Category Archives: Music

On Stage: Evil Dead – The Musical

When I asked The Wife if she wanted to join me for “Evil Dead – The Musical,” I did not get the response I was expecting.

“Sure, I’ll go.”

I’m pretty sure Laurie has never seen an “Evil Dead” movie. I don’t believe that she would like one if she’d seen one. I didn’t mention it was a horror movie, but I figured that was self-evident from the title.

So I could only assume that she was going as some kind of penance for all those years of Shakespeare and opera that I’ve been subjected to.

Hey, works for me.

And so it was that Thursday night we made our way to the Grandel Theatre in St. Louis for opening night of “Evil Dead – The Musical.” We did not have seats in the “splatter zone,” but watching it from the balcony was perfectly fine. I’ve got Laurie this far, no need to push it.

“The Evil Dead” began life in 1981 as a horror comedy by director Sam Raimi and starring Bruce Campbell as Ash, a store clerk who fights demons with a shotgun and a chainsaw. It hellspawned more movies, a TV series, video games, comic books, and in 2003 — a musical.

EvilDeadv2Written by George Reinblatt with music by Reinblatt, Melissa Morris, Frank Cipolla and Christopher Bond, the show mixes and mashes characters and story lines from the various “Evil Dead” movies. The result is a campy, vulgar, bloody, strange brew that is sure to please its target audience. My wife is definitely not the target audience but she didn’t run screaming from the theater and we did stay past intermission so maybe there is some broad, general appeal as well.

Trent Mills stars as Ash, who has decided to spend Spring Break at a secluded cabin in the woods with his girlfriend Linda (Michelle Nash), little sister Cheryl (Saphire Demitro), best friend Scotty (Christopher Fulton) and Shelley (Merritt Crews) — a woman Scotty picked up along the way.

Ash doesn’t actually own the cabin, or even know the owner, they’re just going to break in and spend a few fun-filled days. It turns out the cabin was owned by an archaeologist who had gone to the cabin to study an ancient book — the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis, a.k.a. The Book of the Dead.

Unfortunately, during his research the archaeologist lets loose some Candarian demons and now the cabin, the woods, and eventually all of Ash’s companions become possessed by evil. Joining the melee in the second act are the archaeologist’s daughter (also played by Merritt Crews), her boyfriend (Andy Ingram) and their local guide — good old reliable Jake (Jonathan Shaboo).

“Evil Dead – The Musical” wants to be the new “Rocky Horror Picture Show” but it doesn’t have the chops — at least not musically. There are a couple of catchy, clever tunes but the music is the show’s weak link. “Do The Necronomicon” will never replace “The Time Warp.”

The actors are fine and the story is weird, strange, creepy, crude and often inappropriately funny. Just like it was meant to be.

“Evil Dead – The Musical” runs through Oct. 22 at the Grandel Theatre. http://www.kranzbergartsfoundation.org/the-grandel/

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On Stage: The Bodyguard

The Fox Theatre launched its 35th season this week with “The Bodyguard,” or as it could be better titled — “The Whitney Houston Musical.”

Musicals based on the catalogue of pop stars is nothing new — the most popular are likely “Mamma Mia!” and “Jersey Boys.” So it was probably inevitable that someone would take the 1992 film “The Bodyguard,” which starred Houston and featured and a number of her songs, and expand it with even more of her tunes and bring it to the stage.

“The Bodyguard: The Musical” opened in London in 2012 and follows the story of the romantic thriller it is based on, with some changes. It includes all the songs Houston sang on the film soundtrack — including the hits “I Will Always Love You,” “I’m Every Woman” and “I Have Nothing.” They are joined by 10 other Houston favorites, such as “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All” and “One Moment in Time.” The show ends with a rousing version of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.”

Bodyguard0044r

Deborah Cox and company in a scene from “The Bodyguard.” Photo by Joan Marcus

Deborah Cox stars as Rachel Marron, a wildly popular singer and actress, who is promoting a new album while also aiming at an Academy Award nomination. When her life is threatened by a stalker, her manager brings in professional bodyguard Frank Farmer (Judson Mills).

Rachel doesn’t want Frank interfering in her life. Frank doesn’t want to deal with Rachel’s diva attitude. It is this kind of manufactured Hollywood tension that will eventually lead to them falling in love.

There’s not a lot of meat to this story. It all plays out as you’d expect, even if you haven’t seen the movie. There’s an interesting subplot brewing with Rachel’s sister Nikki (Jasmin Richardson) but it gets cut short. This isn’t a show to see for its deep character development or intricate plot.

But then, that’s common to many musicals. Where the show works is with the musical numbers and the powerful vocal performances by Cox and Richardson. If you are a fan of Whitney Houston’s music you will probably love this. I am not a Whitney Houston fan but this show gave me a better appreciation of her talent.

Wisely, the show doesn’t try to shoehorn the songs into the plot the way “Mamma Mia!” does. There is a decent balance of drama, romance and comedy. The scene at the karaoke bar is a highlight.

This high-energy musical boasts colorful costumes, pulsating light shows, and some inventive set designs. The story may be weak but the other elements make up for it.

Gone: Tom Petty

There’s a southern accent, where I come from
The young ‘uns call it country, the yankees call it dumb
I got my own way of talking, but everything gets done
With a southern accent, where I come from

It’s alright if you love me
It’s alright if you don’t
I’m not afraid of you running away
Honey, I get the feeling you won’t

Oh yeah, all right
Take it easy, baby
Make it last all night

If you’re making me wait, if you’re leadin’ me on
I need to know

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

Everybody has to fight to be free, you see, you don’t have to live like a refugee

Into the great wide open
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open
A rebel without a clue

il_fullxfull.207446871

She wore faded jeans and soft black leather
She had eyes so blue they looked like weather
When she needed me I wasn’t around
That’s the way it goes, it’ll all work out

There were times apart, there were times together
I was pledged to her for worse or better
When it mattered most I let her down
That’s the way it goes, it’ll all work out

It’ll all work out eventually
Better off with him than here with me

It’ll all work out eventually
Maybe better off with him than here with me

Now the wind is high and the rain is heavy
And the water’s rising in the levee
Still I think of her when the sun goes down
It never goes away, but it all works out

Don’t come around here no more
Don’t come around here no more
Whatever you’re looking for
Hey! Don’t come around here no more

Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads

Hey baby, there ain’t no easy way out
Hey I will stand my ground
And I won’t back down

Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down

Quit jammin’ me

Two gunslingers, walked out in the street
And one said “I don’t want to fight no more”
And the other gunslinger thought about it
And he said, “yeah what are we fighting for?”

I’m takin’ control of my life,
I’m takin’ control of my life
I’m takin’ control of my life now,
Right now, oh yeah

Well the crowd that assembled
For the gun fight were let down
Everyone hissed and booed
And a stranger told his Mrs.
“That’s the last one of these gunfights
You’re ever gonna drag me to”

I’m takin’ control of my life,
I’m takin’ control of my life
I’m takin’ control of my life now,
Right now, oh yeah

Well the two gunslingers
Went ridin’ out of town and
Were never heard from no more
And there ain’t been a gun fight
For a long time, maybe never
But nobody knows for sure

Oh, my my, oh, hell yes
Honey, put on that party dress
Buy me a drink, sing me a song
Take me as I come ’cause I can’t stay long

Coming down is the hardest thing

People come, people go
Some grow young, some grow cold
I woke up in between
A memory and a dream

So let’s get to the point, let’s roll another joint
Let’s head on down the road
There’s somewhere I gotta go
And you don’t know how it feels
You don’t know how it feels to be me

You and I will meet again
When we’re least expecting it
One day in some far off place
I will recognize your face
I won’t say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again

I wanna glide down over Mulholland
I wanna write her name in the sky
I’m gonna free fall out into nothin’
Gonna leave this world for awhile

And I’m free, free fallin’
Yeah I’m free, free fallin’

Joelfest 2017, Part II (Part II)

The Main Event: Life Went On No Matter Who Was Wrong Or Right

To be fair, there were other reasons to attend the Billy Joel concert besides making The Wife happy (although that’s all the reason you need).

  1. My musical idols are dying right and left these days, so I might as well catch him one more time because it may be the last time.
  2. I’m probably never going to win the lottery and take Laurie and Liz to New York to see him at Madison Square Garden. Especially since I don’t play the lottery.
  3. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Joel play “Miami: 2017,” a song he released in 1976, in 2017.
  4. I really needed a break from the unending depression of watching “The Vietnam War.”

The show was supposed to start promptly at 8 p.m. and due to security concerns we were told to get there early. We got there before the protesters arrived and left after they’d gone home so all went down without incident. No long line to get in so we spend 90 minutes in the stadium, checking out the souvenir stand and cursing the unseasonable heat.

Now you might think that $300 floor seats would mean primo viewing. For that much money I should be able to touch The Man and feel his sweat as he pounds on the keyboard. Nope. We were so far away that Joel looked like a speck on the stage. We would be watching the show mainly off the video screens, just like the people in the rafters.

My main objection with floor seats is that people on the floor feel some uncontrollable need to stand throughout the entire show. I don’t feel that need and resent having to stand just so I can see that speck way, way, away on the stage. Still, as I look around me at all the people even older than myself, some with canes, I’m thinking maybe this won’t be so bad.

The show starts — not promptly at 8 p.m. but close enough — with the theme music from “The Natural” (hmm, this seems familiar). Then The Man takes to the piano and begins playing some Beethoven (hmm, this seems familiar) and then he breaks into “My Life.” (Yep. It’s a Billy Joel concert, alright).

Everyone stands, and as I feared, remained standing throughout the show. Fine. I had resigned myself to this when I bought the seats. And as expected, everything I hate about concerts was concentrated in my section.

Behind me were a trio of women who WOULDN’T SHUT UP. In front of me were a couple of guys who figured it was OK to light up as long as they blew their smoke up in the air. People kept going back and forth to the bathroom or wherever, even though there was no room between rows for people to walk. For the love of God, why can’t people stay in one place for 2.5 hours? And be quiet?

And then there’s the all-new, 21st Century concert annoyance: Cellphones.  Live in the moment, people! You don’t need to videotape the moment! I can’t see the little speck on stage with you holding your damn phone over your head so you can get a blurry image that you can share on social media so you can brag to your friends how cool you are because you’re at the Billy Joel concert!

Despite the distractions, a good time was had by all, especially The Wife, which made it all worthwhile.

billy_joel_960x540_0y6xx8ul_a9nptwof

Random thoughts on Billy Joel at Busch Stadium, 2017:

It was a solid 26-song set, heavy on the hits with a few well-known non-hits thrown in as well.

The audience made all the right choices during the Fielder’s Choice segment: Vienna over Just The Way You Are; Zanzibar over Big Man on Mulberry Street; Billy the Kid over Downeaster Alexa; And So It Goes over Leningrad. I especially enjoyed “And So It Goes” as that was the only time during the show when Joel was singing that the crowd in my section sat down.

Joel freshened things up a bit by adding videos to some of his tunes. They weren’t as good as the ones The Who used on their last tour, but they were much better than the ones Ann Wilson used. I don’t know what she was thinking with some of those vids.

Every time I look in a mirror and regret how badly I have aged, I look at Billy Joel and feel better. Remember when Joel had multiple keyboards and he would run around from one end of the stage to the other to play them? Now he has 1 piano which rotates for him. When they started to play “Big Shot,” Laurie asked if I thought Joel would get up on the piano and dance around like in the old days. We laughed and laughed.

Three highlights of the show were not related to Billy Joel’s repertoire. One came when Joel performed “A Day in the Life” as a tribute to the Beatles. As that was the one song I had not heard Joel perform before, it was a highlight for me. The second came when one of his roadies came out and did a rousing performance of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” (That bit I had seen before).

The third special moment (and this was more a Laurie moment than a Ronnie moment) was when Joel’s guitarist Michael DelGuidice sang Puccini’s “Nessun dorma.” Laurie loved it because it was opera and DelGuidice had an amazing voice. I loved it because it was the second time and last time that everyone in my section sat down.

Joel did not perform “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” a staple of his live shows. Probably a good decision, given the mood outside the stadium.

Joel did not end the night by encouraging us to not take any shit from anybody. Does this mean we are supposed to take shit fom people now?

 

Joelfest 2017, Part II (Part I)

Sound Check: The Only Times I’ve Ever Known

Several months ago it was announced that Billy Joel would be performing in September in St. Louis.

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”

“No”

“Why not?”

Sometimes it’s not easy being perceived as the No. 1 fan of a popular musician. Yes, I love The Man and his music but I’ve seen him many times. In fact, I’m not sure how many times. There was the first time in Columbia, then in St. Louis, then I think in Kansas City, then again in St. Louis, then when he opened the Savvis Center, then with Elton John at Riverport, then with Liz that last time… so 6 or 7 times. Maybe 8.

He puts on a good show. But it’s pretty much the same show – heavy on the hits, a few album tracks, songs from whatever new album he’s promoting. But he hasn’t had a new album in 24 years. And I don’t need to hear him perform “My Life” one more time.  So I am pretty much done with Billy Joel Live. Especially since concert tickets are more expensive than they were when I paid $5.50 to see him the first time.

So I had made my peace about Joel being in town and me not being there, despite constant questioning by people — including my wife, who would ask me on a weekly basis if I wanted her to get me tickets.

And then some cop shot some black man and some judge didn’t toss him in jail and all hell broke loose in St. Louis.

As a result, the U2 concert was canceled. The Wife had been looking forward to that show for some time, and it’s true what they say — If Laurie ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

So to make it up to her — and because her constant questioning me about whether I wanted tickets to Billy Joel was clearly as much about her desires as it was about mine (you learn these things after 29 years of marriage) — I figured I’d better scrounge up some concert tickets.

But the show is 2 days away and sold out. As luck or fate or whatever would have it, someone at work had a pair of tickets he wanted to unload. The bad news is they were floor seats, and I hate floor seats. The worst news is they were $150 each (plus a $40 service fee, which he wasn’t going to charge me, but once you’ve blown $300 on concert tickets, what’s another $40?)

Now, if my father were alive and he heard that I’d spent $340 on concert tickets, he would take his belt off and beat me with it. And he would be right to do so. But pa is no longer with us, so now it’s just a question of : Do I love my wife enough to spend $340 on concert tickets?

bjconcert

Looks like I’m going to the Billy Joel concert!

 

…To be continued   

 

 

 

Gone: Don Williams

I ain’t gonna marry in the fall
I ain’t gonna marry in the spring
‘Cause I’m in love with a pretty little girl
Who wears a diamond ring.

And I’m just a country boy
Money have I none
But I’ve got silver in the stars
And gold in the mornin’ sun
Gold in the mornin’ sun

You’re my bread when I’m hungry
You’re my shelter from troubled winds
You’re my anchor in life’s ocean
But most of all you’re my best friend

I guess there’s not much I can do or say
Saw my baby with another guy today
Though I love her and I try to tell her so
It’s hello blues and down the road I go

Fate should have made you a gentleman’s wife

MI0003714342Coffee black, cigarette
start this day, like all the rest
First thing every morning that I do
Is start missing you

Some broken hearts never mend
Some memories never end
Some tears will never dry
My love for you will never die

Rendezvous in the night
A willing woman to hold me tight
But in the middle of love’s embrace
I see your face

Some broken hearts never mend
Some memories never end
Some tears will never dry
My love for you will never die

My baby said, I’z crazy
My mama called me lazy
I was gonna show ’em all this time
‘Cause you know I ain’t no fool
And I don’t need no more schoolin’
I was born to just walk the line

‘Cause you know I’m a rake and a ramblin’ man
Free as an eagle flies
Well, look at me now and tell me true
Do I look like a daddy to you?
Oh, do I look like a daddy to you?

It must be love
It must be love
I fall like a sparrow
Fly like a dove
You must be the dream
I’ve been dreamin’ of
Oh, what a feelin’
It must be love

When I was a kid Uncle Remus would put me to bed
With a picture of Stonewall Jackson above my head
Then Daddy came in to kiss his little man
With gin on his breath and a bible in his hand
And he talked about honor and things I should know
Then he’d stagger a little as he went out the door

I can still hear the soft southern winds in the live oak trees
And Those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me
Hank and Tennessee
I guess we’re all gonna be what we’re gonna be
So what do you do with good ol’ boys like me?

Lord, I hope this day is good
I’m feelin’ empty and misunderstood
I should be thankful, Lord, I know I should
But Lord I hope this day is good

I have drifted up across the mountain 
And I have stumbled down the other side 
I’ve been tempted, tried and troubled 
Come early morning I’ll be home and satisfied 

Gone: Walter Becker

We seen the last of Good King Richard 
Ring out the past his name lives on 
Roll out the bones and raise up your pitcher 
Raise up your glass to Good King John 

You go back, Jack, do it again
Wheel turnin’ ’round and ’round 

I foresee terrible trouble 
And I stay here just the same 

I’m a fool to do your dirty work 
Oh yeah 
I don’t wanna do your dirty work 
No more 
I’m a fool to do your dirty work 
Oh yeah 

I heard it was you 
Talkin’ ’bout a world 
Where all is free 
It just couldn’t be 
And only a fool would say that

20th-century-masters-the-millennium-collection-the-best-of-s-55ed704c60655California tumbles into the sea
That’ll be the day I go
Back to Annandale
Tried to warn you
About Chino and Daddy Gee
But I can’t seem to get to you
Through the U.S. Mail
Well I hear the whistle but I can’t go
I’m gonna take her down to Mexico
She said oh no
Guadalajara won’t do

Well I did not think the girl
Could be so cruel
And I’m never going back
To my old school

And you could have a change of heart

I never seen you looking so bad my funky one
You tell me that your superfine mind has come undone
Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend 
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again 
When the demon is at your door 
In the morning it won’t be there no more 
Any major dude will tell you

I have never met Napoleon
But I plan to find the time

And I’m going insane
And I’m laughing at the frozen rain
And I’m so alone
Honey when they gonna send me home?

FM: No static at all

Throw out your gold teeth
And see how they roll
The answer they reveal
Life is unreal

I’m a bookkeeper’s son
I don’t want to shoot no one
Well I crossed my old man back in Oregon
Don’t take me alive

No I’m never gonna do it without the fez on 

I’ll learn to work the saxophone 
I’ll play just what I feel 
Drink Scotch whisky all night long 
And die behind the wheel 
They got a name for the winners in the world 
I want a name when I lose 
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide 
Call me Deacon Blues 

She’s the raw flame
The live wire
She prays like a Roman
With her eyes on fire

Drink your big black cow 
And get out of here