News from me – mark evanier’s blog

Sometimes, I see a show like this and I can’t help but think, "People this talented ought to be able to make a living doing shows without spending their lives on buses." The brutal life of Renaissance times they were singing about might be nothing compared to playing that show on a Wednesday night in St. Louis and getting to Muncie in time to do it on Thursday night there. How they pack all those sets, props and costumes and get them set up in the next town is beyond me.

But maybe some of those players enjoy the adventure. And maybe some of them feel as a friend of mine did when I asked her about a string of one- and two-nighters she did once in a roving band performing Grease.

She said, "I would rather live six months like that and get to perform almost every night than spend those six months doing office-temp work because I can’t get a job acting in town."

This production of Something Rotten was anything but. Matter of fact, it was pretty darned good with several folks who I’m sure would not have been outta place when this musical was on Broadway. A scan of their credits in the program indicates that a lot of them have done this kind of tour before so they knew what they were getting themselves into. Maybe I’m wrong to think they don’t love every minute of it.

The San Jose Center for the Performing Arts is a big, oddly-constructed place. It was obviously built to house musicals (mostly) but somehow, no one thought to build an orchestra pit under the stage. It’s in front of it instead, distancing the audience from the performers who are on a rather tall stage. In order for them to be able to see the conductor, they had to elevate him on a platform…and then they installed a wall around the pit so the audience couldn’t see the conductor except, occasionally, his hands.

See that guy on the couch? That’s our friend Frank Ferrante not portraying Groucho Marx, See that lady on him? That’s a splendid actress (also, a friend) Dreya Weber. They’re currently appearing in Ken Ludwig’s play A Comedy of Tenors at the historic Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. It’s there through March 3 and if I could get back there to see it, I would. The whole cast, I hear, is terrific.

Frank also directed this production of Mr. Ludwig’s raucous farce comedy. When correctly performed, as the reviews all say it is, it’s one of those shows where things happen at such a rapid pace, you’re afraid to take your gaze off the stage for two instants. (Ludwig will be part of an onstage talkback after the performance on 2/20.) Boy, would I like to see this…when it’s warmer. It’s 23° in Philadelphia at the moment.

Don’t worry. Frank is not abandoning Groucho for long. He has a day off from the play on 2/25. Anyone else starring in a play that frenetic — playing two roles, in fact — would spend that day sleeping. Frank’s throwing sanity to the wind and doing his acclaimed An Evening With Groucho show that night on the same stage. Tickets for both can be procured here.

• In the coming showdown over budget negotiations regarding The Wall, there are three possible outcomes. At least, that’s how Jim Newell figures it. He explains how Trump will like none of them. My guess is we will wind up with no real bucks for his wall but Trump will fiercely try to spin it as a total victory for him and insist, "I got everything I wanted!"

• Fred Kaplan notes that just about everything Trump is saying about U.S. security and conditions overseas is being contradicted by departments within the executive branch and people that he appointed. Isn’t it comforting to know that in matters relating to war and international relations, either Trump is dead wrong or his intelligence departments are?

• Congress is voting to stop Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. military forces from Syria and Afghanistan. As Kevin Drum explains, this kind of translates to "We should stay there forever." I have two thoughts about this. One is that this may be one of those outlier matters where Trump is right (or mostly right) and those opposing him are wrong. The other thought is just that John McCain would be so happy.

• When employment numbers under Obama looked good, Trump insisted the numbers were fake and that unemployment had never been higher. Now that the steady drop in unemployment under Obama continues, Trump insists those numbers are very real and that the "fake news" is that the press is not reporting how successful he’s been. Emily Stewart has more.