Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Golden Bride

Edmond J. Safra Hall at Museum of Jewish Heritage
36 Battery Place, New York City 10280
Call 212-213-2120 or visit http://www.NYTF.org
December 2, 2015 - January 3, 2016
The Golden Bride was last staged on February 27, 1948 on New York's Lower East Side and has been restored through scholarly research to produce the new musical score on which this production is based. It's an operetta with a live orchestra and sung in Yiddish with supertitles in both English and Russian. The theme is about Jewish immigrants already established in America and those migrating from the Russian Empire and the rest of Eastern Europe in the millions during the early to mid-twentieth century. It did appear as an old-fashioned musical comedy with  beautiful stage settings (Scenic Design by John Dinning).
Goldele (Rachel Policar) abandoned by her mother and father in Russia, brought up as an orphan in a shtetl, later learned she inherited a fortune from her deceased father in America. She had already fallen in love with Misha (Cameron Johnson) but out of folly demanded that her many suitors find her mother and the one to find her mother would be her groom. Much of the story was about dreaming of riches whether in Mother Russia or America with a farcical twist performed by a large cast of talented performing artists. The songs sung by Goldele and Misha were beautiful accompanied by the fine orchestra, conducted by Zalmen Mlotek. There was also a second pair of lovers to add a bit of frivolity to the piece.
Overall, I'd recommend going to the more stage productions by the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and also, take a tour of the museum to learn more about Jewish culture and its history as a nation.
- Laura Thompson -

Monday, December 14, 2015

Classical Chamber Music

Metropolitan Playhouse
Iris String Quartet

Entela Barci, Yibin Li,  Muneyoshi Takahashi, Sean Katsuyama

YIBIN LI, Violin





December 8, 2015

220 East 4th Street between Avenues A and B 

Metropolitan Playhouse located in the East Village was pleased to present the IRIS STRING QUARTET in a concert of major works by Mendelssohn and Haydn, along with the World Premiere of MICHAEL KOSCH'S Strokes of Sky: Paris.  The program included: Joseph Haydn, String Quartet in B Flat major, Op. 76, No. 4 "Sunrise," Felix Mendelssohn, String Quartet in D Major, Op. 44, No. 1 'The American," and Kosch's world premiere. 

The Iris Quartet has played in most of New York's finest venues like Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully, Steinway, Merkin, and Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center so it was a pleasant surprise to listen to them in a small chamber; especially, for the classical chamber music lover. Apparently, the quartet is named after the Greek goddess of the rainbow. These young musicians come from different countries and some were educated at Juilliard and others at respective renowned schools in their country of origin as well as having trained with the masters in their field. 

Haydn's "Sunrise" was symbolic of the Age of Enlightenment and was played with utmost seriousness. Kosch's world premiere followed and is the first of a four-part quartet inspired by Vincent Van Gogh's latest works while in France with the idea that art inspires musical composition. If the intention was to portray bustling city streets and contemporary life, it succeeded. Actually, it looked difficult for the musicians to perform so was that the composer's intention or does it need to be improved? 

After a short intermission, the quartet finished with a beautiful rendition of Mendelssohn that was music to the ears and played with confidence and expertise. This energetic string quartet unfolded in pleasing, sweet melodious patterns. It was my favorite piece. Mendelssohn was an icon of Romanticism and died at the age of 38. This energetic string quartet unfolded in pleasing, sweet melodious patterns. 

For more information about the Metropolitan Playhouse, visit www.metropolitanplayhouse.org.

For more information about the Iris String Quartet, visit www.irisquartet.com.
Laura Thompson

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Big Apple Circus

World Premiere of The Grand Tour!
Halloween Guest Ringmaster
Best-Selling Author R.L. Stine
at this one special performance celebrating Halloween
October 31, 2015 at 4:40pm at LINCOLN CENTER 

The Grand Tour! show runs until January 10, 2016 

Written and Created by JOEL JESKE
Big Apple Circus Ringmaster: JOHN KENNEDY KANE
Animal Trainer: JENNY VIDBEL
Original Music and Arrangements by DAVID BANDMAN, PETER BUFANO, JEFFREY W. HOLMES
Executive Director: WILL MAITLAND WEISS

Big Apple Circus welcomed Halloween Guest Ringmaster, R.L. Stine, author of the best-selling children's series Goosebumps for this special Halloween performance who loves to scare children. Children were encouraged to arrive in costume and they were allowed to go on pony rides during intermission. It was definitely interactive entertainment focusing on the children and quite amusing.

The Grand Tour! opened with Four-time Big Apple Circus Ringmaster John Kennedy Kane and two clowns Joel Jeske and Brent McBeth who set the stage to transport the audience to the Roaring 20s to begin the most adventurous trip around the world by ships, planes, trains, and automobiles. The trip started out in New York City to Europe, onwards to Arabia, Africa, and Asia and then, back to New York, home of the Big Apple. 

The dog acts aboard the Orient Express train through Europe and dancing horses while in the Arabian desert led by Jenny Vidbel were entertaining; Chiara Anastasini was exceptional with hula hoops depicting the stopover in Andalucía, Spain; international juggling sensation Alexander Koblikov; the Dominguez Brothers defied the law of gravity with their thrilling act on the Wheel of Wonder; the African acrobatic troupe Zuma Zuma; the Dosov Troupe soared on the teeterboard; Chinese hand balancers The Energy Trio; and, aerialist Sergey Akimov gave stunning performances all the while traveling around the world. 

The Big Apple Circus is a nonprofit that engages communities through the joy and wonder of classic circus arts.  They bring joy and laughter to hospitals, nursing homes; provide adapted performances for children with physical and cognitive disadvantages; teach kids life skills after school; and, distribute free and subsidized tickets to schools and nonprofit organizations serving low-income children and families. It's a circus with a heart.
To purchase tickets or for more information about Big Apple Circus, visit www.bigapplecircus.org. 

Laura Thompson

Michael Feinstein, Sinatra Centennial Celebration

Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College
Opened is 2015-16 season with
Sinatra Centennial Celebration
October 25, 2015

MICHAEL FEINSTEIN is a two-time EmmyÒ and five-time GrammyÒ Award-nominated singer/pianist known as "The Ambassador of the Great American Songbook". This multi-platinum-selling entertainer opened Brooklyn Center's 61st season with a tribute to Ol' Blue Eyes in celebration of what would have been Frank Sinatra's upcoming 100th birthday on December 12th.

Feinstein's impeccable interpretive skills were brought to the greatest tunes sung by Sinatra in the 20th century. TED FIRTH did an outstanding job playing the piano accompanied by SEAN SMITH on Bass and MARK McLEAN on Drums. Feinstein having once met Sinatra sang some of the family's favorite songs as well as songs from Sinatra's preferred composers and lyricists, along with a commentary about the back story of many of the songwriters who wrote for Sinatra which proved very interesting.

Mid-way through, Feinstein spoke about the Great American Songbook Foundation that he founded dedicated to celebrating the art form and preserving it through educational programs, Master Classes, and the annual High School Songbook Academy. As a delightful surprise, he introduced the winner of the 2010 Great American Songbook Academy, ANNIE YOKOM who sang and performed brilliantly by herself with the trio of musicians and earned laudable applause.

Feinstein returned to the stage and finished with a swinging Sinatra medley, a real crowd pleaser, including "I've Got You Under My Skin, Witchcraft, and ending with New York, New York" but of course, a grand tribute to a great city! 

Overall, it was a wonderful rendition to Sinatra and Feinstein put together a great song selection that turned out to be a nice ode to Ol' Blues Eyes' career with some video footage as a backdrop. 

For more information about the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College
2015-16 season, please visit www.BrooklynCenter.org. 

Laura Thompson

Thursday, October 8, 2015

YPHIL International Youth Philharmonic Orchestra Global Peace Concert at Carnegie Hall

YPHIL – International Youth Philharmonic Orchestra
Concert for Global Peace
at Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage, CARNEGIE HALL
September 27, 2015

YPHIL brought together 100 young talented musicians aged 18 to 26 from 74 countries to express peace through the common language of music at Carnegie Hall, September 27, 2015, during the United Nations General Assembly week. SERHAT KAAN, Founder and Chair of YPHIL Orchestra and Director of Turken Foundation, is committed to raising awareness for global youth issues and human rights.

The evening was hosted by DANNY GLOVER, an award winning actor, producer, former Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program and currently, serves as UNICEF Ambassador. Opening remarks were given by Mr. Kaan concerning the United Nation’s development goals for the next 15 years. He focused on the goal to end world poverty. Mr. Glover, thereafter, introduced the YPHIL who performed the program with classical instruments, along with traditional instruments from some of the musicians respective countries.

The young musicians performed beautifully J. SIBELIUS, Finlandia, Op. 26, F. MENDELSSOHN, Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 featuring ALEXANDER MARKOV, Soloist who has been hailed as one of the most captivating, brilliant and musical violinists, according to Lord Yehudi Menuhin. Markov was a delight to listen to and full of energy and even played a bit of Paganini as an encore for which he’s an acclaimed virtuoso.

The evening continued with C. Debussy, Clair de lune (arr. Clapet), followed by an almost avant-garde composition by SEAN J. KENNEDY, Kaku, Kupula, Fear in Neutral Buoyancy dedicated to 2015 YPHIL International Philharmonic Orchestra and all young musicians around the world, continued with an excerpt from MICHAEL VONGOVA’S Piano Concerto for the United Nations, in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations sung stupendously by choral soprano, BRENDA VONGOVA,  to end with F. KANCA, Turken Foundation Symphonic Suite of Voices of the World—featuring traditional instruments from around the world.

The aim of the concert was to show the world how musicians of different countries can work together regardless of their nationality, race, beliefs, language barriers and perform brilliantly.  It truly was a celebration of the collaboration of diverse cultures. The dynamic performance exemplified that when people collaborate from all over the world, they can create a better world to promote peace, and, in this case, raise awareness for universal youth issues.  What a magnificent message brought through music!  For more information about YPHIL, visit www.yphil.org.

Laura Thompson

Sunday, August 23, 2015

FringeNYC - The Submarine Show

As part of the 2015 New York International Fringe Festival
Created and Performed by
Cirque de Soleil's Jaron Hollander and Emmy Award winner Slater Penney

Sound Design:  Dan Moses 

The Lynn Redgrave Theater
at the Culture Project located at 45 Bleecker Street, New York City
Tickets available at www.FringeNYC.org and www.thesubmarineshow.com
August 23 - August 29

Jaron and Slater are acrobatic mimes depicting two explorers in a tiny submarine emitting extraordinary sounds that correlate with their surroundings beginning with the submarine. The physical entertainment is 80" nonstop and their adventure starts with a crash landing at the bottom of the ocean to somehow getting to land and discovering all kinds of animals and fowl, then becoming transformed into mythical creatures flying around the tops of trees, then back to their submarine. Can they repair the submarine and continue on their epic journey?  

It's really a fun show with interactive performance with the audience and lots of smiles and laughs.  I'd recommend this award-winning comedy that has been touring the world since 2009, winning "Best in Fest" at the San Francisco International Fringe Festival, “Best of Fringe” at the Kansas City Fringe Festival and “Hot Pick” by the Edinburgh Scotsman. And, who knows, The Submarine Show might win audience favorite at FringeNYC!

- Laura Thompson -



Saturday, August 22, 2015

Planet Connections Awards Ceremony 2015


Playwright Catherine Filloux received the Planet Activist Award

Planet Connections Theatre Festivity, New York's premiere socially conscious-eco-friendly theatre festival, which recently wrapped up its 7th season, presented its annual awards ceremony at Classic Stage Company, located at 136 East 13th Street, New York City on August 9, 2015.

The evening was emceed by Festivity participants David Stallings and Kara Young, directed by Lori Kee and produced by Brock Hill, who joined the Planet Connections team as Artistic Director this past season. Excerpts from some of the plays and musicals that were a part of this year's Festivity were presented, including playwright, Mario Fratti's The Colonel's Wife that opened up the ceremony on a very cheerful and fun musical note. Mario Fratti also received Outstanding Overall Production of a Revival Award for his play and a Congeniality Award. The focus of the evening was on playwright Catherine Filloux who has been an activist artist in the theater community and been writing about human rights and social justice for over twenty years.  She received the Festivity's Planet Activist Award in recognition of her long career. Please visit her website for more information: www.catherinefilloux.com

Overall, "This was a very good year for Planet Connections," Hill noted, "both in terms of the quality of the product we presented and in respect to ticket sales and press coverage. We can think of no better way to wrap up our current season and look forward to our next one by honoring the artistic and environmentally-friendly achievements of those who worked with us this year to make the Festivity a success on just about every level."

Named one of the Best Theatre Festivals in New York City by Time Out New York, Planet Connections Theatre Festivity works to help artists shine a light on the issues facing our society, and supports, via donations or a portion of the box office proceeds, those organizations working to make a difference. For more information and a complete list of award winners, please go to www.plannetconnections.org.
- Laura Thompson -