Friday, August 26, 2011

Mamma Mia lights up ABBA fans in Portland

If you are looking for a lighthearted story that is punctuated by the music of ABBA, then Mamma Mia is your ticket. It’s a cheesy, spandex-driven musical that will make you want to get out of your seat and start dancing. That was the scene at Keller Auditorium, when I attended Mamma Mia on Tuesday evening (August 23), which was the first night of its weeklong run in Portland as part of its North American tour.

Perhaps there is no way to explain the enduring popularity of ABBA’s music, which sold in the millions when the Swedish pop group was one of the hottest acts on the planet forty years ago. But the success of the musical, which has been playing in London since 1999, has inspired productions all over the world and a hit film version in 2008. So it is no wonder that the audience (which was predominately female) loved every second of ABBA standards like “Dancing Queen,” “Super Trouper,” “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” and “SOS.” All that was missing was a disco ball.

The musical is set on a Greek island, where a young woman is preparing to get married. She would like to be given away by her father, but she doesn’t know who her real father is. After she finds one of her mother’s old diaries, she discovers that her mother’s dalliances with three men many years ago probably means that one of them is her father. She then invites the three men to her wedding, and they actually show up. Tensions flare and a lot of dodging, singing, and dancing goes on before the final outcome.

The volume of the show on Tuesday night was turned up so high that the sound became slightly distorted at the beginning of the show. The sound crew might have been trying too hard to overcompensate for the vastness of Keller Auditorium, or they might have been trying to aid the voice of Kaye Tuckerman, who had a tough time projecting her lower range but did well in all other aspects as the mother. Chloe Tucker outstandingly conveyed the wishful naiveté of the young bride to be. The show was almost stolen by Mary Callanan as the mother’s overweight friend. Alison Ewing as the mother’s surgically-enhanced friend was also superb. The prospective fathers were expertly portrayed by Jeff Applegate, Paul De Boy, and John-Michael Zuerlen.

The exceptional comic timing, energetic dancing, and over-the-top pantomiming (while dancing and singing) made Mamma Mia delightful. But the touring version relied too heavily on one set, which depicted the outside of a hotel and courtyard (and later the nave of a church). Another set would have been refreshing.

Although the entire audience was standing and cheering at the end of the show, the bonus finale that included glitzy ABBA-inspired costumes raised the rooftop with singing from all corners. That was a great way to end the evening.

There may be some tickets left for the remaining performances of Mamma Mia on Saturday (August 27) and Sunday (August 28). Contact Broadway Across America.

Friday, August 19, 2011

How to get Schrott and Netrebko in Portland

Since Erwin Schrott and Oregon Symphony conductor Carlos Kalmar are natives of Montevideo Uruguay, it might be possible for Kalmar to appeal to his fellow countryman for an appearance with the Oregon Symphony. Of course, that would mean a duet opportunity for Schrott and his wife Anna Netrebko.

Well, it's a long, long shot, but you have to start somewhere.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

New stuff at Oregon Music News

Just a quick link to a couple of new articles up at Oregon Music News:

An interview with Bobby Ray of The Electric Opera Company
proved most enlightening! I'll be at their show with CRPDX at the Alberta Rose Theatre tomorrow night. I guarantee you won't have more of a blast anywhere in the 503 for 8 bucks on Friday.

I reviewed Hideki Yamaya's latest CD
: a recording of Roncalli's Capricci Armonici sopra la Chitarra Spagnola for baroque guitar. Hideki is one of my very favorite solo baroque stylists in a city that is absolutely crazy for early music, boasting many top-notch performers. Simply put, this CD is marvelous.

Click on the links above for the articles and further linkage.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CRPDX and Electric Opera Company team up in 'Sympathy for the Devil'

Electric Opera Company and Classical Revolution PDX Present:
Sympathy for the Devil
A classically inspired rock concert at the Alberta Rose Theater

Portland’s favorite Electric Guitar Orchestra collides with the city’s
most accessible Chamber Ensemble to show you a side of classical music you’ve never even dreamed of, but will never want to leave behind…

PORTLAND — Alternative Classical Music. You could say they’re polar opposites. The guitarists of Electric Opera Company bringing their modern instruments into classical settings play the Ying to Classical
Revolution PDX’s Yang of chamber instrumentalists playing at bars and other comfortable settings. But this is a case where opposites
attract for a common goal: Making Classical Music more accessible to
the everyday listener!

Classical Revolution and Electric Opera Company will bring their
trademark stylings of 18th century masterworks to the Alberta Rose
Theater on August 19th for a concert that won’t soon be forgotten.
The theme is “Sympathy for the Devil” and there’s a heavy helping of
“Diablo in musica” in store including the Danse Macabre, selections
from Gounod’s Faust, Chopin, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and
plenty more surprises. Bring your beer drinking fists and wear
whatever you want, its classical music for the 21st century!

Classical Revolution PDX in a Nutshell
Classical Revolution PDX offers chamber music performances in highly accessible venues, such as bars and cafes. By taking chamber music out of the recital hall and making it more accessible to an audience who does not otherwise hear such music in a live context, Classical Revolution strives to make the public aware that classical music is still relevant and can be enjoyed by all.

"Will the demise of appreciation for classical music be reversed by the Classical Revolution movement? Time will tell, it's transformational, it's unforgettable and every pair of ears that hears it is going to pass the word on. Now that's the stuff of revolutions alright." - Zaph Mann, OPB Music

Electric Opera Company in a Nutshell
Electric Opera Company is dedicated to revitalizing the popularity of
opera and classical music through education and performance; and to
breaking down the barriers to these arts by presenting them in a
modern, accessible medium. This accessible medium is the Fifteen
Piece Electric Guitar orchestra, in which musicians play the exact
parts as written by the composer. But the instruments typically
associated with classical music are replaced with an army of electric
guitars, keyboards, and drums.

The orchestra has been making waves around town as both a rock band teaching adults that classical music is way more awesome than they think it is, a company that produces fully staged operas, and an educational outreach group teaching kids basically the same thing. They’ve been spotted in opera houses, rock venues, middle schools, elementary schools, music festivals, non-profits, and more, spreading
the gospel of classical music to the unsuspecting.

Calendar Listing
What: Sympathy for the Devil, a concert featuring Electric Opera
Company and Classical Revolution PDX

Who: Produced by Electric Opera Company and Classical Revolution PDX.
Arranged by Bobby Ray and Adam Goodwin. Musical direction by

When/Where: Friday, August 19th, 8:00 pm – Minors OK when accompanied
by a parent or guardian
The Alberta Rose Theater 3000 NE Alberta St, Portland, OR (503) 719-6055

Why: To bring the joy of Classical Music to those who might not
experience it otherwise, and to share a new lens through which to view
a timeless favorite.

Tickets: $8 at the door or purchased online at

Mattie Kaiser
Executive Director | Classical Revolution PDX