Wednesday, April 15, 2015

My Weekend In Vermont - Part Two

Continuing my week's theme of looking at two days spent in the Green Mountain State, we're going to actually take a closer look at the program Says You! and my experience seeing the two shows.

I've said it before, Richard Sher was a unique individual, able to draw an audience and make it feel like it wasn't simply a bystander to a show.  Listening to him (or seeing him live), you knew he loved having a crowd and knew how to play to it.  You were never just "faces" to Richard, and any time someone was able to answer a question or tell a clever joke, they'd get recognized, perhaps even getting to share their name on the radio.

I saw two Says You! performances in Vermont, for a total of four episodes.  The show is now hosted by Barry Nolan, and while he is by no means a bad host (I've seen much, much worse), I think there was a lot of nervousness in the first show.  Perhaps it was fear from trying to make sure that the show would still be a success without Richard.  It might have been an attempt to recapture what Richard brought to the show, rather than have Barry simply be himself.  Where Richard would happily let panelists crash and burn if they couldn't figure out the answer to a question (and would even concede later that perhaps entire rounds that didn't go well were a "mistake"), Barry seemed more interested in guiding panelists to answers, leading and hinting more than I remember Richard doing.

But I get ahead of myself.

Barry did a very touching opening before the first show, a small tribute to Richard.  He explained the origin of the show and how he went around to people he knew in the media industry to see if they'd be interested ("It was a novel idea...in 1950.").  There were concessions about Richard sometimes being difficult to work with, but with each word Barry shared, you knew that aside from his wife and son, Richard's heart was in the radio show.  He managed to gather together an eclectic group of individuals and then keep them together for years with only clever writing, silly jokes, and, in the early seasons, booze and food.

The first "episode" of the show felt rough, I will say.  It hit the ground hard with a difficult round right off the bat, and never really managed to get its feet back under it before the end of the show.  It felt awkward, like perhaps a rehearsal was missed, which is ridiculous before I know for a fact they never rehearse that show (and it sometimes shows, but in a good way).

But I can't put the blame on Barry.  He was finding his voice, and I think the panelists were so used to him being beside them at a table that it was tough for them to look at the podium and see him there.  They didn't always reply to him the way they would to Richard, and it took time for the structure of the show to come back around and take shape.  

Now, before you all think that this is a negative review, let me continue.

The second "episode" after the intermission went much smoother.  The game went back to tried and true categories, and I found myself being drawn in more and more as time progressed.  I felt synapses fire as I was better able to start to follow the clues to puzzles and, sometimes, I was able to actually figure out the answers before the panelists were.

Leaving the show, I saw that most of the panelists were sticking around to talk to other people in the audience.  Old friends, relations, people who, perhaps, had been connected to the show or knew Richard even before Says You! ever became a thing.  I went out to get a bite to eat (the show went WAY past when it was scheduled to end), and headed to my motel room.

Now, before I go into the second show, I want someone out there in the Internet to explain to me how Dorset managed to get such a nice playhouse out in the middle of nowhere.  It's pretty great, but it's really OUT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE.

The second show (episodes three and four, for those keeping track) were much, much more successful than the first two.  Barry Nolan seemed to hit a stride and seemed less focused on trying to make sure questions were answered so much as being willing to let people flounder and let the editing fix it all in post.  Perhaps it was because of the smaller crowd, perhaps because he had two episodes under his belt and these weren't "memorial" episodes.  I came to accept him more as a host, though while still missing the things that Richard made seem effortless, Barry's humor brought him around in my eyes.  And ears.

I need to push the show aside, however, and point out the musical talent behind the Dorset show.  Performing was Katie McNally, and I need to point out just how impressed by her I was.  I've seen full bands perform at Says You! before, and she (with the help of a keyboard player I'll freely admit I didn't really catch the name of) managed to do quite well as a duet performer, even though her fiddle capabilities were clearly the focus of the music.

I've always been a fan of fiddle music.  I love how much "fun" the instrument seems to be in some hands when it's played lightly and quickly, but it's also capable of some serious or powerful moments as well.  I'm also a huge fan of Celtic music (which anybody who looks at my CD collection will confirm), and I think I just strongly connect the fiddle to some of my favorite songs in that genre.

I purchased a copy of her CD during the intermission and actually worked up the courage to talk to her after the show finished and get an autograph.  She asked me if I was a fiddler, and instead coming up with something clever to say ("No, but I always wish I had learned," or "I went with the trombone, I was lured by the dulcet tones of "Louie, Louie."") I instead said no, but I really enjoyed her music to the point that I managed to already "like" her on Facebook during the intermission, which I'm sure didn't come off at all creepy.

However, she's extremely talented, has a great sense of humor (I'm assuming considering how much she laughed during the show itself), and was very nice to talk to.  I just wish I could have been a better conversationalist.

She's also really pretty, but that's neither here nor there.

Look at her site, listen to her music, and buy an album.  It kept me sane during a very long trip through Vermont and New Hampshire in areas where I could best describe my cell phone signal as "hahaha, no."

There was only one real problem with the second "episode" of the show that day, and that's the second and fourth rounds.  I might have been the only person in the audience to realize it, but the "words nobody knows" that one team makes up definitions for so the other team can guess which one is real...were done before.  I actually got to speak to the producer of the show (Richard's widow, for the record) after everything was done (mostly just to warn that "you're going to get letters and emails about that"), but she acknowledged that it was hard to keep track of what was done and wasn't done since Richard's passing.

Which is, of course, understandable.  I mean, the show's been on a really long time.

I hope the show continues.  There aren't any more tapings shown on their schedule, but I'll probably still be looking back at least once a week for a while to see if there are any updates.

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