So, yes, we are talking about live musicals now! Because of course we are! Now that I’ve watched the three most recent, I feel supremely qualified to tell you exactly what to think about the format, and the strengths and weaknesses of each.
First things first, let’s g’head and disqualify Peter Pan immediatement. I didn’t watch very much of it, I believe I ended right after Captain Hook and his merry band of pirates did their big number, and while some may say that means I shouldn’t judge it…they would be wrong. For you see, DNF (did not finish) means you already failed me. And I say that as an author whose book will debut in September of this year. If it fails you, you can still review it. That’s how that works.
I recall the set being much as I remember from previous such events, stagey – which isn’t a bad thing. (Until you see Grease. But wait! We’re not there yet.) The big problem with Peter Pan? It was charmless. Allison Williams’ Peter was charmless. There’s…. really no coming back from that. So. Done. Simple.
Right! On to the good stuff.
Yes, I was hyped for this. So were we all. Packed with stars, debuting a new talent, and new music? YES, THANK YOU. So how did it rate?
A solid 4.5/5 stars. Better than solid. I’ve watched it half a dozen times already with my son. It can easily be bumped up to 5 stars when you consider how necessary it was and still is. BUT. Where it faltered:
(1) Technical Difficulties.
Of course live performances have their share of missteps, particularly with random occurrences of dead space or unintended pauses. It happened enough times to be obvious. Moments that come to mind: Addapearle’s entrance and exit – which really bummed me out because she was LIT. Like, ON. FIYAH. GLORY! The Poppy/Lion dance – which felt like perhaps the music took too long to come up so it was like, should someone be speaking right now? Do we all know our blocking? The Wiz’s grand gestures – which were meant to be synced with special effects.
It went by so quickly!! Not to mention that there was no ending/Kansas resolution, which was surprising! We seriously could’ve used an additional half hour AT. LEAST. And the real desire for back-on-the-farm resolution is tied to something I will note in the “Where it WON” part of this discussion.
Which starts now.
I mean. Can we just. Did they not. Like, f’real. Starting with Aunt Em’s beautiful rendition of “The Feeling We Once Had.” Then Addapearle? Then Scarecrow? Then Tinman’s “What Would I Do?”
I can’t express it to you fully in words, but I feel like she gets it.
Nothing. Will touch. The music. I loved the new song, and I was so pleasantly surprised that having been raised on Michael Jackson’s “You Can’t Win,” Elijah Kelley rocked.my.socks.
*I will confess that I wasn’t a fan of Dorothy’s sharpness whenever they sang “Ease On Down The Road.”
Seriously, just amazing choices, including Queen Latifah as the Wiz. YES. Elijah Kelley’s Scarecrow was just. I was in love. Until Ne’yo’s Tinman. Which brings me to the whole WE ALL HAVE ALWAYS WANTED DOROTHY AND TINMAN TOGETHER, RIGHT?! That’s a thing, yes?! Because the fact that we don’t go back to the farm and have Dorothy realize they’re all there – which yes, is more Wizard of Oz than the Wiz but wasn’t the Wiz on stage more blended, story-wise?! – that is what really hurt the length and ending for me. Give me closure on my shipping please!
You already be knowing. So yes. Cannot choose favorites, but I *will* say…. this is another reason we needed a longer production. Can you imagine something more akin to the Emerald City scene in The Wiz, the film?! I would have died.
*Special mention: Cirque du Soleil! The whimsy. Seriously, this was such a beautiful addition, and really bridged the film and stage versions beautifully.
Which brings us to the most recent production: Grease.
Here’s the thing. Production-wise? It was dang near perfect. For real. It was the reason you wanna be the last person to present. Because you maybe didn’t even think to do it until you saw someone else do it, and then you were like, pretty sure I can do that better, plus I’ve seen all the ways you misfired, so. Yeah. It was baller, production-wise. And strangely, I can’t give it above a 4. Here’s why:
Super torn here. Loved the ladies, I think Sandra Dee was perfectly cast, was surprised and in love with Rizzo – her performance wasn’t amazing in light of her father’s passing, it was amazing – and truth be told, I really like Kenickie. Buuuut…
It seemed like everyone was performing the film. As in, they were mimicking the people who played the part before them, instead of playing the part? It worked for Rizzo and Kenickie…everyone else felt like a caricature, to be honest, even my beloved Keke.
And EXCUSE ME but Danny is 47 years old. Stop.
(2) I don’t like Grease!
Yeah, I’m having to just admit it, after having my entire senior year seem to revolve around my class’s love of Grease and all things Grease and wait, also Footloose – it’s just not me. I was always the least in love, though I liked it well enough but. THIS IS A HORRIBLE STORY. Like, for real. The guys are completely unacceptable, period, Danny is just gross full-stop. I can’t.
Rizzo’s song saves the day. Well, that and Beauty School Drop-out.
The transformation at the end is just.
Which, yes, isn’t a function of the live performance, it’s a problem with the story itself.
This was a little hit or miss for me. Even Boys II Men was a little warbly, which was just sad and made me feel like the world I grewed up in is dead. BUT the opening number? By someone the kids know? That was great. As I said, Rizzo’s number was great, the ensemble stuff – though sometimes you couldn’t hear the lead – and Marty’s song was nice. I’d say Danny and Sandy’s singing were my least favorite, though it wasn’t painful or anything.
So…..amazing production. Wish it’d been a different show?
*Special mentions: Doody’s “Those Magic Changes”, Frenchy, and Blanche.
Is there anyway we could get a longer, Grease! style do-again (not do-over!) of The Wiz?!