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!.

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