Christmas week a family affair

On December 21 the Yellow Point Christmas Spectacular wrapped up its run with an afternoon performance at the Port Theatre in Nanaimo. Having lived with the show since November 18, it was difficult not to feel a certain loss. Suddenly you realize you won’t be playing through your piano score ever again, and many cast members who you got to know well over the last month may never cross your path again. When a show goes dark it’s almost like a death. However, it’s part of showbiz and such inspired journeys inevitably end.
On Monday it was time to move on and get ready for Christmas. My wife Pat was cruising the malls searching for gifts. My job was to shop for the provisions needed for our big family feast, which we traditionally have on Boxing Day. By 8:00 am on Christmas Eve day I was out the door and loading a supermarket basket in advance of the crowds I knew would be jockeying for parking lot space by mid-­‐morning. By noon I had everything packed away in our kitchen cupboards or stacked inside the refrigerator, ready for Friday’s marathon turkey-­‐cook day.
With Pat wrapping Christmas gifts during the afternoon of Christmas Eve, I decided to take in a movie matinee. A good choice I thought would be a new Ailm version of the Broadway musical Annie that had just opened at the Galaxy theatre here in Nanaimo. Having performed the Broadway version with a student group during my high school teaching years, I know the live show well and was looking forward to seeing the new 2014 movie version. I recall in the process of rehearsing students using the very popular and well-­‐done 1982 film as a teaching tool.
Unfortunately my decision to attend the matinee was a mistake; the 2014 film update is an absolute disaster. According to all the preview hype, this new version of Annie was supposed to build a new generation of fans for the musical. Well, sprinklings of these young folks were at the same screening I viewed Wednesday afternoon and most looked bored out of their minds.
Some things in classic film fare should never be tinkered with. The Wizard of Oz would be one. No remake could ever top the first one. Gone With the Wind is another. Sadly this 2014 version of Annie is nothing more than an attempt by the Sony movie studio to fleece trusting parents looking for some respectable holiday entertainment for their children. I understand the film was also one of those stolen in the recent cyberattack by North Korea of the company’s computers. Perhaps Kim Jong-­‐un wanted it for a private screening.
I recall Carol Burnett being hilarious as Miss Hannigan in the 1982 film. In this updated version the role is played by Cameron Diaz who screams her dialogue at such a shrill pitch that my ears haven’t yet recovered. As far as her singing goes, it was pure torture. The character of Daddy Warbucks in this ill-thought-out mess has been renamed Will Stacks, a rich industrialist who is running for mayor of New York City. Oscar-­‐winner Jamie Foxx literally sleepwalks through the part. And what about Annie herself? I need to be fair here. Quvenzhané Wallis, who in 2012 was the youngest actress ever to receive a nomination for an Academy Award for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild, does a pretty good acting job although her vocal chops are fairly thin.
Singing is obviously a key component in any musical. Sadly in this new version it was decided to update the classic Charles Strouse score to fit with the popular music of today. What a dumb idea. As an example, the musical’s big hit ballad Tomorrow had a backbeat so heavy it sounded like the Rolling Stones were doing a stadium sound check. The film’s soundtrack has been processed to a synthetic muddle and the vocals auto-­‐tuned to the point that any real musical emotion has been literally squeezed from every bar. Basically every song has been made to sound like your typical pop tune complete with electric drums and banks of synthesizers.
About an hour in I couldn’t take it anymore and headed for the theatre exit.  

PHOTO: Pat prepared a superb Boxing Day dinner in our Nanaimo home. From L to R – Brother Terry, daughter-­‐in-­‐law Jessica, grandsons Nathan & Matthew, Pat, son Cory, daughter-­‐in-­‐law Dorianne and son Brock. 

PHOTO: The turkey. I can hardly wait to start carving. 

PHOTO ABOVE: My father cut out this group of carol singers in the 1940‘s from a sheet of 1⁄4 inch plywood. I display it every year at our front door. Back in those days lead was still a key ingredient in paint so the colours have never faded.

PHOTO ABOVE: 16 years ago Pat & I conducted our last School District #70 Christmas Candlelight Concert. As a gift, the students in the choir had melted down all the candles used over the years for rehearsal purposes and made one gigantic one for us. Every Christmas Pat and I light the candle at our family dinner. 

PHOTO: Son Cory gave me a painting by Port Alberni artist Michelle Peffers. It was painted from a photo of me climbing down from the cab of APR Locomotive #7 during a switching operation in the Port Alberni Rail Yard. I hung the painting on my office wall. 

PHOTO : Every December I display this model steam engine that my brother Terry & I received as a gift from our parents on Christmas Day in 1946. 

PHOTO : This black and white photo shows my brother (L) and myself admiring the model train that my father had built and set up for us on Christmas Day 1946. 

PHOTO: My Christmas gift this year was a new workbench. It took my son Brock and myself over two hours to assemble it. The hardwood top looks almost too good to repair stuff on.