Art: (noun) - the quality, production, expression, or realm of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.
While visiting the cities of Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Spreek je Engels?) and Muenster, Germany (sprechen sie Englisch? Forgive me, new friends, but the double dot-less Anglo keyboard does not allow for the proper Germanic spelling of your delightful, picturesque and utterly charming hamlet) this primarily political blogger caught slight wind of some of the argumentative uproar afoot in my stars and stripes waving homeland where, by all appearances, much of our population is distraught and dismayed that Barack Obama has solidly secured a second term as leader of the free world. A handful of our, perhaps less than open-minded, citizenry are distressingly unfurling our flag, field of stars downward, and are initiating and instigating a secessionist movement - every heart does not currently beat true for the red, white and blue where there's often a boast or brag. Heed exaggerated accounts from internet provocateurs and one would believe that “now we are engaged in a great Civil War.” But as we are still bountifully blissful from our vacationing bohemian behavior and not dutifully detailed on these deleterious doings, that tremulous topic will be addressed more thoroughly in a future post. Today we bypass the usual exasperated attitude and sarcastic similes and take a breather from the unseemly ugliness rampant in the political realm for a milder, gentler composition focusing on the beauty and brotherhood that can arise from a work of art.
“The heavens seem an inch away
Not cold and empty like before
A night as sweet as this, tonight
I can't recall”
As hardhearted, acerbic and surly as yours truly can so often be, there is something about the marvelous musical, "A Tale of Two Cities" that transforms me into a sunshiny day, Ellen watching, up with people, puppy pecking, kitten kissing, baby bussing, suddenly sincere, mountain of mush (while always maintaining my testoterone-y, Irish Spring-like, almost irrationally irresistable to the opposite sex manliness, of course.) It could be the soaring, stirring and emotional melodies brought lovingly to life by equally full-hearted and full-throated vocalists. It could be the evocative, poignant and expressive performances of adept and able actors meaningfully inhabiting every syllable and silence. It could be the timeless tale of love, redemption and ultimate sacrifice conveyed in the words and deeds of characters, sometimes caustic, sometimes comic, sometimes charismatic, and always authentic, created by Charles Dickens and artfully adapted and embellished by gifted composer, lyricist and librettist, Jill Santoriello, the Carl Yastrzemski, triple threat of modern American musical theatre. But maybe, just maybe, it’s all of those things and something more - something slightly inexplicable, enigmatic, even enchanting in nature – something that touches upon the magic that can occasionally occur when a work of collaborative art is realized, and creative promise is fulfilled. Such was the feeling we had the great good fortune of experiencing recently when enjoying the latest production of “A Tale of Two Cities” presented by the Freies Musical Ensemble of Muenster, Germany. FME is an amateur company, members gainfully employed in the day parts, by necessity rehearsing late into evenings and on treasured weekends. While perhaps geographically and economically far removed from the bright lights of the Great White Way, this was an execution that was ambitious, earnest, dramatic, joyful, heartfelt, moving and ultimately affecting. As rewarding as the moments were reveling in the song-filled spectacular, similarly so was the time spent afterwards with the welcoming and warm frauen and manner of FME - and that, too, has time and again, proven to be another fulfilling tale of A Tale of Two Cities.
Headline - “Musical Brings World Peace”
“Then we can make this world
The way it ought to be!
When will we see that day?
When will it be that way?
The way it ought to be?”
A musical spreading harmony, amity, good feelings and goodwill across our troubled terra firma, hinting at hyperbole, you say - an obvious overstatement, far-fetched and fantastical? I’ve had the pleasure of seeing productions from high schools to Broadway, around much of the lower 48, and now even beyond the great Atlantic performed in a language of which I have zero familiarity – theoretically you might as well have had a Tea-Partier attempting to explain his unintellectual, nonsensical, prejudicial and harmful political ideology to me. Yet, so strong is this combination of actor and material that even done in a tongue foreign to the viewer, the meaning, sentiment, intention and lasting effect of the story, and its telling, is still very much achievable. People who have seemingly very little to unite them but their affection for the musical art form find that having discovered the humanity, compassion, and empathy inherent in “A Tale of Two Cities,” those communal positive and very human qualities extend far beyond the footlights and, indeed, they share much commonality. From actor to director to costume designer to musician to program printer - once you have been touched by this show you have been indelibly affected in an enduring manner and in a style that successful crosses cultural divides. (“we are the world, we are the children,” “come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try and love one another, right now,” “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” – okay, now I want a Coke.)
So, can a traveling stage show calm tensions in the Middle East, mend multiple-millennia-old, fractious, faith fanaticism and enmities, and cap carbon emissions to deliver a happier polar bear and a climate change free future for humankind? Not very likely, but it’s certainly worth the price of admission to find out.
For a taste of “A Tale of Two Cities” here are highlights from the PBS special, featuring many members of the original Broadway cast.