Bear with me, folks, for I’m about to sound a lot like your disgruntled, elderly relative, yearning for “the good old days.” Nonetheless, I think the topic warrants my curmudgeon-like comments. There are certainly a lot of things that “kids these days” don’t appreciate, but I certainly hope that the opportunity to see class-act musical theatre isn’t one of them.
I am mostly addressing this year’s freshman class. Every year for the First Year Seminar classes, the freshmen get to go see a high-caliber theatrical production in Portland. My year, we saw a double performance of the operas “Pagliacci” and “Carmina Burana.” I absolutely loved this experience, and it is certainly one of the highlights of my FYS class.
Last year, the freshmen saw the musical “Oklahoma!,” which undoubtedly has its share of critics but is a classic nonetheless.
As much as I loved the “Pagliacci/Carmina Burana” double-header, this year’s production is by far my favorite. The freshmen this year had the opportunity to see Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” arguably one of the best pieces of musical theatre of the last half of the 20th century.
In fact, when I heard “Sweeney Todd” was playing at Portland Center Stage, I immediately started making plans to go see it. I, not being a freshman, paid $30 for a ticket. I wasn’t the only one; many other upperclassmen I know jumped on the opportunity as well.
The show was well worth shelling out $30 for a student ticket. In fact, one of my main regrets was not being able to see the show again due to lack of time; the show ended on Oct. 21. Some of my friends were a little luckier.
The luckiest people of all, though, were Pacific’s freshmen, who got to see this stellar performance of Sondheim’s “black operetta” for free. That is incredible. This musical is classic of the theatre, having won eight out of nine Tony award nominations when it first premiered on Broadway in 1979, including Best Musical.
On the night I went, the audience recognized the brilliance, devouring the performance like a fat kid devouring a meat pie. People were cracking up at the lyrical genius of the Act I closer, “A Little Priest.” The audience let out wild cheers when the first blood was shed during the “Johanna” quartet.
For the most part, the freshmen I’ve talked to about the experience really enjoyed it. Yet I can’t help but shake the feeling that some people didn’t fully appreciate what they were being treated to. I suppose you always have that hazard when you are gifted something for free. However, I hope this number of people is small.
Though I have sometimes been critical of the FYS program as a whole, I am more than happy to commend this excursion into the performing arts. I hope to see this trend continued in future years.