The movie to show trend in Musical Theater as seen by me, on the London stage: The Lion King, School of Rock, and 9 to 5: the Musical

About two years ago I wrote about how I had seen the stage musical production of Waitress while in London, and you might want to read that review before this one. It was a musical version of one of my favorite movies, so I was excited to see it… but ultimately was more than a bit bit underwhelmed. Ultimately over the course of that same summer I saw FIVE stage musical productions that had begun as popular movies.

According to wikipedia there are 217 musicals that have been made over the years based on movies, and while this is by no means a new phenomena it seems in recent years to be on that is escalating.  The reason generally given is that musicals are so expensive to produce that in order to ensure success producers tend to prefer to fund sure bets. If the movie was a hit — it stands to reason — it already has an embedded fan base who like me, with regards to Waitress, will buy tickets for the stage version simply because they loved the film… and as long as the musical is essentially true to the movie those audiences will be happy and tell their friends. Back in the day, this used to be why books were made into musicals, but now a days not as many people read as in the past (here are the statistics)…  So while for instance Game of Thrones (the books) were a huge hit, I think its safe to say that no where near as many people read the books as saw the TV series, and I’m going to hazard a guess that sales for the books increased a lot after the HBO version was released — but if those purchasers actually took the time to read said books (they all would make good doorstops, and each in their unabridged audible versions take about 30+ hours to complete) I’d be surprised.

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THIS is where you be buying your theater tickets day of show, here or the theater’s own box office, no where else. Those other booths are rips offs for tourists.

All that said, I’m going to write about the Movie to Musical productions I saw in the summer of 2019, partially to give my review of them, but also to discuss the overall trend.

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The mother of this recent uptick in the trend is the long running show, The Lion King. This as most of you already know began as a Disney cartoon/musical and was converted to the stage in an incredibly innovative way that utilized puppetry and dance to bring puppets to life in a really magical way — especially considering the newness of the form. (At this point regular theater goers are more used to it and hence less impressed)

The above video shows a modification of the show done for an award ceremony that gives you a good idea of why, if you buy tickets for this show, you REALLY want to be seated on or near one of the center aisles — and not one of the exterior ones as I was

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… as The Lion King takes on a sort of 360 degree quality with the performers popping up or travel through various locations around the theater, breaking what is called the 4th wall (the line between the viewers and performers). And yes, if you have not yet seen it this show really SHOULD be on your list of of must see’s, even if you have no kids.

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Believe it or not I couldn’t find this when first came here because I couldn’t see it

Another show I saw, was School of rock, a musical version of the already music heavy Jack Black movie. In case you’ve been living with your head in the ground, this movie was SO popular that there is now a chain of music schools, with outlets around the WORLD, all called “The School of Rock” in honor of the movie.

C967DFA8-C4B4-430B-853B-06CC99B66E21.JPGIn fact a recent participant on the hit TV show American Idol (entering it’s 20th season/year, so that at this point all the contestants grew up watching the show) was a teacher at one of the branches of the chain.

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In case you’re still confused, these are places where kids can go for after school music lessons of the strictly NON classical variety (to be fair there has always been a hole in the market in that regard; I myself asked my parents for music lessons thinking it would be modern music and got stuck playing classical piano and violin — SNOOZE. REALLY, kids should start out playing popular music and then if they are any good switch to classical and or jazz).

Once you’ve entered the theater it’s CLEAR that this is a show parents take their kids too, simply based on the concessions stand’s offering which included stuff I’d never seen at the theater before, including cotton candy, neon colored slushes, and a photo booth…

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That said, the adults also got THEIR ‘candy’ which included not only the mandatory bar serving hard liquor and wine like in every theater, but also alcoholic ice cream and popsicles — which was a first for me.

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The musical, as the following video shows, is essentially a mirror reflection of the movie only with narrative songs (songs that add to the story) thrown in to supplement all the music that was already there.

In fact my major complaint was that while the show was highly enjoyable it stuck TOO closely to movie in one crucial point. The guy they hired for the role was hired in large part (I’m guessing) because he looked a lot Jack Black, a big chubby guy… RATHER than finding a guy who could channel Jack Black‘s energy, which in large part is what made the movie a hit. That said, it was enjoyable and the audience loved it.

Sort of a cool thing, which allowed for the video above (shot it myself) was that unlike every other theater in London which has multiple signs saying DON’T video or even take photos, in this theater they held up signs saying, ‘go ahead and video!’ understanding I suppose that kids would upload it to their accounts making their friends pressure their parents to bring them.

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The 3rd, movie to musical production I saw that summer was 9-5 the musical based on the iconic hit movie from the 1980’s that at the time was staring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin with Dolly Parton as an also ran…

Ironically, while Jane Fonda was actually the one who had the idea for and spear-headed the movie, and was the one who reached out to Dolly to bring her into the production…  (at the time Dolly who’d never made a movie before), the transformation of it into a musical is ALL Dolly Parton — notice how in the picture of me in front of the theater the marquee has her name at the top?

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Also part of the production included a huge projected image of Dolly — look at the “o” in the 9 to 5 in the image above — who was not only talking to the audience but was then singing her hit song with the cast at the curtain call— it was kind of surreal.

According to Dolly, see minute 10:04 in the linked video about her life, she’d rejected all previous offers, but figured this was Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin movie and if it failed it would be on them and wouldn’t blemish her career. Also, she was at that time trying to expand and cross over out of just being a country singer, so her one demand was that she got to write the movie’s theme song, which is still a song you hear today.

All that said, as a musical 9 to 5 was far more successful ‘as its own thing’ than the School of Rock had been, in my opinion. It was essentially the same story but the songs — all written by Dolly (who no one will argue is a very talented song writer) brought their own things to the show, allowing it to stand alone as it’s own thing.

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The musical was playing at the theater of the iconic Savoy Hotel in London — which opened in 1889. The hotel, and it’s theater, were built by the theatrical producer Richard D’Oyly Carte with the profits he derived from his Gilbert and Sullivan “opera” productions as a permanent location for them to stage even more of their works (of which there were many). The English language “operas” of G&S (if you aren’t familiar with them) sort of opened the door for the musical theater art form in England and the United States, and continues to be influential even today.

That said, the Savoy theater is a disabled person’s nightmare. The theater’s best seating, the stalls, is located deepest underground and the building was built in 1889, and there are no elevators for the patrons.

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At the time I found this sign absolutely comical, as there were to elderly people who were even more disabled than I was (I had major issues with my knees and hips at the time that have since gotten better with supplements to help regrow the cartilage and physical therapy). How helpful… only TWENTY-TWO steps to have to negotiate… think about that for a second… the only seats that were marginally accessible to the seriously disabled was the nosebleeds, which are only maybe five or more steps down from ground level
(Someone, I know not whom, uploaded a video of the broadway production to youtube… no idea how long it’ll be up there but it’s have almost 50K views, so if you want to see it you can — till it’s taken down)

Kolaportið Flea Market Reykjavík Iceland

On the topic of… if only I had like a month of doing nothing and going nowhere, I would catch up on all my back log of blog posts that I haven’t gotten around to writing up…

HA HA HA HA

I guess that wasn’t it. We’re a year into Covid and JUST NOW I’m finally getting to this post… Was here September 28th, 2019, and its now August 2021… OOPS…

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The Kolaportið Flea Market in the old part of Reykjavík is, according to Wikipedia, Iceland‘s ONLY flea market.

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It is open on Saturday’s and Sundays (only), and is located inside a large warehouse type building across the street from the harbor.

457EBD16-E3FD-498D-8465-A39FAA67F4C2.JPGGoods sold include used stuff, from clothing to books, as well as brand new hand knit sweaters made by local artisans (intended I think for the tourist market).

I say this because once upon a time, back when I was in high school (almost 40 years ago) we had an exchange student from Iceland and according to her ALL the women in Iceland knit … and did so obsessively. In fact according to her this was so culturally normative that it was a matter of course that they were allowed to do so while in class listening to the teacher lecture — and she found the fact that American schools banned her from doing so off-putting. Without those busy hands she found it significantly harder to concentrate. Now granted, that was 40 years ago, but I doubt things have changed radically in the years since…  As such, I find it HIGHLY unlikely that locals buy these sweaters. In fact I’m pretty sure 99% of what is sold here (with the possible exception of things like the home baked pastries) is really only for the tourist market, and I’ll get back to why I think that that…2A833EC2-0B17-497D-8311-5E03FB1D4042.JPG

Well let me correct myself…. in addition to fresh baked stuff, locals who live or work close to the market might pick up some of the fresh fish type stuff here (which also includes traditional fermented shark — which has to be fermented in order to be edible — a dish so inedible that TV shows use it in food challenges) mostly because it’s convenient.

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BUT… other than those two sorts of things that are sold here, everything ELSE is really aimed at the tourist market… And the way you should know this is … if you were there long enough to do comparative pricing, you wouldn’t buy most of what is sold there. In particular, all the candies that tourists pick up to take home as gifts.

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I will say this however, this is a GREAT place to TASTE said candies, get an idea of what you like…. and then take a picture of the item (you can ignore the name or brand) and then look for the same said item in any of the minimarts and grocery stores scattered around town.

This might seem like an odd comparison but go with me on this… I compare it to buying mattresses in the USA. In the USA, no two mattress stores have the same items in stock (if you’re looking at brands, styles or item numbers), so that you can’t do price comparisons. Don’t believe me? Try it (with the possible exception of say Ikea mattresses and the foam mattresses). We had a close family friend in the business who first explained it to us, and then years later I became buddies with one of the mattress kings of the San Francisco bay area, and he confirmed it when I brought it up. They might all be the same brands… but when you then try to find that one style/item number in a different store… you can’t. It’s intentional to keep you from price shopping.

(Instead what you need to do is to get down the specifics … how many springs per square inch, what tensile strength are the springs, how much padding, what type, etc., all the info most people never pay attention to… and then go to other stores finding the mattresses that meet those specifications)

With regards to the candy sold at the flea market, it’s pretty much the same thing. They take the candy and ‘rename’ it and repackage it…. and then double or triple the price. It’s why they can afford to give it away as samples.

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So for example, the Puffin Eggs (black licorice covered in chocolate and than a white candy coating), which I totally fell in LOVE with and could not find anywhere else…. however, upon researching on line as to where else they might be sold, I discovered it was ONLY available in the flea Market and some gift shops (also aimed at tourists) — but that it was just like what I said about the mattresses. What they really are is a candy called Djúpur, which is common as dirt in Iceland, and you can pick it up at 1/3 the price at any normal food market or gas station in small single serve bags … it is also sold in massive bags at the duty free as you’re leaving the country (and even cheaper if you pit stop at Costco, which if you’re in Reykjavík is pretty much on the route to the airport — for those who don’t realize it, your membership is good world wide at ANY Costco, the only issue is which credit card they use which varies — also make sure to check in at the membership desk first where they might have to issue you a temporary card– again depending on the country).

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With puffin eggs (and the other candies of that sort) what you’re paying for is the picture of the puffins and cute name… which is heck of beans more impressive to kids than the actual packaging which is kind of plain.

Icelandic sweaters and products - Freyja Djúpur Liquorice and Chocolate Pearls (150gr) Candy - Shopicelandic.com

Returning to the flea market, if you chose to buy there keep in mind that most vendors only accept cash. There is an ATM located inside the market but the line can be quite long, so it is recommended to get out cash in advance

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Hello from the Chicago suburbs

Well we live in “interesting times,” don’t we?

My last post was June 18, when my doctor said that the post lockdown damage was that I was now diabetic and my liver had grown (WAY much) during that time because of fatty liver disease. On that day my frame, which should be a size 4, weighed in at 202 lbs. Since then, about 7 weeks, I’ve successfully lost 17.5 lbs (like 2.5 lbs a week)… a few more and I’ll have lost the 10% body weight the doctor wanted to see before I have all my blood tests and such redone.

Instead of traveling I’ve been working out three times a week. I started out at a “prestige” gym, where you can ONLY work out with a trainer, on specialized equipment designed so that you couldn’t work on them independently even if you wanted to…and the main requirement for staff members seemed to be some experience with the equipment and being attractive and a size 4. That said, I went from being unable to get out of the sofa without flopping around like a fish out of water — because my core muscles were THAT weak — to feeling better than I had in months…

Since then the local university (which I live walking distance from) has opened their gym memberships back up to community members (during lock down they limited attendance to staff and students only, and extended other memberships for the period of the lock down). I signed up… it was $500/year and personal trainers were the same price for TWICE the time!! Where the prestige place charged no membership fee but $55/half hour, this University gym (which has AMAZING facilities, 80% of which I’ll never use) was $500 year, but you can always come in on your free time and work independently for as long as you wish, where you couldn’t at the other place, and here personal training is $50 for full hour.

Probably more importantly, my personal trainer here (while also being cute and a size 4) is a TRAINED trainer; as in she is a few credits short of being a physical therapist, and specializes in sport rehabilitation for the school’s athletes. So SIGNIFICANTLY more skilled than the other woman. While she still has me doing machines (this time, on my own time — after showing me how to set them up and telling me which weight to start at and being sure my form was right)… She instead spends our together time doing stuff to help with my particular issues, such as the right foot having developed a mind of its own ever since I had that horrible concussion back in australia so sever that it dislocated my jaw and damaged the speech centers of my brain … , it’s why I kept falling down and going boom over and over again in the months after my concussion… it turns out towards the right and starts dragging, which has caused me to trip on things like uneven pavement and door sills/thresholds.

Beyond that….
A friend and I have decided to do some “staycation”ing, in large part because right now the Chicago area is just SAFER than most of the rest of the country (vaccination rates here are high, in some cases VERY high, and as such we’re not seeing a lot of Covid cases) … so like a few weeks ago we went to the Museum of Science and Industry for the afternoon (after I was done working out) and we’ll go again next week to see a special exhibit we bought tickets for while there, focused on the Marvel Super Heroes franchise (tickets were sold out weeks in advance, so we couldn’t see it then). I’m not going to talk about the Museum of Science and industry much, as it’s sort of a Chicago fixture and world famous… other than to say, while they have updated stuff, they’ve essentially kept most of the classics I remember from my childhood. So they still have the coal mine ride (but I wasn’t interested in being cooped up in a badly ventilated space during Covid), and the the doll house is still there — it used to belong to a former child movie star of the 1920’s and she donated it to the city upon her death. For those unfamiliar, everything in it is real gold and gems, the books are readable under a microscope and the castle’s church has what is described as a sliver of the true cross. So NOT your average dollhouse. The craftsmanship in miniature is mind boggling.

Central hallway of what used to be the ground floor, with Thor flying over my head



While there I was making a point of telling anyone who happened to be hanging out by the back doors, which lead to stairs that face a little canal, that THAT was in fact the original entrance. The building which houses the museum was built as the “Palace of Fine Arts,” a part of the historic Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and was designed so that you took a boat via that canal to the now unused landing, and climbed the stairs to what is now a set of unused glass doors… that people unfamiliar with its past think is just a back entrance. Nowadays we all enter via what was originally the back doors… Well, actually we USED to… They have since my last visit (maybe 15 years ago?) turned the parking lot into a huge lawn and instead dug down and created a multi storey parking lot beneath, and you now enter from there into the building via the basement… So for me it was revisiting a childhood favorite and appreciating how the city has tried to beautify itself, and increase practicality, while maintaining its historic value. Not sure what amount of our tax dollars went into this improvement but I think it was well done.

That said, we’re going to try checking out other smaller less famous museums that are in the area, places I’ve never gone to before and that most tourists never see… I WILL do dedicated posts about those.