A  Musical  Blowout  At  The  End  Of  July,  2015

Sam Black

A typical week in my life looks like this: 1) St. Scholastica Steel Drums perform Wednesday noon at Lake place; 2) Zenith Winds - a quintet - perform Thursday at 1pm at Duluth Congregational Church; 3) flute/cello/piano trio perform for Bayfield Summer Mostly Thursday series at Bethesda Lutheran; 4) Friday afternoon performance of “Total Eclipse of the Art” by Hillside Youth Theatre at Duluth East Auditorium; 5) Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra performs at MPAC/UMD on Friday evening; 6) dinner at Fitger’s on Saturday evening, followed by Titanic, the musical. Some weeks are busier than others. Please jump feet first into the arts life of the Twin Ports.

A  Titanic  Experience  At  Fitger’s

Saturday night I came away from Titanic: the musical, at Fitger’s Theatre, with a renewed excitement about musical theater in Duluth. Directed by Sheryl Jensen (her finale, perhaps), and musically enhanced by the vocal energy of Patty Dorn, Titanic was one of the best musical productions I have seen in Duluth in the past ten years. Because of space restrictions, there was very little acting, so to speak. All the more reason to accentuate the musical message. The effect was stunning!
Since no one wore a cheek microphone, everyone was intimate and individual, singing from their own personal space on the ship, in the theater. The theater was filled with vocal intensity for two and a half hours. Zach Winkler, as the coal stoker and the ragtime entertainer, was the treat of the show. He was delightfully matched by Noah Cornwell as the telegraph operator in two powerful numbers.
Matthew Wagner, as dance choreographer and dancer was spectacular, even as he served as first mate, with considerable responsibility on the doomed voyage. Jim Olson, as Captain Edward Smith, shared his difficult set of choices, and added his strong voice to the exciting ensemble, which was intense and exciting in each of the half dozen numbers they sang. The show runs through August 2. If you like great vocalism, call now for tickets on the final weekend.

Kalileth,  The  Vainglorius  Jackal, Visits  LSCO

After a 2014 performance of Stained Glass, by Iranian composer Hooshyar Khayam, LSCO conductor Warren Friesen commissioned Khayam to create an original piece for shadow puppets and chamber orchestra based on an ancient Indian/Persian fable of the composer’s choice. Ultimately, Khayam added a youth chorus into the mix. The result was exhilarating, for all who came to the MPAC theater on the UMD campus. Local puppet master, Jim Ouray, created splendid shadow puppets for the digital screen, depicting a jackal who wanted to become a peacock when he fell into a barrel of dye. His jackal friends helped bring him back to ‘jackal’ reality, with the message that YOU are most effective when you fully act like YOURSELF.

The harp, the Lake Superior Youth Chorus, the LSCO, the shadow puppet imagery, presented a stimulating piece of music, with melodies and rhythms all over the map. Brass, woodwinds, strings, percussion, were all engaged in sharing this sparkling new composition, an apparently first Iran/USA commission since the 1979 revolution in Iran. The fable in musical form brought the audience to its feet.

Total  Eclipse  Of  The  Art

I have to share my smiles at watching approximately 39 youngsters present Jean Sramek’s new creation, Total Eclipse of the Art, a story about unidentified, stolen, paintings, their recovery, and their value in the larger world of artistic creativity. Sramek took several Motown tunes, created new lyrics to advance this story, and the youth on stage were clearly having a wonderful time. Aliese Hoesel directed the summer workshop, and Courtney Ellian coached and played the musical numbers. These five scenes keep the momentum alive, that young Duluthians can produce art, and need art, as much as anyone else in the community. Thanks to all the sponsors and supporters of the Hillside Youth Theatre.