Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Drama Drop -

* In this time when the arts are floundering in these United States, it is nice to know that somewhere, something new is rising. In the beginning, it looked almost too good to be true: high salaries, free furnished housing, no-cost education for your children, no taxes. Was this a new member in the elite club of Corporate America? No. A new orchestra was forming from scratch. The catch was the location: Doha, Qatar, a place where few of the young professional musicians from Berlin and Vienna and Budapest and Moscow thought they would end up. But some 2,400 musicians from around the world auditioned, 101 were accepted, and lo, the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra came into being last summer. The ensemble made its American debut last week, performing at the Kennedy Center as part of the festival Arabesques: Arts of the Arab World.

* I've had quite a few interesting discussions with friends and colleagues about the Oscars this year. Specifically, the production number featuring Hugh Jackman in which he claims the "musical is back". Many people looked down their nose at the number, which is fine - not everyone has the same taste in production numbers. But, what I found most interesting was the number of people who swear up and down that the movie musical ISN'T back. Their contention is that the current array of movie musicals doesn't count because either there aren't enough produced each year to say they're "back", or the kind of talent brought in to star in the movie musicals, and by "star in" I clearly mean "SELL", is sub-par. I really don't understand either argument. Not so long ago, the only musicals being produced on film were animated. So, even one live action musical produced on film a year shows me that they are back - as opposed to being completely gone. And, as far as the talent pool is concerned, the studios use whomever will sell the picture. I understand that many of my colleagues feel they can do it better, and probably can. But, unfortunately, what they lack is the name recognition to get people's butts in the seats of thousands of movie theaters.

Speaking of the movie musical, which is apparently NOT back according to some: Damn Yankees is heading back to the silver screen. Variety reports that Craig Zadan and Neil Meron — the famed producing team behind the Oscar-winning film of Chicago, the acclaimed movie of Hairspray and the recent TV film "A Raisin in the Sun" — will produce the picture for New Line Cinema. The cast will be headed by film stars Jim Carrey as the Devil and Jake Gyllenhaal as Joe Boyd. The role of Lola has yet to be cast. See the full story here.

Photo: Lorin Maazel conducting the Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra in a performance of “Arabian Concerto,” written by Marcel Khalife. Linda Spillers for The New York Times

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