Saturday, September 03, 2005

"Grease" - Opening Night - Runaway Stage

Runaway Stage Productions presents the musical "Grease," featuring, clockwise from top left, Lauren Miller as Marty, Lauryn Caruso as Rizzo, Kari Pruitt as Jan, Netty Carey as Frenchy, Stephanie Keeney as Sandy and Tristan Rumery as Danny. It opens at 8 p.m. Friday and continues through Sept. 25 at the 24th Street Theatre, 2791 24th St. (Photo and caption from The Sacramento Bee)

Just returned from seeing "Grease" on opening night. Excellent show, full of exuberant youthful energy (which depends heavily, of course, on choreographer Tiffany Hurley's work): I highly recommend seeing the show!

In some shows, it can hurt to push the pace too hard, but "Grease" is a good show to push hard: Bob Baxter and Co. are to be commended for their blistering attack. Pushing the pace hard can lead to sloppiness, but there was no sense of that (maybe just a bit over-exuberant at the top of the second act, though).

Runaway Stage mikes their shows, which can lead to certain pitfalls, such as degraded sound quality and feedback, and which have marred other Runaway shows. Little of that happened opening night (just a touch, once again at the top of the second act).

Excellent performances from Tristan Rumery (Danny) and Stephanie Keeney (Sandy). Excellent singing from everyone: Lauren Miller as Marty, Lauryn Caruso as Rizzo, Netty Carey as Frenchy, Tevye Ditter as Johnny Casino/Teen Angel, plus Chris Scarberry as Roger and Kari Pruitt as Jan. More critical friends of mine who saw the performance, people who have voice training, commented that Stephanie's singing was weak, but I didn't notice this: I thought there was a bit of a balance problem during 'Summer Nights', however, when both Stephanie's and Tristan's voices were being overpowered by the band and everyone else's voices.

Liberties were taken in the show regarding expletives - the language is rougher than what I remember from the script (DMTC did the show in 2003), which is fine with me, because it would have been true to the time, but may unsettle some.

Good set design for the 24th St. stage. The band was placed on a platform in the back (I guess Erik Daniells was upstairs in the corner: I couldn't see him from where I was, though). There were doors beneath the platform, behind which the soda shop seats/pajama party bed were stored. In addition, there were interesting James Dean (plus Sandra Dee?) paintings, and period bric-a-brac to catch the eye.

One thing that bothered me was the set painting - it took me a while to realize that the beige color dominating the set was the exact shade of the paint I used on my laundry room and basement walls. My unease regarding what I'm sure most people considered a neutral color, and I considered a utilitarian color, was strictly personal, though. I thought the flats on the sides of the stage intruded too far into the proscenium arch - the 24th Street theater stage is quite small and can't tolerate much (if any) intrusions from the side.

Lillian Baxter and Denise Miles did a good job with costumes - bright, flashy (e.g., nice slippers and hairdos on the beauty school dancers).

Bradley Bong's hair was tinted red, just for the sake of the one 'Howdy Doody' joke in Act II - cute: a sacrifice from him, but cute nevertheless!

Excellent performance from Hailee Ketchum-Wiggins, who played Patty Simcox (she's only 14!) She's a fast learner on the baton (Stephanie looks like she's already a pro on the baton, though). I remember taking ballet with a girl in Tucson many years ago (I think her name is Tracey Oates), who got a full scholarship to U of A strictly - and only - because she was Arizona's unbeatable champion baton twirler 5 years in a row - don't lose those irreplaceable motor skills! Brett Bachman played Eugene well: he worked well with Jordan Gomez as Cha Cha DiGregorio in the high school hop scene, providing a real nice 'ahhh!' moment when they exited together.

I worried about Alex Powell, who played Sonny La Tierri (we were in 'Damn Yankees' together a year ago), getting pushed around so much, especially down the stairs, but he's quick and lithe and somehow made it OK. Michael McElroy played Kenickie well: in general, Runaway had an excellent group of Burger Palace Boys.

I somehow missed the "mooning" by Chris Scarberry, who played Roger, despite it occurring downstage center where absolutely no one could possibly miss it. It occurred just on the other side of the head of the tall lady sitting in front of me, so I'm still scratching my head about it. Apparently it was au natural.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Preparedness

Louisiana's official hurricane plan says absolutely zero about how to handle an evacuation once New Orleans is flooded.
Compassionate Conservatism



In the litany of disaster, this stood out.
Last year, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers essentially stopped major work on the levee system that has now been breached after the Bush administration cut funding for the project. It was the first such stoppage in 37 years.
Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans

Angry interview (with transcript).
NAGIN: I need reinforcements, I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. We ain't talking about -- you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here.

I'm like, "You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans."

That's -- they're thinking small, man. And this is a major, major, major deal. And I can't emphasize it enough, man. This is crazy.
92L

I'm fretting about the possibility of a near-Florida storm, but the GFS model is showing the real threat might be a powerful storm barreling out of the tropical Atlantic (currently named 92L). Here is a summary regarding both possibilities from the Central Florida Hurricane Center 2005 blog:
Next up. 92L. You may have heard me or many others say that when the models come into agreement on a storm developing, it usually does. The last time the models were in agreement like this, we had invest 97L developing off of the coast of Africa -- obviously, that one never panned out, as it came off too far to the north and in too much of a shearing environment to become organized enough to be classified. However, this one is much further south, in a more favorable upper-level flow & mid-level airmass regime (particularly in the long-term), and already has some organization to it. The mid-level organization of the storm is more impressive than is the low-level organization at this point, but it appears as though a low-level circulation is getting organized somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10N and 34-36W. The pattern suggests this one will have a better chance of getting further west than the two ahead of it -- and moreso than most storms already this season -- and has a lot of model support. The GFS has been developing this one and taking it near or north of the Greater Antilles as a less than 980mb system (pretty good for that model), while the GFDL brings a near-category 5 hurricane to the northern islands in 5 days. The other major global models generally agree on bringing a substantial feature (at least a TS) to the northern islands in the 5-6 day time span. Given the way the pattern is unfolding, the low latitude of the disturbance, and its current organization, this one has a chance. Expect a tropical depression -- #15 -- out of this one at any point with development into a named system shortly thereafter. It likely won't go as far south as did Ivan last year and Emily this year, but likely will still be one to deal with for the next week to ten days.

There is some support in some of the global & mesoscale models for lowering pressures in the Gulf of Mexico/Bahamas region over the next few days into early next week. A current overview of the region shows a strong ridge building in along the eastern seaboard into the Gulf, a sharp but narrow trough just southeast of there extending from the upper-low east of Bermuda (near Lee) west-southwest into the NW Caribbean, and relatively weak winds with signs of an upper-level ridge forming between that upper-low and the one affecting TD 14 at this point. As the southern end of the trough associated with a frontal boundary and Katrina's remnants slides into the Gulf, it will have a favorable upper-level pattern and marginal to slightly-favorable -- due to Katrina's wake -- SSTs for development. A lot of dry air is projected to be in the region and it is questionable as to whether the development will be tropical or not, but nevertheless it is something to watch. Anything that forms east of Florida will likely ride the coast; anything west of there would likely head west towards the western Gulf -- all assuming the entity that forms would be tropical -- but it's really too early to even speculate on that.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hastert Steps In It

Boy, you have to admire Dennis Hastert (in a way), even if you wonder about the timing. He brings up the always-timely question of whether flood-prone cities should be rebuilt after a deluge:
WASHINGTON - House Speaker Dennis Hastert dropped a bombshell on flood-ravaged New Orleans on Thursday by suggesting that it isn’t sensible to rebuild the city."It doesn't make sense to me," Hastert told the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago in editions published today. "And it's a question that certainly we should ask."
Nevertheless, Hastert brought up his point in a totally-heartless (somehow typically Republican) way. What about half a million people, and their property? They have to go somewhere - right now! Gotta cover all the bases in advance, Denny!

But let's be honest, this isn't about cost-conscious engineering, it's all about the Negroes, isn't it? (The Sacramento Bee had a statistical graphic this morning showing the New Orleans population is 67% African-American). The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal just chimed in:
The New Orleans crime rate during normal times is 10 times the national average, Gelinas writes, and "the city's economy is utterly dependent on tourism. . . . New Orleans has experienced a steady brain drain and fiscal drain for decades, as affluent corporations and individuals have fled, leaving behind a large population of people dependent on the government. Socially, New Orleans is one of America's last helpless cities--just at the moment when it must do all it can to help itself survive."

There's another, even simpler reason for pessimism. Many residential areas in New Orleans are below sea level, so that it was only a matter of time before they ended up in the soup. Having experienced this horror firsthand, will residents of New Orleans (and its suburbs, which are also devastated) be eager to return and face future hurricane seasons? Would you be?
Doesn't the thuggish Republican complacency just gall?

The abyss yawns.......
Make Up Your Mind!

The Atlantic tropical storm forecast is interesting, showing tropical storm development as the low moves from the Bahamas to the South Carolina coast early next week, where it gets wedged between two highs tugging in different directions.

Then, the storm needs to decide which way to go. It might move NE along the Atlantic coast, or (my thought), it will abruptly change direction and head SW, across Jacksonville, FL (or the GA coast), heading towards the Gulf of Mexico.

In any event, it bears watching. This tropical depression-to-be is not yet named by National Hurricane Center.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Feet Don't Fail Me Now!

Digby says it all:
Oh, this is rich. DC MediaGirl (via the Daoureport) says that Michele Malkin is having a fit because Hollywood and LiveAid hasn't stepped into the breach in New Orleans. Apparently, Hollywood should hold fundraisers while disasters are still unfolding. They shouldn't even have a day or two to plan them --- entertainers should immediately rush to the closest TV studio and just start singing and dancing as fast as they can. I presume that Malkin feels this should be done in lieu of actual disaster relief by Big Govmint, which is the root of all evil after all.
Jesus' Finger

Divine intervention?
In the garden behind St. Louis Cathedral on Royal Street lies an incredible tangle of zig-zagging broken tree trunks and branches, mixed with smashed wrought iron fences.

But right in the middle, a statue of Jesus is still standing, unscathed by the storm, save for the left thumb and index finger, which are missing.

The missing digits immediately set off speculation of divine intervention.

New Orleans has a long history praying to saints for guidance and protection in times of great peril. In fact it was Our Lady of Prompt Succor who was said to be responsible for saving the Ursulines Convent in the French Quarter from a raging fire that consumed the rest of the city centuries ago.

Since then, New Orlenians have prayed to the saint for protection from natural disasters. On Saturday, Archbishop Alfred Hughes read a prayer over the radio asking for Our Lady's intervention to spare the city a direct hit by Hurricane Katrina.

Many in the Quarter are now saying it was the hand of Jesus, the missing digits to be precise, that flicked the hurricane east just a little to keep the city from suffering a direct blow.
Big Centipede

This story reminds me of one sleepy morning, back in high school. I washed my face, and lazily watched the water drain from the bathroom sink. The last thing to go down the drain was a 6-inch-long centipede. WTF?
"Thinking it was a mouse, I went to investigate the sound. The sound was coming from under some papers which I lifted, expecting to see the mouse scamper away," the 32-year-old psychotherapist said Wednesday. "Instead, when I lifted the papers, I saw this prehistoric looking animal skitter away behind a stack of books."

He trapped the 9-inch-long creature between a stack of books and put it in a plastic container.

The next day he took it to Britain's Natural History Museum, which identified the insect as a Scolopendra gigantea -- the world's biggest species of centipede.
Puff Of Dry Air

Interesting article....a 'puff of dry air' weakened Katrina just before landfall.
Fly-Over Folks

Back to work!
New Orleans Flooding

Billmon gets it right: check it out. No one is yet focused on this new tropical depression piling on - what can one say?
Crying won't help you, praying won't do you no good
Now, crying won't help you, praying won't do you no good
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move.
Memphis Minnie McCoy
When the Levee Breaks
1929
New Tropical Depression

This new tropical depression next week looks increasingly real, so it's something to watch out for.

Forecast: It will arrive in the Cocoa Beach area on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning next week, without much warning, but nevertheless not be terribly powerful. It will lose some punch as it crosses central Florida, but nevertheless, be prepared for a stormy Wednesday/Thursday - even Friday in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. Then it will cross into the Gulf of Mexico, start getting seriously organized, and begin raking the northern Gulf coast, plunging eventually into the New Orleans area, like Tropical Storm Cindy did (and where its presence will be unwelcome).

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Steve and Jan Go On Vacation....

And all I get is this lousy JPEG!

Actually, Morro Rock is an old friend: I've done a lot of air quality modeling for the entire area in the last few years! But I don't think I've been down there since 1974.....
Two-Faced Google

Hypocrisy, and information:
Last month, Elinor Mills, a writer for CNET News, a technology news Web site, set out to explore the power of search engines to penetrate the personal realm: she gave herself 30 minutes to see how much she could unearth about [Google CEO Eric] Schmidt by using his company's own service. ...

When Ms. Mills's article appeared, however, the company reacted in a way better suited to a 16th-century monarchy than a 21st-century democracy with an independent press.
But even better:
Book publishers are feeling insecure in their own houses, too, as whirring search-engine bots hover above them. ... The contents of books are protected by copyright law, and are most emphatically not freely available.

... But Google subsequently found a speedier way to proceed: simply borrowing the bound print collections of the Harvard, Stanford and University of Michigan research libraries for its scanning. When the project is completed, Google will retain perfect digital copies, as well as provide copies to the libraries. No muss, no fuss, no negotiations with copyright holders.

Authors and publishers were astounded. Peter Givler, the executive director of the Association of American University Presses, said Google's action was "tantamount to saying that Google can make copies of every copyrighted work ever published, period." The courts, he said, have never recognized a claim such as Google's that "fair use," which permits limited copying for research purposes, would permit the copying of an entire book.

The cries of protest from publishers have not abated with the passage of time. This month, Google announced that it would go ahead and copy all books unless the publisher elects by November to opt out, title by title. Allan Adler, the vice president for legal and government affairs of the Association of American Publishers, asked Google to imagine what its own reaction would be were others to help themselves to Google's intellectual property covered by patents, with the burden placed on Google to find out about the use and opt out. He described Google's recent actions as "a very aggressive, pushy style that says, 'We don't care that your business is different than ours.' "
Originalism

Can't agree more - over at Legal Fiction:
To me, Bush v. Gore ranks below only Dred Scott in terms of sheer arrogance and disregard of the limits of judicial power. It was the second-worst decision in American history and I’ll keep banging that drum until the day they roll my carpel-tunneled bones into a pine box.
"This Is Our Tsunami"

Well, if it's it any consolation, the death toll from Hurricane Katrina will probably be lower than from 1969's Hurricane Camille, if only because Katrina struck in the day, as opposed to nighttime Camille. But maybe I speak too soon - they can't even get into some of these places yet. Starting the survey in New Orleans:
Little islands of red ants floated in the gasoline-fouled waters through downtown. The Hyatt Hotel and other high-rise around the Superdome had rows and rows of shattered windows.

"We know that last night we had over 300 folks that we could confirm were on tops of roofs and waiting for our assistance. We pushed hard all throughout the night. We hoisted over 100 folks last night just in the Mississippi area. Our crews over New Orleans probably did twice that," Capt. Dave Callahan of the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mississippi said on ABC.

National Guardsmen brought in people from outlying areas to the Superdome in the backs of big 2 1/2-ton Army trucks. Louisiana's wildlife enforcement department also brought people in on the backs of their pickups. Some were wet, some were in wheelchairs, some were holding babies and nothing else.

... Late Monday, Harrison County emergency operations center spokesman Jim Pollard said about 50 people had died in the county, with some 30 of the dead at a beach-side apartment complex in Biloxi.
Aargghh! History repeats itself! This kind of hurricane "party" is exactly what killed so many people in 1969 with Hurricane Camille! Continuing....
Three other people were killed by falling trees in Mississippi and two died in a traffic accident in Alabama, authorities said.

In Louisiana, Terry Ebbert, New Orleans' homeland security chief, said bodies were seen floating in the floodwaters in the hardest-hit areas. He could not give an estimate of deaths as of Tuesday morning, but said he believed the death toll would not be as great as some of the images of devastation would suggest.

... "This is our tsunami," Mayor A. J. Holloway of Biloxi, Miss., told The Biloxi Sun Herald.

Teresa Kavanagh, 35, of Biloxi, shook her head is disbelief as she took photographs of the damage in her hometown.

"Total devastation. Apartment complexes are wiped clean. We're going to rebuild, but it's going to take long time. Houses that withstood Camille are nothing but slab now," she said. Hurricane Camille killed 256 people in Louisiana and Mississippi in 1969.

... The hurricane knocked out power to more than 1 million people from Louisiana to the Florida Panhandle, and authorities said it could be two months before electricity is restored to everyone. Katrina also disrupted petroleum output in the very center of the U.S. oil refining industry and rattled energy markets.

... Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said on CBS that it will be "quite awhile" before those displaced by the hurricane can return, particularly in areas close to downtown New Orleans. In some places, "it's going to be weeks at least before people can get back."

And once the floodwaters go down, "it's going to be incredibly dangerous" because of structural damage to homes, diseases from animal carcasses and chemicals in homes, Brown said.

... Mike Spencer of Gulfport made the mistake of trying to ride out the storm in his house. He told NBC that he used his grandson's little surfboard to make his way around the house as the water rose around him.

Finally, he said, "as the house just filled up with water, it forced me into the attic, and then I ended up kicking out the wall and climbing up to a tree because the houses around me were just disappearing."

He said he wrapped himself around a tree branch and waited four or five hours.
Anne Anderson said she lost her family home in Gulfport.

"My family's an old Mississippi family. I had antiques, 150 years old or more, they're all gone. We have just basically a slab," she told NBC. She added: "Behind us we have a beautiful sunrise and sunset, and that is going to be what I'm going to miss the most, sitting on the porch watching those."
Fretting

The longer-range forecasts are showing development of two areas of storminess east of Florida early next week. It's too early to say whether they will develop into tropical depressions or not. The easternmost area of storminess is probably no threat - it'll probably head north - but the westernmost area is hard to read: it could go north - or west. What I worry about is that the western area of storminess could develop rather quickly, adjacent to Florida, and so there might not be much warning if it comes in. And it's farther north than Katrina was, so if it came west, it would have some effect on the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.

Maybe I'm just fretting: tomorrow's forecasts will give better guidance.
Warning Unheeded...

But nevertheless accurate:
Meteorologists performed admirably in alerting public officials to Katrina's rising destruction, allowing them to evacuate New Orleans and other Gulf Coast cities in plenty of time. But Emanuel said that other warnings by meteorologists have gone unheeded in past decades -- warnings to go easy on the housing and commercial development in areas like Florida that are highly at risk to Atlantic hurricanes.

"A lot of people in my business had been, even in the 1980s, warning anybody who would listen -- which was very few, it turned out -- that there was going to be this upswing in hurricanes," Emanuel said. "It's not rocket science. We've been building all this stuff in Florida during this lull that lasted 20 years. We built all this stuff, and it's waiting to get creamed. There's been a fantastic amount of construction. A lot of people have built homes on the water. And nobody really listened. And now all of those predictions are exactly coming true. But it doesn't have much to do with global warming."

To Emanuel, Katrina is not an unusual hurricane. "Not that many hurricanes get that powerful, but we've had hurricanes like Katrina before," he said. "Camille was about the same strength. Andrew was about the same strength. Katrina was just unfortunate, because it happened to hit a very densely populated area."

Ultimately, Emanuel said, it's not a vengeful Mother Nature but man's politics that are to blame for the destruction. As long as people insist on erecting homes and businesses, aided by low insurance rates and business lobbyists, in vulnerable areas like the Gulf Coast, there's little scientists can do to prevent the havoc. "I like to say that there is no such thing as a 100 percent natural disaster," Emanuel said. "We have to put stuff in harm's way for there to be a disaster, and we're very good at doing that, and subsidizing people who continue to do it."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Don't You Just Love Paul Krugman?

Here he is rebuking that partisan idiot, Alan Greenspan.
Robertson Fallout

Boy, Pat Robertson sure caused problems for American diplomacy, no?
American foreign policy has always walked naked in Latin America, but Robertson's threats, with their references to the Monroe Doctrine and how assassination is cheaper than war, went beyond the grotesque. They elevated the image of yanqui imperialist to caricature, and the White House's tepid distancing from them ironically seemed to make them more believable. Venezuelans, understandably less willing than Americans to dismiss Robertson as a ranter, indicated they'll demand extra security for Ch├ívez when he goes to New York for the U.N. General Assembly this fall and announced “temporary” restrictions on the number of foreign missionaries allowed to work in Venezuela.
Unsophisticated?

Who knows, maybe, but paying off a mortgage these days certainly puts your mind at ease! I wouldn't mind being a little unsophisticated!
Such thriftiness has gone out of fashion. What was once considered undesirable — taking on large debt — is now seen as smart. And what used to be smart — becoming debt-free — is described as imprudent.

"If you paid your mortgage off, it means you probably did not manage your funds efficiently over the years," said David Lereah, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors and author of "Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom?" "It's as if you had 500,000 dollar bills stuffed in your mattress."

He called it "very unsophisticated."
Like Camille II

Katrina has pretty much leveled the Louisiana/Mississippi coast and caused innumerable problems in New Orleans:
... The storm passed just east of New Orleans, straining the system of levees and pumping stations that protect the low-lying city. About 70 percent of the city sits below sea level.

The National Weather Service reported that water had overtopped levees in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes.

The Lower 9th Ward, on the east side of New Orleans was under five to six feet of rising water after three pumps failed, according to WGNO reporter Susan Roesgen, who is with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. She said New Orleans police had received more than 100 reports of people trapped on their roofs.

The Associated Press reported that entire neighborhoods along the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain were flooded, and residents had scrambled onto the roofs of their shotgun-style houses.

"I'm not doing too good right now," Chris Robinson told the AP via cell phone from his home east of the city's downtown. "The water's rising pretty fast. I got a hammer and an ax and a crowbar, but I'm holding off on breaking through the roof until the last minute. Tell someone to come get me please. I want to live."
Cache Creek

I've rarely returned to Cache Creek Casino and Resort since my serious blackjack days (November 1995 - August 1998: as I recall, I watched Princess Di's funeral there through the smoky haze). In fact, I was a bit embittered about the place (accumulated loss there was somewhere over $30,000, and that winding Highway 16 is still a massive hazard), but lately, since Cache Creek donated $2,500 to Davis Musical Theatre Company (DMTC), I've been kinder on them. Heck, that's just some of my money returning to where it can do the most good. So, on Sunday afternoon, a kinder, gentler Marc decided to return for a few hours of casual blackjack.

The drive up there was nice - Yolo County at its best. There was an interesting sign on the outskirts of Woodland: "Rainbow Ranch - Not Gay, Just Happy." Upon arriving at the casino, I saw a fellow with a T-Shirt: "A Sight For Sore Eyes," with 'Sore Eyes' really badly blurred. I was puzzled why recorded voices in the slot machines (fantasy-labeled things like 'Hollywood Dreams' and 'Go Ape') were egging the bettors on in Australian accents, but then I noticed that some - maybe all! - of the slot machines there are manufactured in Australia. Who would have thought?

The massive construction efforts over the last few years at Cache Creek have produced a real handsome resort, and as a salutory side-effect, have made the casino a lot less smoky than it used to be. The only reminder of the Old Cache Creek of the last decade is that F.B. is STILL a pit boss there (I don't think he recognized me). In any event, I paid little attention to the resort: I made a beeline for the casino, and didn't check out the spa, or the dancing, or the restaurants, or the gift shop, or damn near anything else they've got there except three different blackjack tables. A few hours of casual blackjack extended past frenetic midnight, but all to good effect - final cash minus beginning cash: $3,880.00 - $280.00 = $3,600.00 (Despite Highway 16, Marc feels even kinder to Cache Creek now than ever!)

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Chautauqua Playhouse's "Lend Me A Tenor"
(Picture caption, from the Sacramento Bee's Ticket section)
The Chautauqua Playhouse presents "Lend Me a Tenor," featuring, from left, Erin Jones, Savannah Scott and Lenore Sebastian. It opens at 8 tonight and continues through Oct. 1 at 5325 Engle Road in the La Sierra Community Center, Carmichael.

I had spent most of Saturday just way too hot: first, aerobics class, then patching a roof, then ballet - I was hot even while taking a nap! I thought, "I've got to watch someone else sweat, for a change." Then I remembered that Chautauqua Playhouse opened "Lend Me A Tenor" on Friday night, and I thought, "perfect: stage lights!" Gil Sebastian was directing the show, and I already knew several in the cast: Lenore Sebastian, Erin Jones, Paul Fearn, and Savannah Scott - all quite experienced on the stage - plus others whom I knew by reputation: Rodger Hoopman and Jeff Labowitch particularly. Time to go to Carmichael, I thought!

Here is a plot summary (borrowed from this Australian blog):
The play, written by Ken Ludwig, is a farce about opera. The main character, Max, is a dogsbody for an opera company managed by Henry Saunders. They're bringing out the famous Italian tenor Tito Morelli to sing at a special charity performance of Otello. Max likes to sing opera himself, and tries to impress Saunders' daughter Maggie. However she only has eyes for the tenor, otherwise known as "Il Stupendo". Morelli arrives with his fiery wife Maria, they fight, and the tenor appears to top himself. To avoid a public relations disaster, Saunders forces Max to dress up as Othello (complete with black face) and go on, pretending to be Morelli. Hilarity then ensues with two Othellos running about, dodging Saunders, each other and some very "excited" fans (including a hotel porter).

It's one of the better farce comedies I've seen. The writing is sharp and funny, the pace is frenetic, and it has all the elements of farce — slamming doors, people hidden in cupboards and bathrooms, mistaken identities, trousers round the ankles, that sort of thing.
Chautauqua's version is slightly different - no trousers or cupboards - but I quibble....

Chautauqua Playhouse's "Lend Me A Tenor" is excellent. Kevin Caravalho, who plays Max, is a ball of comic energy (Kevin has appeared locally in Runaway Stage's production of "The Odd Couple" as Vinny, and in Magic Circle's "Little Shop of Horrors" as Seymour). Kevin's kinetic frenzy drives the rest of the cast. Erin is wonderfully funny as Maggie, Rodger is appropriately loud and blustery as Saunders, Paul has wonderful timing as Merelli, and Lenore is excellent as Maria. No one can vamp it up like Savannah! Jeff Labowitch was appropriately silly as the porter, and Fritzi Youngstedt was fine as the Chairman of the Opera Guild.

The plot of the entire farce seemed surprisingly complicated to me - it's amazing the actors can carry it all off (I'm unfamiliar with farce: I'll have to try it sometime!) Little details caught my eye: for example, Paul has to 'play dead' as the drugged Merelli, which I'm sure is surprisingly difficult to do when so much else is going on around him (like when Saunders vents at him). Kevin, Paul, and Jeff are excellent singers, as well as fine comic actors. Lenore has fine expression as the angry Maria, and Erin and Savannah, as well as being fine actresses, make an excellent team of - uh - temptresses.

At intermission, I talked to Tevye Ditter, who discussed his latest projects. He is playing Teen Angel/Johnny Casino in Runaway Stage's upcoming staging of "Grease", but is reserving a lot of his time for an original musical being written by his former vocal coach, Dario Vanni, who is returning to Sacramento soon from Eureka. The musical is about Michelangelo, and the painting of the Sistine Chapel. Tev is alternately the test bed and muse for the songs and script. Given Tev's talents, this sounds like a really interesting project, and we'll have to keep an eye out for the production, when announced.

In one sense only, "Lend Me A Tenor" was a disappointment: I didn't see anyone breaking a sweat. See what happens when you put all that experience on stage? It's August, they are going 100 mph, and the performers are as cool as ice!

See the show while you can! It runs through September, ending October 1st, but be sure to check times: some Sundays, I understand there isn't a matinee performance.