Monday, January 31, 2011

Book review: 'Unbroken' tells riveting tale of airman's survival

Unbroken:‭ ‬A World War II Story of Survival,‭ ‬Resilience,‭ ‬and Redemption,‭ ‬by Laura Hillenbrand,‭ ‬Random House,‭ ‬473‭ ‬pp.,‭ ‬$27

By Bill Williams

For weeks,‭ ‬Unbroken has been perched at or near the top of the nonfiction best-seller list,‭ ‬and for good reason.

The book tells the riveting story of a World War II airman who survived for‭ ‬47‭ ‬days in‭ ‬1943‭ ‬on a raft in the Pacific Ocean before Japanese soldiers captured him and held him in brutal conditions for the rest of the war.

The airman,‭ ‬Louis Zamperini,‭ ‬was a world-class runner who expected to compete in the‭ ‬1940‭ ‬Olympics when war sabotaged his athletic dreams.‭ ‬He joined the military and was assigned to a B-24‭ ‬crew in the Pacific.‭ ‬During a search mission an engine failed,‭ ‬and his plane plunged into the ocean.‭ ‬Most crew members were killed,‭ ‬but Zamperini and two others survived.

Unbroken grabs readers from the first page because of Laura Hillenbrand’s obvious passion,‭ ‬compelling writing,‭ ‬and use of telling details to bring the story to life.

Hillenbrand puts us on the raft as the survivors struggle to stay alive.‭ “‬The equatorial sun lay upon the men,‭ ‬scalding their skin,‭” ‬she writes.‭ “‬Their upper lips burned and cracked,‭ ‬ballooning so dramatically that they obstructed their nostrils,‭ ‬while their lower lips bulged against their chins.‭” ‬Sharks circled and violent storms tossed the raft into the air.‭ ‬The starving men survived on birds,‭ ‬fish,‭ ‬small sharks and rainwater.

One of the three surviving airmen died on the raft,‭ ‬and Japanese soldiers captured the others after they had drifted‭ ‬2,000‭ ‬miles.‭ ‬Hillenbrand details the horrific treatment endured by prisoners of war in Japanese concentration camps.‭ ‬One particularly brutal soldier,‭ ‬Mutsuhiro Watanabe,‭ ‬would run among the POWs and club every man he saw,‭ “‬fracturing their windpipes,‭ ‬rupturing their eardrums,‭ ‬shattering their teeth,‭ ‬tearing one man’s ear half off,‭ ‬leaving men unconscious.‭”

Watanabe took a special interest in Zamperini,‭ ‬springing on him‭ “‬randomly,‭ ‬every day,‭ ‬pounding his face and head.‭” ‬He ordered Zamperini to care for the camp’s pig by cleaning up its excrement with his bare hands.‭ ‬Zamperini ate the pig’s food to survive.

Hillenbrand expertly weaves into the story background on the war and Japan’s belief that it had a divine right to rule over all of Asia.‭ ‬Japanese soldiers and civilians saw their enemies as‭ “‬brutish,‭ ‬subhuman beasts or fearsome‭ ‘‬Anglo-Saxon devils.‭’ ”

Treatment of prisoners of war was so harsh that tens of thousands died in captivity,‭ ‬Hillenbrand writes.‭ ‬Many who survived returned home with grievous injuries and illnesses.‭ ‬A huge percentage suffered from crippling post-traumatic stress disorder.

The book’s description of the devastating psychic aftermath of war is relevant today because thousands of men and women are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with staggering physical and mental ailments.

Back home in California,‭ ‬Zamperini suffered from extreme anxiety and random rage,‭ ‬and soon drifted into alcoholism.‭ ‬He married,‭ ‬but the couple fought over his wild behavior.‭ ‬In one scary nightmare Zamperini saw himself straddling Mutsuhiro Watanabe and strangling him,‭ ‬but in fact he was strangling his pregnant wife on their bedroom floor.‭ ‬She screamed in terror,‭ ‬and he woke up.

Zamperini fixated on returning to Japan so he could seek out and kill Watanabe,‭ ‬but in another remarkable story twist,‭ ‬Zamperini’s wife persuaded him to attend a Billy Graham crusade,‭ ‬where the suffering soldier experienced a conversion to Jesus.‭ ‬He gave up alcohol,‭ ‬founded a non-profit boys‭’ ‬camp,‭ ‬became a Christian speaker,‭ ‬and forgave the man who had tortured him.

I have one quibble.‭ ‬Unbroken occasionally is repetitive as Hillenbrand catalogues Japan’s unconscionable treatment of POWs.‭ ‬The mind becomes numb,‭ ‬trying to absorb so much horror.‭ ‬But overall‭ ‬Unbroken‭ ‬is a masterful,‭ ‬well-told account of an important slice of World War II.

Hillenbrand (at right) previously wrote‭ ‬Seabiscuit,‭ ‬the best-selling story of a race horse that later became a successful movie.‭ ‬One can safely bet that‭ ‬Unbroken‭ ‬will appear on the big screen,‭ ‬too.

One of the most remarkable aspects of both‭ ‬Seabiscuit‭ ‬and‭ ‬Unbroken‭ ‬is that Hillenbrand was able to write a book at all.‭ ‬She has suffered for years from crippling chronic fatigue syndrome,‭ ‬and rarely leaves her Washington,‭ ‬D.C.,‭ ‬home.‭ ‬She has never met Zamperini,‭ ‬who lives in California,‭ ‬although she interviewed him scores of times by phone.

Readers can hope that one day Hillenbrand will use her superb writing skills to pen a memoir about her own remarkable life.‭

Bill Williams is a freelance writer in West Hartford,‭ ‬Conn.,‭ ‬and a former editorial writer for The Hartford Courant.‭ ‬He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and can be reached at‭ ‬

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Music review: California Guitar Trio offers classic diversity at FAU-Jupiter

The California Guitar Trio played FAU’s Jupiter campus Saturday night.

By Bill Meredith

The California Guitar Trio drew a near-capacity crowd to Florida Atlantic University's Lifelong Learning Society Auditorium in Jupiter on Saturday night,‭ ‬and entertained a diverse audience‭ (‬with ages ranging from‭ ‬20s to‭ ‬80s‭) ‬with an equally‭ ‬diverse song list.

But diversity is a natural trait for a trio of acoustic guitarists made up of one American‭ (‬Paul Richards,‭ ‬from Salt Lake City,‭ ‬Utah‭)‬,‭ ‬one Belgian‭ (‬Bert Lams,‭ ‬from Affligem‭) ‬and one native of Japan‭ (‬Hideyo Moriya,‭ ‬from Chiba‭)‬.‭ ‬The three met in England in‭ ‬1987‭ ‬and established the group in Los Angeles in‭ ‬1991,‭ ‬naming themselves after the state where they formed because each figured they might not play together beyond its borders.

That's partly because the CGT formed the antithesis of‭ ‬the standard,‭ ‬stardom-seeking guitarist's mind-set‭ (‬especially in L.A.‭)‬.‭ ‬Each member was talented enough to be a solo artist,‭ ‬yet employed an uncommon mantra of unselfishness,‭ ‬discipline and an open mind toward a more unified musical goal.

Twenty years later,‭ ‬the guitarists are still showcasing these and other lessons learned while meeting through King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp's instructional Guitar Craft courses.

The trio opened the concert with‭ ‬Cathedral Peak,‭ ‬the first track on their latest CD‭ ‬Andromeda,‭ ‬and achieved dramatic and orchestral harp-like tones in‭ ‬5/8‭ ‬time.‭ ‬Moriya‭’‬s‭ ‬Melrose Avenue,‭ ‬from the CGT's‭ ‬1993‭ ‬debut‭ ‬Yamanashi Blues,‭ ‬upped the ante to‭ ‬7/8‭ ‬time and showed both classical and flamenco influences.

Ennio Morricone's theme from the film‭ ‬The Good,‭ ‬the Bad and the Ugly then upped the energy level,‭ ‬as each guitarist played a vital part to the memorable score‭ ‬--‭ ‬Moriya the anchoring bass notes‭; ‬Richards the effects,‭ ‬and Lams the whistling pattern.

‭“‬We‭’‬d like to demonstrate what we call a circulation,‭”‬ Richards said afterward.‭ “‬It's something we learned through Robert Fripp,‭ ‬where‭ ‬30‭ ‬guitarists would sit in a circle,‭ ‬play a single note and pass it on.‭”

The three guitarists first toured together as part of Fripp‭’‬s League of Crafty Guitarists,‭ ‬which is fitting,‭ ‬because they‭’‬re nothing if not crafty.‭ ‬Their featured‭ ‬circulation was on one of Bach‭’‬s lute suites,‭ ‬and their interlocking notes‭ ‬--‭ ‬amazingly simplistic in and of themselves‭ ‬--‭ ‬formed a complex whole that approximated the sound of a lute,‭ ‬the stringed precursor to the guitar.

Most of the pieces,‭ ‬including the Ventures‭’‬ hit‭ ‬Walk,‭ ‬Don‭’‬t Run and Mason‭ ‬Williams‭’‬ Classical Gas,‭ ‬clocked in at under four minutes.‭ ‬But the trio stretched out on an early highlight,‭ ‬the cover of Pink Floyd‭’‬s‭ ‬Echoes.‭ ‬As Moriya held down the bass and rhythm parts,‭ ‬Richards‭' ‬slide playing mimicked David Gilmour's effects-laden intro and middle cries.‭ ‬Lams played the vocal melody,‭ ‬adding flurries of finger-picked notes near the coda of an exhilarating‭ ‬10-minute opus.

Four equally‭ ‬memorable performances closed the show.‭ ‬Chacarera,‭ ‬another original from‭ ‬Andromeda,‭ ‬employed a fast,‭ ‬6/8-timed Argentinian rhythm as the three guitarists played cascading notes that led to Lams‭’‬ unorthodox closing solo.

On‭ ‬Sleepwalk,‭ ‬the‭ ‬1959‭ ‬instrumental hit for Santo‭ & ‬Johnny,‭ ‬Lams handled the bulk of the rhythm guitar and Moriya the bass notes‭ (‬with his thumb‭) ‬as Richards recreated the pedal steel guitar melody with his slide.

Toccata and Fugue in D minor,‭ ‬Bach‭’‬s haunting composition for pipe organ,‭ ‬featured blistering runs by Lams and Moriya within another avalanche of perfectly‭ ‬placed notes‭ ‬--‭ ‬all of which led to an unscripted celebration.

Lams,‭ ‬who lives in Pennsylvania,‭ ‬has in-laws who live in Jupiter,‭ ‬and they surprised the trio with a cake to commemorate the‭ ‬20-year anniversary of its formation in January of‭ ‬1991.‭ ‬The audience sang‭ ‬Happy Anniversary‭; ‬Richards blew out the candles,‭ ‬and he then answered questions on composition,‭ ‬tuning and their guitar brand‭ (‬Breedlove‭)‬.

The encore was Queen's‭ ‬1975‭ ‬hit‭ ‬Bohemian Rhapsody,‭ ‬during which Moriya played the vocal melody,‭ ‬Lams aced Brian May‭’‬s middle solo,‭ ‬and the three players combined to harmonize the tune's symphonic closing runs.

In this trio‭’‬s precise,‭ ‬soulful hands,‭ ‬classic rock never sounded so classical.‭

Music roundup: Lyrical Haydn, revelatory Korngold, daring Links

Cellist SuJin Lee.

Boca Raton Symphonia‭ (‬Sunday,‭ ‬Jan.‭ ‬23,‭ ‬St.‭ ‬Andrew‭’‬s School,‭ ‬Boca Raton‭)

The eminent American composer and educator Gunther Schuller was joined by a very young cellist Jan. 23 in a concert by the Boca Raton Symphonia that was one of the most polished this group has offered in some time.

From the tightness of the‭ ‬Cosi fan Tutte overture that opened the concert at St.‭ ‬Andrew‭’‬s School‭’‬s Roberts Theater to the sparkle of a comic suite by Jacques Ibert that closed it,‭ ‬the Boca Raton-based chamber orchestra seemed to be doing its utmost to play well for Schuller,‭ ‬who was guesting for music director Philippe Entremont.

And there was plenty of evidence of it,‭ ‬beginning with the Mozart overture,‭ ‬which had little to none of the usual test-tuning‭ ‬you often hear in the usual slow Classical introduction,‭ ‬but was clean and sharp right off the bat.‭ ‬Schuller conducts with a loose beat,‭ ‬shaping the music rather than beating time,‭ ‬and he gets good results.‭ ‬This was limpid,‭ ‬clear,‭ ‬vital Mozart,‭ ‬and it was played with‭ ‬gratifyingly solid intonation and accuracy.

The young South Korean-born cellist SuJin Lee,‭ ‬currently a Columbia University undergraduate,‭ ‬has been‭ ‬concertizing in public since age‭ ‬7,‭ ‬and for reasons that become plain once you hear her play.‭ ‬She has a thorough and large technique that allows her to handle virtuoso difficulties without apparent strain,‭ ‬and she has a‭ ‬lovely,‭ ‬dark tone that has a mature,‭ ‬noble aspect.

Lee joined the orchestra in the Cello Concerto in D‭ (‬Hob.VII/2‭) ‬of Haydn,‭ ‬in a mostly leisurely,‭ ‬genial reading of the work that stressed its lyricism.‭ ‬This was elegant listening,‭ ‬supremely accomplished technically,‭ ‬and Lee did her utmost in the second movement to evoke the movement‭’‬s passion,‭ ‬with the Boca Symphonia nicely holding back and letting her sing.

Schuller opened the second half of the concert with his own‭ ‬Concerto da Camera,‭ ‬written‭ ‬40‭ ‬years ago for the Eastman School,‭ ‬and‭ ‬prefaced it by asking the audience to‭ “‬close your eyes and just listen‭”‬ to the music rather than get distracted by‭ ‬watching the players tackle this gentle serialist score.‭ ‬And it‭’‬s a good piece,‭ ‬with jazz influences perhaps highly sublimated but undoubtedly still there.‭

This is not the kind of atonalism that accompanies randomness,‭ ‬but is an atonalism that is an exploration of other harmonic worlds from a clear narrative structure.‭ ‬The Symphonia did a fine job with‭ ‬it,‭ ‬giving the slow first movement‭’‬s crushed harmonies a Gil Evans kind of cool,‭ ‬and‭ ‬deftly handling the bubbly rhythms of the speedy second with careful attention to Schuller‭’‬s focus on instrumental color.‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich


Gary Graffman.

Gary Graffman‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬15,‭ ‬Wold Performing Arts Center,‭ ‬Lynn University‭)

The eminent American pianist Gary Graffman lost his original career to focal dystonia of his right hand more than‭ ‬30‭ ‬years ago,‭ ‬but he has remained a champion of the small left-hand repertoire,‭ ‬especially that written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

In the second half of his recital Jan.‭ ‬15‭ ‬at the Wold Performing Arts Center at Lynn University,‭ ‬Graffman was joined by violinists Elmar Oliveira and Carol Cole,‭ ‬and cellist David Cole,‭ ‬for Korngold’s‭ ‬Suite for two violins,‭ ‬cello and piano left hand,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1930.‭ ‬Although it could have been an oddity,‭ ‬merely meant to add a novelty to an already unusual program,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Suite‭ ‬turns out to be nothing sort of a masterpiece.

And it was winningly played by the foursome on stage.‭ ‬On the first entrance of the fugue subject in first movement,‭ ‬the three string players carved out the subject in a bold and precise way that made the subsequent mutations easy to follow.‭ ‬The second-movement‭ ‬Waltz was delicious and sensuous,‭ ‬and the third-movement‭ ‬Groteske saw Graffman rattling off the opening bars with laudable precision and clarity.‭ ‬Cellist David Cole gave a powerful reading of this movement,‭ ‬which gives the cellist a strenuous workout.

Oliveira filled his spotlight turn in the fourth-movement‭ ‬Lied with huge,‭ ‬beautiful tone,‭ ‬and all four players gave the closing Rondo a joyous,‭ ‬athletic swing that demonstrated definitively that the group had been firing on all cylinders throughout.‭ ‬It’s hard to see why this piece shouldn’t be a chamber music staple for adventurous groups‭; ‬Graffman and his partners made a marvelous case for it in this recital.

The Korngold occupied the second half of the program by Graffman,‭ ‬who filled the first with some of the more familiar left-hand repertoire,‭ ‬which as he points out is not large to begin with.‭ ‬The two Scriabin Op.‭ ‬9‭ ‬left-hand pieces were played with a big,‭ ‬warm sound,‭ ‬as was a left-hand arrangement of the composer’s celebrated C-sharp minor Etude‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬2,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬1‭)‬.‭ ‬It’s a fairly awkward piece to play in the original version,‭ ‬and it sounded a little labored here in Jay Reise’s recasting.‭

Carl Reinecke is little-remembered today despite his large output,‭ ‬but his C minor Sonata for piano,‭ ‬left hand‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬179‭)‬,‭ ‬which has become a Graffman specialty,‭ ‬is an attractive and spotlessly crafted work.‭

This is a kind of writing that requires a much more Classic approach,‭ ‬and Graffman’s performance of it was a model of Haydnesque style,‭ ‬with the minuet in particular sparkling with a folkish verve,‭ ‬and the slow movement an essay in good tone production and interpretive restraint.‭ ‬Not a weighty piece,‭ ‬by Beethovenian standards,‭ ‬but an honest one,‭ ‬and Graffman does it good service.

The recital ended with the Brahms left-hand arrangement of the Chaconne in D minor from Bach’s Violin Partita No.‭ ‬2‭ (‬BWV‭ ‬1004‭)‬.‭ ‬This is a monstrously difficult arrangement,‭ ‬and it,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬sounded heavy and hard to move at times.‭ ‬But Graffman has a keen sense of narrative arc and how to play it up,‭ ‬and he brought out the work’s breadth and majesty with great effectiveness.‭ ‬– G.‭ ‬Stepanich


Joshua Roman, Yuki Numata and Bill Kalinkos.

The Links‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬12,‭ ‬Stage West,‭ ‬Duncan Theatre,‭ ‬Lake Worth‭)

It sounded like a train exiting a long black tunnel,‭ ‬and it seemed to go on forever.

It was the sound of‭ ‬‘Night,‭ ‬a piece by the American composer David Stock‭ (‬b.‭ ‬1939‭)‬,‭ ‬and it was the harbinger of things to come:‭ ‬serial music,‭ ‬wittily played,‭ ‬as The Links trio opened its concert Jan.‭ ‬12 ‬at Stage West in the rear of the‭ ‬Duncan Theatre.

The three members of the trio‭ ‬– violinist Yuki Numata,‭ ‬cellist Joshua Roman and clarinetist Bill Kalinkos‭ ‬– are brilliant soloists all,‭ ‬but were sadly lacking in diction and stage presence when attempting to describe to the aged,‭ ‬silver-haired audience what the music had to say.‭ ‬Interestingly,‭ ‬there was little virtuoso playing from the clarinet.‭ ‬Violin and cello did most of the hard work until the last piece by Ingolf Dahl.

Noticing,‭ ‬a piece by Matthew Schreibeis‭ (‬b.‭ ‬1981‭) ‬was given its second performance ever:‭ ‬Quiet passages were interrupted with violent outbursts from the violin.‭ ‬Coming Together,‭ ‬a musical joke by Derek Bermel‭ (‬b.‭ ‬1967‭)‬,‭ ‬was all glissandos,‭ ‬a cacophony guaranteed to turn audiences away unless they got the joke.‭ ‬This audience did,‭ ‬with laughter all round when the players finished.‭

Cello and violin joined forces to end the first half with Ravel‭’‬s Sonata for Violin and Cello,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1922.‭ ‬This is a magnificent piece with a range of dissonant harmonies,‭ ‬grounded by sensitive playing from cellist Roman,‭ ‬ethereal in its loveliness.‭ ‬The military march of the last movement had echoes of the Swedish composer Dag Wiren,‭ ‬with violin and cello passing the theme back and forth.

Rogatio Gravis,‭ ‬by Sydney Hodkinson‭ (‬b.‭ ‬1934‭)‬,‭ ‬tried hard to find its way in a mass of discordant warlike sounds with jagged interruptions,‭ ‬one instrument over another.‭ ‬This kind of composition has all been‭ “‬said‭”‬ before,‭ ‬and I found it tedious.‭

Saving the best for last,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Concerto a Tre by Ingolf Dahl had clarinetist Kalinkos earning his keep.‭ ‬From the opening bars,‭ ‬one knew this music had depth and structure worthy of Dahl‭’‬s teacher,‭ ‬Igor Stravinsky.‭ ‬The Links offered tight-knit playing,‭ ‬fine support of one another,‭ ‬and some lovely duets between cello and clarinet overlaid with sweet violin playing.

Dahl even gives a nod to Stravinsky‭’‬s‭ ‬Dumbarton Oaks in this work,‭ ‬in an‭ ‬hommage to the master.‭ ‬The Links,‭ ‬a trio of fine young players,‭ ‬gave this concerto a superb performance,‭ ‬and were thanked with a standing ovation.‭ ‬ ‭ ‬– Rex Hearn

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend arts picks: Jan. 28-30

Bust of an Angel‭ (‬c.‭ ‬1304‭)‬,‭ ‬by Giotto di Bondone.‭
(‬Courtesy The Reverenda Fabbrica of St.‭ ‬Peter,‭ ‬Vatican City State‭)

Art:‭ ‬As it did a few years back,‭ ‬the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art is host this weekend to a major show of‭ ‬Catholic artwork,‭ ‬this one called‭ ‬Vatican Splendors:‭ ‬A Journey Through Faith and Art.‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale is one of only three cities nationwide to host the exhibit,‭ ‬which contains about‭ ‬200‭ ‬pieces of art and sacred objects from the home of the papacy,‭ ‬and publicists say many of them have never left the Vatican before.‭ ‬Included are pieces by Michelangelo,‭ ‬Giotto and Bernini,‭ ‬along with artwork from the‭ ‬1st century and various saint relics that have been venerated by centuries of worshippers.‭ ‬It promises to be a popular show,‭ ‬and those who saw the earlier Vatican show are likely to want to see this one as well.‭ ‬The show opens Saturday and runs through April‭ ‬24.‭ ‬Gallery hours are‭ ‬11‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬daily except for Thursdays,‭ ‬when the gallery is open until‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$20‭ ‬for adults,‭ ‬$17‭ ‬for seniors and‭ ‬$13‭ ‬for children,‭ ‬and are available at Ticketmaster,‭ ‬,‭ ‬or by phone at‭ ‬1-877-282-8422.

Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in Barney‭’‬s Version.

Film:‭ ‬There are few movies stars more unlikely than nebbishy Paul Giamatti,‭ ‬who was so good in‭ ‬American Splendor‭ ‬and‭ ‬Sideways,‭ ‬but has never been better than he is in‭ ‬Barney’s Version,‭ ‬based on the final novel of Mordecai Richler‭ (‬The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz‭)‬.‭ ‬Giamatti just won a Golden Globe for best comedy performance of the year,‭ ‬but‭ ‬Barney’s Version is hardly a comedy.‭ ‬He plays a self-centered scalawag who manages to marry three women in quick succession,‭ ‬even meeting and starting to pursue his third wife at his wedding to his second wife.‭ ‬Dustin Hoffman plays Barney’s dad,‭ ‬ever ready to dispense worthless advice.‭ ‬The final reel turns dramatic and dark,‭ ‬when Giamatti particularly impresses.‭ ‬Snubbed by the Oscars for everything but a Best Makeup nomination,‭ ‬this is a film you will not soon forget.‭ ‬At area theaters now. -- H. Erstein

Tom Creatore,‭ ‬Renata Eastlick and Matthew Korinko
in Kiss of the Spider Woman.

Theater:‭ ‬West Boca’s Slow Burn Theatre Company‭ ‬dives back into its mission focus of dark,‭ ‬rarely produced musicals with the‭ ‬1993‭ ‬John Kander-Fred Ebb Tony Award-winning‭ ‬Kiss of the Spider Woman.‭ ‬This tale‭ (‬from a novel by Argentina’s Manuel Puig‭) ‬of two unlikely prison cellmates‭ ‬--‭ ‬a gay window dresser,‭ ‬Molina,‭ ‬and a macho political activist,‭ ‬Valentin‭ ‬--‭ ‬is an unexpected source of a musical,‭ ‬but Molina allows the two of them to escape their squalid conditions,‭ ‬in their minds at least,‭ ‬by reciting the plots of his favorite movies.‭ ‬This allows the songwriters the opportunity for some splashy production numbers,‭ ‬featuring Renata Eastlick,‭ ‬who was such a standout in Slow Burn’s‭ ‬Rocky Horror Show.‭ ‬Opening Friday night and running through Feb.‭ ‬6.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬866‭) ‬811-4111‭ ‬for tickets.‭

Composer Chiaya Hsu.

Music:‭ ‬This weekend,‭ ‬Lynn University‭’‬s New Music Festival wraps with two concerts by the‭ ‬Lynn Philharmonia,‭ ‬conducted by the eminent composer and educator Gunther Schuller.‭ ‬His music has been featured all week as part of the festival,‭ ‬but the big event this weekend is the world premiere of a piece chosen from Lynn‭’‬s call for scores.‭ ‬The winner is Chiaya Hsu,‭ ‬a Taiwan-born composer whose education is all-American:‭ ‬Curtis,‭ ‬Yale and Duke,‭ ‬where she earned her doctorate.‭ ‬The piece,‭ ‬called‭ ‬Mountain Song‭ (‬Shan Ko‭)‬,‭ ‬is on the program along with the Brahms Third Symphony‭ (‬in F,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬90‭)‬,‭ ‬and the Piano Concerto No.‭ ‬1‭ (‬in C minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬35‭) ‬of Shostakovich.‭ ‬The soloists‭ ‬in the Shostakovich‭ ‬will be pianist Lisa Leonard,‭ ‬the festival‭’‬s founder,‭ ‬and her husband,‭ ‬trumpeter Marc Reese.‭ ‬The concerts are set for‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday and‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Wold Center for the Performing Arts on the Lynn campus in Boca Raton.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$35-$50.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬237-7705‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

The Fry Street Quartet.

On Sunday afternoon,‭ ‬the chamber music series at the Society of the Four Arts continues with an appearance by the Fry Street Quartet,‭ ‬founded in Chicago in‭ ‬1997‭ ‬and now in residence at Utah State University in Logan,‭ ‬Utah.‭ ‬The Fry Street‭ ‬has performed the complete Beethoven cycle of all‭ ‬16‭ ‬of the master‭’‬s quartets,‭ ‬and this program will feature two of them:‭ ‬The very first,‭ ‬the No.‭ ‬1‭ ‬in F of the Op.‭ ‬18‭ ‬collection,‭ ‬and No.‭ ‬14‭ (‬in C-sharp minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬131‭)‬,‭ ‬one of the greatest works for string quartet anyone ever wrote.‭ ‬“The scale of the architecture is vast,‭ ‬and there is a giant arc that umbrellas the piece,‭”‬ second violinist Rebecca McFaul wrote in an e-mail message.‭ “‬Inside it,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬the attention to motivic development,‭ ‬harmonic travel,‭ ‬and the intricate weave of the voicing takes constant and vigilant attention from the performers.‭ ‬That makes the dialogue between the parts spark and come to life.‭”‬ Also on the program is the Barber String Quartet‭ (‬in B minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬11‭)‬,‭ ‬which gives audiences a chance to hear the‭ ‬Adagio for Strings‭ ‬in its original incarnation‭ ‬as the slow‭ ‬movement of this quartet.‭ ‬The concert is set for‭ ‬3‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the society‭’‬s Gubelmann Auditorium on Palm Beach.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$15.‭ ‬Cal‭ ‬655-7226‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Music feature: Revered acoustic-guitar trio celebrates 20th on Jupiter stop

From left:‭ ‬Hideyo Moriya,‭ ‬Paul Richards and Bert Lams,
‭ ‬the members of the California Guitar Trio.

By Bill Meredith

For a group that named itself for the state where it formed‭ ‬--‭ ‬doubting that it might ever get to play elsewhere‭ ‬--‭ ‬the California Guitar Trio‭ (‬‭) ‬has achieved stratospheric success.

The CGT's three acoustic guitarists,‭ ‬Paul Richards,‭ ‬Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya,‭ ‬have recorded a dozen CDs together and navigated several tours of the United States,‭ ‬Canada,‭ ‬South America,‭ ‬Europe and Japan.‭ ‬This‭ ‬Saturday,‭ ‬they‭’‬ll play the Lifelong Learning Society Auditorium on the Florida Atlantic University‭ ‬campus in Jupiter.‭

The group‭’‬s latest release,‭ ‬Andromeda‭ (‬Innerknot‭)‬,‭ ‬celebrates their forthcoming‭ ‬20-year anniversary,‭ ‬but this is certainly not a trio that's achieved longevity through doing what might be expected.

Andromeda is their latest blend of composition and improvisation,‭ ‬and it mixes everything from classical,‭ ‬surf and world music to rock,‭ ‬jazz and blues.‭ ‬The all-original disc also combines seemingly disparate musical mindsets,‭ ‬as the trio achieves its self-described‭ "‬super piano‭" ‬sound through its layered acoustic guitars‭ ‬--‭ ‬yet with the wooden instruments sometimes running through processors to mimic a variety of other tones,‭ ‬from electric guitars to synthesizers.

‭“‬We recorded the basic tracks using vintage analog tape gear at Funeral Home Studios in Louisville,‭ ‬Kentucky,‭”‬ Richards says.‭ “‬Then we blended in the digital Roland and Moog effects to layer things.‭ ‬We've always been interested in exploring different sounds and textures through electronics,‭ ‬and this album is probably our most extreme example of that.‭ ‬On one track,‭ ‬‘Improv VIII‭ (‬Layered Circulation‭)‬,‭’‬ we each played a note at a time in sequence to create a melody,‭ ‬or circulation.‭ ‬Then we used an old Les Paul trick,‭ ‬turning the tape machine to half-speed and recording over the top of that.‭ ‬So when you play it back,‭ ‬we're an octave higher.‭”

The three guitarists have some classical training,‭ ‬but they primarily play steel-stringed rather than common nylon-stringed classical guitars.‭ ‬And their world travel is befitting of diverse,‭ ‬United Nations-approved backgrounds,‭ ‬since Richards is from Salt Lake City,‭ ‬Utah‭; ‬Lams from Affligem,‭ ‬Belgium‭;‬ and Moriya from Chiba,‭ ‬Japan.‭ ‬They met at an instructional course taught by a British guitarist who's known more for leading the iconic‭ ‬42-year-old progressive rock band King Crimson.

‭“‬Robert Fripp was initially offering a series of week-long introductory Guitar Craft courses in‭ ‬the mid-1980s,‭”‬ says Richards.‭ “‬I was studying jazz at the University of Utah at the time,‭ ‬but my teacher had attended one of Robert's courses,‭ ‬and he suggested that I do the same.‭ ‬I did,‭ ‬and it changed my life.‭ ‬The first one I attended was held near Washington,‭ ‬D.C.,‭ ‬but then Robert bought a house in the English countryside and invited students to live and study there for extended periods of time.‭ ‬I‭ ‬was there for almost two years,‭ ‬and that was when I met Bert and Hideyo.‭”‬

Fripp is known for his unorthodoxy as both a guitarist‭ (‬his circular,‭ ‬interlocking patterns owe more to classical and Eastern music than to blues‭) ‬and bandleader‭ (‬he's purposely scrapped,‭ ‬re-shuffled personnel and re-started King Crimson several times since the band‭’‬s‭ ‬1969‭ ‬inception‭)‬.‭ ‬As a teacher,‭ ‬his outside-the-box thinking may have appealed to the three guitarists even more than his music.

‭“‬He actually didn't like us to use the word‭ ‬teacher,‭”‬ says Lams.‭ “‬Robert saw himself as an instructor,‭ ‬and thought there was a great difference between those two terms.‭ ‬He was there to share his experiences with us,‭ ‬since he‭’‬d already been a professional musician for‭ ‬30‭ ‬years.‭ ‬It was nothing like a standard school would present,‭ ‬because he even welcomed people with little to no guitar experience.‭ ‬To have someone of that stature be so giving was a great privilege,‭ ‬and it provided us with huge short-cuts.‭”

Richards called Fripp‭ “‬an amazing instructor.‭”

“I was in a great jazz program at the University of Utah,‭ ‬but I felt much more at‭ ‬home in the Guitar Craft series,‭”‬ he says.‭ ‬“Robert‭’‬s way of instruction spoke to me more directly,‭ ‬and it was more spiritual,‭ ‬but not in a New Age way.‭ ‬It was all very practical,‭ ‬and directed toward making you a better‭ ‬guitarist,‭ ‬musician and person.‭”

One of Fripp's practical methods particularly caught the students off-guard.

‭“‬We all ended up playing in Robert's League‭ ‬of Crafty Guitarists ensemble,‭”‬ Richards says.‭ “‬But he'd only told us previously that we were going to have a two-month-long course on performing.‭ ‬When we showed up for the first class,‭ ‬we found out that he'd booked a tour‭! ‬His way of teaching us how to perform was‭ ‬going out and playing concerts.‭”

Those performances between‭ ‬1988‭ ‬and‭ ‬1991‭ ‬fueled the formation of the CGT,‭ ‬since Fripp was in the early stages of restarting the dormant King Crimson again.

‭“‬Robert asked Bert who he wanted to work with,‭”‬ Richards says,‭ “‬because I think he had a sense at that time that he would be moving on to other projects.‭ ‬Bert had just moved to Los Angeles,‭ ‬and he asked myself and Hideyo if we wanted to start a group there,‭ ‬so that's where the California Guitar Trio got started.‭”

The trio went from performing in West Coast clubs in‭ ‬1991‭ ‬to a tour of Japan and Italy in‭ ‬1992‭ ‬with Fripp,‭ ‬singer/songwriter David Sylvian and another of Fripp's students,‭ ‬Trey Gunn‭ (‬who plays a customized guitar/bass hybrid called a Warr guitar,‭ ‬which he'd soon employ in a new King Crimson lineup‭)‬.

The first CGT album,‭ ‬Yamanshi Blues,‭ ‬didn't appear until‭ ‬1993,‭ ‬but the guitarists toured with Fripp yet again in‭ ‬1995‭ ‬in support of their sophomore effort,‭ ‬Invitation.‭ ‬They opened shows for King Crimson's‭ ‬“double trio‭”‬ lineup‭ ‬--‭ ‬a wall of sound featuring guitarists Fripp and Adrian Belew,‭ ‬Warr guitarist Gunn and bassist Tony Levin‭ (‬who doubled on Chapman stick‭) ‬and drummer/percussionists Bill Bruford and Pat Mastelotto.‭ ‬The sextet had just released‭ ‬THRAK,‭ ‬the first full-length King Crimson studio CD in more than a decade.

The CGT's first-ever show in Florida,‭ ‬in fact,‭ ‬was opening for King Crimson on Nov.‭ ‬7,‭ ‬1995,‭ ‬at the since-demolished Sunrise Musical Theatre.

‭“‬We ended up doing‭ ‬130‭ ‬shows with King Crimson in‭ ‬1995‭ ‬and‭ ‬1996,‭”‬ Lams says.‭ “‬It was a great experience,‭ ‬and we still have people coming up to us after shows and saying,‭ ‬‘I saw you guys for the first time when you opened for King Crimson.‭’‬ Fifteen years later,‭ ‬we're still riding that wave.‭”

The bulk of the trio‭’‬s classical wave resides with Lams,‭ ‬who plays a nylon-stringed guitar on one track,‭ ‬Hazardous Z,‭ ‬on‭ ‬Andromeda.

‭“‬Growing up in Brussels,‭ ‬I figured the best way to become a professional guitarist was to study classical guitar,‭”‬ he says.‭ “‬I was able to study with Monique Vigneron,‭ ‬who'd been a student of Andres Segovia,‭ ‬and she helped me improve enough to attend the Royal Conservatory there.‭ ‬After that,‭ ‬I became a classical guitar teacher for about‭ ‬10‭ ‬years.‭”

The early CGT albums featured several Bach and Beethoven compositions,‭ ‬but Lams wasn't drawn toward Fripp through the classically‭ ‬influenced King Crimson as much as one of its leader‭’‬s side projects.‭ ‬Fripp's League of Gentlemen band released only one self-titled album in‭ ‬1981,‭ ‬but its sound was decidedly more in the pop and New Wave realms.

‭“‬I wasn't particularly a big fan of progressive rock,‭”‬ Lams says,‭ “‬but I decided to see Robert and the League of Gentlemen in Belgium,‭ ‬and I was blown away by his playing.‭ ‬His guitar lines were much cleaner than with King Crimson,‭ ‬so I even went to see them nearby on the next night.‭ ‬I was playing classical guitar at the time,‭ ‬but always on the lookout for something new and fresh.‭ ‬So when I saw the ad for Robert's Guitar Craft course after seeing him live,‭ ‬it was a no-brainer.‭”

Richards was the most rock-influenced of the three guitarists in his teens,‭ ‬which‭ ‬led to cover recordings such as‭ ‬Heart of the Sunrise by Yes and‭ ‬Discipline by King Crimson as the trio forged ahead into the‭ ‬21st century.‭ ‬And Mastelotto,‭ ‬and particularly Levin,‭ ‬have been recurring guests on CGT CDs.‭ ‬The bassist appears on the‭ ‬Andromeda‭ ‬track‭ ‬Turn of the Tide to tap out one of his inimitable Chapman stick lines.

Andromeda is the first all-original CGT release,‭ ‬but it follows the all-cover‭ ‬2008‭ ‬CD‭ ‬Echoes,‭ ‬which features two more‭ ‬classical-inspired pieces‭ (‬Unmei‭ ‬and‭ ‬Pastorale‭) ‬plus the Pink Floyd title track,‭ ‬Mike Oldfield's‭ ‬Tubular Bells,‭ ‬Queen's‭ ‬Bohemian Rhapsody and even Lynyrd Skynyrd‭’‬s‭ ‬Free Bird.‭ ‬The group is working on an all-classical CD for‭ ‬2011‭ ‬release.

‭“‬It'll be mostly previously recorded but unreleased tracks,‭”‬ Lams says,‭ “‬but all remixed and remastered from the original takes.‭ ‬We're trying to make it sound pure,‭ ‬like you're sitting in a room with the guitarists.‭ ‬One track is a cover of the‭ ‬‘William Tell Overture‭’‬ that turned out pretty hot.‭”

Richards still resides in Salt Lake City,‭ ‬and Lams has relocated to Mechanicsburg,‭ ‬Pa.,‭ ‬but this small,‭ ‬united league of ever-crafty guitarists remains international.

‭“‬Hideyo initially left the Berklee College of Music in Boston to study in the Guitar Craft courses,‭”‬ Richards says.‭ “‬But he decided to live in Japan and commute after we formed the trio.‭ ‬Even when we were initially based in Los Angeles,‭ ‬he'd come there for two or three months at a time and then go back.‭ ‬I can tell that he gets homesick when he‭'‬s away from Japan for too long.‭”

The CGT has,‭ ‬in fact,‭ ‬literally gone beyond international to stratospheric success.‭ ‬Other artists may have also been heard on NPR,‭ ‬NBC,‭ ‬CBS,‭ ‬CNN and ESPN‭ ‬--‭ ‬but this trio received recent airplay aboard the NASA space shuttle‭ ‬Endeavour.

“We have some fans in Houston,‭ ‬Texas who work for NASA,‭" ‬says Richards.‭ ‬“They invited some of the astronauts to come out and hear us,‭ ‬so we developed a pretty strong fan base at NASA,‭ ‬and they started using our music to wake up the astronauts.‭ ‬It was pretty unusual to hear that,‭ ‬and very exciting.‭”

“There's a clip they've sent us,‭”‬ Lams says,‭ ‬“where you hear not only‭ ‬our recording playing aboard‭ ‬‘Endeavour,‭’‬ but what the astronauts say before and after hearing it,‭ ‬even down to things like‭ ‬‘Houston,‭ ‬over and out.‭’”

The trio's actual‭ ‬20-year anniversary takes place within‭ ‬10‭ ‬days of its stop at the‭ ‬FAU campus in Jupiter.‭ ‬And the three space-approved guitarists are united in the surprise regarding their longevity.

‭“‬It was‭ ‬20‭ ‬years ago in January‭ ‬that we formed,‭”‬ Richards says.‭ “‬We'd become friends while touring with Robert,‭ ‬but there was also clearly a musical connection despite our very different backgrounds.‭ ‬Hideyo grew up learning to play surf music instrumentals by The Ventures,‭ ‬who are still‭ ‬huge in Japan.‭ ‬Bert had the European classical upbringing,‭ ‬and I had two older brothers who played guitar,‭ ‬so I was listening to The Beatles,‭ ‬Rolling Stones,‭ ‬Led Zeppelin and Rush.‭ ‬But I think we're stronger because we've been able to find ways to combine‭ ‬all of our different upbringings and influences.‭”

Lams notes that their first-ever performance was on Feb.‭ ‬7,‭ ‬1991,‭ ‬at the Natural Fudge Café in Los Angeles.

‬“And we couldn't have had any idea that it would turn into this.‭”

The‭ ‬California Guitar Trio‭performs‭ ‬at‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday‭ ‬at Florida Atlantic University's Lifelong Learning Society Auditorium,‭ ‬5353‭ ‬Parkside Drive,‭ ‬Jupiter‭ ‬.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$25‭ ‬for Lifelong Learning‭ ‬members‭; ‬$30‭ ‬for non-members.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬561-799-8547.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Film feature: This year, Oscars have 10 best pictures worthy of the honor

Natalie Portman in Black Swan.

By Hap Erstein

Going into today’s release of Academy Awards nominations,‭ ‬it looked like a two-horse race between‭ ‬The Social Network and‭ ‬The King’s Speech‭ ‬--‭ ‬both superior pictures‭ ‬--‭ ‬and nothing about the announcements from Hollywood changes that.‭

Both movies,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬made it into the field of‭ ‬10‭ ‬for Best Picture and they will also be competing head-on for Best Director‭ (‬David Fincher vs.‭ ‬Tom Hooper‭) ‬and Best Actor‭ (‬Jesse Eisenberg vs.‭ ‬Colin Firth‭)‬.‭ ‬Both films are nominated for their screenplays,‭ ‬but‭ ‬Social Network is an adaptation,‭ ‬while‭ ‬King’s Speech is not based on another source.

This‭ ‬83rd annual Oscars race marks the second year in recent times that there are‭ ‬10‭ ‬Best Picture nominees and,‭ ‬while I have problems with‭ ‬Black Swan,‭ ‬the surprise is that there are actually‭ ‬10‭ ‬movies worth calling the year’s best.

In addition to the three already mentioned,‭ ‬the category also includes‭ ‬The Fighter,‭ ‬The Kids Are All Right,‭ ‬Toy Story‭ ‬3,‭ ‬Winter’s Bone,‭ ‬127‭ ‬Hours,‭ ‬True Grit and‭ ‬Inception.‭ ‬The most obvious beneficiary of the expanded category is surely the low-budget independent‭ ‬Winter’s Bone,‭ ‬which also pulled in a much-deserved nod for the terrific young Jennifer Lawrence as the backwoods girl in search of her drug-dealer dad.

It is hard to quibble with the‭ ‬10‭ ‬Best Picture nominations‭ ‬--‭ ‬ok,‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬Black Swan still strikes me as overwrought and out of control in its second half‭ ‬--‭ ‬but it is unfortunate that Ben Affleck’s‭ ‬The Town was snubbed here,‭ ‬gaining only a mention for Jeremy Renner in the Supporting Actor category.‭ ‬Affleck’s script and direction were impressive,‭ ‬and a later release date might have made the difference.‭

Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in Barney’s Version.‭

The other egregiously overlooked movie,‭ ‬and a far longer shot at a Best Picture nod,‭ ‬was‭ ‬Barney’s Version,‭ ‬which opens this weekend in South Florida.‭ ‬Also low-budget,‭ ‬it opened at year’s end in Los Angeles for eligibility’s sake,‭ ‬had little or no nomination campaign and was roundly ignored.‭ ‬I will say more about the movie at the end of the week,‭ ‬but believe me,‭ ‬it was robbed,‭ ‬as was its star,‭ ‬Paul Giamatti,‭ ‬doing his best work yet on screen.‭ (‬He won the Golden Globe for best male comedy performance,‭ ‬but‭ ‬Barney’s Version is no comedy.‭)

With‭ ‬10‭ ‬Best Picture nominations,‭ ‬but only five Best Director slots,‭ ‬the category is like a game of musical chairs.‭ ‬For sheer directorial virtuosity,‭ ‬it is hard to beat Christopher Nolan‭ (‬Inception‭) ‬or Danny Boyle‭ (‬127‭ ‬Hours‭)‬,‭ ‬but the Academy didn’t see it that way.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬I would have taken them over Darren Aronofsky‭ (‬Black Swan‭) ‬and those perennial Oscar favorites,‭ ‬the Coen Brothers‭ (‬True Grit‭)‬.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham-Carter in The King’s Speech.

The surprise,‭ ‬but a worthy one,‭ ‬for Best Actor is Javier Bardem in the bleak Mexican film‭ ‬Biutiful.‭ ‬He is up against Colin Firth‭ (‬The King’s Speech‭)‬,‭ ‬James Franco‭ (‬127‭ ‬Hours‭)‬,‭ ‬Jesse Eisenberg‭ (‬The Social Network‭) ‬and Jeff Bridges‭ (‬True Grit‭)‬.‭ ‬Not making the cut was Ryan Gosling,‭ ‬superb in‭ ‬Blue Valentine,‭ ‬whom I would take over Bridges or even Eisenberg.‭ ‬The point is moot,‭ ‬because Firth has a lock on the win.

Gosling’s co-star Michelle Williams was nominated for Best Actress,‭ ‬the difference being that there are so few strong female roles this year.‭ ‬More dubious is the glum performance by Nicole Kidman in‭ ‬Rabbit Hole,‭ ‬made worse by her botoxed-immobile face.‭ ‬It looks to be a two-way race between Natalie Portman,‭ ‬who suffered through‭ ‬Black Swan‭ ‬and emerged victorious,‭ ‬and Annette Bening‭ (‬The Kids Are All Right‭)‬,‭ ‬who may have the edge because of past Oscar losses.‭ (‬Her co-star Julianne Moore jockeyed between Best Actress and Supporting,‭ ‬a strategic campaign that saw her lose out both ways.‭)

Also likely to sail to an easy victory is Christian Bale as the irresponsible,‭ ‬drugged-our brother in‭ ‬The Fighter,‭ ‬a can’t-miss performance for Best Supporting Actor.‭ ‬The rest of this field is quite deserving,‭ ‬though‭ ‬--‭ ‬Renner‭ (‬The Town‭)‬,‭ ‬John Hawkes‭ (‬Winter’s Bone‭)‬,‭ ‬Mark Ruffalo‭ (‬The Kids Are All Right‭) ‬and Geoffrey Rush‭ (‬The King’s Speech‭)‬.

Jeff Bridges and Hallie Steinfeld in True Grit.

That great actress’s actress,‭ ‬Melissa Leo,‭ ‬who plays Bale’s determined mom in‭ ‬The Fighter,‭ ‬should also have an easy win for Supporting Actress,‭ ‬but the nomination of Amy Adams from the same movie does not help her.‭ ‬As expected,‭ ‬Helena Bonham Carter‭ (‬The King’s Speech‭) ‬and newcomer Hallie Steinfeld‭ (‬True Grit‭) ‬will be in the running,‭ ‬along with surprise nominee Jackie Weaver,‭ ‬another tough mom in the Down Under crime family flick,‭ ‬Animal Kingdom.‭ ‬Perhaps an indication of the weak support for‭ ‬Black Swan‭ ‬--‭ ‬am I just hoping this is the case‭? ‬--‭ ‬is the no-show here for either Mila Kunis or Barbara Hershey.

Anyway,‭ ‬that is how the Oscars shape up from my perspective on the day the nominations were announced.‭ ‬But there is a long time between now and Sunday,‭ ‬Feb.‭ ‬27,‭ ‬when the awards are given out.‭ ‬Let the disinformation and negative campaigning begin.‭

Theater roundup 2: Provocative 'Clybourne'; a star turn for Gless

Kenneth Kay and Patti Gardner in Clybourne Park.

By Hap Erstein

African-Americans have federally sanctioned civil rights and the nation voted a black man into the White House.‭ ‬So we must have made substantial advances towards racial equality and co-existence since Lorraine Hansberry’s‭ ‬1959‭ ‬stage drama,‭ ‬A Raisin in the Sun,‭ ‬haven’t we‭?

Not necessarily,‭ ‬suggests playwright-provocateur Bruce Norris in his cynical satire‭ ‬Clybourne Park,‭ ‬which takes Hansberry’s work and stands it on its ear.‭ ‬Act one is set inside the Chicago house that the unseen Younger family is trying to buy,‭ ‬despite the objections of the bigoted white neighbors.‭ ‬Then in the second act,‭ ‬the play jumps ahead‭ ‬50‭ ‬years to show the house deteriorating,‭ ‬yet an affluent yuppie couple want to buy it to tear it down and build a McMansion that would dwarf the surrounding structures.‭

The racial insensitivities in both acts aim to make theatergoers uncomfortable and the go-for-the-throat cast at the Caldwell Theatre certainly manages that.‭ ‬Director Clive Cholerton has again brought to the area an edgy,‭ ‬challenging new play,‭ ‬married it to a nimble ensemble cast and further dusted off the cobwebs from this established South Florida stage company.

Both acts begin slowly,‭ ‬as Norris traffics in small talk and wordplay,‭ ‬but never doubt that he knows exactly how to bring his simmering stew to a boil.‭ ‬Particularly in the second half,‭ ‬as interested parties gather to read over a petition about the pending sale,‭ ‬polite dialogue degenerates into bitter recriminations and the slinging of pointedly outrageous racial jokes.

The cast members all double in roles as‭ ‬Clybourne Park shifts gears and zooms ahead to‭ ‬2009.‭ ‬Standouts include Kenneth Kay and Patti Gardner as the too-eager sellers of the house in the first act.‭ ‬Both are reacting to the death of their Korean War veteran son,‭ ‬he by wallowing on anguish and she by blithely denying the problem with a‭ ‘‬50s sitcom cheerfulness.‭ ‬Gregg Weiner,‭ ‬who played a couple of similar two-sided characters in Florida Stage’s recent‭ ‬Cane,‭ ‬has no civility filter as hatemonger Karl Linder,‭ ‬a supporting character.

Karen Stephens probably goes through the most extreme changes,‭ ‬from Gardner’s subservient maid to Lena,‭ ‬an assertive woman who knows how to flex her power muscles.‭ ‬And Margery Lowe gives one of her best comic performances as two different pregnant wives.‭ ‬Her first act character is hearing-impaired,‭ ‬possibly so Norris can make a point about communications difficulties or maybe just to make fun of the deaf.

With‭ ‬Clybourne Park,‭ ‬Norris shows he can sustain a tone of raucousness,‭ ‬while also delivering a thematic message.‭ ‬He may well offend some of the Caldwell audience,‭ ‬but those in synch with him should find plenty to laugh at and think about here.

CLYBOURNE PARK,‭ ‬Caldwell Theatre Co.,‭ ‬7901‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Federal Highway,‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬Continuing through Sunday,‭ ‬Feb.‭ ‬6.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$27-$75.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬241-7432‭ ‬or‭ (‬877‭) ‬245-7432.‭

‭ * * *

Sharon Gless in A Round-Heeled Woman.
(Photo by George Schiavone)

GableStage usually features edgier fare than playwright-director Jane Prowse’s audience-friendly tale of a sexagenarian’s search for,‭ ‬well,‭ ‬sex,‭ ‬A Round-Heeled Woman.‭ ‬But perhaps the Coral Gables company is experimenting with ways to broaden its audience as it considers moving to larger quarters in Coconut Grove,‭ ‬and who in his right mind would turn down an opportunity to showcase the remarkable Sharon Gless‭?

Gless,‭ ‬best known for her television work from‭ ‬Cagney‭ & ‬Lacey to‭ ‬Burn Notice,‭ ‬knows a good vehicle when she sees it.‭ ‬For some time now,‭ ‬she has been shepherding this memoir of former teacher Jane Juska from page to stage.‭ ‬In it,‭ ‬she gives such a touching and funny performance,‭ ‬fully inhabiting the character,‭ ‬often with a startling lack of vanity,‭ ‬in one of those rare ideal mergers of actress and role.‭

Having given up on finding Mr.‭ ‬Right,‭ ‬66-year-old,‭ ‬long celibate Juska places an ad in the‭ ‬New York Review of Books seeking a man interested in having sex with her.‭ ‬She adds,‭ “‬If you want to talk first,‭ ‬Trollope works for me.‭” ‬Of course she meant Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope,‭ ‬but the reference gets much misunderstood by her respondents,‭ ‬as the play goes through the inevitable series of disastrous matches.

Gless dominates the production as she frequently confides her feelings to the audience,‭ ‬but this is by no means a one-woman show.‭ ‬The rest of the six-member cast all play multiple roles,‭ ‬from Juska’s disapproving and a little scandalized friends‭ (‬Laura Turnbull,‭ ‬Kim Ostrenko‭)‬,‭ ‬the unsuitable suitors‭ (‬Stephen G.‭ ‬Anthony,‭ ‬Howard Elfman‭) ‬and Antonio Amadeo as Juska’s estranged son and a persistent would-be lover half her age.‭ ‬Ostrenko and Amadeo also play characters from a Trollope novel who float through the play,‭ ‬reminding Juska how different literature is from life.

The play has nuggets of wisdom about not giving up on life and reaching for second chances,‭ ‬but the reason tickets are selling so briskly is Gless.‭ ‬Performances have just been extended a week to Feb.‭ ‬6,‭ ‬so consider this a second chance you have just been offered.

A ROUND-HEELED WOMAN,‭ ‬GableStage,‭ ‬Biltmore Hotel,‭ ‬1200‭ ‬Anastasia Ave.,‭ ‬Coral Gables.‭ ‬Through Sunday,‭ ‬Feb.‭ ‬6.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$37.50-$45.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬305‭)‬ 445-1119.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Theater roundup 1: 'Sound of Music' without syrup; a rethought 'Les Miz'

Catherine Walker in The Sound of Music.

By Hap Erstein

There must be some theatergoers who have never seen Rodgers‭ ‬and Hammerstein’s‭ ‬The Sound of Music,‭ ‬but not many.‭ ‬Performed perpetually by high schools and community troupes,‭ ‬it would be hard to miss,‭ ‬and then there’s that syrupy,‭ ‬Oscar-winning move version that keeps showing up on cable TV.

Director-choreographer Marc Robin gave himself quite a challenge when he approached the buoyant musical tale of spunky convent postulant Maria Rainer,‭ ‬assigned as governess to the seven children of grumpy Austrian naval Capt.‭ ‬Georg von Trapp.‭ ‬He wanted to have us see the story with new eyes,‭ ‬emphasizing the dramatic journey instead of the encrusted sugar.‭ ‬And without sacrificing any of the show’s natural sunniness,‭ ‬that is exactly what he has done.

A co-production between the Maltz and Lancaster,‭ ‬Pa.‭’‬s,‭ ‬Fulton Theatre‭ ‬--‭ ‬where Robin is artistic director‭ ‬--‭ ‬nothing appears to have been stinted on.‭ ‬The cast of‭ ‬30‭ ‬is the largest ever on the Jupiter company’s stage and scenic designer Michael Schweikardt fills it further with an array of attractive sets that arrive and recede rapidly as the show’s transitions require.

Still,‭ ‬the show rests largely on the shoulders of the woman playing Maria,‭ ‬and the Maltz is on firm ground with the exceptional Catherine Walker,‭ ‬a Broadway veteran of that other governess role‭ ‬--‭ ‬Mary Poppins.‭ ‬From our first glimpse of her as she lifts her voice in the Austrian hills to sing the soaring title tune,‭ ‬we sense this will be a‭ ‬Sound of Music‭ ‬beyond the ordinary.

And the evidence just keeps coming.‭ ‬Michael Sharon’s Captain von Trapp is somewhat stiff early on,‭ ‬but he grows in the role as he comes under Maria’s charms.‭ ‬The locally cast Von Trapp kids avoid leaving us with a saccharine aftertaste and full-throated April Woodall’s Mother Abbess establishes a stronger bond than usual with her radiant charge,‭ ‬Maria.

Robin makes sure we get our money’s worth on the score,‭ ‬retaining two acerbic numbers that are often jettisoned‭ ‬--‭ ‬How Can Love Survive‭? ‬and‭ ‬No Way‭ ‬to Stop It‭ ‬--‭ ‬and adding two songs written for the movie‭ ‬--‭ ‬I Have Confidence and‭ ‬Something Good.‭ ‬The downside of this is that the show runs just under three hours,‭ ‬probably overlong for many youngsters.

In recent years on Broadway,‭ ‬productions of‭ ‬Carousel and‭ ‬South Pacific have uncovered dramatic values in them that had been buried.‭ ‬It would be overstating the case to say that Robin does the same for The Sound of Music,‭ ‬but he has chipped away at the sweetness and mined the drama that was always underneath.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC,‭ ‬Maltz Jupiter Theatre,‭ ‬1001‭ ‬E.‭ ‬Indiantown Road,‭ ‬Jupiter.‭ ‬Through Sunday,‭ ‬Jan.‭ ‬30.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$43-$60.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬561‭) ‬575-2223‭ ‬or‭ (‬800‭) ‬445-1666.

‭ * * *

Lawrence Clayton in Les Miserables.

It has been‭ ‬25‭ ‬years since the majestic musical epic‭ ‬Les Miserables arrived in the United States from England.‭ ‬And while it feels like it has never been out of sight for long,‭ ‬its silver anniversary seems reason enough for a new production of this acme of the so-called‭ “‬British mega-musical movement‭” ‬of the‭ ‬1980s.

In the intervening years,‭ ‬touring editions of‭ ‬Les Miz have whittled away at the show’s running time and physical production.‭ ‬While that makes prudent economic sense,‭ ‬those subsequent road shows have all been compromises,‭ ‬just like reconceived versions of‭ ‬Sweeney Todd,‭ ‬Miss Saigon and every other oversized theater event built for traveling.

Instead of cutting corners,‭ ‬the anniversary production of Les Miz that is playing its only South Florida engagement at‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Center has taken the high road of a complete new staging and design.‭ ‬It is a bold move that is not always effective,‭ ‬but is arguably better than recent moth-eaten tours to which we have been subjected.

Gone is the brilliant turntable direction of Trevor Nunn and John Caird and gone are the gargantuan mobile barricades by John Napier.‭ ‬Both are missed,‭ ‬and probably this current production is best enjoyed by those who have never experienced‭ ‬Les Miserables before.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬for those who agree that this is one of the great musicals of the past quarter century,‭ ‬the new ideas contributed by co-directors Laurence Connor and James Powell and set designer Matt Kinley are enough to hold our interest.

The show,‭ ‬which compresses‭ ‬1,200‭ ‬pages of Victor Hugo’s classic French novel into three hours‭’ ‬running time,‭ ‬is amazing for what it manages to include.‭ ‬It is,‭ ‬of course,‭ ‬the personal story of Jean Valjean,‭ ‬a petty-thief-turned-prosperous-mayor,‭ ‬and the romance of his adopted daughter Cosette,‭ ‬set against the student rebellions that led to bloodshed.‭ ‬Helping the narrative move along was the original centrifugal staging,‭ ‬replaced by a more prosaic approach that shows some of the script’s seams.

But occasionally,‭ ‬as in Valjean’s escape through the sewers of Paris,‭ ‬the charcoal sketch backdrops said to be based on sketches by Hugo‭ ‬--‭ ‬Don’t quit your day job,‭ ‬Victor‭ ‬--‭ ‬become animated and are a worthy cinematic substitute for the turntable.‭ ‬It is a good concept that could have been used more often.

The full-voiced cast is stronger than most touring companies,‭ ‬led by Lawrence Clayton,‭ ‬the first African-American to take on the role.‭ ‬The part is grueling in its demands and Clayton is more than up to the task,‭ ‬as his upper-octave,‭ ‬celestial‭ ‬Bring Him Home certainly attests.‭ ‬Also a standout is Andrew Varela as his nemesis Javert,‭ ‬as well as Betsy Morgan‭ (‬Fantine‭)‬,‭ ‬who delivers her gymnastic aria early on and is not seen again for‭ ‬more than two hours.

Perhaps‭ ‬25‭ ‬years from now,‭ ‬Les Miserables will be celebrated again by reconstituting the original production.‭ ‬Until then,‭ ‬this take demonstrates how resilient the material is and how affecting this score continues to be.

LES MISERABLES,‭ ‬Broward Center,‭ ‬201‭ ‬S.W.‭ ‬5th Ave.,‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale.‭ ‬Continuing through Sun.,‭ ‬Jan.‭ ‬30.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$25-$69.‭ ‬Call:‭ (‬954‭) ‬462-0222.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Opera review: Inventive production, fresh singers make most of PB Opera's 'Orfeo'

Anthony Roth Costanzo in Orfeo ed Euridice.

By Greg Stepanich

You have to give Palm Beach Opera credit for knowing how to fall back on basic theatrical precepts when faced with having to present fewer mainstage productions than it wants to.

Actually,‭ ‬it‭’‬s hard to tell that this is a company that has cut one full production,‭ ‬so varied and‭ ‬diverse have been the shows offered in‭ ‬its stead.‭ ‬This month,‭ ‬instead of a mainstage‭ ‬presentation,‭ ‬we‭’‬ve actually gotten three shows to replace it:‭ ‬A workshop production of Handel‭’‬s‭ ‬Ariodante,‭ ‬a star-power Verdi‭ ‬Requiem,‭ ‬and Friday night,‭ ‬the first of two semi-staged performances of Gluck‭’‬s‭ ‬Orfeo ed Euridice.

This last was perhaps the most unusual of all,‭ ‬an intermission-less run of the work that was as much a dance show as it was a piece of musical theater.‭ ‬Imaginatively staged by Doug Varone,‭ ‬who made constant use of six dancers from his New York-based company,‭ ‬and sung with‭ ‬verve and innovation by young,‭ ‬fresh singers,‭ ‬this was an‭ ‬Orfeo of restless beauty,‭ ‬pretty to look at and listen to,‭ ‬and testimony to the ability of a fine work of art to attract an audience‭ ‬if its presenters and performers have‭ ‬enough‭ ‬faith in it.

With the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra and chorus on stage,‭ ‬Varone used the apron in front of them on the Dreyfoos Hall stage at the Kravis Center for his dancers,‭ ‬lithe creatures all,‭ ‬in white long-sleeve shirts and pants who split into three couples,‭ ‬and sometimes two groups of three,‭ ‬as they made physical commentary on the action.‭ ‬This they did by framing the singers in simple tableaux,‭ ‬or underlining the action by falling,‭ ‬Swan Lake-like,‭ ‬into multiple‭ ‬pas de deux postures of grief.

Singing Orfeo in the all-American cast was countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo,‭ ‬a slight man with a large voice who first became known to area audiences two years ago with a Handel aria‭ (‬Stille amare,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Tolomeo‭) ‬that won‭ ‬the North Carolinian‭ ‬a second-place nod at the Palm Beach Opera Grand Finals.‭ ‬Costanzo‭ ‬sang quite well throughout Friday night‭’‬s performance,‭ ‬with the best moment coming in his anguished interpretation of‭ ‬Che farò‭ ‬senza Euridice‭?‬ This was a very dramatic,‭ ‬almost‭ ‬Romantic reading of this celebrated aria,‭ ‬in which the tempo‭ ‬steadily slowed as the music progressed,‭ ‬with the last repetition of the main melody the slowest of all as Costanzo struggled to stand,‭ ‬weighed down by the enormity of the second loss of his beloved wife.

Nadine Sierra in Orfeo ed Euridice.

It was very effective and most memorable,‭ ‬if quite‭ ‬unconventional.‭ ‬Singing Euridice to Costanzo‭’‬s Orfeo was the Fort Lauderdale-born soprano Nadine Sierra,‭ ‬now just barely out of her teens and long admired locally for her precocious vocal skills.‭ ‬She has a more mature edge to her basic sound these days,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s a strong,‭ ‬attractive voice,‭ ‬quite capable of carrying the burden of this particular role and‭ ‬of handling the early Classical style.‭ ‬Her acting,‭ ‬even in this semi-concert format,‭ ‬was persuasive‭; ‬she looked crushed by Orfeo‭’‬s repeated refusal to look at her,‭ ‬and she beamed like a new bride when she was finally restored to him.

Both singers were clad‭ ‬in ordinary contemporary dress,‭ ‬with Costanzo in a purple shirt,‭ ‬light brown vest and pants,‭ ‬and Sierra in a long,‭ ‬low-cut blue dress.‭ ‬The same went for Amor,‭ ‬sung by the California-born mezzo Irene Roberts,‭ ‬who wore a‭ ‬relatively‭ ‬short white dress and platform corks.‭ ‬Roberts sang her brief role with conviction and skill,‭ ‬revealing the‭ ‬same‭ ‬darkly hued,‭ ‬forceful voice audiences heard in her Mercédès in last season‭’‬s‭ ‬Carmen and in a Meyerbeer aria in last year‭’‬s Grand Finals.‭ ‬One hopes we‭’‬ll continue to see this former Young Artist return regularly.

Varone‭’‬s staging extended also to the chorus,‭ ‬and dress-wise to the orchestra,‭ ‬which wore all black.‭ ‬The chorus stood on risers at the back of the orchestra and added smart moments of gestural ballet to the music:‭ ‬Singing at the beginning in sorrow over Orfeo‭’‬s loss,‭ ‬members of the chorus put their hands on each other‭’‬s shoulders or held their hands over their hearts.‭ ‬For the final rejoicing chorus,‭ ‬arms shot up in victory in a well-choreographed moment that added visual interest to the general air of‭ ‬celebration.‭ ‬They also sang admirably well,‭ ‬with fire as they questioned who dared to enter Hades,‭ ‬and warmth as they‭ ‬shared Orfeo‭’‬s sadness.

Conductor Bruno Aprea showed his mastery of accompaniment,‭ ‬carefully following and directing his singers from behind them instead of being able to see them from the pit.‭ ‬His tempos tended to be fast,‭ ‬which worked perfectly well,‭ ‬and in general had the same kind of drive that distinguishes his readings of the early Romantic Italian repertoire he has recently conducted.

The orchestra itself had difficulty finding its aural footing in the first half or so of the opera,‭ ‬with anemic intonation‭ (‬low brass especially‭) ‬and less-than-crisp ensemble.‭ ‬By the final ballet,‭ ‬it was an orchestra that had spiffed up noticeably,‭ ‬with a‭ ‬much tighter,‭ ‬better-organized sound as the group seemed to settle into the relative sparseness of Gluck‭’‬s orchestral style,‭ ‬so different from the blazing colors of late Verdi that the orchestra tackled last Sunday.

Overall,‭ ‬Varone‭’‬s clever,‭ ‬well-thought-out use of the‭ ‬Kravis stage and his performers,‭ ‬aided by Erin Stearns Amico‭’‬s sensible costuming and Paul Hackenmueller‭’‬s effective lighting,‭ ‬gave this production a unity that was visually engaging without being fussy.‭ ‬It left plenty of room for the fine young singers and excellent young dancers to integrate themselves into the action,‭ ‬which is no more or less than a realization of the reforms that Gluck and librettist Ranieri de Calzabigi had in mind.

Indeed,‭ ‬it‭’‬s hard to see how a production with this kind of built-in limitation could have been any better at not being limited at all,‭ ‬and in its‭ ‬coherence and resourcefulness,‭ ‬it‭’‬s possible to see it as a model of its kind for other companies looking to make the best opera they can in straitened times.


Orfeo ed Euridice will be performed again at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Kravis Center,‭ ‬West Palm Beach.‭ ‬Tickets range from‭ ‬$20-$100.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬833-7888‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬‭

Members of the Doug Varone dance company
and the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra and Chorus
in Orfeo ed Euridice.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Art review: Art Palm Beach offers trip down rabbit hole into art Wonderland

Art Palm Beach gets under way with a preview Thursday
at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.‭
(‬Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

By Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt

‭“‬I chose the hammerhead because they‭’‬re on the red list and in danger of extinction,‭”‬ said‭ ‬the artist‭ ‬Marc Hubert D‭’‬Ge‭—‬ who looked like‭ ‬remarkably like‭ ‬a young‭ ‬Gregg Allman‭ ‬— in‭ ‬a charming‭ ‬Aix-en-Provence‭ ‬accent of his installation piece,‭ ‬Each Man Kills the Thing He Loves.‭

He stood beneath a‭ ‬10-foot,‭ ‬taxidermied shark mounted on an exhibition wall with a video‭ ‬running over it and against the wall.‭ ‬The shark was trailed by a trio of foot-long babies.‭ ‬At one time,‭ ‬there had been five,‭ ‬apparently.‭

‬“We lost some of them somewhere along the way,‭”‬ he‭ ‬explained‭ ‬with a puzzled expression.

A little further into the exhibition hall,‭ ‬a tall young woman,‭ ‬in full Marie Antoinette‭ ‬garb,‭ ‬floated regally amidst a‭ ‬crowd of inquisitive admirers.‭ ‬Upon closer inspection,‭ ‬it became apparent that her costume was made‭ ‬entirely of plastic bags and bric-a-brac.

‭“‬Everything was pulled out of the garbage and is recyclable,‭”‬ said Miami-based artist Lucinda Linderman of her performance work,‭ ‬Excess Extravagance.‭

Lucinda Linderman shows off her plastic-bag
Marie Antoinette costume.‭
(‬Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

Of her choice of the doomed,‭ ‬let-them-eat-cake,‭ ‬monarch for subject matter,‭ ‬she explained,‭ “‬each of us are consuming like she did.‭”

And so‭ ‬these eco-friendly artists,‭ ‬along with an odd assortment of characters and a healthy dose of uber-‭ ‬beautiful people,‭ ‬ heralded‭ ‬a‭ ‬wonderland-like‭ ‬journey into‭ ‬the‭ ‬environs of Art Palm Beach,‭ ‬a global contemporary art fair,‭ ‬which will reside at the Palm Beach Convention Center until Sunday.‭ ‬For these next few days,‭ ‬the convention hall has been transformed into a museum-like‭ ‬liminal zone‭ ‬– a hyperreal world‭ ‬– offering artists and galleries from around the world,‭ ‬alongside seasoned collectors,‭ ‬art aficionados and the merely curious.‭

The entire scene is a people-watching bonanza and an art lover‭’‬s aphrodisiac.

Edward and Sandra Neustadter stand next to
Brisk Day, by Alex Katz.‭
(‬Photo‭ ‬by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

In true art-world fashion,‭ ‬there was quite a bit of hugging and kissing‭ ‬happening as‭ ‬dealers,‭ ‬standing within art-lined exhibition booths,‭ ‬enthusiastically greeted collectors and friends.‭ ‬One who was really‭ ‬shown‭ ‬the‭ ‬love‭ ‬was‭ ‬petite‭ ‬Sandra Neustadter.‭ ‬Based in Delray‭ ‬Beach,‭ ‬she and her husband Edward deal in master and emerging artists,‭ ‬and their booth was bustling with activity and interest.

In fact,‭ ‬many of the stellar exhibitors were from South Florida‭’‬s own backyard‭; ‬Palm Beach and Miami galleries‭ ‬comprise a fair portion of the global art trade.

Geoffrey Orley and Barham Shabahang.‭
(‬Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

“We feel so appreciated here,‭”‬ remarked Geoffrey Orley of Palm Beach‭’‬s Orley and Shabahang as he explained that Palm Beach is the perfect market for the custom,‭ ‬contemporary carpets that he and his partner,‭ ‬Barham Shabahang,‭ ‬design for their discerning clients.

‭“‬People who‭ ‬gravitate towards the finer things in life,‭”‬ he continued.

Jewelry designer Sherry Fehr,‭ ‬of Boca Raton‭’‬s Sherry‭’‬s Gifts of Gilt,‭ ‬felt the same.‭ ‬She participates in Art Palm Beach in order to reach new clients.

‭“‬We enjoy meeting people from all over the world who appreciate our custom designs,‭”‬ Fehr said.

The international flavor of the fair adds to its appeal.‭ ‬Walking alongside visitors one overhears languages and accents from all‭ ‬the continents and many of the exhibiting galleries hail from diverse locations,‭ ‬such as Dublin,‭ ‬Tel Aviv and Caracas.‭

Cynthia Garder and Stacey Elliott of Palm Beach's Liman Gallery.‭
(‬Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

The fair also provides local art institutions with opportunities for visibility to‭ ‬these‭ ‬global visitors.‭ ‬Complimentary booths were provided for local museums,‭ ‬such as the Norton Museum of Art,‭ ‬where they were able to distribute membership information.

Cynthia Palmieri,‭ ‬executive director of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens in Palm Beach,‭ ‬another local cultural landmark,‭ ‬was grateful.‭

‬“It‭’‬s very nice that they invite us and provide an opportunity for cultural organizations to have a presence amongst collectors,‭ ‬galleries,‭ ‬and people interested in art,‭”‬ Palmieri said.

Yet,‭ ‬even in Wonderland,‭ ‬there are disappointments.‭ ‬Such was the case for Vancouver-based artist Gordon Halloran,‭ ‬who had planned to exhibit an enormous outdoor ice-and-painting installation.‭

‬Halloran,‭ ‬who is committed to public art,‭ ‬explained,‭ “‬We couldn‭’‬t find a sponsor.‭ ‬It looked like the sponsorship manager was going to get someone,‭ ‬but then it just didn‭’‬t work out.‭”

Gordon Halloran.‭
(‬Photo by‭ ‬Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

Thus,‭ ‬Halloran was reduced to exhibiting fragments of another of his works,‭ ‬Lotus in Motion,‭ ‬that,‭ ‬when shown properly,‭ ‬is truly a lyrically‭ ‬beautiful outdoor installation with polyurethane lotus leaves floating gracefully atop water.‭ ‬Seeing the singular lotus leaves,‭ ‬mounted on the walls of the exhibition booth,‭ ‬was sort of‭ ‬sad and illustrative of the fickleness that‭ ‬coincides with‭ ‬the extravagance of the art world.

It‭’‬s all part of the journey,‭ ‬though.‭ ‬And the foray into Art Palm Beach‭ ‬is a microcosm of the larger rabbit hole that is the global art machine,‭ ‬which can be perceived as its own living,‭ ‬breathing entity and which,‭ ‬for many,‭ ‬generates an adrenaline-like rush.‭

Art Palm Beach provides creative energy and excitement.‭ ‬Amid the‭ ‬thousands of visitors and hundreds of exhibitors,‭ ‬there is art for every taste and of every medium.‭ ‬There is conservative.‭ ‬There is outlandish.‭ ‬There is art that appeals to sight and sound and art that you wear,‭ ‬as well as art that you walk on.‭ ‬There is so much eye candy that‭ ‬it can be somewhat‭ ‬daunting.‭ ‬Expect ADHD moments.

This is proof that art goes beyond what tradition dictates‭ ‬— and that‭’‬s the best part of this wonderland‭ ‬— the fact that it showcases emerging artist alongside traditional ones.‭ ‬It brings contemporary art to Palm Beach,‭ ‬which is traditionally known to have more conservative tastes.‭ ‬Visitors are not just enticed by the aesthetically pleasing,‭ ‬but also challenged to think,‭ ‬to ponder‭ ‬– as evidenced by the works by Linderman and D‭’‬Ge.

Camille Claudel Series III‭ (‬2011‭)‬,‭ ‬by Piet van den Boog.‭
(‬Courtesy Mike Weiss Gallery, New York City)

For,‭ ‬whatever the amount of time you choose to spend at Art Palm Beach,‭ ‬one thing is certain:‭ ‬for that period of time,‭ ‬you will be transported into a magical,‭ ‬whimsical,‭ ‬and sometimes poignant and thought-provoking realm.‭

‬Escape from reality,‭ ‬after all,‭ ‬is part of the appeal of‭ ‬the journey into art Wonderland.‭

Jenifer Mangione Vogt is a marketing communications professional and resident of Boca Raton.‭ ‬She‭’‬s been enamored with painting for most of her life.‭ ‬She studied art history and received her B.A.‭ ‬from Purchase College.

Art Palm Beach‭takes place‭ ‬from Jan.‭ ‬21-23‭ ‬at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.‭ ‬Hours are Friday through Saturday,‭ ‬noon to‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭; ‬Sunday,‭ ‬noon till‭ ‬6‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Admission is‭ ‬$10‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬or‭ ‬$15‭ ‬at the door,‭ ‬for a one-day pass‭; ‬$15‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬or‭ ‬$20‭ ‬at the door,‭ ‬for a multi-day pass.‭ ‬Children under‭ ‬12‭ ‬accompanied by an adult are free.‭ ‬For more information,‭ ‬visit‭

Visitors to the Art Palm Beach preview Thursday
take in the galleries of contemporary art.‭
(‬Photo by Jenifer M.‭ ‬Vogt‭)

Weekend arts picks: Jan. 21-23

Sharon Gless in A Round-Heeled Woman.
(Photo by George Schiavone)

‬Although it is a little lighter than the usual fare at Coral Gables‭’ ‬GableStage,‭ ‬the cutting edge company has a crowd-pleasing winner in Jane Prowse’s‭ ‬A Round-Heeled Woman,‭ ‬based on the true story of Jane Juska.‭ ‬In her mid-60s,‭ ‬she places an ad soliciting men to have sex with her,‭ ‬adding‭ “‬If you want to talk first,‭ ‬Trollope works for me.‭” ‬Of course,‭ ‬she attracts a variety of losers on her way to finding her soulmate,‭ ‬or at least her sex mate.‭ ‬Cagney‭ & ‬Lacey’s Sharon Gless has been developing the role for herself and she inhabits the GableStage stage with confidence,‭ ‬even if she is playing a woman of low esteem.‭ ‬Recently extended a week through Feb.‭ ‬6.‭ ‬Call‭ (‬305‭) ‬445-1119‭ ‬for tickets.‭

‭Ben Affleck in The Company Men.

Film:‭ ‬If you go to the movies to escape the problems of the day,‭ ‬you will want to avoid‭ ‬The Company Men,‭ ‬but you will be missing a first-rate drama about white-collar hot shots who get laid off because of the recession and corporate downsizing.‭ ‬Think of it as‭ ‬Up in the Air,‭ ‬but without the comedy.‭ ‬Director John Wells‭ (‬The West Wing,‭ ‬ER‭) ‬makes an impressive feature debut drawing out fine performances from Tommy Lee Jones,‭ ‬Chris Cooper and Kevin Costner.‭ ‬The film centers around a star salesman‭ (‬Ben Affleck‭) ‬who got a little too used to the trappings of success.‭ ‬Between‭ ‬The Company Men and‭ ‬The Town,‭ ‬this has been a terrific year for Affleck,‭ ‬whom we are going to have to learn to take seriously.‭ ‬In area theaters beginning Friday.

Gunther Schuller.

Music:‭ ‬Gunther Schuller has been one of the most important composers and educators in American music for decades,‭ ‬not least because of his advocacy of Third Stream music,‭ ‬a term he coined to suggest the merger of jazz and classical styles.‭ ‬Schuller appears this weekend with the Boca Raton Symphonia,‭ ‬where he’ll lead the band in his own Concerto da Camera,‭ ‬and conduct the Haydn Cello Concerto in D with the young South Korean-born cellist SuJin Lee as the soloist.‭ ‬Prokofiev’s‭ ‬Classical Symphony also is on the program with the‭ ‬Cosi fan Tutte overture of Mozart and the‭ ‬Divertissement‭ ‬of Jacques Ibert.‭ ‬Then Schuller settles in for a week as the special guest of the New Music Festival at Lynn University,‭ ‬culminating with a concert of his works next Thursday and a performance next Saturday with the Lynn Philharmonia,‭ ‬which will play the winning work from Lynn’s international call for scores.‭ ‬It promises to a bracing week and a great chance to see this legendary musician,‭ ‬now‭ ‬85,‭ ‬continue to make an impact.‭ ‬The concert takes place at‭ ‬3‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Roberts Theater on the campus of St.‭ ‬Andrew’s School in Boca Raton.‭ ‬Tickets range from‭ ‬$28.50‭ ‬to‭ ‬$50.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬376-3848‭ ‬or visit‭

‭Anthony Roth Costanzo.

Opera: Three young singers‭ ‬– countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo,‭ ‬soprano Nadine Sierra,‭ ‬and mezzo Irene Roberts‭ ‬– have all made their mark locally‭ ‬in recent years.‭ ‬Costanzo won‭ ‬a second‭ ‬prize‭ ‬in the advanced division‭ ‬at the Palm Beach Opera Grand Finals in‭ ‬2009‭ ‬with a moving reading of an aria from Handel‭’‬s‭ ‬Tolomeo,‭ ‬and Roberts,‭ ‬a Palm Beach Opera Young Artist,‭ ‬won‭ ‬a‭ ‬second prize in‭ ‬2010‭ ‬with‭ ‬her performance‭ ‬of an aria‭ ‬from‭ ‬Meyerbeer‭’‬s‭ ‬Les Huguenots.‭ ‬Sierra,‭ ‬who hails from Fort Lauderdale,‭ ‬has been a local hero of the operatic arts and might be on the threshold of a major career.‭ ‬All three are starring tonight and Sunday afternoon in the second Palm Beach Opera production of the season,‭ ‬a semi-staged version of Gluck‭’‬s‭ ‬Orfeo ed Euridice.‭ ‬Director Doug Varone,‭ ‬who runs a dance company at New York‭’‬s‭ ‬92nd Street Y,‭ ‬will provide dancers for this performance who will add some visual interest to the concert staging of the rest.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a nice opportunity to hear some young,‭ ‬lovely voices in music of purity and cool beauty.‭ ‬The performances are set for‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬today and‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Kravis Center.‭ ‬Tickets start at‭ ‬$23.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬833-7888‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬