News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Equalizer: Opening Ceremonies In 5 Acts
BY JONAS BEALS
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The London Olympics’ opening ceremony was the usual overwrought mash of stilted history, technological awkwardness and Philippine prison-style dance numbers.
As an American, I will probably never understand the immense pride Britons have in their country, but opening ceremony director Danny Boyle (“Trainspotting,” “Slumdog Millionaire”) led me to believe it comes from a place of deforestation, pollution, turbocharged social stratification facilitated by the industrial revolution and “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” Also, Mr. Bean.
As an American, I have a different idea of what makes Great Britain worthy of such a presumptuous moniker. After all, Great Britain gave the world William Shakespeare, Christopher Wren and Phil Collins.
The UK deserves better.
Scene: the streets of London, in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Bill Shakespeare (played by Stephen Fry) struts down Ludgate Hill, waving to passers-by and high-fiving the likes of Ben Johnson, Oscar Wilde and Tom Stoppard. He happens upon the queen, and, walking up behind her, brazenly recites Sonnet 130. The offended queen turns, revealing not Her Royal Highness, but John Cleese in drag.
Accompaniment: “Penny Lane” by The Beatles (All music throughout the performance provided by the house band of Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Pete Townshend, Paul Simonon, Robert Plant, David Gilmour and Susan Boyle)
Scene: London Docklands, The HMS Victory
Shakespeare, on the run from a rightly offended Monty Python gang, runs into rebel leader Terry Gilliam, who casts Shakespeare as Ruth in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” (replacing Angela Lansbury). Cleese and company enjoy the play, oblivious to Shakespeare, who steals the show as a convincing Lansbury.
Accompaniment: “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd
Scene: The HMS Victory, the streets around Wembley Arena
Lansbury helps Shakespeare evade Cleese, et al. by taking him to an underground safe house, where he is brainwashed by Joe Strummer, John Lydon and Sting. The Bard emerges in leather jacket, Doc Martens boots and multiple safety-pin face piercings to lead a protest against a Yes concert at Wembley Arena. This is the big pyrotechnic set piece of the ceremony, with massive gangs throwing Molotov cocktails and glowing beer bottles. A 3–D spectacular! Shakespeare is knocked unconscious.
Accompaniment: “Anarchy in the U.K.” by The Sex Pistols
Scene: Dream sequence at the legendary round table.
Shakespeare sits in front of a plate of greasy newspaper and takes in the action: J.R.R. Tolkien feeds pages of the Bible to Roald Dahl, Benny Hill chases Margaret Thatcher around the table while J.K. Rowling and Julie Andrews fight over the last piece of Christmas goose. None of it makes any sense.
Accompaniment: “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran
Scene: Wembley Arena
A wayward firebomb opens a time portal, and two bands step out. Shakespeare is forced to judge a three-way rock-off between Yes, The Spice Girls and Oasis. After Oasis places third, Noel and Liam Gallagher Greco-Roman wrestle in the middle of the stadium. Did I mention this part is real?
Accompaniment: “Village Green Preservation Society” by The Kinks
Exeunt all, the bloody Gallagher brothers on stretchers.
JONAS’ IN-TOWN PICK: Sabor Afrocubano at Historic Market Square downtown. Yeah, it’s been hot, and this show is outside, but this music has spent centuries marinating in sweltering humidity, making it appropriate for central VA. Friday at 7 p.m.
OUT-OF-TOWN PICK: Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville. A favorite of mine, and one of the best singer/songwriters working today. Thursday at 7 p.m.
LISTENING TO: “Top Yourself” by The Raconteurs. The whole album—“Consolers of the Lonely”—is an explosive survey of the sort of country-blues-rock that makes America great.
Jonas Beals: 540/368-5036