Just about my favorite thing in the world is musical theater. I go to the theater as often as I can. There’s a lot of live theater in the L.A. Basin, from the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum (where I’ve seen Shakespeare and Moliere), the Hollywood Bowl and the Pantages to little experimental theaters that do experimental productions to university theater to civic light opera and touring companies
Some of my favorite shows
42nd Street, the 1980 musical based on the 1933 movie. All those great Harry Warren songs. The curtain rises and we see that row of tap dancing legs. I went to see the Musical Theatre West production and went back to see it twice more. Plus I’ve seen touring shows.
The Fantasticks. I went back to see that one, too. Several times. I’ve seen a production with stage magicians doing their magic. Another one that may be post-modern. It had a set that was an abandoned theater. But the music was still beautiful.
The Threepenny Opera, which is not done often enough. I have a friend who is a set designer. He got me in to see his production two or three times. The best production I’ve ever seen, though, was in a tiny (26 seats) theater in which members of the band got up, acted their roles, then went back to the band. It was a beautifully grubby show.
Into the Woods, which I’ve seen three or four times. But only the play, not the movie—why would the princes stand ankle-deep in water to sing “Agony”?
Les Miserables, seven or eight times, but again not the movie. Why do we have to see the dead bodies of the students?
Wicked, at least five times. I have a friend who likes to tell people she went to see Wicked “with a real witch.” I’ve also read all four of Gregory Maguire’s books. The play is not quite like the book.
The Drowsy Chaperone, three times, the first time in London, which I was in the front row, almost close enough to touch the Man in the Chair. (That’s Bob Martin, one of the authors.) This may be the funniest show I’ve ever seen with its parodies of old genres and the guy who rollerskates blindfolded and sings at the same time.
Rent, at least five times. The night I saw it at the Pantages in Hollywood, it was me and 2,000 19-years-olds. More or less. I love the story (I was once an AIDS emotional support volunteer), and when Angel dies, it brings tears to my eyes every time. I’m also seen Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal in concert.
I’ve also seen some very strange productions. One that comes immediately to mind was a local production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, in which one of the handsome young gondoliers was played by a fat, bald, middle-aged tenor. When I read the program, I learned that said tenor was a lawyer who had financed the production. I also once saw a production of Cabaret in which Herr Schultz (a middle-aged German Jew) was played by a young Vietnamese actor and a 1776 on a stage that wasn’t big enough to hold all the actors.
When I’ve finished working for the day and the news shows (the local Eyewitless News, then the PBS Newshour) are done, instead of watching TV reality shows, I watch movies on DVD, most of them movies in which people sing and dance. I especially love the 1930s musicals. Fred and Ginger. Nelson and Jeanette. Almost anything with Alice Faye or Charles Winninger.
I especially love operettas. ADD LINK TO 3 OPERETTA BLOGS HERE Offenbach, Friml, Lehar. Gilbert and Sullivan. When I was a kid, that’s what I listened to on 78 rpm records. I had all the lyrics of The Desert Song memorized by the time I was eight or nine. Today I have all three movies made from this Sigmund Romberg operetta, plus the version on TV starring Nelson Eddy.
But I don’t like every musical ever written! I’m probably one of six people on the planet who find Phantom of the Opera overwrought and silly. I once came upon a website that called Lloyd Webber the antichrist. That made me laugh out loud. I do, however, like some of Lloyd Webber’s rock ‘n’ roll Puccini—Evita, Cats, andSunset Boulevard.
And I do NOT like most of the ’50s MGM versions of Broadway musicals. That’s because L.B. Mayer and the Freed Unit made significant changes in the Broadway musicals. Like throwing out most of the good, original songs because the studio had Herbert Stothart and other composers under contract and had to give them something to do. Also because Mayer felt compelled to rewrite (and sanitize) plots that didn’t conform to his idea of American culture.
I don’t much like opera, either. It’s usually too fancy and too loud. The only opera I like is Mozart’s Magic Flute, which I’ve seen live on stage and have half a dozen DVDs. My favorite version is Kenneth Branagh’s 2006 movie, which has a new libretto written by Stephen Fry (the man’s a genius!) and is set during World War I.