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Monday, April 12, 2010

The Trailing Spouse Pans Billy Elliot Opening Night in Chicago

Pictures - Lulu at Billy Elliot Opening - Elton John takes a curtain call

I am on the road again for the next 9 days with Lulu as she does the stuff that presidents of the AASL do. The ALA has their main offices in Chicago so that is where the tour starts - then we go to Washington DC - then drive to State College and Tamaqua PA - finally flying back to Tallahassee from sunny ABE Airport in Allentown. Maybe I am a little cranky having to leave Tallahassee during the two most beautiful weeks of the year or maybe it is because I had to leave our new property just a few days from closing - so my review of the Billy Elliot opening here may be viewed through coke bottle glasses. It was really nice for Lulu to score two tickets to my favorite play just a block from our hotel.

You all know how much I love volunteering to give up my seat on jet flights. Delta usually offers you a free round trip. The plane out of Tallahassee was overbooked - but they could not give us another flight to Chicago that got here in time for Lulu's executive training and for us to use our Billy Elliot tickets. So we had to go on our regular two flights - with Lulu sitting in first class - and me back in steerage. On the second leg - I sat in the exit row with a 400 pound lady in a lime green sweatsuit. Lulu and I bought a beautiful ham sandwich to share on this flight - but I was afraid to get it out in front of my aisle partner. I waited until she fell asleep then took half to a sleeping Lulu in first class. Lulu reciprocated by bringing drink back to me from her overpriced wide leather sofa - only to be followed by a cranky stewardess that said we could not have glass in the cheap seats. She poured the drink into a plastic cup - handed it to me - and said I could not have glass. I guess she was afraid I would stab sweatsuit lady with it.

At the Midway Airport we quickly caught a cab instead of taking the $2 train into town. The cab driver spoke perfectly clear gibberish - I thought he asked if I wanted the AC on - but he real said that he could stop for gasoline. After circling our hotel 3 times due to streets being blocked - we finally landed at our hotel - and the bill was $38. While negotiating the fee - we saw the $2 train zoom by. Do I sound cranky?

The Fairmont Hotel is a beautiful place right in Millennium Park. This is the place where they changed the name from "place where Mayor Daley beat the kids during the 1968 convention."

Still - we had plenty of time to get to our 6 PM show. The theatre district is just a block away - so before supper we walked buy the gigantic crowd in front Oriental Theatre to see what the excitement was about. We found out that Lulu scored two tickets to our favorite play on Chicago's Opening Night. Elton John was on the sidewalk playing to the cameras. He bankrolled the show and also wrote the score. I was really impressed.

After supper - we got in line - got to our balcony seats - about three rows from the top. It was a long way to the stage. Good thing I had my contact "len" - singular for lens - and my two hearing aids. I am near-sighted and love sitting right up front to "read their faces."

The play started - and it was a little to0 easy to understand the characters - their fake British accents reminded me too much of Madonna when she tries to sound like the queen. The boy that played Billy was a great dancer - but it is hard to get into the play when a Cuban boy with a midwest twang sings "Solidarity Forever." They have bastardized the play for the American audience - I do not re-call Billy doing rope tricks in London. They had all four "Billies" there for a curtain call. It reminded me a bit of Secretary of  the Interior James Watt (a dead ringer for my mother-in-law) when he said his committee had "a black, a latin, a jew, and a cripple." This play did not have a kid in a wheel chair but did have an Asian Billy in his place.

I like the play - love the songs - cherish the references to coal towns and miners' unions. But to me they did "gay" the play up a bit. But the biggest blasphemy was in the final scene. There is not a more emotional moment - particularly right after the recent mining disaster - when all the miners turn on their helmet lights and the stage opens up - and they slowly descend singing into the bowels of hell. Instead in this version - a slowly falling curtain is supposed to give you the same feeling - it does not.

The encore features a jazz routine with all the characters getting a chance to show off their chops while wearing  tutus. At the curtain call - even Elton John made the stage with in appropriate garb - why wasn't I surprised.

I absolutely hate to give a negative review of my favorite musical - advertised as "the best musical of the decade" winning 10 Tonys - Emmies - Grammies - or whatever they get. But in Chicago last night - the play moved a little too slowly and maybe was "a bit long."

Lulu went to a lot of trouble to get these tickets. Sometimes she takes it personally when things don't go just perfectly on her watch. She gets an "A" for effort.

I am typing this while the Milwaukee Brewers are playing at Wrigley Field just a few blocks away. The game is blaring on the TV as the home team just scored 8 runs. Let's hope the Cubs don't start doing rope tricks.

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