Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Night At The Theater

A week that promised the beginning of Spring, summer like weather, the release of the newest Muppets movie on Blu Ray, and a live entertainment experience started out on Monday night with an unexpected evening at the newest theater venue in my area.

When I woke up Monday morning I had no idea, on that very night, I’d be going to see a play I’d wanted to see for more than 30 years. When I was a teenager in high school I saw the 1958 movie “Damn Yankees” on TV for the first time.

The film starred Tab Hunter as Joe Hardy, Gwen Verdon as Lola, and Ray Walston as Mr. Applegate.

The movie, adapted from a Broadway musical written by George Abbott, revolves around a man who sells his soul to the devil (Mr. Applegate) in return for becoming a slugger for the Washington Senators and helping them defeat the dynasty of the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers dominated the American League in the 1950s.

Being a Yankees fan I take pride in their historic dominance in baseball. But my dad was a teenager in the 50’s. He told me that as he was growing he despised the Yankees because they won all the time. So trying to sympathize with my dad helped me identify with the Joe Boyd character in “Damn Yankees.”

After watching the movie I decided that one day I would like to see the play. That was in the mid or late 1970’s. Over the years I have had opportunities to see several performances in high schools or local public theater venues but never made it to see them.

Most recently I found out that the play was coming to the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center as part of its inaugural season. But when I looked online to buy tickets there were only single seats available. Although Paula encouraged me to I wasn’t going to go by myself.

Let’s fast forward to this past Monday afternoon. I was in the self-checkout lane at my local Walmart when Paula called me. She told me that someone at her office had a pair of tickets for “Damn Yankees” that night they wanted to sell. She asked me if I still wanted to go. I jumped at the chance.

Four hours later my kind considerate wife and I were walking from the newly built parking garage to the new centerpiece of the entertainment in downtown Bowling Green.

After about a 20 minute wait in the lobby the doors opened and  we went into the theater. I had only seen pictures of the main hall’s interior on TV and hadn’t really paid much attention to them. 
So when I walked through the doors I was amazed.

The 18,000 seat hall has a 3000 square foot stage, a mezzanine, a balcony and a 52 foot high ceiling. I was practically speechless. You know that’s unusual for me.

Our seats were on the hall floor in the upper orchestra section; about 3 rows from the back on the right. That sounds far away from the stage but the view was excellent.

Not only was I excited about seeing a play I’d been waiting more than 30 years to see. I was excited about the potential of seeing future shows at there.

Soon the show started and it was very entertaining. However the baseball culture and the social culture of the time period the play is set in doesn’t hold up very well.
The Washington Senators that the play is based on haven’t played in the nation’s capital since 1960. That’s when they moved to Minneapolis/St. Paula and have been the Minnesota Twins since then.

Also the ball players in the play refer to having to take “off season” jobs to help them make ends meet. This is far removed from the multi-millionaires that play the game today. The MLB minimum player’s salary is over $400,000. The “average Joe” players portrayed in “Damn Yankees” are only a nostalgic memory.

Also a major league ball player renting a room from a local resident would not happen today. Again, because of the high salaries a player could afford their own house or apartment in the city where they play.  

There are other aspects that of this play that have gone the way of the dinosaur as well. The social stigma of a man and a woman who are not married living in the same house and the uniqueness of a female newspaper sports reporter are accepted “norms” today.

Now I know it seems like I’m being critical but these conflicts would make the play very difficult for anyone who was under the age of 40 to fully understand. But of course I’m not in that group. I really enjoyed this show.  

A couple of the songs, “You’ve Gotta Have Heart”, “Whatever Lola Wants”, are Broadway classics. The dance numbers, jokes, and characters were typical 1960’s theater.
I really liked the show and especially the character of Mr. Applegate. I’m very grateful to my wife for finally allowing me the opportunity to finally see “Damn Yankees.” 

As far as the Performing Arts Center is concerned, the place has so far exceeded my expectations. I still can’t quite believe how nice it is. As I wrote before, I’m excited about the other plays and shows scheduled for this first season. However a lot of the shows are already sold out. But there is an aspect of the 2nd season of the Broadway Series that I’m anxious about. “Spamalot” is coming in January 2013.
I know I’ve already seen it each of the past 2 Januarys. But the show is my all time favorite play. If I get my wish I will see it for a third time.
So there’s a bright new star in the theater and live entertainment sky in this part of Kentucky. I can’t wait to go to this new venue with my family and my friends. From now on a quality theater experience will be only 20 minutes away.
I’ve seen the future of entertainment in my area an it’s SKYPACtacular!.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

“Plastic Surgery”

A week ago I posted a summary of all the things that happened over the course of a very busy and eventful week.

One of the things I mentioned was that Paula and I had made a significant change in our financial set up that will make a big difference in our lives. Part of that action was paying off and closing most of our credit card accounts.

This action has rendered the little rectangular debt makers in our wallets, useless. So the only thing left to do was perform, what radio talk show host Dave Ramsey calls, ”plastic surgery”. I cut up the cards we no longer need. Of course, to make sure they couldn’t be fished out of our garbage and the numbers stolen I made sure they were in small pieces.

After I finished I put all the pieces in a small cup. As I stirred them up the variety of colors and sizes of the pieces reminded me of something that was rather appropriate for the given circumstances. I had made credit card confetti.

Instead of just throwing the pieces up in the air in celebration, I decided to do something that would last a little bit longer.

I glued the pieces of ex-credit cards to a piece of paper stock in a random pattern as though it had been shot of out of a cannon and frozen in mid air. I’m going to frame this silly little spontaneous art project and hang it over the desk where I pay our bills as a reminder of our landmark accomplishment and a goal for the future; to remain free from credit card debt.

So it is with a proud spirit I present to you my most recent arts & craft project:

Monday, March 5, 2012

…And Then There Was The Weekend

My eventful week continued over the weekend. Saturday night my wife and I attended the last concert ever by the Orchestra of Kentucky. No, the organizaiton is not disbanding (no pun intended) this was just the last performance for them in the Van Meter concert hall on the Western Kentucky University campus; their home for the last few years. Later this month they will be moving into their new home at the brand new Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center.

Saturday night’s performance was part of the orchestra’s “Retro Series” and featured the music from “The British Invasion” of the 1960’s.  Performing on stage were The Orchestra of Kentucky, conducted by Jeff Reed; a group of vocalists, “The Retro Singers”, and a very talented cover band, “The Rewinders.”

This was the 3rd Orchestra of Kentucky concert we’ve been to over the last 18 months. It just might have been my favorite and not just because the tickets were free.

The two hour show included covers of songs originally recorded by British artists: Chad & Jeremy, Peter & Gordon, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, The Animals, The Tremelos, The Mindbenders, Pink Floyd, The Who, The Spencer Davis Group, The Zombies, Freddie & The Dreamers, Jerry & The Pacemakers, Tom Jones, Lulu, and The Hollies. Those weren’t all the artists covered but that’s all I can remember.

One of the Retro Singers was Billy Duvall. Billy is a nice Christian guy who’s a very “snappy” dresser and has a terrific voice. His R&B style of gospel singing is outstanding and well known around our area. He’s ministered at my church at least twice over the last several years.

During the concert he sang two songs: “Gimme Some Lovin” and “It’s Not Unusual”. It was pretty cool that someone we know was part of the show.

The performance of the night was by a guy who sang the classic song “House of the Rising Sun” with an animated and unique style. He was so good he got a standing ovation.

Personally I enjoyed the unique harmonies of several of the songs. “I Got To Pieces” and “Silence Is Golden” were among my favorites. The unusual vocal blends and acoustic effects in the singing of the Zombies song, “She’s Not There” were fun as well.

My favorite elements throughout the entire show were the brass section and the keyboards. I’ve always appreciated the stand-out musical contribution horns made to the all the popular hits of the 60’s; these “British Invasion” songs included. I don’t remember the name of the keyboard player but he was excellent and his play was the key instrumental element to many of the songs performed.

In what I thought was a very touching moment and classy move, the ensemble performed the song “Day Dream Believer” as a tribute to the late Davy Jones. The recent loss of the British born lead singer of the Monkees was quite a shock to fans of 60’s music everywhere.

The concert ended with a performance of “The Air That I Breathe”, my favorite Hollies song. The crowd showed their appreciation for the entire evening with a standing ovation.

The encore song was appropriately one by the group that started it all, The Beatles. With more than 4 dozen Top 40 Fab Four hits to choose from conductor Reed’s choice of “Hey Jude” was a good one. By the time the encore ended the majority of the audience was singing along; some waving their arms holding backlit cell phones.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this concert. It brought back the music of my childhood days (I mean the first decade of my life) back to life. What I mean by that is this. Over the last 4 decades since they were first ranked on the Billboard Top 40 charts I have heard or played the pop music from the 60’s (not just those from the “British Invasion”) many, many, many times. They have taken on a familiarity that makes them almost part of the “musical furniture”  

Experiencing live performances of some of these less remembered “classics” breathed new life into them for me. As every song was performed it was as if my mind was divided into two. On one side, in my mind’s eye, I was watching an old black and white TV set while watching the original artists perform on the Ed Sullivan show circa 1966 or 67. On the other side I was in Van Meter Hall in 2012 watching, hearing, and enjoying the singers on stage.

I knew nearly all of the songs by heart and most of the time I was singing along. All throughout the night I kept asking myself, “Why am I having such a good time?” As mentioned I’ve heard these songs hundreds of times what was different about them now? As the encore number came to a close and I once again stood to applaud, I realized the answer. It’s the songs.

The songs are timeless. They meant as much to me that night as they did when I was young because they are just good songs. They touch something inside and calm the soul.  Perhaps it’s the connection to what I consider “simpler times.”

This Retro Concert was made possible and very enjoyable because of many many hours of hard work by all those who were on stage that night. The reason it was such a great evening is because it started with a great foundation....the songs.

A big “thank you” to Jeff Reed, Orchestra of Kentucky, the Retro Singers, and The Rewinders for hitting the “refresh button” and  reuniting me with those childhood friends who are always there at the push of a button on my IPod but every once in a while need a new “coat of paint”: the songs of the 60’s.

Sunday morning brought me yet another opportunity to minister to the youngsters of my church. It was my turn to present the “Children’s Sermon” part of our Sunday morning worship service. After some prayerful consideration I decided that the storms that came through Kentucky this past week was perfect opportunity to teach the children about trust and God’s protection.  

With the help of a spray bottle filled with water, a turbo fan, and Pastor Mark, our associate pastor, I reminded the children that Jesus once calmed a storm. He did it with just 3 words, “Peace be still.” I assured them that in the future when they are scared because of the storms they can put their hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.

On Sunday afternoon I went with my son, James to see the movie, “Act of Valor”.  
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie. I knew it was it was an action adventure based on true facts and using action sequences from real Navy Seal team operations. But other than that I really had no idea what the movie was about.

The film doesn’t have that great a plot but it does have lots of action. The footage of the Seals going into extremely volatile situations to rescue an CIA agent being held hostage, capture an arms dealer to gain vital intelligence, and finally to stop potential suicide bombers from entering the United States through Mexico.

While I do have to agree with most of the reviews I’ve read in admitting that the acting in this movie is not the best. But the reality that these are American servicemen being dispatched to remote places around the world doing what needs to be done to keep each of us safe and secure here at home.

These are the men who throughout the history of this great country have always been the true American heroes.

From the beginning you know that this story is being told through the vehicle of a letter being written to the son of a fallen soldier but that doesn’t take away from the intensity of the danger and risk these men are facing in the field of duty.

My emotional reaction to the last 5 minutes of this movie took me by surprise. I’ll admit to tearing up at the profound sense of grief and sadness as well as the ceremonial honor shown on screen.

Now the fact that I cried at a movie doesn’t surprise me. I mean I’ve done it before. But the nearly overwhelming sense of sorrow stayed with me even after I walked out of the theater. Even as I was getting into my car I was still a bit emotional. I don’t ever remember happening to me before.

While some critics may say that this movie is nothing but a recruiting film for the Navy Seals; I don’t see it this way. I see it as a very appropriate public portrayal of the actions of a group of a unique breed of men. Men, whose success depends a lot on their identities and activities remaining covert.  

I, for one, think the movie is a moving tribute to those Navy Seals whose names scroll across the screen just before the closing credits. This film is a cinematic memorial to those men who sacrificed their lives for their country. That is the ultimate “Act of Valor”.

So there you have the end of what was a very memorable week for me. Hope you enjoyed reading about it. Come back next time as I write about my recent realization that over the last 30 years I’ve been “jack of all trades”. At least “part-time.” See you then. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Leap Day Week

I’ll make this as brief as possible but I need to let you know that this past week, which included leap day, was a very eventful one for me. Here’s a short list of just some of the things that happened.

·      I participated in my first ever fantasy baseball draft. A friend of mine from church has asked me to help co-manage a team this season. The draft was a lot of fun. It's a long season (about 6 months long) but I think I'm going to enjoy it. 

·      I got to see a new 4D ultrasound images of our granddaughter, Aria, including one where she's sucking her thumb.

·      I donated plasma and got paid for it. (more about this in a future post)

·     Paula and I made a financial decision we wanted to "pull the trigger on" for about 6 years. It will improve our lives and give us the opportunity to give more to help others.

·      We also made our annual visit to the our local tax service office to find out how much of our money the government has been using interest free for a year and now has to give back to us.

·      There were 2 days of thunderstorms and tornadoes in our area. I spent and extra ½ hour at work on Friday afternoon in the storm shelter until it was safe to leave the warehouse.

·     I was saddened by the death of Monkees lead singer, Davey Jones

·     At the start the AWANA program at my church on Wednesday, I led the children in singing some songs.

·     We went to the hospital to visit our great niece (Paula’s nephew’s daughter) who gave birth to her son, Aaron David, on Leap Day, February 29.

·     Discovered that I lost my Dr. Demento’s 30th Anniversary double CD set and don’t know exactly how or when.

·     In, what I’ll very conservatively call, a “fit of frustration” I broke my laptop computer, took it to “The Geek Squad’, thought it was fixed but it wasn’t and ended up getting a new one.

·     I’d like to end this review of my week on a positive note. I’ve come up with an idea for an eating pattern that I believe will help me get back on the “weight loss train”. If I am successful I will finally make significant progress toward getting to my goal. I won’t give the details until I’ve put it into practice and it passes the “success” test. When I do share my idea with you it will be on my “Getting To My Goal” blog.

But there’s a few of the things that have happened to me this past week. Now you might understand why I haven’t posted since Monday.  I was very busy and both good and bad happened. How was your week?