Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Shangri-La Plaza (Nick Castle 1990)

About three years ago on the a_film_by list, Mike Grost mentioned a TV pilot musical called Shangri-La Pizza. It was apparently shown only once one godforsaken night in 1990 on CBS. Mike was lucky enough to catch it. And his site was long the only site on the internet that mentioned the thing.

Well, that's because Mike, bless him, got the name wrong (and you really can't blame him - he was taking down credit info as the show was being broadcast!). It's Shangri-La PLAZA and in our era of immediate gratification, you can now relive that fateful night in 1990 on youtube as the entire episode is there in three parts. Here's part one:


After watching it twice now, it's clear that we didn't need Nirvana to sweep away Shangri-La Plaza (and Cop Rock in the same year no less!). Apparently, TV execs took the enormous success of MTV-style danceicals of the 1980s as an excuse to greenlight these spontaneous outbursts of song. But by 1980, such outbursts were long since verboten (despite very occasional successes here and there) and Shangri-La Plaza goes Cop Rock one better by featuring very little spoken dialogue. That is, it's almost sung through which ups the ante for a nation already turned off by such musical expression.

So it's no shock that it never got past the pilot stage. Still, loving the musical as I do, I just gotta give Shangri-La Plaza the hug it so desperately needs. I love the main theme, the "Donut Hole" song, and I mourn the fact that we'll never get to hear the blond skater/surfer dude sing.

It was directed by Nick Castle whose odd career seems indicative of the type of floundering (profitable or not) that he would not have had to do in the classical Hollywood era. He played Michael Myers in Halloween and dipped his toes in quasi-musicals such as Tap and August Rush. Also, watch for a young Savion Glover.

If I had to be mean about any of it, I'd say that the apparently requisite dual focus heterosexual narrative of the musical is not resuscitated here by tweaking the formal into a triple focus heterosexual narrative (two brothers after the same woman). In fact, it's forced and awkward to watch. And trust me - you don't have to be gay to come to that conclusion. In the end, then, it's a measure of the dead end of the musical in the 1980s and 1990s, the impoverished bank of stories to tell via music. But that in itself is a perverse kind of pleasure anyway. Enjoy!


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