Monday, May 22, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Flashing and Clicking

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Sing Out, King Kong!  Musical Version of Big Ape's Adventures Hits Broadway Next Year.  Also — Finally Discovering "The Wire"... and a muffled "Shades of Blue."  


“SAY, what is that thing?”

“I hear it’s kind of a gorilla.”

“Gee — ain’t we got enough of those in New York?!”

That’s how it goes between a couple of theater patrons getting ready to sit down and be entertained by “Kong. The Eighth Wonder of the World” in 1933’s classic film, “King Kong.” (These fellas got more than they bargained for after Kong becomes irritated by the photographer’s incessant flashing and clicking — just like any harried superstar!)
That movie, the first to feature Kong, still stands as the best, despite “corny” dialogue and special effects that pale, I suppose in comparison to today’s CGI miracles.   But it has such inventive energy and verve.  It is so visually striking and has a marvelous score.  Honestly, “King Kong” does not look or feel like a movie that is close to 100 years old. 

I liked the cheesy ’76 remake mostly because of Jessica Lange ... the 2005 version was “meh.”  I did enjoy the recent “Skull Island.”  But as yet nobody’s quite come up to Bruce Cabot, Robert Armstrong, and of course, blonde and beautiful Fay Wray, whose ear-piercing screaming, vigorous struggling, and fainting became legendary even in her day. (Miss Wray, who began her career in 1923, and worked until 1980, had a terrific sense of humor about her “Kong” fame.  She’d give out with a bloodcurdling shriek if asked!  She died in 2004, at the age of 96.)
So it is with interest and amusement that I note “King Kong” will get the Broadway musical treatment, next year! The book is written by Jack Thorne. Drew McOnie will direct and choreograph. Marius de Vries  and Eddie Perfect provide music and lyrics.  (All these men are multiple award winners and highly respected.) Also vital is “creature designer” Sonny Tilders who will be in charge of developing the big ape himself. Casting has yet to be announced. 

It is fascinating to imagine a “King Kong” score, and to envision how New York, the Empire State Building and Kong himself will look on the very big stage of the Broadway Theatre on West 53rd Street. (The revival of “Miss Saigon” is there now.)
Will Kong himself break into song? And will Ann Darrow, the big guy’s reluctant beloved, have a number consisting of nothing but various undulating, musical screams? 

Despite the bad news we are hammered with daily — hourly! — life really does go on, and there are things to look forward to. “King Kong” the musical, is, for me, one of those things.  That, and the next season of “Game of Thrones.” 
BINGE NOTE:  Recently, on several TV shows — sitcoms — I heard jokes about how one or another character had never bothered to see HBO’s series “The Wire” and therefore couldn’t have good sense about anything else! I don’t know why this stuck in my head.

Perhaps, because for some reason, I’d never seen “The Wire,” which ran five seasons from 2002 to 2008.  And I usually try with most well-hyped shows. Sometimes I stick, sometimes I don’t. (After three episodes I’ve given up on “American Gods.”  Good luck and Godspeed to all.  Just not my cup of hallucinatory story-telling.) 
“The Wire” is about the drug trade in Baltimore.  I suppose that didn’t appeal to me as something I wanted to sit down to every week. 

Well, as luck and insomnia would have it, I noticed that all five seasons of “The Wire” are on Amazon.  Why not, I thought, as sleep eluded me?  I was riveted within an hour.

There is no point now, in detailing all five seasons, especially as the show has been gone for nearly a decade.  But if you have access to “The Wire” give it a try.  This is one of the most demanding, uncompromising, brutal and even beautiful shows I have ever seen. Shockingly realistic; tragically honest. Very few heroes, but you do find yourself rooting, inexplicably, for even the worst of the worst. 
This series is so spot on about police, politics, drugs wars, and shattered souls, mostly lost.  “The Wire” will look fresh, have impact and pertinence ten twenty, thirty years from now.   The cast is very large and it would be unfair at this point to single out a few.  Let’s just say all the actors are superb.

I cannot recommend “The Wire” enough — surely there are others who have not seen it?   A deep and belated bow to HBO, all the writers, producers and directors involved in this masterpiece. 
DEAR Jennifer Lopez:

I understand you are the executive producer of your own show, “Shades of Blue.” This series has everything. You are gorgeous and you can act!

But do you know that not a single bit of your sound is understandable. And even with old age, I can understand “Law and Order” ... “Blue Bloods” ... “NBC Nightly News” ... The Tonight Show ... “60 Minutes” ... MSNBC ... Fox News, etc.
But your show, which I have watched faithfully, just to see you and one of my favorite actors Ray Liotta, escapes me. I can’t even follow the plot, although I keep guessing at it because the sound is so bad that none of you can be understood by mortals.

I challenge you to improve it. I try every Sunday to figure out what you are all saying (the men do better than the women). But no. And I have brilliant hearing aids from Lyric.
Does anybody else understand your show’s dialogue? Even in close-ups, I strain and see your sexy lips moving, but it’s hopeless. I challenge you to come up to the audio standards of “Madam Secretary” and “N.C.I.S”

This must be trying your fans’ patience. I have almost given up. I don’t want to!

Love, Liz Smith.

Contact Liz here.