There may never have been a more eagerly anticipated show than the Inauguration of Barak Obama as 44th president of the United States. There was, of course, the historic landmark of the nation’s swearing in a black man as its leader. Which partly explains why nearly two million people bundled up against frigid temperatures and packed themselves into the two mile stretch between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. But there was also the simultaneous simplicity and grandeur of the transition of power that so defines who we are as Americans.
I found the show itself to be just OK. The Chief Justice bungled his lines. The new president’s soliloquy wasn’t the most eloquent speech he’s given (the stock market dropped 300 points as soon as it was over) but expectations were so high that it was virtually impossible to meet them. The First Lady’s outfit was a touch too costumey for my taste (although the girls’ J.Crew outfits were very cute). And I’d have preferred to hear Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and their bandmates play real Aaron Copland instead of the faux Copland that John Williams composed for the occasion. But I thought the departure of George and Laura Bush was the best use of a helicopter prop since the takeoff in Miss Saigon. And the supernumeraries who made up the crowd performed magnificently—cheering, crying, radiantly diverse and sincerely inspired.
I got a particular kick out of watching so many of the most famous people in our country—Muhammad Ali, Steven Spielberg, Colin Powell, Elie Wiesel, Oprah and US Airways hero-pilot Sully Sullenberger—cram themselves in alongside political leaders of every stripe in the VIP section. After the ceremony, the networks showed glimpses of them all milling about before the formal inaugural luncheon, meeting and greeting one another like folks at any other reunion party. Senator Ted Kennedy’s collapse from a seizure towards the end of the meal, and his much-welcomed recovery at the hospital later, added an extra sense of drama to the day.
The theater lover in me was disappointed that there were no recognizable stage folks on the podium. But now the show has opened and I, along with everyone else, am fervently hoping for a long and successful run.
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Not great theater, but it was okay. I was captivated and gave myself (and the firm) the day off to watch. You know that I tend to be cynical, but I found myself smiling and tearing up whenever it was juxtaposed (is that a word?) that now we have a Black man as president of this nation in a capitol built by Black slaves. Oh my, only in America indeed.
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