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Once, again, it is Monday night and the theatres are dark. So let's have a little bit of fun sharing some favorite theatre-related stories.

I've been a fan of theatre for longer than I care to remember; with sad consequences to my pocketbook. I can't remember why it took so long for me to realize that ushers were paid to stand around and watch performances! D'oh!

Well there is a lot more to ushering than that, and I hope to share some of the funnier or more interesting stories through this series. Join me below the squiggle for some of them.

As an usher for more than 12 years, I've worked productions of Shakespeare, classic theatre, Broadway shows, opera, chamber orchestras, symphonies, recitals, and dance. While the genres can't really be compared ... and I've loved it all ... sometimes there is overlap: some operas are also Shakespearean plays or ballet. Some operas have been modernized into Broadway musicals. One example is Puccini's Madame Butterfly and the Broadway counterpart Miss Saigon.

The basics in both stories involving an American man who loves and leaves an Asian woman who bears his child and waits for his return. For me, the opera is far more beautiful, as in this scene where Butterfly longs for her lover's return:

But it is hard not to get a little emotional over the more modern Kim's longing:

Of course, serious as the subject is, Miss Saigon was the source of some of the funniest questions I had to answer from the patrons.  For instance, after the fall of Saigon, there is a complicated and disturbing dance to Morning of the Dragon (I couldn't find a video I liked), and a very large statue is rolled on stage. Some patrons in the cheap seats asked me who the statue was supposed to be and I replied Ho Chi Minh. There was a little silence, and then the guy said, "How do you know?" Without thinking, I replied, well on the main floor you can see its head. Oops

Another hilarious question involved this scene:

In all seriousness, I was asked on more than one occasion how big a hole they had to cut in the roof in order to get that chopper enough room to land.

After several months of the show, we ushers were ready to move on. But there were symptoms of withdrawal. Without warning, someone would break into cries of Kimmmm!!!!  Tam??  KIIIIIMMMM!!!

Operas could be very funny in untentional ways as well. Now as many know, the Marriage of Figaro is a very funny opera. But sometimes behind the scenes there is a lot of chaos! In the middle of one production, soon after this aria by Dr Bartolo:

I happened to be passing through the musicians lounge backstage. There were several chorus members involved in a game of cards, when the Dr. Bartolo character came wandering in, and asked "shouldn't you guys be upstairs for this?" Cries of oh shit, where was the cue call, gaaahhh!!, and people running upstairs and on stage...I was nearly bowled over. Bartolo meanwhile laughed a deep bass HO HO HO. This is the scene they were late for

Well this is getting a little long, and out of hand for my first theatre diary ... I'll have to save some for another time. Meanwhile, you have the floor for any sort of theatre chitchat you'd like to share.

Originally posted to Theatricals on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 05:29 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

    by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 05:29:24 PM PDT

  •  Love your stories. (6+ / 0-)

    More, please! :-)

    The liminal space where musical and opera meet has fascinated me ever since I can remember. From Porgy and Bess to Sweeney Todd and Light in the Piazza (my sister and I were talking about that last show's somewhat operatic nature just the other night).

    As for Miss Saigon itself, well. I saw a national tour here in San Francisco with a good friend who is a very opinionated actor/singer. Something about the show struck us both as absurd, and I'm ashamed to admit that we got a seriously bad case of the giggles right during the dramatic climax. For whatever reason, it just didn't work for either of us.

    Thanks for the great post, klompers!

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 05:49:56 PM PDT

    •  The American musical, IMO, separates (4+ / 0-)

      from Opera and Operetta where musicals began to have a lot of spoken dialogue (which, it seems, modern ones have less of than musicals used to) which substitutes for the recitative of classical Opera and operetta. Romberg and Victor Herbert were properly American operetta composers where shortly afterwards composers like Cole Porter began to add more dialogue to their shows. In short, the American musical more like the intersection of operetta and vaudeville, IMO.

      Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

      by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 05:58:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  thank you, silk scarf! (5+ / 0-)

      I know what you mean, Miss Saigon has its moments for me -- Morning of the Dragon and the ghost of Thuy and the whole dream sequence were powerful for me. The death scene in Butterfly makes me cry every time, while in Saigon my attention would wander toward the end until I realized whoa, gotta get ready to open the doors.

      I'll have more stories; the next one will have a Shakespeare theme ... drama and screwups ... but that will require a bit more work!

      "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

      by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:00:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting to compare... (3+ / 0-)

        ...Saigon and Butterfly with Rent and Bohème. Rent was completely out of my comfort zone musically, but it kept my interest from beginning to end. So I can't say that all Broadway adaptations of opera are doomed to failure!

        There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

        by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:14:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I have a silly Shakespeare story that I, (5+ / 0-)

        and likely at least one actor, will never forget.

        When I was was living in Holland, a British drama school would make periodic tours with productions of English-language plays featuring their students.  One year was Twelfth Night.

        In the first scene right after Duke Orsino delivers the "If music be the food of love" speech, one of the courtiers goes to deliver a line and simultaneously rips a boisterous fart. The audience was in stitches as the young, aspiring actor turned bright red.

        In the many hundreds of plays I have seen over the last 30 years, that is the only time I have ever seen that happen.

        Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

        by RickBoston on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:54:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I thoroughly enjoyed this diary. (7+ / 0-)

    I worked in Musical Theatre and Opera for years as a repetiteur and musical director. Your stories about the chorus playing cards is not only funny, but it happens all the time. Once a small theatre orchestra I was directing was late coming back from intermission during Three Penny Opera. The ENTIRE group was late. I told the stage manager that I was pretty sure where to find them and stepped out the stage door to find them still smoking and passing around a bottle of Jack Daniels. I shit you not. I don't think they had had much because the last act went very well but anyone closer than two feet to the pit (and it was a small theatre) could surely smell it!

    There is nothing better than stories from the theatrical professions. I could listen to them (and tell them) all day.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 05:55:20 PM PDT

    •  I worked with one or two people... (5+ / 0-)

      ...who appeared on stage dead drunk (yet still somehow managed). The closest I ever got was on a Sunday matinee, after a champagne-heavy brunch that got a bit out of hand. I thought I was doing okay until one of my fellow performers whispered to me sotto voce during the first scene, "You smell like a liquor store." That sobered me up but quick! Luckily, it was a musical, and my character was eccentric anyway — but it was not an experiment I chose to repeat.

      There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

      by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:02:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I had a close brush with that once. (5+ / 0-)

        I cannot perform under the influence. I cannot play any instrument accurately after even one. Fortunately, I wasn't playing. Worse, I was CONDUCTING. Thank goodness it was a rehearsal. A couple of Russian friends and I had a couple of shots about an hour before and as I walked through the Bass section the principal bassist winked and said "who has the Vodka?!" I said "Vitalyi does, in his horn case!".

        It started a little rough but I recovered. Never again.

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

        by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:06:10 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  smells.... (6+ / 0-)

      since you started the topic, here are a couple of stories I wondered how I could work into a logical diary:

      * there was suddenly a rule that one certain microwave could not be used backstage during MN Orchestra performances. I forget what the program was, but someone apparently made some microwave popcorn, which stunk up the whole theatre for the whole program

      * the Buddy Holly story tour came to town in summer, and the stage crew set up a grill on in the parking lot behind the theatre. During the winter party finale numbers, Buddy just had to remark that the audience was so hot it smelled like a barbeque

      "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

      by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:27:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Back in college I used to do a lot of pit (4+ / 0-)

        work in the viola section in Detroit for MOT and other stuff. Now these are union gigs, as you can imagine. It was my first introduction to the professional orchestra pit in an opera house. The nastiest possible place you could imagine! Percussionists playing chess in the rests, people taking off their opera pumps and stinking up the pit, card playing, crap shooting, (for money) and of course, everyone brought a book, especially for rehearsals. I learned how to internalize the rests rather than count them doing that: anyone with more than ten bars of rest was doing something else besides paying attention. At least back in those days, I don't know how it is over there today.

        I did most of my studying for a sociology class in the pit at the Fox Theatre.

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

        by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:10:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  i was w/ a shakespeare festival (4+ / 0-)

      in the late 70s for a couple of summers.

      one play got set in the 1920s and in one of the party scenes some of the cast were actually taking snorts of cocaine on stage (it was the 70s).

      hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

      by alguien on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:11:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  p.s. (5+ / 0-)

    Love the clips from Figaro! :-)

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 05:55:41 PM PDT

  •  One great intersection between the genres (7+ / 0-)

    personified: Leonard Bernstein. He wrote, and conducted both. In a way, Lenny makes the perfect synthesis between European opera, Gershwin, and later "mature" musical theatre.

    But best of all are the stories about Lenny. Lenny to a tenor during a dress rehearsal (I forget which opera): "I know it is the historical prerogative of the Tenor to be stupid, but you, sir, are abusing that privilege!"

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

    by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:02:16 PM PDT

    •  One word suffices: (5+ / 0-)

      Candide. :-)

      p.s. Stupid tenor stories! Love 'em (and I was a tenor). :-)

      There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

      by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:10:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Candide is perhaps one of the most brilliant (7+ / 0-)

        musical pieces ever put on the stage by an American or perhaps anyone else for that matter. I'm not exaggerating: there is not a day that goes by that I do not miss Leonard Bernstein.

        His collaborator Sondheim, however, we still have. Brilliant, brilliant librettist. Not a bad composer, either. ;)

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

        by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:25:29 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes (about Candide) (4+ / 0-)

          I have the DVD of the Lincoln Center concert production with Chenowith and LuPone, and I've not only watched it countless times but have inflicted it upon several friends. It's odd, but riveting — and the NY Phil is wonderful. :-)

          And yes (about Sondheim). A national treasure.

          There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

          by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:33:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I have a bit of a reputation for being a (5+ / 0-)

        jovial taskmaster, but a taskmaster nonetheless. When I was Director of Music at St. John's Bowdoin St. on Beacon Hill, (I'm not being snooty, but there is ANOTHER St. John's, but RC, on Bowdoin St. in Dorchester and we were forever getting each other's mail!) I needed to hire a Tenor section leader. My friend Jane said "I know a young man who might fit. Should I send him in?" I said "Sure, send him in next week sometime during my office and practice hours". So in he comes the next week--gorgeous strawberry blond, probably no older than 23, just a really beautiful young man. I was at the organ playing through a draft of an anthem I was writing for a big solemn evensong with the Bishop trying to get a feel for what revisions I wanted to make. Now this was in draft manuscript, and not very "clean" on the page. What I was not sure about was a tenor solo which was not all that diatonic (think the style of some of the more modern Anglican cathedral music) and something was bothering me about it. So I set it aside and picked up his music and he and I sang through a couple of things from cantatas. I did my usual audition shtick and asked him to sing some gregorian chant according to my direction, and also the tenor part of an Anglican chant in the same way to see how he'd both lead and follow in the Schola Cantorum. I was very impressed. We talked for a while and I said "I have this little tenor solo in this anthem of mine I'm not quite sure about, would you mind looking over my shoulder and reading it with me?" He did, he nailed it perfectly on the first try FROM draft manuscript. I changed a couple of notes and we sang it again. "You're hired, be here on Sunday" I said.

        That is a TOUGH audition for a choir gig, let me tell you. He was the least "stupid" musician I had worked with in a while but he WAS a little air-headed. He always took his shoes off in the loft, a little eccentric and flighty, but very good and always on time.

        He was with me for two years and went off to sing in Mathis der Maler at Tangelwood, got a great review in The New Yorker and his career took off like gangbusters.

        Best tenor I've ever worked with.

        Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

        by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:37:53 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Wow, great story! (4+ / 0-)

          I can't imagine trying to sight read from a manuscript while under audition nerves. Just ... wow.

          There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

          by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:42:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I am a very exacting musician in my standards (4+ / 0-)

            and in a gig like that, you HAVE to be, it's expected, it's high profile and carries the weight of a lot of history in a town that is all about the weight of history, especially in its churches. (You may not know the name but the great American-Anglican composer and organist Everett Titcomb sat on that bench for 50 years and a protege of his for another 26 after that, it was a "famous" place in church music).

            In a small choir of 12 to 14 where 80 percent of the repertoire is a capella and much of it gregorian chant (from original notation) and renaissance polyphony, your choirsters have to be the best--the voices can be serviceable, even ordinary, but the ability to read, keep pitch and stay together in a VERY live room and pay attention are most important. Sight reading as well.

            Now on the other hand, I'm a jokester and a prankster and generally very jolly. I cannot remember ever berating anyone though occasionally I'd get sarcastic with an orchestra, who can take it and are used to it. But I find you catch more right notes with honey than you do with vinegar.

            Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

            by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:50:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Long ago I regrettably came to the conclusion (5+ / 0-)

          ...that brain power is frequently the enemy of beautiful singing.  I used to attend panel discussions featuring singers in upcoming productions at the Washington Opera, and some of the best singers had absolutely no insight to offer into their characters, the story or the music.

          Once at a panel on Lucia di Lammermoor I listened raptly as a very erudite Jerry Hadley expounded on Sir Walter Scott, Donizetti, the bel canto tradition, etc.  Ruth Ann Swenson's commentary could be summed up as "Me love singing pretty music."

          The night of the performance she sang like an angel. Jerry, you could almost see him thinking about exactly what the best position was to hit an upcoming note in the Wolf's Crag scene.  

          Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

          by RickBoston on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:15:05 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I'm the regular accompanist of a great baritone (5+ / 0-)

            friend of mine down in NC. I do his faculty recitals and other things, we work together a few times a year. (He used to also work for me at Bowdoin St. when he was in grad school at NEC) and he and I share the opinion that getting the mind and thinking about technique the hell out of the way is the best way to make music, at least in performance. I'm not saying you shouldn't get inside the role or understand the music (this guy is a better theorist than I am and my fach is composition and theory) but you have to just, as they say in AA, "let go and let God".

            Your guy Jerry Hadley was "in his head" too much. It can kill an operatic performance or ANY performance for that matter. When I give an organ recital the LAST thing I'm thinking about is where the next note is coming from, same with conducting. If you know the score, and your ears are wide open, you can almost turn off all but the "lizard brain", which is where I truly believe the art really lies. Gotta separate technique from music-making in a performance. Some of the best singers, with years of practice and wonderful instruments and the best of understanding still cannot do that.

            Then, of course, there's the question of whether an opera singer can act or not, which is a totally different conversation. One, of course, I'm always willing to have. ;)

            Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

            by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:21:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  One addendum to this: the only time I think about (5+ / 0-)

            where the next note is coming from is if I play a wrong one in a sequence. As long as it's not a really obvious blunder, I do make a mental note to continue to repeat the mistake. ;)

            Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Ren and Stimpy: Dog on Cat equalitymaine.org

            by commonmass on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:23:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Toscanini on Zinka Milanov (5+ / 0-)

            During a rehearsal during which she kept screwing up, he (allegedly) pointed at her ample busoms with his baton and exclaimed, "if only those were brains!"

  •  Ushering is the best gig ever! (6+ / 0-)

    In high school, I got to see some great shows
    and performances, because a friend dragged me along--
    his older brother was in charge of ushers.

    And we had the best seats in the house--
    perched on a ledge below the loge seats,
    [and damn lucky that we never fell off :) ]

    And thus began my life-long love of the theater.

    Thanks for the great clips, klompendanser.

    •  some of the most interesting people (6+ / 0-)

      I've ever met was through ushering ... everyone from high school students, college music majors, chiropractors, architects, school teachers, lawyers, and college professors ... all with a fun reason to be running up and down stairs in the dark with flashlights pointed behind them. :)

      "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

      by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:34:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ushering... (5+ / 0-)

      ...was a great educational experience for me, too. I learned so much from watching the same show night after night, drinking in the actors' technique and their adjustments to each unique audience. I'm sure many, many people have had similar experiences. :-)

      There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

      by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:38:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  did you ever see the ballet (5+ / 0-)

        Car Man ... using music based on the opera Carmen? Fabulous stuff, but difficult from the ushering perspective ... i.e. not see the scenes in order. Usually that was not a problem, but the principal dancers traded off characters from night to night, but each person wore the same costumes no matter what role they were dancing. Teensy bit confusing when you see Act 2 the first night and Act 1 the next.  

        Oh well.

        "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

        by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:47:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That sounds interesting. (5+ / 0-)

          I have seen some avant-garde stuff like that where there's not a set running order, but the one I remember best (and actually liked the most) was a show in a warehouse where the audience walked from scene to scene as they chose. Sounds like utter chaos, but it was really really effective. And no ushers needed! :-)

          There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

          by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:51:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  well, the ballet was always in proper order, (4+ / 0-)

            just as an usher in that particular theatre (we were paid minimum wage), you did not see the whole show every night. What you saw in what order depended on which of the 15 doors you were assigned to. No matter if it was Shakespeare or Broadway, the usher at Door X was in for the first half, the usher at door Y was in for the second half, and the ticket taker wasn't in at all. You sometimes had to negotiate switches to see a particular scene.

            Another house I volunteered for, they didn't want us inside at all, but for every 4 hours you volunteered, they gave you two tickets (best seats available) so that you could enjoy the whole thing without interruption.

            "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

            by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:01:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  That... (4+ / 0-)
              ...but for every 4 hours you volunteered, they gave you two tickets...
              ...sounds like a pretty reasonable accommodation, assuming they had good reasons not to want ushers in the house and weren't just being cranky. :-)

              There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

              by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:08:10 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  this actually was at the Guthrie (4+ / 0-)

                ...they specifically told us that theatre was meant to be enjoyed completely and without distraction. They were so nice and so appreciative of volunteers...we got as much respect as paid staff.

                "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

                by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:11:08 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm turning a deep green :-) (4+ / 0-)

                  Always wished I could see something, anything, at the Guthrie.

                  There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

                  by slksfca on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:16:12 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  my little brother and I were in audience (4+ / 0-)

                    one of the two nights they filmed this production... I believe the night I was there was what ended up being the filmed act 2. It is the "old" Guthrie, but the new Guthrie kept the configuration.

                    Our seats that night were "interesting" ... we were near one of the cameras, so it was interesting watching the cameraman work with the script. Also, we were seated next to a guy we always referred to as a "true fan" ... these days he would have been a borderline stalker. He had a stack of pictures, record albums, books, etc. relating to Nimoy; he had snuck in a casette recorder (it was 1980s) and a camera, and asked every usher that walked by how he could get an autograph, etc etc.

                    Anyway, I was glad to finally get the video to see what I missed. It's not the same as being there, but sometimes it is the next best thing.

                    "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

                    by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:28:11 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  however, speaking of avante-garde out of order (4+ / 0-)

            stuff, 70 Scenes of Halloween was a pretty cool example of how that could work.

            "If you are sure you understand everything that is going on around you, you are hopelessly confused." Walter Mondale

            by klompendanser on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 07:03:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I agree completely! (7+ / 0-)

      When I was in high school our drama teacher asked for some volunteers to go usher for the American Repertoire Theater.  After that gig, my best friend and I discovered that we could usually talk our way into ushering just about anywhere by simply showing up in a coat and tie and just acting like we belonged.  I continued my 'volunteer' ushering throughout my college years, allowing me to not only see so much theater that I never would have thought about paying money to go see but also an awful lot of pop stuff.  What a great gig.

  •  Okay, I'll play. Richard Strauss's Salome (7+ / 0-)

    It was the full dress rehearsal at the Washington Opera.  Normally these are for all intents and purposes a real performance, but you always have a possibility of someone not singing in full voice, a performance being stopped, or any random disruption.

    This particular dress rehearsal was a sneak peak at a production that had GHWB's Washington atwitter. You see, it had been reported that the soprano singing Salome--the svelte and talented Maria Ewing--would take the dance of the seven veils to its intended conclusion: Full Nudity (gasp!)

    (Side note: Maria was an operatic marvel--there are not many sopranos capable of singing the role who people would pay just to see naked).

    When the time came for the dance, the audience was on the edge of its seats. Maria's performance did not disappoint: absolutely mesmerizing, she finished with a dramatic drop of last veil, standing completely nude in the glare of the spotlight on a darkened stage. The lights were cut, she was swaddled in a terrycloth robe, and when the lights came up she was sitting at the banquet table as Herod begun to sing her praises ("Ah! Herrlich! Wundervoll, wundervoll!")

    Clearly physically and vocally exhausted from her 10 minute tour de force, Salome reached for a chalice on the table.  It was empty.  She picked up another and we could tell it, too, was empty.  As was a third.  She then signalled to someone in the wings to bring her something to drink.  Nothing happened. She waved again to the wings, and pointed to down into the chalice.  By this point, the stagehands were the only people in the theater who did NOT know Salome wanted something to drink.

    Finally, with no other choice, Salome looked into the wings and said in a quiet, but clearly audible voice: "Will you please bring me my Gatorade?"

    The magic was broken. What a shame.

    On the other hand, I always thought it would have made a great Gatorade commercial....

    Revenge is a dish best served on White House china.

    by RickBoston on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 06:43:54 PM PDT

  •  Miss Saigon was badly-conceived. (5+ / 0-)

    It really didn't know what it wanted to be.  It also made the major mistake of making the American GI Chris sympathetic, unlike the cad that is Lt. Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly.  Unable to dislike him (we're not supposed to hate American GIs!), our blame for Kim's plight falls squarely--and unfairly--on the shoulders of Chris's American wife, Ellen.  It didn't help that her original big solo was "It's Her or Me," which didn't endear her to the audience.  They tried to soften Ellen by rewriting the number, but it didn't work.  

    It also didn't work (for me at least) that the main character was the Engineer, portrayed as a lovable Fagin-like rogue, when in reality he was a Vietnamese pimp who undoubtedly would have been a brutal bastards.  Bleargh.

    While the Puccini opera has it's slow moments (the end of Act I is a snoozer), it's hands-down superior in almost every way.

  •  for musicals of American-Oriental (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Youffraita, slksfca

    culture conflict, don't forget Sondheim's Pacific Overtures. Certainly not one of his blockbusters, but I've always been partial to the song Pretty Lady (this version seems to be from some local or school-type performance).

    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

    by Mnemosyne on Mon Mar 19, 2012 at 11:07:28 PM PDT

    •  Pretty Lady... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      klompendanser

      ...is a beautiful number. A lot of Sondheim's best songs come from his "flops," like this one from Merrily We Roll Along:

      There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

      by slksfca on Tue Mar 20, 2012 at 09:31:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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