Friday, December 28, 2007

Sweeney Todd

Deb and I had seen the stage production of "Sweeney Todd" several times, but it has been a good while since the last viewing. Still I consider it one of the most fascinating, even courageous musicals ever written. Who would have thought such a story would capture musical theater audiences. So we were anxiously awaiting Tim Burton's big screen production. Still I must say I had a bit of an "approach/avoidance" think going, after hearing about the blood and gore and knowing how dark Tim Burton can get. (Danny Devito's role of The Penguin in "Batman Returns" still creeps me out.)

After a delightful sushi lunch with our friends Jeff and Cyndi, we ventured into the local cinema to take in the flick. And it was rather mesmerizing, I must say. I've appreciated Johnny Depp in many rolls, but can't say I've been a huge fan - now I am. He was fantastic in the title role - I thought his speaking and singing voice captured the part perfectly. The singing voices of some of the other cast - Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman - were less notable, but these were the only weak links in an otherwise amazing film. The blood did flow, and I turned my head a couple of times. But the film adaptation gave more depth to the characters, and made the story that much fuller of possibilities and tragedies. I actually didn't recall the specifics of the ending, so there were still elements of suspense up until the final frame.

Deb and I both picked up on one element that hadn't been predominant in the stage productions - how we consume one another metaphorically. The film in conjunction with the sad assassination of Benazir Bhutto were sobering reminders of how far we still have to go as a human race.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

My favorite Christmas present

If you look at my iTunes collection, classical music reins down at the bottom of the ranking, along with heavy metal rock. Opera is non-existent in my collection. I did spend my first two years of college as a voice major, and had to sing my share of arias in stride, but haven't touched the stuff since changing my major to psychology. The closest I come in my own musical collection is in the guest appearances of Luciano Pavoratti with U2 and Elton John. So I'm still mystified as to my own visceral reaction when I first heard Paul Potts via a YouTube clip several months back. Even pasting the clip into my blog this morning, I'm still moved to the same tears, even without watching the "Britains got talent" audience and judges doing the same. It is certainly the rags to riches story of the year in my opinion. (He was barely making it as a cell phone salesman with some recent health problems at the time he came into the limelight.) Visiting his blog on the website, it is amazing how many people have had a similar reaction to my own when hearing him for the first time.

When I first saw the clip, I immediately distributed it via email Like many things in life, I tend to forget about them in the midst of the daily living routine. I had seen references to Paul's first CD being released, but just never got around to picking it up (or more likely downloading it). My dear wife remembered, so my favorite gift of the year is Paul's CD "One Voice". I put it in the player and Deb and I both just sat on the couch and listened to the whole thing, speaking very little except to comment on arrangements or linguistics.

In reality, the album probably blends the classical and pop genres, perhaps in the way Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli have done. (I say probably, because neither of them are in my collection ). The highlights are "Nessun Dorma" and "Con Te Partiro (Time To Say Goodbye)", but the album also has a mix of some popular songs done in an "aria" style. For a couple of these - songs I could normally live without hearing again in my life such as My Way and You Raise Me Up (the latter from too many wedding gigs) - Paul and the producers had the good taste (IMHO) to perform them in Italian, so that the music is the focal point. He also performs "Cavatina", a song I've considered one of the most beautiful ever written since hearing it in the soundtrack to The Deer Hunter back in the 1970s.

So I'm thankful this year for my Paul Potts CD, which will always remind me of the surprising beauty that can emerge from chaos. It makes me think of the title/opening line of an old hymn I've heard only a few times in life - "Sometimes a Light Surprises".

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Slam

Coming up this Saturday, December 29th. Come hear the words and music flow...