Wednesday, February 26, 2014

United (Center) in Song: Paul Simon and Sting Prove a Terrifically Tuneful Tandem -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Paul Simon and Sting
United Center, Chicago
February 25, 2014

When I first heard that Paul Simon and Sting were touring together, I didn't instantly seek to buy a ticket despite never having seen either in a solo incarnation.

This isn't to suggest I don't have great regard for their respective musical legacies.

Although I have found Sting's persona insufferable to the point of largely ignoring his music for years, I think his work with The Police is predominantly brilliant--though the 2007 reunion show I saw at Wrigley was marred by Sting's affected vocal gyrations that appended several of their classic songs--and much of his solo stuff solid and even stellar.

Despite having seen him live just once, on a 2003 Simon & Garfunkel outing, I believe Paul Simon stands securely as one of rock's greatest songwriters ever. But while much of his solo oeuvre is terrific and also groundbreaking, given his explorations of world music, he nonetheless is a prime example of my "Paul Principle," which states that rock 'n roll Pauls--also including Mssrs. McCartney, Weller and Westerberg--are better in groups or duos than as subsequent solo artists. While I realize some may consider Simon's work without Garfunkel more estimable in its scope, just in terms of many more songs I truly love I far prefer the S&G canon to Paul's on his own.

But with my appreciation for Simon counteracting a latter-day aversion to Sting, who supposedly was rather good at Ravinia last summer, when my friend Paolo and I noticed just last week that decent seats at the cheapest price point were still readily available for Tuesday's United Center show, especially after noting impressive setlists at earlier tour stops I agreed that we should buy a pair.

And I'm really glad we did.

Despite being a somewhat unusual pairing, the "Englishman in New York" (played) and "Only Living Boy in New York" (not played) were really quite wonderful On Stage Together--the tour name--in Chicago.

The 8:00pm show started promptly at 8:15pm with no opening act as Paul and Gordon--Sting's given name--took the stage with the latter's "Brand New Day." In tandem, and with both their bands, they then tackled Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble" and Sting's "Fields of Gold" before proceeding to trade off performing individual sets--two each of about 5-6 songs per--with only occasional intersection prior to the encores. (see the full Paul Simon & Sting Chicago setlist on

Primarily, to my preference, performing the songs the way he wrote them, Sting initially ran through "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic," "Englishman in New York," "I Hung My Head," "Driven to Tears," and "Walking on the Moon."

Later, after covering Simon & Garfunkel's "America" with Paul offstage, he would play "Message in a Bottle," "Desert Rose" and "Roxanne" among others.

Simon also played several wonderful songs, including "Mother and Child Reunion," "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Graceland," "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," "The Obvious Child" and a cover of "Mystery Train," made famous by Elvis, which Paul called his favorite song.

If, at this point, you're saying to yourself, "That's a lot of good songs," you get the general idea. For the entire 160 minutes Paul Simon and/or Sting were onstage, the music was enjoyable, often delightful and at times transcendent.

Of the 32 songs played, there wasn't a bad one in the bunch, although many of most special were those where the two stars sang together.

These included the opening three and even more so Sting's "Fragile," Simon's "Late in the Evening," Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water"--truly sublime as the first song of the encore, followed by The Police's "Every Breath You Take" and the show-closing homage to the Everly Brothers, "When Will I Be Loved," written by the recently passed Phil Everly.

While the show in full was outstanding--and Paolo seemed to like it even a bit more than I did--it was so simply through the power of great songs, and at times a bit short in the realm of overt excitement (i.e. in the 3rd deck, we never stood, which was fine with me but also a bit telling).

And as the tour is billed as "Paul Simon and Sting On Stage Together," I think it could have benefited from even more collaboration and musical exchange.

For instance, while Sting covered Paul (& Art) with a nice take on "America"--after conveying how much the song meant to him while on The Police's first tour of the States--I thought the vice-versa might also have been nice.

Odd as it may sound--though seemingly apt given the uniqueness of the co-headlining coupling--I think Paul doing a solo acoustic cover of "De Do Do Do De Da Da Da," acknowledging what a genius creator of intimate popcraft Sting also has been, could have been marvelous.

It certainly wouldn't be hard to name several great songs from each man's past that went unplayed--and with Art Garfunkel's voice supposedly on the mend after years of difficulty, the specter of a Simon & Garfunkel tour may have limited the desire to include too many S&G classics--but I think "Cecilia" could have been a natural tandem choice given the reggae roots that run through it and much of the Police's early output.

And even though Simon's "You Can Call Me Al," which closed the main set, was a delight, it seemed strange that Sting stayed off-stage, as not only would his singing alongside Paul have recalled the old music video with Chevy Chase, but few songs seem better suited for a phenomenal bass player.

Having begun just a couple weeks ago, the Paul Simon and Sting tour continues for another three weeks or so, with about a dozen more shows currently scheduled. If you can catch one in a city near you, particularly at a bargain price like we did, do so as there aren't many concerts you will see with a higher percentage of great music over nearly 3 hours.

For me, it was the perfect way to see Sting "solo"--I sense this was more pleasing than his Ravinia shows would have been--as well as Simon sans Garfunkel, and the the show truly enhanced my regard for each artist on his own.

But my favorite parts were when they were On Stage Together, and as Simon had remarked they are changing things up a bit as they go, perhaps another city will benefit from an increasingly venturesome partnership.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Unique Take on 'Into the Woods' Doesn't Make for a Truly Storied Production -- Chicago Theater Review

Theater Review

Into the Woods
a musical by Stephen Sondheim
and James Lapine
Staged by the Hypocrites 
Mercury Theater, Chicago
Thru March 30

Some might suggest I did things backwards.

Rather than prepare to see Into the Woods by re-familiarizing myself with the original cast recording, watching a DVD of the show's late '80s Broadway production and reading through lyrics and notes in Stephen Sondheim's excellent Look, I Made a Hat compendium BEFORE I went to see the Hypocrites production at the Mercury Theater, I did so after.

So I would acknowledge that a little advance homework may have helped me to better understand the narrative of interwoven fairy tales, appreciate all the insights of Sondheim's lyrics and more fully embrace the numerous metaphors contained within.

But then, it's not like I entered the Mercury Theater for the Hypocrites' staging of Into the Woods completely uninitiated. I do own the DVD and have watched it in full or part over the years. Back in 2001 I saw a community theater production of the show. I have the cast recording and listened en route to the Mercury. And while I didn't know every lyric of every song going in, I was well-acquainted with many including the great Prologue with its "Into the Woods to..." refrains, "It Takes Two," "Ever After," "No One is Alone" and "Children Will Listen."

And while undoubtedly outranked by millions, I am very much a Sondheim aficionado. In fact, or at least opinion, there is no living practitioner in any art form that I hold in higher esteem (although Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney are greater personal favorites).

Thus, despite rather middling reviews from the Tribune's Chris Jones and others--though there were also some raves--I took advantage of a nearby Meetup and half-price tickets on HotTix to attend on Sunday without much advance planning.

Initially I didn't have any overt aversion to the cheeky approach, schoolyard setting, small cast of actors mostly playing multiple roles, minimal costuming--everyone wore jeans or leggings, even those playing princes, princesses & witches--and interpretive scenery, in which balloon-kebobs served as trees in the "woods."

The singing, by Sara Bockel (principally Cinderella), Aubrey McGrath (Jack, of beanstalk fame), Hannah Dawe (Little Red Riding Hood), Joel Ewing (the Baker), Allison Hendrix (the Baker's Wife), Hillary Marren (the Witch) and Kate Harris (Cinderella's stepmother), was uniformly solid, often stellar.

But barely into the second act of the near 3-hour affair, I couldn't wait for it to end, and when it did I couldn't help think that perhaps Into the Woods was just a Sondheim musical I didn't care for as much as Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, A Little Night Music, Follies, Company, Passion, Pacific Overtures, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Merrily We Roll Along or Gypsy and West Side Story (the last two being ones for which Sondheim only wrote the lyrics, rather than the music as well).

The songs I knew were great sounded great, but most of the others didn't really ensnare or move me. And I was confused enough by the plotline to have to check Wikipedia at Intermission and show's end to learn that I indeed had missed much.

If I had written this review right after seeing the performance, I would have said that I'd have preferred an hour of simply hearing the best songs rather than having sat through the whole thing.

But given my love of Sondheim--from whom nearly every lyric furthers the storytelling and offers keen insight--I was troubled by how mediocre I had found Into the Woods, especially as I recalled it being considerably better, even without recently revisiting it.

So first I asked my sister Allison, also a musical theater aficionado but not such a devotee of Sondheim, for her opinion of Into the Woods (she did not attend the current production with me, but has seen the show live and in recorded form).

She said she loved Into the Woods and that it was her favorite Sondheim musical. She also noted that several of the less-famous songs, like "Giant in the Sky," were really great.

This inspired me to go into the proverbial woods to watch the DVD, listen to the cast album, read the lyrics, acclimate to all the songs, digest Sondheim's annotations, learn more online, better appreciate the metaphors, appreciate the depth, meaning & beauty in the songs and the wonderful book by James Lapine, consider Chris Jones' critique of this production and realize that I, in fact, think Into the Woods itself is rather fantastic.

Thus, I'll cop to the possibility that had I delved deeper prior to Sunday's matinee, I might have better appreciated both the source material and the unique adaptation of it by director Geoff Button and his cast.

But while appreciating that truly embracing Sondheim's sophisticated musicals often requires some work--as in the case of Sunday in the Park with George, which I love but others don't--I believe a great musical should entertain those approaching it even for the first time.

In other words, homework shouldn't be mandatory, and it's not like I came as a complete neophyte.

So I will split the difference with the long-estimable Hypocrites. I won't specifically criticize the production or any of the choices in the way it was staged, and I genuinely applaud the efforts of all the performers and everyone involved.

But whereas I went in hoping this rendition would further my appreciation of Into the Woods and Stephen Sondheim, it did so only by initially lessening it.

So go see it if you so choose, but perhaps like me, your fondness for the the genius lurking within these fractured fairy tales will come more happily ever after.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Alejandro Escovedo and Peter Buck Join Forces for a Good But Not R.E.M.arkable Show -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

Alejandro Escovedo
w/ Peter Buck & band
as opening act & backing band
Lincoln Hall, Chicago
February 22, 2013

I love Alejandro Escovedo.

Ever since becoming acquainted around the release of his excellent 1996 album, With These Hands, I have bought virtually all of his solo albums as well as a compilation from True Believers, one of his preceding bands (along with The Nuns and Rank and File).

I have consistently recommended Escovedo's music to friends, whether directly or online, and including Saturday night have now him live seven times in a variety of venues.

But while I will always be open to seeing Alejandro on additional occasions--and given that he is now 63 and survived a life-threatening scare from hepatitis, I can only hope he will continue to swing through Chicago for years to come--especially without a brand new album, I didn't acutely feel the need to catch another of his gigs at this point.

Yet the moment I was alerted to the Lincoln Hall show by email--despite meandering around Las Vegas at the time--I instantly bought a ticket.

This was because the show was promoted as Alejandro Escovedo and Peter Buck.

I didn't initially know if they would be playing together or separately, but it didn't matter.

Though it's possible he could have walked down Lincoln Avenue largely unrecognized, Buck was--for the entirety of their amazing 31-year run--the guitarist for R.E.M.

With Buck's jangly guitar style being a defining element of the Athens, GA band's early sound, R.E.M. progressed from being the prime example of "college rock" to worldwide superstardom.

I don't think I'm saying anything controversial to suggest that R.E.M. was crucial to the birth of the alternative rock genre, and not only was I a big fan, but Bruce Springsteen and the Beatles are the only two rock artists I definitively like more.

Buck never sang in R.E.M., with vocalist Michael Stipe also being the chief lyricist, but fans like me know how central he was to the band's collaborative songwriting approach and, thus, numerous great songs and albums.

Since R.E.M. officially split in 2011, I've noted that Buck has stayed somewhat musically active in various low-key ensembles, but I had only really paid attention on the couple occasions when R.E.M. bassist (and sporadic lead singer) Mike Mills joined him on stage for old times sake--such as in this clip that also features original drummer Bill Berry.

I know Buck just last week released a solo album--titled I Am Back To Blow Your Mind Once Again--but had not sought it out before Saturday's show (so far it seems to only be available on vinyl). I also didn't pay much attention to his 2012 solo disc. But having learned that he would open the concert with his band, who would then back Escovedo, I was admittedly as excited to see him as I was the headliner.

Now, before I get to my somewhat disappointed take on both performances, let me state that I was not expecting an ersatz R.E.M. show.

But I doubt that I was the only one in attendance drawn--at least in part--by Buck's legacy, and I don't think hoping for perhaps one classic R.E.M.embrance in each or either set equates me with a boor who constantly screams, "Begin the Begin!" (That was only in my head.)

As it was, over nearly 3 hours of music there were no obvious R.E.M.inders of Peter Buck, the groundbreaking guitarist and co-songwriter for one of rock's most inventive bands.

Even in his own set, he primarily played rhythm guitar with no lead fills; my guess is that even serious R.E.M. fans may well have been unaware of his presence had they strictly heard the show. 

That said, I valued seeing the man and his trademark Rickenbacker guitar.

Although it was clear early in his set why Peter Buck never sang with R.E.M., he was an amiable presence--often addressing the crowd in Spanish, poorly, for some odd reason--and his strong band included Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin, longtime sidemen with his former group, as well as Kurt Bloch, who played much more lead guitar than Buck.

It was fun to watch Buck's hourlong set, which was comprised almost entirely of songs from his two solo albums including "Life Is Short," "10 Million BC," "Vaso Loco," "Monkey Mask," "I'm Alive," "On the Planet of the Apes," "West of Sunset," a blues cover of Hound Dog Taylor's "Give Me Back My Wig" and a Ramonesque romp through "Gotta Get Outta the House."

Had I no clue who was onstage, I sense I would have entertained but not wowed, so while it was nice to see Peter Buck back in action, I can't profess to have been overly impressed with anything I heard in particular.

After a brief break, Buck and this three bandmates served as the backing band for Escovedo, along with Chicago violinist Susan Voelz, an old collaborator of Alejandro's from Austin, Texas.

Escovedo has always been an excellent, evocative songwriter and nothing he performed contradicted this. Opening with "Can't Make Me Run" from 2012's Big Station, he proceeded to run through a 10-song main set balancing sparse ballads and gritty rockers from across his solo career.

Highlights included "Tender Heart," "Sensitive Boys"--nicely dedicated to Alejandro's brother Javier, Jeffrey Lee Pierce of the '80s band The Gun Club and all touring musicians who have spent much time riding around in vans--"Chelsea Hotel '78," "Castanets," "Always a Friend" and a terrific set-closing cover of Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane."

For his encore, Escovedo came onstage with just violinist Voelz for a sweet take on his own "Rosalie" and the Velvet Underground's "Pale Blue Eyes." The latter was a song R.E.M. had covered--it's on Dead Letter Office, a 1987 collection of outtakes--so not having Buck also onstage seemed strange to me.

As did ending the night with a full band version of Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes," a terrific song to be sure, but would it have killed anyone to rip through R.E.M.'s vaguely Texas-sounding "Driver 8," or "The One I Love," which would seem to suit Escovedo's range and style?

Again, perhaps I'm overly stuck on R.E.M. and not intending to demean Escovedo as the night's deserved headliner nor Buck's attempts to do something new.

But it felt to me that Alejandro Escovedo failed to fully capitalize on the legend onstage with him.

Does anyone think that if Alejandro was ever accompanied by Keith Richards, he wouldn't play "Sway" or "Beast of Burden"--Rolling Stones songs Escovedo has often covered--and/or blaze through other Rolling Stones classics?

I'm not suggesting--nor I doubt would he--that Peter Buck is anywhere near as good a guitarist as Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton or Eddie Van Halen, but in his own realm, he has been nearly as important and influential.

So not to even throw the audience a blast-from-his-past bone or two--especially as his promoted presence helped sell out a venue Escovedo hasn't always on his own--seems meriting of my disappointment and mild chagrin.

Especially as, even taking Escovedo's set for what it was, I didn't feel he was as terrific as I've seen in the past, including at the same place in 2010.

Perhaps he and Buck's band are still in the early stages of feeling each other out on this brief tour, but to me that's all the more reason to keep things from seeming perfunctory by surprising me with "Strange" (an R.E.M. song that itself is a Wire cover).  

Am I glad I went? Sure.

Would hearing an R.E.M. chestnut or two really have made the show that much better or changed my life? I doubt it.

But devoid of anything overtly special, was it truly a R.E.M.arkable evening? Per the great "So. Central Rain," "I'm sorry," but, no.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Chicago Dining World Tour: On Tapas the World in Evanston

Tapas Barcelona
1615 Chicago Ave., Evanston

What I ate: Mero con Espinacas al Limon, Cangrejo Con Ali-Oli, Platano con Caramelo y Helado

Before enjoying a meal at Evanston's Tapas Barcelona in late December as part of my Chicago Dining World Tour, the only other two times I have been there were on July 11, 2010 and
July 1, 2012.

The reason I know these dates--or more accurately, could easily look them up--is because they were the days Spain won the 2010 World Cup and then Euro 2012.

Not that we're such huge soccer fans, but it's plain that my mom, sister Allison and I have been prompted to visit the 'muy bueno' Spanish restaurant housed in the space that long-ago held Fritz, That's It--an early Lettuce Entertain You joint and family favorite--mainly by the futbol reign of Spain.

So it seems possible we will next return there on July 13 of this year, if Spain happens to successfully defend its World Cup title.

But although tapas are the quintessential food made for sharing, without any victories to celebrate I went myself and still found it quite enjoyable.

This isn't such a surprise as about 20 years ago I was introduced to an excellent restaurant in Naperville called Meson Sabika, which served tapas and I believe was somehow connected to Chef Emilio Gervilla, whose Emilio's Tapas in Hillside I've also visited.

And before I traveled to Spain itself in 2005--and ate tapas there--I organized a small outing to Tapas Gitana in Northfield, which I think also descended from Emilio. 

Though Emilio used to have a few more restaurants under his name or direct control, it seems that all three of the places I just mentioned still exist as of this writing.

I've also heard excellent things about Café Iberico and Mercat a La Planxa in Chicago, but I've always liked Tapas Barcelona and it was much more convenient in trying to fit numerous ethnic eateries into the tail end of 2013.

I went there on an evening when I wasn't all that hungry, but that made two tapas (i.e. small plates) just about perfect.

And though I have always enjoyed sharing with mom, Allison and others with who I've frequented tapas bars--be careful saying that around women, men; they'll think you're creepy--it was nice having the tapas I wanted all to myself.

As is customary; I was first given a basket of delicious bread which I dipped in olive oil. I also ordered myself a glass of sangria.

Both were terrific.

Both of the tapas I ordered were hot selections, i.e. Tapas Calientes, as opposed to Tapas Frias, which include items such as garlic potato salad (Patatas Alioli) and marinated olives (Aceitunas Aliñadas).

My first plate came off the nightly specials menu:

Cangrejo Con Ali-Oli = Puff pastry filled with crab meat, topped with ali-oli.

Because of the puff pastries, this reminded be a good bit of the plate of escargot I had gotten at Jilly's Cafe, also in Evanston. But whereas those had puffs each sitting atop a snail swimming in butter, here the crab meat was part of each puff sandwich.

They were delicious.

I also enjoyed my other tapas selection, which came from the Tapas Calientes section of the regular menu: 

Mero con Espinacas al Limon = Sauteed Tilapia with garlic spinach, mashed Parmesan potatoes, lemon butter.

I most often eat tilapia blackened and/or with Cajun seasoning, so the flavoring was blander--and thus less exciting--but there was nothing bad about it and the accompanying Parmesan-enriched mashed potatoes were very good.

In the name of cultural culinary research, I was compelled to order dessert.

And while I was intrigued by Crema CatalanaCatalan style crème brùlèe, I've had--and loved--crème brùlèe enough other places that I deferred to something a bit more unique:

Platano con Caramelo y Helado = Sauteed banana covered in caramel, pistachios, vanilla ice cream.


Now, especially having been to Barcelona, I know most residents there speak Catalan, not Spanish, and that there are some variances in the two cuisines.

I would imagine that given its name, Tapas Barcelona touches on both cultures and styles of cooking, but I cannot say for certain.

All I really know is that even without arriving aboard an international soccer bandwagon, the meal I had was definitely a winner.

Pithy Philosophies #13

Last night I watched the documentary Pete Seeger: The Power of Song, in which its late, great subject said this, which I really liked:

"Participation -- that's what's gonna save the human race."

-- Pete Seeger 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Exhibiting Animated Enjoyment: Exploring the Wonderful World of Walt Disney at the Museum of Science & Industry -- Museum Exhibit Review

Museum Exhibit Review

Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives
Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago
Thru May 4, 2014

In going to the Museum of Science and Industry for their exhibit on Walt Disney and his creations--as I have in recent years for ones on Charles Schultz & Peanuts and Jim Henson & the Muppets--I wondered if this represented an overt attempt to acclimate kids to science (and industry) to address U.S. shortcomings in math, science and technology disciplines.

But then it dawned on me that the "kids" these exhibits would most acutely appeal to are those around my age or older.

Certainly the name Disney likely still holds resonance with those aged 12 and under, due to the millions of families who travel to Disney World or Disneyland, popular recent movie musicals like Frozen and films made by Pixar under the Disney umbrella.

But if my now teenage niece and nephews are any barometer, I doubt Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and pals hold much more sense of magic among today's young than Charlie Brown, the Muppets and the Looney Tunes of Warner Bros. (a likely safe bet for a future MSI exhibit if the others have been profitable).

Far more up the alley of kids today--and even this may be very much age-dependent--is Harry Potter, the subject of a 2009 Museum of Science and Industry exhibition that I didn't attend.

So I can't say with any certitude that kids will love Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives--which unlike the Peanuts exhibit that featured a super-sized Charlie Brown, may not have anything that overtly enchants young ones--but their parents and grandparents should find much to enjoy.

Taking advantage of an MSI "free day," which meant I only had to pay $9 for the Disney exhibit and $20 to park my car, I spent nearly 4 hours at the museum including over two exploring the wonderful world of Disney.

Organized by D23, I like how the exhibit was quite informative about Walt Disney--the man, the creative genius, the businessman--while also showcasing his famous creations. (This was also a strength of the Henson and Schultz exhibits in past years.)

The exhibition galleries began with a nice short film about Walt's early years--born in Chicago in 1901, moved to a farm in Missouri at 4 and Kansas City for his teens, served during World War I, etc.

I won't describe every aspect of Disney's life as presented through informative displays, but I was impressed by the resiliency he showed despite various setbacks and huge financial risks.

His first significant undertaking--a series of Alice in Wonderland films combining animation with live action--went undistributed as his company went bankrupt. It was only because another company contacted him to resurrect the project, seemingly out of the blue, that Walt Disney had his first taste of success.

He would then create Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, his first notable cartoon character, only to somehow lose the rights and again face financial ruin. 

But his need for reinvention resulted in Mickey Mouse. 

Walt Disney's commitment to making Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs--the first feature-length
animated movie--and building Disneyland, the world's first theme park, saw him investing everything he owned, including his family's homes.

Understandably, the exhibit stayed away from any controversy or negativity regarding Disney, but as anyone perusing his Wikipedia biography would note allegations of racism and anti-Semitism, perhaps the curators would have seen to address and--if proper as some biographers have argued--refute them.

A replica of Walt Disney's office--including his actual desk--was a centerpiece of the exhibit, and the type of workspace used by a Disney animator was also on display.

I valued seeing letters written to Mr. Disney from the likes of President Roosevelt, Mary Pickford and Cecil B. DeMille, an assortment of awards including Oscar statuettes and was particularly fascinated by a display and video explaining the pioneering multi-plane camera which enabled Disney animated films brilliantly simulate two-dimensional depth and movement.

But the star attractions--especially for those of us old enough to remember and/or appreciate them--were many impressive movie, TV and theme park artifacts.

There was Walt's original script for Steamboat Willie--the first Mickey Mouse short--with hand-drawn illustrations by early Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks (he created Mickey), Annette Funicello's Mouseketeer outfit, the Nautilus submarine used in 20,000
Leagues Under the Sea, and the actual long-standing mail dropbox from Disneyland.

There were original costumes worn by Julie Andrews and others in Mary Poppins, a Snow White outfit worn by Rachel Weisz for a 2007 Annie Leibovitz photo shoot and Johnny Depp's costumes from Pirates of the Caribbean and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, among many others.

At the end of the exhibit, there is a Disney Animation Studio in which museum employees give tutorials on drawing the famous Disney characters.

I drew a much better Donald Duck than I ever would have expected.

Other than the Disney exhibit, I spent some time exploring the MSI's 80 at 80 displays celebrating their 80th anniversary (who knew the anatomical mannequin featured on Nirvana's In Utero album cover came from the museum's collection?) (see below) and within the Crown Space Center.

But while I fully realize just how steep an expenditure it is for a family of four to attend the Disney exhibit--particularly on a non "free day"--I felt the experience was well-worth the time, money and effort I devoted.

In other words, Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives is a "Mickey Mouse exhibit" in the best sense possible.

It may be a small world, after all, but the exhibition serves as an excellent reminder of--or even introduction to--how much more wonderful Walt Disney and his company have helped to make it.