March 7, 2011

Once More with Feeling, the Musical [review by starlight]

"That's the penalty/When life is but a song"

The full-length cult musical is right. Once More with Feeling is perhaps the most beloved episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which the series' venerated cast sing, dance and fight demons. This episode is not a completely random addition to the series - it actually had some foreshadowing and a flushed out plot. Dawn comes across a trinket in the Magic Box in a previous episode, and tucks it away in her pocket for safe keeping (the little thief!) The trinket is used to summon a demon of song and dance from another worldly plane, whose songs can become violent and lead to death (of course).

The musical helps many of the characters to work out some of their pent-up issues. Willow and Tara fight about Willow's frivolous use of magic, after Willow had put Tara under a forgetting spell to make her forget all about the argument. Spike gives us a rocking solo about his strange and incomprehensible feelings for Buffy, Giles sings a balad about Buffy's continuing antipathy towards life and her reliance on him for her responsibilities, and Dawn has two lines of song to tell us that she feels ignored. Buffy is dealing with her lack of connection to this world, which is her hell, and how she can never tell her friends that the hell dimension they think they pulled her out of was actually heaven.

"This isn't real, but I just wanna feel (you can make me feel)/ Where do we go from here?"

The actors chosen long ago to play Buffy's team get a chance to showcase their hidden talents for performance (except for Alyson Hannigan, who apparently has no talent. Love ya, girl). Amber Benson (Tara) displays possibly the best vocal ability, but you won't be disappointed by Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), and James Marsters (Spike). Although Sarah Michelle Geller reportedly did not want to sing for the production, after three months of vocal training and 19 hours of shooting the songs, her scenes are well-done, if quite possibly the result of a lot of sound editing. Michelle Tratchenberg (Dawn) is perhaps the most talented of the cast, displaying her ballet training in a lengthy scene after she is captured by Sweet, the music demon, and fights his goons in an attempt to escape. This scene is really cool. Possibly even more cool is Sweet's song about himself and his vendetta.

My personal favourite performance is Nicholas Brendon (who plays Xander) and Emma Caufield (his fiancee Anya) in "I'll Never Tell", a very cute duet that goes from a near-confession of things they detest about one another ("When things get rough he just hides behind his Buffy" "Like her toes are kind of hairy") to the truth about their own premarital self-doubts ("Will our lives become too stressful/If I'm never that successful?" "When I get so worn and wrinkly/That I look like David Brinkley"). At the end they come together, happily proclaiming that they could "really raise the beam in making marriage a hell", but thankfully, they'll keep their insecurities and scruples with one another to themselves. A healthy way to start a marriage, right?

What a nice way to wrap up some of the characters' issues with one another and set the series back on track. The only thing that's missing, as I've said before, is a nice big season-worthy villain. Sweet, the music demon, is pretty awesome, but he seems to be vanquished. I need a good bad guy for season 6, or I will be very upset. Let's see what episodes 8-22 have to offer, and whether the show deserves my continued fanship.

"Why is the path unclear/When we know home is near/Understand we'll go hand in hand but we'll walk alone in fear/Where do we go from here?"

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