Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

A friend posted on Facebook today that she was returning to the Piano. Her quote was wonderful. “THE PIANO – When you truly play, you and the piano become one. And until you play again, it is indeed a temptation and difficult to resist.”

From the time I was a kid I wanted to learn to play the piano. I had a couple of lessons in 7th grade from Sr. St. George but could not get access to a piano to practice and it fell by the wayside. The very first record album I ever bought was Horowitz playing Moonlight Sonata. It was a RCA recording from 1956. I still have that album. I used to lay across my bed and listen to it over and over. While other friends were learning the chords to Smoke on the Water I was listening to every nuance and variation in the music. VLADIMIR HOROWITZ was sent from the gods. His hands touched the keys and the angles would weep in shame. I so wanted to become one with an instrument in such a way that the sounds coming forth would make the world stop and take notice. I just never had a piano or the discipline to follow that path.

In my 20’s I had the opportunity to sit on a piano bench with Horowitz at the Ritz Carlton off DuPont Circle in Washington DC. Horowitz had just returned from a trip back to Moscow for his now famous concert and the Reagan people wanted to capitalize on it as some kind of US vs. USSR battle won by the good guys. In 1986, Horowitz announced that he would return to the Soviet Union for the first time since 1925 to give recitals in Moscow and Leningrad. In the new atmosphere of communication and understanding between the USSR and the USA, these concerts were seen as events of political, as well as musical, significance.

I mentioned the story about Horowitz being the first album I ever purchased and apparently she mentioned it to Vladimir. When he came out to warm up the piano and check its’ tuning he invited me to sit with him. He didn’t have to ask twice. I sat with him while he warmed up the most beautiful piano I had ever touched. As I watched his hands fly across the keyboard I realized I would never have that skill and all but gave up any dream of ever learning to play.

Vladimir Horowitz and David Schauer

Vladimir Horowitz and Me

After the dinner there was a receiving line that included Horowitz, Senator Paul Laxalt, Justices Warren Berger and Renquest, and Secretary George Schultz to name a few. As the guests were winding through the line and after-dinner drinks were being served, Horowitz bolted from the line asking “where’s that kid?” He came back into the dining room and found me. The confusion on the host face and the elite of Washington who had just been abandoned was priceless. Horowitz had tracked me down to ask if I had all his CD’s (A new fade in those days). I responded that I did not that I could not afford them all. He asked if I went to New York often to which I answered in the affirmative. He told me that next time I was in the city to call him and he would give the rest. He asked if I knew where he lived. I said you’re so famous like that John Lennon guy everyone in the city would know. And I’d ask when I got there. He retorted “Smart-ass” and then printed out his address and phone number.

On my next trip to NY I stopped by but he was napping. I had tea with his wife Wanda who gave me several CD’s. She told me that he was so excited to find someone at one of those parties who actually appreciated his work and not his fame that he actually talked about meeting me for several days. I couldn’t stop telling my friends who responded with a collective Vladimir who? By the time I made a trip to the City after that he has passed away.

Several years ago I purchased a baby grand with hopes of taking lessons and rekindling that love affair but every time I sat down to learn I psyched myself out by comparing myself to Horowitz.

Once again I have decided to try to learn. First step is to have it tuned. Then focus. The piano still calls to me and intimidates me at the same time.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see both shows as part of my anniversary present from Ed. Never has my reaction to back-to-back shows been so dramatically different.The shows were chosen by Ed. Ghost for it’s part in our first dust-up as a married couple. Spiderman because Ed is a Marvel and DC geek and we had heard that it had been retooled and was much better.

When I see a Broadway Musical I am not expecting a deep, thought provoking message or revelation. I am expecting to entertained and walk away with a song in my heart (or at least the head). Neither of these show attempted to be shows like Les Mis, Rent or Chess. Both were billed as fun entertainment.

In judging a show I look to Story, Songs, Cast and Crew.

The STORY:

My picture of the Theater housing Ghost.

Ghost. The Story of Ghost is well known to most. (Except to me as one of the dozen people who had not seen the movie). Sam is shot and killed and then tries to save Molly from harm from the killer. The sub plot involves the work “ditto”. Simple, Straight forward, and easy to follow.

Spiderman. The Story of Spiderman was more convoluted. The play started out with a scene or two about the mythos of spiders and a lesson in entomology partially set to music. The story then changed to Peter Parker being bullied, becoming Spiderman getting revenge on bullies then losing uncle and getting an arch enemy and a girl. It was difficult at best to follow the story since the sub plots would bounce around and be interrupted by songs that did not fit the scene or add to the story. That brings me to Songs.

SONGS.

Ed outside the theater of Spiderman

Spiderman. The songs in Spiderman were written for the most part by Bono. To be fair, Bono has had some hits and a few good “story-based” songs (Sunday, Bloody Sunday or Still Haven’t Found What I Was Looking For). It is clear, as a Broadway writer, Broadway hasn’t found what it’s looking for. The songs added little to move the story and in fact after they were over, I was left wondering, What? A chorus sang the first song about Arachnophobia. It sounded muffled and with no clear lead, only about every other word was clear. The music did nothing to move the shown and basically served as a distraction from the bad writing and acting.

Ghost. The music in Ghost actually worked. It moved the story and in many cases was able to set a mood and provoke strong emotions. Songs like Are You A Believer?, I’m Outta Here, Focus,  and Sam’s version of Unchained Melody lightened the mood. Here Right Row, More, and Suspend My Disbelief were upbeat and added to the story. And of course there were songs that opened the buckets of tears throughout the audience. If you have ever lost a partner, the song “With You” will open wounds thought to be long closed. The hurt and pain came through loud and actually almost to clear, for me.

CAST

This is the part that Ghost really differs itself from Spiderman.

Spiderman:

SPIDER-MAN on Broadway – Video – Official Site.

If the producers of Spiderman were aiming for a Peter Parker in the throes of adolescence half child half man they sort of succeeded. When Reeve Carney sang it sounded like a teen whose voice was in the midst of changing. Struggling to reach notes sometimes soft sometimes loud.

Patrick Page as Osborn could not make up his mind as to whether he was going to over act Mike Meyers Dr. Evil or Fredric March’s Dr. Jekyll. In what should have been a misty eye emotional scene, as Osborne realizes his wife is dead, he lets loose with a howl that elicited laughs from the audience.

The rest of the cast was stiff and uncertain. There was no chemistry between the characters with the exception of Parker and the Bullies who had every reason to make fun of Parker. This was a sharp contrast between Spiderman and Ghost.

Ghost:

You could feel the chemistry between Sam (Richard Fleeshman) and Molly (Caissie Levy) in every corner of the Theater. Of course they were also the leads that opened the show in London and Manchester before that. There was never any doubt that it was a love story between these two. From their bio’s it was clear that these two were the best available.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph proved to be a more believable Oda Mae Brown than Whoppie Goldberg.  Her presence and costumes help to give her a stage presence worthy of a Tony nomination.

Bryce Pinkham played a truly convincing villain. During curtain call there was a strong urge to boo him as a Snidely Whiplash villain instead of cheering a actor who succeeded in creating an illusion.

THE CREW

By crew I mean the technical aspect of the show. Again Spiderman comes up as shoddy and not worthy of a high school production in Paramus, New Jersey. The set was as cheep as a high school reusing boards used in very show for the past decade. Nothing was solid. As to the special effect that are wowing the B&T crowd that are the mainstay of the show they fell flat. How special is the flying Spiderman being held  up by 6 distracting cables? The costumes varied from the regular cast and the Alice in Wonderland characters in stylized clothes and big head masks. All incredibly distracting. The lighting was more appropriate to a concert production with lots of flashing lights and other tricks to distract from an otherwise flat show.

GHOST:

Me, Ed Cassie Levy and Richard Fleeshman

On the other side of the spectrum is Ghost. From the moment of Sam’s death where he moves out of his fallen body on stage left to stage right in one seamless move I was left trying to figure out how they did it! It got so bad that I actually lost my place in the show because I was so fixated on trying to figure out the tricks, I would almost miss the next one. It is easy to go through a wall in a movie where film (or now computer animations) can be manipulated. It is impossible to do in live with out it looking fake. Well the crew of Ghost did it; flawless and with ease. My best guess was the use of holograms. Even then I could not be sure what was real and what was a hologram. I will see the show again just to watch the effects.

The weekend will be remembered as a weekend of extremes. On one side, probably the worst show I’ve ever seen, including Toni Tennille in Victor Victoria. On the other side, Ghost and one of the most entertaining nights I’ve had in a theater. As I said, I will see Ghost again. I hope you get a chance to see it with this cast.