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Sunday, April 28, 2013

RED BLUE YELLOW art installation @ Madison Square Park

New Yorkers we have the best walking city, along with the best public parks, architecture and public art instillations.  On this beautiful weekend, I enjoyed a stroll through Madison Sq. Park; 23rd/Madison Avenue.  A large scale art installation, RED BLUE YELLOW by Orly Genger consists of 3 separate, wave-like forms made from knotted nautical rope.  The rope used 1,4000,000 ft. & weighs over 100,000 lbs.  The 3 structures are individually painted in 3 very vivid primary colors: red, blue, yellow.  Genger, a NYC based artist is known for her work molding ropes into bold structures.  Her art has been featured in both the MoMA & Whitney Museums. The 3 installations currently framing the Park are reminiscient of rollicking waves; rising and crashing, curving & folding.  Genger obtains rope from along the Eastern Seaboard.  RED BLUE YELLOW brings the ocean into the heart of our city.  The structures form a friendly citadel on the park.  These installations are gratis to enjoy and full of merriment.  But not made for climbing (sadly) or you will be made personna non gratis.  Allow the children to play in the playground, let your dogs off leash in the dog run, admire the wrought iron bldg. and have snack at the shake shack (which should be painted solid gold.)  Just get yourself there, walk around the installations and have fun.

NIKOLAI & the OTHERS, Not Geared to Most Others

The play, NIKOLAI & the OTHERS, @ Lincoln Center is a play that purports on the colloboration between Balanchine & Stravinsky for the  ballet, "Orpheus."  The play is set in 1948 on a farm in CT with a household filled with Russian comrades (literally) who have all immigrated from Russia to the U.S.A.  Balanchine & Stravinsky collobrated on "Orpheus"and other ballets.  However, the playwright, Richard Nelson,  takes artistic liberties with his play.   A clan of Russian immigrants have all gathered to  honor the painter/set decorator Sergey Sudeikin who is of failing health (he died in 1946.)  The central characters and their soap opera relationships with each other, are based on facts.  Sudeikin was married to Stravinsky's "wife" and Balanchine was married to the young  dancer,  for whom he created many leads.  NIKOLAI is Nikolai Nabokov, a one time composer who did colloborate with the CIA after WWII.  If you love ballet & you love Balanchine's work (I certainly do) then, this is the play for you.  We are privy to mechanics of creative genuises at work.  We are also given a working preview of "Orpheus" along with the other guests.  Balanchine's young wife, Maria Tallchief, is played by Natalia Alonso, a professional ballerina.  Balanchine rehearses the pas de deux  in the barn to laterns & a live pianist.  Stravinsky is present & readily adapts his score to accommodate Balanchine's choreography.  This scene was worth the price of admission.  However, the play is  bogged down by pseudointellectual debates over what constitutes art, art's signifigance and even how art is sustained.  The play also touches upon black-listing, and the Cultural Cold War with the Soviet Union.  The theatre was only partially filled Friday night.  After intermission, it became barren.  Nelson'a clever idea for his play becomes suffused with lugubrious & overly ambitious discussions.  I liked the show but I doubt it will play in Poughkeepsie.  Ironically, the playwright included this Balanchine quote in our program, "I am not trying to prove anything.  I only wish to prove the dance by dancing.  I want to say:  {If you should happen to like it, here they are:  dancers dancing.}"

Friday, April 26, 2013

Jazz Piano @ Julliard

The academic school year @ Julliard is coming to an end.  And with that end, come some great finales. Last night there was a jazz piano recital performed as partial fulfill for the requirements of a music degree from Julliard.  Samora Roberto Abayomi Pinderhuges, jazz pianist/composer, is a name to remember.  Well, if that is too much to remember (and it is) know this, he will probably graduate cuma sum laude.  The next time you hear that name (if it hasn't been changed) you will be paying to hear him perform rather than enjoying a free jazz performance.   Other jazz student accompanied him on bass, drums, trumpets, sax & flute.  All the students performed together joyfully with verve and style.  Elena Pinderhuges on flute & vocals deserves a special shout out.  Her soulful rendition of Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," resonated with deep timbre & emotion.  Is Elena Pinderhuges related?  I don't know whadyah asking me for?  But, Samora did thank his grandmother, grandfather, father, mother, his teacher, Julliard Jazz Dir. and all his fellow bandmates.  "If I could continue to play with my peers after graduation, I would be eternally happy."  Samora Roberto Abayomi Pinderhuges (I'll dub him Sam) is the recipient of the Mary Vinton Scholarship, Peggy Lee Scholarship & Julliard Alumni Scholarship.  Sam selected compositions by Monk & Strayhorn for the recital.  Original compositions by Sam, "Mi Fado" and "Sky Real Lea" were in the same league; really.  The Jazz Dept. under the direction of Carl Allen is developing jazz musicians to make everyone happy.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ax Plays Mozart & Bruckner

I have made several public service announcements promoting the NYPhilh., in particular, their bargain rate ($18) open rehearsals.  However, today's rehearsal featured the extraordinarily gifted pianist, Emauel Ax performing Mozart's Piano Concerto #25.  Need I say more?  Well, if you were not fortunate to have been in attendance, don't miss this week's program.  This morning, Avery Fisher Hall was fully packed.  There were several high school groups present which adds an extra element of interest.  Do these local students realize how fortunate they were today?  Yes, many took advantage of this opportunity to get some zzzz's, some used this time to socialize and then, there are always a few in the group who couldn't sleep, wouldn't sleep but were totally bewitched & beguiled by Mozart & Bruckner and today's amazing performance.

"I'll Eat You Last" is Totally Scrumptious

Perhaps it takes one to play one:  a gutsy, indefatigable, blowsy broad.  Bette Midler triumphs on Broadway in a one woman show about the rise & fall of Hollywood superagent to superstars, Sue Mengers.  Midler herself is an insider in "the mahzong game that is Hollywood." Known as Miss M for strutting her (full monty) self in cabarets & movies, Midler is one bawdy but talented singer, actress & comedienne, extraordinaire.  Sue Mengers' legacy as a self-made agent is the stuff that movies (or plays) are made of and casting Midler to portray her, is brilliant.  The curtain rises with Midler in a lush set of Menger's Beverly Hills home.  Midler as Mengels talks directly to us in the audience.  Mengers life would certainly be described as direct.  She went through "each window that opened" to get what she wanted. What she wanted, was to make star's careers.  "Why be a king when you can be a king maker?"  Midler is hysterical in this entertaining, biographical Hollywood romp.  Midler conveys Mengers with intelligence and verve while evoking sympathy beneath her tough veneer.  This not to be missed play, felt like an intimate dialogue with Mengers.  Meanwhile, Bette, baby, call me, let's do lunch.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Many Ways to Get into "In the House" French Film "Dans la maison"

This movie defies being labled with a genre.  It has numerous styles beautifully intertwined.  The French film, "In the House," is directed by with captivating cachet by Francois Ozon.  Ozon is a Lumiere Award winning director.  Int'l star Kirsten Scott Thomas is part of the striking cast.  It's an  alluring film about a h.s. student, Claude, who envies his classmate, Rapha Artole's family life.  He stalks them becoming a voyeur into their lives.  Claude ingratiates himself with the Artoles by giving Rapha math help as a  pretense to gain entry into their home.  Claude's essays for his literature teacher, Germaine, tell what he observes.  Germaine in turn becomes obsessed with Claude's stories, all end "to be continued."  Germain mentors Claude as a ruse for continual updates.  As the movie goer, you're transfixed as a voyeur into various relationships.  In addition, the movie explores teen angst, marital relationships, and philosophical questions of art and literature.  "Art awakens our sense to beauty." Germaine provides a master class for writing.  "Dosteovsky takes pathetic creatures and transforms them into the unforgettable."  The movie takes numerous surprising twists which keep you transfixed to this psychological, mystery thriller.  One never knows what goes on behind closed doors but I certainly wanted to get inside their homes.  I also want the movie to be continued.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Jazz @ Linc Ctr Orch (JLCO)-Kings of the Crescent City

Jazz @ Linc Ctr performed the music of the masters, four of the founding fathers of jazz:  Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet, Jelly Roll Morton & Joe "King" Oliver.  Adonis Jones, drummer for the JLCO, and native of New Orleans says "Being from New Orlenas is more like being from Brazil or Cuba or different countries in Africa than like being from any other place in America."  Hearing the JLCO takes you around the world and back with the truly original and diverse American art form, jazz.  Last night we were treated to the heart & home of jazz with blues, stomp, rag, riff & call-and-response leaving the sold out Rose room stomping & calling for more.   New Orleans native, Victor Goines, led the jazz octet while playing both tenor & soprano sax.  Goines said they had a lot of jazz to play and kept talk to a minimum.  The repertoire was from the Crescent City born genuises whose work has laid the foundation for jazz.  The evening began & ended with Armstrong's music.  There is humor along with Armstrong's genuis; "I'll be Glad When You're Dad, You Rascal You,"and "The King of the Zulus."  The piano player, Dan Nimmer, from the "2nd city of jazz, Milwaukee," is an amazing jazz pianist whose virtuosity was manifested in Jelly Roll Morton's "Black Bottom Stomp," & "Shoe Shiner's Drag."  Don Vappie, another son of New Orleans, was the guest artist performing on banjo & guitar.  Vappie also added pleasing vocals to music by Morton & Bechet's "I Want You Tonight."  The entire program was a tribute to the roots of jazz and its current musical interpretations.  JLCO paid tribute to the Kings of Crescent City & all their subjects were treated to a royal evening.

42 for You to Enjoy & Forever Remembered

42 for those who have been living under a rock for the past 1/2 C is the # Jackie Robinson wore as a Brooklyn Dodger.  He was a man of many firsts.  He was the 1st player to break the color barrier in baseball (if this is news, stay under that rock.)  Robinson was the 1st, as was Rosa Parks, to take a stand/seat and against racial hatred with grace, courage & dignity.  Robinson served in the US Army in WWII with the 1st Black Tank Battalion to enter combat.  He was court marshall for refusing to move to the back of the bus.  (I learned a great deal about this remarkable man of talent & character.)   Robinson along with other black soldiers returned from fighting facism in Europe only to face racism and hatred at home.  When Branch Ricky, Pres. of the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Robinson to the league, he was warned that despite no laws barring integration, there was a code, an unwritten law that will make Robinson & his team outcasts.  The ugly abuse & racism of the time is battered back with tolerance and camaraderie.  Chadwick Boseman portrays Robinson with pitch perfection.  The story of the man behind the legend is sure to steal your heart.  Robinson a hero on & off the field was awarded the Pres. Medal of Freedom.  Our nation is a country of many firsts.  We have our 1st Black President. It is important to be reminded of our past so as not to be complacent to prejudice & hatred.  #42, the number Robinson wore on his back is the only # in MLB to be permanently retired across all major league teams.  MLB, since '04, has Jackie Robinson Day, where all players wear #42 on their backs.  42 is an inspirational  movie of working together in harmony.  It reminds us of how far we've come on the backs of others and what we say & do matters.  

Saturday, April 20, 2013

THE BIG KNIFE is Long & Dull

Clifford Odets, one of America's most influential playwrights of the 20th C, has had 2 of his plays revived on Broadway this year.  GOLDEN BOY was a an elegant & compelling drama with the outstanding actor, Tony Shalub.  THE BIG KNIFE @ the American Airlines Theatre (where the noise from the lounge next door is a constant distraction) is the 1st time Odet's play has been revived on B'wy since 1946.  The long hiatus was warranted.  This "KNIFE" is dull, obsolete and too long.  The play grapples with similar themes as Golden Boy; selling out, integrity and immortatlity. KNIFE lacked any humanity or warmth to stir any emotion.  The dialogue is trite and the demonic studio modus operandi  too incredulous.  "We need silence in this noisy, crappy world." Even Bobby Cannavale, the bankable Broadway star who plays, Charlie Castle, could not add heat to this tepid play.  Charlie & his wife, Marion (Marin Ireland) are on the verge of divorcing despite their proffered love for each other.  Marion pleads with him not to sign a 14 yr. studio contract, come with her back east and return to the stage. Alas, Charlie has already made a pact with the devil when he allowed the studio to cover for him; a fatal hit & run.  The KNIFE was too long.  I opted for silence from this crappy play and cut out at intermission.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Acad. of Amer. Poets, Poetry & the Creative Mind

Rilke expresses the creative outlet of poetry, "Write about your sorrows, your wishes, your passing thoughts, your belief in anything beautiful."  This was my 1st experience to a poetrty reading.  I did experience Slam Poetry this year written & performed by NYC's high school students with great delight. Last night @ Alice Tulley, the Acad. of Amer. Poets held the 11th annual Poetry & the Creative Mind.  Poetry was chosen & read by a motley panel of celebrities.  Calvin Trillin acted as  Master of Ceremonies.  A few on the panel were:  Jake Gyllenhal, Tyne Daly, Patricia Clarkson, Dick Cavett, Mario Batali & ironicially, the singer/songwriter, Stew.  Stew & Glen Hansard (Once) both played the guitar & sang their selections.  The others on the panel recited theirs (few from memory) & each with a unique interpretation.  Hearing poetry read aloud is an incredible & inspiring experience. Some of the poets were familiar:  Whitman, Frost, Dickinson & Millay.  Many of poets/poems were a pleasantly new to me.  There were some common themes expressing feelings of love, mortality, and wonder.  I was struck by the poem, "Veteran," by Howe.  "I don't believe in…though others might, I believe in the wind that moves around each form."  Claire Lee, this year's Nat'l Student Poet, born in '66, was there & read a few of her poems.  I'm inspired to read more poetry.  I would love for the winner of the high school Poetry Slam contest to have been included on the panel.  I would love to have seen more high school students included in the audience.  "When all that consoled consoles no longer loneliness finds room inside the one it knows."  ({Howard Altman} - his poetry was read & he was in the audience.)

ORPHANS Starring Alec Baldwin is a Sure Win

The word Orphan indicates a child without parents.  It also means a child permanently bereaved.  This play is about 2 brothers living together.  Their father abandoned them @ a young age and their mother has died.   The wounds impaled by the deprivation of love are soon apparent.  What is not clear in the beginning, which brother is more needy.  Phillip the mentally challenged, house bound brother, is played touchingly by Tom Sturridge. Treat (Ben Foster) is the big brother who supports them via armed robbery.  Treat has a vicious temperament but demonstrates tenderness for Phillip.  Treat has a short fuse and resorts quickly to violence.  Late one night, Treat brings home an inebriated Harold (Alec Baldwin) thinking him an easy mark.  While Harold is passed out, he is bound & gagged by Treat.  The next morning while Treat is out & Phillip is watching (not touching) Harold pulls a Harry Houdini move.  He frees himself of the ropes & gag to the amazement of Phillip.  The audience too is amazed that once freed, why Harold does not flee.  Act II opens to a very different situation.  Harold has become Treat's mentor and Phillip's friend - to what end?  Who is the victim, who is in control and who stands the most to lose?  The equilibrium between the brothers shifts with Harold as the catalysis.  The 3 actors are all so stirring in their roles that you empathize with all 3 "dead end kids."  Houdini himself would be taken in by ORPHANS.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Julliard Dances Repertory @ Sharp Theatre

The repetoire for Julliard's Dance Program presented 3 very different styles in modern dance.  The program consisted of Murray Louis' "Four Brubeck Pieces," '84, Paul Taylor's "Sunset," '83, and William Forsythe's "One Flat Thing, Reproduced" '00.  Louis' choreography  to the classic cool jazz of Brubeck's timeless music, captures a tangible vision for music's sensibility.  The dancers move in syncopation with the score; some dancers emulate the musicicans.  The choreography is both sophisticated, cool & timelesss.  The sleek black & white striped leotards enhances the jazz.  "Four Brubeck Pieces," remains contemporary.  It is a pure expression of the joy in movement.  The music was performed with pizzazz by Julliard's Jazz Orchestra.  Taylor's piece, from '83, feels dated but  stirring in its melancholy overture. The Julliard Orchestra performed Edward Elgar's Elegy for Strings.  The choreography utilizes a more balletic style for story telling; reminiscent of Agnes de Mill's work.  The virile male dances are all in military garb with bright red berets.  They dance with bravado against the ephemeral female dancers dressed in frilly white dresses.  Some of the soldiers dancing was jocular as in Robbin's "Fancy Free." This provided a poignant contrast to the despair & grief that ensued.  The last thing on the program, was Forsythe's "One Flat Thing," is provocatively avant-garde.  The dancers rush forward pushing 3 aligned rows of tables downstage and the stage itself is bare.  The dancers move over, under, around, on top and pounding on the tables.  The synthesized arrhythmic music by Thom Willems heightens the aggressive, futuristic aesthetic.  The costumes are individualized, multi-colored street clothes.  The choreography is unique for each dancer.  The piece itself had a combative & isolating atmposhere.  Fosythe's innovative use of space and framing made a very compelling work.  I praise for all the dancers' technical proficiencies and artistic interpretations.  I also commend the students of both the Julliard Jazz & Orchestra who provided support for the Julliard Dance program.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

MOTOWN - Your Soul Reason for Coming to Our Town

NYC, the greatest city in the world has the greatest show on earth.  No, not the big apple circus.  Brother, Brother, Brother…MOTOWN the musical, written & produced by Berry Gordy.  Yes, that Berry Gordy, the man who made MOTOWN & the careers of a magnitude of mega stars: Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson Five & Marvin Gaye to name but a few.  Gordy, a maverick responsible for building a music company from the ground up while writing, producing, managing, garnering talent and breaking down barriers.  The MOTOWN sound is the soundtrack of the late 60's-80's and, much more than that, it reflected many problems dividing our nation: racial segregation, pride & violence, assassinations and the Viet Nam War. "There's far too many of us dying."  The music coming out of MOTOWN brought major social issues to the forefront, and helped to "make this world a better place."  The show starts with a bang of Motown medleys that gets you grooving & never lets up. (Nor did the ladies sitting behind me ever shut-up; they sang the entire time.)  Despite the unrequested backup singers, the entire cast on stage was superb.   I could sing the praises for the actors portraying some of Motown's previously mentioned superstars but the entire cast deserves its own record label. The acting & dancing must have been sent from up above.  I feel sad for all other new musicals on B'wy - all the Tony awards will be bestowed on this crowd pleasing winner. If you  heard it through the grapevine, that NYC is no longer going to be mine…you heard wrong!