Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Louder Than Words
I had the privilege and wonderful opportunity to attend a Concert at the Library of Congress this evening. It was a tribute to Jonathan Larson. Sally Murphy, who is playing Eliza in our My Fair Lady, is very good friends with Randy Graff, who was in the concert, hence our ability to see the concert.
Matt, Jenny Cartney, Sally, and I all packed into Jenny's car to head for the concert.
What a perfect night. The air was cool and crisp, actually cold at times that the wind got up it's gusto. But how comforting, in a way to know that Fall is truly upon us now. I even wore my mittens.
The lobby outside the concert hall had display cases containing Jonathan's scribblings and photographs. It was so sad to see all of this. Such a bright and vibrant creative flame snuffed out to soon.
The concert featured the talents of:
They were all fantastic. Highlights of the night included Natascia's rendition of "Come to Your Senses" from tick,tick...BOOM! "Pura Vida", a pop song written for no specific show, performed by Randy, Natascia, and Gwen. "Break Out the Booze", a song that was so appropriate and hysterical that I laughed outloud...Randy Graff sang that one. The song's basic premise was that our nation is going to hell, everything in the country was slipping down the drain, so somebody break out the booze. It was a show stopper. SO funny. Randy Graff, who appeared in DC's Sondheim Celebration as Charlotte in A Little Night Music, and who was also the first Fantine in Les Miserables, garnering a Helen Hayes Nomination for Les Miz's US premiere in DC, is a gem. Such an amazing talent. The closer to Act One was led by Michael McElroy, who starred in Big River on Broadway and got a Tony Nomination, and also played the same role at Ford's and garnered a Helen Hayes Award for it. The song was "Louder Than Words" from tick, tick...BOOM! It was a perfect and beautiful closer to the act. The first act concentrated on his lesser known or less complete works, including Superbia ( a futuristic romantic comedy musical), Angel Sent Me, Sitting on the Edge of the Future, and Boho Days.
Act Two concerned Rent. The second act featured songs that were cut, or original versions of songs that got changed drastically in the final product...for example- "Right Brain", which ended up being "One Song Glory". Same tune, different lyrics. Also a cut song called "Real Estate" about the character of Mark considering another career. Funny. Several cut "Voice Mail" selections. The Second act ended with the only two real versions from the show, "What You Own", performed flawlessly by Jeremy Kushnier and Anthony Rapp, and the "Finale B", featuring the entire cast.
Act 3, (yes, act 3) featured one song each from the three Jonathan Larson Scholarship Award Winners, Joe Iconis, Cynthia Hopkins, and Steven Lutvak. The most notable of the three was Cynthia Hopkins, who not only sang at a microphone and played the tambourine, but also played the kazoo and did a modern interpretive dance. It sounds crazy, and it was, but it was also brilliant. Her music had the most passion and was the most innovative, in my opinion. The other two wrote lovely music, no denial, but hers excited me. She has a website, through her band, Gloria Deluxe. Check it out HERE. Looks off the wall to me. Fantastic music, though.
Then, there was Act 4. (Yes, ACT 4) Which contained 2 songs..."Seasons of Love" and "Love Heals", featuring the company and Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music ( a gospel group). I think that this was the only real weird thing about the night...instead of ending with "Seasons of Love", the song that he is the most famous for, they ended with a song that he wrote not for a show, but just a pop song, that was great, but in no way compared to Seasons. Seasons sums up so much of his life, story, and legacy. I think that was a strange choice.
Act two was a little weird, too. We all know that he wrote Rent. It was fascinating to hear his early compositions before Rent. We have all heard Rent a million times...but we were waiting for it...and then we were presented with rough drafts of the songs that ended up being the songs that they are today. While fascinating, there was not much payoff in this. You wanted to be left with the brilliance that it ended up being, not version 2.5 in workshop 4. I wondered if he was looking down from composer heaven and saying, "OH GOD! NO, don't sing that version, I HATE that version, that's why I changed it!". Maybe it would be fascinating fodder for an album, but for this, his induction to the Library of Congress...dunno.
The after party was loverly. It was held in the "Members Room", where from the late 1800's until 1980, Congress members lounged about with brandy snifters and pipes, discussing the fate of the nation. Imagining this room after Kennedy was shot, or during World War 2 was kind of fascinating. All of the history that the room has seen.
As we left, Sally, Matt, Jenny and I met Jonathan Larson's parents. We thanked them for a beautiful evening. They were kind and quiet. What a bittersweet night it must have been for them. My heart sunk a little. Life is so fragile and precious, and, as in Jonathan's case, who died from a freak aortic aneurysm. It reminded me of one of Jonathan's lyrics says, and how we should all live and experience our own lives..."No Day But Today".