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February 16, 1974 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1974-02-16

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Saturday, February 16, 1974

I HE MICHIGAN DAILY

Fogs F Ive

Saturday, February 16, 1974 IHE MICHIGAN DAILY Page I-eve

Beggar's Opera':
smashing production

MUSKET's 'Gypsy'"lacks
professional polishing

By DAVID BLOMQUIST
Thursday was a good night in-
deed for the University's Pro-
fessional Theatre Program
(PTP). Not only did John House-
man's magnificent New York City
Center Acting Company come to
town for the weekend and open
an absolutely smashing produc-
tion of John Gay's hilariously
bawdy Beggar's Opera, but
PTP director Richard Meyer an-
nounced an agreement between
PTP and City Center that will
bring the company back to Ann
Arbor for four weeks "sometime
in October or November."
And, if Beggar's Opera is any
indication, those four weeks -_
Which, according to Meyer, will
include presentation of four as
yet unnamed shows as well as
several student-company w o r k-
shops - may be among the most
exciting of recent Ann Arbor
theatre years. Beggar's Opera
is a pure delight to watch - a
finely honed masterpiece in ev-
ery regard.
The basic show itself has pro-
bably pleased millions since its
first performance in 1728. Gay
successfully combined elements
of comedia dell'arte with touches
of opera to yield a product that,
in style at least, often resembles
early modern musical comedies-
a slightly satiric but primarily
fun-loving farce.
Modern audiences perhaps best
know Beggar's Opera story
through Brecht and Weill's con-
temporary version, The Three-
penny Opera. Our heroine, poor
Polly Peachum, disobeyed h e r
parents' orders and eloped with
a handsome but rather promis-
cuous holdu~p artist. Ponly's f ath-
er, a professional informer, is
too determined to place Captain
Macheath on >the gallows, but
runs into a fewkobstacles along
,the way - alike, for example,
another girl's father trying to do
the exact same thing.

As with all comedy, proper
timing is the key to success with
Beggar's Opera - and Gene Les-
ser's superb direction kept City
Center's production on its toes.
Obviously Lesser had paid care-
ful attention to every detail -
each sequence was perfecoly
planned for maximum effect.
A superior cast beautifully ex-
ecuted Lesser's design. Kevin
Kline turned in a fine perform-
ance. Richard Ooms proved to
be a suitably menacing if over-
ly pompous Peachum. But the
delight of the evening definitely
was Patti LuPone, who nicely
brought out the sarcastic Lucy
Lockit, one of Macheath's "oth-
er women."
Vocally, the cast was almost
as impressive - but not quite.
Some of Roland Gagnon's ar-
rangements seemed pitched al-
most too high for the perform-
er; at times others didn't com-
pletely enunciate Gay's all-im-
portant lyrics (and they are im-
portant - after all, this is quasi-
opera: these lyrics tell a g%)d
part of the story).
Robert Yodice's set, modeled
in the Shakespearean double-lev-
el tradition, was amazingly flex-
ible and easily handled the wile
range of Begar's Opera locales.
Martin Aronstein's lighting was
adequate, but occasionally seem-
ed far too general in focus and
not sufficiently concentrated on
the action (admittedly, possibly
a problem of converting to Men-
delssohn's system).
It was indeed a pleasure to
see such a fine ensemble at City
Center on the Mendelssohn stage
- and to know that they'll be
back again before the year is
out. As one patron remarked on
the way out of the theater: "Who
knows? Now that PTP's got both
Arthur Miller and the City Cen-
ter Company, maybe Ann Arbor's
on the way to becoming a little
Broadway."

By BETH NISSEN
"Let me entertain you," sings
Gypsy Rose Lee. The MUSKET
production of Gypsy, premiering
last Thursday night at Power
Center, barely managed by the
string of its G-string to come
through on that offer.
MUSKET is a good opportilnity
for local talent to get stage ex-
perience, but junior high musical
inadequacies and awkward tech-
nicalities drained the group of
any professional status.
Margo Martindale did an ade-
ouate job of portraying Gypsy's
domineering mother, a woman
with chow mein in her veins and
the desire to see her daughters'
fame proven in marquis kilo-
watts. Martindale's acting abil-
itv was excellent, and especially
effective as she loses her true
love and both her daughters in
the end, just as she has lost her
own chance for fame.
But the audience heard a whole
lot more of Martindale's voice
than they wanted to. The many
songs required of Martindale
seemed to extend far past the
limited range of her musical
competence. At best, Martin-
dale's voice in the lower range
was comparable to a bass fiddle
that had been out of tune for
three years and was missing two
strings. In the upper range, her
voice wheezed thinly and asthma-
tically. Martindale's character
was severely crippled by her
shaky vocalizing.
The part of Gypsy Rose Lee
was rather unimaginatively play-
ed by Mary Kathleen Griffin.
Her performance during the first
half was adequate; she played
the neglected and wistful daugh-
ter Louiseconvincingly, andaher
singing voice was sweetly disten-
able if a little faint. Griffin

seemed much more involved with
keeping time than giving her
songs any emotional effect. Grif-
fin's dancing ability surpassed
her singing and acting, but
Gypsy's transition into the world-
famous stripper was still more
than Griffin could handle. Her
rendition of Gypsy at her seduc-
tive undressed best looked more
like a nun modeling bikinis part-
time than a no-holds barred
sexual goddess.
Despite the noticable faults of
the two lead characters, the show
had its moments of greatness.
Patrick Husted, as the manipu-
lated agent Herbie did an ap-
plaudable job both dramatically
and musically. Husted's voice
was well suited to his part. He
was the most audible of all the
singers and holds one of the most
pleasant vibratos I've heard on a
musical stage.
Group scenes were especially
well-planned and joyfully per-
formed.
The imported dozen or so
children were captivating, ex-
cept for a few self-conscious
chorus members. Barbara Nie-
meyer dripped sweetness as the
singing dimpled dumpling--that
"three foot bundle of dynamite"
-Baby June.
Ray Nieto, both as show choreo-
grapher and as the character
Tulsa, provided several of the
show's finer moments with his in-
spired proverbial "fancy foot-
work." He deserves at least
sterling taps for his polished
shoes.
The cast claimed a good propor-

tion of pretty good hoofers, in-
cliding the two people who
played the dancing cow. The
dancing cow routine-a classic in
vaudeville-is never easy to do;
it requires much practice and
udder coordination.
The highest compliments are
reserved for the three experi-
enced and surly strippers who
introduce Gypsy into the world
of burlesque. The girls success-
fully proved that you "gotta have
a gimmick" if you're going to
s17rvive the same old bump and
grind. SusanaGroberg as the
"refined" Tessie Tura, was a
study in cvnical gum-chomping
perfection. Sheila Ann Heyman as
Miss Mazenna stole the scene as
the stripper who cold "bump it
with a trumpet" and whoever
wired Cynthia Sopheia as Electra
deserves this week's Golden Bat-
terv Award.
The lighting of the entire show
was imaginative, with a strobe
light eff-t in the first act es-
pedially fasci-ating.
The show's basic faults were
mlsical and technical. The
orchpftra was saddled with a
row of clumsv-linped trumpeters
and a weighted seesaw would
have had better balance than the
musical arrangement. Non-profes-
sional scene changes detracted
from the show as well.
On a one to ten scale, the show
deserves about a five and a half.
The show does have a "gim-
mick," though, and it's a good
one. After all, Power Center isn't
Broadway.

B~eauty of Balchtin,1B minor
Thomas Hilbish conducts members of the University Symphony and Philharmonia and the voices of
the University Chamber Choir in a performance o f the Bach B minor Mass last night in Hill Aud.
6
China blasts Beethoven:
Muss es sein.

Concert ends series

TOKYO (P) - The Chinese
Communists have taken another
swipe at Beethoven, and this
time they really hit below the
belt.
The official Peking People's
Daily bracketed. the German
giant's music with the effusive,
romantic tone poems of Italian
composer Ottorino Resnig'ii and
said both were "weird and bi7
zarre . . . reflecting the nasty,
rotten life and decadent senti-
ments of the bourgeoisie."
It was Peking's second attack
on Beethoven. The party news-
paper apparently is trying to
discourage those Chinese who,
after years of being forced to do
without, would like to hear the
Western classics again.
T h e i r musical appetites un-
doubtedly have been sharpen-
ed by the successful appearances
in China recently of the Philadel-
phia Orchestra and other West-
ern musicians. Many Chinese
cultivated an appreciation for
this kind of music during studies
in the United States and Europe.
Neither Beethoven nor Res-
pighi, who died in 1936, were
identified by name, but the Peo-
ple's Daily referred to three of
their works: Beethoven's Moon-
light Sonata and Respighi's
Fountains of Rome and Pines of
Rome.
The attacks on Western com-
posers coincide with a campaign
against the late Defense Minis-
ter Lin Piao and the ancient
philosopher Confucius which has
taken on the earmarks of a cul-
tural purge. So far it apparent-
ly has been verbal rather than
violent.

Those mounting the campaign
appe)r intent on preserving gen-
erlly unimm:ginative musical and
artistic forms created in recent
years for the purpose of putting
the Maoist message across in
plain terms to China's hundreds
of millions of workers and peas-
ants.
Too much exposlre to Wes-
tern comnosers could create a
demnd for native works of
comnarable skill, something the
country's native artists would be
unable to satisfy.
The Chinese, who admire
Western music, appear to have
nrgied that works without a title
were politically neutral and
co-ld s'felv be nlived. The Peo.
ic's Daily renli-d ,'s it has be-
forP, thqt " ROURGEOIS MUSIC
WTTH W? WITTIOTUT A TTTLE
IS AN TNSTpUIMENT SERVTNG
THE B RITGEOSTE TN SEIZ-
INC A N P CONSOLIDATING
ROURGEOTS POITTTCAL POW-
Tho'igh this kind of reasoning
mav seem absurd to non-Coin-
mnists. it is a very serious mat-
ter in China. The great Cultural
Revolivtion of 1966-69 began
with an attack on a play, broad-
ened into denunciation of the Pe-
king Opera and ended up involv-
ing millions of Chinese, from the
highest levels down.
Editor's headline note: F o r
those of you not familiar with
Beethovenese, "muss es sein?" is
German for "must it be?" and
is Beethoven's own title for the

The final concert in the 1973-74
U-M Faculty Chamber Concert
Series will be presented tomor-
row, at 4 p.m. in Rackham Audi-
torium.
Works being performed are
Sonata for Violin and Piano by
University Prof. George Balch
Wilson, Sieben Fruhe Lieder
(Seven Early Songs) by Alban
Berg, and Louis Spohr's Gran
Nonetto in F Maior, no. 31.
Krammerspiegel, by Richard
Strauss, was announced earlier
but will not appear on the pro-
gram.
The Wilson piece will be per-
formed by his colleagues, Francis
Bundra, viola, and Charles Fish-
er, piano. The composition was
begum when the composer was
still a senior at the University
and is dedicated to a former
classmate, David Ireland, pres-
ently assistant principal violist
in the Detroit Symphony Orches-
tra.
The Berg piece is a cycle of
seven songs comprised of musi-
TONIGHT-LIVE
on
WCBN-FM, 89.5
OTIS RUSH
TWO LIVE SETS FROM
THE BLIND PIG
STARTS AROUND
1 1:00 AND 12:30

cal settings of poems by seven
different German poets. They
will be performed by John Mc-
Collum, tenor, and Nancy Hodge,
piano. The songs, unlike Berg's
later works, retain a feeling for
tonality, says McCollum.
Spohr's Grand Nonetto in F
major is called "a masterfully
effective combination of instru-
ments, namely the traditional
woodwind quintet plus the com-
plete family of contemporary
strings."
Members of the ensemble are
Percy Kalt, violin; Robert Courte,
viola; Jerome Jelinek, cello;
Lawrence Hurst, double bass;
Keith Bryan, flute; Arno Mariot-
ti, oboe; John Mohler,' clarinet;
Louis Stout, horn; and Hugh
Cooper, bassoon.
. The series is carried live by
the U-M radio stations, WUOM
(91.7 mHz), Ann Arbor.
603 E. Liberty
1C1

DIAL 665-6290

PG

Open 12:45
Shows at 1, 3, 5, 7, & 9 p.m.

t ...

Luidwig tvanflBeet hoven

.

V

poea

A deal?

last movement
quartet.

Mary Lou Rosato as Mistress Overdone and Jared Sakren as
Pompey appear to be making a deal in the City Center Acting
Company's production of Shakespeare's Measure for Measure to
be presented tonight at 8 and tomorrow at 3 and 8 at the Lydia
Mendelssohn Theatre.
210 S. FIFTH AVE,
ANN ARBOR
761-9700
You've been BLACULA-RIZED and
SUPERFLY-ED-but now you're gonna be
glorified and filled-with-pride...
when you see
"Fl VO n mie
BLACK HBI1D
SIDk jf5

of his last string
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-PLUS-

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