Friday, March 13, 2009

A Week of the Familiar

This week was oddly filled with remembrances of things past. I saw a preview for the Broadway revival of West Side Story (disappointing); sang a benefit concert of classic chorale standards (pretty satisfying); and watched one of the last episodes of the long-running series, ER (very satisfying, but them I’m a rank sentimentalist).

The music of West Side Story is part of the DNA of the 2oth century. The main motifs, like Candide, are still fresh, energized, full of life. The singing for this revival wasn’t very strong-—both Maria and Tony were just mediocre. And this in a town where you can’t swing a dead cat without knocking down an annoying but talented soprano and a kick-ass tenor. I didn't like the set, the stage always felt crowded. I don't know why a boy soprano was added to "Someday." The Jets girls were wearing strange shorts. The Sharks were hotter all around, with Karen Olivo as Anita was the best thing in it.

The choral favorites were a joy to bring to life at the end of a long work day. There’s a reason the Mozart Ave Verum Corpus is considered a perfect motet. Another highlight were the pieces from Mendelssohn’s Elijahsung by the professionals: the bass solo “Lord God of Abraham” the tenor solo “Then shall the righteous shine,” and the trio “Lift thine eyes.” The solo voices were both exquisite: expressive, deeply distinctive, seemingly effortless. To experience live, trained, classical singing like that is like watching a talented athlete at the top of his/her game. You keep wondering, how do they do it? Especially if you, say, play golf yourself, then watch Tiger Woods on tv. You have even more of an appreciation of what he can do from your amateur status.

But being a pop culture girl at heart, it was the ER episode that topped the week. It connected the beloved old A team through the story of John Carter, who needs a kidney transplant connected back to when he was stabbed by a psychotic patient 10 years ago.

And so it actually came to pass: George Clooney’s return to television. For fans of the series, which I was for its first 8 years, it was a big deal that he came back, not because of his fame, but because of his place in the show’s history. I’m glad that he respected it. The show was well written, and it played all the chords we wanted to hear. It showed us Carol and Doug working together in Seattle. The gamble that the womanizer Doug Ross would really settle down had paid off in one of the greatest tv fantasies of all time. The last shot we see of Doug is shirtless, in bed with Carol, SNUGGLING.

The Carter/Benton relationship was always my favorite storyline, and in just minutes Noah Wyle and Eriq LaSalle evoked the years of their mentor/student relationship. It reminded me of the great intervention episode, where Carter's colleagues step in to get Carter into drug rehab. It looks like it's not working, that Carter isn't going. The tension and suspense were so well done that I remember them 12 years later. In the last instance we see Carter on the plane, and the camera slowly pans back to reveal Benton sitting next to him. I remember holding my breath for the whole last moments, and crying a little with that reveal, it was so unexpected that that selfish character would put himself out for anyone.

If you’re a fan, you must go join the conversation over at Alan Sepinwall’s.



clairehelene7 said...

I was a big fan of ER in years past, and missed this episode, because I was afraid for hokiness. Because of this I'll watch it on Hulu.

M.A.Peel said...

Claire, not everyone agreed with the Carol/Ross storyline in reference to Carter. I didn't put it in the post, not to spoil it. What did you think? Should Ross have found out who the kidney was for?