Weekly Magazine


NR (1)AFTER YEARS without a stand-alone executive, the Symphony has promoted its Director of Institutional Development, Nicola Reilly, to Executive Director. “Nicola will be responsible for managing the staff of the Symphony and all aspects of its operations. She will continue to be in charge of the Symphony’s marketing and development activities, with the support of myself and the board of directors. We believe that this move will provide the ability for the Symphony to prosper as it presents its 72nd Season, Concert Grand, beginning in October,” said Lee Rosen, Board President. Congratulations to all concerned. (BTW, Nicola has herself a wedding date this fall.)


80TH CARMEL BACH FESTIVAL officially opens with two weeks of Main concerts, chamber concerts, recitals and run-out events around the Monterey Peninsula. MARIA “Midnight at the Oasis” MULDAUR brings her blues band to Seaside’s Laguna Grande Park. For other listings and links click our CALENDAR 


BOARD ELECTS well-known Phyl Rosenblum as new board chair, and hires Julia Apgar as new Executive Director. 2017-18 season names individual Concert Directors for its six programs: Derek Tam, Solmaaz Adeli, Roy Malan, Brian Johnson, Chris Pratorius Gómez and Ivan Rosenblum.


MONDAY AFTERNOON concerts feature the soprano cantata “Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut” with Mhairi Lawson. “My heart bathes in blood” begins as the singer confesses great sin in abject humility, but warms through a series of recitatives and arias—including a chorale—to joyful optimism in salvation. Bach makes that transition with subtlety and bachcantat-preview-m3deeply felt persuasion. A new Harmonia Mundi CD features the crystal clear coloratura of Carolyn Sampson with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra in the same work. Sampson also sings Bach’s joyous secular wedding cantata, “Weichet nur” and joins bass-baritone Andreas Wolf in the sacred cantata “Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn” which concludes with a duet. If you remain hungry for more Bach than you can get at the Bach Festival, this CD is guaranteed to deliver satisfaction.


A PROGRAM NOTES APP for your iPad during a performance. Click HERE


EXPLODING TECHNOLOGY gives everyone a potentially powerful public voice with startling impacts on the ‘legacy’ institutional arts, including professional critics. CHRIS JONES, writing in the Chicago Sun Times, likens its magnitude to the circulation of Martin Luther’s “Gutenberg” bible and the subsequent posting of his “Ninety-five Theses” that launched the Protestant Reformation exactly 500 years ago. Click HERE  MEGAN GARBER in The Atlantic offers a related perspective that redefines ‘community.’ Click HERE


THE MYSTERIOUS THEREMIN is much more than a weird movie special effect.








IT TOOK PLACE 115 YEARS AGO in New York. A Trip to Japan in 16 Minutes was a real stinker. Click HERE  BE SURE to watch the video-recreation.


blomstedt_600FORMER SAN FRANCISCO music director works non-stop. Norman Lebrecht sends greetings. “A Seventh Day Adventist, he does not work Saturdays,” Lebrecht claims. “But for the rest of the week he has rarely an idle moment. Last week he toured Bruckner’s 5th symphony with the NDR Elbphilharmonie in Lübeck, Rendsburg and Neubrandenburg. Next week he’s with the Bamberg Symphony in Bamberg, Würzburg, St. Stephan Dom in Passau and Bruckner’s old church St. Florian in Linz. Between August and Christmas he will conduct 36 concerts with the Gewandhaus, Danish National Symphony, NHK, Berlin Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio, Swedish Radio and the Vienna Philharmonic. Happy birthday, Maestro B!”


JEFFREY HEYER covers Paper Wing’s new Alice in Wonderland. PHILIP PEARCE keeps up with The Western Stage’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. Click HERE

Scott MacClelland, editor; associate editor, JJ Raasch.

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson

RG-bloody Edit

By Philip Pearce

THE HAMILTON PHENOMENON has launched us headlong into the roaring waters of the off-beat, on-point American History Musical. Latest local example is Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, which just opened at The Western Stage. Where Hamilton is a big, loving, panoramic celebration of our nation’s birth pangs, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson offers a far more raucous, goofy and irreverent look at a moment in US history. It’s about the blustering and stumbles of our populist seventh president as he takes up arms against an allegedly snooty out-of-touch Washington ruling elite.

Sound familiar? Well, yes, and writers Michael Friedman (music and lyrics) and Alex Timbers (book) even transmogrify Old Hickory into a media-obsessed rock star with a big teen following. This adoring fan base pressures him to launch an attack on the big, bad East Coast political establishment and at first he resists their blandishments, “I’m not that Guy!” But as he taps deeper into a rich vein of unthinking adulation, “Populism, Yeah, Yeah!”, it’s clear he won’t hold out for long, “I’m so that Guy!” He’s played by Ken Allen Neely with a roistering gusto that infects the entire cast and produces just under two hours of almost nonstop comic energy on the Hartnell Main Stage.

Friedman and Timbers have created an Andy Jackson who is nothing if not bloody. For starters, he and his frontier ladylove Rachel take their unconventional nuptial vows in a blood bath of exchanged bodily fluids. Unconventional or not—she’s already married to somebody else—it’s Rachel who becomes the only stabilizing force for mature family life in the face of all the juvenile excesses of Jackson’s budding political career. She’s played with vigorous commitment by Megan Root.

Just as bloody a politician as he is a bridegroom, Jackson spends a lot of his early political career taking potshots at political opponents or at almost any small annoyance that crosses his path. An early victim is Cheryl Games, in a wonderfully loony portrayal of a schoolmarmish narrator. She spouts details of Jackson’s early career with such relentlessly smarmy adulation that it’s no surprise when AJ decides to knock her out of the action in a casual walk-by shooting. She drags herself off stage, presumably in search of a first aid kit, returns later on to put in her two cents and is finally eternally offed with a straight shot.

It’s a show marked by that brand of screwball surprises. Games’ narrative duties are taken over by some Jacksonian saloon gals headed by the dynamic Jill Miller, supported by beautiful Hanne Tonder and a small brunette whirlwind named Chloe Babbes.

As you might guess, Jackson also wages his own private and unofficial battles against the “encroachment” of English and Spanish “foreigners” into US territory. He’s even madder at those pesky Indians and uses trickery, wampum, diplomacy and war to push a succession of southeastern tribes out of long centuries and vast expanses of their homeland. Accompanying all of this wheeling and dealing is a fresh take on the “10 Little Indians” nursery rhyme, sung with dark acerbic relish by Babbes, who later takes on the role of an Indian orphan adopted by the unpredictably compassionate Jackson during one of his Native American skirmishes.

The forces of Washington elitism are also on hand, played with a lot of satiric dash, foolery and vocal excitement by Cameron Eastland as Martin Van Buren, Edie Flores as Henry Clay, Josh Kaiser as John Calhoun, Joshua Reeves as James Monroe and Dan Druff  (is that his real name?) as John Quincy Adams, who finagles the naive Jackson out of his apparently successful first crack at the presidency. Flores doubles as a troubled but loyal Native American supporter named Black Fox, who ultimately gets the shaft from AJ.

John Selover directs Jackson’s rise to political power in loud and blatant slapstick vignettes, half comic strip, half SNL comedy skits, illustrated by back-projected chunks of visual history. The mood is sardonic, the action broad, the language loud and vulgar and the effect very funny. Don Dally and three talented musicians do full justice to the blare and explosion of the emo rock score and even turn in brief, creditable acting performances as a gaggle of tourists being shown through the Jacksonian White House. Inevitably, the closing half hour, where the sophomoric hero discovers that campaigning is a heap easier than presiding over a fickle electorate with short attention spans, is less engaging, more talky and a bit of a drag.

But things pick up again when that smarmy deceased Storyteller returns, and you’ll have to see the show for yourself if you want to know how she manages to do that. What’s important is that she pinpoints the question lurking behind all the show’s crazy mixture of wisdom and foolery. Was Jackson one of our national heroes, or only a narcissistic gun-happy mass murderer?

The opening night audience was enthusiastic but small and that suggests that Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson may not be everybody’s pot of gumbo. If so, it’s a pity. It’s another example of Western Stage’s effort to nudge us out of our play-going comfort zones and introduce us to some of the less-heralded treasures of theater today.

It plays weekends through July 29th.

Photo by Richard Green