An Evening of Show Tunes
Let's think about that for a moment, shall we? "An evening of show tunes." Could it be as bad as it sounds? Yes, and in fact worse, because you should add "...and dancing." Show tunes and dancing. Wake me when it's over, but not a moment before or I'll kill you.
Beth and I had ourselves a little night on the town courtesy of the office of the building in which Beth works. It started out with a cocktail hour and moved on to an evening at the theater. The cocktail hour was about what you'd expect from people running an office building: nice, but nothing to write home about. Held in a vacant office space in the building -- 10,000 square feet of concrete floor and exposed ceiling and ductwork, decorated to a bit short of a fare-thee-well with Christmas lights and gossamer white netting and glass ornaments. The cocktails weren't; they served soft drinks, wine or coffee; and the hors de oeuvres were a tray of crackers and pate-like cracker spreads. I didn't mind the absence of traditional cocktails so much as I don't drink anyway, but I was a little disappointed in the catering. I came in with a hankering for Swedish meatballs and sauteed mushrooms -- toothpick food, if you will -- and cracker food just didn't hit the spot.
When the hour wrapped up the group of thirsty and still hungry freebie poachers piled into the two limousines commissioned for the evening and headed up the street to the epicenter of the Los Angeles theater scene, the Music Center. Our destination: the Ahmanson Theater to see Fosse! (Exclamation point mine.)
(It should be pronounced the way it looks: Fosse! Say it in an excited, breathy tone, accompanied by a saucy toss of the head. Fosse!
What are you doing tonight?
We're going to see Fosse!
Oh, Thad, that bowler hat is just to die for! Where on earth did you get it?
Don't you just love it, Ken? I got it at the souvenir booth when I saw Fosse!)
What, you may be asking yourself, the hell is a Fosse!? The program gave a 200 word answer, but let's cut to my translation: "Fosse! was known primarily as a choreographer, the show is a retrospective of his work." Journalistic training in action: keep it short. Onward.
If you're a fan of musical theater, musical theater with dance in particular, then you'd probably think Fosse! was a hell of a show. God knows enough of our fellow theater goers did; they were gushing over its fabulousness at intermission and erupting into spontaneous thunderous applause during the show. Me, I'm not such a huge fan. If I want to see people flinging themselves about in front of a crowd in the name of entertainment and be impressed with the movement the human body is capable of, why I'll probably just watch a football game.
It's not that I hate musicals, because I don't. I saw Rent off-Broadway and liked it so much that I bought the soundtrack and then saw it again here in L.A. (The original cast was better, fyi.) I've seen My Fair Lady and Gypsy on stage (I slept through the latter, but still...) and I've seen my share of movie musicals on TV. And it's not even that I hate dance, although I almost do.
What made the show so impenetrable for me was the fact that it was a selection of dance numbers from this show and that one, strung together into a clumsy melange of what I assume were show stoppers when they were originally staged in the middle of a show. But presented individually, without context or having built a mood or backstory or setup...hard to get behind. Take the number from Damn Yankees, for example. Pretty impressive as originally staged, no doubt, but for me it was just a bunch of guys jarringly dressed in baseball uniforms prancing around and singing a silly song and the only thing I could think was How and when are they going to get rid of those baseball mitts? because they obviously weren't going to keep them for the whole routine. I spent the entire number watching props come onstage and go off.
It was interesting, though, to see a collection of someone's work like this and to notice what my brothers would call "his bag of tricks." There's the Chaplinesque side-to-side head bobble we saw a few numbers back...and there's the shrugging shoulders again...ah yes, that kick-ball-chain looks familiar...and, of course, the hats. Hats, hats, and more hats. Fosse was obviously very into hats. And dancing, of course. Dancers with hats? Must be Fosse!
To wrap up, the evening was obviously wasted on me. I knew it would be going in, but I knew Beth would enjoy it and we haven't gone out much lately, so I figured it couldn't hurt to go. It didn't, but it was a near thing. One good thing did come out of it, though, aside from the nice nap I took during the first act: Beth and I perfected saying Fosse! to each other. That's gonna come it handy someday. Maybe.