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