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.


Rebekah said...

Great synopsis, Catie! I must admit, having only heard the soundtrack myself, that I was of the same opinion as you... only more so. The first time I listened to it all the way through I couldn't help but be a tad unimpressed. However, The Riddle grew on me. Except that bit about selling their souls away. Why must they insert one not-good thing into every song?

I'm looking forward to your post on Storybook. I read the lyrics and decided not to listen to it.

Caroline L. said...

I really MUST find a recording for this musical. I've put off listening to it for far too long!