Love Never Dies

The Fabulous Fox

The Fabulous Fox theater, located here in Saint Louis, is an ornate, if somewhat ponderous masterpiece. It is one of five palaces that movie pioneer William Fox built in the late 1920s. It is an architectural twin to the one built in Detroit. Its interior is decorated in a heavy, baroque, faux Siamese-Byzantine style that is fashioned after mosques of ancient India. Its appearance is awe-inspiring and is the perfect venue for the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Love Never Dies”.

This show is the sequel to Webber’s most successful musical, “The Phantom of the Opera”. It is set ten years after “Phantom” and relocated from beneath the streets of Paris to Coney Island. Most of the original play’s surviving characters are present: the Phantom, Christine, Raoul, Madame and Meg Giry. A new addition is Gustave, Christine’s son. Christine, Raoul and Gustave arrive in America, supposedly so that Christine can sing for Roger Hammerstein, but are soon lured out to Coney Island, where a chorus of supporting actors supply a bawdy carnival atmosphere that lends a sinister vibe to the proceedings.

“Love Never Dies” has been almost universally panned since its inception in the West End. A fact that multiple rewrites has not reversed, not in New York and not on the road. The sets and costumes are both sumptuous, matching the décor at the Fox and while Webber may argue that love never dies, his music certainly has. There are no catchy numbers such at the title tune in “Phantom” or its “The Music of the Night”. The audience isn’t even offered a reprise on any of these hits. It is a sequel after all. What is left is an ornate, ponderous score that plods on to the end and lands in an interminable death scene. May it rest in peace.

Brothers of the Deer

Brothers of the Deer, Michael Coleman, 1986

According to the artist Michael Coleman, “Brothers of the deer refers to the ravens in the painting. The ravens were in many cases spotted on the horizon, preceding the migration of the great herds of caribou, and called brothers of the deer by northern tribes,” in referring to this painted scene on Vancouver Island.

I called my dad, because I was worried about my Aunt Betsy, his sister. She lives in Wilmington, NC and had decided to shelter in place during Flo. I first asked him how things were going, to which he answered, “Not so good.” My heart sank, but as it turned out, it was nothing. His Internet was out and he was missing it. It had been out for a few days and AT&T’s past promises of fixing the problem had already come and gone. It has been diagnosed as part of a sporadic outage that is affecting the area and has nothing to do with the equipment at his end. It sounded like a first world problem. As it turned out, he had called Betsy after the storm and she was fine. There was no damage to her home, but she had lost power. Consequently, she didn’t want to talk very long, for fear of losing the charge on her cellphone.

Anne and I went to The Rep last night, kicking off our theater season. I had to switch our regular tickets for this show and a number of others, in order to accommodate our future travel schedule. I did pretty well, except for a show in January (Sorry Joanie) and last night’s show, which I had to re-reschedule.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita” was the show.  This historical musical about Eva Peron of Argentina was one of Webber’s early shows. As it turns out, next week we have tickets for “Love Never Dies”, Webber’s sequel to “The Phantom of the Opera” and one of his latest shows. It will be interesting to compare and contrast these two works. I noticed many similarities between this show’s music and its predecessor “Jesus Christ Superstar”. It will be interesting to look for similar comparisons between “Phantom” and “Love Never Dies”. 

Meet Me In St. Louis

We attended the Muny last night. Meet Me in St. Louis was playing. We’ve seen this show many times before. It is almost a perennial hit around here. We went to the show primarily because it was the last show of the season and this being the Muny’s centennial season and all. Tonight is the season finale, but we went last night, just incase a rain check would be needed. The motto for this season is a line borrowed from this musical, “Right here in Saint Louis.”

For those of you not familiar with this show, it is set in the year leading up to the 1904 Saint Louis World’s Fair, the four Smith daughters learn lessons of life and love, even as they prepare for a reluctant move to NYC. Part of the reason that Meet Me is always a favorite is its strong repertoire of musical numbers. There is the title song of course, but there is also the Trolley Song. Saint Louis is about to get its first real trolley in decades, Clang, clang, clang went the trolley. The story climaxes to the heart string twanging tune of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. By this point in the musical the actors are performing in turn-of-the-century winter garb, outdoors in Saint Louis’s sweltering heat, but the show must go on. Actually, it was pretty nice last night.

Meet Me is full of reprises. In addition to the explicit reprises of Meet Me, Have Yourself, The Boy Next Door and Boys and Girls Like You and Me, there was a de facto reprise added to this production. The first act has, Under the Bamboo Tree. This is followed in the second act with Under the Anheuser Bush.

Today, during our bicycle ride, we swung by the History Museum, which has an exhibit celebrating the Muny’s hundred years. Most of this exhibit is dedicated to the Wizard of Oz, which by looking at the catalog of performances in the back of the program is one of the most popular and frequently performed musicals. I think that nowadays they do this show as the annual children’s show, so that all the flying monkeys can scare the bejesus out of the little tikes.

We’ve been going to the Muny now, for a third of its run. When we first moved to Saint Louis, we snickered at the blue haired old ladies who probably had been coming to the Muny since its inception. Honest, the light from the theater’s spots made their hair glow blue. We had season tickets for years. For part of that run, we dragged the boys to the shows. Dave’s first show was South Pacific. After the show Anne asked him what was his favorite part. “When the airplanes flew over”, he answered. That would have been during the Star Spangled Banner, which precedes every performance. When Anne started teaching, we started to spend less time in Saint Louis, at least during the summer. Now that I’m retired, we’re hardly here at all, but it was good to celebrate the Muny. 

Hamilton

Hamilton Logo + $10 Bill

We saw Hamilton last night at the Fox. It was great! Everything that we had hoped for was realized. We loved the songs. We loved the rap. It was worth the wait, two years in our case. I was heartened to see all of the black and brown faces on stage portraying our all white founding fathers. It visualized a future for this country that fulfills every promise that has been made. We have crossed over and joined that select group who have seen Hamilton. I feel so elite now.

Nonsense and Beauty

Covent Garden

Nonsense and beauty have close connections. – E. M. Forster

Another day means another play. On Saturday, we attended the Ignite! reading of the new Scott C. Sickles play, “Nonsense and Beauty”. Here is it’s synopsis:

In 1930, the writer E.M. Forster met and fell in love with a policeman 23 years his junior. Their relationship, very risky for its time, evolved into a 40-year love triangle that was both turbulent and unique. Based on a true story, Nonsense and Beauty captures the wit and wisdom of one of the last century’s great writers.

We’ve been attending Ignite! since its beginning six years ago. Each year The Rep produces three of these readings, making for a total of eighteen so far. We have attended most of these performances. “Nonsense and Beauty” is by far and away the best written play of the lot and the most mature one too. By which I mean, for many of these readings, the script is being revised right up to the moment of presentation. This often results in a still rough around the edges product. This is a natural artifact of the play writing process and as such is excusable. But when such a finely tuned vehicle like “Nonsense and Beauty” comes along it puts the others to shame. Typically, The Rep chooses one of each Ignite! season’s offerings to produce as a play. I pray that they choose this one. 

Born Yesterday

Honeycomb Moray

The character of Eddie Brock is that of an eel, who slithers into Washington, all ready to snatch up his next lucrative deal. Eddie is into junk, as in a junkyard, of which he is king. He owns 500 yards already, but now has his hungry eyes set upon claiming even more. Which is what brings him to our nation’s capital. The period is the late 1940s. The war is over and Eddie has cast his gaze across the Atlantic at the ruins of Europe and all of its scrap steel. He has already secured a senator in his pocket and with his aid all Eddie wants is for government to step aside and let him do what he does best in this world, make more money.

Following along in Eddie’s wake is first his shifty lawyer, who facilitates his dealings and Billie Dawn, Eddie’s platinum blonde showgirl-friend. Billie her baby doll voice and Jersey accent has become an impediment to Eddie’s ambitions. She lacks the social graces and intellectual acumen that Eddie needs, if she is going to circulate with him in capital high society. Enter a reporter, from the New Republic yet, who interviews Eddie. Eddie takes a shine to the reporter and enlists his help as a tutor for Billie. 

The preceding paragraphs summarize the first act of “Born Yesterday”, the final play on the main stage at The Rep for this season. This comedy has enjoyed many showings over the years, in both theater and on the screen. After seeing this show, it is obvious that this particular revival is a reaction to Donald Trump.

The play’s titled is derived from the phrase, “I wasn’t born yesterday.” In its second act, Billie attains an awakening and Eddie learns to rue his wicked ways. Not the least because he and his crooked lawyer have signed over many of his junkyards into Billie’s name in a tax scam. Also, Billie and the reporter/tutor have naturally fallen in love together.

The show is anachronistic is many ways. The prices are for one. Eddie brags about the exorbitant cost of his Capital Hill penthouse ($250 per night), which seems ridiculously cheap by today’s standards, unless of course you happen to be the head of the EPA. More glaringly out of sync with modern sensibilities and the #MeToo era is Eddie’s rude and often harsh treatment of Billie. But one thing that “Born Yesterday” does get right is its depiction of the corruption and graft that powerful and entitled men still practice to this day.

Last night’s performance was near the end of this play’s run and the house was less than full. Leavening the crowd last night were many students, both from local high schools and foreign exchange students from Webster. Two exchange students were seated behind us and it was interesting listening to them at intermission and after the show. Together they were trying to puzzle out this now seventy years old political satire and what it means today.