Monday, November 14, 2005

Musical Theatre Big O

it's been so long since I've had the chance to blog, and I've missed it. Busy and trying times, but we soldier on. Anyhow.

I had a big O of musicals this weekend, with free tickets to the Drowsy Chaperone at the Ahmanson in a pre-Broadway tryout, then Barbara Cook in concert at a small college, capped off with the delightful Ballets Russes on Sunday. What a great weekend. I have to say it was slightly complicated by my own feelings about performance, which are hugemongous to say the least. And I sang in a cabaret on Friday night, so this whole weekend was complicated by own performance as well. But enough about that! On to the excitement!

I was lucky enough to see the preview of The Drowsy Chaperone at the Ahamanson, a new musical from Canada in its pre-B'way tryout. What a blast. The musical starts in a dark theater, with a voice talking about dark theatres. Lots of laughs. Lights up to a digny New York studio and man in a chair (we never learn his name) is about to play for us his favorite musical from 1928 called "the Drowsy Chaperone", by Gable and Stein. The next two hours are taken up with the playing of the record (a double album!) while the cast takes the stage, and takes over his apartment. By the end of the show, there is no apartment left, just the show, until we are aprubtly brought back to reality after the bows. This show was just brilliant from top to bootom. Wonderful performance by Sutton Foster in an hysterical dance routine choreogrpahed to show off every trick she can do. Beth Leavel as the Drowsy (read drunk) Chaperone was hysterical, as was Bob Martin as the Man in the Chair, who co-wrote the book. It's a brilliant conceit, as it allows us to simultaneoulsy revel in the escapism while making fun of the entire enterprise. He points out the flaws, the racism, the ridiculousness, and even tells backstories for all the actors who are playing the characters. And we get to see all of it, and see why he loves it. I am going again, and I would highly recommmend it. I'd write more, but no reason to spoil the laughs.

What can you say about Barbara Cook. She's an insitution, and walking history. Her current show is a delight. Barbra Cook's Broadway is a walk through the shows she has been iin and those she hasn't as well. Her voice is still sharp, though somewhat lower at 78 than years ago. It's still brilliant. As she says, she knew that she "had a way with a lyric". That's an understatement. Everything she does is in service to the song, so we can see her as any character she chooses. To cap things off, she told the story about auditoning for Bernstein for Candide and thinking she'd never get it. Then she starts to sing Glitter and Be Gay, and while putting on fake diamonds, the recording of her 40 some years ago takes over, and we are watching a seasoned veteran lip-synch to a recording of her younger self. What could have been distrubing becomes a thrilling moment, where an artist is celebrating her past accomplishments without denying that time has passed. It's a rare artist who can confront a younger self to see how good she was. And she wouldn't be able to do it if she wasn't still extraordinary.

Then, I saw the most wonderful documentary, Ballets Russes. What can I say but go see it. I have a weakness for dance documentaries, and I don't know why, but this one is splendid. It tells the story of the two Ballet Russe companies that sprung up after Diaghilev, and how they came to America and introduced ballet to America. Interviewing the surviving dancers, the filmmakers have given us a wonderful slice of history. There is amzzing archival footage of Toumanava, Markova, Tallchief, and many, many more. To see Nathalie Krassovka and George Zoritch perform a bit from a pas de deux in their eighties is delightful beyond comprehension. All you need to know about love, art, and life are in Nathalie Krassovska's eyes. Delightful.

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