December 12, 2005
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The Marcus Roberts Trio performed at Hill Auditorium Thursday.
stuns with jazz trio
By Jessica Koch
Daily Arts Writer
It was only 25
Rhapsody in Blue
stole the spotlight of
Under the direc-
tion of guest conduc-
tor Robert Spano, the
Orchestra played a
minutes long, but
At Hill Auditorium
dynamic program Thursday at Hill Audito-
rium. The orchestra began the evening with
Ralph Vaughan Williams's Symphony No.
2 ("A London Symphony") and ended with
Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances
from 'WestSide Story.' Squeezed in between
was a thoroughly modern and exciting ren-
dition of Gershwin's jazz classic.
For the headlining piece, the orchestra
shared the stage with the great Marcus
Roberts Trio jazz trio, with Marcus Rob-
erts at piano, Roland Guerin at bass and
Jason Marsalis at drums. With a style
more reminiscent of the Boston Pops than
the New York Philharmonic, the orchestra
started Rhapsody with a strong, scintillat-.
ing clarinet wail that was deceptively con-
ventional. But it was evident once the first
piano solo arrived that this would not be the
same old Rhapsody. Roberts improvised
the solo with complex rhythmic sequences
that provided an alternate take on the piece.
At first unsettling to hear, the orchestra's
return helped everything fall into place.
The last three piano solos jumped from
hard rhythmic bounces to Southern swing
to Chopin-style nocturne. Classical and
jazz music embraced each another in a
way that would have made Gershwin
proud; orchestral musicians bobbed their
heads as they played alongside the trio.
Following the piece's boisterous ending,
the audience leapt into a standing ovation.
The orchestra started the night with a
more traditional choice - the Vaughan
Williams piece. Although the composer
had no intention to embody a place or
event, it's impossible not to associate the
sights and sounds of London streets with
the interwoven themes of the "London
A beautifully executed and controlled
English horn solo opened the second
"Lento" movement and painted an image
of a lonely grey afternoon. The strings
repeated a quiet, pulsing rhythm while
quintessential Vaughan Williams chord
turns led listeners into a calmer space out-
side the rush of the city .
The third movement, "Scherzo (Noc-
turne): allegro vivace," filled with bus-
tling tunes from the woodwinds and dark
calls from the brass was followed by the
charging final movement. "Andante con
moto-Maestoso alla marcia Allegro," was
a battle of styles, clashing back and forth
fiercely until the harp sounded the third-
quarter call of Big Ben and the city was
filled with silence.
The closing piece, Symphonic Dances,
was defined by skillful execution. Wittily
interjected with snapping and orchestra
members shouting "mambo!," Bernstein's
arrangement was amusing, but was a bit
anticlimactic following the breathtaking
To top off the night, Spano returned
to the stage for an encore to perform an
adaptation of "The Victors," which was
arranged by the orchestra's violist and
University alum Max Raimi.,
The esteemed CSO delivered a crowd-
pleasing performance on Thursday, but not
by pandering to the crowd. The orchestra
risked losing its audience by interpreting
a popular classic in an unfamiliar way.
At times, an audience gets a taste of bril-
liance that doesn't go unnoticed.
"Follow me. I have candy."
TRAPPED IN THE CLOSET
CLASSIC C.S. LEWIS STORY ENCHANTS ON
By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
Few events change lives like war. A young
Briton went off to the frontlines of the Great War
and returned, as he would
later recall, "a blaspheming
atheist." Those familiar with
the themes of C.S. Lewis
and his most enduring work,
the children's fantasy series
"The Chronicles of Narnia,"
might find such a claim hard
to believe. Lewis, though he
would go on to pen perhaps
the most influential Chris-
tian allegory of the 20th
century, was an atheist for
The Lion, the
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Courtesy of Disney
but also appreciated by outsiders for its simple,
. The story centers on the four Pevensie chil-
dren: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy (new-
comers William Moseley, Anna Popplewell,
Skandar Keynes and Georgie Henley). Forced
to flee a besieged London for the British coun-
tryside during World War II, the children find
themselves at the mysterious Professor Kirke's
archaic home - a boring place, save for one
wardrobe, through which they enter the mes-
merizing land of Narnia.
But Narnia itself faces war, a long-awaited
challenge to the evil White Witch's rule (Tilda
Swinton, "Constantine"). The arrival of the four
children sets an ancient prophecy into motion
and brings about the return of the divine lion,
the ruler of all there is, Aslan (Liam Neeson,
"Batman Begins"). As the Narnians choose
their allegiances and prepare for war, the chil-
dren must decide if they belong in a land where
faith alone stands between them and death.
The plot of the film is similar to the book,
but because Lewis's novel was-so short and
non-descript, Adamson is free to add his own
touches. The film's opening sequence - a des-
perate attempt by the Pevensie family to escape
the Nazi blitzkrieg over London - is so well
constructed that it serves as an immediate
attention-grabber for viewers unfamiliar with
THE BIG SCREEN
From this sequence Adamson masterfully
moves the audience through a painful separa-
tion of the Pevensie children from their mother
and into the nostalgic atmosphere of Professor
Kirke's estate. By the time the children enter
Narnia and partake in its greatest battle, viewers
are already heavily invested in the film's story.
Some of the scenes within Narnia - the meet-
ings with beloved animals such as Mr. Tumnus
the fawn, the beavers and, of course, Aslan -
are stretched a little too thin and slow down an
otherwise excellently paced film. Nevertheless,
the climactic battle of Peter's army against the
minions of the White Witch shows CGI at its
finest. The conclusion of the film is also strong,
slowing the story down and setting the table for
what will be an eagerly awaited sequel.
Evangelicals have pushed this film as they did
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," but
"Narnia" is not as blatantly religious. Lewis's
most important commentary relates to material-
ism, the evils of war and excessive pride. Though
there are constant references to Adam and Eve,
it's entirely-possibleto watch and enjoy "Narnia"
while remaining oblivious to its biblical under-
tones. But recognizing these undertones, while
necessary for a complete understanding and
appreciation of Lewis's magnificent work, does
not detract from the everyday viewing experi-
ence. It contains enough wisdom and insight into
today's world to inspire everyone.
nearly a decade before returning to Christianity
and becoming one of its greatest champions.
The time has finally come when his beloved
work can come to, the screen without the
unavoidable comedic tinge that animation
would have brought to his noble characters.
Director Andrew Adamson's ("Shrek") take on
the enchanting second book in the series, "The
Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," is appro-
priately ambitious and dignified - a film that
will certainly be adored by old fans of the book
about oil trade
By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer
In the safety of American suburbia, it's easy to
dismiss the violence and chaos
of the oil trade as simply "over H
there" - a vague muddle affect- Syriana
ing someone else in some far- At the Showcase
away place. But writer-director and Quality 16
Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana" pins Warner Bros.
part of the war front to Ameri-
can soil, doing for the oil busi-
ness what his Oscar-winning screenplay for "Traffic"
did for drugs - he brings it home.
"Syriana" has an unapologetically convoluted web of
a plot, awash with secret deals and shifting alliances.
The oil trade is a game, and there are more players than
you think - big oil tycoons and Western-educated
Middle East sheiks, yes, but also CIA operatives, gov-
ernment investigators, upstart economic analysts and
young Muslim fundamentalists. "Syriana" weaves their
intertwining stories in and out of one another with a
jazzman's rhythm and a scholar's sense of irony. It's not
really difficult to understand the individual pieces of the
puzzle, only how they fit together.
In fact, the film's criss-crossing storylines make
for a plot so complex that it ends up resembling a
patchwork quilt of character pieces rather than a
linear narrative thread. The divergent parts are to
the film's credit, however, for it boasts an impres-
sive cast capable of sketching out full-bodied
characters even in their fairly slim time on screen.
Among them are Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon),
an economic analyst and young family man who
Stewart to headline
RSC's return to A2
By Alison Go
Daily Managing Editor
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
"I'm sorry for 'Batman and Robin.' Couldn't you just let it go by now?"
The Royal Shakespeare Company
is coming back to Ann Arbor with a
Patrick Stewart, of "Star Trek: The
Next Generation" and "X-Men" fame,
will headline three shows next fall put on
by one of the most prominent Shakespeare
companies in the world..
The troupe will perform "Julius Cae-
sar," "Antony and Cleopatra" and "The
Tempest" as part of its third three-week
residency at the University. Stewart will
play the lead role in "Antony and Cleopa-
tra" and Prospero in "The Tempest."
Stemming from a 2000 agreement
struck between the RSC and the Uni-
versity Musical Society, the collabo-
ration - which would include three
residencies over the course of five years
starting in 2001 - was the first its kind
in America. Continuing this legacy of
exclusivity, the Power Center will be
the sole venue for the three RSC plays
in the country next fall.
"It's fabulous that the Royal Shake-
speare Company has felt the way they
do about UMS and the University,"
UMS President Kenneth Fischer said,
"to come here as opposed to anywhere
else in the United States for the great-
est endeavor in their history."
That "great endeavor" is the Complete
Works Festival, where the RSC will fea-
ture Shakespeare's 37 plays, along with
his poems and sonnets.
In Ann Arbor, this third residency
has been in waiting for a long time. The
original agreement had the RSC return-
ing to campus in 2005, but a change in
leadership within the troupe postponed
arrangements, Fischer said. But UMS's
patience ensured the presence of Stew-
art, who had already agreed to work
with the RSC on the Complete Works
Festival starting in April 2006.
UMS told the company it should make
the residency a U.S. exclusive with "great
titles and a certifiable star"Fischer said.
"Ding, ding, ding. They did all
three," he added.
Fischer said it will cost $2 million to
bring the RSC to Ann Arbor next fall.
The University committed $350,000 to
the effort, while donations and ticket
sales will pay for the rest. Although the
University's contribution is less than in
previous years,Fischer expects increased
fundraising efforts and ticket sales to
make up the difference. The RSC will
perform a total of 21 shows next year,
while the 2001 and 2003 residents only
saw 12 and 16, respectively.
The residency, as in past years, is not
just about the performance of some of
Shakespeare's greatest titles - members
of the RSC will also host interviews, lec-
tures, workshops and behind-the-scenes
events. Tickets for the performances will
go on sale in February.
winds up tending to a Middle Eastern prince's
business prospects; Bob Barnes (George Clooney),
a pudgy, aging CIA specialist unaware which boss
he's serving; Prince Nasir Al-Subbai (Alexander
Siddig), an idealistic prince; and an upward-look-
ing lawyer/investigator (Jeffrey Wright, "Broken
Flowers") digging through dubious oil deals.
These aren't simply people with dollar signs for
eyes - life exists outside of work for sheiks and
executives and migrant Persian Gulf workers alike.
They garden, take care of ailing fathers, play pick-
up cricket with friends or head home early from
CIA headquarters for their kids' soccer games. This
familial motif draws out the story from the stark,
fluorescent-lit offices of typical conspiracy thrill-
ers. Granted, "Syriana" utilizes the usual Hollywood
cast of old, blubbery fat cats hunched around a board
room, with Christopher Plummer ("National Trea-
sure") as the meanest baddie of them all. But even
the easiest character to potentially render soulless
- Chris Cooper's hunting-happy Texan oil tycoon
- barbeques with his kids in the backyard.
The drawback with such rich storylines is merely
that most of them could have comprised their own
film. The brief relationship of Goodwood and the
prince, in particular, does not satisfy - there is more
to this pairing than the film's tight pacing allows,
especially in the comparison of American and Arab
mentalities. Take Goodwood's wife (Amanda Peet),
who prevents her husband from protecting their son
against a young bully on the grounds that being
cuddled is not good for his burgeoning autonomy.
One cannot help wondering what Goodwood's sheik
boss would have said in her place.
"Syriana" ultimately buys into a gritty sense of
drama that equates realism with tragedy. It certain-
ly doesn't reinvent the geopolitical thriller but mas-
ters it, fluidly alternating ideology and economics
(Damon chews through several speeches) with
extremely graphic violence (one unbearable torture
scene) and even a light touch or two ("bobsled"
and "remote control" emerge untranslated from
rapid streams of Arabic). "Syriana" is a confusing
tangle of movie, but it's unquestionably engrossing.
Besides, the film's prime concern is not just the
price of oil - it's who pays it and how.
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