Thursday, March 23, 2006

surly you jest

I won’t lie to you, I’m feeling a little surly this morning. Maybe it’s the grey, snow-spitting skies.

Or maybe it’s the fact that although I’m sitting in my office wearing an underneath shirt, a sweater, a scarf, and a North Face parka, my hands are still cold. I’d like to have a little chat with whoever it is around here who thinks that a chilly wind blowing through an indoor work area, in Minnesota, in March, could possibly be a good idea. I’m not talking about a slight draft, either. The leaves on my plant are aquiver in the constant breeze.

You know what would cheer me up, though? An iPod. Specifically, a black 30-gigabyte iPod that can play video. (I’d settle for white if I had to.) I’ve been considering spending this year’s tax refund on an iPod so I can download my favorite tunes and podcasts and take them walking/jogging/biking with me when it’s warm outside.

Other cheery thoughts: On Tuesday, I accompanied GrassMaster Amy to a performance of Annie at the grand, historic Orpheum Theatre. We met downtown at the Rock Bottom Brewery for a splendid meal and an overdue catch-up chat. Thanks to an early dinner, we also had time to do a little shopping at the store formerly known as Dayton’s. Then it was on with the show.

I had never seen or read Annie before and did not know what to expect. For instance, I thought the dog, Sandy, was a main character who would be onstage most of the time, but he was only on for a few seconds here and there. That’s much more realistic, I suppose. Such a good puppy! I noticed and approved of Annie slipping him plenty of treats.

I also expected Daddy Warbucks to articulate some actual reason for liking Annie, but he never does, even when he sings a whole detail-free song about why he’s adopting her. Maybe it was just this particular actor, but I never got the sense he cared about her. Since that caring thing is sort of the key point of the entire play, I thought it could use a little work.

But those are script issues, not production issues, and the production we saw was very, very good. The girl playing the title role, Marissa O’Donnell, definitely carried the show. She conveyed 11-year-old energy and cheer without ever being a stagy, saccharine-sweet, over-produced little ham. That’s a huge accomplishment on its own, but O’Donnell also delivered great acting and dancing, and dynamite singing. I was super impressed with this kid. The stage was dimmer when she wasn’t on it.

The rest of the cast bore up well, especially the other orphans and Grace Farrell. Miss Hannigan’s hair was delightfully menacing, and her villainous brother Rooster was easy to despise. Plus, there was an actor (he played Ickes, among others), who looked very much like Mr. Bean. But I found myself nostalgic for the good ol’ days when actors projected their voices rather than relying on microphones, because every time one of the actors stepped out of mic range, his or her dialogue was lost.

Note to casting director: Shemping* is dicey when you only have one or two people of color in the touring company. Any time my attention strayed from the plot, I amused myself playing “spot the African American cast member” with the ensemble.

The sets were pretty cool, especially for a touring production. The New York City street was especially vibrant. I don’t know what was going on in the Hooverville scene because I was too busy trying to figure out how the intricate bridge overpass was created. I also enjoyed noticing that the paintings hanging on the walls of the Oval Office and Warbucks Acres appeared to be computer-generated reproductions of the originals — and it occurs to me that maybe the overpass was, too.

Perhaps the best performance of the evening was given by my friend the GrassMaster. She had played Grace in a middle-school production of Annie and loves the show, but she showed great restraint in not singing along out loud. Thanks for the ticket, Amy!

So there you have it. Thinking about a few of my favorite things — oops, wrong musical — has definitely warmed my heart, if not my hands. Now: time for lunch.

* Shemping is a term popularized by actor and writer Bruce Campbell to describe the cost-cutting measure of having one actor play several roles. It’s named after Shemp, one of the Three Stooges, who often had to double or triple up on parts in their movies. Campbell and his friends did the same in their own low-budget flicks, and Mike Myers is famous for playing half the cast in the Austin Powers movies.



  • Glad you liked Annie, it is a very good play. A little odd if it was a national touring company to have "shemping" going on as they usually cast for each part. Local acting troupes often have to due to smaller budgets and with some plays involving large on stage casts (especially humorous to see some of the leads dressed up as soldiers or peasants when their character is not needed).

    As for Daddy not showing emotion to Annie, this is actually a recent change in the play. In the past it was quite the opposite. But it was brought to the attention of the religious right not to long ago that this "relationship" of a single rich man "adopting" an orphan girl may send mixed messages. After this was brought up most touring companys changed their scripts.

    OKAY...I made that last part up! heh...

    By Blogger JohnnyNVA, at 2:03 PM  

  • I love my video iPod :-) It's got the first 3 Harry Potter movies on it!

    By Blogger Janet, at 2:17 PM  

  • This is Grassmaster aka Ethelred. Actually, the script on Tuesday night was exactly the same as it was when I did the play in middle school (that would be 1984), except for a few minor line changes like giving one of Grace's lines to Annie and some minor asides that were added. Other than that, there was nothing missing and nothing added (and, as I told the Media Sensation, I do geekily know every line in the play).

    I think we're just supposed to suspend disbelief and accept that Annie is sooooo cute and soooo sweet and soooo durn lovable that any sane adult would want to adopt her. I mean, she stood on a table and sang "Tomorrow" and Roosevelt's entire cabinet was immediately whipped into shape, so winning Daddy Warbucks' heart was nuthin'.

    By Blogger Ethelred, at 3:27 PM  

  • Get the ipod!!!! It will cheer you up for sure! :-) I have one, it's name is Izod and I love it with all my heart. If I had to choose between my dog and my ipod it would be a tough call.

    Hello, Michele sent me!

    By Blogger Indigo, at 9:14 AM  

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