Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ute Lemper and the Vogler Quartet : San Francisco Performances : A Capsule Review

If the dynamic and preternaturally talented chanteuse Ute Lemper did not exist she would have to be invented. She has almost single-handedly kept the modern chanson alive as a musical art form and has made it palatable to American audiences by virtue of her megawatt charisma and undeniable sex appeal.

Her one-night stop in San Francisco as part of her North American tour promoting her marvelous "Paris Days, Berlin Nights" album was greeted with a well-deserved standing ovation at the historic Herbst Theatre. Only unimaginative lighting and minor audio gaffes detracted from what was otherwise an exemplary show.

Her vocal prowess is extraordinary, but it’s her consummate theatrical skill and passionate affinity for the music of such diverse composers as Kurt Weill, Astor Piazzolla and Jacques Brel that made her performance virtually operatic in scope and a wonder to behold. And yet, the lithe Ms. Lemper, wearing a stunning pleated halter gown, somehow managed to maintain the intimacy of a cabaret act one might see in a much smaller venue.

With the outstanding support of the Vogler Quartet and virtuoso musician and arranger Stefan Malzew, this is a must-see show for anyone open to a special and genuinely memorable experience. Bravo!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

High : Kathleen Turner : SHN (Shorenstein Hays Nederlander) : A Capsule Review

Although the second act doesn’t quite deliver on the promise of the first, this production is buoyed by some fine acting and an unflinching honesty that’s sometimes difficult to watch.

As the play unfolds and secrets are revealed, it becomes readily apparent that each character is desperately seeking forgiveness for their respective transgressions.

Because the play steadfastly avoids trite solutions, the denouement is perhaps not as emotionally satisfying as one might like. But it is certainly plausible and remains true to the uncompromising vision of the narrative.

The story is set in an ostensibly religious context, yet Kathleen Turner's redoubtable stage presence and convincing streetwise sensibility transcends any piety in her character’s passion quest for personal redemption. Arguably no actor can evince a tough vulnerability better than Ms. Turner.

It’s a challenging, edifying piece that is certain to provoke animated conversation. Highly recommended!