "The Sound of Music", which had just gone on national tour. I fell in love with Lauri Peters as Liesl and I understand that Florence Henderson was the lead that night, although I thought it was Julie Andrews. I was hooked on musicals right then and there!

We went to see Carousel the following year, and I cried, surreptitiously wiping my eyes so know one would see. (If I Loved You still gets to me). I was fortunate that both of my parents were singers and loved musicals, so we saw a few summer theatre productions as I grew up in addition to the occasional touring company. I used to play and sing along with the "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" soundtrack. Yeah, I was kind of a closet dweeb that way.

I went on to play in a few productions and have one son and one daughter who did the same. Now, a play is an exciting, living and breathing adventure and I love doing plays. But a musical is also a celebration and almost an athletic contest, especially the kind with lots of dancing. It's a lot harder to have stage fright when you are working your butt off doing a dance number and then hustling through a costume change for your next scene. Amateur that I am, I've also managed to avoid the worst of the clashes of egos that apparently are a staple of Broadway.

I love the fantasy of a great musical, in which life is reflected in dances that no one would really do and songs one would never sing in such circumstances. That fantasy component allows one to insert his life into the play and live for a moment within it. Many musicals have been made into movies that, while not as powerful as the live performance, still are capable of moving me. The movie musical has given us amazing characters to coming to life in great performances, like Rod Steiger's Jud Fry in Oklahoma or Mitzi Gaynor being both deliciously desirable and wholesome as the girl-next-door in South Pacific.

I'll almost certainly never take part in a play again. The last major production I participated in was at the age of 46, when I played the part of a 45-year-old man and they had to make me up to look a lot older! Hahahahahaha! Adding wrinkles and a touch of frosting on the temples for every performance, I loved it. The frosting is there for real now and a lot of the wrinkles, too. I still have the baritone to handle a good lead role but I know how much work it all is, too. Other than maybe a skit at church, I am officially retired from the footlights.

But, just as having been a player enhances my love of sports now, so my few forays onto the stage make a good play that much better. Netflix will allow us to easily grab the best of the musicals that have been made into movies. I think we'll have to go see another actual live performance again soon as well.

So how about it? Do you go to live performances? Do you get into musicals? What are your favorites? I have an ulterior motive here. First, we can get pretty well any successful musical on DVD from Netflix. Also, any decent current musical is bound to come through Chicago, so if you know of anything outstanding that is on tour right now, share.

I do promise to get back to lists of creationists and all that tomorrow. Stay tuned...


cranky old fart said...

How do you feel about Opera? I once saw a great production of Aida.

Now where was the setting of that story.....?

hee, hee.

xiangtao said...

Phantom of the Opera has always been my favorite. I will be seeing it for the second time in a couple of weeks with my wife. Fourth row center at the Venetian in Vegas!

loboinok said...

My brother and I married sisters. The wife and SIL have always loved musicals. As a result, I have watched all the musicals you listed and several more.

My oldest son played the part of Big Louie in Guys and Dolls. I enjoyed that much more than watching them on TV.

Of course, being a native Iowan, I watched and enjoyed TMM.