Sunday, April 28, 2013

Lion King Awesomeness

So, for days I haven’t had much to write about but this weekend bam, I watched a musical and an opera. So I could write the longest post ever, but I prefer not to, you see I saw The Lion King on Friday night and the Live in HD transmission of Giulio Cesare on Saturday, but Saturday morning I was already up writing the Lion King post but wasn’t able to finish because I had to run to the movie theatre to watch Cesare, so here’s what I wrote yesterday/today.

So I had the most fantastic time. I don’t know if I told this to you guys but I hadn’t been having vocal lessons ever since last year because my teacher is the musical director of the Lion King here in São Paulo and rehearsals took all her time. But the musical has opened and Friday morning was my first lesson back. Now the thing is, here is something about my teacher you guys should know beforehand, she’s freaking awesome. I always say that apart from having to have a really good and intelligent teacher we gotta have a teacher we can fully understand. This might sound a little weird, but sometimes the person is a fantastic professional, but the way they pass their wisdom sounds foggy and confusing to you. This is no one’s fault; everyone has their system and their instrument, all different. But when we are lucky enough to find someone that “speaks the same language” as us, I tell you, it’s magical. That’s why even though it had been months since I’d had a lesson, as soon as we started vocalizing, my voice started going in the right direction, sounding the right way and, before I knew it, I was vocalizing a high E flat without even feeling it (I don’t usually look at the piano to see the notes I’m hitting). It was magical, and my teacher is one of the coolest people I know, apart from being an incredible teacher she’s a wonderful human being.

Well, coincidently I was watching the Lion King that very same day in the evening. So after I left her house I went to college, studied the whole afternoon long and then went to the theatre (that is only about 4 blocks away from my college, yes, I’m surrounded by theatres). I met a friend there from my home town who I was not expecting to see, it was such a coincidence that we bought our tickets on the same day, I mean they are doing 6, 7 performances a week, it was fate. Me and this friend had watched Beauty and the Beast together in that same theatre a couple of years ago, so it was pretty cool.

Me and my surprise friend before the show
All my friends got there and after going across the street to buy some water (the water in the theatre was 5 bucks) we went inside. There was a photo booth where you could take pictures for free, me and my friends made obviously two trips. Big moment coming up, as it is sort of tradition already we bought all our tickets in the front row. But I was pissed because there was row in front of ours! I mean we were row A, there is no letter BEFORE A, well, anyways, my teacher told me they were the best seats in the house, so I was content. After chatting a bit with her and introducing all my 8986 friends to her it was time for some Lion King. I have to confess, I wasn’t expecting to get emotional, but oh God, was I wrong.
me and some of my friends in the photo booth

Even though I went to New York and watched 10 musicals in 10 days I didn’t watch The Lion King, so this was really the first time I saw it. Well, the famous scream from Rafiki opens the show and my two big guy best friends who were sitting beside me started crying. As the song progressed the animals started walking in and you CANT HELP IT, the tears started streaming from my eyes. Then the lights were up on the audience and there were animals walking beside us, at that point I was crying like a baby. It was really so perfect, and since we were so close we could see those flawless costumes up close. The lady leopard WAS a leopard, she was so gracious, and the elephant with his baby elephant holding on to his tail. It was one of the real fantastic moments that you have your mouth hanging opened, tears streaming from your eyes and just a real spectacle in front of you. And then you look at your beloved voice teacher and she’s conducting as if there is no tomorrow. To sum it up, it was awesome.

A picture I took real quick of the curtain
I was ever so impressed by the costumes and the sets and the staging, it was a masterpiece. I had heard that this show is not about the performers, it’s about the music and the sets and costumes, and that couldn’t describe it more accurately. Of course there were our beloved characters Simba, Mufasa, but they live in such a Technicolor world that it also becomes a character, like New York in Sex and the City. After the amazing Circle of Life, we are introduced to Scar, one of my favorite characters in this story. The costume was something out of this world, they look like African clothes with bright color patterns, but then they have a lion wood carved head piece that sort of bends forward in the most exquisite way. What’s nice about this is that they don’t try and make the characters LOOK exactly like animals; they don’t put the actors in a lion costume that zips up in the back. They actually take all sorts of elements from everything you can imagine to create these costumes that are very different but believable.

Ok, I must confess I stopped writing just now because I was listening to Tosca while I wrote and Cavaradosi and Tosca’s duet in the first act came up and I have to watch it, give me 20 minutes. Ok, she left. Good gracious, Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann make such a lovely couple on stage.

Back to Lion King, we see the lionesses hunting and it’s another incredible scene, something that is very clear is that there is a singing ensemble and a dancing ensemble. Normally I would say that people should sing and dance, but the dancing in this is so demanding as well as the vocal lines so it’s quite understandable that some do the dancing and others the singing. Because you really get to have really good singers and really good dancers doing what they do best. The dance of the Lioness Hunt is gorgeous and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do in my early musical theatre years, it has ballet elements, they do perfect
atitude pirouettes, and also modern ballet, it’s quite gorgeous to watch. And the chanting they dance to is fantastic.

Simba wants to take Nala to the forbidden lands and they go after his mother sends them off with Zazu. Now the little boy playing Simba was the cutest thing in the world, he was a fantastic actor and a surprisingly good singer, he easily won the audience. Nala was also quite good; they had the most innocent delicious chemistry on stage, which was lovely to watch. He sang I just can’t wait to be king and it was just such a spectacle, the huge colorful animals, the giraffes that at one point lowered their heads down toward the audience and if I reached out I could have touched them. It was again something very magical.

They get rid of Zazu, who also gave a wonderful performance, very good comedy timing, and arrive at the forbidden part of the land. This was quite surprising, because everything is dark, only Nala and Simba on stage, suddenly the stage starts spinning and you start seeing huge bones that most definitely belonged to an elephant. Then come the hyenas, since the show was all in Portuguese there were some changes in text, the female hyena was kind of like a hyena from the hood. It’s quite interesting with a show like this how it differs from opera, that directors can do whatever they like on stage (within reason, or not) but cannot alter one single lyric or note in opera. In this musical they can’t alter ANYTHING that’s staged, the production exactly looks like the one in NY, and London, and any other place this musical has been produced, but they can alter the text as much as they. It’s curious, hun?

Well, the hyenas sing a super rock and roll song, and I see my teacher conducting with such feel, she loves rock, so I figured she’d have a ball conducting this particular song, I wasn’t wrong. Mufasa arrives and saves the day and is super disappointed at Simba and sings one of the most moving songs in the whole musical, They Live in You. At this point I was yet again crying, ‘cause there’s the grass and the sky and the stars and “They live in you, they live in me, they’re watching over”, you know, oh my God! And the guy who played Mufasa was spectacular, in my opinion he was the best one there, lovely voice and amazing acting. One thing I didn’t like was that the lyrics of the songs weren’t the ones from the translation of the movie that everyone knows by heart. It’s like when they say instead of “Can you feel the love tonight” they say “This is a night of love”, you know?

Then enters Scar, who has his big moment singing Be Prepared, he wasn’t the best singer, but a wonderful actor (later I read the playbill and saw absolutely no vocal training in his bio so…). There is a big dance number in this and you see that there are so many people in this cast, Vania, my teacher, told me they were a 54 people cast, but normally they would have to have about a 100. That’s a lot of people, not for opera, but for musical theatre yes it is!

Then comes the part we all hate and wish never happened, Mufasa’s death, the scene is impressive, the music just takes you and you really feel inside that horror. The best part is that they have Simba hanging from the tree branch and Mufasa falling in the middle of the chaos. Then we are left with little Simba and Mufasa’s lifeless body and oh my God here I go again crying like an idiot, by the way my friends followed suit, we cried like, a LOT! Sometimes because of the scene, others because of the majesty of what was being put in front of us, it was quite astounding.  Scar tells Simba it was his fault that Mufasa is dead and that he should run and never return and so he does and meets our favorite characters, Timon and Pumba.

The two really looked like their film versions; Timon was a puppet who was sort of attached to the guy controlling him who was sporting green in his totality, from head to toe, green.  They sing the famous Hakuna Matata and if the lyrics were the original I’m sure the whole audience would have sung along and we end the act.

As are most intermissions for me this one flew by and before we knew it, it was time for the second act. Now I have to tell you, I marveled at the beginning of this second act, out of the blue voices come from the back of the house and when you turn you see about 20 people from the ensemble in the audience singing a capela in gorgeous colorful costumes with those bird stick things I have no idea what name give to them, and oh man, it’s gorgeous. And when they are there in the audience singing right next to you it’s such a wonderful feel, you feel the show really embrace you, there were loads of moments when this would happen and I think that’s marvelous!

But then, Scar has been ruling so they have no water or food because he’s such a lousy king, I don’t need to tell the story, everyone knows it right? He has a quite funny song with first Zazu then Nala when he realizes that in order to become the ultimate king he has to have cubs, then immortality will be his. We are taken to Simba’s retreat with Timon and Pumba where they have been living the life, again amazing sets! Nala is all grown up and goes out into the wild to find food and ends up finding Simba and they sing “CAAAN YOOOU FEEEL THE LOOVE TONIGHT”. The guy playing Simba was really good, super energetic and a nice singer.

But Simba doesn’t want to go back and face what he’s done in the past so he runs and ends up finding Rafiki who tells him his father isn’t dead and he can speak to him. This scene always gets to me in the movie, but the way it’s done in this musical it’s phenomenal. I was in the front row and I didn’t see it coming, Simba was looking at his reflection and suddenly huge Mufasa head appears on stage floating and starts speaking. My mouth just hanged opened in astonishment. Simba decided to return as Scar is mistreating his mother and he shows up and everyone is like “WOW, Mufasa!”and Simba is like “No, it’s me Simba”.

Scar tells everyone Simba killed Mufasa and they have a face off and start fighting and before you know it all the lionesses are fighting the hyenas and Simba Scar. Then we come to that iconic scene where Simba strands Scar in the pride rock peak and makes him confess to being the one who actually killed Mufasa. As Simba lets him go and Scar tries to “stab him in the back” he falls into where the hungry and pissed off hyenas are and there they probably do him over.

Here comes the end when Simba climbs the Pride rock and takes his place as king and there is an enormous amount of dancing and singing and rejoicing. And it ends with the Circle of Life and the presentation of Simba and Nala’s cub. Well, it was quite an evening, and I came to one important conclusion, that was definitely the most beautiful and wonderful, the best really, musical I ever saw, and oh man, have I seen a LOT of musicals.

And here is my wonderful voice teacher taking her bow, she's awesome, needless to say she's a mezzo, like most awesome women :)
So if you have the chance, go watch it, it’s a wonderful evening’s entertainment. Needless to say the audience went wild. Really, wild.  

So I’ll be posting again pretty soon because I want to talk endlessly about the Met’s Giulio Cesare, now I’ve realized that Giulio Cesare might be the opera I most mention and talk about in my posts, funny… Peace everyone! :)

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