Sunday of my St. Patrick’s Day weekend, I headed downtown for “Celtic Woman: Emerald” at the Chicago Theatre for another take on how the PBS Irish mark the holiday.
Of all the sets I have seen for shows of this sort, this was one of my favorites. Sure, there was the requisite purple lighting for quite a few numbers. But it was very relaxing with its tapestries. The lighting effects were top-notch, and there was little, if any, of the fog of which shows like this are fond.
The women looked lovely in their green gowns and black gowns, like sprites with gossamer wings, on occasion. One of these years they should put the outfits on tour, or on exhibit at a fashion museum, or put out a line of prom dresses, at least
Best of all was fiddle player Mairead Nesbitt, a whirling dervish who was the centerpiece of the matinee, like a Tinkerbell with flowing blonde hair.
I am always impressed, too, by how shows like this blend live music and sound effects with recorded music. You wind up wondering which is which.
To think, in theaters like the Chicago, long, long ago, people actually sang and talked without microphones, and all the music was from performers present in the venue.
Shows of this sort even enhance the sound of the stepdancers’ taps, as but one example.
And a lot of the songs get the Disney cartoon treatment – that’s to say, the full string section and (oft times) big chorus arrangement that’s been around at least since the late 1930s and continues to this day. Think “When You Wish Upon a Star” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnqgROXTSFw&feature=kp) all the way up to “Let It Go” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moSFlvxnbgk) from “Frozen”.
Either way, there should be a moratorium on the song “You Lift Me Up.” It’s its generation’s answer to “Wind Beneath My Wings” or “My Heart Will Go On”. It’s to middle of the road pop what “Stairway to Heaven” and “Freebird” are to classic rock.
The way to end this would be to have a comedy group do a skit where a fat male stripper does a pole dance to it. But Chris Farley is long dead and buried.
The other way would be for Quentin Tarantino to use the tune to the same effect he used “Stuck in the Middle with You” in “Reservoir Dogs” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIMg2Xw4_8s) .
As for “Danny Boy” – on which the tune made famous by Josh Groban is based – the Coen Brothers scored an attempted mob hit to it in “Miller’s Crossing”. That helps me hear it. I oft think of it when necessary in daily life, too.
That’s not to say the women didn’t do nice versions of these songs. And I know this was a show featuring favorites from other tours. But just like the Zeppelin and the Skynyrd tunes – and corned beef after March 17 – I’ve had my fill.
Ditto, the drum solo – though the bodrhan number by the guy in the leather pants in the second act was amusing.
Which reminds – unlike the guys in Celtic Thunder, the women of Celtic Woman don’t exchange much playful banter amongst themselves or the audience. It’s all very polite and polished. It would have been nice if they would have broken from the routine and at least mentioned the recent passing of George Donaldson from Celtic Thunder, who, at the age of 46, died from a heart attack last week.
It also would be interesting one of these times if a Celtic Woman show only had women in the cast. The musicians. The band. The dancers.
As is, my favorite numbers where when the women sang with minimal accompaniment, such as Jimmy Webb’s “The Moon’s a Harsh Mistress”. I’m old school that way.
I also liked the number where the dancers and some of the musicians made their way up the center aisle – but that’s only because I thought they were going to roust or kick anyone they saw using a phone for any reason during the performance.
Unfortunately, in the row in front of us was a put-upon, spineless dad right out of a John Hughes movie. He had his wife and three young daughters with him, one of whom was in full brat mode. She was making video with her phone. I tapped her on the shoulder and told her to stop. She did. For a bit.
Emboldened by the moron older people during Act II snapping pictures, she started again after intermission. Did Dad take the phone away? Nope. And WTF is a kid no more than 10 doing with a freaking smartphone anyway?
In her booster seat, she was kicking the back of the seat of the woman in front of her. The woman told her to stop at least three times. Does Dad take the little jerk out into the lobby to scold her? Nah. I guess that’s not how they do things in Naperville.
Yet, what’s nice about shows like this is they are pretty much wholesome, family entertainment, like Lawrence Welk was on TV decades ago., and the Celtic Woman productions present relatively positive role models for young girls.
That’s to say, Celtic Woman pretty much always offers a safe, nostalgic, well-produced introduction you can give the kids in Irish culture and middlebrow pop music – as long as it’s just the initial lessons.
It’s just like taking them to a parade with all the people in silly green outfits – it’s showing part of the picture.
The trick is to get beyond that.