Sunday, May 18, 2014

A week at the Smith Center

A few weeks ago we visited the Smith Center several times. There were a few performances that we wanted to see, and they all fell in the same week which provided us with three nights out.

The first night we saw Diana Krall in the large hall. Diana is one of the women singers that my wife really likes, so we hit the big hall. There are small balconies along the side, and we were able to get seats in one of the ones up close to the stage, which Bobbie really seemed to like, so with enough advanced notice I was able to get two seats there. Pretty close, but you are looking right down on stage so it is a different perspective than out in the regular audience. She does have a nice voice

She’s married to Elvis Costello, another songwriter.

A few nights later we got to see one of my favorite groups, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. I first saw them in the early 70’s, back when most of the band members were in their 70’s and 80’s. We’ve seen them a few times since, most recently about fifteen years ago in San Diego. This time they were in the cabaret, which is a performance space that we like. This is a smaller room, filled with tables for four, with food and drink service. There is a balcony that runs around the room, and after having tried a floor table we have now started getting seats up there. These are small tables each with two high chairs right on the rail, and again when we get a seat up front we can look right down on the stage.

Most of the band members were newer, but there were still a few that might have been with the group for a very long time. They were pretty good as usual, more of the original New Orleans jazz.

This is about the group we saw, except for only having one tuba player (the one with less hair) – he danced around the whole time the band played, a lot of energy for a big guy wearing a big instrument. And they had a piano player.

It is a nice size room, with seating on the main level and upstairs.

We had a good view of the action from up above.

Finally on Saturday afternoon we got to see the Tempest, one of the latest versions of the Shakespeare play. I can’t write as good a review as Lisa does for the plays she sees, but we were very impressed. Teller, from the Penn and Teller magic duo was one of the producers, and helped create the magic for the show. It was performed in a tent set up in front of the Smith Center. The stage was three stories high, with the top level being used as the ship that initiates the story when it is caught up in a magician’s storm (the Tempest) and runs ashore. The middle level was where the band was – quite a diverse group with two women singers performing music written for the show by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. Most impressive was the monster Caliban, since it’s a speaking part it was usually played by a large actor painted with spot and stripes to make him look like a monster, but here played by two actors as a two headed monster, they performed some pretty impressive configurations during their performance.

It was a big tent, with air conditioning. We went on a very windy day but even though we could see the roof moving in the wind there was no noise from it.

Inside were about 400 seats set on risers, we were down front on the floor level.

The stage was taller than it was wide, the actors coming and going up and down the stairs and entering through the audience as well.

These guys were very athletic (images taken from our newspaper the Sun)playing the monster Caliban. They spoke in sync, so the voice ended up sounding as strange as the vision.