By Bob Hicks
If the theater is truly the Fabulous Invalid, is any subsection of it any more fabulously ailing than the Broadway musical — and more of a fabulously unlikely survivor?
Before last night’s opening of the eagerly anticipated touring production of In the Heights at Portland’s Keller Auditorium, the last musical Mr. Scatter had seen was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s glowing revival of She Loves Me, the masterful, small-scale 1963 romantic comedy by Joe Masteroff, Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick. (Mr. Scatter wrote about it here, and Mrs. Scatter expanded admirably on it, and the appeal of musicals in general, here.)
On the surface there’s not a whole lot of connection between She Loves Me and In the Heights, the 2008 Tony winner that Mr. Scatter took in with Oscar/Dennis. She Loves Me is a delicate love story based on a 1937 Hungarian play, Miklos Laszlo’s Parfumerie, and in style, sensibility and musical association it harks back to the heyday of central European operetta. In the Heights, with music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda and book by Quiara Alegria Hudes, is a not-so-delicate love story that bursts with the Dominican-American flavor of Manhattan’s Washington Heights and takes its musical cues from hip-hop, soul, and the Caribbean sounds of salsa and meringue.
Still, the Broadway musical feeds largely upon itself — that’s both a weakness and an enduring strength — and as She Loves Me smoothly incorporated aspects of earlier musical forms, so does In the Heights echo some of the successes of Broadway Past. It represents a particularly successful response to the dilemma that producers, writers and composers routinely face: Broadway audiences want to see something different, but not that different.
Continue reading Curtains up, hit ‘The Heights’
By Laura Grimes
Mr. Scatter has been hogging the blog of late. I forgive him, though. It’s not like he’s been eating bonbons. I know full well that he’s the muscle to my muse, the bacon to my trifle.
Art Scatter works to deliver a full-course meal, and I don’t mind being the pastry chef. There’s no shame in that. Funny writing comes with its own tricks and techniques, craftsmanship honed to a sharp wit.
I can’t do what Mr. Scatter does, and, I hate to tell him, but … let’s just say he suggested adding a line to one of my posts a little while back, which was a great idea in thought, but the words – well, I was at a loss how to delicately tell him that he just cast a lead weight in my lightly flowing stream.
I explained that one of the first rules of humor writing is not to reveal an obvious punchline straight off the bat. Take a joke and yank it in another direction and then yank it again. Come in sly on the side, tease it, stretch it and make people reach for it and discover it for themselves. Therein lies all the fun.
And then I stopped talking. I blinked at my current first husband a couple of times. He blinked back at me. I realized I was explaining the craft of writing – to my husband, of all people. But I was explaining a different type of writing than what he’s practiced for eons. It takes a whole different brain from a whole different angle.
Continue reading Does this blog make me look fat? Musicals, comedy and a true confession
By Bob Hicks
Art Scatter’s ramble through the Oregon Shakespeare Festival‘s 75th anniversary season is closer to its end than its beginning, and it strikes us once again how much this thicket of theater interconnects. A lot of that has to do with the nature of rotating repertory, which gives audiences the chance to see the same actors in a variety of roles and a variety of plays.
Brooke Parks and Christian Barillas, for instance, who play sister and brother Viola and Sebastian in Twelfth Night, return as sister and brother Caroline and Charles Bingley in Pride and Prejudice. Lisa McCormick, who calculates her future so carefully as the practical Charlotte Lewis in P&P, stumbles headstrong into love as the shopgirl heroine in She Loves Me. Dawn-Lyen Gardner, survivor of rape and warfare in Ruined, becomes a lucky lady-in-waiting in The Merchant of Venice. One way or another, love is in the air all over these plays. And couldn’t Merchant almost have been titled Pride and Prejudice?
Sometimes the connecting game is tougher. What could the troubling and abrasive Merchant of Venice and the little musical gem She Loves Me have in common? Not a lot, unless you consider that the source material for She Loves Me (and for the movies Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime and You’ve Got Mail) is the Hungarian play Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo, and then go a step further to remember that the Hungary of 1937, the year that Laszlo wrote his little bubble of innocence, held little truck with Jews and would as soon have done without them — a desire that was in the process of being satisfied.
Continue reading Ashland 4: the quality of mercy, the surprise of love