Tag Archives: musical

Nine

Alli has been wanting to see Nine ever since she heard of it and it seemed like a can’t miss film: a musical based on a Fellini movie that was directed by the guy who directed Chicago and starred Daniel Day-Lewis and like, a bajillion other Oscar winners. Oh, and it was also put out by perennial Oscar hoarder, Harvey Weinstein.

It really had the pedigree to be something special.

Yeah…not so much.

It wasn’t that it was bad…it had moments of brilliance, particularly the choreographed numbers with the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie “Be Italian” and Kate Hudson’s “Cinema Italiano”. And Daniel Day-Lewis…well, that guy is just phenomenal. Even faced with sub-par writing and a flimsy plot, he really delivers as Guido “The Maestro” Contini, the famed Italian film director with writer’s block. He brings life to a completely unlikable character who is tortured because of the 7 women of his past and present: his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his muse (Nicole Kidman), his makeup artist (Dame Judi Dench), an American journalist (Hudson), a prostitute from his childhood (Fergie), and his enigmatic, canonized mother (Sophia Loren).

Honestly, if this movie is about anything, it can be found in the 3-minute “Cinema Italiano” number with Kate Hudson, in which she actually sings that style is more important than substance and that’s why Contini’s movies are so great.

It seems like Rob Marshall took this nugget a little too close to heart because while the film is absolutely gorgeous (one of my favorite scenes was the opening one where we meet Guido for the first time in his sound stage…that shot is amazing), but it completely falls apart because it can’t deliver on any semblance of a story.

Without Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard, this movie would be a complete travesty, but they manage to save it in their unique ways. Cotillard is so charming as Conini’s tortured wife who knows that he’s a scoundrel, but sticks with him “for the film”. I didn’t particularly like her in Public Enemies and was really bummed when she beat out Ellen Page’s Juno for Best Actress in the 2008 Oscars, but she is really likable in this movie, despite its many flaws.

Like I said, Nine has some moments and is buoyed by two very good performances, but it can’t overcome the terrible script and just didn’t deliver as the Oscar bait that Harvey Weinstein wanted us to believe that it was.

Spring Awakening

I was extremely lucky to win tickets from Lost In Reviews to the opening night of the Spring Awakening tour in Kansas City this evening. (Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review.)

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Alli and I were really excited to have a night out (on a Tuesday!) to see the 2007 Tony Award-winning musical with music by one of my favorite musical artists, Duncan Sheik.

The musical is based on a controversial German play by Frank Wedekind and focuses on the themes of sexuality and violence. The original play was banned in Germany because of its racy themes, but an amazing thing about the play is that many of the themes still ring true over 100 years later.

The show is staged very uniquely, with a simple, straight-forward set containing seating for audience member on the stage and several movable chairs that can be configured to portray a schoolhouse, a study, an oak tree (trust me on that one). There is also one minor moving part to the stage, but it’s almost unnoticeable. The lighting design for the show won a well-deserved Tony and is phenomenal. It was yet another part of the show that was unique…unlike anything I’ve seen.

The band is at the back of the stage — a piano, acoustic and electric guitars, upright bass, drums, maybe 1 or 2 other instruments. It’s an interesting choice because you notice them, but you don’t at the same time because many of the songs are performed directly to the audience, giving them more of a rock concert feel than the musicals that you’re used to.

And while we’re on the topic of the music, I have to talk about Duncan Sheik’s brilliant score and Steven Sater’s great lyrics. Somehow, they manage to take 1890’s German kids, have them sing indie rock songs with titles like “The Bitch of Living” and it all works. The performances by the actors at our show were phenomenal. I was particularly impressed by Taylor Trensch, who plays Moritz (arguably the third lead in the show). He was raw and his singing was on point. He really was the stand-out.

I really enjoyed this show as did Alli. I was amazed that something with its subject matter in a play over 100 years old could still be so relevant and meaningful. The singing was powerful, the music was eclectic and modern, yet fit the pervading themes of the show.

Glee fans (like me) will recognize Lea Michelle (who plays the diva Rachel) from the commercials since she was the original Wendla, the female lead in Spring Awakening. I think this kind of goes without saying (what with her being on a regular TV show and all), but don’t expect to see her.

For those theater-goers who might be interested in seeing the show, I highly recommend it, but that recommendation comes with a caveat: if you are easily offended, stay away. The musical embraces the same theme that Wedekind focused on in the play: sex. There are references and portrayals of masturbation, allusions to teenage sex and abuse, as well as homosexuality and abortion. As I was reading up on the background of the musical, I was absolutely floored that Wedekind’s original themes were still so relevant (and controversial) today.

There is actually a Parents’ Guide on the Spring Awakening website that may give you some idea as to whether you can handle it.

Understand, I definitely don’t want to discourage anyone from going to see it. I hope that people take the opportunity to go see this show while it is in town. Kansas City gets a small share of good touring Broadway musicals and this is one that you should not miss. That is, if you can handle it.