Showing posts from July, 2016

With an Indiana bicentennial stamp upon it, Dance Kaleidoscope's "Cole!" returns to the stage

The flippancy, fluency, and observant wit of Cole Porter, always fused in music and words from the same fertile mind, gave David Hochoy a running start when a Dance Kaleidoscope patron suggested long ago that he choreograph some Porter songs for the troupe. The result was "Cole!," revived now and then since its 1997 premiere — I last saw it at Carmel's Tarkington in 2014. It's a two-part piece that centers its tribute to Porter's popularity first on his songs' appeal when they were new ("Ol' King Cole"), then on their adaptability in terms closer to today ("Cole Soul"). A madcap bit of comic relief: "Miss Otis Regrets" A lift of infatuation, or perhaps love, in "It's All Right With Me" Porter's characteristic stance on the malleability of romantic love had a lot to do with the huge impression he made in the early-middle decades of 20th-century America.  Social mores got a little looser, and youn

Once upon a time on the edge of folk wisdom: "Zirkus Grimm" rises again

By the time most of us outgrew the Disney version, life itself and further acquaintance with Grimm's Energetic dancing is a key element of "Zirkus Grimm." fairy tales diluted the sweetness we'd acquired a taste for. You can't wish that away, but "Zirkus Grimm" puts something else in its place. The harshness of the originals comes through in Ben Asaykee's mordant, yet spectacular interpretation, a Q Artistry production playing through next weekend at Circle City Industrial Complex . To make up for the lost sweetness, the show presents tableaux of "life coaching," tough love for the 21st-century spirit in a dynamic expenditure of coordinated energy. The moralizing is tricked out in traveling-circus style, the large company garbed in schmattes, with steampunk and vintage-shop notes. There are touches of goth, mime, and commedia dell'arte in the stylish makeup. A glum makeshift tent is suspended over the playing area, strands of

Cincinnati Opera's purposefully detailed 'Tosca' draws you in with great staging, singing

Cavaradossi interrupts work on his painting of Mary Magdalene to talk with the watchful Sacristan. When Puccini's "Tosca" was just over 50 years old, the musicologist Joseph Kerman wrote a well-regarded book called "Opera as Drama," which is most often cited for one dismissive phrase about the opera. He called it a "shabby little shocker." Those who overthink opera tend to find encouragement in the dismissal. But decades of audience acclaim have shown them to be off base. There's a little irony that a book with such a title disparages a composition that "as drama" needn't take a back seat to anything in the repertoire. That was evident in the enraptured reception opening night Saturday of a new Cincinnati Opera production. "Tosca" succeeds as drama and as theater. Those are two different things. Its interplay of forces both political and romantic proceeds with an unparalleled efficiency and intensity. That's the

'A mind is a terrible thing not to waste': Phoenix Theatre bends ours with Tom Horan's "Acid Dolphin Experiment'

The universe of expanded consciousness, as rendered in "Acid Dolphin Experiment.". Beaded and berobed, Timothy Leary strolled onstage at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor nearly 50 years ago, placed a mat close to the audience, sat down upon it cross-legged, and proceeded to lecture freely on his invariable theme: Turn on, tune in, drop out. He had barely started when a friendly shout came from the balcony: "Dr. Leary, please move back a few feet, We can't see you from up here." The apostle of LSD enlightenment readily complied. The choice was automatic: Sacrifice a little intimacy with those in good seats in order to accommodate all 4,000 favorably disposed attendees. When you're in the business of marketing personal transformation, no corner of the market should be snubbed. Like (I'm guessing) nearly everyone in that audience, I had no intention of following the Leary path. In a cultural milieu thick with gurus, the eccentric professor registered as

'The Winter's Tale' lights up a few summer nights at White River State Park

You don't need stage realism to evoke emotions that are joltingly real, and though Shakespeare  anticipated realism, we can dependably return to many of his plays and see how implausible situations requiring a drastic suspension of disbelief can still awaken our most fundamental sense of reality. Before the storm breaks: The happy royal couple implore a king to extend his visit. "The Winter's Tale," whether read silently or seen performed, never fails to move me when Leontes' wronged wife Hermione, unbelievably hidden away for 16 years from her husband and self-deluded accuser, turns from the likeness in which the loyal Paulina artfully presents her into a living queen ready for reconciliation with her contrite husband. All of a sudden, any sense that this is a far-fetched device becomes irrelevant. How often it's true that ill-founded, unreasoned judgments, particularly around the issue of sexual fidelity, really destroy relationships! And how crucial

'Pence in Vain': A song drawing upon Robert Johnson and Mick Jagger in response to the rigid Indiana governor's alliance with loose cannon Donald Trump

As the world tries to get used to Mike Pence as running mate for Donald Trump — and get past that "T" penetrating that "P" on the original logo — this song imagines what unsettled thoughts may have been going through the Indiana governor's mind.

Bonerama at the Jazz Kitchen: Carrying forward the New Orleans brass-band tradition with a trombone troika

Bonerama digs into the funky side of the brass-band sound with a three-horn frontline. Other sparks of jazz genesis have been detected well outside New Orleans, but that fabled, troubled, foundationally multicultural city still has a sturdy claim on being the place where the music burst into flame. And a group like Bonerama, founded in the Crescent City more than 15 years ago, is a reminder that the essence of jazz in its youth and adolescence was collaborative. The great soloists stem from an N.O. native son, Louis Armstrong, and it's with mixed feelings that jazz fans tend to focus on individual giants rather than ensembles. Shared energy powered outward gave the new vernacular its currency a century ago, and remains crucial to its authentic spirit. Bonerama, making its Indianapolis debut Saturday night at the Jazz Kitchen, is a sextet that keeps alive the legacy of bands of yore moving through the streets or playing in outdoor pavilions, always emphasizing their intern

Horse attitudes: Casey Ross Productions mounts a searing, level-headed 'Equus'

Alan re-enacts his night rides for the psychiatrist working on his case. Sir Peter Shaffer just passed into the dramatists' Valhalla. As if to mark his passing, Indianapolis audiences have the opportunity to steel themselves for an enthralling new production of "Equus," a 1973 play that examines questions of identity and divine justice in a totally different manner from Shaffer's other big hit, "Amadeus." Casey Ross Productions (recently renamed Catalyst Rep)  moved into the second of three weekends with the show Friday night at Grove Haus i n Fountain Square. Shaffer built a weighty dramatic edifice on the foundation of a horrific news item involving an English stableboy's blinding of six horses under his care. The play has attracted much attention over its four-decade history. For this production, the venue's background as a church, an origin still very much evident architecturally, turns the religious fantasy explaining the boy's cri

With soprano Shannon Mercer to help carry the theme, Les Delices focuses on the 'Folly of Youth' for Indianapolis Early Music Festival

The Baroque — its meaning rooted in a word designating a distorted pearl — has more comfortable Shannon Mercer sand music of Handel, Lully, and LeMaire. connotations today than perhaps it should. Etymology is not a complete guide to its musical meaning, but the idea of something precious and shapely that also involves unique imperfections is helpful. The great Baroque composers combined these aspects in their lives and music, yet not in any conscious sense of "being Baroque." Creative artists of all eras have "baroque" elements in their personalities:  J.S. Bach was feisty and prolific of both scores and scions; the sometimes bumptious Handel once fought a duel. But to find an outsize example of what might be called the Baroque personality, you need look no further than Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). Transported from his native Florence as a teen to France as an Italian tutor, he eventually underwent career-boosting transformation at the court of King Lou

Cincinnati Opera's grim, heroic 'Fidelio' displays commitment to its musical and dramatic meaning

Florestan and Leonore celebrate their reunion in the nick of time. Quite open to updating opera as I am, there is usually a sacrifice or two, where an anachronism in the libretto leaps out as not quite suitable to the usually more modern setting the stage director has chosen. To make "Fidelio" "today-ish," as scenic designer Robert Dahlstrom carefully put it Thursday before opening night of the Cincinnati Opera production, does not offend me.  But one consequence of stage director Chris Alexander's concept involves a discrepancy that's hard to swallow, of which more later. A modern prison — with surveillance cameras and occasionally roving searchlights, video monitors and guards in SWAT-style uniforms — conveys the grim side of the maximum security state. This is the domain of Don Pizarro, the opera's villain, and the trappings fully illustrate his despotic control. The set has a couple of huge, gray iron doors at the back, modeled on airplane

'Never Vote, Never Vote, Never Vote, Never Vote for Donald Trump': A cri de coeur from a hypothetical Republican stalwart about the presidential juggernaut

At the front lines of the political and personal: "Time Stands Still" looks at the perils of journalism at war

Mandy and Richard huddle over the injured Sarah's images as James focuses on his own woes. The title of the Donald Margulies play just finishing its run at Theatre on the Square refers to a wartime photographer's moments of truth. Each click of the camera has the potential to produce an image that, when published, may check the onrush of events, however temporarily, for millions who see it at a safe remove. But "Time Stands Still" also seems to refer to the photographer's inability to advance personally beyond the tenuous authority that making striking, sometimes appalling, images confers. There's something of this feeling of being stuck in how Sarah Goodwin chooses to come out of her recuperation from serious injuries sustained in the Iraq conflict. The playwright sketches the highlights of Sarah's recovery process through her relationship with James Dodd, a reporter also specializing in foreign conflicts who's trying to put behind him less

"Pompoms and Circumstance": What happens when you have to justify a campaign gone wrong by attempting to raise cheer among your countrymen