Sunday, March 26, 2006

27/03/06 Gangs of New Town

I cheered myself up last week by going to see an amateur production of "West Side Story" at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh with some learned friends.
I myself appeared in a version of this play many years ago and still shudder as I contemplate the vision of yours truly dancing onto the stage with the grace and poise of a disabled rhino.
Amateur companies putting on musicals always run into problems with casting.
You need people who can sing really well to take on the principal roles obviously. However, you also need them to look reasonably convincing as the characters they play in terms of age, build, attractiveness etc
In WSS, you have the added requirement that they need to be able to dance as well.
Inevitably there has to be elements of compromise, as you don't have thousands of potential actors and actresses to choose from.
The lead male Tony looked great and sang magnificently, but unfortunately danced like a disabled rhino. It almost seemed like a touching tribute to my own dancing performance all those years ago.
A few of the Jets and Sharks were in there late 30s (not that there's anything wrong with that) ; one or two of them were balding (not that there's anything wrong with that) ; a few were extremely camp looking (not that there's anything wrong with that ; however, they just didn't look too threatening and delinquent)
But, hey it was all good fun, and the music is always a joy to listen to, so you can't go wrong really.
There were a few technical problems though....
Sometimes the big scenery backdrops clattered down on top of misplaced props ; much to the great amusement of the audience which seemed to be predominantly made up of schoolkids.
It reminded me of the closing scenes of the Marx Brothers "A Night At The Opera" whereby a serious opera was disrupted by random backdrops of battleships and other inappropriate images.
I would have loved to see Harpo Marx scurry up the scenery being chased by cops during the "rumble scene".
One other incident which stood out occurred in the lead up to the great showstoppin' number "America".
Before they launch into the song, there's a bit of banter between two Puerto Rican girls.
One is homesick and nostalgic for Puerto Rico, and the other thinks she's an idiot because Puerto Roci is really rubbish and that America is much better.
At one point the nostalgic girl says "We came like children, believing, trusting.
With our hearts open. With our arms open."
The non-nostalgic one then is supposed to say "You came with your mouth open!"
It's quite a funny little cheeky line which always earns a chuckle from the audience.
However, this production changed the line to "You came with your pants open!"
I was shocked, and made an embarassing, snorting guffaw type sound, causing the people in the row in front to look round disapprovingly.
Whose idea was that change? Stephen Sondheim would be spinning in his grave if he wasn't still alive.
The other problem WSS has is that in the climactic scene a gunshot is fired.
Maria's estranged buyfriend Chino wacks Tony in revenge for killing Bernardo.
This is all well and good.
However, when a gun goes off in a theatre, the audience collectively shits itself with the shock of the noise.
This then morphs into sustained laughter as they try to settle down again.
Bearing in mind this is a tragic scene in which Tony is shot and lies dying in Maria's arms ; it's not the ideal audience reaction.
The playwriter should have taken this into consideration.
It would have worked better if Chino had used a bow and arrow or perhaps a blowpipe ; or possibly jabbed Tony with a ricin coated umbrella point, as Tony waited at a bus stop.
At the very least, you could get a joke gun which unfurls a little flag with "Bang!" written on it as it is fired.
But hey, it was a great show which I really enjoyed, and I don't want to get into trouble as there were a couple of folk I knew in the cast.

26/03/06 Hello Again

As many of you will know, my much loved Dad passed away recently and consequently life hasn't felt particularly funny of late ; hence the non-appearance of my usual daily drivel.
Anyway, I'd like to post the poems read at my Dad's funeral as a tribute.
(Tom Mabbott, a good friend of my Dad, read "Epitaph To a Friend", and myself and my sister Ann read "The Blue Doo" ; a poem which was one of my Dad's acclaimed party pieces over the years... He could perform it miles better than I could ever hope to!)

Epitaph to a Friend

An honestman here lies at rest
As e’er God with his image blest;
The friend of man, the friend of truth,
The friend of age, and guide of youth:
Few hearts like his, with virtue warm’d,
Few heads with knowledge so informed:
If there’s another world, he lives in bliss;
If there is none, he made the best of this.

The Blue Doo

There was wunst a wee doo,
An’ this wee doo was blue,
It had got itsel’ right in a mess.
Now it might be that you
Never heard of this doo,
Well ah’ll tell ye for you’d never guess.

Well, this wee doo was seeck,
It had banjo’d its beak,
Jist wi’ stabbin’ a daud of stale breid.
When alang came a boy,
Jist a durrty wee boy,
Who had snotters an’ beasts in his heid.

Said the wee boy – Aw jings!
Ah love a’ things wi’ wings!
An’ he gave the wee doo a big cuddle,
Then he mendit its beak,
He jist gave it a tweak,
Then he saftened its breid in a puddle.

Well, the doo gulped the breid,
It wiz hunger – no’ greed,
An’ it said tae the boy – Thanksalo’,
For yir jist a wee pe’,
An’ ah’ll never forge’
End the truth is it nevah forgot!

So youse people take heed,
Ayeways saften doo’s breid,
An’ never smack boys who have beasts in thir heid,
For ye might smack the boy
Who was good to the doo,
An’ the next thing ye’ll know is –
The doo might get you!