Now on Stage – now off stage for a bit

Since my last update I’ve been involved in more theater productions than I would have imagined – more than I should have, probably. A lot of things didn’t get done that I would have liked to do. I was in back-to-back productions – often rehearsals for one overlapping with performances of another – sometimes rehearsals for one overlapping with rehearsals for another.

  • Milton Players – The Unexpected Guest – Henry Angell
  • Longwood Opera – The Elixir of Love – Ensemble
  • Needham Players – Noises Off – Selsdon Mowbray
  • Sudbury Savoyards – The Fantasticks – Henry Albertson (The Aged Actor)
  • The Footlight Club – August: Osage County – Bill Fordham
  • Longwood Opera – The Magic Flute – Priest 2, Armored Man 2, Ensemble

I don’t review my own productions. There were some shining moments and some missed opportunities in all of these. I guess that would be true of theater at any level. A few brief thoughts on each show:

The Unexpected Guest was, I think, Agatha Christie’s first play and it is not well known any more – I think for good reason. Although there are some good characterizations, the plot is puzzling – puzzling not in the mystery way, but puzzling because there’s so little puzzle. The “who dunnit” part of the play seemed obvious until just near the end when Christie dumps a truckload of red herrings in the audience’s path. But it turns out that the obvious person, in fact, did it. And it wasn’t my character – the butler-ish person – who was one of the few people eliminated from the competition relatively early on.

The Elixir of Love is one of my favorite operas. It is so pleasant and easy-going – and has some fun and funny bits mixed with some truly touching moments. The orchestration is genius. The setting is a idealized Italian countryside filled with good-natured, naive peasants. This production didn’t have an orchestra, so it was interesting hearing the “bones” of the score as played on the piano. I see now how much the orchestration meant to my love of the music. And this production was set in the Wild West. I always felt that this opera was Italian in every way – the music, the characters, the plot – everything revolved around a certain Italian perspective on life. So, although I’ve seen it done in other settings before, the Wild West setting gave me a new perspective on the work.

Noises Off is a very hard play to put on, and the humor is very British, so it is probably no surprise that although this play was very successful, it isn’t done much in the Boston area. The set needs to rotate 180 degrees, the action is frantic (and highly choreographed), many of the jokes require knowledge of British culture. That said, the audience seemed to appreciate it, and Selsdon was a plum role – easy to do and very funny.

The Fantasticks is a show I knew almost nothing about. “Try to remember the kind of September / When life was slow and oh, so mellow.” Oooh, that show – pretty much was where I was when I was asked to substitute for Henry for Sudbury. This show really grew on me, and although it is dated in many ways, I can now call it one of the few musicals I enjoy listening to now and then. Henry was a great role in that it was easy and fun to develop the character and physical-humor aspects of the role. As the main source of “comic relief” in the show, it was great to get a lot of laughs.

August: Osage County was a show I was eager to be a part of, although the roles for men are all small – the show revolves around the women. I was eager to be a part of the show because it was at the Footlight Club, was Frank Moffett’s directorial debut there, and was sure to be a success since the play is well-known and the movie is coming out shortly. Summary: it was a very successful production and a challenge, but a challenge that was small enough not to completely eat up my summer. I was glad to be a part of the show. I also wished I could have squeezed in more time to do summer stuff. Strange coincidence: I was hiking in New Hampshire the weekend after the show closed and ran into one of the actresses in the show on the trail – Rae McCarey. It’s a small world sometimes.

The Magic Flute is perhaps my favorite opera, and I double-dipped in that I saw the Boston Lyric Opera “re-imagining” of the Magic Flute during rehearsals and then performed in it. I was not impressed by the changes in plot the BLO introduced to their production. They felt the need to dumb down the plot of the opera and by turning it into a play-within-a-play – and the main action being a hallucination – the point of the opera was completely lost. The Longwood Opera production was by the book plot-wise. Hearing the score played on a piano made me much more appreciative of the genius of the music in this opera. The music as played on the piano was brilliant – with orchestration the music is absolutely cosmic. Now I understand the “bones” of the opera to a greater extent, for which I’m grateful.

I’m tired. I haven’t quite reached “burt out”, but it is good to take a break. Time to do some things off stage for awhile. I need to get into better hiking shape over the next few months for a big hiking trip I’m hoping to take. And there’s all those chores around the house that need attending to.

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