Dan and I live in the cultural district of downtown Portland, which means we are just feet away from museums and theaters. If you had asked me prior to our move, I would have said that this was my dream environment. Now, I'm not so sure, but that's another post!
We are so close to the action, that our apartment building actually rents out parking spots for people coming to shows.
We've lived here since the end of August 2016, and even though I love attending live theater and did so on a regular basis in Los Angeles, we waited until March to attend our first show in Portland.
Primarily, it's because the ticket prices are so darn high. But how? Portland has a reputation for being so cheap, especially compared to Los Angeles. This is a myth people! Sure, housing is less expensive in Portland, and there is no sales tax (which rocks), but for live theater, in general, the prices seem to be about double what we would pay for similar seats/show in Los Angeles.
When we moved to Portland, I had big dreams of all of the shows that I would attend living in the cultural district. I've given it a lot of thought and I think it has to do with supply and demand. No big shock, that's a key concept for a lot of things. Portland is not a big city like Los Angeles, although it does gets big name shows and concert tours, the venues are smaller. More people are competing for less seats, which drives up the prices. I think.
We saw that John Cleese was coming and decided to make the splurge. John Cleese is a legend and he's getting up there in age, so it seemed like a "now or never" kind of thing. We went with mid-range tickets (the back of mid-orchestra to the side) and they were eighty dollars each. Gulp. Let me repeat, these were not the most expensive tickets.
Here was our view. Not bad.
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall was built in the 1920's and the interior is grand, with chandeliers and reliefs.
Let's back it up for a minute. Prior to entering the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, the tone for the evening was set with a little pre-theater street performance. We found a unicycling knight playing the bagpipes, wheeling around right outside of the theater. Dan took a video.
So when you have a unicycling-bagpiping-knight as your opener, the bar has been set high. Your turn Mr. Cleese!
Cleese started off strong, providing many laughs as he did a slide-show about his family and growing up in the seaside tourist town of "Weston Super Mare." Dan and I found this hilarious, because Cleese kept mentioning how Weston Super Mare is completely dead as a tourist town and this was our experience when we took the kids a few summers ago. It was summer and nothing was going on; the fun fair and ice cream shops were shuttered. Supposedly, we arrived a week too early for the summer rush, but it was already mid- July.
Cleese continued giving us stories about how he got his start in comedy writing and show business. I found this aspect of his life to be inspiring, as he clearly found joy from writing and simply from making his friends laugh, which miraculous translated into a paid job making the public laugh. David Frost played a huge part in giving Cleese his big break. I enjoyed hearing about the unexpected turns that his career headed, and my main take-away is that Cleese was someone who was open to whatever opportunities came his way. He took bold chances and didn't let opportunity pass him by.
Unfortunately, the show took a huge nose-dive in the second half, when Cleese started playing clips. A few short clips would have been fine, but I estimate that about a third of his show was clips and many of them, clips that I'm positive everyone in the audience had already seen. I wish that he had played the clips as the audience was entering the venue, as a way to get everyone pumped up for his stories, rather than using them as filler. He's had a magnificent career, surely there were more stories to share?
The worst part was the question and answer segment. A few days prior to the show, an email went out to ticket holders, saying to arrive early if you had a question for Cleese, questions would be collected by ushers prior to the show. He answered three questions during Q & A, but it was very clear that they had not come from the audience. They were predetermined with canned responses, one even had a clip that he showed. Why the charade? He could have skipped the pretense of an actual Q &A, and just said that these were some of his favorite questions that he has been asked over the years. We were not the only grumpy audience members leaving the theater.
The show was supposed to run for ninety minutes without an intermission. It started five minutes late and ended ten minutes early = fifteen minutes shaved off. So approximately seventy-five minutes of show, a third of which were video clips, and fifteen minutes was a pretend Q&A = not worthy the eighty dollar price tag.
So disappointed in John Cleese.