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A Prairie Home Companion show at Town Hall 12/3/11



A Prairie Home Companion show at Town Hall has been a live production I’ve wanted to see for years. In the past, the shows have sold out quickly, so I was excited when I bought a ticket. For myself. For Christmas. It was a present I gave myself. Going to a show by oneself is odd. Some would say it’s pathetic. So is masturbating. I know these things, but I still had to go…and do. I came into the city by myself. I am writing this on the train on the way home. I am alone. But I will write more details about the train in a little while. There are not a lot of fans of the show that I know of. Listening to the show has been a secret over the years. I am divulging this fact only to you. I can hear the shit from my brother and sisters, you listen to what? When? OK, on some Saturday nights I Iisten to the radio. Garrison Keillor appears to be a tortured artist, there are no two ways about it and I’m intrigued to learn more about him. He came on the stage wearing a long red tie, red sneakers, tight red socks and a black baggy suit. His thin hair was messy at times, strands flew in the air in different directions. Small thick glasses dangled on the bridge of his small nose. I brought one of his books hoping for the chance to get it signed. It didn’t happen. I had to leave to catch the train instead of hanging out after the show like some groupie. My seat was in the loge area, the seats were closer than I expected. Since I bought one seat, I was able to get close as possible. From past events when I would go by myself I have been spoiled. I had a great seat at Radio City to see the Dali Llama, Betty Carter at the Bottom Line, and now this. I still paid $75 which included the service fees. Before I review the show I have to describe where I’m sitting at this moment. As I mentioned, I am on the train. Sitting inches from me a couple who appear to be a few years older than me and who behave half lit. “I think we have enough left at home to make some martinis.” There is one punk who did something foolish as the train pulled into the station, the conductor asked as he looked out from an open window “Are you serious?” The droll punk hunched his rebellious shoulders, “Yeah.” Fair to say, I didn’t see what the punk did. Two adolescent girls who are deep into their teen years, spill out conversations from their seats, everything is so dramatic. I’m losing space for my review of the show and I apologize. Town Hall was sold out, which is normal for this short run production. The show comes to New York once a year, each time at this time each year, but I heard or read that Mr. Keillor was cancelling his show after this season, so there was an impulse to buy the tickets. I know Mr. Keillor is very busy in his own artistic pursuits from writing novels to editing poetry. He also has solo performances which after seeing tonight’s show I would like to see and compare it to A Prairie Home Companion. Here is the odd thing which dawned on me; his shows are clean which contradicts my usual humor. I prefer more of the insanity of Robin Williams or even my cousin Jason Gillearn. There is a hard edge in their humor. What is it about A Prairie Home? Looking at the audience which is older than me, we grasp onto an innocent ideal which is too remote in today’s world. Face it we are too connected for our own good, so listening to tales of Lake Wobegon is a little like sharing rumors of the town we would like to live in. Tonight’s fable or tale as it’s referred to in the show was about the reverend who conducts miracle healings. I loved how Keillor wove the tale, but I asked myself from my seat, how did he weave it, was it off the top of his head? Did he formulate something so unique in from of all of us, sharing it with the radio audience who were shallow breaths in the distance? It had the immediate impact, but it must have been practiced, the players knew when his story was winding down, they appeared from the sides of the stage. And the tale was over. So how does he do it? I think Mr. Keillor has the unique gift to tell a story. The musicians in The Guy’s All Star Band were incredible, they played some songs before the show began, and the crowd was worked up and out walked the casual story teller with the long red tie. It’s Saturday night…I was there in Town Hall, right there from the Lodge, stage left and so close I could see his facial expressions as well as the each of the players on the stage. It’s Saturday night. I would like to see if the show can continue without Mr. Keillor. Can it? The show began it seems as a goof when GK was in his mid thirties. He’s slowing down. He can’t stop, can he? Royal Academy of Radio Actors were hysterical, and for me was the real thrill to watch them perform, making back-ground music, small talk, the first skit with Heather Massie as a pseudo hippie psychic poet (was that Patty Smith) was a classic as an upset stomach rose to life out into the audience but it cut short by some professional editing just before it heaved. Heather I assume is a regular on the show and had such poise. Nellie McCay is stunning. What a spirit she has, her rendition of The Flamingos I Only Have Eyes for You was…different as her sax player cried out like as baby and Nellie strolled around the stage pretending to ease the “baby in her arms” and yet it was comical. She belted out The Beatles, I’m So Tired which was stripped and raw, smacking us on the side of the head, with a fair warning, take her seriously. “I give you all I got for a little piece of mind.” If you have not heard the show, take some time and listen to real players and souls on the radio. If you have the chance to see the show: GO! Sit back watch a play of words and emotions that only a true story teller can conjure from the Midwest or Minnesota or somewhere hovering over across the West.

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