I seem to be having a lot of those these days. This was a three show weekend, but a four show week, which started with A Chorus Line at the Music Circus on Tuesday. A Chorus Line is one of those old war horses that everybody loves and when I sat down to write the review after it was over, I was surprised at now negative my review was.
It was no reflection on the performers, who were amazing (they must lose 5 lbs a performance, or more!), but having now seen the show in the round, I think it should never be performed that way. At least not at Music Circus. For one thing, everybody is mic-ed and all of the sound comes from the same place in the middle of the stage. But the performers either stand in a circle on the stage, or in one of several of the aisles around it and you spend so much time trying to figure out who is speaking, you never get a chance to form the emotional connection that I feel that show needs in order to make the ending so moving.
Second, the finale was staged for this line of wonderfully crisp dancers to stand in front of a stage-wide mirror and perform this amazing dance, which builds and builds as more of the performers joining them. On a round stage you can't do that. The choreographer did what could be done, by having them form this circle, which spins and spins and spins and is really quite impressive, but it paled in comparison to the mirror.
So my review was 2/3 negative and 1/3 positive and I begged forgiveness for being a "cranky old critic."
The next show we saw was actually the second show in a festival presented by the Davis Shakespeare Ensemble. It was their very first musical, She Loves Me, which was based on a play called "Parfumerie" written by Miklos Laszlo in 1937. I'm sure you know this play. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan (yes, that's how it's spelled) did it as The Shop Around the Corner, Judy Garland and Van Johnson did it as In the Good Old Summertime and Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan brought it into the electronic age with You've Got Mail.
I really wanted to give this company an encouraging review and fortunately, it was not difficult. This was a professional quality show, with excellent voices, great acting, a passable set, good costumes. This is their first venture out of the Shakespeare realm and they hit it out of the ball park. I worry that they have bit off more than they can chew, moving from a teeny venue that seats about 50 outside in a gazebo into a nearly 400 seat theater (but with soft seats! and air conditioning! and no bug spray needed!). I would very much like them to succeed and thank goodness I could write that rave review.
The next night we went to see the second part of this two-show festival, Much Ado About Nothing, chosen because the director(s) felt that the two plots were somewhat similar--star crossed lovers hating each other and not realizing that they really love each other. And it works. Of course I'm never as enthusiastic about Shakespeare as I am about musical theater, but I was happy to give this a positive review as well (I just didn't call this show "awesome," as I did the first!)
Tonight we went to The Hound of the Baskervilles. Forget any thought of the traditional Sherlock Holmes. This is what the show would look like if produced by the Three Stooges. Two hours of slapstick. I'm not particularly crazy about slapstick, but this is good enough that it even had me rolling in the aisles (and that is a sight you really never want to see!)
Now I have a whole week off with no shows, but three shows the following week.
I went to see my mother in the morning and was regaling her with tales of the shows we saw and she seemed to be enjoying my stories. She asked "do you write a report after you see them?" I said (for the 100th time) that I did. And she almost told me that "my daughter does that too," but then caught herself and realized that I was her daughter. That hasn't happened before.
We drove to the show tonight with the fellow we commute with. I'm going to start calling him "Mr. Wonderful" because that's how I'm sure he sees himself. I would hesitate telling this story if I thought there were a chance he'd read it, but since he doesn't know about Funny the World and wouldn't read it if he did because it's ME writing it, not him, I will anyway. He brought a childhood friend with him to the show tonight. They got in the car and he introduced Walt and me to the friend and mentioned that they had been friends since childhood and that they had gone to summer camp together and what fun they had had.
I mentioned our friend who made a movie about his years at summer camp, a movie that has been shown on local public television and has won awards in film festivals. I had only spoken about two sentences when I realized that Mr. Wonderful and his friend were talking to each other, completely ignoring me. Once I had started my story and it wasn't about him, he lost interest. I am still angry about that. I almost never try to talk with him any more because, as I have mentioned before, no matter what you say, he has done it better, more often, and with more important people. He doesn't listen to what you say, he waits for you to take a breath so he can cut in with a totally unrelated story that features him. It took him ten years to finally realize that I do not read the Sacramento paper. Every time we rode together, he would ask me if I had seen such-and-such in the Sacramento paper. I would say "We don't see the Sacramento paper" and he would go on to tell me what he was going to tell me anyway. I think it has finally been about a year since he last asked me about the Sacramento paper. He's a very interesting person that I would like to like, but jeez...he's just so damn frustrating!