Warning: trim() expects parameter 1 to be string, array given in /home/content/62/11330662/html/wp-content/plugins/the-events-calendar/src/Tribe/Main.php on line 2397 In The News | Show Reviews | Press Information | GLOW Lyric Theatre
We are thrilled to announce our 2018 sponsorship opportunities, which all help to help support Glow’s mission of access, advocacy, diversity and collaboration for the arts in the Upstate community. We invite you to give back to the community, support local musical theatre, and be a part of the Greenville grassroots musical landscape as Glow continues to grow!
Glow’s 2018 season, Demand the Right to Dream, is already set to be a thrilling journey through three legendary pieces of lyrical theatre. The Summer Series lineup includes Beethoven’s Fidelio, Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore, and HAMILTON creator Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights! But what ties these shows together in their pursuit of daring to dream? We sat down with Glow Artistic Director Jenna Tamisiea to find out!
Q: Tell us about what inspired the theme “Demand the Right to Dream?”
Jenna: We are so proud to be entering Glow’s 8th Season, that it made me realize not in my wildest thoughts did I think we’d be growing this quickly. Christian and I never stopped dreaming and working toward our goal to- ultimately- touch lives and make a difference in South Carolina with our lyric theatre, so we’re pretty epitomal dreamers.
We also both realize that we live in a country and community that supports the vital work we do to promote inclusion, diversity and dialogue through the arts- but at the same time fully recognize not everyone in our country is given these same opportunities. We at Glow believe that every voice is worthy to be heard, and that not only are the performing arts a refuge for dreamers, but they also work to create empathy and understanding to uplift the dreams of others.
The courageous, compassionate and rebellious stories of the leading women and men in our upcoming season inspire our 2018 theme “Demand the Right to Dream.” We hope that the energetic, funny, and tender shows in our season line up inspire you to not only pursue your wildest dreams, but also to build a community where everyone has the opportunity to realize theirs.
Q: Could you tell us a bit about how all three shows tie into this theme?
Jenna: All three shows feature people overcoming extraordinary challenges in order to achieve their dreams. In the Heights brings an expansive look at the American dream as well as immigrant experience, and shows the incredible diversity in the experience of the American Dream. HMS Pinafore tackles that ultimate dream of finding love, and more importantly how it can transcend class and station. And then Fidelio’s portrays the heroic efforts of a woman trying to save her dissident husband, which reveal how powerful perseverance and bravery are in fighting for your dreams and what’s right.
Q: So what parts of the season are you most excited about?
Jenna: I’m super excited to bring the energy of Lin Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights to Greenville! This story is such an important one and is really the beginning of the relevant work he has created in HAMILTON. Also, I’m thrilled that we have such a kick ass heroine (Leanora) in Fidelio. She’s totally the Wonder Woman of classical opera!
Don’t miss Glow Lyric Theatre’s incredible 2018 Summer Series “Demand the Right to Dream!” at the Warehouse Theatre! Season tickets go on sale December 1st. CLICK HERE to read more information on the upcoming season!
With just one day until Glow’s Open Mic for Peace and Healing, we took the opportunity to sit down and talk with Glow Artistic Director Jenna Tamisiea about why it was time to bring an event geared towards offering Greenville a chance to come out and express their hopes, fears, and dreams of peace world through music and spoken word.
Q) First could you tell us your inspiration for the open mic, and why you thought it was important to bring an event geared towards peace and healing?
Jenna: Honestly, this has been a really rough month for our world. From the hurricanes that ravaged our communities, the domestic mass shooting in Las Vegas, and perpetually divisive politics, many people may feel lonely, hurt, marginalized and triggered right now.
We want to use this event to extend a hand and release some of the tension in our world through togetherness. This is also the time to pay tribute to all those suffering or who lost their lives in recent tragic events, and it’s a reminder that we are all human. It’s a chance to focus on the power of love and compassion we can’t afford to miss.
Q) It sounds like there are a lot of performances about many topics we’ll see this Sunday?
Jenna: Yes! So far, we have lots of different artists from different mediums joining us Sunday. People coming to the performance can expect to hear everything from musical theatre and ukulele pieces, to poetry, Shakespeare and monologues, all fighting for peace and healing in their own unique way.
Q) Why do you think it’s so important for Greenville to participate by getting on stage to perform or coming out to watch?
Jenna: It is rare to have the opportunity to participate in an event that’s entirely focused on the peace and healing that the arts can bring. I hope you join us and take an hour out of your week to feel hope, positivity, and above all else connection- which is something we so desperately need right now.
Don’t miss Glow’s Open Mic for Peace and Healing this Sunday at 2pm in Downtown Greenville at 1 City Plaza, brought to you in partnership with The Warehouse Theatre.
With Glow’s 2018 season announcement just around the corner, Glow already has big plans for an incredible series! Today, we chat with Glow Artistic Director Jenna Tamisiea and Development Director Leigh Miller to talk about Glow’s Fall for Glow Campaign, and hear about the themes from our upcoming season!
Q) Could you tell us a bit about Fall for Glow, and its importance to the upcoming season?
Jenna: Donations made to the Fall for Glow campaign determine the scope of our 2018 Season. We use the support from this campaign to plan our shows and budgets for our designers and professional contracts, as well as what outreach programs we can offer the community.
Leigh: Every year we are are incredibly grateful to our patrons for their generosity, as they have been key in allowing us to produce meaningful works in the Upstate. They remain essential for our Summer Festival Season and our Raising Voices series.
Jenna: And the more successful the fall campaign is, the more people we can reach and affect with our programming! A successful Fall Campaign keeps our seasons entertaining as well as thought provoking.
2) So what are the best ways for Glow fans to get involved, and could you tell us a bit about the programs they can donate to?
Jenna: Any donation we receive, big or small, is so needed and appreciated. A $50 donation can buy a ream of fabric for our professional costume designer. $250 provides a needs based scholarship for one of our students in the Glow opera camp. A $1000 gift pays the fee for a musician in our live orchestra.
Leigh: And this year, we’re also expanding corporate sponsorship opportunities to unique fundraising events, as well as an expanded Educational Outreach program.
Jenna: We know that where you donate your money is an important decision. We are always willing to find the sponsorship opportunities that move and inspire you. If you choose Glow, rest assured that the work you see on our stages is a direct reflection of your generosity!
3) So, can you give us all a short hint to about next season’s theme to tide us all over until the full announcement November 1st?
Jenna: Not in my wildest thoughts did I think Glow would be growing this quickly, but Christian and I never stopped dreaming and working toward our goal to touch lives and make a difference in South Carolina through lyric theatre. He and I are dreamers, and we live in a country and community that supports the vital work we do to ignite change and spark dialogue about relevant issues. However, not everyone in our country is given the same opportunities that Christian and I have been afforded.
Dreams are a human experience shared by all of us, no matter where we come from or what we look like. As artists, we at Glow believe that every voice is worthy enough to be heard, and the shows in our 2018 Season feature such dreamers. Some characters are dreaming of a better life in America, others seek freedom or acceptance. The courageous, compassionate and rebellious stories of the leading men and women in our upcoming season inspire our 2018 theme “Demand the Right to Dream.”
You can contribute to Fall for Glow by clicking below to donate, or by contacting Leigh Miller about sponsorship opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org! And don’t miss our full season announcement coming November 1st! Until then, help keep the dream alive for artists in the Upstate by supporting Glow Lyric Theatre!
When my husband makes chili each fall, I tell him to make it mild. I will only cross the street when given a walk signal, even if there is no car in sight. I was Valedictorian of my high school. I crossed every “t,” dotted every “i,” and wouldn’t dare challenge a rule. If I didn’t have an affinity for musical theatre, I would have excelled in some middle management position. One thing I knew for certain: I was not a risk taker. It’s not that I wasn’t able to take risks, I just thought perhaps I didn’t need to. I had always found success (or success as described to me), following the rules. However, as time went on, my artistic path was littered with complex situations where the established rules directly conflicted with my heart. For instance, every bone in my body screamed at me: Don’t start an opera company in the middle of a recession.
In the fall of 2009, my husband and I took $700 out of our savings account. Drawing a big breath, we sent a check and paperwork off to the IRS to incorporate our brand new vocal arts company, Glow Lyric Theatre, as a non-profit. He and I had been living in Greenville, South Carolina for a little less than a year at that point and were surprised when we discovered there were no opera companies in the entire state. With my background as a musical theatre actress, I knew absolutely nothing about producing shows or running a company, but something compelled me to plant this seed of an idea. Nervous to make all the right decisions, I dutifully asked my network what the rules were to start and operate a non-profit theatre. Along with many words of wisdom, I was also given a good deal of cautionary advice. Below are some of the recommendations I received in my first year as Artistic Director of Glow. What I actually discovered was that my rejection of these recommendations pushed me to find artistic courage.
Myth 1: Find a mission statement and stick to it. It started in 2013 when I watched a MET HD broadcast of La Bohème at my local movie theatre. It had already been a week since the Office of AIDS Research published troubling statistics. It was released that the three cities with the highest number of people living with HIV/AIDS were in South Carolina. Two of the cities listed were less than fifteen miles from my house. Unsettled, I went to La Bohème to ignore [distract myself from] the intense pull I felt to respond to these awful revelations. Instead of relieving my worry, Puccini’s masterpiece confronted me with poverty and disease, and the struggle of an artistic community to respond to the harsh world around them. As I watched, I recalled Jonathan Larson’s Rent, the rock musical that so deftly transferred Puccini’s storyline to the 1990’s. It followed a group of young artists living under the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City. Inspired, I threw out the season originally planned for Glow that year. I decided instead to produce La Bohème and Rent in repertory, with an aim to break down the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in South Carolina. We partnered with our local AIDS organization and hosted talk balks between community leaders and audience members. It was an amazing artistic achievement. I witnessed my directing work leading to discussions that inspired others to action. This was the exact moment Glow Lyric Theatre transformed from a dream of mine to a passionate, professional grassroots opera company capable of vital, positive change in my community. Despite all the advice to the contrary, I completely changed the mission statement of the company less than three years after its founding. With a mission to produce works of opera, operetta and musical theatre in direct response to the social and political climate of South Carolina, many called our work “art with a heart.” Each summer, Glow produces an opera, an operetta, and a work of musical theatre. All three productions are tied together with a common theme reflecting current issues within South Carolina. Was I worried that changing our mission statement would confuse patrons and steer my company into uncharted territories? Absolutely. Did I believe that impacting my community was more important than my fears? Absolutely. From that point on, when I felt at a loss for how to help people suffering in my state, I turned to my artistic work.
Myth 2: Be careful of producing “ethnic” shows. They appeal to too narrow an audience, and you are liable to lose donors. In June of 2015, white supremacist Dylan Roof attended a prayer meeting at the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Then he shot and killed nine members of the congregation. Five months earlier, in response to the deaths of Michael Brown and Walter Scott, I started brainstorming. I wanted to produce shows that could join the conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement. I felt that it was more necessary than ever to use my medium to address the racial violence within my state. We decided on The Wiz and Hot Mikado. Both are works of black theatre that celebrate cultural diversity by re-imagining traditionally white narratives.
That season, some of Glow’s lucrative financial supporters did not renew their donations citing disinterest in the programming. I knew exactly what they were implying. Little did these patrons know, they unearthed the rebel within me. In defiance, we increased our outreach initiatives by creating a program that gifted 400 free tickets to at-risk families and youth. We started family matinees at a reduced ticket price, and Pay-What-You-Can performances each weekend. The result? We had a record number of audience members. What we lost in private donations, we overwhelmingly made up in ticket sales and sponsorships. Instead of collapsing under the pressure of financial strain, we let the hardships of that season form the cornerstone of our scrappy financial model. Only fifty percent of Glow’s annual income comes from private donations or grants, while ticket sales make up the rest. We borrow and trade with the other performing arts companies in our area and seek in-kind donation opportunities with local businesses. Our goal each year is not only to increase audience participation but also to improve their experience.
Myth 3:Remember, audiences just want to be entertained. Producing lyric theatre with a strong social justice message in the deep South comes with obstacles. I categorize Glow’s work as challenging, thought-provoking and in some cases, confrontational. Like most opera companies, Glow is concerned with the accessibility and longevity of the art form. While updating production aesthetics and presenting new works are common tactics in the opera business, Glow instead examines the original intention of the piece to find connections with today’s current issues. Opera has historically reflected the feelings and events of its time. From Nabucco to The Marriage of Figaro, opera’s composers have often told stories of the fight for social justice and equality. Highlights of Glow’s last few seasons included a conceptualized production of Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette that examined a feud between immigrants seeking asylum in America and those who would stop them from entering the country. Thrust into the political debate on immigration, this production exposed the hardships refugees and immigrants face in our state. We produced Gounod’s masterpiece on the same set as we did West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein’s famous reboot of Romeo and Juliet — another work dealing with the racial and cultural tensions that we saw at the forefront of the American conversation.
In July 2017, we produced Robert Ward’s operatic adaptation of The Crucible, the hippie protest musical HAIR and a politically charged presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers. Under the theme “Question Authority,” these shows responded to the growing resistance movements across the United States. During tumultuous social and political times, utilizing live performance to join the conversation increased our audiences and our financial support. As an organization, Glow’s belief is that the purpose of performance art is to create high-quality entertainment and encourage the kind of dialogue that leads to inclusivity and empathy.
It’s now been almost eight years since I co-founded Glow Lyric Theatre, and I still remember the dread and fear I felt when confronted with the above pieces of advice. When I think about the imprint I want to leave on the world of opera, I often wonder if I’m doing any good. The hardest lesson I’ve learned as an arts leader is that maintaining Glow’s values of relevancy, diversity, and innovation is often met with criticism. Amidst crippling self-doubt, I created the rules I wanted to follow and stuck to them.
What my experience as an Artistic Director has revealed to me is this: It’s useful to take advice and follow set rules, but not if it means silencing my inner voice. Listening to that voice and allowing for the emergence of my inner rebel unequivocally led me to success. It took an extreme amount of courage to willingly swim against the stream of other successful non-profit models, but I knew that if I did not, I risked abandoning my responsibility as a progressive Artistic Director in the South. Sure, I’ll always struggle with breaking the rules. I still adhere faithfully to every traffic sign and I never skip brushing my teeth, but it’s not that simple when it comes to my art. If I’m able to leave a shred of healing, connection or understanding in my wake, then screw the rules — the reward of making a difference, however small, is worth all the risk.
With Glow Lyric’s seventh and largest season to date, co-founders and husband and wife team Jenna Tamisiea and Christian Elser are seeking to capitalize on the opera and musical theatre company’s tremendous success, by bringing on their first ever year round development team.
Helming Glow’s new development program is long-term Greenville resident Leigh Miller, who brings over 20 years of nonprofit and corporate development experience to South Carolina’s only professional opera and musical theatre company. A former member of the TedX Greenville Salon planning team, a frequent helping hand at Centre Stage, and an event planner for both the business and arts communities, Miller views GLOW as her next opportunity to continue to build the Upstate’s glowing arts and music scene.
“What’s captivated me about Glow since its inception is their fusion of opera, operetta, and musical theatre,” says Miller. It’s this unique blend of Upstate originals that has Miller ready to build on an organization that has reached new Greenville artistic audiences, as well as brought in new opera and theatre lovers to The Upstate from across the South East.
“I’m looking forward to working with the GLOW team and artists to help GLOW grow as Greenville Grows,” says Miller. “GLOW’s strength is not only in its commitment to bringing high quality productions of unique theatre to the Upstate, but its mission of access, advocacy, diversity and collaboration for arts in the Upstate community. Jenna and Christian excel in their leadership and commitment to this mission, and we look forward to inviting the Upstate arts and business communities to joining us.”
Miller’s new project will be joined by Greenville stage manager, writer, and Carolina Curtain Call contributor Jeff Levene.
“What I love about GLOW is how easy it is to get in tune with their message and the socially conscious work they’re pushing,” says Levene. “There’s so much incredible theatre happening right now in the Upstate, and being able to be a part of productions that push for positive change in our community makes the work even more rewarding.”
GLOW is set to announce their Upcoming season later this month. But regardless of what shows and theme their upcoming season will tackle, you can be sure that in 2018, GLOW will be on the grow.
For additional information, contact Jeff Levene at 828-776-9517, email@example.com, or Leigh Miller at 864.982.1410, firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The Age of Aquarius.” “Let the Sunshine In.” “Hair.” Just reading the titles of the songs brings to mind a tired stereotype of drugged-out hippies prancing around blathering about love and flowers. Is there really any way that kind of thing could still be relevant today?
Astonishingly, the answer is a resounding yes.
Fifty years after its premiere, Hair, the “American Tribal Rock Musical,” still bristles with raw power, as proved in GLOW Lyric Theatre‘s new must-see production. Director Jenna Tamisiea and music director Christian Elser put a talented cast through a physical and emotional journey that still feels revolutionary.
The journey begins even before curtain time, as actors – already in character – mill around the open theatre space, creating a welcoming atmosphere as they interact with audience members and each other. The set, designed by Henry Wilkinson, consists of some low platforms, covered in blankets and pillows, with a few swaths of draped fabric in places. And as the music begins, the actors converge and undergo a small ritual in which they take a drug and the lights and music swirl more and maybe the whole evening is just going to be one long drug trip for all of us and then the “Age of Aquarius” dawns and draws us into its spell.
Waseem Alzer stars as Berger, the free-spirited leader of the tribe. Alzer brings an electric energy to the role, showing us how the character’s charisma could bring these people together, while also hinting at the darker parts of Berger’s soul. He’s also got a winning voice and a nice comic knack.
Gavin Carnahan plays Claude, the most conflicted member of the tribe. Carnahan does a great job conveying a character who is both man and boy, torn between the life spirit he gains from being part of the tribe and the strong pull of his parents’ influence to conform. He leads a winningly energetic version of “I Got Life” as well as the show’s signature number, “Hair.”
Katerina McCrimmon also makes a strong impression as Sheila, the object of both Berger’s and Claude’s desire. Her opening song, “I Believe in Love,” as well as another solo number, “Easy to Be Hard,” are real standouts, and McCrimmon is a warm presence throughout the play.
The cast is large and uniformly excellent, with every member given moments to shine. Just a few of those include Ray Jones’ imposing presence as Hud, Paige Vassel’s earnest singing of “Frank Mills,” AJ Tinci leading the song “Air,” Jena Brooks’ fluid dance poses as well as her stern presence as Claude’s mother, and Mitchell Bradford’s endearing yet pained portrayal of Woof. Most impressive is the intense, extended second act section that makes up Claude’s hallucination. It’s a bravura piece of theatre, with music, sound, lights (by KEVIN FRAZIER), costumes (by Justin Hall), and acting all coming together with a devastating potency.
Director Tamisiea choreographs her ensemble through writhing, naturalistic movements that sometimes have performers nearly oozing over each other, yet never wavering in pitch or intensity as they sing. Cat Richmond, for instance, is at one point literally draped on her back over another player’s shoulders, yet still maintains a clear and gorgeous soprano. This cast and production will wow you with their stamina, their marvelous musicianship (including a crack live band) and their raw emotional power. It’s a show that brings to light some stunningly topical ideas and feelings that serve as a potent reminder that the past was not always a shining example of “the good old days.” GLOW Lyric Theatre prides itself on basing each of their summer festival seasons on a theme, with the intent to engage a discourse. This year’s theme is Question Authority, and to that end, Tamisiea has inserted into the show – primarily on signs and banners – certain words and slogans that come straight from today’s headlines while still being eerily perfect for the setting of the show.
One of the enduring images of the sixties that stuck in my memory is that of a young hippie slipping the stem of a flower into the barrel of a soldier’s rifle. That exact moment plays out here and instead of being comic or comforting, it’s an act of defiance fraught with danger. It’s a moment that made me realize that for all the goofy caricature time has burdened them with, many of the aims and means of the flower power movement were truly brave and truly revolutionary. These were young people trying to believe in the power of love, despite being confronted with daily evidence of the world’s harshness and inhumanity. And is that really such a bad thing?
How does Jenna Tamisiea get three shows up and running with only a month of rehearsal?
“I put a bunch of eclectic, talented, crazy people together and am exploiting them,” she says with a laugh.
Tamisiea is the co-founder, with her husband, Christian Elser, of GLOW Lyric Theatre. Tamisiea directs the shows, with Elser serving as music director and conductor. This year marks their 9th Annual Summer Festival, and features Robert Ward‘s “eerie and powerful” operatic adaptation of Arthur Miller‘s The Crucible, the “witty and hilariously irreverent” political satire of Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, and the rock musical hippie protest classic, Hair. The three shows run in repertory from July 13th-30th at The Greenville Fine Arts Center.
For each season, Tamisiea and Elser select and stage their shows based on a specific social or political theme. This year’s theme is Question Authority.
“When November came, we solidified our season,” says Elser. “We want to examine non-partisan issues from both sides.” Two of the primary ideas they plan to engage in their work are the cultural pitfalls of partisan politics and the dangerous nature of political witch hunts. “We want to explore the question of how do we find a way to bring us all together and then move forward.”
Tamisiea says they begin by going back to the text, casting aside any preconceptions while uncovering the roots of the piece. Then they let their own experiences and interpretations bring the work to new life.
“A show like Hair can easily become a costumed parody of itself,” Elser says, adding that the show is still “hauntingly relevant.” It’s so relevant, says Tamisiea, that “there’s nothing that needs to change.” So she’s giving her cast a chance to express themselves through this 1960’s-era protest musical.
“The cast are young, they’re of this generation and they have their own feelings about protest and rebellion,” Tamisiea says. “We want to give a voice to this generation.”
The season’s opening show is The Crucible, 1962’s Pulitzer Prize winner for music. Elser calls it grand opera fused with Copland-esque Americanism. It is, of course, based on Arthur Miller‘s Tony Award winning play about the dangers of political hysteria, with the Salem witch trials standing in for the communist-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee.
“Even straight theatre lovers would like this,” Tamisiea says. ‘It’s an American opera of an American story.”
Rounding out the season is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, a political farce that Elser says almost has the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit. “It’s totally raucous and insane,” he says. He and Tamisiea love the way it contrasts with their other two shows as it pokes fun at the pretentions of liberals. “It flips the others on their heads,” he says.
Tamisiea’s collaborative directorial style, coupled with her strong visual sense and Elser’s top-notch musicianship make GLOW Lyric productions always worth seeing. And whether you see all three shows in one weekend or spread out the joy over the course of the month, you owe yourself the experience. Trust my authority on this one.
Fifty years after its Off-Broadway premiere, “HAIR” the ultimate counterculture musical is still poignant as ever. One might say Glow Lyric Theatre’s exhilarating revival at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville is fresh as a daisy on a hippie flower crown in the Haight-Ashbury.
And what more fitting show than “HAIR” to headline the bold theme of “Question Authority” in Glow’s 7thseason as South Carolina’s only professional opera company.
With an expanded summer festival in 2017, “HAIR” will be presented in repertory with the English-language opera “The Crucible” and the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta “The Gondoliers” through July 30.
Like other groundbreaking shows from the Vietnam War era (“Oh! Calcutta!” and “Godspell” for example), “HAIR” is extremely malleable. And like DNA, no two “HAIR”s are ever remotely the same.
Fortunately for Glow audiences, Artistic Director Jenna Tamisiea has crafted this “HAIR” experience with a thrilling and audacious slickness, and with an outstanding group of young artists who prove the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
As a collective group, this dynamic band of East Village hippies rage together with precision and, with such organic unity, that they evoke a rare symbiotic voice like a real commune itself. There isn’t a weak link or solo in this East Village tribe, whose members are appearing in one or two other Glow summer productions this month.
And Tamisiea, who also choreographs “HAIR,” masterfully constructs – from this non-linear and far-out material by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and music by Galt MacDermot – a musical journey of movement and emotion that is both polished and riveting.
Fresh on the heels of her acclaimed staging of “Spring Awakening” at The Warehouse Theatre in May, Tamisiea is practically a veteran of avant-garde theatre, having just devised an original work this Spring in Asheville called “Pulse,” inspired by the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
Glow Co-founder and Executive Director Christian Elser is music director for “HAIR” and conducts this show’s 30-plus numbers at a brisk pace and rewards his audience with stellar vocal artistry and precision as the tribe executes one extraordinary composition after another: the monster acid-pop hit “Aquarius” (lead by the splendidly commanding Shanelle Woods, the accomplished mezzosoprano who also sings the pivotal role of Tituba in “The Crucible,” the bubble-gum clarity of “Good Morning Starshine,” and the joyful scat singing in “The Flesh Failures/Let the Sunshine In” as this ebullient ensemble files out triumphantly in the finale.
“HAIR,” tackles many, many themes from the environment (“Air”), racism(“Colored Spade”), drug experimentation (“Hashish”), and sexual freedom (“Sodomy”),to the Vietnam War (“Don’t Put It Down”), which is ceremoniously and brazenly displayed in the burning of their draft cards during the “Be-In/Hare Krishna” scene.
But the true moments of greatness come when authentic sincerity shines through this fine, diverse ensemble in acts that do “Question Authority” and reference movements like Black Lives Matters, whether it’s holding protest signs, singing and dancing with the pulsing rhythms of “I’m Black/Ain’t Got No” or scoring with the 1960s rock aesthetic of “Black Boys” and the groovin’ funk of “White Boys.”
A deft and wide-open Waseem Alzer plays the eccentric tribe leader Berger, who lives clothing-optional and from trip to trip. Gavin Carnahan stars as the sweet-natured Claude from Queens who is about to be drafted and pretends that he is British in his amusing and irresistible pop ditty “Manchester England.”
“HAIR” features Anna Jane Trinci as the pregnant Jeanie; Katerina McCrimmon as the outspoken NYU student protestor Sheila; and a committed Mitchell Bradford as Woof, the free spirit with an unhealthy attraction to Mick Jagger.
Two performers who just wrapped up “Spring Awakening” with Tamisiea, drop-in and tune-out with this ensemble. Kevin Ray Jones, as the Black Pantheresque militant Hud, simply astounds in “Electric Blues” and Cat Richmond, a serious soprano who is expanding her foray into musical theatre, lends her heavenly voice as the siren in “Be-In (Hare Krishna),” and all while being hoisted nearly upside down by her mates.
The Tribe also includes Sonni James, who appeared in last year’s production of “Romeo é Juliette”; Jena Brooks returning after “West Side Story” last season; a pining Paige Vasel as Chrissy in the solemn “Frank Mills” ballad; baritone Nicholas Hawkins in his second year with Glow; and Tierney Breedlove now in her third season in Greenville.
Perhaps “HAIR” doesn’t hold the same shock value 50 years out, but this is an 18+ production nonetheless and is not recommended for children. The cast has a tastefully-executed surprise in store as well. Kudos to the cast for their dedication and willingness to step out of their … comfort zone for the sake of art.
This production is heavy on appropriately euphoric mood lighting (Kevin Frasier), especially during the “trips” and the Vietnam sequences.
Henry Wilkinson’s stage design evokes a sprawling commune flat with oriental rugs and Mexican blankets draping the tiered platforms. Justin Hall is costume designer of the convincing hippie attire. Kerryn Stroud is props designer, James Bretimeier is sound designer, and Jessica Karnes is stage manager.
The outstanding live band in this production includes Elser on organ, Andrew Welchel on keyboard, Zac Bolton on guitar, Samuel Kreuer and Shannon Hoover on bass, Chris Earle on percussion and Tom Dolamore on drums.
Life as a Puritan in 1692 Massachusetts is doldrums for certain. Why else would its residents implode over land, miscarriages, money, the church and adultery and accuse one other of witchcraft?
Discover all of this and the elaborate musicality of Glow Lyric Theatre’s presentation of “The Crucible,” which runs in repertory through Friday, July 28 with “The Gondoliers” and “HAIR” at the Fine Arts Center in Greenville.
Music Directed by Christian Elser and Directed by Jenna Tamisiea, some 32 opera singers and an exuberant 18-piece orchestra of strings, reeds and brass revel in Robert Ward’s majestically somber score and Bernard Stambler’s intelligent, faithful libretto of Arthur Miller’s 1953 iconic play about the Salem witch trials and inspired by the Red Scare during the McCarthy years. Miller himself was called by the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to reveal names.
The 1962 Pulitzer Prize winner in Music, “The Crucible” is a tragedy and a more daunting task thematically and visually than either of Glow’s other two programs that “Question Authority,” the 2017 summer festival mantra.
The story centers on the love triangle between John (baritone Jeremiah Johnson as more stoic protagonist) and Elizabeth Proctor (the world-renowned mezzo-soprano Melissa Parks in an awestruck performance with rawness and vulnerability) and his mistress and former servant Abigail Williams, sung by soprano Jeanette Simpson.
Spurned by her lover, Abigail and a group of young girls accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, spurning a frenzy of accusations in this town and ending very badly. Let’s just say there are no fires in this production.
Johnson, who with Ms. Parks also play the married couple Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro in “The Gondoliers,” makes a striking impression in his impactful aria, “I’ve forgotten Abigail” as he touchingly expresses his pain and conviction with aplomb.
And Ms. Simpson sings her case for love and vengeance with technical astonishment, offering John (and the audience) her path to forgiveness and redemption.
This is a fine and compelling opera work wrought with tension, and it has robust, dramatic conclusion. In addition to the outstanding soloists and duets throughout, highlights include the courtroom segment lead by the impressive stylings of Hugo Vera as Judge Danforth and a marvelous turn by soprano Macie VanNorden as the Proctor’s servant Mary Warren, who is torn between truth and survival. There is also a nicely-executed and entertaining act of defiance by the girls who all are consumed by the devil and go into convulsions. Brava, Ladies!
My only criticism is that this show almost beckons for a larger venue with a grandr set to match the breadth of the festival orchestra and the artists. And the under-utilized chorus which only sings briefly and moves props, appears as if its members want to burst out of formation at any time.
The Puritans had no sense of style and that is conveyed in every detail of the minimalist set (Henry Wilkinson’s practical and pleasing triple-show design) and Justin Hall’s dresses and doublets in modest hues of blacks, grays and browns and plentiful collars, cuffs, aprons and shoe buckles.
Kevin Frazier is lighting designer, Kerry Stroud designed the props, and Jessica Karnes is stage manager.