Notwithstanding the fact that I’m very much a film fan, I’m even more of a theater lover. Probably because theater is very existentialist. Unlike film, where a scene can be shot as many times as needed to “get it right” and/or edited before the audience sees it, a thespian has only “this moment” to achieve excellence in any performance.
If I had to name a favorite playwright, it would be Harold Pinter and one of my favorite works of his is “Betrayal.” Pinter’s style has been described this way:
“Pinter’s dramas often involve strong conflicts between ambivalent characters who struggle for verbal and territorial dominance and for their own versions of the past. Stylistically, these works are marked by theatrical pauses and silences, comedic timing, irony, and menace. Thematically ambiguous, they raise complex issues of individual identity oppressed by social forces, language, and vicissitudes of memory.”
I’ve often indulged my theater appetite away from where I live. Since we often travel to San Francisco for my high school reunions, we’ve seen many shows there. Among my favorites were Waiting for Godot, Death Trap, and Greater Tuna. If you recognize all those titles, you’ll see that my theatrical interests are fairly broad.
Years ago, we also regularly traveled to Washington, D.C. and so attended performances there. One of my theater highlights was attending “To Kill A Mockingbird” at the historic Ford’s Theater in 2001. I know that was the year because the tickets are displayed under a glass top on Susie’s dresser.
When I lived in Gainesville, I regularly attended performances of a local group called The Hippodrome. Around 1980, they had the opportunity to acquire, at no or nominal charge, the old downtown post office as their home. However, it would require renovations. The State Division of Cultural Affairs offered a challenge grant. I contributed enough to have my name on a plate on a seat and became a season subscriber.
Although there are two state universities, a community college, a Little Theater, a Young Actors Studio, and one or two other theater groups where I live, I’ve not attended many local performances for a number of years. At one time, I attended almost every performance of Florida State University’s (FSU) Lab Theater but ticket prices kept climbing and I did not feel the price-to-value was worth it anymore.
Lately I’ve become quite interested in musicals. Music is much better suited to evoking a wide range of emotions than the spoken word.
In Vegas, “Phantom” and “Mama Mia” have been my favorite shows. Last year, we did attend the FSU Lab Theater’s production of “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” A few years ago, we attended “Jesus Christ, Superstar” at the Quincy Music Theater (QMT), located in a small town about 25 miles from us. We enjoyed that show tremendously.
So of course I jumped at the opportunity to see QMT’s latest production: Grease. (The senior discount ticket price was a very reasonable $13.50.) We attended Friday evening’s performance and had eighth row center section seats. The theater seats about 350 and Friday was the second to last evening performance. It was about 90% full.
I’ve seen both the film and stage versions of many productions and with the exception of Mama Mia (which was a tie), I‘ve always enjoyed the stage version more. Grease was no different.
Most of the principal cast members were FSU Theater or Music majors. The show stealer was PJ Wilford, playing Doody, whose rendition of “Those Magic Changes” received the evening’s loudest cheers. Because of his boyish face and height, PJ looks 15 but is an FSU sophomore. What a voice!
The other two highlights of the evening were “Beauty School Dropout” and Rizzo’s “There Are Worse Things I Could Do.” I appreciated that the music was provided by a small band instead of being prerecorded.
Next season, QMT will be presenting “Wizard of Oz” and I’m putting that on my calendar.
Here’s PJ Wilford performing “Ave Maria”: