Sunday, August 30, 2020

Theater, Film, And Then Some

I work in a small office with other small offices for independent professionals down the corridor.  When we need a break from our individual work my office mates meet in the hall with masks and ask each other what we have done or seen recently.  Everyone is wondering what to do with themselves with restaurants, theaters, and movies closed or with limited access.

My wife and I are theater buffs, as mentioned in a previous Missive. The last edition of The New Yorker that I found having a review of a live show was March 23 it seems like years ago now. We found a way to get our theater fix by subscribing to BroadwayHD which offers many choices of live recorded theater and films of former shows or movies based on shows.  In round figures, the app costs $100/year which these days might not even pay for a ticket to a single Broadway show and certainly not a pair of tickets!

Let’s look at this app in a little more depth. Trying to pick what to watch is the only difficult part. There are the recordings of shows you would expect to see such as “Les Miserables”, “The King & I” and “Death of a Salesman”.  Fine by us as nostalgia has become more important to us as we try to think back to normal. times.  

It has been difficult to decide which plays to write about since I cannot remember if we have seen them live or on Memorex.  We saw “Red” on Broadway and in a local production at the Lensic and it is offered on BroadwayHD. We saw “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well” in a small New York theatre where we sat in the first row and got spat on by the star every time he belted out a song. The recorded version was less intimate, but, if you love theater, it is always interesting to see a show handled in a new way in a different production.

If you become enamored of a show there is sometimes a video on the making of the show! Another interesting documentary was “Repeat Attenders”, but I wrote about that one a few weeks ago.

A musical comedy which I had not seen before is “She Loves Me”.  There is a wonderful version from The Roundabout Theater in New York on BroadwayHD.  The plot involves co-workers in a small shop who do not get along very well but find out that they have been pen pals for quite a while, a piece of fluff but superbly performed.

In the case of “Daddy Longlegs”, a Cinderella story of a young woman at college and her benefactor, we have a novel, turned into a movie with Fred Astaire and now the filming of an original off-Broadway musical version.  It is absolutely charming. As video captures some of the excitement of a live audience, we even joined in the applause every once in a while.

“The Goes Wrong Show” is a slap-stick comedy series that demonstrates, in highly exaggerated form, what can happen if someone doesn’t do their job correctly in a theatrical production. On one episode where the scenic designer got the specifications totally wrong and the actors have to squeeze themselves into sets where they can’t possibly fit.  If you are just looking for a good laugh, take a look.  The episodes are not related so it is something you can come back to weeks later when you need your next laugh … if you can wait that that long!

Most recently we watched a movie made from the play “Copenhagen”, by Michael Frayn, that we saw on Broadway years ago and loved. It is about a meeting between Niels Bohr (Danish) and Werner Heisenberg (German).  They were nuclear physicists and the former was the latter’s teacher. The plot revolves around their meeting in 1941 and put simply it involves the ethics of the use of nuclear weapons. The BBC remade the show in this excellent film in 2002.  You will find yourself holding your breath by the end.  The acting is so superb that you can feel the anguish of all three characters.

Comedies are fun and I love musicals, but I like best when I see a show that I keep thinking about days and weeks after I have seen it.

Maybe, I should mention that I have no stake in BroadwayHD but I am quite excited over our “discovery”.

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