Things We’re Digging This Week – Week of 5/27/19

Things We’re Digging is a weekly feature where the LB contributors put forth thoughts on anything they care to think about. It can be anything from movies, books, TV shows, music, to a weekly series returning after too much time off.

H.M. Flores Aladdin

After having my fair share of doubts, I’m pleased to report that Aladdin is a fun time at the theater. Energetic, charming, and carried by a very likable cast, it has so much enthusiasm that it just gets you in the moment, something Disney specializes at. Not to mention that it’s great to have Will Smith’s return as a rapper.

Reinier van der ZouwSleater-Kinney’s ‘Hurry On Home’

I’ve gone on record in this very segment as being a fan of Sleater-Kinney, so needless to say I was eagerly awaiting for the band to come out with new music. When we learned earlier this year that their new album would be produced by Annie Clark (who, as St. Vincent, is an indie rock legend in her own right), I was ecstatic. This week, that record finally got a confirmed title – The Center Won’t Hold – and a first single to go with it: “Hurry On Home” All you have to know is that it utterly rules from start to finish and it is giving me strong “this is gonna be your album of the year” vibes. So, give it a listen, you won’t regret it.

Mavis Roberta McGee In the Cut

Jane Campion’s In the Cut has wormed its way into my brain and it will never leave. Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo are fantastic in this movie, Campion’s style here is otherworldly, and the score is fantastic. Also, it’s extremely quotable. See it.

Andrew Clark Be More Chill

“Ever since we all did ecstasy at the play I’ve felt really close to you guys.”

I got to see new Broadway musical Be More Chill tonight and ended up having a pretty good time. I was most impressed by the book by Joe Tracz, and the absurd heightened stakes it actually promised coming to partial fruition. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a show’s second act as much as this since Something Rotten! really went and staged the ‘OMELETTE!’ Musical (something I refused to believe they were actually going to do until they did it). As anyone who knows me knows, actually pulling off a bit you’ve promised to and taking it even passed that is something I greatly respect.

Often irreverent but with the very-real stakes of teendom, I was delighted that the show never (barring a few bits here and there) commented on itself in a self-effacing way, but rather committed to the drama and absurdism of it’s premise. It feels most like a “period” piece, in that if it had come out in 2007 (or been specifically set there, although it’s not really specific to anything other than “Nowish”) it would have been more of its time. It owes more than a little bit to the likes of High School Musical and Stephen King’s Christine.

The show is a lot about a typical teen drama/comedy about coming of age and grappling with the foibles of youth, and a little about the dangers of pseudo-psychological pick-up artists who plagued the 2000s (think ‘The Game’, or Tucker Max, or any douchebag you knew in high school and college) and are much to blame for the glut of MRAs cutting a swath through the world and internet. Anthropomorphizing this idea into a body and having it teach our protagonist how to “be chill” (not to mention sing and stuff) is a ripe idea for expressing in a musical, the purest expression of human performance and angst (If you feel like you can’t say it, sing it!).

The show maybe doesn’t go as far as I want it to (although it sure comes close) but I was still impressed that it took a swing at the topic at all. It does well enough as a 21st century homage to actual-masterpiece Little Shop of Horrors (and its stage and original movie ending… not that theatrical cut bullshit).

The music from Joe Iconis was passably forgettable, as unfortunately most contemporary-tinged Broadway musicals have been since Jason Robert Brown convinced many people to throw lyricism out the window in the 90s. Though it still had a banger or two. The titular song as well as ‘Michael in the Bathroom’ are jams, although the latter highlights one of other issues with the show, which is that everyone gets a moment of backstory and emphasis and, as nice a thought as it is, is really just obfuscation. I am happy to say that the show does handily win the “Best Use of a Theremin in a Broadway Musical” Award.

Even if many of the songs themselves aren’t ear worms, Iconis should be applauded for including an actual musical theme that runs successfully through the show and is used to great effect throughout.

So maybe not the greatest thing in the world, but it’s the sort of imaginative swing-and-miss I wish we saw more of in the theater world, and I’m happy that it’s gotten such a following among the youths (actually, a young man had won a contest to sing on the stage tonight after the show and did a very fine job). Appropriately its set reminded me a lot of the sadly maligned American Psycho musical, gone before its time. Much like American Psycho, Be More Chill feels a few drafts away from really nailing it. But it’s still enough to celebrate.

That’s all for this edition of Things We’re Digging This Week! Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to stop on down in the comments and tell us what you’ve been enjoying, and be on the lookout for more Digs in the future!