Week 40 — Biting off our leg to spite the whole body?

On the Fourth of July, we celebrate our county’s birth. We celebrate that one fact. We still acknowledge the unfortunate deaths in the revolutionary war, with its Valley Forge and so many people killed – new Americans died, as did British, the French and some German Hessians, among others. It was a war on our soil, but it was full of international death.

On Labor Day, we celebrate our working men and women. WE celebrate them and what they have accomplished. We still acknowledge the labor riots, the poor meat factory conditions that we learned about in Upton Sinclair’s THE JUNGLE, black lung disease that came out of the horrible conditions of working in the Pennsylvania coal mines, the need for child labor laws, and so many more similar instances like those.

On Memorial Day, we honor our military men and women who have served in both peacetime and war. We celebrate their service and their sacrifice. We still acknowledge that some of those military folks didn’t exactly behave so very well in other countries. Sometimes that was taking advantage of the ladies in those lands, fathering and abandoning children. Sometimes they took drugs and smoked pot on the front lines of Viet Nam.

Which brings up Columbus Day. On this day, we celebrate the opening of the New World – the discovery of an entirely new land mass that opened a whole new era of history to the entire world. We acknowledge that Mr. Columbus chose to abuse/mistreat/enslave the natives of the islands, and that he did not indeed hit the mainland – and other matters that have been attributed to his time on the seas.

If we are going to dissolve Columbus Day because of the conditions I mention, should we also be doing the same to the other commemorations I mention? Should we rechristen these events because of those less than stellar matters attached to them?

Of course not, don’t be silly! Of course I am being ridiculous in my comparisons.

There is no such thing as a perfect event or celebration. There are ways to deride any holiday – care to label Christmas as anti-Semitic? How about Thanksgiving? Perhaps PETA should consider it as discrimination against turkeys. I’m sure someone could even turn the moon landing of Armstrong and Aldrin (for which there is no national holiday – and should be) into a cause against interplanetary pollution.

We have recently watched some of our public schools try to rewrite their history textbooks because of certain things that are viewed as anti-American or non-patriotic. Aren’t we doing the same when we take our holidays and forget that the intent was to celebrate something in spite of the shadows that came with it? All that stuff about Columbus – unfortunate, ugly, distasteful – but do we take down the whole event because of it?

Such behavior to me sounds like the story about the stupid animal with his leg caught in a trap. He chewed off three legs and found himself still stuck.

Let us not imitate that beast by forgetting WHY we celebrate the things we celebrate …. And let us be smart enough to recognize the difference.

Week 39 – A Dedication of my playing with the Heartland Symphony

I have revived my career as a trombone player in the Heartland Symphony here in Brainerd. I played in many concerts through the eighties, but more or less haven’t been part of the group for like twenty years now. However, the opportunity arose for this fall, so I got signed up.

Our first concert of the year is music by the Russian Masters – some Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Rachmaninoff, for example. We played Friday in Pequot Lakes. Saturday night we’ll repeat the concert in Little Falls, and then Sunday in Brainerd.

There are many folks in the group that I know for one reason or another. Some fellow music teachers, some good friends, acquaintances from other areas of my life – we’re not the New York Philharmonic, but we do put out a pretty nice product for our size and skills.

And then a few memories crossed my mind – and these memories were people.

So there I was, sitting in the trombone section, playing 3rd trombone. My mind jumped to those who taught me about trombone – Jim Trotto in high school and Mark Lammers at Gustavus Adolphus college…. Both strongly influenced my career as a music teacher. Mr. T has been gone many years now, and Dr. Lammers still plays his trombone down in the Cities.

My mind also brought forth some former students – notably Dawn, who played the clarinet for me. She is no longer with us, having died at a young age and a mother of two. Nonetheless, I thought about her and her love for classical music.

And then there were those who used to play in Heartland Symphony over the years – There were two blond hot dog trumpet players – John E, who moved away, and Dwight N, who retired from his teaching career about the same time I did. There was another former student (trumpet player) who did some work with the symphony, but Brad doesn’t necessarily belong with these other two guys because he wasn’t blond, nor was he a hot dog. (Brad moved to Florida a long time ago and has made a successful life for himself….)

But I really wanted to mention a few who have passed out of this world, having played in the Heartland Symphony with me at one time or another.

Dave Nelson was a big bear of a guy with a brash sense of humor and a style all his own. I mean, who else do you know that would call the bar waitress over with the term “Hey, Wet Nurse!” He was a flute player (if you can imagine a man of his size playing the flute) who not only graced the Heartland Symphony flute section, but also played with the Minneapolis Police Band many times. I never did learn what took his life.

And there was Roger Lauve, trumpeter. He was a tall, balding gentleman – reminded me somewhat of Bud Abbott (the tall one of Abbott and Costello) and had a biting wit and wry sense of humor. He could play his trumpet well – classical, big band, and so much more. I considered him one of my first mentors as a music teacher – he taught up in Pine River and had some good bands. He died unexpectedly from what I had heard (and never knew for sure) from complications of an epileptic seizure.

And then Dale… D D D Dale Mittelstaedt. He played the French Horn in the symphony, as well as in some other groups. I type his name that way because he endured a rather severe stammer – and as politically incorrect it may be of me to mention it, he used it himself in so many other ways that showed his humanity, his great big huge sense of humor, and his great big heart. He, too, served as a mentor for me as a music teacher in the Little Falls middle school. He and his wife Shirley were as great a couple as I have ever met – so hilarious, so gracious as hosts, so wonderful as parents to their two girls…. Dale retired, lived a long life, and died, I assume, from smoking too many cigarettes.

I dedicate my playing in the fall concerts of the Heartland Symphony orchestra to these last three: guys who made so much of the music in their life – they meant a good deal to me and I thank God for the blessings they brought.

WEEK 38 – My call for the new Twins Manager . . . Terry Steinbach

And so the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club has stepped into the next era of managers. The Twins have been through twelve men in that position. Can you name them all? I will list them at the end of this article…. But until then, some thoughts on the Twins of 2014.

Ron Gardenhire did an admirable job. I am sorry to see him go, but it was a necessary step. His coaching staff has also been released, which is pretty much standard operating procedure.

I will not miss the pitching coach, Mr. Anderson, in particular. It sure seems he missed the boat on some good pitchers – or else the Twins gave up some good arms, so maybe it was former general manager Billy Smith – those pitchers who ‘got away’ are Kyle Losch, Pat Neschek, Johan Liriano, Francisco Liriano and Matt Garza in particular. I have to wonder what it would be like if the Twins had managed to hang on to a couple of these guys. Rick Anderson has performed quite well, but I still didn’t see what I had hoped from him.

Batting coaches? Vavra was one that I didn’t understand. He needed to be moved out of the batting coach slot. I wouldn’t mind the Twins giving Tom Brunansky another year to see what he can do there. Ullger should be able to catch on with other teams. Of Cuellar and Damman I have no opinion. That leaves Paul Molitor and Terry Steinbach – both of whom may be a couple of good candidates for the Twins manager of 2015.

If you want some sore spots:

The Twins have a history, it seems, of hanging on to young kids that don’t amount to much – and then give up on players who end up rocking the baseball world. I’m not sure how many more chances should be given for Arcia and the likes of him…. And I mourn over those who got away … Gomez in Milwaukee a little bit (only a little bit because he was a bit of a head case…) and can you imagine if David Ortiz had fit into the Twins plans in some way? As For Cuddyer, I wish we had held onto him. Justin Morneau is a very interesting case of moving the salary along, but then I have to ask if he was one we gave up on too quickly. Oh, and look. He just won the batting title in this year’s National League.

I have said it before: I am a Twins fan. Have been since they came to Minnesota from Washington DC in 1961. Their first few years were just the fantasy that a young kid (I was pre-teen then at the oldest) and then on into the late 1960s when they had a good level of success but got beat by the Orioles in the playoffs. When I think of the Twins and the 1970s, I have a few words: both of them are ROD and CAREW. Some minor names were Butch Wynegar and Lyman Bostock. On into the 80s, and the Twins were at their worst in 1982 when there were so very many rookies on the team; guys who later made it pretty good: Brunansky, Laudner, Hrbek …. And a little guy from the Chicago projects called Pucket.

1987 was so very much fun – the first time the Twins made it to the World Series and took St. Louis to task in seven games. Wilma and I hosted friends Tammy and Rick for the broadcast of one of the games. It was during the games that our daughter regaled us happily every time Kirby Puckett did something great …of course, she was two years old at the time, so her cheering came out “KIR PUCKEE! KIR PUCKEE!! How cute is that?

And some more years of competitive baseball and then 1991 – one of the best world series of all time – Twins vs. the Atlanta (CHOP) Braves, seven games, so very exciting…. The rest of the 90s – not so good, and the loss of Kirby to Glaucoma. On into the new century and the Twins gained some time in the playoffs – and there was the year I managed to get in the lottery for playoff tickets and won, so I could get to some of the games against the Angels. I was glad to take each kid to a game – pretty dang exciting…. Later that decade, more playoffs with tickets courtesy of a fine man and brother-in-law.

But then, since 2010, the Twins have dropped off the face of competition – but I do not waver in my loyalty to the Twins. They are and will be who I follow. And they are where my baseball hopes dwell. I wish the new manager, whoever he may be, a good first year, and that the Twins can indeed turn it around.

By the way, here’s the answer to the question. How many did you get? I had ten, and had to look up two of them: I had missed Goryl and Gardner. Have you noticed how many of them were utility players who could barely hit their hat size? The only pitcher in the bunch was Ray Miller, so it is ironic that the scary closer during his day was the famous Ron Davis, he of the blown saves fame who makes this year’s closer Perkins look like a hall of famer….

Cookie Lavagetto
Sam Mele
Cal Ermer
Billy Martin
Bill Rigney
Frank Quilici
Gene Mauch
John Goryl
Billy Gardner
Ray Miller
Tom Kelly
Ron Gardenhire

And the new manager for 2015? My prediction is Terry Steinbach.

WEEK 37: Teddy Roosevelt’s “Trust Busting” and Today’s Election Laws: A Comparison

Just over a century ago, trusts were the big economic news of the day.  They have become described as unscrupulous business practices with the purpose of controlling certain aspects of the country’s economic workings.  In many ways, this is happening again; not in industry, but in our very own election laws and campaign practices.


First, some history . . .


Back then, there were a handful of people who worked to manipulate conditions in order to gain control over a large aspect of the American landscape.  These people were Rockefeller, Morgan and Vanderbilt.  (There were others, but these three have become synonymous with that manipulation).  Their goal:  control industries in such a way that they benefitted not only in corporate profits, but also in their own financial gain.  Those industries were the railroads, steel manufacturing and oil production, among others.  They did this out in the open, and even with the government’s blessings in some ways. The Supreme Court, despite the purpose of the Sherman anti-trust act to control pricing, applied that law to making decisions against unions.


The trusts controlled rates and costs so much that they drove smaller businesses out of existence.  They employed tactics that included: (Source: http://www.linfo.org/standardoil.html)

(1) Temporarily undercutting the prices of competitors until they either went out of business or sold out to Standard Oil.

(2) Buying up the components needed to make oil barrels in order to prevent competitors from getting their oil to customers.

(3) Using its large and growing volume of oil shipments to negotiate an alliance with the railroads that gave it secret rebates and thereby reduced its effective shipping costs to a level far below the rates charged to its competitors.

(4) Secretly buying up competitors and then having officials from those companies spy on and give advance warning of deals being planned by other competitors.

(5) Secretly buying up or creating new oil-related companies, such as pipeline and engineering firms, that appeared be independent operators but which gave Standard Oil hidden rebates.

(6) Dispatching thugs who used threats and physical violence to break up the operations of competitors who could not otherwise be persuaded.


These trusts indeed brought the economic benefits of lower prices and higher quality, but only in the short-term.  Once the competition of the small companies was eliminated, there was no motivation to continue such work.  As well, any new innovation and invention was quashed, discouraging any further research and development.  This is from the same source as above.


Now, as for the comparison between the trusts of a century ago and today’s election system, let me continue . . .



We are hearing more and more about very influential people funding the campaigns of candidates for elective office, and at all levels.  These people are using similar tactics used during the time period of the trusts of a century ago.  Their goal:  to control the government by electing people who agree with them so they can benefit in business and in their own personal gain.  One difference:  they are doing so as quietly as possible; their names hidden in the fine print of those PACS (political action committees) we see so much in the media.  These PACS are funded in such a way that they air those negative ads that are misleading and unfruitful.

You know the names as well as I do.  They are the Koch brothers, Adelson of Las Vegas, and George Soros.  Both the Republicans and the Democrats benefit from such people in one way or another.  They, like the trusts of Rockefeller, Morgan and Vanderbilt, have some government blessings to do so:  the Supreme Court has defined corporations as people, and that money can be a matter of free speech.  Many find these decisions as disturbing as the courts of a century ago regarding the trusts.

Look at the points listed about the trusts.  Ask yourself if they are at all comparable to what’s happening in our election system today.  I think some of them do.

Do they undercut and disparage their opponents?  Do they secretly spy on each other?  Do they manipulate the market?  Do they try to limit voting practices one way or another?

In all cases, I say that they do.

Back in the day of the trusts, President Teddy Roosevelt took on those trusts.  He took them to court and broke up the trusts that were so out of control that he deemed them ‘bad’.  His goal was not to ‘trust bust’ as is so popularly held, but to regulate the doings of such business.  He did not to wish to destroy the benefits of those industries, but to make sure they benefited the good of the country.

It is time for some similar action in our election campaign laws and practices.  The undue influence of big money needs to be regulated.  Included in the list of the three men I mention I also include special interest groups that may have a single issue (like the NRA or the pro- and anti-abortion people) or larger issues (unions and entities like AARP who speak for larger groups of people).  These changes must be even-handed, addressing as many fair voting practices as possible.

It is time for our leadership, if there is any out there, to get these changes made.  (I am skeptical that such leadership is there: we have had nothing but managers for a good 20 years or more). It’s too late for the 2014 election season, but it is reasonable to expect such matters to be in place well before 2016.

It is time to reclaim the vote as belonging to the people and not the money.

Other sources: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/gilded-age/resources/theodore-roosevelt-and-trustshttp://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/antitrust, http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h951.html





Book Review: DANCE WITH THE DEVIL by JD March

Dance with the Devil
By JD March

dance devil cover

A book review by Charles Johnson Western Genre
Published by FIVE STAR, A part of Gale Cengage Learning 353 pages
DANCE WITH THE DEVIL offers a firm example of writing in the western genre. We meet all the required elements of such a tale; men of varying moral standing, the life of the ranch hand, the hot weather of a summer in near-desert conditions, and some good action scenes and adventure. The plot moves along with two lines of conflict that keep the reader involved and interested.

A hard-working, honest man (Guthrie Sinclair) who owns a ranch in the 1870s in New Mexico, finds himself confronted with a competing rancher (Chavez) who wishes to take over a neighboring ranch, one way or another. If that means gunplay, then so be it. A son returns (Guy Sinclair) after more than a decade living in the east, where he has served in the military and learned the refinements of urban life of the time. A younger son (John Sinclair, aka Johnny Fiero) also returns, having been taken away at a very early age from the ranch by his wandering mother. He has survived life of living in shacks, being abused, and learning to deeply hate so very early on; that hatred motivates him to hone his gun fighting skills so that he becomes one of the most renowned gunfighters of the period. The Range War between Cortez and Sinclair is ostensibly over water and timber rights of another ranch on which the owner Steen Andersson has died. Other complications arise that make those water and timber rights seem immaterial, including the security and the future of Peggy Andersson, heir to the Andersson ranch. As the range war escalates, the two brothers accept their part in it, each with their own level of commitment and involvement. The honest father observes his sons, approves of one, disappointed in the other. As for the sons Guy and John, though they share the same father, their upbringing in different parts of the country gives them traits that just don’t blend well, despite the efforts of the elder brother to get along.

The Sinclair men are the main characters in the book, each of them with their own characteristics. The dad brings his western stoic, honest nature to the story, the older son brings his cultured training to the ranch, and gunfighter Johnny is clearly the angry young man so often seen is westerns. The local country doctor (Ben Greenlaw) is a good friend of the Sinclair family as well as a fine physician who takes little guff from his patients. Peggy Andersson is the only major female in the book; I wish there had been more of her in the story, and more to her character. The only other woman close to being a major character in the book is Johnny’s mother. We meet her just briefly, much in the same way we meet Johnny’s women of the brothels; and there’s not much a difference between the mother and those brothel dwellers. Several other ranch hands and cowboys appear, offering some more of that western flavor to the book.

JD March, the author, describes the scenery quite well, bringing the reader into the various locations. The descriptions found my mind’s eye, admittedly a product of the 1960s TV westerns, recalling scenes from those TV westerns as I read various sections of the book. The view of the ranch from the hills found me echoing the opening of HIGH CHAPARRAL, the night-time camps brought up notions of GUNSMOKE, with images of Marshall Dillon and a prisoner wait out the night, and the fist fights in the bar brought many more westerns to mind. This is a good thing – it means the author was accurate in describing the scenes.

There are few comical situations. These are mild, not quite enough to function as comic relief in the story. In a few cases where humor works quite well, the two brothers converse, and the Bostonian son Guy uses words that amaze and confuse the gunfighter Johnny to no end.

We learn that the elder son has left Boston, not only at his father’s request to return to the ranch, but to avoid some bad times caused by his own dalliances. What those bad times were are explained, but I felt they could have been detailed more than they were. The younger son’s motivation for his angry personality are better explained, helping the reader to understand him in ways not provided as well for the elder son.

The dialogue is quite well written. The voices of the various ranch hands, the patrons of the bars, and the ladies of the brothels are all authentic. Their language is indeed in the vernacular of the Wild West; with the exception of one word. Our gunfighter Johnny is the only character in the entire book that uses the ‘f bomb’…and uses it quite often; taking away some of the credibility of the dialogue. (One would think that the other rough and tumble cowboys would also use such profanity). In fact, as I researched the ‘f bomb’, it would be fair to say that it is out of place and anachronistic to the time period and setting of the American Wild West. American literature didn’t use the word until the 1920s, and then mostly on the east coast. My suggestion; either have the word appear in conversation of others, or, preferably, don’t use it at all since its use didn’t seem part of the talk of the time and place.

And so, as you ride off into the sunset…

DANCE WITH THE DEVIL carries a good amount of the western genre in some exciting action and clearly written settings. Male characters are quite solid – I wish the women were clearer and stronger – and there’s the language matter I mentioned that pulls this book out of the young adult audience to some degree and strains the credibility of the dialogue in some ways. The novel does, however, offer a good read for fans of westerns as they sit with this book in front of the fireplace and a cup of coffee on the side.

WEEK 36 – The incompleteness of Statistics

I am:
A white (1) male (2) who is retired( 3) from teaching (4) and on a pension (5) who belongs to AARP (6) and is a church goer (7) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (8) and will soon be on social security (9) and owns some lake property (10) where I fish (11) and use a gas outboard motor (12). I drink an occasional alcoholic beverage (13), have gay friends (14) and politically lean a bit to the left (15).

So here I am, just one person who is in general pretty ordinary. Break me up into these 15 abstract parts, and I am pretty evil-looking, at least in some ways. Some people are not angry over WHO I am, but rather at WHAT I am.

Why is that? Among my friends who know WHO I am, all these various traits are intertwined, so they accept the weaknesses with the strengths. They know that I am who I am, perceiving me as a whole person, made up of several smaller parts.

Break me up into the fifteen parts I list, and I am no longer a whole package – I am a pile of statistics that can be separated into stacks of I HATE THIS ABOUT THIS GUY and I LOVE THIS ABOUT THIS GUY. This is the reverse of what my friends do. Due to these statistical piles, I am now perceived as a bunch of smaller parts that add up to the whole.

I can therefore be dismissed simply because someone doesn’t like one of those fifteen aspects. It doesn’t matter what the whole package amounts to. One flaw deems the rest as wasteful and of no use.

So enough of the self-aggrandizement and vanity. Let’s apply the idea further up the line.

I believe this effect is at work on a higher level. We are so busy making piles of what’s wrong and what’s right with our country (and each other) that we are forgetting to consider the whole package. I believe that the nature of our country, despite what the piles of statistics may indicate, is totally different. I don’t know if it is necessarily better or worse, but it is different.

We have become so very obsessed with statistics. We can’t do anything without making a top ten list, or finding some mathematical device to explain the qualities of anything we wish to examine. We want to know not only the top ten, but the bottom ten as well. It happens in industry, in education, in the economy. We compare everything, regardless of whether or not it makes sense to compare things.
We even apply statistics to things that cannot be quantified. I mean, really, can we honestly say which painting or piece of music is better than the other? Can you say a Shakespeare play should be higher on a list than a piece by Tennessee Williams?

Statistics, even at their best, are merely tool, folks. That’s all. They neither prove nor deny things. They are raw. They are part of the recipe. They serve a purpose, oh yes, they do. But that is all they do. They are a tool, just like a saw or hammer. Would you reject buying a house because you didn’t like the brand of hammer the carpenter used? Well then, why would you give final word to anything based on just statistics?

So then what do we do? Allow me one more personal, vain thought. I am indeed those fifteen things I stated first off – but that is not the whole picture. There may be some things that make me more than that list of fifteen things tells you, or I may be less. After all is said and done, those fifteen things do not make the whole picture.

I suggest this: we use the statistics as those very tools – and the more accurate the better, of course. But beyond that, we need to use the skill of critical thinking, in which we look beyond the tools and look at the whole picture, the whole enchilada, the entire package. There will always be more than is statistically available, and therefore, statistics can only BE a tool, not an end in themselves.

Analyze the statistics, yes. But that’s only part of it. Step back, use your critical sense – and common sense. Then, you can make your own conclusion to the whole picture.

Week 35 – Chanhassen’s HELLO DOLLY Reviewed

Reviewing HELLO DOLLY at Chanhassen.

HELLO DOLLY is a show that many theatres do – and that is so very well-known. It has been done before at Chanhassen Dinner Theatre. Wilma and I headed down there for the matinée this past Saturday to take in the show and have a nice dinner.

Let’s start with the dinner. We both had the lasagna, which we thought was quite good. The presentation was quite ordinary, though. No sprigs of parsley, nothing to dress up the plate. We kept it pretty simple as far as drinks went; coffee and water. We each got a piece of garlic bread, which was a bit disappointing – I thought there would be more bread offered. We followed up with dessert at intermission. I enjoyed a nice warm piece of triple berry tart, which went well with the coffee – and of THAT, there was plenty. Wilma had a turtle chocolate cheesecake, and in her words, it was “to die for”. The food, overall, quite good, but maybe a bit less in presentation than Chanhassen used to do…. And I do think we got our money’s worth for the food. The service was fine – quick and efficient, main course delivered quickly before the show and then a quick appearance of our desserts at intermission.

The facilities have been around since 1968 when it opened. The main theatre has had a few facelifts over the years – and the last time we were there, we noticed it was looking tired and in need of some new carpeting and stuff like that… and they’ve taken care of that. The lavatories were plentiful and clean. We took a walk through the complex when we were done eating; there are several shops connected to the theatre, as well as the usual box office and gift shop for the theatre itself. The main theatre, where HELLO DOLLY was staged, is a large venue. The seating (we were at a table for six, with none sitting in the middle seats) are ample enough but would have been rather tight if they had been there.

And so now to the show itself – after all, it is the main reason for heading down there.
HELLO DOLLY is based on the play THE MATCHMAKER by Thornton Wilder (more on that later…) and tells the story of one Dolly Levi, she of the optimistic plans and abilities to make things happen, among which are marriage arranging… and in this story, she is to find a mate for Horace Vandergelder (and that likely candidate is hat shop operator Mrs. Milloy) but her ultimate goal is to catch Horace for herself. On the way, we meet Horace’s employees Barnaby and Cornelius, who get themselves entwined as well with Mrs. Milloy and her employee Minnie.

The cast is vastly experiences and contains some fun surprises for Wilma and me. A while back we saw Tyler Michaels as Freddie in MY FAIR LADY at the Guthrie, but here he is as Cornelius. Longtime cast member Keith Rice plays the gruff Horace Vandergelder – we’ve seen him at Chanhassen as Curly in OKLAHOMA and Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN, to name a few. Cat Brindisi plays Mrs. Milloy, who had a part along with Tyler Michaels in MY FAIR LADY … and the fun thing here is that her mother plays Dolly…. And her dad? Michael Brindisi, who is very active in the Chanhassen theatres as part owner and as producer and director – he wears many hats indeed.

And that mother is Michelle Barber. She has been a strong presence in the theatre world of the Minneapolis area, having appeared on other stages in town as well as many appearances at Chanhassen. She plays Dolly as an upbeat lady who will not let conditions run her desires. Ms. Barber commands the stage when she is on, delivering lines with optimism and flowing across the stage in her marvelous gowns. Strong voice and great acting chops are always there for Ms. Barber, so she delivers a fine, fun Dolly for the audience. More on her later in a personal note.
Keith Rice also brings a strong presence to the role of Horace. He played it soft as Curly when he did in OKLAHOMA, but here in DOLLY, he is a gruff and no-nonsense man of the 1900s who runs his business and his social dealings with the usual effrontery of such men of the era. His big song is “IT TAKES A WOMAN” in which he leads the men of the office (and others) through his concerns about womanhood of the time.

Tyler Michaels plays the bumbling Cornelius – and is again a joy to watch as he uses his youthful appearance to give the part an innocence and childlike joy – until things get ridiculous and out of hand. Cat Brindisi, plays Mrs. Milloy, which is usually played by a somewhat older actress – but she hides her 22 years of age (or else the makeup department did) and she gives Mrs. Milloy a more saucy and sassy attitude – in other productions, the part is played as a bit prissy, so it was fun to see a new look at the role.

Dancers all over the place… the entire ensemble appears in so many of the songs… PUT ON YOUR SUNDAY BEST is one of the best, and of course, the big showstopper HELLO DOLLY is full of kicks and prancing and costuming and so much fun.

Costumes are period-perfect. Ladies in their long gowns and ribboned hats, men in their suits or their waiter’s outfit at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant … the only truly odd moment of the show is the choice of costumes used for the ‘band members’ in the song “BEFORE THE PARADE PASSES BY”. Dolly sings a great song, but it has been directed to be almost a dream sequence as the band members dance around in their grey/blue body suits – as if they had escaped from a Bob Fosse piece. It didn’t work for either Wilma or me.

This show opened the night before, so there were still a few technical slipups – the first word of some of the songs and dialogues were missed as the sound operator missed several cues, leaving the audience not hearing the first words of such instances. The lighting was fine and the sets were moved quickly within the context of the show, so there was no time lost for set changes.

On that personal note: Wilma and I were married in 1983 – and we honeymooned in Bemidji, where we took in a play at the PAUL BUNYAN PLAYHOUSE. The show? THE MATCHMAKER by Thornton Wilder, which I mentioned is the basis for HELLO DOLLY. And in that version those 31 years ago, the part of Dolly was played by – well, yes – Michelle Barber! Wilma and I remember her fondly for that part, and it was fun to find her doing THIS Dolly.

A good time at Chanhassen for DOLLY and her audience.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 853 other followers