Recent posts

The Work / Re: HERE WE ARE
Last post by scenicdesign71 - Sep 16, 2023, 12:32 AM
Poster art was released a few days ago:

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Without yet having seen the show (it begins previews a week from next Thursday, but I won't be seeing it until November 1, a Wednesday matinée), it's hard to gauge the appropriateness of this image in any very specific terms.  But from what we know about the basic plot structures borrowed from Buñuel (as summarized by SJS himself in various interviews), I'm willing to grant this design some benefit-of-the-doubt as to its tonal and thematic resonance.  The combination of simple form and searing color has a certain elegance, and it certainly gets your attention.  I like that the people are rendered in basically plausible real-world colors; it's their context -- a blank red void with a grassy cyan path snaking through it -- that feels disorientingly weird, in ways that are at once innocuously simple ("just an eye-catching graphic-design conceit"), visually startling, and teasingly open to interpretation.

So this might be overselling the idea -- the sheer visual drop between the image and the title below already has this pretty well covered -- but part of me almost wants the white-jacketed leading figure, in his approach to the road's abrupt dead-end, to have inadvertently kicked a tiny bright-cyan pebble or two off its edge, which we'd see in mid-freefall through the undefined red space below.  Just this tiny visual-narrative touch would instantly clarify the landscape (whose colors might almost, at first glance, have blinded us to its other surreal aspect) and the figure's cautious downward gaze over the precipice; I'd actually be mildly surprised if the designer hadn't considered it at some point.

But then again, in a surrealist context, instant clarity isn't necessarily the point.  Such a detail might actually nail things down too fussily -- a little cartoony, a little on-the-nose -- so if a pebble-drop did by any chance appear in some earlier draft, I can just as easily see why they might have opted against it.  Especially for a Sondheim show, it's always a good idea to preserve some ambiguity.

Still, I'm guessing that the remaining text (producers, cast and creatives, theater and box office info), when it arrives, might be right-justified, preserving a fairly generous margin of empty red space at left below the drop-off, from the path's cleanly-sliced leading edge all the way down to the title.  That alone, without belaboring the point, would tend to get it across... just whisper-gently.

Last post by KathyB - Sep 10, 2023, 06:55 PM
The Denver Center Theatre Company
A Little Night Music
Denver Center for the Performing Arts
September 10, 2023

It was probably not a good idea to schedule seeing this at the same time as the Broncos' home opener. There were a bunch of crazed Bronco fans on the light rail going, and then the light rail got interrupted on the way home, I'm presuming so that they could devote more cars to the people coming home from the game. I didn't feel like waiting around for half an hour for a train that I wasn't sure was going to come. Fortunately I was able to get on a train that was going in the other direction, then get off and transfer to one that was going where I needed to go--and fortunately I had decided to park at the light rail station that was slightly more out of my way, but had more trains that stopped at it.

Transportation issues aside, it was a very good performance. The DCTC does a good job with everything they put on. I was in the front row, which did not seem too close at all. The show was staged on a thrust stage with a balcony and a large turntable. It felt a little like Les Misérables the way the turntable was used to bring in scenic elements and highlight the action.

The Liebeslieder were great--all of them had very strong voices. I remember seeing the actress who played Mrs. Anderssen play Signora Fioria in Do I Hear a Waltz? however many years ago I saw that. (She had been astonishing in that role.) The role of Fredrika alternated between two actors, and I don't know which one I saw because it wasn't specifically called out in the program, and both actors looked similar in their headshots. My favorite performances were Henrik, Petra and Mme. Armfeldt, which is an incredibly difficult role to play well, but she did an excellent "Liaisons" and a very credible death at the end (I guess I should put that in SPOILER ALERT tags :))--I believe every other production I've seen has made it look as if she simply falls asleep. Henrik had a powerful voice, which he used to great effect in both "Later" and the dinner scene. Petra unfortunately flubbed a lyric in "The Miller's Son," which I don't fault her for. Fredrik also flubbed a line at the end.

Desiree and Fredrik were both very good, and the audience actually applauded their getting together at the end of Act II. (Spoiler Alert again) "You Must Meet My Wife" was particularly strong. (I do hope that applauding when a couple gets together isn't becoming a trend.) The play-within-a-play was handled by putting Fredrik and Anne in the actual audience.

I do plan on seeing it again, hopefully on one of the dates where a talkback is planned for afterwards. Both those dates are on Thursday nights, so they won't conflict with football games.

The Broncos lost, by the way. :(
Last post by KathyB - Sep 09, 2023, 07:48 PM
Here is a link to the DCPA's study guide to ALNM. I love their study guides.

Review to come.
Daily Threads / Re: 8 September 2023 Opera in ...
Last post by KathyB - Sep 09, 2023, 01:05 PM
Well, I'm definitely impressed.  :)

I have spent today looking at noodles and bungee cords. I need the bungee cords to try and tie my gate together, because I found out this week that the gap in the gate is large enough for a 12-pound dog to get through. (I found out three times.) The noodles are because I tried some Omsom noodles from Whole Foods, and I liked them enough to order an 8-pack, along with some Lemongrass BBQ sauce.

Tomorrow I see A Little Night Music at the Denver Center! If it's good, I have enough ticket vouchers this year to see it again before the end of the run in October. (I've been counting on it to be good ever since I renewed my subscription in May, so if it really stinks, I'll have a spare ticket voucher to invite someone to one of the other plays this season.)
Daily Threads / 8 September 2023 Opera in the ...
Last post by scenicdesign71 - Sep 08, 2023, 05:49 PM
...Bryant Park, that is; the opera in question being Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, staged by NYCO for one night only in a two-hour abridged version: seven singers, plus a narrator; no chorus; and a wonderfully effective 12-piece orchestra.  The performance is live-streaming right now, but the video will remain on YouTube afterward:

I spent a chunk of the past week painting the Capulet and Montague banners, and helping to paint the rest of the set, with a couple of former NYU classmates.

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Like a lot of free outdoor summer " the Park" performance, this is thrown-together on a wing and a prayer, with surprisingly better results than one might expect -- which still isn't to say that it would run for years on Broadway (or at the Met).  But the voices are sublime, and it's a 75º early-September evening in Manhattan (never mind the curtain-delaying drizzle) and it's opera in the friggin' park -- what's not to enjoy?  My classmate John's set is practical, versatile, atmospheric and lovely to look at -- which shouldn't even be possible, given no time or money, but he makes it look effortless AND lends the evening a sense of scale and event.  Color me impressed.  And proud to have been a small part of it.

Plays / Re: Contemporary Set Design
Last post by scenicdesign71 - Sep 07, 2023, 01:54 AM
For no identifiable reason*, this evening I got onto one of my occasionally-recurring Arcadia obsessions -- it may be my favorite nonmusical play ever, certainly among the top handful, probably in part because I saw its American premiere at a particularly fraught and impressionable time near the end of my final year of grad school, but also because it just objectively is a masterpiece.

(In an even more random twist of the wormhole -- maybe thinking about Buñuel and Here We Are, and because YouTube's algorithm wanted to steer me from the video embedded below to this SJS interview -- just now I started wondering what a musical based on Arcadia might be like, and specifically what Sondheim would've made of it.  Probably nothing, because it's probably a really terrible idea, but the thought still intrigued me for all of ten or fifteen starry-eyed seconds).

Anyway, after reading this entire school study guide a little while ago, and lamenting, for the umpteenth time, the fact that no major production (of what is widely regarded as Stoppard's masterwork) has ever been captured for Great Performances or NTLive or BroadwayHD or the like, I started looking for YouTube clips -- or, who knows, maybe even a decent full-length "slime tutorial" -- and instead came across this elegant three-minute featurette for a 2016 regional production:

I don't have a whole lot to say about it, except that it's a beautiful set, smartly designed around its gorgeous central piece of prop carpentry, and I would love to have seen this production (at an outdoor classical theatre in Wisconsin that I don't think I'd previously been aware of; but, judging by this video and their website, they seem to do lovely work).

Jesse Green would presumably cite this production for "hyperdesign": its director gushes, not without justification, that "you could probably talk about this table for hours" (well, yes, I probably could) -- but, Green might chide, shouldn't we be talking about Stoppard's ideas, or the cast's performances, instead?  As "a kind of symbol of deterministic chaos," is the table's slow accumulation of two centuries'-worth of historical detritus perhaps an over-eager visual analog for what the playwright already has quite well-covered in words? 

Meanwhile, Isaac Butler would clock the very same design as an example of high scenographic "minimalism" (if also, as he might mistakenly imagine, suspiciously inexpensive-looking): it encompasses two separate periods and plotlines, and a host of cosmic Big Ideas, within a single static space so spare and minimally-dressed -- the room's side walls and even its two frequently-used interior side doors both reduced to the barest fragmentary suggestions of doorframes -- that it scarcely qualifies as even a very simple traditional "box" set. 

Yes, I'm still rolling my eyes at both Green's and Butler's NYT pieces, linked in the OP above.  And yes, the joke here is: Andrew Boyce's set, and my description of it, both track rather closely with Stoppard's own specification in Arcadia's published script -- as have probably dozens of other productions over the past thirty years.  This particular iteration is hardly cutting-edge, but whatever it lacks in originality it more than makes up for in grace and intelligence: unlike the ego-mad, emptily grandiose theatre-makers of popular imagination, Boyce is clearly both an artist and a professional, with an unerring eye for detail and proportion -- and a judicious sense of when to step out of the playwright's way.

*Ed.: ...Identified it!, finally, after just now closing a dozen browser windows to reveal the one that had been patiently waiting all evening to reclaim my attention: this review of Zadie Smith's new novel Fraud.  I had been derailed almost immediately by its mention of a ha-ha, because my first (and still very-nearly only) exposure to both the term and the concept of blind fences was in 1995, among all the talk of neoclassical landscape design in Arcadia.  That single word was enough to send me hurtling from Smith to Stoppard earlier tonight; hours later, I'm just now finally getting back to the Fraud review after having slipped away barely a single paragraph in.

Musicals / R.I.P. Franne Lee (1941-2023)
Last post by scenicdesign71 - Sep 05, 2023, 08:13 PM

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Candide, 1973

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Sweeney Todd, 1979

Daily Threads / 5 September 2023 Dentist Tuesd...
Last post by KathyB - Sep 05, 2023, 11:14 AM
Today I had to go to the human dentist (the canine dentist appointments are over!) to get my teeth cleaned, and to get the lecture about how much better I could be brushing.  :-[ I also got a fluoride treatment. I stopped at Target on the way back to pick up some ACT fluoride rinse, which should help with both the dry mouth and the areas where the gums are starting to recede. And that has been my morning. I am hungry. In about ten minutes it will be safe for me to eat something because the fluoride treatment will have been on my teeth for long enough.

Movies / Re: Maestro
Last post by scenicdesign71 - Sep 05, 2023, 06:49 AM
Spoilers, I guess?, albeit so vague and general that they not only spoil almost nothing, but hardly even justify the article's existence, under this or any other headline:
(Your mileage may vary).

NYT - Venice Film Festival: All Your Questions About Bradley Cooper's Maestro Answered

The gist: Kyle Buchanan got to go to Venice and see the Bernstein/Montealegre biopic love story three months before its US release, and you didn't.
Spoiler: ShowHide
Also, there's a dream ballet.

I found Bilge Ebiri's mixed-but-intriguing Vulture review (linked in Buchanan's teaser) much more informative, though still not to a degree that I'd call spoilerish.

More reviews here (currently rated 93% Fresh on RT).

Daily Threads / 1 September 2023 Friday
Last post by KathyB - Sep 01, 2023, 11:25 AM
It feels like a weekend, because the traffic was so light this morning. I'm guessing that a large percentage of people have today off.

This weekend, I get to do my laundry! Yippee! I also need to buy some Coke that is on sale for Labor Day, but not as good a price as it was on sale for last week (this week it's four 12-packs for $18; last week they were $4 each. I've definitely seen better pricing in the past, but I'm guessing that this is the new normal.)

I think it's supposed to be hot this weekend. It would be a good time to hang the laundry out, except my HOA doesn't allow clotheslines. :(  Maybe I'll get some Chinese food.