Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Kismet"

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note: entire contents copyright 1998 by Larry Stark


"Kismet"

Book by Charles Lederer and Luther Davis
Founded on a play by Edward Knoblock
Music and Lyrics by Robert Wright and George Forrest
From themes of Alexander Borodin
Directed and Choreographed by Barry Ivan
Music Director James Coleman

Scenic Design by Jeff Modereger
Costume Design by Lee Austin
Lighting Design by Tom Sturge
Sound Design by John A. Stone
Production Stage ManagerRenee Brown

The Poet (a k a Hajj).................David Canary
Marsinah.....................Patricia Ben Peterson
Caliph.................................Pedro Porro
Wazir...............................Kenneth Kantor
Lalume............................Deborah Tranelli
Omar Khayam............................Seth Malkin
Jawan.............................Kenn Christopher
Chief Policeman.........................Eric Stein
Widow Yusef.......................Robin V. Allison
Hassan-Ben...........................Mark Merchant
Slave Girl...........................Laura Griffin
Ayah...............................Kathleen France
Princesses of Ababu...Lesley Jennings, Kathy Meyer
Nineveh Dancers......Shawn Emamjomeh, Randy Bobish
Princess Zubbediya....................Mary Rotella
Princess Samaris of Bangalore....Christine Texeira
Dervishes............Shawn Emamjomeh, J. P. Potter
Beggars.................Gerald Downey, Kurt Raimer
Ensemble
Cristin Hubbard, Hank Olwell, Eric Stein

Orchestra
Flute.......................Douglas Worthen
Clarinet....................Bill Carmichael
Clarinet, Bass Clarinet.....Peter Cokkinias
Oboe, English Horn..............Rod Ferland
Bassoon.........................Greg Newton
Trumpet............................Jay Daly
Horn.........................Robert Marlatt
Horn..............................Whit Hill
Violin............................Lucy Pope
Violin....................Stanley Silverman
Cello..........................Sandy Kiefer
Bass............................Barry Smith
Percussion..................Doug Lippincott
Keyboard...................Steve Hinnenkamp


It's the Book that provides the context. Songs like "Baubles, Bangles and Beads" or "Stranger in Paradise" or "And This is My Beloved" can take on a life of their own and burn themselves into your memory on their own terms, but when you hear them in their original context there is not only a shock of familiarity, but a whole new feeling of relevance. The book for "Kismet" that Charles Lederer and Luther Davis based on Edward Knoblock's play gives these familiar songs a whole new resonance.

For instance, take one of the show's hottest songs: "Not Since Nineveh" --- who would have thought this snappy tune was a hymn to the virtues (metaphoricaly!) to the Biblical Big Apple: Bhagdad? And no one could guess it's sung to a pair of identical-twin Ababu Princesses who are in competition to be the ceremonial first wives of the young Caliph, could they?

In fact, who would believe that with all that "Beloved" and "Paradise" nonsense in the score, that the young lovers in this show never even see one another till scene four of a six-scene first act? Or that the real protagonist is actually the heroine's father? Or is she the heroine? Yes, she marries the white-suited Caliph and probably lives happily ever after, but when her neer- do-well father ends up comforting the lascivious widow of the egotitical and haughtily cruel Wazir, is that not a kind of happily-ever-after after all?

This is not the magical west you see, but the mystic middle- east, where a poet (David Canary) can, in a single day, rise from a begging pauper to the rich recipient of a hundred gold pieces, to an Emir of the city, and even to the father-in-law of the great Caliph --- if he can keep his wits about him, and Allah smiles at his effronteries. He must, of course, sing the necessity of a tale-teller keeping a hand that can "Gesticulate" lest it be chopped off as penalty for acquiring inexplainable wealth. But the vagaries of fate (kismet) are fickle, and even though the first act ends with this fake wizard cursing the true love of his own daughter, ingenious escapes and lightning reverses in kismet (fate) make this fascinating book a deserving setting for Alexander Borodin's melodies set to lyrics by Robert Wright and Luther Davis. Forty-five years after its creation, "Kismet" is still magical.

In this incarnation, David Canary is the bewildered but gutsy Poet, Patricia Ben Peterson his be-bangled daughter, Pedro Porro the all-in-white Caliph, Kenneth Kantor the all-in-black Wazir, and Deborah Tranelli his unfulfilled First Wife. Director/ Choreographer Barry Ivan and Costume Designer Lee Austin have provided beefcake, cheesecake and belly-dancing enough to rival Nineveh, while Jeff Moderinger's set mirrors diaphinous draperies and tiles from Samarkand.

Still, it's the Book that provides the context. Luther Davis wrote screenplays for "A Lion Is in the Streets" and "The Huxters" and Charles Lederer scripted "I Was A Male War Bride" and the classics "His Girl Friday" and "The Thing" --- but when they collaborated with Robert Wright and George Forrest on this musical they made something unique. Millions, upon hearing Alexander Borodin's Quartet in D Major, find their words to "Stranger in Paradise" intruding on that classical music experience. But only those who have seen the show will understand the context that makes it all comprehensible.

Love,
===Anon.


"Kismet" (till 26 September)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY
1(978)922-8500

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