I love when musicals do something unique and different, which is why I loved this performance from the 10th anniversary concert of Les Miserables. They took the men who played the lead character, Valjean, all over the world and had them all sing the show’s banner song, Do You Hear the People Sing, in their native languages. The result is an amazing performance. Enjoy.
Okay. So that title is kind of a lie. Because I don’t think I’ve ever been to Memphis.
But, boy did I love the musical!
Last night I tuned in for the first episode of NBC’s new show, Smash. It’s all about the makings of a new Broadway musical based on the life of Marilyn Monroe. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge Marilyn fan (which is why it’s kind of funny that I’ve watched this and Oscar-nominated film My Week with Marilyn in the past month), but thankfully being a Marilyn fan is not a prerequisite for watching this show. In any case, since I’m a sucker for anything that involves singing and dancing, I thought it might be right up my alley.
I will say, for the first 30 minutes or so, I was not impressed.
The storyline is everything you think it will be. Writers get inspired by all the Marilyn Mania happening in pop culture, think “Why not a musical?”, get a kick-butt choreographer/director who no one likes, and we get to listen to some very Marilyn-esque songs. Yeah, there’s a lot of breathless, high-pitched “Ah!”s and “Oh!”s. In my opinion, if we wanted to listen to “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”, we can go to iTunes. I don’t need to watch someone else singing it while pretending to be Marilyn to get the point.
Thankfully, about a half hour in, Katharine McPhee FINALLY started to sing.
Now, I’m not an American Idol viewer, so I’d never really seen her before. Let me tell you, though, she lights up the screen. While her performance of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” was nothing to write home about, the emotion and feeling she portrayed while singing it were pretty darn good. As her storyline grew throughout the episode, it was easy to tell that she’s going to be the one who draws people in and makes them connect with the show. While Megan Hilty, Broadway veteran most well-known for playing Galinda/Glinda in my fave show Wicked (after Kristin Chenoweth, of course), is very talented, she didn’t make you want to feel for her the way McPhee does. She may have that chance in upcoming episodes, but she’s not there yet. (Check out this review of my favorite song from the episode – a McPhee and Hilty duet – called “Let Me Be Your Star”.)
Overall, I think I’d give the episode a B- with some room for improvement. If they stay away from the campy Marilyn songs, give Katharine McPhee a chance to shine and really give the audience something to connect with, I think success will be more possible. NBC’s been struggling with their primetime shows, though, so we’ll see if they can make a go at it with this one.
Did you watch the first episode of Smash? Agree with me or disagree? Would love to hear it in the comments!
I’ve always felt my love for musical theater was just a little strange amongst my peers. Growing up in a small, rural town in the Midwest where my high school had no drama program, you had to travel a few hours to see a traveling production of any Broadway show. It was only after my parents went and saw Phantom of the Opera in Toronto for their anniversary that I got hooked.
The past six months have gone by in a blur. I graduated from college, moved 12 hours from home, started my first job, rented my first solo apartment, and bought my first couch, television and crockpot. I left the rural, small town life I was familiar with for a city that’s more familiar with hipsters than hay balers. I’m experiencing true independence for the first time and loving every minute of it.
For anyone who knows me, it is no secret that I love musicals. I can’t help it. There’s something about the way music interacts with stories that I just can’t get enough of. I remember the exact musical that started it, too.
The Phantom of the Opera.
The funny thing is, I didn’t fall in love with Phantom because of my experience seeing it. No, I fell in love because of what I heard. See, when I was really young, my dad took my mom to Toronto for their anniversary to see the production. They came back with the soundtrack. For weeks and months after that, I would listen to that soundtrack during the hour-long drive to gymnastics practice three to four days a week. I sang like I was an opera singer (or tried to) and memorized all the words. I loved the fact that I could create the storyline in my mind and picture the scenes, simply by hearing the music and piecing together the lyrics from different songs. There was kind of a pact between my dad and I that, when I was old enough, we would go see Phantom of the Opera on stage.
Finally, when I was in the eighth grade, I got to go see it when it was on tour in Detroit. I remember we were in the very back row, right in front of the air conditioner so I was freezing. It didn’t matter, though. I was enthralled with the voices and the story. If I wasn’t hooked on musical theater before then, I was now. Could there be any more perfect world than that of a musical? Wouldn’t life be more wonderful if people just burst into song to show their feelings? I thought it would and continue to believe that to this day.
Since that night at the Fox Theater in Detroit, I’ve found a love for many more musicals. Rent, Wicked, The Lion King, Hairspray, Chicago – some of them I’ve seen, while others I’ve just become familiar with through song, much as I did with Phantom. No matter which show it is, though, it never fails that I am taken into that world, where everything can be explained in a song.
Are you a fellow musical theater fan? Is there one show that started it all for you? I’d love to hear about it!