Come What May (Stage Thoughts: Moulin Rouge)

moulin-rouge-poster‘Moulin Rouge,’ now playing at The Al Hirschfeld Theater, was my birthday gift to myself. The ticket price was steep, but I know my self-worth and I more than deserve it. I knew the show wasn’t going to be deep, more fun that’s trashy and easy to digest. I confess remembering that I liked the film version, but honestly, don’t remember too much from it besides the fact that it starred Nicole Kidman.

Boy was I surprised. This was excruciating and difficult for me to enjoy. The book, by John Logan was paper-thin, akin to the Italian operas that inspired it. But I could have easily forgiven that if the music was palatable. but hell, this is a musical, and this show seems to have hastily compiled every disposable pop hit they could find from the past couple of decades. I have heard enough of these songs while riding in Ubers and picking produce at the supermarket, so forgive me if I don’t want to hear them on Broadway forcibly shoehorned into scenes. Songs are mixed and mashed for no reason – just when one grooves into a song, it’s cut mercilessly for another one. I despise pointless mashups.

The cast is competent enough, but I thought Karen Olivo was seriously miscast. Her Sabine is a force, for sure (with a grand sparkling entrance) but you never believed for a second that her character will waste any time for a twinky songwriter from Ohio. Yes, Aaron Tveit as Christian looks good on stage and sings effortlessly, but his Christian seems more scared of Sabine than in love with her – they have the chemistry of two dim bulbs. Poor Danny Burstein tries so hard to bring humanity to the role of emcee/engineer Harold Zidler, but you can only color cardboard various shades of brown.

The show reminds me of something you would see in a Vegas lounge show, or a cruise ship. That’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world, but this is the-a-teh. And I know that the show is polarizing, as I see the young lady next to me sobbing at the tragic ending (oops, I hope I didn’t spoil it for you) If I have to say one good thing about it, then sure I would probably commend its set design (pictures can be taken before the show, perfect for your Instagram feed!) but the heart set looks like it was stolen from Follies’ ‘Loveland,; so… Happy Birthday to me!

Summer Nights On A Winter Night (Television Review: Grease Live, FOX)

normal_GREASEPROMO-003Grease Live! was sensational. And going into it, I was a skeptic. I mean, Fox. But I should have known – Thomas Kail, who directed Hamilton, is on the helm so I was at the very least expecting something new (or new-ish, anyway) And he did – he incorporated what is best in a television program to what is an okay musical at best – the stage version, for sure, although I do have very fond memories of the film. Here is a case where what was changed or what was added didn’t infuriate me, as I am a theater purist at heart. And, it was well-cast. Aaron Tveit as Danny Zuko didn;t have oodles of ravolta goofball charm – and he is marginally bland – but he has great talent: a great voice and can essay Zach Woodley’s dance moves very well. Julianne Hough, as Sandy, surprised me. For me, she isn’t perfect (I did cringe at her ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’) and we knew she would ace the dance sequences, but she didn’t annoy me, and for her that was a major feat because just looking at her annoys me. And the not-should-have-beenn-a-revelation? Vanessa Hudgens. Forget the back story of her father passing away the night before the performance, but she is sensational here – sly, wink-y, likable – and easily the best performer of the evening.

And yes, for the most part, I love the changes: Keke Palmer’s transition on “Freddy Me Love” made me squeal in delight, and okay I did appreciate the new Tom Kitt/Brian York song added for Carey Rae Jespen, as it segued into Boyz II Men singing ‘Teen Angel’ (the their melisma minimized some of the great lyrics) The score is holding up pretty well, with a good combo of the stage and film versions, and I still get a little teary-eyed whenever I hear ‘Sandy,’ which is my favorite from the show. I think this is the most successful of all live stage casts, for it felt fresh, and I can see little gaylngs in Tulsa getting invigorated by theater. I know Fox is also redoing “The Rocky Horror Show” next so I am now looking forward to that one.