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November 01, 1993 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-11-01

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8- The Michigan Daily - Monday, November 1, 1993

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra put on yet another spectacular performance at Hill Auditorium this past Friday night.

National tour should.
have been left alone
Since it opened on Broadway in 1984, there have been no national tours of
"Sunday in the Park with George." Perhaps they should have left it that way.
The Stephen Sondheim-James Lapine musical presents many challenges in
production. Since the show is centered around post-impressionist painter *
George Seurat's masterpiece "A Sun-
P Mday Afternoon on the Island of La
Sunday in the Park Grande Jatte," a life-size reproduc-
with George tion of the painting is necessary for a
frame of reference. Much of the ac-
Michigan Theater tion takes place in a park (on an
October 28, 1993 island), so one needs trees and a set
that looks like apark. And of course,
there are the challenges for the actors. In the roles of George and Dot, Stephen
Sondheim wrote his most beautiful and also his most difficult song work.
The painting was represented on a curtain which moved across the stage
(horizontally) as needed. So at various moments some poor stage hand would
jog across the stage, dragging this curtain with him/her.
The stage was raked a bit to give some perspective of the depth of the park,
but that was really the only nice thing about the set. The moveable trees were
made of some gauzy green material, through which we could see the molding
holding the tree together. My companion commended the high school art
department that made those fine trees. The cyclorama, which provided a blue
sky-like background, was rather thin and sometimes revealed people moving
behind it.
Something must be said about singing the roles of George and Dot. Very
few performers have the range and ability that Mandy Pattinkin and Bernadette
Peters (the originators) have. So as any realistic critic would do, I set aside any
expectations for reincarnations of Mandy and Bernadette.
As George, Adam Karsten was shallow and generally annoying. He
whined his way through many songs, singing all his vowels through his nose.
In "Finishing the Hat," George's triumph, Karsten was nasal and, disappoint-
ingly, reverted to his falsetto in pivotal high phrases in the song. He also had
the tendency to represent intensity by stiffness and various ticks and bodily
contortions. Rather than appearing introspectively obsessive about his work,
his George looked autistic. He improved in the second act in his portrayal of
George's great-grandson, but was still nasal and unmoved.
Fortunately, Wendy Brown was a delightful Dot. Dot is intended to be a
little rough around the edges, brimming with rustic charm and simple-minded
physical and spiritual beauty. Brown did some nice vocal work with Dot,
belting most of her songs (the title song, "Everybody Loves Louis"), and did
some Bernadette Peters-ish acting, taking her speaking voice all over the treble
clef. She was also touching as the 98-year-old Marie in her lovable lecture
"Children and Art."
When they were all together singing the chorus of "Sunday" (at the end of
each act), the full company was quite powerful, especially when they were in
the actual pose of the painting. But even two moving choruses of that lovely
melody could not eclipse the cheesy sets, cheap props, did I mention the erratic
spotlights and bad performing technique. Maybe the show is better left to the
timeless portrayals of Mandy and Bernadette. You're more likely to uncover
the magic of this show in the video tape than in this production.

Leipzig performance has few faults

The Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra is no fun
to write about. You can't complain about a lack of
finesse or emotion - there was plenty of both.
You can't moan about sour notes - there were
Leipzig Gewandhaus
Hill Auditorium
October 29, 1993
none. (Ok, maybe one). You can't even sigh that
the group was really hampered by the hall's hor-
rible acoustics - Hill was its usual wonderful
self. All you can do is sit around trying to come up
with creative adjectives to describe just how fabu-
lous they were at their concert Friday night, which
isn't nearly as much fun as shredding some hor-
rendous performance that was torture to sit through.
On the other hand, it sure was good to hear an

orchestra that really knows what it's doing.
They even played neat music. The second half
of the performance was taken up by Mussorgsky's
truly fabulous "Pictures at an Exhibition," which
is exactly what it sounds like: a musical journey
through the paintings at an exhibition. Each sec-
tion of the piecehas adescriptive title, from "Baba
Yaga" (The Hut on Hen's Legs) to "Catacombae,
Sepulchrum Romanorum; Cum mortuis in lingua
mortua," and the sections are tied together by a
repeated "Promenade" which lets you walk from
painting to painting.
The result is a collage of spectacularly colorful
images, and the Leipzig Gewandhaus attacked it
with the gusto itdeserved. They cheerfully chirped
through "The Ballet of Chicks in their Shells,"
rumbled over "Bydlo" (a cart with huge wheels),
and enthusiastically crashed through the finale
"The Great Gate in the Capitol City of Kiev." Not
only was the orchestra obviously having a blast,
but the musicianship was excellent, and the winds
and brasses took full advantage of the showcase

the music provided for their talents.
The first half of the concert was nothing to
sneeze at either, even if the music wasn't as
flamboyant. The "Overture to Ruy Blas," by
Mendelssohn, was very well done, played with
the verve it required. Schumann's Symphony No.
2 was also a pleasure to listen to, as the orchestra
produced a polished sound and deftly handled
emotion. The ensemble of the group really stood
out here as well - the first violins often achieved
an incredibly perfect unison, and the woodwinds
handed off parts so smoothly it was difficult to tell
where one instrument left off and the other began.
And no review of the Leipzig Gewandhaus is
complete without mentioning their legendary con-
ductor, Kurt Masur, who has been leading them
for the last 22 years. He has a masterful stage
presence, commanding attention and respect, as
he bows and sways with the music and hops into
the air at dramatic moments. This conductor is
clearly in control, and has built an enviable or-
chestra which shares his delight in music.

Last Exit
Headfirst into the Flames
It's been four cold, bleak years
since Last Exit released a domestic
LP. Their last local belch of genius
smelled a bit stale. "Iron Path" was
their only studio album, and hope-
fully their last. Their chaos loses its
torrent when laminated with tasteful
production and when the organic out-

put is studio canned.
Now we can thaw our ears to
"Headfirst into the Flames," which
captures Last Exit in the throes of
improvisation live in Stockholm and
Munich in 1989. The unduplicable
cacophony of this combo results from
the players' divergent backgrounds.
Composed of PeterBroutzmann,Sonny
Sharrock, Bill Laswell and Ronald
Shannon Jackson, Last Exit doesn't
need to strive for one coherent sound.

Their collective thrust is larger than
any of them.
While Brdtzmann's tenor sax
splatters are an inseparable part of his
visceral Euro free-jazz repertoire, the
other players' day jobs are quite dif-
If you caught Sonny at the Ann
Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in Sep-
tember, you may recognize only a
few characteristic guitar licks in his
Last Exit hysterics. His crazed free-

dom will shock you out of your sensi-
bility. This is stream of conscious-
ness, head-banger jazz and Sonny is
unchained. He provides all the ran-
dom noise a dozen bands would need;
that is, until Brotz juts his bearded
Teutonic jaw into the foray.
Jackson is enfolded in non-stop
pounding, only comparable to his solo
percussion album "Texas." RSJ keeps
an intricate beat, propelling the others
with bass wacks and repeated cymbal
And Laswell? This is one of the
few bands in which Bill participates
as an equal and doesn'teven touch the
production. His bass is responsible
for maintaining a semblance of rhyth-
mic harmony.
None of the performers outshine
each other. Collectively, this is the
product of autonomous but equal

Although their deconstructed jazz
and roll has lost some of its novelty
over the years, its vibrancy still
screams of the labor of giving birth to
a monstrous musical enigma. Now I
know why Sharrock needs ten extra
frets on his guitar: "So small, so weak,
this bloody sweatof loving"is ablues
Last Exit is a natural force beyond
reckoning. "Stare not too long in the
face of the fire," but know the fury of
the flames. Hear Last Exit for your-
self and proclaim "Jesus! What gor-
geous monkeys we are."
- Chris Wyrod
Whenever You're Ready
"Whenever You're Ready" is the

punk / power-pop band. With their
fast, bouncy, punk-tinged songs, Flop
comes across as a cross between Nir-
vana and the Monkees. This album is
17 tracks strong, and full of fun, party
music such as the bouncy "Julie
Francavilla," the loud, punchy
"Mendel's White Trash Laboratory"
and the speedy, falsetto-driven
"Woolworth." Though the songs tend
to whiz past the listener, "Whenever
You're Ready" is a pop treat worth
trying to catch a hold of.
- Heather Phares
Not Drowning, Waving
NotDrowning, Waving had aban-
ner year in 1990. The band's
See RECORDS, Page 9

we can't offer degrees in everything.

Flop comes across as a mix of Nirvana and the Monkees. And, oh yeah, they're also from Seattle.
40edjgr ai
- -- - a -- - - --til-l


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