Friday, July 13, 2007

Disney Musicals

Hollywood has given audiences a lot of remakes of musicals lately. I hate to say it, but it all started with Disney. As much as I like seeing musicals appreciated in society once again, I must admit that I have not liked Disney since I was a child. Sometimes I’ll watch the Disney Channel, but I really don’t see anything worthy in it. I miss the family friendly aspect of it. These days all you see is a teenage friendly channel. I’ve seen better efforts come from Disney in past years with the weekly movie on ABC, but there has not been much of that going on lately. I miss the days of the Mickey Mouse Club, Anne of Green Gables, Zorro, and old shows. Even the Broadway shows have deteriorated. Tarzan was a flop. It closed on July 8, 2007. Mary Poppins is doing well, as well as The Lion King, but Beauty and the Beast is closing this summer. I love Beauty and the Beast, but late productions of it have lacked energy and good acting. I’m finding that only original casts are any good, and Tarzan did not even have that. Disney shows are choppy and half the time are cheesy. As much as I like "High School Musical," I can't help but think it makes fun of old fashioned Broadway. I don't think we need new, modern shows like "Spring Awakening" that lack any moral. In my eyes, these are the end of the Disney days. I’m sure it will exist a lot longer, but without the integrity it once had. I miss the days when shows were clean and taught kids good morals. That was the original Disney.

I was reminded of this when I checked out the Disney remake of “The Music Man.” The Disney TV musicals have kept fairly clean and family friendly, but their casting remains unimpressive. Besides this, when was the last time they made a musical movie? The last musical they made was “Once Upon a Mattress.” While I dislike the Disney musicals (they have not made a good one since “Cinderella,” and even that was not as good as the original Julie Andrews version), I wish they would make more of them instead of playing all these soap operas and sex driven TV shows.

In a more specific look at “The Music Man” I recommend watching the original instead of the Disney version. Maybe what we need is more promotion of the old films rather than the creations of remakes that include all the modern day politically correct add ins. The acting in “Music Man” definitely fails. It starts out on a good foot with the train scene where all the salesmen are chattering about Professor Harold Hill, a con man who takes their business away when he fools towns into thinking he can start a real band with their young ones. After this scene there is not much to look forward to. There are a few scenes here and there that are memorable for their dance content, but overall the film bores audiences.

Kristin Chenoweth plays the hard to get librarian, Marian. Hill must woo her in order to keep her from telling everyone he’s a con man. I do admit I find it refreshing to see Kristin Chenoweth in a clean role where her boobs aren’t hanging out, but her acting also fails. She’s not strict enough, no matter how wonderful she sings. When she does sing her acting improves. I find it amazing the way she speaks with such a babyish tone and then opens her mouth with such a beautiful voice. She also has little chemistry with Matthew Broderick, the leading man. What little chemistry we see from any of the characters in this film comes from the beautiful sets, costumes, and direction. Chenoweth finds her fame in her origination of the role of Glinda in “Wicked” the musical. Ever since she left “Wicked” all she’s done is sex appeal roles. To think, she calls herself a Christian!

As for the leading man, Matthew Broderick, whose name precedes the title of the musical because of his fame, he does not even come close to impressing viewers. Broderick has never come across as manly. The only performance I’ve ever enjoyed of his was when he played wimpy characters in the movies “The Producers” and “Stepford Wives.” Broderick does have a good voice, but Hill’s songs are mostly talk singing.

I do enjoy Debra Monk’s performance as Mrs. Paroo. More recently she’s performed in the new Broadway musical “Curtains.” I had the pleasure of seeing her in “Curtains” earlier this year and she is brilliant. Her acting varies from role to role. She’s one of the few actresses out there who get so in touch with their character they look and sound genuine. She can really make you feel involved in the plot.

However, the small parts are played without any chemistry at all. The chorography is one of the few pluses. Kathleen Marshall, known for the current director and chorographer of the upcoming musical “Grease”, choreographed the movie and did a good job. Too bad the acting didn’t match. Even Victor Garber failed to impress as the mayor of River City.
Stick to the original.

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