Beautiful Playbill

We saw Beautiful – The Carole King Musical last night at the Fox. We had seen this show before, when we were in London, but it was good to see it again. This musical tells the story of her songwriting career from her high school debut to her appearance at Carnegie Hall, after the release of Tapestry. I prepped for the evening’s show by listening to the soundtrack, which I had on steady rotation, while I was also preparing for next week’s plaster/paint extravaganza. I did catch the noon local NPR show that interviewed Paul Blake, the Beautiful producer. Blake had been the Muny impresario for decades and on opening night, he would introduce each week’s show. I had hoped that he would do the same for the Saint Louis debut of Beautiful, but it was not to be. After the show we did see John, my former colleague and mentor. He told me about a regular luncheon of retired Boeing engineers that I now plan to attend. You can look for me there, sitting at the old guy’s table.

Retro Nerds

Retro Nerds Drummer – Jeff Graham

Anne and I attended our first rock concert, since when? I think that it was Billy Joel in the Checkerdome, in the eighties. It might have been The Arena by then, but he remembered it as the Checkerdome. He also recalled its awful acoustics. Last night’s concert was part of the Maplewood Summer Concert Series, held in Ryan Hummert Park. The band was The Retro Nerds, an 80s tribute band. While they did their sound checks, we lounged on the lawn and picnicked.

First act highlights included Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean and Thriller. I ain’t the one… There was a news splash this week that an Eagle’s greatest hit album had surpassed Michael’s Thriller album, as the all time best-selling record. Excuse me! Isn’t it stacking the deck to combine five years of work into one compilation and then call it the best-selling album. The Eagle’s actual best-selling album is Hotel California, which still trails Thriller. Sorry for the rant, but I don’t think that Retro Nerds played any of the Eagle’s biggest hits.

Other notable songs (i.e. tunes that I recognized) were Whip It by Devo, Van Halen’s Jump and Journey’s Someday Love Will Find You. If you want to see Retro Nerds they will be opening at Comic-Con in Chicago tomorrow. Other sentimental favorites include Safety Dance by Men Without Hats. Footloose by Kenny Loggins and Wild Cherry’s Play That Funky Music.

Several times during the concert the lead vocalist (Jason Nelson) referred to the day as Friday, as if it was already the weekend, but maybe for a touring rock band, Friday is their Monday. At the time, I just laughed it off as another retired guy joke, not having to go to work tomorrow. It was with a dawning realization that we awoke on Thursday morning that it was not the weekend yet.

During intermission, one of Anne’s kiddo’s made several drivebys. Anne also rescued the beanie hat of one of the band members that had gotten caught in a low tree branch. Not to be too much the fashionista, but you can only rock white shorts and a red satin tank top, while holding the guitar. Much of their repertoire I didn’t recognize, but I attribute that to listening to too much Raffi in the late 80s. Their finale was Fight for Your Right to Party by the Beastie Boys and their encore was Jumping by INXS. It was a fun concert and a perfect night.

Soul Food Supper

Research in a Growth Hormone, Alfred Jensen, 1978

Black History Month is winding down and last night, Anne and I attended the annual Soul Food Supper, at the high school. We have been regular attendees of this event for years and the turnout this year was the biggest ever. We arrived only 15 minutes after the doors opened and there was already a huge line that snaked through the cafeteria. This afforded Anne the opportunity to hobnob with everyone as we moved along: Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came…

While in line, we passed by the high school jazz band that was serenading the crowd. I quipped to her, “Look, it’s Dave’s old band.” David had played the saxophone in the jazz band, when he was in high school. The current iteration of the jazz band is a lot larger than when he was there and I must admit that they sound better too. Dave never liked to practice the sax all that much. Now, music students use software that monitors, tabulates and reports on how many minutes are spent practicing. It looks like Big Brother would have been better at getting Dave to practice than we were.

Still in line and just after we had passed the jazz band, we met Chris H, Dave’s former music teacher and band director. Chris still works for the school system. He is in IT now. When he asked us how David was doing, I was able to regale him, “He is Doctor Dave now. Last year, he got his PhD at Purdue. Now he is at Harvard Medical School.” Chris asked us what was Dave’s area of research. I told him hearing, which seemed to impress him more than all of the rest.

Finally, we reached the serving line. The fare has changed little over the years. Fried chicken headlined our plates and was accompanied by sweet potatoes, collard greens, mashed potatoes with gravy, black-eyed peas and corn bread. We found seats right in front of the middle school choir, just as they began to sing.

As we closed out the supper, people came and went from our table. The most memorable person who shared our table was a two-year-old child. He never said much, primarily because he spent most of the time feeding his face. He ate every food on his plate and then he began raiding the plates of his two parents. Yeah folks, the food really was that good. 

Challenging All Drummer Boys

Purdue Big Bass Drum

Last night, while I was minding my own business, I heard those tale-tell notes, Puh-rum-pum-pum-pum, lofting in from the living room, where Anne had the TV on. Hearing this tune meant that for yet another year, I had lost the Little Drummer Boy Challenge (LDBC). The rules of which are simple, if you hear this song between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, you lose. The challenge is always a one and done affair and there is never any fuzz on that.

The hipster origins of the LDBC lies in a general revulsion to the sappiness of all too many Christmas carols and has become focused on this one particular carol that attempts to stand astride the Christmas carol religious-secular divide. The song tells a nativity story, but introduces as its focus a character that never appears in the bible. It attempts to tell a religious tale featuring the likes of Rudolf the Reindeer. You can consider the LDBC as a just war on Christmas. 

I knew that with this year’s earlier than normal Thanksgiving that the challenge would be tougher than normal. So, I should be glad that I made it as far as I did, but the suddenness of my loss and the fact that it occurred in the safety of my own home, has made this defeat all the more incomprehensible. I rushed into the living room to confront Anne for her hand in my downfall, but while I found a Christmas special on the television, I also found Anne fast asleep. She had a tiring day that featured a field trip to the Magic House. So, I’ll just let it go… 

On Your Feet!

Bandaloop Duo — Way Up on Their Feet!


We went to the Fabulous Fox last night, to see the latest Broadway musical offering that has come to town, “On Your Feet!”, the Emilio and Gloria Estefan story. This bio-play is part of the current trend in musicals, where a musician’s life story is combined with their already popular catalog to create a winning theater package. Earlier this year, in London’s West-End, we saw and loved  “Beautiful”, Carole King’s life story. Showbiz has always loved to tell stories about itself, so this trend comes as no real surprise. 

“On Your Feet!”, sports a large orchestra (ten) and an even larger cast. It begins with the two families emigration from Cuba, covers childhood, their early music careers, breakout success, the 1990 bus accident and its aftermath. All of which is punctuated with the steady beat of their popular hit songs. As is de rigueur with these bio-plays the finale is accompanied by endless encores, where all of the hits that you’ve been patiently waiting for are finally performed. It was an enjoyable show and by its end, everyone in the audience was on their feet.

While, searching for a suitable graphic to accompany this post, I happened upon the above picture of a couple of dancers from Bandaloop, an acrobatic dance troupe, They came to town in 2013 and performed around the corner from the Fox, by rappelling down the front face of the twenty-story Continental Life Building. They headlined Dancing in the Streets and seemed a good fit here.

Taste of Maplewood

We moseyed over to Maplewood today, for a little something and participated in the Taste of Maplewood. Anne of course was the belle of the ball there and I got to meet a lot of people that she knows from school. We didn’t eat a whole lot. I had a Spanish fried rice dish and Anne had ceviche. Then we each had a little something for dessert. The MRH-HS Rhythm and Blues Band serenaded us.