Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Barrington Stage

This was not the most inspiring season at Barrington Stage. The highlights were Typhoid Mary at Stage 2 and West Side Story at the Main Stage.

Julie Boyd has announced that she wants to present plays that make you think about the play after you leave the theatre rather than wonder where you parked your car.

I have always thought that that was the purpose of good theatre.

Several of the other plays were more sermons than plays and the William Finn musical was just not good.

Last night David and I saw Well Intentioned White People by Rachel Lynett. I would call it a well-intentioned sermon disguised as a play.

It concerns a black college professor who has been receiving racial threats and refuses to do anything about it while her friends press her into getting involved in a very public response to the problem.

The characters were one dimensional and there was a lot of screaming back and forth between people.

Julie announced that next year Stage 2 will be devoted to this sort of play.

I may skip it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

West Side Story-again!

Last night David and I saw West Side Story for the second time in a week. This one was Barrington Stage's production and was great.

Compared to the one we saw at Glimmerglass, this was much closer to the original production I saw on Broadway in 1957.

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Tony was sung by Will Branner. He has a fine 'Broadway' tenor voice and is a very good actor.
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Maria was Addie Morales who also sang beautifully. Compared to the soprano at Glimmerglass, who also had a nice voice but a flutter.

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Anita was Skyler Volpe and was much stronger than the Glimmerglass Anita.

This entire cast sang in what I would term the 'Broadway' sound, which has a bit of an edge to it. At Glimmerglass the sound seemed younger and less into it even though the singers were about the same age. The 'Broadway sound' uses what I call the Judy Garland 'Terminal Vibrato', begining a note with a fairly straight tone and the bringing in the vibrato toward the end. It's exciting but a bit hard on the voice.

I also liked the staging and sets better. The choreography by Robert La Fosse was based on the original by Jerome Robbins.

In short, this was the real thing. Let's have more like this at Barrington Stage where this has been an up and down season.

Monday, August 13, 2018


Thursday we arrived at Glimmerglass Opera Festival for a long weekend. We were joined by David's sister Peggy and her partner Jim. For our first night we were also joined by David's choirmaster, Christian, and his husband Chris.

The first opera was Rossini's The Barber of Seville. As we have found previously, Glimmerglass finds the best singers available for it's casts. 

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David Walton as Count Almaviva was sensational. He is tall, handsome, and has a wonderful tenor voice with high notes to spare.

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Joshua Hopkins as Figaro was splendid. He has a good voice but tends to pull it back a bit on his high F's in his first aria.

Dale Travis was Doctor Bartolo and managed the rapid fire diction of his arias with ease.

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Emily D'Angelo was excellent as Rosina; a wide easy range and good coloratura for her difficult arias.

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Timothy Bruno as Don Basilio nearly stole the show with La Calunia.

Stage hands/chorus moved bits of scenery on and off the stage. It was a charming production.

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Alexandria Shiner has a large beautiful voice as Berta. Sensational top!

Friday evening brought a fantastic performance of The Cunning Little Vixen by Leos Janacek in an 
English translation by Kelley Rourke. Except for Eric Owens as the Forester, it might as well have been in Czech as far as getting the words went. A couple of the other men were understandable but the women, while having good voices were not there diction-wise. Of course the fact that their parts were written very high made it difficult to begin with. My theory has always been that our ears are not used to hearing speech that high so that the men always have an easier time coming through than the women.

Image result for eric owens  Eric Owens

It is a wild ballet/opera (I'm not sure which) with a fabulous score. The set  by Ryan McGettigen and the costumes by Eric Teague were wonderful as were the direction and choreography by L. Loren Meeker and Eric Sean Fogel. Joseph Colaneri was the excellent conductor.

I loved the event but had to keep watching the super-titles to keep track of what was going on. I doubt that even in the original language the women could have been understood.

I have spent too many years teaching clear diction to singers to accept what was happening. I was brain-washed by Madeleine Marshall years ago at Union Seminary and she became a dear friend. We did workshops together. So my tolerance for mushy diction is small.

Composers need to learn that writing a lot of text on very high notes for the female voice just doesn't work.


Saturday was our last event, West Side Story. I guess I have become jaded because when I see revivals of Broadway shows that I saw in their original form I'm disappointed. I saw the original production in 1957 and a reprise in the 90's.

None of the singers had the Broadway 'edge' that I am accustomed to. The setting was cumbersome and  the choreographer had too many things going on during the love duets. 

I was underwhelmed.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Chinese Lady

The Chinese Lady, a new play by Lloyd Suh, was put together much like minimalist music, wherein the same passage of notes is repeated over and over until you cry 'I GIVE UP!'.

The play is based on a real person who was brought to this country in the 1830's, supposedly the first Chinese woman to be seen in this country. She was put on view twice a day and walked around on her tiny bound feet and spoke in Chinese about Chinese customs. She was supposed to be here for two years but was kept here for many more than that, eventually touring the country in her 'show'. At one point she was bought by P.T. Barnum and was a part of his Freak Show.

I am particularly sensitive about Freak Shows since one of my uncles, who was born with just two fingers on the ends of his arms, was once in one of these and came to Battle Creek when I was a kid. Mother and Dad took us to a store front on Capitol Avenue and there was Uncle Ralph, along with three hundred pound 'Baby Betty' and a few other unusual folks on display. Uncle Ralph had trained himself to be a glass blower, worked during the war doing war work, often worked in carnivals, along with my other uncle Paul. I guess the Freak Show was all he could get at that time.

So I have some idea what is like to have to resort to this type of employment to make a living. We knew that he was disadvantaged with his incomplete hands, but he did spectacular work with his glass blowing and weaving. Mother had several of his works on display. I remember one winter he stayed with us and sat up his equipment in the kitchen so the neighbors could come and watch him work. He was an amazing man who made the most of his talent in spite of seemingly impossible odds.

So I feel for the Chinese Lady, the person, not the play, which the Berkshire Eagle described as 'a screed, masquerading as a play'. I agree,

Shannon Tyo played the part of the Lady.

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Daniel K. Isaac was Atung, her assistant.

It is a very sad commentary on the times but not a very good play.