The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on November 19, 1971 · 69
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 69

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Friday, November 19, 1971
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69
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era Season Gala Supper Provides Of f -Stage Action Opening I Sfiglit for the Op NYCO Returns With 'Giulio ' 2 PART IV FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 1971 CRITIC AT LARGE Mary Poppins on a Broomstick ' Timet Entertainment Editor x Take a well-loved English children's book about a lively lady with several magical powers including flight, add some beguiling children, blend in live action, animation and some very, special spe Cesare' . ; '.I .:i ) . r T, y: :'. '.; BY MARTIN BERNHEIMER . ' : : ' Tlm'n MuilC Critic :' ": ' i. The New Y'ork City Opera production, of "Giulio Cesare," which brought our favorite fugitives from Lincoln Center back to the Music Center Wednesday night, is an acquired taste. I have been trying,', in vain, to acquire it for five -years. ,: . , When I first saw the opera in New .York, at the gala opening which marked the NYCO move from the grubby City Center to the. glamorous cultural conglomerate uptowrij I found it a noble, well-intentioned, precious and pretentious bore. Also a wonderful showcase for the bel-canto skills of the "bella Cleopatra," Beverly Sills.; t ; , . ' Since then, I have gone back twice In New York, once when the company imported its special anti theatrical Handel to Los Angeles in 1967,: "and again on Wednesday. No use. ; i : ' Spectacular Soprano Of course, I am awed by the spectacular singing of the spectacular Miss Sills. And I admire the doomed but conscientious efforts of the rest of the cast to match her in elegant flights of fiorature. Of course, lam overwhelmed by the endless flow of Handel's melodic inspiration. Of course, I respect Julius Rudel and his cohorts for daring to undertake this difficult task in the first place. . . Of course, I am charmed by Ming Cho Lee's ingenious sets, with their tongue-in-cheeky fusion of classical symmetry,; Baroque filigree and ironic stylization. . But somehow it just isn't enough. Try as I may, I cannot fight off the tedium. The essential culprit, I think, is the stage director:' Tito Capobianco. (The current version has been rewarmed by Elena Denda, who happens to be Mrs. Capobianco. As far as I can ascertain, she has been faithful to her husband's original wishes.) Study in Artificiality Faced with the essentially static action and formality of Handel's aria parade, Capobianco decided to make this production a study in slow-motion artificiality. The characters do not walk, they dance. Languidly and self-consciously. They may be singing about violent emotions, but they have been directed to glide about like anesthetized ballerinas. Stylization is the word of the night a very long night. In this case, it imposes a veil of stilted passivity over the proceedings. Handel, I would have thought, desperately needs vitalization if his works are to make sense on the stage today. However, Capobianco, with single-minded conviction, has taken a perverse, opposite course. His "Giulio Cesare" pretends to be Please Turn to Page 20, Col. 1 cial effects, garnish with some songs by the bner-man Brothers and assuming you are Disney Studioswhat do you get? : Well, one time you get "Mary Poppins" and the ' next time you get "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," thereby proving that the most foolproof formula - never is. , "Bedknobs" opening today at the National. Thea- BY JODY JACOBS , Tlmoi Society Editor ' Maybe it was the prospect of no opera in 1973-74 that made Wednesday's opening night rather 1 special. , . : It really did look as if the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion of the Music Center was a sell-out for the New .York City's production of "Giulio Cesare." And all three dining rooms were packed for the benefit supper gala that followed. There were even some white ties and tails in the dressed-up crowd. Tony Duquette, William Miles and Alden Pearce were three, just for a starter. It must have made Mrs. Robert Watt Miller (who had flown down frm San Francisco for the opening and was flying right back for her city's opera gala, Fol de Rol) feel right at home. Fashion Free Soul New York's . Kenneth Jay Lane, a fashion free ' soul, proved it with his burgundy velvet dinner suit and creamy silk ruffled shirt. He came with a , raft of I. Magnin executives who were, much more conservatively dressed. Sometimes there seemed to be a little more ac-. tion in The Founders than on stage. But maybe it ; was because some of those first-nighters who somehow or other missed the warning signal for the second and third acts made such a good show of not minding. When The Founders bar ran out of white wine one plucky little group didn't even hesitate about switching to champagne. It was that kind of a night. AVith that kind of joie de vivre. , Planning the seating for the supper gala must have been an exercise in high level diplomacy. You decide for yourself if there was an A, B and C room. : Cesare in Demand Mrs. Norma Barker Jr., chairman of the gala committee, was in the Blue Ribbon Room along with the Robert Strubs, California's Comptroller and Mrs. Houston Flournoy, Ijta arid Mort Heller. Norman Treigle, the opera's Cesare, was supposed to be there, too, with his wife. But he was in constant demand everywhere. Over in the Eldorado Room were the Henry Salvatoris, the Holmes Tuttles, the William French Smiths, Irene Dunne Griffin, the Edward Carters and the Norman Chandlers. Mr. and Mrs. John McCone (he's president of the Music Center Opera Assn.) were there too. And around the bend in the Pavilion sat Mrs. George Behrendt, Mrs. Howard Ahmanson (she was an honorary chairman) with her daughter and son-in-law, Margo and Michael O'Connell. Tlus Dr. and Mrs. Aerol Arnold and Lawrence Deutsch. Just for the record it was the Eldorado Room . Please Turn to Page 7, Col. 1 1 ' . ' '' , i - - ; . . ! ' 'v .. ' .. A l i " . , '' i f ! V - . t. , rT ; "::"v, I ' I ' ' -,' :f r .'v"-'u.,, ' . g .-. . , .;i i ; ? ' . - ' ' K i: ' J I s " k i enough. It is also long (almost two hours) and slow. The songs are perfunctory (nothing supercalifragi-whateverish) and the visual trickeries, splendid as they are, are too sputtery to get the project truly airborne. By the standards Disney has set for itself, it's a disappointing endeavor. Angela Lansbury is a tweedy country eccentric In wartime England, tootling around on a bronch-itic sidecar motorbike and receiving mysterious parcels from a professor in London. What she's into is a study of benign witchcraft, leading (she hopes) to an invention which will help in the war against the Germans. She makes the incantations work, to the stunned surprise of her mail-order Merlin, a London conman played by David Tomlinson. Three children evacuated from the Blitz complicate her life and the plot, which centers on a quest for the most potent incantation of them all. The difference between "Poppins" and "Bedknobs" is not the difference between Julie Andrews and Miss Lansbury. Miss Lansbury sits a broom sidesaddle (or sidestick) writh a queenly elegance and she accepts as if it were everyday common sense that a brass bedstead will fly anywhere OPERA RETURNS Norman Treigle sings the role of Julius Caesar and Beverly Sills is Cleopatra in New York City Opera's "Giulio Cesare." " Times photo by Kathleen Ballard on command, and of course it will, and does. She is engaging as ever. No, the difference is between trickery and magic. "Bedknobs" is now and again clever, never more so than in the protracted last sequence when empty coats or armor clank into action to repel a German landing party. But it never, alas, is able to transmute the trickery into magic and sweep, us awav into that astonishing state in which the im Abortion Foes, Friends to Rally 'Round Capitol 1 t w possible is not only probable but likely. The basic difficulties are with the character conception and the plot. Nannies have a lot going for them from the start, with or without vertical-takeoff unbrellas. Country eccentrics are a mixed lot, not even always nice, and 1 think it wasn't made clear enough what kind of life Miss Lansbury was meant to be larger than or what kind of normalcy she was to be eccentric from. The line of action i3 then rather diffuse and intermittent, episodic rather than suspenseful or exciting from start to finish. There is promise in the streetwise Cockney kid (Ian Weighill) trying a little genteel blackmail on Miss Lansbury, but he is auicklv laundered into cuteness. 1 Villains (Bruce Forsythe and Sam Jaffe) are introduced but out-tricked so swiftly that the stop seems hardly to have been worth the bother. And if the big warlike battle at the end is technically marvelous, it is strangly unsatisfying and even unpleasant dramatically, veering much too close to the real world and evoking memories which only the smallest witnesses can escape. Nazis drifting ashore from U-boats are not Disney's cup of tea. There are so few family films in the market and even fewer which are successful (in part because families have so often been disappointed) that it is doubly disappointing when the Disney magic is grounded temporarily. ' ' Ironically; in mid-picture there's a self-contained slambang cartoon episode, a soccer match involving jungle animals and live-action Tomlinson as referee, which is inventive and hilarious in the best and oldest Disney vein. The old bongs are best, Tomlinson, an expert light comic actor, does nicely in an unfocused role. Weighill and the other children, Roy Snart and Cindy O'Callaghan, are innocently endearing. Roddy MacDowall is wasted as the local vicar and John Ericson is the Nazi commando leader. Bill Walsh produced and co-authored the script (with Don DaGradi) from Mary Norton's book. Robert Stevenson directed competently enough but could not overcome the inherent problems. BOYS, TOO From left, Camp Fire Girls Sue Erick-son, 17, Chatsworth High; Judy Lewis, 16, Van Nuys; Joella White,, 17, Crenshaw, and Sally Weiss, 17, Fairfax, talk to prospective member Jeff Kayne, 17. j . : Times photo BY MARLENE CIMONS Timet Staff Writer WASHINGTON On the west side of the Capitol Saturday afternoon, one group of women will be demonstrating for the repeal of all abortion laws while on the east side, at almost the same time, a second group will be demanding the unborn child's right to life. The first is the Women's Action Abortion Coalition, a national organization representing 253 smaller groups fighting for abortion law repeal, which is expecting 5,000 to 10,000 persons to appear here for a march and rally highlighted by a speech by tennis champion Biliie Jean King. The second is the Washington area Right-to-Life Coalition, an ad hoc group formed in recent weeks to counter WOMAAC's activities. It will offer a meditation and hear a brief talk by Rep. Lawrence Hogan (R-Md.), an abortion critic who has been considering the introduction of a Constitutional amendment that would prohibit abortions, with some exceptions. L.A. Rally Planned (In Los Angeles, a "Rally For Life," sponsored by the Right to Life League of Southern California, Mobilization for the Unnamed, Young People for Life, Citizens Action Committee and Friends for Life, will be held between 10 a.m. and noon Saturday at Lincoln Park Auditorium. The groups contend that the mental health provision of California's Therapeutic Abortion Act is being "consistently ignored.") "There are many of us who are appalled at the idea of abortion," said Mrs. Ann Schutt, a Maryland housewife who has never before marched in a demonstration and who is organizing the latter protest. "We think it is natural for a woman to want to protect the life of an unborn baby rather than do away with it. "I'm against abortion because it is a human baby we are talking about all of the medical books Please Turn to Page 8, Col. 1 STUDY OF ABORTIONS WILL BEGIN ON SUNDAY Beginning Sunday, the VIEW section will run a four-part series on developments in the abortion field in Southern California since the state's new liberalized Therapeutic Abortion Act became effective four years ago. The series will explore the manner in which the medical community has met its obligations under the new law: the outgrowth of abortion centers . staffed by qualified gynecologists; the subtle but real price war among physicians who take abortion patients; the disputes over techniques. Some of the more extreme aspects of the abortion picture today will be explored: the proliferation of referral agencies which are competing for business plus the radical proposal of some outraged women for do-it-yourself abortion centers. SETTING STORY STRAIGHT Coed Camp Fire Girls? Sparks Fly THE VIEWS INSIDE BOOKS: "Upstate: Records and Recollections of Northern New York" by Robert Kirsch on Page 9. STAGE: "Mabou Mines" by John Rockwell on Page 20. "Mother Courage" by Dan Sullivan on Page 21. 'To Be Young, Gifted and Black" by Sylvie Drake on Page 22. TELEVISION: 'The Cable Car Murder" by Cecil Smith on Page 26. BY BELLA STUMBO Time Staff Wrlttr They had come together to dispel one of the most outrageous rumors to make its way into puV . ; lie print in recent times. ' ' ' There were 11 of them in all the Los Angeles Council vice president, an adviser, an administra- j tive aide, a public relations officer, two mothers, ' four high school girls and one 17-year-old boy. i.-.,. They filed into the small room and took seats 2: around a long, narrow conference table. It was a ! no-nonsense group. They waited, . solemn-faced i and silent, until the ranking officer and vice president, Mrs. Cutler Dippell, began the task at hand. Her voice was firm and clear: "Camp Fire Girls of America is not becoming coed," she said. "While it's true that high school groups may now admit boys to membership, little Blue Birds will not include boys, now or in the future." It began innocently enough a few days ago when a brief and inaccurate wire service story emerged from Seattle, reporting that the quadrennial conference of the National Council of Camp Fire Girls had voted to admit boys at all levels in the, 61-year-old organization. . ' A predictable enough development in these unpredictable times, reasoned many editors even those who secretly were doubtful of the vision of Camp 'Fire Boys sitting cross-legged alongside beaded, buckskinned Camp Fire Girls. , From such seemingly reasonable assumptions, of course, major crises may be born and one was. The erroneous story unleashed upon the Los Angeles Council a flood of stunned, outraged and disbelieving telephone calls. The council, largest of the eight area councils in metropolitan Los Ani geies, has 16,359 members. , "We've had mothers and group leaders from all over' calling to'ask us if they're now supposed to be admitting boys into their Blue Bird groups for 6 to 8 year olds," said Mrs. Dippell, no trace of rancor in her voice, despite it all. "We're still trying to explain what actually was decided at the Seattle conference." Please Turn to Page 19, Col. 2 AND OTHER FEATURES Dear Abby Page 17 Bridge Page 13 Art Walk Page 12 Comics Page 31 Astrology ..Page 11 Maury Green Page 29

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