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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum @ Broadway Rose

Dan Murphy is usually the "M.C." for Broadway Rose's productions, introducing the show and thanking donors. As far as I know, he has never before graced their stage as an actor. After "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," I am convinced that it should become a far more common occurrence. His Pseudolus  is hilarious.

The cover of the playbill should have been a reminder that "West Side Story" and "Forum" were presented at Broadway Rose back-to-back, but I just thought of the nice combination of dark Sondheim washed down by light-Sondheim. They really do make unexpectedly nice bookends. Go see Broadway Rose flex their muscles once again, but in an entirely different way.

Gregory Alan Isakov @ The Crystal Ballroom 8-8-16

Gregory Alan Isakov opened for Josh Ritter at the Aladdin Theater years ago, and  he's been on my "remember that name" list ever since. So, I approached his Crystal Ballroom show with great anticipation. I was not disappointed. In fact, from the very first moment, I was treated like a royalty, scoring a wristband for the VIP Area.  Isakov belongs to what I term The Trinity of Literary Folk-Rock, along with Josh Ritter and Joe Pug.

He was accompanied by The Ghost Orchestra, and they performed so well together, I found myself hoping that the show was being recorded. It was sonic-heaven. The show was at once symphonic and rocking.  My one complaint was the remarkably low lighting. They may have been striving for a "mood",  but in reality it was just plain dark.

It is my privilege to highly recommend Mr. Isakov to you,  here is a sampling:

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"West Side Story" @ Broadway Rose

Broadway Rose's "West Side Story" has a 15-piece band. This is remarkable for a theatre of its size. It is quite possibly remarkable for a theatre twice its size. "West Side Story" signals a gigantic leap-forward in all ways, from orchestra to cast-size for Tigard's little theatre with enormous ambition. This production is probably on par with the expansion to its own theatre-building.

Broadway Rose's rendering of the Sondheim classic boasts fiercely talented leads in returning local-actor Andrew Wade as Tony, and Mia Pinero as Maria.

"West Side Story" marked a transition into grittier territory than what was expected in musicals of the era, and in certain ways,  even now. In that way, it is a show that may appeal to those of us whose tastes run a little darker.

I must restate for a final time, the impressiveness of its scope. Are even bigger things on the horizon?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Vandaveer at The KINK Skype Live Studio 6/10/16

I first saw Vandaveer  open for Joe Pug at the Doug Fir Lounge. They were a good fit. Both are folky and poetically verbose, but Vandaveer is heavier on harmony, whereas Pug is a vocal soloist even when accompanied by a band. There was very little room for the interview portion of their Skype show because the absolutely insane traffic had made them late, and they had some other engagement immediately after, which was in addition to their ticketed evening performance. Therefore, the only knowledge gleaned from the exceptionally brief interview was that many of the band's members are native to Kentucky, but all met each other and formed the band in D.C. And that their final song's lyrics were penned by an Oregon based poet.

Here's an an animated music video from their new album "The Wild Mercury":

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Brett Dennen @ The Skype Live Studio June 2, 2016

Brett Dennen is a poet. A singer-songwriter of the highest order. He is capable of both contemplative lyrics and bouncy melodies. His Skype Live Studio set was acoustic, which is well-suited to that venue, and showcased the aforementioned contemplative lyrics, but since  I am a newly-minted fan, I came home and found the studio-versions. The album version of Cassidy, (from his latest effort "Por Favor") is far more upbeat than the way he played it at Skype. Hearing it both ways was a privilege, and a testament to Dennen's versatility as a musician.

All but one of Dennen's songs came from "Por Favor," he played "San Francisco" in response to an audience member's request to pay tribute to The Golden State Warriors. Apparently, Dennen is a sports-fan as well, because he said, "Not that they need any help." he also had occasion to imitate an audience member's dance moves, (thankfully at a different performance), which demonstrated his humorous side. Once again, audience members at The Skype Live Studio are treated to seeing musicians in an intimate way that would be impossible at a full-scale concert. It is a jewel of the city.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Michael Tyler @ The Skype Live Studio

This is my second-entry in an ongoing series of reviews at Alpha Broadcasting's Skype Live Studio. I usually refer it as KINK's Skype Live Studio, but today's performance by Michael Tyler was hosted by Alpha's Country station, "The Bull".  According to his introduction by personalities from The Bull's morning show,  Mr. Tyler is best-known for penning "Somewhere on a Beach,"  currently a hit-song for Dierks Bentley. I truly prefer Mr. Tyler's version. He also sang a song called "Hi Momma" I predict it will be a hit as well.

One of the greatest advantages of reviewing Skype Shows on a regular basis is finding out about artists i would have otherwise never encountered. The performers I've seen under the KINK-banner usually have an evening show at a local venue, Michael Tyler did not, but if he had, I would have rushed out immediately to buy a ticket.

I can't quite gauge how well-known he is, but I have a feeling that he is just beginning his career. In that case, it is a distinct privilege to say, "You heard it here first."

"Hawthorne" @ Action/Adventure Theatre

Zoe Rudman is a very versatile actress. I know this because only exposure to her work was "Fierce Love" in which all her roles were light-hearted. So, it was quite a shock to see she was playing the lead in "Hawthorne,"  a neo-noir world premiere at Action/Adventure Theatre. Sure, there are the wisecracks that are expected of the genre, (some quite good), but "Hawthorne" also requires a fair amount of seriousness. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that Ms. Rudman does a masterful job, my favorite scene of hers in "Fierce Love" involved finding the humor in learning how to pick yourself up after learning your child has been diagnosed with a disability.  If that's not a mix of funny and somber I don't know what is. (Ms. Rudman played a "Stunt Double.")

Also of note are the expressive projections, and the truly moody instrumental score. Unfortunately, some of the projections were not just for scene-setting, but included small jokes or necessary information like internet search results, and sometimes I missed them, either due to their speed or my sightline. Also unfortunate is "Hawthorne" 's relatively brief run, Thurs-Sat, thru June 4. I sincerely hope they extend it, there was a packed house the night I attended, so they may.  I look forward to seeing more work from Action/Adventure, and of course, Ms. Rudman. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"The Skin of Our Teeth" @Artists Rep.

If it weren't for "Cuba-Libre",  Artists Rep.'s musical with Broadway ambitions, I'd say that "The Skin of our Teeth" was their most technically-ambitious show. It has beautiful and effective projections, and set-changes so complicated that two intermissions are required. Not to mention they had to shift my seat to allow for the entrance of a giant prop.

 "The Skin of Our Teeth " can be at times confusing, but don't worry, there is always a character ready with a snarky aside confessing to a given scene's strangeness.

As big as "The Skin of Our Teeth" is, the moments I enjoyed most were quite small. Mostly Michael Mendelson  stealing the scene with some totally off-the-wall bit of goofiness.

It's certainly a one of a kind show, tracing the antics of man-kind through the centuries. It ends Artists Rep's Season on a humorous note, but a heady one as well. This Season was one with lots of muscle-flexing,  and it is most welcome.

Monday, May 23, 2016

"Streetcar Named Desire" @ Portland Center Stage

What can I say about Streetcar Named Desire"? It is obviously a classic, and deservedly so. It is also the best show of PCS's Season. Make sure not to miss it. There is the new wrinkle of a multi-racial cast, and a notation in the playbill about using a slightly revised script, the same one used in a 2012 multi-racial Broadway production. I wish I could say that I knew what had been changed, but I can't. What I can say is that after a remarkably short while, one is far less conscious of the race of the actors. I tend to believe this is a good thing. It means that one has become immersed.

The cast is worthy of breathless praise,  particularly Demetrius Grosse as Stanley. But, truly all of the cast is spectacular. Who is Stanley without Stellla, and who are either of them without Blanche? I just sing-out Stanley because I waited eagerly for the iconic "Stella!"

This is theatre at its finest. I felt enormously privileged  to watch.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Charles Bradley @ The Skype Live Studio & The Crystal Ballroom 5/19/16

Charles Bradley is most easily compared with James Brown: The energetic Soul music, the yowling, and the acrobatics with the microphone. But, at KINK's Skype Live Studio we learned that the young Charles Bradley actually met his inspiration as a teen, who advised him to do amateur nights at the famed Apollo Theatre. Bradley told the story of being sabotaged by the judges when he was forced to sing Brown's "Man's World" in an incorrect key, in order to ensure the victory of a favored competitor. This is the kind of revealing information one can glean from a Skype Live Studio performance, intimate half-hour shows in Downtown Portland's PacWest Center. I am excited to announce that reviews of Skype Live Studio shows will soon become a recurring feature of "The Crippled Critic." These performances typically occur at 12:00 or 3:00 (sometimes both) and last for around 30 minutes, so as to fit comfortably into a lunch-hour. You can RSVP at Skype Live, and winners will be e-mailed guaranteed seating, though thanks to the larger venue provided by the PacWest Center, oftentimes standby tickets are granted to "walk-ins." These shows are frequently hosted by KINK On-air Personality Steve Pringle, one of KINK's most knowledgable commentators.  This particular Skype show was slightly shorter, (two songs instead of the usual three or more.)

Luckily, I was granted tickets to Mr. Bradley's Crystal Ballroom show later that evening. He put on an astonishing show. He's in his sixties, and yet bounded around the stage in ways that would likely be difficult for a man half his age. Bradley's new album is called "Changes" and it takes its name from a Black Sabbath song of the same name which Bradley soul-ifys.

 I've seen Mr Bradley's full shows twice now, at the Crystal and the Oregon Zoo. Both times he ended them on heartfelt positive-notes, imploring his audience to think and react always with love, and he is a shining example that it can be done.