Sunday, January 20, 2013

Friday Dance Party: Do They Think That Walls Can Hide You?

It was a week of confessions, one of which inspires our Dance Party.  Of course, everyone has heard all about Lance Armstrong's revelation that he has been lying for years, and that he in fact was a major doper. 
Liar's Club

I did not watch his interview this week, as I have less than zero interest in an athlete revealing that he rose to glory by artificial means.  I've heard that Armstrong is likely to feel the pain of his lying through his wallet.  NPR told me that he is worth about 100 million, but will shortly be sued by just about everybody.  The London Times, for example, paid out over a million dollars when it lost a libel suit brought by Lance.  Since the claims the paper made are now verified, they want their money back.  So does the US Postal Service, who sponsored Armstrong's activities to the tune of 90 million dollars.

Ah well, you get what you pay for.

Jodie Foster's confession was probably the week's most fun. 
Foster's first Oscar nod came at age 15.

Her rambling speech at the Golden Globes verified what everybody in the film industry already knew about her sexuality, though her speech seemed to mystify some.  I read later that there was confusion about whether or not she had actually come out.  Yes, she did.  The confusing part of her speech was really about her work;  it sounded a lot like she was retiring.  When someone asked her about it backstage, she clarified that no, she did not mean to imply that she was leaving the business. 
Something's wrong with this picture.

Good to know, but I'd really like to hear why Foster specifically mentioned Mel Gibson as someone who "saved me."  How did such a self-professed bigot, racist, misogynist, and xenophobe ever save Jodie?  THAT'S the Oprah interview I'd like to hear.

This week's Dance Party comes from the third confessional we heard this week, though it really wasn't one. 
Playing Jennifer Garner's pop
on Alias brought him his first
sustained national attention.

Victor Garber was interviewed by one of those Hollywood bloggers, and seemed surprised to be asked about his partner of 13 years. Garber has never been secretive about his sexuality, but since he spent his younger years in the theatre, it didn't come up.  I don't really think anybody cares now, either, as he's a solidly middle-aged character actor who has a thriving but understated career.  He counts Titanic as one of his films (he played the boat's builder) and is currently on the big screen as the heroic Canadian ambassador in Argo.  He's carved a lively career in episodic television, playing Jennifer Garner's father in Alias and, currently, as the patriarch on NBC's Deception (Victor has a total of six Emmy nominations to his credit). 
Eli Stone didn't last 2 seasons, and is now only remembered, if at all, as having brought current Sherlock Holmes Jonny Lee Miller to the small screen.  But the quirky show was one of my favorites, and was peopled with Broadway alums like Loretta Devine and Victor Garber. Producers occasionally made use of their vocal chops with imaginary musical numbers.
Our hero has earned four Tony nominations, having appeared in the original casts of Lend Me A Tenor, Noises Off, Deathtrap, and many others. 
Garber teamed with Bebe Neuwirth in the 1994 revival of
Damn Yankees.

His performance in the Canadian production of Godspell (he is himself of Canadian birth) led to his starring role as Jesus in the film version, which perhaps should have elevated him to stardom, but didn't. 
Suspenders and clown makeup will only take you so far. I find the charm of Godspell to be questionable, even on stage, but I'm clearly in the minority. The show is constantly performed in schools.  The film version was even less charming. Filmed on location in New York City, the show's hippy-dippy vibe was out-of-date by 1973. One of the numbers was filmed on the roof of the World Trade Center, which was just nearing completion, making the film even harder to watch today.  That other messianic musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, was also released in 1973 to similarly disappointing results. 
Godspell is one of those shows which is more fun to be in than to watch, and the film is cloying and pretty unwatchable.  But it is Victor's appearance in another Broadway musical of note which inspires this week's Dance Party. 
Garber's young leading man in Sweeney Todd
was overshadowed by the
flamboyant performances surrounding him

In 1979, Garber created the role of sailor Anthony Hope in Stephen Sondheim's masterwork Sweeney Todd, and introduced one of the most haunting ballads in the Sondheim canon, "Johanna."  I've been unable to find a video clip of his performance in Sweeney, but the original cast album, which is one of my treasures, reveals a clarion tenor voice filled with emotion.  Sondheim, master that he is, allows his young leading man to introduce the song, but then incorporates the tune as a continuing motif of the show.  The clip below illustrates that mastery;  it comes from the video of the First National Tour. 
In the upper right corner, Victor is almost

Sadly, Victor Garber is not included here, his role is taken by the blond Cris Groenendaal.  But this sequence is a prime example of Stephen Sondheim's genius.  He takes what was, at first hearing, a stand-alone love ballad, and expands it into a quartet which reveals aspects of character and moves the plot. This clip also displays director Hal Prince's staging finesse, which is so evocative of  London in the early industrial age, filled with iron and smoke and teaming with lowlife. 

Who needs meat pies with all this ham around? Angela Lansbury and George Hearn chewed the scenery ferociously, exactly as needed for this melodrama.
This video was shot during the tour's stop in Los Angeles, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  Though the close-ups were filmed in an empty theatre, the producers also taped a performance in front of a live audience; I was in that audience. 
Victor Garber's confirmation this week of his
long term relationship was met with shrugs.
That's a good sign.

I wish I had seen Victor Garber play the role he created, but could never complain about the performances I saw, which included the great Angela Lansbury as the definitive Mrs Lovett (she wanders through this clip carrying human remains;  she is the woman with the red hair). In honor of Victor Garber, enjoy the song he introduced to the world.