Actors’ Playhouse has been a musical powerhouse for much of its history. Launching its 30th anniversary season at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables, the company is revisiting some of that history with a new production of a made-for-South Florida favorite: Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s “Evita.” As it did in 2000 when recent Tony Award winner Rachel Bay Jones starred as Eva Duart..
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We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world. Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: ..
After a tryout run in Chicago, 34 previews and 746 performances on Broadway, and a tour launch in Buffalo, “On Your Feet!” has finally opened in the place where Cuban-born music superstars Gloria and Emilio Estefan made their dreams come true: Miami. At Friday’s red carpet opening at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, with the Estefans and their extended family in atte..
Whether the comedy is high or low, performer-writer Steve Martin has been making moviegoers, “Saturday Night Live” fans and theater lovers laugh for more than half a century – hard to believe it’s been that long, but he started early. Martin’s way with both cerebral jokes and physical comedy is abundantly on display in “The Underpants,” his 2002 adaptation of Carl Sternheim’s once-ban..
Robert Schenkkan’s “Building the Wall” begins as a wary conversation between two strangers: Rick, a white male convict awaiting a likely death sentence, and Gloria, a black female historian and college professor. For 90 minutes, the two talk. She probes; he explains and justifies and slowly paints a picture of a man-made Seventh Circle of Hell. By the time the play ends, the audience ..
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ award-winning play “An Octoroon” layers an antebellum melodrama with 21st-century parlance and perspective. The result is an innovative play-within-a-play that skillfully reminds us of slavery’s horrible past and its ever-present legacy. Area Stage Company’s production, thoughtfully directed by John Rodaz, brings together a talented cast to ensure this melodra..
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Despite a packed show schedule, including performing with the Frankfurt Opera in “Rinaldo,” Sarasota native, dancer and choreographer James McGinn had a chance to discuss the upcoming dance-opera ..
Anniversaries usually celebrate the success of a partnership with symbolic gifts of crystal, china, silver and gold. For the Arts Ballet Theater of Florida, the company celebrates 20 years of..
If the political movement that saw its birth after the November elections is in the market for a composer to set the score for its many marches, Frederic Rzewski might be a strong contender for the role. Rzewski, who makes a rare South Florida appearance Saturday at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium to open Tigertail Productions' month-long dance and music festival "Fire," is the real deal. With a lifetime of progressive causes infused in his music, the 78-year-old contemporary pianist has the requisite experience for a concert entitled "Music of Resistance." And age has not dampened his passionate commitment to art as an agent for social change.
Other "Fire" events include "Fire Gods in the Garden," with site-specific dance pieces by Marissa Alma Nick, Carla Forte, Hattie Mae Williams and Pioneer Winter, on April 12 at the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens; and New York-based Reggie Wilson and his Fist and Heel Performance Group in "Citizen," April 21 to 22 at Miami-Dade County Auditorium.
Rzewski developed both his political beliefs and his musical talent at an early age. Born in Massachusetts of Polish stock during the waning days of the Great Depression, both of his decidedly apolitical parents were pharmacists who could send him to piano classes at the age of five. His left-leaning piano teacher, Charles Mackey, “used to mix politics in the music,” Rzewski said in a phone interview. “Everybody knew he was supposed to be ‘Red,’ but he was also the best piano teacher.”
This was during the beginning of the McCarthy era. “He taught me all kinds of things, and these were not the kinds of things that good American boys were supposed to know about," Rzewski said. "It didn’t take long before I acquired the nickname in seventh grade of ‘comrade.’”
Centuries of worldwide political rebellion appear in Rzewski’s work. A song from Ireland’s Easter Rising of 1916, a melody invoking 1938’s Kristallnacht (the night when violent Nazi persecution of the Jews was unleashed), an anthem from the U.S. Civil Rights Movement—all took on a symbolic value in Rzewski's hands, often different from their composers’ original intent. Rzewski latches on to a popular melody, then revisits, reworks and revives it for audiences who may never have known the original but who can now feel its incantatory pull.
Included on Saturday’s program will be the most famous of these pieces, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated.” The composition is a nearly hour-long exploration of the seemingly limitless possibilities of a fragment of melody that is beautiful, infectious and replete with real-world drama. It is Rzewski’s 1975 answer to the CIA-aided Chilean military coup that saw the overthrow and death of a democratically-elected president, Salvador Allende, and the installation of General Augusto Pinochet, setting off a Latin American reign of terror. Riffing on Sergio Ortega’s emblematic protest song, “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido," Rzewski works and reworks a single melodic line, each time finding a different tone or detail to emphasize. The voices are disparate, but each expresses the same overarching, inspiring idea, much as a group of individuals in the market for a successful revolution must.
Rzewski began writing "The People United" as a response to the disinformation in America regarding the events in Chile. It was, ironically enough, a commission for classic pianist Ursula Oppens to perform in the Kennedy Center as part of the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. Our independence, thought Rzewski, “was about a small country… asserting its right to independence against a large country, which was Britain. Now, 200 years later, the roles are reversed.”
Rzewski will also play a much newer, politically charged work, 2016's “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around (Songs of Insurrection No. 3).” His interpretation of the iconic freedom song will surely differ from the one NAACP leaders sang at a sit-in at then Attorney General nominee Jeff Session’s office in January, but the feeling is no doubt the same.
Not all of Rzewski’s work is focused on politics; he's also known simply for making good music. His performances are feats of stamina. He plays with hurricane force, with dangerously fast passages that race down the keyboard, reminding listeners that the piano is indeed a percussion instrument. Technique is essential, and Rzewski admits to purposefully making his compositions difficult in order to weed out lousy would-be performers. Pianists not up to snuff, he says, won’t go near his work.
“There are no bad performances,” he comments wryly. “Music comes first. Whether it’s a baseball cheering song or whatever, the only reason that it catches on is because it’s good music.”
Frederic Rzewski “Music of Resistance,” Fire festival, Miami-Dade County Auditorium On.Stage Black Box, 2901 W. Flagler St., Miami; 8:30 p.m. Saturday; $35; tigertail.org.
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