Thursday, September 26, 2013

This is Where You Yell in French, or, "Storybook"

Warning: the following post contains a serious amount of what I call philosophical silliness, which is trying to discern too much meaning from something the culture produces. I do this a lot--kind of like those medieval theologians who go crazy with analogies, only I'm not as smart. Also, the original context for this song is not nice (nice: refined, lovely). If you're fine with PotO, you're probably okay with this (okay as in your filter levels are adequate to handle this). If not, ask your parents. :D How's that for a disclaimer?    All right. Onward, ho!

Like "Vivez!" when I first heard this song, I liked it very much. I recall a dear friend, upon listening for the first time, sighing, "I know exactly how she feels!"  She was joking, of course, but perhaps with a grain of truth.  Those of us who read too many novels (especially about dashing Englishmen who are alter-ego heroes), tend to find ourselves "Flying, sighing, 'where, where, where is my storybook ending?'"  (C'mon, you know you like that line, even if you hate the rest of the song). In other words, we sometimes find ourselves falling prey to escapism, that is, desperately wishing we lived in another time, another world, or just another place. This is hardly healthy--and I think that this is what this song is about. 
Unfortunately, my initial positive impression of this song was marred when I read the plot of the musical--in this scene, Marguerite has tossed aside her trust in the Scarlet Pimpernel (this seems to run in the family!) and gone to Paris to try to save Armand. She sings this song in a not-so-nice venue, dressed as a not-so-nice 'lady' (thinking Les Mis song title kind of 'lady,' here), trying to get information from a bunch of soldiers about her brother.
I know, I know. Ridiculous. This scene renders Marguerite as unlikeable as Armand-from-the-movie. 
Once I realised this, I started subconsciously redefining 'love' as it would be taken under the context (hardly Platonic, shall we say), and that kind of ruined the song.  I tell you, English needs about ten more words than it has for 'love.' And French is even worse!
However, I recently discovered that in the new versions of the show, this is one of the first numbers--Marguerite St. Just is singing it onstage in her play. Now, I'm not saying that all plays are lovely--see the scene above--but somehow the oh-so-elegant white poofy gowns (they must be white and poofy!) and the pretty set--the completely different context--seem to imply a different meaning to the word love.
of course, I imagined something a bit more like this...
than that ^

 Of course, this might apply: 
     “It is wonderful how Virtue turns from dirty stockings; and how Vice, married to ribbons and a little gay attire, changes her name, as wedded ladies do, and becomes Romance." ---From Charles Dickens' Preface to Oliver Twist, printed in 1841
...but I don't think it does, here. Context is important. 
Thus, if the singer is acting inappropriately, the song is interpreted differently. On the other hand, if the singer is just (just, St. Just, get it? ouch) trying to bring herself back into the real world, then I think it's fine. Some of the lines are still a bit uncomfortable, though.

On the fourth hand (I'm starting to look like some Asian 'deity' with all these arms), I showed these lyrics to my mother and asked her what she thought they meant. Her answer was a grimace and, "Nothing. They're just nonsense. But I bet  it has a pretty tune, and that's why it's in there." 
She's right--the tune is very pretty, indeed. I like the music on the earlier version best, but the new one with the harp is pretty, if it's not too slow.   
Listen to me, I have beautiful dreams I can spin you,
Dreams to linger within you
Close your eyes and we'll ride my carousel
(I love how she introduces it--makes it almost like a frame narrative)
I'll sing you stories of lovers whose love used to fill me
(or, she's going to tell us about her favorite literary couples)
For the lovers who will be
For, you see, love is one thing I do well
(I don't know what exactly this is supposed to mean, so I usually change it to 'one thing I know well," which reminds me of Don Quixote reading all those romances and then going crazy)Come, let's believe love can be just as sweet as it seems
Let's live on dreams!

In my dreams, such beautiful lovers have found me
Storybook lovers surround me
Nothing is real, but I'm flying, sighing
Where, where, where is my storybook ending?
Why does my golden pretending
Leave me with nothing to hold but my dreams? 
(this is probably my favourite verse--sort of a, "You mean Mr. Darcy isn't real?! What?!" moment--only it's not fair because she's married to Sir Percy...)

Oh, is it only in dreams that we find our ideal love?
Are there lovers with real love?
If you know how to feel love, show me how
Ah, but my prince, if you can't be as sweet as you seem
I'd rather dream
(this last line is, I think, the funniest)
Come and wake me!
Come be the love I can hold now
Storybook love leaves me cold now
Show me the way to stop dreaming
There is only one perfect storybook ending
That is the end of pretending
That is the moment I say, love me now! 
(this verse shows her wanting to escape her escapism, which is admirable. I just wish it were a bit more general than just romantic love)

And this is where you yell in French...

Et sur mon manege, l'amour toujours est chantant
De mes reves, c'est le commencement
Et j'espere une fin heureuse
Mais la fin de l'histoire ne vient pas tres doucement
Pour l'histoire, il faut faire semblant
Certes je n'embrasse que mes reves
Seuls mes reves!
(If you, like me, can't pronounce the words, just think of all the French words you do know, and arrange them to fit the meter. Then, yell them loudly with a French accent. An attempt might look something like this:
Bonjour, um, la chat, um, une deux trois...
Les poissons, au revoir la la la
um, les miserables, Enjolras, Gavroche...
um, Thenadier sounds French, um, une deux trois again, 
Chauvelin is...evil..umm...
les poissons...les poissons... get the idea)
Overall, I can't help liking this song. Unfortunately, it is yet another thing that I have to like with a disclaimer (I have a very extensive list of those). I don't think it's worse than "Music of the Night," when interpreted at its worst, and it's probably better philosophically than "Vivez!" 
Plus, it's fun to yell in French.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Scarlet Pimpernel: The Story & the Songs, or the Really Really Long Post

~DISCLAIMER: until about a year ago I was under the delusion that all musicals were lovely, innocent, lighthearted, and generally child-friendly. Then I met Les Mis.If you have been in this happy, blissful state, I hate to break it to you, but most musicals are just like movies--some are happy, lovely stories, and others are dark, creepy, violent, or just inappropriate.
Yet Another Period Drama Blog
and Eponine adds, "You got that right."
Most fall somewhere in the middle, and TSP is one of these. I have never seen the entire musical, but I understand that there might be one or two scenes that are not Mary Poppinsish, that is to say, nice, in addition to a few words here and there that would have earned Bert a smack from the practically perfect nanny's umbrella. END OF DISCLAIMER~

All right. Now that the warnings are over, I think a brief plot summary is in order (based on the songs, on which my personal opinions will be following). I will mostly be working from the OBC album, with occasional references to the later versions. Here is someone else's much better synopsis that I am using because I am lazy.
Act I:
Overture: Time for everyone to sit down and get excited. Luckily, rather short and epic*.

Madame Guillotine: The (French) people are singing the song of angry men while they cut off aristos' heads. The Marquis de St. Cyr is not thrilled about this.**This number is very..effective. For some reason, everyone loves it--including myself--even though it's about, um, decapitation. As I said, it gets the point across.
DA...da da da da da...He's there, the phantom of the...guillotine...Wait, wrong musical.

Believe: Not the dumbest song on earth. It's so beautiful to listen to. I think I would like it better if it were in another language, so I wouldn't understand the (rather ridiculous) words. I mean, seriously, As waves lean on the sea/ My love, come lean on me?? I went to the beach last week and didn't see any waves leaning on the sea--and I looked very carefully. Crashing, yes, leaning, no. Well, the music's pretty!

Vivez!: I love the tune of this song. The words are very...ah, Romantic and French. Not happy-starry-eyed-sigh romantic, but like, well, the Romantics.

Prayer: It took me forever to listen to this song. It's hardly fast-paced. I think it works well in the setting, but *ahem* there's that little issue with the plot.

Into the Fire: Also know as The Percy Awesomeness Song. The best of the bunch.

Falcon in the Dive: this is my favourite of Chauvelin's (two)songs--except for That Word. I wouldn't put it past him, but was that really necessary? This song makes Chauvelin seem like Javert, only meaner. Apart from the fact that the whole falcon simile is cool, I like the tongue-twisters in the beginning and in the last verse...

When I Look at You: All right. I know it's sappy, but I love this song (apart from the warbling). It has pretty words, and expresses Marguerite's position pretty well.

The Scarlet Pimpernel: Oh dear. When I first heard this song, I couldn't make out half the lyrics, and thought it sounded funny. I made the mistake of listening too closely. Four letters--D-U-M-B.

Where's the Girl?: I call it the "Music of the Night Wannabe." 'Nuf said. Fun fact: the beginning of the line and I know she remembers how fearless she feels... sounds just like  and I know if I'll only be true to this glorious quest... from "The Impossible Dream." Have fun throwing M. Chambertin's romantic attempt awry by loudly changing songs at this point.

When I Look at You (Reprise): This song is titled "The Saddest Song Ever." I enjoyed letting forth pathetic-sounding romantic sobs during this song, until I discovered that if one stretches the old vocal cords one can sing along an octave higher, making it a duet!

The Creation of Man: This song is hilarious. If you're out to make a splash, cheri, do know your haberdashery! Brilliant! The words are ridiculous, but they're supposed to be. I call it "The Dandy Song"  Although later versions have That Coat in them...but we don't talk about those.

The Riddle: Reminiscent of "The Waltz of Treachery." Like Madame Guillotine, very effective. Am I the only one who thinks of Christine Daae on feel the terror draw ever nearer/the more you stare in the mirror ?

Act II

They Seek Him Here: I'm glad to have a tune for The Poem. The other verses, I could do without (and is it just me or is future George IV too intelligent in the musical, making up all those rhymes? whatever happened to, "as it were crystal dear"?).

Only Love: I hate to say it, but I very firmly feel this song is not an asset to the musical.  But I'd like to say a word on its behalf--"Only Love" makes me laugh. Not really. But between the weird melody and the, um, lyrics, I was glad to hear that this song was cut from the show. Sorry, Lainey. That doesn't keep me from warbling it in the shower, though.

She Was There: This is another song that took me a while to listen to all the way through. I'm glad I did, though, because it's really sweet.

Storybook: I have mixed feelings about this song. I'll probably do a post on it later this week.

Where's the Girl Reprise: Aka, "I See your True Colors Shining Through/and That's Why I Hate You so Now I'm Gonna Get You Executed...and Your Little Brother, Too." I believe that title may be longer than the actual song...

Lullabye: short, sad and sweet.

You Are My Home: Oh boy. First off, I can't stand Armand, so having him played by whoever that nasally guy was did not help. Second, there is no scene with Margot and Armand in prison inside that little paper thing over there that they call the book. The lyrics are not the most profound in the world. I do like, I will not walk away from you/I will not let you go... because I always yell to the singer (most often Lainey), "Sing like an ANGRY Frenchwoman!" I'm very easily amused.

Believe Reprise: Cute. More leaning waves. I imagine Percy and Margot passed out after holding that ridiculously long note. I doooooooooooo beliiiiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeeeeve iiiiiinnnn yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooouuuuu.... you get the point.

Into the Fire Reprise: Since the lead couple has passed out, the League and the Leaguettes lead us in a lovely reprise of the Percy Awesomeness Song. Percy recovers enough breath at the last second to sing:
Into Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeee...

...and all the Leaguettes smile and sing Onward, ho! before sighing happily and trying to revive poor Douglas Sills, who has fainted again. "What did 'e die of? Shortage o' bref?"

Overall a lovely listening experience.
 And, by the way, which do you think is the better Percy?
or this...
Calm down, calm down. I'm just joking.

 *see my earlier definition of this word. This week I shall use this word quite a bit, to mean rousing, exciting, or even just loud. Odysseus-like, not so much.
**I will also use quite a bit of litote and understatement this week. You have been warned.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Celebrate Musicals Week: Tag

I'm not sure how well I'll do on posting, as I'm pretty busy, but here goes nothin'.

Yet Another Period Drama Blog
Yet Another Period Drama Blog

1.  What musical did you pick to "spotlight" this week and why?
I finally, after running through the numerous (5) musicals that I am well acquainted with, I decided...that is, I have almost made up my do 
The Scarlet Pimpernel
...mainly because Jess already took Oliver! and everyone is doing Les Mis. And I hardly know anything about Mary Poppins (as far as the play/songs/other casts go--on the movie I am quite the established authority). I just recently discovered this musical, and am quite ready to dissect it--and here was a chance to do so where others might get something out of it (?). 

2.  How did you discover the musical you picked (hereinafter referred to as "your musical")?
I read the book. And watched the one and only TSP '82.

And saw there was a musical. Keeping in mind that Mom can't stand Phantom and was tired of Les Mis, I thought it was time for some variety. Actually, I think it was the Song of Percy's Awesomeness that did it.
3.  If you had to pick three favorite songs from your musical, which ones would they be?
oooh, the hard one.
 "Into the Fire" is certainly my favourite (nice British u there) .
  "When I Look at You" ties with "The Riddle" for second place, and
"She Was There," and "Storybook" compete for third. 
"Madame Guillotine" is, shall we say, effective.
4.  What's your least favorite song from your musical?
Probably, oddly enough, "The Scarlet Pimpernel" for its general stupidity, but "Where's the Girl?" isn't lovely, either. I hate the portrayal of vice as being attractive and 'wordly,' but more on that later. Probably quite a bit more on that. "You are My Home," isn't the most intellectual song out there, either. 
5.  Who are your favorite characters (choose up to three)?
Well, Percy, Percy, and Percy, right? 
Oh. three different characters. Percy, Marguerite, and, um, not Chauvelin. 
Third try: Percy, Marguerite, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. There we go.
6.  Which versions of your musical have you seen/listened to, and which is your favorite?
I have never seen the entire musical, any version. I own the original Broadway cast recording; this is what I listen to. I've heard Rachel York's "Storybook" and the 'other Chauvelin's' "Falcon in the Dive." Of all the professional recordings I think the original Broadway cast's is my favourite; the VHS performance, or the snippets on Youtube, anyway, look great. Chauvelin is AMAZING.  This performance looks great (especially Marguerite) but I can't take the bad audio for more than a few minutes at a time. 
7.   Is this your favorite musical of all time?  If not, what is?
No--I love Les Mis. And Bach's St. Matthew Passion is kind of like a musical, isn't it?
8.   Which cast album/musical soundtrack in your collection do you listen to the most?
I listen to my siblings and friends hum it--our own special edition. Apart from that, the Original Broadway cast recording. 
9.   What is your favorite costume from your musical?
Oh, the costumes. I haven't seen many costumes from the musical itself, but I love, love, love Georgian costumes--even though, technically they should be early Regency costumes. And I hate, hate, hate Percy's Tiger-stripe tailcoat. The end.
I hate this coat.
Ugh. there's That Coat again.
10.  If you could change anything about your musical, what would you change?
(I am speaking of the storyline described in the album I own, not the newer version of the show)
That ridiculous Coat from "the Creation of Man." Come to think of it, I would cut/rearrange several songs, change the plot to be more like the book, and rewrite the entire script. Oh wait. I did (more on that later). 
11.  Which role(s) would you most like to play in any musical, if you had the opportunity to do so on stage?
oh boy. Eponine, obviously. I like what Miss Dashwood says, "Her songs are all within a comfortable mezzo range (no struggling with super-high notes),  she has one of the best solos in the history of theatre...she gets to die onstage and sing a heartbreaking duet while doing so, and she doesn't have to kiss anybody.  Wins all around."
Marguerite would be fun (obviously), depending on the version of the play (again, no super-high notes, if "Only Love" were cut(yes, Jessie, that does count as a high note). 
Unfortunately, in our impromptu plays I always wind up playing Sir Percy. And Jean Valjean. Oh well.
Me starring as Jean Valjean in a stirring rendition of "One Day More," although now it looks more like "Masquerade"

12.  If you could choose one performer to play any part in your musical, who would you choose and which part would you have him/her play? hmm. I love Marguerite from the Album I Own, but she's kind of warbley. I'm trying to think of someone who would be a great Marguerite but can't think of anyone professional
Best friends don't count, even if they are making lovely faces.

13.  Do you consider yourself a musical theatre fan in general or do you just like a few musicals?

Theatre is an art form, like any other, only more epic*.  It's dangerous/effective because it allows so much portrayal of emotion through randomly bursting into song (which is what makes it epic). Any further and we'll run into a Deep Thoughts post, which I don't have time for. I love the art form, and I love a few musicals. I just don't like musicals in general (if that makes any sense). I don't dislike musicals in general, though. :)
14.  Are you tired of the word "musical" yet?
um, to tell the sheepish truth, almost.
15.  Turn your music playing device on shuffle (or utilize Pandora if you don't have one) and tell us the names of the first three show tunes that come up-- no cheating!  How do these rank on your favorites/most-listened-to list?
"The Scarlet Pimpernel," Ironically enough. 
"I See the Light," which I'm not sure counts, but Jackie Evancho's rendition is sweet,
"Believe" which does not have the dumbest lyrics in the world (I keep telling myself this), from TSP, not The Polar Express.
The first song from the American Girl Revue also came on, but... 

*epic in the popular, almost meaningless sense of the word. Virgil, Dante, and Milton are really epic. Now, a musical of The Odyssey would be an epic epic.