Thursday, December 10, 2009

Catch the Rabbit!

December 11 and 12 at the Arden Gild Hall, Bootless Artworks presents The Velveteen Rabbit, a puppet musical by Simon Chan adapted from the beloved book by Margery Williams. Directors Roseanne DellAversano and James Fuerst revised the show with the musical’s creator, Simon Chan, adding puppets to make it more accessible and fun.

The adorable hand puppets, created by DellAversano and Fuerst, are small enough to allow the audience to enjoy the actor’s voices and movements, yet they lend a fairytale feel to the show.

Sweet and playful, most of the story is set in the boy’s bedroom, where his toys come to life, arguing about which one of them is better and more loved. Big boxy toys Choo-Choo and Steamy, played by Sarah Blandy and Carlos Alicea respectively, take over the stage with their fine singing and bossy presence. Melissa Castillo (Velveteen Rabbit),is touching as she comforts the ailing Boy with her song, “All Through the Night”. Singing “The Use of Love” from atop a pile of trash, she is sure to move even the meanest fourth-grade class bully. Gary Hubbard (Harold) and Kimberly Pryor (Gwendolyn) are a riot in the jazzy song/dance number, “This Ain’t No Rabbit” as they mock and poke the forlorn stuffed animal. By the end of the show, both the boy, sung beautifully by Hunter Reed, and the Velveteen Rabbit find acceptance and love.

Bootless Artworks is committed to bringing theater to the community. Along with securing grants allowing for schools serving low-income populations to attend performances, the directors created a handbook for teachers of students up through 12th grade. This book gives tips on creating puppet-theater and provides a guide for the literary analysis.


Jessica Graae

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wilmington Art Loop - December 4

Watching an artist over time shows how versatile and flexible they are. Felise Luchansky has had such a range of media and style since I starting watching her work in 1995 that it is more than worthwhile to grab her catalog when you see her Paper Trail at the Hatch Gallery this month at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.

I have seen her collages of Americana using Dick, Jane and Sally, her hand-made paper table settings, and so many lost buttons done in brilliant red (the piece I want to buy when my ship comes in) – not to mention her Barbie legs and measuring tapes in a constructed work with MISS AMERICA emblazoned at the top.

Luchansky shows more than style in her metamorphosis – she shows her Weltanschauung. Her works for the December show are part of a commentary on old technology which she makes in creative art. She has taken two piano rolls of old songs and created a horizontal etching (See detail above). Each perforation is represented by intricate lines. Luchansky added spheres in graphite – each shaded to a different degree and accent.

The starkness of Luchansky’s rolls is a perfect foil for Andrew Wapinski’s Nature Drawings whose boldly colored abstracts are actually his experiments with letting weather have its way with ice and watercolor left to melt on paper.

The DCCA also gathered impressive crafts for the Alternatives Holiday Craft Show for the art loop. I was struck by Peter Saenger’s porcelain. His pieces are both decorative and useful. The interlocking starkly designed salt and pepper shakers, teapots and cups are reasonably priced and fascinating.

Two exhibits near Rodney Square merit a visit - Barbara Proud’s nature photographs on display at Gallery 919 are surprising in detail and provocative in subject – reminiscent of O’Keefe but clearly a century beyond. Maria D. Cabrera’s photographs at the Wilmington Institute have one work which stopped me in my tracks: her over-exposed photograph of a vivid sunset by the sea in South America resulted in vivid magenta and blue tones mimicking watercolor.

At the end of the evening, oldies and youngies crowded into the New Wilmington Art Association’s exhibit at 4 West 5th Street after most of the other exhibits had closed for the night – proving that the NWAA is succeeding in their efforts to put the nightlife back into downtown Wilmington. I wondered why the inflatable sculpture was mute and deflated and stopped to ask Michael Kalmbach about the Beardsley-style meticulous pen and ink sketches by April D. Loveday.

The Art Loop: all local, all inspiring. We are rich, Wilmington!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

OMG…It’s Legally Blonde!

OH. MY.GOD! OHMYGOD! The national tour of Legally Blonde is at the DuPont Theatre this week through December 6, and it’s totally entertaining. Feminism and empowerment are served up with a Chanel suit and pink spiked heels in this snappy, witty musical based on the 2001 hit movie. Elle Woods, played by the adorable Becky Gulsvig, leaves California for Harvard Law School to follow her ex-boyfriend, only to discover she herself has brains and talent. Though the main message of the show may be about women using their strength, instinct and power, broader themes of self-acceptance and integrity are also powerful elements.

The cast pulls off an unbelievably high-energy performance---from the adorable Sigma Nu “Greek” chorus, who constantly appears to give Elle Woods advice and support---to the company dancers who weave hilariously in and out of the scene. At times trite and overly “pop”, the score is boosted by wonderfully witty lyrics and some expert singing, as Elle worries her ex-boyfriend’s preppy new girlfriend might practice some “debutante J-Crew kung fu” on her.

Sleek and eye-catching are the sets, which move in a flash around the actors, setting the scene for a Harvard classroom, a hair salon, Elle’s fluffy “pinkified” bedroom and an ominous, striking prison hallway. The choreography is pure delight, with cheerleaders, law students and inmates always in perfect, and often humorous, step.

Professor Callahan (Ken Land), who later proves to be a shark himself, sets the Harvard Law School scene beautifully with his “Blood in the Water”, one of the more classic-sounding Broadway numbers from the score by Laurence O’Keefe and Nell Benjamin. As Paulette, Elle’s hairdresser friend, Natalie Joy Johnson is a powerhouse singer. Her earnest delivery of her sometimes silly lyrics and her story of a beloved dog left behind in a trailer park is moving and keeps the show rooted in reality.


Jessica Graae