Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Stratford Sundries, 3
1. Well, I was right. I predicted I would cry in Carousel, and I did--not entirely because of the story (which, I fear, is showing its age) but because of memories. I listed to our old record of Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones many times when I was in junior high (romantic soul, I), and all those songs came washing over me like a wave returning from a very distant voyage--"If I Loved You," "You'll Never Walk Alone," "June Is Bustin' Out All Over," "What's the Use of Wonderin'?" and, of course, "Soliloquy," the powerful solo by Billy who's just learned he's going to be a father. "My boy Bill will be tall and and tough as a tree" and the like. I wrote yesterday about how I used to sing the song (horribly) to our little boy, how he loved the line about "baggy-eyed bully." So, yes, I wept when he sang that one.
And, sitting there, I remembered a comment my father made after he saw the 1956 film (MacRae-Jones), which, if I recall, appeared during one of Hiram College's "free movie" days associated with on the the three (seasonal) campus holidays: Campus Day (aka Leaf Day), Snow Day, Sugar Day. Anyway, Dad liked Broadway musicals, and he liked Carousel, and I remembered last night his comment about the very smudged hero, Billy Bigelow: I wanted to jump into the screen and kick his behind. Yes, Dad said behind. (We were nothing if not prudish in the 50s.)
The Stratford production was very good--especially the sets. They somehow--in the middle of the opening ballet--assembled a huge (functional!) carousel on the stage with characters riding around. Wild applause.
The principals were all good, though most did not offer much subtlety in their vocal colors (if I may). The ubiquitous body mics have changed all, and because Joyce and I were sitting in the fourth row or so, the singing blasted us. In the male chorus' song "Blow High, Blow Low" (a seafaring song), it was so loud and so, well, male that it sounded as if Testosterone himself were blasting away up there.
Still--a full house at the Avon Theatre--and a very appreciative audience.
We usually don't go to the musicals up here--just the ones that "mean something." So ... we've seen Oklahoma (where I grew up!), West Side Story (Shakespeare!), You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown (I directed it--twice--at Harmon Middle School!), and, now Carousel (see above!).
In about an hour we'll be heading back to the Avon to see The Diary of Anne Frank, the play I taught for, oh, a half-dozen years back at Harmon Middle School.
2. Still having major problems with wireless in our room. Not a Biggie on the list of World Problems--but ... geez ...!
3. We just are back from seeing a very strong production of The Diary of Anne Frank, a play with I taught my final years in Aurora when it appeared in the new literature books we adopted for 8th graders. The play sent me all over the place--including a spring break visit to Amsterdam and Germany, where I saw sites relevant to her story (made it to Westerbork and Bergen-Belsen but did not make it to Auschwitz). Also got to meet and interview in Amsterdam one of the editors of the complete scholarly edition of the diary--and that was a thrill. Later, I took a group of Harmon Middle School students to see Miep Gies, one of the people who helped hide the Franks and the others.
Anyway, the production used the revised script by Wendy Kesselman, a script based more realistically on the diary. Here and there, cast members step downstage and read aloud some portions of the published diary. Minimum set and properties. But wonderful performances by everyone. Even though I'd read a lot about the Franks and knew so much about the play (and had seen the films), I was still caught up by it all--and at the end, when Otto Frank addresses the audience, telling us the fates of all (he was the only one to survive the Holocaust), there was very audible sobbing, all over the audience. And some of it was coming from our row.
4. Tonight, we go see Shakespeare's rarely produced (and co-authored) late-career play--Pericles, Prince of Tyre. We saw it some years ago up here with my mom--and it was a terrific production..
More tomorrow ...