Alice in Wonderland – An X-Rated Musical Fantasy

With all the buzz about Tim Burton‘s latest film, I thought it might be wise to share a piece of cinematic treasure you have never heard off; It’s a 1976 film titled Bill Osco’s Alice in Wonderland and the reason you are unfamiliar with it is that it is, well, technically porn. Now hold on, hold on, don’t let all the pee-pees and the wee-wees scare you off discovering this gem; This is a very thoughtful musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll‘s 19th century classic, which not only includes many of the original characters, but more importantly pays homage to the main themes like Alice’s coming of age and the delicious absurdity of Wonderland. The film, starring Playboy centerfold Kristine DeBell as Alice, is considered part of the Golden Age of Porn and is one of the highest-grossing adult films ever.

Now I’m no film critic, but Roger Ebert is, and this is what he wrote about it almost 34 years ago:

This isn’t another X-rated potboiler but an adult movie with a certain charm. Even the way it avoids the explicitness of hard-core porn is sort of fun, as the camera suggests that the most amazing things are happening just offscreen.
Kristine De Bell wanders through Wonderland with a blissful ignorance as the inhabitants give her a cram course in 50 ways to keep your lover. She’s just fine: Maybe it’s her perpetual look of total innocence and astonishment in the face of Wonderland’s jolly pastimes that makes her seem so sexy. She looks just like the healthy blond with wide-set eyes and Toni curls that sat across the aisle in high school — or should have.

Here’s a snippet (in pre-restoration quality):

You can get your hands on a restored DVD copy through the usual channels.

War, A Rock Opera – Now Available For Free Download

After watching the brilliant Israeli rock opera ‘War’ on stage, and blogging about it, I have been corresponding by email with musician Kobi Vitman who created it based on his experiences in 2002 as a reserve infantry soldier during Operation Defensive Shield, and the PTSD that followed. A couple of months ago, when the original cast recording was issued, I tried to convey to Vitman my own experiences as a listener and a fan of the genre, emphasizing the difficulty in trying to track down these musical gems once the curtain closes on the original show. In accordance with my beliefs about file sharing, copyright laws and my own experiences searching for recordings of Israeli musicals, I tried to push for making the entire album available online.

Well, I am so very happy to announce that as of this week, the album is indeed available online and for free. You can still purchase the physical CD, booklet and all, for 40NIS, but if you just want the MP3 files, they are now legally available on WarRockOpera.com. You can still watch the show live in its acoustic version. Check the website for details.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzAz6Eo4gKA

One Song to Leave Behind – RENT in Jerusalem

[singlepic id=226 w=240 h=320 float=right]Now that the reviews are out, I am much more comfortable mentioning the local production of the musical Rent: The Jerusalem community center Merkaz Hamagshimim Hadassah has gathered a diverse cast of actors, made up of religious and secular people, new immigrants, foreign students and native Israelis, to perform the Israeli premiere of Jonathan Larson’s Broadway hit which ran for 12 years. I think it would be very interesting to see how the local production touches on the edgy subjects raised by this musical, especially in a city as political as Jerusalem.

Here’s a little taste from the original Broadway production to get you in the mood:

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Director: Rafi Poch
Musical director: Sara Halevi
Conductor: Jeff Rosenschein
Choreography: Marvin Casey
Acting Coach: Kate Nachman Brody

Location: Industrial lot rooftop of El Halev / Merkaz Edna, Pierre Koenig Street, opposite Kanyon Hadar, Talpiyot, Jerusalem
Dates: June 11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 21, 22, 24, 25
Time: 8pm
Tickets: 80 NIS (student discounts available)
Phone: 052-603-9197

A Haters Guide to Musical Theatre: The Beautiful Game

Title: The Beautiful Game.
Music: Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics: Ben Elton
What’s it about: Teenagers playing soccer in Northern Ireland.
What’s it really about: An original love story amidst religious intolerance in 1969’s Belfast.
[singlepic id=203 w=300 h=300 float=right]

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The Beautiful Game – Lyrics

Company:
Measure your life in football seasons
Feel the passion and feel the heat.
Football is the only reason
God almighty gave us feet.

Goal!

Buy the ref a flipping guide dog!
D’you call that a bleeding pass?
Kick it out mate! What a ball hog!
Dozy wanker shift your arse!

Two nil!

You stupid plonker.
We’re going to conquer.
Come and have a go.
Have some of that.
You think you’re hard but we know you’re crap.
Let’s have another.
Just like the other.

COME ON!

Viva. The Beautiful Game.
Raise your voice for the people’s sport.
Long live the bountiful game.
Those who play. Those who support.
Sick as a parrot.
Over the Moon.
Score!
A couple more for
A wonderful game.
A magical game.
Thank God for football.

Girls:
They’re our lads and we support ‘em.
Come on then stick one in this time.

Company:
It isn’t a religion it’s more important.
Sacred holy and divine.

Three nil!

Nice one United
We’re all delighted.

Girls:
No joy tonight, forget it again,
My boyfriend’s in love with eleven men.

Company:
All sing together,
Comrades forever.

Up yours!

Viva. The Beautiful Game.
It’s what Saturdays are for.
Ooh ah. The triumph and pain.
Work to live but live to score
We’re on our way now
To Wemberly.
Up
For the cup it’s
The classical game
The marvellous game.
Thank God for football.

It’s an obsession the reason we’re here,
‘cos it’s better than sex and it’s better than beer so
Viva! The emerald team!
Mother Mary’s Irish sons.
Viva! The boys in green!
Shout for Ireland’s youngest guns
Green is the colour
Soccer the game.
Score!
A thousand more for
The Boys in Green.
The Emerald team;

Playing for Ireland, playing for Ireland!

GOAL!

[singlepic id=205 w=525 h=364 float=center]

A Haters Guide to Musical Theatre is a series of easily digestible songs from musicals I love. Hopefully this will aid people in giving this genre a try. This guide will not include shows like The Phantom of the Opera or Les Misérables, as I consider these hardcore, nor shows like The Lion King or Mamma Mia which I don’t even count as musicals.

It’s Like Déjà Vu All Over Again

Israelis love their armchair activism. As long as they don’t have to do anything more than click their mouse, they are willing to show their support. This is particularly evident in the sheer number of people willing to join a so-called online protest, in comparison to how few are willing to put on their coat and walk to the city center for an actual real-world protest.

Armchair activism has a particularly disgusting side as it brings out the trigger happiness in people. In light of recent events, dozens of hawkish Facebook groups were created by Israelis, advocating the annihilation of the Gaza strip. All you have to do is click the ‘Join’ button, and you have instantly shown your degree of ‘patriotism’. Here is a selection of those Facebook groups:

 
[singlepic id=116 w=200 h=303 float=right]In this atmosphere of collective zeal, I think nothing can be more patriotic than watching War, A Rock Opera this coming Wednesday in Tel-Aviv. The show was created by Israeli musician Kobi Vitman based on his ordeals as an IDF reserve infantry soldier during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, but it was painfully relevant to the 2006 Lebanon War – and even more so now, as the conflict in Gaza escalates into a ground invasion. The collective Israeli memory is notoriously short, and so watching this show is an excellent reminder of what war is really like in a country where every citizen is a soldier.

What: War, A Rock Opera
When: Wednesday, January 7, 2009 at 10:30pm
Where: Tmuna Theatre, 8 Soncino street, Tel Aviv, Israel
Who: Kobi Vitman, Dvir Benedek, Ayelet Robinson, Yaniv Levi
Why: Read my critique

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzAz6Eo4gKA

War, A Rock Opera – Read My Critique – or, Better Yet, Skip My Critique And Just Buy Your Tickets Today!

[singlepic id=59 w=200 h=300 float=right]War, A Rock Opera   has been running for a while now at Tzavta Theatre in Tel-Aviv, but I had the pleasure of watching it for the first time just this week. I really liked the show, but above all I think it is a very important show to watch. Kobi Vitman     , a young Israeli musician, started writing songs about his ordeals as a reserve infantry soldier during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 and about battling symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder upon returning home. Dialogues joined song and accumulated to an all-Israeli rock opera. Just like stand-up comics excel in the phrasing of our mutual experience into funny, Vitman and the cast serve the audience an intensive dosage of articulate Israeli bitterness, which, when served in the form of rock tunes, appeals to the sense of utter despair felt by an entire generation of my peers.

War, A Rock Opera - My Ticket

Highlights:
Cast: Dvir Benedek plays an excellent IDF commander, with just the right amounts of arrogance and smugness he reminds everyone the army commander each one of us had in our time.
Music: Vitman wrote some powerful songs, some of which are bound to enter the Israeli pantheon of political tunes. Most of the lyrics are written tongue in cheek and appeal to a cynical generation all too familiar with the knee-jerk sentences Israeli political figures dish out oh so easily.
Band: Electric guitarist Ron Bunker should be singled out for praise. While the entire band plays awesome rock, Bunker’s solos brought the roof down. Bravo!

Lowlights:
Sound: As I have said before, this is my biggest pet peeve when visiting the Israeli theatre. You always have to strain your ears to distinguish the words from the music. If they can balance it well abroad, why can’t they do it in Israel?

Have a listen to Sleep My Child (Shan Yaldi), one of many songs that so eloquently convey the pathos used in the efficient indoctrination of the Israeli citizen in the acceptance of perpetual war. My ad-hoc translation of the lyrics into English is provided for your listening pleasure.

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Sleep My Child (Shan Yaldi) – War, A Rock Opera – lyrics:

Maya (Ayelet Robinson):
Sleep now my wee child
You are not alone anymore
One day maybe we will fulfill the dream
Everything will work out
You will see one day
Instead of war peace will come

One day when you will grow up
Only if there will be no other choice
One day maybe you will be a soldier
You will run, observe, crawl, duck
You will think you have it all
I hope you will be fortunate

I as well wanted a son
That will study, get married,
That will build a family here
In the meantime there are laws, a constitution,
There is a cabinet office,
In the meantime you have no other choice

They’re building the future now
What is there else to say
My dear son
Go out and fight
Bring some warmth
To this cold world

Sleep now my wee child
You will see one day
We will not fear anymore
Sleep now my wee child
You will see one day
We will not fear anymore

Gever (Dvir Benedek):
It is a war for survival
It is who shall live – who shall die
My dear son
In a cruel world
Your narrow world
That is all that’s left

This is the war of existence
Forestall by slaying him
My son you will be grand
And you, give him love
You shall be filled with pride
Later we will mend it all

Cast:
Sleep now my wee child
You will see one day
We will not fear anymore
Sleep now my wee child
You will see one day
We will not fear anymore

Cast repeats: will not fear
indistinct speech in Arabic
Speaker in Arabic: Death to America!
Crowd in Arabic: Death to America!
Speaker in Arabic: Death to America!
Crowd in Arabic: Death to America!

Cast:
Sleep now my wee child
You will see one day
We will not fear anymore
Sleep now my wee child
You will see one day
We will not fear anymore

מאיה (איילת רובינסון):
שן עכשיו ילדי הקט
אתה כבר לא לבד
יום אחד אולי נגשים את החלום
הכל כאן יסתדר
אתה תראה שיום אחד
במקום המלחמה יבוא שלום

יום אחד כשתגדל
רק אם לא תהיה ברירה
יום אחד אולי תהיה חייל
תרוץ, תצפה, תזחל, תיפול
תחשוב שיש לך הכל
הלוואי יהיה לך מזל

גם אני רציתי בן
שתלמד, שתתחתן,
שתקים כאן משפחה
בינתיים יש חוקים, חוקה,
יש קבינט של ממשלה,
בינתיים אין לך ברירה

עכשיו בונים את העתיד,
מה כבר יש פה להגיד,
בן שלי יקר
צא ותלחם,
תביא קצת חום,
אל העולם הזה הקר

שן עכשיו ילדי הקט
תראה שיום אחד
כבר לא נפחד
שן עכשיו ילדי הקט
תראה שיום אחד
כבר לא נפחד

גבר (דביר בנדק):
זאת מלחמת השרדות
זה מי יחיה – זה מי ימות
בן שלי יקר
בעולם אכזר,
עולמך הצר,
זה כל מה שנשאר.

זאת מלחמת הקיום
להורגך תשקים לקום
בן שלי אתה תהיה גדול
ואת תתני לו אהבה
עוד תתמלאי בגאווה
אחר-כך נסדר הכל

כולם:
שן עכשיו ילדי הקט
תראה שיום אחד
כבר לא נפחד
שן עכשיו ילדי הקט
תראה שיום אחד
כבר לא נפחד

כולם חוזר: לא נפחד
נאום בערבית
נואם בערבית: מוות לאמריקה
המון בערבית: מוות לאמריקה
נואם בערבית: מוות לאמריקה
המון בערבית: מוות לאמריקה

כולם:
שן עכשיו ילדי הקט
תראה שיום אחד
כבר לא נפחד
שן עכשיו ילדי הקט
תראה שיום אחד
כבר לא נפחד

Here you can watch snippets. Here you can buy tickets.

Rent Extended – Additional 141,120 Minutes to Catch the Broadway Musical

[singlepic id=56 w=320 h=240 float=right]Although the official website does not show it yet, the Broadway musical hit Rent will play to September 7, 2008 – according to Playbill. That’s an additional three months you have to catch the show. If you are absolutely, positively sure you will not be able to see it live, you can always rent or buy the film version.

Hat tip to Perez

Here is one of the songs that rings particularly true with me:

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One Song Glory – Rent Musical – Lyrics

One song
Glory
One song
Before I go
Glory
One song to leave behind

Find one song
One last refrain
Glory
From the pretty boy front man
Who wasted opportunity

One song
He had the world at his feet
Glory
In the eyes of a young girl
A young girl
Find glory
Beyond the cheap colored lights

One song
Before the sun sets
Glory – on another empty life
Time flies – time dies
Glory – one blaze of glory
One blaze of glory – glory

Find
Glory
In a song that rings true
Truth like a blazing fire
An eternal flame

Find
One song
A song about love
Glory
From the soul of a young man
A young man

Find
The one song
Before the virus takes hold
Glory
Like a sunset
One song
To redeem this empty life

Time flies
And then – no need to endure anymore
Time dies

Can I Get A Napkin Please?

Upon watching a musical for the first time many people find it a bit weird when a thespian just breaks out into a song in the middle of a conversation. Once a viewer accepts this as an externalization of the character’s feelings, it becomes a natural tool of the genre. How about if people just broke into a song in real life? That’s a whole different ball game, and is exactly what sixteen Improv Everywhere agents set out to do this week.
This New-York group, now a global movement, whose aim is to cause scenes of chaos and joy in public places, gained international notoriety last January, when two hundred agents just froze up in New-York’s Grand Central Station and did not move for five minutes.

This week’s stunt, which was done in a food court of an LA mall, was a rare occasion where the group actually asked management’s permission beforehand. This allowed the group to practice the night before, hook up wireless microphones to the PA system, and hide video cameras behind two-way mirrors, unbeknownst to the patrons and staff of the mall.
The result is spectacular:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkYZ6rbPU2M

Can I Get A Napkin (Please) – Improv Everywhere – Lyrics

Cashier: Lemonade,
Spilt across the countertop
There’s ice and lemons everywhere now
I gotta clean it up!
 
Can I get a napkin please?
I’m gonna need some just like these
I’ve got three or four
But I might need more
Can I get a napkin please?!  
Mustard guy: Aw man!
 
Can I get a napkin too, by chance?
I have spilled some mustard on my pants
What a pain!
It’s a shame!
This is probably gonna stain
If I don’t get a napkin
Cashier: We both need napkins that’s a fact
Mustard guy: That’s true!
It’s napkins that we lack  
Cashier: We’re agreed
We’re in need  
Mustard guy: On our knees we humbly plead
Can we get a napkin please!  
Both: Can I get a napkin please?
We promise that we’re not wasting trees  
Cashier: I’ll take one from you
Mustard guy: And this hot girl too
Both: Can I get a napkin please?
Mother: I need a napkin!
 
I’ve got an infant in my arms
And I don’t mean to cause alarm
She just hurled
On my pearls
She’s my darling little girl
But can I get a napkin?  
Janitor: I’m the janitor
The working man you all ignore
Sweeping up this dirty floor
Boy, my left foot sure is sore
And I
Just want a chance
To show the world
That I can dance  
All: Can we get a napkin please?
Security guard: What the hell is goin’ on here?
Cashier: We need more napkins!
Security guard: I’m on it!
 
Get me some napkins up here stat
The lower food court’s where I’m at
Listen up
Girls and guys
I am authorized
To search you for napkins  
All: Can we get a nap…
Can we get a nap…
Can we get a napkin, please?
We promise that we’re not wasting trees
This cashier
Right here
Needs assistance, that is clear
Can she get a napkin…  
Charlie Todd: Here’s a napkin.
Cashier: Please!

 

 

Enjoy the playback:

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Israeli Avenue Q – Follow-up #3: Read My Critique – or, Better Yet, Skip My Critique And Just Buy Your Tickets Today!

Avid readers of my blog may have read about my growing anticipation for the Israeli production of Avenue Q (previous post #1, #2) – well I just came back from seeing the show and it is absolutely amazing!

Beit Lessin Ticket for Avenue Q

GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY at www.AvenueQ.co.il

Okay, now that I got the bottom line off my chest, let’s get down to the nitty gritty:
While I love theatre musicals, I am quite difficult when it comes to watching a local production, never being able to stop comparing everything, starting with the translated text, the set, the songs, the orchestra, and every other aspect which more often than not seem to be much better in the original production.
That is not the case with Moshe Kepten’s Hebrew version of Avenue Q – Bravo, Kepten, O Kepten!

Highlights:
Translation: Eli Bizsawi’s translation from English is a work of art. I often complain about still being able to ‘hear’ the original English when the translation is literal and sticks to the words and not the essence – but that is not the case with Avenue Q. As I predicted before, fitting all the information in English into Hebrew, which has oh so many more syllables, is an impossible job – but the translator did not force it, he made the words feel comfortable coming out of the actors’ mouths, using contemporary slang and references.
Actors: Michal Yannai plays herself as the has-been actress, and was a smart bet by the director of the show who felt the Gary Coleman character would not relate to the Israeli audience. Yannai upgraded the part and became the unequivocal star of the show, using many authentic reference points from her actual life to truly make herself be the example Schadenfreude person.
I have to admit I was very concerned with four actors: Roy Bar-Natan (Princeton, Rod), Tali Oren (Kate Monster, Lucy the Slut), Idan Alterman (Nicky, male Bad-Idea Bear), and Nicky Goldstein (Trekkie Monster), all of them are accomplished Israeli comedians, so familiar that I thought they might overshadow the puppets they play. To my surprise all of them gave minimalist performances, maximizing their abilities but minimizing their individual idiosyncrasies.
Michal Muchtar played an amazing female Bad-Idea Bear (Doobie Lo Lo), using her unique voice to show there really aren’t small parts. As previously noted, she is an up and coming star of the Israeli theatre, whose future seems brighter every time we meet. She also played Mrs. Thistletwat wonderfully.
Set: Except for a window that kept opening up, the set was a good replica of the original show, minus the Kate Monster head that shows up for a few seconds. No biggie.

Lowlights:
Sound: My biggest pet peeve when visiting the Israeli theatre. You always have to strain your ears to distinguish the words from the music. If they can balance it well abroad, why can’t they do it in Israel?
Actors: Elinor Aharon who played Latina the Spanish immigrant (originally Christmas Eve the Japanese immigrant) was dealt a bad hand and tried to do her best. The M-to-N letter replacement in her accent got old very quickly and became quite annoying. She only shined during her ‘The More You Ruv Someone’ solo.
Nir Shalmon played a parve Bryan, making a human character seem less life-like than the puppet characters. He did not ruin it for me – he just did not do anything for me.
Video: I cannot avoid mentioning the fact that the opening animation got digitally stuck half way through the opening theme, and there really isn’t an excuse for that.
Also, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a DVD player that does not show the word ‘play’ when you press play, but maybe it’s just me.

All and all, a very good production, well worth your time.
There are only a few more shows this month and a few more in November, 2007 – make sure you order your tickets soon!

Israeli Avenue Q – Follow-up #2: Notes Following Press Junket

The Israeli production of Avenue Q conducted a press junket yesterday, performing some of the songs in front of news reporters, and both the actors and the puppets were interviewed by all mainstream Israeli media. As I grow more and more anxious towards the premiere in October, 2007, here are a couple of notes, based on my newly gained knowledge:

Puppetry:
Avenue Q Israeli puppets versus their American counterpartsIt seems that Roni Wagner’s puppet-making skills produced some inconsistent results:
while Kate Monster, Nicky and Trekkie Monster (TrekkieFletset in the local production) seem like they are the exact replicas of the originals, the other puppets seem a far cry from Rick Lyon‘s work:
Princeton doesn’t look like he just stepped out of college, more likely he just stepped out of the Kibbutz and haven’t had a chance to change his socks-and-sandals.
Rod with his pale blue skin color seems like a Chinese knock-off of the original investment banker and he seems to have changed the frames of his spectacles to an older and much less endearing ones.
And with Lucy the Slut something just doesn’t sit well, but I can’t put my finger on it. For some reason she looks to me more like a love doll than your local neighborhood slut.

Translation:
Eli Bizsawi’s translation to Hebrew was probably a difficult task. Unlike English, the holy tongue is full of words with many syllables, which creates quite a challenge for anyone trying to fit the same amount of information into a predetermined amount of stanzas. It seems the translator did a pretty good job, as the words of the songs seem to flow quite naturally.
Besides that, the Israeli production, like the English one, had to bridge over the cultural differences, so here Rod will not read ‘Broadway musicals of the 1940s’ but will watch a DVD of ‘The Eurovision Song Contest – The Beautiful Years’, as it is an activity much more authentic to the stereotypical Israeli homosexual.
Also, the original Japanese character Christmas-Eve was changed to Latina, the Spanish immigrant who faces pretty much the same difficulties as her US counterpart.

Check out the video coverage of the press junket as reported by NRG:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=canUTfh9sck

Additional coverage: Channel 10 News, Ynet News.

If you haven’t done so already, check out these related posts:
Israeli Avenue Q – Follow-up #1: Rehearsal Sneak Preview
Uncancelled: Israeli Production of the Avenue Q Musical