Monday, 17 June 2019

Reading

Reading across from Carousel to Oak Floors!--surely words never before written in that order--I feel two reactions. In the case of the Rodgers & Hammerstein's play or, the other day, The Band's Visit, I marvel at the depth and subtlety of the book (by which I mean the story and all text except song lyrics).
In the case of Oak Floors!, I play easy-to-get with the holes in the book, saying, "well, so be it."
Speaking of subtlety, check "Do You Love Me," here from the movie version of Fiddler on the Roof.I
And look! My piece in its current form as "a heritage cabaret" has no Act One break, hence no exquisite conclusion like the last scene in Act One of Carousel, when Billy has become at once more genuine and more doomedWe go to Intermission with the stakes high: we care for his wife, even for him, and we know there's trouble ahead.



Monday, 10 June 2019

Watching the Tonys

This I've done for the first time, though I'd viewed many a YouTube clip. The musicals drew me to the telecast last night.
Hadestown, a show I saw at Citadel in Edmonton two years ago, won for Best Musical, Oklahoma! (and there you see the exclamation mark borrowed by my Oak Floors!) for Best Revival. (Santino Fontana in Tootsie and Ali Stroker in Okla won the individual awards.) It was a fun show, mostly. Way more fun than any Oscar show I've seen lately. Of course, diversity was everywhere, to the point that Bryan Cranston quipped, upon winning in the male non-musical individual category, that "at last, an old, straight, white guy catches a break." That way myself, I wasn't sure whether to laugh or weep.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Oak Floors, a Heritage Cabaret

It might go like this: Flaneur comes on, gets us to Patty in the vestibule, she gets in, Flaneur takes us down that hallway leading to the past, "Citizens of Oak Floors," some of whom lived here for decades, but it didn't go so well for the 4 GM workers once Black Tuesday hit. Who lived in the suite Patty lives now, when she's not padding along the hallways, as she is right now, drawn to that percussion from the boiler room, "Boiler Song for Xylophone" and so on.
The task is to keep it past, keep it present. Believe in, but don't be afraid to tease, the story.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Hairspray

The study and/or simple enjoyment of musical theatre could last forever. Which makes any of the annoyances along the way, like rejection and being stuck and seeing no way through, seem unimportant. 
So says that paragraph.
Anyway, I decided to study scripts more closely, understanding the purpose of every song in its book context. I've started with Hairspray because it was top of the pile. It's a hoot, for starters. Funny in a way that doesn't make fun of its characters. A bare-bones description of this play (based, of course, on the John Waters movie (and Waters apparently digs the adaptation, thank goodness)): a character wants to break through what's holding her back. She does. To a pop score (think 1962) that swings. And the eventual triumph registers on a cultural level (struggle for racial integration) that works on a personal level varying with each character. (Here the stakes include identity, sexual orientation, power, personal freedom . . .). 
It would be a gas to see or be in this show, I'm pretty sure. Because all of the above is rendered--as I imagine it would be--with love.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Oak Floors! -- Live from the Crossroads

I say "crossroads"  because there, maybe, the devil stirs usefully. I dodge saying "doldrums" because there, for sure, the devil has dug in and won't budge.

In one direction (south on Hamilton St.) lies pushing the Patty story. Get more serious about investing my personal elements into her journey through love and loneliness. Pro: gives the audience a story to follow. Con: I'm suspicious of grand narratives, even local grand narratives. (Problem with that: as a musical theatre addict, I'm utterly swept away by them.) 

What to do today: Write Patty's song of loneliness, her determination to reach out to people. Make that determination drive everything that follows. Make my own determination (to get this show before an audience) ride with her.

In the other direction (either west or east on Victoria), lies what in the middle of last night came to me as "Oak Floors! a Heritage Cabaret" which would be conducted by my Flaneur figure. For this I would resurrect the historical material and understate the personal stories. Pro: the archive excites me, and I love the Flaneur. Con: who would care? What would this give an audience?

What to do today: go back into an earlier, longer draft. Re-animate the Flaneur as cabaret MC. Follow his determination to put on a show for his audience. 

Monday, 6 May 2019

Rhyme

Hanging out with Beauty and the Beast, in rehearsal at Globe Theatre (I'm prepping for my live audio description on June 12), I hear the famous "tale as old as rhyme" line. I do believe rhyme is old. In my Artist Lab coming up May 19, I'll propose why.
In doing so, I may employ one or two of these scenarios:
1.
You have ventured far from home until you find yourself alone in the wild, a terrifying place of strange sounds, any one of which could mean great danger. Then you perceive the sound of your mother humming, or your father's footsteps, or the call of Goldilocks, your pet retriever.
2.
You've arrived in a foreign country, surrounded by spoken language you do not understand. Your needs for food, clean water or shelter have become intense. Exhausted, you're not sure how you will solve the problems you face. Just then, you hear a voice in your own language. You connect.
3.
You are chanting among strangers in a yoga studio along 17th Ave in Calgary circa 1973. You were reluctant to take part but got caught up in it. You manage to focus deeply enough for that cosmic hum to resonate through you. You are neither source nor recipient of this energy, just the medium of its passage. For a moment, there is only one sound.
4.
Your car that you bought new and have driven 200,000 km in twelve years begins to squeal, scrape or choke from deep in its driveshaft, engine or wheels. You have no idea how serious the breakdown, or how costly the inevitable repair (your savings thin enough already). You park that night in denial. But next morning, it sounds good as ever.
5.
You stated the question, now you search for the answer. The search takes you far along one line and down several more. You're suspended in doubt re how far you can go, until even coming back seems risky, until you do it.
6.
You're worried about your mother. She stays in bed. She no longer smiles. She goes through the motions unmoved. Then she rallies, up and at 'em like always.
Somewhere in these scenarios, I will suggest, lies (at least an analog to) the power of rhyme. 
I will name and try to explore the Sondheim conviction that pure rhyme is better than near rhyme, though the latter has slacked its way into becoming what we mean when we say "rhyme." (To illustrate this point: see a recent facebook poll that asked readers to pick the "best rhyme" in the Steve Miller Band classic "Take the Money and Run": Is it "El Paso / hassle" or "Texas / facts is." Well, they're both near rhymes, not true rhymes.) It'll be a Broadway vs pop/rock tussle.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

More Light in the Piazza

I came across the PBS version of this show. I should say that I haven't viewed the entire show, and it might turn out to be a hoax of some kind, possibly parody. But check out the transition when Clara's mom leaves Fabrizio's parents' place. She takes a few steps. Lights down on the previous scene, up a few steps away. She's arrived at her bed in the hotel, removing her scarf and lighting a smoke. Her steps must be just right, of course, as must the lighting design and costume elements. The result is supple, subtle, beautiful. And man, the woman (Victoria Clark, I think) can sing.
On top of all that, this musical delivers one of the deepest of the poly-lingual moments that matter so much in the arts these days.