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February 15, 2007


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Patrick J. Mullins

Is that me? I saw 'the Apple Tree' yesterday, first really good B'way musical I've seen since Ann Reinking's revelation of Fosse leg-technique in 'Chicago' in 1978, so now I have something to offer, although it's not very controversial--but not parasitical either if nobody else has seen it. Kristin Chenoweth is the first Broadway star in the old sense I've seen in decades, and potentially should be far more thrilling that Bernadette Peters's 'preciosity' over the next few years. I expected cutesey stuff from this 4'11'' barrel of dynamite (as 'baby june' in 'gypsy' was described), but the voice is on the level of only maybe 4 or 5 American-musical ladies--Streisand, Merman, Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Shirley Jones in the movies--and it was just thriling to hear it. It was snowing and cold and I had not been so depressed in 17-18 years, and by the end of it, I had been to what was far more effective than those horrible revival meeting of childhood.

I had seen Chenoweth in concert, this very hokey thing, in 2002, but not thought about her much since then. also she and ex-bf Joshua Bell did something in the Park honouring Leonard Bernstein, in which her 'Glitter and Be Gay' was up there in most ways with Barbara Cook's original; then there was a TV version of 'The Music Man', but I didn't fool with that because TV musicals always have ugly sets, I don't know why (just remember the way Bette Midlers' 'Gypsy' looked, what I don't get is why they make TV sets look fake instead of like movie sets. The Sopranos was helped by more natural sets, but that's all the TV I've watched for 9 years, and it was on VHS copies.)

Anyway, she is the most sophisticated, naive, sexy, outrageous, contagious, beautiful, ordinary, exceptional, energetic thing I've seen completely take over a Broadway theater for more than 25 years--I didn't think such a think was possible. After all, all the cabaret stars are late middle-aged or beyond and so are their audiences. But the quality of her voice is definitely suited for some opera, and all light opera, of which she's done some. It's fantastic when someone comes along in a Dark Age of some form and lights everything up.

Hollywood stars are not at all what they used to be either, but it the crisis is nothing compared to what has happened on Broadway. Chenoweth is the only one now in a position to open up one B'way show after another. There are still Lupone, Audra McDonald, and Rebecca Luker, but none quite have the power of this phenomenon.

I felt literally privileged to be there on Valentine's Day, when I seemed to have lost my own love, when it was snowing and uncomfortable, and to not arrive in the theater with one of those dread fliers announcing the understudy. 'The Apple Tree' is by Bock/Harnick who wrote 'Fiddler on the Roof', and goes back to 1967, when it made Barbara Harris a big star for awhile. But Ms. Chenoweth has a voice that is one in a million, and with no pedantry at all, there was not even the slightest single note not precisely on pitch. It's a limited run for only 3 more weeks, and I only got to see it because they sent discounted ad codes through the mail.

Oh well, I guess I think this is just as serious as academic work. If anything, I am sure I think it is more so, even if it appears not to be. There are all sorts of hideous personalities in the Naked City, and i may possess one of 8 million.


Patrick--should the pic with this post now be my visual image of you?

Anyway, of course I didn't have you in mind when I wrote all this nasty stuff. I have someone in mind who is not a denizen of the blogosphere.

I had no idea KC was such an amazing singer. Sounds like you had a perfect VD.

Patrick J. Mullins

Yes, it was pretty great. And the most important thing was that there was this NYTMagazine story about Stephen Sondheim by Frank Rich about 2000, I think, in which he said there was no such thing as a 'broadway star' anymore, and I knew exactly what he meant--but he said 'Bernadette is probably the closest to it that we still have.' [nevermind that he'd used her a good bit, this was depressing and, even though she's good up to a point, to me it meant there were none at all.]

This is my first time to think of Valentine's Day and Venereal Disease as the same thing, although it must be a very old connection, initials and such. but oh yes! I think gradually as I finally even began to laugh in the final story within this show, when Passionella started getting tired of being a fatuous movie star and 'wanted serious parts', that my Venereal Disease (I think mental, but I'll wait till my next check-up to verify) modulated so smoothly into my Valentine's Day.

Well, that pic could be my Inner Little Eloise, of course, but it probably resembles Ms. Chenoweth a little more when she's out on the street. I saw her down in my neighbourhood a few weeks back with an--iPod!!--you know, one of those things that give both you and your Valentine's Day interest all sorts of trouble, whether with mall personnel or South American alley workers...

re: Ms. Chenowith, I don't think that, even with her biological sport of a voice, that she comes across fully in anything but a musical show--the CPark think I saw on TV, and the concert was with Garrison Keillor--and for this, I hope she has the power alone to rejuvenate a whole bunch of shows, because nobody, but nobody, has been doing this, and I think she's got the energy to do it if she's not seduced by $$$$$$of TV and H'wood. I think her tininess is going to not work in those less rarefied precincts, but she really is so charismatic that, even after seeing her in person before, I just expected some more flattened-out doll-like cutiness like you see B'way people mostly do these days. However--she was only in 'Bewitched' because Nicole Kidman went to a performance of 'Wicked' and thought she was so incredible that she wire-pulled and got her cast as her sister in the movie! My hopes are up but possibly not realistic. You don't become a household word by being a B'way star anymore, and the seductions of the other forms may be hard to resist. I hope not.


well, 'serious parts' can be easily affected/infected by VD.

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