Very High [Like When You Score In The 99th Percentile On A Standardized Test Because There Is No 100th]: Matilda the Musical performance
I know as a grown adult I’m supposed to find kid actors insufferable, Broadway kid actors even more so, and Broadway kid actors affecting Mockney accents worst of all. But MATILDA! I loved the book and the movie, and my inner 10-year-old is scheming about how to get herself into the title role. Revolting Children was the most energetic Tony performance I’ve seen since Totally Fucked from Spring Awakening.
Middle-to-Low [Like When You Get Lower Orchestra Seats But They End Up Being Right Before The First Section Break]: Characters from musicals introducing numbers from other musicals
There’s a reason that, in Disney princess marketing, all of the princesses stare vacantly into different directions. You need to pretend that they’re all part of their own story. Tiana doesn’t know Ariel, you know (except probably in fanfiction).
I need the same things with my plays. The Newsies do not know Matilda, right? I willfully suspend a lot of disbelief when I’m watching a musical. Basically, we all know about the fourth wall, but now I want us to build a fifth one, too – between characters from different musicals who never the twain shall meet. What is this, that 90s antidrug video where every character from every cartoon united to keep kids off of opiates?
High [Like A Hemline That’s Not Scandalous But You Probably Wouldn’t Wear In A House Of God]: Neil Patrick Harris’s play-musical mashups
42nd Streetcar Named Desire; Children of a Lesser Godspell; Cats on a Hot Tin Roof;The Diary of Anne Frank-enstein the Musical (Justin Bieber would love it!); Cabaret-son in the Sun. I have a soft spot for grandpa humor.
Low [Like When You Make A List Of Common Denominators Then Choose The Least One]: Tom Hanks’ mustache.
For a role, maybe? I used to live in the Mustache Capitol Of America (Buffalo, NY), and I’ve seen better. It’s looking kind of Chaplin-y… and that’s me being as inoffensive and charitable as possible.
Somewhere kind of in the middle, maybe slightly more toward the high end [like a house in a suburb where the school district is good but not great]: Bring It On: The Musical
I love musicals and I love Bring It On, but It’s All Happening was not all happening for me. Does anyone know if the musical is set in the early 2000s like the movie? I ask because of the costumes. If so, that bumps this performance up to a high.
Lower-Middle [Like If It Was A TV Family’s Socio-Economic Status It Would Be The Conners from Roseanne]: Cinderella
I don’t care how 90s this makes me, I love the version of Cinderella with Brandy and whoever that smokeshow prince was. And I always love a good Rodgers and Hammerstein show. It’s sort of nice how this revival is just genuinely and unironically Cinderella. Like, it’s the difference between naming a baby Barbara because it’s your grandma’s name and naming your baby Barbara because all of the other hipsters have used the good old-lady names. I just can’t get too excited, is all. My praise is this, then: this revival of Cinderella is like a baby unironically named Barbara in 2013.
Upper-Middle or Possibly High [The Huxtables in the TV Family Class System]: Motown The Musical
There’s no good reason this should be too much fresher than Cinderella. I mean, this could be a baby unironically named Sharon. I just really like these songs, though! I Want You Back is one of my top cleaning/ chopping veggies tunes and that little boy is SO good! Plot? Who needs it!
Pretty High [Like When You’re Doing A High Five But It’s With Someone Smaller Than You Like Maybe A Child]: Cyndi Lauper winning best score for Kinky Boots
Is her accent real or just an impression of Rizzo from the Grease movie? Or a NY-area pickle vendor from the 1930s? I don’t know and I don’t need to know. I love it.
Middling [Like A Regular Five With Someone Your Same Height]: The performance from the Annie revival
Like any glitter-blooded hammy American kid, I loved Annie. Still do. But I wasn’t much more blown away by this performance than by your average good local production of it. Jane Lynch got laughs, but it seemed more like that “haha, there’s Jane Lynch” thing that happens with stunt casting, not so much her performance. Also, the adorable and talented little girls are seriously borrowing Lauper’s accent, right?
Very High Indeed [Like The Woman On The Bus Last Week Who Pulled On One Of My Curls Then Asked My Ethnicity]: Anna Kendrick
She only presented an award, but we’re fans here. I just like when she’s around.
High [Like a Thermostat On A Winter Day]: A Christmas Story: The Musical
Ladies and gents, 2013 is the year of musicals with a title followed by “colon – The Musical”. I don’t know if this musical is any good. I don’t care, either. The marriage of one of the most beloved Christmas films ever and the musical genre? I don’t object. Also, tap dancing.
Middle [Like A Christopher And Banks In The Center Of A Shopping Mall In The Middle Of The County In The Center Of The State That Is The Middlemost Point In Middle America]: Phantom Of The Opera
If Rodgers and Hammerstein is naming your daughter Barbara without irony in 2013, and Motown is naming her Sharon, this is naming her something crazy-80s yet flashy at the same time. Khrystall or Tyffani perhaps?
A Little Low [Like Realizing That Post-College You Can’t Drink Without Getting A Hangover]: The moment I realized that Billy Porter looks better in a dress than I do.
High But Trying Not To Be High [Like my friend in college who was smoking and started talking about how communist China was the best set-up in the world, and I told him “Yeah, unless you’re a baby girl”]: Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors In Memorium
This song always gets me. Remember the Dove commercial or something when a bunch of self-confident Girl Scouts sang it? Ugh. But it’s even worse when it’s played over an in memorium slideshow with Lauper on a melodium or something. I don’t want to love it, but I sort of love it.
High [Like A Beautiful Eagle Flying Higher Than You Can Dream]: Cicely Tyson
I understand that technically everyone is created equal. I just can’t help but feel that some people are actually a little better than the rest of us, though. Cicely Tyson is one of those people. Don’t think that I’m just saying that because she’s almost 80, either. Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman-era Tyson was every bit as superior to you as well.
High Because It’s Low [Like that one song that reminds you of whatever it is that makes you saddest, that you still listen to sometimes to remind yourself that you still can feel]: Once: The Musical performance
Once is one of my favorite movies that I have seen only once or twice and may not be able to bring myself to watch again. I love The Swell Season but they’re kind of a downer, in a hurts so good kind of way.
Low and Deep [Like that pit in your stomach when you check your work email on Sunday night and find out that Monday’s going to be crazy.]: The embarrassment that in 2013 we’re treating New York State Of Mind like a relevant song to parody.