Daily Archives: April 9, 2014

‘I’m talkin’ little Jimmy Baldwin, baby — you gotta go to Another Country if you wanna get to Giovanni’s Room

‘Passing Strange’ alums bring new work to the New York stage in celebration of James Baldwin

BaldwinSome of my readers may recognize the main headline of this post as a quote from the musical play “Passing Strange.”

It’s Mr. Franklin, the church choir director talking, sitting in a VW Bug with some of his musical charges, holding a “prayer circle” whose sacramental ritual involved smoking weed.

It was hardly the only touching moment in the 2008 Tony-winning musical, but it was one of the more memorable.

I often say, jokingly, that everything in my life somehow connects to “Passing Strange.” When I look at the artists and performances that have inspired me over the years since I first encountered the show in a developmental form then known as “Travelogue,” back around 2004, many of them are somehow connected to the existential musical play.

Later this month, three key members of the “Passing Strange” family — Stew, who wrote the book and lyrics and co-wrote the music with Heidi Rodewald, and actors from the original production Colman Domingo and Eisa Davis — and a slew of other notable writers and performers will be involved in the New York Live Arts “Live Ideas Festival: James Baldwin, This Time!”  (Tap or click here for schedule and ticket options.)

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Classical pianist Vladimir Feltsman: Still looking for the sweet spot

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman

Pianist Vladimir Feltsman arrived in the United States a quarter century ago after spending eight years as essentially a nonperson in the Soviet Union, his homeland. After finally being permitted to emigrate to the West, the former refusenik has tried hard to stop talking about those dark days.

After years of playing many concerts every year, he’s settled into a schedule of a smaller number of carefully selected appearances, always performing superbly, but always on the hunt for the sweet spot. As he tells me in a conversation for lohud.com/The Journal News: “On some good days — it’s not always happening — but when it’s happening, it feels great. There’s like an exchange of energy, which is very much real and tangible, between public and artist. So when that happens it feels really good.”

I spoke with Feltsman in advance of his concert Wednesday evening at Bedford Chamber Concerts (St. Matthews Episcopal Church Fellowship Hall, 382 Cantitoe St., Bedford, NY; 914-522-5150).

Please tap or click here to check out the conversation.