Thursday, 27 November 2014

My Greatest Fear

Fear of flying?

You have aviophobia.

Fear of spiders?


Are you ailurophobic? Then you have a fear of cats. (Can't say that I blame you for that one. Strange and diffident creatures, perpetually going through life with their middle fingers in the air.)

How about emetophobia? It is a fear of vomiting. Personally, I gave up that particular one a long time ago. When you have puked in front of as many strangers as I have, you tend to just go with the flow.

While I can't honestly say that I would actively court encounters with any of the above, none of them constitute my greatest fear. I'm not even certain that there is a name for that which causes some of my greatest angst.

The thing that I fear most, that thing that sends me into night terrors, that which truly gives me the heebie-jeebies, is the realization that Hollywood is about to transform one of my all-time favourite books or plays into a film. Oh the humanity!!

It is often difficult for me to explain to people the emotions that develop when I am truly moved by great art. When a phenomenal piece is presented to me, either on stage or on the page, I feel as though a part of my soul has been altered. The author or performers have managed to reach deep down into the depths of my being and stir something that has lay dormant for far too long. Those exquisite bits of beauty gifted to me as an audience member are precious, and I become extraordinarily protective of them. And while I appreciate re-interpretation and reimagining of classic creations, I only ask that they be done with dignity, taste, and an understanding of the artist's original intent. Can anybody honestly say that any of those qualities are on regular display in Hollywood adaptations? And so....I worry.

This December's polar vortex of such fretful re-vampings has me quaking in my Uggs. It all begins next Thursday with the live television event showing of Peter Pan, starring that ubiquitous name from musical theatre....Allison Williams.


Yes, I have watched Girls and yes, I know who she is. I do so want her to smash the role and I hope that she does. I desperately want this type of television programming to be a success. Bringing live musical theatre to millions of people at a time can only increase its waning profile and hopefully its appreciation. But at what cost? The live production of The Sound of Music last year proved fairly conclusively that a pretty voice and a big name does not an actress make. My biggest fear with Ms. Williams is not necessarily in her acting chops, but rather does she have the musical theatre background, that is the voice and choreography skills, to carry it off? Has NBC learned its production lessons from last year's sometimes nightmarish and awkward performance, and can a play that features kids, a dog, and flying through the rafters....all happening in real time on live TV.....overcome those obstacles? I do so want to be pleasantly surprised but....

Next on my December viewing worry list is Lifetime's two day "event" airing of Anita Diamant's brilliant novel/midrash The Red Tent. I read this magnificent book in a single afternoon. I simply could not put it down, and years later it still evokes a myriad of emotion. (One of my biggest regrets in life was forgetting to bring my worn copy of the book to the URJ Biennial in Washington where Ms. Diamant was a keynote speaker. I would have hunted her down for an autograph.) Handing this magnificent bit of feminist Jewish writing over to the hacks at Lifetime is akin to allowing Mickey Ds to cater a White House state dinner. I am honestly getting the dry heaves imagining the strong and virtuous women of Diamant's opus being depicted as Dance Moms or Real Prison Wives. And though it would be easy to suggest that I don't watch the miniseries, I almost feel that it is my obligation to be there to protect the vision; to remind people who don't know better that there is brilliance there. Oh God...please let it be good.

Finally...there is the Christmas Day release of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods, one of my all-time favourite stage musicals. Sondheim's plays have been notoriously difficult to put on film. Just check out the movie versions of Sweeney Todd or the vintage A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. His music is extremely challenging for the average musical movie goer's ear, and even more challenging for the average movie actor or actress to pull off and sing well. It's why the best performers of Sondheim's work are not household names to most. They exist almost exclusively within that wonderful bubble of live theatre and are rarely cast in big budget Hollywood extravaganzas. Hello Bernadette Peters. I do admit to seeing some light in the casting tunnel for this movie, however. There are some real voices there amongst the younger set, and anything that has Meryl Streep hamming it up as the Witch can't be all bad, but still there are the nagging worries. I have already been forewarned about changes to the story and song list that include doing away with the character of The Mysterious Man and the elimination of the wonderful song he sings with The Baker, No More. I realize that most people won't care one whit about any of this minutia , but these are the same people that seem to be okay with Cameron Diaz playing Miss Hannigan in the latest iteration of Annie. All I'm saying is that it matters to me.

My new daughter-in-law tells me that I should learn to just enjoy what is presented to me and not analyze everything so much. She is correct, of course. I would probably live longer if I could simply go with the flow about these really trivial matters and just be a regular audience member. But the problem is that I do feel as though greatness is being tampered with. It is a bit like drawing a moustache on the Mona Lisa or having the cast of the Simpsons sing Carmen. In my mind, it destroys the artists' visions of what they saw and how they originally presented it to their audiences. I am fiercely protective of those images and emotions.

I can only hope that my worst fears aren't realized.

1 comment:

  1. Exactly how I feel when any artist covers a Beatles song (no matter how good or bad their interpretation may be)!