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September 20, 2014:

NIGHTMARE THEATRE

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, when I go to the theater or a movie all I want to do is have a great time and love what I’m seeing.  The fact that it so rarely happens these days is disheartening.  But I do try to find something to like in everything I see, whether a performance or some writing or direction or whatever.  And sometimes it’s just impossible.  Last night was such a case.  I saw a new musical, a “modern rock opera” as the subtitle told us.  As opposed to what – an old-fashioned rock opera?  And what exactly is a rock opera anyway?  Would Jesus Christ, Superstar be a rock opera?  Perhaps the first?  I saw it and certainly enjoyed some of the music, but ultimately it was so overbearing that I just grew weary.  This modern rock opera was, perhaps, the worst thing I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen some doozies.  Before I go further, I will say the audience, which included a lot of friends, gave it a standing ovation and lots of woo-hooing.  I say that in the interest of fairness.  The piece itself has gotten mostly poor reviews, even from the reviewers who love everything.  But they did praise the production.  A lot of money, endless money, has been thrown at this thing by someone with VERY deep pockets.  There is a nine or ten piece band – in a 99-seat theater.  The sound design ranged from almost bearable in act one, to ear-splitting and out of control in act two – do we really need the bass pumped so loud that it is actually shaking the rafters of the theater?  Not for me.

There is a credit for book, music and lyrics – I’m not sure what the “book” part is since it’s all sung.  The story is so confusing and impossible to follow that they have three pages in the program telling you what you’re seeing.  And supertitles – smart-ass supertitles for the “hip” in the audience.  But here’s the thing: If you can’t tell a coherent story without a three-page endless synopsis, you’re doing something wrong.  It’s as simple as that.  There are many ways to solve the problem, none of which have been explored by the writer.  Instead we get one mind-numbing number after another, all sounding exactly the same with trite, banal words sung feverishly by the cast.  Sometimes there is a quieter moment but those are really few and far between.  The cast has gotten good reviews in some quarters, and I suppose they were okay.  The direction has gotten raves but I thought it was show-offy in its attempt to get the material off its feet, literally throwing in everything under the sun, from that kind of “flying” stuff that’s so popular right now, you know, with the fabric, to having the final word of the play projected all over the set (the audience “oohed” when that happened), to this director’s seeming trademark of having a door upstage center that, when opened, has a hugely bright light to blind the audience and backlight the actors.  He did the same thing in another musical I saw that he directed – only in that musical it basically killed the end of one of the most electric numbers in musical theater for a star – doing that trick basically robs the star of her moment because it’s all about the blinding light rather than what it should be about.   Anyway, not a fan of that sort of thing.

The two people I was with felt exactly as I did.  And while I’m at it, I am just so sick of this new trend where 99-seat theaters (and now even the larger theaters) don’t open the doors till 7:45 for an 8:00 show.  Why?  It used to be nice to get there at 7:30, get one’s seat and read the program and relax before the curtain.  Last night, they opened the doors at 8:03 with no explanation.  I mean, really.  I came out of the theater with a raging headache, which I’m currently trying to get rid of.  In any case, I call this kind of an experience Nightmare Theatre.  But if some people are enjoying it, there’s that.

Prior to that I’d had a perfectly okay day.  I did get nine hours of blessed sleep, then did a lot of work on the computer, finished a song I’ve been working on, had some telephonic conversations and relaxed a bit.  Then I met Kay Cole and her ever-lovin’ Michael Lamont at Genghis Cohen.  I ordered the usual – orange chicken extra crispy, green beans, crackerjack shrimp and Kung Pao chicken.  I have to say it was something of an off night for them – it was good, but nowhere near the usual greatness I’ve come to expect.  Doris Roberts was seated nearby.

I got an e-mail from the new Ray Courts celebrity signing show.  As most know, he sold his previous show and those new owners managed to do in ten seconds what Ray had never done in twenty years – turn the whole thing into a circus.  I guess Ray had gotten so many complaints about those yahoos that he decided to get back in the game.  The last celebrity signing show I did in LA was Ray’s last show.  I tried once with the new owners, who couldn’t even be bothered to respond.  So, I wrote Ray and told him how thrilled I was that he was back and that I’d love to do the September show.  He wrote back and said he’d get back to me and that he’d put me on the list, although I’d forgotten that part of the e-mail.  I hadn’t heard from him so I didn’t know what was what until yesterday’s e-mail about the show.  But the first thing in the e-mail said September 19 and before I read any further I just assumed that the show was this weekend, last night and today.  And my name was on the list.  So I wrote Ray and told him I couldn’t make it last night but that I’d give up going to the Bewitched thing and come right to him in the morning.  He wrote right back and said if I showed up in the morning I’d be the only celebrity there, since the show is next weekend.  I had to laugh – had I read even two words further in the e-mail I would have seen September 19 update.  So, all’s well that ends well and I can attend both Friday evening and Saturday next week.  What fun.

Today, I’ll be up at eight-thirty to get ready for the Bewitched thing.  She of the Evil Eye will be here at nine and I’ll head over to the Bewitched thing at ten.  I don’t think I’ll be there more than an hour or so, then I’ll go eat, then I’ll relax for the rest of the day and evening, work on liner notes, and also try to come up with a show order so I can start writing the commentary.

Tomorrow I’m attending the opening of Kiss Me, Kate at the Pasadena Playhouse – I’ll sup afterwards.  Monday we finish comping the Sandy vocals and then I’ll listen to all of them to make sure I’m happy.  Tuesday we’ll be at Westlake Audio for me to finesse the mixes (and have Astroburger, of course) and Wednesday, Lanny joins us to do his finessing.  I also have meetings and meals and then the Ray Courts show.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, do the Bewitched thing, eat, hopefully pick up some packages, write, do a show order and relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: What was the most excruciating show, play or musical that you’ve ever had to sit through?  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to be done with the evening of Nightmare Theatre.

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