Archive for January, 2004

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Thursday, January 15th, 2004

This article in Playbill.com is a remarkable anecdote about Jo Twiss, a colleague at U Arts.

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Thursday, January 15th, 2004

The author of this article from Backstage is of the opinion that Assassins (like Little Shop) will be considered in the Best Revival category rather than the Best Musical category. It’ll be interesting to see if that prediction is an accurate one.

While we’re on the subject, check out this image of the cast from the first day of rehearsal.

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Sunday, January 4th, 2004

This folder of mp3s includes some current Gemini demos. I’m curious to know if anyone’s been reading this blog who might be interested in hearing these tracks.

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Friday, January 2nd, 2004

Ute Lemper sings The Seven Deadly Sins with the Philly Orchestra starting this evening, and I had a chance to sneak in to the rehearsal this morning, with a little help from Tom Baust, the oh-so-talented singer and pianist who is singing the baritone part in the male quartet in this piece. This is one of my favorite Brecht-Weill pieces, and we produced a stage version of it a UArts a couple years ago which got picked for the ACTF Region II Festival the year we did it. Lemper sings the piece auf Deutsch, nat�rlich, with fierce diction and insight born out of years of familiarity with the piece and its political heart. The Philly O was a little vague in their support, though I’m sure it’ll be stronger once the customers arrive – the piece is full of musical drama, sudden dynamic shifts, startling colors and rhythmic textures that seemed a bit muddy in their rehearsal today. The quartet sounded solid and robust, and Tom and his compatriots deserve big kudos.
I’m a little dubious, though, about whether a presentation like this one really serves the piece. Weill and Brecht created the work for a ballet company in Paris, and the text and the music don’t reveal the true fullness of their meaning without some sort of visual counterpoint. For the concert, the orchestra is projecting the translation over the stage, but the meaning of the text – as opposed to the translation of the words – doesn’t reach the audience very forcefully.
Our production at UArts had the advantage of being sung in English – though there are instances when that’s not even that much of a help for comprehension. Several of the quartet’s movements are set in a contrapuntal style that renders the text (even in Michael Feingold’s expressive, idiomatic rendering) fairly incomprehensible. We also had the advantage of Nancy Sanderson’s performance as the singing Anna, a challenge which this student singing actress rose to with admirable aplomb. (Not that Nancy is a typical student singing actress – she brought tremendous maturity and insight to her work from the moment she arrived.) And because our production was staged, there were some visual cues to illuminate the drama. Because of physical and financial limitations, though, our production lacked the mise en scene that is required to tell the story, which depicts the two Annas’ rise from humble origins in Louisiana to great wealth and fame before they return home to their family, richer but sadder and much wiser. The piece is an indictment of the price of ambition and the compromises one must make on the path to achieving success. It has, in other words, lots to say, and Lemper said it all very expressively in her reading of it this morning, but without the full theatrical works, its meaning is accessible only to those – like me – who already know what it’s trying to say. Otherwise, it’s a colorful curio, a showcase for the virtuosity of a singing actress blessed with prodigious talent and passionate insight.
The link above will lead to an article in the City Paper, in which Lemper talks about the piece and about her career. I adore her recording of the Berlin Cabaret Songs which she speaks of in this article, and recommend them highly. Her site at Decca Records has more information about her discography.

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Friday, January 2nd, 2004

Would it be all right if I took a few minutes to enthuse publicly about Christine Andreas? I had the chance to catch her show “Bewitched Again” at the Prince Music Theater on New Years Eve, and both D’Arcy and I were so completely blown away that I can’t stop talking about her. Where to begin enumerating her many virtues? First of all, she’s the consummate SAVI singing actress, the embodiment of the ideals I teach in my performance classes. She understands that every phrase, every moment provides an opportunity to do something wonderful and specific and varied which illuminates the text and the dramatic event it portrays. Second, her musicianship is impeccable – every note in tune, every phrase conceived and executed with exquisitie musicality. Her voice is totally the servant of her ideas and her emotions, and seems to do everything, fluttery faux-operetta one minute, down ‘n’ dirty the next. Straight tone, vibrato, parlando – a veritable catalog of vocal behaviors, each one executed with panache. And her diction! (Mind you, I sat next to the Speech Diva at this event, and she was equally in thrall.) Andreas spoke admiringly of Sinatra’s ability to “get so much lyric out of a lyric,” and she says she’s modeled her approach on his. Not only do you understand every word, but you GET every word – what it means, how it relates to every other word and to everything she’s ever thought and felt. In SAVI talk I call it “traction,” and Christine Andreas has got it in abundance. I must also give props to her music director, Lee Musiker, for brilliant arrangements and dazzling pianism, and the rest of her backup group for totally tasty playing throughout the night. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks!