Friday, August 7, 2015

Q Attack, Round 17 - Are Stage Productions Better than Movies?
Tiger and Rabbit have just returned from Seattle, Washington where they witnessed a Broadway show live and in person. The pair watched the production of Wicked at the Paramount Theater and were treated to the spectacle that is theatre. Tiger and Rabbit enjoy going to the theatre but not to the movies, so this got them thinking, are stage productions better than movies? Tune in to find out.


Rabbit: I’m gonna be popular.

Tiger: No good deed goes unpunished.

Rabbit: But I’m gonna defy gravity!

Tiger: Are you going to talk in lyrics this whole time?

Rabbit: Why not? It’d be a fun challenge.

Tiger: As I’m sure you can tell; Rabbit really enjoyed Wicked in Seattle.

Rabbit: It was spectacular! I had loads of fun.

Tiger: *sighs* Eh, it was okay.

Rabbit: There’s just no pleasing you, is there?

Tiger: I like the older style musicals, the modern ones feel like they’re just pop singers in costume.

Rabbit: I see your point but before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk about what we’re talking about!

Tiger: I’ll let you take this one.

Rabbit: ^rubs hands together^ Muhaha! We were in Seattle, Washington over the weekend to see Wicked, the traveling Broadway show, at the Paramount Theater. Wicked is a musical that tells the story of Elphaba and how she became the Wicked Witch of the West. It follows her during her years at Shiz University where she meets Galinda who eventually becomes Glinda the Good.

Tiger: It’s based off of the novel of the same title by Gregory Maguire. The adaption was done by Winnie Holzman and directed by Joe Mantello with the music and lyrics created by Stephen Schwartz.

Rabbit: I thought you liked Schwartz’s work?

Tiger: The only works I really enjoyed from him were collaborations. He did compose the music and lyrics for The Prince of Egypt which weren’t bad. I know Pippin did great; I’m just not a fan of his overall style. It’s not bad, just not my thing.

Rabbit: I thought the music in The Hunchback of Notre Dame was great but you’re right, that was in partnership with Alan Menken. I have to say I love Menken, but I really enjoyed Schwartz’s work on Wicked too.

Tiger: They had a really talented cast, it wasn’t the original but they were very good.

Rabbit: The original cast of Wicked had Idina Menzel as Elphaba and Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda but this one featured Alyssa Fox and Carrie St. Louis in those roles.

Tiger: Admittedly, the 10 year-old girl inside of me was excited to see Ashley Parker Angel as Fiyero.

Rabbit: ^grins^ Who is that and how do you know of him, exactly?

Tiger: *blushes* I’m not answering that. Anyway, it was a very good show, while it’s no Phantom or Company; it was something that I could recommend for people to go see.

Rabbit: The costumes were really impressive and while it felt like the Paramount’s stage was small compared to others I’ve seen, they utilized it well.

Tiger: The set was impressive too, the moving dragon mounted at the top of the stage and the lighting really made the show. The set changes were clever too; I loved the clock motif throughout. I wonder what they used to keep Fox that green, that must be a nightmare to put on.

Rabbit: I felt bad for her because she didn’t get to wear the really cool costumes like Glinda did.

Tiger: Yeah, I had a lot of fun.

Rabbit: More fun than you would like to admit. I know you bought the CD, see’mon, just admit that you liked the music.

Tiger: I got the CD because it came with the program that I wanted. I will admit that Popular is a catchy song; I’ve had it stuck in my head since we got back.

Rabbit: I’ve seen a few clips from the Menzel and Chenoweth version and I have to say that St. Louis did a better job as Glinda in my opinion. She definitely has a better set of pipes.

Tiger: I like Chenoweth but she’s a typecast actor in my books. So yes, I can agree with you there, St. Louis can straight up sing. Fox also did a great job. Now, Menzel is extremely talented and has a very specific sound to her, which Fox sounds similar, but I thought that Fox did well with making the character her own. I’ve listened to the original cast recording and there’s not much of a drop off between Menzel and Fox, which I was really impressed with.

Rabbit: So here’s the thing. We don’t ever go to the movies yet we go to the theatre and symphony whenever we get the chance.

Tiger: Yes, we do.

Rabbit: Why is that?

Tiger: *scratches head* Because the theatre and the symphony are worth the stress of attending where movies aren’t?

Rabbit: Yes, I guess.

Tiger: That’s not seriously our topic for today, is it?
Rabbit: No, I wondered if you thought the theatre was better than movies.

Tiger: That is a tough one, it’s kind of like comparing apples to horses, there’s just no comparison. If I had to choose though, I think you can do more with movies than you can with stage productions. While I love the theatre, I think there are limitations especially with the modern audience in mind, that are very hard to overcome. I can’t imagine seeing a superhero on the stage without the special effects and action.

Rabbit: There was a Spider-Man musical.

Tiger: Which bombed, badly. There’s also a pacing issue, movies generally play out really well but with musicals or plays, they often feel disjointed. Take Wicked, the majority of the work was in the first act then the second act felt strangely condensed in some places and unnecessarily elongated towards the end. That’s the biggest knock I have for the show, the second act was not as good as the first. Movies don’t have an intermission to deal with, set or stage limitations, nor do they have to contend with using limited special effects. Plus, if you mess up in a movie, they can always re-film it. The theatre, you can’t do that. I also think the theatre can be one dimensional in a way since you are always viewing it from the same point, from out in the audience. With movies, we can have different angles or close-up shots; it adds another element to the storytelling when you can utilize the camera to help facilitate the story.

Rabbit: You are so wrong that I don’t even know who you are anymore.

Tiger: *shocked face* What? You can’t blame me, I’m a symphony person. I prefer to listen more than to watch.

Rabbit: ^puts hands up^ I’m not going to even talk to you anymore. Ignore what Tiger just said because that is complete bullpucky. Stage productions are ten times, no a million times better than movies and here’s why. With the theatre, the audience is a part of the production, and oftentimes even acknowledged to some degree. Everything on stage is also real, from the people to the props and sets; there’s no CGI. That element right there brings the entire experience to life. So what that you have to use a little bit of imagination to turn a mirror and some lights into a magic portal; that’s the fun of theatre. You get to see a dark and plain stage suddenly transform into the Emerald City or a Parisian opera house. And special effects? The theatre has special effects too, live ones with lots of working parts. Just look at the set changes or the flying monkeys in Wicked; the dragon was also awesome. Stage productions aren’t one dimensional either, if you think that, you weren’t paying attention. There are layers to these shows that make you really pay attention to what is happening on stage. There’s no pause or rewind, so you better be watching or you could miss subtle nuances. Pacing is also different but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. I love having an intermission because they always build up the tension before leaving you with 15 minutes to examine what just happened and think about what will come next. Wicked’s second act was a bit condensed but it created a sense of not only movement in time, because we did jump a few years ahead, but also a sense of nervousness with what was going on in the plot.

Tiger: Are you done?

Rabbit: No, I’m not. There is an experience when going to the theatre that is nothing like going to the movies. In a movie theater, you just sit there and stare at a screen. The movie has already happened; it’s done and finished with you passively watching it. Stage productions on the other hand, they are actively unfolding before your very eyes. It’s something that you witness happening in the present, and there’s a connection that forms between the audience and the actors on stage. It’s a place where the performers have to be perfect every night, they come to not only work but to play and you can see it in their performances. They transform into those characters, I’m not saying movie actors don’t either but with the theatre, you know that everyone does that. I don’t always get transported to a new place when I watch a movie, but with the theatre; every single time I feel like I’ve been taken somewhere completely new and different. I will take a stage production over a movie any day of the week.

Are Stage Productions Better than Movies?

Tiger     vs     Rabbit

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