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Wednesday, April 9, 2003

As sensitive as we are these days, it's a wonder there's anyone left to enjoy a show that tramples on political correctness and attempts (with great success) to offend absolutely everyone. Maybe that's the key to "The Producers." It's a level playing field, because no one is exempt and nothing is sacred.

The real key is probably that it's hilarious and enormously entertaining. It has an energy that's so irresistible I couldn't believe it had lasted almost three hours. I was breathless by the final curtain, but still wishing for more. Now, I know I say that about everything I see, but I didn't think I'd be saying it about this one, not after the first fifteen minutes or so.

At first the play seemed too over-the-top, and I was wondering if it would turn out to be as great as everyone told me. I've been disappointed by shows that I thought were oversold, and I was afraid this might be another example. It's a Mel Brooks show, after all, and the tone was something I should have expected. It just seemed a little more frenetic than it needed to be.

But after the first couple of musical numbers, I was hooked. By the time the really offensive stuff came marching across the stage, I was ready to cheer for a singing and dancing Hitler, just like (almost) everyone else in the packed Orpheum Theatre. It isn't just Germans that get the not-so-gentle, not-at-all-subtle Brooks treatment. He also lampoons the Jews and the Irish, over-endowed blonde bombshells and crooked accountants, gay theater folk and horny little old ladies.

I don't know how many possible targets of this wit and sarcasm were on the bus with us, but an older German friend of ours was definitely not amused. And she's not the kind of person you'd tell to "get over it." I'm not really sure if it was the dancing Nazis or the salty language that bothered her more, but either way it was a legitimate reaction. It's just that it was a rare one. Most of the people whose responses I could gauge, young and old, were entertained, either despite the tastelessness or because of it.

"The Producers" is also very self-conscious about the fact that it's a Broadway musical. It's a Broadway musical about the making of Broadway musicals, and the biggest, most obvious target of its satire is the kind of person who would produce a Broadway musical. Like the characters portrayed by the principal actors. Like the people who put their money on "The Producers." If you're going to zing the people who are backing you, you'd better be funny and entertaining about it.

It's a good thing the show was that good, because my day didn't start out so very wonderfully. I had a hard time getting myself going that early in the morning, and it was hard just to get all the way out the door because I kept forgetting things. Then there was the ridiculous morning traffic, both on my way to pick Mom up and then as we were on our way to the bus. I was in a bad mood until... until... I don't know; maybe I'm still in a bad mood. We all know where the blame for that lies, should we choose to assign blame.

The play more than made up for any little things that had gone wrong earlier (and the long, droning bus ride home later). We also had a terrific lunch at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, a building reconstructed after the original was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. It looks every bit of its 97 years, in terms of the ornate architecture and interior decorations, with angels and gargoyles and a domed glass ceiling in the Garden Court where we were served our crab salad.

As usual, riding through the streets of San Francisco on the bus is an entertainment in itself. You see all kinds of architecture, and all kinds of people. Many old buildings have been restored to look like new old buildings, and many new buildings look so new that you notice them even more in contrast to the old ones. Plus, you go up and down a lot of hills.


The center path through the garden has a lot of untapped potential.

There were actually two buses from the tour company going to the play today, and another going to the Giants game. And they all left at about the same time this morning, which made a tangled jungle out of their parking lot. We had a few younger people on our bus, but most, as usual, were even older than I am.

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So today was the first time I couldn't either watch or listen to the Giants' game since the new season started. Wouldn't you know it was the highest scoring game in Pacific Bell Park history. The Giants beat the Padres, 15-11, and have now won eight of their first nine games (with only 153 to go).

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Left Over
"I feel about ten years older than I did yesterday (so it's a good thing I only felt 43 yesterday)."

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