Tuesday, 30 June 2009

All that jazz (part one)

Last week....stunk. I don't know if I'll ever get the courage to blog about it; besides, it will just end up being a long self-pitying rant about younger daughter's school. Suffice it to say, I couldn't bring myself to give the staff my usual end-of-year gifts, and I hustled younger daughter out the back to avoid goodbyes.

We bought tickets for the Broadway Across Canada tour of Chicago months ago, planning it for the night before elder daughter's last night in Hades before a brief trip to Scotland. This ended up being on the same day as younger daughter's leaving ceremony, but there's an irritating tale hanging here with which I won't burden you and it may have been a lucky escape anyway.

We've been to about four or five B.A.C. productions in the past year. The casts are Broadway-calibre, but not famous. Chicago is a favourite of elder daughter; jazz is a recent interest of younger daughter (she did a classroom speech on the subject the week before last); I like most things to do with Bob Fosse; and the Resident Fan Boy is usually pleased to have any outing surrounded by his women. However, this evening, there was an unanticipated treat for the RFB -- our Roxie Hart was none other than Bonnie Langford! "Not the Bonnie Langford?" I gasped flipping through the programme for confirmation. Yep. Bonnie Langford as in Mel, assistant to the Seventh and Eighth Doctors in Doctor Who.

Now, for some of you spring chickens who are only familiar with Renée Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones in the movie version, the original Chicago was choreographed and directed (and partially written) by Bob Fosse for his by-then-ex-wife Gwen Verdon who co-starred with Chita Rivera. Neither of the women were spring chickens themselves even in 1975: Verdon was fifty and Rivera in her late forties, though both were still dynamite dancers. So, it was kinda great to see a forty-five-year-old Bonnie Langford in the role of Roxie with Terra C. McLeod as Velma Kelly (she's described as a Montrealer, but I think was born in Oz), Brent Barrett as the slippery attorney Billy Flynn, and Ron Orbach as the pitiable Amos Hart. (Orbach is a cousin of the late Jerry Orbach who was the original Billy Flynn, trivia fans.) Incidentally, I wish you could hear younger daughter's rendition of "Mr. Cellophane". She learned it off the Muppet Show and does it really well, and rather convincingly...

The whole cast was fine, full of those triple-threat types - dancing actors who can also sing. The one distraction is that Bonnie Langford is tiny, and the rest of the cast towered over her. It was particularly interesting to see how they handled the grand Nowadays/Hot Honey Rag duet that comes almost at the close of the show. I don't know if Terra C. McLeod is particularly tall, but Langford barely came up to her shoulder, so the duet was carefully choreographed to minimize this. I think McLeod bent her knees more and the two were often placed not quite in line with each other. It was quite effective. This production is based on Ann Reinking's (another Fosse partner on-stage and off) revival, so the one remaining bit of pure Fosse choreography is the Hot Honey Rag. Now, anyone who has seen footage of Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera performing it, and especially Karen Ziemba paired up with Bebe Neurith, knows that this choreography is a real litmus test for dancers. Bonnie Langford and Terra C. McLeod did fine, and even executed the cartwheels with panache, but if you want to see Fosse precision and have six minutes, please take a look at this:

We were razzle-dazzled anyway and set off into the warm Ottawa night to dream of mayhem, before younger daughter sat out her last day of elementary school in a humidex of 38. Hot honey rag indeed.

10 comments:

JoeinVegas said...

My first view of Bebe was as Lilith, and so to me it is always interesting to see her sing or dance. Thanks.

But to leave us hanging about the school . . .

Persephone said...

Sorry, Joe! Maybe I'll try something when my wounds are a little less raw, and I'm less likely to come across as a shrieking harridan...
Bebe Neurith is just one of those terrifyingly gifted people and Karen Ziemba is simply a breathtaking dancer who, being a stage performer, is rarely seen on the small or large screen, more's the pity.

Ann oDyne said...

Bob Fosse & Gwen Verdon are certainly dance legends, and you inspired me to look up Terra:
"Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, she began her life in the performing arts at 4 years old. Having studied and performed with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens it wasnt long before she discovered her love of the silver screen and theatre as well. Her passion for the performing arts, led her to study in NYC at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Manhattan. Upon graduation, Terra began her career landing such leading roles as Cassie in "A Chorus Line",. With her love of travel and adventure, she's had the wonderful opportunity of performing around the world and even lived in Japan for 2 years. In 1997, she performed for the Canadian/US troops overseas in Bosnia, Israel and Egypt as well as Northern Canada.

After a few years overseas and in the US, she settled in Vancouver, BC. where she held a busy stage career in Vancouver and Canada doing such shows as "West Side story", "Tony and Tina’s Wedding", “Hotel Porter", “She Loves Me", "My Fair Lady" and Lola in "Damn Yankees."

It was on the Vancouver stage (Arts Club Theater,) that Terra received critical acclaim for her portrayal of Anita in "West Side Story" and won her 2003 Jessie Award for Best Supporting Actress in Large Theatre. In the spring of 2008 Terra returned to Vancouver to play Ulla in the Arts Club production of The Producers

In addition to the stage, Terra has also has kept a busy film and TV career. She has guest starred in "The Dead Zone" opposite Anthony Michael Hall, "Jeremiah" with Luke Perry and "The Lizzie Maguire Movie" with Hillary Duff, to name a few.

Persephone said...

Thanks for clearing that up, Anne oDyne! The few web sites I checked only said she was a Montrealer which could mean she was born there or simply has lived there, and one claimed she was born in Australia and is now an American citizen. (I think Rufus Wainwright is described as a Montrealer; he was born in New York State but grew up in Montreal.)

Actually what I was really trying to find out is her age, as she looked pretty mature last week, but being savvy, she seems to be keeping that under wraps, and of course, looks very youthful in her publicity stills. Les Grand Ballets Canadiens do many tours and I've had the pleasure of seeing them in both Victoria and Ottawa, so it's possible I've seen her dance before.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Bonnie is certainly a fine stage hoofer and performer (though yes titchy tiny!) so wooo! that would have been very much a pleasant surprise I can imagine.

Sorry that things have been grim on the school front. Rant or be restrained as you see fit: hugs x

Jane Henry said...

Am sure you won't come across as a harridan Persephone!! Sorry it was such a crappy end. But hey, on to pastures new in September. Hope the new school much much better for you both.

Have to fess up that I loathe Bonnie Langford - couldn't stand her in Just William or in Dr Who. That was the period when old Who died for me totally, so may not be her fault. It was her screechy voice that did it when I was a kid, but am sure she is a pro etc etc...

How did your daughter's trip go? Did she enjoy the Globe? If you ever find yourself in London in the summer, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre is worth a trip - cheap Shakespeare in a magical setting.

Persephone said...

From your mouth to God's ear, Jane/Jules!
Bonnie Langford strikes me as an Annie Get Your Gun type: bold, brassy and a bit over the top, which makes Roxie Hart a pretty good fit for her. I understand she did Peter Pan and I can totally see her in that role too!

Elder daughter is still on Iona and, I gather by reading between the lines of her emails, getting a bit antsy. It's started to rain big time and she gets one precious evening in London this weekend before flying home. Being a seventeen-year-old agnostic, the pilgrimage aspect may be becoming a bit wearing at this point after Day Number Four...

Persephone said...

Oops! And thanks for the kind comment, Lisa!

Jane Henry said...

Raining is obligatory when visiting the UK (-: Hope she gets sun in London. Due to cool down a bit, but still pretty hot here (we're 13 miles south).

Maybe Bonnie has improved with age. She was the worst child star type, hence my prejudice! Hope she enjoys Regent's Park. It is magic, and the show goes on even in the rain!

Persephone said...

She's at the Globe Theatre watching As You Like It as I type this. I doubt she'll have time for Regent's Park. Mixed light rain and sunshine, last I checked.