To Glee or not To Glee (Film Thoughts: The Prom)

Since I am a big musicals fan, I was overjoyed when I heard that Ryan Murphy was doing a film version of the show for Netflix. But, I was also quite petrified – I championed that show from the beginning. I have always gravitated towards smaller heart-filled musicals, and you bet I was rooting for this show against Hadestown. You see, I can be a Brodsway purist when it comes to these things, and I am scared of what Murphy would do to my small, intimate gem of a musical.

Well, the movie is finally here. And for starters, do we really need this cast? A friend of mine called it ‘stacked,’ and yes that sure is an apt description – Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden – these are big names. But in my world, they fill bigger shoes: Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmankas, who both to me are close to perfection in these roles. And yes, I have just got to get this off my chest: Streep underwhelmed me here. I know she is a goddess, but I felt she was off here – she strained to hit notes (Dee Dee’s songs were made for a belter) and they even made her look like Beth Leavel, so I ask: why didn’t they just hire Leavel (I know, tiny violins for me) As for Corden, much has been said for his ‘offensive’ characterization of a gay man, but to be honest, I thought he would be worse. Was I offended by his performance? No. But surely he was just following Murphy’s direction (or non direction, perhaps) And did we really need Nicole Kidman for Angie Dickinson – it’s a small-ish role for someone of her stature, And Angie Schworer is someone who lived that role (was probably even named after her)

But I have to say, though, I was thrilled to see this (I wish I had seen it on a big theatrical screen) because everything looked great amplified. The fuller orchestrations has made the score soar, though ti sometimes also highlighted deficiencies in Matthew Sklar’s music and Chade Beguelin’s lyrics. I cannot complain about Jo Ellen Pellman’s Emma, who is utterly charming here and sings her songs perfectly (she may be a bit perfect for the role, but who cares) and Arian Dubose just whet my appetite for her Maria in. Spielberg’s West Side Story. And of course, it is glorious that the message of the show is there for all to see and absorb, and on Netflix it will sure to reach millions.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the film. I just have to set aside all my bias, and just accept that this version is a different one from the stage version. It’s surely not the worst thing in the world.

I’ll just leave this right here:

Deep In Vogue (Television Thoughts: The Man Who Would Be In Vogue, Pilot Episode, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, F/X

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I had been looking forward to seeing ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ because o a couple of things. Firstly, I remember when this incident happened, and followed the case close enough when it was on the headlines. Of course, the old me don’t remember really that much about the case, so I thought it would be well to see it unfold in a different way. Second, Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan, is half-Filipino so culturally it is resonating with me – although really being a psychopath doesn’t really get dictated by nationality. And lastly, this looks to be one of the gayest shows this season – directed by Ryan Murphy, and starring Ricky Martin and Darrin Criss. Well, Criss isn’t technically gay, but I have only seen him play gay, so he might as well be.

And the pilot. ‘The Man Who Would Be Vogue’ was pretty engaging. I know some have complained that it was a little slow, but I thought it moved quickly enough, and really, is there that much to say to warrant nine episodes? It begins at the day of the shooting, and moves back and forth in time. There were details I didn’t really know – that bird which got killed by a stray bullet was something I didn’t know. Plus, I thought the performances were universally good. Edgar Ramirez looks and talks like the real Gianni that it was sometimes jarring. And what great revelation Ricky martin is here. I know he has acted before, and I have seen him on stage even on Les Miserable, but his Antonio D’Amico here has great shades of subtlety (I suspect Murphy’s hand there)  Penelope Cruz is inspired casting – there’s just a dash of camp there for vavavavoom but you never feel it isn’t real – Cruz gives her great humanity. And Darren Criss is blazing hot to look at as Andrew Cunanan, which probably best represented the character: all accounts from people he knew said he had charm. There are moments of deep depth in Criss here – in the ‘fantasy’ sequence of him and Versace on stage at the San Francisco Opera, you can see his mind swirling as Cunanan’s probably was- but slim writing probably hindered him in some scenes. When he gets to his car after killing Versace, we never truly know what is going on in Cunanan’s mind, and Criss never really filled in the blanks there.

For sure, though, the show is great to look at and sounds incredible. The bright Miami sunlight gives it a great glow, and there is that stunning opening sequence of Casa Casuarina choreographed to Albinoni’s Adagio. I am hooked, and cannot wait for the next episodes.