Saturday, December 30, 2006

I Love Musicals

Broadway. Off-Broadway. Regional. University. Summer Stock. Touring. Film. However I can get them, I just love musicals. So, when the great ones are released as movie version, I am compelled to see them. Sometimes I'm disappointed (as was the case with "Rent" where a gratuitous lesbian marriage scene was dropped in and other important segments were omitted), but usually it's good enough and I'm pleased to have had the experience.

So Streisand was too young to be Dolly Levi. So Lucille Ball didn't bring the same chemistry to Mame that Angela Lansbury did. So Rosalind Russell was no Ethel Merman in Gypsy. So I hated Michael Douglas in "A Chorus Line" (and in every single other thing I have ever seen him in). Whenever these flicks come on cable TV, I'm there with a bowl of popcorn paying homage all the same.

I actually liked Madonna in "Evita" (I realize it is generally frowned upon to admit that). Antonio Banderas was an odd "Che," but pleasant enough to gaze upon, so who cares? And I was very pleased with "Chicago." They took out a great song (Mama's other song), but that happens in the movie versions. We just have to live with it. And I loved, loved, triple loved "Dream Girls."

The wonderful thing about DG is that I expected to hate it. I'm not a Beyonce fan nor do I normally enjoy reality shows (Effie's role is played by an American Idol contestant). But Jennifer Hudson has a new fan in me. Eddie Murphy is usually a bit over rated in my opinion and I've never loved Jamie Foxx. I actually saw Anika Noni Rose on Broadway in "Caroline, or Change" and was surprised to see her in the film. I adore original Dream Girl Loretta Devine (who was given a cameo role in the film...that happens nowadays). And Danny Glover always delivers a good performance.

But whatever I expected from the cast, they delivered more. Foxx was truly nefarious (though uncomfortable singing) and this was probably Murphy's most dramatic role yet. Of course the Dreams parallel in many ways the Supremes. The Foxx character parallels Barry Gordy and Rainbow records is a mirror image of MoTown. There is even gratuitious Jackson 5 group in the film and Murphy's character is a sort of composite of James Brown, Marvin Gaye, and other soulful greats. All such parallels are supposedly denied however painfully obvious they might be.

The brassy woman (Effie), the dramatic intrigue and betrayal, the struggle, the rise to stardom, the fall and redemption of some, the fall and that's the end for others, the raw emotion, the sexuality, the finding of one's voice and personal power...Dream Girls offers all of the things that make musicals personally sacred for me. They tell a story and invite me into the imaginary world where my story is also acted out, and I emerge from the cinema (or theatre) thinking, feeling, wondering, remembering, and overall hopeful for the future.

I love musicals. I know that some of the harsher critics will say (and have said) unkind things about Dream Girls, but I expect it to gather several major award nominations, and I hope it wins a few.

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