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Back Home, Post-Thanksgiving

A long holiday weekend spent at home in the company of Linda, Rex, Kevin, Liza, Bette, and others. logo

Rex Smith, Linda Ronstadt, and Kevin Kline
in The Pirates of Penzance
Relative humidity. It's a term that you hear all the time on the weather reports. But to me, relative humidity is what happens on Thanksgiving when all my relatives get together and get hot under the collar. So, after a Thursday with the sisters and the cousins and the aunts, I so look forward to the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday after Thanksgiving: I just stay inside for 72 straight hours, sleep nine to 10 hours a night, don't shave, order in food, watch videos, listen to CDs, and alphabetically file my recent programs with the others in my kitchen cabinets. (You didn't think there were dishes in there, did you?)

Filing programs allows me to stroll down Memory Lane as I am again reminded that I saw An Immaculate Misconception (it sounds like a British sex farce but it was a quite serious play about something called intractoplasmic sperm injection); The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (written in the fashion of a '60s Off-Broadway musical--I mean that as a compliment--and smart enough to put us in Katrina's head to show her genuine dilemma between Ichabod Crane and Brom Bones); Two Rooms (Lee Blessing's excellent play about a hostage crisis, given an equally excellent production by Roger Danforth); and a reading of The West End Horror (which Tony and Marcia Milgrom Dodge have adapted from Nicholas Meyer's novel about Sherlock Holmes' adventures with George Bernard Shaw, Richard D'Oyly Carte, and Oscar Wilde; he plays Watson, she directed, and it has a great future).

I then watched a batch of videos, including two musicals from the Broadway Theatre Archive. First, The Pirates of Penzance--not the movie of the 1980 revival but a taped performance of the show when it was in Central Park. It's quite different from the film in that you can see the audience out there enjoying the show and can see the wind lazily play with the costumes. Have you ever wondered what a Delacorte Theatre show looks like from the rear of the stage? This tape'll show you.

There was Alix Korey, who has since done such stunningly brassy work in No Way to Treat a Lady, The Wild Party, Suburb, and 45 Seconds From Broadway, playing a sweet, little ingénue--beautifully. As another ingénue, there was Bonnie Simmons, who later spent a decade of her life in the original Broadway cast of Cats as Jellyorum. She wrote a book about her experiences but it was never published. Ironically, her scene partner in Cats was the Gus of Stephen Hanan, who also wrote a book about Cats; his work did get published and will be out just in time for the holidays.

Oh, Linda Ronstadt and Rex Smith and Kevin Kline and George Rose are in Pirates, too. Ronstadt's rendition of "Poor Wand'ring One" got a full 21 seconds of applause. (Isn't it time for her to return to Broadway? What is she doing with herself, anyway?) The audience also goes nuts for Rose's tongue-twisting "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General," delivered in lickety-split fashion. This is one "pirate" tape you're going to be glad is legally available.

Then I watched When Hell Freezes Over, I'll Skate--the Vinnette Carroll musical that I actually saw taped at what is now David Letterman's Ed Sullivan Theatre on June 1, 1980. As I put in the tape, I realized that I didn't remember a thing about the show; after I watched it, I understood why. Not bad, and seeing Lynne Thigpen is always worthwhile, but it isn't one of the Archive's better offerings.

Time for some CDs. I started with Everyone Has a Story: The Songs of Adryan Russ (the songwriter who, with Doug Haverty, wrote the 1994 Off-Broadway group therapy musical Inside Out). This album doesn't include my two favorite songs from the show, "Let It Go" and "Do It at Home," for they're group efforts; but it does feature "I Don't Say Anything," in which a passive woman complains: "See how I turn the other cheek when my ass gets kicked?" In "Matters of the Heart," Russ points out that "Life is not a science; it's an art." And "I Want to Live This Love" deserves not only to be a pop hit but a standard.

I always try on this weekend to listen to at least one cast album that's been in my collection for a while but I still haven't played. This year's choice: Listen to the Wind, the 1998 British cast album. I listened to Listen. I won't again. Then I got nostalgic with the cast albums of The Act (Doesn't the logo make Liza look like a hermaphroditic lobster?), 110 in the Shade (I hope Starbuck used all that rainwater he coaxed from the sky to make coffee and start a bunch of franchises), and the 1986 revival recording of Sweet Charity, even though its spine corrupts my cast album collection because it says "Soundtrack." I hope the dolt who put it on there was summarily canned and got neither severance pay nor a good reference.

After listening to Michael Rupert, who won a Tony for playing Oscar, I decided to watch Cactus Flower, for which Goldie Hawn won an Oscar for playing Toni. Once that delightfully light entertainment was over, I looked for something delightfully darker, and found it: Bette Davis in The Anniversary. Do you know this 1968 film, based on an obscure British play? Davis plays Mrs. Taggart, the mother of three grown sons--though not as grown as they would have been had they another mother. Henry is a transvestite, causing Davis to say: "Henry, take that stuff off, that's a dear," after he steals from the suitcase of his brother Tom's fiancée, Shirley. Mrs. Taggart doesn't much like Shirley, as is evidenced by her remark: "Shirley, would you mind sitting somewhere else? I can't stand body odor."

And then there's Terry, who may have put Mrs. Taggart on the road to rudeness some years before when he popped out her left eye with a BB gun. She hasn't forgiven him, even though he's given her five grandchildren. As a present, she gives each of them the munificent gift of a single coin; half a sixpence, I presume. That's not her only gift. When Tom goes to make it with Shirley in his mother's bed (don't ask), Mrs. Taggart leaves her glass eye under the pillow to ruin the mood. The film ends with Davis triumphant, laughing with glee as she plays with a statue that urinates with the press of a rubber bulb.

I finished the weekend by watching You've Got Mail on CBS, specifically looking for the scene where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet at a party, standing in front of a bookcase on which William Goldman's The Season is sitting. (Don't you always check to see what books are on people's bookshelves in movies? I sure do!) Truth to tell, I couldn't spot the classic tome on my home unit, but I sure saw it when I caught the picture in a theater near me some years ago. Wonder if The Season shows up on the DVD, I asked myself while nodding off to sleep before a return to the real world on Monday morning.


[To contact Peter Filichia directly, e-mail him at [email protected]]

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