Tag Archives: musicals

Disney’s Live-Action “Beauty and the Beast” Review

It’s hard to believe it took me this long to get around to watching this. Part of it was my own fault; I was procrastinating a lot. I was afraid this movie would destroy my childhood love of the animated version, which is still one of my favorite Disney films. The good news is that it didn’t–it was much better than I was expecting although I did not find it to be the smashing success so many other people thought it was.

By now you already know the plot, so I’ll just skip that part and go straight to my opinion. My biggest complaint about the movie is that they really needed to cast someone other than Emma Watson as Belle. Her voice sounded more than half computerized, indicating a generous application of autotune. I don’t mind if autotune is used to tidy up a singer’s performance, but I do mind if it was so heavily applied that the singer doesn’t sound human anymore! Maybe you should, I don’t know, cast someone who doesn’t need so much post-production help. What made it particularly jarring was that it was obvious everyone else could sing with little to no autotune required. Her acting was fine, but the singing could have been so much better. Everyone else was fine, though, and I was pleased to see that Luke Evans was every bit as awesome as Gaston as I thought he was going to be.

This live-action version had some new songs added, and I’m sad to say they just weren’t in the same league as the originals–or even the songs from the stage production. “Evermore” was arguably the best of the lot, but even it lacked the emotional power and depth of some of the older songs. Personally I think the film would have been much better suited if it had kept “If She Can’t Love Me” from the stage production, which occupies roughly the same space in the story.

No spell has been broken;
No words have been spoken.
No point anymore
If she can’t love me.

No hope she would do so;
No dream to pursue, so
I finally know
That I shall always be
In this hopeless state
And condemned to wait,
Wait for death to set me free.

The good news is that the original songs were performed with every bit of passion and enthusiasm they deserved. My two favorite performances were “Gaston” and “Be Our Guest”; the visuals on the latter were especially amazing.

One of the things that I found surprising was the fact that I felt sympathy for Le Fou–he spent pretty much the entire movie watching his oldest friend turn into a monster and not knowing how to put a stop to it. There were times he tried to stand up to Gaston and get him to stop, but Gaston always ended up bullying him into complicity. In a way it almost felt that the story of the Beast’s redemption and Gaston’s fall were paralleling each other, and that was one of the things I genuinely liked about this version.

Final verdict: it’s not as good as the 1991 animated version, but it’s still a good movie in its own right. I also encourage you to check out the 2014 French version that I reviewed earlier this year. I spotted some similarities between that version and this one, most notably in set design and shot framing, so I wonder if someone at Disney watched the French version and got some inspiration.

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Some “Beauty and the Beast” Music

Unless you’ve been living under a very impressive rock, you probably know that the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie is coming out next month. That’s all well and good in itself, but recently my Facebook memories brought the song “If I Can’t Love Her” from the Broadway version back to my mind. Now it’s my understanding that this song won’t be in the movie, which makes me said because it’s an awesome song. So I decided to share it here.

This particular version of “If I Can’t Love Her” is taken from the Beauty and the Beast: A Concert on Ice special from 1996. Personally, I have always thought James Barbour had the perfect voice for the Beast, so I definitely hold a special fondness for any version he performs.

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Happy 30th, Phantom!

 

Over the weekend, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera celebrated its 30th anniversary–that’s right, 30 years of crashing chandeliers and masquerades. As part of the celebration, the official Phantom of the Opera Facebook page live-streamed part of the special anniversary performance to fans all over the world. And the good news is that the live streams are archived on Facebook!

There was also a preshow that featured some of the performers in the special finale.

Here’s to another brilliant 30 years!

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When Life Imitates Art

Random Phantom of the Opera post here again. They just won’t die (not that I want them to).

It’s pretty well known that despite being described as blonde in the book, most Phantom adaptations portray Christine as brunette. I can think of only two or three versions where she’s shown as a blonde; most versions show her as brunette, and I just kind of came to accept it as the imperfect world where book adaptations are never 100% faithful to the book.

But then I found this video of Emmi Christensson, who is currently playing Christine in the London production of The Phantom of the Opera. What is so notable about Emmi?

  1. She is Swedish, just like Christine is in the book.
  2. She is a natural blonde, so they let her have a blonde wig in the production.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, we have a blonde Swedish soprano playing…a blonde Swedish soprano.

What makes it even better is that her voice sounds remarkably close to the voice I imagined for Christine when I read the book. So now I have found my ideal Phantom (John Owen-Jones) and my ideal Christine (Emmi Christensson). There’s even an audio recording of the two of them singing the title song together, which makes my nerdy little heart extremely happy.

Now all I have to do is figure out my dream Raoul (Hadley Fraser is extremely close), and then I’ll have my ideal cast.

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In Honor of Quasimodo Sunday…

…I present the complete soundtrack for the stage version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame!

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Movie Review: “Into the Woods”

I’ll be up front and honest with all of you; there were three reasons and three reasons alone I wanted to see this movie:

  1. The plot sounded interesting.
  2. Craig Owens
  3. Captain Kirk

Because, really, how can you pass up a musical after you learn that Craig and Kirk are going to be singing in it? I was right, too, in that the plot was interesting although the ending was a tad depressing. It was something along the lines of, “And those that didn’t get killed lived happily ever after.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Into the Woods is the story of a childless baker and his wife who must venture…into the woods…near their village to collect the ingredients that their next-door witch needs to reverse the curse that rendered them childless in the first place. Along the way, they cross paths with Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and his beanstalks, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. All of these fairytale characters have wishes of their own they want to come true, but the witch shows them all that they have to be careful what they wish for…and that there comes a time when you have to take responsibility for your own choices.

All in all, it was good–not bad, not great, just a solid good. It wasn’t a happy ending per se, but I still think the characters all learned something greatly important, namely that we are all responsible for the choices we make. Blaming others for our bad decisions doesn’t accomplish anything.

I must say that I really liked Meryl Streep as the witch. I haven’t seen a lot of movies with her, but she gave a pretty powerful performance, especially with “Stay with Me” and “Last Midnight”. As a Whovian, I was thrilled to see James Corden in this, and he brought his solid, sensible charm to his role as the baker. Honestly, I’d like to see him in more movies; he’s extremely talented. And the award for Most Surprising Performance goes to Chris Pine for the simple fact that I did not know he could sing (and for all I knew, this was going to be another Gerard Butler or Hugh Jackman miscasting debacle), but he actually wasn’t too bad. In fact, if they wanted to slip a musical number into Star Trek Beyond (the next Star Trek movie), I wouldn’t complain.

Oh, and I wanted to mention how I impressed I was that they included more of the original Cinderella story than you usually see in adaptations of that particular fairytale. By that, I mean they included the parts where her stepsisters cut off parts of their feet to get the slipper to fit so they can marry the prince. That part is usually edited out of most versions, so I was somewhat surprised to see it included.

Would I recommend Into the Woods? Yes, I think I would. I’m not saying you’ll like it, but I think you should at least give it a chance.

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Three Different Variations of the Angel of Music

Anyone who reads this blog is well aware of my affection for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera. Well, what’s not to love; it’s got good music, and it’s based on one of my favorite books. It is one of the world’s longest-running and most popular musicals (alongside Les Miserables), but did you know there are two other musical adaptations as well? I was surprised to learn this; there’s hardly any information on them…unless you do a little bit of digging first.

The first musical Phantom adaptation came to the stage in 1976 courtesy of Ken Hill. In fact, Webber considered collaborating with Hill when he got the idea to adapt Gaston Leroux’s novel into a musical, but he ultimately decided to pursue his project separately. Ken Hill’s version is more of an actual opera in nature; he wrote original lyrics to music composed by the likes of Verdi and Mozart. Some of the song titles are on the long side (“To Pain My Heart Selfishly Dooms Me”, “Somewhere above the Sun Shines Bright”), but on the plus side, it includes that oft-neglected character, the Persian!

1991 saw the debut of Phantom by Maury Yeston and Arthur Kopit. They had originally planned to make it back in the 80’s but scrapped their plans when they learned that Webber had already done so with phenomenal success. Later, however, Kopit saw the Webber version, realized how different it was from the storyline he and Yeston had in mind, and suggested to Yeston that they try again. Their version of Phantom began life as a non-musical miniseries produced for NBC before it finally made it to the stage in all its song-filled glory. It differs from the novel in that the Phantom is somewhat gentler and has a solid friendship with the opera’s manager Gerard Carriere.

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