The Humans

Reindeer Cave Painting

While not exactly a cave, the duplex of Brigid Blake and her boyfriend Rich fits the bill. It’s a ground floor/basement up-and-down, with one barred window that looks out on a cigarette littered alley. Still, it has an amazing amount of space for Manhattan. The fact that this Chinatown abode is in the flood zone only enhances its affordability. As an aside, its layout reminded us of Dan’s place.

That’s the place, the time is Thanksgiving. Once an occasion to appreciate God’s gifts, the holiday is presented here as a primordial feast. The foldout table is set, all that is lacking now is a human sacrifice, which will come soon enough. The Blake clan, all four of them (mother, father, sister and grandmother), descend upon NYC, à la the movie Pieces of April, which handles holiday melancholy with more warmth and tenderness than does this play. Rich and Brigid’s place is empty. Their belongings are still on a truck in Queens. That’s OK, the visiting Blakes unpack enough emotional baggage to fill the stage.

The Humans is funny, emotional, but also draining. By play’s end, I’d gladly cross the Blakes off from any dinner party invites. Unfortunately, even before the lights go out, the playwright had already written them off too. The Blakes are bankrupt, both emotionally and financially. It doesn’t help that boyfriend Rich is rich, a trust fund baby. Family dynamic soon devolve into a caricature of class warfare, as the 99% are eventually Ubered back to Scranton, PA. 

School of Rock

School of Rock

Last night, we went to the Fabulous Fox to see the Broadway musical, “School of Rock”. This show’s tickets were our deadline for our return to Saint Louis. The show is based upon the 2003 Jack Black comedy movie of the same name. Music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the cast is evenly divided between adults and 5th-graders, with the central figure, Dewey, straddling both categories. Dewey is an out of work rock-wannabe, who in the opening scene is kicked out of the band that he created.

Under pressure to come up with rent money (You must pay the rent! I can’t pay the rent.), he takes up a substitute teaching position at preppy Horace Green Elementary, masquerading as his roommate, Mr. Schneebly. Discovering that these stuck-up kids actually have musical talent, Dewey decides to use them to win the upcoming battle of the bands competition. What could go wrong?

The kids were delightful in their roles and enthralled their numerous young audience counterparts, especially when they called on everyone to “Stick it to the man!” It was announced before the show that the children actually play their own instruments. I’m going to have to look into this talent thing, it looks quite useful. Overall, the show was an enjoyable, light and fun fare. I was glad to see that Sir Webber is settling nicely into his second childhood.

We found ourselves between a rock and a hard place, when this morning’s call came all too early. Anne received the call to arms. Kelly’s robo-call detailed her Early Childhood Center (ECC) assignment as “Eek!” Exactly.

Before we left for Florida, I had repeatedly implored Anne not to take any jobs at ECC, also-know-as plague central and she heeded me. So, while in Florida, we survived alligators, poisonous snakes and Florida drivers, all without incurring any illnesses. While, we were away, Anne monitored the situation back at the elementary school, where at least some of the older students there seem capable of spelling the word hygiene.

There was the late-start morning caused when too many of the bus drivers were sick with the flu, to man all the vehicles and there was that one plaintive plea for Kleenex from the office. We missed all that, but today Anne dove headfirst into an inevitably worse situation. I however found myself left to my own devices and it is such a beautiful day. I think that instead of sticking it to the man, I’ll go out and play. Rock-on!


The Marvelous Wonderettes

The Marvelous Wonderettes

It is 1958, the night of the senior prom, at Springfield high. Go, Chipmunks! Entertainment was supposed to be supplied by the Crooning Crab Cakes, from the boy’s glee club, but their band leader has just been suspended for smoking outside the girls’ locker room. Luckily, the boys are replaced by four singers in crinolines, the Marvelous Wonderettes. What ensues is an utter charm bomb. Set in two acts, first on prom night and then the ten-year reunion’s night, we are treated to a nonstop sock-hop medley of first ’50s and then ’60s rock-and-roll hits. Being performed on the main stage of the Saint Louis Repertory Theater, this musical is the perfect balm for our often raw January weather. We loved it! 

The King and I

Little Saigon Golden Buddha

Last night was a date night, with dinner and a show. Anne and I dined at Little Saigon Café in the Central West End and then saw “The King and I”, performed at the Fox. This pairing made for an enjoyable Indochina themed evening.

Back in the day, we used to frequent Little Saigon for date nights. Then the boys were still young and our need for romantic getaways were fulfilled at this exotic and tucked-away establishment. The menu now boasts more western influences then I remember, but our food was still good. We started by sharing a pair of shrimp summer rolls. I had their shaking beef, which gets its English name from the constant shaking of the pan while browning the meat. This dish featured wok-seared flank steak and onions that is served over a bed of lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and a side of lemon garlic dressing. Anne chose their ginger rice and chicken. Featuring wok-fried jasmine rice with ginger, shredded chicken, soy-ginger sauce and topped with scallions and cilantro. Served with cabbage salad.

We have seen “The King and I” before. Mostly at the Muny, where it has been performed five times during our tenure in town. We even saw Yul Brynner in his signature role there. He was on his swan-song tour, while dying of cancer.

This production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein favorite was more sumptuous than any I have seen. The musical opens with Anna, the “I” in the show, on the prow of a titanic yacht, first docking in Bangkok and who is moved to whistle a happy tune. In this performance it was also refreshing to see all of the characters of color played by actors of color. It is 2017 and this fact should be able to go unremarked, but then there it is. This was not an inconsequential casting decision, what with this play’s 50+ member cast of men, women and children.

None of the score’s standards have paled with time. It was glorious to hear them all sung again. The musical itself has also worn well. In this #MeToo moment, the play’s dueling themes of unrequited love versus man’s barbarism resonate with what we now read daily in the news. Anna and the king spar, but also listen to each other and eventually learn from each other. Their friendship is tragically mirrored in the romance of the two star-crossed lovers from Burma (Myanmar) and foreshadowed in the play within a play, Small House of Uncle Thomas.

There are also moments of levity, such as the dressing scene, where the king’s wives are trying to get used to wearing western hoop skirts. A British envoy is arriving and Anna and the king are striving to show him that Siam (Thailand) is not a barbaric nation. A sight gag is the casting of an absurdly tall actor as the envoy, who is head and shoulders taller than anyone else in the cast. When he stands next to the king it serves as a visual reminder of how things once were. 

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.

Something Rotten in Denmark

Saint-Guilhem Cloister

Considered Shakespeare’s best play and arguably the best play ever, Hamlet has come to the Rep. The show begins in ghostly darkness and ends three-hours later, with everyone dead. The show has the usual fine production values for which the Saint Louis Repertory Theater is well know. The cast performs their roles flawlessly. Great material with perfect execution, but then why am I still left feeling underwhelmed? Is it that the script seems more like a recitation from Bartlett’s than dialogue? Or is it the countless parodies that it has spawned? 

Hamlet: To be or not to be that is the question.
Yoda: Be or be not. There is no question.

If imitation is truly the highest form of flattery, then Hamlet has no shortage of pretenders. I just became aware that the Lion King is a Hamlet retelling, only in a more anthropomorphic and African setting. Which begs the question, which two Shakespearian characters do Timon and Pumbaa, the meerkat and warthog duo, represent? My money is on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Mainly though the play is just too long and is filled with too many “words, words, words”.