Performance

Dustin Hoffman played
Willy Loman in the 1980
s
in a London performance
which Cookie enjoyed.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas,
New Year's Eve. Cookie, Keller had ringside seats to ring in 2015!

MOVING, MEMORABLE TOP PICKS IN A LIFETIME OF PERFORMANCE


 STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By
BRUCE KELLER

 SOME people collect silver spoons, salt shakers.  Porcelain teacups,  Hawaiian shirts. Neckties.
     I collect concert and play programs,  playbills and movie theater stubs.
     Life without performance would be a dull proposition.
Cygnet's lively Old Town Theatre is a favorite venue
when Cookie and Keller are in San Diego.

SO MANY of my most vivid memories are shaped by the shows I saw while traveling.
    Barysnikov at the Kirov, Pavarotti in Milan, each with a much loved late husband.
   The Folies Bergere in Paris with my mother and sister. Dame Joan Sutherland at the Sydney Opera House with my sailor turned play-loving partner.
The Disney, Mark Taper and
Ahmanson, in Los Angeles
beckon our travelers often.
The Ahmanson in Los Angeles is a regular
on Cookie and Keller's theater going docket.
   A FULL day spent at “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby” in New York, with a brief break for wine and a nosh.
   I’ll never forget Dustin Hoffman’s Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman” in London, or a magnificent 1997 production of that classic  at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.  But my most thrilling production of that brilliant Arthur Miller work was delivered by a Chinese cast, in a Beijing theater.  The Mandarin was beautiful and knowing the play, I could enjoy the staging, appreciating that this magnificent work traveled across the world to move an Asian audience as deeply as it does its American fans.  When Willy's widow, Linda, delivered her “attention must be paid” lines near the tragedy's end, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Mary Tyler Moore at the Tony's. Best known
for her TV work, she was twice on Broadway. 
I REMEMBER a favorite actress, Mary Tyler Moore, not just for her TV brilliance in two Emmy winning sitcoms, but for her Tony winning performance in "Whose Life Is It Anyway?" that searing, but warm and touching study of end-of-life questions.  In 1980 I interviewed Moore at the premier of "Ordinary People." She had a terrific role as a recently bereaved mother. (It also introduced director Robert Redford's winning work.) I told her my wish that TV shows bestowed Playbills. She beamed when I said I'd keep two at the top of the stack: "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."

Manhattan Transfer played San Diego's Balboa Theatre.
Founder Tim Hauser, second from left in the quartet,
died in late 2014. So happy we saw them several times.
      Great performance moves us in a way few other experiences do.
      WHEN OUR family saw “Oliver!” in July of 1964 at the Imperial Theatre in New York, every one of us was affected.  We still sing “Consider Yourself,”  “As Long as He Needs Me” and “Where is Love” at family reunions. Even the youngest of the brood remembered the lyrics, the dances of Fagin and his charges, the heartbreak when Bill Sikes murders Nancy. We remember my dad hailing not one but two yellow cabs from our hotel, and the dinner we had after the matinee, surrounded by stars’ portraits at Sardi’s.  The orchestra seats were $4.75 each and all nine of us dined for $122!
All you need is love at Cirque du Soliel's Vegas Beatles show.
Cookie and Keller are Vegas regulars, for the shows of course.
Fishtail, Montana, hosts Shakespeare in the Parks, a summer treat.
        I'VE SEEN our beloved “Oliver!” in London revivals – in 1984 and again in 2008. A few years ago, I took the family to a local production of at Venture Theatre in Billings, Montana.  It was all I could do to keep myself off the stage during “Food, Glorious Food.” Seeing the play with my brothers Rick and Patrick and sister Olivia, who flanked me so long ago in the Imperial, was a treat.  Now the tunes are beloved by my niece Aurora and great-nephew Connor.
I've lost track of my Elvis shows but I love seeing multiple productions of a favorite work.
Candy from "Sweet Thang" before the play at Ashland's
Chocolate Festival, near the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
I saw a glorious “Man of LaMancha” with my partner, Bruce Keller, in his hometown San Diego where he's followed actor Sean Murray for years. Cygnet Theatre’s production won an immediate standing ovation.  I saw “LaMancha” on Broadway with Richard Kiley, then in his last years, with Robert Goulet.  My first late husband, Bruce Meyers (Bruce the First) was a masterful Don Q, when I conducted the orchestra to raise thousands to save our 1931 Fox Theater in Montana. Cygnet's "LaMancha" evoked happy memories while adding Murray's sensitive and endearing Don Quixote to my “LaMancha” ledger. Ditto, his Higgins in Cygnet's "My Fair Lady,'' which we also saw brilliantly delivered at Welk Resort, and in Ashland with two pianos instead of an orchestra!

Cookie at one of her many
 "Elvis" shows in Vegas.

"My Fair Lady" with two pianos in a fabulous Ashland, Oregon, production.
  I LOGGED three productions of "Sunset Boulevard," with Patti Lupone, Glenn Close and Betty Buckley. Each gave it her own unique spin.  I saw Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett in the original production of “Sweeney Todd,” then Lupone and three others.  All fabulous, on  both coasts and here in San Diego.  I sat between my nephews, Kenji and Eric, when the movie came out, clutching their arms as the blood flew and the razor did its job. Who’d have thought Johnny Depp could sing (he can) or that Helena Bonham Carter would be such a mesmerizing Mrs. Lovett (she is.)  Stephen Sondheim is on my bucket list of most coveted interview subjects!
Cookie lands in Paris, and heads for the Folies Bergere.
Cher at Caesar's in Vegas.
     I'VE COVERED the Academy Awards, interviewed dozens of stars of stage and screen, previewed productions and reviewed hundreds. I’ve tried to be kind and appreciate the energy and effort that actors, musicians and technicians give.  For I’ve happily done time on that glorious side of the footlights, conducting and playing piano to raise money to save our beloved Fox, now the Alberta Bair Theater in Billings, Montana.
       When I took the helm of the “Save the Fox” endeavor, in Billings, spring of 1976, the future of the Fox Theater was doubtful.  Would the building be leveled?  Would it be a parking lot? Helping save that gem, now the Alberta Bair Theater, is one of my proudest endeavors.
Above, chocolate decorations at Ashland 
Springs Hotel in Oregon, a favorite place
to stay for a marathon of top theater.

Cookie with her play-
bill from Oregon
Shakespeare Festival.
Theater and gambling, two of Cookie's favorite pursuits, combine in Las Vegas.
         

The walk to the Lyceum in downtown San Diego at Horton 
Plaza. San Diego Repertory produces fabulous theater here. 
IN LAS VEGAS on the grounds of the venerable old Sands Hotel, now stands the flashy Venetian, in its gondolas and glory.  But this reporter will always remember seeing more than a dozen headliners in the showroom of the landmark hotel.  And many more greats in the Carlyle Hotel in New York City's upper east side -- Bobby Short, Mary Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Debbie Reynolds, Judy Collins. And the Fairmont in San Francisco where "Bruce the First" and I saw Duke Ellington. Showrooms in Paris, Rio, Madrid, Buenos Aires. Many of my icons were backed by a full orchestra before taped scores became the norm.  Dean Martin, Donald O’Connor, Liberace, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.  Marian McPartland. Duke Ellington.  Peggy Lee. Barbara Cook. Reynolds and Clooney. I saw them all. I have the Playbills to prove it!

           

2 comments:

  1. Oh, I am green with envy. Mark and I lived vicariously through old movies. We loved musicals like the Producers, King and I and especially Music Man. Mark surprised me for my anniversary with 3rd row tickets to Alberta Bair for Music Man. We were in our glory! In Milwaukee we would go to the repertory theater which was in the round. We saw Man from LaMancha and my favorite, Waiting for Godot. Seeing Angela Lansbury would be a dream come true. We loved her in Gaslight. You may not know but I have a vintage trailer and it is decorated with old movie stars. I have a man's tie depicting a scene from Gone with the wind" Audrey, Frank and Bing are on my walls. For a while I was blogging tributes and trivia on the stars. So needless to say I loved your blog it was right up my alley. TCM is my best friend these days. I will visit again. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Cannot imagine life without theater....what would become of us?

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