Romeo & Juliet Ballet at Festivall

Festivall had another glorious evening of Shakespearan entertainment. The Charleston Ballet gave a lovely performance of Romeo & Juliet, featuring guest dancers from Columbia Classical Ballet and an exquisite score by Prokofiev.

We have to give a shout out to “Lady Capulet,” who stole the show with her raging, grief-stricken scene. Full disclosure: “Lady Capulet” has been my best friend since we were four years old and has written for Muruch in the past. But that doesn’t make her performance tonight any less awesome!

It’s been a grand weekend for local arts events, though a bit disorganized in regards to conflicting schedules. I hope the various arts organizations in Charleston better coordinate their schedules in the future, preferably with a central calendar perhaps under the management umbrella of Festivall. That will help local audiences support all the performances instead of having to choose between them.


Hamlet at Festivall

Festivall‘s Shakespeare night was a great success. Those of you who missed the performance of Hamlet by the visiting American Shakespeare Company really missed out on a unique, spectacular evening of entertainment.

The Scottish Rite building was the perfect venue and one I hope gets utilized more in the future, its old-fashioned atmosphere and stadium seating was perfect for the play and the auditorium was packed with an enthusiastic all-ages crowd.

The ASC players doubled as an indie-folk band before the play and during intermission, covering pop hits like “Cups” and “Mad World” in an acoustic, The Decemberists style. More importantly the troupe had a firm grasp of the material as well as the natural comedic abilities to bring out the subtle humorous nuances of the Bard’s drama.

The audience was enraptured from beginning to end and I’m so happy to have been a part of such a dazzling and culturally rich experience. I hope the American Shakespeare Company will be invited back to perform Much Ado About Nothing…and Taming of the Shrew and MacBeth and anything else they’re willing to grace us West Virginians with. Bravo!


Music, Shakespeare, Books, Art & Nature at Festivall This Weekend!

West Virginians have an exciting weekend of arts-related events this weekend thanks to Charleston’s Festivall. We at Muruch will happily attend the following:

Friday, 7pm: Hamlet by The American Shakespeare Co.
The Scottish Rites Center, Capitol Street
Tickets: $20 adults, $15 seniors, $10 students.
Buy tickets in advance at Taylor Books or at the door

Friday & Saturday, 7:30pm: Romeo & Juliet by The Charleston Ballet
The Civic Center Little Theater
Tickets: Adults $20 in advance, $25 at door; students $15 in advance, $20 at door.Group rates also available.
Buy tickets online, Civic Ctr box office or at the door

Saturday, 8am-5pm: Library Used Book Sale
The Civic Center Little Theater
Free Admittance, books 50¢-$2

Sunday, 1-4pm: Nature Walk w/ Live Music & Art
Sunrise Carriage Trail
Free!

Sunday, 7pm: Kate Miller-Heidke, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Janiva Magness & Storyman at Mountain Stage
Culture Center Theater
Tickets: $15 advance, $20 at the door
Buy tickets online, at Taylor Books or at door


Upcoming Local Concerts: Carrie Underwood, Shawn Colvin, Old Crow and more!

May is going to be a spectacular month for concerts in Charleston, WV…

Country star and former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood will be at the Charleston Civic Center, with opener Hunter Hayes, on Wednesday, May 8th. Look for my review of that concert in next Thursday’s edition of The Charleston Gazette.

Lyle Lovett will visit The Clay Center on Friday, May 10th.

Comedian Lewis Black will hit The Clay Center on Thursday, May 16th.

Singer-songwriters Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter will perform as a duo during an extended set at a special Mountain Stage at The Clay Center on Sunday, May 19th. Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan is also on the lineup. As an almost lifelong fan of Shawn Colvin, I’m very excited to be reviewing the show for Muruch.

The free Live on the Levee summer concert series will return to Charleston on May 24th. The acts haven’t been announced yet, but I do know Kathy Mattea will perform in June during Festivall week.

Just when you think it can’t get any better, Old Crow Medicine Show will put on a full concert at The Clay Center on Friday, May 24th! OCMS is one of my favorite modern bands, so reviewing their concert for Muruch is also cause for much excitement.

Mountain Stage: Kate Miller-Heidke, David Broza, and Marc Cohn

I hadn’t intended to review Mountain Stage’s July 18th FestivALL concert at The Clay Center here since I covered it for another publication, but Kate Miller-Heidke’s performance was too magnificent to keep to myself and I can share more details here since Muruch has no word count.

Kate was not only of the more interesting acts to have appeared on Mountain Stage, but she also possessed one of the loveliest voices I’ve ever had the pleasure to hear at the venue.

Considering the avante-pop theatrics of her latest release Curiouser (click for my album review), the stripped down acoustic set could’ve been a big disappointment. But Kate’s spectacular, rafter-scraping vocals and bubbly charm provided plenty of entertainment.

I can attest that Kate’s voice required no effects on the recording to reach those surreal high notes. Her vocal flights of fancy were even more astonishing and gravity-defying in person than on the album. And she was cute and graceful even when she flubbed a line and had to restart “Politics in Space.”

Her humorous piano rendition of “Facebook Song” was a big hit with the audience, but will definitely require some editing before the radio broadcast – if it makes it on the air at all.

I didn’t catch the title of the last song Kate performed, but her final series of operatic trills left the entire audience in awe and earned her a standing ovation.I suspect I’m not the only audience member who wished she’d been granted the special extended one-hour set instead of Marc Cohn.

Israeli artist David Broza was a last minute replacement for Aboriginal singer Gurrumul, whose U.S. tour was canceled last week due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Broza’s intricate, often frenzied guitar work blends folk, blues, and Latin rhythms. For his latest release Night Dawn, Broza set unpublished poems by Townes Van Zandt to music.

Other than a very dull set by Sahara Smith (someone should tell these country starlets that miniskirts won’t mask bland vocals on the radio!), the rest of the acts were also solid and enjoyable. But for me, Kate’s shadow didn’t let go of the stage until Marc Cohn walked out.

This was the second time I’ve seen Marc Cohn at Mountain Stage, the first was two years ago shortly after the release of his post-traumatic masterpiece Join the Parade. His 2008 performance was much more powerful due to the emotional content and events surrounding the songs on Join the Parade, but this time his demeanor and the general mood of his set was lighthearted and fun.

Before his set began, Cohn’s roadies packed the stage with white towels and glasses of what appeared to be wine…to which host Larry Groce quipped: “I don’t know what it is, but it ain’t clear, so it wasn’t made around here.” And after explaining the use of a prerecorded drum track (a rare occurrence on the live radio show), Cohn jokingly threatened to mimic Pink’s wet acrobatic act as he became progressively more “contemporary” throughout the night.

Cohn’s new release Listening Booth: 1970 pays tribute to his favorite songs that were originally released in 1970. The album features covers of classic songs by Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Smokey Robinson, Joe Cocker, Simon & Garfunkel and Eric Clapton.

Unfortunately, an early deadline elsewhere forced me to leave before the end of the show, so I missed the group finale. But what I saw of Cohn’s set was a superb end to the evening. Highlights were his bluesy rendering of Joe Cocker’s version of “The Letter” from the new album, “The Calling” from Join The Parade, and “Silver Thunderbird” from Cohn’s self-titled debut.

I managed to take a few shots during the concert, but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped due to the angle of my seat. Still, you can get an idea…