Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Mermorial Day

Happy Mermorial Day

Memorial Day 2008 afforded me with a perfect opportunity to visit our nation's capital, in part to see friends and in part to see Chita Rivera and George Hearn in John Kander and Fred Ebb's The Visit at the area's Signature Theatre.

But it also gave me an opportunity to reflect on the enormous sacrifices our patriots have made to preserve our freedoms -- at glorious venues like the vastly impressive National World War II Memorial on the Mall -- and consider the liberties we must continue to cherish -- like freedom of speech, which in turn enables and empowers our arts community to push our national discussion forward.

I pondered those freedoms as I strolled through the National Portrait Gallery on Saturday, surveying the impressive work achieved in restoring the Great Hall to all its former glory. In that Great Hall, a current selection of portraits in its "Bravo!" series honors America's most acclaimed artists. Among the great names celebrated via paintings and busts are Helen Hayes, Paul Robeson, George Gershwin and -- right smack dab in the center -- Ethel Merman, whose centenary is currently being celebrated. The 1971 oil and acrylic painting on canvas pictured above was the creation of Rosemarie Sloat, and evokes the magnificent Merman's title role in Annie Get Your Gun.

During one of Merman's performances in her iconic portrayal, her gun failed to fire, yet a bird still dropped right on cue. Without skipping a beat, Merman quickly quipped, "What do you know? Apoplexy!"

It's only fitting that a painting of the American original known as Merman hangs among our nation's greats.

Here's to the artists, who remind us on a daily basis why we should never take our liberties for granted. But here's especially to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in preserving those freedoms.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 26 May, 2008, Blogger Esther said...

A very thoughtful and fitting message for Memorial Day.

I love national portrait galleries. You can learn so much about the history and culture of a country just strolling through them. I was at the one in Washington years ago, before the renovations, and I've been to the one in London. They're definitely among my favorite types of museums.

I'm looking forward to hearing more about your visit with Chita Rivera!

At 26 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Esther, I love the National Portrait Gallery and spend lots of time in the Presidential Gallery, assessing and reassessing our leaders. This Smithsonian is one of my personal favorites.

Like you, I've also been to the National Portrait Gallery in the UK. Most recently, I was there just last month taking in this fantastic "Vanity Fair" exhibit that simply took my breath away.

As for Chita Rivera, let me just say WOW. Talk about a national treasure!

At 27 May, 2008, Anonymous BroadwayBaby said...

I'm so jealous you got to see The Visit with Chita Rivera. I love dark musicals- and Chita- is a legend!!!

At 27 May, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

BB, "Legend" seems like such an understatement when it comes to describing Chita Rivera, doesn't it?! I absolutely adore her.


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