Friday, August 22, 2014

Heathers: The Musical (or, Randi Posts A Lot of Musical Reviews at the Same Time)

As anyone who is currently within a ten mile radius of me at this very moment can tell, I really really love theater. Musicals, plays, whatever. So in an effort to incorporate that more and try to do something besides fandom-centered posts because I've kind of had it with fandom life at this particular moment. So here's the first in a series! I'm sure there will be at least 20, most of which you can probably watch on youtube!
Not this one though. At least not yet.

So Heathers. This was playing across the hallway from me when I went to go see Avenue Q in New York in April, so I thought I might check it out too.

Although this show has already closed (and never made it to Broadway), it was actually one of the most promising new shows that has come in a while. I'm usually a fan of original content, and although Heathers does not exactly fall into that category, this feels so much more original than half of the stuff playing up the street right now.

Based on the movie of the same name, Heathers incorporates a pop score of all original songs that are in turns funny, dark, sweet, and scary, with the storyline to match. Veronica Sawyer: geeky, outcast, beautiful, and whipsmart has an unfortunately low social status at the start her senior of highschool. And if you want to change that, you could do no better than to get in with the Heathers, a group of three girls who are all named (wait for it) Heather. They are everything. Of course, Veronica uses her excellent forgery skills to get a makeover from aforementioned Heathers and is of course, instantly more popular. Then there's JD, this kid with this awesome trench coat (props to the costume shop, like dang, that thing is awesome) who has instant chemistry with Veronica. They seem perfect for each other, cute slushie love song included.

Of course, he's also a murdering psychopath. And the targets? You guessed it, the Heathers (and their on again off again football player boyfriends). Creepy villain love song with dinosaur references included.

The storyline, while surreal what with all the murders, is actually a startling and accurate portrait of high school. Take it from someone who is still there, Heathers nails the anxiety, the fears, and the ridiculous confines of the social ladder.

The music is all fantastic. I especially love Candy Store, Dead Girl Walking, Freeze Your Brain, Lifeboat, Fight For Me, and Seventeen, but there really isn't a skipable song on the cast album. The character solos cut to the core of the broken and twisted characters that inhabit the show, and the ensemble numbers shine. There isn't a weak singer in the whole cast.

The original cast of the musical is just perfect as well. Barrett Willbert Weed as Veronica is an absolute revelation. Her singing compliments the music perfectly. Jessica Keenan-Wynn, Elle McLemore, and Alice Lee are picture perfect as the Heaters, and their trio, Candy Store, is one of the best songs in the show. Ryan McCartan plays JD perfectly. You're not supposed to like him, but you're also supposed to fall in love with him. It's interesting to see how he interprets arguable one of the most interesting characters in the show. Extra points also go to Katie Ladner, who plays Veronica's oft-bullied best friend Martha. Her big solo, Kindergarten Boyfriend is absolutely stand out, and she kills it in performance.

It's not a surprise that Heathers, both movie and musical, have developed a cult following. There isn't a bad a song in the musical, but it could use some workshopping all the same. Some of the musical numbers are just a tad bit too long, and there should be a little more time devoted the titular Heathers while they are still together. But you can't deny the pure, crazy, and funny entertainment value inherent in a show this absolutely crazy.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Movie You Didn't Know You Wanted

A foreword: This summer has been relatively boring on the movie front. I think I've been to the movies a total of twice this past summer (for Maleficent, and Days of Future Past, whose review are written, but not published because all the time sometimes I'm not a good writer.
But I've been pretty un-amused with Michael Bay movies, retreads of Greek mythology, and... I mean, I can't even remember any of the movies released in the last three months, and for me, that's pretty unusual. Really unusual.
And then Guardians of the Galaxy doesn't so much open the door, it kicks it down with a bunch of lasers and dry ice and probably something cheesy from the '70s that you secretly really love playing in the background.
The whole concept of making a Guardians of the Galaxy just seemed like such a whacky thing to do from the beginning, but therein lies it's genius.
When you think of Marvel movies, you probably see Spiderman, your Avengers crew and their various solo movies, and Hugh Jackman without a shirt.
And even though Marvel Studios only owns the Avengers out of those listed, those are still Marvel movies.
Here's what you don't think of when you see Marvel on the marquee: crazy cyborgs, that guy from Pushing Daisies so unrecognizable that you have to look at the IMDB page to tell it's him, Vin Diesel pulling another Iron Giant, and a totally cheesy, totally awesome soundtrack.
Guardians is B-movie brother to the Marvel family, and there's not a better way to have it.
The best way to explain to people that this is not just the Avengers rehashed is that the Avengers take care of Earth. The Guardians take care of pretty much everything else. And they crack a lot of jokes while doing it.
Going in, I definitely wasn't too sure of how this was going to turn out. I hadn't read ANY Guardians comics, had heard little of them except that there was a talking raccoon with a machine gun and an anthropomorphic tree. However, Marvel has managed to make a lot of good movies with a lot of heart, and actually let directors have more artistic license with a movie than the average blockbuster.
So in steps James Gunn, with the weirdest cast of characters Marvel has ever put together, an awe-inspiring special effects team, and a wise cracking script full of heart and emotion and 10cc songs.
And it works. Oh man, does it work.
With it's A-Team, Marvel has trekked into darker territory, i.e. Tony Stark's ptsd, Cap's long lost best friend is now a killer on the wrong side of the fence, Thor's mom is dead and Odin probably is too. So with Guardians they get a chance to go a little lighter, have some fun again, and make a movie funnier than all three Iron Men combined (I know, you don't have to scold me in the comments, I'm just trying to hold your interest).
Chris Pratt was absolutely the perfect choice to play Peter Quill, a sort of Malcolm Reynolds with a funny bone and a mix tape he can't bear to part with (more later on that). He calls himself Starlord because nobody else will. He's the perfect mix of funny, action hero, guy with six pack that is in the Marvel movie out of obligation, and heart for the film. And he does the comedy impossible: he's a funny straight man.
Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista are great as Gamora and Drax respectively, creating dynamic characters where they could have easily just phoned in it, get paid, and go home. Saldana is especially awesome during the combat scenes she gets, which thank goodness, are often. I've always thought JJ Abrams was missing out by letting everyone but Uhura, Saldana's other big sci-fi role, kick some butt in the Star Trek movies.
Man, I won't even get into Bradley Cooper as Rocket and Vin Diesel as Groot. The latter of which pulls another Iron Giant, saying few words and stealing the entire movie.
Anyway, just go see it. Treat yo self.
You didn't think I wasn't gonna make a Parks and Rec joke right?