Kerry Ellis IS Wicked.

There is this woman.  Her name is Kerry. She sings the shit out of Defying Gravity.

Once upon a time my good friend Kaitlin and I spent about 7 minutes watching this video comparing every woman who has ever played Eponine in Le Mizerables. The entire video consisted of more than 20 different girls singing the climactic 10 words:” A world that’s full of happiness that  I have never known!”  Over and Over. and while it felt a little funny it was hard to take your eyes off of the subtitled names as the girls repeatedly belted away.

Recently I was able to relocate this video, which led me to look up other Broadway comparisons on youtube. Naturally, there are videos that do this for the show Wicked. And Naturally it’s the song Defying Gravity.  Now  I had heard Kerry Ellis sing this song before because friend Robert, of the Broadway Research League (here after referred to as BRL), had been intensely studying the song for the entire month of march 2010.  Thing is  that was a studio recording and with all of today’s tech stuff I can hardly tell if someone is AS increadible as the recording sounds.

So I’m watching this video comparing all of the different Elphabas when Kerry Ellis comes blaring through youtube. MAN. she sure is salty.

I am always entertained by how they each choose different places to riff and snarl.  It’s like any time anyone sings the song they have to mark it with their special sequence of added vocal gymnastics. It’s getting to the point where I can distinguish them immediately simply because one sings: ooo-oh ah oh OOOO vs. OOO ah  ah OOO  OOOO and so on.

Once I’ve established that Ms. Ellis is my favorite I do one quick search for her name and the song title and up comes this video.  She’s performing a version of the song from her album Wicked, In Rock live at the Royal Variety Performance 2008.  Even if Wicked is old news to those of you reading, I think this rock-concert version merits attention. If you are short on time… do yourself a favor… it gets ridiculous at 2:08. :0)

Birthday Blog: My 2/5 Hwangap

So today is my birthday.  I tend to forget that it’s coming until the week before.  This year, however, I have decided to be more excited than I traditionally am. This year I am building toward my Hwangap. What could that mean? I will explain:

Samuel French has recently published a play called American Hwangap, a story of a Korean family celebrating the 60th birthday of their patriach. Wikipedia tells us that “A Hwangap is a Korean traditional way of celebrating one’s 60th birthday. The number 60 means accomplishing one big circle in one’s life. This circle is five complete cycles of the 12 year Chinese Zodiac.”

I kind of liked the idea of having another “cool” birthday to look forward to now that I have passed 21.  The more I thought about Hwangaps and what they stand for the more I annoyed my close friends by telling them repeatedly that “the problem with America is that we value youth and not age or skill or wisdom and that makes it hard to be excited about your birthdays when you are  just getting older and thats it!”

So, I made a few resolutions to celebrate age and wisdom, and I’m actually going to apply that to myself.  This past year was not stagnant. I was astonished how much you grow from just one insignificant birthday to another. I learned a ton about growing-up, relationships, adulthood, and mashups.

I LOVE mashups. In fact,  if you were to ask me what I wanted for my birthday, after fridge magnets and unmatched bookends I would say that I want to be made into a mash-up DJ.  … if you’re listening, MTV….

I’ve been systematically signing up for 10 day trials of every music editor that I can find online.  I have a great time playing around and even had partial success making a club remix out of Bette Midler’s The Rose. I expect my birthday treat to myself will be some snazzy sound software and business cards for the newly born DJ RedScare.

For now I think I will finish this post with a music clip of one of the muscial highlights of my year. This crazy mashup comes from the Best of Bootie 2009 Album. Club Bootie in San Francisco specializes in mash-ups and has countless mashups available for download at bootiemashup.com. It features Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Ozzy Osbourne and Daft Punk all at once, titled: My Life on Crazy Train Sucks (So What?!).  In one word: Inspired.

Breaking the Rule of Three, Part 3: Divas

One last aspect of the rule of three (before I can move on and do a post about sex already!) is that often times characters in stories come in 3’s. This can be bears, mice, stooges, pigs, fates, fairies, angels, goats gruff, sisters, wizard kids, tenors, kings etc.  The idea being that and trios are inherently funnier, cooler or more sexy (in the case of the goats gruff).

It is also possible to have a trio of divas. I know what your thinking, aren’t those crazy divas meant to just to stand ahead of the pack a screlt out powerful solos? Well it turns out that over the years Broadway thinkers and makers have gotten smarter and smarter about combining the powerful known types of Diva into super molecules of fabulous. These creations keep getting more and more complex. The brief history can be summed up in my good friend Robert Coverdell’s Theory of Diva Evolution:

In the beginning, shows had only one Diva (this was before the technology existed to have sassy women share stages).  This is the Ethel Merman type.  She would blare out a brassy number and kick and swear if someone even mentioned the spotlight leaving her. Gypsy is a great example of a show that is constructed around one major diva character. Streisand characters often play for all the marbles as well.

The second stage of the Evolution is a  Divas dueting. I’m talking about heart stopping numbers in pieces like Sideshow, Chess and Wicked.

And then lastly, in accordance with the rule of 3: shows with 3 Divas.  Big mentions here being Witches of Eastwick, Dreamgirls, and recently, 9 to 5.  Now, these are fantastic shows.  9 to 5 is my jam, BUT will we let the rule of 3 stop us there?! I know it seems impossible but there must be a way to break this barrier and bring well-constructed 4 Diva shows into existence.

I should pause here to give mention to Ira Gasman and Cy Colema’s The Life. This romp featured a half-dozen slutacular women of the night screaming proudly.  It was a wonder, but far too unstable to replicate.

SO I sat down with research partner Robert and we tasked ourselves with breaking the rule of three and reaching for just one viable show that can support the 4 Diva compound.  After about 30 laborious minutes we have done it.  Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: The Musical.

Just think of it! four chicks, different things going on, different personalities, a well balanced cast provided by Ms. Ann Brashares. Robert and I are going to start working on the score pretty soon now, but we are already accepting applications from interested Divas who want to be part of history (Sutton Foster, you can have the weird character, or the one that goes to Greece!).  I even have some of the lyrics coming along:

Our love won’t unravel,
’cause our pants travel!
we’re a good good good
Sisterhood!

well… There’s some more R&D to happen here.  But I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Sondheim and False Opposites

On the way to the gym last night The Boy and I were forced to walk past the Walter Kerr Theater on 48th.  Passing in front of the theater we were suddenly surrounded by a jovial mob, bubbling with excitement to see 2 legends of the theatah (Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch) step into the leading roles of A Little Night Music.  In the general frenzy we were forced up against a wall next to a merch seller while the sea of people swarmed around us. The Boy and I spent a few seconds telling each other how we wished we were seeing this until I decided to ask if there was standing room… and there was.

We hurried home to change (into some fancier wife-beaters), then ran back to the theater and positioned our sweaty selves at the back of the orchestra.

The show is great- although long to stand through- and at the end the full company lead by both Peters and Stritch received minutes worth of applause and cat calls. Ten feet to my right Stephen Sondheim stood and clapped proudly.  It was a pretty good moment. I looked from Sondheim, to the bowing cast, to the audience and back to Sondheim.  In my ear the boyfriend whispers: “he’s just so amazing.”

I am always trying to articulate what it is that Sondheim does right.  And while an entire blog could be dedicated to picking apart his lyrics and music… I don’t have that kind of time.  However,  last night while pondering Madame Armfeldt’s lyric “a pleasurable means to a measurable end” I was able to isolate one thing that he uses that always moves me.  I’m going to call it false-opposites.

Sondheim is really good at setting up lines that parallel each other except for 1 important word that changes. Often times it feels like these words have contrasting meanings because they are set up opposites, but really their literal definitions do not intersect.

Example time. Consider this lyric from the song Being Alive from Company: “alone is alone, not alive.”

Sondheim has set up Alone and Alive as opposites, when really they aren’t mutually exclusive by definition. But by choosing these words to contrast each other he makes the strong statment that you aren’t living if you are all alone. He also does it with 6 words.

Another example of this comes from Into The Woods: “Children can only grow from something you love to something you lose.”  Love and Hate are opposites. Lost and Found are opposites.  In the middle of the thought he changes from a statement of attraction to a statement of possession.

I love things like this. And of course the false opposites are all alliterative. Everything is just… spot on.

Favorite New Artist Jerzy Jung!

About a week ago The Boy and I stopped by The Bitter End bar to hear his college friend Jerzy’s band. She’s great!  think her sound is in the vein of Sarah McLachlan, Sara Bareilles, or Vanessa Carlton. You can find Jerzy on Facebook, Myspace, and the iTunes store.  She’s got a new EP out, Hello Desire, below is the first song titled Black Dress, White Dress. Enjoy and check her out!

We saw this post coming…

I hesitated in posting this.  If I’m going to blog about songs and music as a gay man then mentioning Dreamgirls is neither daring nor original.  All  the same, this recording does have TWO incredible singers in an almost laughable duet.  So there.  Laughter and Singing! Stay tuned for Sex next week!

Do yourself a favor, if you aren’t interested in watching the whole thing,  Skip ahead to 5:14.  I cannot stop smiling at the polite silence between Hudson’s riff and Holiday’s riff.  (Holiday’s riff alone- my god!) This may be the most soul I’ve ever scene in one place.  In the future I’ll be more original.

La Cage vs. MJ vs. Gaga

Eventually I was going to have to mention that I work at Samuel French. SF is a play publisher and licensing house.  This means that theaters, churches or schools apply to us for performance rights for any of the titles in our catalogue.  Recently we were astonished when a public school in New York City (less than a mile from Broadway) was approved to perform La Cage Aux Folles.

We were suprised not only someone so near would be approved, not only that a school with kids aged 7-12 was doing La Cage,  But also …because it was school for children with special needs.  All of my office mates wanted to go, but I was really torn from the beginning. I wanted to absolutely make sure that we weren’t attending in a mean spirited way.  I went.

Before the curtain the director made a very impassioned speech at the beginning explaining to the roomful of parents WHY she had chosen to do La Cage aux Folles with Middle-School kids. She spoke out against gay slurs and general intolerance of difference. After a short scene inwhich young kids simulated calling each other fags on the playground the director resumed her talk, and explained that her greatest gift to these children would be to teach them that EVERYONE operates differently, but that doesn’t mean that ANYONE is less.

I was really moved by how she pulled everything together and later on I was really effected by the 12 year old boy from a special needs school singing I am what I am…but I did laugh. a lot.  Not at the kids, but at the show itself.  This school and changed, rearranged, added and cut and insane amount of material.  To give you a slight idea…here is the songlist from the evening:

We Are Family*
Speechless**
The Way you Make Me Feel**
With You on my Arm***
Human Nature**
I Am What I am***

Intermission

Bad**
Look Over There***
ABC****
Best of Times is Now***
Papparazzi*****
We Are Family (Reprise)*
I Am What I Am (Reprise)***
Human Nature (Reprise)**

KEY for Song credit:
*Pointer Sisters
**Michael Jackson
***Jerry Herman (the creator of La Cage Aux Folles)
****The Jackson 5
*****Lady Gaga

This show was hysterical. Aside from the fact that the whole show ended with the a reprise of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature, I most enjoyed “ABC” which was actually sung outside the story arc of La Cage by a student who was was discontent with the casting of “spring play twenty-ten” and wanted a solo although cast in the ensemble.  this was all explained in the preceding monologue.  How Meta!

Joe and the blog…

After living in NYC for a year and a half I decided that I would sign up for a library card at the NY Public Library. I mostly did this because I needed to kill an hour after work today before meeting some friends at Boxer’s a new gay sports bar in Chelsea. However, while signing up for my card I made a silent vow that I would check out and read something every 2 months. I already know the first book I will check out. Color Purple. somewhere in there is a quote that god gave us unbelievable gifts. the best of which are laughter singing and sex….