Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The End of the Season

It's really sad when you reach the point where going to a stage show seems like work.

Summer is always taken up with Music Circus, which opens a new show every week. By the end of the season I have reached the point of dreading Tuesday nights. Something about "having" to go out to the show mid-week, which I just want to hunker down and watch "Jeopardy" and "NCIS" reruns!

The economic times have been evident this season. I can't remember any other season in the 9 years I've been doing this where there wasn't one single opening night that was full. Not only not full, but huge chunks of various sections of the theatre that were empty. Not a single person in the seats.

It wasn't an outstanding season, but it was enjoyable. I always enjoy the shows once we actually get there. It opened with Altar Boyz, an odd choice for an opening show in a year where people are watching their money.

This show is described as 'a new musical about a struggling Christian boy band riding the wave of America's latest fascination with religion,' 'Altar Boyz' is a satirical look at both boy bands and God music. The score offers lyrics such as

Jesus called me on my cell phone;
No roaming charges were incurred.
He told me that I should go out in the world
And spread His glorious word.
He beeped me!
He faxed me!
He e-mailed my soul!

Lots of people left at intermission!

The next show was Guys and Dolls and I expected the house to be fuller--and it was. Slightly. All of the Music Circus shows are professionally acted and so they are worth the high prices (the price isn't printed on my ticket, but I think you pay something like $65 a ticket). I have given bad reviews to a few of the shows over the past nine years, but generally speaking I give pretty good reviews, because they are deserved. I'm not sure why people didn't come out for Guys and Dolls, except perhaps that it is somewhat dated. But then the audience for Music Circus is dated, so this should be the sort of show that would appeal to the masses. This particular show was fun because a friend of ours was in the cast.

Into the Woods was next. Another odd choice in a year when theatre dollars are in short supply. I've seen Into the Woods several times and I have to admit that this was the first time I've stayed awake through the entire thing. It tends to bog down very much, a fault of the show, not necessarily the production. But this production kept me awake, though Walt's headed was bobbing about in parts of it.

Parents think this is probably a great show to take their kids to, and it is--up to intermission. It's every fairy tale you ever knew (well, several of them), and by intermission, they have all played out their stories and the characters look like they're going to live happily ever after. But this is Sondheim and he can't let everybody live happily ever after. Act 2 has infidelity, murder and cannibalism (if a giant eats a human, is that cannibalism?) Best to take the kids to Act 1 and then leave...though at those prices, I don't know how many people can afford to do that!

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers was perhaps the best attended of the lot this year. And it was a good production, though my mental image of Adam Pontipee will always be Howard Keel and this guy fell far short of the mark.

Last week's Man of La Mancha was the sixth time I'd reviewed the show since 2002 and I'd reviewed it four times in the past two years. Each of the productions had good and bad things about it, and this was no exceptions. On the whole it was quite good, but there are limitations to doing a big show like this in the round. The ominous feel of the prison in which Cervantes is being held can't really be done as effectively as, for example, the university did it last year. The Aldonza was missing a certain something that I couldn't quite put my finger on. She was no Sophia Loren, for sure.

And that brought us to tonight's show, Cats. I really expected this to be the big time audience draw, but it wasn't as full as it was for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I don't really like Cats, truth be told. I think it's a stupid show with a few good musical numbers. The best thing about Cats for me is the huge unique set, which you can't do in theatre in the round. So right off the bat, this was not the best production for me.

But the singing, dancing and costumes help to make up for not having much scenery to speak of. I really don't like Act 1 at all. It seems like it's trying to establish some sort of cohesion, but it just never does. Act 2 gives up all pretense of doing that and just gives the audience what we used to call when we were writing Lamplighters shows, "pay off numbers." One cat after another featured in single numbers.

And, face it, as long as you have a knock out voice to sing "Memory," people are going to like the show.

Still, when it was all over, I was glad that it was all, and the 2009 Music Circus season.

And now that the "summer season" is at its end, we're going to do something really weird on Saturday...we're going to San Francisco to see the Lamplighters production of My Fair Lady...but this time, if I get bored and/or fall asleep, it's OK, because I don't have to come home and write a review!

(Walt read this and reminded me that the season actually opened with Thoroughly Modern Millie, which was apparently so forgettable that I...forgot it! Not even the live appearance of Carol Channing before the show, and her sitting in the audience for the entire show, was a big enough draw to get people into the theatre!)

Yay...tomorrow is Cousins entry will be late.

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