A Weekend In The Country

[Bonus points if you understand the title reference]

So here it is…Labor Day Weekend 2007. I spent the weekend at the King Frederick Best Western in Solvang. The whole purpose of the trip was to see PCPA’s Urinetown, but I also ended up finishing Pearl Harbor by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen. The theatre ended up being less than a 1/10 of a mile from our hotel, and it felt really fun to walk to the theatre, see the show and then walk back to the hotel. I’ll have to make this Solvang trip more of a regular thing to see more theatre and walk back to my room. 😉

the Place, The Musical

The Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts (PCPA) presents Urinetown in Santa Maria and at Solvang’s TheatreFest.

At first Officer Lockstock seemed a bit too over the top with his gay act, but after a while, I grew to enjoy it.

An Asian Bobby Strong with a white Old Man Strong? I didn’t know the people who cast Disney’s Cinderella (with Brandi) was still working!*

One of the Equity cast members who played Mr. McQueen (Mr. Cladwell’s assistant, third from the right) looked exactly like Steven Spielberg. Creepy cool!

The program for this show was actually quite informative (if not a little too commercial for my taste). It contained liner notes for all the shows for the Summer 2007 billing (makes sense – cheaper on printing and I can’t imagine the amphitheatre doing many shows during the possible rainy season). One of the most interesting things I learned from the notes highlights an old (I don’t want to call it a maxim, but I can’t think of another word for it) maxim of mine that the more times you watch something, the more you will get from it***. Robert Malthus wrote the “Essay on Population” which is referenced and even cited in the play. Hence, Officer Lockstock at the climax of the finale cries, “Hail Malthus!” While I’m talking about that maxim, I also finally decoded another line from the show that I never really comprehended (leave me alone…I have hearing problems when there are multiple sound inputs). It’s during the song “Snuff that Girl”.

“Nuts, they fall close
So they say, to the tree
Looky here, here’s an a-
Corn from Cladwell I see
I say, she is the nut
and of course, we’re the squirrel!
She is what we saved for winter
So let’s snuff that girl!”

Speaking of “Snuff that Girl”, the program said that the show paid homage to West Side Story and Cabaret. I was a little puzzled by this because I had never thought about those shows as being even remotely close to anything in the show. But then not only did Officer Lockstock do the Jet jump randomly, the entire “Snuff That Girl” song is practically inspired by West Side Story’s “Cool”. Nothing familiarizes you with a show like doing it (West Side Story that is). Oh and I can’t forget the Fiddler on the Roof reference that totally topped the song “What Is Urinetown”. I mean the thing is already a classic Russian folk song, but then they went and added the bloody bottle dance to it. Love it! Oh and I can’t forget the Will Rogers’ “Favorite Son” choreography that inspired a moment in the show…I could have sworn it was during “Run Freedom Run”, but without choreography notes, I couldn’t tell you.

Another problem with outdoor amphitheatres? Bats. Several times during the show, a bat (couldn’t tell if it was the same one or another from the flock – what is a group of bats called? A gaggle?**) swooped in and out of the lights above the stage. Kind of distracting, but what can you do. Also, it’s Solvang, so all silences throughout the performance were punctuated by monster cricket chirps.

All in all, a fantastic performance. Quick! Check it out before it disappears.

Pearl Harbor

I have several issues with what I would consider print issues in the book. After a decent-sized preface that details the problems with telling a story containing Asian culture that tries to remain historically accurate, they don’t make up their minds. The biggest issue about that was they said they would call it Nanking and Peking instead of the modern Nanjing and Bangkok and then they call it both things! Frustrating. Also, despite the book being subtitled “A Novel of December 8th“, I KNOW their intention was just to approach it from the Japanese perspective: the morning of Sunday December 7th, 1941 was the morning of Monday December 8th, 1941 in Tokyo. And they totally screw that up because the little date index that appears above the section where the battle actually takes place says it’s December 8th Hawaii time and December 9th Tokyo time. But then they go and talk about how the weekend crew at Pearl Harbor is more lax than the week crew. So it’s a simple little print error, fine. So I’m obsessing, fine. I still think that a book of this quality deserves better than that.

I’ve been raving about this book for a while now, so there’s not really much more I can say. It’s a phenomenal read with characters through whom you can really feel the conflict and emotions that lead up to the attack on Pearl Harbor. And as I keep saying it’s a fascinating insight into Asian culture that I am just blown away by.

* You know, how the Prince was Asian, his father the King was white (Victor Garber) and his mother the Queen was black (Whoopi Goldberg).

** It’s actually a colony. http://www.madsci.org/posts/archives/jul99/932000898.Gb.r.html

*** The most popular example I have of this is the now-extinct Country Bear Vacation Hoedown. The three stuffed heads on the wall (Max the deer, Buff the buffalo and Melvin the moose) are arguing.

“Buff: The way you’re always hibernatin’, you must be part bear.

Melvin: Aw heck, I’m only part moose as it is!”

Leave a Reply