Community Palette

Andrea Bocelli Concert: An Evening to Remember

December 17, 2013

(Photo by: Brad Luna)

If you weren’t at the Verizon Center on December 12th you missed the best concert of the year. It easily blew away Madonna’s concerts and those of Beyoncé. But then they no longer have concerts but rather put on shows where the singing often seems to be secondary. They actually seem to try to keep the audience entertained with everything but their voices.

Then there is Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian tenor who makes you reach down and feel something with each song he sings. There were actually people in tears after some of his songs and they were tears of joy. One gets caught up emotionally in the music for the entire concert. There was a packed house for his one-night only performance. At first I was worried that the Verizon Center wouldn’t allow for his voice to come through as the acoustics wouldn’t be good enough. But from the first song you knew that wasn’t the case. His voice and those of the people who sang with him came across beautifully. Bocelli was backed by a full orchestra under the direction of conductor Eugene Kohn. 

It was also great to go to a concert that had an announced starting time of 7:30 and the music actually began within five minutes of the announced time. Bocelli was led onto the stage at 7:45 and the first half of the show was an hour long but felt like ten minutes. It consisted of many operatic arias which he sang both on his own and with soprano Svetla Vassileva. There was also a full chorus to back them up and the chorus did two numbers alone with the orchestra. 

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

There was a twenty minute intermission and then Bocelli was joined on stage by the great Heather Headley. Headley is a Broadway star who first gained fame in The Lion King and then went on to win a Tony for her role in AIDA. She sang a version of Over the Rainbow that exceeded anything I have ever heard before. She then sang with Bocelli and the two of them made beautiful music with songs such as I Will Always Love You. Bocelli even did a beautiful version of the Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender. A crowd favorite was Love in Portofino the title song from his album with romantic scenes from Portofino, Italy being shown on the big screen behind him.
 

The concert ended at 9:45 and Bocelli came out for four encores one of which was New York, New York, the only piece that seemed out of place for a D.C. concert. It made one think that we need a D.C. theme song. He could have rather done something like America the Beautiful. But his final encore was the aria Nessun Dorma (none shall sleep) from Puccini’s Turandot and that brought down the house.

If you missed this concert and Bocelli is singing in any city where you are don’t walk but run to get tickets. You won’t regret it.

 


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Ready or Not, Here Comes Hillary

December 15, 2013

Thursday night, the Ready for Hillary PAC made its D.C. debut. Over 400 mostly young people including a large number of women gathered at Look, a new restaurant and lounge at 1909 K Street, NW to add their voices to the chorus of those asking Hillary Rodham Clinton to run for President.

It was an impressive crowd with lots of excitement. I ease-dropped on some of the conversations around the room and it was clear that there was a passion that I haven’t seen in a long time for a political candidate. It was different from the conversations around President Obama’s candidacy when he ran. At that time people talked about their excitement and how he generated hope for a better future but there wasn’t a long record they could talk about.

Alex Smith and Brenda M. (Photo by: Peter Rosenstein) Alex Smith and Brenda M.

Here people actually talked about what Hillary had accomplished. They talked about her work for women and children and some spoke about her experience as Secretary of State. It was actually a phenomenon of when they grew up and when they first heard about Hillary as to the topic of their conversations. A couple of very impressive looking older women were chatting about Hillary’s work for the Children’s Defense Fund with Marion Wright Edelman and I am sure others in the room had no idea what they were talking about.

But that is what this passion for Hillary Rodham Clinton is all about. She is so many things to so many people. She is the first chance for a woman to break the final glass ceiling. She is arguably the most well prepared person to ever run for President. Clearly her eight years as First Lady and the knowledge she got from that experience about where the real levers of power that a President has can’t be matched by anyone else. But then her legal background; her work revising the education system in Arkansas; her work as a congressional staffer and then United States Senator; and finally her years as Secretary of State make up a career unmatched in breadth and scope.

There was the talk of competency and the steadfastness that Hillary would bring to the Presidency. She has never wavered from her core principles and what she believes is right. Not everyone has agreed with her and today there are those that say she isn’t progressive enough. But they are talking about the woman who stood in China in 1995 at the Beijing Woman’s Conference and criticized the government on their policy of only one child. Though not always successful she put herself in the forefront of fighting for universal healthcare and has always fought for the rights of those who don’t have a voice of their own.

(Photo by: Peter Rosenstein)

Ready for Hillary is unusual in so many ways. I am not sure if this is the wave of the future and from now on anyone who wants to run for President needs to begin four years before the election and have someone set up a field operation without an announced candidate. Or is this only a Hillary phenomenon? Time will tell.

But for now in D.C. with this event and the next one planned for Wednesday, January 15th at Town Danceboutique, from 7-9pm nearly 1,000 people will have paid the $20.16 price of admission to lend their names and contact information to Ready for Hillary. As a charter member of the I want Hillary for President group, and the only elected delegate from D.C. in 2008 supporting Hillary, I want the chance to do that again. This time if she runs Hillary will win and Hillary Rodham Clinton will be sworn in as President on January 20, 2017.

Join me at Town in January. Sign up today at www.readyforhillary.com/events/outdc.


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'If/Then' at the National Theater

November 20, 2013

I went to see If/Then at the National Theater and did understand I was going to see a pre-Broadway try-out of a new musical. I left thinking spending $110 for the privilege seemed a little much. These pre-Broadway runs were something nearly all productions did when they would tour Boston then maybe D.C. or some other venues before heading to the Great White Way. But budgets have made that nearly impossible these days and the investments are so great that there is often the fear that the production will close to bad reviews even before it gets to Broadway.

I think the producers of If/Then made the right decision bringing the show to D.C. first. It clearly needs some work but there is a basic structure and cast that can make it a hit. I think they can comfortably cut 15 or 20 minutes from the show. But there are great positives. Idina Menzel as Elizabeth, Beth or Liz (depending on which story line is happening at the time) is a brilliant singer. I remember her best as Maureen in Rent and she has lost none of her luster. She can still belt out a song with the best of them. Near the end of the last act her solo, Starting Over, (think that is the name of the song as one of the problems with this show is there is no one standout song that you hum on the way out of the theater) is a tour-de-force. Actually I thought the show should have ended after she sang that number. LaChanze   who most will remember for her Tony award winning performance in The Color Purple is great both as an actress and singer. Anthony Rapp as Lucas and James Snyder as Josh do themselves proud. Every time Rapp was onstage singing I did keep thinking of him with affection as the character he played in Rent.

The concept of the different story lines is good. The idea of people thinking about what their life would have been IF they had only made different choices in their careers or personal life THEN the world would look so different is universal. We all do that. The problem here is that they move so fast and somehow it takes a few minutes to adjust to the new story line and the show has moved on a little by the time you do. I think they could tighten this up with a little different lighting and movement. The set is generally wonderful. There is scaffolding galore reminiscent of the Next to Normal set and also of Rent and they have original ways of using it. But the use of reflecting glass that shows the set from above during some scenes just doesn’t have an apparent purpose. Then there is the dancing and while trying to focus on some of the individual dancers who seem great there is some dancing going on as background to songs that seems both not relevant and in some cases not even very good.

Again, I think there is a show here that will attract audiences. There is the universal theme and enough humor to entertain. One of the lines that got the most laughs was when Josh’s political leanings are referred to as neither Democratic nor Republican but rather he is an Independent. Someone then says that’s like being bi and suggests that he should just get over it and pick a side.

All in all the singing is great and the four lead actors are worth spending time with in the theater.


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