I don’t have as much as appreciation for the arts as I honestly feel I should but I’m working on it ok (I’m the fat guy who’s going to ‘art gym’). I did ballet lessons as a boy so maybe that just spun me in the opposite direction who knows but since that time I have associated with musical families (mostly Von Trapp types who made me feel just a little inadequate, which is not a healthy emotion for a growing man) and arty types who stared at framed finger paintings and pyscho-analysed the poor things. I took up guitar, I learned ballroom dancing and now, shock horror, I went to a musical. I am pretty sure, if this art gym thing is true, that I must have some pretty chiseled features by now.
Last Wednesday night, my wife kindly took me on a date to the Theatre Royal in Christchurch to see Miss Saigon. We got some seats up in the gallery which is kinda cool cause you’re really high up and can admire the intricate architraves (scotia) and detail in a theatre which is now over 100 years old. By the way, don’t get these seats if you’re nervous about the possibility of an earthquake or some other disaster – you don’t feel 100% safe up there, but that’s all part of the fun. Cheap seats are not all that bad.
The other thing is the side entrance for the gallery ticket-holders (which by casual observation seemed to be mostly young people, some of whom decided to dress up, nice one) where we got herded out to the side of the theatre and forced to climb a mountain, yep complete with snow at the top, yodellers and goat herders. At the top of the stairs you go through to the gallery and find your seat, we had some nice ones with plenty of leg room and a clear view of space.
I just realised I’ve spent most of this post just talking about everything except the actual musical itself, now that’s not very arty at all and while I don’t plan to tell you the whole story of Miss Saigon, I will say it was compelling and made probably more interesting because we’d visited both Vietnam and Thailand, where the musical is set. It is a modern-day (1970s) ripoff of Madame Butterfly with all the usual suspects plus a few more. The cast gave a convincing performance and the production crew backed it all with an impressive array of props including a real chopper, well ok so it wasn’t that real but it was super convincing to a non-chopper expert like myself, I was pretty much ready to leap out there and do the heroic grab the skids and get taken off into the sunset. Alright I’m getting carried away but just take my word for it – the props were goooooood.
Honestly I don’t mind the sing-song nature of musicals (I almost sang along to Hairspray and Grease was a lot of fun) but I just found Miss Saigon there seemed to be too much singing that sounded a bit like yelling and the words a little difficult to decipher (possibly being up in the gallery didn’t help) but the engineer had some catchy songs that made up for it and the flag-waving dancers were a visual feast.
I think it’s awesome that my wife organises these excursions since I actually really enjoyed the night out and the whole experience of it plus I actually learned stuff, like how many American GIs fathered love children. Fascinating stuff. It was also good to see a big crowd supporting live theatre in this day and age of instant movie downloads and home-delivered entertainment. I think on the whole Christchurch seems to be pretty good at supporting the arts and the enthusiastic clapping at the end seems to support that.
Read the Miss Saigon review from The Press Saturday April 18 to get another perspective (from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about!).