Friday, June 19, 2009

Defying Updates: June 11-19

I'm digging this new format. It lets me update once a week or so and allows me to focus on a variety of topics. Hope y'all enjoy it, because this is the way the blog is going to look for now.

WICKED AWESOME

After hearing about how terrific Wicked is from nearly everyone I've done a show with over the past five years, I finally got my chance to see it June 11 at the Murat. And you know what? All those people were right. Mostly.

I'll admit, the show was very entertaining. The plot - basically an origin story about how the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz came to be - was very clever. Inside jokes to the film abounded, almost to the point where it was too much. (More on this in the spoiler section below.)

The acting was stellar. Sure, the woman playing Glinda was channeling Kristin Chenoweth, but who wouldn't in that role? Chenoweth put such a stamp on that character that it would be difficult to perform it any other way. And according to my friend Brenna - who I saw the show with and who's now seen it three times - the woman playing Elphaba, the future Wicked Witch, was the best she'd ever seen. All the supporting roles were fine, as was the chorus. You could tell everyone was having a ball.

That's not to say the show was perfect. I'm still on the fence about the score. It's filled with mostly forgettable up-tempo numbers and over-stuffed dramatic ballads that pitch the lyrics and ideas to the rafters. The music was saved by both the performances and the staging. "Popular" is a stupid song but the woman playing Glinda (sorry, I don't have my Playbill in front of me so I don't know the actors' names) hilariously interpreted it and made it worth watching. And while "Defying Gravity" was visually stunning, the song was pretty bland. Even the message of the song was cliche-ridden. I can see why the music is a favorite among 14 year-olds everywhere.

My other main complaint has to do with all the references to The Wizard of Oz film. At first, like I said, it's mainly winks and nods toward the movie. But the second act takes it in a weird direction where it's referencing the movie but getting it all wrong.

(Note: SPOILERS AHEAD!!!)

First of all, the Wicked Witch comes from Munchkinland. And she's normal height. Brenna tried to tell me that she's only from Munchkinland, not an actual Munchkin, but I don't buy that. In fact, none of the people playing Munchkins are short. Which makes it even odder when someone references Munchkins later in the show and makes a hand gesture to indicate that they're midgets. The show is so in love with referencing the film that screwing up this aspect of it puzzled me. If they didn't want to hire little people, then why even have Munchkins in the show at all? Why not make them from some other part of Oz?

We also see, for example, how that the witch cast a spell to save a character but, in the process, turned him into the Tin Man. She also did the same thing to another character - one she was deeply in love with - creating the Scarecrow. Later in the show, the Tin Man is trying to stage a revolt against the witch, yelling, "See what she did to me? She created me!!!!" Around the same time, the Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch fake her death and head off into a magical forest or some such shit to be together forever. But here's the thing: In the movie the Witch set the Scarecrow on fire! On purpose! And laughed while she was doing it! Surely someone so in love with him wouldn't have done that, even if she knew she had to be convincing. Also, the Tin Man was found rusted on the side of the road and, if memory serves, even says he's been there for years. So how could he have been in Munchkinland being turned into the Tin Man? I don't get it.

It's been about 28 years since I read the Wizard of Oz series, so maybe these aspects of the show reference the books rather than the movie. But the show's so proud of all these sly winks and nods to the 1939 movie that going off the rails and not following the film in the second act is just bizarre and off-putting. They needed to decide which piece they were going to reference - the film or the book - and stick with that. Because sometimes following one and then (I'm assuming) switching gears and following the other can get confusing.

(END SPOILERS)

All that said, I whole-heartedly recommend the show. It's probably one of the most theatrical productions I've ever seen and it's enjoyable for that alone. And I'll admit that the ending brought a tear to this cynic's eye. If you get a chance, see it.

I still think Avenue Q rightly won the Best Musical Tony that year, though.


BIRTHDAY PARTY, PART II

My nephew turned four on the 10th, so we had a party for him last Saturday. I bought him a They Might Be Giants CD since they're now making music for kids. (Anything to survive the music business, I guess.) My nephew, he's a little sensitive. When he heard it was a They Might Be Giants CD, he became afraid. Because, you know, giants. We reassured him it would be alright and that he would love it, which I'm sure by now he does. There's many reasons to be afraid of that band - some of their music can be extremely annoying - but their name is not one of them.

The CD I'm buying him next year? Something by the Grateful Dead. Either that or the Zombies.


SMOKED BACON AND HA-A-A-A-A-A-A-AM UPDATE

Charlotte's Web debuts tonight. I think the kids are ready. I have no idea. I haven't been to their final week of rehearsals. They made this week something of a theatre camp for the kids during the day and, since I have to work, I was unable to attend. The report I'm getting is that it's going to be a cute show. If you have a chance and want to come, I'm sure they'd love your support. Showtimes:

Friday, June 19, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 20, 10:00 a.m.
Saturday, June 20, 2:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 20, 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for anyone over 10 and $5 for anyone under 10. It will be held in the older theatre at Zionsville High School. If you come to the 7:00 show on Saturday, you'll get the added bonus of seeing me completely fried after having a) seen Charlotte's Web three times in one day and b) spent the day with 80 hyperactive children. Nothing but good times.


JON AND KATE PLUS WHO FUCKING GIVES A SHIT

Enough, media, with Jon and Kate. Please.

I saw an episode of this show last summer while spending a week at my parent's house babysitting the dog and I couldn't stand it then. Kate is nothing but mean to her husband, putting him down at every opportunity. To be fair, he earns some of those disses, since he's the very definition of a do-nothing idiot. He even looks like a frat boy gone to seed, all puffy and hair plugs and shit. The show was your typical "reality" show where they tried to create a plotline around a bunch of random footage. The one I watched spent 30 minutes detailing Jon setting up the kiddie pool, with Kate and the kids nagging him all the way. It wasn't fun, it wasn't funny and I found no real reason to continue to watch it.

And then the tabloids hit. Apparently, Jon's been having an affair. And so has she. And she's evil. And he's evil. And they're vacationing apart. And they're showing up in bars without wedding rings. And he's banging a teacher. And she's banging her bodyguard. And...well, you get the idea. They're the new superstars of the tabloid world. And tabloids suck.

Jon or Kate made a statement recently saying they didn't sign on for this kind of attention. Um, yeah, you did. The minute you let cameras into your house you begged for people to pay attention to you. And, from all reports, you've savored every minute of it. After all, how much free shit have you gotten from your show? I read somewhere you were given a free van. Free! Do you think other families with eight kids and no television show got a free van? No, no they didn't. Suck it up, Jon and Kate. You sign a contract with the devil, the devil wants his pay.

This whole rant was brought on by a news story - if you can call it that - saying there was going to be a life-changing announcement for Jon and Kate on the show this Monday. First of all, this isn't a news story, it's a press release. Second, duh, they're getting a divorce. Which means the Learning Channel is about to reap the benefits. Think of it, they could each have their own show! Who cares that a family has been ripped apart when there are ratings to be had?

As has been said elsewhere, the true victims in this has been those eight kids. It's not normal to have your every move followed when you're four. And now we get to watch those kids go through living hell as their parents split up. Wow, what a fun show that will be! "Parents getting divorced, tonight at 8 on TLC!!!" Give me a break.

I know I'm writing about them here, giving them exactly the attention they desire, but really, America's fascination with these kinds of celebutards has to stop. I'm not saying we have to be fascinated with physicists or brain surgeons, but can't our celebrities actually have some talent instead of being known for starring in a reality television show? Please, for the love of God, we need to make this happen. Boycott US Weekly!


SPEIDI

And while we're at it, can Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag get their comeuppance already? Karma's a bitch and when it comes to cash in on those two it ain't going to be pretty.


THE BIG SHOE

Episode three of The Cinema Show is now ready for download. You know the drill: Either go here or visit iTunes.


That's it for the past week. Next update coming soon!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I Don't Care What You Say Anymore This Is My Life (Since May 13th)

So, it's been nearly a month. Which means it's time for another massive update! Lots of music stuff to report in this one. But first...


SCREW YOU, MALTIN!

I'm an idiot. I've started a new movie blog, one that mainly concentrates on what I've seen recently. In order to give it a hook, I've decided to challenge that wise sage Leonard Maltin to see if his opinions are correct or not. Check it out here. The first ten movies I chose to review were the first ten in his book that I wanted to see (or see again). I have no idea if I'll continue alphabetically or not, but that just seemed to be a good way to start. I'm a few reviews behind but they'll be up soon. They're extremely easy to write.

Oh, and I know Leonard Maltin didn't write every review in that massive book of his. But it's his name on the cover, so I'm holding him accountable.


JUST CALL ME SCORSESE

I have become the resident video creator at work, which is both good - my college degree is finally getting some use! - and bad. But it's only bad because so many people have asked me to create videos. In May I had six of them due all around the same time, which meant all my other duties at work fell by the wayside. (But don't cry too hard for me, since I was loving every minute of it.) You can check out some of my work here, here and here. It's pretty awkward at times, but I think they turned out OK.


THE CINEMA SHOW

Episodes three and four of The Cinema Show have been recorded and are now in the post-production phase. Look for June's episode, where Jeff and I discuss our favorite films of the 80s as well as some of our "guilty pleasure" movies, soon. Episodes one and two are still available. You can either directly download them here or go to iTunes and do a search on either "The Cinema Show" or "Marcus Waye" to download or subscribe.

We've heard great things so far about the show. If you listen, please let us know what you think.


POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

My friend Samantha K. graduated from high school last Friday and I was lucky enough to attend her graduation open house. It brought back fond memories of my own graduation and open house from good old 1991. I count that day - June 9, to be exact - as one of the best of my life. I literally felt like I was closing one book and opening another, all the while surrounded by everyone I loved. And then, to cap it off, I saw City Slickers that night with some friends. Great movie, that one. Sadly, it's now probably considered a "classic" since it's nearly 20 (!) years old now.

I did not feel the same way at my college graduation and open house. That was more of an "OH SHIT NOW I CAN'T HIDE BEHIND SCHOOL!!!!!!" kind of feeling.


TAKE ME TO ANOTHER PLACE...

I spent five days earlier this month with my mother and sister in Fairfield Glade, Tennessee. It was like an old-school family vacation since Dad always used to use the dog as an excuse not to travel back then, too. This was definitely not a sightseeing kind of trip. Fairfield Glade is a resort located exactly in the middle of nowhere. And the average age of a person at the resort was a healthy 72. Let's just say it wasn't hopping. But that's fine, because after the craziness I've had the past month, sitting on my ass for five days was just what the doctor ordered. Some highlights:

*Playing miniature golf in the middle of the woods. Chipmunks and squirrels all around. As well as those fucking windmills with the rotating walls that block your shot. I think I won. I might have tied with my sister, but it's my blog so I'm saying I won.

*Visiting the resort's - and the town's - library, which would best be described as a musty-smelling room. They didn't even take Val's information when she went to check out a book. All they required was a $2.50 deposit. Basically it was a glorified book store. I'm very spoiled when it comes to libraries.

*Visiting the Food King and signing up for their equivalent of a Kroger Plus Card so we could save big bucks on food even though I will never visit a Food King ever again.

*Buying nothing but junk food at the Food King.

*Eating nothing but junk food the entire time I was in Tennessee.

*Discovering a Cancun Mexican Restaurant right off the Interstate. I thought that was an Indianapolis-only chain, but I guess I'm wrong on that one.

*We went to the resort's weekly outdoor concert Monday night. The Saloonatics were playing both kinds of music: country and western. They did try their hand at "Rock Around the Clock" but the lead singer screwed it up royally. I'm still confused about that one: That song has one of the easiest sets of lyrics ever. We left soon after. There's only so many Charlie Pride covers one can take.

*Apparently the world's smallest and blandest outlet mall is located in Crossville, TN. It was all indoors under harsh flourescent lights. The stores were fine, it was the presentation that was lacking. We booked through that thing in a few hours.

*We played a lot of Wii. You haven't lived until you've challenged your mother to a virtual Dance Off tset o "Jungle Boogie" in the game Raving Rabbids TV Party.

*Naps. You can't go wrong with naps. Lots and lots of naps.

There's more to tell but I'll stop before this turns into the blog equivalent of a vacation slide show. Good times were had by all.


SMOKED BACON AND HA-A-A-A-A-A-A-M UPDATE

Charlotte's Web is coming along. The kids are off-book theoretically, although many of them are still struggling with lines. Next week is Theatre Boot Camp for them, though - three hours of rehearsal for each cast during the day - so they'll get it. Plus their brains are like sponges. I'm not worried. It's going to be a cute show. I don't know how entertaining it will be as a piece of theatre, but watching those kids will at least be cute. Show information:

Friday, June 19, 7:00 p.m. (Cast #1)
Saturday, June 20, 10:00 a.m. (Cast #2)
Saturday, June 20, 2:00 p.m. (Cast #1)
Saturday, June 20, 7:00 p.m. (Cast #2)

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10. This one's going to be at the Zionsville High School since we have 80 kids between the two casts. Too many parents for our tiny little space. More information can be found here.


SPINNING PIANOS DO NOT JUSTIFY A $117 NOSE BLEED SEAT

I saw Billy Joel and Elton John at Conseco Fieldhouse on May 19th. Sadly, I thought the show was merely OK. Elton was in fine form. His setlist was interesting, full of semi-obscure 70s songs that people can't exactly sing along to. Too bad his backing band was awful. Billy was hamming it up way too much. Plus he dropped the keys of many of his songs down - I'm guessing so he could hit the high notes - which made them sound off-kilter. And there was absolutely no energy in his set. Plus, Mr. Joel, I don't appreciate hardy "Oh, aren't ticket prices way too high?" jokes when you're charging $500 for the top seats and forcing us in the rafters to pay over $100. If you're going to ask us to pay that much, I suggest you bring your "A" game. Here's the setlist:

Billy/Elton Together: Your Song / Just the Way You Are / Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me / My Life
Elton's Set: Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding / Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting / Burn Down the Mission / Madman Across the Water / Tiny Dancer / Goodbye Yellow Brick Road / Daniel / Rocket Man / Levon / I'm Still Standing / Crocodile Rock
Billy's Set: Prelude/Angry Young Man / Movin' Out (Anthony's Song) / Allentown / Zanzibar / Don't Ask Me Why / She's Always a Woman / Scenes from an Italian Restaurant / The River of Dreams / We Didn't Start the Fire / It's Still Rock and Roll To Me / Only the Good Die Young
Billy and Elton Together: I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues / Uptown Girl / The Bitch is Back / You May Be Right / Bennie and the Jets / Birthday / Back in the U.S.S.R. / Candle in the Wind / Piano Man

Yes, it was three hours, and, to be fair, it succeeded on a greatest hits level, but I left wanting something more. At least "Zanzibar" was a nice surprise.


IN MY PLACE

The Coldplay concert was a better example of how to pull off a stadium show. Ticket prices were high - $100 for the pavilion, $45 for the lawn - but Chris Martin and company came out swinging. It was basically a hits show as well, even though it still baffles me that Coldplay has been around long enough to put on a hits show. But there was a lot of energy behind those songs and they gave their all performing them. Even "Yellow", their first hit that's almost a decade old, was performed with gusto. It was just a fun concert, although I felt very, very old sitting there on the lawn surrounded by thousands of drunk teenagers. The set:

Main Set: Life in Technicolor (Instrumental) / Violet Hill / Clocks / In My Place / Yellow / Glass of Water / Cemeteries of London / 42 / Fix You / Strawberry Swing / The Hardest Part / Postcards from Far Away / Viva La Vida / Lost! / Green Eyes / Death Will Never Conquer / I'm a Believer / Politik / Lovers in Japan / Death and All His Friends
Encore: The Scientist / Life in Technicolor II

Yes, that's the Monkees/Neil Diamond "I'm a Believer". It was done acoustically. And it wasn't the train wreck you'd imagine.


CAR WHEELS ON A BROAD RIPPLE ROAD

And, to save the best for last, last night I saw Lucinda Williams at The Vogue. This show was jaw-droppingly awesome, if I may mangle the English language to describe it. Seriously. I was shocked by how phenomenal it was.

Her band made the show. They were on fire. Just pure adrenaline up there on stage, from the moment the lights went down until they came up at the end. And Lucinda was in fine form, too. Just a lot of fun. Here's what she played:

Main Set: I Just Wanted To See You So Bad / Big Red Sun Blues / Can't Let Go / Concrete and Barbed Wire / Circles and Xs / Learning How To Live / Tears of Joy / Are You Alright / Ventura / Jackson / I Lost It / Pineola / Drunken Angel / Little Rock Star / Out of Touch / Real Love / Real Live Bleeding Fingers and Broken Guitar Strings / Come On / Honey Bee / Joy / Righteously
Encore: Are You Down / Atonement / It's a Long Way to the Top

This one is a definite contender for concert of the year.


EIGHT DISCS OF SHAKEY

Last week finally saw the release of Neil Young's first archives set. Available in either CD, DVD or Blu-Ray forms, the set is a massive clearing house of both rarities and remastered hits from the first portion (1963-1972) of his career. I went with the CD version because, simply put, I couldn't justify spending the money for either the DVD or Blu-Ray portions. ($250 for ten Blu-Ray discs that, let's be honest, I'd probably watch once.) The CDs are fine with me, since it's all about the music, anyway. Plus I get more repeat value out of my CDs. I have to say, I'm mighty impressed with this set. It has pretty much everything you'd want. Songs from his high school band? Check. Complete concerts? Check. All the hits? Check. Studio outtakes? Check. B-Sides? Check. It's all there. It was well worth the $70 I paid for it. It could be akin to torture if you're not a Neil Young fan, but if you are it's like opening up a present on Christmas morning. A present that takes eight hours to listen to, that is.


DO YOU HAVE THE TIME TO LISTEN TO ME WHINE?

I liked Green Day better when they were stoned slackers sitting on their couch instead of the ones chosen to empower the masses. Now that they're a message band they're trying way too hard to impact people's lives. American Idiot was a great disc but their new one (21st Century Breakdown) is so concerned with topping it that it forgets about what makes them such a great band in the first place. I don't hate the new disc, I just wish they weren't trying so hard.

And why the hell can't they pose for a photograph like normal people? Every single picture of Green Day is all about making the funny faces.


ANOTHER NEW ADDITION

Congratulations to my friends Luke and Rebecca McConnell. They are now the proud parents of a son, James, who was born May 20th. My friends keep having kids. It's like we're all growing up or something.


So, that's been my life since May 13th. Hopefully the next update will come sooner so I won't have to write - and you won't have to read - these mega-posts all the time.