Seasonal

Top Five Couples in Love from the Stage

Happy Valentine’s Day fellow ATB members! Today I take you off the normal blog path and taking you down the path of a much...lovelier topic. In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I will be celebrating and share with you whom I believe are the Top 5 BEST Musical Couples. Of course almost every couple in a musical is great, but not all of them are...right for each other? Of these couples I feel they are the ones who define “true love” and from what I’ve gathered from their respective arcs, aren’t bad for each other and bring out the best in another. I’ve compiled a list of the 5 couples I believe are the healthiest in all of musical theatre. So grab your honey and enjoy this list.


Angel and Collins- RENT
Angel and Collins aren’t your usual couple, in the sense that their love defies all. Angel and Collins definitely were healthy for each other as they loved each other until the very end. Collins never once looked at Angel any differently and loved her endlessly, and Angel in return gave Collins her love. All of their friends knew how much they loved each other, quoting “I’d be happy to die for a taste of what Angel had”, indicating that Collins loved and supported Angel throughout their time together, through her personality and when she got sick. Collins never once left Angel alone, and that’s why they’re one of the greatest.

Charlie and Lauren- Kinky Boots
Going off of the support statement, when Charlie’s shoe factory was going under, Lauren not only supported Charlie in trying to save it, but also gave him the push he needed. Lauren is a sassy individual who gave Charlie the push and drive he needed to team up with Lola to save the factory. From helping design the shoes all the way to the Milan Fashion Show, Lauren saw Charlie’s potential from day one.

Guy and Girl- Once
Going a bit more humble and realistic, Guy and Girl fell in love so naturally and realistically, hitting home closer to real life.  While not exactly a happily ever after for them, they are a couple of what could be, but because of real life situations can’t be. That’s a situation I’m sure of a few of us can painfully relate too, and even though Guy and Girl both have feelings for another, they never once stopped the other from supporting their dreams and relationships, despite their feelings for another.

Cosette and Marius- Les Miserables
Come on, we ALL knew they were going to make an appearance. When you think of musical couples, they’re the first ones to come to mind. Cosette and Marius, while sometimes cheesy, is super sweet. The whole “fall in love at first glance” trope is epitome to them. Cosette is all Marius can think of at the barricade and her own adopted father believes in their love so much that he interject to ultimately save Marius. While we don’t divulge too far into their relationship, they have a pure, soft and sweet relationship and one I know can stand the test of time.

Penny and Seaweed- Hairspray
Finally our last couple! What can I say, I LOVE Penny and Seaweed. Like Marius and Cosette, they both kind of fall under the “fell in love at first glance” trope, but they stood against the odds of the 1960’s and believed their love to be so strong to go against the “norm” of the time. Seaweed even saved Penny from her crazy mother, truly showing to be a knight in shining armour, and a man us women can truly look for. Penny declaring her love for Seaweed at the Miss Teenage Hairspray pageant is still one of my favorite moments in all of musical theatre, and they’re such a fun, loving and quirky couple with differing personalities that compliment another SO well.



Merry Christmas

Multiple of the ATB bloggers have put together a special article to celebrate Christmas, and what some of our favourite Christmas themed shows and songs are. We hope you enjoy, and the ATB blog and admin teams wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, a Happy Holidays, and a prosperous New Year.

Kelly Ostazeski
I think the show that reminds me most of Christmas is Anastasia. I just took one of my best friends to see the tour, and it was sort of a Christmas gift to her because she wouldn't have been able to see the show otherwise. I also turned it into a huge surprise and she had no idea what we were doing until the day of. Also, I just saw the Broadway Princess Holiday Party and Liz Callaway, the original singing voice of Anastasia, sang "Once Upon a December", which is fitting because it's December and it sounds wintery. It's not that the show is even remotely Christmas-y, but I think it's a glitzy enough show that it's perfect, in a way, to see it during this season. I was also considering Little Women, because it's Christmas in one of the first scenes in the musical, and also Mary Poppins, because I saw the Broadway show one December, and the new movie Mary Poppins Returns just came out during this Christmas season.

 

Jonathan Fong
Well, this isn’t a very Broadway pick, but hey, it’s written by Pasek & Paul, so why not. I’m going to go for the song ‘A Million Dreams’ from The Greatest Showman.

 Why? Don’t ask me either, I couldn’t tell you. But the idea of there being a world that could be, one that only a million dreams could bring to us, is one that just fits so well with the warmth and spirit of goodwill of Christmas. There’s a whole world out there that we could bring to ourselves and others, if only we dream for it – that’s how I treat Christmas, as a time for giving and for self-betterment. That’s the sort of joy I get from Christmas and the Christmas spirit, and I feel this song best embodies that. For listening to this song reminds me of that, that over all obstacles we can better ourselves and give others a world we’re all going to make, together.

 

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Steven Sauke
“Prayer”, Come from Away.

Since the first time I listened to the cast recording of Come from Away, it resonated deeply with me. It brought back memories for me of learning of the tragedy and the aftermath. The music alone left me in tears. I grew up internationally, and this was truly an international tragedy. I found the song “Prayer” especially moving and relatable. Having lived in three countries, and having visited several others, the sense of unity in this song is particularly powerful for me. It beautifully weaves the prayer of St. Francis with Jewish, Sanskrit and Arabic prayers, all expressing a desire for peace and praise to God. This is the spirit of Christmas. In the Bible, the angels proclaimed “peace on earth” to the shepherds. St. Francis (and Kevin T. in the musical) prayed that God would “make me a channel of Your peace.” The rabbi and Eddie pray that God, who makes peace on high, make peace on us and all of Israel. Amen. The Sanskrit section of the song prays that they be led from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality, and above all, peace, peace, peace. In Arabic, the character Ali praises Allah for his greatness and glory.

In his book Channel of Peace, and when I was interviewing him for my blog post in August, Kevin Tuerff mentioned that St. Francis’ prayer was in his head while stranded in Gander, but he did not recall mentioning that when Sankoff and Hein interviewed him in preparation for writing the musical. It seemed providential that they included it, and coming from Kevin T., no less. This song and Kevin Tuerff’s book have got me thinking more about how I can be used as a channel of peace. As a Christian, and as a human, I want to be someone who spreads peace. For too long, both Christianity and Islam have given good reasons for their violent stereotypes, exacerbated by the Crusades, terrorism, countless wars, and so much more. But both religions have peace at their hearts. The extremists on both sides have given their respective religions a bad name. We need to end the conflicts and work together to become a channel of “PEACE ON EARTH, GOODWILL TO MEN!”

PS. Did I mention I saw Come from Away three times when it came through Seattle in October? It is that good! In fact, it’s so good that even Grumpy Olde Guy liked it when he saw it a few weeks later in LA! A ticket would make a great Christmas present for anyone in your life if you get the chance.

Darren Wildeman

While it takes place over a few different seasons, for me She Loves Me reminds me a lot of Christmas. It’s filled with hope and despite the fights, struggles, and dark times the characters face, they still end up with a good life. I feel like this musical exhibits a lot of the hope people feel around the Christmas season. And fittingly the show wraps up on the Christmas season. It exhibits its festive cheer or lack there of on a hilarious version of “12 Days of Christmas” but then quickly steps back to the main plotline in seeing if two young lovers will indeed realize how long they’ve been in love. And all the characters in the shop end being friendly and warm to each other. I feel like this is a great representation of Christmas. It’s one of the few times of the year where there is little conflict or fighting, and no matter how bad the rest of your year may have been Christmas is a chance to find some cheer and happiness. I feel like the way She Loves Me ends represents this well.

 

The Showtunes of Christmas

Steven Sauke

This time of year, Christmas carols are everywhere you go! In the stores, in restaurants, at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, everywhere! Most of them are actually Christmas carols, but some people seem to have the idea that if it’s Broadway, it must be Christmas. In the spirit of the season, I thought it would be helpful to come up with some suggestions for those wanting to record their very own Broadway Christmas album.

There are many important considerations when selecting songs to include in your Broadway Christmas album. First of all, it is very important to make sure to procure the rights to perform any showtunes. You should also consider your vocal range, as some songs just aren’t for everyone. For the purposes of this blog, I will just focus on the songs themselves, presenting appropriate and inappropriate songs for your consideration.

When selecting your songs, I propose asking some important questions:

1. Is it a showtune? We know not all musicals are Broadway, but for the sake of inclusiveness, I will not differentiate between Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off-off Broadway, or that musical you just decided to write that will hopefully someday be Broadway! If it’s a showtune, great!

2. Is it a Christmas song? If the majority of the song is about Christmas or winter, great! But this is one area where many Christmas albums miss the mark. More on that later.

All the songs I will suggest are showtunes. But not all are Christmas songs. In my opinion, only Christmas showtunes should be included in your Broadway Christmas album.

So, without further ado, here we go.


IS IT CHRISTMAS? YES!

“We Need a Little Christmas” from Mame.

This is an obvious, delightful choice. It is also timely in these turbulent times. It reminds us of the joys of Christmas and how it can help in difficult times.

 

“Counting Down to Christmas” from A Christmas Story.

It’s a fun reminder of the childlike joy of anticipation as we look forward to the exciting time of family, gifts, giving, and the occasional Red Ryder Carbine Action BB Gun under the tree. (Try not to poke an eye out!) Another great choice from that musical would be “Somewhere Hovering over Indiana.”

 

“Merry Almost Christmas” from A Year with Frog and Toad.

This is another fun song about the anticipation of Christmas. It isn’t very often that you are serenaded by amphibians and birds singing Broadway (well, unless you regularly watch A Year with Frog and Toad, and you’d have my full support if so).

 

“White Christmas” from Holiday Inn and White Christmas.

Irving Berlin tended to recycle his songs from one musical to another. This is one of several songs that are in both aforementioned musicals, and it is another delightful reminder of the joy of the season.

 

“Snow” from White Christmas.

Like the song “White Christmas”, this reminds us of the joy of the season, though it doesn’t mention Christmas specifically.

 

Almost anything from A Christmas Carol.

That said, “Jolly, Rich and Fat” and “Dancing on Your Grave” may be a little odd out of context.

 

“A Christmas Song” from Elf.

This is a happy reminder of the magic of the season, and reminds us of Buddy’s mantra that “the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” Actually, almost any song from Elf would be great.

 

“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” from Here’s Love.

Show of hands how many people knew this was a showtune? It is from Meredith Willson’s musical based on Miracle on 34th Street. It’s a Christmas classic.

 

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Meet Me in St. Louis.

This is another Christmas classic that not everyone knows is a showtune. It would be a great song to include!

 

“Christmas Is My Favorite Time of Year” from Catch Me if You Can.

Even notorious fugitives from the law need to remember the joy of the season!                     

 

“Christmas Time is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

This is another Christmas classic. It isn’t technically Broadway, but Charlie Brown has been on Broadway in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Christmas is a show with songs. So in my opinion, it counts.

 

1920px-Bing_Crosby_and_Danny_Kaye_in_White_Christmas_trailer.jpg

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from Neptune’s Daughter.

Is it Christmas? Yes. Do I recommend using it in 2018 (or ever)? No. Enough said.




STARTING TO TRANSITION…

“Happy Holiday” from Holiday Inn.

This is typically associated with Christmas, but in the context of the musical, it was actually a New Year song.

 

“This Time Next Year” from Sunset Boulevard.

This is decidedly not Christmas, but it is New Year, which is a week later. This might be a nice choice as the final song on your album.

 

IS IT CHRISTMAS? NO, A THOUSAND TIMES, NO!!

“My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

My theory is that this is commonly included in Christmas albums because it could be misinterpreted as a Christmas wish list, and it includes fleeting mentions of “brown paper packages tied up with strings” and “snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes.” But the song is not about any holiday, or even a specific season. It’s about thinking happy thoughts when you’re scared, thus distracting your mind from your surroundings. Rodgers & Hammerstein wrote “I Whistle a Happy Tune” for The King & I with a similar aim, but you don’t often hear that song on Christmas albums. It’s also possible that “My Favorite Things” is often included because networks tend to play The Sound of Music on TV around Christmas time.

 

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” from Carousel.

This is even more baffling. It is an optimistic song, and it falls into a similar category (and by the same composers) as the previous song with its themes of bearing up through tough times with hope. It’s a beautiful song and would be a great addition to your other showtune album that isn’t seasonal or holiday-related, but please do not include it in your Christmas album.

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope you find this helpful and instructive. I always feel it is best for a Christmas album to have Christmas music, and not generic non-holiday-related songs. There are many other Christmas showtunes I didn’t mention. Also, New Years songs might be nice for the end of the album. If you wanted to spice it up further, you could look for showtunes related to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan and other winter holidays as well.

Best wishes in your Christmas showtune endeavors, and to quote a song from A Christmas Carol (which takes the words straight out of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece), “God bless us, everyone!”

Attend a Tale for Halloween

By Michael Kape (a/k/a Grumpy Olde Guy®)

It was a frigid February afternoon in New York City. My BFF was dragging me to a seedy cinema uptown to catch a British horror movie from 1936. If I remember correctly (and he can always correct me on here if I’m wrong), a friend of his had suggested seeing it.

In hindsight, it was a strange movie. Very 1930s British horror/melodrama. Greed was the motivation behind the monster doing all the killings. He’s caught in his murderous ways. A string of pearls and other valuable jewels stolen while men come in for a shave are recovered. All is right with the world once again. Or is it?

As we near the holiday of All Hallows Eve (a/k/a Hallowe’en), it’s time to drag out the scariest of scary stories, and certainly this movie—in its cheesy way and hammy performances—is a scary story. It’s based on an urban legend told often in penny dreadfuls, with British children in the 19th century warned if they didn’t behave, this villain was going to swoop down and eat them up—with eat being the operative word here, perhaps.

A successful barber with premises at 152 Fleet Street, this villain would seat his unsuspecting victims into his specially constructed barber's chair while lathering their faces. The trick chair would then flip around, throwing the victims through a trap door into the cellar below. If the fall didn’t kill them, the barber would polish them off with his razor. Then he robbed them and dragged their bodies to the basement of his mistress. In turn, she turned these victims into tasty meat pies, which she sold at her pie shop. The demons would relieve the victims of any valuables, including a string of pearls—which ultimately led to their undoing. A determined judge and a pair of lovers help bring the dastardly duo to justice, and they are put on trial at the Old Bailey.

Was this urban legend based a real person? Probably not (despite claims to the contrary). But it’s a great story. And perhaps indicative of the times; even Dickens refers to popping pussies into pies in Pickwick Papers and Martin Chuzzlewit.

The movie version starred a British actor named (seriously) Tod Slaughter in the lead role of the lustful, villainous, greedy, demon barber on Fleet Street who slit the throats of his customers. Indeed, Slaughter had changed his first name after playing this role on stage because he became so enamored of the character; once a serious British actor, Slaughter had taken a career turn into British horror. In this film, the murderous barber and his next-door neighbor steal valuables off the dead gentlemen (who never thereafter were heard from again?). The trick barber’s chair is essential to the story, of course.


Ted Slaughter as Sweeney Todd

Ted Slaughter as Sweeney Todd


I’m hoping some of this is beginning to sound familiar.

Having seen well over 1000 musicals over six decades (including the revised and bloody Carrie), I believe Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler (based on the play by Christopher Bond) is probably the scariest and bloodiest thing I’ve ever seen onstage (and I’ve seen plays with onstage simulated leg amputations—don’t ask). So, with Hallowe’en fast approaching, what better time is there to take a fresh look at slimy, vengeful Benjamin Barker, er, Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street.

In the 19th century penny dreadfuls and urban legends, Sweeney is just a greedy barber with an evil and equally greedy neighbor. The brilliance of the Christopher Bond play (well worth reading if you can track it down) is giving Sweeney a more human and humane motivation—revenge for the loss of his wife Lucy and daughter Joanna by the truly evil Judge Turpin and his beadle.

Still, as my mother asked when I first described this story to her, “That’s a musical?”

Yes, that’s a musical:

·         A musical featuring an evil dentist/barber (long before Little Shop of Horrors had its own singing and horrifying dentist)

·         A musical with a song of self-flagellation—the Judge’s “Joanna” (Mea Culpa), cut from the original Broadway production but subsequently restored in the opera house version)

·         A musical requiring a gallon or so of stage blood spurting out of a specially-rigged prop razor

·         A musical ending Act I with “A Little Priest” and starting Act II with “God That’s Good” (what, you never made that connection before? It was intentional)

·         A musical ready to rhyme butler (subtler), potter (hotter), but not locksmith; with a “shepherd’s pie peppered with actual shepherd on top”

·         A musical with more onstage deaths than Hamlet

Well, it’s not Rodgers and Hammerstein (thank goodness).

At heart, it’s kind of a twisted love story. Nellie loves Sweeney, who loves his lost Lucy, while Joanna and Anthony love each other, while the Judge lusts after Joanna, and poor Tobias loves Nellie (until she tries to kill him, that is). And does anyone know whatever happened to Mr. Lovett? Just curious.

I first saw Sweeney Todd in the cavernous Uris (now Gershwin) Theatre two weeks after it opened with Len Cariou as Sweeney and Angela Lansbury as Nellie Lovett. Hal Prince decided it was a story about the grinding down of the working class in Industrial Age London (though there is only one oblique single reference to this in the script: “How gratifying for once to know that those above will serve those down below”), perhaps with the Dickens allusions in mind. Designer Eugene Lee moved a Rhode Island factory to the stage, and every set piece had originated in that factory. It was friggin’ huge.

I returned to the Uris three more times: once with my mother; once to see the last performance with Carious and Lansbury (poor Len had completely lost his singing voice by then, and he had to croak his way through “Epiphany” that night); and once to see George Hearn and Dorothy Loudon as the leads. My BFF and I subsequently traveled to Philadelphia to take in the national tour and to NYC Opera to see the opera house version staged by Prince. Since then, I’ve seen big productions and teeny productions—and they all work no matter what. Sweeney Todd is indestructible.

It is a Grand Guignol-like masterpiece by virtuoso composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim. In subsequent productions of Sweeney Todd, Prince’s original indictment of the British class system (and decidedly Dickensian turn) has been swept aside—for the most part—with greater emphasis placed on the twisted humanity of the characters. And I could easily argue it is one of the greatest musicals (not operas, to be sure) ever written, as revolutionary in its own way as Show Boat and Oklahoma (both written by Sondheim’s mentor, Oscar Hammerstein II).

Which brings us back (don’t ask how) to Hallowe’en. There are plenty of Sweeney Todd and Nellie Lovett costumes available online. Sweeney Todd themed parties are a favorite on Pinterest. Haunted houses decorated like a tonsorial establishment in 19th century London are easy to create (with a little imagination and a trick barber’s chair to lure unsuspecting trick-or-treaters to their “doom”—or maybe worse if those damn whippersnappers don’t stay off my lawn). Even cosplay events for Sweeney Todd readings have been staged by regional theatre companies (okay, I suspect they’re just using their costumes from their annual Christmas Carol productions—but these are a lot more fun).

Your good friend Sweeney is waiting for you this Hallowe’en. Are you ready to take up his challenge, bleeders? His chair awaits.

 

Michael Kape is a Grumpy Old Guy® and definitely a cynic, but he does so love a great musical. He also assiduously avoids horror movies though he’s been called a monster by those damn young whippersnappers when he tells them to get off his lawn.