Thursday, January 26, 2012

CATS Play Purrfectly at Segerstrom

Cats were prowling the theater at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.  A series of vignettes based on a book of poems by T.S. Elliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, this show is equal parts kitty opera and prance off.  The fantastical, world of Jellicle cats are gathered together for their yearly Jellicle Ball and take turns performing in hopes of being chosen by the benevolent leader, Old Deuteronomy, to ascend to the Heavyside Layer and come back to a new life.

The original Broadway choreography stands the test of time and I loved recognizing the opening number Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats’ choreography which I learned during college years of musical theater dance classes. The opening number is a CATS standard for the theater geek and I got goosebumps – a fine foreshadowing of the feline fun to come.

Directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, who based his presentation on the original direction of Trevor Nunn and choreography of Gillian Lynne, CATS still holds the audience captive, even if my son’s eyelids did start to droop halfway through Act II, which can be attributed more to late night homework sessions rather than any loss of interest in the prowling and prancing on stage.

Alex had two favorite numbers that he’s been talking about all week. The acrobatic duet Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer, performed by Mario Martinez and Katy Burns, is probably the most physically taxing numbers to dance and sing simultaneously, and is a definite crowd pleaser. Alex’s other fave number was the well known Magical Mr. Mystoffolees, surely the most intricate and challenging dance solos in the show (sung by Chris Stevens as Rum Tum Tuggger and flawlessly danced by Chaz Wolcott as Mr. Mystoffolees).

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s famous cat ballad, Memory, is Grizabella the Glamour Cat’s soliloquy remembering her youthful days in the sun. I found this tour’s interpretation of Grizabella to be odd, but the opening night audience loved Melissa Grohowski’s performance. The tattered cat is old and weary, but Grohowski’s Grizabella had a overly pronounced limp and one heck of a repetitive twitch. The makeup design gave her the look of (dare I say it?) road kill complete with drooping bloody lip. The glamour cat’s makeup should’ve read as withered glamour and sadness, but as Grizabella made her limping, twitching entrance, Alex leaned over and whispered to me, “Is that a zombie cat?” Grizabella the Zombie Cat?  Not quite Webber and Nunn’s vision, I’m sure, but it gave us the giggles. I mean, what nine year old boy doesn’t love a good zombie cat?

Christopher E. Sidoli was perfect as the old, palsy-plagued Asparagus (“Gus”) and the larger-than-life Tigergrowl. He skillfully mastered the acting transition from worn-out theatre has been — complete with aged voice and shaking paw -– to the younger version of “Gus” playing Tigergrowl on stage. His singing voice was strong and rich, and he was absolutely playful and charming in the role.

My personal favorite performance of the night was given by OC native, Madison Mitchell as Demeter.  Demeter and Bombalurina (Ashley Chasteen) perform a slow and sultry duet in Macavity: The Mystery Cat.  Mitchell’s feline grace paired with a velvety mezzo soprano made for a mesmerizing performance. Think silky fur, slow cat walk and quick reflexes: the quintessential feline.
This national touring company congers a fantastical music and dance experience for the whole family. Meow.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Open Casting Call for Pageant of the Masters

The world famous Pageant of the Masters is looking for volunteers to participate in the 2012 summer show of “The Genius”. Open casting calls will be held at the Irvine Bowl on the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Beach. Be a part of the magic of living pictures. It’s a great summer family fun activity!

Not familiar with Pageant of the Masters? Check out my post from last summer.

As a college student on summer break thirty years ago, I was a pageant volunteer.  I worked at Las Brisas restaurant during the day and performed in the pageant at night.  The show is double cast so the commitment is every night every other week. Volunteers will perform in the pageant seven nights in a row, then will have seven nights off.  You can ask approved substitutes (same body type and height) to step in if you have a schedule conflict, so don’t let the time commitment keep you away.  It’s an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.  Whole families volunteer each year, so talk to your family and discuss the possibility of being a part of something wonderful this summer.

Here are just a few of the pieces of art being recreated this summer

John Singer Sargent: The Oyster Gatherers of Cancale

NORMAN ROCKWELL: Picasso vs. Sargent

Samuel Morse: Gallery of the Louvre

Paul Manship: Armilary Sphere (Cycle of Life)

Casting Call- “The Genius”
Irvine Bowl:  650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

Saturday, January 7th, 7pm – 9pm
Sunday, January 8th: 2 – 5pm
Thursday, January 12th: 7 – 9 pm
Or call for an appointment after January 12th

Volunteers of all ages are needed. No theater experience necessary.
For more information call (949)494-3663 or visit the pageant website.

You should be in Pictures!

The king of trial and error Thomas Edison once famously said, “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Few people are more aware of the amount of time and effort that will be required to turn her inspiration into the 2012 Pageant of the Masters than its director Diane Challis Davy. But, even as she finalizes her selections of artworks for next summer’s world-famous theatrical celebration of art in “living pictures” – tableaux vivants – Challis Davy is excited about the possibilities inherent in its theme, The Genius.

“The theme actually originated back in 2009 when we produced The Muse,” Challis Davy explained. “That show examined women’s roles in making and inspiring art, and was selected from a feminine point of view. I thought it would be interesting to craft a ‘companion’ show, one with a masculine sensibility, focusing on the power, strength and intelligence inherent in masterful works of art.”
Longtime Pageant scriptwriter Dan Duling, already busy researching the narration for the show, added, “Genius exists in every field of endeavor, and it’s a fantastic source for moving stories of triumph, tragedy and courage. If you’re looking for inspiration, this show is going to dare you to think big.”