Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 September 2009 18:23 Written by Tom Krehbiel Sunday, 29 August 2004 21:05
I shouldn't admit it, but the main thing I enjoy about the Home Entertainment Expo is that it gives me an occasional excuse to spend a few days knocking about New York City. This year's event was no exception.
So this show report is really about the notable visits Mrs. tk and I made to locations some distance away from the Hiltion Hotel venue.
The first was a pilgrimage to 34-56 107th Street, Corona, Queens. That's where Louis Armstrong lived from 1943 until his passing in 1971 and the structure and furnishings have been meticulously restored and preserved in a way that reflects the spirit of both Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille.
I took special interest in seeing Pops's study with the custom-installed stereo system that included very classy Tandberg tape units. Armstrong spent hours compiling tapes of not only music that he enjoyed, but also of conversations with neighbors and friends, and of his own spoken commentaries and off-the-cuff musical moments.
The house is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 5 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 pm. You can get more information on this wonderful museum, the Armstrong archives at Queens College, and associated educational and cultural programs at www.satchmo.net.
We accidentally happened upon the Dahesh Museum of Art while strolling near the Hilton (www.daheshmuseum.org). It's at the corner of Madison Ave. and 57th St. Like the Armstrong House, the Dahesh Museum reflects the cultural contributions and artistic interest of one person. In this case the person was Salim Moussa Achi, a Lebanese author who wrote under the pen name Dr. Dahesh.
Dr. Dahesh lived from 1909 to 1984 and collected prints, paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, and books with a vision of establishing a premier art museum. The collection was moved to the United States in 1976 and the Dahesh Museum was founded in 1987.
The collection and museum focus on academic or salon art from 19th and early 20th century Europe. The artists of the academies favored sumptuous landscapes, exotic "Oriental" scenes, closely observed animals, and grandiloquent images from history and myth.
When we stopped in, we found a special exhibition called "Staging the Orient." It displayed costumes, costume sketches, set designs, architectural models, and historic photos from oriental-themed operas as presented at La Scala and The Metropolitan Opera. Stunning!
Speaking of stunning, on the way back from the Armstrong house, we came up out of the subway at Times Square to take a look around. Right at the exit stood the Ford Center for the Performing Arts presenting the revival of 42nd Street with Shirley Jones and her son Patrick Cassidy in two of the lead roles.
A quick inquiry at the box office elicited the information that the show started in about 20 minutes and that there were two seats available in fourth row center of the orchestra. We took them and viewed the show from a vantage point that made us feel as if the cast was performing for our personal enjoyment.
The show overflows with lines that have become cliches: "You're going out there a chorus girl - but you've got to come back a star!" But that's because the plot devices have had 70 years to weave themselves into the fabric of American musical theater. The show's first appearance was as a movie musical in 1933. It first hit the stage in a 1980 Broadway adaptation. The current show is a revival of that adaptation.
The stage play lightens the story a bit by not making a point of (in fact not really mentioning) the failing health of producer Julian Marsh (played by Cassidy) and the fact that the show he's trying to put on will be his last chance at a Broadway hit. At this point in the story's history and lifetime, lightness is a perfect fit. It was a great evening of great songs, good performances, and great fun.