Category Archives: Theater | Music

Theater | Music

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker

Settling into my plush seat at the Orpheum waiting for the curtain to rise on the evening’s performance of the Nutcracker, I was in a mood of pleasant expectation knowing that I could look forward to an evening watching an old favorite, familiarly done. Nor was I disappointed.

Anatoly Emelianov’s choreography delivered all the key elements one looks for in this ballet. The festive Christmas eve party where the entrances of the partygoers serve as an amuse bouche of dance and set the tone for the rest of the performance. The dreamlike sequences of the growing Christmas tree and the Nutcracker coming to life create the entrancing transition into the dreamlike world of the ethereal, the thrilling, the exotic.

Apart from one unfortunate fall in the second act, the corps de ballet showed their maturity as dancers who had become seasoned and practiced in their roles and delivered a taut, graceful and otherwise flawless performance. A highlight of the evening was provided by the pair performing the Arab dance sequences whose high-energy, athletic rendition added a staccato note.

By far the most delightful feature of this production, however, came from watching the promising talent contributed by the young dancers who are recruited locally for each city’s performance. The younger snowflakes in particular added a sweet, ethereal charm to the evening.

The theater itself helps set the stage, if you will, for properly enjoying the ballet which has become a perennial American holiday favorite even if Tchaikovsky himself preferred Sleeping Beauty. With its red and gold accented d├ęcor, the deep, comfortable seats, and the rococo paintings on the ceilings, there’s a feeling of old St Petersburg in the theater that helps provide the ideal setting for enjoying this holiday favorite. The house very sensibly, too, allows patrons to bring their drinks into the theater after the intermission thereby allowing a person to comfortably finish a cocktail while enjoying the second act.Something tells me Tchaikovsky would have approved.

People Theater | Music

Steven C Releases ‘Signature’

Writing about music is difficult. Actually, writing meaningfully about music is difficult. So if you don’t care to watch someone struggle in the effort, stop here.

For those of you still reading (and now I know who slows traffic just to look at a crash) let me say that some people do it very well. Stanley Crouch, for instance. has a gift for helping the reader feel the jazz in his words. I’m not talking about reviews of performances or events. That’s something altogether different.

Speaking about music is maybe a bit less difficult but only a bit. When doing so, you’ll likely get the sense of your audience’s understanding of music and the piece or artist under discussion. But a person is still constrained to the use of words that, musical though they can be themselves, at best only approximately describe the beauty of sounds using words. Also it’s best to avoid phrases like ‘tumty-tum, dah, dah, dah’ if you wish to be taken seriously. Again, those who do it well stand out clearly. Karl Haas and Leigh Kamman were two of the best at this.

Often the person best able to discuss the music is the composer/artist herself. You’ll know this yourself if you ever listen to Marian McPartland’s conversations with her fellow musicians.

Steven C does it well, too. Very well. Hosting a series of free concerts celebrating the launch of his new CD “Signature” over the weekend, Steven unwittingly showed his skills as a potential lyricist as he discussed the inspiration for his new work.

Playing to a full house on Sunday afternoon (Well, not nearly full, really. You should see the place – it’s  huge. But there were only as many people there as he would allow in), Steven spoke of inspirations – of his daughter Chloe dancing in circles; of Sunday evenings as the ‘compressed weekend’ of a busy performer; of hymns; of 114 years of life speaking to him through his house; of nature; of explorations; of journeys.

Nuance and emotion comes in the music as well as the words. The George Winstonesque ‘Deep Within’ is a lush and mellow tribute to musical roots. ‘Secret Circle’ managed to communicate the joy of family and a hint of melancholy. But ‘Signature’ is upbeat and suggestive of sunny afternoons.

The result of Steven’s inspirations is thoughtful and genuine. Think of it all as words, then music, by Steven C. But think of the whole thing as one delightful conversation.