Monday, July 13, 2009

Catching up: Monster Bash, Fringe Festival, and music

OK, it's been too long. But I had a wild few weeks, what with the Monster Bash convention in the Pittsburgh 'burbs, and then the Independence Day holiday, and my job going wild in between. And then the start of the Capital Fringe Festival.

Monster Bash was, as always, a good time, hanging with all my horror-fan friends and making a few new ones along the way...including my first face-to-face conversation with Max Chaney of The Drunken Severed Head (link to the right); actually, he and I could be related. Kinda frightening, that. Spent way too much money on DVDs and some souvenirs (including yet another Poe t-shirt). I covered MB at length this time last year, so I won't go into it too much here, except that I never regret going.

I spent Independence Day with my parents, and got to behold my hometown fireworks for the first time. They only started doing this a few years ago and our little town (Clear Spring, MD, pop. 461 as of the last census) probably quadrupled its population that night...if not more. And we also got an impromptu tour of a new hotel that opened by the highway there, actually a charming place.

Work was wild....and we also had that horrible Metro accident here in DC. It was scary as hell, but at the very least it's calling attention to the sad state of repair that DC's Metro system is in, especially the much-used Red Line. A downside for me is that I use the Red Line when I go downtown, and slowdowns...and shutdowns...are making trips difficult.

Which is why I took a MetroBus downtown when I hit the Fringe Festival this past Saturday. I saw two plays that looked like fun.

FREAKSHOW, from local company Pinky Swear, is quite good. Written by Caron Kreitzer, it's a chronicle of the lives and loves of the inhabitants of a traveling freak show, circa 1900, narrated by the saucy Human Torso (Allyson Harkey, in a very strong and assured performance). It's a good play, with the seedy atmosphere well communicated, but never becoming overwhelming. And there's interesting feminist subtext that I honestly didn't expect. And the ringmaster, Mr. Flip, is played by the jaw-droppingly handsome Andrew Mitakides, who filled out his historic garb well. (Maybe I should start another blog, maybe dedicated to Steampunk beefcake?)

And then...I was looking forward to THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER: THE MUSICAL. I was honestly expecting a parody, but it's actually a serious attempt at a musicalization of the Poe story. Which was the problem. In order to make it a workable musical, they transformed Roderick Usher; no more was he Poe's doomed neurasthenic, but now was a jolly, freewheeling bohemian. Madeline, almost a nonentity in the story, is now made into a mad scientist obsessed with rats. And they also cross-bred the story with the poem "Annabel Lee," giving Usher a fiancee. The second act brings on the doom and dissipation, but it all rings hollow. I can't fault the actors, who did their best, but the material was fatally flawed, with a bit too much thrown in toward the end. I have to give it credit, though, in that the music is often quite nice, especially a song based on Robert Burns' "O My Luve's Like a Red Red Rose," and the singing was good, esp. Carolyn Myers as Annabel Lee. (There's some samples at the show's website.)

So I'm at one for two so far. We'll see what else I get into.

In the meantime, because there's always the meantime...

I've long thought of finding a good theme tune for this blog, and I think I've come close with this delightful tune by Fritz Kreisler, his "Miniature Viennese March."

And another group I'm in love with, Vagabond Opera, has this delightful video:

And then random bouncing around on YouTube resulted in this fun video about the organ music in Disney's "Haunted Mansion" ride:

So, that's all for right now. I'll try to catch more at the Fringe Festival, and I'll be filling y'all in if I do.

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