Tag Archives: Musicals

The Songs from Disney’s Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins was one of my favorite Disney films while I was growing up. I still love it, perhaps more now than I did when I was young. Saving Mr. Banks probably has something to do with that. 😉

It is Saving Mr. Banks and the Disney franchise’s reboots of Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast that make me wary of the new Mary Poppins film scheduled to come out next year. I am a big believer in the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The original Mary Poppins might be old, but it is NOT broken. I am not sure I see the sense in making a new film about Mary Poppins – other than the crass, corporate urge to make money off of everything that has sold before, rather than on what could be created now.

However, you came here to listen to music, not to read me carp about the stupefied imagination of most of Disney’s hierarchy. So let the music play, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

 

One Man Band

 

Just A Spoonful of Sugar (Helps the Medicine Go Down)

 

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

 

I Love to Laugh

 

Feed the Birds (Tuppence a Bag)

 

Step In Time

 

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

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Sing: Of Hope and Optimism

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Borg.com is a really good blog to follow, readers. They keep track of all the latest news on comics, films, and television shows on this site. It was through them that I found The Librarians and Star Wars Rebels. They post trailers for upcoming movies and can be relied upon for detailed information on most of the big franchises we see everywhere today. It was through them that I learned about Sing, the animated film from the same company which gave us Despicable Me one through three.

Illumination Entertainment hit the big time with Despicable Me for most people. They followed it up with The Secret Life of Pets and Sing, as well as some other films I probably do not know about.

I have seen The Secret Life of Pets. It is long on laughs and short on story. However, Sing had a totally different effect on me. There are plenty of laughs in this film, but there is also a story to chew on here. Secret Life of Pets really was not anything to write home about, unfortunately; it was cute, but not great.

Sing was good. It is not up there with Despicable Me and its sequels, but it is above Secret Life of Pets and leagues above Disney’s Zootopia, a film that was long on amazing animation and had just a drop of story in it. That film was a flash in the pan, sadly.

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Anyway, Sing takes place in a world full of anthropomorphic, talking animals, much like Zootopia. Specifically, it takes place somewhere in California, in a city that is like a mash-up of L.A. and San Fran, according to the movie’s creators. The lead character is a koala named Buster Moon, who owns a dilapidated stage theater. Buster fell in love with the stage and the showmanship required to run it when he was six. His father worked for thirty years to earn the money for Buster to buy the theater after this.

But things have not been going so well for Buster. None of the shows he has tried to produce have been a hit with the general populace, tickets have not been selling, and the bank is calling to tell him to settle his accounts or they will take the theater.

Desperate to save his theater, Buster hits upon the idea of holding a singing competition. He barely has enough money and “goods” for a prize for the winner, but he goes ahead with this plan anyway. The one kink in the arrangement is that his secretary has an accident and the flyers advertising his competition subsequently say the grand prize is $100,000 dollars, not $1,000.

Well, this brings everybody and his brother to audition for the competition. Buster picks out a motley crew from this crowd: Johnny, the son of a thief; Rosita, a stay-at-home mom of twenty-five piglets; Gunter, a European pig who is an enthusiastic singer and dancer; Mike, a street musician with slick paws; Ash, a porcupine rock star wannabe, and Meena, an elephant with a great voice who is too shy to sing in public.

Well, by and by, Buster finds out about his secretary’s mistake. But he still moves ahead with the competition, asking a famous former star of his theater’s golden days to sponsor the concert’s prize. But things go down the drain when Mike’s attempt to cheat mobster bears backfires in his face. The theater is destroyed and Buster briefly goes into an emotional tailspin as a result.

Now I will not spoil the ending for you, readers. But one of the things that I keep running across is a description of Buster by those who have seen Sing. They keep calling him “optimistic.”

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Normally, I do not take issue with this word. Optimistic, to me, generally just means looking for the silver lining in a situation you really wish you were not in. Nothing wrong with that; with very few exceptions, we can all find a little grace in undesirable circumstances. It could be in a ray of sunshine that slips across our faces at the right moment, a call from an old friend we have not heard from in a while, or good entertainment that lifts our spirits. There is nothing wrong with that at all.

No, my problem is when people use false optimism in place of the genuine theological – and therefore real – virtue of hope. This is actually Buster’s problem throughout most of the film. He is an optimistic little fella, sure. But he relies on an optimism founded on his self-belief as though it is hope. These two things are miles apart.

Optimism will give you a reason to smile when life hits you hard, and if it is founded in hope, then you are in good straits. But optimism founded on a belief in yourself and your own powers will not – cannot – keep you going. Buster is ready to quit after his theater is destroyed. His optimism, his belief in his ability to save his property, fails after the theater’s collapse. The negative press he receives after this only deepens his depression. He has no more hope after he loses what he was trying to save.

In contrast, none of Buster’s singing competitors are truly hopeful or even optimistic. They all have very good reasons not to be. Johnny’s father is a criminal who lands up in jail when his son does not show up with the getaway car in time. His dad practically disowns him after this. Rosita is a mom of twenty-five who thinks she has lost her ability to perform, if not her ability to sing, while Ash’s boyfriend dumps her and invites another girl into their shared apartment. That is one surefire way to kill optimism, I can tell you!

Mike is a con artist who wants a big score which will get him off the streets. He is in the competition, as he is in life, to win what he thinks is ultimate happiness – the perfect materialistic life. He repeatedly mocks the others, especially Rosita and Meena, who has no optimism because she believes her stage fright will make her look foolish in front of everyone. After the theater is destroyed and their dreams appear to disintegrate with it, none of the competition’s cast is optimistic.

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Even Gunter does not have optimism. You might think that is silly for me to say, once you see him; the guy almost never has a frown on his face. He is harder to put down than Buster.

And that, readers, is the point of the matter. Gunter does not have a misplaced optimism founded on himself and his abilities. What he has is hope. Hope is a fragile little virtue we treat like a penny. It is an easy word to bandy about but it has a meaning far deeper and richer than its four letters, just as a penny is worth more than its size would suggest. Hope is anticipation of something; the longing for some good and the trust that you will receive what you desire as long as you stay the course.

Buster goes through the movie thinking that he alone can save his theater. And when his last ditch scheme unravels, destroying his prized theater in the process, his optimism is shattered. He put his faith not in Someone else, not in his friends, not in the performers he gave hope to, but in himself. And let’s face it, readers; we disappoint ourselves more often than not. We are not all-perfect or all-powerful. Too many of us think we are, alas, but the fact is that none of us are God.

Now, this trust in his own powers does not make Buster a bad guy. The proof of this is that, although he sets up the competition and competitors in order to serve his own purposes, Buster gives most of his singers what they have lacked up to this point. He has given them hope by recognizing their talents and giving them a chance to show them off.

This is proved when his cast of performers – minus Mike – comes knocking on Buster’s door to try and encourage him to put the show on somewhere else. To Buster, the competition was meant to save his theater. It was not about his reputation or the money; he just wanted to keep that old theater alive in a world that had lost its taste for the art of the stage.

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To Johnny, however, the competition meant a chance to do what he has always enjoyed. It was a chance to be who he wanted to be, not who his father and the other members of his gang assumed he wanted to be. For Rosita, the competition was a chance to prove that she had not lost her touch; that she could still dance and sing, and thereby impress the people who took her for granted.

For Ash, the competition meant achieving her dream of becoming a rock star. Gunter’s dream of performing live and hamming up his enjoyment of singing and dancing could finally come true on this stage. And all Meena wanted was to get over her shyness so she could finally sing without fear.

Buster did not see any of that because he was too focused on what he wanted. That was not an evil thing, just a selfish mistake he made out of pure stubbornness. It is only when he happens to overhear Meena singing where no one can see her that Buster gains perspective. Hearing Meena sing, he realizes that she really does have talent. He remembers all the other singers and realizes that they do, in fact, have talent as well. He comes to understand that they deserve a chance to perform, and that he has a duty as a showman to see to it that they get that chance.

Meena’s singing is what gives Buster hope. His optimism is replaced with genuine hope as he remembers that he did not want the theater simply for the theater. He wanted it because of his desire to be a showman; to be the talent scout who would bring scenes of “wonder and magic” to an audience, just as he had been given a sense of “wonder and magic” by the performances at the theater when he was a child.

And let me tell you, Buster delivers on this by the end of the film. Not only does he deliver, but he even gets what he wanted in the end; to be the manager of the theater his father helped him buy. By helping his friends achieve their dreams, Buster regains his theater along with his love of showmanship.

Sing is a good story for this reason. It is a story about real hope, not false optimism. It also reminds us that “wonder and magic” are important to daily life; Sing urges the audience to keep practicing the arts we love that brighten the world and give people hope. For without a sense of the “wonder and magic” of the world, we quickly come to see everything through either Buster’s or Mike’s filtered lens. We either fall for false hope masked as “optimism,” which claims we can get whatever we want through our own power, or we chase after a phantom “perfect happiness” in this world. The latter will never be found in this universe of space and time, and the former only leads to misery.   I will take hope and wonder over these two things any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Well, readers, this is my opinion of Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. But you do not need to take my word on how good this film is. Borrow or buy it and watch it yourself. And do not forget to Sing whenever you feel like it!

The Pirates of Penzance

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Years ago, I met a group practicing for a play. It was a Gilbert and Sullivan play, but I did not know that at the time. I enjoyed the singing and the lyrics, and one of the friends with me at the time said that I had to see The Pirates of Penzance.

I was more amenable to the idea than I might normally have been. There was something in the practice session that hinted at a great story worth seeing, and so I readily agreed to watch a film of the play.

A film copy of the play was found soon after. Starring Kevin Kline, Rex Smith, Linda Ronstadt, Angela Lansbury, George Rose, and several others, it promised to be a great deal of fun. And that, I soon discovered, was the understatement of the year. As the story started I began to smile. Within five minutes I was choking on giggles. In ten, I was laughing out loud.

For those of you who do not know, Gilbert and Sullivan were two playwrights who wrote comedies in the late nineteenth century. Both were knighted and neither of them could stand the other. They each had aspirations to be the greatest in their respective fields and this meant that neither of them wanted to write comedies, especially if it meant they had to work together all the time. This was in spite of the fact that they were making a veritable killing at this work. The weary duo ended their partnership some time before they died, to the dismay of their fans. Sullivan, who was the younger, died first.

The Pirates of Penzance is one of their best known plays, along with H. M. S. Pinafore and The Mikado. In Penzance we are introduced to a Pirate King (Kevin Kline) and his scurvy crew. The crew is having a celebration for their young apprentice, Frederic (Rex Smith), who turns twenty-two today and thus ends his indentured servitude to them. How did Frederic become indentured to a pirate gang?

It turns out that his nurse, Ruth (Angela Lansbury), misheard Frederic’s father when he gave her a commission. Frederic’s father wanted his son apprenticed to a pilot, but Ruth misheard him and thought he said pirate. So she accidentally indentured eight year old Frederic to the Pirate King’s crew!

Frederic does not hold this misunderstanding against Ruth – it is an easy mistake to make, after all. He has come to know the pirates aboard the ship over the years and likes them all individually. But the fact is that they are pirates, the scourge of the sea, the plague of merchantmen, the locusts of seaports. And so in a general way Frederic hates the pirates he grew up with as the vilest scum of the Earth. And in the abstract he cannot believe that he has been duty-bound to help them ply their terrible trade from the time he was eight years old.

The pirates do not hold this against him, though, since they cannot seem to “make piracy pay.” Frederic knows why this is; because they are orphans, the pirates give orphans a free pass. And word of this nobility on their part has gotten out. The last three ships they tried to take were all manned by orphans, so the pirates spared them.

If you are saying, “Yeah, right,” you would be correct. Frederic points out that everyone knows England does not recruit orphans to crew its merchantmen; they need men with families and titles to command the ships. But because the Pirates of Penzance are known to spare orphans, the crews for these ships pretended to be orphans in order to escape them.

Once the clock strikes noon, Frederic sets out from the pirate ship, taking Ruth with him. Ruth is an older lady by now, but she is the only woman Frederic has seen and known since he was eight. He expects to marry her, a prospect she very much likes, since otherwise she will die an old maid with no one to take care of her.

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But on pulling up to an English beach, Frederic espies a group of girls his own age come to the waterside to have a little fun. Finding Ruth has lied to him about her age and beauty, he casts her off before going to see if one of these young ladies will marry him.

His attempt almost ends in disaster. But one of the girls, Mabel (Linda Ronstadt), appears on the scene before all hope is lost in the young man’s heart. It seems that she lagged behind the other girls and only caught up with them to hear Frederic’s entreaty for a wife. She tells him to “take her heart,” and he is quite happy to do so…

Then the Pirates show up, and the fun kicks into high gear!

There is another version of The Pirates of Penzance which is worth a viewing as well. This one was performed in New York with Patricia Routledge, the lead actress in the British sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, portraying Ruth. If you ever saw her as Hyacinth ‘Bucket’ Bouquet and thought she had a terrible voice, you will be surprised to hear her singing here. She pulled a fast one on those of us who watched Keeping Up Appearances, I can tell you!

Have fun with The Pirates of Penzance, readers!

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A City with Rhythm (And Other Disney Favorites)

Those who have not seen at least one Disney movie in their lives are deprived people. Some probably do not even realize this fact! (Yes, Mr. Kilmeade, I am talking about you!)

So, for those who are deprived and for those of you who are old fans, here are some Disney songs to make you smile. They are a mixture of old and new; you will find Peter Pan and Elsa rubbing elbows below, whilst Rapunzel joins the other princesses for tea. And do not be surprised if a few Dalmatians and lions show up. This is Disney, after all! Anything is possible! 😉

Spit-spot!

The Mithril Guardian

 

Oliver & Co.

Why Should I Worry

Streets of Gold

You and Me

Why Should We Worry

 

Peter Pan

What Made the Red Man Red?

You Can Fly!

Following the Leader

 

Frozen

Vuelie

Frozen Heart

Let It Go

Troll Song

 

The Lion King

The Circle of Life

I Just Can’t Wait to Be King

Hakuna Matata

Can You Feel the Love Tonight?

 

 

The Little Mermaid

Fathoms Below

Someday I’ll Be (Part of Your World)

Kiss the Girl

Under the Sea

 

Sleeping Beauty

Once Upon A Dream

 

Cinderella

We Can Do It (Song of the Mice)

So This Is Love

 

Tangled

When Will My Life Begin?

I’ve Got a Dream

I See the Light

Something That I Want

 

101 Dalmatians

Cruella Deville

 

Beauty and the Beast

Be Our Guest

Gaston’s song

Song as Old as Time

 

The Aristocats

Everybody Wants to Be a Cat

Thomas O’Malley, the Alley Cat

Scales and Arpeggios The Aristocats

Who Will?

This is one of my favorite songs.  It comes from An American Tail IV: The Mystery of the Manhattan Night Monster.  The film, by Universal Studios, is also one of my favorites.  It is a reminder that “if we don’t fight for what’s right” then “who will?”

The video below contains the full song, but the images are fan-made by the same person who made the video.  There is no other video yet on the Internet which records the song.  Not that I can find, anyway.

Enjoy!

The Mithril Guardian

Lyrics for “Who Will?”

Nellie: If you don’t lend a hand

When a hand needs lending

Who will?

Fievel: If you don’t help your friends

When they need befriending

Who will?

When nothing goes right

And everything’s wrong…

When the days are too cold,

And the nights are too long?

Nellie: If you won’t be there to stand and be strong…

Nellie & Fievel: Who will?

Tony: If you don’t risk your neck

When a risk needs takin’ –

Who will?

If you don’t break the rules

When the rules need breakin’ –

Who will?

You’ve gotta be tough!

Nellie: And forthright and square!

Tiger: You can’t hide your head,

And pretend you’re not there!

Fievel: If we don’t fight for what’s right and what’s fair…

Who will?

Nellie: Everyone has a hero, hiding deep inside

Waiting to appear…

But there is no time left to hide!

The moment is now, the place is here!

Tony: Who will risk life and limb,

Just to help a stranger?

I will!

Fievel: Who will walk through the dark

Even though there’s danger?

I will!

Who’ll stay by your side?

Tony: And take up the cause?

Tiger: Who’ll give you his strength, his heart, and his paws?

Tony: Who’ll be your back-up?

Tiger: Your buddy?

Fievel: Your friend?

Fievel, Tony, & Tiger: We will.

Fievel: Fievel

Nellie: And Nellie

Tony: And Tony

Tiger: And Tiger

ALL: We will.

Frozen – Let It Go

Let It Go

If you saw a post I wrote some time back which showed off a few of my favorite themes and songs from animated films and TV shows, then you know I enjoyed Disney’s Frozen. The movie has been a big hit, and while it may be getting more hype than it needs right now, it can rightfully find a place among the best movies ever made.

Part of the reason for this is its most popular song, Let It Go, sung by the film’s protagonist, Queen Elsa. Elsa begins to sing Let It Go when she decides not to stifle her cryokinetic powers any longer.  She experiments with her abilities for the first time in years, managing to make herself a huge, magnificent ice palace and a dress of fine frost and ice in a few moments. She declares she is no longer afraid of what she can do and casts her crown aside, choosing a life of hermitage away from others, so she will not hurt them.

Despite the song’s obviously triumphant tone and lyrics, I am skeptical that Elsa actually “threw off” her fear when she ditched her crown. If she had truly stopped being afraid of what she could do, why did Arendelle remain frozen up until Anna sacrificed herself to protect Elsa?

Yes, yes – the easy answer is that it was in the script. But I do not like easy answers with regard to stories; it is a rare tale that has an “easy” solution to a problem. And the “simplicity” of the dilemma is not necessarily related to how well a viewer/listener/reader can comprehend the story. Characters in stories react just like regular humans; when have we EVER made life easy for ourselves?

That is correct: we practically never do.

Elsa may have thought she gave up her fear, but I do not think she did. She gave up her terror of openly using her gifts, but she still viewed said gifts as a “curse,” recalling that the old troll who healed Anna had asked the King whether Elsa was “born with the power or cursed?”

Where Elsa once viewed her abilities as a gift, a power she could use to make her sister (and thereby herself) happy, she now views it only as something she wishes she did not have. Certainly, her bad experience of injuring her younger sister, however unwittingly, is partly to blame for this. But because of the old troll’s warning that “fear will be [her] enemy,” Elsa has grown to fear the power she once loved and controlled with relative ease.

And in this way fear is her enemy. It is not just the fear of her subjects, the Duke of Weselton, and Hans that is a threat to her. The biggest threat is her fear of her abilities. Her powers are so tightly tied to her emotional state that any strong emotion – love, fear, and anger – makes her powers react accordingly.  Love melts the snow, fear freezes her kingdom, and anger allows her to defend herself with the skill of a trained combatant.

So though she stops fearing the use of her powers, Elsa does not lose her fear of herself. She does not lose her fear of being a menace to society and to her own sister. This is why Arendelle remains a frozen kingdom, and only becomes colder and colder as Elsa’s terror mounts. Until Anna reminds her of how to let go of her fear, Elsa is unable to remove the snow and ice smothering her kingdom. Once she learns that she can in fact control her abilities; that they are in fact subject to her and not the other way around, does Elsa truly “Let It Go.”

This does not, in my opinion, make Let It Go any less of a great song. It may be a little premature in its setting in the film, but Elsa’s jubilation is more than somewhat premature! She thinks she is released when actually she is still shackled by her fear. Nevertheless, the song is enjoyable and a great piece of music to listen to when one can find the time.

So, readers, I will “let” you “go” until next time!

Later,

The Mithril Guardian