Raising the Barre
Show at Barre's popular For the Record series is branching out to new venues and citites.
And while the company continues to thrill Los Angeles audiences with its For The Record: Baz Lurhmann show, which continues its run at its home on 1714 N Vermont Avenue through the end of the month, along with performances on March 28 and 29 at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs.
But Show at Barre has bigger plans on its horizons. On March 14, it will perform For The Record -Tarantino in Concert at the 2,300 seat Long Center for the Performing Arts in Austin, Texas as part of the South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival, with a cast including Tracie Thoms, Annelies van der Pol, Ginifer King, Darryl Semira, and Von Smith.
Meanwhile, its breakout hit For The Record: John Hughes, which featured TV and Broadway star Barrett Foa, is looking for a New York City venue; and in May, the Los Angeles show will move to a much larger space at Vermont, with shows planned to salute Martin Scorsese, Paul Thomas Anderson, Tim Burton, and Cameron Crowe.
The entire enterprise began when artistic director Shane Scheel and music supervisor Christopher Lloyd Bratten, who worked together on L.A.'s Upright Cabaret, were offered a residency at Vermont. "The owners wanted to create a show that used the same artists," says Scheel. "And we wanted to go in a different direction from what did before. We thought 'What if we cover a great album?' which we took to 'What about a soundtrack?' And then Tarantino came up because of Pulp Fiction and his other movies."
We always want to make sure we're paying homage to works but we don't want to imitate or parody," says Bratten. "A show like the Baz Luhrman one writes itself, since his movies are essentially musical. The format and artistic element is obvious. But when we decided to do the Coen Brothers, we had to ask 'What's the overarching theme? How do we put these disparate elements into one show?' It was interesting to see how these pieces fit together. Part of the show's purpose is to educate audiences of the repertoire of the artists. They know the directors, they know the songs, but they don't always put them together."
With the location in the heart of Hollywood, the company has gotten positive reactions from celebrities, particularly the directors they've honored. "Baz's reaction was caught on tape. It can be found on You Tube telling how much he loved the show," Scheel says. "Tarantino showed up unannounced, took pictures, and did tequilla shots with us till 4am."
"That was the night I feel like we were making some sort of waves," says Bratten. "These directors have great taste in music and how it informs their films. They enjoy their own material examined in a way they haven't seen before. When you watch a film, a soundtrack supports a film. What we do, is to have the film support the soundtrack. The soundtrack becomes the main event. The film snippets are nostalgia."
The Austin performance will be very different than the one seen in Los Angeles, says Scheel. "We're going to enhance what we usually do with video. It will still be an immersive experience, just amplified. We've been given a gift and have to figure out how to paint these pictures and tell this story and turn it on its ear."
Many of the show's cast members are looking forward to working in a much larger venue than Vermont, although they've grown to love the intimacy of the 100-seat venue.
"There's a certain mark on everyone's body you can reveal and you have the mark of Barre -- a bruise on the upper thigh," says Davis. "They are ugly purple and green, from running into every chair of the cramped space of the bar. There's a lot of physical comedy that you can't do in that space if you're crammed between two audience members. It helps open up the door of creativity. And because the response of the audience is so immediate that if it's an off-night, it's obvious. That's good feedback."
"It's not normal to be six inches from the audience or to be dancing on a bar," says Semira. "At first, I had to focus on my performance, because you know someone's going to spill a drink over here or someone is getting tipsy. You have to take it in and react to it. It's a lot of fun once you take it in. Eventually, you find a relaxation in it. It brings the audience even closer because you're on the same team with them. They feel they're in safe hands that a performer can handle any unpredictability and respond and keep going."
"Those mistakes, like someone having to go to the bathroom in the middle of a song, instead of ignoring it, I take it as a gift and include it in my performance," says King. But with each production we learn just a little more what this is and what it's evolving into. Shane and Chris get a clearer, concise way to tie the songs together. All the fat has been cut so you're getting an exciting non-stop experience. And then you want to go home and watch the movie."