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Showing posts from March, 2023

A darker shade of pale: 'Two Mile Hollow' is Phoenix Theatre 's gated community with the locks off

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 The caricature is intense and some of the speeches are rat-a-tat word salad. This hit me in the first ten minutes of "Two Mile Hollow" at Phoenix Theatre Thursday night. The characters are flat and brazen, even though there are dips and peaks in their presentation: Actors can chew the scenery like demented termites, and no harm will be done to the overall result.  Christopher brings from Hollywood his sense of entitlement, along with his personal assistant.         Mikael Burke, a Chicagoan who was one of Indianapolis theater's stars at the turn of this century, seems to be in his element returning to the Phoenix to direct an adept cast, tuned to a high pitch of mania. The basis of Leah Nanako Winkler 's excoriating comedy is to have a snooty, excessively self-focused white family played by actors of color in order to present a vivid contrast to an Asian-American woman's anxiety about life and career. The family is preparing to give up its palatial home in the H

Kenny Broberg plays a UIndy recital typical of his unique perspective

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  Kenny Broberg Launching this week into a return visit to the University of Indianapolis , part of Kenny Broberg 's package of engagements from his victory in the American Pianists Association' s  classical competition here, the pianist gave a recital in Ruth Lilly Performance Hall Tuesday night that was crowned by his performance of Nikolai Medtner's "Night Wind" Sonata.  A complex piece with five connected movements, unconventionally laid out, this presentation could have used some program notes, either printed or delivered from the stage. But the music itself was able to make an impact on its own, and perhaps Broberg is among the artists who feel any sort of verbal detail about a piece deprives it of some of its power, especially when it is unfamiliar to an audience. A Russian composer of German extraction, Medtner distinguished himself as a pianist from his student days at the Moscow Coservatory. Like his slightly older, more esteemed countryman Sergei Rachm

Roll up for the Magical Decades Tour: Dance Kaleidoscope showcases the Beatles and dancers' choreography

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DK dancers salute Beatles in "Magical Mystery Tour." Feeling pop culture in your body is a common denominator to help explain its power. Dancers, and those who create work for them, have the luck to transmute the catchiness of popular song into physically expressive art. Who wouldn't want to do that — to picture "The Fool on the Hill" in idiosyncratic motion, or to animate "All You Need Is Love" with embracing gestures of community? That's the fun and wonder behind Dance Kaleidoscope' s "Magical Decades Tour," a show that runs through Sunday on the One America Mainstage of Indiana Repertory Theatre . Choreography by outgoing artistic director David Hochoy holds up the iconic strength of the Beatles, "a rock band from the last century," as Hochoy waggishly put it in remarks from the stage before Friday's performance.  His tribute mostly revives "Magical Mystery Tour" from 2007, then sets two other Beatles songs

Lights flicker in the interior castle: Summit Performance fully stages 'The Convent'

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Tricks of the mind account for contrasting ways of taking in a play between a staged reading and a full The Mother Abbess has her act down. production. When I encountered "The Convent" initially in the summer of 2021 in the outdoor space behind the District Theatre, I filled out what proceeded in front of me by imagining a complete production. At the same time, I worked on simply understanding the play, as one does the first time around, even with straightforward drama free of intellectual puzzles. Summit Performance Indianapolis has now mounted Jessica Dickey's play in the full form it deserves. This show contains one big surprise whose surprise value fades the second time around. That's inevitable, but that's true with anything worth seeing more than once. What needed explanation when it was new is already sketched out in your memory. To pull a mainstream example almost out of a hat, already knowing how Oscar and Felix stop being roommates in "The Odd Cou

John Bailey has supportive depth from rhythm section in 'Time Bandits"

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John Bailey: Collaborative window in "Time Bandits"   My previous acquaintance with trumpeter John Bailey on record came on the eve of the pandemic onslaught as he looked backward affectionately at his idol Dizzy Gillespie's whimsical run for president. "Can You Imagine?" was the title for a disc that asked the listener to suppose the honoree's uptilted trumpet might lift up a nation's spirit from the Oval Office. "Time Bandits" is a more satisfactory CD, much as the charm of "Can You Imagine?" put across its intended point. What's significant about the new recording is the focus on a quartet enhancing Bailey's horn, grounded in the drums of Victor Lewis, a longtime Bailey collaborator, and the stellar support of bassist Scott Colley and pianist George Cables. You don't have to wait for the last track, "Groove Samba," to be convinced of the fellow-feeling that animates the CD. That Bailey original exemplifies it

Sara Caswell's 'The Way to You': Jazz violin is comfortably first among equals

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Sara Caswell came from Bloomington to develop her career in New York. Sara Caswell' s current quartet's decade in the performing arena, interrupted as for every musician by the worst phase of the pandemic, has built the internal cohesion and comfort level needed to make "The Way to You" ( Anzic Records) a success. There's not a doubt about the violinist's well-honed rapport with her bandmates: Jesse Lewis, guitar; Ike Sturm, bass; Jared Schonig, drums. At the start and on four of the nine tracks, there are also collegial contributions from the vibraphone of Chris Dingman. Caswell's violin melody on "South Shore" picks up a countermelody from the vibes. That function is later taken up in a different vein by Lewis' guitar. Everything fits, but with each player's individuality intact. Caswell's sterling command of melody is never far from the surface. Even a simplistic tune like Sturm's "Stillness" opens up without any wre

French connections: Trumpet virtuoso and guest conductor make them with ISO

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Native Parisian Fabien Gabel shed light on French music. After the relative novelty of having a trumpeter as guest artist, then hearing a scintillating, little- known work after intermission, how could the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra performance of Stravinsky's familiar "Firebird" Suite fail to be an anticlimactic conclusion? Amazingly, it wasn't, even though the ISO played the popular work (in one of the composer's other "Firebird" suites) as recently as last summer under another dynamic podium guest, Kevin John Edusei . This weekend, with Fabien Gabel conducting, the hints of modernism were just as evident, but showing an advance on Stravinsky's inheritance from his revered countryman Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Stravinsky credited his boldness in creating a later masterpiece ballet, "The Rite of Spring," to the inspiration he received from the music of the Frenchman Florent Schmitt. A suite from Schmitt's ballet "La trag├ędie d

The art song refracted through our (and earlier) times: Frank Felice's 'The Beauty of Innuendos'

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This new CD ( Navona Records ) is a vocal showcase for a mezzo-soprano whose work as a Frank Felice connects with variety of texts. soloist and teacher is well-known around Indianapolis. Mitzi Westra is closely acquainted both personally and professionally with the composer, Frank Felice of Butler University.  Assisting the singer, with remarkable insight and taste, is pianist Gregory Martin of the University of Indianapolis faculty. "The Beauty of Innuendos," helpfully subtitled "Four Song Cycles," takes its title from a line in the composition that comes across best to me, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." This well-known poem by Wallace Stevens uses short, formally varied, and somewhat cryptic stanzas for its oblique perspectives on the creature. Felice seems to respond freshly to each of the thirteen "ways." Mitzi Westra sings 'The Beauty of Innuendos' The abruptness and whimsy of the poetry opens up Felice's muse. The ef

Neighbors and strangers: Catalyst Repertory puts 'Streetcar' in our faces

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Scents and sensibility: Stanley and Blanche confronting over perfume. Entering Indy Fringe's Basile Theatre between now and March 19 for a performance of "A Streetcar Named Desire" suggests that an experience much more intense and concentrated than you might have expected is about to be yours.  The compact space of a room with a capacity of 100 is dominated by a two-story set, with seating on three sides of the playing area. Tennessee Williams' prize-winning drama from more than seven decades ago is an unusual choice for Catalyst Repertory, an organization proclaiming its devotion to new work. When a production is this imaginative, however, and takes advantage of new modes of presentation, the departure has a way of underlining the company's mission. Like most enduring theater, "Streetcar" hits upon aspects of social and personal relationships that cannot be confined to an era. New Orleans right after World War II, even when the story is as cunningly r

Passing the good stuff around: 'Big Band Extravaganza' has cheery West Coast vibe

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Doug MacDonald shapes big band around his guitar. Carrying on the legacy of West Coast jazz, a variety sometimes disparaged in the sway New York has held for nearly a century,  Doug MacDonald is a California guitarist-composer-arranger with a veteran's substantial resume. In "Big Band Extravaganza" (Dmac Music), he has assembled a neat, crackling  ensemble, populated with concise soloists to match the adeptness of his guitar. The variety and smooth shifts of sound are remarkable. "Ya Know Bill," the tune that ends the ten-track set, features an arrangement that feels like a collective beanbag toss. Every original chart is fetching and brightly colored; only Gershwin's  "But Not For Me" settles for jogging along nonchalantly without bringing out much of the original. The next track, MacDonald's "Minor Mess," suffers slightly from being in the same tempo, but there's more kick in the arrangement, and the skittering lyricism of Les B