I came across a series of three lighthearted articles I wrote a few years ago when I was in a production of Dial M for Murder at the community theater. The first of those three articles follows after a message from our sponsor and some observations on two things brought to me by the magic of television.
First, I'm pleased to announce that Power to Hurt has passed the 70K word mark. Strive as I might, I may not have it ready for purchase before the end of July because I may need an additional ten-thousand words beyond my original projection to complete it--so I may have another 20K words to write. That also means longer to proof and to edit. However, the end of July remains my target date. **If anyone would like to read and provide feedback on the novel up to this point, let me know.***
Second, I have a few thoughts on two shows: Rogers and Hammerstein's South Pacific, and the more recent Good Omens. One of the very few things these two offerings have in common is that they were both new to me. I finished the last episode of Good Omens on the same day that I saw South Pacific broadcast on public television.
Weighing in at nearly two and one-half hours, released in 1958, South Pacific is a light musical romance. Good Omens, a sort of dark fantasy miniseries based on the book of the same name, is six episodes long; each episode lasts just under an hour. So these two aren't even in the same weight class. The genres are also worlds apart.
The other thing both of these shows have in common is that they both disappointed me a bit. I expected more from each of them. I heard a few songs from SP that I had heard before but didn't know the source. Part of the reason for that is that when it comes to musicals, I'm rather an uncultured cretin. My entire body of knowledge with regard to opera came from Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies. As a kid I soaked up fabulous episodes like "Rabbit of Seville" and "Kill da Wabbit" with the greatest of glee. These two are true masterpieces of animation and music. That was the pinnacle of my musical theater education. When I heard Mitzi Gaynor sing, "I'm Gonna Wash that Man Right out of My Hair" I immediately associated it with the hair color commercial that first taught me the tune. "Some Enchanted Evening" was very nice. I enjoyed that song more than any other from the show. I liked all of the music but there weren't many that stood out. I do remember thinking that I would like to remember a few of the lyrics, but I've forgotten them already. I do remember something about nothing being quite the same as dame, but I don't think that's an accurate rendition of the words. Also, there was "where she's narrow, she should be as narrow as an arrow...where she's broad she should be broad where a broad should be broad," and that may not be an accurate recollection either.
SP featured a young Frances Nuyen whom I first discovered in Star Trek reruns as Elana of Troyius in the episode of the same title and which I have mentioned on this blog before. So it does have a TOS connection going for it. My wife didn't seem impressed when I pointed that out.
What disappointed me about SP? I'm not really sure. Perhaps it was the fact that it went a little long and became entirely predictable by the second half.
As for GO, the music featured heavy doses of Queen, including in the last episode "Bohemian Rhapsody," if I remember correctly, and that was nice. The acting and production were fabulous. The story, a darkly humorous take on Christianity and Armageddon smelled of pablum to please the current pop culture masses. The great acting and memorable characters couldn't save a fundamentally weak story. The story aimed more toward clever wit than depth and struck the bull's eye.
The old article from 2015:
An Actor’s View – Dial M for Thunderball
The Weiser Little Theater's production of Frederick Knott's Dial "M" for Murder rolls ever forward like an unstoppable thunderball. I understand that the term "thunderball" originated with soldiers who used it to refer to the rolling mushroom cloud created by a nuclear detonation -- perhaps that's not the image that I wanted to convey.
Speaking of Bond movies, the intrigue in Dial M is top notch. While we weren't able to lure the 1965 incarnation of Martine Beswick, or Jill St. John from 1971's Diamonds Are Forever, we do have our own scorching hot actress who does all of her own stunts. She's as deadly as any Bond girl…don't mess with her while she's on the telephone. (Also, don't try to tell her that she's remembering a scene incorrectly; she will deliver a swift punch to your ego and do the happy dance on the remnants of your self-respect while blinding you with facts. Of course, that's just one perspective. Your mileage may vary).
In typical Bond fashion, Good and Evil are both sharply dressed in Dial M. More importantly, the men are dashing and debonair with classic good looks and diction that is to-die-for. But enough about me. There are other male roles in the play as well.
An unintentionally entertaining part of rehearsals is watching an actor steadfastly attempting to remember and repeat his lines. It's very much like watching a blind man tapping his way across a treacherous ledge in the dark (of course, it's always dark to the blind man, but that detail adds to the utterly false sense of suspense that I'm attempting to create). The lines come forth in tiny, tentative taps, back and forth, repeated until ideas trickle out in the proper wording and sequence. Sure it's as irritating as a root canal without anesthetic, but I've found that people can be so judgmental when you punch a blind man. I mean, it's endearing, really.
While we don't have a one-eyed Emilio Largo, we do have our own figuratively one-eyed man. He has an eye single to detail. Every. Single. Detail. There is no detail too small which, if neglected even for a moment, threatens to become a SPECTRE (see what I did there) that will destroy the entire play. Fortunately, it appears as if a nuclear holocaust will be avoided, thanks to the screw-gun which he wields with no mean skill.
No Bond film would be complete without small-time criminals and ne'er-do-wells. Dial M has an ideal facsimile of just such an incorrigible reprobate…and the character he plays is quite a miscreant as well. But seriously, observations about type-casting aside, the dude is perfect in the role. Nobody, I mean nobody, plays a better sheet-covered corpse. If you don't remember his death scene, which makes Out of Africa seem like a fast-paced action flick by comparison, you'll still be astounded at his dramatics immediately subsequent to the demise. A magnificent method acting success, some would say (I’m not sure who, but someone…maybe).
Although Dial M lacks the lurking sharks of Thunderball, we do have a superb stage crew; they lurk, light the set, and lend assistance to
idiots actors who can't remember lines, find their props (or their
own body parts without written instructions and a gps); they also keep
everything running smoothly. They almost never bite (I would just say never,
but…well, there was that one incident).
Finally, the ray of sunshine, our Domino and Moneypenny all rolled into one (and she's not nearly as lumpy as that sounds) is the director. There are no words to describe her (except those commonly used in mental health diagnoses -- but I'm not really qualified to repeat those). However, I think the expression delusionally optimistic would not be out of place.
Seriously, this is a blast!