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costa's hummer

Saturday, October 2, 2010

L'homme miserable


I should have seen it coming, really. The call came in about ten days ago. One of my best pals asked me for a big favor. She had two tickets to the local Fallbrook Players production of Les Miserables and would I consent to join her? Front row and everything.

My first reaction was no fucking way. I am neither a show tunes or musical theater kind of guy. Where in the hell was her husband? This is a little hazy but I believe that she said that he was "out of town" or indisposed or offered some other similar obfuscation. Should have put the puzzle pieces together then...

I sighed. I am a stand up guy and my pal is dear to me and I would have to take one for the team. In a major moment of weakness I assented and instantly felt a little bit dirty, as if I had broken some cardinal rule that had helped rather successfully direct my life up until that point.

We made plans to meet at the watering hole an hour before the curtain. I started slamming vodka and cranberry in order to protect myself from the cranial onslaught that I knew lay in wait around the corner. Girding my armor for the rise of the curtain.

We walked up to the old art deco theater a minute or two before the show was set to begin. It was only my second time inside the lovely building for a performance in thirty years, the first being the time I produced the Rock Quarry concert there in 2006. My old shop was next door but the owners and I never quite saw eye to eye.

Brigitte asked me if I would like a mint, a subtle hint perhaps, since I was about to drag my alcohol besotted ass in front of a panoply of moms, muggles and assorted townspeople. I steeled myself, chin high and stiffly walked down the gauntlet of faces to take my seat first row, house right. One of Leslie's clients was there and told me how much I was going to enjoy the performance. I rolled my eyes and made some smart ass quip about always having had an infatuation for precocious fifth graders. She looked at me with a stern look of reassessment as if to say, one of those, huh.

I turned to my theater companion and asked if her husband was back in the Bay Area for his big time computer gig. She coughed and looked a bit flush. "Morgan is out of town, isn't he?"I said, with a sudden flash of recognition. "Well no," she sheepishly admitted. "He was a big time Hollywood Director and he just can't do small town theater. It's too painful."

I looked down at my shoes and sighed. I had been played for a rube. The curtain went up and I braced myself for the thirty or so musical numbers in the Les Miserables School Edition, with verses cut and pitches altered for the higher octave voices of these younger thespians.

I will not give you a blow by blow of my discomfort. Most of you would enjoy it too much. Reedy fifteen year old boys with glued on beards that resembled young Abe Lincoln's. The kids did a nice job, the leads voices were good, especially Cosette, but her pipes would make nobody forget Susan Boyle. I had a dream too, it was a dream about getting the hell out of there. I wondered why the actors affected english voices when they were supposed to be french, kind of like the American B movie actresses did in the forties and fifties. You're from Poughkeepsie Gladys, not the Cotswalds...

I did a bit of stage acting in high school but never had that entertainment gene. Theater kids are wired differently. I am sure that a healthy dollop of narcissism is a necessary component, like in the rest of the arts. There is a level of giddy fixation about the whole stage experience that is singular in its self absorption, and frankly makes me a bit nauseous.

I live in a quasi puritanical town and found it a bit funny that school kids were singing odes to lost virginity and sexuality. Pathos galore. Thievery and prostitution. Some of the literary allusions were a bit frank even for my prudish ears and demeanor.

I had smuggled in a tootsie roll and Bri had good and plenty and we scarfed. I tried to not chew too loud. One song after another, we were buffeted by the downcast tale of early 19th century french misery. Treś miserable, by the heaping helping. All the misery that you could ever want and more. At one point one of the soldiers actually had a musket pointed in my direction and I sent out silent psychic pleas to god that he actually shoot me so that I would not have to see the entire first act. The seats, which were probably uncomfortable when they were first installed in 1930, were now gouging my sacrum and sending my back into a paroxysm of anguish.

I kept having flashbacks to the movie Waiting for Guffman, we were all waiting for the big shot New York director to never show up.

I plotted my escape, grabbing the playbill and counting the umpteen songs until I could make my graceful exit at the end of the first act. When it finally arrived I looked like ricochet rabbit heading for the front door, like a lifer just sprung from the big house.

I always fancied myself a renaissance man but now must accept in my fifth decade that I have serious holes in my game. And one of them is certainly musical theater. Next time any of you need accompaniment to see a musical or play, please understand that I am busy that night. Whatever night.

Break a leg.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please note this comment is being uploaded wirelessly while barreling up I-15 towards Las Vegas. This reader understands that the author takes certain artistic license for the sake of a good post. This reader also takes great pleasure in experiencing the autor's discomfort vicariously through these same posts and has done so many many times. I am sure many other readers of blueheronblast blog look forward to the author's colorful and squirm-worthy exploits. In an effort to continue this trend, readers should know that last evening while departing the theatre the author was overheard (within earshot of the play's producer), "I need to go home and feed my cat." p.s. please join me in the upcoming rendition of Jesus Christ Superstar as I have an extra ticket and my husband (Mr. Hollywood) will be out of town, coincidentally.

grumpy said...

growing up i naturally listened to a lot of what my parents listened to, which included musicals, and i'm glad i did; Sound of Music, Camelot, South Pacific, Music Man, etc etc; all great stuff; sounds like you missed out; anyways, CAST is a fine organization, which our thrift shop supports, that really helps a lot of kids locally, who wouldn't have a similar opportunity otherwise. Next time give ME your tickets.

Blue Heron said...

that explains a lot.

Blue Heron said...

Hey anonymous one, I believe that my comment was "there's 70 minutes of my life I will never see again..."

Anonymous said...

Les Miserable certainly was. Not only did you not capitalize French and God, you fucking left Richochet Rabbit lowercase as well. What the Fuck?

Anonymous said...

I was looking up reviews on this show. This is about three years later and I am reading this ridiculously insensitive, ironic blog post and laughing at the fact that you found this show terrible, and that you judge it so under the influence of alcohol and sulking undertones. These were kids performing the show and they got rave reviews, and having them read this would hurt. You are an inconsiderate dumbass.

Blue Heron said...

You are laughing at the fact that I found the show terrible? Strange sense of humor you've got. I would rather undergo a root canal sans anesthesia than be forced to watch these precocious youngsters flail through this production again. Thank god I had alcohol.

If my blog is going to send them into counseling and a potential nervous breakdown, I suggest that you not show it to them. It's strictly adults only and that goes for asshole adults who have nothing better to do than comment on a blogpost written three years prior.

If you have to live your life vicariously through these young thespians, perhaps you have issues of your own. Time to see a shrink and get a life.

brigitte said...

For the record Mr. Hollywood and I have walked out of several Les Mis productions including the national touring company performance in Atlanta at the Fox Theatre. In December we received a screener of the new film currently in theaters that DGA sent us for voting purposes and we couldn't get through that fucking three disc set either. We tried. We really tried. Then SAG sends us a one disc version last week. We are going to try again this weekend. I mean its a fab cast, right? Sigh. It is our responsibilty to watch. To rock the vote. Argh. Its got miserable in the title....an ironic double entendre.