THE WRITE STUFF
Benjamin Britten : A Life for Music (Henry Holt, $37)
Finally, an intimate and spellbinding biography of one of the 20th century’s most prolific and gifted composers. In celebration of what would have been Britten’s 100th birthday, biographer Neil Powell explores Britten’s music, life and legacy.
Born on November 22, 1913, Britten displayed a passion and proficiency for music at a very young age, composing his first piece when he was only five years old. He produced important pieces in such varied genres as orchestral, choral, solo vocal, chamber and instrumental, as well as film music. He also took a great interest in writing music for children and amateur performers rather than the elite few, composing The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, a popular educational piece recently featured in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.
In 1937, Britten met tenor Peter Pears, the inspirational center of his musical and emotional life. Their partnership lasted nearly four decades, during a dangerous time when homosexuality was illegal in England. Together they composed countless solo-vocal pieces and established the Britten-Pears foundation and the extremely popular Aldeburgh Festival. In Benjamin Britten: A Life for Music, the shared quotidian lives of Britten and Pears unfold in the story of two men who created a truly remarkable legacy.
FOR THE RECORD
Masterworks Broadway continues to explore the rich history of its unrivaled Off-Broadway catalogue with the release of two cast recording rarities previously unavailable in CD–Elephant Steps: A Fear Radio Show and Clownaround.
With Elephant Steps, composer Stanley Silverman and librettist Richard Foreman created a work that remains a prime example of mixed-means theater, where sound and light, language and music, images and movement, graphics and films, incense and machinery, props and performers are incorporated into a spectacular mix. Elephant Steps is released exclusively for purchase via MasterworksBroadway.com n a limited quantity of physical CDs as well as digital download. The CD will be available via Manufacture-On-Demand through Arkiv Music on June 4, plus downloads through digital service providers the same day.
Foreman, the iconic avant-garde theater pioneer and founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, and Silverman, the Obie and Drama Desk winner and classical composer whose Broadway credits include Ah, Wilderness! and Bent, conceived Elephant Steps as a phantasmagorical radio show. Elephant Steps was once described by Jerome Robbins as reminding him of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds of 30 years before. Michael Tilson Thomas leads the cast and instrumental ensemble–including raga group, gypsy ensemble and elephants–and even sings one of the roles in this vibrant recording that perfectly evokes the ‘60s zeitgeist in all its psychedelic glory.
Billed as “A Funny Kind of Musical for the Entire Family,” Clownaround was conceived by Alvin Cooperman, a successful television executive and producer and all-around entrepreneur who also wrote the book and lyrics. According to a souvenir program, he was fascinated by fools, jesters and clowns, and Clownaround was the result that fascination. The music is by Mark “Moose” Charlap, known to Broadway audiences for his contribution to the score of Peter Pan and to jazz fans as the father of Bill Charlap, the acclaimed jazz pianist.
Film legend Gene Kelly directed the original production, with a cast that included Ruth Buzzi, but Clownaround never made it to Broadway, and the original LP release was sold only at venues where the show was performed. When Clownaround closed, the existing inventory of the LPs were scrapped; this CD reissue is the first time the recording has been available in any format since the show’s original run in 1972.
Clownaround will be released exclusively for purchase via MasterworksBroadway.com on June 4th in a limited quantity of physical CDs as well as digital download. The CD will be available via Manufacture-On-Demand through Arkiv Music July 2, plus downloads through digital service providers the same day.
DVD QUICK PICKS
Barney: Dance with Barney (Lionsgate Home Entertainment/HIT Entertainment.)
Get your groove on and dance along to the beat with this all-new DVD. Everyone’s favorite purple dinosaur Barney and his prehistoric pals Baby Bop and BJ share their most loved dance moves, build confidence by learning new steps and have fun dancing dino-style!
We promise a tee-riffic time when you move and groove with Barney and his friends as they hip hop, bop, wiggle and waddle to a dino-mite goof time. Bonus features include two karaoke music videos.
In the third installment of The Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowton (Entertainment One), our fave golden retriever pup has settled into his new home and has developed a crush on the neighbor’s female dog. When her brother Felix is snatched and about to be sold at the Exchange in historic Cowtown, Bailey sets out to rescue him in order to win the love of his sweetheart. Chaos ensues as Bailey encounters one comical obstacle after another in this warm-hearted, fun-filled adventure! Featuring lessons about acceptance, honesty and teamwork, The Adventures of Bailey: A Night in Cowton is sure to rustle up plenty of viewing fun for the whole family.
A young woman living with her dad gets a chance at romance–if she can just learn to look after her own needs for a change–in the sweet, heartfelt Dorfman in Love (Virgil Films). San Fernando Valley girl Deb Dorfman has no special guy in her life, though she spends an awful lot of time taking care of men. They include her demanding widowed father; her vain, stingy married brother, who she works for as an accountant; and her globetrotting journalist friend Jay, whom she has a secret crush on. When Jay needs to leave town for a week on assignment, wallflower Deb happily offers to cat-sit at the cool downtown Los Angeles loft he has barely moved into.
Deb gets busy giving the loft a makeover while Jay is away, and, with the urging and help of Jay’s neighbors, gives herself one too–from a new haircut to a new I-count-too attitude. Especially helpful and encouraging is a hunky artist, Cookie, who may not be exactly what he seems.