Buzz is swelling around the American debut of Monkey: Journey to the West and the dark humor of Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Theres also a mad rush right now for tickets to see performance artist Taylor Mac and Seamus Heaneys new translation of a Greek tragedy, The Burial at Thebes. And we havent even mentioned chamber music, choral music, the Wachovia Jazz Series, and all the stuff that Piccolo has to offer this year.
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The Buffoons triumvirate lacked a member Wednesday night at their Piccolo premiere, but they did not go gently into the night.
A palpable sense of anticipation hung in the air as the Gaillard gradually filled to overflowing with big-band fans who could hardly wait to get their ears on some of the juiciest, most colorful orchestral music ever written. Thursday’s concert was the festival's second (and final) opportunity to show off the formidable Spoleto Festival Orchestra, as well as our only chance this year to hear Spoleto's perennial piano hero Andrew von Oeyen.
Mr. Maalem, an Algerian who grew up in France, was kind enough to take audience questions after the performance. He said that his decision to perform Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” with African dancers was informed by the fact that in, “Algeria I grew up carrying the war in myself, and all of West Africans carry the war of colonization.” The evocative ensemble performance depicted the dancers as trapped in a changing world, fighting with fists punching the air, trying to make sense of the evolution.
Charleston Chamber Opera’s debut performance certainly conveyed the astoundingly huge ambition of creating an opera company devoted to presenting chamber opera in a novel fashion. The effort is worthy effort, but fell just short of the brass ring...for now.
With Spoleto winding to a close, it’s reasonable to expect audiences and actors to feel Piccoloed out. There’s only so much theater one can gobble up in a three week period. Yet people were eager to see Cloud Tectonics, some for the second or third time, and a decent-sized throng caught its opening night.
It was a mighty bold move booking experimental composer/drum soloist Gerry Hemingway for this year’s Wachovia Jazz Series. Producer/director Michael Grofsorean and his staff deserve high praise for taking a chance on such a risk-taking artist. But Hemingway delivered one of the most uniquely expressive and daring programs of this year’s series — all by himself.
A larger-than-anticipated crowd filled the courtyard of the scenic venue for the final installment of Spoleto’s Wachovia Jazz Series. Despite the formal setting, the trio kept things casual and loose with a varied set of Brazilian standards and original pieces.
The mass death and destruction of WWI has been captured in novels, movies, musicals, and even reality TV shows. But as far as we know, theatre collective Hotel Modern is the first to recreate the battlefields of the War to End All wars using uniformed dolls, miniature props, toy soldiers, and a lot of dirt. And they do it well, presenting a solid overview of the 1914-18 conflict with rousing energy and ingenuity.
In Bin Yah, a documentary about the plight of the Gullah-Geechee community around the Charleston area, you meet a 101-year-old sweetgrass basket maker, an animated chieftess, succinctly speaking activists, and a good humored reverend. The range of characters are intimately developed, while conscientious editing maintains a good pace. Informational doses are lifted along by charged jazz, aerial shots, and historical photos.
The main fare came after halftime, with Ludwig van Beethovens sturdy and ingenious Mass in C Major, the earlier of his two settings of the standard Latin mass (the other being his metaphysical late wonder, the Missa Solemnis). As with the classic Te Deum and Requiem texts, the mass has drawn greatness from many of the past millenniums top composers hardly the least of whom is the illustrious Ludwig. By the time he got to this one, he had gotten used to shaking up the reigning musical establishment, so he proceeded to flout existing sacred rules with things like stark unison singing in places, unconventional orchestral support, and foregoing real arias for his soloists making them instead more a part of the choral and orchestral fabrics. Its a flowing, supremely cohesive work, full of drama, emotional intensity and lyrical beauty. And its over before you know it.
Imagine free-falling through an atmosphere of people, places, and situations while laughing gas pumps in your veins. This summarizes The Cody River Show’s uncanny ability to recite vast amounts of seemingly irrelevant information and link it into a montage of hilarious stories. It showers the audience with spasmodic vignettes that combine dance, song, and dialogue. It flaps like a pair of frenzied wings, spilling anecdotes and interchangeable characters over the crowd.
Homeland is Laurie Anderson unplugged. No screen, no images. The barebones set of tea candles and a dozen dangling lightbulbs are like a return to the bohemian roots of performance art.
Mary Theresa Archbold has been dealing with people looking at her arm her entire life. Some stare at it, some avoid it, and some ask a lot of questions. For her husband, Pat Shay, people are either inquisitive or perverse. With so many of these experiences behind them, Archbold and her husband have brought their stories to Charleston in Jazz Hand: Tales of a One Armed Woman. The fast-paced vignettes range from childhood embarrassments to grown-up questions about having kids — and it all comes back to the arm.
Here’s the difference between listening to the Carolina Chocolate Drops on CD and seeing them play live: on CD, Rhiannon Giddens will sing, play the banjo, switch to kazoo, and wow you six ways to Sunday, sure, but live, you get to see her dance to Salty Dog.
Saturday night was a great evening. Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, danced well. They danced damn well. Could the performance have been more accurate in its description, yeah, but did I enjoy it? Hell yeah.
There are plenty of shows in Spoleto with fancy sets, dazzling lighting set-ups and experiments in multimedia. But if you’re looking for unadulterated, no-frills theatre where there’s nothing to distract from the acting, then The Tragedian is a must-see.
Jack McBrayer’s star has ascended since he appeared at last year’s Piccolo Fringe. He’s made a heap more episodes of 30 Rock, giving increasingly confident performances as Kenneth Parcell. He’s appeared in movies like Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. He’s all over VH1 in a Mariah Carey video. You’d think that with all the TV and press attention he’s getting, McBrayer would be too lofty for the Lowcountry. But the the Georgia native’s back in Theatre 99 with his improv partner Paul Scheer, doing the same quick-witted, harebrained kind of show that’s endeared them to Charleston audiences for years.
No matter how talented some actors are, sometimes you really just dont want to sit and hear about their lives. Youve sat through those awkward episodes of Inside the Actors Studio. Brad Pitt? Snooze. Renée Zellweger? Not without a really stiff drink.
If the graveyard at the Circular Congregational Church is the eternal resting place of any heroes of the original vaudevillian theater, then those lonely, theater-less ghosts must have halted their wanderings and hightailed it back to Charleston as soon as K. Brian Neel walked onstage Tuesday night. Vaud Rats, Neel’s one-man ukelele operetta which he wrote and stars in, is dynamic, engrossing, funny, heartbreaking, poignant, unique — all those things that make a night at the theater the thrillingly consuming experience that only a couple shows in a hundred can create.
Wednesday evening's festive concert, with Maestro Emmanuel Villaume leading his "Orchestra of Virtuosos" plus the Grammy-nominated fab five members of the Imani Winds, blew away a near-capacity crowd at the Gaillard Auditorium in the first of the festival's two orchestral blockbuster events.
The opening night performance from the Upright Citizens Brigade Touring Company was hysterically great at some points and painfully awkward at others. But that’s the way it goes with longform improv sometimes.
David Lee Nelson has perfected the telling of his life’s tales, down to every word. Take the time, at age four, when the girls he lived with on an American compound in Saudi Arabia dressed him up like a little lady, lipstick and all, for Halloween. His on-point descriptions of memories like the moment his father saw him when he entered the room that night are nothing short of hysterical. (All Hallow’s Eve is now his least favorite holiday.)
The filmmaker and craftsman behind Ten Trees, the multimedia project now on display at Waterfront Park, reveals the process behind manufacturing plywood.
Under the Lights is a showcase for College of Charleston theatre student work. Ten of the best shorts from the theater department are staged for the general public, partly as a learning process for the participants, but also as a piece of entertainment for Piccolo audiences.
A musical prodigy from early childhood on, Chestnut began studying classical music at Peabody Institute by the age of nine. That lifelong devotion to music shines through when he performs. You could hang a sign off the side of his piano: “Man at Work.”
I can’t count how many times (and in how many ways) I’ve told you this over the years, but the wondrous singers of Rider University’s Westminster Choir College are absolutely second to none. Year after year, their select 40-voice chamber choir comes to Spoleto, serving as the resident opera chorus. They also appear in two other programs: Dr. Flummerfelt’s big choral-orchestral extravaganza (with the Charleston Symphony Chorus) and in their own chamber program, led by their current director, Dr. Joe Miller. Friday’s concert at the Cathedral Church of St. Luke & St. Paul was the first of those.
Glennis McMurray and Eliza Skinner may have old lady names, but their musical improv is as young and fresh as it gets.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s autobiographical show the break/s starts with a bunch of questions including, “What do you think of white people in hip-hop?”, “If jazz is the broom Africans jumped over to become Americans, then what is hip-hop?”, and “If you could ask Jay-Z a question, what would it be?”
Wearing a white dress, Donna Uchizono, the director and choreographer of State of Heads and Low, came on stage for a bow. She locked hands with her dancers, who were dressed in black, and absorbed the audience’s warm applause. The contrast in attire between dancers and director mirrored the contrast between the two sets performed Friday night at the Emmett Theater.
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