Saturday, March 01, 2014

Come Hear the Music Play: On a Stellar NU 'Cabaret' and a Visit to the CSO

Brief recaps & reviews without specific ratings:

Ethel Barber Theater
Northwestern University, Evanston
Thru March 2


Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Program of Stravinsky & Ravel
February 27, 2014
Repeats March 1, 2014

I generally don't review college theater productions and don't feel qualified to critique a classical music concert, but wanted to broach on a couple fine performances I attended the last two nights.

In both cases, I was treated to my ticket, all the more reason not to invoke anything approaching pointed criticism.

But as the Northwestern University production of Cabaret and the particular Chicago Symphony Orchestra program I saw have performances tonight, and in the case of the former, tomorrow, I thought I'd make a point of recommending both.

Particularly a rather terrific rendition of Cabaret, for which cheap tickets are listed on HotTix.

The Kander & Ebb masterpiece centered around a Berlin cabaret on the precipice of Nazi rule is one of my favorite musicals of all-time. I've liked it every time I've seen it, including a professional version by Light Opera Works on the Northwestern campus last August, but I found this student-based production even more satisfying.

As one expects from students of NU's acclaimed Theater & Interpretation Center, the singing was superb throughout, with impressive work by Ella Pennington (Sally Bowles), Fergus Inder (the Emcee), Ryan Bernsten (Cliff Bradshaw), Meghan Stanton (Fraulein Schneider) and Jared Corak (Herr Schultz). Which isn't to infer that anyone else wasn't good; the entire cast did a great job.

Directed by Nick Bowling, who has done much stellar work on TimeLine Theatre productions, this version can certainly serve as an excellent introduction to anyone unfamiliar with one of the true masterpieces of musical theater, and likely should please anyone who has long loved Cabaret.


I don't get down to Orchestra Hall, Symphony Center or whatever it's called these days as much as I should. And most recently I'd been there for a terrific jazz concert, so it was a pleasure to again see and hear the great Chicago Symphony Orchestra at full bore.

Which actually serves to explain what I loved, and only liked, about Thursday's performance, which repeats again tonight after doing so last night.

The evening's selections were curated by Pierre Boulez, the CSO's conductor emeritus, who was supposed to lead the program until he was precluded from traveling (he's nearing 89 years of age).

As excellently explained by Laura Stanfield Prichard in a pre-concert conversation--I recommend attending anytime you can--Boulez likes to subvert traditional orchestral programming, and thus chose to follow a full-orchestra piece (Igor Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements) with eight Stravinsky "miniatures" of about a minute each.

Also within the 80-minute pre-intermission set were Chansons madecasses and Pribaoutki--both series of short operatic songs by Maurice Ravel, well-sung by mezzo-soprano J'nai Bridges--and a partial-orchestra Concertina by Stravinsky.

The "second act" had just three short works--two Stravinsky, one Ravel--and like all the pieces, were introduced on video by Boulez.

While I appreciate Boulez' intent in melding various types of works into an evening's CSO performance, as a classical musical neophyte I found things rather disjointed after the sublime 30-minute opening, full-bore piece.

And like many, I imagine, who don't innately know classical music, I like it most when played loud and/or fast. Thus Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements and the final piece--listed as Ravel's Alborada del gracioso, but the Boulez' videos left me uncertain if works were played in program guide order--were the most pleasing, as they let the whole bunch of gifted musicians blast away, so to speak.

I didn't like anything I heard as much as Mozart and Beethoven works I actually know, but everything was well-done, and made for a very pleasing re-acquaintance with the CSO, one of Chicago's great cultural treasures.

I hope to get there again sooner than I had this time. .

1 comment:

Ken said...