And it's fantastic. By Gregory Jacobs-Roseman (Composer-Lyricist)
I debated about whether or not to write this post a lot. I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging, nor do I want to spoil anything for the rest of you. However, Crazytown is a blog mainly for theatre types, and I haven’t been able to get this out of my head all week, so I figured there was no way around it.
Waiting for the screening to start.
Last Saturday my friend and fellow writer Michael DiGaetano invited me to a screening of the Into The Woods film, followed by a live talkback with Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Tracey Ullman, Christine Baranski, James Lapine, and Rob Marshall at the Directors Guild Theater.
I won’t spoil the film for you with every little detail. I know that many of you are very much anticipating the film as the ultimate Christmas present when it is released on December 25th. What I will do is discuss the film in a general sense – and highlight some of my reactions from the evening itself.
First and probably most importantly: everybody calm down. The film is an honest and faithful adaptation of the stage show.
Into The Woods is probably one of the most cherished and beloved musicals in the canon amongst theatre people – mostly because of the PBS video of the show and the fact that many of us have been involved in a production either in high school or early on in our theatre experience. Obviously translating the show into a film was going to require changes – and that very fact put everyone I know on edge. The dustup over the summer caused by Sondheim himself mentioning some changes and then retracting that statement exacerbated everyone’s fears. I can now tell you first-hand that the film is extremely close to the stage show. A few numbers are cut or truncated/altered. Some characters have vanished. One character who dies in the show survives in the film (Spoiler: it’s Rapunzel, but you already knew that). Some scenes are shuffled around. But other than these alterations (guys, in its full form Into The Woods is a loooooooong show – some stuff needed to go just for runtime’s sake – if you’re curious what songs are cut or altered I’ve included a list below, but again, spoilers) it is a first-rate adaptation and retains the dark tone of the original.
Second: the cast is phenomenal and they all can sing beautifully.
People have been worried that some of the cast who are not particularly known as singers would be sub-par. I can attest that they all are fantastic; especially on this Sondheim score – Sondheim has always said he prefers actors who sing rather than singers who act. And sing they do – matching the talents of veteran singers like Christine Baranski and Anna Kendrick.
Some prompts are harder than others. By S. Dylan Zwickel (Lyricist/Librettist)
We get some pretty interesting prompts in musical theatre writing grad school. Nothing surprising about that. But this week the prompt for my playwriting class included a line that caught me off guard: “Write something you care about.”
This instruction bothered me for several reasons. First of all, shouldn’t we always be striving to write something we care about? It’s not like any of us is there for the fame or fortune. It’s musical theatre writing. We’ll be lucky if we ever make a cent. Commissions aside, should we be so lucky, what reason could we POSSIBLY have to write something other than caring about it?
That said, in a program like this, there are weeks when I have to write six songs and a short play. To come up with seven ideas a week is no problem. To come up with seven ideas I “care about”? Forget about it.
And you may rise above it all... By Erica Slutsky (Writer/Singer/Songwriter)
It’s a little hard to describe Striking 12 to anyone who hasn’t seen it, although it’s definitely not for everyone. The indie pop-soul-jazz band Groovelily cowrote Striking 12 with Rachel Sheinkin as a cross between a holiday musical and a Groovelily concert. The three members of the band play various characters in a fourth-wall-shattering, seriocomic narrative that combines The Little Match Girl, a Grumpy Guy in NYC on New Year’s Eve, the band’s relationships, screwed-up people making great art, and seasonal depression. There are moments of release, moments of broad comedy, big, showstopping Broadway songs, and quieter, more reserved numbers about life and death. The music varies from patter to instrumental jams to those badass harmonies and chord changes you hear in every Pharrell or Steely Dan song.
I'm at a loss for words. By Geoffrey Kidwell (actor)
I don't want to talk about the theatre.
I don't want to talk about being an actor.
I want to talk about Ferguson.
But my mind feels completely jumbled and I don't know where to begin.
So I'll just leave you with this quote from hip hop recording artist, Killer Mike (Michael Render).
"I can’t expect you to understand, but I expect you to empathize. If you were horrified by the way that people were handled in South Africa during apartheid, or you were horrified by Nazi stop and frisks that your grandparents told you about during the Holocaust, then you need to accept that these tactics are still being used for poor and especially black people right now. And if you aren’t advocating to end that and you aren’t working to push forward the plight to make all people of all kinds—all their human rights honored, then you’re doing a disservice. If you’re not fighting the machine on the behalf of everyone, then you’re allowing it. If you’re only protecting your own personal interest, you are feeding the hate machine. You’re feeding a war machine. If you hear the statistics that nonviolent drug offenses are getting people tremendously absurd amounts of time—but because they target minorities and don’t target you—if you don’t fight against that, you’re just as guilty as the courts that enforce these unfair laws."
AND NOW...THE WEEK IN WHITNEY HOUSTON!!!!!
With all that's going on in Ferguson - and let's face it, in the world - this song seems appropriate.
Step aside, Christmas specials - it's all about turkey day tv! By Annissa Omran (Writer/College Student)
For all those living in the U.S., today is Thanksgiving. The majority of you will be spending today catching up with friends, bickering with siblings, playing nice with distant relatives, slaving over stoves, and gorging yourselves on great food. You don't have a lot of time to be on the internet, even on a site as kickass as Crazytown, so I'm going to keep it short and sweet by throwing it back to some great videos that encapsulate the Thanksgiving experience.
There really is nothing better than the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I've always equated the parade to the Tony's - it gives kids across the country a chance to experience the magic of Broadway from the comfort of their own homes. This year we'll be graced by performances from A GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER, THE LAST SHIP, ON THE TOWN, SIDE SHOW, and FINDING NEVERLAND. In honor of those performances, let's take a trip down memory lane with
Exploring The Unknown By Andre Catrini (of The Circle Songbook)
As working artists, it is important that we learn what we do best and campaign to put those strengths into use as frequently as we can.
It is also positively essential to take on new challenges with the same amount of gusto and determination – despite (or because of) the fears and doubts – all the more often.
Let’s take a step back to mid-September of this year, shall we?
I received a text message from a very talented director friend about a new project, who asked if I would be interested in coming on board. He pitched it, I said “thank you,” and then I said, “no.”
I write musicals. Toe-tapping, chorus-singing, razzmatazz musicals!
This director wanted me to write music, yes…for a ballet.
HOLD IT! No way! Can’t be! Not me! That’s too much, isn’t it? Music on its own, without a lyric to help guide the story? See you later, alligator. You’re barking up the wrong piano.
My self-doubt and impulsive dismissal lasted for the requisite five minutes, as nightmarish scenes of this ballet piece flashed before my eyes. Then – suddenly – the rejection turned into intrigue, intrigue into interest, interest into daydreams, and daydreams into excitement.
A random bit of stuff for you this Thanksgiving. By Rachel James (Treasurer/Writer)
A Thanksgiving Prayer - William S. Burroughs
While many of you are home with your families, arguing with conservative relatives and trying to keep a sane head before we go full tilt into Chrismahanukwanzakah mayhem, I will be working an 8pm curtain. No complaints, though, for I am grateful to be employed! But perhaps you might want a list of some things to distract you?
Boozy advent calendars
Thanksgiving is late this year, which means December starts on MONDAY. Rum, vodka, gin, tequila... pick your poison and get 24 varieties of it. I ordered the whisky one, and am looking forward to a warm and pleasant Advent.