Archives for posts with tag: Hugh Jackman

The Fairy Princess just wanted to have a peaceful Thursday.

She wanted to watch Scandal, and see if anyone ate their arm off to escape twenty years of incarceration, and perhaps sip a hot chocolate while doing so.

There were some excellent things that occurred this last week, and while she generally sticks to commenting on theater, attention must be paid to Hollywood who has made some cool decisions this week.

To begin with, Reggie Lee– aka Sgt. Wu on NBC’s GRIMM got his own mythical creature of horror to love and rear and name Aswang.

Obviously, the Aswang is on the right....

Obviously, the Aswang is on the right….

The Aswang is so completely a creature that Filipino parents would use to scare children, that I cackled with laughter when I saw it. An Aswang sneaks into a pregnant woman’s bed and eats her unborn child. (I mean, of course, that is really, really bad, but that is definitely an Asian fairy tale – because most of them lead to someone having bodily harm, dying, or getting stuck in a mountain for millions of years – all designed to make us behave and continue to practice piano as we study to be a doctor while doing math problems in our heads.)

The ratings  were FANTASTIC – so yay for Diversity, for Reggie Lee, and for Grimm fans who, let’s face it, might like to not always have to look to a Teutonic dictionary to figure out what is going on every week. Yes, I watch the show, and yes I love the show, but change is good too.

Alec Mapa, currently seen on the ABC Family show, Switched At Birth, as Lea Thompson’s new Gay “Bestie”….

This photo screams subtle, nuanced drama...or maybe that's just my take

This photo screams subtle, nuanced drama…or maybe that’s just my take

is getting an award this coming Saturday in Hollywood – The Fusion Achievement Award from OUTFEST’s Fusion LGBT People of Color Film Festival – which is the only multi-cultural film festival of it’s kind – dedicated to nurturing, showcasing and protecting LGBT Media. Oh – and, speaking of OH – Sandra Oh is going to be on hand to present him with his award, and therefore I give you THIS little gem to enjoy….

Although they probably will not talk about that kind of stuff when she’s presenting him with his fancy award, which coincides with the World Premiere of his new Concert film, Baby Daddy. The Fairy Princess has seen Baby Daddy several times live, and gives it a hearty recommendation – especially if you are a Parent.

Finally, a THIRD good thing announced this week, was the completion of the Casting of Far East Orlando, formerly known as Fresh Off The Boat. The pilot stars Randall Park as the Father, Constance Wu as the Mom, Ian Chen (Gary), Hudson Yang (Eddie), and Forrest Wheeler (Freddy). It is based on the memoir by Celebrity Chef, Eddie Huang – and if it gets ‘the order’, it will give us the first funny Asian American Family on a major network since Margaret Cho’s All American Girl. 

Photo by Jeff Yang

Photo by Jeff Yang

If it gets a ‘order’ and runs at least 4-5 seasons, these small children will be able to buy and sell us all, so finger’s are crossed for you, Kids!

So everything was going good, yes? Seems like Hollywood was doing way better than Theater (Particularly theater in Los Angeles and Philadelphia, ahem). Until I read about Rooney Mara being Cast as Tiger Lily in the new big screen film being directed by Joe Wright.

Just so we are all on the same page – there is a play and a novel – called  Peter Pan, Or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, and it was written by J.M. Barrie  – who was Scottish. He wrote the play in 1904, and the novel later in 1911.

Author, J.M. Barrie

Author, J.M. Barrie

Scholars believe that the character of Peter is based  in part on Barrie’s brother, David, who died in an accident at age 14. His Mother, Margaret had a hard time with David’s passing, as he was her favorite, and the way she coped was by enjoying a fantasy that David would never grow up, and therefore never leave her. He also based Peter on his friendships with the 5 young sons of Arthur  & Sylvia Llewelyn Davies – to whom, after their parents passed, he became Guardian. The boys were named George, John, Peter, Michael, and Nicholas. He made up the “Peter Pan’ stories to keep the boys amused – but of course, he needed to create a world in which the characters lived, and so he decided upon “Neverland”.

Neverland is not a real place, of course, it is a dream. But, as with all dreams – and as even, with the character of Peter himself, Barrie based them on what was happening around him – he even named most of the characters for people that he knew. Peter, Wendy, John – all people he knew.

Though he may have known someone who was Native American, upon whom Tiger Lily was based, the odds are that she is simply a ‘made up’ character because he, as had most of the UK at the time, would have grown up hearing about stories of the American West and the British wars with the Native Populations of America, playing ‘Cowboys and Indians”.

Or, it could have been a fun story device – whatever the reason, he made up a name of a Tribe – the Piccaninny, which he based on Native American tribes, and made Tiger Lily their Princess and to a certain extent, a rival for Peter’s affections for Wendy Darling.

The description of Tiger Lily is, according to Wikipedia:

  • Tiger Lily is the proud, beautiful princess of the Piccaninny Tribe. In the book, the Indians of Neverland were portrayed in a nature that is now regarded as stereotypical.[9] Barrie portrayed them as primitive, warlike savages who spoke with guttural voice tones.[9] She is apparently old enough to be married, but she refuses any suitors because she desires Peter over all. She is jealous of Wendy and Tinker Bell. Tiger Lily is nearly killed by Captain Hook when she is seen boarding the Jolly Roger with a knife in her mouth, but Peter saves her.

Having studied literature at the University of Edinburgh,  Barrie would have been most familiar with the British image of the ‘noble savage, which became very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. J.M. Barrie was born in 1860, so when he created the character of Tiger Lily and her tribe in Peter Pan, the images he may have seen of “Noble Savages’ might have been something like this:

Description: Portrait of a Native American woman, half-length directed to right, wearing feather headdress and holding a quiver with arrows Etching on thin paper Dimensions: Height: 97 millimetres (trimmed), Width: 71 millimetres Inscriptions: Lettered in top left corner: "Rembrandt f. / 1632". Print made by: Rembrandt (Follower of) Date: 1650-1750 (c.) Curator's comments: Possibly a later pas

Description: Portrait of a Native American woman, half-length directed to right, wearing feather headdress and holding a quiver with arrows
Etching on thin paper
Inscriptions: Lettered in top left corner: “Rembrandt f. / 1632”.
Print made by: Rembrandt (Follower of)
Date: 1650-1750 (c.) 

as this etching is in a collection in the British Museum.

He may have walked past this Ashinaabe outfit collected by Lieutenant Andrew Foster during his military service in North America circa 1780, also in the British Museum.

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However even if J. M. Barrie was not patrolling the Native American collection at The British Museum in the name of researching a character called Tiger Lily, there were dozens of images of young Native American women around, because there was this lovely invention called photography – so let’s see if The Fairy Princess can find images of NA Women from say, the 1800’s and up, upon who he could base images of his ‘Tiger Lily’ –

Portrait of Marcia Pascal, a young Cherokee Woman, taken 1880 (Collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology)

Portrait of Marcia Pascal, a young Cherokee Woman, taken 1880 (Collected by the Bureau of American Ethnology)

Isabelle Perico Enjady, a Jicarilla Apache Girl

Isabelle Perico Enjady, a Jicarilla Apache Girl

Portrait of Hattie Tom, Chiricahua Apache, in 1899 by F.A. Rhinehart

Portrait of Hattie Tom, Chiricahua Apache, in 1899 by F.A. Rhinehart

Ah, so there were images of young Native American women on whom J.M. Barrie could have based the character of Tiger Lily floating around. Now, in 1904 – it would have been HIGHLY unlikely that J.M. Barrie or anyone else was looking to cast for ‘authenticity’ when casting Tiger Lilly, but here is the interesting thing, when they made the 1924 film of Peter Pan, they cast Anna May Wong as Tiger Lilly.

Anna May Wong in the 1924 film, Peter Pan

Anna May Wong in the 1924 film, Peter Pan

As most people know now, it is believed that an land bridge  of some kind existed, and that people crossed over from Asia into what is now known as North America.

DNA Migration Pattern detailing the now widely accepted 'Land Bridge" theory of migration, which indicates that 'the ancestors of the First Americans came from an East Asian Homeland"

DNA Migration Pattern detailing the now widely accepted ‘Land Bridge” theory of migration, which indicates that ‘the ancestors of the First Americans came from an East Asian Homeland”

Ah, science says that Asian peoples and Native American peoples share some DNA, and are somewhat, super distantly, related! This is not a stretch to believe, after all, we have some shared traits in eye shape and hair, the difference in skin tones would have been because of growing up in different climates and exposures.

Anna May Wong was Chinese American, and our first Asian American film goddess.

Wasn't she gorgeous?

Wasn’t she gorgeous?

Which means that the casting of Anna May Wong as Tiger Lily in 1924 was much closer to the mark than the casting of Rooney Mara in 2014!

Before she had a Dragon Tatoo...

Before she had a Dragon Tattoo…

No one denies that Rooney Mara is a talented actress, or that she is fully capable of investing into a role. But while it is perfectly fine for an actress to dye her hair, or lose weight, or gain weight to play a part, or allow herself to wrinkle, or present herself as a total mess in the film, but totally glamorous on the red carpet promoting the film – in 2014, this casting strikes a bad note. The mildest description would be ‘insensitive’.

Or you could read this article on The Huffington Post, they have a few words for it.

Now, on the off-chance that Ms. Mara was going to claim some percentage of Native American heritage, a la Johnny Depp, in order to divert attention from the fact that in today’s world, this casting is in poor taste, I looked her up. Her Dad’s Family owns the New York Giants football team and they hail from County Down in Ireland. Her Mother’s Family owns the Pittsburgh Steelers, and they are Irish and Italian.

My Father, who was 100 per cent Irish American, was a lawyer. His people were from Kerry. He passed away in 2012.

The One and Only, Himself

The One and Only, Himself

In the course of his practice, he represented two Native American tribes who were fighting for State and Federal recognition. My Dad did not get paid as the tribes did not have the money to hire an attorney such as himself, because they had all sorts of internal issues.

When I asked him once about why he chose to do this – because it was hours and hours on the phone talking to the Chiefs, and so on, he told me that America could never make up to the Native Americans for all the crimes that were done to them. He told me that America had been very good to the Irish people, that they had done very well in this country, and that Irish people and Native Americans should stick together – because the English had treated the Irish almost as badly as the Americans had treated the Native Americans – almost.

It struck me, as I was reading about Rooney Mara’s casting that my Father, who was made “Tribal Judge’ for one of the tribes, would not approve of the casting of an Irish American, whose family had done particularly well in America, to be portraying a Native American.

Even if it is a mythical tribe in Neverland, which is based on an idea, but which does not truly exist. The Piccaninnys may not exist, but they are based on people who do.

Native_American_map[1]

But you know – no Actress casts herself, she is offered the part. So while we can question Ms. Mara’s decision to accept it, it’s perfectly within her rights to do so.

I have read some quotes from the director that this is a ‘re-imagining‘ and it is going to be a multi-cultural cast but I will say this again – and again, and again, and I will keep saying it until people who are trying to justify their insensitive casting decisions get it:

Multi-racial is not an excuse for when you want to culturally ‘skin’ a minority & wear us like a coat

Multi-cultural is not supposed to take away from people whose representation is already marginalized.

Multi-cultural is not supposed to be a buzz word defense for being ‘called’ on casting choices that amount to appropriation.

Also, as The Fairy Princess looks to see who has been announced as the Cast of this film – Rooney Mara, Hugh Jackman, Garrett Hedlund – she does not see a lot of ‘diversity’.

Maybe she’s being silly. Maybe Director Joe Wright is one of those guys who claims he ‘doesn’t see color’ –

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Here’s the thing, Joe – may I call you Joe?

If you don’t see color,  how do you drive?

Ten smacks of the wand to Director Joe Wright – because you could have helped move everyone forward, and you chose not to. It’s not a ‘creative’ decision you made there, Joe – may I call you Joe? It is a decision steeped in a  ‘world view’ that does not view the world at all.

You could have done a remarkable thing and cast the first Native American as Tiger Lily on screen since, ummm, well, EVER!
(Apologies to Anna May Wong). But YOU chose not to, and that makes The Fairy Princess’s wings do a ‘sad flap’- because once again, the white guy refuses to ‘see’ people of color.

Which means that as in days past, the White Man is trying to erase Native Americans from the cultural landscape.

Man, The Fairy Princess just hates when people do not ‘get it’! You would think people were tired of being stupid and lazy, but apparently not. Frightening.

I guess, Mr. Wright, you can join the ever growing list of cultural arbiters with little progressive vision and…

Kiss My Fan, Tan Fannie!

Tom Hooper hates singers.

Tom Hooper, Director of the film version of Les Miz

Tom Hooper, Director of the film version of Les Miz

I know, that’s a bold statement, considering he has just presented us with the completed film version of Les Miserables, but after watching this film – and yes, I paid for it, on Christmas Day, just like a non-Entertainment Industry person would do – I’m sticking with it.

Tom Hooper hates singers. Tom Hooper seems to hate musicals as well. Tom Hooper hates musicals and singers SO MUCH – he decided to do a three hour version of his own personal hell and take us all along with it.

And here’s the funny thing – I LOVE MUSICALS! I love musicals so much, I already knew every word of that particular musical before I got to the movie theater. I love musicals SO MUCH, I studied singing so that I could, when conditions are right and I don’t prompt a regional theater to hate me for pointing out their obvious racist casting flaws, be IN THEM.

YES! I do musicals! I even hold a degree in Classical Voice from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music! I sing professionally! As do, roughly, more than half of the people I count as friends and co-workers. In fact, walking down Broadway when I am not in a show and every show I pass has a friend in it, is kind of my own personal version of Hell – but one I revel in. There are only two people in the world that I begrudge their careers, and they know who they are and what they’ve done, and we’ll leave it there. (Though, considering I am in the business I am, two is a relatively low number – perhaps even precariously low, but it’s accurate).

So here’s some Fairy Princess thoughts, some SINGER Fairy Princess thoughts about the film version of Les Miserables.

I'm thinking...I'm thinking

I’m thinking…I’m thinking

First: no one is able to sing well if they have to lose a bunch of weight right before you make them sing it repeatedly while massive waves are knocking them over. Or if they are trying to look emaciated so that they can sing and ‘die’ while ostensibly dying of consumption. Singers in Operas love to die of consumption – but they don’t diet for it.

This is what weight loss does to the voice when it happens too fast – it creates a wobble. Yes, it creates a wobble that makes you unable to stabilize and hit all the notes you are reaching for. And, when you do happen to hit those notes and you are trying to sing around a wobble, THIS is what also happens – you change timbres. (Pronounced Tam-bers). Meaning the quality of the voice. So the ‘realness’ that it is supposed to be creating – yeah…it’s just distracting. It’s not ‘profound’ or ‘real acting vs. musical theater acting’, it’s ummm…a wobble. Also, for men, you lose the ‘bottom’ of the voice – the rich, roundness that would make the recitative (the dialogue that is sung through) able to work for the story, instead of against. So – for vocal health – NO SUDDEN AND EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS!

Second: if you cast someone who you know cannot sing it – even if you give them intense voice training for a whole FEW WEEKS before you start filming, and then make them do it over and over and over and over, and do not fix it in post – they are going to sound raspy, under-supported, and flat. It’s not their fault. They did their job, they showed up, they knew their lines, they were ‘committed’, but you can’t make a classic musical theater baritone out of a grunting rock voice purse.

Stunt casting was done well in ONE part, putting Colm Wilkinson, the ORIGINAL Jean Valjean in as the Bishop who lets Jackman steal the candlesticks. Otherwise…you didn’t need it. It’s Les Miserables. Longest running, biggest money maker, blockbustery musical in the history of this current time. Even the Mayans could not predict an end to Les Miserables and it’s popularity. Really, isn’t it kinda mean to put some actor in a position where his ass has NO CHOICE but to hang out – given those conditions? I mean, if I didn’t think that Tom Hooper hated singers, I would at least have to consider that he may hate Russell Crowe.

Me, I like Norm Lewis. How about you?

Third: We saw the candlesticks more than we saw Fantine or Eponine. I mean…they had their specialty light and they just kept showing up! Jean Valjean makes his escape with a rope and a toddler, and bam! Candlesticks show up, even though we didn’t even see them run with a carpetbag! Nary a valise to be seen, but the CANDLESTICKS have been magically transported to the new location. It’s the power of musicals I guess – the same thing happened with that cat in GLITTER.

Fourth: Water. Singers and cold water are not friends. Here’s why – in terms of drinking, it will shock your vocal chords right out of that warm up exercise that you just spent twenty minutes doing. In terms of singing IN WATER? We don’t. It’s why things like theaters and opera houses have roofs. It’s why theaters that are under the stars aka outdoor theaters do not have shows when it rains. This is what happens when singers get wet – no, it’s not quite Gremlins, but it’s close.

When singers get wet, we are not like normal people, we do not just get the chills. We get contagion. We get bronchial pneumonia that will leave us gasping for air for MONTHS. We get sore throats walking past a rain gutter that is dripping when we are on the way to our lesson. Singers are big babies. Big friggin’ ‘susceptible to the elements’ babies. We have scarves, we have hats, we chug anything and everything that is suppose to lubricate our throats, clear our sinuses, and keep us able to hit those big ‘money’ notes that people go to see musicals for.

Unless you are shooting the big musical that people have paid big money to see, so you tell your actors to ‘dial it down’. This is reasonable because you are not shooting a musical, you are shooting a vocal “Survivor”-type boot camp for singers where they will have to sing barefoot in water, on what is likely a very cold sound stage – because sound stages are ALWAYS freezing. Which means BIG UPS – and I mean, friggin HUGE ones to this Cast who had to sing through more water than the Cast of Titanic had to deal with, and their movie was set on an ocean liner that SANK!

Let’s see, Hugh Jackman had the MOST water – he was pulling a ship into dry dock, he threw himself into the river, he was buried in a river of (Fake) human feces, that he did not get double pneumonia and need a lung transplant only means that he really IS Wolverine. But Samantha Barks as Eponine did not have a “Little Fall of Rain”, she had a a deluge! (That is French for “a hell of a lot of water”). I didn’t just want to hug her because she was Eponine, I wanted to give her Wellington boots, a hot toddy, and a good Mary Poppins umbrella, because her rendition of “On My Own” was practically perfect in every way.

Fifth: No one was allowed time to breathe. Singing is air. Singing is breath. You can sing and act. But you need to be allowed to do so. The actors that had vast experience doing musicals seemed to be doing BOTH! (What is that, you say? Acting AND singing? At the SAME TIME?) But they probably just let the director talk and then did it their way.

And here’s what happened, in the middle of a movie, a musical movie broke out! Yes, as soon as Aaron Tveit and his Revolutionaries showed up – looking at you too Eddie Redmayne – it was like, not only did the singers start breathing, the audience did too. THIS was the film they came to see, THIS was what they were waiting for. It was so shocking the four teenagers behind me, who were talking and giggling through the whole film, shut their yaps! It was a Christmas Miracle! Yes, the intimacy of the previous numbers was nice, I have always like singspiel, but not in France. Not in Victor Hugo’s France.

Sixth: Yes, I cried. Three times – “A Little Fall of Rain” (Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne had me at “Don’t You Fret”), When Russell Crowe pinned Gavroche’s corpse (Recent events), and at the end when, right after the candlesticks made their final appearance, Fantine came back to sing Valjean into Heaven. So yes, I had problems with the vocal production but not enough to not make plans to buy it on DVD when it comes out. (Have I mentioned I loved, loved, loved Eddie Redmayne in this? Cuz I do. I did. I really did. Mister Redmayne, I was moved by you! Who knew you could sing like that? You Sir, have logged a fair bit of time in a Voice Studio!)

Oh, Mr. Hooper – other than the singing there IS this one thing – the sound effect when Javert hits the river? REALLY? Ouch. Tom Hooper…you have to hate Russell Crowe. I cannot see how you would add that otherwise, it was just…did he throw a phone at you in a previous life?

There was much in this film I really, really enjoyed -like, I liked that in Heaven, Fantine got a sandwich, but curiously, not a weave. I liked that the underlying theme to this musical is that Blond people will have everything work out for them as long as they have a Heart Full of Love, when what they really needed all along was a lung full of air. Brunettes though, unsustainable, even though there was air for days and the tiniest waist I have seen on a healthy looking person in several years. I liked that though Sacha Baron Cohen was the only one using a French accent when he showed up as the Master of the House, he quickly remembered that the rest of the Cast was in jolly old England, and switched – because nothing says France more than sounding like Wills and Kate out at a charity event.

The 'REAL" Master of the House

The ‘REAL” Master of the House

Seventh: I send this out to Mr. Hooper, with whom I would like to someday ‘hang’ professionally, and to the other burgeoning directors of movie musicals who will follow his lead, and have the singers sing live and then add the orchestration later. Take it for what it is, which is good advice – these songs, how many times are they sung in the actual stage show? That would be once. One time.

For that one time, the singer in question will curtail their daily activities, modify excessive behavior, and in general, remain focused on giving the audience a thrilling time at the theater. Singing big ballads over and over and over and over again only guarantees one thing – that the singer is going to get tired. And when we get tired, we fall back on technique, if we have it, to get through that.

The voice is often talked about as ‘an instrument’ – but it is actually a muscle, a series of muscles. Just like in any other sport, you can ‘tweak’ a muscle, you can strain a muscle, in short – there is damage to be done by over exerting these muscles. Calling the voice ‘an instrument’ often inspires in non singers an attitude that singers are able to repeat and repeat, and …it’s not true. If a running back ‘tweaks’ his tendon, he rests.  Same principle.

If you are using people that are not used to singing a two and a half hour shows eight times a week, you may get great takes on tapings 1-5, after 5, it is going to get strained. After 10 it is going to likely get hoarse. And any more than that, you are looking at a singer who may get vocal damage – so I would caution you to take care of your Vocal Artists and show them the same respect you show to the light. It can take hours to set up the lighting so it is just right. You see where I am going with this? (And it would not hurt either to have a vocal tech person on the set, reminding the singers to breathe, place it more forward, put the voice in the head, and so on, so that when you get to see the ‘Dailies’, everyone is happy.)

This is NOT a review of the movie, I don’t want to confuse anyone. This is what I, as a professional singer, took note of while watching the film. I liked the film – but not from a singing standpoint. And, I thought that once or twice on the barricade, a revolving shot that made it look a bit like a stage turntable would have been a tip of the hat to the fans of the show – but ok, that didn’t happen. Anyway, I liked it.

Yes, I enjoyed this film as a moviegoer even though, as a singer, I was horrified. It used to be enough to sing, dance, and act. Now everyone is trying to up the reality of a musical. For heaven’s sake – it is a MUSICAL! I want it to sound fantastic – I want the actors to have their best foot forward. If they have to record it first and sing to track, I am ok with it.

I know, I know, this is a new way of shooting musicals – fine, but if you are going to make your Actors almost die to sing through the elements, then you’d better get more people in there like Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit, and Eddie Redmayne.

And if you are lucky enough to get the brilliant and amazing Hugh Jackman to work on your musical movie – who I have seen live in The Boy From Oz and was knocked on my ass by how stunningly talented he is – then do not EFF with his instrument by making him slog through mud, water, weight loss, and singing it live so many times he might not do the best he can do. Hugh Jackman is amazing – I want his Agent to read his contract better the next time so I’m not so worried about him! (He should get an award for this, I think, he worked HARD)

All it all – this is a great reason for why more Musical Theater Actors and Actresses should be working in Television and Film. If you have done a musical, 8 shows a week, nothing phases you. And Bravo to those who mounted the monster barricade that IS this musical.

Tom Hooper, if I met you, I would thank you. and perhaps curse you, you and this new way of shooting musicals that  is now going to torture all of us! However, because of you – more people who deserve it will be working. More audiences will be open to it, and pay to see it, and that will mean MORE movies that are musicals.

May I suggest you look at RAGTIME for your next project? As far as I know, there is no water in Ragtime except for the crossing of the immigrants from Europe – but…you are pretty resourceful, I bet you can FIND some!

However, Mr. Hooper, with respect – I still think that you still hate singers. Which is ok, sometimes I hate us too.