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BWW Review: THE (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS at Lyric Opera

The new production of Steve Jobs' story is at the Lyric for one weekend only

BWW Review: THE (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS at Lyric Opera It was with some trepidation that this reviewer attended last night's debut of the Lyric's The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, the one-act biographical work by Mason Bates and Mark Campbell. The word "(r)evolution" is carefully chosen, as while he was evolving, he and Apple co-creator Steve Wozniak were indeed at the head of a revolution. It was a revolution that took place in a million households, where an entire generation (this reviewer included) first got their hands on a seemingly miraculous machine, and immediately began to dive into it, learn its secrets, and find a place where they fit in.

The opera, first performed in 2017 (six years after Jobs' death) takes us through Jobs' (John Moore, bar) life as a young man, the early days of Apple, the catastrophic flameout that sent him away in disgrace, and the eventual return that turned Apple once again into a technological giant. Through it all, we see his relationships with the people around him: his father Paul (Tim Scott, bar), his friend and the genius behind the Apple, Steve "Woz" Wozniak (Bille Bruley, ten), his early love Chrisann Brennan (Madison Leonard, sopr), and eventually his wife Laurene (Sarah Larsen, mez).

As the evening progresses, we watch a bright, curious young man exploring the how and why of the world around him become obsessed with taking on IBM/Microsoft and their lock on the business market. This eventually leads to an internal war within Apple, which ends in him resigning. He meets Laurene at a lecture, spends some time away rebuilding himself, and comes back to lead the company back to the forefront of the technological revolution before succumbing to pancreatic cancer. Through it all, he is guided by Kōbun Chino Otogawa (Wei Wu, bass), a zen master Jobs studied under for many years and who steers him, gently but firmly, full circle to the end.

Overall, the production does a good job of telling the story. This reviewer was somewhat concerned the thing would turn into a hagiography, and a couple of times it skirts close, but it doesn't flinch away from Jobs' failings. During the scenes leading up to him leaving Apple, Woz tears into him with righteous fury. "You have become one of the people we hated - a Goliath!" he declares. The man who wanted to teach machines to play has abandoned everything that got him where he was. His early desertion of Brennan when she was pregnant with his child, and subsequent refusal to acknowledge his paternity, are not shied away from either (for the record, he did eventually repair the relationship with his daughter, even letting her add his last name to hers).

The production is impressive, a joint work between the Lyric and several other companies. Impressive use of projection and Jacob A. Climer's set are particularly striking. And then there is Mason Bates' Grammy-winning score. It is appropriately ultra-modernist, with Bates' trademark blend of orchestral and electronic music sounds mixed with the chirps and bleeps of the machines that defined Jobs' life. Also of note is the chorus, whose voices blended exceedingly well, particularly in the more Zen-oriented scenes, where they were especially affecting.

As this reviewer writes this (on a machine more than a little inspired by the works of those days), she cannot help but think of the simple little machine she grew up around, learning all of the tricks it could do. Teaching it, in fact, to play. That machine, though multiple orders of magnitude less powerful than anything on the market now, nevertheless was part of a revolution. It is one that continues to this day. It honestly boggles the mind how far we've come in so little time, but in which direction? We may never live to know. Meanwhile, as last night's performance ended, the woman in front of me took out her phone to snap a picture of the curtain call. And I could not help but laugh.

One more thing...

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is only running this weekend, from the 11th to the 13th, so those wishing to catch the show are advised not to sleep on it.



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From This Author - Kelly Luck