Theater And Shows

A couple of weeks ago Joy and I saw the play “The Life Of Galileo” by Bertolt Brecht at the local university. It seemed to me to be an examination of two questions. First, what is the place of those in authority in suppressing or disseminating “truth”? Galileo, of course, found himself in conflict with the church as he claimed that the earth revolved around the sun, and in the end, threatened with death, he recanted his claim despite being convinced of its truth. The second question considered what responsibility scientists have to consider the social and moral implications of the truths they are pursuing. In other words, is the pursuit of truth a valid endeavor in itself, regardless of what the repercussions might be in society? I thought the play was really thought-provoking, particularly at the very end when they cleverly tied the main questions of the play into the war on terror in the United States today.

Life Of Galileo

Last month Joy and I saw “Tango Fire”, a touring dance show from Argentina. I’ve been derelict in posting about it because, to be honest, we didn’t really enjoy the show that much. The dancers seemed fairly talented, but each number seemed like the same thing again and again. They had a singer who was terribly cheesy and not particularly good. Live music for the show was provided by the band Quatrotango, and they were undoubtedly the best part of the show. In the second half they had a few pieces they performed alone without any dancers, which were very good. The bandoneon (kind of like an accordion, but not exactly) player in particular was excellent. I certainly wouldn’t recommend the show as a whole, but I imagine that catching the band on its own would provide a very good concert.

Tango Fire

Joy and I got to see the musical “Movin’ Out” last week. The music for the show is made up entirely of Billy Joel songs, and since I grew up hearing my parents play Billy Joel on a regular basis, it was all familiar to me. It was different from other musicals I’ve seen in the past in that all of the singing is done by a band and the performers are acting everything out in dance without speaking. The piano player also sang all of the songs (a la Billy Joel) and he did a really nice job. Several of the dancers were also very good, and the choreography was entertaining and creative. Of course, as with many modern musicals, there was the obligatory drugs/sex/prostitution number (Les Miserables has “Lovely Ladies”, Miss Saigon has “The Heat Is On In Saigon”, Rent has “Contact”). In this case it was “Captain Jack”, and in my opinion the entire show would have been much better off without it. But with the exception of that one number, Joy and I both liked the show. While I prefer musicals with a little bit more storyline and where the performers themselves do the singing, I’d have to say that, as a lighthearted, just sit back and take it all in kind of show, Movin’ Out was pretty good.

Movin Out 1

Movin Out 2

Last night Joy and I went to see Cirque Eloize Rain as the next event in our subscription to theater events here in town. It was kind of like Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy that we saw before (as part of a different subscription series), yet quite different at the same time. I think perhaps the individual performers in Jungle Fantasy were doing more complicated stuff, but other than that Rain had it beat in all other respects. The entire show just had a great feel to it, fantastic music, a great unifying look throughout, and a wonderful artistic vision behind everything going on. I thought it was very engaging and just a lot of fun to watch. The performers were obviously having a great time, too. In particular the Roue Cyr (giant hoop) performer was unbelievable, and the finale was really quite amazing, with water pouring down and several inches of standing water in the stage. When we left the theater, Joy and I both said we’d go see it again immediately if we could. There’s a couple of pictures and a short video clip below to get a small taste of the show.

Cirque Eloize Rain

Roue Cyr

Joy and I saw a production of “A Christmas Carol” last week, performed by the theater department at the nearby university. This is the third show we’ve seen there (previous shows were “Into The Woods” and “Honky Tonk Angels”), and each of them has been incredibly professional and well done. This particular production featured quite a few actual Christmas carols sung by the performers between parts of the traditional story, which was kind of neat. It was enlightening to see a fairly faithful retelling of the original story, especially in light of the severely dumbed-down Disney and Muppet versions that have taken over television in more recent times. The story is really quite a powerful and emotionally engaging tale of redemption, and a needed reminder of Christ’s coming to redeem us in the midst of the commercialism of the Christmas season. I’m really glad I had the chance to see it.

So in order to get really good seats for the Nickel Creek show I wrote about previously (they are Joy’s favorite band after all), we actually subscribed to a series of concerts in order to get better subscriber seats. The first concert was Wynton Marsalis, followed by Nickel Creek, and then recently we went to see Cirque Dreams Jungle Fantasy. Cirque Dreams is a much lower budget/scale knock-off of Cirque Du Soleil, but still basically the same general idea. This particular show (obviously) had a jungle theme for the sets and costumes. The performers included various aerialists, a duo of balancing guys, contortionists, and all kinds of other stuff. I thought that the balancing guys were the most impressive, but maybe that’s just because I don’t have such a great sense of balance myself. :-) To be honest, I have to admit that it was more entertaining than I expected it to be. It makes me think that a real Cirque du Soleil show must really be something else.

I just got a flyer in the mail today that said Les Miserables is coming back to Atlanta in Fall 2008. Woo hoo! I am so going to be there! I told Joy we may have to get tickets for every night that it plays and just camp out in Atlanta for a week or two. :-) I totally love Les Miserables, and even though it is more than a year away, I’m already excited. Plus it’s playing at the Fox, which is a wonderful theater. It’s going to be great!

As promised, I have more comments on seeing “Wicked” (click here if you missed my previous post on winning the Wicked lottery!). I thought the show was fantastic. It was a lot “cuter” and certainly funnier than I thought it would be. It’s definitely not a “serious” musical (and I didn’t expect it to be), even though it seems like it almost wants to be at some points. It’s just a fun ride and a really good time. The audience was great and everyone seemed really into it and appreciative of the performance.

The person playing Galinda/Glinda (Kendra Kassebaum) was awesome. She did a completely wonderful job and I thought she was phenomenal. She was so animated and energetic, and really funny. She also seemed to really enjoy playing the role. I was somewhat less taken with Elphaba (Julia Murney), but still I thought she was very, very good. She seemed to be fighting a cold or something (she coughed several times during the show, but not while on microphone), so perhaps it was an off night. The rest of the cast was great, too, and really the whole production was top notch.

Despite the fact that the plot seemed kind of convoluted from listening to the cast recording and reading a synopsis online, I thought it was pretty easy to follow once you add all of the action that happens between the major songs. I just really wish there was a two-disc recording of the show with everything instead of the single disc that really ends up leaving out quite a bit.

I would definitely love to see Wicked again if I ever get the chance. It was a great show and I really, really enjoyed it. I can’t go so far as to say that it’s my favorite musical (that spot still belongs to Les Miserables), but it’s right on up there.

Just to add another perspective, Joy also really liked Wicked and she has decided that it is in fact her new favorite musical (I don’t think she’s as attached to Les Miserables as I am, even though I’ve tried to show her the light). And she put the cast recording in to listen to on the way home from Atlanta, which says a lot because I usually get some grief when I want to listen to musicals on road trips. You can read more of her thoughts here.

Joy and I went down to Atlanta to see the musical “Wicked”. We had tickets for seats in the second row in the balcony, but while I was at the theater’s website getting directions before we left, I noticed that they did rush tickets kind of like “Rent” does. Instead of first-come, first-served like the tickets were when I saw Rent in Boston quite a few years ago, the rush tickets for Wicked are given away by lottery. Whoever is there two and a half hours before the show can put their name in a drawing, and then two hours before the show they draw names for the tickets.

Anyway, Joy and I ended up with some extra time before the show started, so we went down to the theater to put our names in the drawing. We arrived about two hours and fifty minutes before the show and we were the fourth people there waiting for rush tickets, so we thought that our chances looked pretty good. But by the time the two and a half hour cutoff arrived, there were probably between 175 and 200 people trying to get tickets (all of the remaining shows in Atlanta were completely sold out, so getting rush tickets was pretty much the only way to get tickets for anything even close to the face value).

We put our names in and then waited around another half hour for for the drawing to take place. Joy was trying to be very positive, but I thought there was no way in the world they would draw our names. When the time for the drawing finally came around, the woman in charge drew 12 names (with everyone anxiously calling out the count as she drew them). Then she started reading off the names. The first card she read: Brad Guilford. Unbelievable! I was really excited. Seeing the show from the second row in the balcony would have been great, but seeing it from up close on the floor was even better! Joy and I got our rush tickets and then we ended up selling our balcony tickets to a man who was trying to get tickets for his son’s birthday, so that worked out well.

The show was absolutely terrific. The seats we won in the lottery were third row orchestra, off to the left-hand side. I love sitting that close where you can see all of the expressions on the actors’ faces. It was great. And though I will write a separate post with more thoughts about the show, let’s just say I’ve been waiting to see the show for quite a while, and it was definitely worth the wait.