Saturday, February 18, 2006

Reviews Galore -- continued

Oh dear. I've dropped the ball, haven't I? Alright, I plead guilty to all of Mr. Dave's charges; angry man, caffiene intolerant, eye-tease. Whatever. Apologies to the kind people at Petro Canada. I don't know what came over me.

Fine. If you really want the gory details -- here are the rest of last weekend's befallings:

Saturday. 12 PM. Toronto

Drinks at the Duke of Argyle on John Street. They have both Guinness and Strongbow Cider on tap so of course I must take advantage of that and order them half-and-half - layered of course. A Black Velvet. They have a Guinness-sponsored digital calendar on the wall than counts down the time 'til St. Patrick's Day in days, hours, minutes and seconds. Brilliant! I must get me one of these.

1 PM.

Around the corner to the Princess of Whales Theatre. The curtain does not exactly rise to start the epic musical stage performance of Lord of the Rings. It begins rather cleverly with the party for Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday. A quorum of Hobbit party guests are already on stage amusing themselves as the audience makes their way into the theatre. The further accumulation of Hobbits and progression to the scripted party scene is gradual and seamless.

This is a four-hour performance including two intermissions but doesn't feel like it. They pack so much into it; it's a roller coaster ride. Think about it. The story is, in essence, seven books long (The Hobbit, plus three LOTR tomes containing two 'books' each). Peter Jackson's movies, combined, totaled around nine hours.

I won't spill particular details and risk ruining anything for anyone. I will say this. This must be the most ambitious stage performance ever attempted. I think 'attempt' is the key word. While I enjoyed the effort immensely, I'm not convinced they really pulled it off. The technological aspect was immense. The stage is a massive circular puzzle board divided into separately mobile rings and a radiating array of hydraulic sections that raise or lower independently allowing for almost any imaginable scenario of topography and movement. The lighting and other special effects were ingenious.

For instance - and I will be deliberately vague: The scene with Gandalf battling the giant demonic Balrog as they free-fall together down a massive abyss. They tackle this scene! Do they simply drop out the centre core of the stage and have the combatants dive in? No. They turn the entire theatre into a whirlwind and we all, the audience, go tumbling into the abyss along with Gandalf and the Balrog. Incredible.

The problem with such ambitiousness and such reliance on the technical is of course, that something is bound to go wrong. The actor's ability to improvise in the face of discord is perhaps the most fascinating aspect of live theatre. But when faced with uncooperative computerized lighting and stage gyrations combined with intense choreography, improvisation could be a recipe for injury and disaster. Perhaps all one can do is throw their arms in the air and flee the stage. Alas, this is what became of the great Battle of Helm's Deep scene - twice. They declined to reset the stage and lighting to the close of the previous scene and try again a third time. Instead an announcer came on, apologizing again, and he gave a brief dissertation of the scene that we would be missing. Now, this announcer's accent - and whether this is unfortunate or brilliant is debatable - was British. This is significant. A musical stage rendition of Lord of the Rings, with all it's mock-sword play and running about - already dances dangerously close to world of Monty-Python style satire. I think this was on the collective subconsciousness of the audience. For the response to the announcement was one of great laughter. Should Tolkien's masterpiece be reduced to a comedy? God forbid. Did we need an easing of tension after such a debacle with tickets a 3-digit investment? Probably.

As I said, this project is possibly too ambitious. Some of the scenes where the special effects were intense came across muddled - unclear.

The special effects - when working properly as they did for the other 3-and-a-half hours, were simply amazing. I applaud their ingenuity. Also to be applauded is Galadriel's enchanting voice and the singing and dancing of the Hobbits. The marvelous thing about this 'musical' is that the music doesn't pervert the story - the reason I generally hate musicals. This isn't rival gangs with knives in the streets of New York singing and dancing with each other as in West Side Story. All the singing and dancing in this performance happens at times when the inhabitants of Middle Earth might actually sing and might actually dance!

I loved that they included the post-climax scene involving the freeing of the ruined Shire from the Sauron-sponsored gang of ruffians that had conquered it - an impactive scene that Jackson declined though justifiably so. But what really stayed with me from the books was the malaise that haunted Frodo and his terribly sad eventual departure from the Shire. This was a rather profound statement that a great hero, while saving his people and himself is guaranteed no glory or even happiness. Neither movie or play picked up on this significantly.

5 PM.

Five blocks west to Crush Wine Bar for dinner. They leave a bottle of mineral water on the table. Nice touch. The Warm Goat Cheese with roasted veggies, Belgian endive and toasted pistachio ($12) is yummy, we both agree. The rack of lamb at $38 (if I recall) is tasty and goes well with the mashed potato and herbs for an extra $5. Value? No. By Toronto standards, I couldn't say, but this outlander can get a delectable rack of lamb/garlic mash combination of superior flavour and richness at the Mono Cliffs Inn for $22. Spuds on the house. Literally half the price. I adamantly recommend the Mono Cliffs Inn to any individual who enjoys food or who must eat for reasons of survival etc. It's easy to find. Just go the middle of nowhere and it's right there. You can't miss it.

Rockin' Roddie does a wine ride. Four of their feature whites. I stick my nose up at such a concept and go straight for the 1999 Rioja Crianza from Bodegas Lan (Spanish, $47). It's touted in the extensive wine menu as being generous, fresh, velvety and lively with showings of plum and cherry and accents of cinnamon and orange peel (not orange mind you. God forbid! Just the peel).

I'm sure it's technically an excellent wine but as I mentioned earlier, my taste buds are few and far between and I found it frankly docile.

"Friendly," I say to Rockin' Roddie when he asks. He laughs.

"You can do better than that," he admonishes.

"Okay. Cuddly. How's that? I'd like to take it home and go to bed with it." He seems satisfied with that.

8 PM

We have found our way to The Mask on Church street. I am seriously in the mood for a rusty nail without ice or any hint of ice.

"I'll have a rusty nail please. No ice."

The rusty nail comes without ice. Excellent. Sip sip. It has also come without Drambui. Not so excellent. It has in fact come with Amaretto and it has been chilled. Thus it has all the flavor, vitality and texture of a glass of cherry koolade with a peanut at the bottom. But the wait staff are far too cute to complain to so I drink it and then order "A rusty nail with Drambui and no Amaretto, neither shaken or stirred please. Just warm." It is, of course, delicious and now we can get down to business.

Rockin' Roddie and I discuss life, love, god and society and how to possibly navigate through such the mess it has all become. I think we make progress.

10 PM

Down the street to George's Place. Their bar is stocked less fully than my own at home. This immediately, does not speak well of the place. What this says about me, we shall not explore, thank you very much.

Chris Edwards is on the stage doing a drag performance. He is not strictly a drag queen. He clearly falls under one of the 552 classifications of transgenderism, though which, I know not. Hmm. Spellcheck has ix-nayed 'transgenderism'. Well, I don't care. I'm sticking with it. Well, dammit. It's also ix-nayed 'spellcheck' and 'ix-nayed'! Oh, and 'dammit' too. I think my spellchecker is developing an attitude problem.

Sorry. Where was I? Ah, yes. Chris has enough cleavage showing to certify the boobs are real. Manufactured by doctors of course, but real. They're not tennis balls or bean bags. I have a little trouble with drag shows. I only find them amusing for a short time and then feel like I'm missing the point or something. Don't get me wrong. I have no trouble with people exploring gender. Whatever turns your crank, I say.

But why is it that we ran Milli Vanilli out - (damn - hang on. Turning off this spellchecker.)

Why is it we ran Milli Vanilli out of town but throw a dress on a dude and he can lip-synch til the cows come home - no problemo? Is the dress some kind of diversion tactic?

There is a very animated fellow on a bar stool with longish curly dark hair and a moustache. We're pretty sure he's John Oates from Hall and Oates and we have a laugh over that. He's clapping and singing along to all of Edwards' song selections, none of which I enjoy, by the way, until she does A New Day Has Come by Celine Dionne. This by the way, is the only Celine Dionne song I like but it spurs an argument. Rockin' Roddie, like everyone else on the street it seems, poo-poos Celine Dionne and chastises me for my lack of conformation. Why does he poo-poo Celine Dionne? I didn't ask. I have to assume it's because that is the hip and cool thing to do and what everyone else on the street is doing. Only once did I ask a friend why he hates Celine Dionne.

"Because she tries too hard!" he replied.

What a great point. Because, of course, one should not expect a musician to find success and make it to the top by putting forth any effort. How absurd. Jesus.

Well I like Celine Dionne and I don't care who knows it. Her music leaves me limp. Okay. But I like that fact that she's a warm and kind person and treats people with respect wherever she goes and has a great reputation as a person and is a great ambassador for Canada to have out there in the world - propagating the myth that us Canadians are nice harmless people.

Well - everywhere but in the United States I suppose. All this baloney hype about 'anti-Americanism' may be eroding the Canadian good-guy myth down there as far as I know - thanks to the wonderful work CNN and FOX News are doing with their make-believe stories about Canada. Not the real Canada of course. The other Canada. The 100% fictional Canada that some of these 'news' programs have dreamed up. They're utterly hysterical. I used to watch them during dinner 'til my fits of laughter threatened to choke me to death. AMericans may not realize this but in Canada we play re-runs of FOX News on our comedy channel. We've resorted to this ever since John Candy died.

Okay, enough of this. We'll get into the whole Anti-Americanism charade another day. I'm kidding about all of this, by the way, my Yankee friends. Don't be offended. I love you all madly - well - except for George. It's true. Hugs and kisses!

So anyway - The queen starts singing I'm a Barbie Girl by Aqua and this is John Oates' cue to join her on stage. When he climbs down off the bar stool we see that he is quite small and moves with the aid of two canes that strap to his forearms. So now we feel like shit for making jokes about a handicapped man but we work through the guilt rather quickly and are okay with ourselves again.

The stage show turns ugly. Oates is doing the male parts of the Barbie song complete with rude gestures to make very clear to the audience the carnal undertones of the suggestive lyrics. In fact, he eventually worms his way out of his shirt - ick! - and is practically trying to rape Edwards. The dragster gets a hold of one of Oates' canes and is making threatening gestures with it in hopes of scaring off the diminutive aggressor.

The song ends to a collective sigh of relief.

As does this blog entry.


1 comment:

Suki said...

Very interesting how being a minority - whether transgender/ gay/handicapped/coloured - seems to come with a presumption that people will completely overlook character and behaviour.

The guy in our class with the impaired vision(he isn't completely blind) is an a***e, but everyone is expected to be nice to him because "he's BLIND!"(which he isn't, he can walk around jolly well, just has difficulties reading).
I have a feeling the authorities are taking "integration" too far. After all, no one wants to be around an a***e, so why be around a blind/"differently abled" a***e?

BTW I liked Celine too, but now I'm too much of a power junkie with music. Her vocals don't seem to be doing the songs justice anymore. And yes, she HAS been a very good ambassador for Canada. :)