Monday, February 20, 2006

Strong women in cheesy musicals

Saturday night I watched, I kid you not, a musical about Gertrude Stein. The main result was an overall increase in my appreciation for La Stein. She is damn funny! All those locutions and circumlocutions and repetitions have some killer laugh lines stuck in. The woman who played Old Stein, (doing mostly talking, very little singing) had a steely glint-in-the-eye deadpan going on. She seemed clever and almost dry, and as if she was having a very good time. But what she's in, it's such a frickin' musical, you know. (I love musicals, by the way). It just had, especially in the beginning, some of those qualities that people who don't like musicals make fun of them for. You know, like people walking slowly towards each other as they sing.

However, the staging improved vastly once the vaudeville and jazz parodies started up, and the music was lovely from start to finish. Stein's lines set remarkably well! I might have preferred a dryer presentation of the same songs, one that didn't tie them all so explicitly to Stein's life. I also could have done without the presence of Young Stein (a lovely top-notch singer who did a great job, it's not her fault that her role was a bit of cheese). Just...dryer. More cool. More of a martini, so that when the sentiment comes, it knocks you out.

Sunday was another life told through songs- Nina Simone's. I would recommend it for the music, the tight little band, the pleasingly over-the-top performance by the lead, and the seating arrangement. Black Ensemble is a gorgeous mid-sized theatre! Very round, very tiered, and you can walk to your seat without sidling. The stage itself had two levels and a little alcove for the band- it looked good even with the horrible spatter paint job on the floor.*

However, the interstitial material was not much fun. Some dramatic material, certainly, but not much drama. Just very inert. And Nina mimed playing the piano while singing, which I disliked. Not because she didn't mime decently, but because she didn't sing like a person who was playing the piano. Ah well. When she gets out from behind the grand and rips into songs like "Mississippi Goddamn," she's killer.

*Once I was in a play where the directors got high on fumes or something and decided to spatter paint the floor with red. In the morning, it seems, they were horrified. This sort of story is the only explanation I can ever think of for the presence of spatter paint on the floor.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Charlie said...

Hmmmm - now that you've made the switch, it's a little shocking. The old blackness was strangely comforting. I suppose we should be carefull what we ask for...

9:51 AM  

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