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Richard Rodgers Reimagined

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Kyle Riabko is a talented singer/actor who has performed on Broadway in Spring Awakening and Hair. But he’s gained more attention for his work on the songs of Burt Bacharach. Riabko created new interpretations for the Bacharach catalog, and, eventually, devised a production featuring his arrangements which ran in New York as What’s it All About? Bacharach Reimagined,and, later played London as Close to You: Bacharach Reimagined. The latter production was recorded.
Bacharach was supportive and worked closely with Riabko on the project. On one visit to Bacharach’s home, Riabko noticed a framed fan letter to Bacharach from Richard Rodgers. This partially inspired his new project, Richard Rodgers Reimagined, which has also been recorded and briefly played the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Arts.
Riabko is front and center for the performance, backed by a young and impressively responsive band. There is a true sense of camaraderie amongst the performers and a genuine enjoyment of performing the songs which translates to the audience. But Bacharach is a very different composer than Rodgers. Bachrach essentially writes pop songs, a style of music in which each song lives independently. Sadly, he wrote only one Broadway musical. Rodgers was a theatrical artist whose collaboration with Oscar Hammerstein revolutionized musicals by demanding that each song play an intrinsic part in the narrative.
Like the Hammerstein collaboration, Riabko begins with “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’.” Despite the new arrangement, the song resists the reimagining process. Rodgers, at least when paired with Hammerstein, proves difficult to pull out of the context of the show. Riabko is more successful with “Where or When,” a song pulled from Rodgers’ earlier career with Lorenz Hart. Those early shows were generally less concerned with dramatic truth and often the slightest pretext was good enough to introduce a song. Mining some of the lesser-known songs with Hart lyrics might have offered Riabko the kind of interpretive freedom he achieved with Bacharach, but his choices are mostly standards from both lyricists.
There is a certain freshness in Riabko’s hard-driving “Do, Re, Mi,” complete with electric guitar licks. But the novelty quickly fades, and in song after song, the remarkable variety of Rodgers’ sonic colors become increasingly lackluster and ordinary. Riabko remains a strong performer with an attractive vocal style. His renditions of “My Funny Valentine” and “My Romance” are simple and heartfelt. But one can’t really say they sound particularly reimagined.
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts    November 10 – 11, 2017    thewallis.org
 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.