written Thursday, November 06, 2008
All Right! I might as well get this out there right off the bat: I actually enjoyed the Andy Williams Christmas Show that Dar talked me into attending yesterday. Yes, I enjoyed it! With all my grumbling about the lines, the crowds, the traffic, aging performers, and all the other touristy hoopla here in Branson, probably no one thought I'd say that. I certainly didn't.
But I had a great time. First of all, you've got to admire someone who's doing what they love, and enjoying it so much that they'd rather work at their craft than relax, retire, and fade away. He doesn't say how old he is, but a little research found he's 81 years old. In person, he certainly doesn't look like an octogenarian. Even if he has a cosmetic surgeon on retainer (and he probably does), so what? Performing is his passion and looking good is a part of performing. Way to go, Andy.
We were seated on an aisle about mid-way back in the front section of the theater, which was only about half full. But the place holds over 2,000 people so half-a-house is still a good turnout at $39/head. Just after the performance started, an usher knelt down next to me and whispered if we'd like to move to front row center, where they had a few open seats. Of course! Why not? So off we scooted.
When sitting in the middle of an audience, further back, there's little or no intimacy with the performers. I often like that because I can really relax, maybe nod off -- catch a little nap and be thoroughly rested and ready for the drive home. There's a splendid anonymity to it, it doesn't matter if you applaud or not, you can just hide-out as part of that large singular mass of humanity.
But let me tell you, Bunky... being in the center of the front row is something else. The performers, I'm told, can only see the first few rows of the audience, and they usually form a bond with this sub-set for the purpose of feedback. There's an intimacy about it -- two-way communication based on eye contact, body language, and emotional reactions. Just like public speakers, performers crave that intimacy during a performance as reinforcement that what they're doing is working. I got absolutely no rest at all.
During the rest of the performance, Dar was often the subject of old Andy's eye-contact. For example, in "Moon River", Dar melted when he looked at her while he sang "Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker..." You had to be there.
I wouldn't have been surprised if, at 81 years old, he'd only been on the stage less than half the time, singing a few old favorites, and mostly introducing other performers. But that's not what we got. I'd guess he was on stage 80% of the time, singing song after song and working with other performers. And this guy can still belt out a tune.
The show was reminiscent of his variety television show and Christmas Specials from the 60's and 70's. A strong Christmas theme, a mix of other performers, and a strong talented band. Reminiscent too, was his interplay with the audience, his mannerisms, and his self-deprecating style of humor.
I, we, had a great time.
Now, if we could just do something about that carnival outside.