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Something So Right Premieres at UB CFA

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photo by Joyce Kryszak
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Randall Kramer and Jon Lehrer

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-963504.mp3

Buffalo, NY – Two very different art forms are coming together on stage at the Center for the Arts Saturday and Sunday in an original work inspired by the music of Paul Simon.

The sometimes ethereal world of concert dance might not seem a likely companion to the keep-it-fast-keep-it-funny world of musical theatre.

But contemporary dance choreographer John Lehrer and Musicalfare Director Randall Kramer had a vision. And they decided Paul Simon's music was the perfect vehicle to make it work.

But this is not a piece that relies on Simon's music solely to carry the show. The professional Lehrer Dance company intertwines its hallmark athletic modern choreography with the bold musical styling that has made Musicalfare a star in local theatre.

Neither group gives up its integrity or its identity. Kramer with Musicalfare said there was no reason to.

"There are no rules. There's nothing to go back to say, we have to do it this way - no we don't have to so it any way," said Kramer. "We can do it any way we want as long as it's telling the story. And that's very creatively invigorating."

The story that evolves is about a man struggling with grief and memories of the past love that keeps him at least for a time from moving on. Actors seem to float across the stage on an conveyor belt made of fabric that's pulled along by dancers, literally moving the main character Frank through the stages of grief.

Kramer said there is an underlying abstract nature to the piece. But he said it is a story they believe will challenge audiences while still drawing them in.

"I think that's what art's supposed to do, take you to a place that's outside your comfort zone, without losing you," said Kramer. "We've always said this is a populist piece."

He added, "even though we're working in modern dance...and even though we're working in different ways where actors dance and dancers act and musicians sing and act and dance, we're still basically doing something we want to communicate to an average audience."

But kramer and dance company owner John Lehrer said not everything is left to the imagination. Lehrer said the staging will be breathtaking.

"A lot of things hanging. A lot of cool light design a lot of interesting things coming up from the floor - I don't want to give too much away," said Lehrer. "But, just some real interesting things that take us to each scene and take the audience on this journey."

It is a journey guided and in essence narrated by Paul Simon's music and lyrics. And not just the four songs Lehrer used years back to build one of his popular short concert dance pieces, "Bridge and Tunnel." Music from twenty Paul Simon songs are used with words and phrases snipped and pasted from throughout his expansive catalog.

Lehrer said it took him months to persuade Simon's brother and music company manager Eddie to even look at their proposal and give them the rights to the catalog. Then Lehrer remembered he grew up in the same Queens neighborhood as Simon.

"I knew I kind of had him," said Lehrer. "And he said, 'ok, let me find this thing...he called me back and he said, 'here's what we're going to do. We're going to give you the rights for this for a one time use and we're only going to charge you a nominal fee.'"

That nominal fee was $100 for one-time rights to the entire Paul Simon music catalog. Lehrer said royalties would be negotiated if the show goes on. That financial break turned a dream into possibility.

Then the UB Center for the Arts stepped in to help clinch the deal. The collaboration gave them a venue, a partner and connections to foundation and other funding that is making the $130,000 production possible.

CFA Director Tom Burrows said this truly is "Something So Right."

"To be able to present on the main stage a complete work, I just never, I never thought it would happen," said Burrows. "Now, we're determined to find other things to do through collaboration."

The three arts groups hope to continue their collaboration - on the road. They will pitch the show in Toronto this summer to tour producers.

The show was written by Kramer, Lehrer, and John Fredo and Jason Bravo. Fredo and Bravo also star in the show, along with actress, singer and dancer Terrie George.

More information is available at the UB events calendar.