Madonna probably drums up a number of images for you. Perhaps you recall her regal performance in the film version of Evita (transposed down so that she could actually attempt to sing the role). You might think of her various banned music videos, and general love of boundary-pushing, sexualized content. Maybe you think of her “book”… and yes, that’s in quotations. Or perhaps you are only reminded of that last time you were at a gay bar, surrounded by throngs of adoring men in tank tops singing along to every word. But I would say that no matter who you are, or which of those scenarios apply to you, you have some understanding of who Madonna is. And you probably know at least one of her songs.

She’s iconic more than she’s artistic, but the sheer length of her career is worthy of note (and perhaps also of celebration). She has defined movements, created trends, challenged censorship, and ultimately, she can’t walk down the street without people taking her picture. 15 minutes of fame is fine for Lindsay Lohan, but how can you ignore someone who has continued to be innovative in her career for over three decades. Whether you love her or you hate her, you can’t deny her. She’s a pretty impressive person.

In the Songbook Series, we look to celebrate the work of an artist who has infiltrated our public identity. And infiltration is practically a synonym for Madonna (remember when she became a Kaballah for like one day?). Our inaugural Songbook Series celebrated the work of Elton John, and in doing so, we acknowledged his brilliance as a songwriter and the stories that he tells through music. Madonna is no songwriter, and so this time around, we’ll be celebrating her in a different way. The musicians performing in the Songbook Series are meant to re-invent the songs in a way that we’ve never heard before. They’ve been charged with a challenging task—taking something familiar and making it their own, giving it new voice, and new surprises for the listener. But no one is better at re-inventing themselves than Madonna, so it seems fitting that we’re going to try and re-invent her here at Passe Muraille as part of After Hours @TPM.

As we flip through our own copies of The Immaculate Collection, and scan through Madonna’s Wikipedia page, I’m sure we’ll find new gems for the exciting evening. And when we do—we’ll twist ‘em around in our own way, making Madonna relevant for everyone. Or something like that.

Songbook Series #2: Madonna

January 6, 2012


Theatre Passe Muraille