Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Words of wisdom from Carole and Oskar

I've been trying to catch up on my Playbill Radio podcasts. There are a lot I haven't listened to yet and at this point, some of the shows have opened and closed already. But these two are going strong:

I liked this quote from Carole Shelley, who plays the grandmother in Billy Elliot, as she politely declines to describe a particular scene in the musical:

"I don't really want to spoil it because I think it is one of the most stunningly choreographed pieces I have ever a., seen in my life and b., been a part of. So I would rather not say anything about it, if that's all right with you. I think surprises are the most exciting part of going to the theater."

You're right, Ms. Shelley, and I'm trying to be less spoilerish in my reviews! I know I do way too much research before I go to a show. (What can I say - I'm an information junkie. I was the type of kid who loved doing term papers.) Most of the time, knowing less is better.

Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, does engage in a little hyperbole here, but I think he makes a good point about Hair's place in American popular culture. Part of the reason, of course, is that entertainment has become more diffuse. I mean, do we even have a common pop culture anymore?

"Hair is on the one hand, one could make the case it's the classic American musical. It was the last American stage show that became the soundtrack for a generation. There's been no show on stage since Hair that actually the whole country knows. Phantom of the Opera? I don't think so."

Okay, Phantom's an easy target but I bet the Public and Mr. Eustis would be happy to have Hair run on Broadway for 21 years - and counting!


Robin said...

One could make a case for A Chorus Line and Cats as pretty pervasive cultural phenomena, but I agree that neither put as many songs into the pop repertoire as Hair. As marvelous as Gavin Creel and the rest of the cast are, I can't get excited about it, though. I may have been scarred for life by having to sing "Good Morning, Starshine" in middle school. :-)

Esther said...

Thanks for the comment! So sorry about middle school. ;-(

While I love Hair, I think it's just a matter of the culture being more diffuse these days. I mean, does anything bind us? American Idol? Reality tv?

Also, I think Hair came along at a perfect time to be a cultural phenomenon - the antiwar movement, the youth movement.

But basically, I think what Oskar Eustis is saying is something I've heard before: show tunes are no longer America's top 40 the way they once were.