Guys & Dolls

Last weekend I got to see Northwestern University’s production of Guys & Dolls. Though I knew the name and some of the big numbers like “Luck Be a Lady Tonight” and “A Bushel ‘n’ a Peck,” I hadn’t seen the show and wasn’t clear on the storyline. First performed in 1950, Guys & Dolls is set in New York City and follows a bunch of gamblers who cross paths with some Salvation Army types. Gangster Nathan Detroit, who’s been engaged to his sweetheart Adelaide for 14 years, needs to find a site for his floating crap game, but as the cops are on to him, he’s got no takers. The Biltmore Garage is possible, but the manager wants a hefty deposit for his troubles.

Nathan is sure he can convince gambler Sky Masterson to bet that Sky can take Save-A-Soul Sergeant Sarah Brown to Cuba. That’s a sure thing as A) Sky will bet on anything and B) Sarah is far to holy to agree to a date.

What follows is a lot of toe-tapping music, unlikely romance, and the antics of small time criminals.

The Northwestern performers all had great voice and sure steps. When I saw all the steep steps on the stage, I was amazed that no one took a tumble. How the girls in their heels managed, I’ll never know. Certainly they have more grace than I do.

The casting was excellent, with one exception. I applaud them for color blind casting and having the two lead women be African American. The numbers where some men were cast as chorus girls was funny. The one thing that I found a distraction was that Sky Masterson was played by a woman. It wasn’t that they made Sky and Sarah a same sex couple, It was that they expected the audience to buy into a very feminine woman with classic long blonde hair and feminine make up, to be considered a 1940s man. My friend and I both had trouble buying that choice. I’d have done some color blind casting for Sky.

The play is a lot of fun, but hasn’t aged all that well. It’s clear that for the women, their life goal is to be a stay at home wife. Though Adelaide works as a showgirl and Sarah is a missionary, their goal is to marry and stop working. Also, it’s clear that the norm for women is to find a man and then go to work changing him for the benefit of society. Now we realize that it’s better to find someone whose character you like as is since changing someone is a difficult if not impossible job.

Nonetheless, I recommend if you’re anywhere near Evanston, IL from now till March 3, check out Guys & Dolls.

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Uneasy Money

I just finished the audio book Uneasy Money by P.G. Wodehouse, whom I discovered just last year. The audio book’s packaging stated that Jonathon Cecil narrated the story, which was why I got that particular set of CDs. Actually, that was a mistake and someone else, not as talented narrated. How odd.

The story itself is entertaining. The hero, William (Bill) FitzWilliam Delamere Chalmers, Lord Dawlish, wants to marry but his fiancée won’t consider living on his measly allowance. So Bill decides to seek a fortune in the US, where he believes money is easily plucked from trees by the bushel. Just before he’s about depart, he learns that a man he happened to meet and happened to coach on how to straighten out his golf swing, has left him 5,000,000 £! Feeling guilty, that the tycoon gave his fortune to him, Bill decides  to seek out the man’s niece and nephew who’ve gotten a pittance. They’re both living outside New York.

In the meantime, Bill’s fiancée comes to America when her newly rich friend sends her a ticket to visit her. On board, the fiancée meets a millionaire and agrees to marry him.

New romances, mix ups and misunderstandings ensue all described with Wodehouse’s delicious, witty language.

While the story is entertaining, it’s not on par with the Jeeves stories. Nonetheless, I enjoyed Uneasy Money.

Quotes:

“At the age of eleven or thereabouts women acquire a poise and an ability to handle difficult situations which a man, if he is lucky, manages to achieve somewhere in the later seventies.”

“The ideal girl . . . would be kind. That was because she would also be extremely intelligent, and, being extremely intelligent, would have need of kindness to enable her to bear with a not very intelligent man like himself.”

Sepia Saturday

Sepia Saturday 457 : 16 February 2019

I love the old time department stores so this prompt has inspired me to find photos of their windows. I grew up visiting Marshall Fields in Chicago. My grandmother and mother would take me there and it was always a big deal. Such elegance. Such service.

Regrettably, we’ll soon have robots running the stores, which won’t be the same, not by a long shot. Below are some images from Marshall Fields and other retailers that evoke that charm and warmth of nostalgia.

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At Christmas, Marshall Fields, n.d.

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Outside Marshall Fields, 1910

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Drawing of NY’s Macy’s Window, circa 1910

 

To see more enchanting Sepia Saturday posts, click here.

 

Elecktra

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Electktra & Klytämnestra (sic)

Last night I saw the Lyric Opera’s Electra by R. Strauss. I’d just read Agamemnon so I was lucky to see this story, which is the next in Aeschylus’ trilogy. When Agamemnon ends, when Clytemnestra (in German Klytämnestra) kills her husband because he killed their daughter Iphigeneia to appease the gods. Their son, Orestes is outraged and wants revenge.

This opera opens with some maids gossiping about Elektra, Orestes’ sister,  has been acting oddly. Only one maid stands up for the Elektra.

The setting is stark and dystopian. A columned palace has rubble all around. Everyone’s dressed in drab grays and browns. Later Elektra comes out and laments her father’s death. She asserts that her siblings and she will dance at their father’s tomb. Hmm. I suppose that was some custom in ancient days.

Kytämnestra comes on stage and she’s quite a sight. While I picture her as a Greek goddess, what I saw was truer to the composer’s vision, i.e. a solid German woman. The costume was much like the scenery – savage, brutal and dystopian. She looked more like a monster than a woman. I found it odd that neither Klytämnestra nor her ladies had sleeves. The bottom part of their gowns, though dark and depressing, seemed to cry out for sleeves of some kind. All these noble women had frightful, garish make up.

The story continues with lots of lamenting from Elektra, who does hope that her brother can take action and get justice for her father’s death. Chrysothemis, Elektra’s sister is somewhat caught in the middle, though she doesn’t see that there’s no safety in the middle. Chrysothemis just wants to get married and have a slew of children, but in a society so soaked in blood, that can’t happen. Klytämnestra expends her energy worrying about whether Orestes will seek justice through murder.

I found this story quite gory and very German, rather than Greek. The cast was heavier and the make up and sets were also dark and heavy. The performances were excellent except that sometimes Elektra waved her arms around in an odd way.

I was lucky to see the next installment of this ancient story, but I don’t think everyone needs to see it. My guess is that Il Traviata, which is also playing, is the better opera right now.