If you haven’t already seen it, Saturday Night Live’s sketch last week with Jean Valjean as a singing lobster is utterly bizarre. And it gets stranger as it goes along.
Malinda Kathleen Reese’s “Google Translate Sings” project returns to Les Misérables with “On My Own,” run through several layers of Google Translate from one language to another to another and finally back to English. As she says, it’s a good thing they had Hebert Kretzmer to translate it the first time around!
It’s another great entry in a series full of funny takes on musicals, pop songs and Disney classics. As for Les Mis, she previously tackled “One Day More” — or rather “Extra Day.”
A local theater company put together a cabaret-style parody of Les Misérables, built around the idea that you were visiting Thénardier’s inn for drinks. “Witness the heartwarming tale of human compassion, told by a complete a—hole.” It’s the kind of event where the doors open early and the actors are already in character, milling about and interacting with the audience, feeling out who’ll be a good choice to pull into a participation bit during the show. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.
M. Thénardier served as narrator, telling the story but putting his own spin on it. They built off of the musical, playing some parts mostly straight — Valjean, in particular, was *always* earnest — while others went completely over the top. Many characters would switch back and forth between serious and comedic, sometimes within a single song. Javert, for instance, would sometimes be deadly serious, and at other times show an entirely different reason for his obsession with Jean Valjean. Somehow they actually managed to make “A Little Fall of Rain” funny…and touching. The actors were clearly enjoying themselves as well, which is key for interactive shows like this.
Creating Arts Studios in Santa Monica is pretty close to the freeway, on the edge of a business park. There’s no parking lot to speak of, but there was plenty of street parking on the residential side of the street and no signs indicating any prohibition on parking there. They’ve got a similar project in the works, Chicabarent, mashing up Chicago, Cabaret and Rent and set in a speakeasy, which should be fun based on this show. Thénardier’s Inn ran for three weekends in November 2014, and has been extended for a second run in January-February 2015.
“One Day More” run through Google Translate a few times back and forth, then sung. Malinda Kathleen Reese’s whole “Google Translate Sings” series on YouTube is worth checking out, full of show tunes and Disney songs. She brings great expressiveness and mimicry to songs like “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” “Defying Gravity,” and more.
Yesterday the Les Misérables Broadway page on Facebook linked to a YouTube video of “Les Mousserables,” a Sesame Street sketch in which Cookie Monster, as Jean Bonbon, must learn to recognize other people’s feelings and share his cookies. It was…okay I suppose. It had its moments (like “One Day S’more”), and it was fun to see them take on the movie’s visuals (Snuffleupagus as the Elephant of the Bastille, for instance). Maybe my expectations were too high, or I was in the wrong mood for it. I’ve seen a number of “Elmo the Musical” bits that were quite entertaining, and I loved the “Finishing the Splat” sketch with Oscar the Grouch.
Yes, I have a toddler in the house, in case you’re wondering.
YouTube recommended “Les Miseranimals,” which has long been one of my favorites. It’s the sketch that got me to look at Animaniacs at an age when I was old enough not to be interested in afternoon cartoons (with the exception of Batman: The Animated Series), and it was quickly clear that even if the show was aimed at younger viewers, there was plenty of fun for a teenager to enjoy as well. So we all watched a grainy copy on the tablet even though the crisp DVD was sitting on a shelf across the room. It still holds up, though some of the songs work better than others. I’m not sure how I never noticed before that M. Tristesse (the restaurant owner) is basically one of John Cleese’s French caricatures from Monty Python.
I also found it sad that Rita’s song “There is a Flat in Gay Paree” is no longer shorter than “Castle on a Cloud” in the current version of the show.
From there YouTube recommended a clip from Forbidden Broadway‘s take on the show, which turned out to be someone’s recording from the audience in some production. That sort of thing bugs me, but I watched the whole thing, having discovered a few months ago that my aging audio cassette is no longer playable (and not having gotten around to replacing it). This was hit and miss, partly because a lot of the parody depends on the show being new at the time.
I suppose technically I watched four parodies, because even though we were ready to stop after 30-40 minutes of tiny videos parodying the same show, there was a link to a three-minute clip called “On My Phone.” It’s apparently from a more recent Forbidden Broadway show, and it’s brilliant.