Sometimes when you’re young, you really dig some odd stuff. I went through phases in late middle school/early high school (that I arguably never grew out of) where I was into some objectively odd art. My favorite move for ages was Repo! The Genetic Opera – a rock opera, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman (of Saw II fame) and written by Terrance Zdunich, sort of in the vein of Rocky Horror, where a Repo Man (played by Anthony Head, from Buffy) literally repossessed people’s organs if they couldn’t pay for them. I was a big fan of an indie film called Ink, a weird film where a monster (named Ink) stole a girl’s soul in order to join the ranks of the Incubi – monsters that created nightmares. It was a weird movie, but I loved it. I also got pretty into artists like Emilie Autumn, Amanda Palmer/The Dresden Dolls/Evelyn Evelyn, and a few other eclectic groups. A few years later, I’d end up falling in love with Bousman and Zdunich’s next collaboration, The Devil’s Carnival, a short film about a carnival, run by the devil, that forces sinners to relive their sins over and over again in a carnival setting. It featured a soundtrack (written by Zdunich and Saar Hendelman) that was very inspired by circus and carnival music. A few years earlier, I’d really vibed with another circus-themed album: Circus of Alice by Madison Chase. Billed as a concept album in the genre of chamber pop/creepy pop, Circus of Alice was the first (and currently only) album from Madison Chase, an artist currently based out of LA., and told the story of a young girl named Alice and her experiences in a creepy circus.
It never truly feels like Christmas for me unless there’s some kind of musical event in either the television or film world. Whether it’s a new movie musical for Hollywood or another one of those live musicals on TV (via NBC or FOX), a big part of my Christmas tradition nowadays is a new musical to watch and enjoy right before the big holiday. This year was no exception, bringing two musicals to my eyeballs. FOX just aired A Christmas Story Live! this past weekend (with a book by Robert Cary and Jonathan Tolins and music and lyrics by the songwriting duo Pasek and Paul) and 20th Century Fox is releasing a new movie musical about P.T. Barnum (of Barnum and Bailey Circus fame) directed by Michael Gracey, with a screenplay by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon and music and lyrics by Pasek and Paul. You might have noticed a theme there with both of this year’s big, new musical offerings: they both feature the music of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Fresh off their recent success with Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen, Pasek and Paul have written original lyrics and music for The Greatest Showman as well as composing a new song for the live telecast of their 2012 Broadway musical A Christmas Story. (Also of note: one of last year’s big musical offerings, La La Land, also featured the lyrics of Pasek and Paul.) So with Pasek and Paul taking over my screens in both of the big new filmed musical offerings, I thought it worthwhile to give my thoughts on the soundtrack for The Greatest Showman (I haven’t seen the movie yet), FOX’s telecast of A Christmas Story Live!, and my general thoughts on the music of Pasek and Paul. (more…)