show time

Last night I saw The Producers.

Some of you will know that I am a theatre snob. My formative experiences of theatre were mostly on Broadway and I spent my teenage years at a school where the theatre budget ran to five digits which rather spoiled me for anything second rate.

There was nothing second rate last night. It was the most professional show I’d seen in years. And that was despite several technical glitches (first stop outside the West End?), three serious brushes with the giggles on Joe Pasquale’s (Bloom’s) part, and an increasingly troublesome sore throat on Cory English’s (Bialystock’s) part.

Or maybe it was because of these things. A less professional company would have come undone at the seams. Instead, they kept it alive by a thousand perfect flourishes and sheer skill.

Once upon a time, I could be totally lost in a show. Despite many hours spent backstage and a fair working knowledge of most aspects of production, the actor’s role was always beyond me and therefore retained its mystery. So it was with some sadness that I realised that had changed last night.

Early in act two, Bialystock has a solo scene in the jail. In a song that takes most of ten minutes, he summarizes the whole show and wears his heart on his sleeve. It was a stunning performance. It was one of those moments when I thought, ‘this is what the theatre is all about.’

But even as I held my breath in admiration, I was sad. Because it was not Bialystock I was admiring, but Cory English. I knew what was going into the performance and what it was taking out of him. I knew that for this moment, he would have to pay.

It reminded me of Christmas Liturgies — of wild moments on feast days when every ounce of the priest’s energy is need to hold focus, to carry the weight of the liturgy, to bear truth.

It is a different sort of performance. A different sort of truth.

But it leaves me marvelling at Cory English, all the same.

6 thoughts on “show time

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    My early theatre was Shakespeare, usually Old Vic, and when we moved to the country, Stratford – so I did kind of get used to quite a reasonable standard. I started aged five (with the Dream)- and I still get withdrawn symptoms.

    I used to love to act – belonged to a theatre school (an evening and weekends one – which afterwards went full time and pro) and nearly followed that path. It was my utter inability at song and dance that convinced me to back right off – a decision born more of cowardice than conviction. I wish I had stayed to act, and more, to direct.

    I don’t think I could find it in me to pity even the exhaustion that follows being truly alive like that.

  2. And you might add – the moments when it seems the entire congregation is propping their belief up on yours.

  3. I didn’t know you were a theatre snob! But reflecting on your role: one of the (many) things which attracted me to the SEC after growing up on the fringes of the Kirk was the fact that at least the priest didn’t have to write his (in those days, it was his) own script – and you can take courage, surely, from having a terrific script and an even more terrific theme.
    But then, I suppose, it’s all the greater responsibility not to let both down. Sorry!

  4. I generally remember church services in December to be a great joy, in part because my Priest didn’t appear to be tired but maybe he hid that behind his smiles!! The two Priests which have had significance in my life always appear to be tireless during services, and sing with a purity and clarity in their voice which would be hard to find in any Theatre.

  5. Momisa reminds me that the priest has an advantage the stage actor doesn’t — the Spirit can filter (amplify?) at the receiver’s end, making all well.

    Mind you, one of the priests I suspect she’s talking about is like a little kid at Christmas, so his his energy and smiling were probably the real thing.

  6. The advantage of the stage is that you CAN fake it. You only have to believe it for that moment. Woe betide you if, in church, you imply anything to which you would not sign up in cold blood. But my confession must be, that while leading worship is exacting, exhausting and demanding – while it filters one’s way of worshipping into the particular narrows where the pelican for ever feeds his brood from his own blood – I still find it a deeper way of worship, for me, than any other.

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