Thursday, June 9, 2011

Missed Musicals

So since everyone seems very fond of these missed movies bit, I figured I'd do a variation. My roommate is a theater guy, so he's often into musicals that most people haven't heard of, myself included. So, to enlighten you, I figured I'd let you know about a few of them and even though none of these are approaching my top 3 musicals (my top 3, for context, are Les Miserables, Wicked and Sweeney Todd) but they're all interesting and likeable musicals.

Of course, if I do this again I'll have to choose another medium since this is pretty much the extent of my obscure musical knowledge. I mean, I already mentioned the film version of Reefer Madness so it would be a little tacky to mention it again. And while I'm aware of it, I can't really speak with certainty that the Debbie Does Dallas is any good so I can't really mention it (yes there's a musical based on Debbie Does Dallas. Don't ask). Maybe I'm overthinking it. Oh well.


Alan Menken is primarily known for his work on disney soundtracks, like The Little Mermaid or Beauty and the Beast but before all that he wrote a little known musical called Smile which totally tanked. Why did it tank, I hear you ask? Because it was up against Les Miserables. And that's a little like Ladyhawke going up against Lord of the Rings. Sure Ladyhawke is good and all, but Lord of the Rings is the best.

Anywho, the plot is concerned with a beauty contest going on in Southern California, mostly with the characters of Doria and Robin, one of whom is deeply devoted to winning the contest, the other who essentially got there by accident and doesn't care all that much. While the music is good, the plot is let down by waffling a bit on it's presentation. See, stories about Beauty Pageants tend to fall into one of two camps, one celebrating beauty pageants as the biggest and most important day of the lead character's life (we'll call that the Miss Congeniality camp) and fairly nasty (usually dark comedies) commentaries on how twisted and fucked up the process can be (we'll call that the Little Miss Sunshine camp).

Smile on the other hand seems to want to do both, or at least switch back and forth from character to character, and as a result the presentation is a little schitzo. Still, the music is great, the characters mostly well rounded and it's sweet and enjoyable. Of course, the actual music is nigh-on impossible to track down, since only a demo CD exists and that's kind of hard to find. But if you're a high school drama teacher looking for a fun little musical to do and you're tired of doing Brigadoon this might be the one.

The Baker's Wife

This one is the forgotten child of Stephen Schwartz, best known in the film world for doing the soundtrack to Prince of Egypt and in the musical world for a little obscure musical called Wicked. This one is a little more grounded than Wicked, concerned primarily with the new Baker in a small town and his young and pretty wife (duh) who is courted by the driver for the local marquis. The story is technically based on a french movie I've never seen, which is based on a book I've never read.

The story is fairly dark, especially when the second act rolls around, and the music excellent as you might expect from Stephen Schwartz, even if it's a little more 'standard musical' than Wicked. The most famous song from this show is Meadowlark, but the best, from my point of view, is probably If I Have to Live Alone or Chanson and unlike Smile the music from this one is actually fairly simple to track down, so if you're interested, give it a look. And hey, look at that. I posted the music to it on youtube months ago when I realized it wasn't on there. Funny how that works out. Give it a look.

Tick, Tick...Boom

This one is the by Jonathan Larson, primarily (okay only) famous for RENT, filling up the entire list with the forgotten musicals of otherwise famous composers. This one is a little weird, since it was never technically finished, and was put together from Larson's writing, and it shows. The story can be handily summed up as 'Jonathan Larson whines for 90 minutes about turning 30.'

No that plot summary isn't a joke, though the main character is named something else. Plot deficit aside (as far as I can tell from RENT, plot was not Jonathan's strong point), the music is excellent and, in places, better than RENT's (specifically 30-90 and Actions Speak Louder Than Words). Like The Baker's Wife, the music to this one is available on iTunes and by extension youtube (I think) and since the music is the high point, it's well worth listening to. See you next time

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