Music

Blitzstein might have gotten a kick out of the mix of singers gathered at Joe's Pub, as they embodied the coexistence between high and low arts his career was built on: a City Opera soprano (Lauren Flanigan), an alum of both Caroline in the City and Lincoln Center (Malcolm Gets), and two Broadway journeymen making the most of their moment in the spotlight (Victoria Clark and Brooks Ashnamskas). Clark, too often stuck with playing comic second bananas, got the opportunity to display dramatic flair in "Penny Under the Foot," while Flanigan, having ditched her wholly unnecessary mike, delivered a powerhouse version of "Birdie's Lament," from Blitzstein's opera Regina. Gets, a Tintin lookalike whose head bobbed merrily on top of his reed-thin body, easily switched from quiet pain to quasi-slapstick—a versatility that Ashnamskas, who stuck to one-note doofusness, didn't quite achieve, even if he did play the doofus very well.

All four brought to vivid life the work of a musician who, far from his reputation as a didactic Kurt Weill clone, could be riotously funny ("A Modest Maid") or achingly tender ("I Wish It So"), a composer who'd trained with Arnold Schoenberg but could write the most exquisite of melodies, a passionate leftist who saw the people under the social-struggle archetypes. At a time when Broadway is bereft of both heart and brain, "Beyond the Cradle" is more necessary than ever. —Elisabeth Vincentelli

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