Saturday, March 17, 2012

Eric Woolfson's Poe

This DVD arrived somewhen last week. Yes, just weeks apart from my last purchase. This is the effect of having a friend-turned-"personal shopper" who willingly assists in buying and shipping goods home from online stores. It's made spending money a breeze - which, though not at all a bad thing since I only buy the things I really need / want - is so not "me". I grew up in a sort of none too well-to-do family... sure, we had enough to eat, decent clothes and a constant roof above our heads - all the basic stuff - but not much else. I've been trained from young to be extremely thrifty and careful with what I spend on, which, I sometimes overdo. For instance, I started to avoid eating meat during my college days because vegetables were a lot cheaper. I'm still not well-off financially, but I have enough to not have the need to watch too closely every cent I spend... and I'm now slowly learning to allow myself what makes me happy. A friend said, at 30+, if we already have a saving plan, we should feel comfortable to spend as we want. I told him to not bring up the matter of age. He said, fine, we have 30+ years left. Gah, he's right. But, I'm supposed to be writing about the musical... how do I always manage meander so?

Suppose I should give a little background on how I discovered this musical, which debuted in 2003, but that would be meandering even more, so perhaps I would go into that at the end.

I have not seen so many musicals, but do I love them! There are those which are more dance than song, those which are equal in both and these, which I prefer by far, with more song than dance. And the songs in Edgar Allan Poe are simply beautiful - deeply moving, profound and just so beautiful. The stage props and setup were minimal, in my opinion, and mostly cast in darkness, most of the time. I find it perfect in eliminating distraction from the music and the cast members' vocal performance. The musical tells the story of Edgar Allan Poe, poet and author, from when he was a young, unknown writer to his tragic death. Here's the list of songs:

1. Wings Of Eagle
- A still-unknown Edgar Allan Poe presents his writings to a magazine owner.

2. The Murders In The Rue Morgue
- Poe's detective story gains popularity.

3. What Fools People Are
- Poe writes a negative review of a piece by rival author Griswold, who is then angered.

4. Blinded By The Light
- The earlier days of Poe's life is revealed: he sings of the death of his mother and the loss of his first love, Elmira Royster.

5. Tiny Star
- Poe tends to his sickly cousin, Virginia, while his mother appears (in his memory) and sings a lullaby

6. The Pit and The Pendulum
- Poe composes this masterpiece.

7. It Doesn't Take a Genius
- Griswold is pressured by the audience at a recital to read Poe's latest poem, "The Raven".

8. Goodbye To All That
- Poe and Virginia marry =)

9. The Bells
- The ensemble sings of Poe's troubled mind.

10. The Devil I Know
- It has been ten years. Virginia sings of her marriage to Poe.

11. Tiny Star (Reprise)
- Virginia falls ill. Poe sings the lullaby to soothe her, but her condition worsens.

12. The Bells (Reprise)
- Virginia dies.

13. Somewhere In The Audience
- Poe grieves for Virginia.

14. Trust Me
- Griswold succeeds in convincing Poe to make him his literary executor.

15. Let The Sun Shine On Me
- Poe is reunited with his childhood sweetheart, Elmira.

16. Train To Freedom
- Poe gets involved in a Railway campaign when he speaks against the company, and is beaten up by the Railway supporters.

17. Tiny Star (Reprise)
- Poe lies dying. The spirit of his mother appears and leads him away.

18. What Fools People Are
- Griswold writes a nasty obituary of Poe.

19. Somewhere In The Audience (Reprise)
- Elmira and the spirit of Virginia grieve for Poe.

20. Immortal
- Poe's spirit returns to sing of his immortality through the respect and passion the world continues to shower upon his work.

Steve Balsamo plays Poe extremely well. His acting is subtle - unlike the usual stage performing with exaggerated gestures and facial expressions - yet, powerfully convincing. He is able to very effectively project the array of emotions - love, grief, anguish - through his voice and his eyes, and I really do think that he's portrayed the character so well it is an achievement quite impossible to surpass.

It is way too easy to get carried away by Steve's stunning performance - I am fortunate I still could find enough attention to pay to the ensemble. The arrangements are fantastic and the harmony of their voices is almost perfect. All in all, this is such a gem of a musical I am surprised it hasn't gained more recognition. I'm sorry that I've only known it now, not sooner.

Well, I must admit I've never previously been acquainted with the late Eric Woolfson's work, and I only came to know about this one while watching YouTube videos of Steve Balsamo. How I came across this amazing vocalist is another (somewhat long) story, so I should not go into it - too much digressing for one post. The gist is, once I've heard him sing, I could not stop listening to him. The chance discovery led to a near-obsession, and soon I was scouring the web for his work. Such a voice! His voice - the quality, the control, the expressiveness, the 3.5-octave range... why isn't such a talented person more widely known? I'm sorry I've only heard him now, not sooner.

Seriously, someone give me a list of all the great voices I should be listening to but haven't heard!

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