Friday, August 24, 2012

Well, hurrah for him!

Happy birthday to the ever inspiring William Wilberforce! I would totally party with this guy-- there would be lots of foot races and conversation and absolutely no botany anywhere. Also, I would force him to sing his own birthday song just so I could hear his incredible voice. :)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Les Miserables, Theatre, Magic

I saw Les Misérables performed live today at the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City. You don’t know how I felt. You can’t know. I haven’t talked about Les Miz as much as Wicked, but I love it. I adore it. That music makes me want to run around and jump off a cliff because it’s so good. And I finally saw it performed.

It was fantastic.

Right before it started I had a moment of fear that it was going to suck. I was so afraid.

It was fantastic.
I cried. I never cry at performances. I cried. I cried when Gavroche died and then when they showed him on the barricade, and then during “Bring Him Home.” I knew the story, but I was not emotionally prepared.

Jean Valjean was definitely good, but better in the second act.

I LOVED Javert. LOVED. LOVED. LOVED. He was so utterly and completely wonderful. I liked whenever he took off his hat, though he should not wear red bandanas. I loved how physically he always seemed to command the stage. And of course his voice….ah! I just wish I could tell him that and then follow him around for the rest of my life. Is that so much to ask? “Stars.”  And every other line he sang.

Marius was good, I just hate his character and that’s not his fault.

Same goes for Cosette, although her hair looked ridiculously fake.

Eponine was great, and I am her. Her death started off the first of the tears, I should note.

Fantine was good. I liked her. I’ve never really thought her character was that memorable, though that’s not a popular opinion.

The little kid who played Gavroche was absolutely adorable, although his accent (Cockney, for some odd reason) was so thick I didn’t know what he was saying most of the time. As I said, his death killed me with him, and then when he was dead on the barricade I just lost it.

The student leader, Enjolras, was totally hot, in case you were wondering, and that guy can sing. He got shot waving the red flag of freedom, and then he was draped down the front of the barricade horribly.

I thought the Bishop and the Foreman were both great, although obviously in very different ways, because they’re very different characters, haha. I just don’t have much to say about either.

There were two sign language interpreters and they were fun to watch. They were definitely performing with their faces as they signed.

The ensemble was really talented, and I loved how they danced and sang and whatnot and they rocked it.

Okay, Javert is obviously the best. I adore him. But I saved these two for last, because I didn’t expect to love them. And did. The Thenardiers. Especially Mssr. Thenardier. I. Adored. Him. He was so despicable, and I loved him for it. I can’t explain it, he was HILARIOUS. So funny. SO FUNNY. And once Amber pointed it out to me I realized that she is totally right: he did look/move/act like Timothy Spall (aka Peter Pettigrew and that sidekick guy in Enchanted). Very ratlike. His wife was hilarious as well. When they exited for the last time in their crazy rich people makeup he bowed and we were all screaming and clapping because we love them, and he was like, "Stop," with his hands, and then, "Oh, go on," and bowed, and I love him.

Basically I want to stalk this show after Wicked. I LOVE IT. I’m seriously considering going down in a month or so to see it again. And I vowed to Amber that I will always make the Utah Shakespeare Festival a part of my summer.

It was fantastic.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Wicked, Theatre, Magic

[ Written July 21 after seeing Wicked for the first time in two years ]

Wicked last night was amazing. Wicked, even. I love the show. But I realize that I expected it to be exactly as overwhelming and intoxicating as the first time I saw it. I wanted to be a Wicked virgin again. Before the show I literally shook with excitement. That feeling was replicated at the end of "Defying Gravity." But I have changed since the summer after my senior year.

The sheer pageantry of Wicked is unbelievable. I had the incredible opportunity to go backstage after the show. I *touched* Galinda's bed, Elphaba's broomstick, and the Wizard's machine. I saw, sitting on a green mannequin head, the black witch's hat that Nicole Parker wears every night. And what I wanted, most of all, was to be a part of it. I wanted to stand backstage and take in the chaos-- the quick changes, the scenery drops, the life pulse and heartbeat of the show. As a seventeen-year-old girl, I was thrilled just to sit in the audience and lose myself. I am still thrilled to be near this production, but now I analyze every member of the ensemble and want to learn and apply and do. I want to actually appreciate the complexity of the dance numbers the way only a member of the company can.

I watched Nicole Parker running through a scene with Nessarose before the show started and realized that she has done it thousands of times. But she will run it again and again and again if need be. Julie Andrews had a teacher that taught her, "The amateur practices until he can get it right. The professional practices until it can't go wrong."

Theatrical training, the small amount that I've had, hasn't killed the magic of theatre for me. It has changed in a difficult to explain kind of way. I may not have many moments where I am completely convinced that a show is real anymore, but I constantly marvel at the skill of the performers and the strength of the script and the beauty of the songs. I watch the conductor and applaud the stage crew and wonder at the choreographer. I stand in awe of the story that Wicked tells, and that is brought to life in front of me in a performance never to be duplicated. I notice how the actors adjust to laughter and change their vowel sounds and have bonds with each other rivaling those of a family.

 I disagree passionately with the usher who asserted that no stage show is as good as a movie. What is wrong with this woman? What fails to entrance her? To memorize an entire show and perform night after night after night is a talent found in only a certain kind of person. You have to be dedicated. The show must go on. You must know the technical aspects of the show so well that the magic snaps back into it. Pick it into tiny, separate, working gears and analyze it until you have learned all you can. Reassemble and oil it until it flows smoothly. Play it a hundred times. You will learn more. The actor who worries about lines is an actor who hasn't yet found his character. Both the magic of imagination and the hardness of reality are essential. The actor who skips practice will not be the performer the character deserves.

It's a peculiar paradox-- a character is nothing but ink on a page until a flesh and blood person takes up the script and speaks their words aloud, and yet they are something more. I can feel a kinship with a character without saying anything, without seeing the play, without knowing how someone else has represented them. I can't make them me, I have to find the part of myself that is already them. Johnny Depp nailed it when he said, "With any part you play there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it's not acting. It's lying."

There is a marvelous physicality to the theatre-- being able to reach out and touch a real, live person, and yet tehre is that unbreakable fourth wall. Many different people can play a part, and they all capture a different aspect of the character. Perhaps only in putting them together can the true person shine through. Perhaps not even then.

Why do we do it? Why do we put ourselves onstage and tell someone else's story? It's not only the lure of the spotlight and the audience. A singer with a self-titled album is more like that...we thespians are something else. When I put on a costume and feel it against my skin and cover my face with makeup I am putting myself away for an hour or two. Life on the stage is living out fantasies, doing things we'll never do in real life. Theatre is emotionally honest, must be emotionally honest, or it will invariably fail. No one wants to see a show about someone they cannot believe in. I can say things on a stage-- true things-- that I could never say in real life, and it is not shocking or taboo. We celebrate the secret revolutions in everyone's soul.

I honestly do not know how good a performer I am. I only know that there is something in me that clings to it as tightly as anything I've felt. One of the very, very few things I ache for as badly as mutual love is to perform. Does anyone-- *can* anyone understand what a radical statement that is? I have agonized over which I want more, because I honestly don't know. I always had an inclination towards the theatrical, looking back. It's funny, because I never thought of doing it beyond school shows. But I wrote and performed plays with my siblings, and I always loved the theatre. But even in high school I thought I would be a librarian. I guess I still could end up that way. But although I say it was my senior year and Into the Woods that made me change my major, the seed had been there for years. Something made me audition for things every year, wanting it every time.

My mother once told me that she doesn't know where I got all these dramatic tendencies. I am flattered. Not because I don't want to be like my mother, the most amazing woman I know, but because this is something I know is wholly my own. There are so many musical theatre lovers, but I don't really believe that anyone can share my adoration. (I'm sure every one of the others would say and believe the same thing.)

Musicals are more than poetry and melodies, so much more. They are alive. There is fire and passion and magic there.

"There's a broken toe for every light on Broadway." -Kristin Chenoweth