Monday, July 11, 2005

Why does the phrase "Delusions of Grandeur" keep coming to mind?

Just got back from my first main-stage show at the Athenaeum, which is everything a well-appointed high school theatre ought to be. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's what it used to be. The Athenaeum- former girls school, yes? I'll look it up later. It's about the size of my own high school's rather exceptional theatre... meaning way way way bigger than anything I normally see plays in.

The show, "City of Angels," was kind of hoping to be a big Broadway style production. The hired spotlight car and the 40s autos outside for opening night were great touches, even if the spots were on for several hours of total daylight. Also, opening on a Monday...a day that's a particular bugaboo for one of the show's characters. Cute!* Lots of publicity effort there. There was even a revolving stage. Just like in Les Miz!

Nevertheless, there was a veneer of amateurism over the whole darn thing. Not really a thin veneer either. The revolving stage squeaked. Bits fell off of the set. The voiceover bits were sometimes unintelligible. People bumped into each other. There was a moment when a male/female pair of characters did a sloppy, flubbed, it-was-never-gonna-happen-anyway jump lift. I felt the moment was emblematic. It struck me as an above average community theatre production, but because of it's obvious pretensions, it didn't get the sympathy from me that AmDram** usually gets.

The cast had uniformally good voices, and a lot of them had very impressive credits. I'm not entirely sure why the whole thing seemed so inert, so overlong, so awkwardly staged, so much as if the actors were phoning it in long distance and making up for it by talking really loudly. I think only one actress turned in a cohesively good performance from beginning to end. I'm not thrilled with the music in this show, but the book is full of good lines. Why weren't any of them funny?

I had a conversation recently with Phil from the House, about the weird experience of sitting way too close to the stage at "Wicked," and wanting to tell the chorus members to calm down, honey. Ok, Phil felt that way about the whole cast. I felt that many of the leads pulled it off some of the time. The point is, playing big without looking like an idiot can be tricky. If you're out there having fun, if the space is small, if you can take yourself seriously and not seriously at the same time, and if you have the chops, a few technical fluffles won't phase you. I don't know. That could have been part of the problem.

But it was not torturous. The unnamed play that I still haven't gotten around to reviewing because it was just that bad*** was torturous. This could have perhaps been enjoyable if it was a lot shorter.

*And strange. I was able to nip out during intermission and audition for Gypsy.**** Ah, Mondays.

**As they say in Britain.

***Ok, that was "The Movie Game." Don't worry, it's over now, and it can't hurt you.

****Ok, so I actually didn't audition for Gypsy. Critical license. Made a good story, right? I did, however, finally get to meet Kris of and TOC. Nice guy.


Blogger Fuzzy said...

"Built in 1911, The Athenaeum building was conceived as a recreational center which would serve the mostly German neighborhood surrounding it. Over the years the Athenaeum also served as a girls commercial High School for St. Alphonsus Church, as well as a temporary Church after a devastating fire in the early 1950's."

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny, the General Manager of the Athenaeum once told me that it was never a school, despite all appearances. Maybe he doesn't actually know anything about the theatre he manages. Or maybe he's just an impostor.


7:39 AM  

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