Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Show Tunes: The Duets

Well I leave for New York a week from tomorrow, so here is the final edition of Show Tunes! Okay, so, Broadway shows are full of big show-stopper numbers, but they are usually solos or ensemble pieces. Every once in a while though, as if a Broadway ballad wasn't already powerful enough with just one clear incredible voice, the story calls for the harmony of a duet. When I started compiling a list of these I had like forty on it and, sigh, with much difficulty, I cut it back to my Top 15. These aren't all classic romantic duets, and all of them aren't necessarily the most well-known Broadway duets of all time, but for various reasons they are my personal favorites. It's a countdown, though only roughly in order of my least to most favorite, because that would be impossible to decide as it changes frequently ;)

15- Aaah, classic. The smitten and confused young man and the older woman with the hindsight to explain it to him:

You're Just in Love (Call Me Madam- Donald O'Connor & Ethel Merman)

14- If I didn't know the context of this story and the song placement in the show I might find some of these lyrics childish, but as a fanciful farewell to a dying sister, its touching and wonderful:

Some Things Are Meant To Be (Little Women- Sutton Foster & Meg McGinnis)

13- I grew up watching a lot of old movies but I distinctly remember watching this one more than others (though always fast forwarding through the long dream sequence scene- nice on stage, boring on screen) This is fun and flirtatious and the lyrics and the scene are light and charming:

People Will Say We're In Love (Oklahoma- Gordon MacRae & Shirly Jones)

12- I don't think an explanation is necessary. I can't imagine a childhood without running around singing this song running across benches:

Sixteen Going on Seventeen (The Sound of Music- Charmian Carr & Daniel Truhitte)

11- I'm a woman. Of course I enjoy a man singing about his passionate love. This one is two men singing about their passion for the same woman. Also, said woman has passed away so the song is even more infused with frustrated regret and the elevated ardor of haunting memories, all inspired by something as simple as seeing a pair of eyes like hers. 'Nuff said:

Lily's Eyes (The Secret Garden- Mandy Patinkin & Robert Westenberg)

10- This is the lesser-known musical version of the story of the Phantom of the Opera. This one came out around the same time as the Andrew Lloyd Webber version but was sort of ignored I guess because Webber was so huge at the time, coming off of Cats and Evita and such. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite it would be Webber's- I grew up with it and it has such a bittersweet mysteriousness about it, but this Maury Yeston version has some fabulous songs. Like this one:

Home (Phantom- Robert Cuccioli & Laura Benanti)

9- This song is two men inspiring and comforting a woman that it will be alright as they plan to assist her to flee the kingdom- in a TV version they did a few years ago they turned this into a love duet (which you can watch in my Zooey D. post) which I actually prefer since its such a pretty song, but I couldn't track down a recording of that version. I think I like this song so much because I love to travel and I love the dream of adventure and escape and that is what 'Normandy' represents in this song:

Normandy (Once Upon a Mattress- Harry Snow & Matt Maddox)

8- Such a great contemporary show. I love the originality of the bilingual lyrics and the sweetness of the characters dialogue:

Sunrise (In the Heights- Christopher Jackson & Mandy Gonzalez)

7- Anything with these two singing together would be on my list by default, but even without them this is such a hopeful and inspiring tune:

The Wheels of a Dream (Ragtime- Brian Stokes Mitchell & Audra McDonald)

6- This isn't the only musical duet between two women about the same man (I Still Believe from Miss Saigon, In His Eyes from Jekyll & Hyde...) but what I like about this one is that it isn't, 'I'm nothing without you,' or, 'choose me not her.' It's simply reflective that things didn't go perfectly but not necessarily in a regretful way, just in a retrospective way:

I Know Him So Well (Chess- Idina Menzel & Kerry Ellis)

5- Jennifer is awesome- she replaced Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda in Wicked so she is who I saw with Idina Menzel. More trivia- Hunter is brother to Sutton Foster. If you aren't aware of the synopsis of this show, well, it's kind of a dark satire. This song is a fabulous combination of goofy and tender:

Follow Your Heart (Urinetown- Hunter Foster & Jennifer Laura Thompson)

4- This show jumps around to different emotional moments in a five year relationship. I love the sincere, conversational tone of this song, set in the joy of the beginnings of love:

The Next Ten Minutes (The Last Five Years- Leo Norbert Butz & Sherie Rene Scott)

3- This is a twisted love song that start out very humble and ardent and then the lyrics get quite dramatic. This whole play is from the point of view of people who have attempted (and sometimes succeeded) to assassinate US Presidents throughout history. In this songs case, these two were both obsessively 'in love' with someone leading them to their drastic deed. Leave it to Stephen Sondheim to make sinister passion into something beautiful. (Sweeney Todd anyone?):

Unworthy of Your Love (Assassins- Alexander Gemignani & Mary Catherine Garrison)

2- If you haven't seen it, this show really is as great as everyone says. The enigmatic 'everyone' has it right. Also, with the many themes that this story includes- love, confidence, faith, independence, peer pressure, prejudice... when you break it down it is really a story about friendship, and this song wraps it up perfectly:

For Good (Wicked- Idina Menzel & Kristin Chenoweth)

1- This will forever be, to me, the most sweepingly romantic song ever written:

All I Ask of You (The Phantom of the Opera- Steve Barton & Sarah Brightman)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Show Tunes: The Divas

I just went to a production of A Chorus Line last night, so I am pumped up for my second Show Tunes segment! the show is full of wannabe divas, so that is a perfect segue. Now what, may I ask, would a Broadway show be without a diva? (Or, in Glee terms, a "stunning young ingenue everyone roots for"). Not much, that's what. Here are some of my favorite standouts, from old-school Broadway stars down to the more recent up-and-comers:

Ethel Merman- The original Mama Rose in the frequently-revived Gypsy. The Merm could belt. The Merm didn't need a mic. The Merm is classic:

Everything's Coming Up Roses (Gypsy)

Mary Martin- When I think of MM I think wholesome. I think J. M. Barrie and I think Rodgers & Hammerstein:

Cockeyed Optimist (South Pacific)

Julie Andrews - Though possibly most well-known as Maria in film version of The Sound of Music (played by Mary Martin on Broadway) she was the original Eliza Doolittle on Broadway. Audrey Hepburn is one of my all-time favorite people (of all time ;), but she didn't do her own singing in the film version of My Fair Lady. Julie was upset by not being cast in the film after being with Rex Harrison in the Broadway cast, but that same year another little film called Mary Poppins was also released for which Julie won an Oscar. Now that's what I call Karma people:

I Could Have Danced All Night (My Fair Lady)

Patti LuPone- The epitome of diva, right here. Never was there more perfect casting than Miss LuPone as Eva Perone in Evita. What could be more fitting than a diva playing a diva? She was also the original Fantine and a year ago won a Tony for the the most recent revival of Gypsy as a Mama Rose to rival The Merman. (check out this video of her Gypsy acceptance speech. Oh. My. Diva):

I Dreamed a Dream (Les Miserables)

Bernadette Peters- She is phenomenal and I swear the woman doesn't age. I got to see her in a revival of Annie Get Your Gun and also as Mama Rose in Gypsy, and she just has so much humor and charisma (not to mention incredible hair):

Happiness (Sunday in the Park with George)

Elaine Paige- How could we leave out the woman who originated the role with the most overplayed song in Broadway history (Well, this is actually the Original London cast version which I grew up with- on Broadway it was Betty Buckley in the role). She's done plenty of other things too, but she will always be Grizabella to me:

Memory (Cats)

Audra McDonald- Love her. So beautiful and soooo talented. She won three Tony awards by the time she was 28! I would have killed to see her in Ragtime with Brian Stokes Mitchell who is maybe one of the only leading men who can match her musically:

Simple Little Things (110 in the Shade)

Lea Salonga- Ahh, our resident Disney princess. To be honest, I grew up listening to the Original London Cast recording of Les Miserables and I think that Lea's voice (from the Broadway Cast version) is too... pretty, I guess, for Eponine. I prefer the grittier Frances Ruffelle version from the London Cast. Gotta love Lea though, since she is the singing voice of both Jasmine and Mulan and was the heartbreaking Kim in Miss Saigon:

I Would Give My Life For You (Miss Saigon)

Sherie Rene Scott- Such a unique voice and some extremely varied roles:

Here I Am (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels)

Sutton Foster- Saw her in Thoroughly Modern Millie and again in Little Women. She is so high energy and physical comedy and entertainment. Plus, extra points for her guest spot in Season One of Flight of the Conchords as Bret's girlfriend Coco:

Gimmee Gimmee (Thoroughly Modern Millie)

Kristin Chenoweth- She is so fantastic. How in the world does that huge voice and all of that bubbly energy come out of that tiny little body? Though I loved all of the characters, she was possibly my very favorite, or at least the funniest, part of Pushing Daisies:

Goodnight, My Someone (The Music Man)

Idina Menzel- Saw her in Wicked. Twice. Amazing. I think a lot of her appeal is that her voice is so edgy and not a traditional Broadway sound. Girl can go all over the place with her vocals. I have seen Wicked a couple of other times with other leads whose voices were just as good, but seeing her live, it was obviously not just her voice but her personality that won her the role. She has amazing comic timing and this loveable-ness and you really feel like she is the character (Plus, way to bag hottie Taye Diggs (costars in the original cast of Rent) as your husband in real life):

The Life of the Party (The Wild Party)

Kelli O'Hara- I got to see her in The Light in the Piazza and she was incredible. All of the people that I have gotten to see live were of course incredible, that's why they get picked for leading roles in eight times a week live performances, but with Kelli, after her solo numbers, there was literally a ripple throughout the audience of everyone releasing the breath that they had been holding in a unanimous sigh of 'wow.' I would have loved to have seen her in the recent revival of South Pacific. I've no doubt we'll be seeing more of her:

The Light in the Piazza (The Light in the Piazza)

Laura Benanti- Also won a Tony for the recent revival of Gypsy with Patti LuPone. I adore her voice and her character range- she can go from 80s valley girl to opera star:

Unusual Way (Nine)

Karen Olivo- I got to see her as Vanessa in In the Heights a year ago, and this past summer she won a Tony for playing Anita in the revival of West Side Story. I hope she will be in more shows. Great voice, great attitude. We need a Latina Disney princess so that she can play her:

It Won't Be Long Now (In the Heights)

Honorary Mentions:

Barbara Streisand- as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl on Broadway, preceding the movie version:

Don't Rain On My Parade (Funny Girl)

Sara Brightman - though she may not have quite as impressive of a resume as the others as far as Broadway shows go, I could hardly leave out the original Christine Daae. (Plus, she was the muse for the composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber, who became her husband. Er, for a while):

Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again (The Phantom of the Opera)

Linda Eder- though she has done recordings for multiple Broadway shows/songs, she has only starred in one. It's one to remember though (She was also the influence for the composer, Frank Wildhorn who also became her husband. Ummm, but also not anymore):

Someone Like You (Jekyll & Hyde)

There are several others who I considered as well:
Liza Minnelli, Angela Lansbury, Marin Mazzie, Stephanie J. Block, Lea Michele ... but these are my standouts. I hope I didn't leave anyone crucial out- other theatre dorks (I know who you are) please correct me if I overlooked someone!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Lost Symbol: Book Review

This is the third in author Dan Brown's Robert Langton series: #1- Angels & Demons and #2- The DaVinci Code. Let's just say, if you liked the first two, you will like this one as well:

It follows the same successful formula as the other two books: mild-mannered professor Langton gets caught up up in an ancient and dangerous conspiracy that only his symbolic wisdom can solve, along with the help of a beautiful and scientifically brilliant female who gets caught up in the drama due to a close male friend or relation who has been murdered and/or is in danger. The pace is a little quicker than DaVinci and the action is not quite as over-the-top as Angels, so I think that Dan Brown has finally met his stride as far as pace goes. That being said, it still falls into the same pattern as the others of dragging on a bit after the explosive finale- you keep thinking its ending but it sort of just keeps going. Not that it gets boring, just a little wordy.

For me the plot felt a little less epic than the other two, perhaps partly because it takes place in the US instead of in an exciting foreign city. Still, I love DC, and with the genre of these stories and how much history is there, it really is a fitting location for a Langton novel. If there is a next one, I hope it's set somewhere really exotic like Istanbul (not Constantinople). All of the books do a good job of letting us into the minds of the characters, even the villain, but this story was even more intimate to Langton's life and I felt even more emotionally involved than usual. The action began in the first few pages, and I was hooked from start to finish.

Par usual, Dan Brown has really done his research (a process that I greatly admire with authors like himself and the brilliant Jeffrey Deaver) and touches on some very interesting and potentially controversial religious and historical topics. For those of you who heard rumors and were concerned, yes the book does, very briefly, mention Mormons in two different places, but both times it is really just sort of in passing and not major to the plot, and I found neither disrespectful. The science is fascinating and the history is nonjudgmental and eye-opening. Also, he once again found a way to bond science and faith together in an honest and moving way.

On a side note... I sort of hope they don't make it a movie. I was excited about both of the previous adaptations, and though it is a given that movie versions of stories are never as good as the book, I was disappointed with them both. I thought they were beautifully filmed and I really liked the supporting casts in both of them, but I absolutely can't stand Tom Hanks as Robert Langton. I never thought I would have 'can't stand' and 'Tom Hanks' in the same sentence, but there it is. He just plays the character so whiny and self-righteous. Also, I can understand when changes have to be made and things have to be cut out for time reasons when adapting a book to film, but they made unnecessary plot and character changes that made the stories... less than they are with the books. Let's be honest, if they made a movie version of The Lost Symbol I would likely go to it out of curiosity and as a fan of the book, but it's my hope that from here on out Robert Langton will remain in words, and that this isn't the last we've seen of him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Making Your Own Cell Phone Ringers

Be forewarned, this is a technology tutorial. I'm kind of awesome at technology ;) -

So I don't really use my phone to store full-length songs onto, since I have my iPod, but I like to have a lot of options for ringtones and I like to be able to text people funny sound clips from movies and TV shows. I like to have the closest people to me on specific ringers, so then I know who is calling me right when the music starts. I have my sister on Tim McGraw's Where the Green Grass Grows because that is sort of her theme song, I have my brother-in-law on Steve Miller Band's Jungle Love because he used to always do the whistle from that song so it makes me think of him, I have my brother Logan on the theme song from the X-Men cartoon, and so forth. You can hardly ever find the songs you want through the regular ringer download process and if you can find it, it is always the wrong part or bad quality or in an elevator music style. Plus if you get way too bored with one ringtone and like to have a lot of options, like I do, it can get pricey. So, I set out to discover how to make my own. It isn't free, but in the long run it sure beats paying for crappy versions of songs and is worth the flexibility. This is how:

1- You need to get a membership at There are other programs that may work as well, depending on what phone you have, like, but freeringers is the best and most organized option that I have found. It's only like $10 for a year membership and it has been totally worth it. (You can also send images to your phone through this site if you want a particular picture for your backdrop.) Once you sign up you will type your phone number and carrier and specifications into your profile. I believe you can add up to four phones to one account, but make sure you type them in correctly, because you can't edit after the fact. On the website it directs you to download a free music file converter,

2- Once you have it downloaded, click on the dBpowerAmp icon that should now be on your desktop and find the Mp3 that you want to make into a ringer, then choose the Wave option in the drop-down at the top. Some of the settings need to be changed to a lower quality so that it doesn't take up all of the storage space on your phone: 16 Bit (CD), 22050 Hz, 1 'Mono,' mark the 'Volume Normalize' and un-mark the 'Preserve ID Tags,' set it to save to the folder of your choice and then hit 'Convert.'

3- Now for the actual editing part. For this you will need to have editing software. (It's possible that you can find something like this for free online, but I haven't really looked because I already had a program.) It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just something really basic and simple that will maybe be $15-$20 bucks at any computer type of store. The one I have had for years is called Audio Studio 7. (You can do a lot of other editing stuff too, like muting out curse words or splicing songs together or enhancing the bass or whatever). Basically all you have to do is cut find the chorus or whatever part of the song you want as your ringer, and cut it down to less than 30 seconds. (The icon for this typically looks like a pair of scissors.) Now save the shortened Wave.

4- Go back into your dBpowerAmp and find your edited Wave. Now choose the Mp3 option in the drop-down and make sure the settings are as follows: Bit Rate 32 Kbps, Channel Mono, Frequency 22050. Choose your Output folder and hit 'Convert.'

5- Finally, go into your freeringers account and go to the "Real Music Ringtones" option, upload the newly edited Mp3 and hit send. It will text the song right to your phone where you can save it as a ringer. Done and done. It may sound like a long process, but once you get the hang of it it's a piece of cake. I have made enough ringers at this point that if I already have the song in my files it only takes me a few minutes to make it into a ringtone. (Unless it has a really long chorus and I have to strategically edit to keep it under 30 seconds, but that's not process, that's just pickiness ;)

Now I know this may all seem extremely complicated and maybe not worth the hassle, but I promise that just like any other technological task, once you are over the intimidating unfamiliarness of it, it is fantastic. But, sigh, if you are a lazy, lazy bum of a human, and if I really like you... just tell me what song you want and I will make it for you and text it to you. Sorry folks on Sprint or T-Mobile though, because I don't think I have ever gotten them to work on a Sprint phone, and T-Mobile phones are hit and miss. They seem to work great when I send them to AT&T phones or other Verizon phones though.

Maybe I should start a business. How much should I charge per ringer? Hmmmm ;)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Show Tunes: Big Manly Ballads

So, look you guys. I love show tunes. I am headed to NY in a few weeks and will be going to some shows, so in anticipation of that I am posting about show tunes. If you didn't grow up watching musicals (movies and/or live) and you are thinking, 'what the hey, people bursting out into song and prancing about? Awkward. Where is the appeal?' Well, my friends (wait, are we friends if you don't get musical theatre? J/K) if you aren't used to it then it may be an acquired taste and you need to actually experience some great musical theatre because it's not all just a bunch of pansies, okay? Music in general has a way of seeping into your soul, but when it is a song attached to a character and a storyline it makes it that much more powerful.

I couldn't just pick one favorite Broadway artist, or one favorite show, or even one favorite composer to post about because there are just so many and they are all so wonderful, so 'Show Tunes' is being broken up into multiple posts ;) This particular post is an ode to the Big Manly Broadway Ballad. Some sweet, some lovesick, some inspirational and some that move me to chills and sometimes even to fits of the vapors (that means tears, duders). Here are some personal favorites:

I literally get a catch in my breath every time I hear the final chords of BSM singing this. How could you NOT be moved by the hope and desire of something so pure?

The Impossible Dream
Brian Stokes Mitchell in The Man of La Mancha

Sappy, true, but how lovely to have someone think this much of you and to be happy simply being in the vicinity of where you might be-

On the Street Where You Live
John Michael King in My Fair Lady

Okay, so, to me Robert Goulet is mostly a joke now because of the Will Ferrell SNL skits about him: "I'm Robert Gouleeeeeeeeeet! La da da de, da da do!" But the man really could sing and was the original Lancelot (to Julie Andrews' Geunevere) on Broadway. He knows the right thing to do is to leave her, but he just can't-

If Ever I Would Leave You
Robert Goulet in Camelot

What could be a more manly ballad than one for your lost friends and war comrades?-

Empty Chairs & Empty Tables
Michael Ball in Les Miserables

This play is based on a true story and this is the final song of the terminally ill lead. To be able to look back on your life without regret even though you know you've made mistakes... a beautiful thing-

Once Before I Go
Hugh Jackman in The Boy From Oz

All the man wants is a simple life and a family and a good woman to love. He comes so close to his dream and then believes he has lost it-

This Nearly Was Mine
Paolo Szot in South Pacific

We all know the story of course, thanks to Disney if we didn't know it before, of how the Beast has to learn love to have the curse reversed so that he can be human again. I particularly like this song because I feel like there is a slightly double meaning. Not only is she his last chance to break the curse, but also, if he can't love her. As in, she is so wonderful, if I can't love her then there is definitely no hope for me-

If I Can't Love Her
Alasdair Harvey in Beauty & the Beast

So... in the story this particular 'moment' doesn't exactly pan out quite as planned, making this song slightly bittersweet, but it's sill a moving thing to have the faith in yourself and your goal to take that courageous step into the unknown-

This is the Moment
Robert Cuccioli in Jekyll & Hyde

I loooooooove this example of the transcendence of love. You don't have to understand what he is saying to understand what he means-

Il Mondo Era Vuoto
Matthew Morrison (the teacher in Glee) in The Light in the Piazza

If you don't know the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel (and shame on you if you don't ;) our leading man spends the majority of it believing that his new wife who he adores is actually a traitor and an accessory to murder. This is the moment after he finally discovers that she was used and she has actually been true and brave the whole time-

She Was There
Douglas Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel

Forever a classic. The mystery, the romance... who wouldn't be flattered to be the muse of a genius and to have them sing this seductive song just for you? (Okay, so in this particular case said genius may have developed some homicidal tendencies, but, whatev)-

Music of the Night
Michael Crawford in The Phantom of the Opera

A single, serial dater, is having his 35th birthday, and we go through the inperfect romantic stories of his closest friends, all couples. In the end, he finally pieces together what love is and that it's important to have someone to share your life with and that despite the inevitable dissagreements and frustration and jealousy and compromise... he wants that -

Being Alive
Raul Esparza in Company