Sunday, May 25, 2014

Don't Rain on My Parade

Memorial Day weekend!  The unofficial start to summer!  Time for beach and sun and humidity!

Oh wait.  I live in Seattle now, where it's in the low sixties and rainy.  I've been warned/assured by exactly everyone I've met that summer starts on July 4.

But still -- summer or no summer, it's a holiday weekend and that should count for something.

I considered venturing out into the city, which is celebrating its "Folk Life Festival" only a couple of blocks from where I live.  But after seeing the swarms of hippies and punks wandering to and fro on their way to said festival, I decided I'd seen enough "folk life" and focused on other pursuits.

For example, yesterday morning I killed two birds with one stone by trying out a new diner for breakfast and researching how to climb Mount Fuji later this summer.

Eggs Benedict with ham, pulled pork and bacon, with tomatoes
at The Lucky Diner

And last night I met up with a coworker and a couple of her friends for dinner at Cascina Spinasse, which turned out to be a charming and delicious Italian restaurant.  Sadly, I have no photos -- I figured I needed to lure these people into being friends with me before busting out the camera and blog on them.  I will say, though, that the gnocchi with snails and mint/pesto sauce was amazing.  As were the puff pastries filled with rabbit pate.  I have no doubt I'll be going back . . . .

Today was even colder and rainier than yesterday, so after driving out to church I thought I'd just spend the rest of the day reading and napping like I've so often wished I could do on a Sunday afternoon.  That lasted about an hour before I got bored.  Bored and convinced that I was being lazy and unproductive.  So I got up and started working through a stack of mail and bills and stuff.  That's when I rediscovered a page that I'd torn from a theatre program from a few weeks ago.  It was an ad for a website called Encore Arts Seattle and my first reaction on seeing it was basically where have you been all my life?  I mean, seriously, the website consolidates in one place information about all of the performing arts events in the city -- exactly the sort of thing I'd been wishing that DC had for the past six years!  (Notch a win for Seattle.)

One doesn't stumble upon Aladdin's lamp without giving it a rub, so I ran a search for what was happening tonight:  I had a choice between Little Shop of Horrors and Funny Girl.  I've seen Little Shop plenty of times, but never Funny Girl.  I knew the play had been Barbra Streisand's big ticket to fame back in 1964, and it's been a great way for the writers on Glee to showcase Lea Michele's talent.  The production got okay reviews and the tickets weren't too expensive, so I bought a ticket and then started Googling where the theater was.

The Village Theatre turned out to be in Issaquah, a small suburb of Seattle about twenty miles east of where I live.  I drove out through the rain and was happy to see a familiar sight . . .

(The first Five Guys I've seen in Washington)

and to discover that the theater was a cute little building full of old people (why am I always the only person under 65 at these things?) on a tiny "Main Street" brimming with old timey charm.

The Village Theater

The play was okay.  It's the (heavily fictionalized) story of Fanny Brice, who rose to stardom in Vaudeville during the early 20th Century as part of the Ziegfeld Follies.  Having now seen it, I agree with the critics that it's not the best written play out there.  Some of the songs are amazing (especially "People" and "Don't Rain on My Parade"), but this is one instance where, from a writing perspective, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

To have any chance of succeeding at all, you've got to have a dynamite performer in the part of Fanny.  The woman who played Fanny in the production was about 85% of what I'd hoped she would be (granted, I was hoping for a Barbra or a Lea Michele).  She had terrific comedic timing and a knack for the physical humor in the part.  But she wasn't a Broadway belter, and she never quite conveyed the intensity, drive and irrepressible energy that Fanny should have.  Fanny should feel like a force of nature; this one was something less than that.  (I kept wanting to have the woman who played Mama Rose in Signature Theatre's Gypsy come and show us how to do force of nature.)

The rest of the ensemble was of varying proficiency.  I'm used to fully professional ensembles, so I'm still adjusting to these regional theaters that bring in the Equity professionals for the leads and key ensemble roles and then fill up the rest with local non-Equity actors.  I'm not totally opposed to giving the non-Equity actors opportunities, but there's a noticeable difference in the level of polish and professionalism.

Still, shortcomings notwithstanding, I enjoyed the performance.  Live theatre is fun and exciting, and I liked the themes in this play of ambition and relationships.  Like Fanny, I want to be a star, and I don't want anything to rain on my parade -- but I also think that Fanny is right when she sings that "people who need people are the luckiest people in the world."  I'm pretty good at the ambition part, but I'm not very good at needing people -- and when I'm feeling most ambitious is when I'm the worst at needing people.  Come to think of it, that's a lot of what I'm hoping to fix in the long run with this new job and move to Seattle.  Here's hoping I can make it work.

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