I spent the first week of break with the parentals in New England. My grandparents, one aunt and uncle, and my little cousins visited, and a bunch of us went to see the Narnia movie. It was entertaining, though hardly subtle, just like the books. I remember all of those headlines about it in December, the ones that proclaimed that "Aslan is Jesus!" as if they'd discovered a new planet or something, and my main thought was, how could you possibly miss the allegory there? Tumnus and the Beavers were wonderful -- all of the creature design and performances were top-notch, in fact. Lucy seemed a bit too young and goofy, and Peter just didn't convince me that he was an English boy living through the Blitz, but Susan and Edmund did better. Susan, a character Lewis tended to write off and belittle anyway, seemed a bit shrill and one-dimensional, but she did convince me of her character. As for Edmund, I thought his performance was the best of the lot. And the movie, which omits much of Lewis's editorializing about his own storyline, really seems to show that Edmund was railroaded, which is something I'd begun to suspect since I worked on a stage production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in 1997.
During that week, I took a side trip to visit a friend in New York, where we got student rush tickets to a very funny Broadway play called Souvenir. It's billed as "a fantasia on the life of Florence Foster Jenkins," featuring the great Judy Kaye in that role. Florence Foster Jenkins was an American socialite of the 1930s who loved classical music, and grand opera in particular. She decided, after her father died and her husband left, that she was going to have the great classical singing career that they had always discouraged her from having. So she essentially went out and bought one, and she did not let the fact that she was completely tone-deaf stand in her way. She found an extremely understanding accompanist, Cosme McMoon (really), and became a comedy sensation. She drew full houses of audiences who laughed themselves silly at her attempts to sing the great operatic heroines while displaying no sense of musicality or stage presence whatsoever. It's unclear whether she was aware that the audiences were laughing at her rather than cheering her, but she was quite the hit sensation.
The play is wonderful. It's told from the perspective of the accompanist, who forms his own theories about why Florence Foster Jenkins continues to perform and eventually becomes her co-conspirator in sustaining the illusion of adoring crowds cheering the greatest coloratura soprano on the planet. Judy Kaye, a great singer in her own right, has a field day singing loudly and in a completely different key, rhythm and tempo from the music.
For dinner, my friend and I decided to be adventurous and cook shark steaks, which neither of us had ever eaten before. They turned out to be pretty good, and my family was inordinately impressed. Little Sister Pony was a little worried about what wildlife she might encounter swimming in the Caribbean later on, so Mom and Dad Pony assured her that as long as I was with her, I'd protect her. "Sharks don't bite Pony," they said. "Pony bites the sharks!" This became one of the buzzwords for the tropical adventure to come.