Sunday, May 17, 2009

Weekend notes, pt. 2 — after the show

Though slightly out of the blue and slightly off-budget, the Annie experience was surprisingly good.

We bombed out of the house with barely an hour and a half to spare before the performance. On the way, I called the box office and secured two tickets — including a half-price one for myself. We pulled up in front of Tarrant's to get a quick dinner. Tarrant's is one of those places in town that is generally reliable — sometimes very good, rarely bad — and it's location across the street from the theatre was ideal.

Service was quick and good. Buttercup was looking a little faded, but perked up when rolls appeared. I ordered a cup of the chicken and corn chowder for myself — perfect on a dreary day — and white pizza with spinach and tomatoes for us. I asked the waitress to add feta, without asking what the charge for an extra ingredient was. The question would have been a good one to ask, however, since apparently all pizzas are priced based on optional ingredients — whether they're listed as standard pies or not. The menu isn't clear about this, unfortunately, and I might have changed the order if I'd known that our $11.95 pizza was going to run $17.95 instead. Given the timing when we were asking her to box up half and bring the check, it wasn't worth saying anything; I might mention it next time though.

On a quick side note, it's also worth mentioning that the pizza was very good. The crust had a good flavor and the cheese and tomatoes were nicely done. Had I known that the spinach wouldn't be fresh, I might not have ordered it. The mushy green lent a bit too much liquid to the pie.

Dinner wrapped up, we headed across to the theatre. Theatre IV is a local theater group that puts on a few children's shows a year. They've done Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz, and many other classics. They link in regularly with schools in the area and generally do great work. Tonight was no exception.

The sets were beautifully done, and the actors all seemed to be having a great time. This could have been last-performance bounce, but it seems more likely that they were just generally enjoying themselves. (This is only borne out by the tears streaming down the lead's face at the curtain call.) The singing and dancing were mostly very sharp. Two of the best parts: Buttercup asking if the dog was real, and her friend E asking if it was the real president up there. (For those who don't know, FDR plays a significant part in the show.) The only trick watching the show for me was getting past various anachronisms and implausibilities that are distracting, but hardly central to the story.

What also surprised me was how much of the show I remembered, and how much it touched me. Frankly, it was still a very good time when I saw Annie on its first national tour in Chicago in 1978. We were spending quite a bit of time in that city — a place I still remember very fondly — and all hell hadn't broken loose. At eight (or almost eight), the worst experiences of elementary and middle school were yet to come. My parents were still five years from telling me they were divorcing. In other words, it's a time that has deep and positive memories — the Cubs at Wrigley, Stuart Brent Books, the museums, the zoos, camping and skiing trips.

What surprised me tonight was how easily a cheesy, mawkish — albeit very catchy — libretto can pull out a whole flood of memories and associations that have laid buried for years. And how easy it is to welcome back the memories, and how much they put the present in perspective.