Singalong with Lerner and Loewe – mu­si­cal the­atre in the raw near you

Bray People - - OPINION - With David Med­calf med­der­s­me­[email protected]

IHAVE long con­sid­ered that young Perse­phone spends far too much of her time ab­sorbed in the glib, wise­crack­ing world of Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion com­edy. Though still in nap­pies (please do not call them di­a­pers) when the last episode of the se­ries was first broad­cast, our daugh­ter is in­fer­nally pally with ‘ Friends’ as it is for­ever re- played on satel­lite chan­nels. And it is her prac­tice to in­gest a large help­ing of ‘ Big Bang The­ory’ when­ever she thinks that her par­ents are not keep­ing tabs on her arm­chair ac­tiv­i­ties.

We are in fact mon­i­tor­ing her view­ing habits as best we can, de­liv­er­ing stern lec­tures on the vac­u­ous na­ture of ‘2 Broke Girls’ or some­thing called ‘How I Met Your Mother’. Of course our warn­ings and with­er­ing ob­ser­va­tions have no ef­fect other than to drive Perse­phone’s crav­ing for ‘Mod­ern Fam­ily’ or ‘ The Simp­sons’ un­der­ground, or at least un­der the du­vet. If barred from in­dulging her vice on the TV, then she can al­ways sum­mon up a ra­tion of trash on the sly via her smart­phone in­stead.

Per­haps I should be more sym­pa­thetic, hav­ing been reared in multi-chan­nel land where ‘I Love Lucy’ and ‘Green Acres’ were ir­re­sistible im­ported sweets in the candy store of my 1960s child­hood. Such treats led on to a de­pen­dence on ‘MASH’, which car­ried an ad­dic­tion to Hot Lips Houli­han as sorry side-ef­fect.

Given her lean­ing to­wards trashy transat­lantic sit-coms, I am at a loss to ex­plain how a teenager can also be an ex­pert on mu­si­cal the­atre. We thought to broaden the cul­tural diet of our youngest with a trip up the road from Our Town to Hil­lville as the lo­cal mu­si­cal so­ci­ety there pre­sented ‘My Fair Lady’. Hermione and I have long been fans of the great Lerner and Loewe show de­rived from the Ge­orge Bernard Shaw’s great play ‘Pyg­malion’.

GBS’s most pop­u­lar work hit the Lon­don stage back in 1913 and the mu­si­cal ver­sion was first pre­sented in the mid-1950s, a life­time be­fore our daugh­ter’s birth. No greater con­trast, we thought, to the non­sen­si­cal stuff with which she nor­mally fills her head. A story about how a lowly flower girl who is groomed in six breath­less months to take her place seam­lessly in Lon­don’s high so­ci­ety and to dance with princes seemed just what the doc­tor or­dered. Okay, so ‘My Fair lady’ is not ex­actly re­al­ity drama but is nonethe­less a sub­stan­tial piece of the­atre, of com­edy and of mu­sic.

It turned out that Perse­phone was well up to speed when it came to this clas­sic of Broad­way and the West End: ‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ ‘What is to be­come of me?’ ‘ The un­de­serv­ing poor.’ How it was that teenager knew all the catch-phrases from the show is a com­plete mystery to me – but she cer­tainly had them all off pat. Fa­ther and daugh­ter proved a com­plete menace to those sit­ting near us in the au­di­to­rium as we nudged each other play­fully at fa­mil­iar pas­sages. On re­flec­tion, our fel­low au­di­ence mem­bers had not paid good money to hear us singalong with ‘ The Street Where You Live’ while there was a per­fectly good tenor do­ing the job prop­erly up on the stage.

Hermione was on the verge of be­ing called upon to ad­min­is­ter first aid as the fa­mous scene at the As­cot races un­folded in all its hi­lar­ity. At the point where our hero­ine El­iza Doolit­tle de­liv­ered Cock­ney phrases in a per­fect cut-glass ac­cent, it was a toss-up as to which of the pair of us would ex­pire first. As it turned out, though both of us had sore stom­ach mus­cles from laugh­ing so hard, nei­ther re­quired ar­ti­fi­cial res­pi­ra­tion but it was a very close-run thing.

The night out in Hil­lville was re­minder that there is no need to travel to Lon­don or New York in search of top class the­atri­cal en­ter­tain­ment. The danc­ing, the char­ac­ters and the sheer sense of oc­ca­sion were all magic, cast­ing a warm spell over young and old. So we re­solved that we will have fur­ther nights out in the months ahead on our re­gion’s mu­si­cal so­ci­ety cir­cuit. The de­lights in store are not con­fined to old favourites such as ‘Calamity Jane’ and ‘South Pa­cific’. There will be op­por­tu­ni­ties too to see ‘Sis­ter Act’ and ‘9 to 5’ – we can hardly wait.

Perse­phone does not prom­ise that this im­mi­nent binge of show go­ing spells an end to ‘Big Bang The­ory’ but then I have made no com­mit­ment to aban­don the Cham­pi­ons League ei­ther.

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