The other takes a peek at some of the movie musicals that are scheduled to be released over the next year or so (including Jersey Boys, Into the Woods, and Annie). The second post includes my own take on the recent Into the Woods plot-changes kerfuffle:
If any of you happened to be in the Times Square area on the night of Saturday, December 14th, 2013, you may have heard some blood-curdling screams emanating from the Lyceum Theatre. But it wasn't coming from Mary Bridget Davies, now appearing at that august venue in the title role of A Night With Janis Joplin. No those wails of pain were coming from me as I sat in agony enduring the ear-splitting volume of the sound system.
Are baby boomers that deaf?
Yeah, my main problem with A Night With Janis Joplin had to do with sheer decibel level, but there's a lot more that's wrong with the show, at least from a musical-theater perspective. A Night With Janis Joplin amounts to, at least for me, an excruciating scream-fest without any compensatory human drama or theatrical invention.
The show is written and directed by one Randy Johnson, a man who appears to specialize in tribute shows and Vegas acts. And that's pretty much what we get with A Night With Janis Joplin: a superficial celebration of a music icon that belongs in Las Vegas or London or any other place that has a higher tolerance for schlock.
A Night With Janis Joplin essentially comprises a concert of Joplin's greatest hits, combined with a series of cameo appearances by some of Joplin's supposed musical influences, including Etta James, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Odetta, and Bessie Smith. (Ironically, Nina Simone comes off far better in the otherwise execrable Soul Doctor from earlier earlier this season.) Along the way, we get a rather cursory history of Joplin's growing interest in performing and with singing the blues.
The whole enterprise strikes me as a tremendous missed opportunity. I mean, we're talking about a fascinating and tortured woman here. Surely there was more drama to mine in Joplin's story than simply "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues." I'm certainly no expert when it comes to Janis Joplin, but I can't imagine that anyone who dies at the age of 27 of a heroin overdose was particularly happy. Writer Johnson seems uninterested in plumbing the depths of Joplin's tortured soul, content instead to mold a superficial hagiography. All we really learn about Joplin here is that she loved singing the blues and listening to black women singing. Johnson seems content to gloss over Joplin's pain with a series of platitudes: "Nobody feels the blues like a woman," and "When I'm singing it's the only time I don't feel lonely" being two notable examples.
As far as I can tell, Mary Bridget Davies gives a pretty spot-on impersonation of Janis Joplin, in particular in capturing her plaintive wail and ferocious rasp. The female singing ensemble is likewise impeccable. So there's not lack of talent on display. But the show has "fans only" written all over it, although I will admit that my ears did prick up for "Piece of My Heart" and "Me and Bobby McGee." The act one finale with Joplin making a guest appearance at an Aretha Franklin concert was pretty kick-ass. (I did feel the need to resist the performers' exhortations to the audience to stand up and get into the music. Yeah, ain't gonna happen, folks.)
I must say that many audience members were clearly having a ball traveling back in time, albeit in a non-threatening fashion: no pesky truths to sully their admiration. These people were mostly a few years my senior (I'm a very late boomer or a very early Gen-X-er, depending on whose definition you go by) and thus more of Joplin's time than I. Clearly, there's an audience for this show, although I'm not exactly sure how big that audience is. (The show played to about 2/3 capacity even during Christmas week, traditionally one of the two busiest periods of the year for Broadway, the other being Thanksgiving weekend.)
But it ain't good theater, people. Even showbiz tribute shows can manage to muster some sense of drama and stagecraft, for instance, Jersey Boys. A Night With Janis Joplin amounts to a reasonably slick and efficient tribute concert along the lines of Rain or Let It Be. It's fine for those who hope to recapture, however vicariously, the spark of Joplin's genius, but it never crosses over into compelling theater. It never even comes close.
During the build-up to Christmas 2012, there was something very actively on the minds of theater fans across the country and around the world, and it didn't have anything to do with the usual trappings of the Yuletide season.
I had a chance to see a preview of the movie the week before Christmas and I found it to be a mixed bag at best. Director Tom Hooper ("The King's Speech") doesn't appear to have much experience directing musicals, either on stage or for the screen. Then again, these days who does have a lot of experience directing movie musicals?
Hooper makes a number of deliberate choices in filming Les Misérables, including the much-discussed decision to have the actors sing live on-set. This made a certain amount of sense, at least in theory. Hooper was putting the drama before the musicality, and having the actors sing live, Hooper's thinking went, would yield more convincing performances. A commendable experiment, to be sure, but the results are decidedly mixed, with the evidence tipping more toward the negative.
We all knew going in that Hugh Jackman could sing, although I've always maintained that his technique was too nasal and under-supported, and that if he didn't get some coaching he was going to damage his instrument. Well, it appears that he has indeed received some coaching, and when he's singing full-out here he sounds terrific, although he tends to sound thin and pitchy during softer passages. As for his larger performance, he kind of came in and out for me, at times fully embodying the role of Jean Valjean, at other times never letting me forget that he was Hugh Jackman. (A very similar problem dogged Jackman when he appeared in A Heavy Rain on Broadway.)
The real star of Les Misérables - The Movie is Anne Hathaway, who is simply sensational as Fantine. Here, Hooper's live-singing experiment yields extraordinarily positive results. Hathaway delivers a heart-rending version of "I Dreamed a Dream," and I'm fully convinced that, if she had sung to a prerecorded track, the song wouldn't have been nearly as devastating. But Hathaway doesn't just hit this song out of the park: her entire performance is brimming with pathos. She's only on-screen for about 20 minutes or so, but her gaunt countenance seems to haunt the entire film. There's already a good deal of Oscar talk about Hathaway, and I'm all for it. Here, she's gold.
Another cast member who shines is Tony-winner Eddie Redmayne as Marius. Redmayne takes a role that could very easily have veered into melodrama and cheese and renders it rich with nuance and credibility. Redmayne comes off here an understated wonder, a performance that unfortunately upstaged that of another stage veteran, Aaron Tveit, as Enjolras. I've seen Tveit on-stage in both Next to Normal and Catch Me If You Can, and he really commands your attention in a live theater. But on the big screen, Tveit's striking looks and vivid sense of characterization don't quite shine through.
Also disappointing were the potentially movie-stealing turns from both Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers. Both have proven themselves eminently capable at movie musicals (see Sweeney Todd), but here they both underplay their roles to the point where they make little impact at all. This is likely a case of poor direction, and clearly Hooper was going for something a little more sinister than we're used to seeing on stage. I mean, that's a certainly a choice, but neither actor seemed to be enjoying himself or herself, and heaven knows there's precious little comic relief in the piece as it is.
And then there's Russell Crowe as Javert, who is simply painful to watch and to listen to. Apparently, Crowe performed in a good deal of musical theater before he become famous. You'd never know it from the evidence here. Not since Marlon Brando croaked out the otherwise stellar score to Guys and Dolls has there been a movie-musical performance this stilted, this tin-eared, this downright agonizing. Despite a reported six months of vocal study, Crowe seemed physically uncomfortable singing, and his face couldn't seem to hide his discomfort. I mean, the guy's got the acting chops, right? You'd think he'd be able to find a way to make the songs work, a la Rex Harrison or Robert Preston. No such luck.
Hooper brings a very stark look and feel to the movie (with the aid of cinematographer Danny Cohen), giving the film a sort of hyper-realism. At times, this works extremely well, particularly for the dank and seedy dockside setting for Fantine's fall into prostitution. But the sweeping, realistic vistas frequently worked against the film. Somehow when you watch Les Misérables on stage, the students' rebellion seems so much more grand and momentous. However, the movie renders the central insurrection puny and futile.
Another unintended effect of Hooper's hyper-realism and broadened perspective is that they really bring out the holes in the plot, holes that are admittedly present in the stage version. For instance, the whole notion that Valjean needs to hide his "shameful" past from Cosette seems a lot less credible here. Also, it's not entirely clear why the students are fighting in the first place, nor what they actually hope to accomplish. And why does Jean Valjean remain in Paris once he discovers that Javert is stationed there? (Hooper adds some inexplicable touches of his own, as when a momentarily sentimental Javert pins one of his medals on the fallen Gavroche on the barricade. Um, didn't this kid just minutes before rat out Javert and spoil his nefarious plans?)
As is the custom with modern movie musicals, the creators have written a new song for the film. The goal here is usually to snag an Oscar nomination for Best Song. (Only songs written specifically for a movie are eligible, and the category is notoriously lacking in meaningful competition.) Sometimes these efforts yield relatively pleasant results, as with "Listen" from the movie version of Dreamgirls. Other times, we're subjected to the indignity of "Surprise, Surprise" from A Chorus Line. For Les Misérables, we have "Suddenly," a new song for Jean Valjean right after he has rescued young Cosette from the Thénardiers. I can certainly see what they were going for here: give Valjean a chance to show his softer side and establish his burgeoning fatherly feelings for Cosette. But the song feels formless and out of place with the rest of the score.
The movie is clearly a must for musical-theater fans (who will undoubtedly have fun spotting original cast members Colm Wilkinson and Frances Ruffelle in the supporting cast), but the question remains as to whether it will cross over and became a mainstream hit. The movie grossed $18 million on Christmas Day, so it seems to be off to a very solid start. I'm already hearing people talking about how success here might mean a movie version of Miss Saigon. I wouldn't hold my breath on that one, and frankly I'd rather see Wicked make it into movie theaters some time soon.
We seem to be seeing quite a bit more of these "cinecasts," i.e. Broadway shows and the like taped and presented in local movie theaters. It started with Rent, of course, and lately we've seen cinecasts of The Importance of Being Earnest, Memphis, and Fela, as well as a number of shows from London, including Frankenstein and The Merry Wives of Windsor. (Yes, technically Fela was taped in London, but it had a Broadway pedigree.)
It seems that producers are catching on to the idea that, far from cannibalizing ticket sales for the live versions of these shows, these cinecasts might actually serve as marketing for future tours (e.g. Memphis) or to maximize revenue for a show that might not tour (e.g. Fela).
Cinecasts can also expand the audience for a strictly limited engagement, as was the case with Stephen Sondheim's Company, a filmed version of a recent concert staging of the show with the New York Philharmonic, starring Neil Patrick Harris and Patti LuPone. I didn't catch the live concert, despite my numerous trips to New York, but I can't say I really went out of my way. Did I really need to see Company again, I asked myself, even with such a stellar cast? I mean, I've seen many productions of the show, and the recent John Doyle Broadway production is available on DVD.
But I did catch a recent screening of the concert film, and five minutes into the showing, I realized that I could never really get too much of Company. It's really that good. Beyond the magnificent Sondheim score (it may even be his best), there's also George Furth's underrated book. People complain that the book is too fragmented, too cynical. But, from where I sit, those are two of its key assets. Despite the deliberate fragmentation, the show flows and builds elegantly, especially after the deft changes Furth made to the libretto for the 1995 Broadway production.
As for the headliners here, Neil Patrick Harris makes for a warm and wry Bobby, bringing to the role all of the charm that made him such an effective and entertaining host for the Tony Awards this year and two years ago. His singing voice can sometimes be a bit thin, but his intonation is strong and he performed the songs with great emotional fluency. And what more can I say about La LuPone? The woman is a sheer force of nature and vocal powerhouse nonpareil. There's a reason Patti's a living legend, and here she's at her diva-rrific best. Her rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch" was gripping theater, and the surrounding scenes dripped with her trademark sharpness and staccato delivery. In short: fab-u-lous.
The concert was directed by Lonny Price, who seems to be making a career out of directing these concert presentations (see Candide and Camelot), and that's really not such a bad thing. He always seems to bring his own individual touches to these concerts, although his Candide really lost steam toward the end. His Company seemed more slowly paced than Doyle's, but with considerably more warmth and humanity. Despite the show's length, I found that I was almost always engaged, except during Anika Noni Rose's "Another Hundred People," which just kind of sat there, and "You Could Drive a Person Crazy," which featured weak vocals and some rather limp staging by Josh Rhodes.
So, I'm all for more of these cinecasts, but the people involved need to find a way to market them more effectively, at least in the Boston area. There was a grand total of 18 people in the theater at the showing I attended. What's more, the theaters themselves need to do a better job of actually presenting these events. Each time I've attended a cinecast, the theater staff has been clueless. They're usually not even aware of the events.
I saw Company at the Showcase Cinemas in Woburn, MA, and the movie-theater staff got nothing right. The show started 20 minutes late. Somehow the computer that was supposed to start the show didn't kick in, and nobody was paying any attention to the computer, so we had to seek out someone in charge to look into it. Then, once the film started, the house lights didn't go down, and we had to hunt someone down again. Then, at the end of the show, the lights didn't come back on, and we had to fumble our way to the doors.
When I addressed my displeasure to the manager on duty, he couldn't have been less interested or concerned, and made a half-hearted offer of some free movie passes. I don't really go to the movies, so I declined. But I've heard numerous examples of similar experiences that people have had with these cinecasts across the country. I recently read somewhere that these cinecasts could represent a bit of a boon for a struggling movie-theater industry.
In the very last session of my musical-theater history course, we do three things: my students hand in their take-home finals, we talk about what makes bad musicals bad, and then we launch into what I've come to call our "showtune games." In one of these games, I put my 30G iPod on shuffle, play ten random songs (out of about 8,000, all theater music, natch), and challenge my students to name the song and show.
This past semester, one of the songs that came up on the old iPod was "What's Inside Is Just a Lie" from Passing Strange. Now, I realize that the show didn't run very long, but not a single one of my students was able to name the show. Some guessed the song title, as it's repeated so frequently, but even when we went over the answers, and I told them the name of the show, a lot of my students had never even heard of Passing Strange.
I'm not trying to dump on my students here. When the show was running, most of them were juniors in high school, many nowhere near New York City. I see this more as a testament to the fleeting nature of the theatrical consciousness. Passing Strange, while stunning and innovative, is yesterday's news. The show ran a mere 165 performances and 20 previews at the venerable Belasco Theater. And it is highly unlikely that the show will catch on in regional or community theater, mostly because the story is so specific to Stew, the show's writer and central performer.
Fortunately, before the show closed, filmmaker Spike Lee brought in more than a dozen cameras and taped three of the show's final performances. The resulting film played the Sundance Film Festival, and has now been released on DVD. And it's a real stunner.
When I saw Passing Strange on Broadway, I was so impressed with the freshness and raw energy of the show (read my original review) that I decided to take in the show again (read my re-review). Well, I'm not really sure how or why, but in some respects the movie is even more compelling than the stage play was. This is probably a testament to Lee's dynamic, almost invasive, camera angles. As in the best documentaries and concert films, Lee has taken us where the theater cannot: backstage, up close, behind, beside, below the performers. Lee has even placed cameras in the four hydraulic pits that house the on-stage band, making the players an even more integral part of the action.
Such an approach would likely not work with most theatrical presentations, but with the already anarchic Passing Strange, it significantly enhances and complements the themes, techniques, and movement employed by stage director Annie Dorsen and choreographer Karole Armitage. The cinematographic intimacy also puts into stunning relief the terrific work by the show's talented cast, including the dynamic Rebecca Naomi Jones, the sensational Daniel Breaker, and the electrifying Colman Domingo.
We're unlikely to see the likes of Passing Strange back on Broadway anytime soon. Oh sure, we'll see more rock shows, and we may even see more staged concerts, but none with the singularity of vision and execution that Passing Strange reflects. And we're fortunate to have this permanent record of a show that can genuinely be called unique.
A final note to my students: Yeah, you're not in my course anymore, but I'm giving you one final piece of homework. See this film.
So what went wrong? Two things: the script and Rob Marshall.
I'm no purist when it comes to movie musicals. Two of the best films of Broadway shows are "Cabaret" and "Sweeney Todd," and neither of those movies is particularly faithful to its source. The "Cabaret" movie is almost completely rewritten. But it works. And "Sweeney Todd" removed a large portion of Stephen Sondheim's score, albeit with his blessing. But the cuts, for the most part, were effective.
So, I'm not dumping on "Nine" for all the rewrites or the excised numbers. The problem is that the screenplay, by Michael Tolkin and Anthony Minghella, is just plain awful, filled with dialog that is at best banal, at worst laughable. Minghella passed away in 2008, so I'm going to have to assume that Tolkin is to blame for the trite phrasing and mindless bromides. After all, Minghella had a far more august resume ("The English Patient," "The Talented Mr. Ripley") than Tolkin does ("Deep Impact," "The Rapture"). But who knows, right? All I know is that virtually nothing remains of Arthur Kopit's original libretto, and what has taken its place is often ridiculous. At one point, poor Penélope Cruz is actually forced to say to Guido, "I'll be waiting for you, with my legs open." Ugh.
But I could have withstood the indignities of the screenplay if the musical numbers weren't so poorly integrated into the film. The songs all take place in some conceptual nowhere land, sometimes interspersed
with the scenes at hand, sometimes not. So the music doesn't emerge from the mouths of the characters themselves, but rather from some imaginary versions of same. That's not in itself a problem, but director Rob Marshall hasn't given us a clear idea as to why he's made this choice.
By comparison, in the "Cabaret" movie, the songs take place in a Berlin nightclub. In the "Chicago" movie, the songs for the most part are meant to be
Vaudeville numbers. Those conceits create a connection between the songs and the action. But how and where are they taking place in "Nine"? As individual internal monologues? In Guido's head? That doesn't really make dramatic sense: Guido isn't a musical-theater aficionado, he's a film
director. He wouldn't think in terms of musical numbers, but rather cinematic sequences. As a result, the songs
don't add to the movie, they stop it dead.
For me, "Chicago" didn't really work as a movie, but it did leave open the possibility that Marshall might develop an independent voice. "Nine" calls that possibility into serious question. So far, Marshall appears to be little more than a poor man's Bob Fosse, without the vision or the bite. As I watched "Nine," I kept thinking about the stylistic debt that the movie owed to "All That Jazz," an infinitely superior film, and it made me wonder what Fosse could have done with "Nine." Perhaps all the people who knew how to create effective movie musicals are dead, but is Rob Marshall really the best we can do?
I had thought that I would have a problem with Daniel Day-Lewis as Guido, but, although I would have preferred Javier Bardem, I didn't mind Day-Lewis, not even his thin singing voice. Had the script and direction been better, DDL might have had a chance to be terrific, but as it stands he's merely serviceable. And there are a few individual performances here to savor, particularly Kate Hudson as the American journalist, who gets the best of the the three new songs, "Cinema Italiano." And Fergie really hits it out of the park vocally with "Be Italian," although the staging for the number itself is rather flat.
"Nine" opened to disappointing reviews and meager box office. The movie went into wide release on Christmas Day, hitting 1,400 screens nationally over the holiday weekend, but this week the distributor is cutting the number of screens by about 36%. They're trying to put a positive spin on it, saying, "The movie is performing well on about 890 key screens." Hmm, well how about those other 510 screens, guys? I don't think the movie-musical genre is in any immediate danger: "Mamma Mia," artistic abomination though it might be, did a very respectable $144 million domestic gross.
But is it really to much to ask, or hope, that we finally find someone who can put a decent movie musical together?
Sweeney Todd - Sondheim said that, in general, he's not really a fan of movie versions of stage
musicals, and that most definitely includes A Little Night Music andA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
Because they weren't conceived for film, they don't tend to work well in that medium. - The film version of Sweeney Todd, he said, was a notable exception, because director Tim Burton completely re-conceived the piece for
film. Burton cut all the chorus songs -- what Sondheim refers to as
"peasants on the green" pieces -- and retained the songs that came from the emotional life of the characters. The cast actually rehearsed "The Ballad
of Sweeney Todd," but didn't make it into film, because it's really a theatrical piece. - Rich asked Sondheim why he thought Sweeney Todd has become such an admired and accepted work, given the (ahem) distasteful subject matter. Sondheim said it was because the musical is based on the Christopher Bond version of the Sweeney Todd legend. Previous versions portrayed Todd and Mrs. Lovett as merely greedy, bumping off customers in order to steal their money, and cooking them into pies to hide the evidence. Bond added the revenge plot, the Count of Monte Cristo tale of the wronged man seeking justice, and the tragedy that unfolds. "Bond made the story human," said Sondheim. "That's what makes the story sing." - Sondheim said that although he loves working on plot-less musicals (Company, Follies, Assassins), he also loves shows with solid plots. That's why Sweeney and A Little Night Music work so well, he said, because they have very strong stories upon which the music hangs. - One of the most difficult numbers to write for Sweeney Todd was "Epiphany," the point in the show when Sweeney decides to take his vengeance out on all of humanity, rather than simply the people who done him wrong. But mass murder is an awfully hard thing to justify dramatically. Sondheim says that "Epiphany" was actually based on "Soliloquy" from Carousel, a song that Sondheim says "changed the face of musical theater." Obviously, the two songs are entirely different in terms of tone and intent, but they both set out to justify major, life-altering decisions on the parts of the characters singing them. The key to making "Epiphany" work, said Sondheim, was in having Sweeney break the fourth wall and threaten the audience, which made the threat more credible. - Sondheim said that there really isn't any moral to the story of Sweeney Todd. "It's really just meant to be a horror movie," he said. "We just wanted to scare people." - Sweeney Todd did reasonably well on Broadway (although the production closed at a financial loss), but the show positively flopped in Britain. The show played the famed Theatre Royal Drury Lane, and was basically a recreation of the Broadway production, and it folded within a month. Sondheim says it was probably because Sweeney Todd is just a silly folk tale in Britain, a ruse to scare children into going to bed, lest Sweeney Todd come and get them in the night. As playwright John Guare put it to Sondheim, "Imagine someone coming to America with a serious musical based on 'I Love Lucy.'"
Gypsy - Sondheim compared "Epiphany" from Sweeney Todd to "Rose's Turn" from Gypsy. "I love to write nervous breakdowns," he said, then added wryly, "I understand them so well." - Apparently, Gypsy director/choreographer Jerome Robbins had originally intended "Rose's Turn" to be a ballet. In an early version of the show, there were three different actresses playing June and Louise at various ages, and at the end of the show, all six of them were going to come out for a kaleidoscopic ballet portraying Rose's breakdown. But Robbins turned to Sondheim one day in rehearsal and said, "I don't have time to stage it. Go write a song." - Robbins and Sondheim went to the rooftop theater above the New Amsterdam, the place where Ziegfeld used to hold his Midnight Frolic revues, and talked for hours about what the song should say. Robbins played the part of Rose, and began to ad lib, dipping and swaying across the stage, a la Mama Rose in Gypsy Rose Lee mode. Sondheim took his notes to composer Jule Styne and the two of them filled out the song into the tour de force that we know today. - Oscar Hammerstein didn't live long enough to see Sondheim write both music and lyrics for a show, but he did get to see both West Side Story and Gypsy, and was impressed. Hammerstein approached Sondheim after seeing Gypsy, and said that there were three problems. First, the doorknob in the kitchen scene wasn't working. Second, "You'll Never Get Away From Me" shouldn't end with dialog, but rather with the end of the song. - And third, "Rose's Turn" was ending in such a way that robbed the audience of an applause break for Ethel Merman. Instead, it was ending by having the character slowly lose focus, and trail off into confusion. You have to let them give Ethel a hand, Hammerstein said. Because the audience wasn't able to acknowledge Merman, they were uneasy and unable to focus on the following scene, the pivotal one in which Louise and Rose have their final resolution, and the mother/daughter roles reverse. But that's not true to the emotion of the scene, said Sondheim. There's a difference between real truth and theatrical truth, said Hammerstein. Some things that are false emotionally are right for the stage. So they added the now-iconic "For me!" at the end of the number, gave Ethel her applause, and suddenly the audience was paying attention for the final two pages of the show. - Rich asked Sondheim whether Hammerstein might have been put off by the subject matter of some of Sondheim's shows. Sondheim said that he would like to believe that Oscar would be proud of all of his shows, because, although he and Hammerstein have different tastes in subject matter, the shows are all in keeping with Hammerstein's artistic principles. People wrongly think of Hammerstein as old-fashioned and sentimental, but he really never was, and neither are his shows. He was a man of very strong artistic ambition and opinions and was very articulate about voicing those opinions.
Sunday in the Park With George -
Working with James Lapine changed Sondheim's creative life in a number
of significant ways. Sondheim had never worked Off-Broadway before; he
had usually written shows for out-of-town tryouts or opened them cold
on Broadway. But with Sunday, for the first time, he had the luxury of
developing a show in a not-for-profit setting, and he says it made for
a much more relaxing experience, even if the production was in fact
only a few geographic blocks from Broadway. - Sondheim wrote the song "Finishing the Hat" to express what he called "the joy of trancing out." "When you're creating," he said, "the world is going by while you're making your own world." Of course, at the end of the song, the character Georges has no one to share his creation with except the dog, which expresses one of the key themes of the show: the sacrifices that an artist makes.
Into the Woods - After Sunday in the Park With George, Sondheim and librettist/director James Lapine were looking for a quick way to make some money. They briefly toyed with the idea of creating a musical that was based on a TV special, featuring such iconic TV characters as Ralph Kramden, Lucy Ricardo, and Mary Richards. They even contacted TV producer Norman Lear to see if he might be interested in collaborating. But they eventually decided to focus on fairy tale characters instead.
General notes - Sondheim also talked about various productions that he's heard of in which people change certain aspects of his shows, including an all-male version of Company, another in which Bobby shot himself at the end, and a version of Merrily We Roll Along that did the show "backwards" (i.e. "forwards"). - Sondheim is currently working on a two-volume, annotated edition of all of his lyrics throughout his career. The books will include historical background and essays about each show. The first volume, titled Finishing the Hat, appropriately enough, is scheduled to come out in late 2010 with second to follow in 2011.
A number of things have been making me cranky lately. Not sure if it's just my mood, or if these items are genuinely annoying. So, rather than addressing each item separately, I figured I'd just get them all out of the way in one peevish post.
Bye Bye Birdie - The New York Daily News reports that the star of the upcoming Broadway revival of Bye Bye Birdie, Gina Gershon, won't be performing the show's iconic Shriner's Ballet. The article quotes Gershon as saying the dance was cut because it was too "gang rape-y." As other commentators have pointed out, that's never seemed to be a problem before, despite being Tams-Witmark's number-one show for decades. The more likely explanation: Gershon can't handle the dance. If they're so concerned about modern sensibilities, will Gershon be performing the regressive and sexist "An English Teacher"? Will the chorus girls still be fawning and fainting to the salacious sight of Conrad Birdie's gyrating hips? The show is a period piece. If you don't like the period, don't do the piece. Peeve Factor:7 out of 10. If you want to see a real pro in action, click here to watch Chita Rivera perform the Shriner's Ballet.
West Side Story - According to the New York Times, the current smash-hit Broadway revival of West Side Story has changed back much of the show's much-touted Spanish to the original English lyrics and text. As you may know, director Arthur Laurents brought in Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) to translate huge chunks of the show into Spanish. The article quotes Laurents as saying the Spanish was "an experiment." Yeah, a failed experiment. As I've written about in my reviews of the show itself and of the CD, I wasn't a fan of the Spanish text. I found it alienating and thought it robbed two terrific songs ("I Feel Pretty" and "A Boy Like That/I Have a Love") of their humor, pathos, and drama. But I also thought that Miranda's lyrics didn't match the quality of Sondheim's original work. Peeve Factor:5 out of 10, mitigated by the fact that they've, for the most part, reverted to the infinitely preferable original words.
"Nine" - The more I hear about Rob Marshall's forthcoming film version of Nine, the less excited I become. First, the delectable Javier Bardem dropped out, replaced by the talented but IMHO considerably less sexy Daniel Day Lewis. Now, according to Playbill, Maury Yeston has provided three new songs for the movie: "Guarda la Luna," "Cinema Italiano," and "Take it All." Which is fine, but to make room, they're cutting at least five of the original songs: "Simple," "Be On Your Own," "Grand Canal," "Nine," "The Bells of St. Sebastian's." Boo and grrr. (For a detailed discussion of the cut and added songs, check out a post by my friend Kevin at Theatre Aficionado at Large.) Peeve Factor: 9 out of 10. Pun intended. I'm not a knee-jerk purist, but the movie is going to need to be pretty spectacular to make up for the butchering of the score. Of course, the "Sweeney Todd" film involved a tremendous amount of cutting as well, and I raved about that movie in my review. So, the jury's still out, despite my current annoyance.
Ragtime - The press folk for the upcoming Broadway revival of Ragtime have recently been touting the new visual identity for the production. (See left) Apparently, it's the work of some famous Italian illustrator. Whatever, it's washed-out, flat, and unmemorable. Plus, the physical arrangement seems borrowed from the logo to The Secret Garden. Of course, I was also nonplussed by the logos for Hair and A Catered Affair, and impressed by that of Cry-Baby. So there's no necessary connection between the quality of an individual show and that of its marketing materials. Peeve Factor: 2 out of 10. Like many of you, I'm simply thrilled that Ragtime is getting another chance on Broadway. During its original run, it was overshadowed by The Lion King and hampered by irresponsible -- and now felonious -- producing.
A few weeks back, I wrote a rather dismissive post about the one-night-only 20th anniversary cinecast of Forever Plaid, which took place last night. I expressed skepticism as to whether this was the show that the movie-going public was really crying out to see. In response, the folks at NCM Fathom contacted me, inviting me to see the show and judge for myself.
Well, I went. And there were 17 people in the theater, including me and three friends, who had received comps. And this is in Boston, which is about as receptive a locale as any for a show such as this. I get the feeling that there were a lot of empty or near-empty theaters among the 500 or so that were part of the simulcast.
I had never seen Forever Plaid before; it just never really caught my interest. And now that I've seen the show, it still doesn't. On paper, the premise is promising: a four-part close-harmony men's group dies in a car crash, run off the road by a bus filled with Catholic school girls. But for some inscrutable reason, they're granted passage back to earth for one final performance, I guess to earn their place in heaven or some such reason. It really wasn't clear, and I'm frankly not moved to do any research to find out.
Overall, I found the show, created and directed by one Stuart Ross, to be a yawn-fest, repetitious beyond the limits of my patience. I guess I'm just not a fan of this category of song (e.g. "Three Coins in the Fountain," "Love is a Many Splendored Thing," "Matilda," "Rags to Riches" etc.) Perhaps if I were, I would have been more engaged. I was momentarily entertained during the sequence during which the Plaids pay tribute to "The Ed Sullivan Show," which contained some very fun moments, props, and performances. Original Plaid cast members Stan Chandler (Jinx) and David Engel (Smudge) were on hand, joined by Larry Raben (Sparky) and Daniel Reicherd (Frankie). A very talented foursome to be sure, but I found myself wishing I were seeing them in a show that gave them a chance to show what they can really do.
The cinecast included a pre-taped performance of the show,
which again I found mostly dull, followed by a live segment featuring the cast members, with special guest star Carol Channing. During the after-show, the Plaids performed some doo-wop versions of "Memory" and "The Ballad of Sweeney Todd" that I actually found quite enjoyable. Then, my beloved Carol came onstage and sang "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," and even at the advanced age of 88, my girl Carol was an absolute delight. If they release the Forever Plaid movie on DVD, I'm hoping that they'll
include the after-concert in the DVD extras. Because, although I can't
imagine being in any hurry to watch Forver Plaid again, I would like to get another viewing of the doo-wop showtunes and Carol's star turn.
So, the night was not a total loss. Plus, I got to meet and spend time
with my fellow bloggers Scot and Michael Colford (see their respective
takes on Forbidden Plaidhere and here) as well as my BGMC buddy Victor R-R-R-R-R-Ramos. But it makes me wonder what I'm going to think of The Marvelous Wonderettes when I see it next week, which strikes me as pretty darned similar to Forever Plaid. Oh well. It's all a part of my journey to offer as full a chronicle as possible of modern musical theater. The things I do for you, dear reader.
Last year, we saw the first "cinecast" of a Broadway musical. The final performances of Rent were filmed and subsequently broadcast to movie theaters in September. The film was later released on DVD, and those of us who were deeply disappointed in the 2005 film version of Rent were thrilled to have this vastly superior version (read my review) to replace Chris Columbus's torpid document of this landmark show.
However, the cinecasts of Rent didn't do well in some geographic markets -- although the showing I saw in Boston was packed -- so there was a question as to whether other shows would receive the cinecast treatment.
But it looks as though the theatrical cinecast is still alive, at least for now. On July 9th, NCM Fathom will present a one-night-only 20th anniversary showing of Forever Plaid. The event will apparently include a pre-taped performance of the show, a live segment featuring original cast members, as well as a follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along.
Um, really? Forever Plaid? That's the show that the movie-going public is crying out to see?
As you may know, Forever Plaid ran Off Broadway over four years in the early '90s, amassing a total of 1,811 performances. It's the story of a close-harmony men's singing group that dies in a car crash only to come back from the great beyond for one final shot at glory. The show doesn't have an original score, but instead features such song standards as "Three Coins in the Fountain" and "Love is a Many Splendored Thing." Since its Off Broadway run, Forever Plaid has become a regional and community-theater staple, and has been performed all over the world.
Which is one of the reasons that I'm skeptical as to the economic prospects of the cinecast event. Rent was an event. Sure, the show had toured extensively, but this was a chance to see the final performance of an important and popular show. I just don't see enough people getting excited enough about Forever Plaid to make it economically viable, but perhaps the producers know something that I don't about the show's appeal. I'll certainly see it, and buy the video should it come out on DVD. But I'm a musical-theater fanatic. In order to succeed, this event is going to have to appeal to a broader audience, and I'm sorry but I just don't see that happening.
UPDATE: The producers of the Forever Plaid event contacted me hoping to change my mind about the cinecast. I told the woman I spoke with that I was certainly open to the possibility that the show might actually be a fun time, but that I remained skeptical as to its economic prospects. She said I might be surprised at how many Plaid heads there are out there. Yes, that would certainly surprise me. But she promised to send me some press passes so that I could decide for myself. Hey, I'm an open-minded guy, and I have certainly changed my mind, or at least revised my views, on a number of shows that I've reviewed. Billy Elliot, Next to Normal, and In the Heightscome to mind. But will the same happen for Forever Plaid? The cinecast takes place July 9th. Watch this space shortly thereafter to see if it will.
That collective sigh you heard earlier today was the reaction of thousands of theater queens worldwide (this one included) reacting to the news that Jake Gyllenhaal is set to star as Joe Hardy in a new movie version of Damn Yankees.
I think it's safe to say at this point that the movie musical genre is officially mainstream again. This has been years in the making, of course, but it's interesting to note that it's no longer news in itself that Hollywood is making musicals. We're back to talking about the individual projects rather than the resurrection of the genre. Of course, that's great, but I think we all know that it's only going to last as long as the projects continue to make money.
On a related note, Rob Marshall's film version of "Nine" will reportedly hit theaters in November. Now, I'm as excited as the next TQ about this movie. (Although I would have been a lot more excited if Javier Bardem had stuck with the project.) And the cast is certainly chockablock with familiar, Oscar-winning faces (Daniel Day Lewis, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Sophia Loren). But is anyone else out there as skeptical as I am about "Nine" and its mainstream appeal? Please don't get me wrong: I *love* this musical. But I have a really hard time conceptualizing its potential audience.
I never got around to seeing the movie "Hamlet 2" in its theatrical release, but I did finally watch it over the weekend on DVD. I'm glad I wasn't in any rush: it isn't very good.
On paper, "Hamlet 2" is exactly the sort of movie that should appeal to me: a snarky take on high school theatrics, with an over-the-top finale lampooning the likes of "High School Musical" and its multimedia offspring. The material is ripe with parodic possibility, but the filmmakers have squandered the opportunities therein.
In the hands of director Andrew Fleming (the man who gave us "Dick" and "The Craft"), "Hamlet 2" is about as dramatically cohesive as your typical John Waters movie. In other words, not at all. I was reminded in particular of "Pecker," in which Waters shows how the wrong director can make even the most talented actors (including the wonderful Lili Taylor and Martha Plimpton) appear awkward and forced. Fleming achieves a similar feat with the prodigiously talented Catherine Keener, and with the sometimes amusing David Arquette, who's wasted here in a one-joke role for which the joke isn't very funny.
Whatever reason may exist to watch this film lies in the skill of its central performer, Steve Coogan ("I'm Alan Partridge," "Night at the Museum"), a comedian of protean abilities who does what he can to give the limp material some bite, and sometimes succeeds. "Saturday Night Live" alumna Amy Poehler provides a few chuckles in her abbreviated screen time, but overall "Hamlet 2" seems to think that it's a hell of a lot more funny than it really is. The movie fashions itself a cheeky little indie flick with a hip, ironic take on modern society, but it comes off more like the similarly disappointing and disjointed "Wet Hot American Summer": sporadically funny, but overall awkward, sometimes painful to watch.
Again, all is not entirely dire on Broadway. The producers of the Tony-Award-winning musical In the Heights have announced that the show has recouped its initial $10 million investment after 10 months and 337 performances. That's actually relatively fast, especially since the show has often played to not-quite-capacity crowds. By comparison, Jersey Boys recouped in around 8 months, Wicked in about 7 months, and Spamalot in a little over a year.
I certainly don't begrudge In the Heights its success. Although I really didn't care for the show when I saw it Off-Broadway (read my review), I warmed up to it considerably when I saw the Broadway version (read my re-review). The show is energetic and heartfelt, if a tad cliché, and there's lots of genuine talent on stage and behind the scenes.
It will be interesting to see what happens to In the Heights now, after the holiday season. So many other musicals have been closing left and right, both former hits and shows that never quite gained their economic footing. It seems that only the guaranteed bullet-proof hits are going to make it through the winter, and In the Heights, while now profitable, hasn't quite achieved bullet-proof status. The show's attendance averaged about 84% in 2008, and its grosses hovered at around $750,000, occasionally tipping above the million mark. In any other year, those stats would indicate a show with some legs. But will Broadway in its current economic state be able to accommodate anything other than the mega-musicals and the limited-run, star-driven plays?
Well, Broadway shows may be closing left and right, but at least we have some movie versions to look forward to. Or dread, as the case may be.
Based, no doubt, on the phenomenal international success of "Mamma Mia," Universal Studios and producer Marc Platt have announced prospective plans to bring Wicked to the silver screen. There have also been rumors floating around of film versions of both In the Heights and Spring Awakening. Apparently no less a personage than Jennifer Lopez (or, as Eric Cartman would say, "HAY-nee-fer LOH-pay") is interested in In the Heights. (Will she want to actually appear in the movie? If so, will she play the sexy Vanessa? The brassy, sassy Daniela? Perhaps a youthful Abuela Claudia?)
Those movies all make a certain amount of sense. Wicked is a ginormous international phenomenon, so a movie was more or less inevitable, and while In the Heights and Spring Awakening aren't quite in the same league, at least financially, they both represent opportunities to attract younger audiences with scores that are a little more in a modern idiom than those of most movie musicals past.
And then there's Rock of Ages, the modest, fun, and surprisingly sweet tuner that's currently playing Off Broadway. (Read my review.) The movie will be produced by New Line Cinema, which is also developing a sequel to its megahit film version of "Hairspray." Apparently, Rock of Ages librettist, one Chris D'Arienzo, will not only pen the screenplay but also direct the film.
Although a film version of Rock of Ages probably won't have the same branded name-recognition as the aforementioned shows, it comes with a sort of built-in fan base for the its songs, which include hits from such 1980s icons as Loverboy, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, and Journey. No word yet on whether star Constantine Maroulis will make the jump to the silver screen, although since he was involved in putting the show together, there's a least a distinct possibility.
BTW, speaking of "Mamma Mia," based on my scathing review of same, a number of people have commented to me that the movie has brought in more than a half a billion dollars, so I guess that means that I must be wrong or something. Um...since when have box office receipts had ANYthing to do with the inherent quality of a film? I'm not saying that my view is the last word on the subject. I'm just saying that I hated, Hated, HATED that movie. The critical response to "Mamma Mia" was admittedly mixed, but I'm certainly not the only reviewer to find the movie execrable. Feel free to buy the upcoming DVD release, take it home, make it your own...heck, marry the damn thing if you like. Just don't expect me to follow suit. I'm just hoping Rob Marshall's upcoming move version of "Nine" can help restore my faith in the genre.
If you were, like me, deeply disappointed in the 2005 movie version of "Rent," then you'll be very happy to learn that the new filmed version, called "Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway," is infinitely better. It has its quirks and flaws, but on the whole, it's a thrilling document of a landmark show.
The film starts off a bit creaky, with the actors playing a bit too much to the cameras. Or perhaps that was just a sign of my need to get used to what is in fact a new medium: a "live" film of a Broadway musical being shown in a local movie theater. But, to me, it seemed that people were breaking character at first, as if to say, "Isn't it cool we're filming this!", and exhibiting an annoying "Yeah, man!" enthusiasm when they're singing songs about how miserable their lives are. For the most part, the
filming didn't call attention to itself, allowing the
power of the show to speak for itself.
But once the power of the piece kicked in, I was reminded of what a terrific show Rent is: the setting, the emotions, the relationships, the subtext. It's a rich and complexly executed show, performed with admirable restraint by the mostly strong final Broadway cast. I haven't seen the show in a few years, and as I sat watching the film, I was reminded that certain parts of Rent are incredibly well written, including the "I Should Tell You" duet during the "La Vie Boheme" sequence. There's also some stuff that's hackneyed and lame, including "Happy New Year" and the almost unbearable scene after the funeral. ("You have to learn to love yourself," and all that crap. Yeesh.)
But the dynamic final cast somehow made even the lamest of lines work. In fact, some of them were even better than their original-cast counterparts. Particularly good were Will Chase (Roger), Adam Kantor (Mark), Renée Elise Goldsberry (Mimi), and Justin Johnston (Angel). Chase brought more vocal and dramatic modulation to the part than Adam Pascal, and Johnston found much more humor in the role of Angel than I recall from Tony winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia.
I must begrudgingly admit that Eden Espinosa as Maureen was surprisingly effective. I've never been a fan of her particular brand of vocal histrionics, but she kept her excesses in check, and made for a effective foil to Tracie Thoms' likewise serviceable Joanne. Michael McElroy as Collins may have fallen victim to my heightened expectations. The second act reprise of "I'll Cover You" is one of the most moving moments in musical-theater history, but McElroy's rendition didn't really do it for me. Even so, I still found myself blubbering through most of the second act, overwhelmed by the sheer power of the story, the performers, and Jonathan Larson's kick-ass score.
"Rent: Filmed Live on Broadway" plays this Saturday and Sunday, September 27th and 28th, literally at a theater near you. No word yet on whether there are plans to release the film on DVD. But I'm sincerely hoping that they do.
OK, so you weren't able to get down to New York to see the final performance of Rent. That doesn't mean you need to be left out in the cold.
As you may know, Sony Pictures filmed a number of recent performances of the show, and compiled them together for theatrical release. The film will play movie theaters nationwide on September 24th, 25th, 27th, and 28th under the auspices of Sony's The Hot Ticket.
Tickets are $20, which isn't bad, considering a regular movie these days is $10, and Broadway shows average about $75 with discounts, about $100 without. Plus, you get to see the terrific Will Chase play Roger and the loud Eden Espinosa play Maureen. Of course, the show is slated to launch another national tour in 2009 with original stars Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp at the helm, so you could just wait to see it live. But something tells me there's going to be something special about the energy of the final Broadway cast. And we could certainly use something to erase the painful memory of Chris Columbus's flaccid 2005 movie.
Flawed though it may be, Rent is a landmark show, and one that had a tremendous impact on me, as well as many other people. I, for one, am thrilled at the prospect of being able to see the show again "live," and I hope this sort of thing catches on, so more people can get to see Broadway productions in far-flung areas and at affordable prices.
The producers of the "Mamma Mia" movie have announced that they will be releasing a "sing-along" edition of the film into select theaters nationally on August 29th. The new version will feature the lyrics to each of the songs on the screen, encouraging audience members to join in singing their favorite ABBA ditties.
It's really a brilliant marketing idea, designed no doubt to enhance revenue by getting people to see the movie a second time. Because the primary attraction of the movie, as well as the hit stage version, has always been the insidiously tuneful and catchy ABBA songs.
I almost titled this post "Follow the Bouncing Bomb," but apparently the movie is anything but a bomb. So far, "Mamma Mia" has grossed about $116 million in the U.S., and about $321 million worldwide. (That's still a far cry from the stage version's $2-billion worldwide gross, but just wait for the DVD release.) The film cost a reported $56 million to make, so depending on the notoriously funky Hollywood accounting, this certainly could qualify as a hit.
But that doesn't mean that the movie is any good. I got flamed a bit when I posted my extremely negative review of the movie. People said I should lighten up, that it's just meant to be fluffy fun. I would remind these people that there's a difference between intent and execution. Sure, the movie is meant to be light and humorous, but even fluff needs to be well crafted, which "Mamma Mia" isn't. In their zest for the ABBA songs and the admittedly stellar cast, people seem to be ignoring whether the movie is well
made, whether the story makes any sense, or whether the performances
are any good. Because, IMHO, it isn't, it doesn't, and they aren't.
So I shan't be seeing the sing-along "Mamma Mia," but I may decide to take in the Broadway version of Mamma Mia on one of my upcoming NYC jaunts. In fact, I may see it the same weekend I'm seeing Shrek. The reason: the Broadway Theater and the Winter Garden are the only remaining Broadway houses that I've never been in, and seeing both Shrek and Mamma Mia on the same weekend would make it a sort of milestone for me. (I saw Mamma Mia on tour in Boston.) Or I could just wait until Mamma Mia closes, but who knows what horror might take its place. Yeah, I'm probably better off just biting the bullet and getting a discount ticket to Mamma Mia. Somehow this crap seems to work better on stage than on screen.
As previously reported, the final performance of the Broadway musical Rent, which will take place on September 7th, will be filmed for limited showings in movie theaters around the country. The taping will capture the performances of the show's final cast, which features Will Chase as Roger and Eden Espinoza as Maureen. According to Playbill.com, the "cinecasts" of the show will take place on the evenings of September 24th and 25th and the afternoons of September 27th and 28th.
This effort is part of a new business venture that Sony Pictures
has launched called The Hot Ticket, which will reportedly include similar cinecasts of popular music concerts, the performing arts, and sporting events, all with high-definition digital projection. No specific locations for the Rent event have been announced but those interested can visits www.thehotticket.net and sign up for "ticket notifications."
In other Rent news, two of the show's increasingly long-in-the-tooth original stars, Anthony Rapp (37) and Adam Pascal (38), will take part in a national tour of the show that launches in January 2009. Rapp and Pascal played a similar gig in the Broadway production last summer, to moderately strong box-office. Hey, if our own Carol Channing could play Dolly Levi at the age of 73, why can't these guys wring every last bit of glory out of the roles of their careers?
So many announcements about movie musicals have been coming over the last few days, I can hardly keep up with them. First comes news of a proposed sequel to the movie "Hairspray." John Waters, who wrote and directed the original "Hairspray" movie upon which the stage and film musicals are based, will write the screenplay, which will reunite Adam Shankman, who directed and choreographed the film musical, with composer Marc Shaiman and lyricist Scott Wittman.
What more can possibly be said about Tracy Turnblad and her motley crew? Well, the movie has made $200 million worldwide, so artistic concerns are doubtless secondary to the prospect of establishing a movie franchise, a la "High School Musical." Perhaps if the movie's a hit, we'll see a stage version, then a movie version of the new stage version, and the whole enterprise will become ever more attenuated and derivative, and collapse in upon itself like a black hole or a Rene Magritte painting.
In other movie news, producer Lou Adler recently announced that he's teaming up with MTV to produce a new TV movie version of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." I've never really understood the impetus behind remakes. If something worked the first time, why set yourself up for the inevitable unflattering comparison? Has there ever been a remake that surpassed the original, artistically or financially? Perhaps the 1936 film version of "Show Boat," although I've never seen the 1929 version. And the 1993 "Gypsy" was a considerable improvement over the lamentable Rosalind Russell film.
The new "Rocky" movie will reportedly feature Richard O'Brien and Jim Sharman's original screenplay, but may feature some new or added musical material. Here's my problem with that: the charm of the original arises not from the quality of the piece itself, but from the outsize performances and shock value contained therein. The movie has become a cult favorite not because it's good but rather because it's so easy to make fun of. Color me extremely skeptical.
And finally, in a film-musical development that I'm actually encouraged about, Academy Award winner Emma Thompson has reportedly signed on to pen the screenplay for the upcoming film remake of My Fair Lady. Thompson won an Oscar for her masterful screenplay to "Sense and Sensibility," and also wrote the incisive teleplay for the HBO film version of "Wit." Sure, she's never written a musical before, but how many living screenwriters have? Somehow I have a bit more confidence in this project, partly because it's starting out with much better material. I guess that makes me a bit more receptive to the prospect of a remake, although it's hard to imagine anything topping the 1964 original.
A while back, I got an invite to a screening of the upcoming movie "Hamlet 2." The screening was in New York, and I wasn't going to be in the city at that time, so I didn't pay much attention to it.
Then earlier today I was watching something on IFC and there was a trailer for "Hamlet 2." It was one of those "red-band" coming attractions, the ones meant for restricted audiences, so there were like swear words and stuff. The trailer certainly made me laugh, and more than once, so this might
be a movie to look out for. Or it could also be one of those
self-consciously wacky movies that thinks it's so funny that it winds
up being not funny at all.
IMDB describes "Hamlet 2" as the story of a failed actor, turned worse high school drama teacher, who, faced with the cancellation of the school's drama program, rallies
his students to the cause as he conceives and stages a politically
incorrect musical sequel to Shakespeare's Hamlet.
As Catherine Keener says in the trailer, "Doesn't everybody die at the end of the first one?"