Archive for September 10th, 2010

10
Sep
10

Top Five Musicals I’d Love to Be In

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a big theatre nerd. Okay, maybe it’s not exactly “manly” to enjoy getting on stage, singing, acting, performing… but they say that sleeping with a stuffed penguin isn’t manly either. So who the hell are “they” anyway?

Ahem. Anyway, it seems like I wind up involved, in some way or another, in two or three plays every year, which is a pretty good amount for an amateur like myself. I’m not going to Broadway or anything, but I do love my little community theatre, and I love doing shows there. Of course, when you’ve been doing theatre for a long time, you start to get an itch to do specific plays, specific roles, and this afternoon as I was driving home from work, the music that rolled up into my iPod reminded me of that. So I thought it’d be fun to explain for you guys the top five musicals I would love to be in some day. Will I ever get the chance? Who knows. But a boy can dream, right? Here they are, in no particular order:

The Producers. The relatively recent play, based on the Mel Brooks movie, starred Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick both on stage and in the film adaptation. The story focuses on a Broadway producer desperate for a hit and the meek accountant who figures out a way to make even bigger money if the play flops — even if it isn’t strictly legal. The Nathan Lane (or, if you’re old-school, Zero Mostel) role of Max Biyalistock calls to me. I’ve only gotten to play the sort of sleazy, underhanded characters a few times over the years, but by God, it’s fun to be somebody so against type for a few hours. Plus, his songs are just fantastic. This show, no doubt, would be a total blast.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is another play based on a movie (last one, I swear) and another case where I think it would be a lot of fun to play the sleazeball. The play focuses on two con artists — an old master (played on Broadway by the incredible John Lithgow) and a young upstart (played by Norbert Leo Butz) who make a wager on whether they can scam a fortune out of a young ingenue. This is actually the soundtrack I was listening to when I decided to write this little blog post, because the last few numbers are so damn good that I look like a maniac singing along in the car as I drive. Casting, however, is a little trickier for this one. I’m probably age-appropriate now to play the Norbert Leo Butz character, but the Lithgow character is a lot more appealing. Then again, it’s not like I’m planning to retire from community theatre or anything. Maybe someday.

1776 is perhaps my greatest unrealized theatrical dream. This musical was originally produced on Broadway in 1969, and although they did later make a movie out of it, the stage show came first. Dammit. Anyway, as you may guess from the title, this show is about the writing of the Declaration of Independence. That sounds kind of dry, I know, but it’s anything but. The music is snappy and highly singable, the characters are very funny, and there’s even room for some incredibly deep drama as the protagonists (John Adams, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson) clash with the Southern states over the condemnation of slavery the Declaration included. (Historical fact, peeps, look it up.) I’m a little torn on this one. If I got my pick, I’d play John Adams, but Ben Franklin would be pretty awesome too. Whenever the time comes for my theatre group to vote on the shows for our next season, I get the urge to suggest this one, but I don’t because of practicality. We don’t have a large pool of male actors for our musicals, and this cast is about 25 men and two women. I don’t know how we could ever produce it.

You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown is one I fear I’m going to have to mark down in the “Too Little, Too Late” category. Based, of course, on the legendary Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz, this movie shows an average day in the life of Charlie Brown and his friends. There’s not really a cohesive plot to the show, no real story, it’s more like the creators of the musical picked a few recurring themes from the strip and wrote songs to go with each of them. Schulz himself reportedly wasn’t that happy with the musical, and looking at it from his perspective I can understand why. Several of the scenes don’t really jive with the characters as he created them — Charlie Brown’s baseball team being in the running for the championship, for example, or having Lucy clearly in the same grade as the rest of the kids, including her younger brother Linus. The lesser-known Broadway show Snoopy: The Musical is much closer to the spirit of the characters, but frankly, the music isn’t nearly as good. The children in this play are usually played by adults (the legendary Kristen Chenoweth did a star turn as Sally just a few years before her breakout performance in Wicked), but I can’t help but think the time for me to try this one has passed.

Into the Woods may be the best-known musical by Stephen Sondheim (at least, it was before the movie version of Sweeney Todd), and it’s certainly my favorite. This play is divided into two very different acts. In act one, we see more or less traditional (if very funny) versions of various fairy tales, including Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and more, all of which seem to end happily ever after. In act two, though, we watch as the characters converge and learn that “happily ever after” is a myth, the real world has a dark side, and sometimes things don’t work out the way you’d hoped. It’s a brilliantly subversive little show, using some of the most familiar characters in the world to get across very honest, often overlooked realities that we try to shield our children from, and in doing so, really do them a disservice. The only thing about this one, though, is that — unlike the other four shows on this list — I’m not really sure which character I would want to play if I ever had the chance.

These aren’t the only musicals I’d ever want to do, of course, but they’re my favorites, the ones I like the most. Your mileage, as always, may vary.




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