Baseball: The Nationals had a mid-season deal to get tickets for three games (one each n July, August and September) and a cap for about $45. So I braved the Fourth of July tourist crowds and went into the city to see them play the Giants. The game was an exciting one, with the Nats winning 9-4. I had some issues, however, with my seat, as it was right behind one of the protective pieces of plexiglass, leading to annoying reflections blocking my view at times.
Celebrity Death Watch: There are lots of celebrity deaths to report. Doris Sams played baseball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which inspired the movie A League of Their Own. There may be no crying at baseball, but there is at funerals.
Nora Ephron wrote amusingly bitchy feminist essays, along with some movies. I didn’t always agree with her, but her work was usually interesting.
Lonesome George was the last Pinta tortoise, so his death also means the extinction of his sub-species. I saw him when I went to the Galapagos. He looked sad, but I think tortoises inherently look sad.
Andy Griffith was, of course, most famous for his TV performances as the sheriff of Mayberry. I once went to Mt. Airy, North Carolina (his home town) and ate lunch at a diner that had dishes named after the characters from his show. By the way, unlike most tourists, my interest in the town had to do with two of its other residents. It was also where Chang and Eng Bunker, the Siamese twins, settled.
The celebrity death I most want to highlight was that of Richard Adler. With Jerry Ross (who died at a young age of pneumonia), he co-wrote The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. Anybody who knows me at all, knows why the latter is among my favorite Broadway musicals. (Note that the Red Sox are playing four games against the Source of All Evil in the Universe this weekend.)
First You Dream: Speaking of musicals, I saw First You Dream at The Kennedy Center a couple of weeks ago. This is a revue of Kander & Ebb songs, without any particular narrative and with very little dialogue. It was enjoyable, largely because of some excellent performances, notably by Matthew Scott and Heidi Blickenstaff. I particularly want to note Scott’s performance of the Hungarian bit from “Cell Block Tango.”
There is some incongruity, however, as the songs are taken out of context. For example, I suspect that most of the audience had no idea that “Go Back Home” (from The Scottsboro Boys) is sung in the musical by a teenager who has been sentenced to death for a rape he didn’t commit. Similarly, the selections from Kiss of the Spider Woman gave no indication that they are sung by a political prisoner.
Still, the songs are enjoyable in and of themselves and I admit to having particularly liked a few unfamiliar songs I don’t actually know the context of. Some highlights include “Ring Them Bells” from Liza with a Z, “Military Men” from Over and Over and “I Miss the Music” from Curtains. (Okay, I do know the context of the latter – and I also know that the show was completed by John Kander after Fred Ebb died, making it particularly poignant.) The greatest show-stopper was “Boom Ditty Boom” from 70, Girls, 70), which was an incredible showcase for Karma Camp’s choreography. I really need to be more familiar with this show, since the description I’ve read of it sounds quite entertaining. (And I also like the song “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” which is from it.)
I will also admit to disliking the title song and feeling hit over the head with its message, but that was a minor flaw in an otherwise enjoyable evening.
The History of Invulnerability: All I knew about this play at Theatre J was that it had to do with Superman creator Jerry Siegel and how he (and artist Joe Shuster) were pretty much screwed over by Harry Donenfeld and National Allied Publications. There’s actually a lot more to David Bar Katz’s play, including a provocative Holocaust story, involving a young boy in Auschwitz-Birkenau whose smuggled comic books leave him fantasizing about Superman rescuing him. The structure is a conversation between Superman and his creator, which also brings in Siegel’s estrangement from his real-life son. Is Superman Siegel’s true son, a god, or a golem?
Given the complexity of the play – and the shocking moments in it – I am loathe to write a lot of details about what happens. I will say that I found myself saying, “wow” out loud at the end of the first act and having more mixed reactions when the play ended. Those reactions were both entirely due to the Holocaust sub-plot.
All in all, I’ll recommend it for what it has to say about creativity and the response to being a powerless outsider. I can also commend the performances, especially by David Deblinger as Siegel. But be aware that this is a dark and disturbing piece, not a light romp through the comics.
The Music Man: Finally, I saw The Music Man at Arena Stage</i> on Tuesday night. I had a bit of frustration with the box office as I had bought the ticket via Goldstar and the guy at Will Call initially gave me a balcony ticket for The Normal Heart instead and I had to actually argue with them (showing my receipt) to get what I had paid for.
Anyway, there aren’t any real surprises in this production. It’s familiar material, intended to balance the season budget with a sure-fire blockbuster. Kate Baldwin is excellent as Marian the librarian and Burke Moses is a competent Harold Hill. I do have two complaints about the production. The first is the modernization of the costumes, which is an annoying anachronism. (Marian wearing trousers? No.) My bigger issue is having left out the overture. It is bad enough that so many musicals are written without overtures nowadays. Why delete them from shows that are intended to have them? Especially since they are often a good way to get the laggards in the audience to shut up.
The most thrilling moment in the production, by the way, came at the end of the curtain calls, when the doors opened and an actual marching band came in, playing “76 Trombones.”. They do not, apparently, do this every night. I heard that the band in question was from New Jersey and in town for the Fourth of July parade the next day.
Note to self: check Nationals schedule before going to Arena Stage, as the ballpark is one stop away from the theatre. It’s bad enough that I have to deal with metro crowding when I go to ballgames. But that is the subject of another rant.
A Very Brief Transit Rant: The Washington Post has a transit columnist called Dr. Gridlock. His repeated advice to people who complain about Metro annoyances is to tell them just to drive. That’s like criticizing people who want to improve public schools by telling them to send their kids to private school.
My biggest complaint, by the way, is about riders who won’t let people off before they board the trains. Hence, this haiku:
Is all too rare among those
Who ride on metro.