Friday, April 23, 2010


Intriguing, must see ‘SOLDIERS TALE with CATCH AND RELEASE’ at CPH

What happens when you combine the talents of members of The Cleveland Orchestra, one of the top musical assemblages in the world, with Groundworks Dance, one of Cleveland’s premiere dance companies, with the Cleveland Playhouse, the oldest regional theater in America? You get a compelling, artistic, meaningful, exciting evening of entertainment.

The three arts units are now in a unified production entitled, ‘A SOLDIER’S TALE with CATCH AND RELEASE,’ which is being staged as part of the Play House’s Fusion Fest, a celebration of new works in music, dance, and theatre.

The festival, which is in full production, and will be extended into May with extra performances of ‘BILL W AND DR. BOB,’ the story of the founding of AA in Akron, reached its zenith with the staging of ‘A SOLDIER’S TALE WITH CATCH AND RELEASE.’

The intermissionless production opens with ‘CATCH AND RELEASE,’ a 22-minute composition by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the former Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The music was written specifically as a companion piece for ‘A SOLDIER’S TALE.’ Salonen states that “the intent of the composition was to complement Stravinsky’s piece by using the same instrumentation in new ways. The piece features identical scoring.”

With music superbly performed by a select group of musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra, and conducted by Tito Muñoz, the staging of ‘CATCH AND RELEASE’ was choreographed by GroundWorks’ Artistic Director, David Shimotakahara, and superlatively danced by Amy Miller, Felise Bagley, Kelly Brunk, Damien Highfield and Sarah Perrett.

As the music changes in mood and intensity, the dancers parallel those vibes. Lifts, twists, body engagements, turns, hops, and caresses mirror the classical, jive, contemporary music, varying from seriousness to the ironic. The staging is enhanced by video art by renowned artist Kasumi and lighting design by Dennis Dugan, which covers the floor in an ever changing cacophony of colors and figures, paralleling the music and the movements of the dancers.

‘CATCH AND RELEASE’ is dance and Groundworks at its very best.

‘A SOLDIER’S TALE’ is a morality story of war in an absurdist world. Conceived by Igor Stravinsky, it is ballet, camera opera and theatre which was made to be read, played and danced. Based on a fable by C.F. Ramuz, it was first staged in 1918 and centered on a story of a soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil for a book that predicts the future of the economy.

In 1993, United States novelist Kurt Vonnegut reworked the libretto into a tale about World War II Private, Eddie Slovik, the first soldier in the United States military to be executed for desertion since the Civil War. It is this version that is being staged at CPH.

The Groundworks dancers weave in and out between the actors, often playing parts in the story, enhancing the visual images. The acting cast, under the direction of Seth Gordon, is excellent. The staging, a blend of Gordon and Shimotakahara’s imagination, is intriguing.

Justin Tatum creates a truly sympathetic and real character as Slovik, a soldier who hates war, has seen too much horror, and needs to escape from life as he knows it. His mobile face, appealing voice and ability to blend in with the dancers, all add up to a well performed role. Robert Ellis is properly gruff, yet human as the General. Zac Hoogendyk gives an excellent reading of Dwight Eisenhower’s reasoning for Slovik’s conviction. Lindsay Iuen is fine portraying the Red Cross Girl.

CAPSULE JUDGMENT: ‘A SOLDIER’S TALE and CATCH AND RELEASE’ combine to be the highlight performance of CPH’s 2010 Fusion Fest. This is a must see experience!