Thursday, December 16, 2010

Latest TDF Articles

I'm pretty excited about the series of articles I've written for TDF Stages about creating the sound for Broadway shows. Earlier this year, I profiled the fascinating Red Press, who has worked on Broadway as a musician and music contractor/coordinator for over 50 years. I also wrote about musicians who perform onstage in musicals, rather than in the pit. My two most recent articles included an interview with Jeanine Tesori about writing the score for a play (A Free Man of Color) and an interview with the orchestrator and music director of American Idiot about adapting Green Day's music for the stage.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Jolly Holiday With Andrew Kober

Andrew Kober's Sunday night Feinstein's concert entitled "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" was the musical equivalent of drinking a glass of eggnog (if you don't like eggnog, mentally replace with a winter drink you enjoy) and eating a plate of holiday cookies. That's a good thing, since he said his goal for the audience was to want get wrapped up in a Slanket, drink some hot chocolate, and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas (his rendition of "Christmas Time is Here" definitely put me in the mood for the Snoopy dance). This was a one-off concert, but he should consider a longer run next year.

Kober's sense of humor and natural way of speaking to the audience made it feel like you were joining him in his living room (albeit a very fancy living room). He sang many classics, including "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "White Christmas," and "Jingle Bells," but Jason Sherbundy's jazzy arrangements provided a fresh take. Kober has an impressive range, which he proved in Hair by singing as several characters, including a woman, and he can now add crooner to that list. Kober's girlfriend, Farra Ungar, joined him for "Baby It's Cold Outside" as a last-minute replacement for Megan Lawrence. It was a sweet moment and their chemistry made it a highlight of the evening. With concerts as entertaining as this one, it's no wonder this is considered the most wonderful time of the year.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A Small Fire

One of the first shows I'll be seeing in the new year is A Small Fire, by Adam Bock and directed by Trip Cullum, at Playwrights Horizons. The talented cast features Reed Birney (Circle Mirror Transformation), Celia Keenan-Bolger (Spelling Bee, Bachelorette), and Michele Pawk (Cabaret). The plot description from the press release states, "When a tough-as-nails contractor finds her senses slipping on the brink of her daughter’s wedding, the impact on her family is nothing less than seismic." I won't be seeing the show, which starts previews on December 16, for another few weeks, and I'll review it then, but I wanted to give you all a chance to use this discount code.

Special A SMALL FIRE offer for Pataphysical Science blog readers!

Order by December 31 with code SMGR and tickets are only:

· $40* (reg. $70) for all performances December 16-30, 2010

· $55 (reg. $70) for all performances January 1-23, 2011


· Order online at Use code SMGR.

· Call Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8pm daily)

· Present a printout of this blog post to the Ticket Central box office at 416 West 42nd Street (Noon-8pm daily).

*A limited number of $40 discounted tickets will be available for purchase. Subject to availability. Valid only in select rows.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Haunting Brenda Blethyn

Despite three fine performances, there was something alienating about the writing in Haunted that kept me distanced. But there is still plenty to savor in Haunted, part of the Brits Off Broadway festival (an Anglophile's dream) at 59E59. The play runs through January 2.

The memory play is narrated by Mr. Berry (Niall Buggy), a romantic with a vivid imagination, and it's hard to know whether everything happened as he said or whether some of it was in his mind. He recalls the day a young lady, Hazel (Beth Cooke), comes to his house and he is instantly infatuated. After finding out that she gives elocution lessons, he asks her to teach him in exchange for his wife's (who she believes to be dead) clothes. Mrs. Berry (Brenda Blethyn) is very-much alive and working at a doll factory.

Cooke, in her New York debut, is sweet as the delicate Hazel. Buggy gives Mr. Berry just the right combination of charm and creepiness. Not surprisingly, since the play was written as a vehicle for her, Blethyn is the driving force of the play. Her performance is funny, moving, and yes, even haunting. Her tangible pain of a woman still hurting from her long ago miscarriage and husband's infidelities makes Mrs. Berry the only character I cared about.

The design elements are particularly evocative of how bleak the marriage has become. Projections by Jack James, sound design by Pete Rice, and music by Akintayo Akinbode are suitably forboding. The carousel horse hanging from the ceiling of Simon Higlett's living room set is a nice touch, and used effectively later in the play.

All of this does not completely make up for the fact that there are moments when the play gets bogged down in Edna O'Brien's dense writing and there is not enough plot to sustain the 2 hour 15 minute run time, but Blethyn's performance makes the price of admission worthwhile.

Photo credit: Jonathan Keenan