Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012's Opening Acts

The first two live entertainment events of the year 2012 were both repeat experiences for me. But they happened in places Paula and I were visiting for the first time.

This past Thursday on a chilly mid-winter night amid a downpour of rain we drove to South Warren High School. Neither of us had been in the new school. It was only built just 2 years ago.

But we weren’t there for the basketball game taking place in the school’s gym. The school auditorium was our destination for what promised to be an evening of laughter and entertainment.

Christian Family Radio, our local contemporary Christian music station, was sponsoring a performance by one of my favorite Christian comedians, Jeff Allen.

I had seen Allen in person once before. A few years ago my friends, Brent, Fred, and I went to Zanies comedy club in Nashville. Jeff Allen was part of the night of “clean” comedy along with Ken Davis and Brad Stein.

The performance was billed as a stop on Allen’s “I Can Laugh About It Now” tour.  He did a lot of material I’d heard before but it was still funny. He also did some new stuff. Jeff doesn’t tell joke with traditional punch lines.  He's a story teller. His view on life is hilarious. The best line of the night was one about running out of brownies.

But this night was more than just a comedy performance. Jeff shared his personal testimony telling how he came to believe in God and accept Jesus Christ as his personal savior.
Battles with alcoholism and drug addiction, a failing marriage and atheism were all part of his conversion story. It was an amazing and compelling  testimony to say the least.

Two nights later, on Saturday night, Paula and I went to the Andrew Jackson Theater, part of the Tennessee Performing Arts center, in Nashville to see the Broadway musical: Spamalot.

It was just over a year ago that I took Michael and James to the Lexington Opera House to see the same show. Afterward Paula told me she would have liked to have gone. I promised her if the show ever came around again I’d take her. When I saw a commercial advertising the show I was excited that I had a second chance to take her. I immediately bought tickets.

We had never been to TPAC and initially we weren’t sure where it was. A quick search of Google Maps revealed that it was in the same area of downtown as the Bridgestone Arena and the Ryman Auditorium.

Our seats were in left side lodge section of the theater. We were pretty high. At first I was a bit disappointed. Our seats were literally above the clouds. Of course, the clouds were scenery placed at the top of the stage; but we were above them nonetheless. The view did allow us to see everything that happened on stage and a bit of what happened in the wings off to stage right. 
After getting oriented I decided the seats were not that bad.

Paula really enjoyed Spamalot. She especially liked an adlibbed line by one of the characters (one of the knights who say “Ni”) commenting on the absurdity of the “Twilight” movies.

I found the show twice as funny as I did the first time. The reason for this is that I was more familiar with the soundtrack and the plot. In Lexington I was a bit confused because the play didn't follow the movie exactly. This time I knew what to expect and was very entertained. One of my favorite parts was the production number about the knights returning to Camelot. This picture shows the cast at the end of that song.

So even though I’d seen both of them before Jeff Allen and “Spamalot” have gotten the entertainment portion of 2012 off to a great start for me. I can also now add Warren South High School and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to my list of patronized venues.

Before I conclude this post I’d like to go back to the evening with Jeff Allen for one final thought.
I have to mention the show’s opening act. The performer was a young boy who told jokes dressed in drag playing a sassy old woman character. He was the winner of the 2011 Capitol Arts Theater’s “Funniest Kid Around” competition.  I’d seen him before on TV just after he’d won the competition last year. I appreciate how difficult it was for a kid his age to do what he does. 

Just getting up in front of a crowd is half the battle. He has a lot of potential. In his opening remarks the spokesman for the organization co-sponsoring the event stated that the event would be held again next year.

Of course the first thought that came to mind for me was how great it would be if next year I could be the opening act. It’s not out of the realm of possibility. I would have to do a lot of work and perform a lot of places between now and then but I could do it. So I guess I’ve just challenged myself. Let’s see if I’m up to it.  

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