Incredible, Just Incredible

(Grrrr. For some reason, the overhead lights in my dad’s office have stopped work. Yes, I checked the breaker; my stepmother says this is a known problem. So, I’m working with spot-lighting).

Just got back from seeing The Incredibles. Very good movie, but not for little kids. It dragged a little bit in the middle, but for the most part, it was quite good. I’m sure there were loads of references in the movie that I’m sure I didn’t catch, but I’m sure the main bad guy (Syndroid) was modeled on Freakazoid, especially the hair. I did like the interpersonal relationships between the family, and the movie had some very good messages.

As for the previews: nothing, except perhaps Cars, made me want to go see the movie (and I’m sure there was at least one “Cars” reference in the Incredibles).

Now, back to the office. I’ve done a little bit today, and learned a lot about my dad’s past: his first marriage, his first jobs (including being secretary/treasurer of a company at the salary of $125 per week), early houses (the first house I remember was purchased for $26,000). Its been quite interesting.

Tonight will be a holiday dinner, so it should be interesting.


The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Yup. Annie’s back.

This afternoon, we saw the Cabrillo Music Theatre production of Annie. CMT is a regional theatre, which does musicals at a very reasonable prices. As with every musical we’ve seen from them, the cast was excellent, the production was excellent… it was just a great show. Further, the house was reasonable packed with kids, meaning that a lot of kids getting introduced to theatre. This is a good thing.

I’m sure by now everyone is familiar with the musical. Ignore the movie with Carol Burnett (she was the only good thing in the movie, but they changed the story). If you must watch it on video, go for the one from Disney; at least they kept the story intact.

I saw Annie when it first came out in the early 1980s at the Shubert; I haven’t really seen it on stage since. Looking back, I can now see the book problems. There’s no need or justification for Hannigan in the second act (similar to the problem faced in The Rothschilds with Hal Linden’s character). The entire “search for the parents”, especially the business with the Mudges, seems tacked on. Of course, there’s the suspension of disbelief in the cabinet room with FDR (and I’m sorry, but I like Tom Hatten as FDR) when cabinet members stand up and sing (Republicans too, Oliver). Were settling partisan difficulties that easy. I can also see why the attempted sequels (Annie 2: The Revenge of Miss Hanagan, or later, Annie Warbucks) failed (although I would love to get the music from the latter, but I like failed musicals).

But, all in all, it was a good show. Their next show, in March, is Annie Get Your Gun.


Tomorrow is Mitzvah Day; I’m going to help my daughter stuff backpacks with school supplies for needed students. This should be fun. I’ll report on it tomorrow evening.


Side by Side… by Side

Last night, we went to the Pasadena Playhouse to see their current show, Side by Side by Sondheim. The production we saw had Richard Kind (of Spin City fame) as the narrator; and Davis Gaines (of Phantom of the Opera fame), Julie Dixon Jackson, and Tami Tappan Damiano as the singers. The show wasn’t well attended; I guess our showing was only 50% full.

For those unfamiliar with this show ( link), it is basically a revue of Sondheim material from before 1977; thus, you won’t see selections from better known pieces such as Sweeny Todd, Assassins, Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George, and so on. The material is primarily from Company, Follies, Anyone Can Whistle, Gypsy, and West Side Story, with a few other shows thrown in. The selections vary based on the cast.

I enjoyed the show, but they seemed to choose (for the most part) the slower pieces that really don’t show some of the true lyrical talents of Sondheim. I felt that the collaborations got short shrift: only one or two songs from Gypsy or WSS, and the choices weren’t such gems as America or When Momma Gets Married (although almost anything from Gypsy is good). There was only one tune from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (and it was the title tune).

There were some hilarious moments, such as Davis Gaines playing the third stripper in You Gotta Have A Gimmick (Gypsy), or some of the interplay during The Boy From … (The Mad Show). There were also some surprise songs: I was totally unaware that Sondheim had written Broadway Baby; I really want to get the album from Follies now. I also recognized the song I’m Still Here (Follies), although I don’t know where I heard it before (perhaps a compilation album). I was already quite familiar with the songs from Company (which I like). The number from Pacific Overtures didn’t impress me much. I remember when P.O. came to the Ahmanson in 1976, although I didn’t see it then.

The singers were all good, although I wasn’t too impressed with Davis Gaines. His voice was marvelous, although he was overmic-ed. He also didn’t have the right look; I would have preferred someone like David Garrison. Still, it was a good production.

Update: One thing I forgot to mention. We had dinner at Tropical Caribbean Rest. across the street from Burger Continental, our usual pre-theatre joint. We probably won’t be back. They didn’t indicate on the menu when a dish had bell peppers (bad), and although some of what we had was excellent, the entree was only so so. I had a Lechon Cubano which had tasty onions, but on the whole I prefer the Cuban Roast Pork at Versailles. gf_guruilla had a chicken dish that was covered in peppers (which wasn’t indicated on the menu): she said it was tasty, but not what she was expecting. On the other hand, she had an appetizer that was some form of Caribbean tamale (I’m sure tuluum could give us the real name, perhaps) that was a mix of some meat and green plaintains served on a banana leaf. You can find a formal review of the restaurant here. Next time, we may try one of the other Caribbean restaurants in Pasadena (as long as they are not in Old Town, which is too crowded).


Portrait of a Tortured Artist

Tonight, we went to go see Vincent in Braxton at the Pasadena Playhouse. We ended up switching at the last minute to the 5:00 PM show (we normally go at 9:00 PM show) because our planned babysitter cancelled at the last minute, and we couldn’t find another. That worked out OK (I love the Pasadena Playhouse and how they cater to subscribers); we ended up 7th row center!

Favorite Quote of the Show: “A woman is not old as long as she loves and is loved.” (which is an actual quote from a letter by Vincent Van Gogh)

This show was about a three-year period (1873-1876) in the life of Vincent Van Gogh (Graham Miller) when he lived in Braxton, England, in the house of Ursula Loyer (Stephanie Zimbalist), her daughter Eugine (Carolyn Palmer), and their lodger, Sam Plowman (Trevor Murphy). Also featured in the play was Anna Van Gogh (Tracie Lockwood), Vincent’s sister. The playwright (Nicholas Wright) hypothesises this as the time that VVG began to discover art. The claimed reason is a love affair with an older woman who encouraged him. The acting of the play was very good. Initially the story was odd, but then it got interesting. The last act, however, was a bit odd. For those into tortured artists, it would be good.

Their next play, however, should be great! They are bringing in Side by Side by Sondheim. We really do like the Playhouse. They treat subscribers well, and have consistently good productions, even if sometimes the subject is odd.

In other news, I had a great afternoon with my Cousin Jerry. We went over family history, music, and he may be helping to build some furniture for my daughter’s room. We really need to see him and his family more (he lives out in Ventura).

[As folks have noticed, I’ve developed some new icons (some folks haven’t seen yet), and remodeled others. I’d welcome comments on the icons. I’ve been having fun in Paint Shop Pro.]


Good Morning, Baltimore

First, from the “you can’t take me anywhere” department: As always, we always run into folks we know whereever we go. As we got on the Metro Red Line to go from North Hollywood to the Pantages theatre, who do we run into but Jeanne L., who was my co-chair of Social Action when I was at Kol Tikvah. I haven’t seen Jean in about 6-7 years; it was great talking to her. When we finally get to the Pantages, we run into Charlene, one of the best friends of my wife’s sister. We can’t go anywhere!

On to Hairspray. Wow! What a wonderful show. Marissa Janet Winokur (“Tracy”) and Bruce Vilanch (“Edna”) head a spectacular cast. You can tell they are having real fun with this show, and the audience shares in the fun. My favorite part was the adlibbing during Timeless to Me: At one point, Wilbur grabs Edna’s chest, and she turns to the audience and says “Governor Schwartznegger, I didn’t know it was you”… and a moment later “I know it’s not the governor of New Jersey”. You can also see that the other actors are having fun with this from the simple joy on their faces during the show. Pure and simple fun. Go see it, it is well worth the price! I don’t say that about many shows at the Pantages.

After the show, we went up to Game Gather 5 in La Canada/Flintridge. Played a few games: Crokinole, 10 Days in the USA, Chrononauts, and two rounds of Coloretto. S&F played a game of David & Goliath. Fun evening for two hours of gaming.

Back home now. Still chasing meal moths. I hate it when we get an infestation. I did find one infested package—its been tossed, but I now need to examine every dried grain product, which is a PITA.


Wow! 64 Contras took the Field Last Night…

Last night, we attended the Drum Corps International Tour of Champions. Wow! This event featured six of the top winningist corps (Phantom Regiment, Madison Scouts, The Cavaliers, The Cadets, Santa Clara Vanguard, and Blue Devils) doing their shows, plus an instant encore… followed by a combined concert show (just imagine 64 contratubas and over 400 horns filling the Rose Bowl, and you can get an idea!). No scoring, just college-age kids showing their talent. Wow!

This live page gives both video and audio from the show, but I don’t know how long it will be up.

As for the Rose Bowl itself: This was my first time there. I hadn’t realized how small the stadium was, or how close together the seats were. Now I understand when they complain about that facility. It is dated.


“Luck Be A Lady Tonight…”

Last night, we went to the Muny Opera to see the musical Guys and Dolls. For those unfamiliar with the Muny: it is a gigantic outdoor theatre in Forest Park—the closest Los Angeles analogue would be the Greek Theatre or Hollywood Bowl, except that the Muny is (a) locally run, and (b) presents only musicals. The theatre, which according to the program seats 11,000, presents six musicals each summer. The last time I was at the Muny was in 1987, when I saw Big River; I also seem to recall seeing Desert Song at the Muny with my parents, probably in 1979.

Last night was Guys and Dolls, which is gf_guruilla‘s absolutely favorite show. The production was supurb. Sky Masterson was played by Jeff McCarthy, who played Officer Lockstock in Urinetown in New York and Los Angeles (my review). Sarah Brown was played by Catherine Brunell, part of the original cast of Millie. Nathan was Bruce Adler, a Muny regular who was on Broadway in Crazy for You. Miss Adelaide was played by Stacy Logan, another Broadway veteran from Sweet Smell of Success and Crazy for You (she can be seen on the PBS version). From this, you should get the idea that the cast was top-notch. The performance was top-notch as well; all three of us were thoroughly entertained. About my only comment performance-wise was that I kept seeing Officer Lockstock in Jeff McCarthy’s performance (which made the musical even more funny). The performances were great, the orchestra was great, the sets were great, the sound and mic-ing was great (which is rare on an opening night)… even the parking was great (and free—find that in LA!). About the only flaw was the air conditioning system. Recall: this was outdoor in St Louis in summer: thus, the temperature hovered between 80° and 90° with 80% humidity. Schvitz-city—we were limp by the end of the overture. We got home around 12:00 AM and were asleep by 1:00 AM.

One other observation about St. Louis so far: The people in this city are the friendliest folks I have ever met. If it wasn’t for the weather, we could see ourselves living here.

OB Roadgeekiness: One thing we had to drive through yesterday was the interchange at Olive Street Road (yes, that’s its name) and I-270. This is a SPUI (Single-Point Urban Interchange, for the non-roadgeeks). It was my first time driving a SPUI, and although I can see the economy, I found it a bit disconcerting.

Today’s agenda is to go visit Hannibal MO, which is about a 2 hour drive north of here. This is the boyhood home of Mark Twain, about whom Small and Feisty will be studying next year. In the evening, we’ll get together with our friend Linda and do laundry.


West Side Story

Yesterday afternoon, my family (together with ellipticcurve, ixixlix, and the Karate Kid) went to see West Side Story at Cabrillo Music Theatre in Thousand Oaks. An excellent production, marred only by my worring about my wife who was fighting a killer headache resulting from one of the boards on the bottom of my daughter’s bunk bed falling off and hitting her head the night before (of course, me being who I am, thought she was mad at me). Back to WSS: they had excellent actors playing Tony and Maria (although I do get annoyed by overtly Christian references in actors’ bios), and the stage design was excellent. There were a few technical glitches—these are normally worked out for our subscription slot, but we moved up a week so we were actually seeing the 3rd performance. In any case, it was well worth the $11/ticket, and we got to expose our daughter to a classic story.

This morning ellipticcurve and I will put together a new bed for my daughter (to get rid of that misbehaving board), and then the ladies (gf_guruilla, Small & Feisty, and ellipticcurve) will go out to hit the last stores in the Quilters Run, while I start getting the packing together for our vacation next week.

Lastly, thanks to ixixlix for an excellent dinner and game of Ticket to Ride last night.

P.S.: A number of folks have pointed me to This Land Is Your Land, a Kerry/Bush parody that is hilarious.

P.P.S.: The music is a song that was cut from West Side Story. The Lost in Boston series from Varese Sarabande Records is a series of CDs where each CD is a collection of songs cut from musicals during tryouts.