Wednesday, December 19, 2012
'S Wonderful, 'S Flawless
by Pa Rock
Last Saturday I treated myself to a night out at the theatre. The event was a lively musical built around the songs of George and Ira Gershwin. ‘S Wonderful is the current production of the Phoenix Theatre Company, and as the title promises, it is a wonderful musical experience. Five skilled performers (Kaitlynn Kleinman, Kyle Erickson Hewitt, Jenny Hintze, Jenn Taber, and Toby Yatso) sing, dance, and act their way across several decades of Gershwin music – and they do it wonderfully!
I expected to be highly impressed with the show, and I was. I also expected to catch myself whistling tunes from the show for the next few days, and I have been. The Gershin’s wrote a significant piece of the American soundtrack, songs that linger long after the curtain calls have ended.
The production was perfect, and part of me says that for a minimum of fifty bucks a seat it should have been perfect. In fact, all of the professional performances that I have seen at the Phoenix Theatre – or those by the Arizona Theatre Company at the Herberger Theatre, for that matter – have been flawless.
That is great - Broadway caliber productions right here in the Scorpion State. But a part of me misses the oddball screw-ups of community theatres that add an element of unpredictability and surprise to what is happening on stage – flubbed lines, missed cues, whole pages of dialogue inadvertently deleted or rewritten as they were being spoken.
Years ago as an untrained high school drama teacher I directed some plays that were, to put it as politely as possible, interesting in places where they should not have been interesting. Often those gaffes made for some of the more memorable and talked-about segments of the shows. (One example that leaps to mind was a play that our student drama group put on where one character hid behind a couch for a few minutes until he had an opportunity to escape undetected. His hiding place was in full view of the audience, and the poor kid missed his cue to exit and had to remain in hiding for the remainder of the play. The audience recognized his goof and thought it was hilarious – and the actor, a bit player, thought it was cool that he was suddenly the star.
At another time, I was the screw-up. Community theatres, particularly in rural areas, often have a shortage of male actors, and as a result, I have been drafted a few times in years past to be one of the actors. At a production of the classic Our Town put on by a local community college in Missouri, I was playing the doctor. Somehow I walked onto the stage a full minute or two prior to my cue to do so (it felt like an hour or two), and I had to just stand in the background looking more stupid than usual until the narrator finished his opening monologue.
The Phoenix Theatre will be performing Our Town in May. It will be a flawless production. Needless to say, I won’t be in it!