Monday, December 24, 2007

Show business

Seriously, I meant to get out today. But last night, I started to feel sick. Again! Ach. But, you know me, any excuse to stay home. I think I'm ready to give it up. If I feel like staying home, I'm staying home. It's so cozy and nice here. The cat is friendly, the electric heater keeps it warm (gas is so expensive!), and the knitting goes well.

I do worry, though, that I'm becoming overly introverted, isolated, anti-social. On the other hand, I went to the movies with C-money yesterday and it was good fun. We talked for a while after and it was just like old times. On Friday, I went out with Pele and we had a good time.

Maybe it's ok to hibernate for a while. Maybe it's better to do what I feel like and not worry about it. It's not like I'm turning down invitations. Au contraire.

Tomorrow, well, I'll go out if I feel like it. I think I will. It may be a drive out to the Eden Center and a movie or just a walk over to Union Station. I'll play that by ear.

The movie was saw on Sunday was Sweeney Todd. It was C-money's suggestion. I was happy to go, though, since I'm a big musical fan.

When I was in the sixth grade and we lived in DC, my parents bought the record. As I did with most of their other records of musicals, I played it over and over. (Among the ones I memorized: West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Annie Get Your Gun, Candide, Kiss Me Kate, The Pajama Game, My Fair Lady, Cabaret and A Chorus Line. Among the ones that perplexed me: Company, Finnian's Rainbow, Fiorello, The Fantasticks and The Most Happy Fella.)

The music is what drew me to these shows. Since I'd never seen any of them, I couldn't always put the plots together and the actual meaning of the songs often escaped me. As a grade-schooler, I could warble every word of "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys and Dolls without the slightest clue that the song was about a woman's (comic) despair about her boyfriend's unwillingness to marry her.

Even though I was a little older (11 or 12) when I first listened to Sweeney Todd, the grim center of the show didn't make a strong impression on me. What I noticed were the hilarious lyrics and beautiful melodies. When a traveling production came to DC, my parents got tickets. I begged my mother to let me go. I'd been listening to the record non-stop for weeks. I knew the whole score by heart. My mother said no, that I was too young. I pouted but I didn't get to go.

After Mom got back from seeing it, she said, "I should have let you go." She didn't enjoy it--it was too grim for her and she didn't know the songs as well as I did.

As it turns out, I've never seen a stage production of Sweeney Todd. Of all those shows listed, I've only seen three on the stage (I've also seen a few not listed). When a film version exists, I've seen it and usually not liked it. The lyrics are inevitably changed for films and I can't bear it. I want to sing along (silently). Or, sometimes, the casting is unbearable. Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls is awful and I love Brando. Frank Sinatra is almost as bad. Natalie Wood almost ruined West Side Story--the dubbing was painful. However the second leads save that film. Hello Rita Moreno!

Anyway, back to Sweeney Todd. I'd seen some of it on tv. They filmed one of the performances and it aired on PBS way back when. But filmed stage plays always fall flat. Only a film adaptation gets the three dimensions needed to make a show live.

In this movie, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter did a decent job. Their singing wasn't great but their acting was and that was sufficient. I had a couple of moments of nostalgia for Angela Landsbury. Her cloying, pragmatic Mrs. Lovett is un-toppable, but Bonham-Carter was rather un-waif-ish and convincing and I liked her. She and Depp have matching looks, which worked.

The music was great. I haven't listened to the album in years, but I could have sung along to most of the show. I still love the music.

As to the story, boy oh boy, was it grim. The body count was high and every murder was shown in full bloody detail. I had to shield my eyes. Yes, I am that squeamish.

The show was trimmed to make for a movie-appropriate running time, leaving gaping holes in the subplot. That was unfortunate.

It's not exactly family-friendly holiday fare. And there are some head scratching moments. But mostly it made me remember the joy I got listening all those years ago, memorizing the words, singing along and living in the music. So what if it wasn't a perfect interpretation, it was close enough.

Not a bad present, actually.

Happy merry everyone! I hope you're spending X-mas in exactly the way you desire.

Grateful for: musicals.

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