The greatest moment was when I met one of the actors who happened to sit in the row behind us in South Pacific.
|My new buddy, Falstaff, and I|
The character of Falstaff was my first introduction to the higher forms of the performance arts. It was in fourth grade when we had the blessed opportunity of loading up on school buses to attend a kids' program at the Seattle Opera. It was a few scenes from Verdi's Falstaff including a revelation of a bit of stagecraft with Falstaff falling off a bed and his corpulent body switched out for some brightly colored cloth matching his clothes. (Why Falstaff would be hiding in bedrooms they never quite explained). And that's all it took for me to fall in love with a stage full of music and action.
My family, particularly my paternal grandparents, have always loved musical theater. They would even attend plays on Broadway on business trips to New York City. And maybe it's a bit of the Welsh in us that allows us to enjoy musicals. And South Pacific was great!
There may have been a little chemistry lacking between the two principals, and the musical's best-known song, Some Enchanted Evening is maybe a bit outdated with the heavy French Baritone and all. Yet I've always loved that song and it stirs in my heart the reality of my life-long musical fantasy that I first remember seeing my now wife across a dance floor in the old Joseph Fielding Smith Building on the BYU campus. No one will ever understand that magic but me. I love to sing that song even if it is barely tolerated by my less classically romantic-minded wife.
Allie Babich as Ensign Nellie Forbush was an amazing presence filling the stage and auditorium with her voice and character. She had a good southern accent down to remind us of Little Rock, A-R-K. The irony was not lost on her ability to overcome prejudice "taught" to her that this musical was written less than a decade before Brown v. Board of Education and the subsequent desegregation of Little Rock Public Schools with the help of the National Guard.
The third play we saw was Amadeus, originally a stage play before the popular movie of the 80's. The play is a bit more depressing, a bit less Mozart, and a lot more Salieri in his war against God for giving the divine musical gift to an immature and immoral Mozart. David Ivers filled the stage and auditorium again with his presence, even when he was the only one on stage. And the best line of the play came thundering down from Salieri's fallen inner-angel when he addressed the audience just before intermission:
What use, after all, is man, if not to teach God His lessons?Reminds me of a lot of stuff I've been reading on the internet this summer.
And there's the theme. It is of change and growing-up and getting over ourselves.
Prince Hal did it, much to the broken-heart of his old, carefree friend Fallstaff:
Presume not that I am the thing I was
For God doth know, so shall the world perceive,
That I have turn'd away my former self;
So will I those that kept me company
Prince Hal got it. Nurse Nellie got it. Only Salieri failed to change for the better as he sank into his worst misery by failing to exercise the divine gifts of charity and sacrifice of that we must put behind to reveal our best selves and truly love.
There's the irony of Ama Deus.
Maybe it's trite, but I'm still with Ensign Forbush:
I hear the human race Is fallin' on its face And hasn't very far to go, But ev'ry whippoorwill Is sellin' me a bill, And tellin' me it just ain't so.
I could say life is just a bowl of Jell-o And appear more intelligent and smart, But I'm stuck like a dope With a thing called hope, And I can't get it out of my heart! Not this heart...
That's it! Faith, Hope, Charity. And the greatest of these . . . .
Utah Shakespeare is still going for a couple of months. I don't know if we'll get back to see any more plays, but give it a try. It's worth it.