How could I possibly ignore this fever (try as I might)? Not with reminders like this one, put together by Douglas Buchanan, a bass in the Baltimore Choral Arts Society and choirmaster of Old St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
He managed to combine Ravens mania with Anglican choral traditions to produce what has to be the most offbeat entry yet in the ever-rising clamor of local pride. So here, recorded in lovely Old St. Paul's, is Buchanan's "Ravenlican Chant," a devout work in three sections: Preambule, Rules of Overtime and Ravens' Fight Song.
If this doesn't clinch the Super Bowl, I don't know what will:
The San Francisco Symphony was just asking for trouble when it posted a photo on its Facebook page of percussionist Trey Wyatt percussionist about to inflict major damage on a defenseless Raven symbol with some mighty big cymbals.So the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra responded quickly with ...
a photo showing its own threatening muscle. Music director José-Luis Novo (far right) and ASO musicians Natanel Draiblate, James Rester, Fatma Daglar and Don Spinelligot into the act,
In addition, the Marylanders have a song to go with the picture.
It's sung to the tune of "Carolina in the Morning" (Carolina doesn't have anything to do with the Super Bowl, but, hey, all's fair in love and football):
"Nothing would be finer than to crush the 49ers in New Orleans!"
All of this follows a somewhat less threatening Ravens-boosting message from Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop, who recently unveiled her suggestion for a winning play.
With a lead gift of $50 million from the center's chairman, Baltimore-born David M. Rubenstein, the building venture, being designed by Steven Holl Architects, will see pavilions for classrooms, multipurpose facilities and rehearsal spaces rise on the property just south of the Kennedy Center, toward the Roosevelt Bridge. It's the biggest expansion since the center opened in 1971.
In a nice retro touch, the project will include ...
The expansion will provide a boost to the center's education work. "The Kennedy Center has the largest arts education program in the country without having any dedicated facilities to serve these growing programs," Kaiser said.
Other features of the project include an outdoor video wall for simulcasting performances, and public gardens.
Rubenstein said that Holl's "wonderful concept will create a strong visual presence that bolsters the center's prominence as the national cultural center, while maintaining its unique presence among Washington's iconic landmarks."
The initial plans include exteriors for the pavilions that will incorporate translucent Okalux, glass, and the same Carrara marble used on the Kennedy Center.
A fundraising campaign will be launched to raise the remaining $50 million for the project, along with an additional "$25 million for major programming initiatives in the years ahead." The total costs will be covered by private funding.
Rubenstein, an extraordinary philanthropist who has contributed to National Archives, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the Kennedy Center, said that he hoped his $50 million gift would "encourage others to donate to this project."
"As the federal budget tightens, I hope more Americans will consider including nonprofit federal entities in their own philanthropy as well," Rubenstein said.
IMAGES COURTESY OF STEVEN HOLL ARCHITECTS
Here's Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop with her gutsy suggestion for a winning Super Bowl play (BSO PHOTO). Looks like a surprise pass to the double basses will do the trick:
That chord, which launched a transcription by Tivadar Szanto of Bach's G minor Fantasia and Fugue for organ, was articulated not just with terrific force, but a delectable richness of tone as well.
Hamelin, justly famed for his technical prowess, seemed to be saying: Who needs a pipe organ to make this music shake the place?
He offered myriad dynamics; he articulated the trickiest of passages without the slightest trace of effort; he delivered expressive impact with every phrase.
You could same the same for the rest of the program, which celebrated the full range of the piano (made you feel a little sorry for those pianists who have gravely decided to focus squarely on the sacred Mozart-Beethoven-Schubert canon).
Hamelin's evident delight in every one of the 88 keys could not have been more obvious than in ...
his own composition, Variations on a Theme of Paganini, a wild and witty piece that had many in the audience laughing at each surprise along the way. In addition to droll quotations from the likes of Beethoven and Liszt, there are clever references to -- even some deconstruction of -- Rachmaninoff's Paganini Rhapsody.
Rachmaninoff also figured prominently on the recital. Hamelin tore into the Second Sonata with a blend of startling bravura and white-hot lyricism, creating an action-packed tone poem. Two Preludes (Nos. 5 and 12) from Op. 32 were exquisitely sculpted.
Hamelin's subtle side also found a potent outlet in Busoni's rarely heard Sonatina No. 2, a work with hallucinatory harmony, a sense of moonlit mystery. The pianist maintained remarkable tension here, and made the elusive music speak eloquently.
Hamelin moved without a break into another harmonically misty world, delivering Debussy's "Images" (Book 1) and "L'Isle Joyeuse" with a coruscant tone and finely nuanced phrasing.
The overflow house (seats were added onstage) clearly wanted more after the last thunderous rush of the Rachmaninoff sonata brought the program to a close. Hamelin obliged with a disarming about-face as an encore -- the famous movement of Mozart's C major Sonata (K. 545) that every piano student tackles before long.
This music is light years away, in style and keyboard range, from the recital's sound world, but Hamelin made it just as fulfilling. His tonally delicate, rhythmically elastic handling of the first theme's recapitulation was but one magical touch, one more reminder of this pianist's distinctive artistry.
PHOTO BY SIM CANETTY-CLARKE
Never mind that a good deal of dialogue from the Broadway musical, based on the 1988 John Waters movie, is gone. Or that just a few props pop up -- happily, one of them is a mechanical rat to dart across the stage during the opening "Good Morning, Baltimore" number.
Propelled by clever imitations of '60s rock and soul by Marc Shaiman (he and Scott Witman wrote the spot-on lyrics), the "Hairspray" score is not an ideal candidate for symphonic orchestration. The BSO's strings barely register in many of the numbers, given all the competition from winds and percussion.
But it's cool to hear the music fleshed out and played so dynamically by the orchestra, led with his usual flair and precision by principal pops conductor Jack Everly.
Whatever material has been abridged or squeezed to create the concert version, plenty remains to evoke the spice of the original 2002 show, thanks to ...
a first-rate, exuberant cast (brightly costumed by Clare Henkel), and the incomparable presence of Waters himself as narrator.
He's worth the price of admission. Waters does not just fill in plot details, but also offers insights into what inspired him to create the cinematic "Hairspray," a tale of teen angst, dance fever and stubborn segregation in early 1960s Baltimore.
His comments include fascinating background into some of the characters (a discussion of Little Inez, one of the young black dancers in the story, is especially revealing).
Waters seems to relish the opportunity to work with the BSO. "Maybe I'll come back and hum 'Bolero' while old people like me make out in the audience," he told an enthusiastic crowd at the Music Center at Strathmore Thursday night.
This venture, a co-production with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, has been fluidly directed by David Levy and choreographed by Jennifer Ladner. (The only drawback at Strathmore was alternately spotty and blaring amplification.)
Two veterans of the Broadway run of "Hairspray" bring plenty of sizzle to the proceedings.
Marissa Perry reprises the role of Tracy Turnblad, the calorie-hoarder determined to dance on the local TV sensation, "The Corny Collins Show" -- and, oh yeah, integrate the program, too. Perry is sweet, funny and nimble, and she sings up a storm. She has a great mate in Paul Vogt, who gives a delicious performance as Edna, Tracy's mammoth mother.
Vogt, who was one of the successors to Harvey Fierstein in this drag assignment on Broadway, reveals nary a hint of self-consciousness. It's a beautifully lived-in portrayal. The actor doesn't get all of Edna's lines in this version, but he successfully fills in the blanks with subtle touches. He's also an effective singer, capable of stylish phrasing, along with some in-your-face, basso profundo notes.
Micky Dolenz, the veteran performer still famed as a member of The Monkees, glides smoothly into the role of Edna's jokester husband, Wilbur. The actor may sound more like a cross between Crazy Guggenheim and Jimmy Durante than a guy from Highlandtown (there are no Baltimore accents, alas, in this cast), but he's a winner. Dolenz and Vogt make their big number, "Timeless," the old-fashioned showstopper it should be.
Beth Leveal exudes the requisite slime, to vivid effect, as Velma von Tussle. NaTasha Yvette Williams does an endearing turn as Motormouth Maybelle, and her lush voice soars stirringly in "I Know Where I've Been."
As Motormouth's son Seaweed (I wish Waters would talk about how he derived some of these names), the vibrant Marcus Terell does some soaring, too, hitting at least one note that could probably shatter glass.
The talented cast also features a colorful Nick Adams as heartthrob Link Larkin; and the bright-voiced Natalie Renee, Nikki Stephenson and Melissa Van Pelt as The Dynamites. Students from the Baltimore School of the Arts ably fill out this infectious celebration of a great American musical.
BALTIMORE SUN PHOTO (by Amy Davis)
Those messages are being energetically underlined these days at the Hippodrome, where a pleasant production of the popular musical "Disney's Beauty and the Beast" has taken up temporary residence.
This is a different show than the one that ran on Broadway for 13 years and previously visited Baltimore. For this fourth national tour, the original creative team has taken a fresh look at everything. There's been some downsizing here, some trimming there, and a lot of re-imagined visuals.
Folks who remember the initial version are bound to notice, especially ...
This streamlined NETworks Presentations staging, said to cost about a quarter of the $12 million poured into the one that Disney Theatrical Productions unveiled on Broadway in 1994, also uses a non-Equity cast. That's a significant hunk of change saved right there.
The net result, however, does not suggest some bargain-basement bus-and-truck venture. There is plenty of color and old-fashioned charm in Stan Meyer's new, airy scenic design and Ann Hould-Ward's revised costumes, more than enough to keep children engaged, I should think.
Young ones may still end up squirming through some of the talkier stuff (adults may find their attention wandering, too, during the two-and-a-half-hour work), but this polished production delivers on entertainment and charm.
At this late date, there is probably no point in mentioning that "Beauty and the Beast," spawned from the animated Disney movie of that name, is not exactly a masterpiece of invention.
The work could use more character depth, more cleverness in dialogue, more tension and uplift. It's all about putting surface sparkle on well-worn devices, when it needs to be, in the words of the title song, more "bittersweet and strange."
Still, the book by Linda Woolverton efficiently retells the familiar tale of the young woman who gradually warms to the monstrous-looking guy in the castle; some humor along the way helps spice that story (dusty puns not so much).
The score features an ear-friendly score with music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Baltimore-born Howard Ashman (his death in 1991 from AIDS at the age of 40 robbed the entertainment world of a considerable talent) and Tim Rice.
The best of the songs don't just serve the plot, but come with clever turns of phrase and melody -- the witty waltz "Human Again," sung by the castle servants in Act 2, is the crowning example. And the title song manages a neat trick of being old-fashioned and contemporary at once.
Director Rob Roth mostly keeps the pacing bright in this new staging, although some big ensemble numbers could be twice as effective at half the length, and he gets a well-honed response from the performers.
Hilary Maiberger is an amiable presence as Belle, the "beauty" in the plot who prefers books and dreams of adventure to her simple life. The actress tends to blend into the scenery early on, but she unleashes personality as the dramatic side of the story gets kicking. And, except when pushing her voice in the upper register, Maiberger sings with a sweet, steady soprano.
Darick Pead does a dynamic turn as the Beast, especially in the scenes when the hirsute, inelegantly fanged creature tries out his wooing technique on Belle (Pead gets good mileage from merely attempting to say "Please"). The actor has the vocal chops for the role, too.
As Gaston, the thick hunter who assumes Belle will swoon over his marriage proposal, Joe Hager offers biceps for days and a serviceable voice. The rubbery and tireless Jimmy Larkin cavorts gamely as Gaston's sidekick, LeFou, though the physical shtick does grow a wee bit tiresome.
The cast also features Peabody Conservatory alum William A. Martin, who did some fine work in local opera productions over the years. He's quite engaging as Belle's father, Maurice, an eccentric who ends up the Beast's prisoner.
Hassan Nazari-Robati seems to be channeling a little too much early Steve Martin, but his performance as the valet/candelabra Lumiere gives the show a welcome kick. James May likewise relishes his opportunity to shine as the butler/clock Cogsworth.
Erin Edelle has the requisite warmth as the cook/teapot Mrs. Potts and she sings "Beauty and the Beast" with welcome understatement. Jessica Lorion (Babette) and, especially, Shani Hadjian (Madame de la Grand Bouche) also make vibrant contributions.
PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS
For quite a few of us in the ever-threatened business, Jim has been a great influence and inspiration. Count me among his ardent admirers.
I am biased, of course, especially since ...
I also got a kick out of the fact that Jim, notorious for taking his sweet time answering a phone call or email, used to get back to me promptly when I contacted him (usually about Music Critics Association of North America business -- we did some projects together in the past). That gave me some pretty valuable street cred for a while.
And how can I ever thank him enough for teaching me the comfort and joy of a gin and tonic?
Being at the Times, where he did occasional reviews as well as editing, made him a magnet for a lot of negative stuff. It's a very tough, sure-to-displease-someone job.
Someone was always miffed at an article, or lack of one. Someone always assumed he was manipulating this or that, accused him of favoring or disfavoring one writer or another.
But none of that nonsense has ever dented Jim, one of the most authentic souls I've met in the classical music world. He's not just knowledgeable, but passionate, about music and truly moved by it. (That should be a given, but I guarantee you that there are folks in this business who have never shed a tear of felt a shudder hearing music; they are much too busy calculating something.)
Jim has kept the classical music pages of the Times lively and informative (not sure if he had a hand in moving those pages a little closer to the front of the Sunday Arts and Leisure section in recent months, but, heck, I'll credit him with that welcome development, too).
He has contributed his own distinctive voice to the paper's music coverage as a reviewer. And he has helped a lot of young critics over the years.
Others can write a lot more meaningfully about the man and the imprint he has left -- thanks to a Tweet by Steve Smith, I was led to this excellent post on the Seated Ovation blog -- but I just wanted to add my voice and (at the moment, figuratively) raise my glass of G&T to salute Jim and his many contributions to classical music.
The wonderful Linda Thorson stars in Everyman Theatre's production of Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County," the first presentation in the company's spiffy new home.
The Canadian-born Thorson plays the pill-popping matriarch of a severely complicated family in Oklahoma, where crisis after crisis comes "sweepin' down the plain."
I think it's cool to salute a past chapter in Thorson's life, her appearance on the popular TV show "The Avengers." She replaced Diana Rigg as Patrick Macnee's collaborator in this bright spy-fi series in 1968.
To mark Thorson's debut on the show, a promo was released -- and what a promo it is.
If you've seen, or plan to see, the Everyman production, you will enjoy this blast from the past all the more. If you don't, you should still find this little video a fun example of '60s style (which reminds me, when is "Mad Men" coming back?):
PHOTO BY STAN BAROUH
That's just one of the life's painful little lessons conveyed to searing effect in "August: Osage County," the 2008 Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play by Tracy Letts receiving its Baltimore premiere under the happiest of circumstances -- the inauguration of much-anticipated Everyman Theatre on West Fayette Street.
The vibrant production provides a fitting display for the handsome new facility, where the Empire, Palace and Town theaters once operated. (On opening night, a hum, apparently from the lighting grid overhead, proved a minor distraction.)
The most substantial asset of the venue is a proper stage, capable of handling the three-level set required by "August," a set that would have been impossible at the company's previous, low-ceilinged venue.
Resident scenic designer Daniel Ettinger has taken full advantage of the opportunity, deftly evoking the aging home 60 miles from Tulsa, where the three-hour-plus saga of the Weston Family can unfold seamlessly. And what a saga.
Letts conjures up a nightmare of family troubles -- suicide, infidelity, alcoholism, drug addiction, dirty middle-aged men, smoldering grudges. As one of the members observes: "Thank God we can't tell the future. We'd never get out of bed."
The Westons put the "diss" and the "shun" in dysfunction, but, in a weird way, they put the fun in it, too. You end up laughing through some pretty rough clawing and carping, thanks to the playwright's brilliant flair for dark comedy.
But you walk away with some awfully sobering, conflicted thoughts. With each twist of a phrase or turn in a conversation, Letts keeps the audience constantly off-balance, so that, in the end, we have as little to hold onto as the characters do.
The play requires a ...
At the center of action is Violet, the pill-popping, cancer-ridden matriarch of the household who has an unsettling habit of "truth-telling." Linda Thorson, a veteran of the theater and TV (notably "The Avengers") making her Everyman debut, seizes the role forcefully.
Her portrayal, especially in the last two acts, has a compelling, almost diabolic dynamism. And when the character is at her most vulnerable, Thorson affectingly opens a window into the tortured and torturing woman's soul.
When Violet's husband Beverly (the reliable Carl Schurr) disappears, the couple's three daughters return home, each bearing emotional baggage from the past and a whole mess of fresh tension involving the present and the men in their lives.
Deborah Hazlett, as the oldest and most cynical daughter, Barbara, gives a superb performance, alive with nuance and alert to the smallest shifts in the play's tone. Maia Desanti also does an admirable job as the chatty, naive youngest daughter, Karen.
The third sibling, Ivy, who has perhaps the toughest road ahead by the time the curtain falls, is played ably, if a little stiffly, by Beth Hylton.
Among the others who find themselves caught in this house of shards, there are standout contributions from Nancy Robinette and Wil Love as Mattie Fae and Charlie Aiken, tense sister and brother-in-law to Violet. Both provide multilayered interpretations that provide some of the most memorable dramatic and comic sparks alike (Love saying grace at the dining room table is priceless).
Clinton Brandhagen offers a sturdy performance as awkward Little Charles Aiken, who has been stepping into dangerous territory with Ivy.
Heather Lynn Peacock is convincing as Jean, the untethered teenage daughter of Barbara and Bill, played less convincingly by Rob Leo Roy. Bruce Randolph Nelson, as Karen's supposedly ideal mate, and Veronica Del Cerro, as the stoic young Native American who works at the house, could also use a little more finesse.
Occasional unevenness aside, there are easily enough strengths, which should only increase as the run continues. The production provides an impressive baptism for Everyman's welcoming new home, and effectively serves a wonderfully sprawling, yet subtly symmetrical, play that has much to say about the ever-fragile state of the human condition.
"August: Osage County" runs through Feb. 17.
PHOTO (Deborah Hazlett and Linda Thorson) BY STAN BAROUH
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