Friday, June 08, 2007

Why don't I live in the UK?

Yet another reason why the UK is superior--better theatre reality television.* I recently discovered that the BBC's How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria, a reality show talent competition to find a Maria to star in the West End's The Sound of Music, has been followed up by Any Dream Will Do, in which Andrew Lloyd Webber and co. are searching for a new Joseph for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. My study breaks have become watching clips from the show. Thank goodness for YouTube, otherwise I would be deprived of reality television at its finest.

I saw a highly entertaining revival of Joseph on the West End in 2003, so I'm not sure it's begging to be revived again, but, and mock if you like, I'm just going to say it right now, I love Joseph. I love Andrew Lloyd Weber's eclectic score, plus it's always been my favorite Torah story. I'm still on the fence about this new casting method, although I got sucked into Grease You're the One That I Want. But if any musical was made to be cast this way, it's Joseph. The character is sort of a pop idol anyway (and he's usually played by one).

Obviously, I can't watch full episodes, but from what I've seen on YouTube, this show is much better produced than its American counterpart and the competitors are much more talented. They have more chances to showcase their talents, having to perform in trios, duets, as a group, solo, and facing various acting challenges. Also the singoffs are much more elaborate and intense. The competitors perform a whole song rather than little snippets as they did on Grease. It does seem cruel to have the losers sing "Close Every Door To Me" when they give back their coats, but that's reality television for you.

There are only three boys left in the competition--Lewis, Lee, and Keith. I'm rooting for Lee who has the best voice and stage presence. Keith has also given some knockout performances (and I'm not just saying that because he's Scottish), but he looks too young for the role and would make a better Benjamin. Come to think of it, since there were originally twelve in the competition, they should cast everyone else as the brothers. Anyway, you can bet I'll be checking for the results of the final, which is this Saturday.

Here's a clip of my favorite, Lee, singing "Paint it Black." This wasn't necessarily his best performance, but I like the bit at the beginning with the guys speaking in their charming accents:

*I realize my blog has been very theatre heavy of late. I'm spending most of my time writing about rock and pop music for my capstone, so I like to change it up a bit here.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

It was 40 years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play...

I know, terribly unoriginal. I felt it necessary to take a break from my capstone to commemorate the 40th anniversary of one of the most important rock 'n' roll albums of all time. I've always been more of a "White Album" girl myself, and I also consider "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" to be stronger albums as a whole, but "Sgt. Pepper's" did give us the concept album, the Summer of Love, and "A Day in the Life."

It's a little strange to comment on the anniversary because I obviously wasn't around at the time. I never had the experience of going to the record store as soon as it came out, running home and sitting down next to the record player, and listening to it all the way through, completely mesmorized. I have no recollections of my first time listening to any of the Beatles albums because they were always there.

I do remember spending hours looking at the album cover, trying to figure out who all those famous people were. I would sing along to every song, lyrics in hand. I didn't know or care about hidden drug references, but I was intrigued by the lyrics, even then. I was fascinated by the contradictions in "Getting Better," both within the lyrics and the juxtaposition of the upbeat, sing-song melody with the darker words. I cried for the girl in "She's Leaving Home" as well as her parents. I loved the silly phrases in "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite." I was jealous of Rita, who Paul McCartney wanted to have tea with. And I was stunned by "A Day in the Life."

It depresses me to think that 40 years have passed since Paul McCartney wrote "When I'm 64" and that he's on the verge of turning 65. I always thought of the four of them as those young boys from Liverpool even though they were in their 40s when I was born and John Lennon was no longer alive.

But Paul McCartney has moved on, at least in part. On Tuesday, he will release "Memory Almost Full," which promises to be an amazing album despite the label on which it's being released (Hear Music). He is focused on promoting the album rather than celebrating the anniversary of one of his proudest achievements (on the Anthology, he seems much more eager to take credit for "Sgt. Pepper's" than say, "Magical Mystery Tour," which is a very underappreciated album, but that's a story for another day). Still, his new album, as he's stated in interviews, is retrospective, with songs that look back on his childhood and his relationship with Linda. The first single "My Ever Present Past," which rivals the best songs on most McCartney solo albums (with the possible exceptions of "Ram" and "McCartney"), reminds us that Paul McCartney never can escape his past. I wonder if he realized that he would be releasing the album at a time when so many would be reliving the glory days of "Sgt. Pepper's." It must be hard to have your work held up to such high standards, but it looks like Paul is up for the challenge.