Saturday, May 31, 2008

A skate-ly pleasure-dome

When word first got out about the Broadway-bound musical Xanadu, the press invariably approached the story by asking, "A musical based on this flop movie? Are they crazy?!" Even the most casual observer of Broadway can see what an empty question that is (successes have been made from far less promising source material), but it was the obvious lede for the story, I guess. That angle never interested me, because I knew nothing about the film; I'm not sure I'd even heard of it before word started spreading about the musical. Then I read a number of interviews in which Douglas Carter Beane and other members of the creative team talked about the liberties they were taking with the musical, and again I wondered, Why are they assuming I've seen this movie? Why assume I know anything about it? Isn't that what made it a "flop" -- the fact that nobody saw it?

Anyway, because I knew nothing about the movie, I didn't pay much attention to the musical either. But I heard good things about it once it opened, and then, in the course of recapping Lipstick Jungle, I discovered Kerry Butler's genius. The Best Musical Tony nomination cinched it: I needed to see Xanadu before June 15. So off I went this week to the Helen Hayes.

Considering the movie was completely unknown to me, I was surprised to find I knew many of the songs in the score. "I didn't realize 'Evil Woman' came from Xanadu!" I thought, as I watched. "I didn't know 'Have You Never Been Mellow' came from that movie!" Well, that's because, actually, they didn't. Throwing in those and other ELO/Olivia Newton-John hits was one of the best decisions the creative team made, because they're some of the most enjoyable numbers in the show. (It's also a good reason to buy the Broadway cast recording instead of the movie soundtrack, if you're like me and you can't get the music out of your head.) But the songs that are in the movie are pretty great, too, and I was surprised to find I knew them: "All Over the World," "Suddenly," "I'm Alive." What's not to love?

The very best decision the creative team made was casting Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson in the lead roles. Jackson's oversized hunkiness and his deceptively expressive face make him a dominating presence, in spite of his underwritten, inert character, the dopey artistic visionary Sonny Malone. Jackson cuts an appealing figure on roller skates, but he really blows you away with his unbelievably gorgeous singing voice, all the more surprising because the character doesn't sing at all until long after he's introduced. He might steal the show if he weren't paired with Kerry Butler, who is as lovely as ONJ and sings with the same seemingly effortless beauty, but tops the original by being absolutely hilarious. Giving an extremely disciplined yet appealingly loose performance, Butler manages to make every single line of dialogue funny, and sometimes she's funny when she's not even speaking. The rest of the show -- silly, fun, competent, but far from disciplined -- seems flaccid by comparison.

The book is often funny, and at 90 intermissionless minutes, the show doesn't outstay its welcome. But it feels oddly unsure of itself, and although it aspires to be "camp," it doesn't quite have the courage to take itself as seriously as real camp requires. The constant winking at the audience undercuts the fun -- the show keeps making nervous jabs at 1980s culture when it ought to be reveling in the those very embarrassments, the artistic excesses that make it worth seeing. The real delight of Xanadu, besides the outsized talent of the two leads, is discovering the undeniable appeal of that cheesy ELO/ONJ score, and the book would do better to stop apologizing for its own existence. The down-to-earthness of the proceedings also works against the literally celestial climactic scene, during which the energy slowly leaks out of the theatre. In the end, with its shabby production values (one ugly set, few costume changes, glowsticks for the finale) and small-house intimacy (the Helen Hayes is so tiny that even a mezzanine seat got me close enough to notice that one cast member forgot to wear sunscreen on her day off), Xanadu evokes a different kind of "camp" -- the sleepover kind. You're likely to feel like you're watching the counselors putting on a show at the end of the summer. Very talented counselors, to be sure, and the show they're putting on is a load of fun. But for $110+ for an orchestra seat, you could be excused for expecting something a touch more professional.

Fun fact: I happened to attend the performance that was taped for the NYPL archives. I'm a part of history! Unfortunately, so did a group of rowdy friends-of-the-show, who literally applauded even the feeblest punch lines and generally pissed off everyone else in the mezzanine. So, future researchers, if you notice the audience reactions are a bit off? Thank the soccer hooligans who showed up on May 29. Also: I notice that the "ticket tips" on the show's website -- which sort of adorably attempt to give the impression that tickets for this show are difficult to get -- recommend that you "Check upstairs: The mezzanine has some of the best seats in the house. You'll get a great view (and great sound)." Well, they're right about the view; you won't be able to see Sonny's "chalk" mural, but everything else is plenty visible. However, the whole show sounded like it was being performed underwater. I have to assume it's better in the orchestra, though maybe not much. Maybe it sounds decent from the onstage seats?

And this probably goes without saying, but: "Have You Never Been Mellow?" is one of my all-time favorite song titles.

Friday, May 30, 2008

This is getting out of hand

So, I was sitting in the window of a Starbucks yesterday, and guess who walked by? Martha Plimpton! This is getting ridiculous. One more sighting and I will have to give MP her own tag.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Emptying my brain

Last night as I headed home from work, I passed the one and only Jackie Hoffman, walking right past my building! She looked like she was talking to herself. But then, I probably did, too. I think, if I achieved any level of recognizability, I’d spend a few weeks trying not to do anything weird in public, and then I’d forget about it, or give up, and go back to talking to myself and wobbling in my high-heeled shoes as I normally do. Anyway, seeing Ms. Hoffman in person reminded me that I haven’t seen her in Xanadu yet, a situation I’m hoping to remedy very soon.

I’m afraid my life has been too busy for blogging lately. Too busy for blogging, maybe, but not too busy for jogging! This morning I went for a short run around the neighborhood, and I returned home feeling very proud of myself. You need to know that running voluntarily is extremely out of character for me. Leaving the house at any speed before I’ve had my coffee is equally unheard of. But I’ve been meaning to change that for some time now: A few years back, someone slightly older and wiser (and even more bookish) than I told me that 27 is the tipping point; if you’re not exercising by then, the drawbacks will become apparent. I was a few years from 27 at that time, so I figured I was still safe -- and then the lymphoma came along, and I had a really good excuse to keep not-exercising. (For a while there, crossing the street was enough to get my heart rate up.) But that’s over and life is calming down, and hey, look, I’m 27! Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment, and the doctor recommended that I get more regular exercise, and I decided to get up this morning and get started before I had time to think better of the whole idea. And now I’m telling you all about it because I figure I’ll be too ashamed to quit after just one pathetically short jog if my vast readership knows all about it. You are my accountability buddies.

I was “too full” to finish my asparagus at lunch today, but then I came back upstairs and had a chocolate craving, and I ended up buying a bag of peanut M&Ms from the vending machine. That’s the same machine I complained about a while back, the one that was so fickle about taking my money. Since then I have joined the cyberrevolution and started paying for things with my ID card. And I think the vending machine might be trying to repair our relationship, because so far none of my purchases have shown up in my “account activity.” Does the fact that the M&Ms were possibly free make them more excusable? What about the peanuts? Those are nutritious, right? Anyway, I planned to just eat a few, but before I knew it I’d polished off the entire bag. The fact that the bag was labeled “Tear ’n Share Size” just makes me feel more gluttonous: I tore, but I did not share. Who are you to judge me, M&Ms?

I leave you with a brief list of Summer Movie Romantic Pairings I Find Distasteful:

Anne Hathaway and Steve Carrell
(reason: he's old enough to be her father)
Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth
(reason: they're both old enough to know better)

And don’t miss today’s featured submission on, which made me laugh out loud – and reminded me of Personal Days, Ed’s terrific novel, which I am still reading. (This week I’ve spent a lot of time resenting all the other things that kept me from reading more.) SANDRA could be related to The Sprout, don’t you think?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Your call is important to us

Ed has reminded me I haven’t yet told you about how my Postal Service saga concluded (I say “concluded” hopefully, though I hardly dare to dream the worst is over). And Ed says he likes it when I complain, so I hope that goes for some of you too.

Earlier this week I described the bizarre identity mix-up that began with a few coincidental similarities between my former mailing address and some other guy’s. And I told you how I called my formerly local branch of the post office, the one technically responsible for forwarding my mail, to sort it out, and how I got put on hold for a very long time, and how I eventually gave up and hung up. On Monday, more of the same: I call that branch; the phone rings for a very long time; someone finally answers, and I try to explain my problem (I opened with the letter from the collection agency this time, hoping it might get better results); the person who answered tells me to hold while he tries to find the mail carrier for my former address. I stayed on hold, rinsing escarole and listening to the repeating recorded message about the differences between Priority Mail and Express Mail, for more than 10 minutes before I hung up, because the escarole was all washed and back in the crisper drawer, and it was time for me to go to work. I know it was more than 10 minutes because, when I finally hung up, my cell phone told me the call had lasted 14 minutes and some seconds. (The pre-hold part couldn’t have taken 4 minutes, and the part where the phone was ringing took up most of that.)

I couldn’t think of any way to get results from this branch over the phone – “Let me get your carrier” seemed like the inevitable end of every call. I pictured them setting down the phone and shouting, "Hey, who delivers mail to 100th Street? Anybody?" and then shrugging and walking away from the phone, leaving me to listen to the cheerful man and woman who keep asking, "Are you in the business? ...The 'get-it-there-soon' business?" I was still hoping to avoid having to make a special, during-business-hours trip uptown to 104th Street just to explain my problem in person, so I decided to try calling 1-800-ASK-USPS again and asking to speak to a real, live agent this time. And it worked! I wasn’t even put on hold! The woman I talked to was very pleasant, and after I explained my problem she took down all the information (mine and James’s), apologized for the inconvenience and promised to forward everything on to the person best equipped to handle my problem. She said I’d get a call within one to two business days. Best experience I have ever had with the Post Office. Although I do have some cause to wonder whether she really forwarded everything...

Yesterday my phone rang, and the caller said she was calling from the branch where all my troubles began, regarding the complaint I had submitted about my mail forwarding situation. She explained that the building I used to live in is classified as a “drop house” by the Postal Service, so they are unable to forward any mail from that address, which would explain why I’m not getting my mail forwarded. “But...I am getting my mail forwarded,” I said. She asked if I’d submitted my forwarding request online (I did), and said, in that case, it might work (um, it does), but she repeated that the mail carrier couldn’t do anything with mail that might arrive there for me except mark it “return to sender.” I interrupted her kind of frantically at this point, because I was convinced she would tell me to have a nice day and hang up before I could explain my actual problem, and I’d be worse off than ever. “But that’s not what I called about!” I said, with an edge of panic to my voice. I told her about James Wilson, who is not me. She guessed correctly that his former address and mine must share a building number, and confirmed my suspicion that the forwarded mail is sorted by the first-4-digits-of-surname plus first-3-digits-of-address algorithm. Who knew? So that means this fellow and I are doomed to be linked forever (or at least till my forwarding request runs out – nine more months at the outside!). But she did say she’d make a note that his mail should not go to me, and that my address is not his. Whether she’ll pass that note on to anyone else is still to be seen. Here’s hoping!

Speaking of Ed: Buy his novel! I finally got my very own copy of Personal Days last night, and I will tell you all about when I finish reading it (which will be very soon, I’m sure). But I’ve already read enough to recommend it, and I'm not just saying that because I'm flattered that Ed likes to read my complaints. In fact, I think I'll blurb it right now, just in case Random House is looking for something to pad out the A-pages in the next printing: "Personal Days is one thing I definitely won't be complaining about!"

Saturday, May 17, 2008

It ain't me you're looking for, babe

It's been a long time since I complained about the subway. Perhaps I've been uncommonly lucky lately. Perhaps it's because I take the subway far less now that I live two blocks from the office where I work. Or perhaps I've simply grown jaded and/or resigned to the indignities of that mode of travel. This afternoon, for example, I came uptown from Chelsea on a crowded 3 train, which was making local stops on the 1 track (of course), and I was riding with two people who had brought their very large mountain bikes with them. I could write a whole long rant about how the bikers panicked when we got to 42nd Street and formed a cage with their bikes that blocked access to the doors and to the center of the car... But my heart just isn't in it. Instead, I'd like to bring you the latest installment of what seems to be an ongoing series: Annoying Surprises in Mollie's Mailbox. I think I'll even create a new blog category for mail-related stories. The Postal Service is the new subway!

Just to recap: in February I was excited to learn that I could file my change-of-address information online and skip the dreaded trip to the post office. Then, in March, I complained about our mail carrier's tendency to misdirect mail addressed to me, with my maiden name, to another tenant in this building with that surname (despite our apartment number, which is different from his, being clearly indicated on said mail). Then, last week, an interesting twist on that phenomenon: a large envelope intended for him, but addressed to our apartment number, was delivered to our mailbox. I guess that means our mail carrier has learned to look at the apartment number!

Things got more interesting this week, when this little number showed up in our mailbox. Take a moment to study it (click to enlarge if necessary); it tells a complicated story...

Apparently someone named James Wilson used to live on the Upper West Side. Not in the same building or on the same street as I did, but in the same zip code. And, coincidentally, his building had the same street number as mine. So: the Post Office attempts to deliver this piece of mail to him. It is refused. They look at their records and discover that another person with the same last name, but a very different first name, who lived in the same zip code, although on a completely different street, has registered a request that her mail be forwarded. And so they figure, Hey, close enough, right? I mean, it's not like "Wilson" is a really common name or anything. And even if we're wrong, well, how important can it be that this be delivered to the right person? I mean, what the hell, it's only a summons for jury duty.

So. Two days later, while I was still trying to figure out what to do about this, we got another piece of mail, also addressed to "James Wilson," but with our address. No forwarding. And it was one of those unmarked envelopes with only a P.O. box for a return address. I tried to look for the most likely explanation, but I was having real trouble coming up with what that might be in this case. As you may know, "James Wilson" is my father's name, so first I thought, Perhaps his name and my address got linked somehow and ended up on a bulk mail list? I couldn't think of any opportunity for that to happen in the past three months. So then I thought, perhaps this has nothing to do with my father, and is instead intended for the other "Wilson" who lives in this building -- whose name, I now know, is not "James." Also unlikely. The third explanation seemed no less of a stretch: could this letter, which came directly to us, be intended for the same "James Wilson" who used to live in the 10025 zip code, whose forwarded jury summons we got by mistake?

The husband was the one who got to the bottom of the mystery: He opened the letter and discovered it was from a collection agency. So he called them and explained that the person whose debts they are attempting to collect does not live at this address. Then he asked where they got the idea that he did, and discovered that the guy they want is indeed the guy who used to live at the address the jury summons originally went to. The collection agency told the husband they got this address from the Post Office.

Boy, that Postal Service sure can move swiftly when it wants to!

This morning I called the post office where all this confusion originated -- the one serving the 10025 zip code -- and tried to explain. The woman told me, "I'll try to find your carrier -- he may not be here," and put me on hold before I could ask why she needed to find my carrier to fix what I'm guessing is now a computer error. You know what would make standing in line at the post office even worse? If, while you waited, they played an obnoxious recording of cheerful voices shouting in your ear about all the wonderful services that are offered by the Postal Service and at It just so happens that that's what they do on the phone. I stayed on hold for several minutes, with only the tinest smidge of confidence that this woman would be able to help me, or that she'd even come back to let me know if she couldn't. I pictured what that particular Post Office branch looks like on a Saturday morning. A familiar sense of despair came over me, a sense that my life was slipping away... So I hung up. I'll try again on Monday, and pray that they don't distribute our address to any more of this guy's creditors in the meantime. In the meantime, if you run into James Wilson, formerly of the Upper West Side and no relation to me, please let him know he's been picked for jury duty.

(Update: to read part two of this saga, click here.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Cherchez la femme

It is easy to imagine a more successful Broadway production of Caryl Churchill’s fascinating play Top Girls than the one now playing at Manhattan Theatre Club’s Biltmore Theatre. It’s easy to imagine a cast more comfortable with the panoply of accents they’re asked to adopt—or, perhaps, a cast not forced to layer so many accents on top of the already demanding character work they’re required to do. (If standard American English works for Martha Plimpton’s Pope Joan, why can’t it work for the rest of the characters in Act One?) A better production wouldn’t have worried whether its cast included a face familiar from movies and television, and therefore might have found someone better for the job than Marisa Tomei, whose genuine talent is all but buried under accents she’s nervous about screwing up and anxiety about projecting her voice that leads her to shout all her lines. (She’s not as palpably uncomfortable as Oliver Platt was in Shining City, but that straining-to-be-heard thing that film actors do onstage is very much in evidence here, and is exacerbated by the overlapping dialogue.) I’d like to see a production where the costume designer didn’t get so excited about the “set in the 1980s” part of the job: Laura Bauer’s designs for the legendary figures of Act One are perfect, but when the ordinary women take over in Acts Two and Three, the just-stepped-out-of-a-Cyndi-Lauper-video look is more than a little distracting. I found myself staring in horror at Marisa Tomei’s jeans, which fit her even more awkwardly than her Yorkshire accent. And oy, those Yorkshire accents. It’s hard to imagine a production doing a worse job with that. It’s easy to imagine a more intimate set design; easy to imagine a brisker pace for the second act. And it’s very, very easy to imagine a better poster design than what graces MTC’s website, Playbills and advertising circulars: a series of glamour shots of the cast members—oops, make that most of the cast members. The wonderful Mary Beth Hurt wasn’t young or pretty enough to make the cut (and, in the end, isn’t that just what Churchill’s play is all about?).

As I say, all of that is easy to imagine. But it's not easy to come by. Top Girls was first produced in 1982, but it has never been produced on Broadway, and though I can't say MTC has produced the best of all possible Top Girls, they deserve credit for producing it at all. The play is difficult, demanding, rewarding, thrillingly theatrical—and all of that comes through in MTC's production; perhaps not as strongly as it might, but it does come through. Elizabeth Marvel is terrific, and Martha Plimpton is superb—her take on Pope Joan, imperious and casually masculine, had me shrieking with laughter. (Hi, Martha! That was me!) I would have liked to have seen more of Mary Beth Hurt (and less of Marisa Tomei). And I would love to see that first act again. So if challenging and rewarding and thrillingly theatrical is something you value in a Broadway play, then this is your chance. Bring a high tolerance for bad accents; be aware that the play is long; do what I did and read it ahead of time if you have a chance. And make sure you get a seat in the orchestra section, or at the very least in the first row of the mezzanine. The renovated Biltmore is extremely comfortable and beautiful, but the mezzanine is so sharply raked that if you're sitting behind the first row, you'll spend the whole night looking at the tops of the actors' heads. It's difficult enough to know who's speaking when you can actually see their faces. Luckily for me, the first row of the mezz was mostly empty by the start of the third act, so I had a decent seat for at least that last scene. I suppose that's not such great news for the show—those seats were largely occupied when it began—but I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing if MTC's patrons, people who sat through stuff like Brooklyn Boy and After the Night and the Music and didn't immediately cancel their subscriptions, are walking out of Top Girls. Plenty of others stayed, and on the way out they were all talking about the play—not "Where have I seen that actor before?" or "I couldn't hear a thing, could you?" They were discussing the play itself. Congratulations, MTC, that means you're doing something right.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

And it's still hurting!

Does the sentence "Charlie bit me!" mean anything to you? If not, you need to stop whatever you're doing and watch this video.

It has everything you can ask for in a viral home movie: Drama! Emotion! Adorable children! An adorable child with a British accent! I love the Swedish laughing baby as much as anyone, but I daresay this is better, because this one has an arc. And it's the sort of thing you couldn't script. So please accept it in lieu of actual content here today. I know it isn't new to the internet, but if it's new to you -- you're welcome.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

And the nominees are(n't)...

The Tony nominations were announced yesterday morning, and I turned on NY1 in time to watch it live. David Hyde Pierce! Sara Ramirez! Eat your heart out, NBC!

This was a rebuilding year for Broadway, as they say, so there were not a lot of shocks or thrills on the list of nominees. And since I slacked off in my theatregoing earlier this season (what with the wedding and all), I missed my chance to see a number of the nominated performances. So I'm getting most of my kicks out of what wasn't nominated -- like the conspicuous absence of Mel Brooks's and Disney's latest offerings in the Best Musical category. (Not to mention Glory Days, which, after all that scrambling to rush it to Broadway before the official end of the season, was deemed ineligible for Tony consideration. Ouch.) Now I don't feel any compunction about dismissing The Little Mermaid and Young Frankenstein without actually seeing them, and I'm absolutely thrilled I won't have to watch a number from either during the awards ceremony. [ETA: So much for that.] Mermaid got a nom for its score, which I suppose I have to allow, considering my third-grade devotion to the song "Part of Your World." (Sing with me: "Betcha on land / They understand, / Bet they don't reprimand their daughters..."). And Frankenstein did get a couple of supporting-actor nods. But that's not enough to get either one a performance slot, unless they change the rules. It will be bad enough having to listen to the announcers refer to the latter show by its official title: The New Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein. (That's better than the original title, which I believe was The New Blockbuster Mel Brooks Musical Young Frankenstein Sponsored by American Express Buy Your Premium Tickets Now!, but it's still undignified.) Meanwhile, Cry-Baby was nominated for Best Musical and, more gratifyingly, got nominations for its book, score and choreography. So I'm glad to see good work was recognized.

I'm determined to see as many of the nominated shows as I still can between now and June. Among those I'm hoping to catch: August: Osage County, Top Girls, Passing Strange, In the Heights, Xanadu. If I can, I'd love to see South Pacific; if I still have time and money, I'll consider trying Gypsy again. Obviously I have my work cut out for me. Am I leaving anything out? Do you have your own list of things to see before Tony Sunday? Do tell.

Most intriguing moment of the announcement itself: David Hyde Pierce getting choked up as he announced that Stephen Sondheim would receive a lifetime achievement award. I can only assume he was imagining the American Idol medley of Sondheim's least challenging songs that is likely to accompany the presentation of said award. I'm not looking forward to it either, Dave.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

They'll pass you by

I am not a Bruce Springsteen fan; in fact, I actively dislike most of Springsteen's music. Not looking to start any fights here -- I just want you to know, so you will understand where I'm coming from. Now then. When I first heard that a musical called Glory Days was coming to Broadway, I assumed it was a Bruce Springsteen jukebox musical. As you may know, I was wrong. Glory Days is actually an original musical about four buddies looking back at their high school days after completing their first year of college. I saw it a couple weeks back, and much to my surprise, I left thinking, "Wow, I really wish this show were a Springsteen jukebox musical." Would I want to sit through a couple hours' worth of the Boss's greatest hits? Definitely not. Would I willingly do so if my only other choice were to see the actual, non-Springsteen-related musical Glory Days again? In a heartbeat. Because Glory Days is just that bad.

I've been hoping to get around to saying so before now -- I wanted to warn you. I will never get those 90 minutes back, but I saw an opportunity to save you from my fate. Unfortunately, work got in the way, and now I see that Glory Days opens tonight. And, if there is any justice in the world, it will close tomorrow. So I guess my advice isn't very helpful at this point. Still, for what it's worth, here goes.

Perhaps you've seen the colorful ads around town, which pose the question: "What happens when two 23-year-old writers create a show about four 20-year-old guys?" Apparently the response they were going for was, "Why, that sounds like exactly the sort of thing I'd want to see on a Broadway stage!" Or at least, "I don't know, but I'm certainly curious to find out." If you have an inexplicable fondness for 20-year-old guys, or an ill-placed confidence in 23-year-old writers, you might react that way, I suppose. But if you're like me, your response is probably something like, "Um... it would be kind of obnoxious and not very good?"

Even if, like me, you find that pitch singularly unappetizing, you might still find yourself thinking, "I guess it has to be pretty good, if it's getting produced on Broadway." And that's where you'd be wrong, because you'd be giving the people who make decisions about what should be on Broadway far too much credit. In fact, Glory Days is exactly what you'd think a musical written by two 23-year-old guys about four 20-year-old guys would be -- that is, immature, underdeveloped and earnestly embarrassing to watch. It's also musically void, cheaply produced, and statically staged -- not that the material allows for much excitement or opulence. When I walked into the Circle in the Square theatre, I looked at the metal bleachers preset on the stage and thought, I wonder how they're going to move those out once the show is underway. Then the show started, and about 10 minutes in, I realized: They're not going to move the bleachers. This is the set. Four guys on bleachers: this is the entire evening. You can, of course, stage a very compelling evening of theatre with a single, minimal set, but that's not what happens here. In fact, not very much happens here. The bleachers aren't a clever metaphor; they're literal bleachers, upon which the characters sit, and stand, and occasionally dart about in an unmotivated fashion. Sometimes a character in one corner of the bleachers will not be able to hear what characters in the other corner are saying, but there doesn't seem to be any reason for that, besides a vague sense on the creators' part that you can do that in musicals. Take a good look at the photos that accompany this article about the show. Doesn't that look exciting? Doesn't it just sing? Pity the photographer who had to create publicity stills for this one, because that's the whole show right there. Four guys on bleachers with eager expressions on their faces, singing songs that couldn't be less interesting or memorable if they were making them up on the spot. For 90 minutes.

I feel sorry for the cast members, who try their hardest to breathe life into this limp material; Andrew Call is especially successful at creating a character with presence and personality out of the broad strokes and shallow insights the script provides. It's not their fault the result feels like a consciousness-raising play for junior high students. It's not even the writers' fault, really -- somebody wanted to put their little musical on Broadway! Were they supposed to say no? It's the producers I have a beef with. Last week I alluded to this show when I noted that I'd finally seen a Broadway musical even worse than Little Women. Honestly, the two are difficult to compare -- they were awful in their own unique ways. But in the end, they made me angry in the same way, because I walked away from both knowing that the producers who were responsible for their presence on Broadway had made their decisions based on everything but the quality of the material. These shows don't come to Broadway because someone says, "People need to see this," or "This is Broadway-worthy." They come to Broadway because producers see an opportunity to cash in -- to grab a certain demographic; to make a play for a Tony in a year when the competition is thin; to cut corners and still charge $100 for a ticket. A four-character, single-set, ninety-minute pop musical! It's got everything it needs to be a moneymaker -- who cares if it's any good?

I'd seen people leave in the middle of a show here and there, but I'd never seen audience members streaming out of the theatre the way they were the night I saw Glory Days. And every time someone passed me, I thought, "Take me with you!" They were probably on their way home to dash off their own half-baked musicals, because if this can end up on Broadway... Well, then, maybe it's time to stop pretending that Broadway is the ultimate arbiter of quality and success.

Yes, he lives the life of a madman!

The featured performer in yesterday's odd shots was, of course, my beloved pet box turtle, Wyley (who is in need of a bath and a shell-polish -- but give him a break, he's old). He loves having room to roam in the new apartment, and he is keeping busy exploring every nook and cranny. At this moment I can hear him scratching at the base of a floor lamp he wants to climb. In all his many years, Wyley never met an obstacle he didn't want to climb. Even when it's something he could easily just walk around -- like a sneaker, for example -- he will still try to go over it whenever possible. (And after all, I guess that's the point of his walks -- it's not like he has anyplace to be.) You wouldn't think to look at him that he'd be much of an athlete, but let that be a lesson to you: never underestimate the power of a determined turtle. In fact, I think there's a fable to that effect...

On that particular afternoon, the husband was turtle-sitting, and he pulled out the camera when he noticed Wyley trying to scale the mountain of stuff near his (my husband's) desk. (Wyley doesn't have a desk of his own.) The wicker basket was particularly inviting: by hooking his long (probably too-long) claws into the loops, he could actually get off the ground and squeeze himself into the space between the basket and a nearby bag, like so:

The pictures I posted yesterday are just close-ups of that position. Anyway, after photographing that, the husband tried to deter Wyley by moving some of his stuff around, which is how the bag pictured above ended up next to a cardboard box. And Wyley turned his attention to scaling that...

I wish I could have been around to see how he managed this.

And that's our show-and-tell for today!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Does he live the life of a madman?

I've just been reminded that I haven't posted an "odd shot" in many Mondays. (Actually, just the once.) So here's a puzzler for you to enjoy this morning: what's going on in this picture?

Maybe you didn't come here expecting a faceful of turtle butt. I apologize. Let's check out the same scene from the front.

More details to follow...

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Lowering my ears

I got a haircut today at a place called "Beyond Beauty." This name always makes me laugh. "Actually, I'd like you to stop when you get to beauty, please." I'm still trying to figure out what I should be doing with my hair, now that it's more or less back to normal, post-chemotherapy. I don't really know what I want, so I've been taking a wait-and-see approach... I let it do what it wants, and then I decide whether I like the direction things are going in. But the other day I caught an episode of The Waltons and realized I had the same hairdo as Ralph Waite. And I know for sure I don't want that.
You don't want to style your hair after any character from The Waltons -- rural-Depression-era-seen-through-the-filter-of-1970s-television is not a good look for anyone. But I am particularly not interested in looking like Mr. Walton, much as I respect him and his hardworking, salt-of-the-earth approach to family life. So off to Beyond Beauty I went. And if you see me approaching Waltons territory again, let me know, okay?

This post reminds me of a line I loved from Patricia Marx's novel Him Her Him Again The End of Him: "Life was otherwise peachy. I loved my new haircut (no point in describing it since you never knew my old haircut)."

In my case, life is otherwise busy, which is why I haven't been posting much, and when I finally do it's nonsense like this. But hey, speaking of chemotherapy: it's been two years since my diagnosis with lymphoma, and I remain cancer-free! A checkup this week confirmed it. If you need an excuse to celebrate this weekend, feel free to borrow mine.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Law & Order weecap: chung-chung!

I'm tired this morning, because I filled in to write the TWoP weecap of last night's Law & Order: Original Flavor. A weecap is like a recap, but with a quicker turnaround and thus less opportunity for me to think of clever things to say. But I did my best!
Bernard tells Anita that Bradley's alibi checks out with the fire department, the arguing couple across the alley, and the neighbors who heard him drilling in his studio. (You know, I miss the days when we got to see that part of the investigation.) And the gunshot residue on Sophia's glove indicates that she "suicided after all." Anita leaves, but Lupo is still stuck on "the fact that she bought cupcakes right before she suicided." And I'm stuck on the continued use of "suicide" as a verb. We'll have less of that, if you don't mind. So Lupes thinks they should check out one of the free Systemotics seminars for new parents, just to see if there's anything to this dead-baby angle. Bernard wants to follow boring old procedure -- isn't that just like a former rat-squadder? -- but we all know Lupo don't play that.
How's the new guy working out? What real-life self-help cult was "Systemotics" definitely not patterned on? Which Broadway star did us proud in his guest-starring role? Read the weecap to find out!