Lots of theater openings tonight:
CLYBOURNE PARK: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for best play, this title almost seems like it comes to Fresno straight from Broadway. (I got to see it in New York in 2012, and Bruce Norris’ script is sensational.) The new Fresno State production, which opens tonight at the John Wright Theatre, is the cover story in today’s 7 section. Don’t miss Bee photographer John Walker’s photo gallery of the production.
StageWorks Fresno brings back the thoroughly charming “A Year With Frog and Toad” for the holiday season. It’s basically the same production from last year with two new (very talented) performers in supporting roles: Taylor Abels and Danielle Jorn. Returning cast members are Joel C. Abels as Toad, Brent Moser as Frog and Cody Bianchi as the memorable Snail. From my review of last year’s show:
“Frog and Toad,” directed with a knowing hand by J. Daniel Herring, is an important title in the evolution of the genre known as Theatre for Young Audiences. Originally staged by the Children’s Theatre Company of Minneapolis, it ended up on Broadway in 2003, where it snagged a Tony nomination for Best Musical. With a cast of five adults, this family-friendly show works on several levels. It’s sure to tickle the fancy of young children, but there’s also a crisp adult appeal as it works through such themes as taking risks, trust, friendship and patience. Unlike many kid-friendly entertainments today that seem shrewdly calculated to appeal to both adults and children — all those DreamWorks and Disney movies that toss in an arch level of subtext to keep the parents from fidgeting — “Frog and Toad’s” appeal to all ages feels more organic.
The show opens Friday (Dec. 6) and runs through Dec. 22.
Here’s the giveaway: Two Beehive readers will each win two tickets to any performance in the run (with 24 hours notice). To enter, leave a comment on this post telling us your favorite soup for a cold winter night. Yes, soup. Toad loves soup. And isn’t this the perfect weather for such a question?
Deadline is 10 a.m. Friday. Please don’t enter more than once. Check your email between 10 and 10:30 a.m. Friday to see if you won, because that’s how I’ll be notifying winners. Complete rules on the jump.
When I was speaking to Stuart Malina, the guest conductor for the Fresno Philharmonic’s big annual holiday concert Saturday at the Saroyan Theatre, I asked him why he thought these types of events are so popular with audiences. His response: “Everyone has their holiday memories. In most cases, music has something to do with that.” (My advance interview with Malina is in Thursday’s Life section.)
Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt that the orchestra’s annual concert is really popular. Which makes this a prime Beehive ticket giveaway. Two tickets to the 7:30 p.m. event will go to a lucky reader. The concert will have a little something for everyone, including jaunty orchestral arrangements of popular secular holiday songs, big band vocals, sacred tunes and the Fresno Community Chorus Master Chorale singing the Hallelujah Chorus.
To enter our contest, write a comment on this post telling us your favorite holiday song. Or, if you’re prefer to be contrarian, tell us your least favorite holiday song — the one you wouldn’t be so crazy about hearing at the concert.
Deadline for entry is 5 p.m. today (Thursday). Yes, that’s only three hour from now, so this is a quick turnaround contest. I’ll be picking our winner at random and notifying him or her by email. (So watch yours at about that time.) If you’re our winner, you’ll need to come down to The Bee’s front counter on Friday to pick up your tickets, so please don’t enter if you 1) don’t think you can check your email at 5 pm and 2) won’t be able to pick up your tickets in person. One comment per person. Rules are on the jump.
I offer some picks for ArtHop, the monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods, in Thursday’s Life section.
Among the intriguing options: a show by Michael McKee titled “Conceptual Christmas Concept at Gallery 25. (A mild and unrelated rebuke, by the way, to the redesigned Gallery 25 website: Having an audio clip start playing when you land on the site is so 2007.) McKee’s exhibit includes paintings, sculpture, works on paper and mixed media artwork influenced by the themes of creation, purity and rebirth — with a “nod and a wink’ to the celebration of Christmas. Pictured: the artist’s “Scream Santa.”
December ArtHop is a great time to Christmas shop for stuff you can’t find at Target, of course, so that’ll be a prime opportunity tonight.
I’m sorry to say it, but: Humbug.
And unlike Scrooge, I didn’t change my tune by the end of the Good Company Players production of “A Christmas Carol” at the 2nd Space Theatre. The show isn’t up to GCP standards.
The bright spot is Mark Norwood in the title role of Scrooge. It takes true theatrical finesse to breathe originality and presence into a cliche-prone word like “humbug,” and Norwood is more than up for the task. (You, the reader, might not feel as benevolently about my success in tossing the famed utterance into the lead sentence of this review.) His Scrooge is grumpy and sour, of course, and occasionally a bit whimsical, but he’s also a little scary, which is what this show needs if it isn’t going to descend into cloying sentimentality. Norwood gives us a dark place from which Scrooge can journey into the light, which makes his redemption worth the trip.
Or should have, if directors Max and Nicholle Debbas had given him more of a convincing world for him to inhabit.
Here’s a chance for a family or group of friends to enjoy the stage version of the beloved Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” while enjoying a special night at the theater. I’m giving away FOUR tickets to a Wednesday Dec. 4 benefit performance of the show at the 2nd Space Theatre. This Good Company Players production features Mark Norwood in the title role of Scrooge, and the evening includes some other bonuses as well, such as special treats, a dessert auction and Christmas carols performed by members of the Junior Company. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., the pre-show starts at 7:15, and the production starts at 7:30.
It’s all a benefit for the Juniors. If you don’t win tickets, you can purchase them for $30. (Box office number is (559) 266-0660.
To enter our contest, write a comment on this post telling us which Christmas ghost you’d most prefer to be visited by — would it be Christmas Past, Christmas Present or Christmas Future? (If you don’t want to get that philosophical, just tell us why you like “A Christmas Carol.”)
Deadline for entry is 5 p.m. today (Tuesday). I’ll be picking our winner at random and notifying him or her by email. (So watch yours at about that time.) One comment per person. Rules are on the jump.
There’s no definitive answer, of course. The Clovis West Marching Band is a state powerhouse on the marching band circuit, and it has been for a long time. The Clovis North Marching Band & Color Guard is practically brand new. It isn’t an apples-vs.apples comparison. What’s more, the two bands didn’t choose to compete in the same final event of the season. Clovis North ended up tops in the smaller band categories at the Western Band Association Combined Grand Championships last weekend in Clovis. Meanwhile, Clovis West’s last big hurrah of the season was a few weeks prior at the Long Beach Regional of the Bands of America Marching Championships, where it came out tops in its 3A class and came in second overall, behind Ayala High School.
(I give major props to Clovis North in my Sunday Spotlight column, and I feature an extended interview with the band’s passionate director, David Lesser, elsewhere on the Beehive.)
So, there’s room for debate. What do you think? In 2013, which was the better band?
The Clovis North Marching Band and Color Guard has a right to brag. Last weekend it took the top prize in the smaller-schools category at the Western Band Association grand championships at Buchanan High School. I decided to devote my Sunday Spotlight column to an interview with David Lesser, who has helmed the band since the Clovis North Educational Center opened seven years ago. Here’s the extended version of that email interview.
Question: For those who missed the Clovis North field show, what was the show’s theme? What was the music?
The Clovis North Bronco Band and Color Guards 2013 Fall Production was titled, “The Soloist.” It was an original composition by Shawn Glyde commissioned for the Clovis North Bronco Band and Color Guard. ”The Soloist” could have a different meaning to whoever is observing. We tried to emote and display the choices that people have to make as they travel the different paths of their own life. The general idea is, even though we have many relationships and people surrounding us, at the end of the day we must make our own decisions by ourselves and rather than going where the path may lead we should go where there is no path… and leave a trail.
Clovis North is a AAA band. What does that mean? In laymen’s terms, keeping it simple, how do the WBA class championships and combined grand championships work?
The classes in the Western Band Association, (WBA) are based on the number of performers in each ensemble. Information on Class size can be found at www.westernbands.org.
The WBA Championships was a two day event. Saturday November 23 was the class championships and Sunday November 24 was the Grand Championships. The purpose of Saturday is to rank the groups and promote the qualified groups to the Grand Championships on Sunday.
To qualify for the 1/2/3A Grand Championships you must have been in the top five bands for 1A, top 5 for 2A and top 7 for 3A creating a new contest between 17 bands. The 4A/5A format is similar, taking the top 5 bands in each class plus the next five highest scores to have a second contest of 15 bands.
How did we score such a prominent topic for our recurring Backstage Spy feature? It’s thanks to Fresno’s own Kristin Goehring, who is in New York City these days living the theater dream. While some New York fans might just make plans to watch the world-famou parade in person, she (in true Kristin style) took it a step further: She worked “backstage” at the world-famous parade yesterday in Operations, where “all the costumes and makeup happens.” She generously offered to document the experience for Beehive readers. Thanks, Kristin!
START GALLERY HERE
Mel Brooks is the first name you’re going to associate with the musical version of “Young Frankenstein,” of course. It’s his wacky world from the 1974 classic film created up there on stage — the memorable characters, silly sight gags, dancing monsters and, as expected, quotable one-liners. (You know you’re in good hands when the title of one song is “He Vas My Boyfriend,” sung by the severe — and severely randy — Frau Blucher, the very mention of whose name makes off-stage horses whinny.)
But besides Brooks, there’s another name that makes the new Good Company Players production at Roger Rocka’s Dinner Theater so successful: Fred Bologna.
As director, Bologna is in top form in this silly, bawdy, wonderfully staged show. Once again, I find myself liking the local premiere of a (relatively) new Broadway show at Roger Rocka’s more than the national tour that came through the Saroyan. (The same thing happened recently with GCP’s “Shrek.) Bologna’s innovative use of the small Roger Rocka’s stage, clever effects, choreography and wonderfully dressed sets (he, along with Sam Ortega, doubles as prop master, and what an array of beakers, skulls, skeletons, scientific diagrams and frightening lab equipment the two of them have assembled) all contribute to a slick, happy production.
How enthusiastic am I about this show? If I could stand on my hands and do a little dance for you right now, I would — if it would get you to consider catching the exhilarating “David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition” at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. It’s big in so many ways, from the sheer size of some of the pieces (how about a 12-foot iPad painting?) to the innovative technologies used (you actually get to see in some cases the brush strokes that Hockney made in those iPad works). Then there’s just the sheer number of works: more than 300 displayed in 18,000 square feet of gallery space, making it the biggest in the history of the museum.
I get all evangelistic about the show in my most recent Spotlight column, which ran on Sunday. I don’t often urge people to drive six hours roundtrip to do anything, but in this case I really do feel it’s an art exhibition you don’t want to miss. It runs through Jan. 20. Sounds like plenty of time, yes, but you know how busy things can get in the holidays and beyond. Make your plans now.
Audra McDonald fans, prepare yourself for a welcome local dose of Fresno’s most famous Broadway star. McDonald will perform Feb. 28 at the L.J. Williams Theatre in Visalia.
She last appeared locally in 2011 at Fresno’s Warnors Theatre to open the Fresno Grand Opera season. Her schedule has been packed since then, of course, including a Tony Award-winning run in “Porgy and Bess,” hosting duties on “Live from Lincoln Center” and preparing for her upcoming role as Mother Abbess in NBC’s Dec. 5 live production of “The Sound of Music.”
Tickets for the Visalia event are $30-$60 and go on sale midnight Thursday, just in time for all the Black Friday hoopla. The event is a benefit for Hands in the Community. Details: ticketfly.com/event/429845
One of the great things about theater is the way it can open up new slivers of the human experience.
I have a basic knowledge of the atrocities suffered in Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime — the era of the “Killing Fields.” And I know that large numbers of Cambodian refugees settled in California, with Long Beach a top destination.
But Fresno City College’s production of “Year Zero,” directed by Chuck Erven, added another dimension to the Cambodian immigrant story for me by making it personal. And it does it in a thoughtful, funny way. Though the production isn’t quite as smooth and sure of itself as it could be, it’s heartfelt. (Only two performances remain: 2 and 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 23.)
Michael Golamco’s play uses two young Cambodian-Americans to frame the American immigrant experience: Ra (Thuy Duong), a UC Berkeley student; and her brother, Vuthy (Jared Flores), a 16-year-old social misfit who is finding it hard to navigate the treacherous waters of high school in Long Beach.
Ra and Vuthy’s father died years ago, but they’ve just recently lost their mother — who while unseen remains a major character. Ra has returned from college for the funeral and to look after her brother. The plan is for her to return to college and for brother to live with a family friend.
Scott Moreau, who plays a superb Johnny Cash in the national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet,” has it all in relation to the icon he’s portraying: the physical size, the carriage, the way he holds his guitar. But it’s his voice — a resplendent bass that digs down to the very bottom of what I imagine to be a very big gravel pit — that had Cash fans walking the line Tuesday at the Saroyan Theatre.
His performance easily stood out for me, though I mostly remained lukewarm about the rest of the production throughout.
This jukebox musical imagines the famous afternoon of Dec. 4, 1956, when an impressive quartet — Cash, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis — gathered in a sort of impromptu recording session at Sun Records in Memphis. As imagined in Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux’s version of the event, we get a little back story on each artist, mostly in terms of the relationship of each with legendary producer Sam Phillips, who served as kind of a father figure to all — and acts as narrator.
Mostly it’s the music that gets the spotlight: such well-known numbers as “Who Do You Love?” (performed by James Barry as Perkins), “Memories Are Made of This” (performed by Cody Slaughter as Presley), ”Real Wild Child” (performed by John Countryman as Jerry Lee Lewis) and Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Jackie Evancho didn’t show up Sunday night for her scheduled concert at the Saroyan Theatre. The promoter notified management at the Fresno Convention Center of the event’s cancellation on Friday afternoon by sending an email. But because city servers were down, that communication wasn’t received until Saturday, says Claudia Arguelles, director of sales and marketing at SMG. No news release was sent out.
I was on vacation at the time and was enjoying a digital-free couple of days, or I would have done more to spread word about the concert’s cancellation. As (bad) luck would have it, we timed a big Jackie story to run Sunday with her appearance — a lengthy essay in which I used the occasion of Evancho’s concert to dig into the meaty issue of the age-old divide between critics/academics and fans. The Spotlight section is prepared in advance of the Sunday paper and printed on Thursday nights, so there was nothing we could do other than note in the front section of the paper that the concert had been cancelled.
Why didn’t the concert take place? The reason given by promoter John Low: “production reasons outside the artist’s control.”
I have my suspicions. Ticket demand for the concert did not seem to be high. Weeks before the concert, the promoter had gone into deep-discount mode, offering 60% off through The Bee’s dealsaver.com website.
It must have been quite the moment: Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins all in the same recording studio. The day was Dec. 4, 1956 in the Sun Records Studios in Memphis. The result: an album titled “Million Dollar Quartet.”
The Broadway musical with the same title opened in New York in 2010 and closed in 2011. Now the national tour is reaching Fresno, with two performances starting tonight at the Saroyan Theatre.
For Friday’s 7 section, I chatted in an interview with John Countryman, who plays Jerry Lee Lewis in the production. He tells me that if you want to say hi after the show, he usually hangs out with his wife in the theater lobby, where she sells tour merchandise.
I’m marking the closing of “Shrek” with not one post but two. It’s “Shrek” day!
Anyone who’s seen the production knows that Teddy Maldonado, who plays the height-challenged Lord Farquaad, isn’t going to forget this role for a long time. He spends his time on stage in a special contraption that, well, cuts him down to size. I thought it would be interesting to conduct an exit interview with his beleaguered knees. They didn’t kneed much encouragement to spill all.
Question: Well, hello there, Teddy’s knees. I understand you’ve had a rough job these past couple of months. What has it been like helping play Lord Farquaad? Have you gotten any hazard pay?
Answer: It’s been wonderful, certainly the most action we have gotten since Teddy played catcher in little league. We have a contractual agreement with our owner, Teddy, that we receive half of the reimbursement check. We plan to use the money on matching “I survived Duloc” tattoos.
Was any chiropractic intervention required during the run? Pain killers? Bottles of tequila?
No pain killers, no cortisone shots, not even a thank you from “Lord Teddy”. So far, no extra measures have been taken regarding our comfort. We have a pending lawsuit.
As the Good Company Players production of “Shrek” enters its closing weekend, a story comes to light I want to share. It’s an example of how local theater can be, well, more than theater. Anyone’s who been in a show knows that a cast can become a family. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to George Akina, who plays Shrek’s father and a palace guard in the show.
Akina is a community theater veteran well-known for bringing a warmth and gentleness to his roles at Children’s Musical Theaterworks and CenterStage Clovis Community Theatre. It was long one of his dreams to audition for a Good Company musical, and at the beginning of this year, now that his kids were grown and work schedules allowed, there was more time to do this. He auditioned in January and was cast as the Rabbi in “Fiddler on the Roof.”
In March, a year after a normal PSA test, George was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer that had already spread to his spine.
Posted today by the New York Times: an extensive article about Fresno State’s bulldog mascot and how it plays a double role as football icon and gang symbol. Yes, it pretty much makes the whole city sound like a war zone. Peruse this scene-setting opening paragraph:
FRESNO, Calif. — Bulldogs can be seen snarling from flagpoles, from baseball caps, from T-shirts and from tattoos — one man has the dog’s face inked across his torso, its behind across his back. Young men on street corners bark at passing patrol officers. They call their children “little dogs” or “bull puppies.” Police raids find their targets asleep beneath red blankets emblazoned with the dog.
The several thousand words that follow aren’t groundbreaking or particularly timely — one of the underpinnings of the article is the murder of a Fresno man, allegedly for wearing a Bulldog sweatshirt, that occurred in 2011 — but this is more one of those “big picture” stories that tries to capture the zeitgeist of a city for a national audience. In that regard, it’s probably no better or worse than most such stories. It addresses serious issues that are very real, if not quite as all-consuming as suggested by the Times article. In that sense, it’s good for all of us. And, in a very practical way, it reminds me that when I read stories about other cities, regions or parts of the world in the national and international media, I should be aware of the human tendency to generalize.
A Retweet From Audra McDonald’s Twitter feed:
A buncha fake nuns at a real nunnery. @SoundofMusic cast members at Saint Walburga monastery in Elizabeth, NJ.
McDonald will be touting the advantages of mountain climbing in NBC’s upcoming live production Dec. 5 of “The Sound of Music.” She plays the Mother Abbess, who of course sings “Climb Every Mountain.”
I’ve already told you (lots) about the new M Street Arts Complex and its first ArtHop. Here are two other ArtHop picks from my story in Thursday’s Life section that deserve a special shout-out:
— Each year Spectrum Art Gallery invites a notable figure in photography to show his or her work. This year’s honored artist is master photographer Alan Ross, who worked side by side with Ansel Adams as his photographic assistant. An exhibit at Spectrum through Dec. 1 features more than 30 of Ross’ original photographs. He is best known for his tonally exquisite black-and-white photographs of the American West. This weekend, Ross will participate in two events at the gallery: an artist’s reception 4-8 p.m. Saturday; and on Sunday a photographic workshop.
— San Francisco artist and printmaker Beth Van Hoesen’s career spanned more than five decades. (She died in 2010.) Her work will be displayed in a special exhibition at 1821 Gallery & Studios at 1821 Calaveras St. through Nov. 27. The show includes examples of her pristine and elegant botanical art, along with a number of prints drawn from a series titled “Punks” focusing on young punk street people from San Francisco’s Castro District.
Plus: There’s the annual “Nudes in November” show at the Chris Sorensen Studio, an exhibition titled “Clay Paper Sticks” by Kathy Wosika at Fig Tree Gallery, and a big “Art and Music” show featuring bands Bad Suns, Fatty Cakes and Evelyn at ARTHOUSE. Happy Hopping!
Julia Woli Scott has been having a big week. Not only did she and her partner, Christina Rea, help design and open the beautiful new M Street Arts Complex in downtown Fresno, but she co-curated with Rea a new exhibition titled “Spectacle: A Closer Look at Fresno.” To mark the complex’s first ArtHop tonight, I talked with Scott about the M Street complex and the exhibition in today’s Life section. Here’s an extended version of the interview.
Question: We’ve already covered the opening of the M Street Arts Complex in detail, but for those who missed it, could you give a brief recap?
Answer: The M Street Arts Complex is a collaborative project funded and developed by Granville with creative direction from myself and my partner Christina Rea. Our part of the 22,000 square foot warehouse has undergone a 1 million dollar renovation to build rentable space designed for professional artists that offers air conditioning, private parking, wi-fi and security.
During the Grand Opening on Saturday, Fresno State President Joseph Castro and Dr. Vida Samiian, Dean of the college of Arts and Humanities announced that the school intends to have a presence in the not-yet-renovated other half of the building, an expansion of their graduate program.
How did the opening weekend festivities go?
We had a tremendous turn out, I actually had to step outside shortly after people were allowed in the building because I was overwhelmed by the crowd, an estimated 600 through the 3-8 pm event. There was a tangible sense of excitement especially during the evening’s artist reception, with conversation even managing to drown out the rumble of Christopher Lopez’s thunderous sound piece, State of Detachment, 2009.
Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” always moves me. An example: I’m tugged by melancholy early in the first act when the Stage Manager — the semi-omnipotent narrator who in a very non-ordinary way guides the audience through the machinations of a very ordinary town –casually mentions that Doc Gibbs will die in 1930. The hospital will be named for him.
That’s years in the future, at least the future according to 1901, the year in which the first act is set, and it has nothing to do with the story at hand, or even the story to come, really. (Doc Gibbs actually lives a lot longer than many of the other characters in the play.) But the mention of the doctor’s impending death, a tossed-off line related so dispassionately, speaks to how the playwright makes “Our Town” into a rumination on time — and how little of it humans really have. Doc Gibbs was there. Now he isn’t.
In Fresno State’s handsome, vibrant production of the classic play, we get thoroughly wrapped up in this timeless exploration of time, if you will. Director J. Daniel Herring’s well-crafted staging has a burnished, heartfelt feel that never tries to hide the show’s historic underpinnings. (This is “Our Town’s” 75th anniversary.) But it does it in a way that feels fresh, almost modern. If this production were a furniture store, it’d be a Room and Board, not a Thomasville.
It takes some guts to write (and, for The Bee’s editorial page, to publish) a piece critical of football while the community is in the midst of Bulldog-slash-Derek-Carr fever. But that’s what retired Fresno lawyer Phil Fullerton did in Monday’s paper. His intriguing piece tackles the issue of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), brain damage that often results in dementia-like symptoms of reduced mental activity and slurred speech. The issue is currently getting a lot of media oxygen.
Even if it’s definitively proven that football causes longterm brain injuries, there’s no way the sport would be abolished, Fullerton writes. It makes too much money. But there will be an effect, he writes:
So what will happen if it is not outlawed? I think the answer is clear. Most parents like myself will no longer allow their children to play. I have surveyed my family and all my children and grandchildren concur. We are a typical middle-class family, and all our friends report the same powerful refusal to allow their young men to play this sport.
So what will happen? The sport will be “Romanized.” In the Roman Empire there were huge coliseums not only in Rome but in places like Arles, Trier and Tunisia. The public was constantly entertained by games, often fatal, staged by the least powerful of society: the slaves, prisoners and minorities. While crowds screamed, emperors would signal a thumbs up or down telling of life or death.
There will be a similar result in the United States. The most needful will play the game: those who have the bleakest outlook in life, need scholarships, are poor and are the least educated.
The issue isn’t settled. One Facebook commenter on Fullerton’s piece says there has been very little peer-reviewed scientific data that establishes a risk between football and brain injuries. But Fullerton’s point that parents are already forbidding their boys to play football suggests that there already is an impact.
Something tells me Mr. Fullerton isn’t getting invited to any Red Wave tailgates.
I walked out of the Fresno Philharmonic’s weekend concert with a bounce to my step. Which should make music director Theodore Kuchar happy. The “I Got Rhythm” concert, which I saw Saturday at the Shaghoian Hall, was a polished presentation that made this world — if only for a few moments — a more percussive place .
Guest artist Orion Weiss offered intense, moving renditions of two famed rhythmic works in the concert’s first half: Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” variations; and Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major. Weiss is not a showy or acrobatic player. Instead, he tackled the pieces with a sort of quiet fierceness, his movements almost liquid. I suspect the temptation with Gershwin for a pianist is to pound everything out, but Weiss managed to sneak up on the syncopations with a nimbleness that reminded me of a cat of prey. I shivered when I listened to the way his final trills in the second movement of the Ravel subsided to almost a mist.
The swagger of the evening belonged to Kuchar — who’s up for a Latin Grammy award for the album “Latin American Rhythms,” which he recorded with his Orquesta Sinfónica de Venezuela — and especially the orchestra’s expanded percussion section, which welcomed the Fresno State Percussion Ensemble. In the great Revuletas piece “La noche de los Mayas,” the 36-minute piece built to a rhythmic climax that shook the hall. The percussion section — a great, clanging, pounding, crashing (and seductively shimmying) power — was like an inevitably advancing army, vaulting up and over a city’s walls in an unstoppable swarm. It was exhilarating.
No wonder I had a kick to my step as I left.