June 30, 2015

The Theatre Part II

Simon Callow in his one man show The Mystery of Charles Dickens written by Peter Ackroyd.

When it comes to my favorites, I usually hedge my bets. In movies I often cite my big 3 of English Patient, Casablanca, and Doctor Zhivago. In novels, War and Peace is front and center but often feel compelled to also mention Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad or Moby-Dick. But in Theatre, there is one night that stands above all others and I've spent many a magical night in a darkened theatre gazing upon a footlit stage.
That play was a one-man show starring the sensational Simon Callow in The Mystery of Charles Dickens written by the brilliant Peter Ackroyd. I still get chills remembering that magnificent performance.

The prolific writer Peter Ackroyd. I recently finished his splendid Shakespeare bio.

As I often say, the externalities can have a huge impact from both the performer's and audience's perspective. This was in December 2001 not long after the 9-11 ordeal. Simon Callow arrived in town already well known to theatre goers for his many interesting movie performances with the local press hyping the superlative reviews from his London performances. December in Chicago has it's own magic and the venue was our wonderful Chicago Shakespeare Theatre which was then only 2 years old and a perfect space for such a performance.

Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier
I attended with an old friend, Lynn, who will travel for special performances as she made a special trip to Washington DC to see Cate Blanchett in A Streetcar Named Desire. I am sometimes wary of going to cultural events with her because she can be a chatterbox but she was splendid company that evening....and she did buy the tickets....and I picked up dinner and drinks post performance as we were both still riding that transcendent wave Simon Callow's performance had created.

Lynn and I still consider Callow's Mystery of Charles Dickens performance the greatest we have ever seen and still talk about it every Christmas.

Do you have a night of Theatre that stands above all others?


  1. Mr. Callow is indeed a winner and enjoy his screen performances, but have yet to have the pleasure of seeing him on stage.

    A night at the theater that stands above all others for me was when my parents took us to see Fiddler on The Roof in London when I was a child, starring the inimitable Topol. It was magica. With the passage of time, decades later, I still crave to see it one more time.

    1. My Dear CD,
      I also had the pleasure of seeing Simon Callow in a similar 1-man show 'Becoming Shakespeare' that was also well done although i'd highly recommend, it seemed to lack the magic that Callow's 'Dickens' performance had. Several others that saw both in Chicago shared these sentiments.
      i've never seen 'Fiddler' on stage but went to see the movie on a school field trip as a boy and it was a treat.

  2. I do like Simon Callow. But Im not a huge fan of the theater. Can we still be friends?
    I did see Marisa Tomei and Quentin Tarrantino in Wait Until Dark several years ago. I thought she was projecting her voice with such effort that her acting seemed forced and I thought he was pretty good which irritated me slightly as I dont really like him as a person.
    I just can't get drawn in to the character when its live-too many distractions

    1. I often say that bad Theatre is painful as walking out is never fun and often too conspicious. I usually do a bit of research to determine if a play is my cup of tea.