Sunday, May 13, 2007
Get to Know Your Neighbor
Went to the Freud Playhouse on the UCLA campus Saturday night to see the Reprise! production of Richard Rogers' 1962 Broadway musical "No Strings."
The show is about a white American writer who falls in love with a black American model while they're both living in Paris. In 1962 having an interracial couple on the Broadway stage was revolutionary. (The show was also the first to have members of the chorus move scenery.)
"No Strings" was the only show for which Rogers wrote both the music and lyrics and was his first show following the death of his longtime writing partner Oscar Hammerstein II.
It was not one of my favorite Reprise! productions. But it was fun to watch Scott Bakula sing and I'm always happy to see Ruth Williamson on the stage. (Previously I've seen her in "La Cage Aux Folles" and "Music Man" on Broadway, "White Christmas" at the Pantages Theater, "Music Man" at the Hollywood Bowl and in the Reprise! productions of "Strike Up the Band" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.")
Unfortunately, Bob Mackie's costumes for this show were nothing short of an assault on the audience's eyes. Completely over the top. (Was there a special on feathers and spangles at K-Mart?) The costumes distracted from the performers and the show itself. It's not a good sign when you're watching a show and it looks like a bad Carol Burnett sketch.
On a positive note, it was a thrill to be seated next to Mrs. Helen Gerald (photo above) of the Richard Rogers Organization. Mrs. Gerald starred as young Cosette in the 1934 Broadway production of "Les Miserables" (the play, not the musical) at the Longacre Theater. Her reading of a letter in that show was singled out for praise by the New York Times theater critic.
Mrs. Gerald was in the audience at the Broadhurst Theater in October, 1962 when "No Strings" opened on Broadway. She remembers seeing Richard Rogers sitting on a staircase with his head in his hands, overcome with emotion, at the start of the intermission.
The Broadhurst Theater is the only Broadway house with its stage parallel to the street rather than perpendicular to it.
Tonight, Mrs. Gerald was surprised to see a women seated two rows in front of us holding a small poodle. "They wouldn't allow that in New York," she said. I explained the dog was probably a Service Animal. With senses greater than humans, some dogs are trained to help people. For instance, some people with epilepsy have a Service Dog that can sense a seizure coming on and alert their Human to take action in time to prevent it. Those same dogs can even drag their Human to safety should they suffer a seizure while crossing the road.
I told Mrs. Gerald the poodle (seated in the front row) was trained to quickly sense a bad musical and drag its human out of the theater should one start to unfold.
It's amazing how much you can cover before the lights go down.