PREVIEW: Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra 2012-2013 season features premieres and Kahane

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

 

Although summer seasons are now in full swing, it’s not too
soon to be thinking about the upcoming indoor programs. The Los Angeles Chamber
Orchestra’s 44th season offers a rich schedule that includes 28
performances in Glendale’s Alex Theatre, UCLA’s Royce Hall, The Colburn
School’s Zipper Hall, The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, and Pasadena’s
Ambassador Auditorium.

 

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Music Director Jeffrey Kahane, now in his 16th
season as LACO’s musical chief, will conduct five of the seven orchestral
concerts beginning Oct. 6 at the Alex and Oct. 7 at Royce Hall. The program
will include Kahane soloing and conducting in Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G
major; Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, with Augustin Hadelich (in his LACO debut) as soloist; and two
west coast premieres: The Great Swiftness
by Andrew Norman and James Matheson’s — True
South.

 

Kahane will also conduct and play on two other programs: the
original 1924 of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody
in Blue
on Dec. 8 and 9 and Bach’s fifth Brandenburg Concerto on March 23
and 24. He will also dissect and then play and conduct Beethoven’s fourth piano
concerto on Feb. 23 at Ambassador as LACO’s annual “Discover” program.

 

Norman, who begins a three-year stint as LACO’s
Composer-in-Residence, will have his commission played on the orchestra’s
“Sound Investment” program played on 20 and 21. The season also includes an
appearance by noted choral conductor Helmuth Rilling, who will lead the
orchestra and USC Thornton Chamber Singers in a performance of Mozart’s Requiem
on Jan. 26 and 27.

 

In addition to the orchestra series, LACO will also offer
its Westside Connections series at The Broad Theatre, Baroque Conversations
series at Zipper Hall, and its annual Silent Film Festival on June 8 at Royce
Hall, featuring Buster Keaton’s Our
Hospitality.

 

Information:
213/622-7001. Read the full media release HERE. The chronological schedule is
HERE.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

OVERNIGHT REVIEW: An Enchanted Evening with Brian Stokes Mitchell

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

______________________

 

Brian Stokes Mitchell

Friday, March 9, 2012 The Broad Stage

Next performance: Tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Information: www.thebroadstage.com

______________________

 

Brian Stokes Mitchell is a true Renaissance man: children’s
book author (On Broadway, with Brian
Stokes Mitchell)
, TV star (Trapper
John, M.D., Fraiser, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,
and most recently, Glee), among other talents. However,
he’s still best known as an iconic, Tony Award-winning Broadway musical theatre
star, a worthy successor to baritone legends such as John Raitt.

 

Now age 54, Stokes (as he prefers to be called, as opposed
to Mitchell) has forsaken the eight-shows-in-a-week grind of Broadway in favor
of concert and semi-staged performances of musicals, but he has also created a
90-minute long, stylishly crafted, winsomely performed show that made its local
debut at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica last night.

 

The show was entitled “From Broadway to The Broad,” ignoring
the fact that the name of the stage is pronounced “brode” (the hall was funded,
in part, through a gift from Eli and Edythe Broad). There was, of course, a
generous helping of powerfully sung Broadway favorites sprinkled throughout the
program (Stokes opened with Some
Enchanted Evening
from South Pacific
and encored with The Impossible Dream from
Man of La Mancha).

 

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Stokes really connects with the audience (at one point, even
getting them sing the responses in It
Ain’t Necessarily So
from Porgy and
Bess)
and his diction was excellent throughout the evening. Along the way, he wove stories about
his childhood, his performing life, and what it’s like to be the father of a
precocious eight-year-old son (the image pictured right is obviously several
years old) — along with other musical genres — into the fast-paced show. He
even managed to graciously hawk his book, proceeds of which benefit The Actors’
Fund.

 

He was backed by a sensitive accompanying quartet: Jeff Colella
(who doubled as music director) on piano; Chris Colangelo, bass guitar; Rod
Harbour, drums; and Bob Shepherd, who sparkled on several different wind
instruments throughout the evening.

 

After the Some
Enchanted Evening
opener, Stokes sang material from George Gershwin (songs
and two selections from Porgy and Bess), the
Brazilian hit Waters of March, Stars (aided by a sensitive lighting
scheme by Michael Flowers) and a poignant medley of It isn’t Easy Being Green and Hooray.

 

Along the way, he slipped in a couple of pointed political
jibes; he applauded the number of states that have passed gay-marriage laws and
followed that by singing Hello, Young
Lovers
from The King and I — the
context gave the familiar lyrics quite a different spin. 

 

Before encoring with The
Impossible Dream,
Stokes paired an a cappella rendition of the first and
last verses of America the Beautiful (singing
the last refrain as God shed her grace on
thee; and crown thy good with sisterhood …”)
with Wheels of a Dream from Ragtime.

 

For many people in attendance, the show’s highlight came in
the middle. After recounting the back story of how he became involved with the
2005 concert performance of South Pacific
in Carnegie Hall (a performance captured, tbankfully on DVD) and noting
that the musical was originally performed in 1949 and 1950 without
amplification (“cheaters” he called it), Mitchell honored that tradition with a
gripping rendition of This Nearly Was
Mine
sung “au naturele” (without a microphone). His powerful baritone carried
wonderfully in the flattering acoustic of the intimate Broad Stage; indeed, at
least this critic wished the entire show had been done without amplification. This Nearly Was Mine received an
eminently deserved standing ovation from the capacity audience, and there were
more than a few tears flowing.

 

Stokes represents an earlier era of Broadway musicals, one
that young people today rarely get the chance to experience. However, this show
is deeper and richer than mere nostalgia, so if you can get a ticket for
tomorrow’s final performance, grab it.

_______________________

 

Hemidemisemiquavers:

One kvetch about Stokes’ commentary: South Pacific was not the first Broadway musical to tackle racism. Show Boat in 1927 had the same theme as
part of that landmark show.

If you’ve never seen The Broad Stage, that’s another
reason to see this show. With just 499 seats and plenty of wood accents, the
acoustics are intimate and flattering and the seats seem wider than normal, in
part because of the low arms.

Another bonus: parking is free and the theater (which is
part of the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center) is accessible via
public transit (Metro’s 704 Rapid Line stops two blocks from the hall and Santa
Monica’s Big Blue Bus runs on Santa Monica Blvd., as well). Some day, Metro’s
Expo Line will be within walking distance.

The hall is a short walk from the Third Street Promenade
and the beach, so if you’re going tomorrow, make a day of it.

Last night’s show was followed by free wine and hors
d’oeuvres, a nice touch that other halls would do well to emulate.

* The Broad Stage is quite a busy spot with six more
programs scheduled during March. Broadway music lovers will want to mark March
31 on their calendars because Jason Robert Brown, whose songs in the musical Parade won him a Tony, comes to the hall
with the Caucasian Rhythm & Brass Kings and Anika Noni Rose. Information: www.thebroadstage.com

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.

(Revised) PREVIEW: Brian Stokes Mitchell — A Most Wonderful Fella

By Robert D. Thomas

Music Critic

Pasadena Star-News/San Gabriel Valley Tribune/Whittier Daily
News

The revision is the list of songs at the end of the story.

______________________

 

Brian Stokes Mitchell
in Recital

Friday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, March 11 at 4 p.m.

The Broad Stage (Santa Monica

Tickets: $65-$135

Information:
www.thebroadstage.com

______________________

 

There are certain people who when they show up on a schedule
get a big yellow highlighter and/or red-line underline (or their electronic
equivalent) on my calendar. They belong in the “don’t miss this show” category.
Brian Stokes Mitchell is one of those, for me, and he’s coming to The Broad
Stage in Santa Monica Friday night and Sunday afternoon.

 

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Mitchell has been one of the leading stars of musical
theater for decades (he’s now age 54); he has been nominated for four Tony
Awards and won in 2000 for his performance in Kiss Me Kate. However, my experience with Mitchell can trace
directly to a benefit performance of South
Pacific
in concert at Carnegie Hall that aired in 2006 (the actual
performance took place on June 9, 2005). I stumbled onto it while channel
surfing but, as South Pacific is one
of favorite musicals (perhaps THE favorite), I was hooked.

 

Mitchell was playing Emile de Becque and Reba McEntire was
Nellie Forbush (pictured right). Not only did they sing wonderfully, they
connected amazingly as a couple. However, what I vividly remember was Mitchell
singing This Nearly Was Mine. I was
shaken when he finished; even today, if I play the DVD, that performance brings
tears to my eyes. Whatever else he sings this weekend, I fervently hope that’s
part of the show. If you’ve never seen the DVD, I highly recommend it; it
remains one of my lifetime musical high points.

 

Mitchell and McEntire reprised their performances in a
semi-staged production at Hollywood Bowl in 2007. Mitchell returned the
following year to the Bowl to play Javert in Les Misrables and in 2009 portrayed Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls.

 

For Mitchell, this is a homecoming of sorts. Although he was
born Seattle, he lived in California for nearly 20 years (his father was a
civilian engineer for the U.S. Navy). While a teenager in San Diego, he began
acting in school musicals and when he moved to Los Angeles, his career took off.
“When I moved to Los Angeles,” he said in an interview for a Dallas
performance, “I bought a four-track studio, and it expanded to an eight-tack
studio, and then a 16-track studio and then a 16-track digital studio and now I
have a Pro Tools studio, which is kind of the industry standard, so it has made
me very conscious of sound.”

 

For his weekend concerts, Mitchell will be accompanied by a
quartet: piano, drums, bass and a woodwind player. Although the program
won’t be set until show time, among the songs he’s scheduled to sing are Some Enchanted Evening, Stars, The Waters of
March, Wheels of a Dream
and The
Impossible Dream.
Within the intimate
acoustics of The Broad Stage, he should sound terrific.

_______________________

 

(c) Copyright 2012, Robert D. Thomas. All rights reserved.
Portions may be quoted with attribution.