Review by Edward Kliszus
This fabulous third fabulous chapter of “A Theatrical Song Cycle in a Four-Part Digital Series” is entitled LOVE, exploring relationships through a mystical lens at love’s ironies, impediments, and expectations. Through this musical passageway, we observe fulfillment, loss, and violence, while ultimately drawing relief through a brilliantly understated musing of how one might lose another.
This is another chapter in a wonderful, beautifully produced vital series featuring world-class composers, arrangers, actors, musicians, artists, writers, directors, and producers. It is thought-provoking, exciting, moving, entertaining, and essential. Contextualized through an ethos of “faith and longing in a secular world,” it is presented in rich, palpable, multifaceted settings, examining our arguably most vital vulnerable means of bonding and discovery.
Artistic Director Ted Sperling welcomes us, setting the tone for this thoughtful, pensive, and enlightening media event. This dreamscape colloquy between artist and listening participant of film, music, poetry, drama, and visual art begins with mystical monophony.
Lonely opens with an instrumental introduction, drawing us into its own monophonic visual characterizations of human faces assimilating and unraveling against a backdrop absent of color, each face emoting individualized personal attributes, prompting one’s imagination to sense strife, peace, surprise, perhaps joy, and constrained only by any limits of its imagery and desolate schema. The spiritual component emanating from the monophonic plainsong following a sad, gentle, 20th-century woodwind accompaniment (not unlike the spirituality and depth of Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes No. 1) along with sophisticated visual imagery, stirs complex imagination that quickly becomes familiar in this anachronistically mixed musical media. This subtle, powerful communication ably segues into Hero and Leander, sung by Cheyenne Jackson.
Honoré de Balzac noted that” true love is eternal, infinite, and always like itself. It is equal and pure, without violent demonstrations: it is seen with white hairs and is always young in the heart…” In this beautiful song, accompanied richly, Cheyenne Jackson intimately expresses the passion, sentiment, beauty, and frustration of forbidden secret love. Based on the myth of Hero and Leander in the town of Sestos in the Dardanelles, lovers bonded in secret are doomed inexorably into the classic Romantic demise of doomed couples like Romeo and Juliet, Mimi and Rodolpho, Aida and Radames, and as Dido in Berlioz’ Les Troyens sings, “I wish to die, in my immense anguish submerged.”
Come to Jesus features Shereen Pimental as Emily, Drew Gehling as Matthew, and Theresa McCarthy as Dr. Mujit. This haunting, melancholy melodrama dreamscape begins in a medical office with Emily wryly examining her surroundings. The doctor notes that it takes but 90 seconds. Emily writes, “I know we’d laugh if you were here in spite of everything. Oh Matthew, let’s not let this tear us apart. I believe this little soul will cradle; cradle in heaven until the day we can accept him together. Together. For you and for me and for the child, I pray.” Emily, singing Come to Jesus’ plaintive refrain, appears on a beautiful beach setting, reminiscent perhaps of love celebrated before today’s unforeseen therapeutic event. From Matthew at the airport, “I couldn’t love you like you wanted, but I did love you. It’s just that after what has happened something’s ruined. You feel it too, dying, and I can’t look anymore.” It is profoundly frail, tragic, desperate for redemption and peace. Matthew joins Emily on the beach and two spirits juxtapose their conflicting thoughts and prayerful offerings, goodbyes, and his disappearance. Dr. Mujit brings Emily back to stark reality. 90 seconds has elapsed.
The legend of Medusa, one of three Gorgon sisters who turned those who looked at her into stone, features masterful convincing performances by John Brancy as Perseus, Nina Bernstein as Medusa, Lori Wilner as Stheno, and Dianne Drayse Alonso as Euryale. It is presented in a masterful cartoon animation designed by Earl Womack. Medusa loses her head after all.
Singer Dove Cameron closes this chapter with the intimate, gentle, personal, lightly romantic waltz How Can I Lose You. As she reflects adroitly on her losses and miscalculations in love, she’s expressing a plaintive, circumspect outlook, deftly skewering her strawberries and blueberries as she contemplates her life in her lonely apartment. A marvelous, hopeful moment.
Running Time: Approx. 23 minutes
Be sure to tune into the final chapter, streaming May 26 featuring the MasterVoices chorus; soloists Daniel Breaker, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Joshua Henry, Cheyenne Jackson, and Nicholas Phan; actor John Lithgow; directors Trip Cullman, Doug Fitch, Anne Kauffman, and Ted Sperling; visual artist Manik Choksi; lyricist Ellen Fitzhugh; and orchestrators Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence, with additional artists to be announced.
Production conceived, supervised, and conducted by Ted Sperling. Orchestrations by Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence. New Choral Arrangements by Ted Sperling. Music and Lyrics by Adam Guettel.
Conductor – Ted Sperling, Woodwinds – Chuck Wilson, Dan Willis, John Winder, Trumpet – Larry Lunetta, Violin – Antoine Silverman, Harp – Grace Paradise, Guitar – Steve Bargonetti, Bass – Douglas Romoff, Percussion – Norbert Goldberg and John Loose, Piano – Todd Ellison.
Derril Sellers/SpotCo, Editing and Production Jamie Lawrence, Sound Design, Audio Mixing and Mastering Andrew Feyer, Chorus Audio Engineer Julie Morgan, Chorus Audio Design Tom Reidy, Crew (Come to Jesus) SpotCo, Advertising/Marketing/Social Strategy, Emily Grishman Music, Music Preparation Craig Burns, Casting consultant
Special acknowledgment and thanks are extended to Jon Ehrlich for his very generous engineering support of this chapter. We also gratefully acknowledge and thank Dr. Robert Reichstein for his logistical support of this chapter’s presentation. This performance is funded in part by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Roger Rees Fund for Musical Theater, as well as: LOVE Lonely MasterVoices Ted Sperling, Director.
Hero and Leander – Cheyenne Jackson, Soloist, MasterVoices, Ted Sperling, Director.
Come to Jesus – Shereen Pimentel, Emily, Drew Gehling, Matthew, Theresa McCarthy, Dr. Mujit, Victoria Clark, Director.
Medusa – John Brancy, Perseus (Underwritten by Ellen F. Marcus) Nina Bernstein, Medusa, Lori Wilner, Stheno, Dianne Drayse Alonso, Euryale, MasterVoices, Earl Womack, Visual Artist, Adam Guettel, Orchestration, Ted Sperling, Director.
How Can I lose You? – Dove Cameron, Soloist, Ted Sperling, Director.
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Myths and Hymns is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals: www.concordtheatricals.com, Hymn texts from The Temple Trio, Hymn Edition, 1886. Artwork created by Mikyung Lee.
Be sure to tune into the final chapter, streaming May 26 only featuring the MasterVoices chorus; soloists Daniel Breaker, Anthony Roth Costanzo, Joshua Henry, Cheyenne Jackson, and Nicholas Phan; actor John Lithgow; directors Trip Cullman, Doug Fitch, Anne Kauffman, and Ted Sperling; visual artist Manik Choksi; lyricist Ellen Fitzhugh; and orchestrators Don Sebesky and Jamie Lawrence, with additional artists to be announced.
You can also attend private screening events at 6 pm on the eve of each of the Public Premiere release dates, hosted by Ted Sperling and the Master Voices Gala Committee. For information click here, reserve seats here, or go to mastervoices.org. Each event includes:
- a live Q & A with the artists
- an online auction
- a virtual cocktail session with the artists
For more information go to mastervoices.org or contact MasterVoices at 1441 Broadway Suite 3024, New York, NY 10018| 646.202.9623. We rely on the tremendous generosity of our donors to bring you the exceptional programming that has defined MasterVoices for 75 years and continue our education and outreach programs. Gifts of all sizes are needed and appreciated. Show your support at https://www.mastervoices.org/support/.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Organ and Orchestra by The American Symphony, The American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 by the Park Avenue Chamber Orchestra.