CONNIE AND CARLA: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
What do you get when you build a script around one extended joke of girls pretending to be guys pretending to be girls? Answer: A turkey pretending to be ham, resulting in tripe.
Ostensibly, the film from which this soundtrack derives is a take on Some Like It Hot -- the much loved Billy Wilder comedy in which Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, as two struggling musicians, give the mob the slip by joining an all-girl band. In this instance Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette are a pair of airport lounge entertainers who also find themselves on the run from gangsters, and take refuge as a drag queen duo in an LA club. It isn’t so much a twist on a comedy classic as a throttling to death of it’s core conceit.
On the other hand the soundtrack itself has merit. Ever since Toni Collette parted her lips and let free a very pleasant sound in Cosi, I’ve been enthusiastic about her exploring more singing opportunities. Which isn’t to say that I initially thought this one was a good idea. Not only because the film is such a fizzer, but because unlike a musical such as Chicago, it doesn’t have original songs supporting a narrative contour. I knew Collette could warble and I now know that Vardalos can too, but neither of them are Barbra Streisand. So is there a point to a compendium of musicals standards -- Don’t Rain On My Parade, I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair, even some Andrew Lloyd Webber -- interpreted by a couple of moonlighting thespians? Showcasing versatility is of curiosity value only; to really warrant an album surely such well-worn tunes need either one of world’s great voices or a unique characteristic.
Via minimalist arrangements and brassy banter, this album just about finds the latter. Most of the songs rely primarily on side-stage piano and are introduced with the girls’ stage patter. The singing has more gusto than refinement -- but you’d expect a drag queen theatre duo to channel Ethel Merman rather than mimic Charlotte Church -- and the whole thing has a live cabaret feel to it. If these aren’t the finest versions of the tunes ever recorded, they do have personality. The vocals are technically proficient and the harmonies impressive. Interestingly, the track listing on the press release credits the performances to “Connie and Carla” rather than Collette and Vardalos, and I think that’s the key here. These ladies are all round talents, well cast for this gig, and the one joke that wasn’t enough to carry a film works quite well when distilled to the performance of the songs.
In any event it’s good to know that there are actors around with good enough voices to take on singing roles when required. The alternative is always dire. There’s nothing worse than singers pretending to be actors pretending to be singers.
Published January 13, 2005
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TITLE: Connie And Carla
ARTISTS: Toni Collette; Nia Vardalos; Debbie Reynolds
OVERTURE: Randy Edleman