Bass-ic instinct

Music
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How low can you go? Woodwind players Yoon-Hee Jung and Eric Jacobs gave that question a resonant response on bass flute and bass clarinet, respectively, with their sonorous underpinnings at “Fits & Starts.” The concert of stimulating contemporary classical music, much of it avant-garde, was presented by Jacaranda at the Villa Aurora on May 16.

Photo credit: Anja Epkes for Jacaranda

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“Big Shot” skewers THE GODFATHER @ Bootleg Theater

Reviews · Theater

don-brando“That’s my family; that’s not me.” So Michael Corleone assures his blue-blooded girlfriend, Kay, in one of his character’s persistent moments of self-denial. First expressed in Mario Puza’s pulpy popular novel, a mega best seller published in 1969, the line was famously recycled in (then) newbie director Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic movie in three installments, THE GODFATHER (1972).

It’s a strategy that works — Kay joins the guns-and-roses Corleone clan. But we all know that, don’t we? The G.F.’s the myth of modern times; we can all mouth the dialogue. And in dance-theater troupe Theatre Movement Bazaar‘s Godfather-deconstruction (they call it a ‘vaudevillian collage’) a funny participation moment has an audience member mumblng Don Corleone’s lines. (The Don himself, as played by Marlon Brando, does not appear in “Big Shot”; so revered is the actor by the theater troupe, he’s the subject of a hushed song of worship.)

The Italian-inflected soap opera, replete with penne and bullets, stars actor Mark Skeens playing Big Al playing Michael Corleone. He’s teamed with a superb, highly active TMB ensemble, who furiously channel Sonny, Fredo, Connie and Kay, all in the family. And ‘outsider’ Tom Haden makes six.

And in case you think the entire thing rests on Skeens’ uncanny physical resemblance to Pacino, think again — a  witty and hilariously written opening scene replicates a House on Un-American Activities Committee-style hearing that prosecutes Puzo for writing his book not as art but because he was desperate for cash. In this scene, Puzo is played by female actor, Caitlyn Conlin.

appolonia_webThe cast’s other talented woman, Paula Rebelo, delivers a hugely brave song-and-shimmy number as the Sicilian goddess Apollonia, donning a Carmen Miranda basket on head. Incredibly well done.

“Big Shot,” text by Richard Alger and direction and choreography by Tina Kronis, probes “The Godfather’s” thematic obssession with the ties of family and exigencies of business; the treatment of women in traditional Italian culture; the nature of courting and seduction and lots of stuff about the life Italiano. It endearingly twangs these tropes through composer Wes Myers’ blazingly original songs, wonderful dance movement, crystal-clear line readings and DNA-level ensemble coherence. You do wish the good-natured fun did not ride so heavily on ethnic stereotypes – kind of dated Italian representations, at the level of red-check tablecloths and wax-dripped Chianti bottles. O Sole Mio?? There has to be a way to re-invigorate the enduring cultural impact of the Godfather without hearkening pasta names. But, a minor quibble. Recommended.

Big Shot | Theatre Movement Bazaar | Bootleg Theater | thru June 6 tickets

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arts•meme at seven: confident, independent

featured · Language & ideas

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Well wishes go to arts•meme, the fine arts blog, on her seventh birthday, May 24, 2015. The little mademoiselle is pictured on her tricycle-ramble ’round town,  collecting memes to dispatch in the daily gazette.

A special thank-you to our advertisers. Thank you for working with us!

Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Valley Performing Arts Center, The Los Angeles Music Center, American Cinematheque, Kino-Lorber, Pepperdine University Center for the Arts, Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center, Jacaranda Music, Miracle Manor Retreat, John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Dance Camera West, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Arts.

Thank you for supporting arts journalism.

Appreciation goes to Mark Levine of Istarnet Systems, our miraculous tech man in the faraway Orient. Thank you, dear talented writers of the last year, Kirk Silsbee, Candace Allen, Sheri Linden, Stephen Farber. Love to Larry Billman.


Blog birthdays celebrated through the ages, all seven of them:

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Roman Polanski, film curator

Fashion · Film
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Cineaste Roman Polanski has conceived a new documentary for the Prada Foundation, whose spawling new arts facility in Milan includes a Cinema building — so fitting for Italy the bastion of great 20th century filmmaking. The doc, directed by Laurent Bouzerau, considers Polanski’s auteur-inspirations by analyzing some of the films that have most influenced him. ...

Bill Graham: Ziegfeld of Aquarius 1

featured · Music
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We pay over a hundred dollars for a decent seat at a Staples Center rock show without thinking twice, but it wasn’t always so. There had been rock events here and there as early as the late 1950s—Elvis at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium and the Beatles at Dodger Stadium—but they were occasional. Bill Graham (1931-1991) made ...

Chris Burden’s elegaic floating sculpture @ LACMA

Visual arts
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Beginning May 18, for four weeks, Chris Burden’s Ode to Santos Dumont a kinetic airship sculpture inspired by Brazilian-born pioneer aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, will be on view at LACMA. Burden, the noted conceptual/performance artist, completed his plans for the LACMA exhibit before he passed away May 10. Santos-Dumont, considered the father of aviation in France, flew ...

Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker to enjoy Los Angeles showcase

Dance · featured
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News from our Italian friends at the Dance section of the Biennale di Venezia forges an excellent fit with a major dance happening just announced for the 2015-16 season at the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA in Los Angeles. The Biennale announced that choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker will be awarded the ...

Ravishing dance-film journey to Havana

Dance · featured · Film · Reviews
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“Dancing for My Havana,” an Italian/Cuban co-production written and directed by Claudio Del Punta, has garnered the Special Jury Prize of the Dance Camera West festival 2015. The film, a colorful wonderland set in Havana’s romantic urban ruins, tells a love story interpersed with sensational dance numbers that give a rare glimpse into unadulterated Cuban ...

Jazz cooking at the Bakery, all ’round town

Music
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While the Jazz Bakery’s next, new home is being prepared in Culver City, Ruth Price books her floating concert series in some of the best listening venues around town. One of them is the Moss Theatre on the campus of the Herb Alpert Educational Village in Santa Monica. A horseshoe-shaped stage with wrap-around seating, fine ...

Herb Alpert’s twenty-one years of generous giving to artists

Dance · Film · Music · Theater · Visual arts
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Herb Alpert, center, with the 2015 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts winners, from left, Maria Hassabi, Taylor Mac, Herb Alpert, Sharon Lockhart and Julia Wolfe. Absent because detained in Cuba: Tania Brugeura. On May 1, The Herb Alpert Foundation and California Institute of the Arts awarded the 21st annual Herb Alpert Award in the ...