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Sunday, March 14, 2010

CATS AND UGANDA*


I checked in to the W Hollywood, which opened earlier this year. The neighborhood, Hollywood and Vine, is not quite what I expected, compared to 50 years ago. Something went awfully wrong, as the hotel is surrounded by parking lots, shuttered stores, a few outlet stores and various fast food places. However, the LA Metro (Hollywood/Vine station) is in the basement, and, clearly, Hollywood and Vine, once the symbol of everything Hollywood, is undergoing a makeover. In addition, a block away, there is a laid back Sunday market, which reminds me of California in the 60's. Just about every type of food is served, a dozen or so areas of music with the full range of American genre and just about everything you might want to purchase.

Across the street from the W is the the Pantages Theater, just about approaching 80 years old, but nicely showing a $10 million refurbishment, completed a decade ago. Howard Hughes once owned the complex and maintained his personal office here. The Academy Awards were held in this auditorium from 1949 to 1959. It has a seating capacity of 2700 and is larger than the London (We Will Rock You) and New York City (South Pacific and West Side Story) theaters.

Why I provide so much detail is that I noticed just before 1PM that Cats was playing and a lot of people were milling around. While I did not think much of that show from an early broadway experience, this was one of Pearl's favorites, so I thought I would try to view the show from her perspective.

So, even though a sign said it was sold out, I walked over, asked what was the best seat available, and got a twelfth row (there are about 50 rows and a large balcony), middle seat for about half the price of a typical New York City broadway show. People do cancel. A couple of minutes after I found my seat, the show started.

The opening of Cats, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, was almost 30 years ago in London, with Elaine Paige as Grizabella and Sarah Brightman as Jemima. Paige sang Memory, both in the original and the 1998 film. The New York broadway version became the longest-running musical with 7,485 performances. Webber's Phantom of the Opera broke that record with 9179.

Webber wrote the musical, but the lyrics come from the 1939 Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, by Thomas Stearns Eliot, also known as T.S. Eliot. The original director, Trevor Nunn, is credited, though, for the words of Memory (6 minute Elaine Paige version), using T.S. Eliot's poems from that compilation. Many remember the Barbra Streisand hit. This one runs for almost 4 minutes.

Well, I'm glad I re-saw Cats, because I now have more positive vibes about the show and can better identify with the process of growing old, yet, maintaining hope, the attitude I am trying to maintain in my most recent Huffington Post article on "Evolution, Devolution and Revolution."


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Welcome, my 143rd country:

UGANDA POPULATION: 32,369,558

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Background
The colonial boundaries created by Britain to delimit Uganda grouped together a wide range of ethnic groups with different political systems and cultures. These differences prevented the establishment of a working political community after independence was achieved in 1962. The dictatorial regime of Idi AMIN (1971-79) was responsible for the deaths of some 300,000 opponents; guerrilla war and human rights abuses under Milton OBOTE (1980-85) claimed at least another 100,000 lives. The rule of Yoweri MUSEVENI since 1986 has brought relative stability and economic growth to Uganda. During the 1990s, the government promulgated non-party presidential and legislative elections. In January 2009, Uganda assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2009-10 term.

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Oh my! Tropical Cyclone Tomas (Thomas) is already at 145 MPH, possibly still strengthening, and is hitting Fiji. This could be the worse storm to ever strike this country. However, there are signs that Tomas will move south and east, away from Fiji.


Wow! Tropical Cyclone Ului is now at 195 miles per hour, and could devastate some of the Solomon Islands. You will remember Guadalcanal from World War II, although Rennel Island is especially vulnerable.


Have you seen two more significant storms so close to each other?



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A short clip from the current Cats, Memory, sung by Anastasia Lange. She was spectacular.

video

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