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All Part of the Show August 13, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Odds and Ends, Reviews.

Sitti Navarro held her “first major concert” at the Music Museum last Friday night. Apparently, she’s one of the Philippines’s budding talents in the Latin/Bossa Nova music scene. And boy, can she sing!

What worked: Most definitely, her voice. To my mind, it’s a cross between Billie Holiday and Stacey Kent that’s put to good use in the niche that she’s carving out for herself (and the fact that it overlaps with Jazz tunes is just fine with me). I also thought that her personality was quite engaging: on several occasions throughout the performance she was game to pose for pictures with members of the audience, and the show took off after the third or fourth song when she settled into the rhythm of things (no pun intended). Plus, the show had several supporting acts and “cameo appearances” (including a hilarious drag queen comedy routine from Jon Santos) that made it that much more enjoyable. But for my part, what I appreciated the most from her performance was that she was able to make me like the songs on her album that I previously didn’t.

What didn’t work: Obviously, her performance repertoire needs improvement. Throughout the first half of the the show she tried to engage the audience in a personal narrative of how she started her career, and it fell terribly flat. She definitely needs a better scriptwriter as the show picked up when she ditched that routine. She might need a better song selection as well: in a two-hour period she covered Latin, Bossa Nova, Jazz, Standards and OPM. While she mostly did justice to each, the show itself felt a little disjoined. It didn’t help that her onstage actions got a little repetitive (move stage left, dance a little; move stage right, dance a little; repeat, rewind). Oh, did I mention that the concert started 30 minutes late?

Overall: She has awesome potential. I’m betting we can all expect great things from her in the years to come.

Had a chance to catch the movie version of Mel Brooks’s The Producers over the weekend. I’ve seen it on Broadway twice, though by then Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane had moved on from the show already (I did get to see them in The Odd Couple, though). To see them in the roles that propelled the show to fame was as good a reason as any to watch the movie, and if ever there was a faithful movie adaptation of a Broadway musical, this one would be it.

In fact, the movie was faithful almost to a fault. I couldn’t help but feel that the movie was just an excuse for the stars to record their performances on film: Broderick and Lane were at their neurotic best, as would be expected from anyone who had to put on that show night in and night out as they did. Perhaps 80% of the movie was exactly how it was shown on stage (sans the song Where Did We Go Right?). The remaining 20% comprised those parts edited out to suit the new medium (the intermission gags, for instance) or utilizing the flexibility of location shoots to add to the production numbers.

When it works, it works really well. The best number in the film, by way of example, was I Want to Be a Producer, where Broderick is just too good and which is so much better than on stage. But in some areas the stage remains superior. The actors can’t take that pregnant pause to allow jokes to set in, and sometimes the limitations of camera angles take away from seeing everything all at once. Casting was also a mixed bag: Uma Thurman did her best but was ultimately miscast as Ula (her Broadway counterparts are almost always much better), but on the other hand John Lovitz and Will Ferrell were perfect for their roles.

One thing I did particularly like were the Easter eggs at the end of the film. As the credits roll, the audience is treated to three songs sung by Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane and Will Ferrell (har, har) respectively. Then at the very end of the credits, there’s a final song number, complete with the typical cameo from Mel Brooks. For the curious: yes, they sing that last song on stage, too, as the curtain call.

Three times in as many days last week I had to sit in at public functions on my dad’s behalf. I also attended a fourth, but you could say that was entirely of my own doing. Never have I felt more like a fish out of water. There was a time when I might have been able to pull it off with more aplomb (in the college days when I was drunk on my own hubris and felt like I could do anything), but “networking” isn’t my strong suit (which sort of explains why more people hate me than I realize). It’s just one of those things I didn’t win in the genetic lottery, together with height. But I am a dead wringer for my dad, though. That ought to count for something.



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