My latest for Open Culture: Listen to Leonard Bernstein’s LP What Is Jazz?
André Previn wrote his operatic adaptation of “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1995 and premiered it in 1998, with a critical consensus of “What took so long?” Tennessee Williams’ play is already pitched at a melodramatic level, and set in the kind of Bayou heat that frazzles brains, that it seems a natural for a musical adaptation. Fortunately, too, Mr. Previn’s score combines modern music with New Orleans jazz, and produced a good thing: a modern opera with some tunes.
Stage directed by Omer Ben Seadia, and conceived as a collaboration of Opera Santa Barbara, the Merola Program and Kentucky Opera, OSB’s production by Jose Maria Condemi opens tonight for two performances. Gregory Gerbrandt plays Stanley Kowalski, the brutish “common” man played memorably by Marlon Brando in the film version. MicaÎla Oeste plays his wife, Stella. And stepping up to take on an iconic role, Beverly O’Regan Thiele sings the part of Blanche DuBois, the aging Southern Belle with a tenuous grasp on reality.
Everybody in my family is kind of funny,” says stand-up comedian Brian Regan, who comes to the Arlington on Sunday. Growing up as one of eight siblings, there was a lot of competition to crack each other up.
“I used to love making my dad laugh. He was a very smart guy, so if you put something together that had some ideas to it, he would laugh like it was nobody’s business. There was something very powerful about that experience. My older brother Mike is one of the funniest people I know. Offstage he’s funnier than I am.”
When writer Georg Büchner died at 23 in 1837, he left behind the fragments of a play that had no ending and no official structure. Yet out of all his works, the “working-class tragedy” of “Woyzeck,” about a soldier gone murderously mad with jealousy, is the most read, most performed, and most interpreted. There have been operas, movies, a ballet and many stage adaptations. It is extremely open to interpretation.
Ensemble Theatre’s Jonathan Fox has taken on one of the most popular recent adaptations of the play — a musical by Tom Waits and his wife/collaborator Kathleen Brennan — and brought it to the New Vic, opening tonight. And even that is an interpretation: Mr. Fox has ditched the other third of that 2002 production: Robert Wilson’s direction and production design.
In Sarah Ruhl’s plays, the subject matters may change, but one thing stays constant: nothing is what it seems, and even our closest friends and family, in the end, are unknowable. That conceit, with a technological edge, is the focus of “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” opening tonight at SBCC’s Jurkowitz Theatre. Directed by Katherine Laris, this 2007 play cocks an eyebrow at the faith we put in our online selves, and takes its protagonist on a journey of self-discovery.
Jenna Scanlon, who has risen through the ranks of several local companies and productions to land starring roles, plays Jean, a shy and retiring woman who retrieves an incessantly ringing cell phone from a nearby cafe customer only to discover he’s dead. The corpse is played by another one of Santa Barbara’s top actors, Brian Harwell — also Ms. Scanlon’s boyfriend in real life — so we know that while this character may be dead, he hasn’t begun to have his say.
My Fair Lady,” the classic Lerner and Loewe musical that opens for a two-and-a-half-week run this coming Thursday at the Marian Theatre, is balanced on both sides by history. On one side, any production has to escape from the clutches of the past: based on a Greek myth, turned into a George Bernard Shaw play, and then into a musical in 1956 and then the film in 1964. That’s a lot of learned culture and imagery. On the other side, there’s the politics of the musical that butts up against our cultural mores. In modern parlance, there’s a lot of “mansplaining” in this story of the upper-class phoneticist Henry Higgins, who teaches the lower-class Eliza Doolittle to erase her awful Cockney speech and ascend to high society.
“The parts that are giving us the hardest time is the relationship between Higgins and Doolittle,” says Andrew Philpot, who plays Higgins. “They have this teacher-student relationship, but at some point they are falling in love. But Higgins is so emotionally blocked and so not a ‘people person’ that it’s hard to find those moments where there is that connection. Because I spend so much of my time berating her and making fun of her!… I would hope the audience will be laughing at me (as Higgins) and not nodding their heads in agreement. He is a lost soul. Somewhere in his history, he was done wrong.”