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SOAPDISH – Alan Silvestri

THROWBACK THIRTY

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A hilarious send-up of American daytime soap operas, Soapdish is directed by Michael Hoffman and features an all-star ensemble cast including Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Robert Downey Jr., Cathy Moriarty, Whoopi Goldberg, Carrie Fisher, and Elisabeth Shue. The film is set in the world of a fictional soap opera – The Sun Also Sets – and follows the various shenanigans both on-set and behind the scenes, involving professional rivalries and former love interests, familial drama, raging egos within the cast, and desperate attempts by the show’s producers to revive their flagging ratings by coming up with new storylines, each one more sensational and implausible than the last. It’s a fun, fast-paced, knowing parody of the genre, but unfortunately it wasn’t a hit with either critics or audiences, who presumably would rather stay home watch the real thing.

The themes for American daytime soaps usually tend to be on the syrupy and treacly side; think of the cascading violins of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart’s theme from Days of Our Lives, Franz Waxman’s lush music for Peyton Place, or Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin’s iconic music for The Young and the Restless, better known as ‘Nadia’s Theme’. This contrasts with the more bold and boisterous dynamos that people like Jerrold Immel and Bill Conti wrote for primetime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty, full of bright brass and swirling rhythmic strings. As such, it might be something of a surprise to discover that, for Soapdish, composer Alan Silvestri bucked the trend entirely and scored most of the movie with Latin dance rhythms based on mambos and cha-chas.

Soapdish was the only professional collaboration between director Hoffman and Silvestri – his usual composer was James Newton Howard – but the resulting soundtrack was a memorable one, especially for anyone who enjoys lounge jazz and Latin influences in their film scores. Everything is built around the central theme, “Mambo Glamoroso,” an intoxicating piece full of sultry tropical brass writing and Caribbean percussion rhythms, interjected with a light caper sequence that plays up the slapstick comedy inherent in the film. There are vague hints of past scores like Overboard and Who Framed Roger Rabbit in some of the phrasing and chord progressions – Silvestri always sounds like Silvestri – as well as some foreshadowing of the comedy hi-jinks of subsequent scores like Father of the Bride, Death Becomes Her, and maybe Mouse Hunt, but for the most part this is a unique entry in Silvestri’s canon.

The overwhelming majority of the subsequent cues are variations on the madcap, anarchic mambo style, with pieces like “Mr. Barnes’ Cha Cha Cha,” “Makeover Mambo,” and the brief but fun “Mrs. Moorhead’s Tango” standing out. Some cues do offer a few notable instrumental variations; for example, “You’re Fired (Just Kidding)” has a prominent saxophone, and “Mambo Incognito” sees Silvestri combining his mambo style with nervous-sounding Herrmannesque strings, while “Sunset’s Showdown” is the closest the score comes to having an action cue.

One or two cues do buck the trend. “I Want Celeste To Burn” sounds like a comedy flamenco, complete with castanets, while “On the Machine “ introduces the sweet and lilting string-and-piano based love theme that gets more fulsome statements later in “America’s Sweetheart (Underbelly),” the lovely “Life Is Soap Is Life Is…,” and “Lori Meets the Press”. Elsewhere, “In the Soup Kitchen” and the oppressively dramatic “Brain Surgery” offer some typically Silvestri-esque suspense, full of tremolo strings that hark back to the more dramatic parts of Back to the Future (the latter while referencing the love theme), while the big finale in “She’s A Boy” reaches for some quite sweeping heights with a majestic fully-orchestral variation on the love theme.

There are also two performances of the song “El Sol También Se Pone” – one instrumental, one vocal version – written and performed by Mexican composer Ludar Felsenstein, and which fits in perfectly with Silvestri’s style. The title of the song translates into English as “The Sun Also Sets” – the name of the film’s fictional soap – in what is clearly a fun in-joke.

The original album for Soapdish was released by Varese Sarabande in 1991, and ran for a scant but satisfying 34 minutes. In 2015 the Spanish label Quartet Records released a limited edition expanded album which doubled the length of that previous album by including everything Silvestri composed and recorded for the film (including several bonus tracks), presented in chronological order, and fully remastered from the original recording sources. Unfortunately, both albums have been out of print for several years, and might be hard to track down. Despite this, Soapdish gets a strong recommendation from me. Silvestri’s irresistible music is so full of energy and is so eager to please that it’s almost impossible to dislike. If Latin mambo and tropical jazz tunes are not in your sphere of appreciation, then you may find yourself unable to connect with the playfulness of it all, but for those who do occasionally enjoy some spicy rhythms, then Soapdish might serve up the goods.

Buy the Soapdish soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • ORIGINAL RELEASE
  • Mambo Glamoroso (3:53)
  • You’re Fired (Just Kidding) (1:39)
  • I Want Celeste To Burn (1:09)
  • On The Machine (0:46)
  • Mr. Barnes’ Cha Cha Cha (2:05)
  • America’s Sweetheart (Underbelly) (2:11)
  • In The Soup Kitchen (0:51)
  • Makeover Mambo (2:29)
  • El Sol También Se Pone (Instrumental) (written by Ludar Felsenstein) (3:03)
  • Mambo Incognito (2:22)
  • Mrs. Moorhead’s Tango (0:49)
  • Life Is Soap Is Life Is… (1:59)
  • Mambo Nervoso (0:36)
  • Lori Meets The Press (1:10)
  • Sunset’s Showdown (1:49)
  • Brain Surgery (1:45)
  • She’s A Boy (2:16)
  • El Sol También Se Pone (written by Ludar Felsenstein, performed by Ludar) (3:03)
  • EXPANDED RELEASE
  • Mambo Glamoroso (Main Title) (3:56)
  • TV Awards Music (2:14)
  • On the Machine (0:49)
  • Miss Moorhead’s Tango (0:52)
  • Towel Drop (0:30)
  • You’re Fired (Just Kidding) (1:41)
  • Fan Montage (0:41)
  • Make Maggie a Murderer (0:34)
  • Mr. Barnes’ Cha Cha Cha (2:15)
  • In the Soup Kitchen (0:54)
  • I Want Celeste to Burn (1:20)
  • Makeover Mambo (0:29)
  • Good for Me (0:37)
  • The Bus (0:40)
  • Mambo Incognito (2:25)
  • Now! (0:36)
  • First Kiss (1:08)
  • Life is Soap is Life is… (2:13)
  • Lori Meets the Press (1:14)
  • Lori’s Poster / Montana Blue Scarf (1:04)
  • Newspaper (0:21)
  • Mambo Nervoso (0:46)
  • Sunset’s Showdown (1:52)
  • Brain Surgery (1:47)
  • She’s a Boy! (2:20)
  • Lori Wins (0:34)
  • El Sol También Se Pone (End Titles) (written by Ludar Felsenstein, performed by Ludar) (3:05)
  • Makeover Mambo (Album Version) (2:32) BONUS
  • The Bus (Alternate) (0:40) BONUS
  • Life is Soap is Life is… (Album Version) (2:01) BONUS
  • Mall Source (2:37) BONUS
  • The Opa Locka Bar (Source) (2:13) BONUS
  • Jeffrey and Lori Have Lunch (Source) (2:17) BONUS
  • In the Soup Kitchen (Alternate) (0:54) BONUS
  • Mr. Barnes’ Cha Cha Cha (Alternate) (2:37) BONUS
  • Lori Meets the Press (Alternate A) (0:38) BONUS
  • Lori Meets the Press (Alternate B) (1:13) BONUS
  • Lori Meets the Press (Alternate C) (1:13) BONUS
  • Lori Wins (Alternate) (0:44) BONUS
  • El Sol También Se Pone (Instrumental) (written by Ludar Felsenstein) (3:02) BONUS

Running Time: 33 minutes 55 seconds (Original)
Running Time: 59 minutes 38 seconds (Expanded)

Varese Sarabande VSD-5322 (1991)
Quartet Records QR-170 (1991/2015)

Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Orchestrations by Alan Silvestri and James Campbell. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Jim Harrison. Album produced by Alan Silvestri.

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