This summer has felt like that Johnny Cash song: “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man!” I had a lovely vacation hiking in multiple national parks in the US and the Lake District in the UK. Following the Lake District jaunt I relocated to London and started work on a whole new archive for the Andrew Lloyd Webber book. I found some fascinating items having to do with the concept album rollout of Jesus Christ Superstar and the original Broadway production directed by Tom O’Horgan. I also discovered intriguing tidbits associated with Evita, Starlight Express, and Aspects of Love. I spent many happy hours in the manuscript and music and rare books reading rooms at the British Library, but instead of carefully parsing seventeenth-century manuscripts, I was looking at much more recent theatrical history! I also had teas/dinners/drinks with many friends. Click here to read more.
While in London, I also saw a production of King Lear at Shakespeare’s Globe starring the amazing Kathryn Hunter in the title role. I loved Hunter in Joel Coen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth but this production didn’t quite hang together. I didn’t get a sense of why they were performing Lear, what they wanted to say. Hunter is an amazing physical actor, but those skills weren’t always in evidence. Still, her performance was sometimes quite effecting, particularly in the storm scene and the denouement. Perhaps I just have a limited appetite nowadays for capricious, authoritarian leaders? Michelle Terry, double-cast as the Fool and Cordelia, capered and sang with a melancholic satirical edge; Kwaku Mills executed his character arc compellingly as Edgar; and Ryan Donaldson was entertainingly villainous as Edmund, unabashedly playing to the groundlings.
The final stop was my alma mater Illinois State University for the North American British Music Studies Association Biennial Conference, where I gave a paper on the Wanamaker Playhouse production of Milton’s Comus. It was a strange experience to be back there after ca. 25 years—the campus was almost unrecognizable. I managed to reconnect with many people in Bloomington-Normal as well, including pals from my undergraduate days (we had a very enjoyable dinner at one of our old haunts).
Through it all, I managed to evade COVID and only had one travel snafu. No, Heathrow didn’t get me, but O’Hare did. I finally managed to make it home, only 10 hours after my scheduled arrival time, grateful that I’d managed to rebook and evade thunderstorms and staff shortages.