My cable and internet were down for several hours last night, so I didn’t watch NBC’s production of The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood. I will, therefore, not comment on any particular performance. My comment is people’s outrage that anyone would do a new version of the musical. As much as I enjoy the film version of this show, it’s not the original version. The film was rewritten to showcase Julie Andrews just as the stage musical had been written to showcase the talents of Mary Martin. The “Lonely Goatherd” number is only there because Martin had taken yodeling lessons as a youngster. Most live versions I have seen have been a mash-up of both versions and this seems to be common because the orchestrations of all the songs, even songs that appear in only the stage or film versions originally, are available in both the soprano and mezzo keys.
What bothers me, aside from the obvious ignorance on my twitter feed that this show exists outside the film version, is the idea that only Julie Andrews could perform the role of Maria. Having seen some fine stage productions of this show, I can inform you that as good as Andrews was in this role, she is not the only performer who sang and acting the crap out of it. I wish they had cast someone with more singing and acting training that Ms. Underwood, but clearly they were shooting for a younger audience who wouldn’t know the Broadway stars who would have knocked this out of the park. I will say that singers who want to act should take serious acting training and then take small roles in very good productions to gain some experience. Underwood had never so much been in a high school play so anything short of a disaster is probably amazing under the circumstances. it’s not too late to undo the damage. Mariah Carey seems to have learned from the mistake of her ill-fated Glitter project and now takes small but showy parts in movies like Precious and The Butler. I don’t know if Carey took acting classes or coachings prior to those parts but it wouldn’t surprise me as she gave solid performances in both that any actor would have been proud of.
I think live performances of musicals and plays on TV is a great idea. I’d like to see more of them. From the controversy over this one it seems people watched. Perhaps next time they should pick a popular show without such an iconic film version. And find people who have experience both as singers and actors. But chastising NBC for doing it at all gives me the sadz. No play, musical or opera should be frozen forever in a single performance. To suggest so negates the entire point of live theater and music. There can be no definitive Sound of Music any more than there can be a definitive performance of Swan Lake, La Boheme or Death of a Salesman. If that is so, we should just quit now and stay home and watch DVDs. No. I look forward to fresh takes on classical material and will continue to do so.
Today I witnessed an unfortunately exchange. In an effort to learn from what an awkward moment I have codified a few rules that I plan to follow so I do not come off like a person who shall remain nameless.
1. If you say something and no one laughs, it wasn’t a joke. Jokes are funny. When something is funny, people laugh. Therefore, if there is no laughter it wasn’t a joke. It was just an obnoxious comment.
2. Explaining a joke has never made it funny. In fact explaining the joke almost always makes it unfunny. (Exception: Louis CK once explained to Jon Stewart why fart jokes are funny. The explanation was hilarious. There’s always an exception. If you think you are the exception, please see rule #1.)
3. When someone is offended by your joke, telling it again and/or explaining why it is funny is probably a bad idea. This is even more true if people like the person who was offended and aren’t that fond of you. When in doubt, assume this is the case. Apologizing may or may not be necessary. Sometimes it’s best to drop it and hope the offended person forgets about it. Retelling the offensive “joke” will probably make things worse.
4. Doing any of this in a situation where you have authority over others makes you a jerk.
5. Doing any of this moments before you are asking people to evaluate your effectiveness as a boss or a teacher is stupid and/or crazy.
I didn’t really need to learn this lesson. I would never stand in front of people and tell a joke involving religion. I am not stupid or crazy. Well not stupid anyway.
It’s one thing to throw your own sister under the bus to win an election, but Liz Cheney has no reasonable hope of taking the Wyoming Senate seat away from Mike Enzi. So basically she’s willing to stab her own sister in the back to appeal to voters who aren’t going to vote for her anyway? What kind of sociopath do you have to be to sell out your own family for zero return?
The first time Alec Baldwin tweeted the homophobic epithet henceforth to be referred to the f-word I blew it off. Baldwin is a well-known hot-headed jerk. Everyone knows that. Once was bad enough, but it keeps happening. Claiming you aren’t homophobic but use the f-word as well as cocksucker as insults is like using the n-word but claiming you aren’t racist. (Michael Richards, I’m looking at you now.) I’ll say about this what I said about Michael Richards and Mel Gibson. Those words don’t just fall out of your mouth when you are angry or had one too many drinks unless you use them at other times as well. I don’t use the n-word. I have have. I knew better at an early age. I was not raised that way, and I grew up in East Texas. We did not use that word. I also don’t use it when I’m mad, even at an African American person, not even when I’m drunk and mad. Never. Not even once. So don’t tell me that he’s not at least a little bit homophobic when he keeps using anti-gay slurs to insult people when he’s mad at them. And then today, to show he’s not a homophobe he touted his friendship with…wait for it…no this wasn’t from The Onion…his hairdresser. I laughed when I saw it assuming it was a parody. It’s not. One of my best friends is…? Really? That’s pathetic. I realize that racism and anti-gay bigotry aren’t exactly the same thing, but if he had tweeted the n-word he’d have been fired from his job at msnbc. Hell, he’d have been fired from a job at Fox News for that. The f-word is less offensive? No, it’s not. I don’t have any power to get anyone fired, including people I have to deal with who completely deserve it, but I won’t watch anything with him in it. It’s too late for an apology. That might do if it only happened once, but it keeps happening. There’s a real problem here, and it’s not just the homophobic slurs. He’s dead to me.
Last evening I finally got around to watching The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. It’s been in my Netflix queue for several years and popped up in my mailbox. I was expecting Julianne Moore in a delightful light-hearted tale of a plucky woman who entered a lot of prizes. Much to my surprise, what I got instead was a look at what life was like for millions of American families who weren’t the Cleavers or the Andersons. It’s easy to dismiss those old 1950s and early 60s sitcoms as postwar escapist fantasy but I don’t doubt that many people lives were, if perhaps messier and more chaotic, were quite happy and stable during those years. And then there was everyone else. My own mother’s first husband (about whom she rarely speaks) drank and gambled away his Friday paycheck leaving them broke by Monday. This was reality for millions of women. It was hell. Too often we tell the story of women’s liberation as a story of bored, unfulfilled women who wanted to do something besides housework. There is some truth to that, but the reality is that a lot of women went to work because it was work or starve. They were treated like crap for doing what they needed to do to survive or for the survival of their children. For some reason we still don’t want to talk about this reality for millions of people for whom divorce was not a possibility for social, religious and financial reasons so they took the abuse and scraped by the only way they knew how. Remember that when someone acts like women had it so good in some earlier time. Perhaps the lucky ones did. And then there was everyone else.
The new Citi card campaign features a woman whose friend is appalled that her boyfriend is always paying for their dates so he can get the points on his credit card. (The said friend offers to pay using the same card.) So let’s get this straight. It’s terrible to be taken out for free dinners in nice places because the person who paid got some miniscule little perk for their spending using the card? Am I missing something or is that the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in a commercial. Just to be clear anyone reading this who wants to buy me dinner, my email is email@example.com. (I’m in the Dallas area now, btw.) :-) Really, pretty much any time.
Okay, not quite literally, but they may as well have. The Houston Chronicle endorsed Ted Cruz for the Senate last fall (after endorsing hometown right wing douchebag David Dewhurst in the primary). It was obvious from the primary, which in Texas IS the election, after all, that Kay Bailey Hutchison’s retirement mean we were all screwed. It will come as no surprise to Houstonians that it took the right-wing rag this long to admit it made a mistake. Cruz is a disaster both for the nation as well as for Texas. I doubt Dewhurst would have been any better given his performance earlier this year attempting to ignore the rules to push through the bill being filibustered by Wendy Davis, but we can always hope. Come back, KBH. Texas needs you.