I saw Shrek yesterday afternoon. We're gonna start with the positive. First off, I have to say that the audience was much better behaved than I thought they would be. The sets are marvelous. The lyrics surpassed my expectations. A weak book is one of the most common problems with musicals (IntheHeightsIntheHeightsIntheHeights), but this one was surprisingly solid. Wonderful performances from Sutton Foster and Christopher Sieber, passable performances from the rest. Unfortunately, that's about all I can say in this show's favor. Before the show opened, there was a massive debate about the score. Most people were worried it would suck. Confession: I was among them. I have to say, though: For the most part, Jeanine Tesori proved me wrong. I'm not really familiar with her work, but after yesterday I may explore it a little more. The score is not perfect. By no stretch of the imagination will it be considered one of Broadway's lost gems. Some of the songs do sound the same, but there are a couple standouts, namely Morning Person, I Know It's Today, and Story of My Life. But make no mistake, folks: This is a kid's show. It's a tourist trap, a big, bright, beautiful corporate musical that has little to no artistic value. That said, its biggest problem is most definitely wasted talent. Sutton Foster (and I'm not just saying this because I'm a fan) is obscenely under-used. She's barely in the first act, and her only time to really shine is during the second act opener. Brian d'Arcy James is not awful as Shrek. I would have enjoyed his performance more had I not known that he can do so much better. I felt like there was some chemistry between the two of them, but we never really got a chance to see it. Tesori missed out big-time by not writing an act-two ballad for Shrek and Fiona. Instead, there is a cringe-worthy burping and farting contest. Everyone else in the audience was practically rolling in the aisles, but trust me: It's not funny. It's just cheap laughs. Also wasting their talent are Haven Burton as Gingy/The Sugarplum Fairy and John Tartaglia as Pinocchio and the voice of the magic mirror. Haven Burton has literally one line, and she says it in some kind of haggard Russian ballet teacher accent. John Tartaglia steals some scenes as Pinocchio, but he still can do much better. Bonus: Tossed into the show are some references to other Broadway musicals. Very few people got them, but I counted Gypsy, A Chorus Line, Wicked, Rent, and The Lion King. It hurt my heart that I was one of two people who laughed at the "Momma's in the mud/Momma's in distress" line. It hurt even worse since the other person that laughed was my mother. By curtain call, it was painfully obvious that the theatre was basically filled with the entire population of Nebraska. I am stingy with my standing ovations, but I stood for Sutton Foster, as did four other people. I counted. I felt like Joanne in Company, standing there screaming, "EVERYBODY RIIIIIIIIIIISE! RISE! RISE! RISE!" Come on, people. That is Sutton Foster. That is originated five roles in four years Sutton Foster. You stand for that, damn it.
That's all I have to say about that. I give it 6/10. Go see it if you get the chance, but don't go rushing out to get tickets.
Now on to another pressing issue: Valentine's Day. I was never really a big fan of this holiday. I tend to take the whole holiday with a grain of salt. As we all know by now, everything in life can be solved by quoting August: Osage County. Let me now reach for my libretto and find a suitable line or two. Aha, here we go! Act three, scene five. Barbara to Ivy: "F*ck love, what a crock. People can convince themselves they love a painted rock." It should probably be taken into account that at this point in the play, Barbara's father has killed himself, her mother is brain damaged from her addiction to pills, and her husband has left her for one of his students. She's also choked her mother, slapped her daughter, and attacked the man who tried to molest her daughter. To top it all off, her youngest sister is going to marry the would-be child molester, and her middle sister is moving to New York with the man who she thinks is her cousin but is actually her half-brother. God, I love this play.
But I'm digressing. Last year, the cast of Spring Awakening did a series of four videos in which they discussed love and Valentine's Day. These videos are so wonderfully uncomfortable, and I love them tremendously. Find them here: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=&search_query=Spring+Awakening+love+on+broadway&aq=-1&oq=Spring+Awakening+love+on+broadwa
In honor of Valentine's Day, I have been revisiting all my favorite shows that have romantic plotlines. I am only now realizing that most of them have bad endings. Let's have a look, shall we?
1. Wendla and Melchior of Spring Awakening - pregnancy, botched abortion, death
2. Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett of Sweeney Todd - burned alive in a furnace, throat slit by ten-year-old
3. Rose and Herbie of Gypsy - dramatic walkout that scared one of the little girls in my row to tears, nervous breakdown
4. Sally and Cliff of Cabaret - pregnancy, nervous breakdown, abortion, breakup, dramatic walkout, Nazi takeover
5. Tony and Maria of West Side Story - Do I really need to tell you how this one ends?
6. Joe and Edie of Grey Gardens - sabotaged by meddling mother, acquisition of a horrible Long Island accent
7. Susan and Peter of Company - divorce
8. Sarah and Harry of Company - karate match
9. Bobby and Cathy of Company - marriage of one party
10. Joanne and Larry of Company - drunken rant, possible breakdown
11. Mattie Fae and Charlie of August: Osage County - revelation of secret
12. Bill and Barbara of August: Osage County - divorce
13. Ivy and Charles of August: Osage County - revelation of secret
14. Bev and Violet of August: Osage County - disappearance of one party
15. Karen and Steve of August: Osage County - criminal behavior of one party, severe, psychotic denial of the other
Okay, so I got a little carried away there. I just love making lists. I think I need to find some happier shows.