Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tonight, at the Marlins' Game

...The national anthem will be sung by the cast of TOMFOOLERY!

Monday, July 16, 2007

One gets by Christine Dolen

"Maybe the most pointed example of what's wrong with this Tomfoolery lies in its penultimate song, the exuberant Vatican Rag. Sure, maybe this Catholic-needling number has taken on a fresh coat of snark, given Pope Benedict XVI's statement reasserting Catholicism's supremacy last week. But the idea that the cast (clad in glitzy Vegas-style habits) is dancing the Charleston to ''popular'' music (a rag) is downright quaint." - Christine Dolen, The Miami Herald, July 16, 2007
Normally, I try to avoid getting into a dispute with a reviewer over their take on a show they've seen. It's pretty much a pointless endeavor; everyone has their own view on things, and they have the right to hold it. It's all subjective; I liked it, she didn't. It's like arguing that chocolate is better than vanilla.

Her basic point in the review is that Tom Lehrer's satire is getting long in the tooth. And I will not dispute that overall impression; maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. That is a judgment you'll have to make for yourself after seeing it. I certainly enjoyed the show, but I am hardly a neutral party; I helped put the show together, and I'm a huge Tom Lehrer fan. But let's face it, these songs were written back at the height of the Cold War. A great deal of history has been writ since then.

But I have to protest this one example she cites:
" But the idea that the cast (clad in glitzy Vegas-style habits) is dancing the Charleston to ''popular'' music (a rag) is downright quaint"
The implication here is that the show is SO old that when it was conceived, the Charleston was a popular dance style. But this is a false premise; the choice of a rag song wasn't intended to be an accurate choice for a song in "popular" style. Ms. Dolen has simply missed the entire point of this number.

So I'll spell it out for her:
  • Rag music was popular from about 1899 to around 1918, peaking in 1910.
  • The dance we know as "The Charleston" first appeared in 1923 on Broadway in the show Runnin' Wild, and was choreographed by Elida Webb to a song of that name written by James P. Johnson. Its popularity faded with the Depression.
  • THE VATICAN RAG was first recorded in 1965 on Lehrer's album THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS. That's some 50 years after ragtime was popular, and 40 years after The Charleston was hip.

So if Tom Lehrer's intent were really to have the Roman Catholic Church endorse a contemporary dance craze, choosing to do a RAG song is already a curious choice.

Unless, of course, the satirical point being made is that the Holy See is choosing a completely out-of-date musical form as its expression of modernism. In which case, the choice of both the song style and the dance step are scathingly funny.

So Christine Dolen didn't make an insightful observation about how the show is aging: instead she completely missed the satirical point that an out-of-touch institution would choose an out-of-date musical style in a pathetic attempt to establish its ties to popular music. And using an out-of-fashion dance step only maintains that satirical point.

Sorry, Christine; this one went right over your head.

And the number IS scathingly funny. Forget NUNSENSE, and SISTER ACT isn't in the ballpark. VATICAN RAG is the Pure Thing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Theatre Outlook this Weekend

It may be summer in South Florida, but good theater is still in season. Here's a selection of what's playing this weekend. You can find more details about the shows at SouthFloridaTheatre.com (no relation to this blog).

TOMFOOLERY opens at Actors' Playhouse; it's sold out tonight, but there are seats available the rest of the weekend. The Miracle Theater, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables

New Theatre opens the next play in its summer Shakespeare series with JULIUS CAESAR.
4120 Laguna Street, Coral Gables, FL 33146.

The Promethean Theatre Company opens its take on CYRANO tonight at The University Center Black Box Theatre Located at Nova Southeastern University 3301 College Ave. Davie, FL 33314

Edge Theatre opens the comedy SOUTH BEACH tomorrow. 3825 N. Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33127. They don't have a web site that I can find, so for directions and reservations, please call 786-355-0976.

RESPECT opens tomorrow night at the Cuillo Center in downtown West Palm Beach.

This is your last chance to see SMUT. No, not your favorite porn, but the world premier play that's in its final weekend at GableStage. Gablestage is nestled in the beautiful Biltmore Hotel located at 1200 Anastasia Avenue in CoralGables.

This is also the closing weekend for Ground Up & Rising's debut production of INDIAN WANTS THE BRONX at Miami Dade College Kendall Campus. Miami Dade College, Kendall Campus, M Building, 11011 SW 104th Street. No phone number or website, so email the company for details.

Mosaic Theatre is closing THOM PAIN, (based on nothing) on Sunday. It's a powerful piece of theater. It's playing at The American Heritage Center for the Arts, 12200 West Broward Blvd, Plantation.

City Theatre moves SUMMER SHORTS to the Broward Center of the Performing Arts: they opened it yesterday, they close on Sunday, so this is your LAST CHANCE to see it.

This isn't everything that's playing, just the openings and closings; check listings to see what's playing in your neighborhood this weekend.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno, and Tomfoolery.

What do Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno have in common? They both worked on THE ELECTRIC COMPANY back in the 1970's. And one of the skits they worked on is THIS one, where they sing "The Menu Song," by Tom Lehrer.

Actors' Playhouse opens Tomfoolery, a revue of Tom Lehrer's greatest songs, tomorrow night at The Miracle Theatre. See the man that got fired from Harvard for his antics, the man the New York Herald-Tribune called "More desperate than amusing."

Monday, July 2, 2007

Just what the heck is TOMFOOLERY, and why should I see it?

I'm not going to go into a lot of detail; there are press releases at the Actors' Playhouse website that list the dry details.

Tomfoolery is a musical revue featuring the songs of Tom Lehrer. Don't know his songs? That's no problem, I got you covered. I have a song and a video up on our MySpace page.

And if you still need to hear more, Tom has his own MySpace page.

And if that doesn't do it, here's an animated video of his Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

And he invented Jello Shots. Seriously!