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Backstage And Beyond

FEEDING BODY AND SOUL: Homegrown TV celebrity hosts unique Coterie-Harvesters collaboration

By Paul Horsley Alex Saxon may be a star of TV and films these days, but he gives a lot of credit to the firm theatrical foundation he received growing up in the Kansas City area. From the age of eight the Liberty native, currently starring in MTV’s hit show “Finding Carter,” acted, sang and […]

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FREEDOM CHALLENGED: Coterie Theatre production tackles slave laws of antebellum America

By Paul Horsley When manmade laws seem to contradict fundamental human law, how is a civil society to decide between right and wrong? The Coterie Theatre’s upcoming production of And Justice for Some: The Freedom Trial of Anthony Burns asks big questions: Though not exactly ripped from today’s headlines, it has lessons for all of […]

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WELLSPRING OF DANCE: KC Ballet artistic director draws from many sources for new ‘Nutcracker’

By Paul Horsley When you create a new Nutcracker, you’re inventing from your own personal ballet experience but you’re also drawing on several centuries of dance history. “Nutcracker has always been a part of my life, from the time I was a child to this very minute,” said Devon Carney during a recent break from […]

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HOLY NIGHT, INDEED: Quality Hill Playhouse keeps holiday show alive with subtlety and sophistication

By Paul Horsley Keeping a favorite holiday show fresh, year in and year out, requires care and vigilance. Each November J. Kent Barnhart begins the meticulous planning of Quality Hill Playhouse’s “Christmas in Song” by going through hundreds of songs (from his database of thousands) and narrowing the more than 500 Christmas-themed songs to about […]

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IN A WORLD: Unicorn stages dystopian comedy of ideas and pop culture

By Paul Horsley What will we do in the evenings when the lights go out? How will we entertain ourselves when the nuclear cataclysm brings down the grid and there’s no electricity: no television, no internet, no cinema? These are questions playwright Anne Washburn asks in her brilliantly provocative Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, which […]

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WATER EVERYWHERE: Lyric stages cautionary tale set to lush music

By Paul Horsley Fairy tales may be populated largely by imaginary characters, but they exist to tell us things about ourselves. Jaroslav Kvapil’s libretto for Dvořák’s Rusalka concerns a water-nymph who yearns to be human; at the same time the 1901 opera, which opens at the Lyric Opera on November 7th, teaches us to be […]

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OCTOBER THE BEGUILING: Harriman Series challenges concertgoers with a busy month

By Paul Horsley “O hushed October morning mild,” Robert Frost wrote, “beguile us in the way you know.” If you want a good sampling of what the Harriman-Jewell Series has presented over the last 51 years, look no further than this month’s offerings. The Series offers half a dozen performances drawing on an amazing range […]

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CAN’T FIGHT THIS FEELING: Lyric Opera ‘Giovanni’ exploits visual, emotional contrasts

By Paul Horsley The Lyric Opera’s newish production of Don Giovanni, which opened September 26th at the Kauffman Center, embraces the opera’s light-dark contrasts in ways both external and internal. By setting the 1787 opera as a film noir the production opens up design possibilities that exploit the chiaroscuro nature of such movies as The […]

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ART, LIFE: KC Rep production evokes deep thoughts about art, which is perhaps the point

By Paul Horsley The Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production of Sunday in the Park with George, which opened September 18th at the Nelson-Atkins Museum’s Atkins Auditorium, is visually so complex that it keeps the eye occupied even at points where Stephen Sondheim’s drama lags. Perhaps that’s appropriate for a piece of musical theater that is […]

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SING YE UNFETTERED: Symphony Chorus given a chance to shine in program of Italian opera favorites

By Paul Horsley Opera choruses: You know you love ’em. The big splashy numbers in the drama where the lights go brilliant and dozens of boisterous singers fill the stage will color and sound. Sometimes the music is so good that you wish you could hear it without all the distractions of costumes and stage […]

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DEEP, DARK LOVE: Lyric uses classic cinema to cast light on Mozart anti-hero

By Paul Horsley Don Giovanni: despicable misogynist, or dashing ladies’ man with anger-management issues? When the Lyric Opera’s creative team, led by director Kristine McIntyre and scenic designer R. Keith Brumley, set about to craft a fresh concept for Mozart’s and Da Ponte’s most troublesome opera, they sought a world with all the ambiguity and […]

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MADE GLORIOUS SUMMER: Fine performances have graced the city’s summer months

By Paul Horsley One of the most satisfying concerts I attended this summer was that of tenor Joseph DeSota and pianist Natalia Rivera, who gave a sophisticated performance of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin on August 9th at Grace & Holy Trinity Cathedral. It was part of the “Summer Music at the Cathedrals” series sponsored by […]

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MOVE ON: KC Rep and Nelson-Atkins Museum team up for essential Sondheim classic

By Paul Horsley So let’s say you’re a major theater company and you need a big splash for your new season, but your building is under construction until late fall. What to do? In a word: innovate. Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, a multidimensional reflection on the nature of art and creativity, […]

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TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES: KCAT opens season with intimate dramas, spare means

By Paul Horsley Theater is like any form of communication in that it boils down to one thing: two people talking. With this in mind, Kansas City Actors Theatre has determined to devote its 11th season to “two-handers,” plays consisting of two characters who command the stage for an entire evening. True, economics might have […]

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THE ART OF BEING A KID: Performing-arts groups offer creative ways to expand your child’s purview

By Paul Horsley One of the fruits of Kansas City’s performing-arts community is an abundance of opportunities for young people. From orchestras to dance groups, children’s theater to music lessons of all kinds, our region is host to dozens of places where young folks can gain skills and learn the joy of playing, dancing, acting […]

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PRINCE SCHMINCE: Starlight hosts tour of Broadway ‘Cinderella’ that humanizes leads

By Paul Horsley What if we made a Cinderella in which, instead of a noble prince rescuing a desperate girl, we tell a tale of two people sort of rescuing each other? That’s just what playwright Douglas Carter Beane set out to do in his new version of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, which was a […]

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‘SPRING’ IN JULY: Summerfest silver jubilee features big classics, favorites from 25 years

By Paul Horsley When it comes to chamber music, three’s already a crowd, and 13 is a veritable multitude. So when Summerfest Chamber Music Series began planning a “blowout” Gala to celebrate its 25th season, it didn’t have to go far in order to push the limits of this intimate genre. On July 25th this […]

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ARE WE THERE YET? Men’s choir takes on new challenges in a rapidly changing world

By Paul Horsley There’s a zephyr wind blowing through gay men’s choirs in America, and Heartland Men’s Chorus appears to have found just the right man to take it into this new era of acceptance and tolerance. On June 13th and 14th, Dustin Cates concludes his brilliant first season as the choir’s artistic director with […]

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SING IT, GIRLFRIEND: QHP program highlights vocalism of three great American women

By Paul Horsley They battled addiction, domineering lovers, pigeonholing Hollywood studios, and a music industry controlled by men who feared strong women. They suffered defeats, but more often they triumphed by placing a distinctive mark on everything they did. And it is their very struggle that makes us love them. Judy Garland (1922-1969), Barbra Streisand […]

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SENSE OF HUMORS: Ballet brings top stager to set ground-breaking Balanchine classic

By Paul Horsley Victoria Simon remembers first seeing George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments when it was almost new, as a youngster studying at the School of American Ballet in the 1950s and, later, as a dancer with New York City Ballet in the ’60s. “It broke new ground,” she said recently of the 30-minute piece, […]

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HIGHER: Harriman continues stellar 50th with Bell, Denk, promises more for 2015-16

By Paul Horsley The Harriman-Jewell Series’ auspicious 50th anniversary season has been a wild ride, and it’s not over yet. Recently the Series presented two notable performances within a week of each other, a violin-piano recital by Joshua Bell and Sam Haywood and an orchestral program with the Academy of St. Martin in Fields and […]

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