Warning! Opinions ahead! Also spoilers for those in the UK, so look away!
I'm back at the hotel. What a great day overall. Having gotten to LA yesterday and Hollywood only having been interesting at Amoeba Records, I decided to spend a large amount of time at the venue. In the early morning I walked all around the exterior of the facility and took alot of pics. I could talk more about the building once I upload some pics, but moving along...
Once the facility opened I went to the Gift Shop. No FZ stuff yet, but I tried to look around the inside of the building. People were doing tours. I thought I'd ask where I could go and was told "pretty much everywhere". She seemed to forget that "everywhere" meant "all the hallways and the outside, but not the theater itself". Oh, well. I did find out that the swag would be available, so I came back again at 5pm to get my shirt and poster. I returned yet again at 6pm. The pre-show talk started somewhere around 7pm. Again, in the interim, I had hoped to see the inside of the theater, only to have to stand around in the lobby.
The pre-show took place in a smaller lecture hall and I got in the front row, right side. While waiting, I talked with some other out-of-towners, also from Illinois. Joe Guzzi (sp?), who has played with ZPZ on occasion was there and we all talked FZ while waiting for the talk to start. I'm not sure why, but a lady brought a large black poodle to the talk.
There was a short introduction, followed by an awesome reading of the trial portion of The Real FZ Book. I had my camera running video the whole time for it. I was obvious about it. I am sure GZ saw this, though no one ever said a thing, not even a dirty look, nothing.
The voices really brought the reading to life. Lots of British accents. Lots of Scott Thunes mugging. I had a shit-eating grin stuck on my mug.
After that, GZ and one of the cast (I'll have to remember who that was) discussed the history and her own comments about making 200 Motels. GZ seemed to be in a great mood and talked in a very lively way. I had run out of recording time by then, so I was not able to record that portion or anything after. By way of noting, prior to the performance, the ushers were VERY insisitant about bugging anyone with a camera/phone in their hand that there will be no recording or pictures of any kind. I managed to get a couple pictures during, but the lighting wasn't nice to my camera. As usual. I even tried to load a new App over the weekend only to get even worse results. I'm hoping that the no cameras thing means that they were recording for a dvd, but it was not obvious to me.
After the pre-show talk, several people were crowding around GZ. One guy asked "Did Frank have a good lawyer?". Gail said "Yes he did, his name was _____". Ugh, his name escapes me right now, but of course, it was him. Larry ...? I waited a bit, congratulated GZ and told her who I was and her eyes lit up for a second (or so it seemed to me, being in a particularly good mood). The crowd huddled closer and I withdrew to go find my seat.
I was at my seat for about 15 minutes before the show started. I am guessing here, but it looked like Scott Thunes was prepping the orchestra to do The Wave. I couldn't tell that right away because he looked like he was yelling and pointing at someone across the stage, but just before everyone started tuning, they did try. Maybe 1/3 of them tried The Wave anyway. Maybe less. When tuning up, several people clearly played out of tune. Chuckles all around, then actual tuning. Then a kazoo-like snork. Then an uncomfortable group clap with the audience. Sorry, I've always hated Group Clap.
Following up on ST's Oboist story from Facebook, an oboist did hand him his IPad just before the show started. What did she want that for, I wonder???
In addition to squiggly images cast behind the orchestra, there was also text. Not all the text, and I can't really say why. Sometimes, the lyrics, sometimes the spoken parts and at one point, they just wrote "Shove It Right In". At another point, they wrote "Stop trying to understand his words". Hilarious.
Most of the action was on the right side of the stage. There were 4 lighted chairs, not huge like FZ's chair, just chairs for the main characters as organizational tools. There were images cast behind the orchestra against their soda-straw organ, but the effect was horrible. Most of the time, I couldn't even make out what they were showing. Sometimes it was squiggles. Other times, it was images, like flickering fire, but you really had to scratch yer head as to figure out, "why fire?". Which brings me to the point... was there a point to all this? Like many FZ Large-Scale pieces, the overall effect was that it was the sum of its parts. GZ and Joe Travers said that somewhere above 50% of the material was as-created by FZ. She said 40% at first, then asked Joe for clarification. I can't help but wonder what parts weren't created by FZ. I doubt FZ had Lonesome Cowboy Burt disco dancing, since those dances hadn't been invented at that time. When LCB first came out, he was pushing a wheelbarrow full of what seemed to be coal, which the main characters all rolled around in. After the show, I grabbed a piece. It looked like shredded car tire.
I really don't know how much of the music was FZ. Or if FZ wrote parts that were later orchestrated by others. Maybe all of it was re-orchestrated? Questions, questions...
I was in the front row of the balcony. I am very glad that I sat there. I had to think that being on the main floor would be great, but walking around afterward it seemed that the people on the main floor would have missed much of the detail. I saw everything except a few feet of the left side of the stage (audience perspective). So for the visuals... The accents were great. The overall lighting was poor. The big neon chair for FZ to sit in, the flashing lights, the glowing dildos, all the appointments were great. But, I wanted to see faces, expressions and often couldn't. There was lighting from above and from the sides, but at any given time, most faces were cast partly in shadow. Side lighting led to Two-Face from Batman. Above lighting led to talking shadows wearing hair any time they looked downward, which seemed to be often. As GZ mentioned in the pre-show, the orchestra plays a role in the entire production, besides only playing their instruments. Yet, very often, they were half-lit. Yes, I was in the balcony, a good distance away. But, I brought binoculars. Mostly, I needed more light in general to see all the details. I could go see this every night for a week and still wish for more detail, but I'd still have to be able to see what's there.
The chorus... They sounded consistently great, as did the orchestra overall. But, the chorus also had bit parts, like snapping fingers and clapping hands both in time and as a crowd. They had flashlights for the Journalist. Of course, they had their lit dildos. The main characters had dildos too, of even greater girth and color intensity too.
The performers playing FZ, 2 of them, had rather ridiculous perm-like, mulletish wigs. They looked like FZ in the same way that Michael Nesmith looked like FZ.
I don't remember the entire makeup of the orchestra, but I remember there being 3 acoustic/classical guitars, 2 pianos in addition to Ian Underwood, and I think there were 32 members in the chorus, evenly between men and women. The percussion sounded awesome, even the woodblocks cut through the mix.
Speaking of speaking... Ann Cusack was the image of 50's wifery, very pretty. But, she didn't project well. In fact, many cast members didn't project "to the back of the hall" as they say. I think the soundboard was set well, because when people did project, it sounded great. I have to think that if this production went on for a run of shows, this would have been fixed. Too many times characters had their chin in their chest, making the results muffled.
I was hoping Diva would have had a bigger part so I could get an idea of her talent, but she didn't do alot. What she did, she did well. Janet really knew how to grind in a mini-skirt though. And the Journalist. Uh-huh. Straddling FZ in a nightgown, mmmmm. Lotsa leg. The orchestra mostly wore tuxedos, but a few didn't. The chorus wore matching outfits. I liked that Thunes wore a 200 Motels T-Shirt, which he didn't wear for the pre-show.
Most of the show segued, which I liked, because that minimized the audience clapping. During the end of Strictly Genteel, they showed footage of FZ composing. It was one of the few visuals that really worked for me. It was touching to have that image up at that point.
Oh, yeah, some nice dissonant whistling at one point. And beakers of smoking liquid. And. And. And. Starting to get tired... must finish soon.
After all the group bowing and clapping, I walked around near the front of the stage. Most of the audience had left by the time I got down there. Again, more hassles from the ushers asking where I was going. I pointed at Joe Guzzi and his friend and said "I'm going to talk to them". They were right in front of the stage trying to get Joe Travers attention. They got Jamie instead, who came to the front and chatted. I asked if I could see his pedalboard which he was holding. It included a Super Puss, Butt Face, MXR Phase 90 and a Hello Tremolo. He had a few other items like a tuner and switcher. I heard someone say to Diva "I saw you crying". Jamie looks over to Diva saying "You almost made me cry". Jamie gave Joe Guzzi a hookup to meet at the Green Room so he could go to the after party. I thought I should follow along, but decided against it. I stepped back a bit, just as GZ came from back stage. She was GLOWING. I congratulated her again and she said "Wasn't it GREAT?!?" I very much agreed, then she moved along. I milled around a bit more, then took off. It is now 3 hours after the performance and I'm still lit.
Before anyone gripes about any negativity above, please remember - I fuckin loved it. These are just my reflections on the show. I'd go again tomorrow if I could. I could probably write a bunch more, but its getting late...