In Concert

Saturday, 10 June 2017 21:14

Robben Ford at SPACE

“If you would shut off your phones, you might enjoy it more……”

This is the day of the cell phone, and in being so, there really needs to be some type of etiquette applied from time to time. I have also been guilty of this myself. When you are watching someone perform ANYTHING, turn off your phone. And the guy on stage shouldn’t have to tell you that either. That happened. I messaged my friend mid set, too.

Okay, but what about Ford's recent show at SPACE in Evanston? Robben Ford is one monster guitar player and hasn’t lost a step. He has played with people ranging from Miles Davis to Kiss. His solo work is very Blues based. Before you even hear a solo, you’ll notice that Ford is also a solid rhythm player. His singing falls right in there, too. Robben is a very precise musician in terms of rhythm. It’s easy to see how he got a lot of the work he has through the years.

Guitar players tend to get judged on their soloing abilities. No problem there. Ford was stepping out on an early 50’s Gibson Les Paul Gold Top. He had his classic Dumble amplifier and tone for days. I know, it’s not the guitar. I know, it’s not the amp. It’s that solid phrasing and the respect for what he is playing. The effects he used were completely unnecessary. He could have easily plugged straight in.

Bassist Brian Allen did his fair share of soloing throughout the set. I would also say he didn’t overplay. Bass players who overplay lose their role from time to time. I didn’t hear that.

Wes Little finished off the trio on drums. Little is a powerhouse type of drummer. A heavy hitter, he also gets a great jazz vibe when needed. He stepped forward for a couple solos, one longer than the others that really showed his chops. I think it takes some seasoning to play like that, to be able to hit hard and yet just right. Even the loudest crashes were musical. Ford even sat behind his amp while Wes took his solo. He may have been in a safe place there.

With an amazing song repertoire that includes “Worried Life Blues”, “High Heels and Throwing Things”, “Can’t Let Her Go”, “When I Leave Here” and so many more, it was surreal at times watching this legend play in such an intimate setting. Ford included a songs from his latest release Into the Sun, which I recommend picking up.

Other than Robben Ford having to tell the people watching to shut off their phones, it was a great show. His calling out cell phone abusers was actually kind of funny, anyway. On second thought, using your phone during a performance might be more sad than anything. When you are watching a musician playing at the top of their game…right in front of you - Pay Attention!

 

Published in In Concert
Wednesday, 28 December 2016 12:02

Review: Light Opera Works' Die Fledermaus

By the end of January, most people are over holiday theater. In the days between holidays, the Loop is a ghost town almost exclusively sustained by last minute ‘Christmas Carol’ and ‘Nutcracker’ matinees. Locals tend to stay local. For Evanston residents looking for quality theater, Light Opera Works is a great Off-Loop alternative. 

 

For the final few days of the year, Light Opera Works presents the classic Johann Strauss operetta ‘Die Fledermaus.’ Artistic director Rudy Hogenmiller presents an amiable English language adaptation by Quade Winter. One of the show’s best draws is the 30-piece orchestra conducted by Roger Bingaman. 

 

‘Die Fledermaus’ or “the bat,” is a typical farce. The first act sets the stage for philandering husband Eisenstein (Michael Cavalieri) to attend a masked ball on the eve of his impending incarceration. His wife Rosalinda (Alicia Berneche) meanwhile carries on an affair with a former flame, Alfred (Tobias Wright). The real candy of Act I might just be Kelly Britt as Adele, a lovely chambermaid with ambitions of her own. Her comedic strength is consistent throughout. William Dywer holds the attention of Act II as the dashing and strong-voiced host of the masked ball. As happens in all farces, the central couple learns a valuable lesson that rekindles their love. 

 

Along with great vocals, Light Opera Works’ production is visually pleasing. Costumes and sets by Jana Anderson and Adam Veness work together to showcase Light Opera Works’ impressive budget. Suburban theatre is rarely this polished. 

 

“Die Fledermaus” at Light Opera Works in Evanston is a good choice for those close to home. The music is soaring and the comedy tickles all ages. A better bet in Evanston surely can’t be found. 

 

Through January 1st at Light Opera Works. Cahn Auditorium 600 Emerson St. Evanston, IL 

 

Published in Theatre in Review

When I say the name Ben Hecht most of you will look at me with confusion not knowing who I am talking about. That is understandable, given that most people don’t seem to care about anything before 1990. I myself did not have the strongest handle of who the man was prior to seeing “The Ben Hecht Show” at the Piven theatre. 

Ben Hecht was a newspaper reporter for the Chicago Journal and Chicago Daily News during the 20s. He parlayed his success in the newspaper world into a successful stage-writing career along with a very successful career as a screenwriter. He wrote some great films during what is considered the “Golden Age” of Hollywood. He wrote The Scoundrel, Nothing Sacred, Wuthering Heights, Scarface (not the Al Pacino one), and was uncredited for working on Gone with the Wind. He won an Oscar for best original story for Underworld and best writing (along with partner Charles McArthur) for The Scoundrel. 

James Sherman wrote, as well as stars in, the one man “Ben Hecht Show” that is based on Ben Hecht’s books A Guide for the Bedevilled and A Child of the Century in which Mr. Hecht struggles to confront his identity as an American Jew. 

Mr. Sherman has found a sweet spot in writing and adapting the works of Mr. Hecht as the audience is treated stories from Mr. Hecht’s past as if you were the only person that he is talking to. There is a feeling of intimacy to it all. You are able to understand how and why this man is grappling with the notion of being Jewish and what it truly means to be Jewish.  When he figures it all out he is only back at the beginning as various leaders of different Jewish organizations condemn his words to the point of calling him Goebbels puppet. The internal struggle is real. The writing of Mr. Sherman and stage direction of Dennis Zacek are able to capture all of Mr. Hecht’s inner conflict. The performance by Mr. Sherman as Ben Hecht leaves something to be desired. 

The entire show takes place in what would be the imagined study of Ben Hecht. Mr. Sherman wanders across the stage playing the conflicted writer as if he is just moving from one thought to another. One moment we are treated to stories, with a slideshow presentation, about him working with Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, and David O Selznick. The next moment we are shown a stack of books of Jewish literature. All of this plays out in a monotone one-note performance. While the words tell us that this is a man struggling with his own identity we are not shown this. Mr. Sherman gives no range of emotion and barely registers a slight chuckle when delivering sharp quips that he himself penned. 

Mr. Sherman must be congratulated on his efforts in accomplishing a one-man performance, as this is no small feat. The performance can be sculpted and formed to where a stronger connection with the audience can be made as it is playing through July 17th. This is a show that offers nothing but the promise of an enlightening 90 minutes of self-reflection and self-discovery, a self-discovery that anyone who attends the performance would be happy to have seen. 

The Ben Hecht Show

Where: Piven Theatre, Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., Evanston 

When: Now through July 17th 

Tickets: $35

Info: grippostagecompany.com 

 

Published in Theatre Reviews

 

 

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