As casual as can be, Julia Migenes strolls on the nearly bare stage at the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. The only other presence is that of Mitsuko Morikawa, Migenes’ accompanist, sitting at the keyboard of her piano.
There is no warning as to what is awaiting the audience at that point.
Well perhaps Migenes’ piquant red hair, indicative of a fuse burning down on a very tight package of potent explosives. And when the package goes off the force is easily equivalent to the combined arsenal of the U.S. Air Force.
To refer to Julia Migenes as a singer is akin to describing Michelangelo as a guy who works with rocks.
As Michelangelo applied his hammer blows to marble, Migenes applies her talents to striking every note as she sculpts songs that are in their way comparable to the David or Pietà.
Her chosen chisel for the evening is the music of Kurt Weill.
Shifting with enviable ease from German to French to English, Migenes includes in her repertoire, songs from Three Penny Opera and Mahagonny. However while these works are perhaps those most American audiences are familiar with (Weill’s collaboration with Bertolt Brecht lasted only three years before Weill decided that he didn’t wish to “set to music the entire Communist Manifesto”), Migenes has drawn the twenty selections her evening consists of from across the 30-year span of Weill’s career.
That she offers only three in English might prove some what problematic to the monoglots of the audiences. Part of this problem can be laid at Migenes’ feet.
Before each song, she offers a brief sketch of the tale each contains. But these tantalize more than elucidate. Migenes’ own performance, which is luxurious, sharpens the longing for a keener connection to the experience. Understanding the songs would help that.
However for those whom such linguistic limitations pose no issue, for the aficionado of musical theatre, for any professional singer determined to improve their craft, or for that matter for anyone addicted to having their socks blown off – boy, oh boy, does this show have your name written in big bold letters all over it!
Most singers manage to entertain us with their beautiful voices. Some, that rare few, don’t merely sing with their voices but with every fiber of their souls. Migenes is such a one, who knows the secret of filling every moment with an echo that resonates beyond the theatre walls and the short span of an evening’s show. She has the skills and hard earned gift of “talent” that can discover the unfathomable fathoms of a bird bath.
In her musical flights, Migenes has found an impeccable wingman, okay, wing woman, in Mitsuko Morikawa whose prowess on the ivory proves she is every bit an Ace in her own right.
Mitsuko Morikawa plays how one imagines angels glide the heavens.
Migenes and Morikawa make up the most dynamic duo since Batman and Robin.
I dare to suggest a minor tweak that I believe the show would benefit from.
Migenes starts the evening with “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” or “The Ballad of Mack the Knife,” as we monoglots know it. (Yes, I am one of those.) She performs stunningly in the original German.
She also closes the show with “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer,” again, rendered in the original German.
Now I advocate the refrain be done in English, and I have my reasons.
It would go to please the monoglots (And we’re a pushy lot.)
In any artistic effort, variation is always an asset, applying that principle here would serve nicely to bookend the evening as a whole.
But, what do I know?
The show is staged by film director Peter Medak.
In the playwright’s Valhalla there is a place of honor at the table in the Great Hall eternally reserved for Medak. This in appreciation for bringing to the screen a brilliant playwright’s most brilliant play; Peter Barnes’ The Ruling Class staring actor Peter O’Toole in arguably his preeminent film role.
At the Odyssey, Medak directs with a delicate hand and a loving touch.
Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill is a show that should be seen.
Not for the sets and not even for the songs.
The reason to see it is the incomparable Migenes herself, a performers’ performer and that in any language is music to the soul.
(Photo Credit: Enci Box)
♦ ♦ ♦
Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill
Where: The Odyssey Ensemble Theatre
2055 South Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA. 90025
When: Wednesdays & Saturdays 8pm
November 18, 25
November 21, 28
December 5, 12, 19
For Addt’l Info: Box Office, 310-477-2055 EXT. 2
Website: The Odyssey