Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's a scandal, it's a outrage

So this is apparently real:
PITTSBURGH (AP) — A Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after community members complained about the timing so soon after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The show: Kismet. And although I read this story thinking "There has to be more to it," there isn't, at least not according to the public reports. School district officials didn't find anything objectionable in the content, but the dropped it anyway, because Kismet has Muslim characters. And by the way, by "so soon after the tenth anniversary..." they mean in February. February of 2012.

Now, I'm not sure high school students should ever attempt to put on Kismet, because the music is difficult. But the idea that mentioning the existence of Baghdad or Islam - in a cartoonish way, in a 1950s stage musical - would be somehow inappropriate would never have crossed my mind. (Unless it was decided that the content, cartoonish as it is, was insensitive to Muslims, but we are very far away from that sort of thinking here.)
[School superintendent Thomas] Fleming said sensitivity about the play is understandable because of Flight 93's demise in nearby Shanksville, and because the sudden death of a drama student in a car crash affected students last year.
Oh Lord, it's like the "Ground Zero Mosque" nonsense all over again, smaller and dumber. I don't care where you are; if you're offended by the mention of Arabia, you shouldn't be humored. And that last part might be relevant if (a) the show were being canceled altogether, because the drama students are too upset to put it on regardless of its content, or (b) the show were about a car crash. It does not explain why they have to switch to a different show because someone realized that the guy who sings "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" is a Muslim (and so were the terrorists!).

When I read the brief story in the Johnstown Tribune Democrat, I gathered that what Fleming must have been trying to say is that he feels the kids have been through enough already, and they're trying to protect them from futher turmoil. They're educators, after all:
"We’re in the business of trying to do what’s best for the kids – not to do anything detrimental if we can avoid it."
Yes, think of the lessons they might learn if the performance were allowed to go on.

But wait! This is the best part:
The play has no inappropriate content, [music director Scott] Miller said, but he and other members of the performing arts committee decided to switch to "Oklahoma!" after hearing complaints.
I'd like to think of this as a sly act of rebellion on the part of the "performing arts committee." I just hope nobody tells those concerned community members about Ali Hakim until opening night.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dressing for yet one more spree

Bernadette Peters in Follies: yes, please! I was looking forward to this show for months - we made it our first night out without the baby. My review is posted at Verdicts, Commonweal's new books-and-culture blog. Read it here.

Looking back at what I wrote about the Encores! production four years ago, I see this version has many of the same high points and low points. The high points are not quite as exhiliaratingly high, but on the other hand, I like this Buddy and Phyllis better.

The biggest disappointment, for me, was Elaine Paige, who I thought did a lousy job with "I'm Still Here." Looking back I guess I shouldn't have been surprised; she sang it exactly the way you would expect it to be sung by someone who has spent her career singing Andrew Lloyd Webber music and Tim Rice lyrics. She seemed determined to sell it on the strength of her belting alone, which meant every time she got to the release ("I've gotten through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover..."), she lost track, as an actress, of what her character was saying, and the lyrics got lost in the noise. Plus she had a pop-twang in her voice that doesn't quite work for a musical written and set in 1971 and referencing song styles from the decades before that. Also, she has a very unflattering costume. It's this bright blue dress with a fur wrap around the shoulders and a slit up the leg that makes her look the shape of a slice of pizza standing on its pointy end.

Even if I loved her performance I think I would have been turned off by her bio in the Playbill. I swear, this is what it says:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Yours taste buds will sore

Our go-to pizza place is called Luigi's. It's close and fairly consistent, and a good compromise for our respective expectations when it comes to pizza (you can't get a good Old Forge-style tray around here anyway). I did not know, until I looked at the menu just now, that this establishment is officially called "Luigi's Gourmet Grill." The pizza is tasty enough, but "gourmet" might be raising expectations a bit too high. "Grill," too, come to think of it. I'm pretty sure they use ovens. Perhaps that's why, online, it is also known as "Luigi's Gourmet Pizza" or just "Luigi's Pizza."

Anyway, I am looking at the menu because I want to share with you some text that appears on it, just beneath the restaurant name and above the stock image of a gondola. (Luigi's goes in whole hog on the "Italian" clip art on its menu, pizza boxes, awning, etc., despite the fact that -- as far as I can tell -- every single person who works there is Hispanic.) I know you will find this sample of found poetry as mesmerizing as I do:
Walk Up & Enjoy Your Favorite Foods, Prepaired as the Day Arrives.
We Use Only the Finest Ingredients,
Yours Taste Buds
Will Sore & Bring You Back Time After Time.
We Will Be Happy to Assist You.
The other thing I love about Luigi's is that there is a sign, printed on 8.5 by 11 paper and posted on the wall in several places in the small eat-in area, urging customers not to loiter too long. Except it doesn't simply say that. It begins "Here at Luigi's, we are all family..." -- which is about as far from describing reality as is calling the place a "gourmet grill" -- and it goes on at great length about how one should be thoughtful and make room for other patrons/family members. There's something a little deranged about it, and I always wonder whether it was actually posted by the management, or (as I suspect, especially given the complex English syntax) typed up, laminated, and posted by a nosy patron who is perhaps the only person in the world who likes to hang out there. Luigi's: come for the decent pizza; stay for the perplexing signage.