Big Freedia Live With the LPO at the Orpheum Theater
Scheduling challenges caused me to attend the dress rehearsal for Big Freedia Live With the LPO so it would be unfair to write a full review of the show.
Let’s just say it was a great idea to bring together these two beloved New Orleans cultural ambassadors who combined for a fabulous evening in which each one’s talents enhanced the other’s.
Each half of the program included about seven numbers from Big Freedia’s catalog of hits, all of which Jay Weigel arranged superbly. Under the baton of conductor Jonathan Taylor Rush’s excellent leadership, Weigel’s arrangements allowed the LPO’s version of these songs to reach epic, almost Wagnerian proportions.
While I’ve seen Big Freedia perform at Jazzfest and other events, watching her with the LPO made me realize that the vocal requirements of her repertoire may be different, but are as demanding as, say, those needed for lieder or operatic arias.
In addition to Big Freedia and the LPO, her two singers, additional musicians and, especially, her six hardworking dancers, all must be acknowledged for their talents which enriched the entire presentation. And for lagniappe, Tarriona “Tank” Ball of Tank and the Bangas joined Big Freedia for one number.
About the only thing missing was Rock Around Tha Clock, Big Freedia’s version of the Bill Haley classic. Other than that, everything at the Orpheum just made me smile and smile.
[For information about the LPO’s upcoming schedule, go to https://lpomusic.com/event/]
Moulin Rouge! The Musical at the Saenger Theatre
(Full disclosure: I made a small investment in both the Broadway and touring productions of Moulin Rouge! To give you an idea of how small, for every dollar that the show returns to investors, I receive less than a penny. A lot less.)
Having seen Moulin Rouge! on Broadway when it first opened, I thought my review of the touring company would go something like this:
“Your reaction to Moulin Rouge! The Musical will be more or less the same as how you felt about the movie. My reaction to that version was ‘meh’ and, with the exception of the electrifying sequence featuring Sia’s Chandelier, I felt pretty much the same way about the stage adaptation.”
So much for writing reviews in advance.
With two leads, Courtney Reed as the doomed Satine and John Cardoza (who only recently joined the company) as the innocent, young composer Christian, who share a deeply romantic chemistry and generate more heat between them than the two stars on Broadway, this Moulin Rouge!, especially in the second act, lives up to the overheated passions of John Logan’s book. Et voila, at last you actually care about what happens to the young lovers.
What I think also made for a more satisfying show was the elimination of the gigantic elephant and windmill that flanked Derek McLane’s Tony Award-winning scenic design. Sure, they’re impressive, but they also overwhelm the human beings on stage; without them, one can more easily be drawn into la vie boheme.
That said, the touring production’s Act One opening (“Welcome to the Moulin Rouge!”) remains as spectacular as in New York. Here, tho, I appreciated Sonya Tateh’s wildly imaginative choreography even more, particularly the marvelous start of Act Two. Director Alex Timbers’ staging continues to work its magical spell.
So if you happen to be in NYC, by all means go see Moulin Rouge!–the original leads have long since departed. If, however, you find yourself in Atlanta, Durham or any of the other stops on Moulin Rouge!’s tour, you can see its can-can and can have an assuredly bon temps.
[Next up at the Saenger (May 30-June 4) is Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird starring Richard ( “John-Boy” Walton) Thomas. For tickets and more information, go to https://www.saengernola.com/shows/harper-lees-to-kill-a-mockingbird]