My Fair Lady - It Was Loverly
Saturday, April 11, 2015
|Dallas Murray Richards, 97, Lauren Elizabeth Stewart, 12, April 11, 2015|
With the conversion of the Vancouver Ford Theatre into a
church the idea of going to a well performed, large cast, full orchestra
musical is just about non-existent. The Arts Club Theatre Company does its best
to accommodate with plays like Mary Poppins or It’s a Wonderful Life within the
limitations of the Stanley Theatre (now the Stanley Industrial Alliance
Theatre) which was never built for that sort of thing.
Last year I found out there was a pleasant option that
involved going to the Royal City of New Westminster and its splendid Massey
Theatre. My granddaughter Lauren (then 11) witnessed a Royal City Musical Theatre
production of Annie.
This year, my granddaughter Lauren and I attended the opening on Saturday. Nothing has changed in Vancouver but the Royal
City Musical Theater mounted a full blown My Fair Lady, book and lyrics by Alan
Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, with Artistic Director Valery Easton
ably assisted by director Max Reimer. Before I go on I must point out the
lesser know fact that Reimer began his days in theatre as a dancer. Easton was
a jazz dancer in the CBC variety shows of the 70s and 80s. That adds up to very
good dancing in this adaptation of George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion.
At the interval Richards told me that the large orchestra
was made up of amateurs who were all very good. They were. For me the real star of the
show besides the splendid actors, singers and musicians was Set Designer Brian Bell.
His sets were ample proof that much is lost in movies and
their special effects. The transformation of the different scenes, a grimy
London, Henry Higgins’s interior drawing room, the outside scene from The
Street Where You Live and the Ascot Horse Races all happened with complex
revolving of sets that were then pushed or pulled. It was a tour de force.It was magic.
Both Lauren and I were familiar to see Warren Kimmel as
Henry Higgins. We have seen him twice in the last two year as the father in the
Arts Club Theatre production of Mary Poppins.
The whole house was impressed by the tenor singing of
Thomas Lamont who plays the nerdish Freddy Eynsford-Hill. Few might know that
George Bernard Shaw stuck to his guns and for years had Freddy marry Eliza
Doolittle and they set up their flower shop.
Tracy Neff as Eliza Doolittle was just right
although in my books she looked much too clean in the beginning. I guess I had
the grimy Wendy Hiller in my mind who played Eliza in the 1938 adaptation of
Shaw’s play into a film, Pygmalion. I saw that film many times as a young boy
as my mother adored Leslie Howard who was Henry Higgins.
John Payne as Alfred Doolittle rendered With A Little Bit
Of Luck most entertaining with lots of dancing and backed up by good singers.
Going to a theatre with a red curtain and red walls and
seats is always an experience when one compares it with that of attending a
film (you are shouted “Enjoy the show,” many times) at the Scotia Bank Cinema
on Burrard. That I shared my experience
with my delighted Lauren made it all that much more special.
I have never associated Audrey Hepburn with Eliza Doolittle because of the many times I saw Wendy Hiller on film. If anything the later adaptation of the Broadway play into the 1964 film was special for both my mother and I as we were fans of Rex Harrison whom we loved in The Ghost of Mrs. Muir
with Gene Tierney.
For me Audrey Hepburn was the young princess in the 1953 film Roman Holiday. I was lucky enough to photograph her in 1984
under circumstances that I regret to this day (read the link). Having seen My Fair Lady on Sunday I wish I could have been Pygmalion and Hepburn my Galatea. Perhaps had I summoned Aphrodite, Hepburn would have been transformed to the princess in Roman Holiday.
My Fair Lady runs until the 26th of April.
I Am A Limp Wrist
Friday, April 10, 2015
|Linda Lorenzo - Ilford 3200 Mamiya RB-67 Pro-SD 140mm lens|
After all these years, 72 in fact, I must admit that I am a
Before the advent of digital cameras 35mm cameras were the
kings of the fly on the wall, shoot from the hip machines. Anything bigger had
to be in a studio and firmly attached to a tripod.
Because tools, and cameras are tools, inherently suggest to
you what you might achieve when using them, the small cameras were from the era
when “film was cheap”. You took many exposures.
When shooting with anything bigger such as 120 film medium
format cameras or the bigger 4x5 inch view cameras, film was not so cheap and a
pain to process, particularly when it
was my own darkroom. Early in my
photographic career I swore that I would never want to see the world up-side
down. I never owned a 4x5 and only used one once.
My choice was my extremely heavy Mamiya RB-67 which used 120
film (10 exposures) and 220 (20 exposures). The latter has been discontinued by
all film manufacturers.
The heavy Mamiya was difficult to use without a tripod. It was
heavy and cumbersome and most film for it was not fast enough to handle camera
This changed when both Kodak and Ilford came out with a 3200
ISO 120 film. Ilford still makes it 3200 film.
So for a while I was excited at the prospect of shooting
almost from the hip with my Mamiya (not on a tripod) with the super fast 3200 film.
The pictures included here were my early attempts with the then new film. I was amazed at how
good it was and it could handle enlargement up to about 11x14 inches. I
processed the film with Kodak HC-110. I believe now that Kodak T-Max Developer
would produce a finer grain.
At age 72 I am now. thanks to my psoriatic arthritis, a limp wrist and that camera would
still have to be on a tripod.
Masque - An Evening Of New Music With The Petit Avant- Garde
Thursday, April 09, 2015
Masque Turning Point Ensemble
Masque Musica Intima
What is new music?
It is easy to be complacent. It is easy to go to a
program of Mozart. I can no longer abide going to listen to Bach’s Concerto for
2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043. I have heard it too many times. In my car these
days I am listening to The Rosary Sonatas of Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, a 17th
century composer. It is more difficult to pull yourself together (as the
English are fond to say) and go to a challenging evening of new music. But I do my best not to be complacent.
I find it strange that the members of Vancouver’s avant-garde
mostly have gray hair. Whatever happened to youth in their quest for the new,
the daring and the experimental? It would seem that our city’s avante-garde
would have to be renamed (and I am doing so) as the Petit Avant-garde.
The Petit Avant-garde including my friend the genius
(alas retired!) CBC sound engineer Don Harder
were there tonight at the
Telus Studio Theatre Chan Centre at UBC for the first of the series Masque
together by Nu:BC Collective (tonight) and the other two forthcoming ones by Turning Point Ensemble and Musica Intima (and friends) featuring
Collective, Paolo Bertolucci on flute, Corey Hamm,
piano and Eric Wilson on
cello. Turning Point’s Artistic Director Owen Underhill
was also in attendance
and he told me, “You are lucky to be here as the last work in the program,
Peter Maxwell Davies’s Eight Songs for a Mad King
(1969) is something that you
get to hear only once in your lifetime performed live.”
|Adam Da Ross, Diane Park, Paolo Bortolussi, Corey Hamm, William George, Brian Nesselroad, Eric Wilson, Mark Ferris & Françoise
And consider, too that the three works in the program,
Converse (2015) by Bob Pritchard, Souffles Primitivs (2001) by Christian Calon and Heroes in the
Seaweed (2015) by Keith Hamel (unlike Bartók he smiles a lot) where works by
living and breathing composers. Two composers, Pritchard and Hamel were present in the audience. While Maxwell Davies
composed his work in 1969 my Spanish grandmother would say “todavía vivitos y
coleando,” or all are alive and wagging their tail.
There was a good reason for the presence of Keith Hamel and Bob Pritchard (wearing for the first time a Noël
Coward style Chinese smoking jacket, a clashing bow tie and orange socks).
in some ways were sort-of-like
conductors or perhaps as extra performers in the back of the room. This sort of
thing is called interactive electronics. I experienced this intriguing method
of playing music in 2014 at a Turning Point Ensemble concert
at the Woodward’s
The system in which the individual composers sitting by a
big Mac and an assorted combination of equipment I hardly recognized, modify
the music being played by the performers or they add stuff. There are no real
pre-recorded tracks being played (perhaps a few). The result is sound that
travels the acoustically interesting Telus Studio (so says Don Harder) through
multiple speakers all over the room (ceiling and wall). The sounds of the performers
not always come from the conventional use of their instruments. In some cases pianist
Hamm was ignoring the keyboard and concentrating on scratching the works of the
piano, or cellist Wilson would bang on his instrument or howl vowels into a
microphone (in Pritchard’s work). But it was flutist Bortolussi facing an array
of microphones who did stuff with his flute that in many cases precluded the
conventional blowing. In Souffles Primitivs he worked on (perhaps a better term
than play!) a bass flute, an instrument I had never seen before.
The key to enjoying (tolerating some would say) this
music is not to be too worried about understanding it. The idea is that composers
want to try new things and performers get bored with the conventional
repertoire. Just go to any Turning Point Ensemble concert and you will note
that many of the performers also play for the VSO or other traditional symphony
orchestras. For me new music is the champagne soother between heavy meals.
Many think that new music is scary and serious and yet
all three works had lots of very obvious humour, one that as a member of the
audience you can share and feel like you are part of it.
At one time philosophers and philosophy seemed to be
most important in our understanding of how we think, live and die. Now I would
say that role has shifted to the arts and particularly to that new-music composers are pushing that envelope. Pritchard’s piece
involved the idea that vowels reveal our emotions while consonants are all
about information and content. The three musicians played their instruments but
also repeated vowels and consonant (at times it was very funny). The work left
me thinking. Is Pritchard right?
Hamel’s second work, Heroes in the Seaweed was an ode to
the man that he admires (an admiration shared not only by most Canadians but
the world) Leonard Cohen
. The performance included (I forgot to look back so I
don’t know if Hamel’s wife soprano (but sometimes alto) the Reveren Liz Hamel
was saying the words of Cohen’s songs and poetry live or it had been pre-recorded.
Her voice is splendid and soothing.
|Paolo Bortolussi & his bass flute|
The second half of the concert (after I interacted with
the cognoscenti Petit Avant-garde) consisted of a complex, moving, impressive,
troubling work by an English composer who perhaps not unlike Scottish marmelade
might have the words “By Appointment to the Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
Purveyor of Music to Her Court) stamped on his forehead. It was at the
beginning of the work that I noticed the four golden “cages” that were lowered
to encompass not only Bortolucci, and Wilson but also virtuoso clarinettist Françoise
Houle and deapan (but not for long) violinist Mark Ferris. There was an additional
change as behind was percussionist Brian Nesselroad wearing a black top hat. He
look ominously funereal. All the performers had red, whit and blue tufts of
feathers (?) and the whole set had been designed by the elegant Diane Park (My,that
red dress she was wearing!) with staging by Adam Da Ross.
The big surprise was the sudden appearance of tenor William
George dressed as a bullfinch (King George III, the mad king had an obsession
with these feathery friends). He did more than sing (lyrics pulled from the
writings, on record of King George III and Randolphe Stowe). In the 8 songs,
William George, see-sawed between lucidity and out and out madness. This was
scary and I kept thinking to myself what other baritone could possibly do this?
When George repeatedly says:
I am nervous. I am not ill
but I am nervous.
If you would know what is the matter with me
I am nervous
I understand that we still have to understand madness and the stigmas
still attached to it. We would never ever use the word straight jacket in a
sentence and when George put on his coat backwards it was all so reinforced.
It was at the end of Song 7 that George entered Ferris's cage and snatched his violin. He went back to the centre of the stage (I kept
thinking he is not going to smash it, is he?) while Ferris expressed unusual
shock. George then smashed the violin on the floor and returned the pieces to
Ferris who then lay down on the floor apparently dead in shock. It was then
than percussionist Nesselroad, with black top hat and a huge marching band drum
appeared as death and he led a howling George out of the room.
|William George |
Of course with all the action on stage I never had
noticed that Ferris had replaced his valuable violin by perhaps 50 Dollar one.
I drove home in semi shock and I would agree with
Underhill as to the luck and value of having seen this work performed. And I hoped the four living composers of whose work I had heard that evening would be alive and well for a long time.
|From left, Bob Pritchard (note the smoking jacket) & Keith Hamel|
Dumb Dick Falls For Wrong Girl
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Yet, you're my favorite work of art
Is your figure less than Greek?
Is your mouth a little weak?
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?
But don't change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine, stay
Each day is Valentines Day
Lorenz Hart/ Richard Rodgers
Tonight I attended the opening night performance of Aaron
Bushkowsky’s play Farewell My Lovely based on Raymond Chandler’s 1940 novel of
the same name. My companion was Ruth Brooks, my sister-in-law from New Dublin,
Ontario who has not gone to a play in many (many) years. The performance was
directed by Craig Hall at the Arts Club Theatre’s Granville Island Stage and
they co-produced it with Calgary’s Vertigo Theatre.
A punctilious theatre critic (I am neither just an avid
blogger and theatre aficionado) would crucify Aaron Bushkowsky who tinkered
with Chandler’s minimal dialogue. In fact in the novel one of the cops who
manhandles our flawed dick is given the nickname of Hemingway to the utter
non-comprehension of the so-named.
Bushkowsky has simplified the plot so there is a tad less
left to the imagination. But any play that may bring our youth to an awareness
of Raymond Chandler can do no wrong especially when you can add to it a few
more very nice things.
Consider that Stephen Hair who plays slightly dense cop
Nulty reminded me of Trevor Howard.
Consider that Anthony F. (could that be Fitzgerald?)
Ingram plays two parts, Marriot an over-the-top ponce, and Amthor a slippery spiritualist.
Consider that Emma Slipp who plays Annie Riordon and Jamie Konchak as Helen Grayle can not only
act but also display stuff that were I a much younger man I would have had
the same problem as that man with the pistol in his pocket. As Mae West said:
Cultivate your curves - they may be dangerous but they
won't be avoided.
Consider that the above two women can sing very well and
do so. I particularly loved Slipp’s smoky voice.
They both drink.
While I was living in Mexico a Mexican (naturally) told me, "I love those stockings with seams in the back. You start at the bottom and follow the line all the way up to the top." I would cross legs with either of these women anytime.
Consider that Bushkovsky goes on a limb and makes Moose
Malloy, a black man in the presence of Beau Dixon. Farewell My Lovely, the novel
has language about black people that is not politically correct. The novel’s
Malloy wreaks havoc at an all-black night club. This is minimized in the play. Can Chandler be sanitized? Perhaps.
Consider that Jessie Florian (the ultimate Chandler dipso expertly played by luscious Lucia Frangione) is unable to get on with the 12-step program because of terminal circumstances beyond her control.
Consider that Graham Percy, tonight’s Philip Marlowe had
to fit the shoes of the likes of Dick Powell, Humphrey Bogart, Robert
Montgomery, James Garner, Elliot Gould and Robert Mitchum. He was none of them.
But he was a tad less (for a change) hard-boiled (3 minutes 45 seconds perhaps?) and thus
easier to like.
He drinks lots and lots.
Consider that tonight I overheard three people asking,
“Have you seen the Robert Mitchum version?”
Of that latter consideration I can only assert (with one
qualification that Charlotte Rampling somehow makes up for the omission) that the 1975 film does away completely with Emma Slipp’s part as Annie
Riordon. I do have one puzzle in my mind, the novel’s Anne clearly tells
Marlowe, “Don’t call me Annie). Why would Bushkowsky change her name from
Riordan to Riordon? Perhaps it is only a program typo. Does that make me
But any play that features one of my all-time favourite
jazz standards (I have about 15 versions with Gerry Mulligan with Chet Baker or
Art Farmer) My Funny Valentine
with a trumpet version by Chet Baker has to
merit high points for me.
Would I be that punctilious theatre critic (I assert
again that I am neither) I would simply write my review in two sentences (and this is
not a spoiler alert):
Dumb dick falls for the wrong girl.
Deitra Kalyns (costume designer) blué dress, I almost died
when I saw Slipp wearing it.
|Marco Soriano & Emma Slipp April 8 2015|