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Tag Archives: theater

Dr. Dee The Opera

You have GOT to check this out.

Musician Damon Albarn, who you might know from the band Gorillaz, wrote an opera about the infamous 16th century mathematician and occultist John Dee which was directed by Rufus Norris.

As you might imagine, all aspects of this make me basically explode in giddy fits of fanboy hysterics. Followers of this blog know John Dee is obviously a source of fascination, and the guy from Gorillaz writing an opera (small amounts of Elizabethan music and mostly modern balladeer type songs) has me ready to either change my pants or simply put on adult diapers in reaction.

And right i am to do so. Because LOOK at it! Yeah you gotta sit through the obligatory audience reaction “Wow that was really (positive expletive). I was (positive past tense verb)!” but it’s worth it because… LOOK at it:

Ooooooooohhhhhhh. I want to put caramel syrup on that and EAT it looks so awesome.

And thus songs are lovely. To wit:

AND it was inspired by Alan Moore. Alan ‘Watchmen/Marvelman/I’m A Wizard Now Harry’ Moore. What does that do to my geek meter? I’ll tell you:

The performance premiered in summer 2011 and just had another run at the English National Opera. If you want to know more about the piece in general i suggest watching this video.

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Puppets On Stage

Before we get underway let me give updates as they’re happening.

After careful consideration there WILL be a KIckstarter/Indiegogo campaign. We want and need this to be the best possible production we can manage. We want and need the people involved to be paid.  I myself will not make a dime off of this and indeed, at the end of the day this performance cannot, even by miracle, turn a profit. This is long term investment so to speak. My payday will come down the road. But the space must be paid for (as always) whatever is on stage must be procured and the personnel must be paid. We’re working on a grant and filling the seats for the performances will actually not be a problem at all. But still we will need more money to ensure everyone involved is paid and all expenses met, so when the time to begin the campaign draws close you will hear about it. We’ll talk then.

Oh, and you bet your sweet behind after the performance happens we’ll be posting extensive videos of it.

But for today, let’s look at stage puppetry! The Director Mark Swetz has a number of interesting ideas, a few of which can only be pulled off down the road but one of the cooler ones we can and will do this performance is use puppets to be the Dolls, especially Jasper THE Doll character.

Stage puppetry has been going strong for awhile now. The following videos illustrate different examples. How WE go about it will depend on the puppeteer we find to design and implement the Doll concept. These videos are not intended to show what OUR Doll will look like, just some cool examples of puppetry on stage.

And of course the extremely successful West End Show, War Horse:

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Holy Musical B@tman!

THIS my friends, is how you do a superhero musical. Spiderman Turn Off The Dark got a lot of flack for… well, everything. But everything the Spiderman musical did wrong, Batman does right.

It’s made for almost no budget. So, you know, you save 80 million dollars there. It’s funny. Really funny. Because let’s be honest, name two completely ridiculous things. Off the top of your head. Here, i’ll help you. Let’s see… uhm… superheroes and…. musicals. I speak as a fan of both, but let’s be honest, they’re both ridiculous. Put them together and you’ve upped the ridiculous quotient into an overload that cannot sustain that much ridiculousness. So why not just be tongue in cheek and have some laughs and a blast?

And that is why Holy Musical B@tman is kind of awesome. Look, a little theater company in Chicago put together a fun and funny Batman musical (music and lyrics by Nick Gage and Scott Lamps, book by Matt Lang and Nick Lang), performed it and then put the entire thing up on YouTube. Granted it seems far more fun live, but that’s theater. Theater’s always better live.

So here you go, kids. Holy Musical B@tman: (note, i’ll put up the first few vids, but the musical is long and there’s a lot of vids. You can follow it on YouTube if you wanna watch the whole thing or skip about)

(Oh! And i almost forgot, they swear up a storm, so, just be warned)

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Album Is Here!

CLICK HERE TO BUY NOW

Welcome everyone to the grand premiere of the entire album The Dolls Of New Albion, A Steampunk Opera. This 90 minute, 4 Act slightly demented musical story features the immense vocal talents of Lauren Osborn, Jason Broderick and Kayleigh McKnight. Written and produced by Paul Shapera.

Officially out today you can purchase the entire double album for only 12 little measly US dollars. If you live in England or Europe this is like money you lose in your couch and if you live in a Scandinavian country, this isn’t even money. It costs more there to feed a flea.

But wait! There’s more! Not only does the full download come with the complete lyrics, should you want them compiled in one easy spot then take note, if you look near the top of the page you’ll see a new tab called Libretto. It has all the lyrics so you can read them, copy and paste them, or use them to make dirty rhymes by substituting naughty nouns and verbs at just the right places.

It slices! It dices! How many times have you had to put up with embarrassing spills and odors? Well no longer! It’s a @#$#^## download! It won’t mess up your kitchen and is great to cook while listening to!

In order to take this project from here to the live stage in decent venues we need more than anything word of mouth. Seriously, word of mouth is gold. It’s a long road from here, folks, barring unforeseen miracles. Word of mouth…

I’d like to lastly thank Mark Swetz and MProductions for their invaluable assistance.

If you have already purchased the 1st Act or the Random Tracks sampler before May 8th, 2012 and would like a half off discount, please email me at paulms@gmail.com with your name (which i have on file) and i will send you a special download code. Also, thank you, each and every one of you who not only buys it, but actually likes the damn thing. I cannot put into words what that means to me.

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sultan’s Elephant

The Sultan’s Elephant is a show, specifically a piece of marionette street theater featuring a giant mechanical elephant. It was created in 2004 by the French theater company Royal de Luxe to commemorate the centenary of Jules Verne’s death and commissioned by two French cities, Amiens and Nantes..

The show takes 3 days to perform, is free, and occurs outside on the streets of the city. Its biggest performance was in London in May of 2006.

Basically on day 1 a rocket crashes into some town square (in London it was Waterloo Place).

The elephant arrives carrying the Sultan to see what’s going on. A huge marionette girl emerges from the rocket.

The Sultan has dreamt of her.

Girl meets elephant and sultan.

The girl walks around town and the elephant walks around town and on day 2, the girl gets on the elephant and together they tour the city.

The girl loves to sew and as they walk about she sews things, like cars to the tarmac.

Alas, all batshit insane things must come to an end, and so the girl and elephant bid each other farewell.

The girl climbs back into her rocket and time travels away.

Obviously the question of Why and WTF would be the first words out fo one’s lips. Do not bother yourself with such questions just accept the awesomeness.

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Sweeney Todd

In continuing our recent discussion about the Penny Dreadfuls that populated the Victorian era, it’s worth pointing out that almost all of the popular characters who once defined the era, Spring Heeled Jack, Varney the Vampire, Dick Turpin, Ching Ching, Jack Harkaway… they’re all gone. Sure some band or clever writer might make an obscure allusion to one of those bygone personalities, but as far as popular imagination and relevance is concerned all are dead.

Except one notable exception.

Sweeney Todd, one of the most popular Penny Dreadful characters, a violent, horrific barber who slit mens’ throat while they sat in his barber chair then dumped their bodies in his basement where his neighbor Mrs. Lovett would then mince them and use them as meat in her pies, THIS character is alive and well and dare i say beloved today.

His tale has been told in plays, several movies all the way from the silent era to the 2007 film by Tim Burton (which i really liked), he’s been in a Tony award winning musical by the great Stephen Sondheim, hell he has been in a BALLET. Yes, in 1959 there was Sweeny Todd The Ballet. Which, for the record, is an utterly awesome idea. Black Swan would have been even cooler if the main character was trying to really… you know, REALLY get into the lead role of Sweeney Todd.

Why? Who knows. He’s a great villain.

Originally appearing early in the penny dreadful days of 1846 and written byJames Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest,  teh story was called A String Of Pearls and told in 18 parts. A String Of Pearls involved the mystery of a missing string of pearls expected by Miss Joanna Oakley. Eventually it all leads to Sweeney Todd murdering his patrons for money and Joanna not only finds her pearls but her missing fiance who Sweeney has imprisoned in the basement cooking up the pies for Mrs. Lovett’s pie shop against his will.

Worth mentioning is the fact that unlike all the other anti-heroes so popular at the time who had some saving grace, Sweeney Todd had none. Those familiar with the Sondheim work will know a backstory that did not exist at the time. Sweeney Todd was not out for revenge. He was not wronged. He was a demonic killer who did it for the money. He was the Freddy Kruger of the era. There was no motive beyond simply being bad to the bone.

In 1847, at Hoxton’s Britannia Theatre, this tale from the dreafuls was put up as a melodrama and was quite successful.  From here on in  the character never really died. Two films in the 1920s, another in the 30s and several radio adaptions in the 1940s kept Sweeney Todd alive. Sweeney and Lovett became lovers in some. In a 1946 Sherlock Holmes radio adaption Sweeney was actually sleepwalking when he did it. In a 1970 TV adaption he was insane instead of evil.

Finally, in 1973 playwright Christopher Bond gives us the modern version. Todd becomes wronged, out for revenge, sympathetic instead of purely a boogie man like force of murder. It is the Bond story which Sondheim used to make his 1979 Tony award winning musical, starring Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury.

And thus Todd remains alive and well, happily… or not so happily murdering poor stubbled customers in his specially designed barber chair of death long into the forseeable future. (The barber chair is special because it hflips upside down and deposits the customers into a hole in the floor where they fall to the dark underground tunnel below. In the penny dreadful version they usually dies by cracking their head open due to the fall and Sweeney would only then go down with his razor to “polish them off”. In the 1847 stage version the phrase “I’ll polish him off” became a catch phrase, the “I’ll be back” of the era.)

Thus we have attended the tale.

I end now with a comparison between the original stage version and the film version. One of the reasons i like the film is because of its lower key you can really appreciate the music and melodies in a marvelously well recorded soundtrack. However, one must appreciate that the stage version throws the high emotion from figures on a stage across an entire theater tot eh very back row which was its original intent. Not to mention you can hear Johnny Depp trying as where the theater guy sounds like he eats musical murder sausages for breakfast washed down with a cup of his enemies’s blood before really feeling like getting up and facing the day.

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And just because it has Neil Patrick Harris:

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Next To Normal

While i grew up with musicals, at a certain point after loving them to death, i started to hate them with a passion. Trying to reconcile this leads to the type of musical i write. It also means, especially now that i don’t live in New York and have to chance to see what’s playing just by walking by every day, i don’t keep up with what’s going on in the world of musical theater.

So it was quite interesting for me to discover Next To Normal, a psychologically dark and VERY interesting newer musical (technically a “rocksical”).

While the entire album stays to much in the high octane musical theater genre for my tastes and gets a little musically redundant, i give it the benefit of the doubt of that being more my problem than the show’s. I mean really, you can’t fault a musical theater piece for sounding… like a musical theater piece.

Because when you get over that fact, the show is REALLY kind of awesome and shockingly hard hitting. It’s about a mother with mental illness (bipolar disorder?) and the toll it takes on her suburban family.

In a way, the musicalness of it adds to the impact. Take that first track i just posted. You have this rocksical score with people singing brightly and yet it’s horribly twisted and broken.

While the show’s original modd had a lot more tongue in cheek irony, as the show developed the production staff made the excellent choice to cut out the cute wink winks and instead just be damned serious about the whole thing. Which in my opinion works amazingly. This is not f****** Cats. It actually stares you in the face and doesn’t blink.

The subject matter is.. well… NUTS to put in a musical. Especially without some comedy to lighten it (which is how they did it originally). But the sheer… daring of it is deserving of full kudos, and the fact is, they do pull it off fantastically. Like i said earlier, most of my issues with it are more my issues with the genre itself. What i LOVE is anything that pulls and pushes and stretches the genre, which is the very thing i long for, since deep down, i love musical theater in a sort of strange, bipolar kind of way.

This last clip is from the Tony Awards and i would just point out that the mother and father have a teenage son and daughter. Except they don’t actually have a son, as he died 16 years before. But the mother sees the son regardless and to her he is a very real part of the household.

(P.S.: I’m still alive. i made it out of the village and the mountains with my 3 year old and we are now sitting comfortably in Belgrade where we will be staying until after next weekend.)

 

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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