BWW Reviews: Baltimore Symphony and Folger Theatre Combine for a MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
What a cornucopia of entertainment occurred last week as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra blended a little bit of Shakespeare, a little bit of Felix Mendelssohn, some soloists, some actors, a women's chorus, musicians, and a lot of humor to entertain the BSO audience in a concert dubbed "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream". While it is not midsummer yet, BSO Music Director Marin Alsop programmed an ambitious evening of entertainment which thrilled the masses.
I have been looking forward to this evening since I saw it announced. What a concept. While the BSO has attempted to broaden its base by showing films like "Casablanca" and "West Side Story" with the orchestra accompanying the film, and presenting Broadway stars for conceptual pieces like HAIRSPRAY and LES MISERABLES, this was a first and it worked but with some glitches. I read the Baltimore Sun review by Tim Smith who saw the evening at the Strathmore Hall in Bethesda and raved about the acoustics there. But, at the Meyerhoff, the actors could have used surtitles so the audience could understand what they were saying. The acoustics were by no means acceptable.
Even with these problems, it was still great fun to watch the Folger Shakespeare troupe perform. There was Spencer Aste, John Bolger, Katie deBuys, Marcus Kyd, Cody Nickell, Kate Eastwood Norris, and Linda Powell (who I recall seeing at Center Stage in 2001 in RAISIN IN THE SUN) were all outstanding. Then there were two soloists ensconced up in the balcony, Julie Boulianne and Ying Fang. In the back of the orchestra was the Woman's Chorus of the Baltimore Choral Arts Society under the Direction of Tom Hall Director. Oh...there was also a dog named Griffin who got loud applause. (For a nice article on the dog auditions, see the article by Maura Judkis in the Sunday June 8, 2014 Washington Post on p. E4).
Coordinating all of this was Edward Berkeley who is on the faculty at the Juilliard School and also teaches Shakespeare at the Circle in the Square Theater School. He did a masterfull job in brining this all together.
But kudos go the BSO and especially Marin Alsop for having the audacity of bringing this to Maryland. She even had a few lines and couldn't stop laughting herself at times.
The evening opened with the gorgeous Mendelssohn Overture which he wrote at the age of 17, long before he wrote the incidental music for a "Midsummer" staging in 1843. Due to the many people on stage running in and out from all directions, the BSO was split up in ways not seen before. The actors intermingled with the musicians and there was even a sofa between the basses and the horns.
While I found the First Act a little slow, the roarious second act made up for it. And there was great applause for the wonderful and famous "Wedding March".
I'm sure we will see more of this in the future and I look forward to it.