Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I found myself suffering from "Underdog syndrome" yesterday afternoon. There is an episode of the old cartoon where Underdog, the mild-mannered canine shoe shine boy who becomes a superhero when people are in trouble, is feeling ill. He complains "things are fine when I sit down, but when I stand up, things go round and round."

It wasn't anything serious, but just enough to give me an excuse to get into the recliner and catch up on "True Blood" episodes. I also skipped dinner, deciding not to chance it, since we were going to the show that night.

Steve suggested that it was probably "vacation hangover" and when I asked how long I could realistically milk vacation hangover for sympathy, my friend Laurie, a frequent commuter between Italy and the U.S. assured me "you can work that jet lag for a loooong time."

That was good enough for me. I'm always happy to find an excuse, however flimsy, to sit and do nothing.

When dinner time came, I whipped up my specialty, "something with chicken in it" for Walt and a glass of water for me. Then we went off to Sacramento for our weekly Tuesday opening at Music Circus, this week Guys and Dolls.

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Music Circus is a Sacramento institution, now in its 59th year. Up until about 8 or 9 years ago, it was a real circus tent set up on a vacant lot in downtown Sacramento in the summer. Chairs were uncomfortable directors chairs and the temperature in the tent could be stiffling in the triple digit Sacramento summers. Productions are done in the round, which helps cut down on the cost for sets.

When we arrived in the area in 1973, the shows were generally cast with B-name stars, people whose names you recognized but who were not "big stars," who did the lead roles and then other roles were filled by local talent. We rarely went to any of the shows because the tickets were too expensive.

Music Circus also had an intern program through Sac State, where students could come and work at the circus and get theatre experience, but no money. Jeri worked the intern program for a year and then was actually hired the following year. I remember that one of the shows she worked on was Annie. You may not remember it, but Annie has two dogs in it. "Sandy" was played by a professional actor dog but they cast the other dog, one of the mutts running around the street, locally.

Jeri had a friend in Davis with a scruffy dog that fit the bill perfectly and who could be trained to go on and off the stage when directed. The family agreed to let the dog perform, but they didn't want to have to schlep him to and from Sacramento every night for a week, so I got the job of dog chauffeur.

Every night I picked the dog up, delivered him to the theatre, stuck around until he did his scene and then drove him home again. My one time being part of the Music Circus staff!

I can't remember when the Music Circus decided to ditch the tent and build a real theatre. I've been reviewing shows for nine years now and so it must have been about seven years ago because I think I had two seasons reviewing in the tent.

The new Wells Fargo Pavilion is wonderful, with real padded seats that you aren't afraid are going to collapse under you and, what's even better, air conditioning, so you no longer have to sweat through a musical on those hot summer evenings.

I still don't know how they can afford the place because this huge theatre sits empty 9 months out of the year. My cousin, who was bookkeeper for California Musical Theatre for many years before she retired, just rolls her eyes and shakes her head when I ask her about finances.

Guys and Dolls was a great show and it was good to see that it had a fuller audience than the last two productions have had (the economy is definitely hitting the arts!). Best of all, by the time we got home, "Underdog syndrome" seemed to have finally run its course.

1 comment:

Angel said...

*Late Mingle*

I just had to say I want to go there!! and Guys and Dolls is one of my favorite shows to see