"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Monday, February 24, 2014

Giants In The Sky

There are Giants in the sky
There are big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, wonderful 
Giants in the sky

So sings Jack in Stephen Sondeim's Into The Woods. Jack makes a trip up the beanstalk and glimpses a world that changes the way he sees the old, mundane world to which he returns. His experience has changed his outlook, he now sees somehow more even when looking at the same things. I can identify with that.

My experience in theatre has been that sort of revelation. I think it's been more noticeable and perhaps pronounced because I wasn't brought up around the performing arts (except as an audience member). I sort of climbed that beanstalk all at once and took in a new world and it's changed the way I look at things when I go back to being that simple audience member.

This past weekend, the lovely Lisa and I returned to the wonderful Durham Performing Arts Center and saw Book of Mormon. The show is outstanding and hilarious and just so, so very WRONG. We loved it. I would have loved it 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago, I'm sure I would have. But I saw it through different eyes than I would have then.

The first musical number features about ten Mormon missionaries standing on risers and each ringing an imaginary doorbell. The audience loved it, they laughed at the first finger poking the air and bringing forth a "Ding-Dong." It was a great effect, and an obvious one for working Mormon door-to-door evangelism into the show. But I watched it with a sort of heart in throat feeling, silently cheering on the sound tech who was hitting that button at just the right time to make the doorbell gag work. He did great, only one was a bit late, but I know THAT'S the thing he'll remember about that scene in that show, the one thing that wasn't perfect. And I also appreciate how hard getting that timing down can be. The boy had to do the exact same effect when he was helping out with Tuesdays With Morrie at our local strip mall theater. He nailed it, and it impressed the actors enough that they brought it up to me at intermission. Tiny things, things that may last a second at most, matter. I never would have given the doorbells a second thought five years ago.

Later in the show is a song that is in part about dysentery. Yep. It's actually got really catchy lyrics, but they are less then safe for work. Anyhow, the dancers during this rather educational segment use a long roll of cloth and sticks with different colored tassels to represent a river and, ahem, several bodily fluids. It's set to a tribal beat and moves along faster and faster as the song (and the unfortunate ailment) progresses. Watching this, I couldn't help but picture the poor choreographer on the first day of learning this bit. Sure they are professional actors, but come on, it's a hilarious song and the movements (hee hee) are not only hilarious as well, but physically tricky. I'm sitting there picturing our crew trying to pick this up and laughing that much harder because of it.

Those are just a couple examples, I could go on and on, but I don't want to spoil the show for anyone who hasn't seen it. My point is that our experiences aren't only about the joy and learning we receive while they are happening. The real magic of life-long learning, of every once in a while just climbing that beanstalk just because it's there, is a richer life --  happily ever after.


  1. Sounds awesome, and weird. Michael

    1. This show would be right up your alley, Michael. I will get you a copy of the music. You can play it in the office! ;-)

  2. Sometimes I worry that I can't appreciate the performance for thinking about all the behind-the-scenes stuff that is going on. I guess that's the trade-off.

    1. So far I've not found it distracting, more like an extra layer of appreciation. But I am still a much simpler consumer of musical theatre than you are. I don't have a large frame of reference and am becoming frustrated that while I can tell you certainly what music I like and what I don't, I lack the mental vocabulary to articulate WHY. But I am blessed with friends who are fabulous teachers and guides into this world, and room to grow is not a bad thing at all, really :-)