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2007: A Retiring Sort
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DON'T SCREAM AT ME
11 February 2010
Maybe I'm getting too old to be a theatre critic. I find that I like fewer and fewer shows these days and "going to the theatre" has lost a lot of its appeal. No point in getting dressed up; it's just like going to work. Reviewing a relatively new "exciting" musical lately has about the same thrill as reviewing the 10th production of Annie.
(I use Annie as an example because after all these years, the thought of having to sit through another rendition of "Tomorrow," no matter how talented the little girl playing Annie is, makes me want to move to Outer Mongolia.)
I have to face the facts. I've become a cynical old old poop. As I approach my 70s, I'm morphing into my father.
If nothing else, I now understand all of those San Francisco Chronicle reviewers who groaned when we called them to come and review yet another production of HMS Pinafore. Gilbert & Sullivan only wrote 14 operettas and only 12 are performed regularly. When you consider that The Lamplighters were, when I worked there, in their thirties, that's a lot of productions of HMS Pinafore! I also think more kindly on the newspapers for deciding, many years ago, to stop reviewing Lamplighter productions. It was hell on The Lamplighters, but I now understand.
What got me thinking like this was going to see Rent last week. Before it closed on Broadway, Rent held the slot of the 8th longest running show in the history of Broadway. It spawned a whole cult of fans, called "Rentheads" who fly to wherever it is playing to see it. Someone claims to have seen it 1100 times. During its one-week Sacramento run, a woman flew in from Australia and saw every single performance, and five women from Japan flew in for one performance, but showed up at the stage door every night to greet the actors (Kathy's husband works the stage door for the touring Broadway shows so I get the inside scoop).
For those who don't know, Rent is a modern version of Puccini's La Boheme, the story of a bunch of starving artists and performers living a bohemian lifestyle in a garrett in lower Manhattan. Musical interludes from La Boheme are played, briefly, on the guitar at various points in the story. AIDS has replaced TB as the disease du jour. The lead girl is called Mimi. Other names are either similar to or identical to characters in La Boheme. There is even a song called "La Vie Boheme."
There are parts of Rent I like, but toward the end of Act two when another rock number was being screamed out (we are always seated about 10 rows back in direct line from the big stage speakers) I was actually longing for Annie. Something tuneful to listen to instead of lyrics I can't understand screamed at top volume.
Now don't get me wrong, there are beautiful songs like "Seasons of Love," which I love, but I'm so tired of being screamed at in modern musicals. We all know I have a missing "rock" gene so I missed the whole Grateful Dead / Janis Joplin / Kiss era of music. In my 20s, my idea of going to a cool concert was The Kingston Trio. I had no spasms of nostalgia when Bruce Springsteen sang at the Super Bowl last year, or The Who this year. If you put Springsteen in a line-up and asked me to pick him out, I couldn't do it. The Jeopardy categories where contestants match performers with bands are a total wasteland for me.
This year I've reviewed, in addition to Rent, Spring Awakening and Xanadu, both of which contained a lot of screaming (Spring Awakening was the least offensive of the three. Xanadu was just stupid, as was the vapid Legally Blonde, which opened the season). But aummer is coming, and summer brings Music Circus and the old fashioned musicals. This year it includes Spamalot, which I haven't seen and am looking forward to.
I'm not always an old poop, but there are times when I just.
don't. want. any. more. screaming. and would like to go home humming something tuneful
rather than kicking myself for not bringing earplugs with me.