Last weekend, I had the privilege of singing with a small group from The Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir in the community theatrical event The Tempest, performed at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. The show included a cast of over 200 New Yorkers, and the gospel choir voices added a little extra flavor!
The reviews are in about this unique performance of The Tempest, and they're glowing!
Here's a bit of backstory about the production, via the New York Times:
“The Tempest,” which will be at the Delacorte Theater in the park on Sept. 6-8, is the first production of Public Works, an effort by the Public Theater to open its stages to New Yorkers who may feel excluded from the theater world. Tickets are free, first come first served. The cast includes more than 200 people from five community organizations and seven independent performing groups — cabdrivers, a gospel choir, Mexican folk dancers, Japanese taiko drummers, a gypsy brass band and a bubble-blower.
It was truly a profound and fantastic experience, including the perfect weather for our three performances. Here are a few behind the scenes shots from my perspective as a choir member:
This was at our August 31st rehearsal with the gospel choir, John Del Ceuto, Todd Almond, Norm Louis, Laura Benanti, Ann Klein, Sarah Lee, Rich Mercurio & about 100 others!
Here is a small group of us waiting to go on stage that first night. Brrrr! We were chilly penguins, huddling together.
And here we are on stage, during the performance, in our teal shirts. Oops! I am not in the frame but my left elbow was there! Far Left, 2nd row!
All in all it was a tremendous experience and I'm so grateful that I was involved.
Here are some highlights from the reviews I've read so far:
For now, the big news is this: Ms. deBessonet, her collaborators and her cast of more than 200 New Yorkers have created a stirring, delightful “Tempest,” one that feels more vibrantly alive than many of the turgid, star-studded blockbusters floating around out there. This was a love letter — to Shakespeare, certainly, but really to the city of New York.
To be sure, this wasn’t the result of a some lunatic open call. De Bessonet and her team established relationships with specific community groups and performing ensembles and presumably they each rehearsed their segments discretely until the final days when they were assembled en masse...
It was also a reminder of the power of collaboration, of the intermingling of different artistic pursuits and organizations to create a blended whole. At a time when the arts are often seen as frivolous or disposable, there is enormous strength in variety and in numbers, sending a message about the essential and broad-based value of creativity and performance at every level of society and life.
Adding to the pageantry are the Kaoru Watanabe Taiko Ensemble (whose powerful drumming supplies the tempest's thunder), The Middle Church Jerriese Johnson Gospel Choir, The Raya Brass Band (specializing in Eastern European folk), teenage hip-hop dancers from Generation, kids from Ballet Tech and lively folk dancers from The Calpulli Mexican Dance Company. As additional spirits helping to haunt the unwelcome visitors, most of these groups perform to their own music and choreography.
Now that autumn is in action, I'm preparing for my autumn Feel the Music! Senior Sing workshop at St. Peter's Church. More updates as the fall schedule develops!