Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘musical’

What a weekend for entertainment! On one day, we saw the musical The Wild Party (LaChiusa version) at  Moonbox Productions in Boston. (Very good.) On another, we attended a flamenco concert in a church.

The flamenco headliner, guitarist Juanito Pascual, was joined by flamenco percussionist and singer José Moreno and singer and dancer Bárbara Martinez. Such exuberant and mournful fun! It reminded us of fado concerts we’ve attended, although that happy-sad tradition is Portuguese and flamenco is Spanish.

The music included pieces that go back centuries plus Pascual’s own compositions, which are a fascinating blend of old and new. Challenging at times, but pretty intriguing. One was dedicated to the person back home in Minnesota “who persuaded my mother to let me take guitar lessons.”

An article in the Concord Journal notes that Pascual,  who is just beginning a 15-city tour to promote his latest CD, “skillfully weaves such influences as Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, Bach and many others into his original compositions.” The Journal also quotes Boston Globe critic Steve Morse, who admires how Pascual “combines vivid colors, rich imagination and a yearning, never satisfied mastery of his art.”

Even in pieces without Moreno’s percussion support, Pascual’s virtuoso performance sounded like he was simultaneously playing two guitars and a set of bongos (flamenco involves slapping the wood as well has playing the strings). Very dramatic.

More at the Concord Journal, here. And you can hear samples of the music at all three artists’ websites.

Photo: www.juanitopascual.com

Read Full Post »

A musical based on a winning 1950s Mademoiselle college-contest story, Doris Betts’s “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” is playing at the Speakeasy Stage in Boston, and it’s pretty special. My husband and I saw it yesterday.

The Violet of the title is a young woman from North Carolina who has saved up enough money to take a bus to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to beseech a television faith healer to resurrect her face, disfigured by a hatchet accident in childhood.

In spite of being an ornery character, suspicious of ridicule, she is befriended on the bus by two soldiers and an old woman, none of whom believe in the faith healer.

The group splits up, and Violet makes it to the television studio. Having first accosted the faith healer, she enlists her own belief, her carefully chosen Bible verses, and her childhood memories and fears in a dreamlike growth process that resonates on many levels.

The production’s fugue of psychology, American beauty culture, race relations — and musical numbers suggestive of the regions Violet passes through — rises to a crescendo and resolves into a satisfying ending. The show has humorous moments, moving moments, moments of insight, and memorable songs.

One of the most stirring musical numbers, “Raise Me Up,” is performed at the television station by both charlatans and true believers. The professional actors are backed by a series of Boston-area Gospel choirs, filling in at different performances.

What a great idea! I knew when I bought tickets that, if nothing else, I’d like the local choirs. As it happens I liked it all.

Jeanine Tesori wrote the music. The book and lyrics were by Brian Crawley, direction by Paul Daigneault, musical direction by Matthew Stern, and choreography by David Connolly. An earlier version of the show played Off-Broadway in the late 1990s. Speakeasy is presenting the brand-new version as the Boston premier.

Check out the review by Boston Globe critic Don Aucoin, here.

Read Full Post »

Our 5-year-old grandson’s friend had been planning to attend an American Repertory Theater musical with her grandmother today at 10 a.m. We decided to go, too.

The show was The Pirate Princess and was loosely (very loosely) based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It was a hoot for me, and the young man in the photo seemed riveted. But whether he could make head or tail of the  convoluted plot, I have my doubts. It will be interesting to see down the road what he remembers — and whether he wants to see more plays.

The plot involves a brother and sister who get separated in a shipwreck (in this case, it’s thanks to a monster called the Kraken) and have separate adventures with characters who later mistake the sister dressed as a boy for the boy and vice versa. (I kept whispering in my grandson’s ear, “The pirate thinks he’s the girl that he thinks is a boy”; “The Queen thinks he’s his sister but doesn’t know his sister is a girl.” My grandson didn’t respond.)

There were songs, musical instruments, fancy costumes, pirates storming up lighted platforms in the middle of the audience, sword fights, and imaginative special effects. I especially like the jellyfish created by glowing umbrellas with streamers, carried along the aisles in the dark. The Kraken with his many legs was pretty great, too.

After the show, we had hot chocolate and cookies at the Darwin on Mt. Auburn Street. I’m not sure what our grandson will be able to tell his parents about the madcap entertainment he witnessed, but bits and pieces will likely emerge over time. I myself saw Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland when I was four, but I didn’t become a theater nut until I was 10.

010216-hot-chocolater-after-theater

Read Full Post »

Flashback city.

Hershey Felder has been presenting his one-man show on Irving Berlin at the Cutler Majestic. Embodying the great composer-lyricist, Felder takes the audience through an extraordinary life from Berlin’s birth in Belarus to his death in New York at 101.

We get to hear much of the great music, including the backstory of songs we thought we knew. “White Christmas,” for example. We may have known it was written after Pearl Harbor and became beloved of US troops everywhere, but its heartfelt power comes from a loss Berlin and his wife Ellen experienced at Christmas years before.

I liked the way Felder/Berlin first describes the famous characters with whom he interacted and, after a pause, springs their names on us. He describes writing music for one performer whose first audition pegged him as balding and mediocre at acting, singing, dancing. It was Fred Astaire.

Felder does brief and funny imitations of many celebrities: Ethel Merman, George Kaufman, Flo Ziegfeld. There are movie clips featuring people like Al Jolson — and a touching story about the great African American singer Ethel Waters.

But what can catch a person by surprise is an incident or name that hasn’t been thought of in decades. The story about Berlin putting aside “God Bless America” because an adviser thought no one would like it — then pulling it out when a well-known singer wanted something for Armistice Day years later — gave me a jolt. That’s because the well-known singer was Kate Smith, and I had a flashback to a childhood nanny who listened every day to Kate Smith on the old black & white Dumont TV singing “When the moon comes over the mountain” (not a Berlin song).

After a standing ovation, Felder made an announcement that the eldest daughter of Irving Berlin was in the audience, and she came up to the front. And so did a daughter of hers and a son and two grandsons (grandchildren and great-children of the composer.)

Berlin’s daughter spoke a few words of gratitude to Felder for his faithful portrayal, noting in particular her father’s fierce patriotism. It was fun to think that this woman was the baby for whom Berlin wrote “Blue Skies Shining for Me.”

There’s a lot to be said for the out-of-body state induced by watching a good entertainment (or reading an absorbing mystery, or doing tai chi, or playing with a child) that puts your mental tape loop on pause and leaves you refreshed.

More about the production can be found at Arts Emerson.

Read Full Post »

Wow, what an awesome job the Concord Players did with this goofy musical by the folks who brought you Monty Python!

Spamalot had so many insane costume changes, extravagant production numbers, and giddy jokes that it never allowed you a minute to think how silly it all is.

We laughed a lot. They say laughing is good for your health, and I can see why it is good for mental health at least — when you are really laughing, you can’t think about anything but the thing that is making you laugh. So you’re really “living in the moment,” as the gurus advise.

Tom was one of the trumpet players (not the one who gets shot by the conductor for playing the wrong trumpet themes in the overture), and Claire gave a party after the matinee. Wisely, she decided not to emphasize Spam for the meal (“No one would have come to the party,” she said) and instead presented a delicious spread with a Cinco de Mayo theme.

Several guests cracked out their smart phones to inform us about what Cinco de Mayo celebrates (the 1862 defeat of the French by Mexicans at Pueblo — not sure I feel much wiser, though).

Spamalot is sold out. But it was sold out today, too, and I saw a few empty seats, so take a chance — maybe a ticket holder won’t show up. The woman next to me was offended by some of the naughtiness and irreverence and left at intermission. So you could always come for the second half.

Read Full Post »

Ted-Shen-Second-Chance-at-PublicWe went down to New York this weekend to see my husband’s classmate’s new musical.

Ted Shen wrote the book, lyrics, and music to A Second Chance, a lovely little cameo about a widower and a divorcee. The title refers to new beginnings for two people, but it’s hard for my husband and me not to think of new careers, too, since Shen was an investment banker for 30 years before turning to music so seriously.

At TheaterMania, where a couple of old reviews I wrote are still archived, Shen describes how he began to develop his musical after Stephen Sondheim gave him encouragement.

And he explains his style. “In my role as composer, my preference has been to emphasize the use of ‘action songs’ that show the characters interacting with each other and conversing primarily through lyrics rather than pure spoken dialog, and to limit the use of ‘introspection songs’ that stop the action to express feelings and inner thoughts. I have attempted to create a contemporary musical ‘language’ that is jazz-inflected rather than written in today’s predominant pop-based genre.’ ” More at TheaterMania.

Oskar Eustis, the artistic director of the Public Theater, where the show is being performed, says that Shen “has written some of the most elegant and sophisticated music I have heard in theater in many a moon.”

While in New York, we also saw the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (based on the movie Kind Hearts and Coronets). It was pure Broadway fun, and we laughed a lot. But A Second Chance gave us more to talk about after.

Consider checking out the site for the Shen Family Foundation, here, which “concentrates its grant-making in the area of musical theater through its funding support of works of exceptionally gifted and highly original musical theater composers.”

Photo: Suzanne‘s Dad reconnects with his classmate decades after business school and asks him to sign a Playbill.

032914-John-and-Ted-Shen-at-Public-Theater

Read Full Post »

Well, if you aren’t into musicals, it might not be hilarious to you, but I just love that a famous songwriter wrote this number for Great American Soup back in 1970, and a famous Broadway star performed it. Terry Teachout posted it, here, on his theater blog. His blog is called “About Last Night,” and I connect to it through ArtsJournal.

Back when I was reading the Wall Street Journal, I used to enjoy Teachout’s theater reviews. But according to his blog, reviews are just the tip of the iceberg for this Renaissance Man.

“Terry’s first play, Satchmo at the Waldorf, opens off Broadway at the Westside Theatre on Mar. 4. Previews start Feb. 15. The production is directed by Gordon Edelstein, with John Douglas Thompson appearing in the triple role of Louis Armstrong, Joe Glaser, and Miles Davis. It was seen in 2012 at Shakespeare & Company of Lenox, Mass., Long Wharf Theatre of New Haven, Conn., and Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater. For more information, go here.

“To see John Douglas Thompson on stage in Satchmo at the Waldorf, go here. To watch a Wall Street Journal-produced video interview with Terry, go here.”

Teachout also writes opera libretti. I always thought it would be fun to do that.

Below: “Great American Soup” commercial, written by Stan Freberg and starring Ann Miller.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: