Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ode to a Former Boy Wizard

     At the behest of our eight-year-old theater critic, my wife and I took our daughters -- for a second time -- to How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying starring, among others, the erstwhile ex-Harry Potter Danial Radcliffe.  The entire show was -- or perhaps I should say "remains" -- grand, smashing entertainment, both sweeping and rollicking in its music and performances and cleverly subversive in its commentary on corporate culture (and, remember, it was originally performed in 1961).  The entertainment value was due in no small part to Mr. Radcliffe himself, who played the role of the naif cum master manipulator with great panache, humor and charisma.  Depending on your opinion of him as a performer, that may come as no surprise.  What blew my socks off (again) was the unbridled energy and and gusto with which he threw himself into the musical numbers and the dancing (also on display during the Thanksgiving Day Parade).  Not trained as a dancer, so far as I know, Mr. Radcliffe held his own with -- occasionally even outshined -- the cadre of professional dancers backing him up.  And these are not easy numbers.  Two in particular -- Grand Old Ivy and Brotherhood of Man -- call for a surprising degree of strength, stamina and acrobatic skill.
     Surely, if there is any actor around right now who can rely on his name to pull in crowds, who does not have to exhaust himself into a gasping, sweating heap eight times a week, it is Mr. Radcliffe.  But his absolute commitment, his unbridled enthusiasm for giving every audience something special, something they can enjoy and remember, is really quite extraordinary.
     It did make me think about the nature of art and the expectation of the audience.  Do we love art more simply because it's beautiful, enjoyable or, on some level, meaningful to us?  Or is there a component of the artist's effort that figures into the audience's experience, even if unconsciously?  Does this effort somehow make the work itself deeper or grander?  Can an effortless piece of art have the same weight as one that required a huge amount of work to produce?
     I don't know, but Mr. Radcliffe has my admiration for his commitment and for getting me to ask myself a new question about the artist's craft.

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