Songs in the Key of Life: Robert Glasper Presents a Stevie Wonder Salute
Sun., April 14, the Kimmel Center. pifa.org
Overall vibe: Oddly, disturbingly sedate for an audience full of Wonder-philes. Glasper’s mellifluous, laidback piano stylings threatened to turn a little muzak-y—yes, even with a songbook filled with compositions by one of popular music’s true masters. Loved his humorous banter, but just wish he’d have taken a page from fellow jazz pianist Eric “Elew” Lewis’ playbook, and brought some drama and showiness—even a smidge—to his performance.
Most memorable moment: Lalah Hathaway calling Wonder one of her heroes, describing how he comforted her at the 1979 funeral for her father, the late, great Donny Hathaway. “He held my hand,” she said, “and told me how pretty my dress was.”
Scene stealer: Good try, Eric Roberson, but full-throated Mint Condition vocalist Stokley Williams was the man on the mic. (Kenya Beverly)
Sunday, April 14, Irvine Auditorium. freelibrary.org
Overall vibe: It was a liberal love-fest as MSNBC’s superstar discussed issues from her recent book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power. After being introduced by Mayor Nutter and U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, Maddow used the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to discuss the Iran-Contra scandal of the late ‘80s, asked the audience what might happen if President Obama had done the same thing, and related all this back to the United States’ continuing trend of keeping war from the public eye.
Most memorable moment: As time ran out, Maddow began a “lightning round” for questioners. As is often the case at events like this, they didn’t listen and instead focused on introducing themselves to the audience as a whole. Two such people: A couple from Vermont in town for vacation. They didn’t have a question for Maddow, but a request for an interview at a later date for a book. They were booed.
Scene stealer: Maddow stole every scene. She’s objectively incredible. (Randy LoBasso)
Vainglorious: The Epic Feats of Notable Persons in Europe After the Revolution
Tues., April 9, Christ Church Neighborhood House. pifa.org
Overall vibe: “A living landscape of epic proportions.” That’s really the best way to describe Applied Mechanics’ ambitious production, which takes place in the wake of the French Revolution and features a robust ensemble of 26 up-and-coming local actors.
Most memorable moment: With the audience emerged in the action, free to follow one of the many narratives going on around them, it really just comes down to where you happen to have been standing and when. But there was certainly no missing Kate Black-Regan, aka the Duchess of Parma, after giving birth to a sock puppet baby.
Scene stealer: As the short and mighty Napoleon, Mary Tuomanen was absolutely mesmerizing, as was Thomas Choinacky, who embodied Beethoven down to a T, from the chaotic quaff to the intense glare. (Nicole Finkbiner)
Animal Animal Mammal Mine
Through April 20, Underground Arts. pifa.org
Overall vibe: A perplexing and provocative work of beauty. While the inspiration for Penn Dixie Productions’ latest dance-theater piece might have started with the FDA’s approval of the first birth control pill in 1960, after conducting interviews with 50 childless women for the project, director Anisa George wound up with a far more tangled debate, one less about the beginning of life and more about the end of the world.
Most memorable moment: Watching dancer and choreographer Hannah de Keijzer bare her entire body and soul throughout the show was mighty powerful, but particularly when she retreats to corner of the theater and crawls inside a hut made of sticks and branches.
Scene stealer: Sculptor Martha Posner, who contributes several unique creations to the show, including a magnificent feathered wing. (N.F.)
Time for a big Bang breakthrough?