Cher Public

High notes on camp

“In naïve, or pure, Camp, the essential element is seriousness, a seriousness that fails. Of course, not all seriousness that fails can be redeemed as Camp. Only that which has the proper mixture of the exaggerated, the fantastic, the passionate, and the naïve.” (Susan Sontag)  

  • leosweill

    shades of miss arkansas’ “and I am telling you I’m not going”:

    now here’s judy to cleanse the soul:

    • DerLeiermann

      Even if you well sung, when someone takes a song (especially torch kind of songs) that is known to be sung in a brassy, belting stye and sing it in a head voice kind of manner, it just drives me crazy for some reason. I swear that stuff is for headaches.

    • Sempre liberal

      Speaking of Ol’ Man River, this weekend on Great Performances on PBS was the NY Philharmonic’s Show Boat. (WNET in NY replayed it today.) Gorgeous music and well performed. I’m ambivalent about these semi-staged productions. Better than a bunch of people standing in front of microphones, but it’s kind of like watching a show in 2D instead of 3D.

      • Tubsinger

        As John McGlinn isn’t around anymore to present these works in concert, the NY Phil seems to have taken up the challenge. I loved this telecast, thinking all of the singing was really close to first rate (except for Joe, who, I feel, was miscast as his voice was closer to baritone than bass and, as broadcast, the lowest notes hadn’t sufficient resonance). I don’t think there’s a commercial market for Show Boat in the theater, and probably not with the original orchestrations; concert venues are so much better than nothing that I’m happy to have them. You’re not alone in disliking the semi-staging, as the Guardian and the NY Times both expressed dismay about it. If Vanessa Williams was a bit anachronistic in style, the whole thing was still great to have broadcast. If Parterrians can, they should DVR it, as most PBS stations have the rights to re-broadcast this all week (and most do, even at strange hours). I thought it was a lot of fun.

        • Sempre liberal

          I’ll take semi-staging over nothing. These semi-staged concerts also sell tickets.

          I suspect that in 2025, we’ll be talking about the LA Philharmonic’s star-studded semi-staged concert of Miss Saigon. And the Cleveland Orchestra will be alternating an Easter-time concert version of Godspell with the St. Matthew Passion. (It will be so successful, that the following year they’ll do Jesus Christ, Superstar.)

          Come to think of it, I am craving a concert version of Chess…

          • pirelli

            I think this concert Show Boat is a very mixed bag. Julian Ovenden sings Ravenal very very nicely, but Lauren Worsham is a simply terrible Magnolia (what god-awful language is she singing in?), with a helium voice and an over-the-top portrayal that makes her seem more like a little kid with ADHD than anything else. (And the result makes Ravenal seem like a pedophile. Not funny in any way. Just creepy.) I agree with Tubsinger that Norm Lewis is all wrong for Joe, though NaTasha Yvette Williams is a decent Queenie. The comic couple -- the always wonderful Chris Fitzgerald as Frank, and Alli Mauzie as Ellie -- are perfection. Jane Alexander isn’t committed enough to make anything at all of Parthy, and similarly Fred Willard is more like a wet rag than the captain of a ship. Vanessa Williams chose a low key for “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Bill” which allowed her to sing in contemporary pop mannerisms out of step with the score, though her solo section of “Mis’ry’s Comin’ Around” was truly a beautiful soprano sound.

            The “semi-staging” was variable -- the performers with real stage presence made the best impact (Ovenden, for instance) while others mugged through the show (Worsham). The small chorus sounded good (if a little underrehearsed as an ensemble) but looked like they were still learning their blocking and choreography -- you could often see that stiff look on their faces. (Granted, the live audience probably didn’t get that so much, but with TV closeups it was too obvious.)

            The score still shines through, in its magic mix of musical styles and in the still stunning musical inventiveness of Jerome Kern.

            But the whole thing seemed to lack excitement and energy. As if they were somehow secretly trying to show how creaky and qualnt and yawn-inducing this piece was, instead of making a case for why this show has endured as a musical theatre landmark all these years. Not that the show is perfect, and so be it -- but it deserves much better treatment than this. Certainly there were some very good moments along the way, but I kept feeling like the Cotton Blossom was in imminent danger of sinking.

    • KennethC

      And cleanse the soul she does. I happened to see this very Garland performance on television this morning. Powerful stuff. I remarked, “She makes it sound as if ‘Old Man River’ was written for her.” That’s how great she is.

  • oscar

    “First you’re another sloe-eyed vamp, then someone’s mother, then you’re camp …”

    • mjmacmtenor

      At one time there was talk of a Follies movie which would have been set in a movie studio lot (instead of a theatre). I always envisioned Grayson as the older Heidi.

      • armerjacquino

        To tie various threads together- someone needs to make a FOLLIES film with Gruberova as Old Heidi like, now.

  • mjmacmtenor

    God. The band is awful. Who is the bandleader? Jonathan Edwards?