Oh, the Places You Will Go … Why Not Journey with the Utah Symphony?
By Jason Hagey, Alisha Hagey and Jennifer Mustoe
Front Row Reviewers Utah
March 19, 2018
Utah Symphony presents Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham with Really Inventive Stuff theater company at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City.
There are few things as magical as the laughter of children. The giggles were galore throughout Abravanel Hall as Kimberly Schroeder and Sara Valentine entered with their identical outfits, except one is in bright teal and the other is decked out in shades of fuschia – both speaking in rhyme delightfully a la Seuss himself. The sounds of children’s excitement isn’t something usually associated with classical music, or any kind of symphony that doesn’t go with the moniker “Silly Symphonies,” but the Utah Symphony has done something unlike anything I’ve seen them do before. They brought children in, gave them a reason to laugh, and taught them a thing or two about the symphony. The experience was a fantastic introduction to the symphony in general, but with the bent of teaching that music is storytelling and some of the best storytelling is musical. This is a show for young and old, and since it will likely not happen again, in this way, you should keep your eyes out for future productions that are of a similar vein. You will not be disappointed.
Rob Kapilow’s orchestral composition harkens back to the stylings of Carl Stalling, mixing original orchestration with fanciful, reimagined, and borrowed tunes. The collage of sounds and songs mixes a bright and fun vocabulary of music that delights young and old, all while wooing the audience with the story. It immediately pulls you in and makes the audience as much a part of the story as the production onstage. My kids and I could not help but feel that we had been transported into a Looney Tunes cartoon setting, back in the golden age of Warner Brothers animation.
The entire show was a nod at storytelling. In fact, they gave the audience four very unique experiences in this vein. First we were given a more traditional, although silly, introduction to the symphony. We had two singers stand in front of the audience and sing with the orchestra behind. The operatic style was not diminished by the subject matter, Gertrude McFuzz and her bothersome tail. Following, our two singer/actors left the stage and the conductor, David Yavornitzky (usually the principal Bassist), introduced the audience to the joy of music. And the next piece was, Beethoven’s “Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43.” Yavornitzky smartly engaged the children by talking about Titans and Greek gods. He encouraged the children to hear the flames and feel the story as they listened to the overture for the ballet.
What followed was a Mozart piece, “Symphony No. 35 in D Major, K. 385 “Haffner.”” Again, Yavornitzky talked directly to the audience. He led us through a discussion detailing how not every piece of music has an already established story attached. He gave us the opportunity to create a narrative of our own while we listened. He pointed up to the fact that music itself has stories to tell. It was in this piece that the violins truly shined. They were completely together through the really fast tempo. It was a delight to listen to.
Afterwards, Schroeder and Valentine joined us back on stage for a pantomime and operatic version of “Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham.” Children couldn’t help themselves but sit forward on their seats as they watched Sam plaintively try his best to convince our soprano that she should at least give the eggs and ham a try. It felt as if the whole morning was, ‘give the symphony and classical music a try. You might even find you like it.’
As an audience, we were delighted with the virtuosity of the Utah Symphony. It was a treat to hear them play both the silly and the serious. If you are on the edge, not knowing if you enjoy classical music or attending concerts of this type, experiences like this one are a fantastic gateway into what you can experience with a full performance. I’m sure you’ll like it in a box, I’m sure you’ll like it with a fox. I’m sure you’ll like it here or there. I’m sure you’ll like it everywhere, but especially in Salt Lake City with the Utah Symphony. Would you, could you have some fun? Of course you will.