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24 July 2019

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I love musicals.  I don't remember the first "live" musical that I saw, but during my high school years, I ushered for most of the musicals that came to town, a practice I continued through my time at Berkeley, when Walt and I did lots of ushering (that's how I became a Lamplighters fan).

I saw all the shows that came to San Francisco, including My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison, Sound of Music with Julie Andrews and  whole raft of other shows, many of which found me backstage after the show, getting autographs (I was dating a wannabe actor, otherwise I would not have done that on my own!)

Now, as a critic, I would much rather review a musical than a straight play, though I enjoy those too.  But you can't leave a straight play humming the score.  Some of my favorite musicals are The Music Man, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, The King and I, Cabaret, Chicago, Show Boat, Wicked, Hello Dolly, La Cage aux Folles, Book of Mormon, Brigadoon, Les Mis, Bye Bye Birdie, and others. My colleague, who doesn't like musicals, can't understand how I can review a familiar musical over and over again...though he goes to every single Shakespeare festival in the state, and has for most of his life.

A couple make me angry for liking them.  Grease is a fun musical with great songs and toe-tapping dances, but the message is that in order for a girl to become popular, she has to become a slut.

Oklahoma bothers me too because there are all these clean-cut Oklahomans and one dark character, Jud Fry, of whom everyone is afraid.  When Jud has a fight with hero Curly, who accidentally kills him, the whole crowd agrees that Curly doesn't need a trial, the judge, who is there for Curly's wedding, can just exonerate him so Curly and Laurie can leave on their honeymoon.

Last night we went to see Guys and Dolls.  It's an OK show.  I like it, I don't love it.  I've seen the movie (which was terribly mis-cast!)  several times and have reviewed the stage show five times.  So I was going to the show just because it was my job...but if I had my choice, I would not have purchased a ticket, and would have stayed home watching America's Got Talent.

What a delight!  This production was so much better than any other I remember seeing, from the opening dance number, which went on through the overture....

all the way through to the end, with the wedding of Nathan Detroit and his fiancée of 14 years, Miss Adelaide.

I loved all the great period costumes (1940s), especially it a pinstripe? or are the stripes too big?...for Nathan Detroit.  In the movie Nathan was played by Frank Sinatra and, much as I like Sinatra, was that ever a piece of bad casting.  Maybe the only worse casting was Marlon Brando as the hero, Sky Masterson.

The chemistry between Sky and the mission girl, Sarah Brown was palpable from their first moments on stage.  Edward Watts, who played Sky, reminded me so much of Sam Heughan that I kept thinking of Outlander when I watched the two of them together.

The actor who played Big Jule was terrific.  Head and shoulders above everyone else on stage and I was surprised to read his bio and discover that he has played this role around the country and the world, including a North American tour, a European tour, and the original cruise ship cast.  When you are that tall and have a voice like that, Big Jule is obviously logical!

But for me, the star of the show was the chorographer, Michael Lichtefeld.  The dance numbers, every single one of them, were simply outstanding.

These are the perks of this job.  You trudge into a show, thinking "damn...I'd rather be home" and then are blown away by a much better than average show.



"Sit down, you're rockin' the boat."


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