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. 

Billy Elliot

Anne and I went to the Muny last night. We saw “Billy Elliot the Musical”. This is a new show for the Muny, although Anne had seen the musical when it appeared at the Fox. We had both seen and liked the 2000 movie, “Billy Elliot”. The music was by Elton John, with lyrics and book by Lee Hall, who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. Billy is from a working class family in northern England. His mum has died and his father is a coal miner. At the beginning of the show the miners walk out on strike. They are battling Maggie Thatcher. With this backdrop, Billy finds that he does not like boxing, but does like dancing, ballet dancing. This unusual choice leads to problems in his family life. It was a very enjoyable performance.

Muny Night – “Chicago”

Pagoda Circle at Night

Monday night was Muny night. Anne and I went to see the musical, “Chicago”. We had been going to the Muny on Monday nights for over twenty-five years, but a couple of years ago we let our season tickets lapse. In all of those years, we never ate dinner at the Muny’s Culver Pavilion. Last night, we met our bicycling buddies, Edie and Rob, there for dinner. The food was good and the company was excellent. When she was younger, Edie had been a Muny dancer and palled around with the likes of Eddie Albert and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The Muny use to bring in named headliners for each of their shows, but discontinued this practice under the administration of the previous program director. Money that was once spent on their salaries was redirected to boost production values and buy hotter titles. Still it must have been a heady experience to dance with some of the many luminaries that once graced the Muny’s stage.

Speaking of better production values, new this year is a billboard sized LED screen. I didn’t think that it lent much to the evening’s performance, but it’s still new, so give it some more time. They can always start playing the guessing under which cap is the ball hidden game. The Muny already starts with the National Anthem, which invariably ends with someone yelling “Play ball!”

“Chicago” is a musical set in Prohibition-era Chicago. The story is a satire on corruption in the criminal justice system and the concept of the “celebrity criminal”. The original Broadway production opened 1975. The 1996 Broadway revival holds the record for the longest-running musical revival on Broadway and is still playing. The Muny had to get special permission to put on this show.

There was a bit of a floor show put on in the seats directly in front of us. A young couple was busy necking throughout the performance. The fact that his or her mother (still not sure which) was sitting in the row in front of them, didn’t seem to faze them at all, but neither did the hundreds of eyes behind them. Ah, young lust, I mean love. I only mention this because their necking made it difficult to see around them. Thankfully, the ‘production values’ of the musical’s second act distracted the male member from his intended. By ‘production values’, I mean sex. The second act’s production numbers were particularly amped up over the first act. Ah, young love, I mean lust. 😳

Too Darn Hot

I’d like to sup with my baby tonight,
Fulfill the cup with my baby tonight,
But I ain’t up to my baby tonight,
‘Cause it’s too darn hot.
It’s too darn hot,
It’s too darn hot.
Cole Porter, “Kiss Me Kate”

Anne and I went to the Muny on Friday night. Earlier this year, we had let our season seats of twenty year go. Now that Anne has the summers off, she is no longer tied to Missouri and tends to drift away, back to Michigan and missed many of the shows. So, it seemed no longer worthwhile to keep getting season tickets. Our friend John G. left town and offered us the tickets to “Kiss Me Kate” and we took him up on the deal. Unfortunately, another peril of the Muny reared itself on Friday, Saint Louis’ summer heat. The mercury hit 98 °F and was still quite toasty at show time. Fortunately, “Kate” has the perfect antidote for this heat, its lead number in the second act, Too Darn Hot.

Jay and Carl are due into the Lou, in a couple of weeks. Anne was wondering at dinner whether or not we should warn them that the daytime high’s that they are used to in Seattle are only 60% of the highs here. I figure that this blog post constitutes a fair warning. A couple of months ago, when that Californian preacher was predicting the end of the world, he wasn’t predicting that it would actually occur on that day. He forecasted a period of up to 75 days where environmental conditions steadily deteriorated. I would say that his prediction was spot on, but the rest of Saint Louis prefers not to refer to this time as the end of days, but simply summertime in Saint Louis. What do you think will break first, the temperature, this world or me?

Featuring Cole Porter’s melodious score, “Kiss Me, Kate” won the first Tony award for a musical. Based upon Shakespeare’s “Taming of the Shrew”, it is surprising on how much of the “Shrew” made it in to Kate. Not just the plot about squabbling lovers, but also scenes and even dialogue. We enjoyed “Shrew,” when it appeared last month at this year’s Shakespeare festival. “Kate” makes for a nice encore. Produced in 1949, “Kiss Me, Kate” tells the story of a divorced acting couple. They’re co-starring in a production of “Shrew,” a play within the play, comedy that parallels their “Kate” relationship. The musical features such numbers as Another Op’nin’, Another Show, So In Love, Brush Up Your Shakespeare and of course Too Darn Hot. The cast includes Joneal Joplin, one of our favorites and the hardest working actor in Saint Louis.