RUN, TOM OF
6 August 2002
I suppose I will never be completely comfortable being a critic. For
all sorts of reasons.
I'm never really sure of myself when reviewing straight drama. I do
not have a theatre background, other than going to a lot of it, and I rarely went to
anything but musicals. So I always feel out of my element when I write a drama review
because I have nothing to draw from, nothing to make me sound like I know what I'm talking
about. I re-read things I've written after they're published and they don't sound nearly
as bad as they did when I was writing them, so maybe I'm managing to hold my own. But I'm
always wondering when they're going to discover that I'm really a fraud.
However, with musical theatre, it's a whole 'nother ball game. I've
seen a lot of musical theatre in my time. I saw musicals when I was in grammar school. I
ushered for all the musicals that came through town when I was in college. (Got to see
Mary Martin do Sound of Music, for example.) After college, we just attended a lot
of musical theatre, got involved with theatre locally, worked on all aspects of
I could write a review of a Gilbert & Sullivan production
without hardly pausing to think.
Most of the better known musicals present no problem either. I am
familiar enough with the plot and the music and have seen enough productions that I can
get a pretty good idea of the quality of the show and can put together a somewhat decent
I love the summer because I review at least one show a week, all at
The Music Circus, where the fare is always a well-known musical and I can enjoy the show
and then dash off a relatively intelligent sounding review and get to sleep before 1 a.m.
But there are always "those musicals" that are difficult.
Not because of the show or my lack of expertise or anything like that. It's because they
are so much a part of the history of this family.
Last season Music Circus presented The Music Man, surely one
of the best known, beloved musicals of all time. Nothing but a good, toe-tapping time,
bright colors on stage, lively choreography.
I'm sure I was the only person in the theatre with tears streaming
down my face. Music Man, as I've written here before, is so closely connected to
Paul in my mind. The first production of it that he did, Jeri played Amaryllis, the little
girl taking piano lessons from Marian the Librarian. But Paul went on to do the show two
more times, once again as Winthrop and then once as the teen aged Tommy Djilas. In one of
his monologue shows, he did a big chunk of Harold Hill's "Trouble." I always
hoped I'd see him actually play Harold Hill some day.
So it's hard for me to watch Music Man.
It's similarly hard for me to watch Oliver! in which Paul
played the title character, David and Tom were orphans, and Jeri was Bette. So many happy
memories, now tinged with sadness.
You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown is very hard. That was a
totally kid-produced show with Paul again in the title role, Tom as Schroeder, David
hugging his blanket as Linus. Jeri directed and choreographed it and Ned designed and ran
the lights. A magical production, now, again, memories tinged with sadness.
Tonight I was at Music Circus to review Camelot. A delightful
production and we smiled as we remembered that our exchange student for that year played a
role in the production here.
It is only the last part of that show that is
difficult. After Lancelot has rescued Guenivere from execution and the dream of Camelot is
in shambles, a young boy meets King Arthur and tells him that he's come to join the
knights of the round table. Arthur realizes that though his vision for Camelot has
disappeared, the tales will live on through people, like young Tom of Warwick telling the
stories to their descendants. He gives the charge to young Tom to run home and to spend
the rest of his life talking about how "once there was a spot ...that was known as
David played Tom of Warwick. It was a teeny role but one of my
favorite newspaper photos is of David being knighted by King Arthur, played by an actor
who would die of AIDS several years later. David's eyes are huge as he glances up into the
And so the end of Camelot, like the other musicals, is tinged
with bittersweet memories. Good memories, but sad because of what is no more.
"I made it through without crying," Walt said as we walked
I guess that means we're continuing to adjust.
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