Being laughed at for something we take seriously is a more or less universal fear, but it is especially potent in storytelling because often the integrity of an entire scene or even of the entire work can hinge on a moment not being interrupted by unwanted laughter. If you are a playwright, however, you do have one final recourse – not an ideal one, by any stretch – in the form of the players in whose mouths your words have been placed.
Author and playwright Jean Kerr once said, “It‘s very embarrassing to say to an actor, please try not to get that laugh.“ This reminded me of one of the best examples I have ever seen of needing to overcome the comedy in the material, and it happens to come from one of my nostalgic favorites: the musical 1776.
This year‘s Tonys were very confusing for me. This is, to be sure, my problem, so before several paragraphs of what I imagine will be something akin to self-administered therapy for me, here are my basic reactions…
1. See You Again by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth
Wiz never was good at grooving,
And though he showed signs of improving,
I wasn‘t prepared
To realize there‘d
Be a Wiz song that‘s actually moving.
Songs that hinge on central metaphors typically fasten themselves to a familiar structure: the first verse introduces the situation, the chorus introduces or solidifies the metaphor, and further verses elaborate on the metaphor while further choruses act as a grounding device to keep everything safely within the bounds of the metaphor. Brick by Ben Folds Five is a terrific example of this.
Which brings us to Judy Is Your Viet Nam by They Might Be Giants, and the interesting way it approaches its central metaphor.
1. Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
As rare as the old Golden Fleece
Is a hit whose appeal will increase.
And though not every line
Is one we should enshrine,
The song is a straight masterpiece. Read more
Before we begin, let me just lay it out there that I actually enjoyed much of Galavant. Like the Mel Brooks When Things Were Rotten comedy aesthetic it frequently tries to ape, any cringing a bad joke might induce is minimized by a brisk pace and an admirable reluctance to dwell for too long. And even in spite of all the probably quite horrible things I am doubtless going to say about it, I will be sticking with it for at least the first few weeks, so that is something I suppose.
A good adaptation is like a game of Jenga. You are going to have to pull out some blocks, there must be no mistaking that, but the trick is to pick which blocks to pull out so that the whole thing does not come tumbling down. I bring this up because any discussion of the recent movie of Into The Woods among musical theatre aficionados will inevitably come back to what was left out, so let us address that first.
Starting a week after I wrote my pop hit limericks, the charts shifted dramatically. Most notably, “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye finally fell out of the top ten after several months of consistently felicitous placement and Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” hit number one. As for the latter, how is it as a song? Eh, it’s okay. Taylor Swift is hardly maturing out of her blindered teenage girl persona, but I never had any serious expectation that she would, and this song is basically just “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson but a little bit better.
Katy Perry is, and has always been, incredibly lucky to be where she is. If nothing else, her story depressingly proves that a musician need not be fettered by lack of singing talent in their quest for the hit parade. Ms. Perry doesn’t strike me as particularly bright, nor particularly well-endowed vocally.
In “Good Time,” Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen declare “we don’t even have to try,” and then proceed to prove it. Owl City are probably best-known for their hit single “Fireflies” from 2009, which was a decent (or at least pleasantly mellow) song. As for Carly Rae Jepsen, she is responsible for “Call Me Maybe,” an inoffensive puff of cotton candy mediocrity that the nation has apparently clutched to its easily-impressed bosom.