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June 11, 2011
I took my new jacket out for its inaugural spin today.
We (and Walt) went to San Francisco to see the new musical Tales of the City. It was a perfect day for a perfect jacket. There was a cool wind blowing and the jacket was neither too heavy nor too light, but just the right weight. And a woman in the garage elevator on the way back to the car complimented me on my jacket ("Just perfect. Good choice," she said. I resisted the temptation to "place drop" and tell her where I bought it!)
For those who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon that is Tales of the City, in 1976, a then little-known reporter named Armistead Maupin started writing a story for the San Francisco Chronicle. The story appeared in serial form in the newspaper and told of a young woman, Mary Ann Singleton from Cleveland, Ohio, who arrived in San Francisco for a vacation, fell in love with the city, and, on an impulse decided to stay.
She happened upon an eclectic boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane, a fictitious street but whose location was given as across the street from our flat on Leavenworth Street. Barbary Lane was not modeled on the small enclave across the street from us, though, but on Macondry Lane, which was a block away, not really an "alley," but a wooded world with small houses and a wooden walkway that wended its way down to the end of the lane which ran from Leavenworth St. and down a tall set of steps to Jones Street.
The boarding house at 28 Barbary Lane was run by the pot-growing Anna Madrigal, a middle-aged woman hiding a deep secret that has something to do with an anagram. Mary Ann becomes friends with other tenants of the building: the hippyish bisexual Mona Ramsey; heterosexual lothario Brian Hawkins; the sinister and cagey roof tenant Norman Neal Williams; and Michael Tolliver, a sweet and personable gay man known to friends as Mouse.
Maupin's original serial was wildly popular and he went on to write two more serials for The Chronicle, then turned those three into published book and followed them with five additional books. In the latest, "MaryAnn in Autumn" the Barbara Lane crew are all (or those who did not die of accident, AIDS, or cancer) in their 50s and 60s (and the ageless Mrs. Madrigal is also showing her age), but it was like revisiting friends you just haven't seen in a long time.
In 1993 there was a TV mini series with Laura Linney as Mary Ann and Olympia Dukakis as Mrs. Madrigal
Then they decided to make a musical out of the first book. Tickets have been selling like hotcakes and I ordered our tickets months ago. Sticker shock of having to actually pay for tickets -- $85 each! But there was no way I would have missed it. I had high hopes for it, with music written by the Avenue Q crowd.
I loved it but would probably give it only 3½ stars (out of 5). The music disappoints. There are a couple of blockbuster numbers, but mostly the tunes are forgettable. I don't think anybody will be humming any of them. The set is gorgeous, moving up and down and sideways and some of the lighting effects are wonderful. The story goes in fits and starts, but then so did the original serial, so it follows that course. There's lots of sex (implied rather than explicit), drugs and rock & roll. The first act is a bit long, but the second act hits hard and doesn't let up. I was crying in more than one spot, and joined the standing ovation for the cast at the close of the show.
The SF Chronicle reviewer appears to have agreed with me: "...if it has New York aspirations, as implied by the many Broadway credits behind and in it, it needs to hone its storytelling and develop a more distinctive musical voice."
But I'm so glad we went. I loved it. It was worth every dollar!
Of course, this being the kind of story it is, there were, shall we say "unique" items for sale at the gift shop!
When we left the theater, we decided to stop at Lefty O'Doul's, that old haufbrau a block away from the theater, for a prime rib dinner. It's been a San Francisco institution since 1958, though the last time I was there was 1983, on my 40th birthday. The prime rib was as good as I remembered it!
The dogs, who had been locked up all day, were very happy to see us return!
All in all, a very good day. My jacket liked its first outing.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
The Lefty O'Doul sports bar is lined with photos of old baseball
players ... like from the 30s.