Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Unfit For A King (a musical review)

All Shook Up

A few weeks ago, I saw a Broadway tryout, premiere production of "On The Record," a new musical featuring old Disney songs. With a minimal, static set simulating a recording studio, eight actors dressed in black took turns singing the songs. No story, no dialogue, no costumes, minimal choreography; in short, not much of anything (my rating: just one @ ). Which made me think, "Couldn't the most imaginative company in the history of entertainment, and even an innovator in musical theatre, come up with some kind of story?" Well, I guess be careful what you wish for, because "All Shook Up," a new musical comprised of Elvis songs, did concoct a story by a playwright of some note (Joe DiPietro), had dialogue, choreography and costume changes, and featured dozens of performers. And yet at the end, I thought that I would have better enjoyed an Elvis impersonator just standing there singing the songs. For though the songs were inherently good, and the performers professional and for the most part of fine voice, they really didn't enhance my enjoyment of the songs; if anything they made me long to get to a stereo and listen to Elvis' original versions instead. And that's my praise. The flimsy, silly & scattered story made Mamma Mia (the progenitor of these "old songbook" musicals) seem like Shakespeare and while it would be a bit extreme to term All Shook Up intolerable, it really didn't provide any moments of true enjoyment (other than a few of the song renditions) and it certainly wasn't inspired.

And if to me, you're going to cheat and steal an old songbook to draw a built-in audience, you owe it to really craft something special (or at least undeniably enjoyable, like Mamma Mia). Because if you don't, where's the art, rather than just a cover band?

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