Sunday, January 18, 2015

Broadway vs. Hollywood- Mamma Mia!




Exposition

I'm all about lists, yet I never got around to making one about the best days of my life :P But if I ever did, this particular day I'm about to go into is top 3 easily...
"Mamma Mia!" is one of those musicals that's really family-oriented. It focuses on the bond between mother and daughter and as well as fathers and daughters. That particular day, my dad took my sister and I to New York to see it... that Saturday in June 2006 per that moment was probably "the best day ever"... the quintessential best day ever... we saw a musical we really enjoyed, my dad surprised us afterwards when he gave us the CD's he bought during intermission [or maybe before it started, not sure], and we went to a restaurant for one of my favorite dinners ever [Salmon Imperial... my mouth still waters thinking about it. Sadly, this restaurant closed just recently.

Whenever I listen to the soundtrack, it takes me back to that day instantly. I remember the overture and the excitement billowing in me. The musical numbers and how they were set up, I still remember really well.
There was also a time when I was in college where I almost couldn't listen to the soundtrack. Certain songs ("Lay your love on me" and "Under attack") were too poignant given what I was going through at the time... or they just made me miss home too much.

A couple years later, they adapted the movie to film, so my mom, sister and I went to the theaters to see it. We weren't quite dancing in the aisles, but enjoyed ourselves... but the movie isn't without its flaws.

At the present moment, I'm inclined to believe that Broadway wins [again] by a landslide, but I'll break my discussion into a couple categories to figure out how true that is.

Casting

First the positives...
Amanda Seyfried was the perfect Sophie. I think this was her first big role since "Mean Girls" and it was a great performance. Probably my favorite of hers still... not that I've ever been disappointed.
The duo of Christine Baranski and Julie Walters as the other Dynamos, Tanya and Rosie, rocked it... other than the "Does your mother know?" number and one particular line ("You're supposed to blow, not suck"- it was regarding an air mattress but nonetheless got a lot of laughs), Tanya wasn't memorable in the Broadway version. The same goes for Rosie and "Take a Chance on Me"... but even that number was better in the movie.
Of the three guys, Colin Firth was the best casting choice. A perfect Harry Bright.

:sigh:
I can have my nitpicks about the choice of songs, how the arrangement differed from Broadway... but my biggest grievances lie with the two leads...
For the record, I quite like Meryl Streep in "The Devil Wears Prada" and "Julie & Julia"... the issue I have in general is that she's nominated for an Oscar nearly EVERY year...

To this day, I maintain that casting her and Pierce Brosnan as Donna and Sam was NOT because they were the best people for the job...they were cast because Hollywood wanted big names for this movie... as if they weren't confident enough in the huge following this musical has...

Firstly, Meryl Streep was shy of 60 when she was cast for "Mamma Mia!"... Donna is supposed to be a middle-aged woman in her mid 40's, assuming that she met Sam, Bill and Harry when she was in college... therefore too old...
Secondly... :sigh: "The Winner Takes it All" is supposed to be this big triumphant number breaming with feminine energy. Her vocal range didn't allow for that big finishing note, so when it finally came and didn't happen... the bottom fell out of my stomach, I was so disappointed. [As for my biggest disappointment of the movie, see the soundtrack section]

Meanwhile, Pierce Brosnan... I don't care that he was freaking James Bond for 4 movies... I think I only saw "Die another day" and he was quite good... I'm even willing to give him the age thing... only 55 when "Mamma Mia!" was cast...
HE CAN'T SING!
"S.O.S." was painful, his voice was so bad. I'm sure there are dozens of actors in the right age range with a much better singing voice...

This movie also introduced me to Dominic Cooper, who I may forever associate with the character of Howard Stark (aka Tony Stark's father)... as great as he was, I fell out of love with him during his overreaction scene- where he accuses Sophie of using their wedding as an excuse to find who her dad is... that's kinda harsh... also kind of a silly nitpick considering my opposition to the above casting choices.

I also understand that they changed Bill Austin to Bill Anderson for the movie because Stellan Skarsgard wouldn't have matched with the whole "Indiana Jones travel writer" thing Bill Austin had going on... having that said, I sometimes wish they didn't change the character and cast Keith Urban instead :P even if the age range is off by quite a few years

Soundtrack

I suppose the best way to address this is going through the soundtrack song by song and saying who did the better version.

1. I have a dream (tie)
Both version are still very clear in my head

2. Honey, Honey (tie)
Both versions were memorable, but the dialogue where Sophie and her friends were reading "dot dot dot" in Donna's diary was much funnier on Broadway

3. Money, Money, Money (Broadway)
-Broadway- I still remember the set-up well... Donna is on one side of the stage and during the company interjections, they shift the spotlight to them... vocally superior and funner
-Hollywood- includes daydreams of what Donna, Tanya and Rosie would do with the extra money... vocals are good, but aesthetically I prefer the former.

4. Thank you for the music (Broadway)
-Broadway- vocals is shared by Sophie, Sam, Bill and Harry, and introduced early on
-Hollywood-song was deferred to the end credits

5. Mamma Mia! (tie)
Both versions handled it well. The staging was more hilarious in the movie, but Donna's dialogue on the Broadway soundtrack is funnier ("I'd love to stay and chat, but I have to clean out my handbag... or something")

6. Chiquita (Hollywood)
-Broadway- I don't remember this number quite as well, but it was a sentimental pep talk
-Hollywood- lots of hilarious moments that made me fall in love with Tanya and Rosie in this version

7. Dancing Queen (Hollywood)
-Broadway- great vocals
-Hollywood- great vocals, great humor,  great use of the set and company

8. Lay all your love on me (Broadway)
-Broadway- vocally superior and I personally prefer their aesthetic to the movie
-Hollywood- great humor with Sky's friends marching in their masks and fins

9. Super Trooper (tie)Both versions were great with the movie being more on the sentimental side

10. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (Broadway)
-Both versions did it really well, but again, I prefer the vocals and the dialogue of the Broadway version to the movie

11. The name of the game (Broadway)
-vocally, Amanda Seyfried sang this really well for the movie... but the producers, for whatever reason, decided to cut this scene and include it among the DVD extras... so I had no choice but to give the point to Broadway
-personally, this number is another sentimental one for me because it makes me think of my dad... after all, this is the point in the story where Sophie confronts Bill about whether he's her father.

12. Voulez Vous (tie)
-prefer the Broadway dialogue, but both versions did this really well

-Tally so far:
Broadway (5), tie (5), Hollywood (2)

13. Under Attack (Broadway)-obviously because this number was omitted from the movie entirely... one of my favorite songs... this dream sequence was one of the most memorable moments... Sophie's in a bed that's being moved back and forth across the stage by Sky's friends wearing snorkeling gear

14. One of Us (Hollywood)
-technically, this song was omitted from the movie, but they made the smart choice by limiting its involvement to dialogue... the song is so short, I completely forgot about it

15. S.O.S. (BROADWAY)
-Broadway- remember this number really well too... they had spotlights on Donna and Sam depending on who was singing
-Hollywood- bad singing aside, this number felt kinda phony because it had one singing while the other was doing some random activity without hearing them singing... as if it was something from "Glee" (and I'm a huge Gleek, btw)

16. Does your mother know? (Hollywood)
-the Hollywood version was more hilarious (thanks to Christine Baranski's performance) and memorable... don't remember much about the Broadway version

17.  Knowing me, knowing you (Broadway)
-my biggest disappointment from the movie was cutting this, my favorite song from the musical... I agree it would have been repetitive in the movie (since we already had that impressive "S.O.S." number) and Pierce Brosnan's voice would have ruined it, but I almost wanted to cry because they didn't include it
-the man who played Sam... both on the soundtrack and on stage, I loved their vocals on the final note leading to the chorus... "...Goodbye" and "...say"... one of my favorite vocal numbers in the musical

18. Our Last Summer (Broadway)
-Broadway- a duet between Donna and Harry, revisiting their "hippie summer" in Paris
-Hollywood- took the place of "Thank you for the music," much earlier in the script and instead featured Sophie with the three men... I just didn't buy into that interpretation of it :(

19. Slipping Through My Fingers (Hollywood)-Hollywood handled the sentimentality of this number really well... I don't remember it nearly as well on Broadway

20. The Winner Takes it All (Broadway)
-in the movie, this number felt very long and drawn out...
-Broadway- had this been a concert, this would have been the penultimate standing ovation number... that big note at the end is just... WOW... the movie missed a huge opportunity here

21. Take a Chance on Me (Hollywood)
-Broadway- still remember how Rosie was chasing Bill through the empty church before the wedding :P
-Hollywood- the 2nd to last song with lots of hilarious turns and we also get to see Harry's other half (they also clarified in the church scene that Donna was the first [and last] woman he ever loved... which kinda makes sense when you really think about it]

22. I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do (Hollywood)
-I don't really remember it in the Broadway version... it was kinda funny in the movie where Sam flashes the ring at Donna and she stammers through the titular lyrics :P nice touch

23. I Have a Dream (Reprise)... (tie)
-Broadway- I don't remember the scene all that well, but the ending of the song gave me chills... and made me so sad this thing was ending... that's a great feeling to have at the end of a show, hating to see it end
-Hollywood- it was a pleasant send-off and great ending... hated to see it end, but it didn't elicit an "ugly cry" response...

The great part with both versions is that they had the encore at the very end... in the Broadway musical, after being sad it was ending, the cast came out and sang a couple more songs for us.
It's great they kept this in the movie for the ending credits, including everyone wearing the  ABBA-style costumes :D

Tally-
Broadway (5), Hollywood (5), tie (1)

So by my math, the musical numbers give Broadway the upper hand...

Another difference between the two was the inclusion of two new songs in the movie...
"Waterloo" was in the ending credits, and we also getting another excellent Pierce Brosnan vocal for "When all is said and done"... which takes place before "Take a Chance on Me"..
Even if the vocal was decent, I felt like this song added absolutely nothing to the movie... painfully forgettable...

So there you have it... over the three times I've done this, Broadway has won against Hollywood... I'd do one on "Phantom of the Opera," but my memory of the Broadway show is basically nonexistent at this point...
I don't remember much about the Broadway show beyond the following...

1) the first scene where Christine and Raoul meet each other for the first time since they were kids
2) where the Phantom has the road around Raoul's neck in the catacombs and I was freaking out that he was going to kill him (even though I freaking knew the ending!!)
3) been a hot mess for a good 15 minutes after the show ending because of #2

It just wouldn't be fair to compare the two when I don't remember enough about one side of the argument. And I've grown far too fond of the 2004 movie with Gerard Butler that I probably won't accept any other version anyway :P 

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