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Sunday, August 10, 2003

Today was a good example of why I don't drive in San Francisco. I love to go to the City, but somebody else has to drive. Today we went on the bus, which was just fine with me. And even that was a minor fiasco.

Little did we know when we set out this morning that we'd end up walking through the middle of a parade. We had a terrific (expensive) lunch at Seasons Restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel, right there on Market Street in the middle of the City. The bus let us off in front of the hotel, but by the time we'd finished eating, the driver couldn't get back to pick us up and take us to the theater.

Fifty minutes before the start of the show, we were informed that the Golden Gate Theatre was only two blocks away. We were given the option of walking, or waiting for the bus and taking a chance it wouldn't make it through the congested streets and get there in time. We walked, all forty or so of us, almost all of whom were even older than I am.

The reason for the traffic was the Pistahan parade, which just happened to be developing in front of the hotel at exactly the time we were expecting the bus. Pistahan is an annual Filipino festival, and it's the kind of celebration that would be fun to go to. It just wasn't fun to be stuck in the middle of, trying to get out. I'm sure it was wonderful, but all I saw was the next few feet of sidewalk in front of me.

Not only did we have to walk through the crowds lining the street, but we also had to cross the street between floats. Add to this the fact that we weren't sure we were walking in the right direction, and then stir in my tendency to worry this kind of situation to death, and you have the makings of a minor panic attack. And those were some long city blocks. By the time we'd walked one block, it already felt like three.

Every so often someone would assure me that we were indeed headed the right way. I just didn't believe them. It wasn't until I saw the theater, half a block ahead and tucked around a corner, that I started to relax. I didn't finish relaxing until we'd made our way across those crowded streets, through the crowded lobby, and into the crowded theater. Even after we found our seats and sat down, my whole body was tingling. I could feel it in my fingers and toes. It was almost as if I were still riding the bus.

That's when I started to think that this show couldn't possibly be worth it. The lunch, as good as it was, wouldn't have been enough to get me to go through this. And I'd seen "Chicago" on stage several years ago, so I was asking myself why I even needed to be here.

Oh, but it was fabulous. It's a totally different experience from the movie that won Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year. It's presented almost as a musical revue, with story elements added between the numbers. The music is great, and the story is timely. Last Friday night we saw "The Solid Gold Cadillac," a play about corporate corruption. "Chicago" is about using notoriety to get ahead in the world. Both themes could come out of the current headlines, instead of the 1950s and 1920s respectively.

We were treated to solid, energetic performances from the entire cast. By the time it was over I'd forgotten all the trauma of getting there. It no longer mattered that a couple of hours earlier I'd been in such a panicky state that I couldn't even enjoy a parade. And I didn't care that we had to drive through more traffic to get to the bridge that would bring us home. At least I wasn't the one who had to drive it.

5 August 2003

More clouds, because I didn't take my camera to San Francisco.

People were trying to compare the movie with the stage play, but I don't think it can be done. The songs and characters are the same, but the story of two women who get away with murder is told in a different way. On stage, the scene sometimes changes only because an actor turns to the audience to tell us what's going on. The set is a mostly bare stage with the orchestra behind it, plus a few chairs and some scaffolding.

And the biggest difference: we were sitting today in second row, orchestra. It was almost like being part of the show, because sometimes the actors would appear to look directly at us. You don't get that in the movies.

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There's no shrinking violet to the character or Roxie Hart in this production, not as played by Bianca Marroquín, anyway. And Kevin Richardson is as every bit as sleazy as Billy Flynn should be. But my favorite performance was by Brenda Braxton as Velma Kelly. I'd seen her on cable in "Smokey Joe's Café," and she was the one in that musical revue who made the biggest impression on me. I think I played back her version of "Don Juan, Your Money's Gone" about a dozen times while I was watching my tape of that show. And she was just as good today, a very dynamic singer and dancer.

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Place rose colored glasses on your nose
And you will see the robins
Not the crows