Culture Crash 21-09

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

For years, watching most live performances at home was a bit of a risky endeavor. Sure, bands released high-quality concert films and comedy specials seem to come out daily, but live plays and musicals? Usually, they were either only available via limited-run theatrical events or they were low-quality, single camera shots from a distance. The options were typically not great. The networks tried doing those one-off live musical performances jammed full of celebrities for a while to mostly lukewarm reception.

But lately, that has begun to change, and several live performances are available to stream at home that really push the live-event-at-home experience to a new level. The biggest and most notable of those shows is Hamilton, which is streaming on Disney+. The musical sensation was captured with its original cast and renders a new vantage point for fans new and old, with a roving camera giving the landmark show a permanent place in the at-home viewing experience.

But there are other, smaller shows out there, too. David Byrne’s American Utopia show, which sees the Talking Heads frontman perform his Broadway show that ran only a few months before being put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed by Spike Lee, American Utopia is streaming on HBO Max and has been lauded by critics as one of the best films of 2020.

And a different live show that recently blew me away is streaming on Hulu. It’s called In & Of Itself, and it’s a 90-minute one-man show that is truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Taken from illusionist Derek DelGaudio’s intimate off-Broadway production of the same name, the special sees DelGaudio perform magic tricks, deliver a plea for kindness, and weave together a series of narratives. If it sounds like I’m being illusive, it’s because I am. It truly is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something different and mysterious.

While comedy specials and concert films have long dominated the live production-at home marketplace, specials like Hamilton, David Byrne’s American Utopia and Derek DelGaudio’s In & Of Itself have brought little pieces of the theater scene previously held behind closed doors at high prices right into our homes. For that, I am thankful.

I’m Evan Rook.

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