All tagged Harvey Fierstein
Generally, I am a proponent of the trend in producing musicals “live” on television, with the proviso that they are done well and that they don’t besmirch the reputation of musical theatre. The renaissance of live musicals started a few years ago with The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood. It was an underwhelming effort to say the least, but it was popular enough with audiences for NBC to turn live musicals into a perennial event. Peter Pan came next and that was even more painful than The Sound of Music, especially with an under-rehearsed Christopher Walken wending his way through the role of Captain Hook. Then something miraculous happened: Musicals Live! suddenly came up with a great idea and chose a musical that didn’t already have a beloved film version and then cast it with powerhouse talent. The Wiz Live! was a exciting, bursting with energy and heart, and was also just plain good.
The Wiz was an unqualified hit for NBC and what has become their annual holiday LIVE! musical. In fact, it was so much better than its predecessors The Sound of Music and Peter Pan that it has injected a little more life into this teetering series that is always on the brink of extinction, dependent on ratings and an assured audience made up of musical theatre enthusiasts (are we a dying breed?). Let’s face it: if they make a musical, we will come. Those of us who love musicals in any format will show up and give it a try, but live musical television counts on a much larger crowd getting on the bandwagon.
Like the tornado that lifted Dorothy to the Land of Oz, NBC’s presentation of The Wiz Live! blew me away to places I have never been where made-for-TV musicals are concerned. Skeptics be damned! The Wiz and its marvelous score are NOT dated properties and this version of the L. Frank Baum tale makes the best case yet for the musical to be revived on Broadway. In any case, at least it has washed away the stain of the misbegotten 1978 film version that, despite an all-star cast, was bleak and overwrought. This Wiz is magical.
Funny Girl is a musical that has yet to be revived on Broadway despite having a superior score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill and a fairly faithful film version that has an enormous following. The trick to reviving Funny Girl is finding the right actress to play Fanny Brice, the titular character who has to be over the top funny, quietly sentimental, somewhat gawky, and possessing of a powerful, but nuanced voice. Barbra Streisand was a "Rose of sheer perfection" in both the stage and in the film version. So amazing, in fact, that the specter of her indelible characterization looms over any proposed revival, becoming the “freckle on the complexion” of the piece.