Building a Bridge

Muse/ique American/Rhapsodyuserpic=theatre_ticketsWith all my political posts of late, you probably thought I had abandoned the real theatre for the political theatre that is Decision 2016. You would be wrong. We suffered a bit of burnout with the Hollywood Fringe Festival and July’s shows, so we decided not to book any additional shows during August. Rest assured, theatre readers, that live performances will start up again after Labor Day.

That said, last night saw us at one of our traditional summer shows: Muse/ique (FB) on the Beckman Lawn at Caltech.  For those unfamiliar, Muse/ique bills itself as a counter-culture orchestra. I’d say it is more an orchestra with an electic bent on the creative spectrum. It takes a particular subject and makes all sorts of connections to illustrate it well. At a program we saw in February called String/Awakening, the program ran from a focus on stringed instruments with bridges, to percussive sound, to knitting, to dancers hanging by strings, to a short talk on string theory.

This summer, the theme for Muse/ique is George Gershwin, hence “Gershwin/Nation” (they like their slashes at Muse/ique). We missed the first summer show; last nights show was titled “American/Rhapsody”. As expected one of the first numbers was Rhapsody in Blue, performed by HyeJin Kim on keyboard with the Muse/ique Orchestra. But then the uniqueness that is Muse/ique took hold. Maestra Rachael Worby talked about the opening riff of Rhapsody, and how it could have gone many directions, from blues to jazz to european classical, and how Gershwin specifically designed his music to bridge between the blues and the classical. We then started on a wild ride, that explored other artists that created similar bridges, from Duke Ellington to Paul Simon to Harold Arlen to Kurt Weill, to Carole King to Jerome Kern to Leonard Bernstein. So, for a Gershwin concert, there were only about four true Gershwin numbers — and those numbers often exhibited interesting takes, such as Fazil Say’s interpretation of Porgy and Bess’ Summertime.

This also just wasn’t music being played. Two of the numbers were performed acapella with the Street Corner Renaissance group — they did “Bridge over Troubled Water” by Paul Simon (first recipient of the Gershwin Prize) and “Up on the Roof” by Carole King (fifth recipient of the Gershwin Prize). There was dance by the group Bodytraffic, who performed to the orchestrated versions of Gershwin’s Three Preludes and Kurt Weil’s (arrangement by the Oscar Peterson Trio + 1) classic Mack the Knife. There was a neat film by Dan Goods, Visual Strategist of JPL, on bridges.

Unfortunately, I’m having to do the program from memory. Although something is handed out that identifies the composers, arrangers, choreographers, and artists, there is no formal program of the music performed. This is a continuing problem with Muse/ique — one that I wish they would fix.

Modulo that quibble, this was one of the best Muse/ique shows we’ve seen. We’ll be back at Caltech in September for Summer/Time, a tribute to Porgy and Bess.

The Muse/ique orchestra, under the direction of Rachael Worby (FB), consisted of (I’m using the style of Muse/ique here): VIOLIN 1 / Marisa Sorajja, Hana Won Kim, Radu Pieptea, Rafi Rishik (FB), Joel Pargman (FB), Carrie Kennedy (FB) / VIOLIN 2 / Maia Jasper, Neel Hammond, Shelly Shi / VIOLA / Erik Rynearson, Rodney Wirtz, Adam Neeley / CELLO / Charlie Tyler, Ginger Murphy, Joo Lee (FB) / BASSES / Mike Valerio (FB), Don Ferrone (FB) / FLUTE / Sarah Weisz, Angela Weigand (FB) / OBOE / Michele Forrest, Catherine Del Russo / CLARINET / Don Foster, Damon Zick (FB) / BASSOON / William May, Bill Wood / HORN /  Steve Becknell (FB), Nathan Campbell / TRUMPET / Ryan Darke, Rob Schaer / TROMBONE / Nick Daley (FB), Brent Anderson (FB) / TUBA / Scott Sutherland / TIMPANI / Theresa Dimond / PERCUSSION / Jason Goodman (FB) / DRUMSET / Ted Atkatz / KEYBOARD / Alan Steinberger (FB).

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Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts 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 currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the  Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), and I plan to renew my mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Past subscriptions have included  The Colony Theatre (FB) (which went dormant in 2016), and Repertory East Playhouse (“REP”) (FB) in Newhall (which entered radio silence in 2016). 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:  September returns to conventional theatre. The second weekend sees us back at Muse/ique (FB) for Summer/Time, a reimagined retelling of Porgy and Bess. The third weekend brings I Love You Because at the Grove Theatre in Burbank. The last weekend is The Hunchback of Notre Dame at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB).

Continuing the look ahead: October is a bit more booked. The first weekend brings Dear World at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) and Our Town at Actors Co-op (FB), as well as the start of the High Holy Days. The second weekend has another Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB) event: this time for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The third weekend has yet another VPAC event: An Evening with Kelli O’Hara on Friday, as well as tickets for Evita at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend brings Turn of the Screw at Actors Co-op (FB) on October 22 and the new Tumbleweed Festival (FB) on October 23. The last weekend of October brings Linden Waddell’s Hello Again, The Songs of Allen Sherman at Temple Ahavat Shalom (a joint fundraiser for MoTAS and Sisterhood). Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, October is also the North Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and it looks like a theatre in Pasadena will be presenting the musical Funny Girl. November is still in the planning stages, but we know it will include Hedwig and the Angry Inch at  the Hollywood Pantages (FB); a Day Out With Thomas at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) [excuse me, “Southern California Railway Museum”]; the Nottingham Festival (FB); and possibly Little Women at the Chance Theatre (FB) in Anaheim. 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 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.