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The RRoy Report Culture Roundup 2018

Right now a lot of longtime RReport readers are thinking, “Didn’t opera season just end? Ronnie didn’t write about the opera once. Did he not go? How did he get out of it? And didn’t the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival just end? He didn’t write about that either. Did he not go? How did he get out of it?”

OHMIGOD! DID SOMETHING HAPPEN TO LAURA? IS SHE IN A COMA? IS SHE DEAD? WHAT HAS HAPPENED? SHOULD I CALL THE POLICE?!!

Calm down, people. Laurie’s fine. We did indeed attend the opera and Shakespeare this month, it’s just that it’s been such a crazy, busy month (what with Shakespeare and the opera and a dozen other things) that I haven’t had the time — or the motivation — or the strength — to report on these things.

My apologies that these reviews are coming too late for you to make an informed decision as to whether to attend these shows yourself, but let’s be honest, if you’re coming to me for advice on whether to see an opera or a Shakespeare play, you’re seriously ill-informed.

And so, in the order that I saw them…

La Traviata

La-Traviata-Opera-Theatre-St.-LouisOur first opera of the season and I honestly don’t remember much about it. The wife really liked it. It’s a classic — music by Guiseppe Verdi, so it’s good that I saw it even if it didn’t leave much of an impression.

I do remember we saw this with Christine and Emma and that was a good thing because it helps to get through TWO INTERMISSIONS if you have other people to talk to.

Hold on while I read the synopsis…Oh, now I remember. So, in comic books there’s this movement where people get all upset if the hero’s girlfriend dies in an attempt to build up the hero. Let me tell you something, comic books didn’t invent this trope – it happens in opera all the time. “La Traviata” is about a courtesan who falls in love with a guy and they run off to the country but his dad doesn’t approve so she breaks them up and then she gets sick and they are reunited on her deathbed and you know the rest because it’s a tired, old plot. Although maybe it was new when this was first performed in 1853.

Good show but probably my least favorite of the four (I think it was Laurie’s favorite, so there you go).

Orfeo & Euridice

OTSL_ShowArt18_OE_Final-600x600Remember what I said about how many operas feature men grieving over dead/dying girlfriends? Well, that’s what this show is all about. It starts out with Orfeo lamenting the death of his beloved Euridice. His cries reach the ears of Amore, the goddess of love, and she lets him go to the underworld and bring his wife back — there are conditions, of course, that complicate matters.

I enjoyed this one because (a) I’m a sucker for stories based on ancient myths; (b) it was the shortest of this season’s shows; (c) there was only 1 intermission (d) I was amused by the weird, joyous, colorful, totally out-of-place hippy-trippy ending that was tacked onto it.

On the downside, because the plot was so thin they filled the space with dancing. It was decent dancing but, still — dancing.

An American Soldier

AmSoldier_KeyArt_Final-1-600x600Every year Opera Theatre of Saint Louis includes a new opera in the set of four. This year it was this show based on the true story of Danny Chen, a U.S. soldier who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound while serving in Afghanistan. He had been brutally treated by his fellow soldiers before his death.

As you might imagine, this was a very powerful and painful show to watch. The story begins in the courtroom as the ghost of Danny watches helplessly as his superior officer is put on trial. Things then flash back and fourth to Danny with his girlfriend and mother, to his brief, tortured time in the military.

I was impressed by this show but it really was 2.5 hours of unrelenting tragedy and anguish.

Romeo & Juliet 

2018-Season-Poster-FINAL-225x300We took a brief pause from an opera sandwich last weekend to attend this year’s Shakespeare Festival St. Louis performance of The Bard’s classic “Romeo & Juliet.” (We literally attended opera Friday/Shakespeare Saturday/Opera Sunday. I don’t recommend that much concentrated culture to anyone. I spent my rare free time watching “Luke Cage Season 2” just to decompress.)

It was a good show but long. I think the problem with R&J is that everyone knows the story and knows the beats so you just want to get on with it — balcony scene, fight, poison — but these people just won’t… stop… talking.

Granted, that’s an issue with all of Shakespeare, but most of the time you’re not familiar enough with the story to know what’s coming next and so you sit there and take it. But with R&J I’m just sitting there thinking “take the poison! take the poison already!”

But then, maybe I was just tired.

Regina 

Regina_Original-600x600We wrapped up “June: Month of Culture” with a Sunday night performance of “Regina.” I actually enjoyed this show even if I did begin snoring early in Act 1 (I told you I was tired). Once I was nudged back into consciousness, I did get into it.

It’s about a woman who is working with her brothers on a big business deal. They need the cooperation of her ailing husband but he’s not interested. Toss in various subplots involving other family members.

The performers, set design and costumes were impressive, but that’s true of all the OTSL shows. “Regina” isn’t your typical opera. It’s more of a musical/opera hybrid. There is a lot of spoken dialogue (unheard of in most opera) and the singing was more song oriented than just people singing dialogue. It also featured a variety of musical styles, from ragtime to gospel to musical to opera. It was different. I liked it. Almost enough to forgive the TWO INTERMISSIONS.

*****

And now, for the first time in weeks, I have nothing to do on a weekend. I would like to thank Hollywood for not releasing anything this week except “Uncle Drew,” thus giving me time to get caught up.

 

 

 

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Lewis & Clark Meet The Star-Lord

Dear Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau:

I’m about to give you a multi-million dollar idea. You’re welcome.

I would’ve written earlier but I didn’t find out about this until last week and last week I was busy writing about other things.

Are you aware that Peter Jason Quill, aka Star-Lord, leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, was born right here in beautiful St. Charles, Missouri? I wasn’t aware of it myself until recently, and since I don’t know what the nerd quota is on the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, I figured I should make you aware.

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This is BIG. We can’t ride on Lewis and Clark’s coattails forever. It’s past time for St. Charles to get its tourism mojo out of the 19th century and aim for the stars.

And this is totally legit. Historians argue about whether or not L&C really began their journey in St. Charles. No one is questioning that when Peter Quill was sucked up into a spaceship as a child, he was in St. Charles when it happened.

How can we cash in on this pop culture gift from Marvel Comics? Pay attention.

1. We Need A Statue

Aren’t you tired of living in the shadow of the St. Louis Arch and all that bragging about it being the “Gateway to the West?” St. Charles is now the “Gateway to Knowhere,” baby. That is so much cooler.

And aren’t you tired of St. Louisans always acting like they’re better than we are?  You know who the native son superhero of St. Louis is? The Whizzer.  That’s right. A character so lame that he appeared as a crazy person for about 10 minutes in “Jessica Jones” season 2 before they killed him.

In pop culture terms, we are totally kicking St. Louis’ ass now. But only if we act on it.

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Look, that Lewis, Clark and Seaman statue in Frontier Park is great. It’s huge, people flock to it and have their photos taken with it. It’s a landmark you put in all the brochures. I’m sure it was worth every cent we paid for it.

Now, imagine if we put up a statue of someone people cared about.

A giant-size Star-Lord statue would bring in the masses. Have you been to Comic-Con? Have you seen the crowds? People would love it. Plant a tree next to it and name it Groot. Find a friendly taxidermist in town and pay him to keep up a steady supply of life-like Rocket Raccoons. I’m practically giving you a license to print money.

You may be thinking, “A statue to honor a fictional character? How stupid is that?”

Have you been to Metropolis, Illinois? Or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, home of the Rocky Balboa statue? Or Fargo, Wisconsin, home of the Marge Gunderson statue? Or Detroit, Michigan, home of the Robocop statue? And do I even have to mention that Star-Lord’s movies have probably made more at the box office than all those other characters combined? (well, at least Fargo and Robocop)

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2. Star-Lord Fest

By last count, St. Charles hosts 600 festivals a year on the riverfront. Why not one more?

I guarantee you, “Guardians of the Galaxy Days” would draw far more people to St. Charles than Lewis and Clark Days. Or the Irish Festival. Or Oktoberfest. Or MOsaics. Or the Ice Carving festival. Maybe not as many people as the Festival of the Little Hills or Christmas Traditions. But who knows? It might.

Aren’t we a little tired of all the olde tyme stuff? Who doesn’t want to see Main Street filled with women painted green? Or men with blue skin and red fins on their heads? Or furries in raccoon suits? The possibilities are endless.

You could even make it partly a music festival. Bring in some classic rock cover bands to perform on the stage in Frontier Park (You could probably get KSHE to sponsor it). Or heck, get the original artists if they’re still alive. Many of them would probably appreciate the exposure.

And who knows, maybe you could get Chris Pratt to come to town for the festival. James Gunn might be up for it.

OK, St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the ball is in your court — because God knows nothing I write here is ever going viral — so make this happen.

cc: St. Charles Chamber of Commerce

 

 

 

 

At The Movies: Solo: A Star Wars Story

How would you like to watch a Star Wars movie that isn’t full of itself? A Star Wars movie that isn’t weighed down by debates over the future of the Jedi order? A Star Wars movie that doesn’t involve trying to blow up a Death Star, or repeat several other elements of the original trilogy?

Maybe you’d like a Star Wars movie that’s just simple, goofy fun.

That’s the Star Wars movie that director Ron Howard delivers with “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” It won’t go down in the annals as one of the great Star Wars films (although honestly – aside from the first two – there aren’t that many great Star Wars films), but at least it’s entertaining without being oh, so serious.

solo-official-poster-691x1024

Alden Ehrenreich stars as Han Solo, who as a young man grew up in difficult circumstances on an undesirable planet. He and girlfriend Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) are about to escape but they get separated and she’s dragged back to the slave pit they call home. Han vows to return for Qi’ra once he makes enough money to buy a ship and return.

Making that kind of money with Han’s particular talents leads to him hooking up with gangster Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). Their attempt at a big score ends badly, leaving them in big debt to an even bigger gangster — Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). In an amazing coincidence (even more astounding when you consider how large the universe is), Qi’ra is Dryden’s right-hand woman.

Tobias and Han will have to come up with an impressive heist to appease Dryden. Along the way they will meet up with some familiar faces — such as Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover).

“Solo” suffered from a number of production issues but the end result is a solid if not spectacular film. At times the special effects don’t measure up to Star Wars standards and the look is often darker and dingier than the franchise is known for. The train robbery sequence early on is quite impressive. The black hole sequence, not so much.

Ehrenreich is decent but the shadow of Harrison Ford is long indeed. Harrelson is a welcome addition to any franchise. The rest of the cast are fine.

It’s a pretty standard story. A few twists, but some of them are telegraphed so they’re not a big surprise. The main draw is seeing Han at this early stage and his early relationships with Chewie and Lando.

 

 

 

On Stage: James Taylor

I lost interest in concert-going years ago. The hassle, the cost, the hassle, the crowds, the hassle, the traffic, the cost, the idiots, the hassle, the late night, the parking, the adult-sitting, the hassle. It just wasn’t worth it.

But then many of our musical idols started dropping like flies, and Laurie thought it important that we start seeing the rest of them before they died.

JT_Summer2017Admat_sm (2)James Taylor was not on that list. We saw him a couple of years back when he was touring with Carole King. It was a great show. I figured I could check him off the list. And I haven’t really paid much attention to James since the “JT/Flag” era, and that was the late 1970s.

But he was coming to town and Laurie wanted to see him again and his opening act was going to be Bonnie Raitt and we hadn’t seen her before so I figured, why not? and besides by that point Laurie had already bought the tickets.

One of the 13 reasons I have for hating concerts listed above is “adult-sitting.” That’s when you have a 27-year-old son who cannot be left on his own so anytime you want to do anything without him you’ve got to make arrangements. Another word for “adult-sitting” would be “hassle.”

We have a guy that comes over, but it’s good to have other options. We were recently informed that we could use a “respite house” where we could take Andrew and they would watch him. We left him there for a couple of hours one weekend and three hours this past weekend. He seemed to do fine. But this would be the real test — 6 p.m. until we got back from the show — which could range from 11:30 to past midnight.

 

The show was at the fill-in-the-blank Center, which is in a part of downtown I’m not familiar with, so I made Laurie drive. We dropped the boy off and, after making several strategic changes in route that I could never have made were I driving, we arrived at the center at 6:45. The show was to start at 7:30.

There is nowhere to eat near the center, except a Hard Rock Cafe, and it would probably take at least 45 minutes to get a table and served, so we were left to fend with the culinary options at the center. Dinner consisted of two $6.50 hot dogs (these were not jumbo dogs, by the way. They were “gourmet” but you couldn’t prove it by me) and one $5.50 bottle of water (they wouldn’t give us they bottle, they had to pour it in a cup. What’s up with that?). We were hardly full, but it was sufficient to get us through the night.

When we walked through the door there was a sign: “Bonnie Raitt has CANCELLED. James Taylor will be doing 2 sets with an intermission.”

I hate concerts so much. Bonnie Raitt was a main reason for coming to this show. Are we going to get a partial refund, or a free t-shirt, or a free hot dog as recompense? Is James going to do an extra 45 minutes to make up for it? Not likely.

And intermission? I hate ****ing intermissions.

The show was to start at 7:30 but what are the odds of that happening if the opening act is out? It’s not like James is gonna come out early and piss off everyone who shows up late because they didn’t care about seeing Bonnie Raitt.

To my somewhat surprise, the show started at 7:50, which is still unacceptably late but about par for concerts. Which is another reason why I hate them. The crowd was largely old and stayed in their seats, which made me happy. There was an obnoxious couple behind us who talked too much, which didn’t.

The show itself was pretty darn good. The first set was a mix of popular tunes and obscurities, the second was a cavalcade of hits. He played every song from his classic Greatest Hits album, which is probably the only JT album most people listen to — am I right?

He’s also a pretty good storyteller and his “all-star” band was very impressive. A much better show than I was expecting. And because there was no opening act – and we were near the end of an aisle so we could make a quick getaway – we were able to pick up junior before midnight.

 

 

 

 

At The Movies: Deadpool 2

After the epically intense and grim “Avengers: Infinity War,” it’s time for something a little less dramatic, a little more humorous and a lot more raunchy.

Welcome back, Wade Wilson.

Ryan Reynolds returns as the fast-talking, foul-mouthed, indestructible, unbeatable, meta-joking Deadpool.  “Deadpool 2” delivers the laughs, the violence, the emotion, and the insanity you’ve come to expect from the character — in so many inappropriate ways.

deadpool2

The sequel begins with Wilson, aka Deadpool, feeling suicidal. Which is a problem, given he’s very hard to kill. Eventually his old pal Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) shows up and tries to break him out of his funk by getting him to join the X-Men. Of course, in Deadpool’s corner of the X-Universe, the only X-Men around are the metal man and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). They are joined by NTA’s girlfriend, the always cheery Yukio (Shioli Kutsuna).

The team goes to investigate a boarding school that is under assault by one of its students — a flame-powered mutant calling himself Firefist (Julian Dennison). Deadpool sees good in the boy and wants to help him out.

Elsewhen, a time-traveling soldier called Cable (James Brolin) returns home to find his family barbecued by the future adult Firefist. Cable decides to go back in time and kill his family’s killer before he can grow up and cause trouble.

Sorry if that last paragraph was confusing. Time travel is like that.

This, of course, sets Deadpool and Cable on a collision course. On the outs with the X-Men, Wade decides to form his own team — an X-Force to be reckoned with.

If you’re one of the many sick, twisted individuals who loved “Deadpool,” you will probably love “Deadpool 2.” It’s sharp, it’s clever, it’s so crude. But you already know to expect that.

Most of the original cast are back and in fine form. They share the spotlight with newbies Brolin (in his second impressive Marvel appearance this movie season) and Zazie Beets as the luck-powered Domino.

But the real star remains Reynolds, who seems to put so much joy into his performance. It’s an achievement the way he and director David Leitch manage to combine so much violence, raunch and humor with the right amount of heart and wit.

Public Service Announcement: You must stick around for the post-credits scene. Not only is it hilarious it’s actually important to the story. The good news is you don’t have to sit through the rolling credits that follow unless you want to hear a goofy song at the very end.

Oh, and keep an eye out for the Vanisher.

On Stage: The Phantom Of The Opera

So how do you follow up the phenomenal success of the phenomenon that was “Hamilton?”

Why, you bring in one of the classics, of course.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” has returned to the Fox stage for a 12-day run. This latest production boasts new scenic design, choreography and staging. I couldn’t tell much difference from the last time it was in town aside from some of the set designs. This version did feature more pyrotechnics than I recall and probably the tallest Phantom I’ve ever seen on stage.

 

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“The Phantom of the Opera” runs through May 20 at the Fox Theatre.

The story, based on a novel by Gaston Leruox and transformed into a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe, remains the same. A mysterious, disfigured man calling himself “The Phantom” (Quentin Oliver Lee) torments the owners and players of the Paris Opera House in the late 19th century. He’s particularly keen on a young singer named Christine (Eva Tavares). While she appreciates the vocal lessons, she’s more interested in her old friend Raoul (Jordan Craig).

This latest production delivers all the flash, color, elaborate costuming and set design, and audacious singing that you’d expect from “Phantom.” The show has the same drawbacks it has always had — I still can’t understand people when they’re all singing different things at the same time. But I’ve seen the show enough now that I’ve learned to accept it.

The costumes, sets and music are all first-rate. The actors, dancers and musicians deliver strong performances — Lee is one of the best phantoms I’ve seen. Put it all together and it’s easy to see why “The Phantom of the Opera” is considered one of the best musicals out there.

“The Phantom of the Opera” runs through May 20 at the Fox Theatre. www.fabulousfox.com

 

Gone: Bob Dorough

Forty days and forty nights,
Didn’t it rain, children.
Not a speck of land in sight,
Didn’t it, didn’t it rain.
But Noah built the ark so tight
They sailed on, children.
And when at last the waters receded
And the dove brought back the olive tree leaf,
He landed that ship near Mount Ararat
And Noah’s children grabbed his robe and said,
“Hey Dad, how many animals on this old ark anyway, huh?”

Elementary, my dear, two time two is four.
Elementary, my dear, two time three is six.
Elementary, my dear, two time four is eight.
Elementary, my dear, two time five is ten.

Two times one is two, of course.
And it must occur to you,
You get an even number
Every time you multiply by two.

Conjunction Junction, whats your function?

And the shot heard ’round the world
Was the start of the Revolution.
The Minute Men were ready, on the move.
Take your powder, and take your gun.
Report to General Washington.
Hurry men, there’s not an hour to lose!

Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad astra, forever and ever,
With zero, my hero, how wonderful you are.

schoolhouse-rock-live-at-arkansas-arts-center-childrens-theatre-800

Oh, we were suffering until suffrage,
Not a woman here could vote, no matter what age,
Then the 19th Amendment struck down that restrictive rule. (Oh yeah!)

You see a pronoun was made to take the place of a noun,
‘Cause saying all those nouns over and over
Can really wear you down.

Verb! That’s What’s Happening!

Mother Necessity
With her good intentions,
Where would this country be
Without her inventions?

When you’re in the dark and you want to see,
You need uh… Electricity, Electricity
Flip that switch and what do you get?
You get uh… Electricity, Electricity
Every room can now be lit
With just uh… Electricity, Electricity

Three is a magic number.
Yes it is, it’s a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.
The past and the present and the future,
Faith and hope and charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three.
That’s a magic number.

It takes three legs to make a tripod or to make a table stand.
It takes three wheels to make a vehicle called a tricycle.
Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don’t have to guess.
When it’s three you can see it’s a magic number.

A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family.
That’s a magic number.

Figure eight as double four,
Figure four as half of eight.
If you skate, you would be great,
If you could make a figure eight.
That’s a circle that turns ’round upon itself.

Place it on its side and it’s a symbol meaning
Infinity…

Remember Lucky Seven Samson, that’s my natural born name.
If you should ask me again, I’d have to tell you the same.
You’ll wake up tomorrow, you’ll be glad that I came
‘Cause you’ll be singin’ one of the songs that I sang.
So keep a happy outlook and be good to your friend,
And maybe I’ll pass this way again.
Maybe!

Bye.