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Posts Tagged ‘stephen sondheim’

Did you enjoy Will’s post on flying, the entry that I just reblogged? You might like to follow him, too.  He often embeds music in his entries.

I think I first became aware of Will’s “musical life on planet earth” when he took the role of the Tortoise in Jeff Flaster’s charming little musical Tortoise, about taking your time to enjoy life. Since then my husband and I have been to many of Will’s cabaret performances in the greater Boston area (often with the inimitable Doug Hammer on the piano).

In fact, you could catch them this coming weekend. He writes, “Doug and I have been happily rehearsing for our upcoming performances on Friday and Saturday, October 17 or 18, at Third Life Studio in Union Square, Somerville — supported in part by a recent grant from the Bob Jolly Charitable Trust.

” ‘Songs About Parents & Children’ will feature two sets of songs — divided by an intermission with lots of refreshments from Trader Joe’s — and will include music by Joni Mitchell, Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Jerry Herman, Jimmy McHugh & Dorothy Fields, Stevie Wonder, Jones & Schmidt, Cole Porter, Maltby & Shire, Weill & Brecht, as well as a couple of originals. …

“There is free parking in a nearby bank’s lot. Third Life Studio is also accessible via the 85, 86, 87, 91 and CT2 bus lines (click here for more details).

“You can click here to buy tickets for Friday, 10/17/14. Or you can click here to buy tickets for Saturday, 10/18/14.”

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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.

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We had already bought tickets for the new version of Porgy and Bess at the American Repertory Theater when Stephen Sondheim weighed in with an angry letter to the NY Times. He had not seen the show, but he apparently resented the tone of an article’s quotes from A.R.T. He may have thought director Diane Paulus and writer Suzan-Lori Parks were implying that they were better than the show’s original creators.

After the opening, Ben Brantley of the NY Times raved about Audra McDonald’s Bess while giving a mostly lukewarm review to everything else. Meanwhile, the student D.J. at Emerson College’s radio station kept reading promos for the show and pronouncing Porgy as “Porjy.” (He will always be Porjy to me now).

By the time our matinee rolled around, the day was almost too beautiful to be in a dark theater for three hours, and our initial anticipation had been reduced to mild curiosity.

So I’m happy to say we really liked A.R.T.’s Porgy — pretty much everything about it.

I admit that I am not intimate with the whole score and therefore was not always able to tell when new material had been inserted. (One line, about saving to send the baby to college, did come across with a loud, anachronistic clunk — but now a blog reader tells me it was in the original!) But the beauty of the songs, the dancing, the characters making the best of no-options, the love story! I cried pretty much the whole way through. And I’m still singing.

The only other Porgy and Bess I’d seen was directed by Bobby McFerrin in Minneapolis. It was long and kind of confusing, but I accepted that that’s the way opera often is. The A.R.T. may have presented a rejiggered story that was not true to the original, but it was a story that I could follow.

As I said to my husband on the way out, “Well, it worked for me.”

He said, “Sondheim should rethink his position.”

P.S. Audra McDonald was breathtaking.

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