Thursday, April 10, 2008

The 35 Post

So I'm 35 today. I decided to post about 35 of my favorite musicals...'cause it's my birthday and that's what I want to post! These are in no particular order, just all beloved by me for one reason or another.

1. Rent - This show was my generation's Hair. The circumstances surrounding the musical (Jonathon Larsen's unexpected death) just make it all the more resonating. And it introduced us to great talents: Idina Menzel (Tony-winner for Wicked), Taye Diggs (her incredibly hot and talented husband)

and Jesse L. Martin

But beyond the eye candy, I love this show. It's closing on Broadway September 7. I've had the opportunity to see it 3 times on tour, and would go again if I could!

2. Wicked - I've seen this one 5 times and would most definitely go again. I love how it explores this idea of who is a "good" or "bad" person, and how we come to those conclusions. Of course, it's almost never that easy - or it shouldn't be. Plus, I love seeing two women take the final bow!

3. Les Miserables - Another one I've seen a lot. 7 times. The most of any show that I've actually paid money (or someone has) to sit and watch. The first time was the best, though. We went to New York when I was - well, a lot younger - and it had just opened on Broadway. I was dying to see it; had already memorized the London cast recording, but we could not get tickets before our trip. On our first night there, my mom went to the box office, begged and pleaded with them...and walked away with 4 tickets in the 2nd row!! It remains, of course, one of my favorite New York memories.

4. Chess - So I was doing a little googling, and was thrilled to learn that there are rumors this might play in London again soon! Not that I'll get there, but still...Anyway, this musical was one that didn't do so hot on Broadway - it always suffered a weak book, but had great songs - songs that singers love to sing. I was thrilled and honored to co-produce and assistant direct (and house manage, understudy, etc.) for The Blank Theatre Company's production of Chess, which starred Marcia Mitzman (who had been in the original Broadway cast). It remains one of my fondest and proudest memories.

5. Into the Woods - I can't believe I haven't brought up this one yet! It really is one of my favorites. I wrote a literary analysis of this in college, I produced and played Little Red in a reading workshop production of it, but one of my happiest memories of the show was the first time I saw it when it came to town. I was in the Student Rush line to get tickets. There were a lot of people there who didn't even know who Stephen Sondheim was! And they were in front of me! As the line was moving, we were hearing grumblings of people who were annoyed that they couldn't get seats together, seats in the balcony, etc. My mom asked me if I wanted to give up. I looked at her like she was insane!! When it was my turn, I told the box office person, "I don't care where you put me, I'll stand in the back if I have to, I have to see this show!" He gave me two tickets, which I kissed without even looking at them. He gave me house seats!

6. Sweeney Todd - I'm thrilled in so many ways that Tim Burton and Johnny Depp brought this show to a forum where more people could see and experience the genius that is this show. I still prefer the original, of course, but the only real complaint I have about the movie is that I missed the chorus. "More Hot Pies" makes no sense in the film. Nevertheless, it's an opportunity to post a pic of Johnny. Nothing wrong with that:

7. Sunday in the Park with George - This was the first Sondheim musical I got to be in. From that first arpeggio, I was hooked. I watched the DVD commentary, given by Sondheim, James Lapine, and Mandy Patinkin. I loved that Lapine said, "this is a weird musical." Because it is. But it's also beautiful. (And now playing on Broadway again - link gives more info.) The director of the one I did, Joanne Gordon, is a renowned Sondheim expert and has written books about his work. And she taught me one of my favorite phrases that works in life as well as in theatre: "just take the note."

8. Merrily We Roll Along - yes, another Sondheim show! Every now and then, I just have to hear it! Kind of a weak script, and it didn't last long on Broadway, but it remains an incredible score.

9. Company - might as well get all the Sondheim ones done. I've written about this show before. I can't really think of much more to say about it, other than it's brilliant and while considered contemporary in the '70s (and the original cast recording has some distinctly '70s
flavor), I think its message is timeless.

10. West Side Story - I can't believe this musical is over 50 years old now! I call it the quintissential American musical. Song, dance, and plot are connected just perfectly. There's just nothing about it that doesn't work.

11. Gypsy - best Overture ever! Another perfect musical. I would love to see Patti LuPone in this role. I would have loved to see Bernadette Peters. Rose is the role that every actress yearns to play!

12. Falsettos - the brainchild of William Finn, Falsettos was one of the first musicals to tackle AIDS in the gay community. Although it didn't start off that way. The first and second acts, In Trousers and March of the Falsettos, were one of the first musicals about homosexuality in general. When AIDS hit, William Finn added the 3rd act, Falsettoland. I was honored to see a reunion production of it (before it went to Broadway) with most of the original cast. Michael Rupert has a voice that makes my heart sing.

13. Legally Blonde the Musical - you can now hear that fabulous voice and see him on Broadway in Legally Blonde. This play is as fun as the original movie was, if not moreso. It will hold a special place in my heart forever now, as it is something that the girls and I have so much fun singing together.

14. A Chorus Line - this is one that my family and I sang together when I was growing up.

15. Evita - we also were huge Evita fans. And it's the only Andrew Lloyd Webber musical that I actually like.

16. Avenue Q - Familiar with Sesame Street? Leave the kids at home and have yourself a really fun night out!! Actually, you don't really have to be familiar with Sesame Street to enjoy it, but it makes it better. This show is hysterical - the puppet sex alone is worth the price - and ends with one of my favorite songs of all time: "For Now." A reminder that everything that happens, the good and the bad, is only for now. You'll get through the bad moments, and don't forget to thoroughly embrace the good ones! There are times when I really, really need to listen to this song. And it always helps.

17. Follies - I forgot this one in my Sondheim run. My favorite recording of this is Follies in Concert with Mandy Patinkin, George Hearn, Lee Remick, Carol Burnett, Elaine name a few. There's also a PBS documentary on the making of this.

18. Ain't Misbehavin' - another show that holds a special place in my heart. I got to produce a touring production of this, directed by Ken Page, one of the original cast members. The Finale of this show is another one that I must hear sometimes!

19. The Fantasticks - the world's longest running musical. Yes, even longer than Cats. Such a beautiful, simple story about the complexity of relationships.

20. The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee - My friend and I had a great time seeing this one! And we were very lucky that nearly the entire original cast reunited for the Los Angeles premiere. It's sweet and funny. To give you a taste, go play their spelling game on the website.

21. The Music Man - After doing 80 performances of this show in dinner theatre, you'd think I'd never want to hear it again! And I didn't for many years. But I taped the movie for the girls earlier this year, and it brings back fond memories of a time when my life was simply singing and dancing. And it got me my Equity card. I don't think it's possible to hate a show which got you that coveted card!

22. Chicago - this is one of those rare times that I actually like the movie better than the play. I love that they used the medium to its fullest, and Cell Block Tango is a great, great number.

23. Putting It Together - I love this cast recording. Great Sondheim songs, a beautiful arrangement of "Being Alive," and Julie Andrews says the F word. What's not to love?

24. Hello Again - an adaptation of "La Ronde" with each vignette taking place in a different time period. This is one of those where, with nearly every track, I say, "I love this song." But "In Some Other Life" is definitely my favorite of the show.

25. Cabaret - Interesting - another Kander & Ebb where I prefer the film to the play version. Probably has to do with familiarity, but the scene where the Nazi sings "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" chills me to the bone every time.

26. Fosse - one of the foremost unique choreographers. Plus, I have a great memory of seeing this with my sister and her husband, and hanging out with my favorite lesbian :) You know who you are!

27. Dreamgirls - One of the greatest performances ever. No, not the movie version. There's a definitive version of this song, and that's by Miss Jennifer Holliday:

28. Mamma Mia - because Riley loves it. So does Sylvia, but Riley is adamant in her love for this show. We're very much looking forward to the movie coming out with Meryl Streep.

29. Grease - I'm partial to the movie version because 1) it's what I grew up on, of course, and 2) my favorite dance teacher I ever had the pleasure of studying under was ChaCha in the movie. And then Sylvia played ChaCha in the school play and stopped the show!

30. The Wizard of Oz - Big surprise, I am a huge Judy Garland fan.

31. A Star is Born - Of course, the Judy Garland version is my favorite. And it's my favorite Judy Garland film. And I love this picture:

32. Summer Stock - Clearly, I'm on a Judy Garland roll right now! But this one is a favorite not only because of "Get Happy" - the best Judy Garland song - but also because of Gene Kelly. I love this man!

33. Singin' in the Rain - a little 6 degrees action happening here! But, come on! What's not to love about Singin' in the Rain?

34. Forbidden Broadway - New York's longest running spoof! Okay, I don't know if that's true or not, but it seems that way. And I have a fond memory of seeing this with my sister that same trip to New York where we saw Les Miz. And their Les Miz spoof had us on the floor!

35. Hair - I mentioned it in the #1 slot, so I wanted to close with it. This was one of my favorite ones to perform. People were kind of freaked out on how well I played totally stoned! And I really and truly was acting at the time! Not only that, but what it did for Broadway was something truly special. It showed that our art really can reflect our times, and had it not been a success, I'm not sure if Broadway could've survived. It changed everything.

Thanks for sticking with me through this! I had a lot of fun putting this list together.


Kori said...

So I have seen only one of these, and you know which one, so all I will say is I am so sorry for being such a shitty friend for not remembering your birthday. In my defense, because of the scheduling conflict yesterday, I have been firmly convinced, despite evidence to the contrary, that it is still WEdnesday. Please forgive me as I make this very public apology; you can't SEE me, but I am groveling on the floor in hopes of forgviness.... :) And hey, remember, after 35, it realld doesn't matter. the tits can sag away, who cares?

hugabug1 said...

Happy Birthday, April! One of my all-time favorites is Wizard of Oz. I'm also partial to Shirley Temple. Food for thought.... If your life was made into a musical what would the title be, who would star, and what would be the most striking song?

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

Happy Birthday!!! Nice job on the musical reviews. Next I want to see the 35 musicals you liked the least - and WHY!

Anonymous said...

ok, first things first: Taye Diggs... oh yeah,babee... yum yum yum

Secondly, I agree wholeheartedly with your top six. Gotta ask though, is Spamalot not on there because you didn't love it or because you haven't seen it yet?

Matter Of Fact Mommy said...

i don't like musicals, but taye diggs? i loev him.

KG said...

No Spamalot?!? Spamalot is AWESOME!

But as for the rest - the ones I've seen, I agree . . . except maybe Mama Mia which I went to see courtesy of a law firm I was working for. I was glad I hadn't had to pay for it! Though maybe I just had a really sketchy cast . . .

KG said...


April said...

Kori - I love you. There's nothing to forgive here, but you've got it anyway!

hugabug1- thanks! I'll have to think about that one...sounds like a future post to me!

Jeff - I don't know if I could find 35, but the short list is anything by Webber except "Evita," "Kismet," "Camelot," and "King and I."

CableGirl and LSHM - I have not seen Spamalot, but I really like "The Song That Goes Like This."

MOFM - thanks for visiting! And I've said it before, I'll say it again. You just haven't seen the right musicals yet! There's enough of a variety that I bet there's at least a few that you would like.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday!!

I am not nearly as well-versed as you on Broadway performances, but Les Mis has always been a favorite of mine.

(London cast, of course!)

Tui Snider said...

Happy, happy Birthday and Tanti Auguri! I'm with you Jesse L. Martin is a fox.

Can you believe I've never seen 'West Side Story'? (Although I've performed music from the score.) Gotta love Bernstein.

Have a lovely birthday! :)

NH Yocal said...

Hope you had an excellent b-day! Love this list. I was planning on seeing a show in May and you have given me some great ideas! Awesome.

Karen MEG said...

What an awesome list! I'm a big musical lover too... the last one I attended was "We will rock you"... honestly, not quite as cheesy as it sounds (i was a huge Queen fan as a kid) I was surprised I liked it as much as I did.

I MUST see wicked... Dirty Dancing is on right now, so that might be next.

happy 35th!!!

Tara R. said...

Happy birthday... and great theater list. The eye candy was very nice too.

Anonymous said...

Hope you had a wonderful birthday!!!!!

Great list!

MarĂ­a said...

Happy Happy Birthday!!!

I've only seen one musical live and that was The Phantom of the Opera. :)

FreedomFirst said...

Happy birthday April! Sorry I read this late, I've been in a blank funk the past few days. I keep turning on the computer and sitting down, then totally forgetting why I got online; and for the life of me I can't think of anything to do online. Lol.
Anyway, I hope you have a great year.

LunaNik said...

Happy 35th babe! Sorry I'm late =(

I loved this post. It's so...


You totally make me want to go and see a musical on Broadway. Can you believe I live 20 min from NYC and have only seen a Broadway play ONCE???

Come to NY me on the wonderment that is Broadway...pretty please with sugar on top.