Thursday, April 30, 2009

"A Dancer Dances"

There's a restaurant here in Chicago that I like, called the Bagel. There are a couple of them actually, but the one I like best isn't in the burbs but on the lakefront, in the Gayish neighborhood. As befits its name, the restaurant features downhome Jewish fare, like matzo ball soup, corned beef sandwiches, liver and onions plates, lox, of course, and in the front part you can get bagels and cream cheese to go. The place has been around for a couple decades, at least, so its not like its some 'concept' some restaurant marketers came up with.

I like the place, but the interior feels a bit dated. It's tough to describe, but Broadway musical posters from the 1970s look a certain way (like they are all trying to evoke the early 20th century in some way), and these posters line the walls of The Bagel. In some way it's comforting, but in another way the decor has not aged well and seems a bit out of place, because it has no context --you don't know why there are all these weird-looking musical posters on the walls. (Sometimes when I am there or at a similar place down the street, The Melrose, which is open 24 hours and is Greek-owned as opposed to Jewish, I look at the old posters and photos on the walls and start to wonder about all who have been there before me -- all the dates and all the after-show meals, all the after-clubbing cups of coffee consumed there, all the lives that have passed through. But that's another story.)

This is not about The Bagel, though I kind of wish I had wound up there tonight. This is about "A Chorus Line," which I saw at the Oriental/Ford Theatre tonight with Stephen. I have not seen the movie before, have never seen the stage show, had an idea of the story and definitely knew that it was supposed to be important and influential and that there are people who just adore it, so I thought it would be good to see it onstage, since it was in Chicago for a two-week engagement and I was able to get a decent deal on tickets. Also, I was further intrigued by it after Neil Steinberg wrote about it in the Sun-Times and Amy Matheny and Stephen Rader did their Windy City Queercast podcast after having seen this particular production.

So, a couple hours after having seen it, I can say that it is like having gone to the Bagel. I am glad I did it, the meal was alright, but as I was looking around, I felt that the decor was dated and had no context. I didn't hate it; I was entertained, I thought the dancing was lovely, the actors were good, a couple of the monologues were so well done that the entire theatre was hushed, but ... but ... it just didn't like grab me by the collar and show me how or why it was so important. I don't know, maybe if this was 1977 and we had gone to the Bagel or RJ Grunts afterward it would have felt different and more meaningful, but it kind of was just there for me. I really enjoy 'inside baseball' type stuff and would have enjoyed a story about these dancers' lives and backgrounds and their struggles to even get onto an audition stage, but this production didn't really connect with me, didn't give me that sort of sense of urgency.

But I am glad that I saw it, thought it was great that there were many others, particularly high school-aged kids, who were seeing it, and I had an enjoyable evening. Maybe I'll have better luck going to see Topol in "Fiddler."

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