Friday, September 03, 2004

While I'm thinking about it

I rarely get so excited about a Madison theatrical production that I go around recommending it to everyone I meet, but Madison Repertory Theatre's Love is the Weirdest of All: The Music of Lou and Peter Berryman is, hands down, the best locally written show I've seen. It's superb, and it's playing at UW-Madison's Mitchell Theatre through Sept. 12.

Go see it.

At the co-op just now I just ran into two of the stars, Marie Barteau and Michael Herold, and I began gushing. They in turn thanked me for my Aug. 27 Isthmus review, which I'm pasting below. "And you're so young!" Barteau said.


Wisconsin wry
Quirky folkies the Berrymans get their own revue

There is a short list of musicians who can rightly be called Madison institutions. Lou and Peter Berryman are on that list, thanks to a three-decade career playing music that is, come to think of it, a lot like Madison itself: modest, charming and not a little quirky. He plays guitar, she accordion, and together they compose and sing droll songs about unlikely topics like refrigerators and automobile travel. (He writes the lyrics, and she writes the tunes.) The Berrymans' tunes are as distinctive as their idiosyncratic singing voices, and it's hard to imagine anyone else singing those songs; it's even hard to imagine wanting to hear anyone else sing those songs.

But that's precisely what happens in Madison Repertory Theatre's Love is the Weirdest of All: The Music of Lou and Peter Berryman (now playing at UW Mitchell Theatre), and the results are brilliant. A strong revue of 24 Berryman numbers, the show invites audiences to consider the Berrymans' songs as songs, and this repertoire holds up very well indeed. The four principals (Marie Barteau, Colleen Burns, Michael Herold and Jack Forbes Wilson) have strong show voices, and their solo and ensemble singing does particular justice to Lou Berryman's inventive melodies, as do music director Wilson's tasteful arrangements of strings and piano, played by an ensemble upstage.

It would be enjoyable enough simply to hear this quartet sing these songs, but a clever book knits the tunes together in a loose format: Wilson and Burns, who wrote the book, are husband and wife, and they have invited Wilson's sister (Barteau), and a friend (Herold) for an evening's entertainment at home. The attractive living-room set, designed by Vicki Davis, is the perfect backdrop for the Berrymans' songs, which often are about a sort of benign domestic paranoia, one perhaps induced by owning too many consumer products. But the players dispense with the unifying conceit as needed, so that songs can take place on a horse trail ("Double Yodel") or in a bizarre, junk-food-induced dream ("Down by the Boathouse").

Many of the songs are broadly comic, and Peter Berryman's wry observations and crisp internal rhymes keep the laughs coming. Burns, especially, brings the house down multiple times with hysterical numbers like "A Chat With Your Mother," in which a mom delivers a lecture about a vulgarity she particularly dislikes. But at moments the show turns unexpectedly wistful, as when Wilson smiles sadly and performs the bittersweet "Forget-Me-Not." Or maybe these moments aren't so unexpected: sometimes committed satirists like the Berrymans turn out also to be delightfully incorrigible sentimentalists.
Love czar

I think Mikhail Khodorkovsky--oligarch, political prisoner, Russia's wealthiest man--is a hottie. What do you think? Check him out here and here. Keep those jibes about his pretty mouth to yourself.

No matter what happens, I want my next musical project to be called the Selfish Hedonists.
Good word

"I also came to understand that when I was exhausted, angry or feeling isolated and alone, I was more vulnerable to making selfish and self-destructive personal mistakes about which I would later be ashamed. The current controversy [over the Lewinsky affair] was the latest casualty of my lifelong effort to lead parallel lives, to wall off my anger and grief and get on with my outer life, which I loved and lived well . . . There was no excuse for what I did, but trying to come to grips with why I did it gave me at least a chance to finally unify my parallel lives."

--Bill Clinton, My Life (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004), 811
Jump in the line

I studied this picture in Bill Clinton's memoir My Life for a long time before it dawned on me what was happening.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

New 411

Hey y'all, from now on you can send me e-mail at kenneth@kennethburnsdotcom.

Of course, you'll need to replace the word dot in there with a bona fide dot. (I'm somehow na�ve enough to think that spammers won't be able to figure this out.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Hitting achy breaky bottom

This is what happens when Kenny drinks.

In Tootsie's Orchid Lounge.

Now you know.
Presto chango

At the wedding gig on Saturday, the DJ played "You're the One That I Want," the John Travolta-Olivia Newton-John duet that concludes Grease. I enjoyed hearing the song, and I particularly enjoyed thinking about the number, which--I'm going out on a limb here--features the second-greatest movie makeover of all time, wherein Newton-John goes from prissy deb to sultry sexpot. Hubba! Have you never been mellow, indeed.

As for the greatest movie makeover of all time, surely no one would dispute that the nod goes to Kim Novak in Vertigo.

What are other great movie makeovers? No fair citing disturbing body transformations � la Jason Bateman in Teen Wolf Too. I mean true makeovers, those radical interventions in hair, makeup and clothes, those real-life fairy tales in which wishes come true and we change our looks, our lives and our destinies.

OK, I cribbed that last part from the "Extreme Makeover" web site.