My beautiful neighbor surprised me with a sturdy, dark- red, velvet rose. I put it in a vase and enjoyed its lingering fragrance for almost a week. I had to leave it for two summer experiences: The first was to attend the performance of “Sunset Boulevard” by Andrew Lloyd Webber at the Erie Playhouse. Webber’s musical is based on a film by Billy Wilder. The production was spectacular. Norma Desmond, the lead, was played admirably by Trisha York, whose husband Bruce conducted the orchestra. The “fading movie star” of the twenties, who was convinced that Cecil B. DeMille would want to produce her script, appeared in costumes both outlandishly and magnificent. I loved the drama and the deliberate “over the top” acting. The Erie Playhouse is in an old but refurbished building and in its 98th season. I will not forget Desmond’s turbans and hats, one as large as a dishpan, glittering with “jewels.” York wore her glamorous outfits with panache. Her voice was soaring and commanding.
Four hundred miles west, in Michigan City, we went to see George Maslankowski play Tito Merelli in “Lend Me a Tenor.” (We barely recognized our friend George because he had dyed his hair black for the role.) The building is a storefront theatre, but its space and unpretentious seating belies a successful theatrical philosophy and reputation. The Footlight Players of Michigan City are celebrating their 65th season.
I was taken with the costumes worn by the lead actors, George and Aram Arden, who played “Max.” Credit has to go to a talented seamstress, Monique Fredline, who searched and found the fabric, designed, and made both Othello costumes. The outfits, lined jackets and pantaloons, featured crimson and gold fabric, gold braid, and gold buttons. The puffy undershirts were white with ruffled collars. Truly a talent, Monique also made the "Chrysler building" dress worn by "Julia." The Italian tenors, who confuse both their audience and their lovers, energetically moved in and out of numerous doors with amusing authority.
Summer brings surprises, sweet, small, and spectacular. For instance, while watering plants on my deck, I was surprised by a little brown frog in a potted plant. He looked at me warily and waited until I moved away before hopping off. Whether it’s an outdoor Patriotic Pops concert, chasing fireflies, or taking in Oshkosh’s aviation activities, summer moments form a pastiche of memorable surprises. Some are glorious concepts, such as the celebration of America’s independence. America is far from perfect, but in view of atrocities where freedom is restricted and hatred unfurls horror and violence, life here is sweet, magnificent, and spectacular. I am thankful for our Constitution.