This should be the title of my life now. If I were to sit down and write a story–something not unlike what I’m doing now–I’d use those words to describe my current dilemma.
Basically, sorry for disappearing for two months. I’m sure I’ve been missed. (Not really, but it’s a comforting thought, nonetheless).
Anyway, life’s been good. Crazy, but good. In addition to seeing and listening to new musicals (more on THAT later), I travelled back home safely from a quick jaunt to Berlin and have successfully pulled off prom and grading finals. The school year is over.
Yes, it is OVER. I am beyond thrilled.
The fact that I spent the last nearly two weeks of school grading nonstop because I’m an idiot who continued to assign work that would legitimately affect students’ grades up until the last day of school should be ignored in this situation. I did succeed in grading all of it, for which I pat myself on the back.
Now that school is over and I don’t have to try as hard to make time, I’m here. I’m back. You’re welcome. 😉
On this week’s episode of “Megan tries to talk about musicals, but ends up ranting about life’s intricacies and ultimately human nature,” I’m going to make the choice to skip the discussion of my time in Berlin, which I will safe for another time, and am just going to jump right in and talk about musicals. Specifically, I’m going to talk about some recent musical discoveries (the good and the ill). Two months’ worth of posts have been writing themselves in my head, so forgive the jumble.
The next post will be better.
So…let’s talk some new musical discoveries.
One of the many things I love about musical theatre, and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, is the wide range of subject matters that it can discuss. There isn’t just one kind of musical and I think that many of the greats are a testament to that. Phantom of the Opera, for example, tells a story that, though a dramatic and sometimes violent, rendition is universally about beauty and the beast. It’s about the splendor of it all and what happens when interest turns to obsession.
Other long-running or popular musicals succeed for various reasons. Les Miserables is the longest running show in the West End and details the struggles of many people to survive and to obtain their dreams. Javert longs to finally catch the escaped criminal who marrs his name. Valjean wants to find redemption and prove himself. The Thénardiers want wealth and they don’t care what they have to do or feed people (ha!) to get it. This musical isn’t at all about splendor. In fact, it’s about basic humanity.
Okay, so I did it again. But I hope you get my point. There is no end to the number of stories that musicals can tell and the specific way they want to tell them. The same story can be told in every single music genre and would affect the plot and the reaction of the audience in someway. The performance of those songs would impact the actors’ portrayal of those characters. It is truly amazing to think about the hundreds, thousands, of ways that one musical could have ended up and then to see the show that was actually created.
I bring this up because I always find it incredibly fascinating when new musicals appear on- or off-Broadway. There is such diversity to be found in the kinds of stories. I talked last post about Dear Evan Hansen, which still haunts my soul (hello US tour!). I truly love the story and the music, especially. I’m not sure if a musical like it could have been released twenty years ago. In fact, I’d argue not.
Because I’m so open about my love for musicals, I get a lot of grief about the musicals that I choose to give my attention. Now, it’s good-natured grief, but still. I get it, most of the time, since I was that person who was all “They made a musical about that??” and “There’s no way a musical adaptation of that movie is a good idea.” Yeah, that was me. I’m pretty sure it’s been all of us.
But, I’ve watched enough and listened to enough musicals to know that that is not always the case. More often than not, I’m left impressed and touched by the ways in which stories are enriched through song and through a few tweaks to characters and plot. I LOVE The Bridges of Madison County (if you haven’t listened to that cast album, shame, shame upon you), and what I love most about it is that it is such a different animal than the film and even the book.
When theatre can bring something nuanced and new and make an audience see more in a story than they saw before, I see no reason why it shouldn’t be adapted. Now, I’m not sure if all these adaptations find their audiences, or enough of an audience to remain on Broadway for any decent length of time (the untimely demise of the very new Amelie musical being the ultimate example), but that is no reason not to try.
Case in point (and the reason for today’s post): Groundhog Day the Musical.
Yep, you read that right.
If you follow musical theatre at all, you’ve probably heard of Andy Karl, the lead actor in this musical, and how he tore his ACL three days before before opening night and how he continues to wear a brace during his performances. It’s pretty hardcore stuff, even for the actor who played Rocky 8 times a week for four months. (Also, more on Rocky the Musical and how I watched it on youtube and sort of enjoyed myself in another post).
The sad part about this whole situation was that, before Groundhog Day, I had zero idea who Andy Karl was. I’m wholeheartedly in crush mode for him now, but a few weeks ago he was basically a stranger to me. However, he’s the reason that this musical matters as much as it does. I realize this statement implies that he’s more important than the writers and the composer, but I think it may be true in this instance.
Groundhog Day is a movie that most people either like or don’t like. It’s not too terribly popular, but worked well for being a star vehicle for Bill Murray in the early 90’s. Maybe that, or maybe I don’t know my Bill Murray movies and everyone loves the heck out of that movie.
But for most of my friends, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to make this movie a musical. And, not gonna lie, I agreed with them until I bought the cast album and listened to the first 5 songs and then I changed my mind. I changed my mind for a few reasons, but the first definitely had to do with the physicality of the show.
When listening to a cast album, sometimes the songs are edited to cut out talking or physical activities that would normally occur during the song when it is being performed live. This is understandable, especially if it’s giving away certain plot points that might give more away to fans at home (aka less motivation to see the “real thing”). Or, this can sometimes be done if the song itself would last a very long time if kept in its entirety.
I’m cool with songs being edited for these reasons on cast albums. It makes sense to me that producers would want to capture the essence of a show, while still saving special on-stage moments.
Groundhog Day still does this. I’m sure it does, though I haven’t seen the show in person (YET!). But I love the cast album because I can hear the movements. I can see it. I can feel the humor and the dance breaks. I can feel Phil’s frustration at being stuck in the same day for an endless number of days. It’s hard to explain, but it’s there. I love that about this musical.
I also love the emotional depth of the songs. The journey that Phil takes a shallow playboy newscaster to a become a little less shallow and a little more willing to feel…things. Well, that journey is beautifully captured. He’s a character that I feel more for than the jaded and unimpressed Phil played by Bill Murray. Granted, I haven’t seen the movie in a decade, so I’m sure those are both overgeneralizations, but it just feels so much more important that he go through this journey and that his trials and struggles are more cataclysmic.
Also, I’m just gonna say it.
This Phil is WAYYY HOTTER.
I’m sure there are more reasons, but that’s all I’ve got for now. Essentially, though, here’s the thing. Groundhog Day is one of those musicals that takes the source material and does it’s own thing. It pays homage, but doesn’t copy 100%. It feels familiar and also very new. And I love that about this musical.
I also love that I’m not the only one who feels this way. This musical was nominated for 7 Tony Nominations, which isn’t bad at all. In fact, that tells me that there are a lot of people who’d agree with me that this musical has something valid to say and that, maybe, we should all listen.
Until next time…