Presented by ArtsEmerson
“Conceiver”, Director – Alex Ates
Composer, Musical Director: Patrick Greeley
Puppeteers – Christina Kuchan, Orrin Whalen
Created by Alex Ates & Patrick Greeley
The Shakespearean Jazz Show is a Boston-born project created by young artists from Emerson College and Berklee College of Music.
Review by Kitty Drexel
(Boston) There is so much potential for greatness in The Shakespearean Jazz Show that it’s truly tragic that it falls so far from its mark. Patrick Greeley writes some damn fine music; the Nine Worthies are a great band (I’m looking at you Jamila Dunham); the vocalists are quite sincere, the shadow puppets are very clever… But these separate elements do not make art on their own. They must be strung together. The talented members of Jazz Show did not make this happen.
The exceptions are co-creator, composer (and arranger?), vocalist, clarinetist and pianist, Greeley, and vocalist/dancer, Sheldon Brown. Greeley’s versatility is exemplary if not awe inspiring. His compositions retain a gentle sway reminiscent of iambic pentameter while paying homage to jazz standards such as “Georgia on My Mind.”
Brown oozed energy. His was a dynamic performance. Each of his solo numbers briefly stopped the show. “Wit Peddler” could have stood alone.
As for the rest of the package, while the music and dancing is infectious, there is a particular “je ne sais quoi” that remains missing. My theory is that the missing distinction stems from the performers’ lack of reverence for Shakespeare’s words. The group has great respect, like Greeley, for the sequenced notes they are playing and singing. They also have a clear appreciation for each other. The same could not be written about the words they sing. Shakespeare is difficult not only because of its vastly different execution of rhythm and form from modern speech but also because performing it requires a certain amount of respect for the men and women who have dedicated their lives to preserving it. When you speak the words of The Bard, you speak for thousands who have said them before you. It isn’t just poetry; it’s preserved history. This was not apparent in their performances last night.
The Shakespearean Jazz Show was received well by its audience. The crowd of insecure teenagers and their parents enjoyed every minute but that doesn’t make what occurred on the Paramount Center stage “art.” Well meaning friends and family have the best of intentions but not necessarily the best of tastes. The cast and band have promising careers in front of them. For now, that will have to suffice.