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Desperately Seeking Susan

In a musical, most of the songs should help further the plot. This is where the brand-new musical of Desperately Seeking Susan falls down. With one exception, all its songs are songs from Blondie. They have the right feel, the right sound. In a few cases, they help further the plotline. ("Dreaming" as a framing song; "Call Me", but only in exerpts at the beginning; "One Way or Another" as a killer's song; "Atomic".) In others, their lyrics were indecipherable, so it's hard to say. I blamed the sound engineers. G. and H. blamed Blondie for writing songs in which the lyrics are largely indecipherable. They should know. In most, however, it seemed as if songs were shoe-horned into their location in the musical because it was the closest available fit in Blondie's oeuvre.

That said, it wasn't a bad musical. It just wasn't a good one either. I've not seen the movie, but the plot, as portrayed on stage, seemed to be promising material for a musical, with plenty of action and plenty of introspection. That there are romances and a happy ending doesn't hurt either. A bored housewife in New Jersey wistfully follows the exciting life of people who leave each other personal ads in the newspaper. One of those who does - and who received them - is Susan, a woman-of-the-world with few scruples. Over two eventful days, their lives become intertwined and swapped while mixed up in a jewellery heist.

The singing was solid. The staging was ingenious, with good use of multiple levels. The swimming pool was nicely done. The costuming was evocative although, as G. or H. said, it looked as if the people in N.J. were living in the early 70s, while those in NY were living in the '80s. The plot is set in '78 or '79. But I wasn't drawn in at all to the plot until over halfway through the first act. (C. observed that the musical began in the wrong place. The opening scene at the hair salon was distracting and not wholly relevant.) It all seemed entirely competent, but ultimately a musical co-existing with its music, rather than immersed in it.

Note: The theatre couldn't have been more than a third full, and this was technically opening week (although it's been in public rehearsals for several). We were moved to the central stalls from our original tickets up in the upper dress circle. If you want to see it - if you're a huge fan of the movie or Blondie, perhaps - go soon.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
flick
Nov. 18th, 2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen it (although I might), but I must admit that I'm finding it very odd that it's Blondie, and not, you know, Madonna....
taldragon
Nov. 18th, 2007 10:00 pm (UTC)
swconded, especially as it sounds pretty faithful to the original film.

which was entirely a Madonna vehicle ;)
arcana_mundi
Nov. 19th, 2007 07:58 pm (UTC)
Thirded. I was very confused.
owlfish
Nov. 19th, 2007 01:38 pm (UTC)
Especially since it looks like there was at least some plot tweaking to make it fit. (No Spanish maid named Maria is listed in the movie cast; and her plot line was a little random - dating an immigration officer in part 1, randomly throwing off all her inhibitions to hook up with a transvestite in part 2.)
andromakie
Nov. 18th, 2007 11:01 pm (UTC)
I wondered how this one would work. I have tickets to Dirty Dancing in 2 weeks and the reviews were pretty pitiful, although they, too, remarked on the staging for this. Maybe you should go see Bad Girls: The Musical. It might be more interesting.
owlfish
Nov. 19th, 2007 01:28 pm (UTC)
Has Bad Girls gotten good reviews or have you just early intriguing things about it? (Which is to say, why have you a hunch I'll enjoy that more?)

We went to see DSS because a cheap tickets offer arrived in my inbox around the same time that visitors were interested in seeing a London musical - any London musical. After coming out, we went to Leicester Square and they bought same-day tickets for Wicked.
andromakie
Nov. 19th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)
Wicked is generally a safe choice. How were the new leads?

A couple of people told me Bad Girls was good, but I've never seen the show it was based on so I have no clue. I think it's set in a jail.
vschanoes
Nov. 19th, 2007 05:47 am (UTC)
That is weird--it should be Madonna.

And I have to say...I've never had any problem understanding Blondie's lyrics. They always seemed pretty clear to me. So I don't think it's the songs.
owlfish
Nov. 19th, 2007 01:26 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure Madonna's music would have contributed any more to the plotline than Blondie songs did, but I'd have to see that version to be sure. The reason Mamma Mia works is because (1) the plotline was built around the songs and (2), where necessary, the songs were tweaked to fit the plotline. DSS had neither advantage.

My co-attendees swore they understood more Blondie lyrics from the musical's renditions than they ever had from the recordings. But it really could well have been the sound engineers or a poor directorial choice. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the singers.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )