Corazón Eterno (Always in My Heart) by playwright Caridad Svich is the middle play in this year’s Ignite! festival at the Rep. This festival involves the reading of new, still developing plays before a live audience. We have been regularly attending Ignite! since its inception. This year the festival has moved from the Opera Theater rehearsal hall to the Rep’s Studio Theater, the black box, where the chairs are more comfortable. Svich’s play is a story of unrequited love. As the title implies, it has a Latin American setting and it also uses language reminiscent of Columbian writer Gabriel García Márquez. Its story is as old as Romeo & Juliet and features two star-crossed lovers separated by their families. The twist here is that the two protagonists are both named Julia and their love is the romantic love between two women.
After each reading Seth Gordon, the Ignite! artistic director comes out and quizzes the audience, asking us what aspect of the play was most memorable. I’ve always felt that this Q&A was primarily for the playwright’s benefit, giving them additional feedback on their work. I mentioned that these plays are still at a stage of considerable flux and this is especially true for this play here. I was surprised to learn while researching this post that Corazón Eterno had been performed this February in the Twin Cities. The Pioneer Press gave it a nice review, but also divulged a storyline that was significantly different. Three of the actors appeared on both stages: Mariana Fernandez, Lisa Suarez and Sasha Andreev still play Julia, Clemencia and Michael respectively. Julia still had an overbearing father, but then the other Julia (Keira Keeley) was called Julio and was played by a man. Holy gender-bending, Batman!
I’ll leave you with the following unrelated YouTube link. It shows the band Fever High playing their song “Looks Good on Paper”. It features some rather snappy bubblegum and is my nominee for this summer’s earwig.
Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all met and played together in an impromptu jam session, which Sun Records owner, Sam Phillips dubbed the “Million Dollar Quartet.” Sam had rolled tape that afternoon, from which several albums have ensued. The quartet had primarily played old gospel songs, because those were the ones that they all knew. Last night, we enjoyed the musical version of this story at the Rep. In this version of Million Dollar Quartet gospel is paid its due, with songs like “Down by the Riverside” and “Peace in the Valley”, but the main event is all rock and roll. With twenty-two tunes in the show, there are way too many to enumerate here.
It is the intervals that make this play much more than an Elvis impersonation. The spaces between the songs, where we are given a glimpse at how these legends worked and interacted. That Christmas was a turbulent time for Phillips and Sun. Cash’s contract was up for renewal and RCA was trying to acquire Phillips’ services to help manage Presley. Sam had only a year before sold the rights to Elvis for $40,000, to keep Sun afloat. RCA’s initial response to that offer had been, “We can buy the World Series for less than that.” Acting as MC, Phillips rises above this squabbling sea of virtuosos and rides the rising tide to historical vindication, but not before a host of some mighty fine tunes are performed. At the end of the second act, each member of the quartet ‘solos’ with one of their signature songs: “Hound Dog” for Elvis, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” for Cash, “See you Later Alligator” for Perkins and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” for Lewis. The last two are played out as encores, hyping the rock concert feel of the show. The crowd was on its feet well before the lights came up and it was announced that Elvis had left the building.
Early each day on the steps of Saint Paul’s, the little ole bird woman cries, “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.” While, all around the cathedral the saints and apostles look down as she sells her wares. Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling, each time someone shows that they care.
I’ve only paraphrased it here, but the theme of this Sherman brothers’ song, Feed the Birds, from the movie, Mary Poppins, is about charity. In the movie, young Michael Banks is conflicted. Should he save and invest his tuppence or use it to buy a bag of crumbs for the birds? In the movie, Michael’s father Mr. Banks and his colleagues try to convince him to save, by sing the praises of the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank (also by the Sherman brothers), of investing and that holy grail, compound interest. But how much money would have Michael made if he had chosen to invest his tuppence? Authoress P. L. Travers set her Marry Poppins books in 1910 London. Assuming 6% interest, no bank collapses and that fees don’t gobble up Michael’s crumbs faster than the pigeons would have, then today no longer young Michael would have the grand total of ~16£ to show for his thrift. Just a pittance to show for more than a century of saving. It hardly seems worth the bother, but that sentiment is well telegraphed through the mismatched conflict between these two songs. Feed the Birds is purported to have been Walt Disney’s all-time favorite song and that’s saying a lot.
But hopefully not during the pas de deux. We saw the 2015 Broadway musical An American in Paris that was performed at the Fox Theater. It featured lots of Gershwin set to lots of ballet. It was all very professionally done. Still, when compared to the 1951 movie musical starring Gene Kelly, it comes away somewhat lacking. Call me old-fashioned, because when it comes to a stage production that are translated to the big screen, I’m willing to make allowances. It just seems like the natural flow among art forms, but when you reverse the stream, as in this case, it just doesn’t feel quite right. This musical comes away feeling more like a revue than a play. It doesn’t help that for most of the show the back of the stage is filled with a huge backlit video screen. You can see an example of the effect in the picture below. It almost that during the transition from film to live acting the umbilical was never severed.
Another thing that bugged me, even if it was in no way the fault of this show. I’m speaking of the yellow dress that the female lead Lise wears. It kept reminding me of a similar yellow dress that Emma Stone wore in La La Land. Logic and chronology both dictate that if there was any plagiarism of this detail, it was on the part of La La Land and not American in Paris. It was just my misfortune that I saw the two in the order that I did. Still, the coincidence of this dress also serves as metaphor when comparing these two works. They both borrowed from Gene Kelley, but in the case of La La Land this loan resulted in something both original and beautiful. In the case of An American in Paris the result is still beautiful, but not particularly original.