A couple of months ago, a friend asked me if I wanted to join a group to see "The Rhubarb Tour", A Prairie Home Companion's travelling show. Understand, please, that it takes a crowbar to persuade me to go to anything that involves a large crowd, so when I say it took me only the time to make sure I was free to say yes, that says a lot about how I feel about the performers.
Interestingly, the Rhubarb Tour was not recorded for broadcast.
I listen to part of PHC pretty much every week, usually in my car, but it has been years since I made a point to tune in. I may not seek it out, but when our paths have crossed, it has never failed to entertain. I am well acquainted with "It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon", Guy Noir, the ketchup advisory board, and the resident cast of characters.
We went to dinner, then drove to the theater in the pouring rain. In spite of the miserable weather, the theater was filled (like every seat) with enthusiastic people (of course, we don't get much in the way of live entertainment in this burg). But the soaked crowd had no complaints.
I have to say the time flew. Dominant on the stage were Garrison Keillor (natch), the beautiful Sue Scott who not only played all the women's parts with virtuosity (OK, she sounded the same in each part, but was highly entertaining.), but also sang like an angel, both solo and in duets with GK.
The last member of the core group was Fred Newman, he of the incredible sound effects. This man can make just about any sound with no props. Most of the sounds he made imitated bodily functions, which was a little disappointing, but impressive, nonetheless. Everyone left the theater with a smile on his (yeah, or her) face. The skits, the music, the monolog, it all resonated with something deep in our souls.
So...why am I writing about it now? It seems that there will be a movie about PHC, directed by Robert Altman. So what happens when two veteran showmen, both known for playing fast and loose with a script, come together on a project (starring Meryl Streep -good, Lily Tomlin-also good, and Lindsay Lohan--what the...)? Probably nothing good. Certainly nothing I want to put my hard-earned money on...not to mention the cost of popcorn.
I have seen a couple of Altman movies, always with optimism. I can't say they have lived up to my expectations. According to an article by Christopher Porterfield in TIME magazine, Keillor had envisioned a film about Lake Wobegon, and Altman wanted to do make a movie about the show itself, with all the action on or around the stage. I have no problem with that per se, but there seem to be opposing visions here. I do know enough to see a clash of the titans when I run smack dab into one. I have enough misgivings about this that I think I will stay home and watch reruns of The Daily Show.
If you have enough curiosity to be one of the 5 people who sees this in the theater, please let me know what you think.