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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Friday Five, July 22, 2011

Schwartz's: The Musical (photo:

Just because the movie worked, doesn't mean that cramming it up the ass with dancing hobbits and LED lights will.
by Jessica Wei

It's not an old problem, not enough people do go see theatre of any kind. However, the high production value of musical theatre, and the fact that it's intellectually the most accessible kind of performing art (simple story lines, catchy songs) makes that particular genre an easier one to sell. But in the past few years, we've seen an influx of shameless advertising ploys in favour of Broadway never before employed. From shitty television to adapting cinematic classics to the stage, these big-shot producers are really gunning for this generation of teenyboppers. So hold on to your wallets, people, because what's coming up is merely a warning for what to avoid if you don't want to get caught in the Broadway trap. Here's Five Cheap Ploys To Get (More) Young People Interested in Musical Theatre. 

The Canadian Marias in How Do You Solve...

Cheap, exploitative television. You gotta love it. Visual junk food to viewers, sure, but the idea behind reality TV is both evil and a stroke of genius. It demands loyalty to programming and audience participation. It engages through the spirit of competition and, beautifully, most anything can be applied to a reality show. And so, several summers ago, to no one's surprise, musical theatre tried their hand at this new medium. Grease: You're The One That I Want!, Legally Blonde The Musical: The Search For Elle Woods, and the Canadian How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? were only three of many reality TV series revolved around high production musicals. It took the proven-to-work template of the typical talent search show and crammed it with show tunes, with a starring role as the prize. Pretty easy, right? However, bad formulaic television is still bad formulaic television, no matter how many musical numbers are thrown in. Even if viewers vote and buy a ticket to see their favourite contestant, it isn't about the production anymore, it's superficial idol worship.

You know what my favourite thing about the movie Legally Blonde was? Sure, Reese Witherspoon pulled off a decent performance, and I can always get behind seeing Luke Wilson in any movie. The script was not terrible, the plot only had a few, minor holes in it, but the real kicker? That ballad she sings when Elle first arrives at Harvard, of course! Oh wait, that didn't happen? Well it certainly did in the Broadway production! 

This seriously needs to stop happening. I sat through all four hours of the short-lived Lord of the Rings musical in Toronto, y'all, and let me tell you – it was a thoroughly unimpressive, special FX splooge-fest. They took all the suspense of the original movies and killed it by punctuating all the major pivotal moments with forgettable musical numbers. The stage set-up was so over-the-top it was almost laughable. Just because the movie worked, doesn't mean that cramming it up the ass with dancing hobbits and LED lights will. And same applies to prancing ogres (Shrek), post-break-up balladeer record store owners (High Fidelity – if you can believe it), and swingin', singin' Spidey (Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark). Julie Taymor, just stop, okay? It's just sad.

So, admittedly, I actually haven't seen Schwartz's: The Musical, but I'm not gonna lie – it sounds like the worst thing ever. It sounds like a cheap tug on the heartstrings of Montrealers, commemorating a national icon by taking its complex history and slapping it on stage with cheesy costumes and campy music. I love the restaurant, I love the Bill Brownstein book that inspired this show, but I absolutely cannot see the Centaur production nailing down the history and atmosphere of the diner on stage. It simply doesn't work for the medium. But I could be wrong, right? 

The Glee Kids do Rocky Horror Show's Time Warp
[Eds: Incessant ads are not ours]

Seriously, what hasn't been said about this show? It's become a cultural phenomenon, spawning a reality TV series and a 3D Imax concert movie. People either love it or hate it, but those who hate it are still watching. Beautiful people who claim to be social outcasts, on screen, doing covers of everything from Kanye West's “Gold Digger” to “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. Plot-wise, very little makes sense, but boy is it ever addictive television. It, like cell phone companies, caters to impressionable teenagers with a hand in mommy's cheque-book and it knows it doesn't need to make sense or be particularly groundbreaking or even good to make money. And by bringing the focus to Broadway musicals, it's saying to their viewers, “Hey, there's better entertainment out there. Let me do a number from Rent and let you check it out on your own”. Which isn't a bad way to draw crowds, actually. (And this is literally as far as I'll defend Glee, ever). 

[EDS: We are terrified to put it here, but suspect we must: a link to our most reviled review ever: Schwartz's: The Musical]

1 comment:

  1. You're slamming Schwartz's without seeing it? Hahaha, what an idiot.

    A sold out first run, and the first-ever Centaur summer remount in its history. But it must suck, of course. How could it possibly be good?


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