Sunday, March 20, 2011

Simply Thrilling

This video has had over 6 million hits (as well as being on The Today Show, I think), so you probably have seen it already, but it's just so darn cute I had to post it here.

I have said here before, but it bears repeating...the great thing about being a critic is that you get to see everything (for free). The bad thing about being a critic is that you have to see everything, the good, the not so good, and the really bad stuff.

I don't review shows every weekend, but more weekends than not and sometimes you have good weekends and sometimes you have bad weekends. Sometimes if I'm reviewing three shows on a weekend, I'm pleased if one of them is good.

Last weekend was a split weekend. One show was so-so, the other show was one that I wasn't reviewing, a Lamplighter show, the first half of which was a play which was so-so and the second half of which was Trial By Jury which was great.

This weekend I had two shows to review. We went to the first one last night, a play called Master Class, which was presented by my favorite theatre, Capital Stage, in Sacramento. The company is in the process of moving to a new theatre, but right now they perform on the old Delta King riverboat, which is kind of cool. They have a lovely, intimate theatre downstairs and we've been going there for about five years now.

Master Class is by Terrence McNally and is based on a series of twelve master classes that Maria Callas gave at Julliard in 1971. Though there are five people in the show, this is esssentially a one woman show.

Janis Stevens gave an amazing performance as Callas. She was funny, sad, angry, reflective all rolled into one. You were mesmerized by her performance. The others in the cast are a pianist and three students who are coming to be critiqued by Callas. They really serve the role as props more than actual performances because when they sing, Callas is transformed by the memories of things in her own life and Stevens' non-speaking moments were almost more breathtaking than her speaking moments.

She does quite a lot of imitation of Onasis and to watch that, it's impossible to picture the refined Jacquie Kennedy we know as the wife of this sloppy Greek buffoon. But of course these are the memories of Callas filtered through the pen of McNally.

We left the theater uplifted. It was truly one of the most amazing performances I have seen in my years as a critic.

And then we had to face Sound of Music tonight. Sound of Music is one of those shows like Annie that you can't avoid, but after seeing it a bazillion times, the magic is just gone. Fortunately I like Sound of Music much better than Annie, but I always sigh as I realize I have to see it again. I understand now how the poor newspaper critics felt about reviewing The Lamplighters. Gilbert & Sullivan only wrote 13 operettas that are commonly performed and what in the world can you say about HMS Pinafore the twentieth time you are reviewing it?

The Sound of Music production was at the Woodland Opera Company, a local community theater. Community theaters as a general rule, when they do a good production, have a few really good performers (if you're lucky) and then fill in with the not-so-good. With one or two exceptions who weren't "not-so-good" but just not on a level with the rest, this cast was outstanding and the production was easily the very best community theater production of Sound of Music I have ever seen.

The children were uniformly wonderful. Little Gretl (Anneli Spieler) was absolutely irresistible. She's only 5 and she got a little squirmy before the end of the show, but only a little squirmy and by god, she didn't miss a cue or muff a line or forget to sing a single thing.

The boy who played Friedrich (Christian Salmon) hit a high note on the good night song that was so clear and so perfect that I felt like I looked like the surprise on that baby in the video above.

But the real find was the Mother Abbess (Nancy Agee) who was clearly on a par with any professional singing that role in a professional production. She was so perfect on Climb Every Mountain that I sat there praying that she hit the last high note clearly and she nailed it.

After eleven years of reviewing theater in this area, I guess I have become a bit jaded and it takes a lot to thrill me, but these two shows this weekend were each, in their own way, absolutely thrilling.

I don't review another show now until April 13, so I have time to come down to earth after this weekend!

Oh...and if anybody cares, this is the 11th journalversary of Funny the World, the mirror site to this one. Whew. 4,010 entries under my fingers.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Babies are awesome. Especially other peoples'. ;)

The art installation in my photos is called "Spillover II". I'm not sure where 1 is spilling over, but I like it. Here's the podcast about it: