Friday, July 28, 2017

The Music Man

Last night David and I saw Meredith Wilson's The Music Man at the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield. I saw the amazing Broadway production of this in 1957, which makes it difficult for me to review this production without vivid memories of the original.

Robert Preston was 'The Music Man' and went on to play the role again in the film version. Last night Rylan Morsbach took the role and did a very good job with it. He's a little young for the part, but so was  much of the rest of the cast.

Image result for rylan morsbach    Rylan Morsbach

Kalyn Altmeyer was good as Mrs. Paroo, but also looked too young, more like Marian's sister than her mother.

Kalyn Altmeyer  Kalyn Altmeyer

As Marian, Haley Aguero just couldn't hold a candle to Barbara Cook, who just retired from performing at age 89.  Ms. Aguero's voice has a flutter that seems persistent and bothered this voice teacher. But then, who could sound as good as Barbara Cook?

Image result for haley aguero  Haley Aguero

The rest of the cast performed their roles well. I must point out Zack Marshall who played the parts of Jacey Squires and was the top voice in the Barbershop Quartet. Zack has just begun vocal study with me and is a musical scholar with the Ferris Burtis Foundation. He has a fine voice: a baritone, but he did the top part in the Quartet in a very acceptable falsetto.

The production was directed by Travis G. Daly.

Lots of eager children in the cast which made for a delightful evening.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Speech and Debate

Last night David and I saw a quixotic, funny, sad play about three teenagers and their struggles with loneliness. Speech and Debate, by Stephen Karam, was at Barrington Stage 2.

Image result for betsy hogg  Betsy Hogg

The girl, Diwata, pregnant from a rape, was played by Betsy Hogg. She is determined to start a Debate Club at the school but, at the moment, is unable to interest anyone else in joining.

 Image result for austin davidson actor Austin Davidson

Howie, played by Austin Davidson, is a closet gay trying to become a writer by dealing with subjects like abortion and the town's sexually predatory Mayor.

Image result for ben getz 

Ben Getz

Solomon was played by Ben Getz and is a gay young man who has gone on the Internet to try to make sexual contacts, including, it turns out, a teacher at their high school.
Image result for edelen mcwilliams   Edlen McWilliams

Edlen McWilliams plays both the teacher and a reporter.

In this complicated plot the three students talk, fight, make up, reveal their troubled lives, using a lot of humor to do this.

Diwata, for instance, is trying to make a musical out of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. She was turned down for the lead in Once Upon a Mattress because of lack of talent.

In the end the three of them form a sort of alliance and seem ready to go on with their lives.

The play was directed by Jessica Holt and the interesting set was designed by Reid Thompson. It made for an interesting and delightful evening.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hail and Farewell

Last night was the final performance ever of the Berkshire Choral International Festival in Sheffield. After 36 years, they will no longer perform at the Berkshire School. David was singing in the chorus for this performance and has had a busy week of preparation at the school.

For the final work. they decided to do the Verdi Requiem. Last week we heard the Mahler 8th Symphony. Both works are gigantic and require enormous resources, which the Institute can provide.

The Verdi was conducted by Tom Hall, who three years ago did the St. John Passion of Bach at the Festival. Last year I felt his Bach was not in what one thinks of as Baroque style. How can one do Bach with 300 singers? This year's choice made a little more sense, considering the large chorus that the Festival provides. The Springfield Symphony again provided the orchestral support.

Image result for jennifer check soprano      Jennifer Check

The soloists were Jennifer Check, soprano, Ann McMahon Quintero, mezzo-soprano, John Bellemer, tenor, and Kevin Deas, bass-baritone. Unfortunately they did not prove to be a well balanced quartet for the many ensemble movements of the work. 

The excellent lecturer again was Laura Stanfield Prichard.

Image result for ann mcmahon quintero Ann McMahon Quintero
Ms. Quintero had the voice that seemed most suited to Verdi; a robust, well focused sound with the necessary vocal range for the mezzo role.

Ms.Check, on the other hand, did not. The voice was too small and did not soar over the chorus as it should have. Of course, when one has Leontyne Price in one's ear, no one will ever satisfy.

  John Bellemer

Mr. Bellemer's tenor voice was at times stentorian but lacked finesse and Mr. Deas, again, had a voice a bit too small for the work. A pleasant sound but too covered for my taste.

Kevin Deas

The chorus and orchestra performed well and Mr. Hall did a fairly good job of keeping everyone together. Last week's concert under Kent Tritle was much more convincing in terms of managing 400-some musicians and providing a fine musical experience.

I know the Institute will be missed in future years. Next year they will be in Saratoga Springs for a week with another week at Goucher College in Towson, MD.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Mahler's Eighth

To wind up our cultural week in the Berkshires, David and I heard Mahler's Symphony # 8 at the Berkshire Choral International Festival in Sheffield. This is apparently the final year it will be held in Sheffield after thirty six years there. This coming week David will be there participating in their final week, singing in the chorus for the Verdi Requiem'.

The concert was preceded by an excellent talk by Laura Stanfield Prichard. Her amazing knowledge of Mahler and of music in general opened my eyes and ears to be prepared to hear the first performance of this work I have ever heard. She compared Mahler's work to that of Verdi and of Charles Ives, both of whom were contemporaries of Mahler. Like Ives, Mahler used sound he had grown up with, band music, church music, and folk music in his compositions.

His Eighth Symphony is a massive, sometimes wandering work of enormous proportions. The original performance had a chorus of 800 singers and a huge orchestra. Last night's performance had to make do with a mere 300 singers and the enlarged Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

The excellent solo singers were Rachel Rosales, Kara Shay Thomson, Emily Misch, Sara Murphy, Mary Phillips, Jonathan Matthew Myers, Jesse Blumberg, and Adam Lau. The fine conductor, who managed to keep all these elements together with apparent ease, was Kent Tritle. The Connecticut Concert Children's Choir was conducted by Marc Singleton.

Image result for kent tritle  Kent Tritle

The work took up the entire concert, the first half being based on the Latin hymn Veni, Creator Spiritus, and the second half of the last part of Goethe's Faust.

Throughout the work the orchestra and chorus are divided into multiple sections making it an incredibly busy work to listen to, indeed.

It made for an exhausting musical evening!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Capitol Steps

It's tough being a Berkshire County Jet Setter at my age! Tuesday night, Ragtime, Wednesday night, The Capitol Steps,  and come Saturday Mahler's Second at Berkshire Choral Festival.

But it keeps me off the streets!

The Capitol Steps is always a fun evening with very few Republicans in the audience. Their special brand of satire this year skewered Trump, the Pope, Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Supreme Court, Putin, well- you name it. 

This year's cast at Cranwell included Mike Thornton, Tracey Stephens, Morgan Duncan, Nancy Dolliver, Jack Rowles, and their amazing keyboard person Marc Irwin.

The cast quickly moved from one persona to another with lightning fast costume changes, some more convincing than others.

We felt this year's production was not as funny as some previous years and decided that part of the reason for this was that new scandals occur daily in the Trump administration too fast to keep up with. 

The show was entitled "Orange is the new Barack', so, of course, Obama was lampooned a number of times as well.

They would have to re-write the show almost daily to keep up with the activities of both Donald Trumps, to say nothing of the rest of Washington.

But it was a good evening.