Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Rise of French Musicals

I wrote this paper in college based on research on French musicals. Note: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964) predates La Révolution Française (1973), but I was unable to find much information on it at the time. The paper stated that La Révolution Française was France's first musical. I have corrected that detail for the purposes of this blog. I have made a few other small tweaks, but that is the most important one. I have also added a few comments in [square brackets], mostly to clarify facts that were current in 2000, but may or may not still be current.

~~~

THE RISE OF FRENCH MUSICALS

by Steven Sauke
February 24, 2000

For 134 years, America has had musicals. Great Britain has had them for a much shorter time, but in both nations,  particularly on Broadway and London's West End, they have become immensely popular. Relatively recently, another nation has entered the realm of writing musicals. This paper will discuss the rise of musicals in France, starting from the early heritage long before the musical, as we know it today, was invented, and coming up to the present, as the most recent French musical has possibly started to change the formerly negative views of the French toward the art form.

In the 17th Century, Molière wrote his plays, which had an influence on today's musicals. He started writing plays which required more talent than in the past. He used satire. For example, certain of his characters were easily recognizable as specific real people. More importantly, he put music in his plays. In all but one play, he worked with composer Jean-Baptiste Lully to make a musical play. In such plays as The Bores (1661), Monsieur de Pourgeaugnac (1669) and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1670), they used the harpsichord as the principal instrument (Flinn 44) with 5-string instruments, bassoons, flutes and oboes (Flinn 45).

In the early 19th Century, composers in Italy started to incorporate speaking lines in their operas, thus creating a new genre of opera, called opera buffa in Italian. This kind of opera soon became quite popular in Paris, where it became known as opéra bouffe or opéra comique. Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment was particularly popular in Paris in 1840. Many composers started writing "light" (one-act) operas, and the operetta was born (Citron 33). The first was Jacques Offenbach's Orphée aux Enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). As Stephen Citron states in his book The Musical from the Inside Out, "Gone were the tragic arias and the high drama; they were replaced by shorter, wittier, less florid songs. Lively dance, (in this particular work, the famous can-can) displaced arty ballet" (33). In 1858, a government-sanctioned limit of one act and two roles on operas was lifted, and the operas and operettas got longer (Flinn 59-60).

The composer Hervé wrote musical plays to perform as therapy for the inmates of the Hôpital Bicêtre. He was so well received that he was appointed conductor at the Théâtre du Palais Royal, and he soon began to write longer plays. During that same time period, his colleague Offenbach wrote his first two-act musical play Orphée aux Enfers, which we have already mentioned. It became immensely popular in Paris. He worked with Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, who Denny Flinn calls in his book Musical! A Grand Tour "the first legitimate librettists" (61). In the past, the composer had written the lyrics as well, but that was now done by Meilhac and Halévy. They wrote "solos, duets, trios, quartets, chorus scenes, and dances" (Flinn 61). In his 25 years of composing, Offenbach wrote over 90 operettas, many of which had a political focus.

With the end of Offenbach's composing years came a new rising star in the composing field. Charles Lecocq started writing romantic operetta, and soon the Parisians decided they liked amour better than politics and satire in their operetta (Flinn 61).

Opera and operetta continued with Wagner's record 16-hour Der Ring des Nibelungen, written between 1853 and 1874 in Germany (Flinn 66) and Gilbert and Sullivan's numerous operetta, among them H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance, written in England approximately between 1875 and 1896 (Flinn 67-77). Some of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta were performed in the United States, and soon a new genre was born: the musical.

In 1866, a melodrama by the name of The Black Crook was performed in the US, and it was received poorly. A new idea came about. Maybe if they were to add music and dancing, it would be more popular. Groseppi Operti arranged the music, wrote some of it, and collected the rest from music stores. They arranged dances and planned a big spectacle (Flinn 81-82). Now all they needed was dancers. Enter the French. Yes, the French were involved in America's first musical. A troupe of Parisian ballerinas were on board a ship for the US to perform a ballet at New York's Academy of Music. Unfortunately for them, the theater burned down while they were on the ship, and when they arrived, they had no place to perform. However, this fire and the displaced French troupe turned out to be fortunate for the people who were working on The Black Crook. It now had dancers, and the French dancers had The Black Crook, a chance to show off their footwork for the Américains (Citron 38). The 5½ hour musical was a hit (Flinn 82). Sure, the Church blasted it (rightly so, in my opinion) because of nudity or near nudity, but the United States had succeeded in inventing a new kind of play. Thus was born the musical (Flinn 84). More musicals followed, the next popular one being Show Boat in 1926 (Flinn 175).

For several decades, the US was the only nation who was doing musicals, until Great Britain started to follow suit in the 60s with such musicals as Oliver! by Lionel Bart and the original version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The 70s brought the rock operas, a new kind of musical. In England, Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote his popular musical Jesus Christ Superstar, while in France, two men by the names of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg composed their first musical, a rock opera: La Révolution Française.


La Révolution Française

Boublil and Schönberg's first work was also one of France's first musicals, and it was quite popular in France. It was the story of the revolutionary young Charles Gauthier and his growing love for Isabelle de Montmorency, a member of an aristocratic family during the turbulent French Revolution. Gauthier fights alongside Robespierre, Danton and Marat, and all the while he is growing fonder and fonder of Isabelle. Isabelle's family is banished from France because they are aristocrats, and the lovers are thus separated. Charlotte Corday's assassination of Marat starts the Terror, in which the Revolutionary Tribunal sentences hundreds of innocent people, including Queen Marie Antoinette, to the guillotine. Among those sentenced is Charles Gauthier. Isabelle returns from exile to find her lover in prison, and she is also condemned to death because she, an aristocrat, returned (Taylor).

La Révolution Française, "the first-ever staged French rock opera in Paris (Les Misérables CD-ROM), brought Boublil and Schönberg together as composers, and it was a big hit in France. Such was the beginning of a new age of musicals in France, though it continued to be slow in taking hold.


Starmania/Tycoon

La Révolution Française came out in 1973, and six years later came another rock opera, this time by Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger. They called it Starmania. It too was quite popular, and the composers, Plamondon in particular, have been making changes to it ever since it came out in 1979. New versions came out in 1986 and 1988. It premiered in Moscow in 1990, and the English version, translated by Tim Rice and renamed Tycoon, came out in 1992. In 1993, a newer French version of Starmania came out in Paris (A. Lee). Some songs from it have been recorded by such artists as Celine Dion (Starmania). Certain songs from it became quite popular in the 1980s, such that Tim Rice commented that it was "a hit show in a city infamous as a graveyard for musicals." We shall see more of this side of Paris' ideas of musicals later.

Starmania's plot goes like this: Monopolis, a futuristic city, is being terrorized by the underground group Les Étoiles Noires (The Black Stars), led by Johnny Rockfort, who is led by Sadia, a revolutionary student. They meet in the Underground Café, where Marie-Jeanne is a waitress.

A man named Zero Janvier is running for president of the Occident, and he is against the Étoiles Noires.

Sadia and Johnny Rockfort are in love, and Marie-Jeanne falls in love with Ziggy, a celebrity hunk. Cristal, a reporter on the TV program Starmania, interviews Johnny Rockfort and Zero Janvier, and she falls in love with both men, though much more so with Janvier. Janvier, meanwhile, gets engaged to a movie star named Stella Spotlight, while Rockfort and Cristal fall more in love with each other.

Cristal and Rockfort make plans to plant a bomb at the disco parlor where Janvier and Spotlight are planning to get married, but Sadia gets wind of the plan and tells Janvier. Ziggy abandons Marie-Jeanne in favor of acting and being a disco DJ. The followers of Janvier, on Sadia's warning, arrest Rockfort and kill Cristal. Janvier is elected president (Il se passe..., L'histoiremania, Valentine).

Both La Révolution Française and Starmania, though vastly different in setting and story line, were about love, and both were tragedies. These two musicals seemed to set a precedent for musicals to come, a precedent that came from French literature and opera from time immemorial. So much of France's literature and art is based around love and tragedies. For that matter, French is stereotypically known as the "language of love," and Paris is often called the City of Lovers. It only fits that France's musicals would follow that pattern.

Starmania opened in Paris in 1979, and the next year, another musical, Boublil and Schönberg's second, opened, also in Paris. This musical was to become their greatest success until then, and quite possibly their greatest success even today, but not in Paris.


Les Misérables

Les Misérables is a very complex musical, whose plot spans about thirty years. Set in the early to mid 19th Century, it is the story of an extraordinarily strong thief named Jean Valjean who escapes parole and turns his life around, becoming the mayor of a small French town. When the policeman Javert sees Mayor Madeleine (the name Valjean has taken to protect his identity) lift a heavy cart, he is reminded of Valjean, who he believes has just been caught. After Javert tells Madeleine about the recent arrest, the latter proves to the court that he, not the accused, is Valjean.

Meanwhile, a woman named Fantine has been working in Madeleine's factory to support herself and her illegitimate daughter Cosette, who lives at an inn where she, unbeknownst to Fantine, is being abused miserably. When Fantine's coworkers discover she has an illegitimate child, she is fired and forced onto the street, where she sells her locket and her hair, and in desperation, falls into prostitution. When she scuffles with a potential customer, she is arrested by Javert and rescued by Madeleine, who takes her to the hospital, where he promises that he will raise her child. As soon as she dies, Javert arrives to arrest the mayor, who he now knows is Valjean. The latter escapes to the inn of the Thénardier family, where Cosette lives, to pick up the girl.

Nine years later, Cosette is a young woman who is falling in love with the revolutionary Marius. When Thénardier, Cosette's one-time abuser, attempts to rob Valjean's house, Valjean assumes that Javert has found where he is hiding, and he resolves to move, which would separate the two lovers, as his daughter must go with him.

Marius and his student friends are growing more and more angry with the plight of les misérables, Paris' oppressed poor, and they break into fighting. Valjean is given the chance to kill Javert, but instead, he lets him go. In the process of the battles on the barricade, all of Marius' friends are killed, and he is seriously wounded. Valjean carries him home to Cosette. Meanwhile, Javert, thoroughly bewildered by Valjean letting him go, commits suicide. After Marius rehabilitates, he marries Cosette, but their happiness is interrupted by the impending death of Jean Valjean, now an old man (Choi).

Following the pattern of its predecessors, Les Misérables is a tragedy about love. Valjean's love for his daughter leads him to save the life of her beloved, and their romance is rewarded by a marriage. However, the heroes on the barricade, Marius' friends, are killed near the end, and at the very end, Valjean is dying.

Les Misérables began Boublil and Schönberg's collaboration with British producer Cameron Mackintosh, who has produced the English versions of their more recent musicals as well. It opened on London's West End in English in 1985, and it soon opened on Broadway. At present, it has been performed in fifteen languages in twenty-three countries, and it is Broadway's second longest running musical (R. Lee). Though it has been phenomenally popular around the world, I have found little evidence of strong popularity in France itself. I have seen the Original French Concept Album around, and in France, I saw that there was a recording of the current French version. It sold 250,000 tickets in Paris in the space of seven months (Brambilla). Beyond that, I have seen no mention of any popularity in France. Perhaps that is why Tim Rice called Paris "a city infamous as a graveyard for musicals." One thing I do know is that Boublil and Schönberg moved to London, because, as Boublil stated, "France is still back in the old operetta tradition of the 1930s" (Citron 17).


Miss Saigon

In 1989, Boublil and Schönberg came out with another musical, which was again a big hit in London and on Broadway. Like previous French musicals, Miss Saigon is a romantic tragedy, and like Boublil and Schönberg's previous musicals, the lovers are forced to part due to circumstances beyond their control. Also like their previous musicals, it is set during a time of war. This musical is set in the former French protectorate of Vietnam in the mid to late 1970s. Miss Saigon is the story of a Vietnamese teenager named Kim who is orphaned in attack on her village in the countryside in 1975. She must come to the big city of Saigon, where she falls in love with an American Marine named Christopher Scott. They go through a Vietnamese wedding, and he plans to take her home with him. Meanwhile, Saigon falls, and the Americans are evacuated. Chris and Kim are separated, and neither can get to the other. Chris is forced to board the last helicopter out (which they actually manage to get on the stage).

Kim waits three years for Chris to return for her, during which time she bears a son who she names Tam. Chris, meanwhile, thinking he will never see Kim again and having no idea that he has a son, marries an American woman named Ellen. When Chris' friend John discovers that Chris and Kim have a Bui-Doi son (Vietnamese for "the dust of life," the Bui-Doi were children of American soldiers and Vietnamese women conceived during the war), he tells Chris and suggests that Chris and Ellen go to Bangkok, where Kim has fled for her life, to try to resolve this problem. When Kim finds out that her husband has married another woman, from none other than Ellen herself, she is thunderstruck. Ellen refuses her pleas to take Tam to America because Ellen believes that a child belongs with his mother, and, as a last resort to force a better life for her son in America, Kim shoots herself, thus severing all ties of Tam with Vietnam, and Asia in general. She dies in Chris' arms (Story).

Miss Saigon is the longest running show at London's Theatre Royal on Drury Lane, and it has been performed in twelve countries (Dixon). I can only assume that France is one of those countries. It was originally written in French, but I have been unable to locate a French recording or even any lyrics. Even in France, the only recordings of it that I saw were in English. In short, I have found no evidence of popularity in France, thus reinforcing Rice's claim of Paris being "a graveyard for musicals." It qualifies as a French musical because it was written and composed by Frenchmen, and it follows the aforementioned patterns of French musicals.


Martin Guerre

Several years later, Boublil and Schönberg came out with their newest musical to date [as of 2000, when this paper was written]. Martin Guerre is about a 16th Century 14-year-old named Martin from the small village of Artigat, France, who is forced to marry, and when he refuses to consummate his marriage, he gets blamed for a series of storms, and the priest whips him in an attempt to exorcise the demons that are supposedly keeping him from consummation. Feeling he can trust nobody, he flees to fight in the Religious Wars. On the battlefield seven years later, he is seriously wounded, and his friend Arnaud du Thil leaves him for dead and goes to Artigat to tell Bertrande, Martin's wife, of his demise. The people of Artigat mistake him for Martin, and welcome him warmly. Bertrande convinces him to take Martin's name, and he reluctantly agrees, but the townspeople eventually realize that he is not Martin. By this time, Bertrande is expecting a child by Arnaud. Arnaud goes to trial in Toulouse to settle the matter, and as the judge is about to make his ruling, a new witness enters the court: the real Martin Guerre. The judge rules that Arnaud go to prison until Martin decides his fate. When Martin frees his friend, Guillaume, a jealous suitor of Bertrande, murders Arnaud (Martin Guerre).

Martin Guerre has received rave reviews in London, and it is currently nearing the end of its first run in the United States [as of February 2000]. Its Broadway debut has unfortunately been indefinitely postponed due to the lack of a theater. Once again, I have found no sign of popularity in France. I did not even find any English recordings of it in France.

Martin Guerre is, like its predecessors, a romantic tragedy. True to its Boublil and Schönberg predecessors, the hero and heroine are separated due to circumstances beyond their control, as we have seen.

Though Martin Guerre has not, to my knowledge, been very popular in France, the next French musical has blown all of its predecessors out of the water.


Notre-Dame de Paris

"The Americans adore it. The English too. In the Francophone countries, the musical was received without conviction, until... Notre-Dame de Paris!" (Brambilla) Except for Starmania and La Révolution Française, the previous French musicals that really took hold, took hold in England and America, and elsewhere around the world. Not so much in France. It seems that the brand new musical Notre-Dame de Paris is changing all that.

Where all other French musicals have failed, Notre-Dame de Paris has finally succeeded in interesting the French in musicals. Luc Plamondon, of Starmania fame (as well as a couple other musicals which I have not mentioned), teamed up with the Italian-French Richard Cocciante to musicalize Victor Hugo's novel of the same name as the musical (known in the US as The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

As Patricia Brambilla encapsulizes the plot in her article Les clés d'un succès monumental ("The Keys to a Monumental Success"), "The priest Frollo and Quasimodo, the hunchback, love the Gypsy Esmeralda, who burns for the soldier Phoebus. Who is attracted by Esmeralda, but promised to Fleur de Lys..."

Notre-Dame de Paris, set in 15th Century Paris, is about Quasimodo, who grows up in the belltower of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral (known in French as Notre-Dame de Paris, or Our Lady of Paris), where he becomes the bellringer. The Archdeacon Claude Frollo has raised him from childhood. Frollo is so enamored by the young Gypsy Esmeralda that he stabs Phoebus to keep him from loving her. When Esmeralda is arrested and brought to Notre Dame for supposedly murdering Phoebus, Frollo offers that he will free her if she will consent to him loving her. She is repulsed. Quasimodo helps her escape from prison, but she is caught again and executed by hanging. Quasimodo, furious at Frollo's actions, throws his surrogate father off the balcony of the cathedral and rushes down to the place where his beloved is being hanged, only to arrive too late (Notre Dame...Synopsis). The musical ends with Quasimodo's heartbreaking lament, promising to be buried with her and expressing his desire to see her dance once more (Plamondon & Cocciante Acte II, 9eme Tableau).

True to French form, Notre-Dame de Paris is a romantic tragedy. It has a complex group of people who love the next person, but that person may or may not reciprocate that love. Phoebus (who, incidentally, survives the attack) loves both Esmeralda and his fiancée Fleur-de-Lys. Fleur-de-Lys has nothing but hate for Esmeralda, and she even tells her fiancé that "I'll love you if you swear/That you will hang/[Esmeralda]" (Plamondon & Cocciante Acte II, 5eme Tableau). Frollo loves Esmeralda to the point of lust, but Esmeralda, understandably, hates him very much. In the end, Frollo and Esmeralda are dead, and Quasimodo is about to commit suicide. [In his novel, Victor Hugo points out that Phoebus also came to a sad ending: he got married. That is only implied in the musical, though.]

Notre-Dame de Paris sold 450,000 tickets in one day in Paris. As a matter of comparison, Les Misérables sold 250,000 in the space of seven months (Brambilla). Notre-Dame made its English debut in Las Vegas January 20 of this year [2000], translated by Will Jennings, who wrote the lyrics of "My Heart Will Go On" from the movie Titanic. It is set to open in London in May [2000]. It has broken all records for popularity, and the CD cast recording has been at the top of the charts there. From here, France could do one of two things with musicals. It could do the same thing it did after the successes of La Révolution Française and Starmania; namely, return to being a "graveyard for musicals" (Rice). I think it is more likely, however, that, based on its unprecedented popularity, the other possibility will happen. I think that the 21st Century will see a growing popularity of musicals in France. I said earlier that Boublil and Schönberg moved to London because France was "behind the times" concerning musicals. When I went to see Martin Guerre earlier this month [February 2000], I noticed in the program that Schönberg now once more lives in Paris. I do not know if this return is related to the success of his colleague's musical Notre-Dame de Paris, but I think it may be a sign that France is finally entering the field of musicals, and that they can be popular in France.

~~~

[Author's note, March 17, 2018: In the 18 years since I wrote this paper, musicals have indeed increased exponentially in France, and French Canada has also come out with some. It is gratifying as I retype this essay to see that my prediction that it would grow in popularity was accurate. I wrote a section for this paper on La Légende de Jimmy, about the life of James Dean, which sadly had to be cut because the paper was too long. Shortly after writing this, Roméo & Juliette and Les Dix Commandements came out. Boublil and Schönberg have also written more musicals, including The Pirate Queen and Marguerite. Many more musicals by multiple composers have followed.]

Works Cited and Consulted

Please note, this is as of February 2000. Most URLs likely no longer work due to the amount of time that has passed since then.

  • 5th Avenue Presents. "Claude-Michel Schönberg." Martin Guerre: The Official Program of the 5th Avenue Theatre Company. 11.4 (2000):8.
  • Boublil, Alain. From Madame Chrysanthemum to Miss Saigon. 10 Feb 2000 <http://miss-saigon.com/origins/madame.html>
  • Brambilla, Patricia. Construire. 1999. 31 Jan 2000 <http://www.construire.com/SOMMAIRE/9906/06cult2.htm>
  • Choi, Andrew. Synopsis. 1996. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/2403/lmsynopsis.html>
  • Citron, Stephen. The Musical from the Inside Out. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1992.
  • Dixon, Paul. Miss Saigon. 1998. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.albemarle-london.com/saigon.html>
  • Flinn, Denny Martin. Musical! A Grand Tour. New York: Schirmer, 1997.
  • Il se passe quelque chose à Monopolis. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.multimania/younig/ilsepass.htm>
  • Lee, Anthony Patrick. Starmania Historique. 1996. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.sirius.com/~alee/s/starchro.htm>
  • Lee, Rob. The Barricade on the Rue de la Chanvrerie: A Tribute to Les Misérables. 1999. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.users.cloud9.net/~rlee/lesmis/>
  • Martin Guerre. 10 Feb 2000. 2:00 PM. Dir. Conall Morrison. Perf. Hugh Panaro, Stephen R. Buntrock, Erin Dilly, Jose Llana, and John Herrera. 5th Ave Theatre, 1999.
  • Les Misérables: The Complete Symphonic Recording. CD-ROM. London: EuroArts, 1997.
  • Luc Plamondon. 10 Feb 2000 <http://www.sacd.fr/bio_plamondon.htm>
  • Notre Dame de Paris - Synopsis. 1999. 16 Feb 2000. <http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/Stage/9590/Nd_synopsis_uk.html
  • Plamondon, Luc, and Richard Cocciante. Notre Dame de Paris. Pantin: Publiphotoffset, 1998.
  • Rice, Tim. Tycoon: Version anglaise de Starmania. 1992. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.sirius.com/~alee/s/startyc.htm>
  • Starmania. 1999. 9 Feb 2000. <http://www.canadiantheatre.com/s/starmania.html>
  • Starmania: L'histoiremania. 1994. 9 Feb 2000. <http://www.sirius.com/~alee/s/starhist.htm>
  • Story. 10 Feb 2000. <http://www.miss-saigon.com/musical/story/>
  • Taylor, Steven A. La Revolution Francaise. 1996. 9 Feb 2000 <http://nomad.users.netlink.co.uk/rev.htm>
  • Valentine, Roger. Starmania - the plot. 9 Feb 2000 <http://www.geocities.com/Broadway/2446/startext.htm>


Graphics used in this blog:

La Révolution Française: http://www.purepeople.com/media/pochette-du-disque-de-la-comedie_m712697
Starmania: http://starmania.pagesperso-orange.fr/
Les Misérables: http://www.cabotins.ca/les-miserables/
Miss Saigon: http://cardiff.carpediem.cd/events/3032658-miss-saigon-at-wales-millennium-centre/
Martin Guerre: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8tApgUz0xGo
Notre-Dame de Paris: http://2muchponey.com/lifestyle/notre-dame-de-paris-est-de-retour/

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Musical Clickbait

I am not a fan of clickbait. Sometimes you have to find humor in these things. Here are a few musicals explained with clickbait...

Expectant mother drinks green potion. What happens next will blow your mind!

Aspiring Knight dreams an impossible dream. You won't believe what he thinks he can fight with a sword and a shaving basin he thinks is a helmet! My countenance is WOEFUL!

BAT CHILD FOUND IN CAVE (Oh wait...)

Barber uses this simple trick to REVOLUTIONIZE the neighboring meat pie business!

He tries to separate his good and evil natures. The result? I'm SHOCKED!!

Starved orphan sold to a funeral home after he asks for more food. You won't believe what happens after he escapes!

She meets him at an earthquake benefit concert. Their romance inspires a nation and disgusts an Argentine-Cuban Marxist revolutionary. See how the money rolls in and out. I'm CRYING for her!

Determined police officer doggedly pursues thief across two decades. What happens when they meet will SHOCK you!

Dragon prepares to bake her famous savory donkey pot pie. I'm TREMBLING! Flattery really does save lives!

[clickbait headline of show]

Voyage ends in tragedy as frozen dihydrogen monoxide sinks ship! AVOID DIHYDROGEN MONOXIDE!!!

Dreams come true! Disgraced Egyptian slave saves nation. You won't believe who else he saves!

He secretly slips some acrimonium in her drink. Boy oh boy, that full disclosure is strange!

How far will a younger brother go to ensure that his sister continues to torture him? I'm SHOCKED!!

Bohemian beauty steals the hearts of a hypocritical priest, an engaged archer, and a deaf one-eyed lame bellringer. I'm IN TEARS!!

Bookish oddball falls in love with horned creature. You'll be SHOCKED what happens when she declares her love!

This girl lost her parents and her ayah in a cholera epidemic in India and is being shipped back to Yorkshire to live with her widowed and grieving uncle. Her cousin has been bedridden ALL HIS LIFE and lives in fear of becoming a hunchback. 1 Like = 1 Prayer

Lord Farquaad's heritage called into question. Spread this ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE!

Boy under the control of an evil supercomputer uses this simple trick to break out!

He dreamed of soaring like an eagle on the big screen in Bollywood. What happened on the journey home will shock you!

SCANDAL!! Apprentice blames rash of DEATHS on one of the plants in his shop!

New Chairman of the Board credits obscure thrift shop book for his meteoric rise to the top. Mr. President, watch out! See page 5 for the juicy details of his upcoming wedding to his secretary.

Greek wine god takes servant on quest down the River Styx. You'll CROAK when you find out who he meets on the way and who he brings back!

Martha Stewart HATES him! Aspiring playwright pens a culinary musical.

You WON'T BELIEVE where Conrad Birdie is going next, and you'll be SHOCKED about his one last kiss before he leaves! We're CRYING!

OMG, you guys! If there ever was a perfect couple, THIS ONE qualifies!

SCANDAL!! Jilted bathing beauty MURDERS diva!

You won't believe what this hobbit did with his priceless ring!

Gangster threatens to KILL his girlfriend, a bar singer. You WON'T BELIEVE where the police hide her, or what she does to the place!

What this Greek demigod was accused of stealing will literally SHOCK you!

Forbidden love between an Egyptian prince and a Nubian princess, and we just CAN'T EVEN!!

Have you heard? There's a rumor in St. Petersburg!

Diva breaks silence on upstart managers, being cast out of opera, and the unsuitability of her replacement

Exclusive! Who is the real Christine Daaé? Get all the details from opera insider Carlotta Giudicelli! Prepare to be shocked! Does Ms. Daaé owe her so-called talent to a mysterious "Opera Ghost", or is it just her rich lover, the Opera's new patron?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Escape Adulthood Summit, Day 1

Today has been a very long day, as it was day 1 of the 2017 Escape Adulthood Summit. This is an annual conference hosted and put on by my friends Kim and Jason Kotecki. Jason is an artist and motivational speaker, and he and his wife Kim have a passion for helping others to become more childlike, realize their potential in life, and follow their dreams and passions. There are so many unwritten (and nonexistent) rules that adults often tend to follow, and they tend to hold us back if taken too far. We let fear, hurt and other things stand in the way of following our dreams. What if people don't like what I have to say? What if? What if? Children don't have many of these inhibitions, and we can learn a lot from them on how to live life.

The day started yesterday evening when I caught the airport shuttle, and then a red eye flight out of Seattle bound for Minneapolis. The Minneapolis airport is quite large, so I got quite the workout walking to my connecting flight to Madison, Wisconsin. Upon arrival in Madison, I was picked up by Dan, a new friend who, like me, showed interest in sharing a hotel room. Since I arrived several hours before the summit was set to start, we drive around Madison. I got to see the Wisconsin Capitol building, which is spectacular, and we stopped at the lake, where I got some pictures. We walked out on a dock, and I commented that the dock rocked! Literally!


We then proceeded to the nearby town of Poynette, where the conference is being held. Still early, we drove around the area and saw some buffalos grazing, and we passed a pleasant farm. We then went to the conference location, but they weren't ready to let us in yet, so Kim sent us on an errand to get some whimsical flowers and come back closer to the starting time. We found a nearby country store that advertised selling asparagus and flowers.


Once we explained what we needed, the helpful lady who owned the shop proceeded to arrange a bouquet. Once we had paid for it, they invited us to sit down and chat. Country life is slower and friendlier than I'm used to in Seattle. The lady who helped us was at the table with a couple elderly women, and they asked what we did, and told us a bit about themselves. One of the older women told us about how her husband was a pilot and flew a two-seater aircraft. They flew that plane up and down the coast, around the US, and then proceeded to fly around the world, mainly stopping to refuel and rest. She mentioned stopping in Adelaide, Australia, where they have opal mines. She was wearing an opal ring that they got there. They had a landing strip on their farm in Wisconsin, and after her husband passed away, she donated the plane to Wings of Hope. She feels her husband would have approved. I'm probably not doing the story justice, but it was fascinating, and I appreciated her sharing her story. We were probably at the store for an hour or two, chatting most of the time. By the time we left, it was closer to the starting time.

When we got back to the farm where the conference is held, we had fun playing with bubbles while we waited for the doors to open.

The conference started out with lunch. They had enlisted the services of two food trucks, and there was also lemonade and other drinks.

To be continued...

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Kathy Griffin's Faux Pas

Thoughts on recent events related to a misguided picture posted this week that went viral...I suggest reading the whole thing before you respond.

All sides have good points.

No matter how much you hate a person, pretending to behead them the way Kathy Griffin did is a horrible, shameful deed, even if you have no intention to actually physically harm them.

A normal citizen who did that would be in prison, but it seems that rich, popular comedians only get their shows cancelled (rightly so).

Barron Trump is 11. Under no circumstances is it OK that he was led to believe, however briefly, that his father was brutally murdered. Nor is it OK for us to criticize Trump for defending his son.

It is just as horrible that Sasha and Malia Obama had to deal with seeing people hang their father in effigy, burn images of him, and otherwise commit the exact crime against Obama that Griffin committed against Trump. Since the Obama effigies didn't go as viral, I don't know if they were fooled as Barron was.

I think this has gotten more press than the Obama effigies because Griffin is higher profile than the Obama effigy-ers, and it looks more realistic.

I think it would help if Barron and Melania move to the White House as soon as possible so Barron will not be so easily fooled, having his father right there.

Kathy Griffin apologized. Many of the people calling for us to forgive her are the same people who call for the heads of people who do similar things to liberals, long after they apologize.

Kathy Griffin only apologized after being pressured to do so. However, I do believe we need to move on, and we do need to allow her some reprieve. It's more than she deserves, but every one of us has made horrible mistakes that we regret. Yes, she needs our forgiveness.

The Trump family has been deeply traumatized by this. Yet they have been called bullies for responding as any family would when threatened by a realistic-looking effigy. Griffin's act was one of the worst examples of bullying I have ever seen in my life. Calling the Trumps bullies for this is victim shaming at its finest. They have done enough actual bullying without criticizing them for their reaction that was probably much calmer than most families faced with this kind of brutal attack.

I have seen reports that Griffin has received death threats. This is even worse than what she did. I find the increase of death threats on social media in recent years to be a deeply disturbing trend that needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is never OK to threaten to kill someone, to tell them to commit suicide, or in any other way wish death on them. Even as a joke.

It is never OK to be glad of another person's misfortune. We must not rejoice that the Trumps have been traumatized and scarred, and we must not rejoice that Kathy Griffin lost her job.

Both Trump and Griffin are human. Both have done horrible, grievous things. Both are bullies. We need to hold them to high standards, but we also need to extend grace to both. Those of us who pray need to do so earnestly for both of them.

We must move on and let both sides heal. I was traumatized seeing that picture, and I don't even like Trump. I hope this is a wake up call to everyone that we need to be civil to each other.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

False Musical Plots

My craziness has struck again. This time I decided to come up with musicals, using their actual titles, but summarize the plots completely wrong. Enjoy!

Wicked
About a bunch of candles that have just had their wicks installed. They have been wicked.

The Phantom of the Opera
The sad tale of Banquo's ghost in an opera version of the Scottish Play

Titanic
Inspired by Big, but he gets much, MUUUCCHHHH bigger!

Rent
About a rip in time and space... It is rent in twain!

Sister Act
A remake of White Christmas, focusing on the Haynes Sisters

Beauty and the Beast
A mysterious deformed creature haunts an opera house and trains a beautiful diva to sing

A Very Potter Musical
The Brady Bunch learns to make pots

Something Rotten
A musical about cleaning out the fridge at work

Cats
All the actors completely ignore the director, drawing a metaphorical parallel to herding cats

Hamilton
People get ill from eating a ton of ham

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
About a factory that churns out merchandise for the hit band "Charlie and the Chocolate"

Shrek
About a failed attempt at turning Star Trek into a musical. It was named with a mouth full of food. The person tried to say "Star Trek", but it came out all garbled.

The Buddy Holly Story
Two holly bushes become best friends

Once on This Island
Captain Jack Sparrow remembers the last time he was left marooned on this island. There was more rum at the time.

Elf
An elf moves to the Shire and revolutionizes the hobbits' gardens, songs and culture

Pippin
The Lord of the Rings from Peregrin Took's perspective

Young Frankenstein
A teenager learns honesty while drinking from a stein

Miss Saigon
Someone moves across the world from Vietnam and feels homesick. They really miss Saigon!

Aladdin
A boy is stuck in something, but what is the lad in? You don't find out until the end.

Urinetown
Where you are once you get downtown: you're in town.

Evita
A Spanish musical about avoidance

Sunset Boulevard
A musical about a road that is stuck in a time loop at sunset

Mamma Mia!
Super Mario Bros, the Musical!

The Drowsy Chaperone
An elementary field trip goes wrong when the overworked and underpaid parent who comes along falls asleep

Spamalot
The ultimate war against junk mail. Canned meat gets thrown across the stage.

The Civil War
A polite disagreement among gentlemen

Man of La Mancha
A Spanish man applies to Starbucks and specializes in making macchiatos​. (Mancha and macchiato literally mean "stain" in Spanish and Italian, respectively.)

The Wizard of Oz
After an exemplary career at Hogwarts, the potions master retires to sell potions by the ounce.

Ragtime
That time of the day when things get so dirty that simple tissues won't do.

Into the Woods
A sequel of Legally Blonde, where the main character is a huge fan of Elle Woods

Camelot
Set in the desert, where there are lots and lots of camels

My Fair Lady
The sad tale of Sansa Stark and her ill-fated direwolf

Bat Boy
In an attempt to sound cooler and more menacing, Robin rebrands himself

The King & I
The life and times of Priscilla Presley

State Fair
Iowa is rated as simply fair. Not great, not horrible, just fair.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Josh Groban's dog must be exorcised when he starts biting off people's hair

Hairspray
A mad scientist invents an aerosol can that sprays hair everywhere.

Matilda
The sad tale of an Australian swagman who stole a jumbuck and jumped in a billabong rather than be arrested. It involves a fair amount of waltzing.

The Slipper and the Rose
"Rose Tyler, I - "

Chicago
The entire cast gets blown across the stage by a strong wind

Carousel
Travelers at the airport are constantly losing their baggage because the baggage claim carousel isn't working right

Labyrinth
The third task of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, extended into a full length musical

Oliver!
An amateur gardener calls in the professionals to groom his olive tree

The Scarlet Pimpernel
A star-crossed lover picks the perfect red flower for his beloved girlfriend

Love Never Dies
An appropriately-named musical in which the lovers truly love each other, are utterly faithful to each other, and they both survive. In fact, they are vampires, so they are immortal.

Annie Get Your Gun
Annie must take extreme measures to protect herself from the ongoing threat of Miss Hannigan, Rooster, and their devious schemes to find Easy Street

Mame
About a serial murderer who can't spell right

Annie
All about Annie Oakley and her sharpshooting skills

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
A futuristic story of an innovative young lad who invents a coat that can project movies

Hello Dolly!
Dolly keeps missing the painfully obvious. I mean, hello!!

Groundhog Day
Old Ivy finally defeats the Chipmunks, and the mayor declares a holiday to celebrate. J. Pierrepont Finch gives a speech (sung, of course) at the ceremony.

Addams Family
Belle meets her future in-laws

Jersey Boys
A group of football players campaigns to replace their old outdated jerseys

The Falsettos
The show must go on, despite all the sopranos and altos having various unavoidable conflicts to the choral concert. The tenors and basses must cover for them.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Musicals Minus a Letter

One letter can make a big difference! A group I am in challenged us to come up with names of musicals, but take out a letter, and then explain the plot of this new musical. I had fun with this and came up with a bunch. I may be adding more as I think of them.

Lord of the Rigs
A hobbit trucker must take a semi to Mount Doom and destroy it (kind of a "Lord of the Rings meets Mad Max")

The Irate Queen
The Queen is not amused.

Unset Boulevard
An aging and crazed star of yesteryear must now remove the dishes, silverware and napkins that she carefully arranged on the street. Quick before that Cadillac drives over them! It does not end well for the driver of the Cadillac.

Little Hop of Horrors
Crazed bunnies resolve to "eat Cleveland and Des Moines and Peoria and..."

Spiderman: Turn of the Dark
The Dark Side takes a whole new form, turning to new forms of evil.

Vita
The first lady of Argentina celebrates life.

The Pantom of the Opera
An opera singer goes mute and must now mime their part.

The Hunchback of Note Dame
A hunchback gets dating advice and must take notes.

Le Mis
One person is very miserable.

Ear Evan Hansen
Evan gets an ear transplant.

Hailton
In a massive hailstorm, a whole ton of hail falls.

Beauty and the East
A beautiful maiden encounters ugliness and love out east.

Beauty and the Beat
Belle plays the drums.

The Little Mermad
Ariel is not amused.

Newses
Gollum joins the media and brings the newses to all those nasty hobbitses.

Ragtim
Tim has fallen on hard times.

Hell Dolly
Dolly is not amused.

Finding NeverLAN
The epic search for that place where there are no computer networks.

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Tying
You can win or lose, but a tie is not an option.

Ciderella
A rags to riches story of a young maiden who loves apple cider and meets a prince

Gus and Dolls
The theatre cat finds a new hobby in his retirement.

Bye Bye Birde
Everyone says good bye to their favorite bird before it flies south for the winter.

A Yea with Frog and Toad
Frog and Toad win the election.

The Music Ma
A proud mother helps her musical child to greatness.

The Iz
The life story of Israel Kamakawaiwo'ole.

Alexander's Ragtime Ban
A prohibition tale of when dancing was not allowed.

Ida
Mrs. Strauss travels back in time and meets an Egyptian prince. It does not end well for either of them, but "the gods love Titanic."

Into the Wood
Villagers band together to enter a tree.

A Very Otter Musical
Hermione's patronus learns to sing.

He-Man of La Mancha
A very macho man takes on the pesky windmills.

The Black Rook
The epic tale of a chess piece's quest to checkmate the enemy.

Catch Me if Yo Can
A hip hop musical about a rapper's escape from justice.

Mamma Mi
A mother is very excited about the third note on the solfege scale.

Reamgirls
A group of girls finds stardom with the help of reams and reams of paper.

[tile of show]
About someone who lays tile.

[title of sow]
A pig goes from Ma'am to Mrs. to AA to BA to Doctor.

High School Música
A boy and girl meet at a fiesta in Cancún and find out they go to the same school in Oaxaca.

Ten Beach Movie
Like A Tale of Two Cities, but on ten beaches instead.

Little Omen
Starts with an ominous warning and goes on to tell the sinister story of four sisters.

Rankenstein
A mad scientist brings a dead man back to life using spare body parts and electricity, but things go south quickly when the creature's foul, rank odor withers grass, causes trees to fall over, and local animals to keel over dead.

The Fros
Dionysus and his servant Xanthius encounter a sinister group of hippies with frizzy hair while questing to bring back a decent playwright.

Hrek
Gesundheit!

You're a Good Man, Harlie Brown
The Peanuts gang learns to ride motorcycles.

Sow Boat
A boat sails up the Mississippi carrying a load of pigs.

Show Boa
The pigs on aforementioned bot got eaten by a snake.

Spamalt
A new concept introducing a malt shop at the local spa.

The Kin and I
Anna visits her family.

If/Hen
An iffy tale of chickens.

Flower Rum Song
Captain Jack Sparrow had a bit too much to drink.

A Christmas Tory
The family Christmas party gets a little too political.

Big Ish
It's kinda big, but not huge.

10 in the Shade
The dry winter when the Snowmaker visited.

The Secret Arden
About a town in Ontario that very few people know about.

Samalot
About a gallant knight named Sam.

School of RCK
An Algerian soccer team trains its players.

Fiddler on the Roo
A joey learns to play the violin.

Bombay Reams
An aspiring Bollywood star struggles through reams of paperwork to reach his dream.

Ale of Two Cities
London and Paris compete for the best brew.

Wet Side Story
It's raining in New York.

A Christmas Carl
An updated version of the classic tale, in which Carl Scrooge is visited by three hosts.

Airspray
A popular teenage show decides to promote compressed air. Everyone's electronics are cleaned.

Hairspay
A very hairy puppy visits the vet.

Wes Side Story
Wes joins the Jets.

One on this Island
The epic search for palm trees on islands.

Dr. Horrible's Singalong Bog
Dr. Horrible goes on a quest through marshy flea-infested bogs to reach the secret lair of the Evil League of Evil, singing the whole time.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Beauty and the Beast


The animated version of Beauty and the Beast came out in 1991. I saw it first on video, and it quickly became one of my favorite Disney movies. It was Disney's first musical to be converted to a Broadway format, and I further fell in love with the tweaks to the plot and the additional songs. So I was especially excited when I found out that they were making a movie live action remake of it.

I am happy to report that the new version is every bit as amazing as the original Disney movie, even making the occasional reference to Jean Cocteau's 1946 movie:


The new movie also answered plenty of questions that the 1991 version raised. I was wondering about some of them, and others hadn't occurred to me:


  • What happened to Belle's mother?
  • Why did Maurice and Belle move to "this poor provincial town"?
  • What is the name of this poor provincial town?
  • Where did they live prior to that?
  • Does Belle invent anything?
  • Does Gaston have any other reasons for wanting Belle, aside from her beauty?
  • Is LeFou the least bit concerned about Gaston's villainy?
  • Did any villagers besides Belle object to Gaston's war march against the Beast?
  • What was Gaston's occupation prior to the events of our story?
  • Were ALL of the Prince's servants turned into objects?
  • Was everyone in the castle at the time of the spell either the Prince or one of his servants?
  • What was the dog's name (who was turned into a footstool)? Who were her owners?
  • What happened to Mr. Potts?
  • How did the Prince get so cruel that the enchantress has to take such extreme measures to teach him a lesson?
  • What about the Prince's parents?
  • What happens to the enchantress after she casts the spell?
  • How does Belle get the heavy Beast onto Philippe after he's been wounded by the wolves?
  • Why do the Beast's servants care so much for him? Do they blame themselves at all for the Beast's condition?
  • Are all of the books in the Beast's library in English (or French)?
  • How does a moment last forever?
  • What is Cogsworth's first name?
  • Does M. D'Arque have children? (This is not actually answered.)
  • Was Gandalf ever transformed into a clock?
  • Did Gandalf ever meet Hermione Granger?
  • Did Obi-Wan enlighten anyone who didn't have "Skywalker" in their name? (Pun intended)
  • For that matter, did Obi-Wan ever meet Hermione Granger?

  • How does it look to have a snowball, dishes, rubble, mud, rubble and a falling villain thrown at you? (This is answered in the 3D version.)

  • Could there be more to the poor than meets the eye? Maybe they deserve more respect than we often give them? Are they sometimes the best of us?
  • Is everyone's hero necessarily heroic? What happens when our heroes disappoint us?
  • Both the Prince and Gaston start out as spoiled, selfish and unkind. How can their repentance or lack thereof inspire us to become kinder and unselfish?

  • What happens when the theater is almost empty because most people think there's nothing left to see, and Josh Groban starts singing your big brother's favorite song in the movie, and said big brother likes to sing, and is sitting next to you? (Hint: Josh Groban is suddenly a background singer.)

Beauty and the Beast is an amazingly well-done remake. Pro tip: stay to the end of the credits. There is no post-credits scene, but they save Josh Groban for last.