So, Friends, this week I posted
On Sunday: Heading South, about the Gilmore Girls, driving south from NH and Jan. (Ha! You wanna see how I managed that? Read the post!)
On Tuesday: Chest of Drawers, a story Jan often used in lessons to emphasize the need for compartmentalizing one’s life to be an effective performer/musician.
On Thursday: Two brief excerpts from the manuscript about Jan singing in church during her childhood.
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Now, here’s a real treat:
Last night I met up with my dear old pal Paul Sportelli for dinner and his show at Arena Stage. Paul and I met in the fall of 1980 when somehow I had the good fortune and enough smarts to invite him to be my studio pianist. We spent the next three years together with Jan and all the while, fed our musical theater passion by singing together well into the night song after song from all the golden oldies as well as Sondheim. Paul introduced me to Sweeney Todd. I remember the album he delivered to my dorm room, sitting on the floor listening to it over and over. Paul graduated a year before me and headed off to Manhattan School of Music where he would play for Dawn Upshaw, also a graduate student at the time, as well as sub in Broadway pits. He made his conducting debut in Aspects of Love. He’s been the Music Director at the Shaw Theater Festival in Toronto for nearly 20 years. Here’s the best about Paul Sportelli: he played my Eastman senior recital. He travelled to Rochester to take lessons with me and rehearse, and we played that final recital together.
Well, we kinda ate dinner in shifts, as I got re-routed after crossing the Roosevelt Bridge and was forced to head NW into Georgetown, where I swear every living individual in Washington D.C. was behind the wheel and making way for home. It took me nearly two hours to get to 4th Street SW where we were to have marvelous Indian fare before curtain up at 8.
1. Do Not Drive into downtown DC on the eve President Obama lights this year’s Christmas tree; 2. Do Not believe GPS when it tells you it will take 15 minutes door to door at 5:10 pm; GPS has no direct line to the White House; and 3. Be grateful when you pull up to the restaurant and there’s one parking space on the street–for free–and you get to talk with your old pal for 15 minutes before he has to go lead warm-ups–
The talk was lovely, (Don’t worry, we spent more time together after the show), the food, divine, the show, miraculous. What a surprise. I know Carousel like the back of my hand–played Carrie Pipperidge in high school–but this production felt completely new–and old–and necessary and helpful. Paul tells me the city has been quiet since the election. You can imagine the swells of emotion at Nettie Fowler’s anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone, sung brassily, matronly by Ann Arvia. All of the singing was full and character-appropriate and lovely and believable. I was aware of this entire cast’s belief in what they were doing, this world they were creating, a world totally in keeping with the original production, 1873 coastal Maine where class, sex, and violence were the point. Instead of revising the time period as so many opera and musical productions try, this Carousel was history, and history is now. We didn’t need any one director’s vision asserting all the connections through a contemporary lens; they were there. They exist because the story holds them and in that time and place. It was a return and yet startlingly relevant. And because of the casts’ commitment to it, authentic.
And Paul orchestrated for a 12-member ensemble after receiving permission from the R&H Foundation. It’s never been done and he did it and the music was beautiful. I am so glad I got to see it and hear it all. If you’re in or near the DC area, you should too.