This past Wednesday, the Muny gave me a chance to visit a friend I hadn't seen in fifteen years. I'm not talking about a human friend, but a theatrical one: Disney's 1994 stage adaptation of the 1991 hit animated film "Beauty and the Beast." The years, I'm happy to say, have been kind to it, and the Muny's first-rate production certainly does it justice.
Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine give fairytales a clever musical score, along with an abundance of whimsy and a gentle moral, in the tuneful, imaginative "Into the Woods." Already high on the list of Sondheim's popular musicals, the production is engaging for audiences of all ages, with a few unexpectedly adult situations and a slightly subversive sense of humor. The result is a bittersweet tale, touched by both harsh and comforting realities, that delivers its lessons with a light touch and hopeful tone.
The musical "Hairspray," based on the John Waters' movie of the same name, uses the styles, culture, music, and civil rights movement of the 1960s to flip an exuberant middle finger to a lot of "isms" that are, unfortunately, still present in everyday America. The lighthearted musical demonstrates, with an abundance of humor and insight, just how silly people look when they let superficial qualities, like race or size, determine their relationships with others.
"My Fair Lady," Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's interpretation of the George Bernard Shaw play "Pygmalion," is light, airy, and filled with wonderful little songs nearly everyone knows. The show is a jewel in the crown of classic American musicals, and the Muny's current production sparkles. The talented cast clearly enjoys the show, and they deliver an abundance of spectacular moments that are framed and complemented by the excellent band and technical crew.
The MUNY Theater closes out its eight-week season with this classic American musical, and I don't imagine they could make a better choice. With hummable songs, witty dialogue and pratfalls aplenty, this is the type of show the MUNY excels at -- it's big, bold and filled with laughs, romance and hope.
There may be a more whimsical, charming, and funny show out there with more heart and smarts than “Seussical” at The Muny, but if so I have yet to encounter it.
What a long strange trip it has been for The Addams Family. They started out as a collection of unnamed characters in the creepy drawings of the late Charles Addams for “The New Yorker” in the 1930s, got names when they became sitcom stars in the mid-1960s, went through multiple live and animated TV incarnations beginning in the ‘70s, and were the subject of three feature films in the ‘90s.
The main thing you need to know about “The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess” is that it's not the Gershwins' “Porgy and Bess.” Let me me to explain.
Although George Gershwin's "Porgy and Bess" is now widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of 20th century opera, it took (to quote one of the opera's lyrics) "a long pull to get there".
It's doubtful that the 2006 stage adaptation of Disney's 1999 animated film “Tarzan” will ever make anybody's list of Great Musicals. But the Phil Collins score (expanded from the five numbers he wrote for the movie) is filled with songs that are never less the serviceable and, in the case of “You'll Be in My Heart” and “Sure as Sun Turns to Moon,” really quite moving.