Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Donna Murphy is "Mother Gothel"

If you don't just skip the occasional theater post on The Film Experience you may know of my love of Tony winner Donna Murphy. She has what might be her most significant screen role ever this very year. 'But what they want from her is....her voice.' She is playing Mother Gothel, the villainess of Disney's Tangled. She's the one who grounded Rapunzel, like, forever. [Okay, stop gagging. I know the juvenilia of the Tangled marketing has been entirely off-putting but let's stay positive for two minutes.]

Here's the first image release of Mother Gothel, just released.

Tangled's song score -- eight new songs the soundtrack is out in November the week before the movie -- is by Alan Menken so we hope against hope that the songs will be good and some of his past work is very good indeed. Lately it hasn't been quite so magical but at the very least a Menken score would have to be preferrable to the pop-song laden trailer music which led us to believe that this would be another Shrek, musically speaking. [Shudder.]

<--- Donna (left) with fellow Broadway headliner Sutton Foster, who has weirdly never appeared in a film, despite being a rather big deal on stage. (Usually the big theater stars get at least some film work.)

You've probably seen Donna in a few things already since she does bit parts on film (like in Door in the Floor or Spider-Man 2) and major parts on TV... but her voice is INCREDIBLE so I'm hoping she gets a song that's worthy of her.

So, let's think about the "villain songs" in Menken's oeuvre. How would you rank them? Here's what I'd say.
  1. "Poor Unfortunate Souls" from The Little Mermaid. Undeniable classic!
  2. "Gaston" from Beauty & The Beast. Not exactly an 'I'm evil' song but so great nonetheless.
  3. "Suppertime" from Little Shop of Horrors. Creepy.
  4. "Heaven's Light/Hellfire" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Hunchback's music is SO underrated and this scene sandwiched next to Children of God is maybe my favorite musical act in any Disney picture. Marvelous. Can I get an "amen"?
  5. "Mean Green Mother From Outer Space" from Little Shop of Horrors. Fun.
  6. "Mine, Mine, Mine" from Pocahontas. Errrr. not so much.

Now, admittedly the lyrics are a crucial part of the best villain songs. So hopefully Menken will have great assist from Glenn Slater in that department though obviously there will never be another Howard Ashman. Not every villain gets a song. If I recall correctly Hades from Hercules and Jafar from Aladdin don't have songs but that better not be the case when you've got pipes as golden as Murphy's to work with. That'd be like casting Mandy Patinkin in a musical and not letting him sing. Hey, now wait a mi...

Here's some Murphy performances I just love. "Hit Me With a Hot Note" from What About Joan? "Swing" from Wonderful Town, "Loving You" from Passion and "Shall We Dance?" from The King and I.


jeffreygmm said...

wake me up when disney does an animated version of Passion. xo

James T said...

Lovely article (The Little Mermaid reference was delicious).

I really need to rewatch Little Shop of Horrors. I saw it once some ten years ago and recently remmebered its existense.

And I thought of the same thing as jeffreygmm did. I know nothing about Passion (except for the song you posted of course) but I, too, thought it would be fitting to make an animated movie. Her voice in that sounded very Dinsey-ish.

She has a good voice but we all know it's mostly about the script in this case. Let's hope for the best.

Leehee said...

I LOVE DONNA MURPHY! So excited to find yet another thing I have in common with you.

I am beyond excited for the song she is going to sing - I hope it's good and I hope the movie itself is a hit, if only for her sake. She NEEDS to be appreciated by as many people as possible!

"Passion" is a tad too intense to be an animated movie...and this is coming from me, and this is my all-time favorite musical. "Wonderful Town", on the other hand... :-) I saw her 4 times in that musical, talk about brilliance!

Your list is great - I definitely agree about the number one song (I mean, what can ever top Poor Unfortunate Souls? Btw - ever hear Emily Skinner perform it? Totally awesome).

Great post! Can't wait to see the movie and discuss. :-)

Derreck said...

Good list, but Hellfire would be my number one. It's so dark and disturbing. How do you manage a song about an archbishop in lust with a gypsy to the point where he would let her burn at the stake rather than deny him? That song made Frollo probably one of the most realistic and sinister Disney villains.

"Was it in God's plan to make the devil so much stronger than a man?"

So powerful. Watching it as a kid, the song flew over my head, but seeing it a few years ago, i was shocked. Plus, i love the choir in the background as a contrast to Frollo's sin and lust.

"God have mercy on me, but she will be mine or she will,


deep stuff....though i do love 'antlers in all my decorating.' oh, that Gaston.

Anonymous said...

amen...Hunchback's music is unbelievably underrated...its is soaring and one of the most full sounding Disney scores.

Anonymous said...

What I've heard of the score so far is excellent. Never knew Zachary Levi had such an incredible voice!

Anonymous said...

Kris Tapley (of In Contention) says Tangled is "a real winner", on Twitter. I can't wait for his write-up tomorrow, I'm real nervous about this one.

On the subject of Hunchback, I feel it's underrated as a film in general. A lot of people I know remember not liking it when it came out, but we were kids the last time they saw it and it's a much more complex and mature film than what we were used to from Disney (of course I LOVED it...because I'm just smarter than all of my friends). The music is so haunting, menacing, emotional and even sensual. And Frollo is definitely up there with Ursula as one of their best villains.

Unknown said...

What can be said about Murphy other than, what a performer! Born to entertain through and through. I saw her in Wonderful Town back in 2004 (has it really been that long?) and have been obsessed with her ever since.

WonderRobbie said...

"Poor Unfortunate Souls" is just simply one of the best songs in the Menken/Ashman catalog. It's funny but then really creepy especially when you think about Ursula touching Ariel's boob. (Seriously, go watch the part when Ursula is leading Ariel into the cave and pay attention to one of her tentacles if you don't believe me.)

Also, Jafar DID have a song in Aladdin. He sung the reprise of "Prince Ali" which he sends Aladdin "to the ends of the Earth... Whoopee!!"

Oh and if we're talking villain songs in general, including non-Menken, "Be Prepared" from The Lion King is up there on my list. I'm not a huge fan of the movie but that's a scary song. Well, Jeremy Irons scares me regardless.

OtherRobert said...

Donna Murphy is why Spider-Man 2 is my favorite superhero film. Well, her and Alfred Molina. I've used that as an argument for why theater actors need to be allowed in blockbusters. I normally get laughed at, but at least I try.

I think Sutton Foster's non-stop decade of professional theater work has precluded her from any film jobs. I really can't think of a time where she wasn't working in NYC or regionally since Thoroughly Modern Millie.

The Awards Prognosticator said...

I wouldn't dare argue about "Poor Unfortunate Souls" spot at the top of the list, but couldn't have found room for "Feed Me (Git It)"? That's my favourite from "Little Shop of Horrors".

Peter said...

Actually, Jafar had a full song in Aladdin that was cut because the producers were concerned about the film's run-time. An old friend who was a Disney insider once played it for me -- it didn't really seem to add much more than did the "Prince Ali" reprise they ended up using.

I would make the claim that Hunchback has the best music of any Disney movie ever. There, I said it.

"Morning in Paris, the city awakes to the bells of Notre Dame..."

Mikadzuki said...

Glad to see so much Hunchback love. "Hellfire" is probably my favorite musical number in any Disney film, villainous or otherwise (although the villains do almost always get the best songs...)

Anonymous said...

I remember seeing Hunchback in the theatre as a teenager and thinking "is this song about what I think it's about?" The movie really is wonderful - Tom Hulce's singing, Kevin Kline, and IIRC, the gargoyles get in a few adults only jokes as well. Must rewatch soon.

IslandLiberal said...

"Hunchback" is kind of an awkward movie because it's much darker than your normal Disney film, but much lighter than the book it's based on. Some of the comedy stuff later on (the Gargoyles' number, especially) feels out of place - but the drama is pretty magnificent. And the music is amazing.

Artistically, it tries to take on themes more mature than anything Pixar has done.

katie said...

"Heaven's Light/Hellfire"!!!!!!!!

OMG, my f-cking favorite of all time

Seriously LOVED Frollo and that whole scene, the monks, heaven's light, and that great fire bit. The demons in red, the whole thing was so fantastic.