Only once in a blue moon do Mrs. Sgt. T and I go out for live entertainment. Almost never. This is one of the reasons it didn't bother us to move from a metro area of a millionish to one a tenth that size: even with world-class music and theater venues all around us we hardly ever went out.
But last night we did. Saw a poster in a coffee shop and needed a night out and so we found ourselves at the Shedd Institute in downtown Eugene seeing a performance of Lady, Be Good.
Lady, Be Good! It came at a good time. In the last year, unbeknownst to my blogging self, I've been gradually (okay, maybe a little half-heartedly) exploring the Great American Songbook via jazz interpretations of it (there's a great series of Verve discs...). And it got me intrigued by things I never would have approached willingly a couple of years ago - musicals, namely, and especially of the archaic Broadway variety. I found myself excited about the prospect of hearing some of these songs (I only knew "Fascinating Rhythm" and "Oh, Lady Be Good") in their original context, sung straight.
I wasn't disappointed. It's local theater, okay, so it wasn't perfect. The orchestra took a while to get warmed up - they played the overture and everything, which was nice (it quotes from "Rhapsody In Blue," which had premiered not long before this shows did in 1924), but they didn't really hit their groove musically until near the end of the first act. Same went for the actor/singer/dancers. Their comic timing didn't really click until the second act. It was a half-staged production - full costumes, minimal props, singing and dancing at the front of the stage, but dialogue delivered in read-through fashion with a narrator. It might have been better if they'd gone ahead and acted the thing; it might have helped with their timing.
But at its worst it was still entertaining. And for most of the second half they managed to bring the farce alive, so that you could see how it was supposed to work. They even pulled off the Charleston number in quite nifty fashion - nobody can match Fred and Adele, especially the Fred and Adele in my imagination, but these dancers at least made me feel like I could imagine Fred and Adele.
Yeah. So now I've seen a Gershwin musical, I've floated on the gentle swing of "Lady, Be Good" and "So Am I," I've had "Fascinating Rhythm" stuck in my head for twenty-four hours, I've, you know, figured out why all that fringe is there on flapper dresses. And for the hundredth time, in the hundredth different way, I'm thinking what a surprisingly cool town the Euge is. Only a hundred thousand people, in the middle of nowhere, Oregon, and yet I can go downtown and see a revival of a 1924 Gershwin musical. And it's pretty okay.