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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Herndon sings Rodgers & Hammerstein



The set for A Grand Night for Singing at NextStop Theatre, Herndon/Photo by Lock and Company

When was the last time you sang Oh What a Beautiful Morning while you sat in traffic on 66 or stood on a packed Metro when there were no seats?

Yeah, me neither, but now that I've seen A Grand Night for Singing at the NextStop Theatre in Herndon, I am ready to adjust my attitude and let it all out.
Sarah Ann Sillers in A Grand Night for Singing at NextStop Theatre, Herndon/Photo, NextStop

It's a lovely night of medleys by five charming actors (Matthew Hirsh, Katherine Riddle, Sarah Anne Sillers, Karen Vincent, and Marquise White) delighted to welcome you with Some Enchanted Evening and Rodgers and Hammerstein's big hits like Hello Young Lovers, If I Loved You, It Might As Well Be Spring, Honey Bun, and I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair.


The songs are about love, the fashion of the 1940s, 1950s, and post World War II when the composers were composing, long before all things Russian, pipelines and climate change. (I can't wait to hear those. Have the composers started making Trump music yet, like the playwrights are writing Trump scripts?

Marquise White's solo in This Nearly Was Mine stood out in a night of standouts, like the dancing by White, Hirsh and Vincent singing It's Me.  Ms. Vincent's small stature belies her strong voice.

Michael J. Bobbitt directs and doubles amazingly as choreographer in coaching the actors to reach the high notes and maintain their happy demeanors, all while courting the audience with synchronized high kicks and dreamy harmonization.

 Sexy lighting by Jason Arnold deepens the mood at the vaudeville show, a musical without plot that the audience comes to watch in a jazz club which has two nice bars, one open and serving drinks before the show and at intermission, and the other, stretching almost the length of the set behind the musicians who get a workout the whole night. (Evan Hoffman, set designer.)

Karen Young played cello while pianist Elisa Rosman conducted, accompanied by percussionists Hayden Busby or Glenn Scimonelli and on reeds, Mitch Bassman or Lindsay Williams. 

By choosing their seats on the floor and in the first row, members of the audience become part of a silent cast, sitting at round tables and drinking their brews while the actors whirl about them, sit at their elbows and occasionally extend a hand and arm: Shall We Dance?

It's something wonderful for fans of the King and I, South Pacific, Carousel, Oklahoma!, State Fair, Cinderella, Flower Drum Song, and the Sound of Music and more.

Grand Night won two Tony awards and ran for 52 performances when it opened on Broadway in 1993.

Enthusiasm and fun are catching. Smiles are contagious.  Try it on Metro.  I hope I am on your car.

Other production team members are Bobby Libby, assistant director; Robert Croghan, costumes; Reid May, sound designer; Laura Moody, stage manager; Jessica Dubish, assistant stage manager; Scott Rodger, sound mixer, and Brittney Mongold, scenics

What: Rodgers & Hammerstein's A Grand Night for Singing

When: Wednesday through Saturday nights at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and a wait list for the Sunday 7 p.m. August 12 show. Now through August 20, 2017. 

Where: NextStop Theatre, 269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon, VA 20170 in the back right corner of Sunset Business Park, near the intersection of Spring Street/Sunset Hills Road. Right off the Fairfax County Parkway. A wee big hard to find and I would allow an extra 15 minutes if this is your first visit.

Free parking: Available near the door.

*How much: Tickets are $40 with group discounts and student rush seats (if available).  Call 866-811-4111.


Duration:  A little under two hours with one 15-minute intermission.

Rating: G. Appropriate for all age levels.
 

For more information: 703-481-5930 or info@nextstoptheatre.org 

patricialesli@gmail.com





Saturday, August 5, 2017

International pianists at the Kennedy Center

The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017.  According to program notes, Ms. Lee played Etudes No. 3 and No. 4 by E. Wild (1915-2010)/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines

Young pianists from Korea, Italy, and China were on the program last week at the Ninth Annual Washington International Piano Festival held at the Kennedy Center and the Catholic University of America. Faculty members at CUA, Nikita Fitenko and Ivo Kaitchev, founded the Festival in 2009.
Benedetta Conte of Italy at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017, playing Musica ricercata, No. 8 by Ligeti (1923-2006)/Photo by Patricia Leslie 

The Festival's goal is "to provide the best learning experience for everyone by combining an intensive educational program with an outstanding concert series presented by world-class pianists."  More than 50 teachers, pianists, and guest artists participate every year in the week-long festival which offers paying students private lessons, master classes, lectures, workshops, concerts, and receptions.

(Please pardon the poor quality of these photographs, but the Kennedy Center usher made me stand behind the ropes to take pictures, and the distance to the subjects is one reason for the unsatisfactory output.) 
 Subin Hwang of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Appassionata and I, Allegro assai by Beethoven (1770-1827)/Photo by Patricia Leslie 
 Ruiqing Liu of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing "Choi was chasing the moon" by J. Wang (b. 1933), the piece which matched the delicate stature of the player/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
Jialin Song of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 Pathetique, III. Rondo: Allegro by Beethoven/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Haeun Yim of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Preludes Op. 28/1 and 8 by Chopin (1810-1849), the best selection of the event/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Jae Hu Kim of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Arabesque No. 2 by Debussy (1862-1918) /Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017, playing, according to the program, Etudes No. 3 and No. 4 by E. Wild (1915-2010).  It sounded like she played chords from "The Man I Love" by Ira Gershwin (1896-1983), the most appealing piece to me/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
The hands and arms of Jinseon Lee of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
 Laehyung Woo of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Sonata No. 27 in E minor, Op. 90 by Beethoven and Sonata Sz. 80 by Bartok (1881-1945) which seemed the most technically difficult/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The hands and arms of Laehyung Woo of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
The arms of Laehyung Woo of Korea at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017)/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
 Yifu Xu of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017), playing Four Pieces from Eight Memories in Watercolor by T. Dun (b. 1957) and Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39 by Chopin/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Yifu Xu of China at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017, playing Four Pieces from Eight Memories in Watercolor by T. Dun (b. 1957) and Scherzo No. 3 in C-sharp minor, Op. 39 by Chopin, the most beautiful selection of the evening, at least to me/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen with its black lines
 The contestants at the Ninth Annual International Piano Festival at the Kennedy Center, July 31, 2017/Photo by Patricia Leslie of the enlargement on the large screen
with its black lines

patricialesli@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Bike the Mt. Vernon Trail

You can bike the Mt. Vernon Trail but you're better off riding your own bike than renting one of these available for rent at the Washington Sailing Marina since, of the bikes pictured above, only one was suitable for riding. All the others had flat tires, the attendant said.   Photo by Patricia Leslie
The "quality" bikes (says the Washington Sailing Marina's website) are so bad (they remain outdoors during the elements) the hand grips stick to your hands but an attendant fixed that with paper towels which he taped to the handle bar.  Nice! Actually, they worked for the whole ride. Whatdya expect for $11/hour? Like everything else, you get what you pay for Here, not much.  Christine had to ride a man's bike without a kickstand, and it may not have had brakes either.  At least, it had wheels which went around/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail heading toward Alexandria. A straight shot/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail heading toward Alexandria. Up ahead, a big curve down a hill/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail heading toward Alexandria, a good place to take your dog out for a Sunday stroll in the park/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail in Alexandria. Look out for drivers opening car doors into you and your bicycle!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In a park alongside the Potomac River in Alexandria, you can read under an umbrella/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail in Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail in Alexandria, look!  In the sky! It's a bird!  It's a plane!  It's a plane!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria there's plenty of room to ride, walk, and run/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria/Photo by Patricia Leslie
It may seem like you're in a swamp along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria and that's because you are!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Along the Mt. Vernon Trail near Alexandria, dogs are welcome and a'scampering they will go!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A gorgeous scene overlooking the Washington Sailing Marina from the Mt. Vernon Trail/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Time for a brew at the Washington Sailing Marina/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Time to sit and relax at the Washington Sailing Marina and watch the planes come and go, in and out of National Airport/Photo by Patricia Leslie

patricialesli@gmail.com

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Olney's 'Thurgood" lays it out in black and white


Brian Anthony Wilson is Thurgood Marshall in Olney Theatre Center's production of Thurgood/Photo by Stan Barouh 

If I were a high school political science, American history or civics teacher, I would require my students to see Thurgood and write a paper about what they saw and learned.

We don't know enough about American history and critical events of 50, 60 years ago, but George Stevens, Jr.'s Thurgood now onstage at the Olney Theatre Center offers a glimpse of what was happening in the civil rights arena.  It is shameful.
Brian Anthony Wilson is Thurgood Marshall in Olney Theatre Center's production of Thurgood/Photo by Stan Barouh


Brian Anthony Wilson is Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) in the one-man autobiographical show, whose presentation is heightened by excellent sound effects (by Roc Lee), direction (Walter Dallas),  lighting (Harold F. Burgess II), scenics (Paige Hathaway), and projection design (Zachary G. Borovay), all which play critical roles in this success.  

Powerful and domineering, Wilson enters the stage in a three-piece suit, of course, bent at an almost 45 degree angle and aided by a cane.  Over time in the production, he removes his coat and gradually straightens up as he regains his youth, shedding years as he returns to that time of his life and tells some stories.  

Wilson never fails to convince us that he's the man, taking audience members to what one wishes were a far-away land, that these things didn't happen, that it was a nightmare no one lived, and yet, they did.  It is easy to forget who is in the landscape.

In his law practice and as head of the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund, Thurgood Marshall successfully argued 29 of 32 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including the most famous, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954 which the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed "separate but equal" public school facilities were unconstitutional, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson of 1896.

Marshall was the first black U.S. Solicitor General and the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, nominated by President Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1967.  

Swearing in Marshall to the Court was Justice Hugo Black, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. Marshall served 24 years and retired when his health declined. One of his law clerks was current Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

The show's excellent set design appears at first rather orderly and serious, like a courtroom where Justice Marshall spent much of his life, with four leather chairs, a rectangular table, a podium, the American flag, and the flag of the District of Columbia, the home of Howard University where Mr. Marshall attended law school after the University of Maryland rejected him because of his race.  

(Lest anyone forget about its famous alumnus, a big banner proclaims "Howard University Welcomes Thurgood Marshall.")

While Justice Marshall describes his life, scenes from his past with important characters flash for a few seconds on the big, grey wall behind him.

Sound is critical, and everything is perfectly timed from the train to the trolley, to the music, to the haunting car's engines and its lights which convey what could have been a violent scene near Columbia, Tennessee.

Lighting is precise as the spotlight follows Wilson from one end of the stage to the other, as he walks, sits, removes his coat, and continues movements and mannerisms. 

Some theatregoers may resist a one-man show, but none I have seen have ever failed to disappoint in subject, script, and set. I think of Kaiulani Lee,  captivating as Rachel Carson in A Sense of Wonder at George Mason University, and I wonder why she and Wilson are not on the road 365 days a year presenting their characters and teaching, reminding us about the education and awakening we missed or ignored.
  
Other Olney crew team members are Seth Gilbert, costumes; Anne Nesmith, wig designer; Ben Walsh, production stage manager; and for the Olney, Debbie Ellinghaus, managing director; and Jason Loewith, artistic director.
 
What: Thurgood

Where: Olney Theatre Center, 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Olney, MD 20832

When: Wednesday through Saturday at 7:45 pm; matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 1:45 pm Wednesday matinee August 9 at 1:45 pm. Now through August 20, 2017.
 
If requested, an audio-described performance for the blind and visually impaired on Wednesday, August 2 at 7:45 pm and a sign-interpreted performance on Thursday, August 10 at 7:45 pm.

Talkbacks after Saturday matinees on August 5 and August 12.

How much: Tickets begin at $45 with discounts for seniors, groups, military, and students. Tomorrow's matinee is sold out and there is limited seating for many of the remaining performances.

Ages: Parental guidance


Duration:  90 minutes with one 15-minute intermission

Refreshments:
Available and may be taken to seats

Parking: Free, nearby, and plentiful on-site


For more information and tickets
: 301-924-3400 for the box office or 301-924-4485

patricialesli@gmail.com