Monday, November 19, 2012

A Prairie Home Companion in Chicago

The News from Lake Wobegone was reported from the shore of Lake Michigan on November 10 as A Prairie Home Companion broadcast from the stage of Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. Bonnie and I joined our friends Nancy and Glenn in the beautiful old building which, according to host Garrison Keillor, was designed by architect Louis Sullivan to have perfect acoustics. I know we heard the performers very well, except when many people were laughing or applauding, which was fairly often.

I was the sole newbie having never attended A Prairie Home Companion before. I had seen some televised broadcasts before, but it was fascinating to watch the preparations for each segment coming together as previous songs and skits ended. It reminded me of being at the Grand Ole Opry, which I would also like to see again.

I thought the music was the strongest portion of this show, as the Guy's All-Star Shoe Band supplemented with Chicago musicians was tremendous. The most brilliant piece was a jazz-rendition of music from Mozart's Don Giovanni. I also was greatly impressed by the rich voice of baritone Nathan Gunn.

The skits certainly had their funny moments and I loved how The Lives of the Cowboys was set in Western Springs, right where I work. I suppose they grazed their cattle on the Village Green. I will have to keep an eye out for gunslingers in the middle of the downtown streets and see if I can find the Last Chance Saloon so I can charge my cellphone while trying a little rotgut whiskey.

As I started to say, the skits earned a few laughs, but they lasted too long and didn't have very satisfying endings that night. PHC has done better. I wish they had shortened them and gotten in the promised spot for Bertha's Kitty Boutique. I'd like Keillor to bring back Raw Bits, Fearmonger Shop, or Cafe Boeuf skits.

The funniest song came before the broadcast began, but it was probably not deemed proper for the airwaves. The most surprising guest was Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who was seeking Guy Noir's help to suppress a video of the governor putting ketchup on a Chicago hot dog. Quinn did a good job with his lines, as did Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me host Peter Sagal, who let us know that real Chicagoans do not eat deep dish pizza. A Prairie Home Companion was a wonderful early evening entertainment, which I would do again. Maybe we can visit St. Paul.

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