Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dreamgirls

I enjoyed the movie on one level. Certainly I thought Jennifer Hudson's and Eddie Murphy's performances were remarkable. And, as musicals go, this one was far better than most, and some of these songs could have legitimately stood on their own as great soul tracks from Motown or Stax.

But I guess I'm just not a musicals kind of guy. I admit that I'm not consistent about this. I'm just going by my gut reaction, and there's no logic to it. For some reason, I can watch rock 'n roll bands with painted faces, shooting fire out of their mouths or spitting blood, and just shrug it off and think, "Yep, just another normal day in Heavy Metal Hell." But when somebody switches from dialog to song in a play or movie, my mind can't make the transition. It was actually more difficult for me with Dreamgirls because many of the song lyrics were so pedestrian, and actually sounded like normal speech. The effect was something like this to my ears:

Diva (pleadingly): "Honey, would you pick up a pound of pastrami on your way home from work tonight?"

Boffo Tenor (with bravado): "Sure, right after I drop off the dry cleaning."

I just never want to sing about these things, and I'm always amazed when people do. I have similar problems with opera, although at least people are singing the whole way through, albeit in those sometimes boring recitatives that string the story along between the arias.

4 comments:

Beth said...

But Tim and I are always singing like this:

T: Honey, the toilet's plugged up again!

B: Oh noooo! Why are you too cheap (doo wop) to call the plumber?

T: But I can! I can! I can fix it myself!

(break for a little soft shoe with Tim and the plunger)

B: You always loved her (gesturing toward plunger) more than me!

You guys must NEVER have any fun...

Fred Kohn said...

he he

I've heard comments like this before, and I have to say that I agree with them. I think it takes a special kind of person really get into musicals (or opera.)

My favorite example of this kind of song is "Talk to Me" from Bye Bye Birdie. Could such a song ever stand on its own?

And ya know, I used to think "Some Enchanted Evening" was a pretty decent old tune until I actually heard it in its original context (repeated about 16 times I think.)

Anonymous said...

Well, we went to see Dreamgirls last night. I'd have to say it was one of the best musical productions I have seen.

Why? Because many of the tunes were sung either in the studio or on stage. Believable places for someone to be singing. Only a few times did they ask me to willingly suspend belief and forget the fact that real people don't just burst into song.

The suspension of what isn't real is the key to all drama. Does the actor do a good enough job to allow me to believe the he is who he is pretending to be? If I watch Rocky then Rambo, can I suspend my belief that Stallone is playing two different characters? If that happens Stallone has done his job. So to watch a musical you must willingly suspend what you believe to be unrealistic for the sake of the musical.

You also shouldn’t expect every song in a musical to be a hit. Just like in a James Bond movie there is mindless banter between explosions and gadgets. Musicals use tacit, dialogue and other songs to get from one hopeful hit to the next. Remember, musicals are not immune to the fact that the public will go see what is popular. Not necessarily phenomenal musical performances. In fact, part of the Dreamgirls plot is just that, making music popular at the loss of the art.

I enjoyed Dreamgirls not only for the ease of belief in the characters and situation but I also enjoyed it for the cinematography and use of image to further the story and the emotion. I enjoyed it as it allowed me to enter the world of Barry Gordy and Diana Ross. And more importantly I enjoy the quality of the musical performances.

Now that I’ve said my piece about this musical, let me ask your thought on the following?

Tommy by The Who
A hard day’s night by the Beatles
Mr. Roboto by Styx
Stuck in the Closet by R.Kelly (or Stuck in the Drive thru by Weird Al.)
Pictures at an exhibition done by Yes

These are all multiple pieces of music that strung together tell a story. What makes them different than musicals? Is listening to them on CD better than seeing them performed with a stage full of sets and costumes?

Anonymous said...

Previous comment by Karl not Bethany. Someday I'll remember to sign my comments.

karl