There are gifts. There are great gifts. And then there are really outstanding gifts.
Tickets to the theater are in the last category. Our beautiful daughter Lara (an attorney) and her husband Andrea ( a software designer and engineer) know how to give good gifts. They have done it over and over for the past several years.
Thanks to them, we have been able to see White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Oklahoma, and An Evening With Lily Tomlin, to name a few.
We love them dearly for these annual expressions of their love and esteem for us. They are both quality and wonderful people of the highest order.
This last Christmas, my wife Nadene and I received the really outstanding gift of tickets to The 5th Avenue Theatre’s production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. It was opening night, and even though it was a Thursday, the theater was packed. Of course, that’s the very best way to enjoy a production on stage, and especially a musical.
There’s nothing quite like a couple of thousand applauding patrons to assess the effectiveness of the production.
If Thursday night’s final standing ovation was any indication–the local players and performers did very well indeed.
It was–to use a phrase from Rogers and Hammerstein–a real nice clambake . . . and we had a real fine time.
For those readers who may not have been to the 5th, I quote a paragraph from Encore, the theater program.
OUR HISTORIC THEATRE
“A beautiful Seattle landmark, The 5th Avenue Theatre’s breathtaking design was inspired by ancient Imperial China’s most stunning architectural achievements, including the magnificent Forbidden City. Built in 1926 for vaudeville and silent pictures, The 5th Avenue Theatre reigned for decades as Seattle’s favorite movie palace. In 1979, 43 companies and community leaders formed the non-profit 5th Avenue Theatre Association. Their goal was to restore the theater to its original splendor. The 5th Avenue re-opened in 1980 as Seattle’s premier home for musical theater.”
Carousel was the second musical from the team of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. The 1945 work was adapted from the 1909 Lillom, an Hungarian play. It was re-set on the Maine coastline and revolves around the ill-fated romance between carousel barker Billy Bigelow, and millworker Julie Jordan. Their romance comes at the cost of both of their jobs, and the impending birth of their first child causes Billy (an abusive roughneck) to attempt an armed robbery to monetarily provide for his wife and daughter.
Killed in the attempt, Billy goes to a sort of purgatory, or heavenly half-way house, to wait fifteen years for a one-day return to earth to try to undo the harm he has done to his family and gain permanent entrance to the “pearly-gates.” The unfolding of this storyline becomes the basis for the second half of the musical.
Carousel followed closely (both stage and film) on the success of Oklahoma–and while it never quite achieved the same success as that first R&H attempt, has become an American classic and favorite ever since, in it’s own right.
In the wonderful 1956 film, Bigelow is played by the incomparable Gordon MacRae, and Julie by the stellar Shirley Jones. Yup, the same two as from Oklahoma, just a year before.
They were a great team–and you don’t mess with perfection.
The music was to die for–and included: The Carousel Waltz, You’re A Queer One, Julie Jordan, When I Marry Mr. Snow, If I Loved You, June Is Bustin’ Out All Over, Blow High, Blow Low (a whalin’ we will go) When The Children Are Asleep, A Real Nice Clambake, Stonecutters Cut It On Stone, What’s The Use Of Wond’rin, and the rousing and enduring—You’ll Never Walk Alone.
For those for whom it is new, a viewing of the classic film is a great place to start. It just doesn’t get much better than watching–and listening to MacRae and Jones do their thing one more time. If it were a first viewing for me, I believe that I would preface it with a look at the equally mesmerizing Oklahoma (1955).
But if you want to see Carousel presented as it was originally meant to be–with live actors, and actual music from a real, live orchestra, then beat a path down to The 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.
Better hurry–Carousel will only be in town through the end of February.
You just can’t beat the experience either way. It’s a great movie, a terrific musical stage production, and in the immortal words of Rogers and Hammerstein . . . “a real-nice clambake.”
For easy tickets, please visit the box office at www.5thavenue.org
Dumb Joke of the Day: I can’t believe I got fired at the calendar factory. All I did was take a day off.
Next up . . . The writing life.