Mar 16, 2014
Review: Leslie Carrara-Rudolph's "Wake Up Your Weird"
Josh Hankemeier - "Wake Up Your Weird" is Leslie Carrara-Rudolph's new album based on the theater performance of the same name. If you have been lucky enough to see this performance, great! If you haven't, you should! Here's the story:
Leslie introduces us to the CD and to her brain, which she has named "Doyle." Doyle has a habit of keeping Leslie up at night, so she puts Doyle on a leash. That way, her mind can wander. The title track "Wake Up Your Weird" is simply about celebrating the joy of weirdness and getting it out there through music, art and stories. We all know it's fun to be weird. (Hey, we're all Muppet fans here!)
After this track, the main story begins. Lolly is excited to attend her first "Dolly Circle." Think of it as sort of a Show-and-Tell, but with a specific fanbase. Lolly, with the help of her Granny Dot, created a "Lolly Dolly": a doll of her own design. Lolly doesn't give much thought to the way dolls are "supposed" to look (i.e. Barbie). Lolly just decided to use her imagination and create something totally new. The members of the Dolly Circle approve of Lolly's doll, which can do anything (including bark).
The Dolly Circle suddenly grows quiet as Pristina (a very popular member of the Dolly Circle) immediately criticizes Lolly. She insults Lolly by calling her "weird" and also says her doll is "ugly," "stupid," and "not good enough."
Lolly, once happy, proud and optimistic, is now crushed by Pristina's bullying. The rest of the members of the Dolly Circle decide that Pristina must be right (with her being popular and all) and further criticize Lolly. The song "My Heart is Blue" expresses Lolly's self-reflection and struggle with her self-confidence. Momentarily, the bad thoughts take over. In "Pristina's Tease," the scene from the earlier Dolly Circle is played out like a bad dream, emphasizing the "importance" of following the crowd. Negative thoughts enter Lolly's mind: "Leave your imagination, check it at the door. Never do anything new unless it's been done before."
Just when Lolly is at her lowest, her Granny Dot steps in to help tackle all of the negative thoughts, as heard in "Granny Power." In this track, we discover that Granny Dot is one of Lolly's most positive influences. Like in real life, it helps a great deal to have someone older and wiser as a guide when times get tough. Otherwise, one runs the risk of believing the negative thoughts caused by being bullied.
At this point on the CD, it seems that the plot involving Lolly and the Dolly Circle has ended. But this is merely half of the music! The last half of the CD contains my favorite tracks. "A Storm of Many Colors" is sung by Velvet, a six foot tall, blue lamb who would feel right at home onstage with Aretha Franklin (She is also Lolly's fairy godmother). In this number, Velvet reminds us that "you can't have a rainbow without a storm." This is one of Leslie's best musical numbers!
"With a Little Bit of Inspiration"
This is my favorite track on both of these albums, hands down. I enjoy drawing and this song never fails to inspire me to get my pen moving. If you are an artist, you should seriously consider listening to this track. In the original theatrical production, Leslie will create a drawing on the spot while she sings the song.
"Believe" is a song of trust and faith, and of course, believing that things will work out in the end
"Be a Present"
Just like Kermit, spreading joy is one of Leslie's biggest dreams. This upbeat, energetic song reminds us that we should be there for others and to "make your life a gift of joy."
"I'm Not Old, I'm History"
Granny Dot, heard earlier in "Granny Power," has the same amount of gusto in this number with an "old timey" instrumental backup. Granny Dot is proud of her wrinkles and she thinks of them as pages of the book in her life. She also is proud of the fact she's been around as long as she has and eagerly looks forward to the next chapters of her life. "I'm 99 and I'm in my prime!" Granny Dot boasts.
Slax the Lizard began life as a slipper and a dryer hose, items that most people would pass by. In this laid back swing number, Slax reminds the audience not to judge a creature by their appearance, but by who they are within. It would be easy to picture Slax performing this at a poetry slam, backed up by Zoot and Floyd.
"Can I Help You?"
Is chivalry dead? Not according to Lolly and Granny Dot it isn't! This basic tune about chivalry is one of Leslie's favorites. It's very easy to get wrapped up in our own little worlds that we forget to help those who need it. There is a line in the song with a profound interpretation of the word "mankind."
The last track on this CD features the plight of Beatrice Fennelbulb, whose ridiculously long hair causes her misfortune after misfortune. This Shel Silverstein-like song also bears a slight resemblance to some of Jeff Moss's poetry from his book "The Butterfly Jar."
"Wake Up Your Weird" holds a deep significance. It teaches children (and us grownups, too) the importance of individuality and joy. It also has a powerful anti-bullying message. Bullying can damage and even destroy that sense of self-worth. Leslie's music is a reminder that even though bullying is out there, it is extremely important to never lose one's self-confidence, even through the tough times. With guidance, rethinking one's thinking and realizing one's uniqueness, joy will prevail. If you know anyone, young or old, that has been bullied because they weren't "just like everyone else," introduce them to "Wake Up Your Weird."
When listening to the CD, I was reminded of this quote by Jim Henson: "I know that it’s easier to portray a world that’s filled with cynicism and anger, where problems are solved with violence. That’s titillating. It’s an easy out. What’s a whole lot tougher is to offer alternatives, to present other ways conflicts can be resolved, and to show that you can have a positive impact on your world. To do that, you have to put yourself out on a limb, take chances, and run the risk of being called a do-gooder."
I believe that this statement can be said for what I have heard on "Spunkinsass" and "Wake Up Your Weird". I would highly recommend them for fans of Leslie, kids, and kids at heart. To learn more about the work and characters of Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, please visit the following websites: Wake Up Your Weird and Lolly Lardpop's YouTube Channel.
As Leslie would say, "Joy to you!"
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org