Critic’s Choice: Ambition and the unexpected mark ‘Miravel’ by Sacred Fools
Edmond Rostand meets Hermann Hesse at the Village Vanguard in “Miravel” at Sacred Fools.
Author-performer Jake Broder’s mash-up of Rostand’s deathless “Cyrano de Bergerac” and Hesse’s novel “Gertrude” has some post-larval quirks, yet a compelling undertow propels its jazz-centric romantic triangle.
Subtitled “The Promise of Alphonso Bloch,” the piece opens with lame, renowned jazz composer Alphonso (Broder, intrepid as ever) discovering a letter left under his piano, which segues us back to conservatory days.
Here, visionary neo-classicist Alphonso meets two people who upend his reclusive aerie. Henry Brooks (a revelatory Will Bradley), a womanizing radio singer with scant creativity, wanders into Alphonso’s rehearsal session and cues up an acidulous friendship.
Enter the titular character (the wonderful Devereau Chumrau), discovered napping under the piano, an aspiring dancer and born muse. One needn’t know from “Cyrano” or “Gertrude” to guess what happens.
Well, except that under Shaunessey Quinn’s smooth direction, unexpected dissonances erupt, as Alphonso’s Cyrano/Kuhn stand-in paves the way for Henry’s Christian/Muoth and Miravel’s Roxanne/Gertrude, despite his own imploding desire.
“Miravel” is highly specialized, and though structurally sound, some tweaks are needed. Exactly why Miravel abandons dance is murky, Act 1 could be trimmed, and one more interpolated standard to contrast with Broder’s evocative compositions couldn’t hurt.
When the Mariinsky Ballet performed “Cinderella” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Oct. 8, even the wondrous Diana Vishneva as Cinderella couldn’t bring unity to the movement, but she danced with flawless, fearless authority. Read more >>(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Branden Jacobs-Jenkins leaves a rehearsal of his play “Appropriate,” opening Oct. 4 at the Mark Taper Forum, to eat first with a reporter, then later with his agent and some unspecified Hollywood people, who presumably hope to lure him away from the field and city where he has experienced meteoric success in the last five years. Read more >>(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)
Soprano Abigail Fischer performs Oct. 7 in the opera “Songs from the Uproar” at REDCAT in Los Angeles.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Moisés Kaufman’s muscular revival of “Bent,” which played at the Mark Taper Forum, opening on July 26, renders what many had written off as a parochial drama about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany into a gripping tale of love, courage and identity. Read review >>(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Malaviki Sarukkai performing at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica on July 19, 2015. Sarukkai is the best-known exponent of South Indian classical dance.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Bramwell Tovey conducts the L.A. Phil with pianist Garrick Ohlsson in Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Hollywood Bowl on July 14, 2015.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
Argentine dancer Herman Cornejo performs in the West Coast premiere of “Tango y Yo” as part of the Latin portion of BalletNow.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Jake Shears plays Greta in Martin Sherman’s play “Bent” at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles through Aug. 23, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dancers rehearse a one-night-only performance choregraphed by Raiford Rogers, one of L.A.'s most-noted choreographers. This year the dance will be to a new original score by Czech composer Zbynek Mateju.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Mia Sinclair Jenness, left, Mabel Tyler and Gabby Gutierrez alternate playing the title role in the musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Matilda” at the Ahmanson Theatre. The three are shown during a day at Santa Monica Pier on June 16, 2015.(Christina House / For The Times)
American Contemporary Ballet Company members Zsolt Banki and Cleo Magill perform a dance routine originally done by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This performance was presented as part of “Music + Dance: L.A.” on Friday, June 19, 2015.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Miguel, a Grammy-winning guitarist, producer, singer and lyricist, is photographed in San Pedro on Wednesday, June 10, 2015. His new album “Wildheart,” explores L.A.'s “weird mix of hope and desperation.”(Christina House / For The Times)
Los Angeles-born artist Mark Bradford is photographed in front of “The Next Hot Line.” This piece is part of his show “Scorched Earth,” installed at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, June 11, 2015.(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
The Los Angeles Opera concluded its season with “The Marriage of Figaro,” with Roberto Tagliavini as Figaro and Pretty Yende as Susanna, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.(Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
“Trinket,” a monumental installation by Newark-born, Chicago-based artist William Pope.L, features an American flag that is 16 feet tall and 45 feet long. The work is on display at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA through June 28.(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Alex Knox, from left, Carolyn Ratteray, Lynn Milgrim and Paige Lindsey White in “Pygmalion” in spring 2015 at the Pasadena Playhouse.(Mariah Tauger / For The Times)
On March 17, Google celebrated the addition of more than 5,000 images to its Google Street Art project with a launch party at the Container Yard in downtown Los Angeles.(Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)
Ric Salinas, left, Herbert Siguenza and Richard Montoya, of the three-man Latino theater group Culture Clash, brought their “Chavez Ravine: An L.A. Revival” to the Kirk Douglas Theatre to mark the group’s 30th anniversary. The play ran from Feb. 4 through March 1.(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
That said, the designs are solid, particularly R. Christopher Stokes’ lighting; the back-up combo -- Colin Kupka (saxophone), Michael Alvidrez (bass) and Kenny Elliott (drums) -- is righteous, as is Paul Litteral’s music direction; and the cast plays it to the hilt.
Broder’s hip bona fides have been previously established by his Louis Prima and Lord Buckley, but the conflicted gravitas he registers here is something else again. Bradley, pitched somewhere between James Franco and Kurt Elling, displays unsuspected scat virtuosity, and Chumrau’s physical and histrionic quality is exactly right, wry and affecting.
“Miravel” won’t be for all tastes, but it’s no mere work-in-progress, either, and this singular, bluesy chamber work scores in haunting intensity.
“Miravel,” Sacred Fools Theater Company, 680 N. Heliotrope, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Ends Dec. 19. $25. (310) 281-8337 or www. sacredfools.org. Running time: 2 hours.
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