Friday, December 7, 2012

I Went to This Show Last Night

I took my own advice yesterday and fought my funk by taking a walk. It was a walk with a purpose because I was hauling my tired old ass to the Allways Lounge and Theatre on the corner of St. Claude and Marigny to catch the opening night of Sweeney Todd.

I admit, I went with some trepidation. My heart was skipping beats as I considered the possibility of running into people I knew, but didn't like, and having to talk to them. Or maybe it was skipping beats because I was walking down Elysian Fields after dark. Either way, my heart was playing hopscotch in my chest.

I shouldn't have worried. I only ran into two people I knew, sweet people, so I had no trouble relaxing in the foyer of the theatre.

Once the doors opened, we all scrambled to get inside for good seats.

(Forgive this momentary digression, but I would like to mention to the spry, elderly lady with the big wine glass who tried to cut in front of the old man clinging to his walker, don't do that. It's rude. It's doubly rude because he's the guy who gives out the Marquis Awards every year, and you don't want him to start a show with a bad taste in his mouth—or a broken hip from being bowled over. And to the two entitled chicks with short do's and big chests who did cut in front of me, don't wait until you meet the house manager to dig through your purses for your tickets. Have them ready. You kept the rest of the audience waiting for two minutes. Preparation is all, bitches. I'm just saying.)

To resume...

Once over that little speed bump, I was startled to see what the company had done to the theatre. Dennis Monn (the producer and director of the show) and his set designer, Adam Tourek, had transformed the space into a steampunk chamber of Victoriana with fog and soft organ music playing in the background. I found my seat with a smile on my face and took in the visuals of the whole room with a sense of wonder. Not many of the people who direct plays in New Orleans have any clue, or any desire to learn, how to make stage pictures; and I had the warm, safe feeling that Dennis would be doing just that.

I quickly noticed that I was sitting next to the person making the organ music. It was a scrunched figure in Victorian rags and a head scarf obscuring the face. I immediately thought this must be Ratty Scurvics, the evening's Sweeney, but I was wrong. The figure was later revealed to be a young lady known as Altercation who would be playing the role of the Beggar. If you know Sweeney Todd, you know what she's there for (wink, wink).

And if you do know Sweeney Todd, you would have been in for some surprises in this production.

Dennis has a distinctive style. Not many here do. I call his style Bywater-Weimar. It's a distinctly New Orleans gumbo of hipster, gutterpunk, and George Grosz pansexuality. It's rough-and-tumble, and loads of fun. It was sufficient to carry me over the moments of uncertain pitches that occurred now and then. (Don't let my quibble put you off. These are all musicians. They should have the opening-night nerves and glitches ironed out by tonight.)

Now, I'm no critic, and this is no review; but here are some moments that were highlights for me:
  • All the choral work.
  • Helen Gillet performing one of Mrs. Lovett's numbers accompanying herself on the cello.
  • Tobias (Barron Burmaster) passing out meat pies to the audience at the beginning of the second act. Thank you for giving me one. (I took it home to Bob. He ate it. It wasn't priest.)
  • The second-act reprise of "Johanna," sung by Anthony, Sweeney, Johanna, and the Beggar-woman. Dennis had placed each singer in four points of the theatre, their positions mapping an image (in my mind, at least) of an inverted cross. It gave me chills.
At no point in the evening did I have an uncontrollable urge to slip out of the theatre unseen and scramble home; and that's saying a lot.

And by the time I did leave—after the curtain call—my funk had evaporated.

I didn't even run into any Sweeneys on the way home.

For the record, here is the cast of Sweeney Todd:

                            Sweeney Todd  Ratty Scurvics
                            Mrs. Lovett  Helen Gillet
                            Anthony  David Symons
                            Lucy Barker/Beggar  Altercation
                            Johanna  Pandora Gastelum
                            Tobias  Barron Burmaster
                            Judge Turpin  Steve Walkup
                            Beadle Bamford  Raymond "Moose" Jackson
                            Pirelli    Aurora Nealand
                            Bird Seller/Fogg  Brian Coogan

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