Wednesday, March 26, 2014

100 Episodes of Glee on the wall...

This past  Friday was particularly exciting for me because it was the start of my Spring Break, but for some theater and television enthusiasts, there was another reason to count the hours down until this Friday: Glee.  That’s right, Fox’s Emmy Award winning TV show that somehow made being in a show choir “cool” has been running for 5 seasons and reached it’s one-hundredth episode just as I reached my long anticipated break.

Now before you jump to any conclusions about me, let me come out and say that I am not a “Gleek” (as fans of the show are affectionately known) by any standards, in fact, I’m not a fan of the show at all.  This will most certainly not be a love letter to Ryan Murphy’s musical award winner, nor will I spend the entire time bashing the show (although believe me, I've done that).  No, for this particular post I'm going to try to focus on everything that's good about Glee (trust me, I had to dig for it).  Because, for better or for worse, Glee has made somewhat of a positive impact on theater and that’s why, whether you’re a fan of the show or not, you have to give Glee some props.

Perhaps the biggest positive thing that Glee did was make performing “cool” in high schools.  My experience has shown that a huge portion of theater enthusiasts (especially musical theater) such as myself truly fell in love with theater during their high school years.  This is an important time in young person’s life as they try to find a social niche, prepare themselves for a future career, and simultaneously express their present feelings.  If theater is going to hook future performers, producers, and patrons, then high school is without a doubt the time to hook them.  This is one area where I feel glee represents theater fairly well.  In glee we can see the tight bond that all of the club members share, the diverse types of people that are drawn to the stage, the joy that they get from performing, and, in later seasons, the peaks and valleys of pursuing a theatrical career.  Of course, Glee does not offer a perfect representation of high school performing arts. Unfortunately, Glee up-plays the competitive tension between performers and athletes (which I have never seen to be the case) and, like most Teen TV shows, depicts far more “drama” than one can find in the standard high school performing arts department.  While every theater department has its divas, I can assure you that the majority do not rival those found at Mckinley high.  However, despite these exaggerated or fabricated qualities, Glee did make more high school students consider spending their hours after school on the stage, and that’s always a positive result.

Another way that Glee has impacted theater for good is by showcasing the incredible talent that Broadway has to offer.  A large portion of Glee’s principle actors (including Lea Michelle and Matthew Morrison) were chosen for the show because of their Broadway experience, and some of the show’s cast (such as Jane Lynch) have actually been propelled into the Broadway spotlight because of their success on Glee.  Additionally, a large majority of the shows guest stars and recurring characters (such as Idina Menzel and Skylar Astin) come from Broadway fame. While it always saddens me to see such talent stolen from the Great White Way to fit into the small screen, I recognize that it’s a far more lucrative and glamorous medium and I couldn’t be happier for the performers who finally get the money and publicity that their caliber deserves.

Finally, Glee has morphed into a conduit to bring theatrical material (specifically songs from musicals) into the main stream.  Now, this is good in some ways and bad in others.  It’s good because in this age of life-like video games and IMAX movies, theater needs all the publicity it can get.  I know plenty of people whose first experience with certain Broadway songs were the Glee version, and by doing episodes based off of real musicals (such as The Rocky Horror Show, and Grease) Glee is drawing an audience for the theatrical productions themselves.  However, it’s bad in that many of the songs covered in the show are twisted versions of the originals.  For whatever reason, Adam Anders and Peer Astrom, the music producers for the show, find the need to re-arrange all the  songs that are selected.  Sometimes this rearrangement works really well and the song takes on a new life and still pays tribute to the original.  However the majority of the Broadway remakes from the show that I’ve heard (especially the ones put into a mash up) end up turning the songs into an abomination.  In such instances, Ryan Murphy’s goal to blend chart topping pop hits and show tunes takes a tragic turn and it sours many theatrical enthusiasts (including myself) to the entire show.

But when all is said and done, despite the fact that I don’t agree with the arrangements and even though I choose not to watch Rachel Berry, and the rest of the kids at Mckinley High sing through their angst ridden lives on a weekly basis, I still appreciate Glee for what it’s done for theater.  Because if the past 100 episodes have introduced even one young artist to the magic of theater, then I say bring on 100 more.

Do you agree with me?  Do you think I was too hard on Glee?  Or too nice?  Are you glad to see it reach this milestone?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!

What the Academy Awards meant for Broadway

Hello internet!  I know it's been forever since I've posted but life has kept me pretty busy.  I have a few posts in the works (including a "Top 10" that I'm particularly excited about) but I'm afraid it may be a few weeks at least before I can get them out.  However, until then I have a new source of posts.  You see, I have recently taken a position as a theater columnist at my College's local Newspaper which means that the columns I write for them can double as Blog posts for you (slightly edited of course)!  So the bad news is things like "Luke's Top Ten" and my reviews will become more few and far between, but the good news is that you will be getting a small 600-900 word post about current theatrical events twice every month!  So without further ado, here's my first blog post in a while, and my first Newspaper column, ever:

With the Olympics over, every TV in America tuned in to watch different kind of athletes vie for a different kind of “gold.”  That’s right, the 86th Academy Awards were a few weeks ago and like the rest of America, I was itching to see how the star studded event would turn out.  However, unlike many of the spectators, I wasn’t watching to see what everyone was wearing or what hilarious shenanigans Ellen DeGeneres would get herself into, I was looking to see which artists would be awarded for their work and what the lasting effect might be on cinema – and theater – in future years.  Yes, Broadway and Hollywood seem like they’re often competing, but in many ways what’s good for movies is good for theater too.   So while I was very happy for all the winners of last night, I was even happier to see some magical moments that were great for theater.

                If there was one movie that everybody in the theater community rallied behind, it was without a doubt Frozen, Disney’s record breaking animated musical based loosely off of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen.  There are several reasons that theater lovers everywhere wanted to see this show succeeded, the biggest of which being that a stage version of the show is already in development.  By winning Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (Let it Go), Frozen has proven to its producers that it deserves to be put on stage and to its eventual audience that the stage version deserves to be seen.  Speaking of Frozen’s awards, the happiest moment for me during the Oscars was watching Mr. and Mrs. Lopez win for Best Original song.  Not only because I legitimately love “Let it Go”  or because they gave the cutest acceptance speech ever, but because this couple has been a force in the theatrical community for several years now.  Yes the duo who wrote the music to Frozen and Winnie the Pooh are also the songwriters behind two of Broadway’s biggest smash hits: Tony Award winning Avenue Q and Tony/Grammy Award winning The Book of Mormon.  This means that anybody who loved the frozen soundtrack and wants to hear more music from its writers will be introduced to some of Broadways best music and possibly become theater fans for life.  Robert Lopez also brought some recognition to the theatrical community by becoming the youngest man ever to win an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Award).  Of all of these prestigious honors, The Tony award (Broadway’s Oscar equivalent) is probably the least well known, so when people Googled,  it lead to more people reading the Wikipedia entry for the Tony Awards and maybe even some of the incredible shows that have won them in the past.

                Another great part about the Oscars this year was all the Broadway talent that was present.  Not only was the entire leading cast of Frozen comprised of Broadway alums, but other stars such as Meryl Streep, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dame Judy Dench, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tracy Letts, and Angela Lansbury are all award winning stage actors.  Even though Oscar night was devoted to their cinematic achievements, they are all advocates for the theater and many of them have expressed interest in returning to the theater soon (and bringing buses of their fans with them).

                Finally, in addition to all the nominees, the ceremony itself served as a good commercial for theater.  For one thing, it included several live performances into its broadcast.  Even the best and brightest people in the movie business realized that if you need to entertain an audience, there’s no substitute for life performances.  Some of these performances featured Broadway stars (like the singer of Let it Go who definitely was NOT named Adele Dazeem), others celebrated movies that later became Broadway shows (such as the Wizard of Oz), but all of them were live and, I think most of will agree, they also made up many of the most entertaining parts of the show.  Additionally, I believe the promotion of award shows in general help encourage people towards the theater because if you liked the witty hosting, jaw-dropping performances, and community atmosphere of the Oscars, then you will LOVE the Tony Awards.  It’s all of that and more and, in my opinion, is a far more entertaining way to honor the best and brightest stars.  And I’m not the only one to hold this opinion, when Elton John was asked about his Tony Award experience in 2009, he said “It’s a lot more enjoyable than the Oscars…you’re entertained from start to finish.” 

So while that Sunday was a great night for Hollywood and it was also a great night for Broadway, but most of all it was a great night for excellence.  People who were the best at their respective fields were honored for their hard work and talent, and it’s that hard work and talent that will keep people coming back to the stages and the movie theaters for years to come.  

  So what about you?  What were your favorite Oscar moments?  Were you dissapointed by any of the winners?  Which Broadway personality would you like to see light up the silver screen next?  Feel free to let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading!