Last year, we took a … detour … from our conventional theatre when my wife discovered the Muse/ique Summer of Sound. This year, we were prepared and we went looking for Muse/ique (FB)’s shows. The theme this year has been Planet Bernstein, which has been an exploration of all things Leonard Bernstein. The one event we could fit in was the summer session on the lawn of the Beckman Auditorium at Caltech. Titled “Jazz/Genesis”, this session explored how Leonard Bernstein and his collaborators rewrote the rules for jazz, transforming and fusing it into classical jazz. It featured Dee Dee Bridgewater (FB) as the guest artist, adding her interpretation and improvisation to the mix (I last saw Ms. Bridgewater, IIRC, when she did The Wiz at the Ahmanson in 1977 or 1978).
[In case you are curious, Part 1 on July 11 was “Cosmic / Collaboration”, and explored Bernstein’s influence on collaborators such as Copland, John Williams, Jerome Robbins, and John Lennon. Part 3, which alas we must miss, is on August 29 and is titled “In/Side Story”, and is a counter-cultural exploration of West Side Story, including performance, poetry, and dance.]
Last night’s program focused on Bernstein’s influence and interaction with other music creators such as Dave Brubeck, George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Mike Simpson, and Stephen Sondheim. It featured the Orchestra of Muse/ique (see below) under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), the “Artistic Director, Conductor, and Connoisseur of the Counter Conventional” for Muse/ique. Alas, Muse/ique does not provide a program with a list of selections; based on my notes, these were the selections that were performed (along with some additional notes):
- A Duke Ellington Medley. Alas, I was unable to identify all the pieces in the medley by name.
- A George Gershwin Medley. This included an instrumental version of “Fascinating Rhythm“, and a jazzy version of “A Foggy Day” featuring Dee Dee Bridgewater (FB) on vocals.
- “Kathy’s Waltz” (Dave Brubeck).
- “Big Stuff” (Leonard Bernstein). This was the “blues”-y introduction to the ballet “Fancy Free”, later made famous by Billie Holiday. Vocals by Dee Dee Bridgewater (FB). This made me want to go out and get the new “Lady Day” cast album.
- A few selective ballets from “Fancy Free” (Bernstein)
- Two songs from Bernstein’s theatre work: “I Can Cook, Too” from On The Town, and “Take Care of This House” from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Vocals by Dee Dee Bridgewater (FB). I had a few quibbles here. First, there was absolutely no mention of the lyricists here — and if you’re going to be singing the words, you need to credit the folks who wrote them — in this case, Comden and Green for On the Town, and Alan Lerner for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
- A world premiere piece: “Recharged” by Peter Knell.
- “Venus De Milo” by Gerry Mulligan, which was made famous by Miles Davis, whose wife was a dancer in the original production of West Side Story, and who was inspired by Bernstein.
- Two songs representative of Bernstein’s partner, Sondheim: “Sooner or Later” (from the movie Dick Tracy, originally sung by Madonna), and “Send in the Clowns” (from A Little Night Music). Vocals by Dee Dee Bridgewater (FB). Again, I had some quibbles here. First, neither of these songs had anything to do with Bernstein; it might have been more unique to do some of the songs that were cut from West Side Story, such as the “Atom Bomb Baby Mambo“, “Like Everybody Else”, “My Greatest Day”, “Once in Your Life”, “This Turf is Ours”, or “Up To The Moon”. Secondly, I just did not like Bridgewater’s take on “Send in the Clowns”.
- An orchestral version of the score from “On The Waterfront“. This featured dancers from The Edge PAC, under the direction of Kitty McNamee (bio) (FB), with featured dancers Chelsea Paige Johnston (FB) and Marlon Pelayo (FB). It also featured a kinetic water projection from two JPL engineers: David Delgado (JPL Creative Director) and Dan Goods (JPL Visual Strategist).
The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of (I’m using the style of Muse/ique here): VIOLIN 1 / Ana Landauer, Lorand Lokuszta (FB), Eric Wuest (FB), Rafi Rishik (FB), Joel Pargman (FB), Carrie Kennedy (FB) / VIOLIN 2 / Agnes Gottschewski (FB), Neel Hammond, Susan Rishik, Florence Titmus (FB) / VIOLA / Yi Zhou (FB), Shawn Mann (FB), Brett Banducci (FB) / CELLO / Peter Myers (FB), Joo Lee (FB), Rebecca Merblum (FB) / BASSES / Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE / Sarah Weisz, Angela Weigand (FB) / OBOE / Claire Chenette (FB), John Yoakum (FB) / CLARINET / Stuart Clark (FB), Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON / Damian Montano (FB) / HORN / Steve Becknell (FB), Nathan Campbell / TRUMPET / Marissa Benedict (FB), Chris Eble (FB) / TROMBONE / Nick Daley (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TUBA / P. Blake Cooper (FB) / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET / Mike Shapiro (FB) / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger (FB) / CASTING / Brady Steel (FB).
In general, I enjoyed the show: very pleasant music, in a very civilized picnic setting (they provide tables and chairs, even). I have only one major quibble: and that is not with Muse/ique, but with Caltech. For whatever reason, the clowns at Caltech (FB) decided to schedule a wedding right now top of the Muse/ique performance. Based on the Caltech master schedule for wedding photography, this was either the Oganesyan wedding party, the Manougian wedding party, or the Loza/Orozco wedding party. It is unclear which was the culprit, but the wedding party appeared to be in the courtyard of Dabny Hall, and was blasting rock music towards Muse/ique, spoiling the entire atmosphere. For such an intelligent organization, this was poor poor form, Caltech.
Alas, this show was a single performance, but if you’re in town, you can catch In/Side Story on August 29. For more information, visit the Muse/ique website.
Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at three theatres: REP East (FB), The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.
Upcoming Shows: Our last concert of the weekend is a MoTAS event (so no writeup, whew!): Concerts on the Green in Warner Park (with a Neil Diamond cover band). The third weekend of August is calmer, but only because we moved theatre off the weekend because my wife is driving my daughter’s car back to the bay area. As for me, I might very well go back to see the revised “Jesus Christ Superstar” at REP East (FB) — they are returning to have live music and I expect that will make a significant difference. The third week of August may see us back at REP East (FB) for their “secret seventh show”, which has been revealed to be “A Company of Wayward Saints“. After that we’ll need a vacation … but then again we might squeeze in Evita at the Maui Cultural Center (FB) the last weekend of August. September starts with Tom Paxton’s last concert at McCabes (FB) on September 12, followed by right now is mostly open, with the only ticketed show being “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) and a hold-the-date for “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October will bring another Fringe Festival: the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB). October also has the following as ticketed or hold-the-dates: CSUN’s Urinetown (end of October – 10/30 or 11/1); “The Best of Enemies” at The Colony Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/10); and “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) (Ticketed for Sat 10/17). As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.