July 7th, 2008

monkey pirate

Music Monday, See Me, Feel Me Edition

Saturday night, at the last minute, some friends invited me out to see "Tommy" at the Ricardo Montalban theater in Hollywood. Who know Ricardo Montalban had his own theater? Disappointingly, the seats were not made of fine Corinthian leather. We got rush tickets at the door, and then had a quick dinner at a faux-Euro cafe around the corner. We were amazed to find that our seats were absolutely front row - no one in the audience was closer to the stage than us. Sometimes those can actually be bad seats, if the stage is too elevated, but in this case were right at eye level with the actors. I could have reached out and touched them. For $20!

The production made use of "high def" headphones to provide 3-dHD audio to supplement the performance. At first it allowed them to mix in some sound effects in a slightly more realistic way. Overall, however, either the mix wasn't very good or they just didn't use the technology to its full potential, because I found the headphones to be basically irrelevant. The performers were mic'ed and amplified even without the headphones. It was an odd choice, but I guess more of a gmimick than anything. Aside from that it was a great show - every single member of the cast was strong. it was a very big ensemble too, and all of them were incredibly energetic. Strangely, one of them was a dead ringer for joemorf, so much so it was a little distracting. This imposter, this clone...this... Faux-meo, if you will, did do a very amusing turn as the mad doctor who tries to cure Tommy of his affliction. If they had hired the real Fromeo, instead of the Fauxmeo, I don't doubt Tommy actually WOULD have been cured, making for a much shorter show.

Standout performances were from Cousin Vic, who had an incredible stage presence and limitless energy, and from all the Tommys. Because the music was written by and for Roger Daltry, it's pretty high - and all the singers seemed effortlessly able to soar up into high lyric tenor range. There wasn't a weak link in the chain. One of the accompanying friends, herself an accomplisehd and very professional dancer, was truly impressed by the choreography and dancing. I don't know enough to comment, except to say it was extremely high energy, and a lot of fun to watch. It's not a terribly long show, either - just under two hours, which works to its benefit, I think. It was just the right length for an enjoyable evening, and a great bargain, given our cheapo rush seats. It's playing through Tuesday (extended, due to popular demand) so if you have a spare $20 and evening, give it a shot.

Here's the original song by The Who - I couldn't find any footage from the Hollywood production.
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monkey pirate

Philadelphia, Autumn, Coffee

For a little over four years, I lived in Manayunk and worked in West Philly. First a little apartment on Main St, then a house (the one that burned down, almost ten years ago) and then that lovely house, modelled like a pirate ship that I loved so well. It was at the top of a very tall hill, famously called "The Wall" in an annual bike race that attracts racers from the world over to pass or fail that brutal gut-check.

Just now, reading an article about the descent of Starbucks, and how the bloom is off its rose, brought me back to that neighborhood. I loved the chilly late-Autumn days, when I could see my breath and there was frost on the windows. I'd put on a thick sweater and a light green coat that I nearly always worse, and a red plaid scarf. Trudge down the hill, still blinking out the morning grogginess. There was a little coffee shop at the base of the hill, owned by a hipster couple that were very friendly, and some how managed to convey being utterly frazzled by running their shop without failing to express their genuine pleasure at serving great coffee and great food to customers. They were human, real humans, and not at all hidden behind a corporate veneer.

With a big cup of coffee I'd get on the train into town, the train car warm enough to warrant removing my scarf, only to put it back on again for the walk from 30th Street Station to Drexel. If I had set out early enough, I might have had a chance to sit at one of the cafe tables and read for a little while before heading out. Sometimes I'd do it anyway, even though it made me late. Coffee and a good book outdoors has always been, and remains, one of my greatest pleasures - but there was something about that place that stands out as just about my favorite. What was it called? Wish I could remember.

Might not remember the name, but I'll never forget the place.
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