Weeks 44 & 45: A Star is Born, New Stages
This month it's out with the old and in with the new, or a successful marriage of both. We saw many, many stars be born from Janet Gaynor all the way to Lady Gaga (trip to Vegas, anyone?). Then, we dove into a variety of works of characters either at a crossroads or new adventure in their life. There's nothing more riveting than watching a bunch of busy bodies working hard to overcome new sets of challenges.
Let's get to it!
A first A Star is Born, but certainly not the last. The original holds up despite being the only non-musical version of the story. Janet Gaynor has true star quality and charisma with sparks inevitably flying when she's paired with Fredric March. This story kicks us off in spouting many tales of two star crossed lovers where a good girl and a bad boy can only lead to tragedy. Step aside, Romeo and Juliet. The adults are no stranger to heartbreak either.
Watching "The Man That Got Away" never felt so good. Judy Garland grants us with a mesmerizing performance that the kids should be studying in their history classes. She epitomizes the girl next door
who's plucked out of nowhere and shoots into success like the rocket she is, and was always destined to be. Her irresistible talents are equally matched by her Norman Maine, James Mason. Mason gives Michael York from Cabaret a run for his money with his bravado and braggart, yet somehow suave mannerisms. The two make a winning combo and it feels like even more of a cheat that we don't get to see them exchange their talents on screen as much as they do behind them.
Three times isn't always the charm. The third incarnation of A Star is Born gives us rock n'roll, but less of the soul that made it so memorable. Barbara Streisand initially seems too good to be a pushover to Kris Kristofferson's John Norman Howard. Their flirting is appealing, but the more she endures and stands by Howard, the more it fades. Kristofferson provides a notable performance, but it's hard to put up with his rockstar antics especially when he puts himself, Esther, and crowds of fans in danger. There are some nice touches like Streisand supplying her own wardrobe and Howard making some grand gestures, but most of it is filled with lows instead of providing a nice balance of ups and downs.
Lady Gaga captured our diamond hearts not once, but twice. You cannot take your eyes off of her in A Star is Born, at times capturing the ghost of Garland, the underdog nature of Gaynor, and the gusto of Streisand. But it's merely a glimpse of what she's capable of as a performer. Seeing her live was next level and a journey worth binging many A Star is Borns and years waiting for. She is unapologetically authentic and getting to be in the presence of that for a couple hours was riveting. She's accomplished so much in entertainment, activism, and fashion, that even if you're not a fan, it's impossible to overstate her trailblazing path in transforming several industries.
If looks could kill...we all know Gaga is no stranger to slaying and creating some monsters. American Horror Story: Hotel definitely gets an upgrade from her masquerading as a bloodthirsty Countless and seductress over all living creatures. In terms of AHS standards, it feels like none will ever quite capture the status of its original. While its anthology conceit is appealing, a surplus isn't always a blessing. Thank goodness for Netflix where a couple of so-so episodes makes time and investment go by faster.
You'll be in even more danger if you missed our last recap. Listen to Whoopi and give our last one a read.
Stars continue to be born around here. When your name is in the title of the show, standards are high and The Mary Tyler Moore Show certainly delivers. I haven't felt so settled in and immediately comforted by a show in awhile. I was charmed by the perseverance of Mary, the humor of Rhoda, and the chatter of Phyllis. When not throwing on
The Golden Girls or Gilmore Girls for the nth time, this is a nice throwback when you need to kick back.
Putting the new in New Stages, the Goodman Theatre always ensures a stellar lineup of voices in their annual festival.
Providing free tickets and encouraging audience feedback in these processes, many new works are able to grow and flourish in this space. It's also a great way to learn about promising playwrights and works they have in development. We were treated to Dave Harris' Incendiary, a piece we're still grappling with the complexity of today. Keep an eye out for him and hopefully we'll see one of his plays around here soon.
Work it, girl. Working Girl holds up as a classic for good reason. Instead of a man, Melanie Griffith fights her way to the top of something prestigious to do with stocks and numbers. Harrison Ford is just a yummy addition, yet not the main attraction. Griffith glows in this film where female mentors are not always the heroes we make them out to be, BFFs always have our best interests, and we have to believe in ourselves otherwise no one else will. It's funny, sentimental, and ultimately a great power struggle to watch unfold.
It's sad to think of Viola Davis no longer gracing our screens every week. How to Get Away with Murder, similar to its sibling Shonda show, Scandal, has a mostly positive, yet sometimes muddy legacy. Its lovable ensemble has really grown over the years and while some of its storylines have been hit or miss, I mostly look back on it fondly. I'll miss getting to see these actors gathered and constantly on the brink of going to jail, or coming close to a sad, untimely death. For the show to be led by Viola Davis always guaranteed a moment or monologue that would make a tough episode (or season) worthwhile.
From one Shonda Rhimes queen to another, Kerry Washington is going through it. In American Son, a Netflix adaptation from the Broadway play, Washington plays a mother waiting for news on her son's whereabouts when he doesn't come home the night before. While it should be about that, Washington's role gets upstaged by all the men that attempt to control and scold her on her womanhood and race. It's an intentionally uncomfortable watch, but at points feels unbearable. What could have been a nuanced, relevant story on young, black men being targeted by the police instead boils down to a tale about a dying marriage and mansplaining.
Whatever you do, Stay on the Line. The Martin carves out an intimate, one of a kind experience where only one audience member can partake at a time. Assigned a couple random storylines, you can be sent to heaven, hell, or even purgatory depending where your cards land. I truly enjoyed the level of commitment and precision the team exhibited. I willingly had to examine myself, values, and the world that existed outside of
their carefully enclosed walls. And I wouldn't have had to have done so elsewhere (aside from if I had booked a therapy
Sugar in Our Wounds never stung so sweet. First Floor Theater's show captures the sensation of being bittersweet. Experience the stirrings of new love and an expanding family in this play that has as much heartburn as it does heart.
This Bloody Bathory gave us something to talk about. The Barren Theatre Co.'s brought their A game when it comes to horror and immersive experiences. Check out our latest review roundup that divulges almost all the juicy details!
Give a star a chance to rise!