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Let ‘Em Eat Cake

November 29, 2019

Having had a success with Of Thee I Sing in 2017, MasterVoices had chosen to stage the sequel with an equally starry cast made up of most of the singers from the previous show in the same roles. With a chorus of 125 voices in this most choral of musicals and nine stars, "Let ’Em Eat Cake" was gloriously sung. The orchestra of St. Luke’s under the baton of artistic director Ted Sperling gave the complex score a vigorous reading, suggesting that it is more than just a musical. While the story is quite silly (the White House gets painted blue, among other things), it is also quite dark predicting a fascist takeover of the American presidency - which may explain its quick failure in its own time. Topical in 1933, many of the topics and issues are currently in the headlines again as Washington deals with an imperial White House. The musical also offered a great many unfamiliar Gershwin songs aside from its one hit “Mine,” and familiar and unfamiliar reprises from "Of Thee I Sing" like “Wintergreen for President.” [more]

Dear Laurie Lawrence

November 23, 2019

The late NYC performer’s 60th birthday was commemorated by a lovely concert at The Duplex with the proceeds benefitting Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. [more]

John Burns Is a Sexy Beast

June 28, 2019

Gracefully clomping around in silver pumps and clad in a short-sleeved black jumpsuit, the upper portion adorned with shimmering multi-colored sequins in the configuration of the rainbow, the heavyset, bald, mature and bespectacled Burns is a triumphant vision of gay pride. This visual quality is matched by his outstanding vocal abilities. Possessed of a soaring tenor voice, distinctive phrasing and absolute aural clarity he richly mines each well-selected song to optimum effect. [more]

Julie Madly Deeply

June 19, 2019

Andrews’ worldwide success with the films "The Sound of Music" and "Mary Poppins" is well represented here, as is the Broadway musical that established her in the first place, "My Fair Lady," even if "The Boyfriend" preceded it. The current run of "Julie Madly Deeply" at 59E59 Theaters follows its playing first in London’s West End and then in Toronto. It was written by Young, with contributions from Russell Lucas, who has also directed the show in a full-steam-ahead mode. [more]

Broadway by the Year: The Broadway Musicals of 1965 & 1978

May 27, 2019

Several songs were from flop shows and given new life by Streisand:  “He Touched Me” from "Drat! The Cat!" sung with infectious flirtatiousness by Lianne Marie Dobbs; “Why Did I Choose You?” from "The Yearling," given a luscious rendition by Nicole Henry; and “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” benefiting from Ethan Slater’s enthusiasm and charm. [more]

Owen Wingrave

May 15, 2019

Witnessing the LOTNY production makes one wonder why "Owen Wingrave" is not performed more often: it has a small cast of eight with juicy roles for all of the characters, evenly divided between men and women’s roles, not true of either of the composer's operas, "Peter Grimes" or "Billy Budd." Although it makes use of the twelve tone scale, its dissonances are not hard on the ear. The plot is simple to follow and it can be performed in a unit set as was demonstrated by Josh Smith’s attractive and flexible design with six playing areas at the GK Arts Center. With the use of video or slide projections and atmospheric lighting, one can make the production as spooky as one wishes for this late Victorian ghost story. [more]

92Y Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “A Beautiful Dawning: ‘Oklahoma!’ at 75”

May 13, 2019

Ted Chapin, the writer and host of the 92Y Lyrics & Lyricists Series’ "A Beautiful Dawning: Oklahoma! at 75," did an impeccable job creating one of the best editions of this important series.  Here was a program both entertaining and informative.  The information was as enjoyable as the performances of the four singers who were directed and choreographed by Parker Esse and accompanied by the incredible Andy Einhorn and his brilliant musical ensemble. [more]

Lady in the Dark

May 9, 2019

MasterVoices performed a beautifully sung and played rendition of the legendary 1941 musical "Lady in The Dark" as part of New York City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season for three sold-out performances. Conducted and directed by MasterVoices’ artistic director Ted Sperling and starring Tony Award winner Victoria Clark as heroine Liza Elliott, the production offered a world premiere of a new adaptation of the Moss Hart book by Christopher Hart (the author’s son) and Kim Kowalke, and the complete critical edition of the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin score. While the musical portions were excellent, this concert version only made clear the strengths and weaknesses of this rarely revived musical play. [more]

The New York Pops 36th Birthday Gala: “Hat Full Of Stars: The Songs of Cyndi Lauper”

May 2, 2019

"Kinky Boots" ’ uplifting finale "Raise You Up/Just Be" was a euphoric highlight of The New York Pops’ marvelous tribute concert "Hat Full Of Stars: The Songs Of Cyndi Lauper. " The 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Score and Best Musical’s original cast member Stark Sands was joined by Lena Hall, Alex Newell, the Camp Broadway Kids ensemble and the renowned 78-piece orchestra. Earlier, that long-running Broadway show was represented by the limber and magnetic Mr. Sands’ dazzling "The Soul of a Man" and the "Glee" star Mr. Newell’s soulful "Hold Me in Your Heart." [more]

Martin Vidnovic: Broadway & Beyond

April 17, 2019

With the medley of “My Romance” and “My Funny Valentine,” he warmed up and came to a gentle boil with the two songs from "Baby": “At Night She Comes Home to Me” and “With You,” both by Richard Maltby, Jr. and David Shire.  Even without knowing how the songs fit into this moving show, it was obvious from the change in Vidnovic’s features that he identified with both the meaning of the words and the meaning of these songs in his life. [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “Sondheim: Wordplay”

April 2, 2019

Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli’s direction melded the performers with expert physical placement sprinkled with occasional dance bits that made for lively presentation. The event’s visual verve was amplified by the imaginative projection design by Dan Scully. In addition to illustrative images there were projections of Sondheim’s handwritten and typed lyrics as well as stylized photographic views. These were all continually shown on the auditorium’s back wall, beautifully complementing the performers and the speakers. [more]

The New York Pops: “Movie Mixtape: Songs from the Silver Screen”

March 20, 2019

The evening’s vocal guests are exceptionally strong singers, although their talents are not equally evident in a concert format. Silverman probably shines best in a book show, as well as Osnes, although she did demonstrate more spontaneity and connection with the audience. Kilgore brought even more freedom, energy and levity, and Large’s vocal and physical presence was sheer dynamite, and never to the detriment of ensemble moments. The amazing caliber of The New York Pops itself cannot escape mention; its underscoring of each of the singers was exquisite. Their ad hoc dedication to the late Michel Legrand and Andre Previn with a superb “The Summer Knows” (Michel Legrand/Marilyn and Alan Bergman, The Summer of ‘42, 1971) and the second act opener Disney Classics Overture were wonderful moments featuring its amazing musicians. [more]

Rameau, Maître à Danser (Les Arts Florissants)

March 7, 2019

Unlike the company’s 2016 luxuriously staged "Les Fêtes Vénitiennes," also at the Gilman, "Rameau" was purposely staged by Sophie Daneman as if in a village square, simply but effectively, the “effects” improvised as only peasants would: entrances to temples and heaven were curtains stretched between two poles; Jupiter appeared in a high stage box as an improvised Mount Olympus; a dancer as a god glided bare-chested undetected amongst the celebrating peasantry.  According to the program, this type of performance is called “théâtre de la foire” (theater of the fair). [more]

92Y’s Lyrics & Lyricists Series: “We’ll Have Manhattan: Rodgers & Hart in New York”

February 1, 2019

"We’ll Have Manhattan: Rodgers & Hart in New York," created and narrated by the soon-to-become Broadway’s Tootsie (in the new Broadway musical), Santino Fontana found most of its emotional heft in the sad story of the partnership of the efficient Richard Rodgers and the foot-dragging Lorenz Hart who found himself, a not handsome gay man, in the wrong time and place.  Hart had little personal happiness, it seems, but his songs were certainly full of gaiety and wit. [more]

Yvonne Constant: “Aznavour As Is”

January 19, 2019

“Emmenez Moi” was the stirring opening number performed by the French Ms. Constant as she majestically strode through Don’t Tell Mama’s cabaret room and onto the small stage. With her expressive enchanting singing, engaging playful presence, upswept flowing blonde hair and clad in a slinky glittering black sequined dress, Ms. Constant was a vision of star quality. [more]

Maestro

January 16, 2019

Eve Wolf’s play is essentially a monodrama, with John Noble portraying the title character. The production is a rich one, both visually and aurally. It features an abundance of live music, performed by a vivacious string quartet (violinists Mari Lee and Henry Wang, violist Matthew Cohen, and cellist Ari Evan), along with a pianist (Zhenni Li) and a trumpeter (Maximilian Morel). In addition, excerpts from historical recordings are heard. Meanwhile, extensive animated projections from designer David Bengali become central to the overall effect. The play is a kaleidoscopic, sense-stimulating experience that seems at times just to avoid becoming a three-ring circus. [more]

The Pirates of Penzance 2018 (NYGASP)

January 2, 2019

In the plus column, it was easy on the eyes. Scenic designer Lou Anne Gilleland created agreeable though not particularly elaborate sets: a rocky stretch of seashore for the first act and a gloomy ruined chapel for the second. Lighting designer Benjamin Weill gave us a kaleidoscope sky that turned lavender or red or some other dramatic shade, according to the changing moods of the story. And Gail J. Wofford and Quinto Ott’s costumes were bright and playful, especially the flouncy sleepwear (Queen Victoria’s Secret?) worn by the female wards of Major General Stanley, the operetta’s famed “Modern Major General.” [more]

Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show

December 12, 2018

Except for “Santa Baby” and “The Little Drummer Boy,” virtually every Christmas song in existence is wonderfully performed during the pleasant holiday extravaganza, Ruben & Clay's Christmas Show (aka Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show).  Even the now controversial "Baby, It's Cold Outside" is heard though revised lyrics. [more]

Experiments in Opera: Modularias

December 7, 2018

Though vastly different from each other, all four operas dealt either directly or indirectly with time, with the ways in which the past -- personal, historical, mythic -- influences the present. Each work, though short, provided a compelling immersion in a very particular and individual moment. [more]

Step into the Sun

December 2, 2018

Pink’s “Perfect” was the exhilarating finale of singer Christopher Caswell’s vivacious cabaret act, "Step into the Sun." Fourteen eclectic, mostly unconventional numbers were performed in 75 easygoing minutes with depth, humor and virtuosity. Interspersed with the musical portions was his expertly crafted biographical patter delivered with skillful comic timing and emotional resonance.  It all added up to an entertaining theatrical self-portrait. [more]

The New York Pops – Song and Dance:  The Best of Broadway

November 22, 2018

The New York Theatre Ballet performed the lovely, all-female, “Come to Me, Bend to Me” from that musical, a sweet look at pre-wedding preparations in the ancient village of Brigadoon.  That troupe began with two excerpts from de Mille’s groundbreaking “Dream Ballet” from "Oklahoma!" and her “Hornpipe” from another Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "Carousel" (1945), its fishermen bouncing about while on the hunt for female companionship. [more]

Dada at the Movies: Guy Livingston, piano

November 12, 2018

The whole evening was an experience of two interconnected worlds. The first was the historical world of Dadaism, exhibited in music, words and visual images. The second was Livingston’s dexterous and inspiring explication of that first world’s coherence. For both experts in Dadaism and newcomers to that important moment between the two world wars, Livingston’s presentation captured the essence of Dadaist artists’ experiments and assertions. [more]

The Yeomen of the Guard

October 30, 2018

As for cast standouts, Greenwood excelled both musically and dramatically. His ringing, expressive vocals and crisp diction made him an audience favorite. And he created an effective character shift when the assertive and seemingly self-adoring Fairfax shaves his beard to become a rather diffident novice yeoman. Another notable turn came from David Auxier as the austere, thoughtful Sir Richard Cholmondeley, the Tower lieutenant. (Auxier also served as choreographer, providing a few athletic dance moves of the sort not always seen in Gilbert & Sullivan productions.) In terms of musicality, Benke’s Phoebe had a warm, winning, almost musical-theater sound, while Watson Chase prompted goose bumps with her vibrant top notes. The production’s orchestra sounded rich and full from overture to Act II finale. [more]

Aynur, with special guest Kinan Azmeh (September 30, 2018)

October 14, 2018

Each song – some traditional folk ballads and some national calls to history and identity – became, in Aynur’s hands, an individual work of art, intricately structured and elegantly paced. Aynur combined subtle artistry with intimate, fresh connection to both her colleague musicians and her audience. Singing in Kurdish and seamlessly incorporating Western contemporary motifs, Aynur conveyed accounts of human events – hope and fear, joy and grief, wisdom, innocence, experiment and embrace – that were clear and compelling, even for audience members who couldn’t understand her words. [more]

The Crossing: Of Arms and the Man

October 14, 2018

Nally’s extensive program notes provided insights on the program, whose title comes from the opening line of Virgil’s "Aeneid," “Arma virumque cano” … “I sing of arms and the man.” Nally juxtaposes the Roman epic with Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s 1976 “call to poets” and notes the presence of rage as a human impulse that links Aeneas’ war stories with the contemporary United States. Various choral pieces in the program by contemporary composers as diverse as David Lang, Gabriel Jackson, Suzanne Giraud and Sebastian Currier addressed themes such as grief, awe, reverence, hope and anger. The pieces were typically a cappella, but three marvelous cellists – Alexander Hersh, Arlen Hlusko and Thomas Mesa – provided linking music between works. [more]

Because I Could Not Stop: An Encounter with Emily Dickinson

September 28, 2018

Stranger still is the choice of Angelica Page to play Dickinson who looks rather too healthy to be the famously thin and sallow-faced writer known from the one famous photograph. She makes Dickinson sarcastic, arrogant, cynical, self-important and haughty which goes against the voice of the woman in the poems. At times she has been given arty stage directions like posing by a mantelpiece or sleeping on the ground next to what we assume is alongside of her father’s grave. [more]

Richard Holbrook: It’s Time for a Love Song: The Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner

September 27, 2018

Holbrook’s enduring youthful presence, twinkling charm and commanding vocal authority make him the ideal vessel to channel Lerner’s monumental achievements. Through his concisely informative commentary that is perfectly interlaced with 25 songs, we learn Lerner’s biographical essence. Wit, Harvard, Broadway, Hollywood, eight marriages, triumphs, flops and death at the age of 67 in 1986 are all crisply detailed during 80 fast-paced minutes.  The presentation is a model of the tributary concert with its wide-ranging array of rarities, never before heard selections in addition to classics. The dramatic lighting and polished sound design coordinated by Rocky Noel added to the show’s depth. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Inspirations and Purposes

August 31, 2018

The Festival’s sole lecture-presentation proved useful in revealing how one composer viewed the intersections of science and art in his own composing: trumpeter Skye van Duuren, now a trumpeter and PhD candidate in Composition in the College-Conservatory at the University of Cincinnati spoke on “Bridging Worlds: Creating Fixed Media Microtonal Music with Acoustic Instruments” and then presented the third movement of his Manifestations. Emphasizing the development of his “microtonal language … with traditional chromatic scale as a baseline … and gradations of 5 cents in octaves that each have 240 ‘notes,’ van Duuren discussed the use of Melodyne software to increase the microtones of acoustic instruments. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Excellence

August 31, 2018

In the very first concert, one of the finest – and also longest – pieces of the Festival was Marie-Helene Bernard’s BOA Sr (1.5, i.e. Concert 1, piece 5). In 2010, Bernard read the obituary of an old woman living in the Andaman Archipelago in the Bay of Bengal; she was the last person alive to speak the Bo language, and at the end of her life, with no one left to talk to, she spoke to the birds. This fixed media requiem piece uses fragments of an anthropologist’s recordings of the old woman’s voice with electronic musical sounds. From its beginning, this work evokes the past by preserving the voices of its ghosts; humanness is stretched out into something cosmically airy. It is a mysterious and gorgeous work, a modern anthropological moment turned into a myth of simultaneous loss and eternity. [more]

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival 2018: Overview

August 31, 2018

This year, the Festival site was the Abrons Arts Center; the three performance venues in the facility – the Experimental Theater, the  Playhouse and the Underground Theater – were all used. In the spacious Center, performers, composers and audience socialized and exchanged ideas and personal news throughout the week. Though the Festival composers came from many countries all over the world, the “community” of electroacoustic music is quite small; performers often know each other and each others’colleagues and friends, knowledgeable audiences and strong supporters … an exceptionally eclectic and vibrant group, all interested in music that both affirms and expands the core questions about music that composers, performers and listeners have been exploring for centuries. [more]

International Contemporary Ensemble: “Grand Pianola Music”

August 24, 2018

After intermission, German-born and now San Francisco based conductor Christian Reif led the International Contemporary Ensemble together with Quince Vocal Ensemble (Amanda DeBoer Bartlett/soprano, Liz Pearse/soprano and Kayleigh Butcher/mezzo-soprano – in a first-rate performance of John Adams’ 1982 "Grand Pianola Music."  This expansive, generously accessible and affirming work was conducted with comprehensive control and artistic integrity by Reif; the organic, clean connection between the conductor and the musicians elicited rich feeling and nuance from Adams’ music. [more]
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