Monday, December 15, 2014

FSU/Asolo Conservatory Musical Theater Showcase

Having only seen the second year FSU/Asolo Conservatory students perform David Mamet's "The Water Engine," I hadn't quite fallen in love with them yet.  (Note: I hate David Mamet plays.)  Last week-end's musical theater showcase went a long way towards changing that.

David Brunetti
The first and second year students had worked all week with David Brunetti, who is both a teacher and a vocal coach.  It was obvious from the students' enthusiasm that they love working with Brunetti.  And the feeling is clearly mutual.  Brunetti praised the students, saying how brave and deep and beautifully trained they are. He told the students to "live" their songs and not to be afraid to go into the dark and silly places.

The students did just that as, one by one, they took the stage and sang their hearts out.  Considering that musical talent is not among the criteria considered for admission into the program, the students were amazing.  They performed a broad range of music, from tunes from musicals both well- and little-known to songs by popular artists to what I suspect were songs from audition repertoires.

As the showcase progressed, I thought about the choices the students had made and which selections seemed to be the most successful.  Overall, humor won the day -- at least in my book.  Second year student Kim Peterson got the ball rolling with "If You Hadn't, but You Did" from "Two on the Aisle 1951."  She sang about all the ways her lover had two-timed her, from giving her a whiff of  unfamiliar perfume to being seen rowing another woman around in a skiff.  The audience was already with Kim when she pulled out a green plastic toy gun, took aim and sang, "If you weren't, If you hadn't...But you were, And you have.. And so, goodbye." (The student who took the stage after Kim started off by jokingly saying, "Well, s**t," at the prospect of going after her performance.) 

Our favorite stalker
Second year student Josh James sang a song by Kooman + Dimond called "To Excess" about the always-hilarious subject of a stalker.  With perfect timing and style, James had the audience rolling with lyrics like, "Claire, I need you around me, That's why I broke into your place.  That's why you came home and found me with your panties pressed to my face."  When he took the stage, I wondered why he was wearing shorts on a rather chilly day.  There was a method to his madness, as the shorts enabled him to show the audience how he had carved Claire's name into his thigh. What a romantic.  (For the lyrics in their entirety, click here.)

Second year student Jordan Sobel took on "I Am Adopho" from "The Drowsy Chaperone." He had the audience eating out of his hands as he gyrated and encouraged us to shout out his name on cue.  (Dorrit and I happily did so.)  Mark Comer got the audience involved as well with his rendition of "Don't Be the Bunny" from "Urinetown."  (In case you're not familiar with the song--I wasn't--it goes into all the ways bunnies can get into trouble and end up dead.  In one stanza, Comer sang, "Don't be the bunny.  Don't be the stew.  Don't be the dinner.  You have better things to do.")  Both were great selections because you enjoyed them whether or not you'd seen the shows.  

Brunetti surrounded by the students
It was 90 minutes of pure enjoyment.  When Brunetti took the stage at the end, he was near tears with pride at how well the students had done. "Life," Bunetti said, "Can be so tough and lonely, and art and theater and acting and music make it so much more tolerable."  I wholeheartedly concur. 

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