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March 21, 2018:

WHAT MAKES A BAD MUSICAL BAD?

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, what is this incessant need to make musicals out of every damn movie from the last twenty years, and especially Disney movies? I am so bored of this and it simply holds no interest for me whatsoever. Last night, you see, I saw a high school production of Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame – note that that is the title – not Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I saw the cartoon once when it came out and really did not like it much. It had one good song (Out There) but the rest was just cookie cutter stuff that I found tiresome. So, naturally they want to make a stage version, and it’s been going on for YEARS, first overseas, and then various attempts here. Obviously, Disney was smart enough to know this was not Broadway caliber so it’s only played regionally. It’s the kind of show that sends local reviewers into paroxysms of orgasmic pleasure because it has loud choral singing every ten minutes, the kind where the sound engineer pumps the mics at each climax, while the moving lights swing wildly all over the stage and out into the audience for no reason other than applause-mongering. The writing of the stage version is so endlessly dreary from word one right through to the end. For me, this is third-tier Menken and not even third-tier Schwartz, with the exception of Out There, which works well in its clichéd way as the I Want song. But therein lies one of the major problems – the show is called The Hunchback of Notre Dame and yet with the way this is written, it should be called Esmerelda or Esmeralda and Froyo or Frollo or Rollo or whatever the HELL the name of that character is. Ten minutes in and I wanted to stand up and scream at the chorus, “Shut up already and stop telling me the story as narration.” That happens throughout the evening and it’s a terrible device as well as a distancing device. You never really feel for the poor ol’ hunchback because Froyo the Frozen Yogurt Priest gets so much stage time and song. And it’s all so SERIOUS. There isn’t an ounce of fun to be had in this show as written. But it has all that loud singing, and so all the mommies and daddies and relatives and friends woo-hooed up the wazoo (oozaw, spelled backwards) and the LOVED it. Which brings us to the production itself.

It was very professionally done and fairly slick, with all that “today” kind of lighting that drives me to distraction because it’s show off rather than lighting that, pardon the expression, illuminates the story. About the fifth time the movers swiveled to the audience I was ready to pull that plug. The kids at that high school are very talented and committed, so that part is always fun to watch. Sami did very well with her Esmerelda, and would have done even better with some stronger direction. The all student big orchestra did really well, actually. Part of the set was very reminiscent of Levi’s set, lighting, while not my cuppa, was smooth – lots of sound problems to smooth out. Anyway, not a show I ever need to see or hear again.

Other than that, yesterday was a weird little day. I got seven hours of sleep. The little carrot that had been dangled in front of me was unfortunately followed up on, which was completely irritating. I left two messages, and responded twice via the way the dangler contacted me and nothing, not a peep. I simply do not understand people or why they do this kind of thing. Maybe the dangler will come through, so we’ll just have to wait and see, I suppose. I did some errands and whatnot, got a surprise royalty payment on Thrill Ride, which was actually pretty decent and enough to pay for a few meals this week. I did some work at the piano and the computer, then I got ready to mosey on over to Calabasas. Traffic wasn’t too terrible. I went to Maria’s Kitchen and had a tiny side Caesar salad and the penne pasta with sausage and peppers – very filling and I actually couldn’t quite finish it. I had a small macaroon for dessert, very good. Then I went to the theater and the rest you know.

After that, I came right home to find we still haven’t finalized the casting of the Kritzerland show, which is truly annoying. So, that’s number one priority for today.

Tomorrow, I think I have a meeting at four in the Hills of Beverly, but if the promised and warned about huge rainstorm hits, I think I’m not going to want to go anywhere near that drive and we can reschedule and hopefully to an earlier time where I won’t run into rush hour on the way home. We shall see. IF it happens, then I’ll eat afterwards so that I don’t actually head home until seven or so. But I find it a bit to nerve-wracking to drive the canyons in heavy rainfall, and it makes traffic a mess anyway.

The rest of the week is meetings and meals and hopefully at least a small miracle. The carrot thing would have solved any number of problems, but alas, that still would need to happen.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do things, cast, choose songs, maybe have a meeting, maybe not, hopefully pick up some packages, eat, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s Ask BK Day, the day in which you get to ask me or any dear reader any old question you like and we get to give any old answer we like. So, let’s have loads of lovely questions and loads of lovely answers and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, having vented about what makes a bad musical bad.

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