Saturday, May 5, 2012

Funerals & Cod Pieces

My wife and I went to see Love Lies Bleeding the other night. If the title rings a bell for you it’s probably because you’re familiar with Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s early catalogue of work. It’s taken from their magnum opus (in my opinion), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road which featured his own Bohemian Rhapsody-esque song Funeral For a Friend/Loves Lies Bleeding.

Based here in Calgary, Alberta Ballet pitched the idea to Sir Elton back in 2008 about producing a contemporary ballet based on his life story and set to a backdrop of some of his biggest hits of the early ’70s.

The show debuted in 2010 and was met with favourable reviews. Elton himself had been part of an ongoing dialogue with the production team in revamping the show and the latest iteration had its opening night last Wednesday evening, which was the show that we were lucky enough to catch.

There was actually some buzz going around the auditorium that Elton might make an appearance because he was recently in Alberta on a small-venue tour that included Lethbridge, Red Deer, and Grande Prairie (all cities with populations less than 100,000). Would he show up to his own ballet show? Sadly, the answer was no, unless he was keeping a low profile at the theatre.

The storyline, if you can call it that, follows Elton’s life and personal struggles. It begins with a young boy riding a bike who then becomes an older Elton that is confronted with images of Martin Luther King Jr., Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, and other historical figures that one presumes had some influence on his upbringing and songwriting inspiration.

Such a bevy of personalities at the beginning of the show made me wonder if his good friend Freddie would make an appearance at some point. Elton and Freddie were definitely pretty close as Elton’s appearance at the 1992 Tribute Concert and these earlier photos would attest to.

Speaking of funerals and friends, Elton was one of the select few invited to Freddie’s funeral in 1991. Was this perhaps an indirect nod to the whole Funeral For a Friend connection in the show’s narrative?

As I was watching the show, I kept wondering to myself if Freddie’s death affected him to the same degree that Marilyn Monroe’s did? Did Freddie represent a bit of a role model for Elton who himself was struggling with his own sexuality?

To turn the tables a bit, Freddie had tried his hand (or is it feet?) at performing ballet for real back in 1979 when his good friend at the time, who was a principal of the Royal Ballet, invited Freddie to dance at a fundraising gala along to some choice Queen songs. More on this story and photos from the rehearsal can be read here. This is another great example of his fearlessness. As a matter of fact, didn’t Freddie give an interview about it one time where he doubted if Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart would even dare try it?

Before Elton’s show, Queen had their music put to the ballet test in South Africa back in 2006. Brian gives the details on his soapbox here.

I felt that some of the themes running throughout each song and/or dance performance were rather mature. For instance, there was faux nudity in the dancers’ body stockings, two male dancers kiss at one point, drag queens, and an underlying suggestion of BDSM in the costumes.

Wait a minute, I just noticed a common motif between this ballet performance of Love Lies Bleeding as seen here:

and someone’s depiction of Queen as seen here on one of my tribute picture discs:

Cod pieces. I’ll leave it at that.


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