Stupid Human Tricks: The Saga of Les Miserables & Captain Underpants

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So the London Zoo opened an exhibit with caged and scantily clad humans. Why? “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals … teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate,” said Zoo spokesperson Polly Wills.

As if to prove the point, our local newspaper carried a story of a postal worker who was lacing co-worker’s coffee with his urine until suspicious fellow-employees set up a video camera to catch him,

This all comes the day after an “inspirational” report about the wild, runaway success of Captain Underpants.

Lest you are unaware of this phenomena, since 1997, more than 26 million Captain Underpants books have been printed.The last two books “Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets”; and “Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers” each had a first-print run of 1 million copies.

A young man named Josh Katz was performing on a local cable access show when he was hauled out of obscurity to write 22 songs for a new cartoon music video to go along with “Hooray for Captain Underpants.”

Oddly JRR Tolkien, undoubtedly rolling over in his grave at the news, played a role in Katz’s career. “I didn’t know anything about Captain Underpants because, well, I’m 22,” he said. “My mom read me ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ and that one about the fern and the fern dies? And a bunch of dogs? Or wolves? I’m not sure.”

This succession of mad stories might have sent me into a semi-irretrievable funk, were it not for an offsetting experience I enjoyed this morning–a student production of Les Miserables at Taproot Theatre’s summer Advanced Musical Theatre Supercamp. Our daughter Heidi was extraordinary, playing the idealistic Enjolras, in a presentation headlined by fifteen-year-old Daniel Berryman, who embodied Jean Valjean with a stunning authority, passion and musicality that bodes well for his theatrical future. I don’t wish to single out these two at the expense of the rest of the cast, because this unbelievably capable ensemble performed well above their years under the direction of Sam and Candace Vance.

It was thrilling to see a young cast of actors glow with a sense of hopefulness for the future, embracing redemption and the possibilities it brings. Victor Hugo’s timeless story so effectively mines universal themes of love, forgiveness and the potential for human goodness, that even hours later stories about a human zoo exhibit, a deranged postal worker and a witty but juvenile, faddish and oh-so-temporary Captain Underpants, recede to where they belong–into the distant background, as aberrations, not the norm, and as reflections of human fallenness at the expense of human dignity.

We may choose Victor Hugo’s vision as personified in Jean Valjean, or we may take our place in the zoo, behaving like primates. Whatever we choose, we should never forget this; we do have a choice and we are, in fact, created in God’s image with the potential for greatness.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in August 28, 2005 by | No Comments »

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