Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Oh! What a Musical Life.

Ok, I've been tagged by a Man About Town and I've also got a fistful of Fringe things I should review here. A little short of time, though, so here's a short community service announcement before we go to the break.

Today, making the most of my new lifestyle, I wandered down to the local cinema and saw the remake of Hairspray. I wasn't expecting much because the original film was so good that I couldn't see how or why someone would attempt to better it. I don't know that the new version is better, but it's ridiculously smile-making and one of the best musicals I can remember (for someone who doesn't, generally, get off on musicals, despite my great love of both music and dancing.)

Anyway, having John Waters do a cameo early on seemed like some kind of seal of approval (he directed the original) and some other nods to the first version (appearances by Ricki Lake, Jerry Stiller) won me over. Well, by the time those last two appeared, I was well won already. It's great that such a subversive film made it as a Broadway musical then was slipped past the sensibilities of middle America to package a progressive, historically-minded film that is really all about bigotry in the sleek outfit of a nostalgic teen high school musical.

My only annoyance is that the character of Penny Pingleton is completely cut back in the new version - in Waters' film she was unforgettably hysterical, in several senses of the word.

MY POINT BEING: You usually walk out of a dangerously catchy musical acutely aware that the world isn't like that. People don't sing and dance on a whim, life isn't as cute as you've just been led to believe, and it's rare to find yourself wondering at just how wonderful a life your life can be.

EXCEPT: Walking home after the film, listening to some fast 60s soul to keep the mood going, I found myself nearing my house while stuck behind a very slow walking dude. He was tall, had a hoody pulled over his head and seemed intent on going nowhere fast, or at least going somewhere really, really slowly. I didn't want to overtake but I was almost home so I just kept pace a few feet behind him, thinking about why he might be taking his time so severely.

THEN: Out of the blue, as an Otis Redding track hit the chorus, he unexpectedly started dancing in the street. Just a quick dance, about three shoulder shimmies and a few up and down bopping movements. Then he was off again. And I suddenly felt a bit closer to being in a musical, where normal people like this guy can do things like that. Thank you, tall dude in hoody, you made my day. I hope you keep getting funky to that inner tune as far as it takes you.

THEN: Catching a cab to see a show tonight, nervously strumming the seatbelt as I fretted about being late, I pulled up outside the North Melbourne Town Hall and gave the cab driver ten bucks. I was in a hurry. Keep the change. He looked shocked, and waved me back for a moment.

"Then you take candy!" he exclaimed, and opened the centre console of the cab to reveal a secret tupperware container full of Korean lollies.

Thank you secret-candy hoarding cab driver!

AND FINALLY: Heading back home at the end of the night. Passing through the city. The carapace of vaguely defensive wariness descending, knowing that the city is a place for alertness, not wide-eyed wonder and the hope of gloriously fun things happening. Not a musical at all. Entrenched suspicions confirmed as a police Rapid Response vehicle suddenly arcs up and wheels around a corner, officers leaping out to halt some rough looking guys in their tracks, all barking commands to the defiance of the slowly spreading crew, an expanding sphere of uncertainty. One of those moments you tense up at.

Until a young girl with a nonchalant expression rides through the middle of the fracas on a unicycle without slowing, disappearing from the frame because hey, she was just a non-speaking extra brought in for colour.

All of this happened in about 10 hours, but it's late nowly. Good night.

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