Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recess: The Real Stuff

True confession time: I'm an awful theatre audience. After spending most of my adult life working on the boards I've developed a terrible intolerance for the stuff. It pains me to admit this, but I find most theatrical attempts glib.

My stomach clenches at cheap tricks, sloppy writing, out-front direction and acting that lacks specificity.

On the other hand, when smart risks are taken I'm the biggest fan. I can list the experiences that swept me away — and we're going back a few because there aren't many. Cherry Jones in "The Heiress," Annette Bening and Alfred Molina in "The Cherry Orchard," Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's "Caroline or Change" with Tonya Pinkins, and "Big River," directed by Jeff Calhoun with Deaf West.

Yeah. It's sad and it makes me sad, but there it is.

I still attend and look and hope.

A recent outing was a new musical, "Leap of Faith" at the Ahmanson Theatre. This show has its eyes on Broadway and, in fairness, I'm not going to review it here because I saw a preview performance. The show is still in the works and I absolutely appreciate the supreme challenges of mounting a new musical. There are so many components to get right and so many that can go wrong and the damn things can take forever to develop.

That said, I will disclose a most exciting moment on the night I attended.

Some say they love live theatre because it's so real and anything can happen. It's true that the unexpected can happen.

Raul Esparza is the headliner of "Leap of Faith," no two ways about it. I'd seen Mr. Esparza as Bobby in "Company" and perked up at his dazzling skill and charisma.

In "Leap of Faith" he had a number with a young boy on the porch of a farmhouse. The boy started to sing, Esparza had some dialogue then started to sing himself. It went back and forth for a few notes...and then Mr. Esparza said, "I think we better start again."

The audience thought this was scripted dialogue until he said, "No, really, let's go again from the top. Hey folks, this is a preview and these things happen."

He waited for the conductor to find his spot and asked us, "How're you liking the show so far?"

Huge applause. We were in the palm of his hand when he shattered the fourth wall into smithereens.

It was fantastic. Loved it. So cool. When they were ready the boy, a complete pro, plucked a note from the air, started the song and they finished the scene, radiating in the glow of audience love.

Yup, sometimes it's real and very worth it.

What it means to be a best friend means to back your friend when he's in trouble. Like if I were Mcbeth I would not have killed my best friend Banquo. I would have told him.
Oliver, 4th grade

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