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Archive for the ‘Theater’ Category

SOUNDTRACKADITYA PRAKASH ENSEMBLE-GlobalFEST Tiny Desk (Home) Concert #135 (January 13, 2021).

Aditya Prakash EnsembleGlobalFEST is an annual event, held in New York City, in which bands from all over the world have an opportunity to showcase their music to an American audience.  I’ve never been, and it sounds a little exhausting, but it also sounds really fun.

The Tiny Desk is teaming up with globalFEST this year for a thrilling virtual music festival: Tiny Desk Meets globalFEST. The online fest includes four nights of concerts featuring 16 bands from all over the world. 

Given the pandemic’s challenges and the hardening of international borders, NPR Music and globalFEST is moving from the nightclub to your screen of choice and sharing this festival with the world. Each night, we’ll present four artists in intimate settings (often behind desks donning globes), and it’s all hosted by African superstar Angélique Kidjo, who performed at the inaugural edition of globalFEST in 2004.

The second band on the third night is the Aditya Prakash Ensemble.

Performing from their home base in Los Angeles, Aditya Prakash Ensemble highlights songs borne from South India’s Carnatic tradition. Prakash uses his voice as an instrument to tell powerful, emotive stories — which he reimagines in a fresh, dynamic way. Aditya Prakash Ensemble’s modern take on traditional music mixes in jazz and hip-hop and features a diverse L.A. ensemble.

The Ensemble is a quintet.  With Julian Le on piano, Owen Clapp on Bass, Brijesh Pandya on drums and Jonah Levine on trombone and guitar.

As “Greenwood” starts, I can’t quite tell if he’s actually singing words (in Hindi or some other language) or if he is just making sounds and melodies.  It sounds great either way.  He sings a melody and then the upright bass joins in along with the trombone.  He displays a more traditional singing and then Le plays a jumping piano solo which is followed by a trombone solo.  The ending is great as he sings along to the fast melody.

“Vasheebava” is a song about seduction.  Levine plays the guitar on this song.  It starts with gentle effects on the cymbals (he rubs his fingers on them).  Prakash sings in a more traditional Indian style and Levine adds a really nice guitar solo.

“Payoji” is a traditional devotional song and Prakash sings in a very traditional style.  But musically it’s almost a kind of pop jazz.  It’s very catchy with a nice trombone solo.

This conflation of Indian music with jazz is really cool.

[READ: January 11, 2021] Fearless.

“If one man can destroy everything, why can’t one girl change it?”-Malala Yousafzai

This book begins with this wonderful sentiment:

Not long ago, a wave of exciting books uncovered stories of women through history, known and unknown, for young dreamers around the world.  Women who had been warriors, artists and scientists.  Women like Ada Lovelace, Joan of Arc and Frida Kahlo, whose stories changed the narrative for girls everywhere. Readers around us were thrilled to discover this treasure trove. But there was something missing. They rarely saw women of color and even fewer South Asian women in the works they were reading.

It’s a great impetus for this book which opens with a timeline of Pakistani accomplishments (and setbacks) for women.  The timeline is chronological in order of the birth years of the woman in the book.  Interspersed with their births are important events and the year they happened.

Like in 1940 when women mobilized and were arrested or in 1943 when the Women’s National Guard was formed. In 1948, a law passed recognizing women’s right to inherit property.  In 1950, the Democratic Women’s Association formed to demand equal pay for equal work (it doesn’t say if it was successful).

In 1973 the Constitution declared there could be no discetrmaton on the basis of race, religion, caste or sex.

But in a setback in 1979, the Hudood Ordinance passed which conflated adultery with rape, making it near impossible to prove the latter–and the punishment was often death.

And yet for all of the explicit sexism in Pakistan, the country accomplished something that America has been unable to do–elect a woman as leader. In 1988 Benazir Bhutto became the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan.

The woman in this book are given a one-page biography and a cool drawing (illustrations by Aziza Ahmad).  They range from the 16th century to today.  (more…)

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[POSTPONED: December 29, 2020] Cirque Dreams: Holidaze

indexI love going to see Cirques–all kinds of fun acrobatics and stunts on display.  When my kids were younger, we went to a lot of them.  Then we stopped for a while and I felt it was time to do it again.

This seemed like a perfect show to start up again.  It’s family friendly, it’s holiday themed, it seemed to be safely out of virus risk being taking place in December.  Surely the last few days of the year would allow some public entertainment….

Well, I hope Cirque Dreams comes back, if not for Holidaze, then maybe one of their other shows.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze lights up the 2020 season with the must-see holiday show The New York Daily News proclaims a “delicious confection of charm, sparkle, and talent by the sleighload and so full of energy it could end our dependence on oil.” Created by Cirque Dreams founder and Broadway director Neil Goldberg, Cirque Dreams Holidaze is a new cirque adventure, Broadway musical, and family holiday spectacular wrapped in one! This incomparable phenomenon features over 300 imaginative costumes, 20 world-class astonishing acts, the finest singers, original music, and seasonal favorites celebrating the most wonderful time of year from Thanksgiving to Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s. Audiences of all ages will marvel at soaring acrobatics, gravity-defying feats, and extravagant theatrical production numbers the Boston Globe hails as “Entrancing…Las Vegas meets family entertainment.”

holidaz

 

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SOUNDTRACK: THE DISTILLERS-Very Special Christmas Special, “Baby It’s Covid Outside” (December 18, 2020).

Despite going to many live shows, I haven’t watched a lot of streaming concerts. It’s not the same, and I don’t really like watching things on my computer anyway.

I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to buy a ticket for this one.  I saw The Distillers last year and enjoyed the show. But I feel like I didn’t get to fully appreciate it because the crowd was really rowdy and knew the band far more than I did.

So this seemed like a chance to see them “live” up close. The entire special was barely 40 minutes.  This is a bit of a bummer, but at the same time, it was really a perfect length for me.

In addition to the music, there were some skits.  As the show opens, Black Metal Santa unpacks some presents from his sack.  There’s a gun on a stack of presents, he pulls out a squeaking chicken dog toy and then a very adult toy.  He turns around, all Black Metal and says “Merry Fucking Christmas boys and girls, here’s The Distillers.”

On a well-decked-out Christmas-themed set The Distillers start to play.  There’s all kinds of Christmas things–blow up snowmen and giant stocking as well as digital flames.  And a full rig of lights. The band sounds great and the recording is well mixed.  The drums and bass sound huge.

They open with “Sick of It All.”  Brody Dalle is up front playing guitar and singing.  To her right is Tony Bevilacqua on guitar.  To her left is Ryan Sinn on bass.  All three are wearing Santa hats.  They all sing the opening verses and it sounds like a wall of vocals. Drummer Andy Granelli is not wearing a Santa hat, but he does have a knit cap on. The song sounds great–a blast of punk to celebrate the season.

They follow with the outrageously catchy punk of “Oh Serena.”  When I saw them, they opened with these two songs as well.  But this set list deviates somewhat. 

Up next is the quieter “L.A. Girl.”  It starts with everyone playing softly while Brody sings.  Then the whole band kicks in with massive drumming and some tasty bass fills. A martial drum beat opens “I’m a Revenant.”  Both guitarists play the lead riffs before Brody starts singing.  This song has some great sing-along moments as well as a brief part where it’s just Brody before the band marches in again.

“Sunsets” comes next.  They didn’t play this when I saw them.  Brody’s guitar is clean as the song opens.  She sings without a snarl.  The song does not turn into a balls out rocker.  It stays slow but gets very intense.  Bevilacqua makes interesting bendy sounds from his guitar in the middle jam section.  The song slows to a bass rumble before some Christmas music starts playing.

Black Metal Santa comes out and gives Brody a present.  It’s the album Faith by The Cure.  But there’s nothing inside–it’s just the cover. Black Metal Santa says, “Its my ‘Primary’ Christmas gift to you.  A cover.  Now play the damn song.”  It’s an amusing introduction to the song “Primary,” which I did not expect at all.  It sounds fantastic–close to the original, but heavier and obviously with Brody’s vocals sounding very different from Robert Smith’s.  She restrains her vocals until a loud snarling “oh remember” part.

Brody removes the Santa hat for “Dismantle Me” and the lights get brighter so you can see her more clearly.  This song has a great split with really fast guitars from Bevilacqua and slower guitars from Brody. 

The super fast chords continue into “Die on a Rope.”  This song also has some “Oh way oh” parts that are really catchy for such a dark song.  The middle jam is just bass and drums and Bevilacqua’s squeaky feedback while Brody sings.  There’s some thunderous drumming in the end as they jump into “City of Angels.”  This song is really catchy as she and the boys sing together.  There’s another cool middle section of just Brody’s guitar and noisy guitar sounds from Bevilacqua before the band roars off again.

The song ends and Brody looks off stage and says “Jesus.”  Granelli chides, “Brody, it’s Christmas.”  But she points off stage and Jesus comes out.  They ask what he’s doing there and he says it’s his birthday. They ask if he can make it snow.  Jesus says he makes miracles happen–he’s got a guy.   He calls a guy who comes down and the snow starts to fall.  Jesus and the guy get in a fight over who actually makes the miracles happen.  The guy says “ever since cofefe.”  But Granelli stops them, “we’re trying to do a Christmas show here, knock it off.”

Brody takes the mic and says “this year’s been a real ass kicker.  We’re looking forward to the new year.” 

Then they start Ramones’ “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight).”  It sounds great and is a perfect set ender for a holiday special.

The show ends and they play the Ramones song over the credits.  The band takes bows and makes snow angels.

It’s a fun special and totally worth the $15.

[READ: December 25, 2020] “The George Spelvin Players”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fifth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America.

This year’s slipcase is a thing of beauty, too, with electric-yellow lining and spot-glossed lettering. It also comes wrapped in two rubber bands to keep those booklets snug in their beds.

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

It’s December 25.  Rebecca Makkai, author of The Great Believers, could’ve sworn she left that porridge bowl right over there [Click the link to the H&O extras for the story].

I started this story and thought it was so familiar that I was sure I had read it before.  But as it went along, it didn’t seem familiar anymore, so maybe there is a similar component of it that I had read in another story. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: June 6, 2020] Acrobuffos

indexS. took her Girl Scouts to see Acrobuffos and said it was great.  I had actually wanted to go to the show but was on a Scout hike that weekend.

So when they announced they were coming to McCarter, I bought us all tickets.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

What are Acrobuffos?

Visual, completely wordless, comedic physical theater. The Acrobuffos present sophisticated image-driven performances, playing games using poetic mime. They are not your typical clowns – they are artists and surrealists – who will not be easily categorized.

Who wouldn’t love that?

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[POSTPONED: April 28, 2020] Diavolo [moved to April 29, 2021]

indexI love going to see Cirques–all kinds of fun acrobatics and stunts on display.  When my kids were younger, we went to a lot of them.  Then we stopped for a while and I felt it was time to do it again.

Diavolo is in fact a dance company, but they perform amazing acrobatics and physically demanding pieces (as you can see from the reviews like: “Diavolo’s performers are fearless, elegant and strong with a sense of timing by which a Swiss watch could be set, and the way the troupe interacts with the moving sets, makes for a truly spectacular and awe inspiring show.”).

I found out about this show after it was cancelled, but when I saw that it was rescheuled for April of 2021, I was really interested in going to see it with the family.

VOYAGE is Diavolo’s newest adventure, inspired by travels in space and the 50th Anniversary of the first Moon Landing. A young woman dreams of traveling distances only astronauts can, escaping from the ordinary world into a surreal landscape of infinite possibilities. Gravity-defying bodies join her on a large wheel structure that rolls along the stage and on the journey in a universe that is alive with kinetic energy, fantastical whimsy, and surprising transformation.

TRAJECTOIRE is a signature Diavolo work that takes the audience on a visceral and emotional journey through the ebb and flow of the human experience. Watch as performers jump on and off a “Trajectoire” which is a 3,000 pound boat made of wood, aluminum, and steel that continuously rocks back and forth. Watch the performers struggle to find their balance on a voyage of destiny and destination in a daring display that shows the transcendence of the human soul against all odds.

diavolo

 

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[CANCELLED: April 5, 2020] Cirque Éloize: Hotel

indexWe have seen two productions by Cirque Éloize: Saloon and Cirkopolis and they have both been fantastic.  We were really excited to see this third show, Hotel.  [They have six shows in production: ID, Nezha, the Pirate Child and Serge Fiori, Suel Ensemble.

Then my Scout even was scheduled for that weekend which meant that C. and I couldn’t go but S. and T. could.

Of course, now McCarter has cancelled the rest of their season, so we can only hope that the troupe comes back next season.

 

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SOUNDTRACK: ADAM SCHLESINGER (October 31, 1967 – April 1, 2020).

Adam Schlesinger was best known as the co-founder of Fountains of Wayne.  I always appreciated the band because I was familiar withe the store Fountains of Wayne (in Wayne, NJ).  But I was never a big fan of the band.

They wrote indie pop songs, which were not really my thing in the late 90s (although I did really enjoy “Radiation Vibe”).

Ironically, Schlesinger was pretty much simultaneously involved with a band that I really did like called Ivy.  I liked Ivy a lot primarily for the vocals of Dominique Durand and had no idea that Schlesinger was involved.

Since then I have really come to appreciate Schlesinger’s songwriting (he’s written amazingly catchy songs for just about everyone).

The Coronavirus is devastating the world and Schlesinger’s death from it just amplifies the unfairness of this deadly virus.  That a man who made people happy with his melodies should be killed by it while people who are causing direct harm are not even infected by it just seems to show where we are in the world.

[READ: April 1, 2020] “Inside Tove Jansson’s Private Universe”

I’m a fan of the Moomin Universe and I know a bit about Tove Jansson.  I also know that her brother Lars (she called him Lasse) took over doing the Moomins at some point because she had burnt out.  She died in 2011 at age 86.

This essay is more or less a book review of a new collection of Jansson’s correspondence called Letters from Tove, which I might consider reading.

I did not know that Jansson wrote short stories. Her short story “Messages” is composed of snippets of letters she received: “Last time you didn’t make a happy ending.  Why do you do this?  We look forward to your valued reply soonest concerning Moomin motifs on toilet paper in pastel shades.”

It’s easy to see how forty years of these letters would be wearying. (more…)

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[CANCELLED: March 27, 2020] The Peking Acrobats

indexWe didn’t have tickets for this show yet.  I’m not entirely sure we were even going to go.

We have seen many Chinese acrobatic troupes perform; however it has been six years since we last went to such a performance and we were thinking it might be fun to take the kids now that they are a little older.

There always seems to be some kind of troupe coming through New Jersey, so even if this show is not rescheduled, it seems likely we’ll be able to see some amazing acrobats in the near future.

 

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[ATTENDED: October 26, 2019] MST3K Live

I didn’t realize it was exactly one year ago that I went to the previous MST3K Live experience.  How funny.

I have enjoyed both of the two previous MST3K Live shows quite a bit.  So when it was announced that they were going to do it again and this time it was going to be in New Brunswick instead of Glenside, PA, I got tickets right away (and wound up in the third row).  I only wish I had picked the other side of the stage, because Joel and the bots did their movie watching from over there.

I have been very lucky to have gotten two movies each time I’ve seen the performance.  It seem like a lot of locations get only one movie.  I’m not sure why I’ve been so fortunate.  (And State Theatre offered a discount if you bought seats for both movies!).

Last time the riffing was done by Joel Hodgson and Jonah Ray as well as many of the actors from the show.

This time things were very different.

Jonah Ray was not there.  Nor was Rebecca Hanson as Synthia Forrester.  And of course, no Felicia Day nor Patton Oswalt (not even on video).

But the big announcement was that this was going to be Joel Hodgson’s last MST3K Live tour.  I don’t know if that means there will be more, or if this is the end of them entirely. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: 47SOUL-Tiny Desk Concert #884 (August 26, 2019).

I had never heard of 47Soul and, surprisingly, the blurb doesn’t give any real background about the band.  So I had to turn to Wikipedia.

47Soul is a Jordanian Palestinian electronic music group.  The band’s first album, Shamstep, was released in 2015 and they are one of the main forces behind the Shamstep electronic dance music movement in the Middle East.

So what the heck is Shamstep?

Shamstep is based on mijwiz (a levantine folk musical style) and electronic dance.  ‘Sham’ refers to the local region of “Bilad al-Sham”, and ‘step’ refers to dubstep. The band’s music is also associated with the traditional dance called Dabke.

So, that’s a lot to take in, especially if you don’t know what half of those words mean.

The blurb does help a little bit more:

Shamstep is the creation of 47SOUL. At its heart is Arab roots music laced with dub, reggae and electronic dance music, including dubstep. It’s positive-force music with freedom, celebration and hope for the people of the Sham region (Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria).

47SOUL play three songs and their instrumentation is pretty fascinating.  Three of the guys sing.  They also play bass drum (Walaa Sbeit); darbuka– a small hand drum (Tareq Abu Kwaik); guitar (Hamza Arnaout) and synthesizers (Ramzy Suleiman).

So what do they sound like?

Well, the first song “Mo Light” opens with some very synthesized “traditional” Middle Eastern music.  It sounds like an electronic version of traditional instrumentation.  The guitar comes in with a sound that alternates between heavy metal riffage and reggae stabs.  The three singers take turns singing.  Walaa Sbeit is up first singing in Arabic.  Then there’s a middle section sung by Tareq Abu Kwaik who is playing the darbuka and an electronic drum pad.  His voice is a bit rougher (the Arabic is quite guttural).  Meanwhile Ramzy Suleiman adds backing vocals and seems to sing loudest in English.

For the next song, Tareq Abu Kwaik does the narration while introducing Walaa Sbeit:

“Is it ok if I do a little dance on your desk?” asked 47SOUL singer and percussionist Walaa Sbeit on first seeing the Tiny Desk. I thought a minute, went under the desk, tightened the bolts, stuck some splints of wood under a few of the uneven legs and (feeling reassured) gave him the nod. It would be our first traditional Middle Eastern Dabke dancing atop the Tiny Desk and the first sounds of Shamstep (a kind of electronic dance music) behind it.

The dancing involves a shocking amount of deep knee bends!

“Don’t Care Where You From” opens with a cool synth rhythm and then sung in English.  It’s fun watching Walaa Sbeit walk around with the bass drum slung over his shoulder as he does some dancing while playing.  The song is one of inclusion

Well you might be from Philly (?) or Tripoli / from the mountains or from the sea
maybe got the key to the city / don’t mean anything to me.

They don’t care where you’re from, it’s where you are that counts.

47SOUL’s message of equality, heard here at the Tiny Desk (and on the group’s current album, Balfron Promise) is meant for all the world. This is music without borders, mixing old and new, acoustic and electronic from a band formed in Amman Jordan, singing in Arabic and English. It’s one big, positive and poignant party.

It segues into “Jerusalem” with the controversial-sounding lyric: “Jerusalem is a prison of philosophy and religion.”  The middle of the song had an Arabic rap which sounds more gangster than any gangster rap.  The end of the song is an electronic dance as everybody gets into it–clapping along and banging on drums.

It’s pretty great. I hope they tour around here, I’d love to see them live.

[READ: August 27, 2019] Submarine

I saw this book on the shelf and was attracted by its busy cover.  I also thought the authors name sounded familiar.   And so it was.  I have read some of Dunthorne’s poems in Five Dials magazines.

This was his first novel.  And it sounded unusual.  The back cover had this excerpt:

I used to write questionnaires for my parents. I wanted to get to know them better.  I asked things like:

What hereditary illnesses am I likely to inherit?
What money and land am I likely to inherit?

Multiple choice:
If you child was adopted at what aged would you choose to tell him about his real mother?
a) 4-8
B) 9-14
C) 15-18

Dunthorne is from Wales, which made this story a little exotic as well.  It is set in Swansea, by the sea (where people surf!) (more…)

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