Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: Museum of Dreams Preview and Extra Stout

Last Friday Mopsy was in town and suggested we all go see the free preview for Toledo Ballet's Museam of Dreams, soon to be shown at the Valentine Theater. I'm not much for ballet - a bunch of odd looking under thirty types dressed in non-revealing tights, leaping and contorting themselves across a stage to esoteric classical music without a brass pole in sight. Mopsy sensed my lack of enthusiasm (I think my comment about 'wandering around the museum while you watch the ballet' might have had something to do with this, but Mopsy is a perceptive woman and knows me pretty well) and quickly suggested that we could follow the ballet with a visit to the museum's common area and catch Extra Stout, an Irish band that was playing there. We could also have a beer. I capitulated. What can I say?

To begin with, the venue was poorly chosen. If you want to actually see a ballet, the dancers need a stage with auditorium seating. What we had was a large room in the museum, five rows of metal folding chairs and walls adorned with fine art. This means that if you want to take a few photos of the dancers, you should not use a flash as you'll damage the paintings. It also means that if you aren't seated in the first two rows, the chances of you actually seeing the ballet are roughly the same as being killed by lightning while seated inside the museum, and that's with the thunderstorm in Colorado.  Since I wasn't really interested in seeing the ballet I didn't care about this, but the rest of our group - Main Lady, Mopsy and Mom - all go in for this kind of thing in a big way. Fortunately they managed to shark some better seats after the first number.

If strike one was the venue, strikes two and three was the Toledo Ballet's EmCee, who is evidently convinced that there is nothing in this world so pleasing as the sound of his own voice, nor anything so important and informative as whatever the hell it is he has to say. The man's conceited palavering went on so long that I began to wonder if we'd ever see the preview, or if his overweening lecture actually was the preview and he would presently describe what the dancers would do in precise detail. I didn't get the man's name, which I regret only insofar as I could avoid him in the future.

Mister Microphone, the EmCee

The EmCee treated us to ten or fifteen minutes of his invaluable insights and philosophy after each routine. I couldn't find anything to throw so I sat through it, idly wondering if the man actually had the hubris to believe that what he had to say was as interesting and important as he thought it was, or if he was just an outstanding actor. About halfway through his second speech, I realized who he reminded me of: Obama. The style and narcissistic comportment were a dead ringer for The Anointed One on the campaign trail. Little wonder I found his speech repugnant.

The Ballet
The photos in this essay are terrible, for which I apologize. My equipment is not up to the task of low light photography. Moreover, there is little point to photographing a ballet in progress unless you have excellent equipment, a position which irritates the patrons in the $100 seats, and you are familiar with the ballet and so can anticipate a dramatic shot. Even then it's likely you'll shoot several hundred photos, planning on getting about one photo out of 100 that's worth keeping.  I shot five, mainly out of boredom, and this is the best of the lot. I grew tired of not watching the ballet, and so abandoned my seat in the last row for a standing position near the wall.

All I can say is that this is not The Nutcracker. The dancers are young. Some are obviously talented, but that doesn't make them seasoned professionals. Still, it's obvious that they worked hard on this presentation and they did a good job with it. If you like ballet, I think the show at The Valentine is worth seeing.

On to more important things, our intrepid party traipsed downstairs to quench our respective thirsts with the elixir of the evening, which I would have supposed to be Guinness beer of one sort or another. Fat chance, Ace. The bar ran out of Guinness in fifteen minutes, having ordered two whole cases of Guinness in preparation of having an Irish band playing, thus attracting Irish Band aficionados whose thirst for the hops appears in Irish legend and song. Losers.

Extra Stout
The band was loose. The players on both ends trailed the leads in the center, then slammed into them at the end of every eight bars. The group played Irish standards as well as select popular music, such as can be played on the instruments represented here. I think I should note that I don't really believe Extra Stout is a real, straight whiskey Irish band. For one thing I saw them drinking water.

Spoons Player
My favorite member of the band is this fellow on the end, who is playing the spoons. He appeared to be getting into the spirit of the thing, as the saying goes.

No Guinness - Here's Outburst
The sure cure for any loose band is one or more bottles of Guinness, but this is a good substitute. I've never had Outburst IPA before, and it is a very nice ale albeit a bit strong - 8.5% by volume. The more Outburst I drank, the better the band sounded. I'd go and hear Extra Stout again, but mainly for the beer.


Capt. Schmoe said...

Palaver! What a great word. I was pretty sure what it meant, but I looked it up just to be sure.

You are a better man than I. If I managed to leave my seat and make it to the rear wall, the exit would have been only a few seconds behind. The things we do for love.

Only two cases of Guinness? I would think the band alone would go through half of that, likely while doing the sound check. Fortunately Pyramid brews some very nice products. I really enjoy their Hef, it's tasty.

Thanks for the post.

Mad Jack said...

Well, Mom was there and she was keeping an eye on me. Otherwise, I'd have likely stayed a little while and then gone downstairs to get us a table. I am, after all, just being helpful, kind and considerate.

I fully expected the band to be a little lit by the time we got there, but I really don't think they were. Then there's the geniuses that set the bar up... clearly, these men do not understand that the concept of planning ahead involves buying enough beer so that neither you nor the wife nor the ne'er-do-well brother in law has to make a beer run later on. Food? We can always order pizza and dig out the three year old bags of microwave popcorn. Plus, the police are serious about this DUI stuff these days, and it's always the one family member who should not go down to the store that ends up going, then doing something stupid, then running his mouth to the cops... and since these people never go anywhere alone, the others will come back without him or her and somehow, someone will have to go see about bailing the silly SOB out.

Plan ahead.