By Don and Peg Doman
A weeping, crying, demoralizing, down and dirty shame . . . COVID is killing our local live theatres.
I feel like I am being locked out of local stage productions and theatres. I’ve been on two theatrical boards of directors; we always strived to gain more supporters and ticket buyers to support the productions. But now there are no live productions. How long can community theaters pay rent and utilities without support?
From Seattle to Olympia my wife Peg and I have written play reviews for numerous productions. We love the theater, the theater people and their productions.
Seattle: Seattle Rep, ACT, Book-It Theatre, Theater Schmeater, Fifth Avenue, Seattle Shakespeare, Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society and Taproot.
Federal Way: CenterStage Theatre.
Tacoma: Tacoma Arts, Tacoma Little Theatre, Tacoma Musical Theatre, Tacoma Opera, and Dukesbay Productions.
Lakewood: Lakewood Playhouse.
There is nothing like going to a live play. We’ve seen actors starting out and them making it to Broadway. Most local theatres have young actor programs to encourage and train the next generation of actors. Almost all of our local theaters use non-professionals actors, which means that they not only memorize their lines, rehearse for weeks and weeks, and then perform, and they do this while earning a living, and for some, raising a family.
Peg and I love the intimacy . . . the closeness . . . the action taking place sometimes just inches from our faces, which of course is impossible in our current-hunker down world. Our greatest pain is in not attending performances with our grandchildren and family. They at least have memories, but our new great-granddaughter may miss the experience entirely . . . and that’s a crying out loud shame. She was born in April this year and it’ll be a few years before she can partake but we’d start her out at the child actors’ productions.
While we will keep the home fires burning for our local theaters, Peg and I have found solace in recorded live productions. Tacoma Little Theatre, Tacoma Musical Theatre, and the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society have some recorded productions that can be streamed. In addition, we have just discovered an additional source: BroadwayHD – broadwayhd.com/ “BroadwayHD is a subscription service which offers subscribers the ability to stream recordings of live stage performances to their televisions, computers and mobile devices.”
We signed up for a seven-day free trial and were hooked immediately. I found a full length stage production of “Cyrano de Bergerac” and we soon fell in love with “Kinky Boots” and its excellent music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. We also found “Daddy Long Legs” (not the Fred Astaire version from the ‘50s. He was at least a generation and a half too old for Lesley Caron but that was a dancing film).
Peg and I saw the film Kinky Boots years ago at the Grand Cinema and enjoyed it. It tells the story of an English manufacturer of quality, sturdy men’s shoes that can’t sell their quality products anymore due to changing tastes. Rather than shut down, the heir and current owner decides to find a new niche to keep his employees working. Their niche is to create sexy and sturdy shoes and thigh-high boots for transvestites . . . a niche market, which offends and scares some people, including several of his employees.
Kinky Boots in cinemas | Matt Henry and Killian Donnelly singing “Not My Father’s Son”
Billy Porter, Tory Ross – Sex Is In The Heel (Kinky Boots)
Here is the Broadway HD description of Daddy Long Legs: Based on the classic novel which inspired the 1955 movie starring Fred Astaire—a beloved tale in the spirit of Jane Austen, the Brontë Sisters, and “Downton Abbey”—this heartwarming Cinderella story about a witty and winsome young woman and her mysterious benefactor has charmed audiences of all ages from Los Angeles to London. Critics are cheering: Daddy Long Legs has ‘echoes of She Loves Me and top-notch performances’ and it’s ‘one of the most enthralling, entertaining and moving love stories on the American musical theater stage.”
Peg: I felt an immediate connection with orphan Jerusha Abbott. Set in 1912, her future had no future, save for possibly becoming the next manager of the orphan home or going out to bare subsistence work. Jerusha was a young lady with an ability to cleverly and colorfully use words to paint pictures of what’s she’s writing about. She yearns for knowledge, an education, an appropriate use of her talents. She wants to know why things happen and wants a bigger view for her world. A donor of the orphan’s home appreciates the letters and papers she creates and provides her with a college education, at a women’s college, the only higher education for women at that time. He also pays her a monthly allowance for her clothes and expenses. Her only requirement is that she write a letter every month to the donor, without expressing thanks, to let him know what she’s learning. Of course, she couldn’t limit herself to one letter a month. I was beguiled by someone who loves learning and writes in a personal and even idiosyncratic voice.
While at U.P.S., I haunted the Collins Memorial Library and loved the reference section. I always wanted to know more about everything. After I left U.P.S. to get married, I volunteered at the library of St. Pat’s School, which all three of our children attended. I really enjoyed seeing kids have the opportunity to pick out books that piqued their interest. One boy was a particular joy. He had choices ranging from medieval weapons to cars to histories and had no bounds that I could see. I was always waiting to see what he would pick next.
When our eldest was in first grade, I asked the elderly teacher when she was taking the kids to the school library. She said that they weren’t ready for the library yet. I replied, “Oh, yes they are. As soon as Andrea could print her name, she signed up and received her first library card.” The Sister replied that she would reconsider her choice. Going to the McCormick library was a highlight of our rather enclosed lives. I had worked at the Collins Memorial Library in the cataloging department following work in the same department at the U.P.S. Law School.
I fell in love with the play from Peg’s description of a young woman growing up in an orphanage who loves books and writing. It was well beyond that. It’s a coming of age – struggle to be an independent woman – hunger for learning – questioning – searching for answers – falling in love – type of play. It’s more opera than musical in that the songs are basically recitative. Recitative is a style of delivery in which a singer is allowed to adopt the rhythms and delivery of ordinary speech. This is not a bad thing . . . the delivery flows and is beautiful.
Exclusive: “Daddy Long Legs” Stars in the Studio For Cast Recording
If you love live theatre, BroadwayHD will keep your home fires burning and opens up the world of recorded plays. Once stage plays are normal again, the online streaming will let you see some productions before local theatres would normally have a chance to stage them. This is a good thing. Many Broadway shows don’t always make it out to the Pacific Northwest.