Friday, November 20, 2015

Snow in the Theatre

This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending the live performance of White Christmas at the Flynn, the local theater in Burlington. For those of you unfamiliar with my tastes, I am a huge fan of old movies, specifically those produced in the 1940s and 1950s. The performance I went to see was the theatre adaptation of the movie White Christmas, which I watch at least twice a year. Needless to say, my attendance of this show was never in question.

The show was performed by the Lyric Theatre Company, which produces shows regularly and shows them at the Flynn. I am, unfortunately but unashamedly, a bit of a theater snob, having grown up with Broadway. Therefore, I was not sure what I would be getting out of a theatrical production in Vermont; I was very pleasantly surprised. Although I do not believe their shows would ever reach the scale of Broadway (if only due to the smaller stage size), they are very good, for people who view theatre as a past-time rather than a career.

I could never say the live show was better than the movie; the likes of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen simply cannot be found in today's world of show-business. For that reason alone, in my opinion no show could ever be par with the film, or surpass it. Furthermore, since I have seen the movie so many times, any digressions from the film's plot and score seemed out of place to me, even if they transitioned well in the play itself.

That being said, there were several elements of the performance that I especially enjoyed, outside of my usual love for the score of White Christmas. In this version, the character of Martha Watson (who is the receptionist/concierge/general manager of the inn in the film) has a much larger part that is more firmly rooted in comedy and music. I thought that Kim Anderson, who had that role, did very well, taking on what was almost a Carol Burnett persona. If you do not know who Carol Burnett is, look her up. She's hilarious. Furthermore, out of all the leads, Sarah Madeleine Connor, who plays Betty Haynes, did a phenomenal job of filling the unfillable (Is that a word? If not, now it is.) shoes of Rosemary Clooney. Singing in that "Old Hollywood" style is very difficult (not that I am a professional singer with any experience in that regard) and I admire her for it.

I was also incredibly amused by the jokes about Vermont (which is the setting of the musical) that appeared in the show. I do not know if they actually existed in the script, or were added due to the location of the showings. They are not in the film, but I thoroughly enjoyed them - and the reactions of the primarily Vermont-native audience. There was also the edition of the character Ezekiel Foster, whose sole purpose seemed to be to portray a "Vermonter." I found him extremely entertaining. 

The childish part of me was also thrilled that they had snow machines at work at the end of the show (hence the title of this post).

Overall, my venture into the audience of a Vermont theater was entirely successful and will definitely be repeated. In addition to the shows put on by the Lyric Theatre Company, Broadway tours also make their way up here. The Flynn has a student rate, and there is also a way to get $10 tickets through Saint Mike's that I will be exploring. If you get the chance, check out the Flynn!


Thursday, November 19, 2015

The International Festival

I must admit, I tried to come up with a somewhat creative title... clearly that endeavour failed. 

The International Festival is the coolest event I've attended at Saint Mike's so far. It is sponsored by a number of organizations on campus, but the event itself was part of a series conducted by the Center for Multicultural Affairs. I wasn't really sure what to expect, and what I got definitely was not what I had anticipated at all. The festival is held in the Tarrant Fieldhouse - the building attached to Ross, the gymnasium. Upon entering, I was immediately struck by the flags hung around the balcony, numbering at least fifty if I were to take a guess. I actually feel bad; I should have been able to recognize far more of the flags than I was able to. When your eyes stop staring at the multitude of colors up at the balcony, you are greeted with the sight of a stage, a lot of tables for seating, and two loooong banquet tables with seemingly endless dishes of food. 

The performances would be the best part of the night, but I (as previously mentioned) am always more interested in food and the festival food was AMAZING. Performances ranged from a drumming class held here at Saint Mike's, to a Bollywood performer, to a trio of Hawaiian dancers. I only wish that I was more knowledgeable about the cultures displayed, so that I knew more of the meaning behind their movements.

Two of the three Hawaiian dancers. They are holding the Hawaiian version of maracas.

The male Hawaiian dancer; yes, he is actually blowing into a conch shell!

Members of a Korean culture school also performed; these are their teachers performing a drum routine.
Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of the food I ate; I was more concerned about trying everything before it became cold than I was about documenting just how much I tried. But I can tell you that probably around twenty countries, more or less, were represented in the different types of food offered. Although I did not like everything I tried, I did try almost everything, and most of it was delicious!

If you are up here when the International Festival comes around again, I definitely recommend going! After all, how many chances do you have to eat your way around the world in four hours?

Stay tuned for my next (theatre-related) post!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Witch Hunting: Then and Now

My posting schedule has been a little off lately, but this last skip was for a reason! Two weeks ago, I went to a panel discussion that centered on Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, which is also the show currently being performed by the SMC theatre department (and other awesome students). This panel looked at the history behind The Crucible, and is something I have been informed the college does periodically in connection with its performances. I hope they continue to do so; it was very informative and interesting!

Three professors from different departments spoke about, respectively, the witch trials in Salem, anti-communism sentiment in the 1950s, and today's Islamophobia. They then connected them to Arthur Miller and his play, which was actually written in response to the paranoia of the 1950s. I was most interested in the Islamophobia presentation, because that is the most relevant today (but because it is current, often less talked about), but all three made good points.

Then, last Friday (now comes the reasoning for my delayed posting) I had the pleasure of actually going and watching our student performance of The Crucible! I was concerned I would find it boring, having read the play in an English class and therefore already knowing what would happen (although the gist is fairly obvious anyway), but I was pulled into the actors' characters almost immediately. I did think that having only four or five scenes made the scenes rather long, but I have had that opinion about Miller for several years now; it has nothing to do with the performance.

 I was also very impressed by how well the actors' connected the story, as there was no pit orchestra. As a musician, I must confess to slightly egotistic opinion that a pit is necessary; clearly, I was wrong. I found myself caught up in the drama of the characters despite the lack of moody background music, to the point that I complained to a friend that I didn't like how so-and-so smirked every time he spoke, only to receive the reminder that that was part of the character. Evidently, I struggled keeping fiction and reality apart. 

If anyone is in the area next weekend, there are more performances coming up! I would highly recommend going, as it is very well done and worth the stiff legs that come with sitting in theater seats.

Stay tuned for an international update!