CASTALBUMS.ORG: REVIEW: Hello Again – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

Hello AgainWhen RCA released the cast album of Lincoln Center’s production of Hello Again in 1994, they introduced a bold new voice of the American musical theatre to the world: Michael John LaChiusa. While savvy New Yorkers had already encountered his complex, challenging work in First Lady Suite, that score had gone unrecorded at the time. I remember not quite knowing what to make of the score; I was a teenager who had little to no experience with the subject matter, but I could tell this was the first composer to make a case that the post-Sondheim generation could keep pushing the form in the ways he had without becoming pale imitations of the master. Continue reading

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CASTALBUMS.ORG: REVIEW: State Fair – Original 1962 Film Soundtrack

Originally Published on CastAlbums.org.

State FairFor years, the 1962 remake of State Fair was considered the worst film in the Rodgers & Hammerstein canon, and were it not for the 1998 animated atrocity committed upon The King and I, it might still hold the title. Yet despite its many shortcomings, chiefly that it’s slow and bloated, it produced an enjoyable soundtrack notable not only for performances by Ann-Margret, Bobby Darin, Alice Faye, and Pat Boone, but also for the couple of new songs Rodgers (post-Hammerstein) added to the score. Now, Stage Door Records has given the original soundtrack album its first CD issue as part of their limited edition Collector’s Series, so Rodgers & Hammerstein devotees should act quickly before the edition sells out.  Continue reading

Billboard: ‘Grease: Live!’ Freshens a Favorite With Mix of Old and New

Originally published in Billboard.

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Kether Donohue, Julianne Hough, Carly Rae Jepsen and Elle McLemore during the dress rehearsal for “Grease: Live!” airing live on Jan. 31, 2016 on FOX. MICHAEL BECKER/FOX

 

Fox made a bold step into the live television musical arena tonight with Grease: Live!, a technically ambitious production that upped the ante set by NBC’s recent shows by adding multiple soundstages, exterior shots, and a live audience.

Unlike NBC productions including The WizGrease: Live! was based primarily on the 1978 film version of Grease, with story structure, sets, and even a significant portion of the script coming from Bronte Woodard’s screenplay (based on Allan Carr’s adaptation) rather than Jim Jacobs & Warren Casey’s script to the 1972 Broadway musical on which it was based.   Continue reading

Keshet: Hineini: 10 Years of Coming Out in Jewish Spaces

Originally published on Keshet’s blog on MyJewishLearning.com.

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A dozen or so years ago, I was working as an educator at a large Conservative synagogue in the suburbs of Boston. Gay marriage was on the verge of legalization – and therefore on the front page of the newspaper every day.

The Conservative movement had not yet revised its decades-old opinions of sexuality, which could be summed up as, “We don’t hate you, but we’re going to leave it up to individual synagogues as to whether we treat you like members or allow you to do anything.” And despite being one of two openly gay educators at this synagogue, I found myself inching back into the closet at work due to an environment that made it clear that while it might be okay to be gay on my own time, no one wanted to hear about it on the clock.  Continue reading

Jewschool.com: Oriented: New Documentary about Gay Palestinians in Tel Aviv

Originally published on Jewschool.


“[Other Palestinian activists] tend to deal with the national issue rather than the social one. They focus on the national and put all other identities aside. But we have a lot of complex identities. There are a lot of issues that people are afraid to confront, and this is our opportunity to play with these identities.” – Fadi Deem

Oriented, a new documentary by Jake Witzenfeld, follows a group of gay Palestinian men as they fall in and out of love, come out to their families, and form an activist collective called Qambuta. Witzenfeld, a British, straight, Jewish resident of Israel, first introduces us to Khader Abu Seif, a handsome and charismatic activist speaking to a group of Jews at Tel Aviv’s LGBT Center. He relates a story of being contacted by a journalist looking for a tragic gay Palestinian who can share the tale of his persecution and woe. Khader explains that he’s actually very happy, well-adjusted, and accepted. Well then, the reporter asks him, can you put me in touch with such a Palestinian? Continue reading

Medium: Blood, Sex, and Tears – The Queer Theater of Little Shop of Horrors

Originally published on Medium.

I found myself with an unexpected case of “the feels” last night at Little Shop of Horrors at Encores! Off-Center, so I sat down to word-vomit a bit on Tumblr to see if I could make some sense of the show. I received an enthusiastic response, so I thought I would clean my words up a bit and share them here.

Ellen Green and Jake Gyllenhaal in Little Shop of Horrors. Photo: Joan Marcus

Ellen Greene and Jake Gyllenhaal in Little Shop of Horrors. Photo: Joan Marcus

Little Shop feels like a show I’ve known my entire life, but I know that’s not true, because I remember that my first encounter with the show, which like most people my age and younger, was an encounter with the movie. The film premiered in December of 1986, when I was almost nine years old. I loved monster movies but was scared of horror movies, so I think I skipped this one in the cinema until someone could assure me it wasn’t gory. I know my older brother had seen the stage production and loved it — although that might have been later. Memory is funny. I remember him telling me about the end, where vines from the plant descended from the rafters over the entire audience, and I was enrapt with the magic of theater, even though it was only theater of my imagination. Continue reading

CastAlbums.org: REVIEW: Life of an Actress: The Musical – Soundtrack

Originally published on CastAlbums.org.

lifeofanactressIt’s always a little suspicious when a film’s soundtrack gets a wider release or more notice than the film itself. Suffice it to say, I had never heard of the 2014 film Life of an Actress when I received my review copy of the soundtrack. Normally, between that the even more glaring red flag of a film that was written, composed, directed, and produced by the same person — Paul Chau, a former banker whose only previous artistic credits of note were a previous documentary film of the same name and producer billing on a couple of revivals — I wouldn’t even bother. But with a cast including Orfeh, Taylor Louderman, and Allison Case, I figured it was worth giving the album the benefit of the doubt.

How much you’ll enjoy this soundtrack depends entirely on how much you’re able to let some great performances carry you past other shortcomings: pleasant but undistinguished music set with leaden lyrics (sample: “I want to be an accountant / that’s my dream / the first in my family / with a college degree”), and a four piece, synthesizer-heavy band that would sound cheap in a tiny off-Broadway setting. (The band is particularly egregious given how far forward in the mix it is, with its single violin often overpowering the singers.)

Maybe this is the kind of album that coheres a bit more once you’ve seen the film, but I can find no trace of it existing beyond single screenings in New York and Los Angeles last year. The project’s website speaks of an in-development stage version, and you’ve got to admire Paul Chau’s pluck, if not his talent.