It's evident that my tastes tend to go toward the unusual. But why do I constantly search this stuff out when I know it will just bring me pain and suffering? Do I really need another obsession that no one else will understand?
I do it because I'm a fan of many things. One of these things is well-written show scores. Which, often times, means unsuccessful musicals that routinely just disappear off the face of the earth (and by earth, I obviously mean America): Amour, Brooklyn, that Frankenstein musical I saw during the first NYMF, that Caligula musical I also saw there, the British version of Taboo, the British version of Bombay Dreams - you get it. Most of these have readily available soundtracks, so I can be satisfied.
But no. That's not enough for me. I'll subject myself to random research, like "Hey, my dog just woke me up at 5:15 in the morning by pouncing on my genitals and then falling asleep on my head. I know: I'll look up all the nominees for Best Original Score throughout the history of the Tony Awards. That will be fun way to pass the time till my scheduled rehearsal time for today." So I did.
Which is why I found out about the most successful musical in the history of Poland, that quickly turned into one of the most spectacular flops in the history of Broadway: Metro.
With an original pop/rock/hiphop/europop/wizard score by Janusz Stok?osa (music) and Agata and Maryna Miklaszewsk (lyrics) and inventive hiphop/jazz/tap/ballet/unicorn choreography and direction by Janusz Józefowicz, from my best understanding the show is a slightly more angsty version of those classic American musicals where a group of kids decide to come together and put on a show. For one thing, it's about a group of teenagers who just happen to live in the subway system and have years of jazz, ballet, and modern training, as well as stunning pop/rock voices. For another, the production company apparently still brags about the incorporation of lasers in the show.
More after the jump.
I showed my mother a quick section of a video of the show. Now I feel bad. She also wants to see it. Her exact words, "It's so Polish." It also should be known that she does know basic Polish and understood more of the song than a few words here or there like me.
A little background: I have three competing heritages: Irish, Polish, and Czech. Each portion of my family is fiercely proud of one of the three, but not all three. My father is Irish (and Polish), my mother is Polish (and Irish and Czech), and my grandmother on my mother's side is Czech (and Polish).
Breaking Tangential News: My biggest ally at the high school, my department supervisor, just resigned from the school system. Fuck me, I'm probably going to be booted to the curb with her. Just when I was about to get a real show under my belt, too. Damn it. I'll hold out on getting all those Anything Goes recordings and sheet music.
All three push me towards accepting one identity, and it kills my father that I'm fascinated by Polish culture. My grandmother understands - she's the one that taught me to polka and encouraged me to play the clarinet so that one day, I might get to play with Jimmy Sturr.
What draws me to Metro is the score. Of the songs I've found so far, I believe it's eclectic, beautiful, and inventive. Honestly, the staging and choreography isn't that far off from Rent, so maybe it was a bit ahead of its time for Broadway. Or maybe it was the all Polish cast (as in, shipped over from Poland for the show) phonetically singing strangely translated English language lyrics that created an unintended Brecht-like distancing effect that couldn't be broken. Potato, tomato.
Pretty, right? It feels like the kind of show that, if available in America, would make a killing in regional and HS theater. It's a large ensemble cast, with featured moments for dancers and singers, plainclothes costuming, and creative/budget conscious staging.
But where are the lasers and blacklights and wirework, you ask*? That gorgeous tacky excess Paulina Porizkova so arrogantly described every time she addressed America's Next Top Model Cycle 10 hamster Katarzyna? Certainly this is no more distracting or excessive than what regularly appears in big blockbuster musicals like Young Frankenstein or the Guys and Dolls revival (also...tremendous...flops...hmm...).
How about a giant dollar bill and a song based off of the slogan on the back of our US currency?
"Ben-jah-min-a Frank-leen," indeed.
It's really fitting that none of these videos have the applause at the end. It produces the image of a Springtime for Hitler-like reaction to the subject matter: jaws dropping, monocles popping, and people not even pretending to care that they are walking out of an expensive Broadway show.
Yet I still love it.
I also find it particularly endearing that the studio recording available everywhere but America boldly places "Nomination 1991-1992 Tony Award" across the cover.
One day, when I have the money and reputation, I feel like I'm going to piss all of it away to try and remount some of the failed English adaptations of distinctly European musicals. And it will be worth it to me. Now to learn Polish so I can efficiently translate some of these songs for club gigs and really open auditions.
*Right here. You're welcome.