Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks - 2011

Thanksgiving is absolutely the best holiday on the calendar.

No church-going obligations (or guilt for not going!).
No stress and rush with shopping for gifts or addressing cards.
No flags to hoist or parades to attend.

Nope, Thanksgiving is only about eating and visiting with loved ones. And these just happen to be two of my very favorite things in the whole world.

My mother was the glue that held our family together. When she passed at a much too early age, my brothers and sisters and I divided up the holidays with a promise to never drift apart. I was fortunate to claim Thanksgiving as my holiday to host. Although most of my family live 90 miles south, this is the one day of the year when most of them drive up to spend the day at my house.

It promises to be a day of good food and good times...a little reminiscing, a little looking forward, a little laughing, and maybe even a tear or two.

Like most of you, my family and loved ones are at the very top of my things-to-be-thankful-for list.

Here's wishing everyone a great day with family and friends!

Don't forget to stop and consider ALL the things you have to be thankful for.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

November Poetry Corner

The Wanderer
           by W.H. Auden

Doom is dark and deeper than any sea-dingle.
Upon what man it fall
In spring, day-wishing flowers appearing,
Avalanche sliding, white snow from rock-face,
That he should leave his house,
No cloud-soft hand can hold him, restraint by women;
But ever that man goes
Through place-keepers, through forest trees,
A stranger to strangers over undried sea,
Houses for fishes, suffocating water,
Or lonely on fell as chat,
By pot-holed becks
A bird stone-haunting, an unquiet bird.
There head falls forward, fatigued at evening,
And dreams of home,
Waving from window, spread of welcome,
Kissing of wife under single sheet;
But waking sees
Bird-flocks nameless to him, through doorway voices
Of new men making another love.
Save him from hostile capture,
From sudden tiger's leap at corner;
Protect his house,
His anxious house where days are counted
From thunderbolt protect,
From gradual ruin spreading like a stain;
Converting number from vague to certain,
Bring joy, bring day of his returning,
Lucky with day approaching, with leaning dawn.

- Theater Review - Annie

Peoria Players continues their 2011-2012 season with the perennial favorite, "Annie".

While this show is done a bit too frequently by amateur groups, it nevertheless has great value in that it offers a lot of young people what may well be their first theater experience. 
That experience may be onstage or as an audience member.

The Peoria Players' production that opened on Friday is a wildly uneven presentation.

Maddy Hoskins is positively charming in the title role.   She has the voice, the moves, and the stage presence to make it work.

All of the other orphans are delightful as well.  Their singing, dancing, and acting are right on target.
"Its A Hard-knock Life" is one of the highlights of the show.

Another highlight was Bryan Blanks' performance as Rooster.  I have seen Mr. Blanks in this role before (I believe at Eastlight) and he honed it even better here for a truly professional quality performance.

Dave Schick was excellent as Daddy Warbucks, and Anne Gonzalez' Grace Farrell was equally good.

While Cheryl Dawn Koenig was good as Miss Hannigan, her performance was marred by a bad microphone - a constant problem at this theater.

While the choreography was good in the orphan numbers and in "Easy Street", it was virtually non-existent in some of the other numbers. 
"Hooverville" was particularly awful with the actors flailing aimlessly about the stage.

But the fatal flaw for this production was the orchestration. 

Now in my last Peoria Players review, when I criticized the direction, I received the most hate mail ever for a review.
So get your poison pens ready.... 

Here goes:

A musical requires good music, and this was the absolute worst orchestration I have ever heard in a production above high school level.

Perhaps there were grade school kids down in the pit, I don't know.  It certainly sounded like children learning to play without a conductor present. 

Or perhaps the conductor was Harold Hill, relying on his "think system".

Indeed, the orchestra threw a couple numbers into chaos when the singers did not know what to do with sudden unpredictable changes in tempo.

If Players cannot secure a better orchestra or musical director than this, then please, please consider professionally recorded music for your next musical!

Anyway, go see this show for the orphans. 

They sing loud enough to drown out the orchestra.

"Annie" runs through November 20th at the theater in Lakeview Park.


- Theater Review - Almost, Maine

Bradley University Theatre opened their second show of the 2011-2012 season on Thursday evening.

"Almost, Maine" is an absolutely delightful little romantic comedy. 

It consists of a series of ten vignettes that all take place at the same time on the same day in the fictional town of Almost, Maine. 

Six actors play a total of nineteen different roles.

The six actors are Ross Cochran, Ashley Bendien, John Carroll, Chloe Dzielak, Jake Hayes, and Krystal Uhl.

The common themes that tie the pieces together are falling in love (and out) and the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. 
Perhaps the latter - a beautiful, rare, and natural phenomenon - is symbolic for the former.

The show opens and closes with a sweet bit about life on this globe, and and how when we think we are close to someone, that perhaps we couldn't be further apart. 
And it takes a bit of effort indeed to get truly close to someone.

Another story involves a pair of drinking-buddy best friends who find themselves falling in love - literally!

There also is a young woman who journeys northward to view the Northern lights bearing her recently broken heart - literally!

Another tale concerns a young woman who seeks to get back all the love she has given her lover of eleven years - literally!

While a couple of the stories are poignant/sad, the majority are funny and clever romps.  They seem pleasantly simple on the surface, and yet are layered with symbolism and deeper meaning.

All the young actors do a wonderful job with this show. 

It was particularly enjoyable to see Ross Cochran, who has been drawn to darker roles in past productions, deliver some fun and funny performances here.

Chloe Dzielak, who was so wonderful as Mother in the season opener, "Ragtime", returns here with some equally superior performances.

"Almost, Maine" is pure enchantment.

Go see this show, and I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

It runs through November 20th at Hartmann Center on the BU campus.