Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"It may not be cool, but it's so where I live."

As much as I'd like to stay away from writing reviews of any sort (sorry, it's a backlash from getting a master's in criticism), it is a good way to get back into the writing-for-fun mindset. So I'm doing it anyway. Just briefly. And I wouldn't call this a critique as much as a plug.

A few weeks ago, I was debating whether I should see the musical 110 in the Shade. Some of my friends had said it wasn't that great and that I should go see Spring Awakening instead. So two weeks ago I saw Spring Awakening, and tonight I saw 110 in the Shade. Here's my verdict: see BOTH of them. They're fabulous. Here's why.

Everyone keeps saying Spring Awakening is like a complete, polished version of Rent, if Jonathan Larson hadn't died before he finished it. I agree with that. The music is very contemporary -- contemporary as in 2007-ish, not '90s music like Rent. The story is set in 1890s Germany, with costumes and sets to match, but the language and the lyrics and the electric-guitar-laden music is strikingly modern (think Green Day, Dashboard Confessional, Fall Out Boy, etc.). (P.S. The music is by Duncan Sheik, of "Barely Breathing" fame, but I promise the music is not '90s-ish. It's excellent.) The show is about sex and violence and death and growing up, and how the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's pretty artsy, and you have to be ready for a) lots of sex and talk about sex, and b) the cognitive disconnect between the set/costumes/setting and the music/language/themes. Trust me. They're doing it on purpose. The writers didn't think people used slang like "it's the bitch of living" and "we've all got our junk, and my junk is you" in 1890s Germany. Go with it. You'll figure it out by the end of Act One. Wanna hear some of the music? Check out the video below of the cast's performance at the 2007 Tony Awards of a medley of songs from Spring Awakening, including "Mama Who Bore Me," "The Bitch of Living" and "Totally Fucked."

110 in the Shade is a much more old-fashioned musical, but you can't beat the stellar acting and the emotional punch this show delivers. I think I cried 4 times. Honestly. Audra McDonald is just amazing. And the performance at the Tonys didn't do the show justice, since it was taken out of context. It's a kind of Music Man-type plot... you know, traveling swindler comes to town and shakes things up. But there's a twist at the end. It really is so moving. Go see it.

Okay, that's my theater rundown for the night. I'm going to try to post every day, so stay tuned, blog readers.

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