Friday, December 08, 2006
Even Annie can't kick out these blues
I loved the musical "Annie" when I was a kid. I still do actually, though I haven't seen a professional production of it since about 1979.
My love for this show began on a couch in the music room of the house I grew up in. I had severely sprained my ankle when I was twelve, resulting in my getting to stay home on that couch for a whole week instead of going to school. Rock on.
My mom knew what a junky I was for Broadway musicals, so to cheer me up she brought me home the original cast album of "Annie," which was the new smash Broadway hit at the time. As soon as she started up the record player and Andrea McArdle belted out the first heart-string tugging lines of "Maybe," I knew I was hooked. I had every line for every song memorized by the end of the week.
I listened to that album so many times that today, nearly thirty years later, I still know every word to every song. I thought this was normal behavior until one night at Marie's Crisis, when the crowd was singing the entire soundtrack to "Annie." I frequently noticed I was the only one singing; no one else seemed to know those lyrics like I did.
At one point I was stared down shamelessly by a group of drunk young women as I belted out the whole "Yank the whiskers from her chin!!!" interlude from "Hard Knock Life" with the enthusiasm of a junior-high cheerleading squad.
Could there even possibly be anything gayer than that?
Anyway, imagine my excitement when I heard about the new "Annie" national tour coming to New York! I immediately signed up to get us tickets for the show at the Madison Square Garden theater. George and I went last night.
Before you ask me how it was, I'll tell you this: if you ever have the chance to see a legitimate work of theater in your life, I would strongly encourage you not to do it in a venue that simultaneously offers NBA basketball and/or professional boxing as entertainment. Let's just say that this was not your typical sophisticated New York crowd.
For starters, I should not have been surprised that the audience consisted almost entirely of children under the age of seven with their parents, although one does wonder why someone would want to spend $60 per ticket and up on taking a kid to a show that he or she will likely not appreciate.
I am further disheartened that parents today do not seem interested in teaching their children to behave in public at all, let alone sit quietly through a performance that the rest of us have paid good money to see.
As we endured an evening amongst full voice parent-child conversations and tantrums as loud as ten freight trains, I experienced multiple flashbacks of sitting in church as a child and having my arm nearly ripped out of its socket for daring to make any noise louder than a pin dropping. As harsh as they were at times, at least my parents knew what they were doing with regard to teaching me public decorum.
To make matters worse, Madison Square Garden treats the subject of "theater" with all the grace befitting an Evander Holyfield match. The ushers actually walked up and down the aisles of the theater selling popcorn, beer, Coca-Cola, cotton candy and "Annie" memorabilia. I have personally attended pro-wrestling tournaments that had less noisy hubbub and commotion than this so-called "theater" at Madison Square Garden.
The show itself, or what we heard of it, was passable - though barely. In all fairness to the performers, I would like to see them again in a proper venue, or at least one that wouldn't necessarily require a thorough hand-washing after touching one of the seats. But that's just me.
As sad as it is to admit, I've seen not one but two community theater productions of "Annie" that far outshone the spectacle I witnessed last night. And for less than a quarter the price, too. So much for our hip, sophisticated New York lifestyle.