Rich Griset’s review of This Beautiful City is in this week’s Style. He – like most reviewers in town – gave the show an appreciative rave. The winter season really starts to heat up this weekend with “Once on this Island” opening at the Mill. By my count, over the next 3 weeks six productions will be opening and that’s not even counting “The Color Purple” at CenterStage or the Kander & Ebb review that SPARC is putting on. Prepare to get busy!
For those of you who keep track of this sort of thing, the longest running musical on Broadway – “Phantom of the Opera” – celebrates the 23rd anniversary of its opening night today. It’s funny – in my experience, “Phantom” is a little like “Cats” used to be. It may have run forever but few people I talk to mention it as one of their favorite shows. So who is still going to see this show after 23 years? Just for the record: I have never seen it. It’s never risen to the top of my must-see list during those precious few trips I take to New York. Perhaps this year I’ll break down and give it a shot.
Yesterday I had my first rehearsal for the night of sonnets that Richmond Shakespeare is putting on Feb. 8th. I have a rather ridiculous history when it comes to acting. When I was a high school senior, I was in the ensemble of our production of “Once Upon a Mattress,” a task I was recruited for by my girlfriend at the time (a wonderfully talented singer who was playing the Minstrel) because of the lack of boys willing to try out. I was wisely paired with the best and loudest female singer in the ensemble so no one would hear anything that came out of my mouth. I had one line – something like “Get a rope!” – and I delivered it horribly.
Later, when I was working backstage for Theatre IV, the director of “Isn’t It Romantic” tried to block a scene to include some of us backstage guys. It was a scene in a café and one of the characters was supposed to wave at successive passers-by while having a conversation with another character. All we crew folk had to do was walk by and give a friendly wave or salute. Well, apparently we all looked so awkward trying to look natural just walking across the stage that the director decided to just have the character pantomime seeing acquaintances walk by. Clearly, the audience’s imagination would be more convincing than our acting. As it happens, I think I was about 23 years old at the time and perfectly happy to stay backstage and behind the scenes where I belonged.
Time and experience have put me on stages of various kinds since then. I’ve done training and conference presentations and taught college classes and even had to open an awards show once. But my acting technique has not gotten any better. As I quipped to the very patient Freddy Kaufman who is directing the night of sonnets, I covered the emotions from A to B in my reading. But don’t let that dissuade you from coming to the Feb. 8th performance. I’ll only be on stage for a minute and a half or so and there will be many professionals there who actually know what they’re doing. And I’m trying to recruit a loud and talented performer who might consider singing through my sonnet so once again you won’t have to hear anything that comes out of my mouth. Shhh. Don’t tell Freddy.