Miserable Joy

21 Sep

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By now, prob’ly EVERYONE has seen this sneak-peek trailer of Les Mis…but in case you’re the one guy who hasn’t: here it is.

Now lets talk for a second about the main reason this brings me so much joy. (And beware…cuz I’m gonna get super passionate about it.)

…It isn’t so much the cast (though I am so happy right now about the choices made, that I could throw a party and pop champagne corks all over the place.)

…It isn’t the fact they have a 70 piece orchestra that will totally go to town until my ears bleed (though you’d think it would be.)

…It isn’t even the intense attention to details in costume and general hardship-grime-ickiness (though, it is a major contender.)

Why it wins the Miserable Joy Award today, is because Cameron Mackintosh (unarguably, this generation’s King of West End Musical Theatre Production), has reconfirmed my total trust: that informed acting SHOULD be the key to musical presentation, REGARDLESS of how pretty (or not) it may sound. Acting FIRST, and the rest that follows will be an honest interpretation. As. It. Should. Be.

…If Cameron Mackintosh, is willing to back that and put it on celluloid for all of time, to the extent of allowing his actors to do their work LIVE and in the moment…if HE is willing to say, “pretty ain’t the purpose, people…what you FEEL is”…then I gotta greet that man with a whole slew of virtual high fives and “fuck yeahs!”

Ripping an audience out of an emotional moment in order to deliver note-for-note perfection, should not be how we do things in theatre performance, people. Lets leave “pre-recording” in the studio, where it belongs. Lets leave that to the Opera, where the entire PERFORMANCE is based around the music itself.

…”Musical Theatre” is another animal entirely…and it should be…that’s why it has a different name.

…The importance should be on the characters and their journeys. Sometimes, yes, it is just based on a strawberry-shortcake kind of plot with hearts and roses and not much else. So sure, that’s not gonna be the greatest acting challenge…and the musical intent will pretty much follow suit and take the lead.

…But when you have a guts and glory kind of musical…where people are in WARS, they are HOMELESS, they are STARVING, they’ve been BEATEN, and TERRORIZED…they live in a form of HELL and are AT THE END OF THEIR ROPE…PLEASE don’t stop everything and sing your soliloquy like your million dollar musical training coach has reamed into you, with note-by-note perfection. I wanna FEEL what you are FEELING right now…I don’t give a SHIT if your voice rasps with anger, or cracks from emotion…I don’t CARE if you run out of air and can’t hold the note for the full extended 26 measures. If your sobs make you drool, if you can’t even barely squeak out in SPOKEN WORD, what we already know are specific notes, painstakingly composed by one musical genius or another.

…That is okay by me.

In fact, I PREFER it.

BRING ME WITH YOU ON YOUR JOURNEY. The whole messy, painful, heartsick part of it. And leave those “musical perfections” for another day.

…What Annie Hathaway said in that interview is IT, entirely. As a performer, you should have a responsibility to service the role as it was written…and it is meant to be played. It is a disservice to throw that all out the window for vanity’s sake because it might not be the most beautiful thing to witness…and might not be the best version that you are musically capable of truly achieving. As an actor, you should be willing to make this sacrifice, equal to smearing dirt on your face, shearing your hair off, and losing 20 pounds, in order to achieve it. Or get the hell off the stage.

…If you can’t deal with these necessary details of live performance, get yourself a recording contract, and become the next concert-touring super star. Own it! I will prob’ly even buy your record and love the HELL out of it! Seriously. Because that is art TOO, and I envy and appreciate the HELL out of it. Within it’s own world of existence.

…But if you are in this thing called “theatre”…with all your GUTS, then BE IN IT. Please. Please. Please.

And, “Thank you.”

…Because, believe it or not…there are a LOT of performers out there who actually do this, and do it astonishingly well.

As for the rest, I can only hope they will become utterly infected by this film, and bring a renewed energy into the entire genre of performance, making it a new universal “norm.”

…God, I am just so exited about it all, I could just sob with relief. Really.

Thank you, Mr. Mackintosh.

Again.

…For like the forty-billionth time this decade.

~D

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One Response to “Miserable Joy”

  1. Debbie Armstrong September 21, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Can I get an AMEN?

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