Extensions of Us

There were crazy choices available to concert goers in Toronto last nigt but enough chose Extensions of Us at the Extension Room (where else) to fill the joint.  We were there to see a performance of piano, song and dance provided by the team of baritone turned tenor Adrian Kramer, soprano Lucia Cesaroni, dancers Jennifer Nichols (who also choreographed) and Justin De Bernardi with pianist and music director Maika’i Nash.  The complex motivations for the show and the full line up of music is contained in my interview with Adrian and Lucia here.

So how did it work out?  Pretty well really though I think the concept still needs developing.  Some ideas worked extremely well.  Making full use of the space rather in the manner of a semi-staged opera performance was a decided improvement on standing solemnly in front of the piano.  Jenn’s choreography of the three solo piano pieces was inventive and provided a change of pace.  The Part piece was particularly lovely.  Where the team really let the singers and dancers interact; for example in some of the West Side Story excerpts, there was something happening that could be developed.  Where the interaction was more tentative, as in the Traviata, extracts it felt a bit undercooked.  Boldness seems to pay off in these ventures.  I also really liked the projections/surtitles.  They weren’t line by line translations but gave an atmospheric , general idea of what was going on which was way better than fiddling with a printed translation in semi-darkness!

Musically it was worthwhile.  I’ve been following Adrian’s transition from baritone to tenor (not as painful as you might think) with interest and things are happening.  The top notes are there but not yet in that free and easy way that audiences love in Italian rep.  But there’s power there and that’s his passion so I’m sure he’ll work it out.  He’s also a terrific actor of course which helps in pieces like the Bernstein.Lucia once more showed her considerable stage presence and her very interesting instrument.  It’s dark toned for a lyric soprano, which might trouble some people in a role like Maria, but which I find attractively different and maybe her Violetta is passionate and dramatic but a little wayward.  The Poulenc La Dame de Monte Carlo seemed to sit just right and she did a lovely job with this weird little piece.  But, everything she does is compelling.  It’s a pity cabaret ain’t what it used to be.  Maika’i displayed versatility and virtuosity across a wide range of musical styles.

There definitely needs to be more of this kind of “multi-media” experiment and this was a very good first stab for this crew.  I hope they go on to do more.

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