Monday, December 10, 2007

big bold beautiful Edna Turnblad

Three years ago, the Hugh Jackman said in his Tony's Best Leading Actor in a Musical acceptance speech, "[Peter Allen of 'The Boy from Oz'] is just like the best role I have seen for a guy in a long time." If by "a long time" he meant a year, he hit the jackpot with that sentence.

For what it's worth, I believe that Jackman's predecessor, Harvey Fierstein who won 2003 Tony for the same category has THE best role for a guy. Ever.

Famous female impersonator Fierstein starred in a musical called Hairspray based on a 1988 cult movie of the same title. His character is Edna Turnblad, the lead character's mother. Yes. Mother. Originally in the movie, this role was written for a famous transsexual, Christine Jorgensen, but rewritten and later played by a famous drag performer, Divine.

I was unlucky enough to not know how Fierstein or Divine belted the role. I can only imagine how Edna in their hands. But because I was lucky enough to live in the era where things like YouTube (and its unbelievably generous users) has been invented, I happened to have a chance to check out generic version of Fierstein's performances which can be reached within a click in my bedroom.

37.5 Megabytes (Oh, my heart. I hope I didn't send my speedy usage off the roof again) and three musical numbers later, it is so easy for me to compose that sentence I wrote in the second paragraph.

Fierstein's Edna is a hybrid of theatrically comical, adorable, familiar, and of course hysterical. His body of work is amazing. Check out those three numbers that I talked about and see how he emulates Edna's insecurity, romantic side and fabulousness.

Now if you haven't been living under the rock, you must have heard of a more current musical movie adaptation of Hairspray released earlier this year. In this movie, The role Edna went to the hands of the famous John Travolta (Yes! I survive writing a sentence without any condescending tone for the man). I won't bother to write a paragraph telling you all how Travolta did it, but Fierstein he ain't.

Like most successful Broadway hit, Hairspray is then re-produced in West End. Fasten your seat belts kids, because the actor cast as Edna is none other than Michael Ball. Yes. The Michael Ball. The Michael Ball whose "My place is here. I'll fight with you.." in Les Mis shattered my heart. I can't wait for the videos of his performances featuring his curvaceous figure (Oh, yeah, he is) and his dimples surface in YouTube. Oops, spoke too soon.

So Michael Ball, one of the most expensive actors in West End, has performed anything from Jesus Christ to a woman. Based on that sentence he's like only the most awesomest performer on earth, methinks.

In the mean time, I'm still gonna breathe more aerosol than air. And yes, I still think that Fierstein is the best Edna. (Though it's such a joy to see how Michael Ball had so much fun on stage and fooled even his hardcore fans)

PS: In (You're) Timeless To Me, Fierstein performed the number with then 73-year-old Dick Latessa. All I want for Christmas is wanna be half like him when I am 73.


Anonymous said...

Michael Ball is sensational as Edna. Michael's Edna is warm, funny, touching and completely convincing. There is a great chemistry between Michael and Leanne Jones(Tracey) and with both of them and Mel Smith. You really believe in them as a family unit. Michael and Mel's 'Timeless' stops the show, wonderful.

Bie said...

Thanks for the comment. Well, I am a big fan of Michael Ball's work too. In fact at one point of my life, I was about to name him as my favorite male vocalist. It's just so damn difficult to find a recording of him here.

I really enjoyed his Edna in the clips that I watched. But I don't know. I still prefer gliding Fierstein's Edna to bouncing Ball's Edna. This doesn't mean that I don't like his performance though.

I hope Michael will win awards for this. You're right, he's sensational.

Geget said...

eh tnyta Harvey itu yg itu ya.. gue inget suara nya dia klo ngomong.. agak2 annoying tp selalu jd orang berhati lembut/gay-quality klo di film2.. kok di youtube suaranya ngga gitu?..

Bie said...

Tau gak sih. Setiap kali gue denger nama Fierstein gue juga kebayangnya orang "itu". Awalnya gue juga nyangka si "itu". Tapi kalo ngeliat track recordnya si Fierstein, kayaknya orang itu bukan Fierstein deh.. (Or it's supposed to be Fierstein bukan orang itu?)

Masalahnya orang "itu" biasanya tampil brewokan, kan? Si Fierstein jarang.

Tapi gue tau kok orang yang elo maksud. Sekarang gue lagi kebingungan, tu orang ada di film apa (aja) ya.. You know, extras. :)

(Tapi di Hairspray ini entah kenapa suaranya Edna's Fierstein jadi gitu)

Geget said...

Gue sih inget bgt scene nya dia di salah satu big disaster movie yg gw tonton tp gw lupa apakah itu ID4 atau Jurassic Park nomer sekian, dan pas gue cek di IMDb emang iya dia ada di ID4..terus gw yang, oh pantesan gw inget banget orang gw nonton film itu 4 kali..hehehe.. dan dia jg lmyn banyak jd extra kyny... jadi dia emang orang 'itu' kok.. hehe..baru inget gw comment ttg ini..