Bodhi Tree Concerts received a 2014 BRAVO mention for 2014!
Thanks Kris Eitland and the cast of 7 DEADLY SINS!
By Kris Eitland - SanDiegoStory.com
I was asked to limit my top choices to 10, which is an impossible task, so I cheated. I squeezed in a few more by combining those seen at festivals, mixed bill productions, and multiple works from the same producer.
Giselle. California Ballet launched its 47th season with the ghostly ballet about an ordinary girl who dies of a broken heart when she discovers her lover is engaged to another woman. As Giselle, the feathery Ana da Costa transformed from love-struck sweetness to madness and jerky death. The Wilis, angry spirits of spurned brides, tried to dance her lover to death, but she rescued him. Tall and gallant, Trystan Merrick gave da Costa superb support as Albrecht. She seemed to levitate in lifts and his speed and execution were exceptional. Along with da Costa and Merrick, another bravo goes to Denise Dabrowski, company regisseur, for the striking balance between pretty and spooky, and drawing some of the best technique to come from this company in years.
Awáa. The gurgling creation story by Aszure Barton & Artists, presented by ArtPower! at UC San Diego’s Mandeville. For more than an hour in February, we were submerged and sent adrift down a dreamy river led by the most gifted and flexible dancers I’d seen in years. Barton’s Awáa has the quality of reeds pushed and twisted by currents. There’s a sense of time being slowed down, as when floating in water, in a peaceful weightless way. Along with two commissioned scores, bubbly sounds beckoned visual bubbles in the form of red and white balloons. We were left with many curious ideas and symbols. While my review couldn’t cover all of the elements in this dynamic show, it did garner the First Place Excellence in Journalism award for reviews this year from the San Diego Press Club.
City Ballet of San Diego’s Ballet & Beyond, offered two programs with work by four choreographers that drew both ballet and modern dance audiences to the glorious Spreckels Theatre. Along with works by City Ballet choreographer Elizabeth Wistrich and Geoff Gonzalez, San Diego Dance Theatre and Malashock Dance, two of the top contemporary companies brought outstanding works (Jean Isaacs’ “O Magnum Mysterium” and John Malashock’s “Great Day.” Honorable mention goes to City’s Swan Lake with ballerina Ana da Costa, and Balanchine Masterworks that interprets the master’s work so admirably.
Jeffrey Scott Parsons in San Diego Musical Theatre’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas . Even with Berlin’s delightful songs and a trunk full of vintage costumes, the old-style musical would have been a yawner without the dancing style of Parsons. Partnering with Tro Shaw, he injected energy to a tired storyline. His dialogue was quick, and dancing energized. In the expansive tap number “I Love the Piano,” Parsons wowed the crowd with tour jetes, solid syncopation, and straight up leaps. Bravo to choreographer Lisa Hopkins, and don’t forget the two squeaky Oxydol girls, Rita and Rhoda. Bravos to April Jo Henry and Sirii Hafso for their flirty banter that gave the old show a dose of life saving comedy.
Trolley Dances #16. Jean Isaacs’ dance adventure is a balance of artistry and logistics that transports wide-eyed travelers to view site specific dance in unexpected places. There is pleasure in watching dance where it is not supposed to be. For two weekends, Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater and four choreographers (Michael Mizerany, Terry Wilson, Blythe Barton, Grace Shinhae Jun) presented dances along the tracks from City College to Market Creek. Instead of a stage, audiences discovered dancers in odd places, such as pressed against a stairwell and bouncing off metal girders, which changes the way one views those places and surrounding communities. Bravo to the dancers and 28 performances over two weekends.
San Diego International Fringe Festival. Tin Shed Theatre’s Dr. Frankenstein’s Travelling Freakshow, a brilliant combination of physical theater and madcap clowning culminated with unexpected punch. The troupe crossed the pond from Wales with boxes of odd props and puppets, yet four remarkable performers captured the heart of Mary Shelley’s book – life is cruel and everyone deserves love and a companion. More excellent programs at the festival deserve mention Perception and Perseverance drew steady crowds with its steamy choreography by local dance makers Blythe Barton and Zaquia Mahler Salinas; as did a revival of Weill and Brecht’s Seven Deadly Sins, performed by Bodhi Tree Concerts. Spare and darkly humorous, actors sang like a Greek chorus to fine piano in this wonderfully strange and worthwhile premiere.
Justin Hudnall in Damaged Goods. The collaboration between Justin Hudnall of the poet therapy group So Say We All and San Diego Dance Theatre started out with the energy of a salon inside the White Box. But then Hudnall lamented about PTSD, psychotherapy, and sexual troubles, while interacting with dancers. Without a hitch he flung his coat onto their heads as if they were furniture. A confident mover, his rant grew more intense and scary as dancers grabbed and twisted his torso. It was rare to observe such strong chemistry between verse and dance, and annoying as hell that the show had a short run.
Sean Murray and Jamie Torcellini in Moonlight’s Spamalot. Moonlight Amphitheater is the best kept secret in town, but why? You won’t find more remarkable theater productions unless you travel to New York, and then you’d miss the stellar performances by the silvery Sean Murray, as the regal buffoon King Arthur, and Jamie Torcellini , as his clip-clopping sidekick Patsy. Together they brought golden timing to gags about the plague, fish slapping, and coconut galloping. Honorable mention also goes to Moonlight’s Catch Me if You Can that globetrots with conman Frank Abagnale, and boasts satire, flashy dance, and the glitz of a 1960s TV show and Mary Poppins, starring Jessica Bernard as the quirkiest nanny to ever fly an umbrella.
The Old Globe’s Bright Star gave us powerful songs overflowing with rich imagery. The actors sang with easy restraint, and we could hear every tender word. Musical director Rob Berman conducted from his piano on stage, which made bluegrass instruments in Steve Martin and song maker Edie Brickell’s new show sound like an orchestra.
The Foreigner, presented by Lamb’s Players Theatre drew on ancient themes about love and deceit, and there was a bounty of funny, rapid-fire dialogue. It was most rewarding to watch the weakling Charlie, played by Geno Carr, transform and find his backbone. In the end, outrageous humor exposed the absurdity of prejudice, and that felt great.
The Book of Mormon. Irreverent, vulgar, and outlandishly funny, the spoof pokes fun at those guys in white short sleeved shirts, skewers the Mormon Creation story, and reveals doubts about faith in general. The production at the Civic Auditorium held enough Broadway value to make it worth the price.
Both The Book of Mormon and Wicked get blaring boos for rotten sound in the Civic Barn Auditorium. Too loud and over-modulated, we missed some of the key punch lines and voices got swallowed up by orchestras. There’s no reason to crank the volume to 11. Wicked was worse. Songs with more than two voices were a muddy mess, and they grew to sonic assault that hurt and ruined what should have been a wickedly good show.
John Nettles, director of the City Ballet Orchestra, gets an honorable mention for conducting live music for classics such as The Nutcracker, but boo for his torturous autobiographical opera- A Life According to Me filled with dated pop songs; it had no place in the otherwise rewarding program Ballet & Beyond.
Boo to Courtesan Café presented at Les Girls Theater, a strip club used as one of the Off Fringe sites in the Fringe Festival. As in previous productions, the ArtBurlesque troupe relied on achingly bad butoh and improvisation, too many non-dancers, and a vague and useless stripper plot. Another missed opportunity to present truly hot burlesque.
Boo to Moonlight Stage Productions for presenting Nunsense at the AVO Playhouse for its winter season. The dated musical started out as a marketing scheme for snarky nun greeting cards in the 80s and needs to stay there. The hellish show with nuns behaving like children and getting high on amyl nitrate poppers was as stale as a communion cracker and an embarrassment for the determined actors.