Tuesday, 11 May 2021

when cats are maddened by the midnight dance

Based on a poetry anthology by T.S. Eliot, the musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered at the New London Theatre on this day in 1981. The two act narrative portrays one night in the lives of the members of a tribe of semi-feral felines cast their “Jellicle choice” and decide which cat—sort of echoing the 1976 cinematic adaptation of Logan’s Run—would ascend to the Heavyside Layer and be reincarnated. As the first mega-musical blockbuster, Cats introduced the strategy and template for productions to follow and arguable raise the bar for entry for less well financed endeavours.

Friday, 7 May 2021

and now for a word from our sponsors

Promoting MacLaren’s Imperial Cheese which was advertised nowhere else in US markets, the Kraft Television Theatre had its premiere on NBC stations on this day in 1947, broadcast live weekly from Studio 8-H at 30 Rockefeller Plaza—currently hosting Saturday Night Live, the drama anthology series ran for over a decade and offered hour-long stage plays, both adaptations and unique pieces. Confusingly, ABC launched its own Kraft Television Theatre in October 1953 to promote the new product Cheez Whiz which sponsors later dropped and consolidated under the original time and channel slot. Considered prestige television, it launched the careers of writers and actors including Jack Lemmon, Paul Newman, Leslie Nielsen, Joanne Woodward, Grace Kelly, Cloris Leachman and George C. Scott. The debut episode was Double Door from a play by Elizabeth McFadden about a protective sister entombing another woman in the family crypt to prevent her from marrying her brother. Because of the live nature of the show, very few performances were preserved but here is a short clip from June of 1947.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

ะฟะต́ั‚ั ะธ ะฒะพะปะบ

The symphonic fairy tale by Sergei Prokofiev that introduces young people to the instrumental sections of the orchestra while extolling the virtues of Soviet bravery and boldness and daring to question the dictums of the past generation (embodied in the scolding character of Grandfather) had it premier on this day at the Moscow Philharmonic in 1936. Later in the month, a much better attended performance took place at the Pioneers’ Palace, Peter being a member of this youth scouting organisation. Peter protects his animal friends (except for the duck—that is) as well as tames a fierce wolf with their help and working as a team. A 2003 recording with narration from Mikhail Gorbachev, Bill Clinton and Sophia Loren won a Grammy for best spoken-word album.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

9x9

carbon footprint: mining is a dirty business

kiki.object: a feminist manifesta for block-chain  

bat stuck in hell: recently departed songwriter Jim Steinman’s unproduced Batman musical 

the gates of paradise: William Blake’s (previously) perpetual cycle of birth and re-birth   

the singing, ringing tree: not to be confused with this other etherial perennial, panoptica in the Pennine Hills of Lancashire

the hawking index: an unscientific survey of popular titles’ rate of abandonment by the clustering or spread of their highlighted text 

this is the type of errant pedantry up with which i will not put: a proposal that the past particle of choose should properly be corn  

project ceti: ground-breaking attempt to decode whale language—see also—via Slashdot  

fourth rock from the sun: Martian rover Perseverance extracts breathable oxygen from the planet’s surface soil

Thursday, 15 April 2021

monster maroon

In light of a recent revue of Starfleet and other in-universe uniforms and fashions (previouslysee also), we have the opportunity to eulogise a prolific producer of stage and screen and costume and set designer in the recently departed Robert Fletcher (*1922 - †2021) who created ensembles for major ballet troupes and opera companies in addition to television and film—including four of the original cast Star Trek movies that gave command and senior staff those signature dress uniforms, referred to by the title (c. 2280). Having won several Tony and Saturn awards, Fletcher’s design archives were donated to Harvard University and are conserved there.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

anticipation

Via Boing Boing, we are transported to the Clinton Street Theatre of Portland Oregon, which has been hosting weekly Rocky Horror Picture Show (previously) midnight watch parties for decades, and upheld this tradition through the pandemic and playing to an empty house with sights focused on gradual, safe resumption of the screenings and reviving the kindred community of misfits and happy mutants.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

you’ve got to be carefully taught

Based on a Pulitzer Prize winning book published two years before, the Rodgers and Hammerstein stage musical South Pacific debuted on Broadway on this day in 1949 and was an instant success with audiences for its standards and candid portrayal of prejudice—particularly with the lieutenant’s song in the title. Preambled by the spoken line that “racism is not born in you… it happens after you are born” before breaking into song, while the show was touring on a junket in the southern United States, law makers in Georgia introduced a bill banning subversive, Moscow influenced entertainment—adding a showtune justifying interracial marriage was a fundamental threat to American values and the American way of life. The number stayed in the show and is also referenced in Hamilton’s “My Shot”—“I’m with you but the situation is fraught, you’ve got to be carefully taught.” The musical won ten Tony awards and a medley of standards from the 1958 movie version can be found below.

Tuesday, 6 April 2021

the antoinette perry award for excellence in broadway theatre

Founded by theatrical producer Brock Pemberton and namesake of the above director, actor and guild administrator who had recently died, the first Tony Awards ceremony occurred on this day in 1947 and are the fourth achievement of a EGOT—someone who has won all four industry honours, with the Emmy for a television role, the Grammy for musical accomplishment and the Academy Award (Oscar) for film.

They are the national equivalent of the UK’s Laurence Olivier awards (originally the Society of the West End) or France’s Nuit des Moliรจres. Held in the Waldorf Astoria, the prizes included a scroll of achievement, a cigarette lighter and an article of jewellery, with the Tony medallions not introduced until two years later. This first class of winners included Ingrid Bergman, Patricia Neal, Elia Kazan, Kurt Weill and the proprietor of Sardi’s restaurant for decades of unstinting hospitality for theatre people.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

6x6

berggeschrei: Saxon princes collected, modelled miniature mountains and enjoyed miner cos-play 

#oddlysatisfying: the hypnotic and self-soothing qualities of visual ASMR  

it’s not a cult thing: an interview with the real estate agent selling this ‘sexy funeral Goth house’ in Baltimore—via Super Punch  

erard square action: a tool that measures a piano key’s up- and down-weight  

slamilton: a basketball musical of Space Jam meshed with Hamilton—see previously—that works better than it should, via Waxy  

den hรผgel hinauf: Amanda Gorman’s inspirational US presidential inaugural poem (see also) will be published in German

Monday, 15 March 2021

bewarned the ides of march

Though speculation and debate has continued for centuries, shifting from one camp to another with the present academic consensus rejecting the Shakespearian conceit that an unmitigated reaction to being assassinated would have been in Latin, scholarship has Julius Caesar (previously here and here) speaking Greek ฮบฮฑแฝถ ฯƒฯ, ฯ„ฮญฮบฮฝฮฟฮฝ; (And you child?) with a somewhat different landing than Et tu Brute? The latter is only attested to in the Middle Ages and in accordance with Roman custom, it would have been more honourable, in the case of the former with Caesar being a long-time romantic companion of Servilia—mother of Marcus Junius Brutus—to have him die silently as a soldier. Some academics say it was misheard and more likely Caesar said “Tu quoque, fili mi?”—which is closer to the Greek—or “Quรฆso te, non!” –Stop it, please! and even the playwright seems to acknowledge the debate or unknowable nature of it with the earlier idiom in the tragedy, It’s all Greek to me, said by Casca to Cassius on Cicero and the co-conspirators, “…but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part it was Greek to me.” It is perhaps doubtful that even a great orator could summon the wherewithal to deliver some famous last words after being stabbed twenty-three times by a mob of mutinous senators. Despite the line’s purchase on popular culture, even within the framework of the play itself, the last utterance before expiring is “Then fall, Caesar.”

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

show me the way to the next whiskey bar

Premiering on this day in 1930 at the Neues Theatre in Leipzig, the sartorial opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht (previously) Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, set in the fictive city in America and recounting its rise and fall, it is seen as a critique of the Weimar Republic through the allegorical lampooning of the US mediated through the German perspective. The complex orchestral scoring references jazz, ragtime and a repertoire of counterpoint, particularly in “The Alabama Song,” covered decades later by the Doors and David Bowie. Though the two-and-one-half hour long show in three acts did go on, the performance was disrupted by Nazi party members in the auditorium and was banned outright from 1933 onward with no performances restaged until the 1960s.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

favola in musica

The early Baroque adaptation of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice by composer Claudio Monteverdi and librettist Alessandro Striggio premiering on this day in Mantua in 1607 to ring in Carnival season and L’Orfeo is considered one of the first true and fully developed operas.

Presented in five acts, action is split between the fields of Thrace and the Underworld and follows the legendary musician and poet whose song is all to charm all things (speaking to virtuosity of the collaboration, I suppose)—even the stones and beating the Sirens as part of the Argonaut crew beat the Sirens at a sing-off to save them from wrack and ruin—fell in love with the beautify and graceful Eurydice (Wide Justice) and lived a happy but short time together. Calling upon Hymen, the god of matrimony, to bless their union but was foretold that the marriage was to end in tragedy. Fleeing from a lusty shepherd called Aristaeus, Eurydice was bitten by a serpent and died instantly—causing Orpheus great sadness and his outpouring moved the whole world and the heavens towards grief and sorrow. Resolving to descend into Hades to visit his wife, Orpheus was able to tame the fierce Cerberus, the three-headed hound of Hell that prevents the living from entering the realm of the dead. Hades and Persephone, impressed by his playing and devotion, tells Orpheus he can take Eurydice with the caveat that he cannot look upon her until they’ve emerged into the light of day, lest he loose her forever. As a reasonable and patient individual, Orpheus was confident that he could resist temptation and rescue his wife, but as a disembodied shade, Eurydice’s footfalls made no sound, and thinking he was fooled by Hades, turned to check after her. Zeus strikes down the mourning Orpheus with lightning, fearful he might reveal the secrets of the Underworld.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

6x6

a note to asterius’ daughter signed ‘from your valentine’: the reliquary and relics of the third century martyr 

lost in my dms: a brief history of Dungeons & Dragons the animated series—see previously  

barlow & bear: talented duo bringing Bridgerton the musical to TikTok  

but patty’s only seen the sights a girl can see from brooklyn heights: a century of the identical twin trope of Hollywood and one actor playing multiple roles, juxtaposed with actual twin child actors sharing a single role 

universal language: two examples of diplomats breaking out in song—here and here 

anteros: Cupid in the arts through the millennia

Saturday, 13 February 2021

7x7

the lady and the dale: a con-artist and the “car of the future”  

the lovers, the dreamers and me: after a five-year hiatus Snarkmarket makes a return to analyse and discuss two songs from The Muppet Movie—via Kottke and RSS reader 

tennesee tuxedo as a school-marmish cereal cop: children’s animated breakfast commercials often touted dark, authoritarian narratives  

i don’t want to be carrot man but i am carrot man: a delightful vintage guide on making costumes 

act-out: one hundred eighty-five German stage, television and film stars stage mass coming-out in support for greater representation and gender diversity in roles, via Super Punch 

like a small boat on the ocean sending big waves into motion: Trump’s legal defence wraps up a bizarre, specious rebuttal  

the witch of kings cross: a dramatization of the persecution that a sorceress and healer faced in 1950s Australia—via Strange Company’s Weekend Link Dump

Friday, 29 January 2021

8x8

testi stampati: the riotous typographical illustratrations of Lorenzo Petrantoni  

painterly realism: Nathan Shipley trained a neural network to turn portraiture into convincingly true-to-life photographs 

civilian climate corps: a vision of how putting people to work on conservation projects can help save both the environment and the economy  

narratology: a purportedly exhaustive list of dramatic situations—see also here and here  

stonx: a long thread explaining the GameStop short-squeeze—via Miss Cellania  

paradoxical undressing: National Geographic forwards a new theory to account for the Dyatlov Pass Incident (previously) of 1959  

butler in a box: before digital assistants there was domestic aid in the late 1980s 

will success spoil rock hunter: Art of the Title looks at the opening montage of the 1957 CinemaScope classic

demophรถon

Brought to the stage in Mรผnchen in operatic form on this date in 1811 as the premiรจre work of Peter Josef von Lindpainter (*1791 – †1856) the figure associated with Demeter was a popular subject of the prior decades. Seeking her abducted daughter Persephone in the guise of an old woman, calling herself Doso, Demeter wanted to repay the hospitality she received from the by making the titular young prince into an immortal and being nursemaid to Demophรถon (given the tough name, meaning “killer of men”), the king’s son by Metanira. To realise her plan to turn him into a god, Demeter anointed the infant with ambrosia and nightly placed him into the palace hearth to burn away his mortal spirit. His mother walked in one evening to witness this ritual and reacted like any mother would to the sight of her baby in the fireplace among the burning logs—which annoyed Demeter who had to abort the immortalisation process over the interruption. Though unscathed but still subject to decrepitude and death, Demophรถon acquired immortality of a sorts through a hero cult and enduring fame. As a consolation to the family—having failed in her first act of kindness, Demeter taught his older brother Triptolemus (threefold-warrior) the art of agriculture, which he spread across the Greek world. Lindpainter’s most successful opera, Der Vampyr, was also another popular theme and debuted in Stuttgart two decades later.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

heaviside layer

On this day in 2006, with its seven-thousand-four-hundred-eighty-sixth performance Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera over took the composer and impressario’s other long-running stage piece Cats with the most iterations on Broadway in the latter’s eight-year run, twice-revived in the West End for twenty-one mostly parallel years in London. The establishing megamusical phenomenon, the piece has proved polarising and defining for the entertainment industry and arguably introduces quite a bar to entry.

7x7

zip-tie guy: as bad as this act of terrorism was, the Ku Klux Coup (see previously) could have turned out much worse  

election, objection, ambition, sedition: another pitch-perfect Randy Rainbow political parody 

regrets only: Trump’s final missive confirming he would not be attending Joe Biden’s inauguration—cornerstone to a peaceful transition of power—is interpreted as another way of casting aspersions on a legitimate election and gets his account suspended from Twitter—permanently  

privilege check: race and the cos-play veneer of the invasion combined with remorse over more heavy-handed tactics over the summer allowed them to organise and launch their raid unchecked—see previously  

us capitol police: encomnia for officer killed protecting senators and congress members from the Blue Lives Matter crowd  

jericho march: more Cos-Play with Evangelical Christians (previously) rallying in D.C. blowing shofars

no pension, no secret security detail, no travel allowance, no chance to hold high office again: a second impeachment has consequences even a few days out and Congress is moving swiftly to make it happen, nearly as fast as Mr Rainbow above or Lego

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

en attendant godot

The original French version of the play, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot had its premiere performance on this day in 1953 at the Thรฉรขtre de Babylone in Paris, coming in translation to London’s West End two years later. Held as one of the most significant English-language theatrical pieces of the twentieth century, the tragicomedy extolling existential conundrums in the milieu of vaudeville in two acts follows the characters Vladimir and Estragon (see also) as they await the titular Godot, whom never arrives. The author grew weary and distracted by what he felt was over-analysis, declaring he had not imbued the play with deeper meaning, but later Beckett came to embrace these multiple readings and interpretations.

Friday, 18 December 2020

ั‰ะตะปะบัƒะฝั‡ะธะบ

Debuting in Saint Petersburg on this day in 1892 (Old Style, 6 December), the stage, fairy ballet (ะฑะฐะปะตั‚-ั„ะตะตั€ะธั) adaptation of the short story by E. T. A. HoffmannThe Nutcracker and the Mouse King—opened as a double-feature with Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ultimate opera Iolanta, a one-act performance about the Duchess of Lorraine, Yolande de Bar—a romanticised biography of figure who was more retiring and reserved in real life. Though initially not well-received and critics using rather harsh language, the overture and suite that the composer score was an enduring success, with countless Christmas season performances accounting for an incredible forty percent of attendance for ballet companies in North America in normal times.