talktooloose: (fag)
I've been listening to two versions of the song "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" which comes originally from the Broadway musical, Pal Joey, music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Larry Hart. One is 1950 studio recording featuring the cast of the original 1940 production and the other is Ella Fitzgerald's famous ballad version.

Vera, the main female protagonist of the play, is the equal of the titular character, Joey, in her sexual rapacity and eschewing of romance in favour of pleasure. This makes her quite distinct from other ingenues and certainly marks a distinction between Broadway, where such a figure could happily exist, and Hollywood where the lead girls were good girls.

There were some telling rewrites of the song's lyric when it became a pop song sung by Ella. First of all, some of the overtly sexual references were softened:

Couldn't sleep, wouldn't sleep / Until I could sleep where I shouldn't sleep


Couldn't sleep, wouldn't sleep / Till love came and told me I shouldn't sleep

What's more interesting and disturbing is how overt female sexuality had to be turned into female victimhood for mass (i.e., non-New York) consumption.

The original lyric is cheeky. She is making fun of Joey for his stature and manner but also of herself for wanting to fuck him. It ends with delicious double entendre:

Lost my heart, but what of it
My mistake, I agree
He's a laugh, but I love it
Because the laughs on me

Well, apparently this is too brazen and unladylike for Ella to sing, so she recasts herself as a degraded, lovelorn frail:

Lost my heart, but what of it
He is cold I agree
He can laugh, but I love it
Although the laughs on me

To me, preferring women suffering and impotent instead of powerful and confident is a similar cultural perversion to allowing graphic violence in movies but censoring graphic sex.
talktooloose: (Master_no)
Rather than write this in a comment to [ profile] grubbybastard as he asked, I will make a post of it. I told him that I would relate the conversation I had with the sound engineer during intermission of John Doyle's production of Sweeney Todd starting Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris.

I'm of the opinion that one of the things that have negatively affected Broadway musicals since the golden age is the use of the microphone. The amplified sound, balanced through a board, certainly creates volume and clarity (and it is a boon for second-string TV stars making their singing debuts) but it also creates distance between the audience and show. Theatre becomes a passive, television experience rather than a throbbing member inserting itself into your heart and mind.

Patti Lupone is a big believer in unamplfied singing for the reasons given above. She says that without mikes, the audience leans in and becomes more involved. They have to work harder and that means they are more commited.

Michael Cerveris is a pop-singing microphone baby. He likes to whisper and cajole. Patti likes to belt. I noticed a huge difference between their vocal qualities in the show. He seemed over-amplified, emphasizing his less than live style. She seemed to be drowned out.

So, I asked the sound-lady why and she said that Patti goes nuts if she hears herself at all in the monitors, whereas Michael disappears if he's not being blasted. This is not an ideal situation for your leads.

I'll go with Patti, please. It's one thing to be discreetly amplified. It's another thing to forget you're onstage and trying to reach a live audience.
talktooloose: (Default)
I was over at [ profile] mentalmakeup's place yesterday and I showed her a YouTube clip of Megan Mullaly (Karen on Will and Grace) from her talk show. Mentalmakeup was surprised to learn that she could sing so well.

Well, here she is in the 1995 Broadway revival of Frank Loesser's brilliant corporate satire, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. She plays Rosemary, a secretary who has her eye on a young window washer who will eventually climb the corporate ladder with the help of the eponymous paperback book to become Vice President of the company.

"Happy to Keep His Dinner Warm"

June 2012

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