Saturday, July 30, 2011

Weekend arts picks: July 29-Aug. 2

Michael McKeever and Nickolas Richberg in Stuff.

Editor’s note: This story, was was to be posted Friday, was delayed by technical difficulties. It has been posted since Friday on

Theater:‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬you’ve procrastinated long enough.‭ ‬This is the final weekend for the world premiere production of‭ ‬Stuff at Boca Raton’s Caldwell Theatre.‭ ‬This cautionary tale of two eccentrically wasted lives,‭ ‬wealthy Harlem hermits Homer and Langley Collyer,‭ ‬is not only Davie playwright Michael McKeever’s best script in quite a while,‭ ‬but he gives a remarkably accomplished performance as figuratively and literally blind brother Homer.‭ ‬Despite the story’s tragic underpinnings,‭ ‬McKeever is able to mine it for darkly comic potential.‭ ‬Also worth the ticket price is the wily performance of Angie Radosh as the Collyer matriarch,‭ ‬wielding a genteel,‭ ‬but iron fist in raising her boys.‭ ‬Through Sunday.‭ ‬Call:‭ ‬(561‭) ‬241-7432‭ ‬or‭ ‬(877‭) ‬245-7432‭ ‬for tickets.

Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling in Crazy,‭ ‬Stupid Love.

Film:‭ ‬We know how romantic comedies go these days.‭ ‬They are painfully predictable and fueled by bodily fluid jokes.‭ ‬So when a movie like‭ ‬Crazy,‭ ‬Stupid Love comes along with some genuine plot surprises and an adult outlook on the world,‭ ‬it feel like a summer oasis.‭ ‬Steve Carell,‭ ‬Hollywood’s current schlemiel of choice,‭ ‬plays a long-married suburban dad whose wife dumps him and,‭ ‬out of sheer pity,‭ ‬ladies‭’ ‬man Ryan Gosling coaches him in how to pick up women in bars and start his life over.‭ ‬Yes,‭ ‬emotional mayhem ensues,‭ ‬but Dan Fogelman’s screenplay takes that theme to unexpected places.‭ ‬And the captivating Emma Stone‭ (‬Easy A,‭ ‬next month’s‭ ‬The Help‭) ‬again shows why she is an emerging star to be reckoned with.

Igor Stravinsky.

Music:‭ ‬Somewhere in the middle of World War I,‭ ‬Igor Stravinsky discovered jazz,‭ ‬and America’s hot new music left its mark on Stravinsky’s style,‭ ‬giving him the impetus to leave the Rimsky-Korsakov tradition behind for good.‭ ‬Tonight and through Sunday,‭ ‬the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival closes its‭ ‬20th anniversary season with a reprise of‭ ‬L’Histoire du Soldat,‭ ‬14‭ ‬seasons after it performed it the first time.‭ ‬The same cast is on hand‭ – ‬actors Barbara Bradshaw,‭ ‬Joe Gillie and Randolph Dellago‭ – ‬all performing Stravinsky and C.F.‭ ‬Ramuz’s story of a soldier who encounters the Devil while on two weeks‭’ ‬leave.‭ ‬Also on the program is the big E-flat Piano Quintet‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬44‭) ‬of Robert Schumann,‭ ‬featuring Lynn University-based pianist Yang Shen.‭ ‬Tickets for the concert are‭ ‬$25.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬800-330-6874‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬


The Vans Warped Tour,‭ ‬now in its‭ ‬16th year,‭ ‬rolls into the Cruzan Amphitheatre this weekend with a host of hot bands including Paramore and Florida favorites Less Than Jake.‭ ‬What began as a way to sell more skateboards and the extreme sporting life has turned into a major venue for folks who like their rock with a hard,‭ ‬aggressive edge,‭ ‬and some of the newer bands on view this time are sure to make a wider mark in years to come.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$43‭ ‬through Ticketmaster‭; ‬doors open at‭ ‬11:30‭ ‬a.m.

Lil Wayne.

On Tuesday,‭ ‬the Cruzan plays host to Lil Wayne,‭ ‬the New Orleans rapper‭ (‬Lollipop,‭ ‬I Am Not a Human Being‭) ‬whose next,‭ ‬and possibly last,‭ ‬album,‭ ‬The Carter IV,‭ ‬is due out next month.‭ ‬Wayne will be joined by Rick Ross,‭ ‬Keri Hilson,‭ ‬Far East Movement,‭ ‬and Lloyd in this stop on a tour that’s been one of the biggest of the summer,‭ ‬and may continue for additional dates.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$29.75‭ ‬and available through Ticketmaster.

A scene from the original Dayton Ballet version of Play Ball‭!

Dance:‭ ‬Touring dance master Christopher Fleming created a baseball-based ballet in 1999‭ ‬featuring various diamond moves set to familiar classical selections,‭ ‬and tomorrow night and Sunday,‭ ‬the Boca Ballet Theatre offers Fleming’s tribute to the‭ ‬1940s boys of summer.‭ ‬Play Ball is the chief work on the Boca Ballet’s‭ ‬All-American Summer program,‭ ‬set for‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday and‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at FAU’s University Theatre.‭ ‬Checking it out might be a good way to avoid the heat and celebrate the company’s‭ ‬20th anniversary.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$35.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬995-0709‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Theater feature: Kravis' 2011-12 season features fare for low, high brows

Larry King.

By Hap Erstein

You’ve heard of the three Bs‭ ‬--‭ ‬Bach,‭ ‬Brahms and Beethoven‭? ‬Well,‭ ‬the Kravis Center has announced that next season it will present the three Ls‭ ‬--‭ ‬Larry the Cable Guy,‭ ‬Larry King and a tribute show called Elvis Lives.‭ ‬Uh,‭ ‬didn’t the Kravis used to be a center for the performing arts‭?

The West Palm Beach complex will be celebrating its‭ ‬20th anniversary season beginning this fall with its usual eclectic array of acts from highbrow to low,‭ ‬though perhaps tilting more to the low than in the past.‭ ‬In case you were wondering what King would do after his CNN interview show,‭ ‬you can see him on the Kravis stage in what the season announcement calls‭ “‬a brand-new,‭ ‬hilarious stage show that gives his fans a humorous and insightful look at his life.‭” (‬Jan.‭ ‬24‭)

What,‭ ‬too weighty for you‭? ‬Then how about the pairing of daytime TV’s Regis Philbin with Emmy-winning soap star Susan Lucci‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬30‭)? ‬What exactly they will do that evening is a stumper,‭ ‬but the Kravis offers a hint by describing Philbin as a‭ “‬crooner supreme.‭” ‬Larry the Cable Guy is a veteran of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour,‭ ‬so his fans know what to expect on Nov.‭ ‬19,‭ ‬and the Kravis further justifies the booking by noting that this year marks the‭ ‬20th anniversary of Larry’s career.

Those convinced that Elvis Presley died‭ ‬34‭ ‬years ago may have their confidence all shook up by Elvis Lives‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬23‭)‬,‭ ‬billed as‭ “‬the ultimate Elvis tribute artist event,‭” ‬featuring finalists from‭ ‬--‭ ‬get this‭ ‬--‭ ‬the worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest.‭ ‬Also in the faux-concert tribute vein will be The Official Blues Brothers Revue‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬9‭)‬,‭ ‬licensed at least by Dan Aykroyd and the John Belushi estate,‭ ‬and the return of The Pink Floyd Experience‭ (‬March‭ ‬4‭)‬,‭ ‬in a set that will include the former rock band’s entire‭ ‬1975‭ ‬Wish You Were Here album performed live.

k.d.‭ ‬lang.

Actual headliners slated to appear at the Kravis next season include singers k.d.‭ ‬lang‭ (‬Oct.‭ ‬8‭)‬,‭ ‬Linda Eder and Steve Tyrell‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬3‭)‬,‭ ‬Patti LaBelle‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬4‭)‬,‭ ‬Bernadette Peters‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬10‭)‬,‭ ‬Johnny Mathis‭ (‬March‭ ‬2‭)‬,‭ ‬Neil Sedaka‭ (‬March‭ ‬30‭) ‬and Patti LuPone‭ (‬April‭ ‬4‭)‬.‭ ‬Among the celebrated musicians in the season will be Pinchas Zukerman‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬4-5‭)‬,‭ ‬Joshua Bell‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬31‭)‬,‭ ‬Michael Feinstein‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬3‭)‬,‭ ‬Diana Krall‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬11‭)‬,‭ ‬Chris Botti‭ (‬March‭ ‬3‭)‬,‭ ‬Itzhak Perlman‭ (‬March‭ ‬6‭) ‬and,‭ ‬yes,‭ ‬Yanni‭ (‬April‭ ‬17-18‭)‬.‭

Vying against Larry the Cable Guy for the season’s comedy honors will be Wanda Sykes‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬11‭)‬,‭ ‬Second City Improv All-Stars‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬30-Jan.‭ ‬1‭)‬,‭ ‬Dennis Miller‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬5‭)‬,‭ ‬Jackie Mason‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬31‭) ‬and Martin Short‭ (‬March‭ ‬28‭)‬.‭ ‬And,‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬classical music has hardly been shortchanged,‭ ‬since the Kravis has also booked the Munich Symphony‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬15-16‭)‬,‭ ‬Emerson String Quartet‭ (‬Dec.‭ ‬6‭)‬,‭ ‬Royal Philharmonic Orchestra‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬4-5‭)‬,‭ ‬Tchaikovsky St.‭ ‬Petersburg State Orchestra‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬24‭)‬,‭ ‬Cleveland Orchestra‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬25‭)‬,‭ ‬Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬8-9‭) ‬and the Minnesota Orchestra‭ (‬March‭ ‬11‭)‬.

For the previously announced Kravis on Broadway series,‭ ‬the center confirms that Palm Beach favorite son George Hamilton will headline the production of‭ ‬La Cage aux Folles‭ (‬Feb.‭ ‬14-19‭)‬.‭ ‬Leading off the series will be‭ ‬The Addams Family‭ (‬Nov.‭ ‬8-13‭)‬,‭ ‬whose plot happens to be identical to‭ ‬La Cage’s,‭ ‬followed by the popular revival of‭ ‬Hair‭ (‬Jan.‭ ‬10-15‭)‬,‭ ‬the Twyla Tharp-meets-Frank-Sinatra dance concert‭ ‬Come Fly Away‭ (‬March‭ ‬13-18‭) ‬and the re-conceived‭ ‬25th anniversary production of‭ ‬Les Miserables‭ (‬May‭ ‬16-26‭)‬.

For the complete Kravis Center schedule,‭ ‬go to its website at‭‭ ‬Tickets to the season’s events go on sale to the public Sept.‭ ‬24.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Music review: Mozart quintet makes graceful memorial at chamber fest

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in an unfinished portrait
by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.

By Greg Stepanich

A sweetly radiant reading of the Mozart‭ ‬Clarinet Quintet added a poignant touch to the closing half of the third concert in the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival‭’‬s current summer season.

The quintet‭ (‬in A,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬581‭) ‬was dedicated to the memory of the Rev.‭ ‬Perry Fuller,‭ ‬father of festival co-founder Karen Dixon.‭ ‬Fuller died earlier this month of liver cancer,‭ ‬and Dixon has bowed out of the series this summer to tend to family matters.‭ ‬Dedicating the quintet to him was a gracious gesture,‭ ‬and‭ ‬it was matched by a graceful performance.

On Sunday afternoon at Delray Beach‭’‬s Crest Theatre,‭ ‬clarinetist Michael Forte was joined by violinists Dina Kostic and Mei-Mei Luo,‭ ‬violist Rene Reder and cellist Susan Bergeron.‭ ‬There were some warm-up difficulties at first,‭ ‬with Forte sounding a little thin and Kostic under pitch,‭ ‬but those‭ ‬blemishes evaporated a couple minutes into the first movement,‭ ‬which was played overall with a gentle kind of serenity.

The beautiful second movement fit this mood excellently,‭ ‬and Forte‭’‬s lovely tone and long-breathed lines were matched by playing of maximum tenderness from the string quartet.‭ ‬And the quartet‭’‬s sense of unity and quiet purpose were much in evidence in the first trio of the third movement,‭ ‬which is for the strings alone.‭

The finale,‭ ‬a remarkable set of variations,‭ ‬was capably and professionally played,‭ ‬but it could have used more color and contrast.‭ ‬The main theme would have benefited from some crisper rhythmic snap,‭ ‬and the moody minor-key variation from more‭ ‬mystery.‭ ‬The last movement has a wide variety of moods,‭ ‬and here the musicians didn‭’‬t take enough advantage of all those differences.

The Mozart closed the concert Sunday,‭ ‬and it was preceded by music of‭ ‬the Czech Bohuslav‭ ‬Martinu,‭ ‬a frequently programmed‭ ‬composer for this series over the years.‭ ‬Kostic,‭ ‬Luo and Reder joined for the Serenata No.‭ ‬2,‭ ‬a three-movement piece from‭ ‬1932.

While this piece has the harmonic and rhythmic Martinu fingerprint,‭ ‬it differs from much of his other work in its pronounced lyricism.‭ ‬The second movement,‭ ‬marked‭ ‬Poco andante,‭ ‬is a straightforwardly pretty‭ ‬piece,‭ ‬and the three women played it winningly.‭

The outer movements have that full-sun quality common to many of Martinu‭’‬s speedy movements,‭ ‬and in both instances the three played with vigor,‭ ‬but it was a vigor with a light touch,‭ ‬and the final impression of this brief work was of warmth and geniality more than athleticism.

Dixon had been scheduled to play Eric Ewazen‭’‬s‭ ‬Mosaics on the program,‭ ‬but in her absence it has been rescheduled for next summer.‭ ‬Replacing it was a most unusual choice,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Duo Concertante for bassoon and marimba of Leon Stein‭ (‬1910-2002‭)‬,‭ ‬who taught for almost‭ ‬50‭ ‬years at DePaul University in his native Chicago.‭

Marimbist Michael Launius and bassoonist Michael Ellert teamed for this three-movement work,‭ ‬which is written in a jazz-inflected tonal style.‭ ‬What‭’‬s perhaps most interesting about it is that the‭ ‬material is worked out in a serious,‭ ‬thorough manner,‭ ‬when what you might expect in this instrumental combination is brevity and a comic lightness.

But the final movement‭ ‬of this duo is a fugue,‭ ‬and the piece opens with a jazzy chordal motif in the marimba whose rhythm can be heard running throughout the movement.‭ ‬Both soloists have a‭ ‬lot of work to do,‭ ‬and‭ ‬the effect is of two strong-minded voices having a reasonable conversation‭; ‬rarely is the‭ ‬texture reduced to one accompanying the other.

Launius and Ellert demonstrated thorough commands of their instruments,‭ ‬and‭ ‬gave Stein everything he wanted,‭ ‬especially in the fugue,‭ ‬which has a bustling theme that had a nice way of hooking the ear into following where it was going.‭ ‬This was a fine performance of a worthy piece,‭ ‬a challenging work that offered listeners a fresh‭ ‬instrumental combination and a sober contemporary flavor,‭ ‬and one that was in keeping with the best traditions of this durable festival.

The‭ ‬Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival‭ wraps its‭ ‬20th anniversary season beginning at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Friday‭ ‬at Persson Hall on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University with a performance of the Piano Quintet‭ (‬in E-flat,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬44‭) ‬of Robert Schumann,‭ ‬and Igor Stravinsky’s‭ ‬L’Histoire du Soldat,‭ ‬featuring actors Barbara Bradshaw,‭ ‬Joe Gillie and Randolph Dellago.‭ ‬The program is repeated at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens,‭ ‬and at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$25.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬330-6874,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬,‭ ‬or buy them at the door.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Film review: Central performance redeems shaky 'Anita'

Alejandra Manzo in Anita.

By John Thomason

How’s this for a premise:‭ ‬When a terrorist attack separates a Down syndrome-suffering woman from her caring and infinitely patient mother for the first time in her life,‭ ‬she is forced to confront a harsh outside world,‭ ‬emotionally connecting with the derelicts she encounters and vice versa.‭

Healthy and full of real-world nutrients,‭ ‬Anita is the kind of film that’s more‭ ‬good for you than entertaining‭ – ‬the cinematic equivalent of,‭ ‬to paraphrase President Obama,‭ “‬eating our peas.‭” ‬It’s more precious than‭ ‬Precious,‭ ‬but it charts a similar terrain,‭ ‬rubbing our noses in the misfortunes of a helpless minority and hoping its melodrama can finally Make a Difference.

The setting is Buenos Aires,‭ ‬1994,‭ ‬and the real-life bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building‭ (‬AMIA,‭ ‬in Spanish‭)‬,‭ ‬which took the lives of‭ ‬85‭ ‬people and injured hundreds more.‭ ‬Dramatized with immediacy and without frills,‭ ‬the explosion rocks the mentally impaired Anita‭ (‬Alejandra Manzo‭) ‬off the ladder of her mother’s business.‭ ‬Mom,‭ ‬played by the wonderful Oscar nominee Norma Aleandro,‭ ‬is nowhere to be found,‭ ‬having left for a brief visit to the AMIA.‭ ‬Anita is stranded amid the rubble with no comprehension of what just happened.

Non-practicing in their beliefs,‭ ‬the Jewishness of Anita’s family is beside the point‭ – ‬they are collateral damage from a politically motivated Hezbollah militia.‭ ‬Nonetheless,‭ ‬Anita has been a showcase film at a number of Jewish film festivals worldwide,‭ ‬including the Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival last December.‭ ‬But despite the angry and thoughtful quotation that concludes the movie,‭ ‬the political implications of‭ ‬Anita’s inciting incident are unexplored.‭

The only information about the bombing arrives in half-absorbed TV news reports.‭ ‬Argentine co-writer/director Marcos Carnevale,‭ ‬who previously gave us the senior citizen romance‭ ‬Elsa and Fred,‭ ‬instead focuses on the human element,‭ ‬rotating the narrative between Anita’s struggle to survive and her brother Ariel’s‭ (‬Peto Menahem‭) ‬attempts to find Anita and their mother.

Anita’s journey is portrayed,‭ ‬for the most part,‭ ‬with admirable naturalism,‭ ‬as she relies on the charity of a number of reluctant strangers,‭ ‬including alcoholic deadbeat dad Felix‭ (‬Luis Loque‭)‬,‭ ‬a family of squabbling Chinese shop owners and an abrasive nurse with a heart of gold‭ (‬Leonor Manso‭)‬.‭ ‬But Carnevale has a tendency to overplay his hand,‭ ‬layering a pretty but emotionally suffocating score over scenes that have enough power to move us on their own.‭

His attempt to stylize the aftermath of the sobering bombing with sentimental slow-motion comes off as tacky,‭ ‬creating a scene of choreographed carnage in an otherwise straightforward presentation.‭ ‬And a few lines of dialogue come off as phony bits of trailer bait:‭ “‬You fell down the ladder,‭ ‬and my life fell into pieces,‭” ‬observes the bedraggled Felix,‭ ‬in a laughably insightful moment of dimestore Zen.

Yet‭ ‬Anita is worth seeing,‭ ‬if only for the remarkable‭ “‬performance‭” ‬of Manzo as the title character.‭ ‬Carnevale’s decision to cast an actual Down sufferer in the central role gives the film its strongest credibility.‭ ‬The puffy,‭ ‬glassy-eyed actress is a heartbreaking cipher‭ ‬--‭ ‬oblivious,‭ ‬confused and alone in this once-in-a-lifetime part.‭

She brings the kind of conviction that can’t be acted,‭ ‬only conveyed through learned experience.‭ ‬Where a professional actor might use a role like this to angle for an Oscar,‭ ‬Manzo performs without an iota of self-consciousness,‭ ‬becoming the documentary center of Carnevale’s well-intentioned fiction.

This film is certainly a plate full of cold vegetables,‭ ‬but sometimes I really like peas.

ANITA.‭ ‬Directed by Marcos Carnevale.‭ ‬Cast:‭ ‬Alejandra Manzo,‭ ‬Norma Aleandro,‭ ‬Peto Menahem,‭ ‬Luis Loque,‭ ‬Leonor Manso.‭ ‬Distributor:‭ ‬Menemsha.‭ ‬In Spanish with English subtitles.‭ ‬Opens:‭ ‬Friday at Living Room Theaters at FAU.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Music review: Recent American brass trio proves smart switch at chamber fest

American composer Lauren Bernofsky.‭

By Greg Stepanich

The second concert of the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival‭’‬s‭ ‬20th season underwent a programming change,‭ ‬but its tried-and-true finale,‭ ‬which didn‭’‬t change,‭ ‬worked its customary magic.

A large audience at the Crest Theatre on Sunday afternoon warmly applauded that last work,‭ ‬the‭ ‬Death and the Maiden Quartet‭ (‬String Quartet No.‭ ‬14‭ ‬in D minor,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬810‭) ‬of Franz Schubert.‭ ‬In one sense,‭ ‬the two pieces that came before it were warm-up acts,‭ ‬but‭ ‬to say that is to shortchange a deft‭ ‬swap-out on the musical menu.‭

Faced with having to jettison a wind septet by Eugène Bozza that had been planned,‭ ‬organizers of the festival could have gone for something twice-familiar or easy to put together.‭ ‬But to their credit,‭ ‬they chose a relatively new piece‭ (‬2002‭) ‬by a contemporary American composer.‭ ‬The‭ ‬Trio for Brass by Lauren‭ ‬Bernofsky,‭ ‬written for Del Mar College in Texas,‭ ‬is a clever,‭ ‬well-designed piece of writing for trumpet,‭ ‬horn and trombone,‭ ‬and with its Stravinsky-and-jazz harmonic flavorings it made a good case for Bernofsky‭’‬s belief that music should‭ ‬be enjoyable to‭ ‬listen to as well as play.

That‭’‬s not to say it was easy to perform.‭ ‬Trumpeter‭ ‬Brian Stanley,‭ ‬hornist Ellen Tomasiewicz,‭ ‬and trombonist Anthony McFarlane each had substantial solo lines in a piece that was more contrapuntal than not.‭ ‬The first movement,‭ ‬a martial,‭ ‬forthright piece,‭ ‬was especially tricky for Tomasiewicz,‭ ‬who had to play wide-ranging,‭ ‬snaky lines that topped out in the‭ ‬highest reaches of the instrument.‭

In the second,‭ ‬the horn set up‭ ‬a smooth ostinato pattern while Stanley played a melancholy modal tune that wandered over a lyrical landscape before ending with trumpet on top‭ ‬in a good old-fashioned Picardy third,‭ ‬and horn and‭ ‬trombone skittering away to‭ ‬support it with a widely spaced chord,‭ ‬evidence of how you can make big music with small forces.‭

The finale,‭ ‬more insistently march-like than the first,‭ ‬also had a bluesy feel throughout that caused Tomasiewicz some trouble when it came to a solo moment,‭ ‬but that overall gave the music a modern feel without being cheesy.

Again,‭ ‬a smart piece of programming,‭ ‬and it was followed by another,‭ ‬with a John McDonough arrangement for woodwind quintet of the best-known piece by the English composer Peter Warlock.‭ ‬The‭ ‬Capriol Suite,‭ ‬written in‭ ‬1926,‭ ‬pays homage to Warlock‭’‬s‭ ‬love of Renaissance music,‭ ‬and in this version,‭ ‬unlike Warlock‭’‬s original for string orchestra,‭ ‬the archaism of the‭ ‬French‭ ‬sources comes through even more strongly‭; ‬all that was missing were the drums.

The five players‭ ‬– flutist Beth Larsen,‭ ‬oboist Sherie Aguirre,‭ ‬bassoonist Michael Ellert,‭ ‬clarinetist Michael Forte and Tomasiewicz again on horn‭ ‬– performed this‭ ‬charming work with wit,‭ ‬aplomb and a high degree of‭ ‬delicacy.‭

The best‭ ‬performance‭ ‬of the‭ ‬suite‭’‬s‭ ‬six dances was the fourth,‭ ‬Bransles,‭ ‬in which the quintet played with an engaging sense of unity,‭ ‬bolstered by the muscle of Ellert‭’‬s race-to-the-bottom figures.‭ ‬The fifth movement‭ (‬Pieds en l‭’‬air‭) ‬was especially soft and gentle,‭ ‬and the sixth‭ (‬Mattachins‭) ‬had a full-on rusticity that made the suddenly daring harmonies at the very end even more surprising.

The second half of the program was devoted to the Schubert,‭ ‬and featured violinists Mei-Mei Luo and Dina Kostic,‭ ‬violist Rene Reder and cellist Susan Bergeron.‭ ‬ This was a very fine performance of this repertoire staple,‭ ‬particularly in the second movement and the last pages of the finale.‭ ‬These four musicians are longtime friends and colleagues,‭ ‬and they clearly know each other‭’‬s styles thoroughly.

In general,‭ ‬this was a reading of the quartet that was conservative and clean‭; ‬there was no room here for an outburst of ferocity at the beginning of the work or later on when the opening motif returned.‭ ‬Rather,‭ ‬what you had was a straightforward presentation of the first bars that made the next part of the music sound like a logical extension rather than an anticlimax.‭ ‬In other words,‭ ‬it paid due respect to Schubert‭’‬s Beethoven fixation by showing that the rest of the movement‭’‬s material truly was made‭ ‬out of those first‭ ‬10‭ ‬notes.

Ensemble was very solid throughout the entire piece,‭ ‬and the first movement had some especially fine playing with the smoothness of Luo and Kostic‭’‬s beguiling rendition of the secondary theme.‭ ‬But it was the second movement that impressed most,‭ ‬with a beautifully whispered‭ ‬opening‭ (‬the song for which the quartet is named‭) ‬that also avoided the tempting staginess of the drawn-out slowness to which some foursomes fall victim.‭ ‬This version kept the music moving,‭ ‬and the variations flowered naturally out of them.

Bergeron was particularly good in the‭ ‬solo of the second variation,‭ ‬playing with a lovely,‭ ‬burnished sound that her three partners carefully let float into the spotlight.‭ ‬Luo had the occasional difficulty in the very highest E-string theatrics here,‭ ‬but for the most part she handled her work expertly,‭ ‬and that‭’‬s always extra-tough in quartets of this period of composition,‭ ‬which treat the first violin much like a soloist.

If the Scherzo was attractive without being compelling,‭ ‬the tarantella finale had evidently been carefully rehearsed and polished,‭ ‬and it was thrilling to hear all four musicians spring along in this exciting music right in lock-step.‭ ‬Here,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬the triplet motif that began the quartet could be heard as the pulse of the last‭ ‬movement,‭ ‬tribute to the intelligent way in which these fine players met Schubert on his own terms and let him speak.

The‭Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival‭offers its third concert of the summer‭ ‬at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Friday at Persson Hall on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach,‭ ‬at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens and at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach.‭ ‬The program features‭ ‬Martinu’s‭ ‬Serenata II for two violins and viola,‭ ‬Eric Ewazen’s‭ ‬Mosaics,‭ ‬for flute,‭ ‬bassoon and marimba,‭ ‬and the Clarinet Quintet‭ (‬in A,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬581‭) ‬of Mozart.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$25,‭ ‬and a four-weekend ticket can be had for‭ ‬$85.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬330-6874,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬,‭ ‬or buy them at the door.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekend arts picks: July 15-21

Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan in The Trip.

Film:‭ ‬Fans of director Michael Winterbottom’s‭ ‬Tristam Shandy:‭ ‬A Cock and Bull Story are likely to get a kick out of the ad lib road comedy‭ ‬The Trip,‭ ‬for he has again enlisted the duo of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in a sly verbal romp.‭ ‬As in the earlier film,‭ ‬the two British actors play themselves,‭ ‬or at least a comic exaggeration of themselves,‭ ‬on assignment to find and review the best eateries in Northern England.‭ ‬So off they drive,‭ ‬amusing themselves along the way with witty banter,‭ ‬a bit of jealousy and some sublime celebrity impersonations.‭ ‬The feature film version is a re-edit of a six-part television series,‭ ‬and you can see how this material might work better on the small screen,‭ ‬but chances are you will remain amused throughout the almost two-hour ride.‭ ‬Opening this weekend at Mos’Art Theatre in Lake Park.‭

Marckenson Charles and Michael McKeever in Stuff.‭
(‬Photo by Thomas M.‭ ‬Shorrock‭)

Theater:‭ ‬The region has other playwrights,‭ ‬but none as prolific as Davie’s Michael McKeever,‭ ‬whose latest work,‭ ‬Stuff,‭ ‬about those infamous Harlem hoarders Homer and Langley Collyer,‭ ‬makes for a diverting comedy with a dark underside.‭ ‬McKeever looks beyond the brothers‭’ ‬need to collect stuff to the eccentricities of the wealthy,‭ ‬the gap between the haves and have nots in our society and the tragedy of squandered lives of promise.‭ ‬In addition to writing one of his best scripts,‭ ‬McKeever demonstrates his skill as a performer as Homer,‭ ‬the older,‭ ‬but less stable of the brothers.‭ ‬Also impressive is Angie Radosh as Momma Collyer,‭ ‬who wields a genteel,‭ ‬but iron will keeping her boys in line,‭ ‬at least while she is alive.‭ ‬Continuing in a world premiere production at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton,‭ ‬through July‭ ‬31.‭ ‬Call:‭ ‬(561‭) ‬241-7432‭ ‬or‭ ‬(877‭) ‬245-7432‭ ‬for tickets.

Greta Ball.‭ (‬Photo by Brandon Demonbruen‭)

Music:‭ ‬Before‭ ‬you know it,‭ ‬the season will be here,‭ ‬and knowing that,‭ ‬the folks at Palm Beach Opera have scheduled their usual summer season preview.‭ ‬This time,‭ ‬three recent Young Artist singers‭ – ‬soprano Greta Ball,‭ ‬mezzo Irene Roberts,‭ ‬and tenor Evanivaldo Correa‭ – ‬will be on hand next Tuesday at the Harriet Himmel Theater in CityPlace with a program of selections from next season’s operas,‭ ‬as well as other pieces.‭ ‬Correa will sing‭ ‬Addio,‭ ‬fiorito asil from Puccini’s‭ ‬Madama Butterfly,‭ ‬which will open the company’s‭ ‬50th anniversary season Dec.‭ ‬16-19,‭ ‬and he will join Ball for the duet‭ ‬O nuit divine,‭ ‬from Gounod’s‭ ‬Romeo et Juliette,‭ ‬set for Feb.‭ ‬24-27.‭ ‬Ball also will sing Regnava del silenzio,‭ ‬from Donizetti’s‭ ‬Lucia di Lammermoor,‭ ‬planned for March‭ ‬23-26,‭ ‬and Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta,‭ ‬from Puccini’s‭ ‬La Rondine.‭ ‬Roberts will sing‭ ‬Que fais-tu,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Romeo,‭ ‬and the always popular‭ ‬Chacun a son gout,‭ ‬from Johann Strauss II’s operetta‭ ‬Die Fledermaus.‭ ‬Joining the three will be veteran local baritone Graham Fandrei,‭ ‬who will sing Enrico’s‭ ‬Cruda funesta amara,‭ ‬from‭ ‬Lucia.‭ ‬The concert,‭ ‬which also is a music education benefit evening,‭ ‬is set for‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesday at the Harriet.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$10‭ ‬for adults and‭ ‬$5‭ ‬for students.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬833-7888‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬ for more information.

Jason Aldean.

The country singer Jason Aldean grew up in Macon,‭ ‬Ga.,‭ ‬with his mother,‭ ‬but he spent summers in Homestead with his father.‭ ‬This Saturday,‭ ‬he returns to South Florida for a concert at the Cruzan Amphitheatre after years of major country music success,‭ ‬with songs such as She’s Country and Big Green Tractor.‭ ‬Like many of today’s country stars,‭ ‬his music has a distinctly hard-driving rock edge,‭ ‬a fertile ground for genre-mixing that is proving popular and lucrative.‭ ‬Opening for Aldean is the deep-voiced young singer-songwriter Chris Young‭ (‬Tomorrow,‭ ‬Voices‭)‬,‭ ‬nominated last year for top new vocalist by the Academy of Country Music.‭ ‬The concert starts at‭ ‬7:30‭ ‬at the Cruzan‭; ‬tickets are‭ ‬$38-$67‭ (‬after fees‭)‬,‭ ‬available through

Cornucopia‭ ‬04-Y’IV‭ (‬2004‭)‬,‭ ‬by Etsuko Tashima.
(‬Photo by Taku Saiki‭)

Coming next week to Delray Beach’s unique Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens is a major exhibit of ceramics that has toured France,‭ ‬Sacramento,‭ ‬Calif.,‭ ‬Washington,‭ ‬D.C.,‭ ‬Denver and Dallas over the past three years.‭ ‬Soaring Voices:‭ ‬Recent Ceramics by Women from Japan features‭ ‬87‭ ‬pieces by‭ ‬25‭ ‬different artists including Etsuko Tashima‭ (‬b.‭ ‬1959‭)‬,‭ ‬who teaches at the University of Arts in her native Osaka.‭ ‬Curated to reflect the growing prominence of women artists in a traditionally male artistic culture,‭ ‬the exhibit holds works by pioneering women potters and contains work by ceramicists who look to Japan’s Noh and literary past for inspiration.‭ ‬Soaring Voices opens Thursday,‭ ‬July‭ ‬21,‭ ‬and runs through Oct.‭ ‬2‭ ‬at the Morikami,‭ ‬which is open from‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬each day except Monday.‭ ‬Admission is‭ ‬$12,‭ ‬$11‭ ‬for seniors,‭ ‬and‭ ‬$7‭ ‬for students and children ages‭ ‬6‭ ‬to‭ ‬17.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬495-0233‭ ‬or visit‭ ‬ for more information.

Bible of the White Sand‭ (‬1989‭)‬,‭ ‬by Takako Araki.‭
(‬Photo by Takashi Hakateyama‭)

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Music review: Chamber fest's Schoenberg falls short of transfiguration

Arnold Schoenberg‭ (‬1874-1951‭)‬.

By Greg Stepanich

As one of the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival‭’‬s performers rightly said in her remarks from the stage,‭ ‬the name of Arnold Schoenberg is‭ “‬box office poison‭”‬ for a lot of people,‭ ‬but that really shouldn‭’‬t apply to his early string sextet,‭ ‬Verklärte Nacht.

This important,‭ ‬beautiful work was one of the major events of the programs in the first weekend of concerts presented in the chamber festival‭’‬s‭ ‬20th anniversary summer,‭ ‬along with the most well-known of Mozart‭’‬s wind serenades and an attractive trifle by a French master‭ ‬of the flute.

The‭ ‬Schoenberg sextet,‭ ‬a moody evocation of a poem about‭ ‬two lovers walking in the moonlight,‭ ‬and the confession by the woman that she is pregnant with another man‭’‬s child,‭ ‬was set by the composer in a Wagnerian,‭ ‬shape-shifting style,‭ ‬with a simple falling minor scale setting the stage for music of emotional tumult that ends in major-key radiance.

In performance Sunday afternoon at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach,‭ ‬the sextet came off rather drily,‭ ‬though clearly the players on stage were trying to emote as best they could.‭ ‬Intonation in the numerous unison octave passages was not what it should have been,‭ ‬which is problematic in music written in the thick,‭ ‬always-doubled fashion of late Romanticism.‭

And while the players handled their parts ably enough,‭ ‬the music didn‭’‬t have enough febrility,‭ ‬enough nervous emotion.‭ ‬Even the very beginning,‭ ‬with its deep,‭ ‬quiet octaves in the tonic,‭ ‬was‭ ‬too precise and pointed:‭ ‬Those low D‭’‬s beat time rather than summoned mystery.‭ ‬The beauty of this piece in addition to the quality of the themes and harmonies is its sense of feelings in near-manic flux‭; ‬it needs to shimmer along with the dark landscape,‭ ‬lit now by the moon,‭ ‬then by nobility of action as the man of the couple‭ ‬accepts the child-to-be as his own.‭

Each change of mood needs to be starkly underlined,‭ ‬brought out in clear contrast to the one that came before,‭ ‬so that the journey to the major key at the end sounds like arrival.‭ ‬But this reading,‭ ‬while pleasant and competently played,‭ ‬was too careful and prosaic‭ ‬to be magical,‭ ‬and by doing so it fell short of the music‭’‬s point.‭ ‬

The concert opened with‭ ‬Médailles Antiques,‭ ‬a two-movement work by the French flutist and conductor Philippe Gaubert‭ (‬1879-1941‭)‬.‭ ‬The flutist‭ ‬was Beth Larsen,‭ ‬substituting for an absent Karen Dixon‭; ‬she was joined by pianist Roberta Rust and violinist Mei-Mei Luo.‭ ‬This is expertly made,‭ ‬if not particularly distinctive,‭ ‬music,‭ ‬but it shows off each instrument well.

Rust played with force and bigness‭ ‬throughout,‭ ‬and Larsen‭’‬s tone was full and sweet.‭ ‬Luo played with her usual intensity,‭ ‬and while on the surface that might seem the wrong prescription for lighthearted French music,‭ ‬it actually worked rather well,‭ ‬bringing out the slippery harmonies and energy of the piece to good effect.‭ ‬The second of the two movements,‭ ‬Danses,‭ ‬was‭ ‬somewhat‭ ‬reminiscent of Chabrier,‭ ‬and the three musicians played it with high spirits and engaging athleticism.

The second half of the concert was devoted to Mozart‭’‬s Serenade‭ (‬No.‭ ‬10‭ ‬in B-flat,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬361‭) ‬for‭ ‬13‭ ‬winds,‭ ‬known as the‭ ‬Gran Partita.‭ ‬The festival took the trouble to bring in two basset horns for the‭ ‬performance,‭ ‬a laudable gesture of fealty to the score,‭ ‬which an old tradition assigns to celebratory music for Mozart‭’‬s wedding in‭ ‬1782.‭ ‬

All‭ ‬14‭ ‬musicians‭ (‬including double bassist Jason Lindsay‭) ‬blended nicely,‭ ‬playing with a fat,‭ ‬round sound,‭ ‬but not one that was overwhelming.‭ ‬It was,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬an approach overall that was‭ ‬somewhat too dynamically limited,‭ ‬and that may have been because the musicians played the piece without a conductor.

The famed third movement‭ (‬beloved from the scene in the movie‭ ‬Amadeus‭ ‬when Salieri first learns who Mozart is‭)‬,‭ ‬for instance,‭ ‬was‭ ‬a shade too heavy and too fast,‭ ‬which cost it some of the beauty of the Handelian solo oboe gesture with which it opens.‭ ‬Similarly,‭ ‬in the fourth movement Minuetto,‭ ‬with its two trios,‭ ‬there was much to admire in the spiffy solo work‭ (‬particularly the bassoon in the second trio‭)‬,‭ ‬but the music also had a‭ ‬sameness‭ ‬to its dynamic level that could have been easily altered with a good conductorial hand.

‭ ‬The bravura ending,‭ ‬which always brings cheers,‭ ‬did so Sunday afternoon as well,‭ ‬and in the important respects of technique,‭ ‬blend and harmony with Classical style,‭ ‬this was a strong,‭ ‬enjoyable reading of a monument of wind literature.‭ ‬It could have used more subtlety,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬to bring out all of Mozart‭’‬s light and shade,‭ ‬and for that it would have needed a director.

The‭ ‬Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival‭offers its second concert of the summer‭ ‬at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Friday at Persson Hall on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach,‭ ‬at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens and at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach.‭ ‬The program features Peter Warlock’s‭ ‬Capriol Suite,‭ ‬arranged for woodwind quintet by John McDonough,‭ ‬Eugene Bozza’s‭ ‬Four Movements for Wind Septet,‭ ‬and the Schubert String Quartet No.‭ ‬14‭ ‬in D minor,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬810,‭ ‬known as the‭ ‬Death and the Maiden Quartet.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$25,‭ ‬and a four-weekend ticket can be had for‭ ‬$85.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬330-6874,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬,‭ ‬or buy them at the door.‭

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Theater feature/review: McKeever's 'Stuff' brings empathy to hoarders' tale

From left:‭ ‬Michael McKeever,‭ ‬Nicholas Richberg
and Angie Radosh, in Stuff.

By Hap Erstein

Prolific and eclectic.‭ ‬You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get with a Michael McKeever play.‭ ‬But if you don’t like one,‭ ‬don’t worry,‭ ‬there will be another along in six months.

As it happens,‭ ‬the Davie-based playwright-performer is serving up a winner currently with his new dark comedy,‭ ‬Stuff,‭ ‬now receiving its world premiere at the Caldwell Theatre in Boca Raton through July‭ ‬31.

It chronicles the eccentric lives of Homer and Langley Collyer,‭ ‬the infamous Harlem hoarders,‭ ‬who amassed ceiling-high stacks of newspapers,‭ ‬pianos and other collectible curiosities in their seedy mansion,‭ ‬where they died amid the clutter in‭ ‬1947.

The obsessive Collyer brothers have been a fascination of McKeever’s since he was a boy.‭ “‬My mom would come into my and my brother’s bedroom and say,‭ ‘‬Oh,‭ ‬my god,‭ ‬it’s the Collyer mansion‭’‬,‭” ‬McKeever recalls.‭ “‬I grew up hearing‭ ‘‬Collyer mansion,‭’ ‬but I had no idea what it was,‭” ‬beyond a negative role model of what his own room should not look like.

As a result,‭ ‬he has grown up with an aversion to becoming a hoarder.‭ “‬Me‭? ‬Oh,‭ ‬god,‭ ‬no.‭ ‬I definitely have a type A personality,‭” ‬says McKeever.‭ “‬I keep things that mean a lot to me,‭ ‬things from my youth.‭ ‬But I’m more,‭ ‘‬You’re done with this magazine‭? ‬OK,‭ ‬throw it away.‭’ ‬If I were to keep everything,‭ ‬I‘d have a Collyer mansion.‭”

Trying for historical accuracy without limiting his dramatic license,‭ ‬McKeever looks at the Collyers at two points in their lives‭ ‬--‭ ‬1929,‭ ‬just months before the stock market crash,‭ ‬when their hoarding began in earnest,‭ ‬and‭ ‬1947,‭ ‬when their acquisitive impulses reached a conclusion.‭

What makes‭ ‬Stuff so interesting is how McKeever uses these two squandered lives of such promise to explore major themes,‭ ‬like the financial and racial inequities in society and the complex gravitational pull of family.‭ ‬There is plenty to laugh at in‭ ‬Stuff,‭ ‬but they are not empty laughs,‭ ‬as the play paints a surprisingly thought-provoking portrait of life‭ ‬--‭ ‬albeit not very typical life‭ ‬--‭ ‬in the‭ ‬20th century.

‭“‬People ask me if it’s about hoarding and I say not really,‭ ‬it’s about this really twisted,‭ ‬wonderfully goofy,‭ ‬eccentric family,‭” ‬says McKeever.‭ “‬To me,‭ ‬the most interesting thing about them isn’t the fact that they collected all this stuff,‭ ‬but the dynamic between the two brothers and,‭ ‬for that matter,‭ ‬the mother as well.‭ ‬And to me,‭ ‬it’s all Oedipal,‭ ‬it all goes back to mom.‭”

As the first act illustrates,‭ ‬Homer and Langley led two very symbiotic,‭ ‬yet antagonistic lives.‭ ‬Each has ambitions beyond his given life of privilege,‭ ‬but those dreams are invariably quashed by their mother,‭ ‬Susie,‭ ‬bitter from her own failed opera career and the desertion of her husband.‭ ‬Homer yearns to buy some independence by purchasing the house across Fifth Avenue and becoming a landlord.‭ ‬Langley wants to resurrect his concert career as a classical pianist of undetermined talent.‭ ‬But Momma knows best,‭ ‬or at least how to manipulate her offspring and keep them under her thumb.

There are hints of the beginnings of the Collyers‭’ ‬hoarding instincts in Act One,‭ ‬but after intermission‭ ‬--‭ ‬thanks to the ingenuity and resources of Caldwell scenic designer Tim Bennett‭ ‬--‭ ‬the mansion has gone to seed,‭ ‬filled with clutter forming a barricade of collected stuff,‭ ‬which hems in Homer and Langley and claustrophobically confines the action to a small downstage center area.‭ ‬There the brothers have also gone to seed,‭ ‬particularly Homer,‭ ‬now blind and disheveled,‭ ‬looking and behaving like a fugitive from a Samuel Beckett play.‭ ‬

Stuff‭ ‬is not only McKeever’s best script in quite a while‭ ‬--‭ ‬probably since his Carbonell Award winner‭ ‬Melt‭ ‬--‭ ‬but he has given himself a major acting plum in Homer,‭ ‬which he handles with impressive skill.‭ ‬His Act One performance does not break new ground,‭ ‬being a wisecracking whiner who gets tossed about,‭ ‬but his work in the second half shows a depth of feeling that is crucial to the play’s emotional core.

Director Clive Cholerton juggles the comedy and pathos ably,‭ ‬drawing strong performances from the rest of the four-member cast.‭ ‬Angie Radosh is genteel and iron-fisted as Mother Collyer,‭ ‬whose indulgence and disapproval are instrumental in sending her sons off on their rudderless existence.‭ ‬Nicholas Richberg‭ (‬Langley‭) ‬is everything Homer is not,‭ ‬except neurotic,‭ ‬and Marckenson Charles provides crucial support in two varied characters who stand in for the world outside the Collyers‭’ ‬mansion walls.

While his main characters are certainly extreme,‭ ‬McKeever hopes he can draw an audience to their side.‭

“‬What I’m trying to do in putting these characters together,‭ ‬is for the audience to‭ ‬have great empathy towards them,‭ ‬to see that underneath all the craziness are two really,‭ ‬really likeable guys.‭ ‬Despite their abuse towards each other and the outside world,‭ ‬they really are two loving guys,‭” ‬he says.‭ “‬And ultimately they are victims of the times in which they lived and in the times in which they refused to live.‭”

As he succinctly sums up‭ ‬Stuff,‭ ‬it is‭ “‬a look back at Americana from the turn-of-the-century to the‭ ‬1940s,‭ ‬when everything was possible and the world was changing so quickly that some people simply didn’t have a chance to catch up.‭ ‬It’s a funny,‭ ‬fascinating look at the past‭ ‬---‭ ‬where we’ve been and how we got to where we are now.‭”

STUFF,‭ ‬by Michael McKeever‭; ‬Caldwell Theatre Company,‭ ‬7901‭ ‬N.‭ ‬Federal Highway,‭ ‬Boca Raton.‭ ‬Through Sunday,‭ ‬July‭ ‬31.‭ ‬Tickets:‭ ‬$38-$50.‭ ‬Call:‭ ‬(561‭) ‬241-7432‭ ‬or‭ ‬(877‭) ‬245-7432.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Music review: Pianist Perez persuasive in music of Albeniz, Villa-Lobos

Vanessa Perez.

By Greg Stepanich

In an ambitious and wide-ranging recital Saturday night at the Steinway Gallery in Boca Raton,‭ ‬pianist Vanessa Perez brought poetry and power to music from Mozart to Villa-Lobos.

It was in the music of South America and Spain that Perez,‭ ‬a native of Venezuela,‭ ‬made the strongest impact,‭ ‬though in the six years since I last saw her at the Steinway Gallery,‭ ‬she has become a more accomplished player in the older canonical repertoire,‭ ‬and that bodes well for her journey toward pianistic completeness.

In her opening work,‭ ‬the lovely Sonata in F,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬332,‭ ‬of Mozart,‭ ‬Perez showed that she could play in the spare,‭ ‬pedal-minimum way that pianists usually perform this music,‭ ‬which puts a premium on evenness of notes and precision of harmony.‭ ‬Perez‭ (‬who took the repeat in the first movement‭) ‬gave us a large-toned,‭ ‬big Mozart,‭ ‬strong on drama and lyricism.

The special glory of this sonata is the second movement,‭ ‬an opulent operatic aria that is one of Mozart‭’‬s most beautiful such utterances,‭ ‬and Perez played it winningly,‭ ‬taking care not to overdo the elaborate variations of the theme in the second half.‭ ‬Overall,‭ ‬her execution needed to be a little cleaner,‭ ‬especially in the middle of the first movement,‭ ‬where she lost her way temporarily,‭ ‬and in the very tricky different sections of the finale:‭ ‬Without a pedal to cover mishaps,‭ ‬everything has to be as faultless as possible,‭ ‬or the music loses some of its cohesion.

Perez has just recorded the complete Preludes of Chopin,‭ ‬and the two five-flat ones,‭ ‬No.‭ ‬15‭ ‬in D-flat and No.‭ ‬16‭ ‬in B-flat minor,‭ ‬came next.‭ ‬In the No.‭ ‬15‭ (‬Raindrop‭)‬,‭ ‬we heard the most characteristic elements of Perez‭’‬s art,‭ ‬a highly colored,‭ ‬deeply Romantic style of hothouse languidness that was well-suited for the sweetness of the music.‭ ‬The tempestuous minor-key middle section could have used some more mystery and drama,‭ ‬which would have made the E major climax more exciting.‭

The No.‭ ‬16‭ ‬Prelude is a whirlwind,‭ ‬with cascades of angry scales running up and down over a thumping,‭ ‬leaping bass.‭ ‬Here,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬her runs were not as precise as they needed to be,‭ ‬particularly at the outset,‭ ‬but she finished in appropriately thunderous style.

The Chopin Fantasy‭ (‬in F minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬49‭) ‬that followed gave evidence of much hard work at the keyboard,‭ ‬and Perez was‭ ‬generally successful in giving her audience a good musical narrative that took listeners from the almost-offhand opening through the peaks and valleys of Chopin‭’‬s intense musical landscape.‭ ‬She built nicely from the dead-march of the opening through the first section,‭ ‬the proof being in the way she played the big unison octaves,‭ ‬setting them up each time as signposts for listeners to orient themselves by.

Her technique in the Fantasy was impressive,‭ ‬especially in the repeated climbs to the outer reaches of‭ ‬the keyboard,‭ ‬which are among the most perilous measures in the piece.‭ ‬In the B major‭ ‬Lento sostenuto sections,‭ ‬she was all dreaminess,‭ ‬all languor,‭ ‬making for a very effective contrast.‭ ‬The only part that lacked enough contrast was the marching-bass version of the theme,‭ ‬which works best when there‭’‬s a sudden change of dynamic and pianistic approach‭; ‬here it was too much like everything around it.‭ ‬In sum,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬this was a strong performance of this masterwork.

With the second half of the program,‭ ‬music of Albéniz and Villa-Lobos,‭ ‬Perez was on very comfortable ground.‭ ‬The first of two pieces from the first‭ ‬Suite Espanola‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬47‭)‬,‭ ‬Granada,‭ ‬eloquently showcased her attractive tone production,‭ ‬but in the well-known‭ ‬Asturias that followed,‭ ‬things were a little too dry,‭ ‬and the tempo on the slow side.

Perez has played selections from ‭Albeniz's Iberia‭ ‬for years,‭ ‬and Saturday night she offered‭ ‬Triana,‭ ‬from Book‭ ‬2.‭ ‬She played it with verve and plenty of color,‭ ‬letting the midsection theme sing out,‭ ‬and doing a good job of‭ ‬setting the final pages up for the surprise loud reentrance of the main theme at the end.

It was in the five pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos that Perez really made her mark at the recital.‭ ‬A Lendo do Caboclo‭ (‬Legend of the Caboclo‭)‬,‭ ‬which came first,‭ ‬is a moody,‭ ‬lush piece in which the pianist‭’‬s skill at playing with tenderness was evident.‭ ‬Her approach should make her an exemplary Debussy player,‭ ‬and it would be worthwhile to hear her in that repertory.

She closed with four pieces from Volume‭ ‬1‭ ‬of Villa-Lobos‭’‬s‭ ‬A Prole do Bebe‭ (‬The Baby‭’‬s Family‭)‬,‭ ‬which in this volume describes dolls of different types.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a landmark work from‭ ‬1918,‭ ‬and it made a scandalous impression on Brazilian audiences of the time.‭ ‬In the brighter pieces‭ ‬– Branquinha,‭ ‬Moreninha and‭ ‬O Polchinello‭ ‬– Perez‭’‬s fingerwork was sharp and clear,‭ ‬and her sense of rhythm aggressive and exciting.‭ ‬In the other piece,‭ ‬A Pobrezinha,‭ ‬she played with a blurry intimacy that was most affecting.

Perez returned for an encore of Albeniz‭’‬s‭ ‬Granada,‭ ‬played for‭ ‬Piano Lovers founder Abram Kreeger,‭ ‬whose recording device was apparently not on when she went through it the first time.‭ ‬It was a kind gesture from Perez,‭ ‬and this performance was better than the first‭ ‬– warmer,‭ ‬deeper and prettier.‭

Monday, July 11, 2011

Art review: Film villains, heroes share high sense of style at Norton show

Jim Carrey’s Riddler getup from Batman Forever‭ (‬1995‭)‬,‭
‬designed by Bob Ringwood.

By Gretel Sarmiento

In an ideal world,‭ ‬bad guys are easily identifiable and,‭ ‬thus,‭ ‬avoidable.‭ ‬Their crimes are not carried out with a pen but with heavy swords or devastating superpowers.‭ ‬And right before they get their way,‭ ‬a hero sporting flashy colors saves the day.‭

In that ideal world,‭ ‬evil and good share one thing:‭ ‬they are both stylish.‭

This is the world the Norton Museum of Art has chosen to display this summer.‭ ‬Running now until Sept.‭ ‬11,‭ ‬Out of this World:‭ ‬Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television consists of original costumes from memorable films and TV shows including‭ ‬The Terminator,‭ ‬Ghostbusters,‭ ‬Star Trek,‭ ‬Tron,‭ ‬Star Wars and‭ ‬a personal favorite,‭ ‬Blade Runner.

The exhibit is divided into three sections,‭ ‬the first of which is dedicated to heroes and villains.‭ ‬Every single gallery room has a spacey feeling to it due,‭ ‬partially,‭ ‬to the abstract music playing in the background.‭ ‬Their walls alternate between orange and gray.‭ ‬The outfits appear inside clear capsules as if in a deep sleep,‭ ‬waiting to be shipped back into space at any moment.‭

One of the first pieces to greet us is the Obi-Wan Kenobi robe worn by Sir Alec Guinness in‭ ‬Star Wars‭ ‬(1977‭)‬.‭ ‬Part samurai and part monk,‭ ‬the design could not be more simple or its color less extravagant.‭ ‬The piece was designed by British costume designer and‭ ‬Academy Award winner John Mollo,‭ ‬whose work includes‭ ‬Alien,‭ ‬King David and Gandhi.‭ ‬Though created expressively for the role of Obi-Wan,‭ ‬this robe is believed to have been used in other films,‭ ‬including The Name of the Rose‭ (‬1986‭)‬,‭ ‬starring Sean Connery.‭

Mollo’s known tendency for military uniforms is nowhere to be seen in the Obi-Wan piece.‭ ‬It is,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬in the elements he chose to complete the look of‭ ‬Darth Vader,‭ ‬standing here to the right.‭ ‬He lifted‭ ‬a monk's cloak from the ecclesiastical division,‭ ‬a World War II German helmet and gas mask from the military department,‭ ‬a leather undersuit from the motorcycle department,‭ ‬and a metal breastplate from the‭ ‬medieval section.‭

Two costumes by John Mollo for Star Wars‭ (‬1977‭)‬:‭ ‬
Obi-Wan Kenobi,‭ ‬left,‭ ‬and Darth Vader.

One look at the Darth Vader costume and you can tell this is a character who is good at being bad.‭ ‬The all-black ensemble suits him well and his face is concealed,‭ ‬as if hiding something.‭ ‬Bad guys,‭ ‬when not carrying a physical scar,‭ ‬carry emotional ones.‭ ‬In that,‭ ‬we are closer to them than the good guys,‭ ‬who always heal faster and miraculously.‭

Costumes as this one do not necessarily need a particular actor to come to life.‭ ‬The same happens with Batman’s.‭ ‬Whether it is George Clooney,‭ ‬Michael Keaton,‭ ‬Val Kilmer or Christian Bale playing the main role,‭ ‬anyone wearing the pointy mask,‭ ‬long cape and sharp gloves can more or less pull it off.‭ ‬Costumes of this sort have a personality of their own.‭

But when an outfit looks like recycling materials taken out the garbage:‭ ‬black sheer top,‭ ‬leggings,‭ ‬stockings full of holes and silver painted pumps,‭ ‬then you need all the emotion and expression you can get from an actor,‭ ‬plus good makeup.‭ ‬That was the outfit worn by‭ ‬Daryl Hannah as replicant Pris in‭ ‬Blade Runner‭ ‬(1982‭)‬.‭ ‬I wonder if Pris would have been the same had‭ ‬Deborah Harry,‭ ‬who was originally envisioned for the role,‭ ‬been chosen instead of Hannah.‭

The same question hits me when facing the pieces in the last room.‭ ‬Anyone can look cool wearing a‭ ‬black leather jacket,‭ ‬but only Arnold can be the Terminator.‭ ‬His jacket is massive,‭ ‬features zippers,‭ ‬a belt and even bullet holes.‭ ‬As in some cases,‭ ‬the description here includes a fun piece of trivia.‭ ‬The shooting for‭ ‬The Terminator was pushed back two days because the custom leather jacket,‭ ‬designed by Hilary Wright,‭ ‬did not fit the star.‭

And did you ever think the Seven of Nine uniform worn by Jeri Ryan in‭ ‬Star Trek:‭ ‬Voyager was too form-fitting‭? ‬It turns out it was.‭ ‬The one-piece blue leotard was so precise on her body that Ryan could not wear bras or panties to prevent the lines from showing.‭

Indiana Jones‭’s ‬leather jacket,‭ ‬designed by
Deborah Nadoolman Landis
for Raiders of the Lost Ark‭ (‬1981‭)‬.

By the way,‭ ‬if you are into jackets,‭ ‬the last room is definitely your spot.‭ ‬There is Indiana Jones’s brown leather bomber,‭ ‬which looks very wearable despite it being old and worn.‭ ‬It was designed by Deborah Nadoolman Landis,‭ ‬who is‭ ‬also responsible for Michael Jackson’s zippered red jacket in‭ ‬Thriller.‭ ‬Accompanying the jacket are‭ ‬Indy’s whip from‭ ‬Raiders of Lost Ark‭ ‬(1981‭) ‬and the Holy Grail from‭ ‬The Last Crusade‭ ‬(1989‭)‬.‭

It is no surprise that the loudest suit of the show belongs to the eccentric Jim Carrey’s‭ ‬Riddler from‭ ‬Batman Forever‭ (‬1995‭)‬.‭ ‬It is covered with question marks,‭ ‬his favorite symbol,‭ ‬in a green sparkling color,‭ ‬a pink pin resting on his green tie being the only relief from the green insanity.‭ ‬An unexpected sweet touch on his suit is the green butterfly outlines.‭ ‬See‭?‬ Even bad guys have a soft spot.‭

Don’t head for the exit without seeing one of the highlights of the show:‭ ‬Connor Macleod’s costume,‭ ‬as worn by Christopher Lambert in‭ ‬Highlander‭ ‬(1986‭)‬.‭ ‬Macleod is an immortal Scottish swordsman who gains more power with every immortal opponent he defeats.‭ ‬The armor-like outfit was conceived by British costume designer James Acheson,‭ ‬who is a three-time Oscar winner for his creations in‭ ‬The Last Emperor‭ (‬1987‭)‬,‭ ‬Dangerous Liaisons‭ (‬1988‭) ‬and‭ ‬Restoration‭ (‬1995‭)‬.‭ ‬He also‭ ‬gave‭ ‬Tobey Maguire‭ ‬his flexible reds and blues.‭ The‭ ‬heavy structure and barbaric character of Macleod’s outfit matches the man’s nomadic rough lifestyle perfectly.‭

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s jacket for The Terminator‭ (‬1984‭)‬,
‭ ‬designed by Hilary Wright.

When I think of the show overall I cannot help but admire the elegance of‭ ‬both‭ ‬good and evil here.‭ ‬This is definitely a better world.‭ ‬The bad guys in my world do not have this presence and the good ones tend to overdo it.‭

You should not come‭ ‬to the exhibit‭ ‬to find out the absolute truth,‭ ‬but to see that the work of a costume designer is serious stuff and goes beyond the superficial.‭ ‬Clothes can play with our emotions.‭ ‬If what we see pleases us,‭ ‬we may feel more inclined to get to know the mind.‭ ‬Such is the power of a good outfit:‭ ‬it can make us fall in love even with the bad guys,‭ ‬respect them while disagreeing with their intentions and maybe even forgive them.‭ ‬Not to mention that Evil sporting cooler clothes can make Good look silly.

For a show featuring fabrics,‭ ‬Extraordinary Outcomes can be quite emotional,‭ ‬whether you are a hardcore fan or not.‭ ‬By the end we realize that no matter how much we try,‭ ‬we will never come close to looking like heroes or adventurers,‭ ‬not even bad guys.‭ ‬It starts with the clothes,‭ ‬and we do not even have that.‭

Out of this World:‭ ‬Extraordinary Costumes from Film and Television ‬runs through‭ ‬Sept.‭ ‬11‭ ‬at the Norton Museum of Art.‭ ‬Admission:‭ ‬$12,‭ ‬adults‭; ‬$5‭ ‬ages‭ ‬13-21.‭ ‬Hours:‭ ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Tuesdays through Saturdays‭; ‬1‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬5‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sundays‭; ‬10‭ ‬a.m.‭ ‬to‭ ‬9‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Thursdays‭; ‬closed Mondays.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬832-5196‭ ‬or visit

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Theater feature: PB Shakespeare Festival returns to magic of 'The Tempest'

Katherine Seldin as Miranda and Kevin Crawford
as Prospero in The Tempest.

By Hap Er

Twenty years ago,‭ ‬in Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival’s second season,‭ ‬the company took its first crack at‭ ‬The Tempest,‭ ‬the tale of an exiled Milanese duke who seeks revenge on his enemies through sorcery.

Playing young Prince Ferdinand back then was‭ ‬20-year-old Kevin Crawford,‭ ‬in his first involvement with the play,‭ “‬back when I could still get away with playing young princes,‭” ‬he notes.‭

Now a professor of English and theater at Georgia’s Reinhardt University,‭ ‬Crawford spends his summers in Palm Beach County as artistic director of the Shakespeare Festival and,‭ ‬this year,‭ ‬playing aged Duke Prospero.

As he says of the play,‭ “‬I think it’s pretty top-drawer,‭ ‬and a crowd-pleaser.‭ ‬The reason it’s been so long since we’ve done it is I did it so many times when I was younger,‭ ‬I got tired of it.‭”

Still,‭ ‬when it came to choosing a work for the group’s annual Shakespeare-by-the-Sea at Jupiter’s Carlin Park Amphitheatre,‭ ‬Crawford and technical director/scenic designer Daniel Gordon agreed that it was‭ ‬time again for‭ ‬The Tempest.‭ “‬It‭’‬s the‭ ‬400th anniversary year of the play’s first performance,‭” ‬reports Crawford,‭ ‬excuse enough for a new production.‭

While many refer to‭ ‬The Tempest as Shakespeare’s last completed play,‭ ‬Crawford calls it more accurately the Bard’s‭ “‬final non-collaborative effort for the stage.‭” ‬The distinction‭? “‬He wrote other plays after‭ ‬‘The Tempest‭’‬ with junior company playwrights,‭” ‬says Crawford.‭ “‬Like what we now call‭ ‘‬Henry VIII,‭’ ‘‬Two Noble Kinsmen‭’‬ and a play based on the life of Sir Thomas More.‭”

Last script or not,‭ ‬The Tempest feels like a swan song to the theater,‭ ‬for Shakespeare includes numerous concluding statements about stagecraft.‭ ‬Still,‭ ‬Crawford cautions against making too much of it.‭ “‬Yeah,‭ ‬it’s very easily read that way,‭ ‬but it’s a very romantic notion.‭ ‬That story didn’t get floated around until the late‭ ‬18th or early‭ ‬19th century,‭” ‬he says.‭ “‬And this play was just perfect for the idea of him saying goodbye to the stage,‭ ‬with such ideas as Prospero breaking his staff is Shakespeare breaking his pen.‭ ‬But he continued to work actively for a number of years after.‭”

It is also usually taught that Prospero is a stand-in for Shakespeare himself.‭ “‬I never bought it,‭ ‬but it’s very,‭ ‬very easy to see that,‭” ‬notes Crawford,‭ ‬whose production will emphasize the dark side of the character.‭ “‬Prospero really is a despicable man on some levels.‭ ‬He was stupid enough to lose the dukedom in the first place.‭ ‬He does enslave other characters in the play.‭ ‬He makes people think that their children are dead.‭”

Unlike many Palm Beach Shakespeare Festival shows,‭ ‬which transport the play to offbeat places and times,‭ ‬this‭ ‬Tempest will not be set in a definite locale.‭ “‬The stage will be mostly bare with a simple series of ramps and platforms,‭” ‬says Crawford.‭ “‬It’s not set in the caves of Bora Bora,‭ ‬there is no beach,‭ ‬no water line.‭ ‬I think most‭ ‬20th-century productions,‭ ‬post-1950,‭ ‬1960,‭ ‬have been interested in a post-colonial reading of it:‭ ‬that this is all about white people going to uncharted territory and taking it over,‭ ‬putting their white European stamp on it.‭

“That’s fine,‭ ‬but that’s definitely not where we’re going with this,‭” ‬he said.

Prospero is a sorcerer and many modern productions have emphasized magical effects,‭ ‬but Crawford is resisting that impulse,‭ ‬too.‭ “‬I think the magical effects will mostly be suggested through mime and sound,‭” ‬he says.‭ “‬I think there’s something powerful about someone raising their hand and a sound effect.‭ ‬The audience just accepts that he made a lightning strike.‭”

The simplicity of the production might be read as a reflection of the downbeat economy,‭ ‬but Crawford says it is really a test for next summer,‭ ‬when the Festival hopes to tour its production‭ ‬--‭ ‬probably‭ ‬Twelfth Night‭ ‬--‭ ‬to Hawaii.

To build up its treasury for‭ ‬2012,‭ ‬the company contemplated instituting an admission charge instead of its tradition of free performances.‭ “‬Ultimately,‭ ‬we all came around to the idea of keeping it as free as possible for our audiences,‭” ‬says Crawford.‭

‭“‬There are some people who come out almost every night with their family,‭ ‬because it’s free.‭ ‬But as they’ve told us,‭ ‬they simply can’t afford to come out all that often if there’s an admission fee.‭ ‬So we’ve kept it at free admission with a suggested donation of‭ ‬$5‭ ‬or whatever you want to put into the wishing well.‭”

THE TEMPEST.‭ ‬Palm Beach Shakespeare‭ ‬Festival,‭ ‬Seabreeze Amphitheatre,‭ ‬A1A and Indiantown Road,‭ ‬Carlin Park,‭ ‬Jupiter.‭ ‬Thursday-Sunday,‭ ‬July‭ ‬14-17‭ ‬and‭ ‬21-24.‭ ‬Admission free,‭ ‬with suggested donation of‭ ‬$5.‭ ‬Call:‭ ‬(561‭) ‬963-6755.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Weekend arts picks: July 8-10

Jade‭ ‬Master,‭ ‬left,‭ ‬winner of last year‭’‬s Palm Beach Idols
competition, with events producer Eileen Weissmann
at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.

Theater:‭ ‬Many of Palm Beach County‭’‬s professional theaters are idle this summer,‭ ‬but the Maltz Jupiter Theatre has a few special events,‭ ‬like this Saturday night‭’‬s talent competition,‭ ‬called‭ ‬--‭ ‬what‭ ‬else‭? ‬--‭ ‬Palm Beach Idols.‭ ‬For the eighth annual event,‭ ‬some‭ ‬90‭ ‬locals of all ages who are convinced they have talent auditioned,‭ ‬but only‭ ‬25‭ ‬of them have made the cut to perform and vie for cash prizes and the Idol title.‭ ‬Tickets are‭ ‬$25,‭ ‬with proceeds going to the Maltz‭’‬s Theatre Guild,‭ ‬a volunteer service organization.‭ ‬Celebrity judges,‭ ‬largely from the media,‭ ‬will winnow the field down to three in each category‭ ‬--‭ ‬youth,‭ ‬teen and adult‭ ‬--‭ ‬but the ultimate winners are chosen by the audience.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬(561‭) ‬575-2223‭ ‬for tickets.‭

David Carr of The New York Times.

Film:‭ ‬OK,‭ ‬I may be biased towards documentaries about the woeful state of print journalism in the face of new media,‭ ‬but I still contend that Page One:‭ ‬Inside the New York Times is engrossing‭ ‬viewing for anyone curious about the phenomenon of the incredible shrinking daily newspaper.‭ ‬Director Andrew Rossi takes a scattershot approach to his subject,‭ ‬but each of the pieces manage to be interesting,‭ ‬particularly when he focuses on gregarious columnist David Carr who is far outside the profile of a button-down Times newsroom employee.‭ ‬Page One has no answers to the woeful state of journalism these days,‭ ‬but it dredges up a lot of the questions in a thoughtful way.‭ ‬Opening today at FAU‭’‬s Living Room Theater in Boca Raton.

Laszlo Pap.

Music:‭ ‬The Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival,‭ ‬which begins tonight,‭ ‬isn‭’‬t the only hot-month classical series celebrating its‭ ‬20th season in South Florida.‭ ‬The other is Summerfest,‭ ‬the monthlong concert series presented by the Fort Lauderdale-based Symphony of the Americas.‭ ‬This year,‭ ‬the chamber group is teaming with the Remenyi Chamber Orchestra of Hungary in a program that recalls the‭ ‬19th-century violin virtuoso,‭ ‬Eduard Remenyi‭ (‬1830-1898‭) ‬for whom it was named.‭ ‬Remenyi had a big career,‭ ‬but he‭’‬s best known for the accompanist he chose for one of his first major tours in‭ ‬1853,‭ ‬a young pianist from Hamburg named Johannes Brahms.‭ ‬The well-known Hungarian-born violinist Laszlo Pap,‭ ‬a longtime resident of South Florida and a former member of the Florida Philharmonic and the Delray String Quartet,‭ ‬is the soloist in music such as the‭ ‬Meditation from Massenet‭’‬s‭ ‬Thais,‭ ‬Vitali‭’‬s durable‭ ‬Chaconne,‭ ‬and‭ ‬concerti and divertimenti by Vivaldi,‭ ‬Boccherini,‭ ‬Mozart and the Hungarian composer Leo Weiner.‭

The groups,‭ ‬led by James Brooks-Bruzzese,‭ ‬will be playing‭ ‬11‭ ‬area concerts in Broward and Miami-Dade counties,‭ ‬plus a single stop in Vero Beach,‭ ‬and also do residencies in Panama‭ (‬July‭ ‬10-17‭) ‬and Ecuador‭ (‬July‭ ‬28-Aug.‭ ‬1‭)‬.‭ ‬They begin tonight with an‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬concert at the Sunshine Cathedral in Fort Lauderdale,‭ ‬and admission is free‭ (‬though not for all concerts in the series‭)‬.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬954-335-7002‭ ‬for more information.

Vanessa Perez.

The Venezuelan-American pianist Vanessa Perez makes her return Saturday night to the Piano Lovers series in Boca Raton with a program of music by Mozart‭ (‬one of the sonatas and the fantasies‭)‬,‭ ‬Chopin‭ (‬the Barcarolle,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬60,‭ ‬and the Fantasy in F minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬49‭) ‬and Albeniz‭ (‬selections from Iberia‭)‬.‭ ‬Perez,‭ ‬based in New York,‭ ‬has‭ ‬a long and‭ ‬impressive resume that includes studies at the Royal College of Music in London,‭ ‬performances all over Europe and the Americas in major venues,‭ ‬and a collaboration with Joshua Bell on his‭ ‬At Home With Friends album.‭ ‬Here she is,‭ ‬caught in the middle of Lavapies,‭ ‬from Book‭ ‬3‭ ‬of Iberia.‭ ‬The concert begins at‭ ‬7‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Steinway Gallery in Boca Raton‭; ‬tickets are‭ ‬$25‭ ‬in advance,‭ ‬$30‭ ‬at the door.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬929-6633‭ ‬for more information.

Music feature: Camaraderie keeps PB Chamber Music Festival going, 20 summers on

Members of the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival,‭ ‬pictured
this week at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach.‭ ‬From left:
‭ ‬Ellen Tomasiewicz,‭ ‬Rebecca Diderrich,‭ ‬Beth Larsen,‭
‬Michael Ellert, ‭ ‬Roberta Rust,‭ ‬Julia McAlister,‭ ‬
Rene‭ ‬Reder and Sherie Aguirre.‭
(‬Photo by Michael Price Photography‭)

By Greg Stepanich

It all began at Chuck and Harold‭’‬s.

On a long-ago day at the popular Palm Beach restaurant,‭ ‬bassoonist Michael Ellert noticed something right away about‭ ‬Michael Forte,‭ ‬a‭ ‬clarinetist and fellow New Yorker‭ ‬who had‭ ‬just moved to Florida,‭ ‬and‭ ‬with whom he was playing as part of a trio.

‭“‬I‭ ‬looked at Michael and I said,‭ ‬‘Man,‭ ‬you and I must have learned how to play out of tune the same way,‭ ‬because‭ ‬we play amazingly well together,‭’”‬ Ellert said,‭ ‬laughing.‭ ‬“It was just a lock,‭ ‬the first time.‭”

That‭ ‬sense of‭ ‬camaraderie is one of the things that‭ ‬led Forte,‭ ‬Ellert and flutist Karen Dixon,‭ ‬all members of the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra,‭ ‬to found a summer festival of chamber music‭ ‬in Palm Beach County,‭ ‬a concert series that‭ ‬begins its‭ ‬20th anniversary season tonight in West Palm Beach.‭ ‬And it is that collegiality that keeps the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival going,‭ ‬keeps its core players coming back each year,‭ ‬and keeps winning over audiences.‭

“The mission has stayed the same:‭ ‬Focus on the music,‭ ‬with South Florida musicians,‭”‬ Forte said of the festival,‭ ‬which debuted July‭ ‬10,‭ ‬1992,‭ ‬at the Duncan Theater at what was then Palm Beach Community College in Lake Worth.‭ “‬Rather than traipsing off somewhere to play chamber music or do something else at a summer festival,‭ ‬they can do it here.‭”

One‭ ‬not-incidental‭ ‬goal of the effort was to show audiences that the making of classical music wasn‭’‬t restricted to the season or to snowbirds.‭ “‬We were trying to dispel that myth that there‭’‬s nobody in South Florida in the summer,‭”‬ Forte said.‭

Michael Forte.

The festival started small,‭ ‬with just three concerts,‭ ‬but by‭ ‬1996,‭ ‬it had grown to‭ ‬12‭ ‬concerts,‭ ‬given over four weeks and in three different venues.‭ ‬About‭ ‬3,000‭ ‬people turn out each July for the concerts,‭ ‬and Ellert,‭ ‬the group‭’‬s repertoire master,‭ ‬said the musicians have presented about‭ ‬250‭ ‬pieces in the course of its existence.

In so doing,‭ ‬they have created a South Florida summer cultural institution.‭ ‬But there is another legacy of the‭ ‬festival that is at least as important:‭ ‬The six discs it has recorded‭ ‬for Boca Raton‭’‬s Klavier label.‭ ‬The first,‭ ‬Buried Treasure,‭ ‬was released in‭ ‬2000,‭ ‬the most recent,‭ ‬Ever Changing,‭ ‬in‭ ‬2010,‭ ‬and the discs are exceptional for one overriding reason:‭ ‬The freshness of the repertory.

‭“‬One of the things important about the festival is performing pieces that have not earned their obscurity,‭”‬ said Clark McAlister,‭ ‬a vice president at Edwin Kalmus,‭ ‬which owns‭ ‬Klavier,‭ ‬and the festival‭’‬s composer in residence.‭ “‬A lot of them don‭’‬t.‭ ‬We‭’‬re rooting out the pieces that need to be heard.‭”

Each of the festival‭’‬s four programs is performed three times,‭ ‬in the south,‭ ‬central and northern parts of Palm Beach County.‭ ‬The concerts are set for‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Fridays‭ (‬July‭ ‬8,‭ ‬15,‭ ‬22‭ ‬and‭ ‬29‭) ‬at Persson Hall on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach‭; ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturdays‭ (‬July‭ ‬9,‭ ‬16,‭ ‬23‭ ‬and‭ ‬30‭) ‬at the Eissey Campus Theatre on the campus of Palm Beach State College in Palm Beach Gardens‭; ‬and at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sundays‭ (‬July‭ ‬10,‭ ‬17,‭ ‬24,‭ ‬and‭ ‬31‭) ‬in the Crest Theatre at Old School Square in Delray Beach.

As they have in past seasons,‭ ‬the musicians revisit some pieces that have worked well in the past,‭ ‬and chief among them this year is‭ ‬L‭’‬Histoire du Soldat,‭ ‬Igor Stravinsky‭’‬s‭ ‬1918‭ ‬tale of a soldier and the Devil,‭ ‬which will end the festival in Week‭ ‬4.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a‭ ‬20th-century masterwork,‭ ‬and organizers have retained the services of the three actors who performed it with them in a previous season:‭ ‬Joe Gillie,‭ ‬Barbara Bradshaw and Randolph Dellago.

Karen Dixon.

Another seminal work of modernism,‭ ‬Arnold Schoenberg‭’‬s‭ ‬Verklärte Nacht,‭ ‬is heard in Week‭ ‬1‭ ‬along with the great Serenade No.‭ ‬10‭ (‬in B-flat,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬361‭) ‬of Mozart,‭ ‬also known as the‭ ‬Gran Partita or the‭ ‬Serenade for‭ ‬13‭ ‬Winds.‭ ‬Schubert‭’‬s beloved‭ ‬Death and the Maiden‭ ‬Quartet‭ (‬No.‭ ‬14‭ ‬in D minor,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬810‭) ‬is scheduled for Week‭ ‬2,‭ ‬and Mozart‭’‬s Clarinet Quintet‭ (‬in A,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬581‭) ‬is set for Week‭ ‬3.‭ ‬Forte is featured in that work,‭ ‬and Dixon takes the solo spotlight in Week‭ ‬4‭ ‬with a septet version of the Orchestral Suite No.‭ ‬2‭ (‬in B minor,‭ ‬BWV‭ ‬1067‭) ‬of J.S.‭ ‬Bach.

Each summer‭’‬s programs always feature one work for the three founders,‭ ‬and this year it‭’‬s‭ ‬Fragments,‭ ‬by the American composer Robert Muczynski,‭ ‬who died last year.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a brief,‭ ‬charming work that appears on the festival‭’‬s‭ ‬Buried Treasure disc and in Week‭ ‬4.‭ ‬There‭’‬s always a wind quintet each season,‭ ‬and this time around it‭’‬s a John McDonough arrangement of the‭ ‬Capriol Suite,‭ ‬by the English composer Peter Warlock‭ (‬Week‭ ‬2‭)‬.‭

The programs also feature less well-known music by Eugene Bozza,‭ ‬Philippe Gaubert,‭ ‬Bohuslav Martinu and a trio for flute,‭ ‬bassoon and marimba,‭ ‬called‭ ‬Mosaics,‭ ‬by the contemporary American composer Eric Ewazen.

Each piece in the festival gets from six to‭ ‬12‭ ‬hours of rehearsal,‭ ‬which is substantial,‭ ‬and all players regardless of their duties are paid festival-style:‭ ‬A flat rate of‭ ‬$500‭ ‬a week.‭ ‬Dixon,‭ ‬49,‭ ‬said it makes for a busy run-up to the concerts.

‭“‬The way our schedule is,‭ ‬we don‭’‬t have a day off,‭”‬ she said.‭

Dixon said the planning meeting that the festival musicians always promise each other they‭’‬ll have after the festival ends never seems to happen,‭ ‬but dates at the venues are secured as soon as feasible.‭ ‬Musicians suggest wish lists of works they‭’‬d like to play in the concerts,‭ ‬and Ellert,‭ ‬a self-confessed addict of the far reaches of publisher catalogs,‭ ‬makes a point of seeking out underappreciated repertoire for possible inclusion.‭

This year‭’‬s selection of the Ewazen trio,‭ ‬for instance,‭ ‬came about as a result of a serendipitous late-night search on YouTube,‭ ‬he said,‭ ‬and the Bozza‭ (‬Four Movements for Wind Septet,‭ ‬in Week‭ ‬2‭)‬,‭ ‬is completely new to the musicians.‭

The three founders say they‭’‬ve often received suggestions for expanding the festival to another week,‭ ‬perhaps by bringing in outside ensembles and giving the home team a rest.‭ ‬But the four weeks of concerts push the musicians to their limit.

‭“‬To do anything else,‭ ‬someone would have to do it for us,‭”‬ said Ellert,‭ ‬61.‭ ‬And doing concerts during the regular,‭ ‬event-crammed season isn‭’‬t workable either,‭ ‬they said.

Michael Ellert.

The‭ ‬20‭ ‬seasons have provided the expected collection of high and low points.‭ ‬The three founders look to the previous‭ ‬L‭’‬Histoire,‭ ‬the recordings,‭ ‬and a conductor-less reading of the suite from Aaron Copland‭’‬s‭ ‬Applachian Spring ballet score as musical peaks.‭

One of the low points was‭ ‬offered by a disgruntled patron of the series in the early years.‭ ‬Dixon had worked up the‭ ‬Duettino Concertante‭ ‬for flute and percussion of the‭ ‬20th-century German-American composer Ingolf Dahl.‭ “‬It was a really cool piece,‭ ‬and we really worked hard on it,‭”‬ she said.‭ “‬And I remember feeling that we did a really good job.‭”

But the audience member disagreed.‭

“I had someone at the Crest Theatre come up to me after the concert,‭ ‬at the reception,‭ ‬and say,‭ ‬‘How could you subject me to that‭? ‬That was the worst thing I‭’‬ve ever heard.‭ ‬I would have left but I was in the middle of the row and I couldn‭’‬t get out,‭’”‬ she said.‭ “‬I was so taken aback,‭ ‬I was speechless.‭”‬

Those kinds of experiences,‭ ‬though,‭ ‬have been rare.‭ ‬For the most part,‭ ‬this has been a festival with a steady,‭ ‬loyal following,‭ ‬summer after summer.

‭“‬People say to us,‭ ‬‘I really love coming to these concerts.‭ ‬It just looks like you guys are having a really good time out there,‭’”‬ said Forte,‭ ‬59.‭ “‬And that means a lot.‭”

The three say they‭’‬re planning to keep the series going as long as they can,‭ ‬and say the festivals have become an extension of what the original concert was:‭ ‬A gathering of friends.

‭“‬That‭’‬s one of the great things about this,‭”‬ Ellert said,‭ ‬pointing out that the core group of players has been with the series for more than‭ ‬10‭ ‬years.‭ “‬Even though it‭’‬s just once a year,‭ ‬we all get back together on day one,‭ ‬and we go,‭ ‬‘Oh,‭ ‬this works.‭’”

The‭Palm Beach Chamber Music‭ ‬Festival begins tonight at‭ ‬8,‭ ‬at Persson Hall on the campus of Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach,‭ ‬and repeats at‭ ‬8‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Saturday at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens and at‭ ‬2‭ ‬p.m.‭ ‬Sunday at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach.‭ ‬The program features Médailles Antiques for flute,‭ ‬violin and piano by the French composer Philippe Gaubert‭; ‬Schoenberg‭’‬s Verklärte Nacht‭ (‬Op.‭ ‬4‭)‬,‭ ‬for string sextet‭; ‬and the Gran Partita‭ (‬in B-flat,‭ ‬K.‭ ‬361‭) ‬for‭ ‬13‭ ‬winds and double bass,‭ ‬by Mozart.‭ ‬Tickets‭ ‬are‭ ‬$25,‭ ‬and a four-weekend ticket can be had for‭ ‬$85.‭ ‬Call‭ ‬330-6874,‭ ‬visit‭ ‬,‭ ‬or buy them at the door.