Monday, 17 November 2014

POWERHOUSE by Josh Luxenberg, Jon Levin and the Sinking Ship Ensemble at the New Ohio Theatre

     In my childhood memories, Raymond Scott was the bandleader for the radio and television show, YOUR HIT PARADE and husband of HIT PARADE cast member, Dorothy Collins, who was later the first Sally in Sondheim's masterpiece, FOLLIES. I didn't know back then that much of the music used in Warner Brothers cartoons was by Scott -- he had sold the rights to his music to Warners in 1943. Scott was half musical visionary, half mad genius. His style of composing must have been maddening for his instrumentalists. Later, he became obsessed with electronic music. In the 1980s, shortly before his death, Columbia records' release of some of Scott's early private recordings led to a rediscovery of his unique form of jazz.
      POWERHOUSE (the name of one of Scott's more famous compositions) is a devised theatre piece about Scott, taken from his life and many of his statements about music (at one point, his ideal was a silent concert where the musicians would communicate to the audience via extra sensory perception). Most of his money went to his electronic experiments. There's no question that he was eccentric, perhaps borderline autistic. His work was certainly more important than his relationships with his three wives. He was brilliant, but also exasperating. Much of POWERHOUSE is told through Scott's own words. This is any thing but a dry biographical drama. It is a whirlwind of action, a theatrical metaphor of Scott's hyperactive mind. In addition to Scott (Erik Lochtefeld), six performers play all the roles and, with the help of puppets, enact live cartoon sequences. After all, cartoons were how most people became familiar with Scott's music. The hard-working cast is highly versatile. and director Jon Levin has used them to create a totally absorbing theatrical experience. As Marian Elliott has with THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME, Levin has succeeded in finding a way to turn a unique human mind into a theatrical experience. This is a fascinating, highly inventive piece of theatre.
     This is my first Sinking Ship production. I am definitely going to be at their next production.
POWERHOUSE. New Ohio Theatre. November 16, 2014.          

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