There's a Cheetham Hill Andrew Lloyd Webber Appreciation Soc

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Postby Lady Anna on Thu Mar 28, 2002 6:28 am

hot damn! Where do I sign up? :wink:

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Postby _Darnn_ on Thu Mar 28, 2002 11:07 am

Who will you be playing?
I've only seen the thing once (and all the performers had russian accents), so it won't mean a whole bunch to me, but I still wanna know...
Oh, and does anyone else loathe Cats?

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Postby Austerity on Thu Mar 28, 2002 11:27 am

All of ALW's plays are mediocre scripts based on bad books (Les Mis) or stolen from actually decent literature (the Cats story).

Being a stagewriter, and having been a professional actor and director, I wasn't about to comment on the music in his musicals, until I started rooming with a professional pianist. His father, a rather reknowned professional musician (George Mancini) and a pretty intelligent guy when it comes to arrangement, could attest to the music end of it too.

There's much better musical theater out there. Sadly one has to go into at least 2 iterations of "off" when speaking of decent theater (ie. off off broadway). Why no-one even knows the name Rogers and Hammerstein or (this one -really- gets me) Gershwin when I talk about musical theater is like a large and barbed arrow through my heart. Rhapsody in god-damn Blue for Freya's sake. I wish I could command people to see even a mediocre Man of La Mancha showing, but sadly the only thing the general populace knows about is Cats, Les Miserables or the latest Disney showing.

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Postby Lady Anna on Thu Mar 28, 2002 11:47 am

not that this is a debate I've had a million times before, or anything....

Andrew Lloyd Webber is my favourite composer. Sosumi. I happen to think he writes good tunes (stuff you can, actually, hum - unlike, say, Sondheim). I know a lot of musicals (ALW and many others, the big and the small), and my favourite is Starlight Express (http://www.pearlsdomain.co.uk, as I have plugged before =) ). It's got great tunes, flashing lights, lasers, shiny costumes, risque lyrics, and it's on rollerskates! It just doesn't get any better! :wink: There seems to be this big snob thing about ALW, that because he's popular he can't be 'good' - I don't give a damn, I like it so I stick with it. =) Some people don't like ALW. I do. So ner.

I'm actually seeing Cats on Saturday, for the third and last time (it closes on it's 21st birthday, in May). I quite like it but I'm not mad about it.

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Postby descolada99 on Thu Mar 28, 2002 1:27 pm

Les Mis not a good book? What?!

I'm not going to justify that with a response. :smile:

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Postby beuysgirl on Thu Mar 28, 2002 1:38 pm

but you CAN hum sondheim tunes! that's why i own the soundtrack to Into the Woods and no other musical. (although i do have a fondness for ALW).
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Postby superj4y on Thu Mar 28, 2002 2:48 pm

Oh, and does anyone else loathe Cats?


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Postby Austerity on Thu Mar 28, 2002 4:25 pm

I carry around a copy of Les Mis (on campus, when I'm there with my bag) so I can hand it to people when they have a pop-culture explosion (ie. OMG, I LUV LES MIS!!!!!!1111!!!!!11!1 LOLOLOL). So rife with pointless preaching, and the thing reads like it was written by an idiot.

I'm mostly talking about the base melody in ALW's music. The composition isn't very complex. He makes the tunes to be catchy, but not very memorable. It's kinda like those pop songs. Hear a Spears or N'Sync song on the radio accidentally and it's hard to get out of your head. Doesn't mean it's necessarily good in a high-art kinda sense.

I don't dislike ALW because of his extensive popularity. I just recognize that his musicals in both staging and musical composition are inferior to other things out there. Does anyone go to see an underbudget performance of Cats or Phantom? I doubt it. Phantom is less than nothing without the budget-blowing chandy falling. Miss Saigon with that stupid helicopter is pretty nuts too. The Cats set would set back most non-broadway companies quite a chunk too.

I dislike quite a few other things too besides ALW, it's not like I'm picking on him especially, it's just that he's something everyone knows about. Me complaining about Hedwig and The Angry Inch's overeliance on the "wierdness" factor of the script to carry the play would just draw empty stares in most cases. But when I point out things like how I felt Shakespear's Tempest was an excercise in ego masturbation and best left unwritten as a final piece people know what I'm on about.

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Postby Arrus on Thu Mar 28, 2002 9:28 pm

Just to make a point...ALW didn't do Les Mis. That's a common error, but it's just not him.
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Postby Tooting Bec on Thu Mar 28, 2002 10:31 pm

Am comfoosed!

When we are denouncing the "book" here, do we mean the "book" for the musical, in the W.S. Gilbert sense, or do we mean the actual book-book by the extremely deceased Monsieur Hugo?

Not that I am a stickler here--I'm happy to denounce anything connected to the musical theatre, with the exception of Lady Anna, because I am sure she is well-meaning. But it does actually enrich the invective experience to know what one is inveighing against.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go see how things are in Glocca Morra.
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Postby Austerity on Thu Mar 28, 2002 10:41 pm

I was commenting mostly on the music in JC:Superstar (JC:S was a joint effort, however, on the composition end) and Cats, as those are the productions I have the most command of in relation to the musical aspects. Les Mis is more a script issue, and why anyone would make a play out of such a stupid book. And Saigon/Phantom is the obscene staging. Not that the phantom script is so wonderful. It's like a bad romance novel.

I have lots of issues with Cats though, unnessecary over-the-top staging, the ripping off of an piece of literature I enjoyed and the music being singable but lacking in lasting appeal.

Oh well, I'm very picky about my theater, since I was involved in the craft (and still write stageplays for people), and musicals in general are more or less the "pop" end of the artistry stick. I've seen a non-musical adaptation of The Man of La Mancha, and I enjoyed it more than the musical version. Then again I read stage scripts as a leisure activity.

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Postby Gottverlassen on Fri Mar 29, 2002 4:12 am

On 2002-03-28 11:07, _Darnn_ wrote:

Oh, and does anyone else loathe Cats?


YES.
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Postby ButtOfMalmsey on Fri Mar 29, 2002 7:04 am

I cannot say that I like Les Mis <the book book by Hugo> very much; it's the least good of all of Hugo's books (Notre Dame far surpasses it, both in quality and concision). And I confess I loathe most of ALW's musicals, from soup to nuts. Come to think of it, most modern musicals blow serious goatage.

Cats is especially offensive, because it was really the birth of the "high-concept" musical (translation: unutterable crap with nice costumes that makes no sense). Drama is supposed to tell a story, last I checked. I guess this is why even overblown Italian grand opera is preferable to ALW; since I don't know Italian, I can just listen to the music and watch the action and not care that they are singing about washing windows or doing laundry or cleaning Signore's chamber pot.

Oh, and as for Rent- I liked it better the first time, when it was called La Boheme. What was the last good original American musical? Anyone got an idea? (And no, Porgy and Bess does not count, since it is an opera).
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Postby The Moose King on Fri Mar 29, 2002 8:04 am

Myself, I'm puzzled elsewhere here. What the hell does The Tempest have to do with Shakespeare's ego?

In any event, it wasn't his last play. Henry VIII was later, though he collaborated with John Fletcher on that one.
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Postby jupitercrash on Fri Mar 29, 2002 9:22 am

miss saigon is also not andrew loyd weber's fault. it is, i think, actually far worse than andrew loyd weber.
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Postby Lady Anna on Fri Mar 29, 2002 1:52 pm

hmm....here seems to hit a problem - I don't go to the theatre for a serious, cultural experience. I go because it makes me happy. =) So Cats doesn't have a plot. Doesn't bother me. :wink: Musical theatre as an art form is essentially a ludicrous concept - I mean, you can't take it seriously. So don't.

Has anyone read The Phantom of Manhattan? It's the biggest load of tripe I've ever read....

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Postby Austerity on Fri Mar 29, 2002 2:30 pm

Well, clarifying:

I dislike the stageplay (ie. the musical) but I find the book (written by the dead guy) to be a horrid publication.

One of the few times I've actually felt that I wasted my time doing something. (reading it that is)

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Postby Austerity on Fri Mar 29, 2002 2:48 pm

I'd better stop replying to each post in a singular post :wink::

Amusing point about Rent. I'll have to find production copies of both and read them again. I think I still have Boheme in my Pile o' Books(tm) somewhere, though Rent has a production cost out in the stratosphere still, so I never acquiried a script.

I don't know what the last great (non-opratic) American musical was. I likea de opera, and generally only see certain musicals (or brand new ones, though none make it down here where I live) like La Mancha or The Pirates of Penzance (mostly because I like to try and help underfunded community theater groups, and pirates is a biggy among them).

My Tempest argument is that he wrote the play as himself being the main two male characters (the wizard-guy and the guy that gets his daughter). I'm down on Shakespear more than most though. I have production issues with certain of his plays, and I firmly believe in the fact that he was simply a pop artist of his time, and we as a global society simply revere ancient things as quality just because they're old. I do like Othello quite a bit though. It's also still his last non-collaborative effort.

Oh, Anna, I'm not in contention with people enjoying it in the least. I don't run the streets protesting the banishment of anything, but there is, as was mentioned by Malmsey, an idea in general society that ALW is "highly artistic". That's what I combat, the idea that this pop phenomenon is somehow on the same level as other things in the art world. It's the same way that people in this country (USA, not sure of anywhere else) feel something must be of high artistic quality just because it's made zillions of dollars. The "but it's on the best sellers list" argument comes up a lot in discussions with "normal" people for me. And I ask "which best sellers list?" and "Well, you realize Britney Spears albums have made more money than albums by Miles Davis (depends on the age of the person for the example I use) in this country overall, so does that mean Spears is a better 'musician'?"

I'm never down on anyone for enjoying something, unless it's bringing harm to others unduly, I just dislike the idea that popularity = artistic quality. It's like a giant blob of entropy slowly eroding art as a whole. If artists can't make money (not lots of money, just enough to survive) producing something of quality, quality will stop being produced and all we'll be left with is piles of boy bands and bad novels. (and political think-tank propaganda of course)

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Postby Arrus on Fri Mar 29, 2002 3:46 pm

Mr. Webber is one of the very successful composers of our time (even if the very awesome John Williams does kick his ass). Some of his stuff is bad, yes, but mostly it's good. One can't blame an entire show on him one way or another, though, as even with the music and lyrics and all, part of it is the director, the stage folk, the actors...

Les Miserables, for example, is a great musical. Not done by Webber, but it's a good example. It's an awesome show, but I once saw a really, really bad (in my opinion) production of it.

You know, I think I had a point when I started this, but now I've forgotten.
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Postby beuysgirl on Fri Mar 29, 2002 5:31 pm

I'd have to agree. I fail to see why something that is catchy can automatically be considered bad. I know it's not good, but I can still like it. It's made to be liked! Songs/bands that I enjoy include, but are not limited to: Carl Orff, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Shakira, Elliott Smith, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Sigur Ros.
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Postby Austerity on Fri Mar 29, 2002 6:41 pm

I didn't say it was bad. I'm trying to differentiate between levels of "artistic quality".

Maybe it is just in this country (USA), I haven't spent enough time abroad to claim I know anything of other places in a deep social manner.

The base fact though is people in general here equate box office sales (or book sales, or record sales, etc) with artistic quality. I've been in conversations where Grisham and Anne Rice were described as better "literature" than far more accomplished writers because "lots of people buy their book, so they must be the best writers ever."

I'm not claiming to be some sort of demiurge of art, but it's not hard to see the where the trend is going. Muesuems are constantly being underfunded, and some are threatening to be closed whereas one can find a Columbia House or Peaches (music stores) on every corner, and huge overstocks of every album of every "band" (in quotes because none have members who can use a synth, let alone play a real instrument).

People generally don't go out of their way to seek something they might enjoy either. If it doesn't get prime-time television commercials, no one knows about it. That creates a nasty cycle where those people out to make money only support a few select things, the people never experience anything new, and thus those making money poll the people to see what they want, and amazingly it's what they've been pushing all along.

I can't change the way society works, unless I manage to amass a few billion dollars to buy up the airwaves at least. It doesn't stop me from trying though. You guys over in the UK have a history full of art, and inspiration for more. Over here we have a relatively short deal, and what there is is mostly full of religious intolerance and puritanical viewpoints. Both of which do not lend themselves to openness when it comes to, well, any personal expression. Michealangelo would have been censored by a huge uprising of parents and activist groups, probably beaten by their (the parents') drunken husbands and driven out of the country if he was born just a few centuries later and on this landmass.

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Postby gwalla on Fri Mar 29, 2002 6:52 pm

I find Webber comepletely non-catchy. I can't for the life of me remember a single tune of his that I've heard.

As for "last great American musical", what about Lost In the Stars, with book/lyrics by Max Anderson and music by Kurt Weill, based on the book <u>Cry, the Beloved Country</u>?
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Postby Arrus on Fri Mar 29, 2002 10:47 pm

Phantom of the Opera really does rock, though. MY second favorite musical, right after Les Mis.
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Postby The Moose King on Sat Mar 30, 2002 1:02 am

On 2002-03-29 14:48, Austerity wrote:

My Tempest argument is that he wrote the play as himself being the main two male characters (the wizard-guy and the guy that gets his daughter). I'm down on Shakespear more than most though. I have production issues with certain of his plays, and I firmly believe in the fact that he was simply a pop artist of his time, and we as a global society simply revere ancient things as quality just because they're old. I do like Othello quite a bit though. It's also still his last non-collaborative effort.


I'm not sure what you mean by that first comment -- it's true that some people have seen a certain degree of autobiography in Prospero, but this is far from established fact, and I've never heard anyone argue that Ferdinand was also autobiographical. I'm not sure what you mean by "production issues", unless you mean issues based on productions you've seen, which is perfectly understandable, as most people who produce and act in Shakespeare nowadays -- and, I suspect, at practically every time in history -- haven't a clue what they're doing. And there's a great deal more to Shakespeare than simply being old -- there are plenty of old writers out there, and while a lot of them are good, maybe even as good as Shakespeare in their respective fields, none of them are Shakespeare. None of them have his gift for characterization or his almost-unerring talent for finding and using the right word. Perhaps the reason so many old things appear to be venerated is that, if they weren't worthy of veneration, people would have forgotten them by now?

As for the whole "popular culture" issue, yes, plays at the time were watched by the common people as well as by the aristocracy, and they weren't considered literary in the same sort of way that poetry was. (Ben Jonson, in 1616, was the first person to claim his plays among his "Works" -- in a volume at the front of which he proclaimed himself Poet Laureate of Britain, with no official justification for that claim. But then again, that's Jonson for you.)

But there's nothing particularly low or vulgar about Shakespeare's plays, even for the time period -- the most popular plays of the era were fairly vapid visual spectacles with names like "Mucedorus" and "The Birth of Merlin". (Old, not possessing any lasting interest, and now people don't care about them...) As for Shakespeare, though he himself lacked the classical education of guys like Ben Jonson, his plays were treated then, and have always been treated since, with as much respect as the genre commanded.

As for "Othello", that's one of the few plays I've never really been able to understand the popularity of. It seems to me the point of the play is vastly undermined by the fact that Othello's something of a moron -- and yet, his presence there makes it difficult or impossible to read Iago as a villain-protagonist in the mold of Richard III. The result is a play with a diffuse focus -- two central characters, neither of whom we (or at least I) can really admire. It's like Romeo and Juliet in performances held under the belief (a mistaken one, in my opinion) that Romeo and Juliet's love is intended as an admirable ideal -- who can bring himself to care? Give me Hamlet or Lear any day.

Hm, I've just written a great deal about Shakespeare. But to return to the subject... what was the subject? Oh, yes, the music of Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826). To be honest, I could never get too interested in him -- too much Romanticism, and German Romanticism no less. Positively dead-serious pastoral-Gothic stuff, with none of the irony or humor of Byron or the intense self-examinations of Keats at his best. And also he had more oboes and things.

And to get back to the other subject, HELP! THE ROBOTS ARE REVOLTING, THE ROBOTS ARE REVOLTING!

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Postby _Darnn_ on Sat Mar 30, 2002 4:12 am

Jawwa, seeing eveyone's reaction to the mention of Webber, dares not show his face in the thread.

(Edit: I haven't misspelled 'Webber', but rather 'face'. Really.)

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