Is Live Art Better? Oscar’s going to Les Mis


I’m going to the Ziegfeld theater to see Les Miserables on Friday.  And I’m freaking excited.

<cue background music>  It’s 7:05 PM, Friday, April 10th.  Oscar cracks a smile and pushes past the paparazzi to enter the swing-doors.  It’s the opening night gala at the Ziegfeld, an impossibly good local theater, at one of those profound moments when art becomes self-aware.

As Clementine stops to talk to someone, because she knows everyone, Oscar taps his chin and ponders the nature of live art….

The ‘Zig’ is in its third season, and we’ve been lucky enough to catch two shows there:  Fiddler on the Roof and The Producers.  They were both categorically excellent.

As you may know, I know a little something about theater.  In elementary school, I played Nick Bottom in a Mid-Summer Night’s Dream.  I was a lumberjack in another play, and I’ve fell asleep to a lot of Shakespeare.  Okay, maybe I’m better in the critic’s chair, having seen a little Broadway, a little Royal Shakespeare company, and a whole bevy of art-sy movies.  My only point is that I know a little about acting, both the good and the bad varieties.

But the Zig features more of the former than the latter.  And there are moments of actual perfection.  One of those moments came when Cameron Kapetanov, an Ogden native, totally surplanted Nathan Lane in my mind as the definitive Max Bialystock.  He radiated with such charisma in that particular moment that he transcended the role in a way that words can’t relate.

Talent can shine anywhere.  It can be the little girl in church who just belts out hymns, her voice in perfect syncopation, a spellbinding trill that makes everyone look around for the source.  It can be the child actor on Broadway, hoping for that single chance at greatness, who reveals the nuance in a role that nobody has seen and will never see again.  And in this case, it is actors who love and care and pour something of themselves in a role so perfectly, that a single moment can be defined with such utter urgency, clarity, and compassion, to literally change something within everyone present.

The purveyors of the Ziegfeld can find these actors, these people, who utterly channel art in and for the moment.

Is everything perfect?  No.  The heat went out when we saw Fiddler, and everyone was huddling low.  And not every actor can match the hopelessly high expectations I’ve developed for the company.  But each time I’ve been, there are actors whose performances have resounded with such brilliance and clarity and passion that I long to return to experience it again.

Art is like that.  I lived for a time in Imperial Beach California, home to one of the largest sandcastle competitions in the world.  Some of the greatest art I’ve seen was created in a day, only to be washed away by the waves come the sunrise.  I’ve seen the Louvre, David and DaVinci, and I’ve seen sandcastles … and I can’t say that one was superior.

Art isn’t permanent.  Art isn’t literal.  Sometimes we’re lucky to get it boxed up and packaged, captured in celluloid and digits, in a movie or an image.  But more often, it can only be glimpsed for the barest moment.  It happens, and you have to be there, living in it, waiting patiently and carefully, in the perfect place at the perfect time.

Art changes you.

And it can almost never be predicted.  But based on their past performance, I’m fairly certain that I’ll see it this Friday night, at the opening of Les Miserables.  Lightning has struck twice.  So I’m going back again and putting up my lightning rod and expecting something great.

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