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Showing posts from 2021

Favorite Things of 2021

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Welp, things have shut down again. NYCB's Nutcracker and a slew  Broadway shows have had to cancel for days or weeks. The Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill , decided to permanently shutter the show . So with that in mind, a year-end best-of list is in order. Keep in mind that this year, I'm choosing from a much smaller pool of performances because I only started attending live shows in September. Nevertheless, I saw a lot of good stuff.  Favorite Operatic Performance : Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Terence Blanchard (Metropolitan Opera) No, it wasn't perfect. The libretto could be mind-numbingly repetitive, the three different roles for Angel Blue always seemed abstract and impersonal, and the second act was weak. But Terence Blanchard's Fire Shut Up in My Bones was still a powerful, ground-breaking opera. It was the first opera presented at the Met written by a black composer. The music was strong enough to stand on its own merits. It was contemporary opera that wa

Company: Not Sorry/Grateful

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  Katrina Lenk as Bobby, photo @ Sara Krulwich Stephen Sondheim's long, full, productive life came to an end on November 26, 2021. A few weeks later, the last production he supervised and actually attended opened -- Marianne Elliot's gender-flipped Company .  I saw tonight's performance. I'll just say that I'm familiar with the score but had never seen a fully staged Company in person.  I don't know what exactly I expected, but I know that I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard in a theater. Company is belly-achingly hysterical, and this lively revival pays homage to the sheer wit of Stephen Sondheim's lyrics and score.

West Side Story Movie Remake Hits All the Right Notes

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I went to see the new West Side Story film this afternoon. Overall, I thought it was a really beautiful film that in some ways improved upon the 1961 classic. Director Steven Spielberg and writer Tony Kushner managed to make a film that is both a homage to the original and a reimagining with a new script that tries to flesh out the characters more than Arthur Laurents' original book. For instance, in the remake, Tony has just gotten paroled after a year in prison for pummeling a rival gang member.  This backstory makes Tony's violence at the climax of the musical more believable.Also, the Sharks and Maria/Anita/Bernardo speak Spanish to each other which makes more sense since they all just arrived from Puerto Rico.

Caroline, and Change and the Prestige Musical

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Sharon D. Clarke and Adam Makke, photo @ Sara Krulwich Last night my friend and I caught a performance of Roundabout Theater's universally praised revival of Caroline, or Change . The reviews were so glowing that my expectations were high as I settled into my seat. About two and a half hours later, I left having not enjoyed a second of the musical. There was plenty to praise -- the cast (especially Sharon D. Clarke as Caroline) was amazing --all of them could act AND sing their faces off.  Adam Makke (the Noah last night) was wonderful -- he was never just  "cute". The score by Jeanine Tesori was an eclectic blend of 1960s Motown sound, Jewish folk music, and good old-fashioned Broadway belting. It grows on you as the night goes on. "Lot's Wife" is one of the best musical theater 11-o-clock numbers. Full stop. The show cleverly makes household appliances like the washing machine and the dryer into a Greek chorus of sorts. Yet the musical felt more like a pre

NY Diaries: Die Meistersinger, Trouble in Mind, Lackawanna Blues

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Die Meistersinger, photo @ Richard Termine Last week for whatever reason, I attended three stimulating performances around town, and all were unplanned, on-the-fly things. A friend invited me to Ruben Santiago's one-man play Lackawanna Blues. I picked up a cheap ticket to Trouble in Mind on TDF. And then on Sunday I picked up a $25 rush ticket to Die Meistersinger . All ended up being great experiences. First things first: Die Meistersinger and Lackawanna Blues have a very limited number of performances. Lackawanna Blues closes this week, Die Meistersinger only has two more performances at the Met. Both are well worth seeing. 

NYCB Waves Goodbye ... and Says Welcome Back

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  Opening of Serenade, photo @ Caitlin Ochs On September 21, 2021, it seemed as if every single balletomane was stuffed into every last corner of the David Koch Theater. NYCB was making its comeback onstage after going dark for nearly 18 months. When the opening chords of Serenade started and the 17 girls held up their hands, the audience burst into ecstatic applause. I had a lump in my throat. Emotions ran so high that the actual quality of the performance barely mattered. But once the endorphins died down and the program progressed to Symphony in C , one had to admit that the company looked a bit ragged. Pandemic rustiness was not limited to us plebes -- ballet dancers also had difficulty getting their arabesque to 90 degrees, difficulty getting off the floor in jumps, difficulty dancing with the freedom and expansiveness that the repertory required.

Boris: Do Russian Leaders Ever Change?

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  RenĂ© Pape, photo @ Marty Sohl There's a leader of Russia. He's corrupt and has killed people on his path to power. He only trusts a few select family members. Are we talking about Vladimir Putin? Of course not! We're talking about Boris Godunov. Mussorgsky's opera could have been written yesterday.  The spare, stark revival at the Met used Mussorgsky's original 1869 score, which does not include the Polish act that Mussorgsky added in 1872. It's also much shorter, more episodic, and makes the opera even more laser-focused on the guilt of the Russian leader. 

"Fire Shut Up in My Bones" Reopens Met

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Will Liverman, photo @ Zenith Richards This conversation has played out several times in my life: I hear about a brand-new, contemporary opera that I MUST see. And I think about all the times I saw a contemporary opera screech on for three + hours and my response is, "Yes, but, will I LIKE it?" Last night I went to the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in 18 months, and I saw a brand-new, contemporary opera that was moving and likably accessible. Terence Blanchard's musical style is tuneful -- he combines jazz, blues, soul, gospel, and pop. Blanchard does not insist that the whole thing is sung-through -- there is dialogue, much like musical theater. The story is direct and heartfelt. The performances were uniformly excellent. The choreography by Camille A. Brown including a show-stopping line dance. Fire Shut Up in My Bones is contemporary opera for people who think that the last great opera was Turandot (1926).