Friday, July 17, 2015

Running Away to the Circus

I had a grand day out yesterday. It's been a while since I went to what I lovingly refer to as "the little old lady matinee" at the Music Hall. The Thursday afternoon show tends to be dominated by retirees. There are even retirement home vans in the parking lot. That gets entertaining when the show is a little weird or different instead of being a classic standard like The Sound of Music or Camelot. I still grin when I think of the group I ended up sitting with to see Spamalot. At intermission, they asked me, "Do you understand what this is about?" Though there was one intrepid lady who went and bought the CD at intermission so she could read the lyrics off the liner notes. Her problem was being able to hear and understand the lines, and once she could read them, she was fine and thought it was funny.

Pippin (at least this production, a recent revival) is a pretty odd show because it's one of those show-within-a-show things that gets all symbolic and metaphorical, as it takes place within a circus, breaks the fourth wall a lot, and has some rather racy stuff conveyed in odd symbolic ways. Plus an entire number that gets into some dungeony S&M imagery. So, yeah, watching the little old ladies watch it was rather entertaining, as was listening to the conversations about it on the train ride home. I loved the circus elements. A lot of the cast were actual circus performers, with a couple of acrobatic teams, some jugglers, and some rhythmic gymnasts/aerialists. They used a trapeze (stationary, not flying), some suspended hoops, silks, and poles. Then there were a few numbers involving crazy tumbling through hoops. There's a place nearby that offers circus fitness classes, and now I'm kind of tempted to give it a try.

John Rubenstein, who was the original Pippin in the 1972 cast, now plays the king, and he stole the show (I found myself reminded of the evil lawyer he played on Angel and now want to rewatch his episodes). For a while, I was feeling really bad for the guy playing Pippin. He had the proper Bambi-like look and a lovely tenor voice with a beautiful high end, but I was starting to feel like he was cast for his looks and his voice because he was just so awkward, like he was suddenly conscious of having hands and feet and wasn't sure what to do with them. There was all this amazing movement on stage, and he could barely walk across the stage without looking like it required concentration. But then there was a cathartic scene near the end when he and the Lead Player were alone on stage and started dancing in some pretty tough Fosse-like choreography, and he could really cut loose. So it turned out all the awkwardness was acting and was part of the character. It gradually went away through the show. I guess it shouldn't have been a huge surprise, as there were a couple of moments when he got thrown around by the acrobats and made it look easy (though I noticed all the circus professionals moving into just the right places to spot him whenever he did stunts).

Though I should have remembered that if I like a fictional portrayal of anything taken from history, I should never look up the real history. In this case, the only resemblance between history and the show was the names and one incident, to the point where I think it's all metaphorical and wasn't meant to be at all about Charlemagne and his son.

In other news, I got my final WorldCon schedule, and it turns out there's a reason I just got one programming item. They're also doing a Discworld convention within the convention that was programmed separately, and I'm all over that one. Plus, I ended up with a reading, an autographing, and a kaffeeklatsch, and I'm one of the mentors for the writers' workshop. So I will be very, very busy and will have to stop whining about them not knowing who I am. I bought my plane tickets earlier this week. And now I need to reread all my Terry Pratchett books. For work. It'll be a real trial, let me tell you.

No comments: