The Show Will Go On

It’s always exciting when you find out that one of your favourite closed Broadway shows is going to have a continued life. Today it was announced that Bandstand is going to be shown in movie theatres in June. I’m still waiting to find out for sure whether it will be shown in theatres in Canada, but for now I’m going to work with the assumption that since other similar screenings have all been shown in Canada, this one will too (it better be!). And you can bet I will be buying tickets the day I find out for sure. There is no way I’m going to miss this one, if I can help it!

Getting to see this show again, in any capacity, but especially with that (original) cast is pretty much a dream come true. Getting to witness those performances again, particularly “Right This Way” and “Welcome Home (Finale)”- I can’t wait!

Not only am I excited for myself, I’m also about what it will mean for the show and those who were a part of it. I’m excited for people like me who will get to re-experience it through the screening and I’m excited for those who didn’t get to see it before it closed who will now get to experience it for the first time. It’s such a good show with a great story and great music. I’ve always thought it deserved a longer life than it had on Broadway and now it will get that! It must be so exciting for everyone who was a part of the show too, knowing that it has this continuing life and that it will be able to reach so many more people. In everything I saw from and about the show and those in it, they always seemed so proud of the .show and the story they were telling

In previous posts I’ve written about my love for both Bandstand and filmed productions and now I’m so happy that Bandstand will be joining the ranks of shows that have graced the big screen. (Maybe if we all wish hard enough we can get a digital release too!) This is also the kind of Broadway news that is great for us fans outside of the city. There has been a lot of exciting Broadway (and Off-Broadway) news lately and while I always love reading it, it’s always with the knowledge that I may never actually get to see or experience whatever it is. This screening announcement however (and other similar announcements) is great news for the long distance fan. It’s always great when Broadway comes to us. And between the Tony Awards and now Bandstand, June is shaping up to be an excellent month for being a Broadway fan, wherever you are (or at least, wherever you are that will have a Bandstand screening)!

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Put On A Happy Face

Do you have a go-to feel-good show or cast recording? One that, even if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it or listened to it, is always guaranteed to bring you joy when you do? One that will always put a smile on your face? For me, that show is Godspell, particularly the revival, but really any version, including the movie.

I’m sure part of it is that Godspell was my 2nd Broadway show and I loved every moment of that experience, so right off the bat it will always hold a special place in my heart. And the fact that I saw pretty much the entire revival cast (except I saw Corey Mach as Jesus instead of Hunter Parrish) makes it all the more exciting listening to that particular cast recording. On top of that there is just so much joy and beauty in the music. Sure the “Finale” hits you and takes you out of the joy for a bit but then it brings you right back to it at the end). My favourite songs include Uzo Aduba’s “By My Side” and the slowed down, revival version of “Beautiful City,” which is just so, well, beautiful. Godspell is just one of the reasons I’m a big Stephen Schwartz fan.

I did grow up in a family that regularly went to church (United Church) so perhaps that impacted the way I took in the musical. Honestly, I don’t know for sure about that but I do know that you don’t have to be religious to like the show or appreciate its story or themes. I think it’s a similar case with a lot of the shows based on Bible stories (Jesus Christ Superstar, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat), it’s about more than the religious aspect or source material. I think a big part of Godspell is about storytelling, and all of the stories presented in it (the parables) present a message, typically about being a good person, that you can enjoy and appreciate whether or not you consider yourself a religious person. There is hope in it too, especially at the end- it comes back to hope and joy.

I’ve watched a lot of Godspell videos on YouTube, and they too always bring a smile to my face. Show clips, TV show performances, recording studio videos, I love them all. There are also some great videos from when they put together a kid cast for the revival (the “Godspell Cast of 2032” they called it) who got to perform some of the songs at Circle in the Square, on the set, wearing costumes that matched their grown-up counterparts. Gaten Matarazzo, better known now as Dustin in Stranger Things, was Jesus in that 2032 cast. Seeing those kids performing those songs once again highlights the joy of the show. All of the videos I’ve watched do.

I would love to someday work on a production of Godspell. I don’t even really care in what capacity I work on it, I just want to be involved with it in some way.

There’s a reason this show is in my top 10 favourite musicals!

What’s the Buzz?

I just watched Jesus Christ Superstar Live for the second time and I have to say, for me,  the buzz is good! I loved this production and I was so glad that I actually got to watch it live! I missed the last few live musicals but I was back home for Easter which meant I had cable and was able to watch this one!

I’ll admit, Jesus Christ Superstar has never really been my favourite musical. I saw the movie from 1973 years ago and I just didn’t really take to it then. There were a few songs from the musical that I liked and would listen to, but as a whole it was never one I knew by heart (I think that is going to be changing soon though). I’ve been getting more into it recently (starting before the live production aired). Not long ago I watched the 2000 movie (Tony Vincent was part of the reason I wanted to watch this particular version) and I was reminded of more of the songs and that I do quite like the score. I’ve also been reading Andrew Lloyd Webber’s memoir, Unmasked, and reading what he has to say about the creation of Jesus Christ Superstar is so interesting (I’m just at the chapter about the show going to Broadway).

Another confession, it was only in the last couple of weeks that I actually got excited about Jesus Christ Superstar Live. It definitely helped when I realized how many amazing Broadway actors were going to be in it! In my opinion, casting done right for these live musicals means casting Broadway actors and thankfully they did with this show! It also helped my excitement when I figured out that I would actually be somewhere with cable when it aired and would be able to watch it live.

I’m going to say this now, I think this was the best of the live TV musicals so far. All of the elements came together so well to make it an excellent production. The cast was amazing (and huge) and the set was really cool (and also huge), along with the rest of the design.

Let’s start by talking about that cast. John Legend was probably the one I was least sure about. I know he’s a great singer but we haven’t seen him in anything like this, and Jesus is quite a demanding role. Overall I thought he did a good job. I really liked Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene and thought her voice really suited Mary’s songs. I loved the Act 2 song she sang with Jason Tam, who was great as Peter. Norm Lewis, as Caiaphas, has such a beautiful voice and amazing range- those low notes! Even the casting of Alice Cooper as King Herod worked well for this production. It’s definitely a role that works for celebrity casting. (It did kind of bug me that took the “lead” bow with John, Brandon and Sara though, since he only sings the one song, but I get it- the power of celebrity.) The real standout for me was Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas. He was absolutely amazing. I’m so glad it was a Broadway vet playing Judas, as it is also a demanding role, and Judas sings some of my favourite songs in the show, and Brandon nailed it! This was one of those casting choices that definitely helped to increase my excitement for the production ahead of time.

It was also exciting for me realizing how many people in the cast I’ve actually seen perform live including Norm Lewis (Phantom of the Opera and Once On This Island), Jason Tam (If/Then), Billy Lewis Jr. (Bat Out of Hell) who was in the ensemble, and Brandon Niederauer (School of Rock) who was the kid playing guitar.

The ensemble deserves some recognition too as every person brought so much amazing talent to the production, and even though we only got to hear one or two solo lines from most of them, they were all amazing! Used well I think large ensembles can be really cool, with their physical presence and their voices filling the space. And this is one of those productions in which it worked extremely well! I think the staging of this production was very well done and having such a large cast for it worked in its favour. The overall production value of it is really what made it the best of the live TV musicals. I loved the set and the overall design.  I was impressed by just how big the set really was. It seemed big enough and then there were a couple of times where it extended beyond what you thought was there. The end scene with the cross was a particularly beautiful and effective moment. I liked how the orchestra/band was such a big part of it too.

The addition of the live audience worked well for this production and added an interesting dynamic. It definitely had a positive impact on the energy of the performance. There were a couple of times, especially near the beginning where the sound of the audience almost overpowered the sound of the performance, but really, that happens sometimes when you go to see a live show and that’st part of the experience of seeing a live show, it’s just a little different and takes some getting used to when you’re sitting at home watching it on your TV and are not a part of that audience. (Can you imagine actually being a part of that live audience?!) Let’s see if the next musicals moving forward will follow suit! (I know Grease Live also had a live audience but it did seem different this time around, maybe because it was one set stage for this production.)

I loved the added bits during the commercial breaks when it would show the goings-on backstage and seeing pictures of the crew online changing sets and cleaning up the glitter. It also got me thinking, it must be hard doing these productions and having to stop for commercials, especially with a sung through show like Jesus Christ Superstar, as I imagine it would throw off the flow of performing the piece as opposed to just playing it straight through as would usually be done. But I also thought, with a show as vocally demanding as this, maybe it’s nice for them to actually get those water breaks. Not being a performer myself, I can’t really speak to that too much but I imagine it might things a little more difficult in their own way. It certainly didn’t seem to hinder any of the performances though!

I think this production showed what is possible with these live musicals and set the bar pretty high for any future productions, if they do continue to make them, which I sincerely hope they do, especially if they’re at this level, or better yet, if they keep making them better and better. And it shows how well it works with theatre people in the lead roles (Brandon Victor Dixon) as well as in the ensemble. I’m interested to see where they go from here and I’m excited for more repeat viewings of Jesus Christ Superstar!