Monday, June 27, 2011

Of Kings and Kids

Reviews of Barksdale’s “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and Sycamore Rouge’s “The Odyssey” have appeared in the T-D already. I expect other outlets to have their takes in print or online soon, so stay tuned.

I knew this past weekend was going to be a busy one, but I had no idea just how crazy it was going to be for some of the theater folks in town. The Cultural Xpo at the Science Museum had people from multiple companies readying displays and performances and even flash mobs. The production to benefit the Massey Cancer Center, “The Pirates of the Chemotherapy,” a show that got edged over to the periphery of my radar screen, came back front-n-center as I started to hear good words from people who attended.

My focus for the weekend was on the SPARC 30th anniversary gala, in part because of my close personal connection to one of the performers, but also because of the incredible display of local talent I knew was going to be on-hand. The crew of rising teen actors that SPARC has groomed never fails to delight and the reprise of songs like “Money” that they had performed as part of “The World Goes Round” back in January looked great on the big Carpenter Center stage.

But though I knew a bit of what I was going to see beforehand, I was surprised (always pleasantly) by many of the performances, including Chase Kniffen doing a bit from “Oliver!” Jason Marks commanding the stage with his powerful “Memory,” and a charming collection of SPARC parents rolling out a rag-tag version of “Kids.”

There was even a moment early on that gave a glimpse into the versatile talent that SPARC employs. During a rendition of “Hard Knock Life” by SPARC’s “rising star” students, the performers started to waver from the tempo the onstage band was setting. With a skill that only years of handling similar situations can hone, music director and pianist Paul Deiss eased the band into matching tempo in time for the song to end perfectly. That kind of in-the-moment flexibility exemplifies not just Mr. Deiss’s talent but the quality of most all of SPARC’s teachers.

I didn’t know until Saturday that there were a whole slew of follow-up activities that SPARC was hosting on Sunday, so I missed all of that. But I hear that they were lots of fun and included a bunch of fine performances as well. Me, I went to see “King Lear” at Agecroft Hall and, while I might contest those that say it’s the best thing Richmond Shakespeare’s ever done, it certainly is a rousing production with a wide array of exceptional performances. In fact, there’s so much to say about it that I’m going to have to collect my thoughts over the next couple of days and get back to you with a more complete assessment later in the week. I will say that the Sunday performance was a near-sell-out so I would not procrastinate if you want to see it.

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