August 06, 2004

Anna and the King and I and Anna

Well, I just returned from an encore performance of "The King and I" put on by the Longview Community Theatre. I went, and Anna went. Some bums stayed at home. Some are wandering the world. We are displeased, but it's their loss, not ours . . . And it gave me the once-in-a-lifetime chance to use that title for this post.

Anyway, I rather enjoyed myself. We quickly found our seats, and we were soon joined on all sides by many eager patrons of the arts. The female sitting next to me was of advanced years, and was wearing enough pungent old-lady perfume to drown newborn puppies in. Fortunately I got used to the smell and stopped noticing fairly quickly. As we waited for the musical to begin, Anna happened to notice a few familiar faces in the row behind us. That was when we discovered that we would be sharing this experience with the Hon. Dr. Watson and spouse (more on that later).

In ordering my thoughts for some sort of review (both during the performance and now) I find that I am a bit at sea in some respects. I'm kinda missing the other half of the team with whom to play "Good Critic, Bad Critic." But whatever, I know what Scholl would say if he were here. He would say, "Bah, Texans!" and that would suffice to condemn the entirety of the thing. I, on the other hand, will merely relate the pertinent facts of the matter as they relate to that particular aspect of the production, then set them aside and proceed to judge from a more rational and objective standpoint.

Let us proceed to do just that:

I must say, first, that for a small East Texas city to attempt a production of "The King and I" is a bit overambitious to begin with. Why? Because it requires Asians. Lots and lots of Asians. Like that scene in The Matrix where he says, "Guns. Lots of guns," and two endless racks appear . . . That many Asians. Almost.

Problem #1: I believe I mentioned that we are in East Texas. That geographically informative adjective in front of "Texas" is the only eastern part about it. We haven't got that many Asians.

Problem #2: Said Asians are required to speak with convincing accents originating in their native region. Also there are a handful of Brits in the thing. This is, as I have mentioned a few times already, Texas. Trying to sound like you aren't from around here when you really are is like hoping nobody's going to taste all that horseradish you accidentally dropped into the cheese souffle you were making . . .

Problem #3: Said Asians do not have the same physical appearance as your average WASP. Looking through the pictures of the actors who would be playing Siamese characters, I couldn't help but say to myself, "Self, is there enough make-up in all East Texas (that isn't already in use by Southern Baptist ladies, like the ones sitting all around me) to turn these distinctly European specimens into convincing Orientals? I think not . . ." *dramatic chord*

My concerns were, I fear, at least partially well founded. In the area of make-up, the main characters were "acceptable" but amongst the horde of little urchins, particularly, there was some definite lacking going on. The illusion was not upheld in that respect, but I was prepared to forgive.

In the area of accents, I was pleasantly surprised (although my fears weren't entirely unfounded in this area either). In the matter of speech, the worst offenders were the Prime Minister of Siam (played by our own Dr. Mays) and Sir Edward Ramsay. Princess Ying Yaowlak also had issues, but she was, like, eight, and had all of three lines or something. Mrs. Anna herself alternated so often between British schoolteacher and Southern belle (there were certain words and vowel sounds that consistently tripped her up) that I stopped noticing or caring when it happened, and so passed on with relative ease. Aside from these rather paltry complaints, I was quite impressed.

The costumes were largely excellent . . . and they even managed four or five different outfits for each of the main characters. The props and sets were artistic, creative, and easy on the eyes. They successfully avoided glaring anachronisms (with the possible exception of some suspicious, and large, tattoos on one of the Buddhist monks), which is always a pleasant surprise.

The acting, barring the already noted exceptions, was superb, especially the singing. All of the singers had very fine voices. Anna, the King, Tuptim, the King's #1 wife, and the Heir Apparent were all very talented.

The music was divine.

Regarding the musical numbers as a whole . . . Largely quite wonderful, especially when they involved dancing, as the following: "The March of the Siamese Children" (nightmarish to choreograph and organize, I'm sure . . . someone has my pity), "Getting to Know You" (again, kudos to whoever got stuck organizing that one), "The Small House of Uncle Thomas Ballet" (I think I actually liked this part even better than the movie, very notably discharged), "Shall We Dance?" (well done considering, in particular, the cramped stage . . . this was particularly apparent to me having seen the wide-ranging sweeping and whirling that takes place in the movie version). I also really liked "A Puzzlement" (The King's big solo number), "Shall I Tell You What I Think of You" (Anna's big solo number), and "I Have Dreamed" (Tuptim and Lun Tha's big . . . umm . . . duo number).

And that was the musical experience. Highly enjoyable. I would like to take this opportunity to note the rest of the LCT season schedule:

-late September, early October: Dearly Departed (quirky southern comedy)

-mid-November: Wait Until Dark (taut suspense thriller . . . the movie version of this, starring Audrey Hepburn, is my favorite movie of its genre)

-late February: Jekyll & Hyde (the musical . . . yes, musical)

-late April: The Man Who Came to Dinner (an excellent comedy which I am particularly anxious to see)

All of the above would cost $10/ticket, (save the musical, which would be $15). SC social outing, anyone?

And speaking of musicals, Watson wandered over to speak with us in the lobby during the intermission, and pitched a most intriguing idea to us. He has his own idea for an elaborate stage production: "R. G.: The Musical." We were both immediately sold. Anna seemed anxious to see this at Hootenanny (I don't know that it would get past the censors, myself), but Watson seemed to have his sights set on something a bit nearer to, say, Broadway.

Whatever . . . he had loads of ideas. All of them were pricelessly funny. Dr. Watson has had far too much free time this summer . . . it's time for him to get back to school and put that warped and twisted mind of his back to its proper work corrupting students. Anyway, I can't and shan't reproduce all of his excellent ideas here, for obvious reasons, but I simply must share his idea for the big, show-stopping musical number: A LeTourneau University Alma Mater Chorus Line. He even gave us a brief demonstration of what it might look like, right there in the middle of the crowded lobby. We were in stitches.

As we went back inside at the end of the intermission, he leaned in and murmured, "Auditions begin soon, if you're interested."

Anna: "Be sure you call us first."

A job for the SC Players, anyone?

Posted by Jared at August 6, 2004 11:59 PM | TrackBack