I sat next to Helen Hayes Awards president and CEO Linda Levy Grossman at a private dinner hosted by theatrical bon vivant Victor Shargai in honor of Richard Thomas, the brain behind Jerry Springer: The Opera. The quick-witted Brit came to Washington to see the STUDIO THEATRE SECOND STAGE production of his London National Theatre hit. Thomas had high marks for the show, commenting it was one of the best he had seen. The musical – literally a Jerry Springer episode from hell – was an audacious and fun ride though the id, ego, heaven and Hades. Studio Theatre continues to take the risks that put our regional theater on the map. Unfortunately, my date hasn’t returned my calls since.
Estranged redneck lovers, transvestites, and cheeky morality duels between Jesus and Satan aside, there are no substitutes for the classics such as the WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA’s opening night of Verdi’s La Traviata at the Kennedy Center. Director Marta Domingo delivered Elizabeth Futral at her finest. The American soprano’s masterful command of her craft showcased Parisian courtesan Violetta’s full range of unyielding romance and tragic nobility. I sat next to German conductor Dan Ettinger at the post performance dinner at the Italian Embassy. The thirty-something prodigy with stylish blonde hair conducts strictly from memory. Equally brilliant was the WNO’s decision to simulcast the performance to 15,000 fans at Nationals Park. Hot dogs, light beer and Verdi – that might have been a better date idea.
WOLF TRAP brought another classic to the area: Les Misérables. Between this and Cold Play’s Vive la Vida concert at the Verizon center, I had my fill of rebellious 19th-century French
style this summer. The show, at the stunning outdoor Filene Center (is this the best place to see a show in the Mid-Atlantic region?) didn’t include the Broadway darling’s revolving set, but its epic quality, thundering score, and finely-tuned ensemble made up for it. The lifelong duel between Robert Evan (Valjean) and Robert Hunt (Javert) carried the performance with a powerful combination of mutual distain, bravado and pride. It will be a hard act to follow when Signature Theatre stages Les Mis in December. Vive La Différence!
Hollywood love child, Stars Wars icon, Paul Simon muse, bi-polar warrior, and chain smoking self-deprecator Carrie Fisher brought her one woman self-therapy session Wishful Drinking to the Lincoln Theater as part of ARENA STAGE’s “Arena Restaged” series – a two-year multi-venue festival featuring American theatrical giants, voices, and musicals. The campy daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fishers’ brand of biting humor and self-flagellation touched on Hollywood inbreeding, George Lucas’ lack of personality, Princess Leila sex dolls, and struggles with addiction and depression. Fisher uses the force with strength and vulnerability to create a hilarious one-woman show.
My performance-packed September finished in the capacity of “celebrity judge” at the 15th annual Funniest Celebrity in Washington Contest hosted by VERY SPECIAL ARTS (VSA). Mike Huckabee took home the crown with zingers such as “Mitt Romney changed positions more than an under aged Chinese gymnasts,” along with a few well-timed jabs at his campaign’s lack of funds and its Chuck Norris endorsement. My vote went to Politico’s James Kotecki whose Eminem-styled rap dropped more poli-disses than the Obama and McCain muckraking campaigns. Way to keep it real James – word to your laptop.
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