The Michigan Daily
Thursday, February 18, 1988
By David Hoegberg
t Jerome Kern's and Oscar Ham-
merstein's Showboat, one of the
best-loved musicals of all time,
pulls into the historic Michigan
vfTheatre tonight for a stay of four
performances. Showboat is just the
sort of show that would have played
the Michigan Theatre in the The-
atre's heyday, for it opened on
Broadway in 1927 when vaudeville
was in and movies were still silent.
The Comic Opera Guild of Ann
Arbor's new production will hark
back to this bygone era with gusto.
"What's most unusual about this
production," says Director David
Freiman, "is that we have a live
llama onstage, a car from the
Domino's historic car collection, and
some really amazing costumes in the
Hollywood musical showgirl tradi-
Willis Patterson, associate dean of the School of Music, makes an tion." Attractions like those used to
appearance as Joe in The Comic Opera Guild of Ann Arbor's production
bring people miles on horseback to
the showboats of yore.
Although nostalgic, this Show-
boat is also somewhat revolution-
ary. According to Freiman, "The
show was outstanding in its day for
playing down the stereotypical roles
given to Black actors." In 1927,
Blacks were regularly portrayed by
black-faced white actors and rarely
appeared outside minstrel shows and
bug-eyed servant roles.
Showboat was one of the first
shows to put Black actors in fully
rounded and dignified roles. "Joe is
not a two-dimensional character,"
says Freiman. "He is essential to the
drama. The lasting popularity of his
song 'Old Man River' is a tribute to
his importance in the show." This
1988 production goes the original
show one better, for it is one of the
first to cast a Black actor in the ro-
mantic lead role of Gaylord Ravanal,
the riverboat gambler who marries
the leading lady, Magnolia.
"Colorblind casting is common
nowadays in opera and operetta but
less common in drama and musi-
cals," says Freiman. "Race was
never an issue in our casting deci-
sions. We took only the best people
who auditioned." Freiman looks
forward to the day when that attitude
is no longer newsworthy.
Meanwhile, he is trying to put on
the most entertaining show he
knows how. Freiman has collabo-
rated with musical director Timothy
Cheeks and choreographer Jacqueline
Cowling in two other shows with
excellent results. He also acknowl-
edges the wealth of talent the Uni-
versity community has to offer. The
cast and crew of the show include
School of Music students and recent
graduates as well as other University
faculty and staff, including Willis
Patterson, associate dean of the
School of Music, in a feature ap-
pearance as Joe.
SHOWBOAT will be performed
at the historic Michigan Theatre
tonight through Saturday at 8 p.m.
There will also be a performance on
Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12,
$9, and $6. Student and senior dis-
counts and group rates are available.
For further ticket information call
the Michigan Theatre Box Office at
668-8397. RAY WADE, the leading
man of SHOWBOAT ,will preview
some of the songs today at 12:15
p.m.in the Kuenzel Room of the
Dear Heart, Old Buddy
By John Malcolm Brinnin
John Malcolm Brinnin presents an interesting, easy-to-read biogra-
phy in Truman Capote: Dear Heart, Old Buddy. His use of excerpts
from personal journals and saved correspondences bring to life the more
than 30-year friendship between he and Capote. Brinnin faithfully recre-
ates scenes from the various parties and social events the two attended,
mentioning names and relating conversations with their friends from the
literary and entertainment worlds. Most importantly, Brinnin allows us
to see inside Truman Capote. The problem, which he acknowledges, is
that he has an unobjective point of view.
Brinnin first introduces Capote as a young hopeful novelist who
found an audience before he published a book. Brinnin recalls, "He
became a cynosure, a catalyst, the chemist's drop of volatile substance
that changed the composition of any gathering from amity to efferves-
cence." Rumored exploits of the flamboyant youth became a favorite
subject of gossip columnists and his name "had a way of turning up in
circles he had never entered."
Capote became a source of wonder to society. Many, including
Brinnin, seemed to regard Truman as a being who somehow transcended
humanity. Those who knew him believed he had "an uncanny way of
choosing just those people who [understood] him and [would] help him.
It's in his stars ... that he travel in the right direction."
These friends had more faith in Truman than Truman had in himself.
At one point Brinnin states, "Knowing where he was, I could not tell
where he was going, and so took comfort in the fact that he had never
in his life embarked without a well calculated plan." At the same time
he describes Capote as a man given to periods of depression and
dissatisfaction. Capote was torn between the attention he craved among
the rich and famous and the space and quiet he needed in order to create.
Capote's novels, including In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's,
were primarily written abroad in virtual isolation from society. In New
York Capote became the man about town, employing "circus tactics of
promotion" and surrounding himself with the notoriously rich. Capote
claimed he didn't "so much want a reputation as [he wanted] a career"
and if a reputation could help him get it, "what [was] wrong with a
Although Brinnin writes down the facts of Truman's life, he has a
difficult time coming to terms with them. He says, "I still wondered
what had so swiftly deflated Truman's obsession with working space
and working hours, an obsession that had governed him through all the
years of our acquaintance." Moreover Capote did not promote Brinnin's
illusions of him. He told Brinnin, "The thing you can't seem to get
through your pretty head is that I've never pretended to be that prose-
poet you and the others tried to make me."
Brinnin's association with Capote began to wane as their circle of
friends drew farther apart. Years passed without a word between the two
or with only sparse phone conversations and messages. During these
time periods Brinnin bases his knowledge of Capote on reports from
mutual friends and on the stories which frequently appeared in
newspapers. Brinnin recalls, "Truman's increasing troubles with liquor,
automobiles and controlled substances became staple items for the'news
Their separated paths posed a problem for Brinnin in relating a clear
view of Capote's last years. The novel becomes less a biography of
Capote and more of an autobiography as Brinnin describes, as he does
throughout, the direction of his own life and career. It is interesting to
see how two who started out as close friends were drawn to very dif-
ferent spheres of life and ended up so very far apart.
Truman Capote: Good Heart, Old Buddy is a very informative,
inside look at the life of Truman Capote before his involvement with
"the hard glitter of success and ... the careless bravado of self-exploita-
tion." Brinnin records Truman's last years as best he can given their
distance and loss of intimacy. However his ending can do no more than
leave the reader with a sad, sentimental,,and incomplete look at the
deterioration and tragic end of his once idealized friend.
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