Thursday, May 21, 2015

sharp as a pistol

Taking up an area of a little under two square miles with a population of a little shy of ten thousand, you probably never heard of Bristol, Pennsylvania. Oh, wait. There's that song about Bristol — by The Dovells — that hit Number Two on the Billboard charts in 1961. And of course it was the county seat of Bucks County until... um... 1725, but I guess you weren't around for that. Sure, Bristol has its share of history, like any number of towns in one of the original thirteen colonies. I'm sure, at one time, George Washington stopped to ask directions in Bristol or Ben Franklin knocked back a couple of brews at one of the many "publick houses." Actually, Bristol, in all of its charming quaintness, looks a lot like Alexandria, Virginia or Cooperstown, New York or a movie set from a Revolutionary War documentary. It's got that small town, "everyone-knows-everyone-else" homeyness that made you love or hate The Andy Griffith Show. At any given time, it's a good bet that someone is baking a pie in Bristol.

My wife won a pair of tickets to see a production of the Tony Award-winning musical Ragtime at the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Although I am, admittedly, not a fan of stage productions (I love concerts and I love movies, but there's something about stage plays and musicals that rubs me the wrong way), there is very little that I will turn down if it's free. So, on the designated Thursday evening, we drove a mere forty minutes to the tiny burg on the Delaware River. 

Down by the riverside!
We easily found a place to park and made our way to the theater. I was quite surprised to find the place bustling with activity, including a charter bus idling out front, unloading a contingency of folks all dolled up in their weekday finest. The small lobby was alive with chatter, as patrons handed over their tickets and a team of young ushers guided them to their seats. I turned to Mrs. P and commented, "I never imaged it would be so busy." She replied, "Like there's anything else to do in Bristol on a Thursday." She looked at me with that "rolling-your-eyes-without-actually-rolling-your-eyes" look. I smiled in agreement.

We took our seats in the small, darkened theater. The few lights dimmed completely and a very "Aunt Bee" -sort of woman took center stage for some pre-show announcements, most likely to encourage participation in an upcoming bake sale or pancake breakfast to support the church building fund. The the orchestra readied their assorted instruments (a real live orchestra, not a borrowed tape player!) and began the lush overture. On the stage the silhouetted actors moved into position. The lights raised, a spotlight illuminated the group of actors tasked with delivering the opening song and we were off.

I have to confess. I did not have high expectations for this show. In reality, I wanted to hate this show. I mean I really wanted to hate it. In my head, I had already devised a bunch of smarmy lines to incorporate into a blog post (this blog post, as a matter of fact!). I was expecting a high school caliber production with cardboard cutout sets, thrown-together costumes and "amateur-hour" quality singing. I wanted to relish the embarrassment and failure paraded before me. I even hated the book upon which the show was based.*

Boy, was I surprised.

The opening number was fantastic — a word I do not often use. It was professional. It was commanding. It was on par with any Broadway production. Meticulous costumes. Clever, multi-purpose staging. Intricate choreography. Soaring voices. And it was flawless. At the conclusion of the first song, my bewildered eyes met Mrs. P's equally bewildered eyes in the darkness. We were both thinking the same thing — "Holy crap! That was awesome!"

And, so, for the next two hours, we were treated to a totally engaging, totally entertaining production. Staging and special effects were more elaborate as the show progressed, including simulated fireworks and a full-size, working Ford Model T. At the show's conclusion, the cast took many well-deserved curtain calls and the thunderous applause signified unanimous approval.

And this blog post — specifically the distinct reversal of sentiment — is the highest praise I could give.

In all fairness, I never actually finished the novel Ragtime. I got through the first two chapters and I didn't hold my interest,

1 comment:

  1. I love going to shows like this. Glad you enjoyed yourself!