All Hail the Hale Center Theatre
“I can’t recall a night so clear
The heavens seem an inch away
And not unfriendly after all
After all, if life was ever quite this sweet I can’t recall” – Jill Santoriello
Be warned my friends, for those of you who have become accustomed to a certain tone here at “…and several butcher’s aprons,” be neither frightened nor alarmed. Nycityman has not suffered a fall, been a victim of mental cruelty nor been replaced by the pod people from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” The all too usual snarkiness, skepticism and sarcasm just do not apply in this situation. So fear not and remain unruffled, for today you will be reading nice things, pleasant things, positive things – not even a Palin or Beck swipe in sight (but then again, why kick people when they’re down?) – and while this may seem counter to my heretofore known nature, unusual circumstances call for unusual measures and unexpected joys can come from unexpected places. Please accept and embrace this behavioral alteration, and if you have ever found enjoyment, entertainment or enlightenment in previous posts, I hope you find similar values in this more amiable endeavor. As any theatre critic can attest, regardless of actual merits and realities, it is often far easier to be clever and comical when penning disapproving prose than when opining with positive postings – this, however, will clearly and justifiably be the latter.
This is a tale of Two Tales of Two Cities. Confused yet? Then my work is done here. In way of explanation, this is a tale of a marvelous musical and a praise-worthy production - Jill Santoriello’s “A Tale of Two Cities.” But it’s also a tale of a judicially jaded and surreptitiously cynical New Yorker embracing the people and environs of a city that (gasp!) is not home to the IRT, McSorley’s Old Ale House or Tom Seaver’s legacy.
New York City courses through my veins as human growth hormone does through those of Alex Rodriguez. Nycityman, born and bred in, and married to, his beloved Gotham, discovered much to admire in Utah - a destination that prior to this weekend he couldn’t have located on a map with a gun to his head, his cat being held hostage and a cartographer as his phone-a-friend. My own personal tale of two cities began when seeing this superior presentation of this powerful and poignant musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic. Dickens’ account is of London and Paris, while mine involved New York and Salt Lake City – for it was there, in “the Crossroads of the West,” where I had the immeasurable pleasure of experiencing a production with heart, soul, love, care, talent and more sincerity and emotion than an Osmond family Christmas (a recently passed Utah state ordinance requires an Osmond reference be made in all published writings.) This is a musical that I have been fortunate enough to see dozens of times through the years, in virtually every imaginable theatrical venue - from readings in rented rehearsal spaces to its glorious run at the Al Hirschfeld Theater on Broadway. And despite the fact that I could karaoke the score and recite the lines along with the cast, it was almost as if I was seeing it anew and discovering its joys all over again.
But there’s even more to this personal saga that extends beyond the fulfillment that one can receive from such a satisfying work of art, and that has to do with the people encountered there. The explanation escapes me – perhaps something in the high altitude and the accompanying thin air prohibits egotism and malice from growing and flourishing in Utah. The populace was so considerate, kind and convivial that this world-weary New Yorker was somewhat initially perplexed. Could this be real? Have I wandered onto the “Waltons” set and will this all evaporate upon the calling of “cut?” Well, much to my happiness, this altitude attitude is very authentic and honest; and with apologies to Theodore Geisel and his Grinch – “well, in Salt Lake City they say that nycityman’s heart grew 3 sizes that day.” And speaking of hearts, if one’s was not stolen by a female cast member or two, then get on a waiting list because a transplant is long overdue. Similarly, gentleman of “Tale,” from what I understand, such was also the case concerning yourselves and the audience members of the fairer sex. But then again how could one not fall for the sly easy charm and savoir fare of a Barsad or a Cruncher?
As regular readers may recall, I recently wrote a piece questioning the nature of religion and the very existence of a higher power. I will always have my doubts, but the people I met this weekend did manage to pry open a pair of very tightly shut eyes and gave me the opportunity to see things from a slightly different point of view. I witnessed the value and worth that can accompany faith, conviction and spirituality. And as they were so warm and welcoming to their visitors from the east, I posit a notion - at the still undoubtedly adorable, cute and cuddly age of 51, I offer myself up for adoption. Sure, newborns may have their appeal, but think of the advantages – I’m already on solid food, I can dress myself and you won’t have to pay for my college education. You, my new friends, may have it within your power to make nycityman, slcityman.
In conclusion (collective sigh of relief) alas, all was not goodness and light – I received no fry sauce, a situation I hope will be rectified post haste.
And now, from the Hale Center Theatre, a taste of “A Tale of Two Cities.”