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A Week In God's Own Country

So much happened over break that I think I shall have to tell all in three parts. Part The First will describe a little of what happened over Hanukkah in New England. Part The Second moves to the Caribbean, and Part The Third will wind up the story in Orlando. Without further ado, may I present Part The First of. . . the winter adventures of a Pony!

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.

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
dawtheminstrel
Jan. 11th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC)
This sounds like fun!

I haven't seen Narnia yet, and given what I have to do between now and the end of March, I probably won't. Too bad. The previews were goreous.
frenchpony
Jan. 11th, 2006 09:18 pm (UTC)
The whole vacation was a blast. And I haven't even gotten to the Caribbean part yet!

Narnia will keep, I think. And it'll be out on video soon, and then you can watch it at your leisure.
(Deleted comment)
frenchpony
Jan. 11th, 2006 09:20 pm (UTC)
Lewis's treatment of females in general leaves much to be desired. Tolkien's women have these brief, shining, steely moments, but Lewis lets his misogyny just hang out.

I think, also, that his editorializing and constant presence in his writing really prevents the reader sinking deeply into Narnia the way they can into Middle-earth.
perelleth
Jan. 11th, 2006 05:39 pm (UTC)
Shark steaks, that was it! (sighs in relief) I feared you had taken to bite the poor beasts! ;-) Tasty, and very healthy food.

I took my brother's balroglings (8 and 10) to see Narnia the other week. I wholly agree with your points. Edmund was the best, both character and actor, and I really liked the whole set, the creatures, and how not! the beavers and Great Aslan! I had been reluctant to go see it, for as a child I never got into the books, but I did like the movie in its simplicity.

frenchpony
Jan. 11th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
If I ever move back to a place where one can eat seafood, I am so going to be cooking shark again. Yum, yum.

The Narnia books are interesting. I read them as a kid, and rereading them as an adult, I find that I can make out a lot more of Lewis's own opinions and prejudices. On the other hand, the combat scene in Prince Caspian is one of the better written ones I've read.
fafojoy
Jan. 11th, 2006 07:40 pm (UTC)
I am glad to know you were biting the sharks once cooked. I had visions of Pony scooping up a cute little blue shark off the beach that was nibbling at her toes, and biting him back. Well, filleting him and biting him back.
frenchpony
Jan. 11th, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)
If a blue shark were to nibble at me, I might well pick it up to take a look at it, but I wouldn't eat it then and there. I would have to acquire onions, pears, red wine, and rosemary first.
meggins
Jan. 12th, 2006 08:33 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the look at Souvenir. I'd never heard of Florence Foster Jenkins, but it sounds like a fun story. I wonder if it's hard for a good singer, like Judy Kaye, to sing badly on purpose. I should think it would be.
frenchpony
Jan. 12th, 2006 08:44 pm (UTC)
Playbill had an article about it. She said that it wasn't as difficult as she had feared it would be. However, at the very end, she gets to sing beautifully (on key), right after an emotionally intense scene, and she said that was more difficult.
elliska
Jan. 14th, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC)
This sounds wonderful. I miss plays so much. Everywhere else I've lived, there have been plenty of theaters, but here...well you have been here now--you can imagine.
frenchpony
Jan. 14th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
If you can possibly wangle a trip to New York in the next couple of months, do it. Souvenir isn't a musical, and therefore it won't have a run that could be measured in years. It's well worth a trip to New York to see.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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