Friday, January 05, 2007


I'm re-presenting the following because on January 20 we'll be re-presenting this show at the Barrow. It's a benefit for the theater, and it is one of my favorite shows ever. So, you should come. But here's what I had to say about it the first time we put it on three years ago:

(News-Herald, March 2004)I’m not a big fan of theater about theater. I don’t get excited about old musicals like “Gypsy” and “Applause” in which singing, dancing actors explore how fascinating singing, dancing actors are.
I do have my personal old favorites on the stage. I think “Forever Plaid” might be the most perfectly written musical ever. And I could watch “Godspell” every year for the rest of my life.
It’s hard to find just the right stuff to put in words and music on the stage. You don’t think of it as hard, but really, compared to all the books and tv shows and movies created over the last century that still hold up, the number of theatrical musicals still worth presenting is surprisingly small.
I’ve been thinking about this lately because I’ve been working on a show that I really like, that is special because it is both new and completely ordinary.
Ordinariness is not a common trait in musical theater. Stage musicals are geared toward big honking smackwhapping explosions of drama and grandiosity. Escaping Nazis over the mountains. Hiding a broken heart and misshapen face in the catacombs. A chorus of six gazillion blasting an ode to the French Revolution.
It’s not that I think those aren’t worth our attention. It’s just that most of us live lives not very much like that, but that are pretty ordinary.
This show (I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change) deals with the most ordinary human activity of all, the ongoing attempt to pursue and maintain a connection with those around us, to locate and hang onto that entirely ordinary human commodity, love.
I’m already on record as a sort of anti-romantic. I figure any shmuck can be romantic dressed in period costumes, well-lit and made up, hanging off the front of a giant ocean liner. It takes real love and heart to find romance after twenty years, looking across the breakfast table at someone with bad bed hair.
Anyone can be romantic with a crack team of scriptwriters. It takes real talent to make do with the words you fumble for on a first date with an appealing stranger.
It’s the ordinary, everyday romance of carving out a life together in the world of car payments and dirty diapers and limbs that creak more than they did forty years ago—that’s the stuff that shows our hearts at their biggest and silliest.
So this is the show I would write if I could write a show. The four actors play sixty-some characters, but the main character of the show is the purely human joy, frailty and humor of finding and holding onto love. It starts with a first date and ends with a widow and widower deciding to start a new chapter; around intermission there’s a wedding.
Every character is life sized—not larger than life, not massively dramatic, not a tiny cheap imitation of a person. I’ve met most of these people, even been a couple of them. And they sing.
There are so few odes to regular life, so few songs about how we deal with regular stuff in the Real World. We need more songs about regular stuff, songs that let us see clearly what ordinary life is like, to let us see that it is precious and funny and okay. Ordinary really is okay.
In this column, I don’t plug every show that Civic puts on; I don’t even plug most of the shows that I’m involved with. But I’m plugging this one.
Local audiences are not known for turning out in droves for new or unfamiliar shows; a Venango County theater group that put on nothing but Rogers and Hammerstein shows year after year would never go broke. But this one is worth seeing.
First, for the cast, which is first rate. Steve Luxbacher, Jodi Hoover, Suzie Ditzenberger, and Jodi Hoover are seasoned pros on stage, and they really shine in this material.
Second, because this is a show which celebrates all those nice little moments that are part of a lifetime of trying to stay connected to the ones we love. It is a grown-up show, though there’s nothing here to make an HBO executive or Janet Jackson bat an eye. Every time I watch it in rehearsal, I laugh, and at the end, I always feel a bit of hope for the whole Love thing. I hum the songs. I’m inviting you to this one because I think you’ll enjoy it.
It’s not always about the 100 piece orchestra and the searing, soulwrenching operatic scale drama. Sometimes it’s just a quiet voice and warm smile at the end of the day. But operatic drama every day will wear you out; a quiet voice and a warm smile can carry on for a lifetime.

The presentation on the 20th will include a tiny bit of new material-- they added a song in the years since we did it last. Our original violin player left the area, but I'm happy to annonce that Jill Mattson will be playing with us this time out, helping the always-dependable Kristen Criado in accompaniment chores. You should come see this. Really.

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