Thursday, July 19, 2012

Proms Night

Beechey and Andrews in My Fair Lady.

Caught the terrific BBC Proms My Fair Lady concert on Saturday, thanks to the wonders of Internet radio and the BBC. I planned to listen just for a bit at the beginning, but three and a half hours later, I was still there as Annalene Beechey's Eliza Doolittle made her way back to Anthony Andrews's Henry Higgins and they...what exactly? Lived happily ever after? Embarked on the beginnings of what would become years of on-again, off-again codependency? I'm too much of a romantic even to entertain the thought of their relationship spiraling into one filled with physical or verbal abuse, but given their dispositions (I can't see either one embracing couples counseling) and familial role models, it's a possible outcome.

As I listened to the broadcast--which was the entire stage show, accompanied by the John Wilson Orchestra playing the film orchestrations (and fully staged and costumed for those lucky enough to be watching it at Royal Albert Hall--I realized that I don't know the libretto nearly as well as I know the songs. Even though My Fair Lady is my favorite musical of all time, I have never seen a live production of it. I've listened to many recordings and seen the movie, but hearing just the words and music on Saturday made me notice little things about the characters that I hadn't before.

Like how dysfunctional the relationships that both Higgins and Eliza have with their opposite-sex parents are. Even after Eliza's father inherits a vast sum of money and he learns that she's left Higgins, he makes it clear that he won't be giving her any financial support. And Mrs. Higgins never once indicates that she's proud of her brilliant though exasperating son, only that she's embarrassed by him.

When I was younger I hated that Alan Jay Lerner changed George Bernard Shaw's ending by sending Eliza back to a man who treated her with such disdain. I've softened since then, especially if Higgins appears to have realized the error of his ways by the end (which in this instance I thought he had), and although I don't see a long-term happily-ever-after in their future, they should have a lot of fun for a while, and maybe through each other be able to heal some of the parental wounds they've been lugging around.

But please, don't anyone try to write a sequel. I'm perfectly content to let this sequence of events play out in my mind.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Moins" Cirque

Cirque du Soleil: Zarkana

My feelings for Cirque du Soleil shows often mirror my feelings for green tea. Love the idea behind it, and want very much to love the thing itself, but I can only muster up a limited amount of pleasure from either.

Actually, I've enjoyed all the Cirque shows I've seen as I've watched them. What's not to love? They're gorgeously designed and the acrobatics are spectacular. But once you've seen a couple of installments and the format becomes familiar (I've seen five, including the current one, Zarkana, twice), the returns diminish, and what I saw evaporates from my memory.

That's because the plot and characters are only loosely defined ways to frame clowns and circus acts, and for me a little bit of those go a long way. And that's probably why I enjoyed the pared-down version of Zarkana that I saw a few days ago. It was cut from two and a half hours with an intermission last summer to 90 minutes with no intermission this summer. And I'm guessing this is the version that will take up residence in Las Vegas later this year. One thing that hasn't been shortened however is the price. How convenient!

Not that any theatrical experience should be priced on a per-minute basis, but if producers aren't spending as much money to present a show, they could passed the savings on to patrons. It's not as if Radio City Musical Hall was packed the night I saw it; the side orchestra sections were completely empty.