Wednesday, April 2, 2008

HC: On my way to South Pacific

Tonight I am going to the theater. Some people go to the theater a lot. They live in Manhattan and have to travel a very short distance to see the wonders of New York City theater. I live approximately 35 miles away from the heart of Manhattan. Sometimes that drive is 45 minutes; sometimes it's an hour and 45 minutes. With gas, tolls, and parking, that's a lot of money, true  (and thank heavens I have the money) but it's also a small price to pay to get to see the cream of the crop of American and British (visiting) theater people.

Not just the performers, but also the musicians, set designers, costumers, lighting, etc. New York just has the best.

Tonight I'm going to see Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific. It is in the same theater, has the same director, and two of the same stars as my second favorite musical of all time, The Light in the Piazza. Tonight I'll be sitting in the Vivian Beaumont watching Bartlett Sher's direction of Kelli O'Hara and Matthew Morrison. My excitement has been building practically since I got tickets months and months ago. I'm leaving in about an hour, and I have butterflies inside, almost as if I were going on stage myself.

The Beaumont has a huge, curtainless stage. For Piazza, the entire stage was skillfully, delicately, sparingly, and imaginatively turned into Florence and Rome. Tonight it will be, duh, the South Pacific. Even though I got good grades in elementary school for my shoe-box diorama of the flying car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang--complete with cotton ball clouds--I have no idea how set designers do what they do. If it were me, I, uh, guess I'd put a South Pacifician palm tree over there, right? And an army tent over here? Yeah, great! Boy, I have respect for theater people!

Of course the music in South Pacific is beautiful. And tonight I'll hear it live, something I've never experienced before. I know O'Hara and Morrison have great voices, and I'm sure by the time I leave the theater I'll have crush on Paul Szot, the handsome opera singer co-starring tonight.

It’s not just getting to see the show, either. It’s the drive into NYC with the husb, the browsing at Barnes & Nobles, eating dinner at Ollie’s Chinese restaurant with Wendy and Susan…and the whole time, the butterflies, like I have a little secret, a surprise birthday party waiting for me just after dinner. Walking to Lincoln Center passed all the rich people in their furs (yuck) and face-lifts, to the right and back to the Beaumont. In through the doors, down the steps, looking for famous people in the audience. Going to the bathroom—laugh if you will but the Beaumont bathroom is a destination in itself—then walking to the ticket-taker, finding our seats, getting ready for the lights to go down. Hearing the first three notes of the overture: Bal-i Hai!!!! Yes, I’M EXCITED.

I’ve been excited before many a show, and I’ve been disappointed (can you say JUNO?), but the one thing that never fails is the gift of watching these great talented people on stage. Surely the gift of song is greater than all others? I’d imagine it’s incredible to save someone’s life, or put out a fire, or throw or catch a touchdown (whichever it is greater to do) but opening your mouth and having lovely notes come out? Notes that blend with every instrument in an orchestra to form a whole, to wrap up and present Some Enchanted Evening as a gift to every single member of an audience? Amazing.

I’m not a church or synagogue goer. For me, the closest thing to a communal, religious experience happens when I go see a musical. Not necessarily on/off Broadway. I’ve seen great shows in Boston, DC, cities in Virginia and England, and at Nyack High School. There’s just a joy in the singing and playing of music, that I’m so honored, pleased, grateful, and just plain tickled to be a part of.

Now I’ll go fluff my hair, brush my teeth, get my Barnes & Noble gift certificate, and get in the car, trying not to crash in all my excitement.

Rodgers & Hammerstein, here I come!


Avalon said...

Loved this blog entry, butterflies and all. PLEASE write at as much length as you can muster about the show. SOUTH PACIFIC became just about my favorite musical, and by far one of the best pieces of theater I'd seen, after I experienced the transcendant production put on by the Dallas Theater Center back in 1999. I've seen LOTS of theater in many places 'round the world, including NYC for a number of years, and that SOUTH PACIFIC still haunts me like no other. I still meet others who have the same feelings regarding that production. It sounds like Sher, et al. have done some of the same basic things that made that one so magical: 1. Respecting, trusting and honoring the material; 2. Recognizing just how dramatic, immediate and deeply touching the story is, as written, and casting and directing accordingly; 3. Letting the character-driven comedy work, without forcing it or killing it, to try to make the show more "dark," or "serious"; 4. Just giving it the best you have--Dallas couldn't afford a 30-piece orchestra, but did beautifully with what they could afford; LCT can afford it, and had the sense and generosity to give us that gift. Hope it's great!

sezhoo said...

AV: ooo ... there ain't *nothin'* like "There Ain't Nothin' Like a Dame". There just ain't.
This was one of my High School musicals and even kids could make magic out of it. The all-male bluster of the aforementioned song was ... and still is ... one of the high points.
You brought it all back.
And the anticipation? It's how I feel in the movies right before the trailers play. gawd. gives me chills.

So now tell us how it was!!!