Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Luke's Top Ten: Broadway Duets

So those who know me know that I love making lists.  I have lists for everything!  Well, that's not completely true....I don't have lists for the important things in life, but I have lists for everything else.  I have a list of roles I want to play, I have lists of deaths I want to be informed of (I shall weep openly if Mandy Patinkin or Angela Lansbury finally dies), I have lists of my favorite villains, sidekicks, songs about mornings, songs about monsters (I'm completely serious on all of these), etc.  So since the summer is almost over and I feel like I haven't been blogging enough, I figured I'd start a new series and begin sharing some of these lists with you.  Now, in the same way that your favorite song changes day to day, many of my "favorites" lists are subject to change.  But I feel that this is ok, and if I get old it will be fun to look back and see what used to hold my fancy.  So that being said, LET THE LISTING BEGIN!!!!

I must say that duets are one of my favorite types of song.  Why?  Because Duets are the most likely to carry the story along.  Solos are for expressing emotion, and ensemble songs are for blowing the audience away, but duets show change.  They are some of the most dynamic types of song.  It also doesn't hurt that a good deal of battle songs, love songs, and just songs about strife in general come in the form of duets.  So although it is nearly impossible to limit my favorite duets to only 10, I shall try (but I may add an "honorable mention" section).  I shall also note that I'm only including BROADWAY duets.  There were several songs that I wanted to add on this list, but the shows they came from never actually appeared on Broadway (many of them were off-Broadway or West End only).

10 - When You're Home [In The Heights]
I tend to forget about this song because I don't really think of In The Heights for its duets (which is dumb because it has several good ones).  But I love this song for several reasons.  One, I am a huge fan of Benny's voice (all of his songs are awesome) and I just feel like this song does a great job of capturing the spirit of the show.  I love the energy behind it and the message.  I also find myself singing the bridge ALL the time!  It's not really amazing, but it's a well written song that I can really listen to in almost any mood.

9 - Dirty Rotten Number [Dirty Rotten Scoundrels]
Here's a fun one.  It's two extremely talented gentlemen singing a wonderfully written song.  I love the chemistry between these two characters (Freddy Benson and Lawrence Jameson) throughout the whole show and this song just brings so much closure to their relationship (there is more to the show, but it's really more of a "P.S." moment).  This song is only at 9 because there isn't a lot of emotional pull to the song, but it is a  good song that really sums up the whole show.  I'm sure I'll be singing this all the time once I retire.

8 - I Am The One (reprise) [Next To Normal]
This song is not fun.  It's not happy.  It's not even a full song, just a reprise.  But there is just SO MUCH emotion behind it.  I once saw a bootlegged video of the original cast doing this song (it was later taken down) and ever since I couldn't get enough of it.  For one thing I love N2N!  I can't tell you how many songs almost made the list (but a lot of them have 3-4 people).  This short song just oozes intensity (which is slightly less present in the recording as when you see it performed, but it's there).  **Beware: there is slight language in this song, but it's pretty minor.

7 - Color And Light [Sunday In The Park With George]
I really don't know why I love this song so much.  I didn't the first few times I heard it (I actually first got into it by clicking the wrong link on Youtube), but I've come to really love it.  Of course, that's the way I feel about this whole show.  I love Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Sondheim, Lapine, and the fact that practically half of the cast was in Into the Woods.  But the show moves really slow and the music is not my usual style (which is why most of the people I recommend it to don't like it).  But for some reason "Sunday in the Park With George" is just so calming and beautiful that I listen to it all the time.  And no song is better than Color and Light.  The beauty of melody, the creativity in the lyrics (especially George's), and just the sheer rhythm of the song is enough to love it.  It's like a fight song, but soft and beautiful.  I also love how many times it changes tones (something Sondheim does really well).

6 - Dangerous Game [Jekyll & Hyde]
Remember earlier when I mentioned intensity?  WELL IT'S BACK!!!!  This song has that dark, sultry, even seductive sound that makes your hair stand on end.  I've legitimately had goosebumps when Lucy hits that very first note.  And then all that inward restrained energy comes raging out at the end of the song as they belt like there's no tomorrow.  Honestly, I would LOVE to get to perform this song one day (as long as I could find a "Lucy" ok with the creepiness).  It's just so powerful in every sense of the word.

5 - Devil Take The Hindmost [Love Never Dies]
Now, I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for including a song from Love Never Dies and not Phantom of the Opera, but rest assured I respect the classic.  The original Phantom is the better musical in every sense of the word, but Love Never Dies does have it's moments, and this is certainly one of them.  Mostly because it's one of the best fight songs I've ever heard.  A lot of the fight songs I wanted to include couldn't be on this list, but that's ok because I at least got to include Devil Take The Hindmost.  Now, this is another song that many of my compatriots haven't really taken a shining to, but I just love it.  I love the song itself, but the more I listen the more I love the complexities.  I love the way Raul's singing is quick and passionate as he is on the defensive and the Phantom sings it smoothly, menacingly, in a way that shows he knows he is in control.  This coupled with Andrew Lloyd Webber's music and the raw emotion behind each and every word makes it just a great song to listen to!  And, to be honest, it's nice to see Raul as a human being.  I always thought he was a bit too "perfect" in the original musical (not that I condone what they did to his character).

4 - A Little Priest [Sweeney Todd]
Sondheim never ceases to amaze me.  I'm a sucker for dark humor anyway, but I don't know if I've ever seen a piece of dark humor as brilliant as A Little Priest.  Now, there are some people (my parents included) who just don't get it.  And they have a point, for a lot of people the sheer subject matter of the entire show is so disturbing that it's hard to appreciate any of the comedy.  But I think that it's genius the way the writers took what is arguably the most morbid bit of the show and turned it into one of the show's few purely comedic songs (the other being "Down By The Seaside).  This is also a song I have a history with.  For one, it's one of my favorite songs to sing at home (my family had to lay ground rules for my sister and I: "No Sweeney Todd in the car or the dinner table"), but also it's one that I've taken a stand on.  And that stand is this: TIM BURTON RUINED THE SONG!!!!!!  Don't get me wrong, I'm actually a fan of the Tim Burton movie Sweeney Todd.  Johnny Depp did a good job, their Joanna did a good job not sounding obnoxious like so many Joanna's tend to do, and the kid they got to play Tobias Ragg was phenomenal.  But one of the things I was not happy with was the way Burton sucked all the joy out of the piece to make it simply a horror musical, which I don't believe it was intended to be.  For that reason I insist that everybody who listens to this song, although they can enjoy the Tim Burton version, must hear Angela Lansbury's brilliance!  And so, here is a TONY award winning performance, at it's finest:

3 - His Eyes [Jekyll & Hyde]
I do believe I can go on record saying that this is (and I expect forever shall be) my favorite female duet of all time.  There are lots of good ones out there (For Good [Wicked], Take Me of Leave Me [RENT], I Know Him So Well [Chess]), but there's something about this song that I just absolutely adore.  I expect part of the reason I love this song is because the two women they got for the Touring cast (the one you're about to see) are simply brilliant.  Their songs are honestly what stole the show (let's be honest, nobody wanted to see David Hasselhoff).  Don't believe me?  Listen to Colleen Sexton sing A New Life.  It's mind blowing!  Anyway....where was I?  Oh, that's right: His Eyes.  I love this song for a few reasons.  One is the amazing talent that sings it, another because I always love duets when two people are singing the same thing, but aren't in the same room.  You know what I mean?  When the exact same words apply to both of their lives I just think that it's really clever (the only thing I love more is when a character gets a reprise of a song that wasn't originally theirs).

2 - A Little Fall Of Rain [Les Miserables]
The thing about Les Miz (and there are only a few other shows like this), is practically half of the songs have been my favorite song of the show at one point or another.  One day it's Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, the next it's Master of the House.  E
ven the "little" songs like Valjean's Soliloquy and Dog Eat Dog have had their time in the honored spot.  But one of the songs that I always come back to is A Little Fall of Rain.  Not only does it star (at least in this version) Lea Salonga (who might have my favorite female voice EVER), but it's also one of the most emotionally charged songs of a ridiculously emotional show.  Because, let's face it, everybody's favorite character in the show is Eponine.  Sure Valjean's the main guy, and I have a soft spot for ThĂ©nardier, but on the whole, most people you ask (especially teen-aged girls) will answer Eponine.  And for good reason.  She has some of the best songs, she's almost always "in the right", and she's a character a lot of us can empathize with.  This connection the audience feels with her means her death is going to be a tear-jerker right off the bat, but compound that with the song that Claude-Michel Schönberg wrote for this moment and the theater begins to flood.  So get your tissue box ready and prepare to experience the beauty:

1 - What You Own [RENT]
This song might be my favorite song ever.  I love to sing it, I love to watch it, I love to listen to it, I love the writer, both of the actors, the show, the lyrics, the message, the melody, the harmonies, the tone, EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT THIS SONG IS PERFECT!!!!!  Not only that, but this song has become my personal anthem.  If you could listen to what I say while I shuffle through the streets with my backpack on and hands shoved in my pockets, the most common thing you would hear would be the opening verse of What You Own.  But what I love about the song is I can sing it even when I'm not lamenting about the superficiality of every day life.  The song is so pliable that it's one of the first I reach to regardless of my emotion!  That and, as some of you know, Anthony Rapp is in the running for my favorite male Broadway actor in existence, and Adam Pascal is just inhumanly amazing!  I also love that this song is one of the few RENT songs with absolutely nothing even remotely "PG-13" about it.  I defy anyone to think of a single bad thing about this song (I've tried, none have come to me!)  So now, behold Jonathan Larson's masterpiece:

Muddy Water [Big River] (The video is kind of odd, but it's the only recording of this song on Youtube)
No More [Into the Woods]

Non-Broadway Duets
Think Big [John and Jen] (check the description on the video)
Are You There? [Bare]
Therapy [Tick...Tick...Boom]
One Big Adventure [Peter Pan] (I couldn't find a copy of this full song, but here's a clip)
Run and Hide [John and Jen]

So if you've been watching the videos and clicking on the links by now you've just been exposed to some of the greatest music every to grace the Broadway stage.  How does it feel?  Are you catching the "Duet fever"?  If so, feel free to leave some of your favorite duets in the comment section so I can listen to them too.  Did I miss any of your favorites?  Do you prefer the love duets, fight songs, or good old happy numbers? Make sure to check out the poll (top right of the page) and comment below.  Until next time...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Woe Is Me

WHY!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!  WHY MUST I ENDURE SUCH AGONY?!?!?!  WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE SUCH PUNISHMENT????  OH THE AGONY, THE PAIN, THE MISERY!!!!!!!!!

In case you couldn't guess what induced the above lamentation, remember earlier in the year when I said "my next post will be about the Jimmy Awards"?  Well, I fully intended to stay true to that statement, but the powers that be felt otherwise.  The Jimmy Awards did take place on June 25th 2012 as scheduled.  Then the wait began.  I knew that it was only a matter of days before the videos of the performances were posted, so I figured the prudent thing to do would be to check Youtube every 4-5 hours until the these videos were posted and the minute they were, enjoy their splendor and then begin blogging.  The posted a nice "recap" video to wet our appetite  and get us even more excited for the performance videos.  Days past, then weeks, every morning I become more and more sure that today would be the day.  "Barricades come up and barricades come down" and each day I'm thinking "I Know It's Today!"  and each day I am crushed by disappointment.  Well, congratulations National Highschool Musical Theater Awards, you have officially crushed my spirit.  I now have no hope.  I only check Youtube twice a day, and I'm afraid that they may never take pity on me.  I've been to their website to look at all 955 pictures, I know who won and who else came close, I've sent messages via Facebook and Youtube to ask the administrators when we can expect the videos, but my soul will forever be without rest until those videos are posted.  If you want to join with me and nag the NHSMTA then be my guest.  They need to know we're suffering!!!

This would be the recap video I referenced above.  I invite you to watch it and then cry with me.