Wednesday, July 13, 2016

I'd Rather Leave When I'm in Love

After being away so much the past few weeks, it was time to buckle down and we know what that means.

Massive intakes of food and theater.

My partner in crime was the lovely Mac, who'd cheated on me while I was away by walking with a 5'9" co-worker who complained about her fast pace.

Eager to be clear, Mac explained that she and I usually go even faster on our walks. "You must be running," her co-worker presumed. Nope, despite my diminutive 5'5" and Mac's even shorter stature, that's just our pace.

Keep up if you can.

Once we'd done the plenty tasty work of my hired mouth, we directed our attention to Richmond Triangle Players' production of "The Boy from Oz," a musical about Australian songwriter and performer (not to mention Oscar winner for the theme from "Arthur"), Peter Allen.

I won't claim to have known lots about the man beyond him being a songwriter ("I Honestly Love You," "I Go to Rio") and Liza Minnelli's first husband, but, please, doesn't that alone qualify him for dissection under the musical theater microscope?

Richmond Triangle Players has brilliantly cast Chris Hester as Allen, thus ensuring the audience will be dazzled by his myriad skill sets from a spot-on Australian accent to effortless-looking and impressive singing and dancing chops.

Looking fine in a t-shirt doesn't hurt, either, as any man or woman in the audience could have attested.

His performance alone could have carried the show, but the uncanny likeness of Grey Garrett as a '60s Judy Garland and Anna Grey Hogan as a budding "Liza with a Z" - both in looks, movement and singing - ensured that a play many of us had never heard of would be completely memorable.

Personally, I'm partial to plays where characters sing an ode to my people, the snappy "Only an Older Woman," in this case, acknowledging the wealth of life experience Judy can bring to up and coming performers.

You need an older woman to teach you
One who is barely reaching her prime
Who thinks you're fun, not someone to preach to
What do you say? Let's have a good time
Cause with an older woman
Nothing you do is a crime

Almost as good were costumes that evoked Garland's '60s style, Liza's budding "look" and Allen's trademark flashiness (think Hawaiian shirts and shiny silver loafers), but I'd also credit the fabulous falls the women in the ensemble wore (so very mod London-era) for nailing the little details.

Not only did we both have nothing but raves for the play afterwards (duh, the play's run wasn't extended for nothing), it also had had the best possible effect on us. Now we're both dying to read a biography of Peter Allen's oh-so interesting life, followed by a Liza bio so we can see where the stories overlap.

Mac even wants to read Garland's story, but I've read a couple versions so I already know it's pretty tragic.

But isn't that what well-executed theater does to its audience? Entertains but also engages to the point of informing, maybe even inspiring some post-show learning?

You know, like in school, except with glitter and jazz hands and no pesky grades at the end.

And even if there were, older women grade on a curve.

Only one who's been round the block
Can give you the ride that you need...

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